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May. 4th, 2009

Dreamwidth!

I have a Dreamwidth now! I'm clare_dragonfly, of course. Haven't done much with it, but there it is. If anyone here has a DW, please do add me.

Apr. 12th, 2009

Amazon: Fail.

Following is a press release from Erica Friedman of Yuricon & ALC Publishing, courtesy [info]prairiecrow.

Amazon De-ranks "Adult" Books?

This is not a crisis, nor should we run screaming, but I think it is important enough that every reader, writer, publisher, editor and all champions of freedom of expression should take note. Amazon has changed its policy and has de-ranked books that it deems "adult" in nature. This includes anything they count as erotica and many non-adult LGBT books, as well.

I do not advocate being outraged. Outrage accomplishes nothing. I *do* advocate a polite, but firm letter campaign asking that Amazon allow sales to indicate sales rank and nothing else. I distrust their definition of "adult" if it does not include Twilight, but does include Annie on My Mind.

Please make a firm request that all books be ranked and that they do not involve behavior that can be seen as censorship or "protection." Please feel free to Digg this or forward it to MLs, forums, sites, etc. The more people who protest politely, the more of an impact we can make.

You can contact the Amazon Executive customer service email at ecr@amazon.com, call the customer service phone number: 1-800-201-7575 or login to your Amazon account and visit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html?ie=UTF8&browse_node_id=468496

As a publisher of LGBT comics, as a reader of whatever I want to read, as a member of the community of humans that prefers to think for myself, I ask for your support against this misguided policy.

Erica Friedman
President
Yuricon & ALC Publishing

Nov. 18th, 2008

Book Review: archy books

archy and mehitabel and archyology by Don Marquis

I'm not entirely sure how to evaluate these books. They're certainly not my usual fare. In fact, I only read them because my high school boyfriend gave me the second one--I just recently managed to find the first.

They are poems, or stories or articles constructed like poems, ostensibly written by a cockroach named Archy. Archy writes by flinging himself headfirst onto typewriter keys, so there are no capital letters, though I'm at a loss to explain the lack of punctuation (surely he could at least manage periods?). they chronicle Archy's adventures, as well as those of his friend Mehitabel the cat, and their interactions with other insects, animals, people, and even ghosts. I found them somewhat difficult to follow (probably because they were originally written as newspaper columns, not to be published in a book), and there's certainly no plot, though sometimes there are stories that go on over several installments. However, the characters are amusing and sometimes wise. It's also interesting to see a cockroach's view on Prohibition--the columns were originally written in the 1910s and '20s.

Nov. 4th, 2008

This icon is insufficient to express my joy

Happiness on the flist! Happiness in my house! Happiness in the world!

Nov. 1st, 2008

Book Review: The Dreaming Place

The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint

I was quite surprised to pick up a Charles de Lint book and find it a typical teen fiction novel. Okay, so it wasn't really typical--but it definitely had that vibe, at least in the beginning. I've noticed that a lot of teen fiction, especially from the '80s and early '90s, has a similar feel to it--it's always Normal Kids facing Big Issues that their Parents Don't Understand. I think it's a combination of that and cultural references that I don't get since I probably wasn't born when they were written. The Dreaming Place has all of these. The protagonists are Nina, a Normal Girl, and Ash, a Normal Punk Girl. After Ash's mother dies and her father leaves, Nina's parents--her aunt and uncle--take her in. Apparently this happened three years after the novel starts, though it feels like a recent change. Nina is having scary dreams in which she's trapped in the bodies of different animals, and blames them on Ash. Ash hates Nina because she's Normal and Boring. There's magic, a few characters recognizable from de Lint's other books, and heartwarming transformations for both girls. Not de Lint's best work, but worth the 134 little pages.

Oct. 28th, 2008

Book Review: Midnight Never Come

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

I received this book as part of the package that came with my Faeriecon ticket and only started reading it so soon because I didn't have anything else to read on the train home. I expected it to be crowd-pleasing fluff. I was quite pleasantly surprised! The story is set in Elizabethan England, a historical era for which I have a particular love (though I have to say I'm disappointed that Shakespeare didn't make an appearance, since lots of other historical figures did). Brennan has a different take on a faerie court than any other I've encountered--it's a sprawling, mazelike hall set under mortal London. The characters are Lune, a disgraced faerie courtier; Michael Deven, a courtier and spy for Elizabeth; Walsingham, Michael's master; Invidiana, the faerie queen; Tiresias, her seer; Gertrude and Rosamund Goodmeade, brownie sisters who run a faerie inn; John Dee, the mortal magician; and, of course, Gloriana herself.

The romance I expected is there (between Lune and Michael), but much less of the focus than I would have thought--and indeed, it is quite vital to the plot. The faerie and mortal courts work both with and against each other, and every time I thought I knew how the story would go a new twist would pop up to throw my expectations on their head. The very end was disappointing--it felt contrived--but overall the book is a satisfying, enjoyable, and well-researched ride.

Oct. 17th, 2008

Political post

Kris Straub speaks the truth:

there's too much at stake here to not have an opinion man

you gotta get out and vote and be as badass as mccain and obama

Oct. 15th, 2008

Today was a beautiful day

Gorgeous, warm, but autumnal. I rode Clotilde, my wonderful bicycle, all around the neighborhood, admiring the trees and enjoying the breeze. Mmm.

Oct. 9th, 2008

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

What a delightful book! I read the first chapter of it while waiting for Neil to read the second aloud, then devoured it in the following days, despite having two other books I was reading at the same time--it was hard to put down! It has echoes of classics, including The Jungle Book, The Chronicles of Narnia, and various fairy tales. The main character, Bod, is a living boy raised by ghosts, guarded by a vampire, and tutored by a werewolf. While such dead and undead are the stuff of many stories, including some of Gaiman's others, he puts new and innovative twists on each and every one of them. Bod's adventures growing up would be entertaining enough, but Gaiman injects more drama into the story with the struggle against the Jacks of All Trades, a nefarious organization after Bod's life who end up causing the fulfillment of the very prophecy they sought to thwart. Dave McKean's delightfully creepy illustrations complete the atmosphere and add additional wistfulness to an already bittersweet ending. While The Graveyard Book is technically considered a children's book, I would heartily recommend it to anyone!

Sep. 30th, 2008

Things

::bangs head against wall::

I have been having so many computer problems in the past few weeks. ARGH. I think they are all over now. I hope? I just have to remember to sit up straighter when typing, as the edge of my new Mac is rather sharper than the edge on my old Dell.

In (probably) happier news, I have started an online serial novel called Chatoyant College, available here. Check it out perhaps? Also if you like the concept of online serials and you don't mind a lot of hot, kinky sex mixed in with your fantasy, you should really check out An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom, which is truly amazing.

In definitely absolutely happier news: It is my birthday tomorrow and NEIL GAIMAN IS COMING TO PHILADELPHIA AND I WILL GO SEE HIM WHEEEEEEE. (Why do I not have any Gaiman icons? This is very silly. I shall have to use an MLM icon instead.)

Sep. 27th, 2008

Book Review: Lady of Avalon

Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This book is really three in one: each tells the story of a Lady of Avalon whose time was pivotal in the fate of Avalon. "The Wisewoman" is Caillean, the first Lady of Avalon, who witnesses the arrival and death of the first modern incarnation of the Pendragon, the sacred king whose right it is to rule over Britain. She also joins forces with the Queen of Faerie (whose half-human daughter Sianna is Caillean's successor) to hide the island of Avalon from the world of men. "The High Priestess" is Dierna, who tries to save Britain, with the help of the Pendragon, from the Roman overlords and Saxon invaders. It is also the story of Teleri, forced, like Igraine later, into an unhappy marriage of state.

"Daughter of Avalon" is Viviane, whose mother, Ana, is the cold and manipulative Lady of Avalon. She, like Dierna and Sianna, loves the Pendragon--this time the son of Vortigern, one of two rulers who fight for control of Britain. She determines to bring Avalon out of its self-imposed exile, and is beginning to do that when the book ends. But all of these women are also one woman, incarnating again and again, her purpose to do the Goddess' work.

This book feels more like a transition than anything; I doubt it could stand alone.

Sep. 5th, 2008

Gloria Steinem on Sarah Palin

To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

Go read the rest of the article. It's brilliant. But then, it is Gloria Steinem.

Aug. 26th, 2008

Book Review: Crossroads

Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey

I would have to say that this is my least favorite of the Valdemar short story anthologies. For one thing, I have a serious issue with the title--there is no story called "Crossroads" in the book! Then there's the fact that three of the stories had no reason to be set in the world of Valdemar at all They were interesting stories, but they didn't have to be in this anthology.

Other stories were really enjoyable, though. I think my favorite was the one set in Karse's distant past--right when the corruption was just beginning. And it was fun to revisit a beloved fantasy world. Actually, it's made me want to reread the books--I haven't touched some of them in years, despite owning most of them. In fact, I only read this one because I was on vacation. The Forest House was depressing me, and the only other books I'd brought were its sequels! Of the books my mom had brought, Crossroads was the most appealing.

Aug. 24th, 2008

Book Review: The Forest House

The Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Since The Mists of Avalon holds a special place in my Top 5 Favorite Books Ever, I had little doubt but that I would enjoy the first of its prequels, and I was not disappointed. This is another feminist novel, set many years in Avalon's past--so far back, in fact, that there are yet no priestesses on Avalon, and the women instead live in a place called Vernemeton, or the Forest House, established by the Romans to isolate and protect the priestesses after their sanctuary at Mona was cruelly invaded (by the Romans themselves, of course). The main character, Eilan, dreams of being a priestess one day, then falls in love. I really admire the way MZB made the men's control of the women, especially their sexuality, not just an inconvenience or a metaphor but a central part of the plot. The priestesses of the Forest House are only permitted sexual contact with a man if that man is the chosen Year-King, symbolic sacrifice for his people. Eilan must struggle with her choices and few around her believe that she has made the right ones.

Unlike Mists, The Forest House has a male POV character. At the beginning he is rather heroic and quite likable. However, as the novel progresses, he is shown to be more and more flawed and toward the end he really becomes a big jerk. He is redeemed somewhat, and manages to remain sympathetic for a time, but it would be nice to see a more relatable male character. (I do think we get that in the next book.) Besides that and some repetitiveness, though, I have nothing to complain about in this book.

My favorite character is Caillean, the Assistant to the High Priestess who is later sent to establish a house of priestesses on Avalon. I see in her Raven, Morgaine, Niniane, and especially Viviane--it's easy to find the beginning of a long legacy of manipulative High Priestesses of Avalon. The Merlin also makes an appearance, though not in the guise you might expect, and I'm intrigued to see how the perception of that role changes.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who didn't like The Mists of Avalon, and probably not to anyone who hasn't read it--it's a decent stand-alone novel, I think, but gains more depth if you know its future. To anyone who loved Mists as much as I did, though, I definitely recommend The Forest House!

Aug. 18th, 2008

Book Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

I read this book because I saw the movie because I read part of the screenplay. Naturally, the book was my favorite of the three, but I sitll find it difficult to evaluate. While I've heard there is now a version available that has the last chapter included, that's not the version I have! So I still don't actually know how it ends. Hopefully I'll find out someday. The book, despite having been written in the seventies, has a distinct Victorian feel to it. The characters, to my surprise, are all quite fleshed out and compelling. There were a few great scenes that had been left out of the movie, but that I think would have been fantastic additions. My favorite character turned out to be the French governess.

Jul. 19th, 2008

Book Review: The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting from this book. Whatever it was, I didn't get it--but I did get something wonderful. According to the introduction, it is a reconstruction (from notes) of a forged translation of a 14th-century manuscript by a Benedictine monk. Of course, it is actually a novel written by the talented Umberto Eco, and a mystery along the lines of Arthur Conan Doyle or Edgar Allan Poe--that is to say, the detective is a logician along the lines of Sherlock Holmes or C. Auguste Dupin. It is narrated by the supposed author of the manuscript, Adso of Melk, a German novice who is traveling with the detective, William of Baskerville, to learn from and assist him. It took me until about halfway through the book to accept that the novel was probably not fantasy--fantastical elements were certainly hinted at, but the style of such a logician does not lend itself to that genre!

William has been asked to an Italian abbey to help mediate a discussion between two opposing Catholic sects, but when he arrives, he has another task: solve a series of unlikely and possibly mystical murders. This task is made more complicated by the fact that the one place that seems to hold the most answers, the abbey's famous library, is the one place he is not permitted. Like any good detective, he gets his answers anyway. The main mystery plot is intertwined with monastic politics, political intrigues, and intriguing personal relationships. Sometimes the discourses on logic or heresy, which can get quite long, distract from the plot, but they are interesting and the only thing I have to complain about, with the exception of Adso's sometimes irritating lack of judgment, which can easily be excused by his youth. The novel is even, as far as I can tell, quite historically accurate. The monastery itself and most of the characters are fictional, but the politics and the heresies are real, which is quite impressive.

Unfortunately, I never figured out the import of the title. The last line of the book has the words "name" and "rose" in it, but as it's Latin (which is peppered throughout the monks' speech) I couldn't understand the rest. I naturally think of Shakespeare, but as he writes several centuries after The Name of the Rose is set and the only meaning I can think of is fairly weak, such a connection seems unlikely.

Jul. 18th, 2008

Book Review: Restoring the Goddess

Restoring the Goddess: Equal Rites for Modern Women by Barbara G. Walker

I'll be honest: I did not read this entire book. I couldn't stand it. I tried to read as much as I could manage, but eventually had to give up.

This book is pretty much entirely a polemic against Christianity. I think it mentions the patriarchy of Judaism and also Buddhism a little, but it's mostly about how the Christian Church has been, and still is, keeping women down. Every chapter, from "What's Wrong with Patriarchy?" to "The New Age," focuses on that. There's also a strong veneration of science, which Walker seems to believe is never biased, and always prepared to change. Further, there is a great emphasis on how illogical Christianity is, with no satisfactory explanation as to why believing in the Goddess is any more logical. Such belief may certainly be beneficial, but you should be fair: apply logic equally or don't apply it at all.

Each chapter is comprised of several pages written by Walker, mostly poorly researched history, and then a number of pages containing anecdotes from women loosely relating to the chapter's topic. I didn't read too many of those. I'm not sure why one would need a book to showcase these things. It doesn't seem to include any women with slightly different perspectives, either.

If you want to read something by Barbara G. Walker, go for her knitting books. If you want to read about the Goddess, go for The Spiral Dance. However, if you are a woman who has been knocked about by patriarchal Christianity all her life and want reassurance that you're not alone and there is more out there, I would recommend this book.

(Oh, and there were no "equal rites" listed. I feel cheated.)

The 2009 Transportation Bill

Walk Score is urging Congress to improve the new Transportation Bill, moving funds away from building more highways and toward improving accessibility for walkers and bicycles as well as public transport. To that end, there's a petition here. I know there are a few people on my friends list who don't or who rarely drive, and I hope you and everyone else will sign the petition. Whether you want safer roads, energy independence for the US, cheaper gas, or just, you know, to save the earth, this is really important. I just got back from driving my sister to the train station, and couldn't help noticing with disappointment that the main road I drove on, as well as most of the cross-streets, had no bike lanes. I'm trying to get better at riding my bike, and hope eventually to be able to bike regularly to the library, which is just down the street from the train station... but since there is only one street that goes the whole way from my house to that intersection, it's not going to be easy with non bike lane.

While you're at the site, check out your city's and neighborhood's Walk Scores (if you're in the US). I was very pleased to see that I live in the 5th most walkable city in the US, but disappointed, if not surprised, to see that within the city, my neighborhood ranks 50th (out of 56)...

Jun. 26th, 2008

Book Review: The Welsh Fairy Book

The Welsh Fairy Book by W. Jenkyn Thomas

Exhibit A: My love of all things Welsh.

Exhibit B: My obsession with faeries, fairy tales, and folklore in general.

Exhibit C: The title of this book.

The defense rests.

More seriously, this is a fantastic collection. There's a wide variety of fairy tales in it--mostly featuring actual faeries--and I felt that it gave me a really good feeling for Welsh folklore in 1907 (when the book was first compiled). One can't really judge on the literary merit of folktales, but they're well-told, and most are entertaining and intriguing. A few had unexpected similarities to folktales of other cultures that I've encountered, and I would be interested to find out where these tropes originated (if it can be pinned down) and how they passed from one to the other.

Jun. 7th, 2008

Book Review: The Spiral Dance

The Spiral Dance by Starhawk

This one's pretty long. )

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