I’m sorry, what?

September 19, 2010

“…In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography. One such book is called ‘Speak’.”

Come again?

This is a quote from an article by one Wesley Scroggins, published recently in the opinion section of the Springfield, Missouri paper The News-Leader. Needless to say, a storm of internet outrage has been launched over his insensitive portrayal of Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK, which tells the story of a teen victim of rape. Now, I’m not sure how Mr. Scroggins feels, but I would certainly hope that most people don’t get off on this book.

I am not a person that believes in many completely objective truths, but one of them is this: rape is not the fault of the victim. Laurie Halse Anderson happens to be in agreement with me. So when I hear “…the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page,” I think there’s some gross misrepresentation going on there. And furthermore, does that sound like porn to you?

Help get the word out about this– don’t let people like Scroggins keep such a beautiful and important book off the shelves and away from youth whom it can help. Declare your support for SPEAK by Tweeting #SpeakLoudly, and check out these other blog posts on this topic:

Laurie Halse Anderson answers the charges herself.

Cheryl Rainfield writes about how she feels about this affair, as a survivor of sexual and ritual abuse, as does C.J. Redwine.

Myra McEntire gives a laudable Christian perspective.

Advertisements

Abbreviated Review: Poison (Poole)

August 4, 2010

*ARC Alert*

Poison by Sara Poole was released on August 3rd, 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press (Paperback, $14.99, 416 pages; also available in Kindle format).

Francesca Giordano knows a little something about working in the world of men– she is a poisoner in the employ of the Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, one of the most powerful men in Rome. It is her task not only to arrange deaths for Borgia’s enemies, but to protect the family she serves from the poisoners of others. She does all of this with a single-minded drive which cannot be dispelled even by questions about sin and her stained soul, something quite impressive for a denizen of the Catholic Church’s city. Her ultimate goal? Revenge for the murder of her father, who was Borgia’s poisoner before her. This private goal leads Francesca into a tangled web of very public lies, intrigue, and looming slaughter, a web which she must help to untangle if she has any hope for peace with who and what she is. Five stars.


Abbreviated Review: Permanent Obscurity (Perez)

August 4, 2010

*ARC Alert*

Permanent Obscurity: Or, a Cautionary Tale of Two Girls and Their Misadventures with Drugs, Pornography, and Death by Richard Perez was released on April 1st, 2010 by Ludlow Press (Trade Paperback, $15.95, 464 pages; also available in Kindle format).

Dolores and Serena are two best friends living a life of drugs and art in New York City, dealing with boyfriends and trying to make ends meet. This gets harder and harder as the girls discover that they’re heavily in debt to a lot of people, some of them threatening. Then Serena hits on the perfect plan: they plan to take back control of their lives– and their wallets– by making a femdom/fetish film. This is not an erotica, despite what the cover and the premise might say. There is sex, BDSM, some homosexual activity, all sorts of stuff, but none of that is the point of the book. Just so everyone is forewarned.

I enjoyed the premise of this book, and the dynamic between Dolores and Serena, but felt that it took too long to hit its stride. The first 350 pages were basically rising action which could have been halved in length and would have then served the plot better. After that point Perez picked up speed and ratcheted the tension up quickly. From there it almost went too quickly, so a shift of length might have been in order there, to make it more balanced. Other than that, no complaints. Three stars.

This book contains explicit sexual content.


Abbreviated Review: Hailey’s War (Compton)

July 27, 2010

Because of the largish nature of my current to-review list, I’ve decided to do abbreviated reviews until I get things back under control. Each one will include a teaser and a star rating. I’m terribly sorry to you readers and to the authors who worked so hard on these, to not do the books justice, but regular reviews will return once my workload is down some. Thank you for your patience.

*ARC Alert*

Hailey’s War by Jodi Compton was released on June 15th, 2010 by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House (Hardcover, $22.99, 336 pages; also available as a Kindle edition and in various audio formats).

Hailey Cain is a 24 year-old West Point dropout with a past she doesn’t talk about and no future. She lives in San Francisco, earns her living as a bike messenger, and makes a hobby of discouraging people from jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. She has only two people that she is close to– her successful music-producer cousin CJ and her friend Serena, leader of an all-female gang in L.A. It is when Serena calls asking for a favor that everything in Hailey’s small, precariously built life comes tumbling down.

It doesn’t seem like a terribly big deal. A cousin of one of Serena’s girls needs an escort across the border into Mexico so that she can take care of a sick grandmother. Hailey starts to suspect that maybe there’s more to the story when they’re caught by a bunch of thugs out on the Mexican highway, she’s shot and left for dead, and the cousin is kidnapped. So begins Hailey’s personal mission against a powerful enemy that she knows nothing about, a war which will draw her into complex web of choices about loyalty, self-preservation, courage, and her own past.

Four stars.


Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (Larsson)

May 31, 2010

I have a particular habit which many people find, well, offputting. I carry a small but distinctly solid hammer in my purse, which comes everywhere with me. I could go through my whole rationale to prove that that doesn’t make me a crazy person– after all, who wants to mug the psycho bitch with the hand tools? –but really, all that is relevant here is that the practice was inspired by a heroine who is very uniquely herself and like no other character I have ever had the pleasure of reading: Lisbeth Salander.

I have been waiting to write this post for a long time.

I am by no means alone in praising the Millenium Trilogy; indeed, the late Steig Larsson has gained international acclaim for his series, which is completed by the newly released The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. His story is famous: shortly before his unexpected death at the age of 50 due to a massive heart attack, Larsson turned in three complete manuscripts which he never saw published. Unfortunately for the world, he didn’t live to finish the other books in the series, of which there were to be an eventual ten. He left behind three quarters of a completed fourth volume, and synopses of fifth and sixth books may also exist. As of this May, the Millenium Trilogy has sold a total of some 27 million copies worldwide.

I could go on about how Larsson’s work highlights and condemns a broad spectrum of anti-feminist thought (in its original Swedish release, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was titled Män som hatar kvinnor, or Men Who Hate Women). I could talk about how great it is to see a guy writing about a strong female character who isn’t grossly oversexualized and doesn’t turn into a ninny at the crucial moment and need saving. It’d be true; I do admire Larsson for that. But what I really want to gush about is Lisbeth Salander. Salander Salander Salander. When asked by a friend how I liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, my only complaint was that it didn’t have enough Salander; that one focused mainly on Mikael Blomkvist. This unfortunate condition was remedied in the second volume, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Don’t get me wrong– I Read the rest of this entry »