Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Book Review: Knight of a Trillion Stars by Dara Joy

They say you can never go back but, maybe, what they meant is that you shouldn't go back. Knight of a Trillion Stars is a perfect example of this.

I first read Knight of a Trillion Stars by Dara Joy when I was a teen (when it had a much, much better cover.) Well, I lost my copy in the Great Move of 2003 and it took me a good long time to hunt down the name of the book and author again. (Seriously, you should have seen some of the stuff I had to Google to find it.) I was so excited to read Knight again.

But remember what I said earlier?

Yeah, that.

I vaguely remember enjoying Knight of a Trillion Stars the first time I read it. Of course, that was a long-ass time ago so maybe I'm just seeing things through the lens of life-wasn't-quite-as-fucking-shite-then. (Hah. Yeah, no.) I'll tell you what I don't remember: I don't remember Knight being so fucking rapey!

Maybe my taste in men has changed dramatically since then? Or, maybe I just hold my novels to a higher standard...

Ugh.

Knight of a Trillion Stars is not written well. The POVs jump around, the tenses are muddled, there are punctuation/grammatical errors, and the speech isn't natural. On top of that, it's cheesy as fuck. Cringe-worthy, kill-me-now cheesy. So, even if it weren't rapey (it's so rapey,) there isn't a lot to recommend this one.

Let's talk about a couple of the little things that made Knight of a Trillion Stars nearly impossible to finish. First of all, Lorgin (famed alien lover - gag) doesn't make any attempt to pronounce Deana's name properly and she just lets him get away with it. As someone whose name is a little... unusual, I can't tell you how annoying that is! (If someone loves you, they can try to say your name the right way!)

Secondly, the sex is just ridiculous. It typical dime-store fashion, he's just TOO BIG! and she's just TOO TIGHT! And, of course, she immediately PASSES OUT when they climax. Oh, and let's not forget that she CAN'T WALK PROPERLY afterward.

Give me a break.

Thirdly, women are treated as possessions and the main character, Deana, acts like that's just dandy. When Lorgin tricks her into marriage, she's just dandy with that too. Except, oh, she does get upset... because she thinks she's JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH for him. This is not the kind of book I would want teen me to read.

I'm sorry I ruined my memory of Knight of a Trillion Stars by actually reading it - but I won't make that mistake again.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Book Review: Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. by Lisa Lister

Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. by Lisa Lister is a tough one to review. Do I agree with her call to feminism? Yes. That we should challenge the patriarchy at every step? Yes. That there's a witch in all of us hiding from her power? Yes.

Do I agree with anything else?

Nope.

For starters, Witch comes across as horrifyingly transphobic. To disregard trans people because they're not born the right gender is an insult to us all. You can't argue that going through menopause doesn't make you less of a woman, then say trans women don't count.

I'm also displeased with the way the text handles reproduction and the female cycle. For starters, plenty of women don't bleed and ARE STILL WOMEN. Some women need birth control and that's okay too. If you want to write a book about the power of women, you'd better fucking include all women or you're just a hypocrite.

Basically, what I'm saying is that Witch is an exercise in privilege. It assumes (wrongly) you have to have a vagina to be a woman and, therefore, have no right to claim the word "feminist" unless you were born with one. Infuriating. Infuriating and totally false. Honestly, genital-based feminism is every bit as bad as misogyny. My power exists outside of my vagina, thanks, and yours does too.

Oh, and by the way, I fucking hurt when I bleed because I have menorrhagia, not because I haven't accepted the divine female within me. The author's lack of knowledge on - really, complete ignoral of - the medical profession is both uninformed and dangerous.

There's a difference between being unapologetic because you're right and being unapologetic because you're rude - a difference the author clearly understands as much as she understands everything else she wrote about in this waste of a book. The basics are either just not there or are so badly skewed to suit her purpose as to be useless. If this is your introductory book to The Craft, please give us another chance.

The book does look good, though, so there's that. It's got a slick, minimalist cover that looks fab on a shelf. Also, I like the bold statement pages because they break things up. I just wish the stuff in between had more meat. Rage at the machine all you want - but back up your argument. (Something the author doesn't do at all.) You can't just assume, for example, that everyone knows details about the witch hunts. Give them facts. If you don't know the facts or aren't willing to learn them (and source them,) don't bother writing the book.

Like I said, Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. was difficult to review. I hate slamming another author's work but I can't ignore how harmful this book can be to people who might be picking it up because they need guidance. Because they feel lost. If that's you, please look elsewhere.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I don't know if we're supposed to call it a novel or a poetry collection, but The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is unlike anything else I’ve read. I could tell, right from the beginning, why it’s been getting so much attention: It’s a masterpiece of language that will, one day, be held up as one of the great classics of modern times.

Language is part of what sets The Poet X apart from its peers. Slang and Spanish are used alongside breathtaking figurative language in a way that captures the struggle of today’s youth to find a voice that is distinctly their own. That’s not to say that The Poet X is always easy to read! It’s like the poet says, ‘I don’t always understand every line but love the picture being painted behind my eyelids.’

This book tells a story through a collection of verse. Many poems work together to tell a single story of awakening, of becoming. I grew up a middle-class white girl in a predominantly white town - about as far from the main character, Xiomara's, experience as possible - but the truths are so universal that it could be my story too. Or, yours. Really, it’s our story.

Because The Poet X isn’t only a coming-of-age story wrapped in poetry. It’s also a cry to feminism. Xiomara fights her own battle against patriarchy and what society has told girls we can or can’t be. The interesting thing here is that Xiomara's mother is the one holding her back, the one slapping labels on her. Yes, women can (and do) hold other women back. The Poet X shines a light on that travesty.

Xiomara finds her voice, her strength, through poetry. Poetry allows her to become what she’s always known she is but was told she couldn’t be: a warrior. I can just picture Maya Angelou clapping Xiomara on the back with a cheeky wink, saying, “Thats my girl.”

Forget the hard-to-relate Romantics that schools keep shoving down students’ throats. This is what they should be teaching.

The Poet X contains many different poetic styles, all with a single voice. It shows us that, despite our cultural differences, we’re all more similar than we think. It allows us to wonder about those other cultures, gives us a chance to discuss and explore them. The Poet X is a must for the classroom, especially for educators who want to do more than force students to parrot back lines that haven’t been relevant in a hundred years.

As a grown-ass adult who still hides her poetry like it’s a dirty secret, I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X - and I can’t say enough how important it is for you to read it.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: Twisted Time

Time-traveling horror!

Twisted Time - what can go terribly wrong in the realm of Time Travel? No obvious Doctor Who fan fic, please.

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Twisted Time – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Rie Sheridan Rose will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: riethirteensubmissions@gmail.com
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: BLOOD IN THE COGS

Steampunk Victorian horror? Yes, please!

Blood in the Cogs - Terror in the time of Victoria! There was a lot going on during that long reign of hers. (Don't send me ALL Jack the Ripper stories! Let me clarify--I don't mind a mention of the Ripper, after all, he was the big news of the day. I just don't want only stories about that one case. There were other horrors of the age...)

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Blood in the Cogs – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Rie Sheridan Rose will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: riethirteensubmissions@gmail.com
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Summer 2019 Bucket List

It's no secret that summer is my least favorite part of the year. Kind of hard to enjoy those long summer days when you suffer from heat and light sensitive migraines. I have to try extra hard to keep my mood up during this time. With that in mind, I've made myself a little bucket list to help myself focus on the things that make me happiest. Let's have a look at it.

Wondra's Summer 2019 Bucket List

Rock a Swimsuit 
Being a fat woman in the summer can be emotionally draining because of all the pressure to have a so-called "beach body." Can I get a "Fuck that shit?" from all the fat people in the audience? Seriously. Fuck. That. We need to stop letting the men in charge of these things tell us we're not worthy unless we can fit into their too-small bikinis. I got a fab swimsuit last year and I can't wait to rock it on the beach this year. Join me?

Visit the Beach 
We're lucky to live in a place where the beach is only an hour away. Now that we have a new car that's 100% more reliable than the last, I hope we'll get there more than once or twice this summer.

Despite the people and sun (serious factors for me), the beach is one of my happy places. The sound of the ocean and the comfort of the sand really help sooth my Anxiety. Of course... SPF One Million and an enormous hat are required but, hey.

Collect Seashells 
I bet I'm not the only one who has at least one jar of seashells sitting on a shelf in their house. Mine always makes me smile because it reminds me of happy days. Plus, they're handy for crafty and witchy projects. (And just FUN to collect!)

Build a Sandcastle
I'd say I don't remember doing this since I was a kid but I don't even remember doing it then. Have I ever built a sandcastle? I don't know. Guess that means I should go ahead and do it!

Build a Sandman
I've been wanting to do this for ages! They're just too adorable! Will I look like a lunatic building a sandman? Probably. But I usually look like a lunatic anyway so let's do it!

Go for a Swim
Well, the good thing about being fat is being  buoyant, right? Jokes aside, I've got that water-sign thing going on so I love being in the ocean.

Go Snorkeling
Jay keeps promising to take me snorkeling because I've never been. There are some spectacularly clear beaches around Wales so I'm looking forward to seeing what we've got going on under the water.



Go to the Fair
I'm a sucker for fairground rides, cotton candy, and cheesy games. No matter how old you are, visiting a fair makes you feel like a kid again. Because we tend to go to the coast during the week so there are fewer people (yay, Anxiety!) we usually miss out on the fair. This summer, I'm determined to brave it, at least once.

Visit an Ice Cream Truck
A summer icon! I love to hear the jingle of the ice cream truck passing by our lane. Of course, I'd love it a lot more if they came DOWN our lane, but oh well. One of these days, I'm gonna chase that baby down.

Have an Ice Cream Cone
Or ten. Or twelve. I love walking along the promenade with an ice cream cone and watching the waves. It's such a great summer vibe. (And so, so yummy!)

Go on a Picnic
Picnics are easy to organize and so, so romantic. I especially love to picnic by the lake. What snack foods do you like to include on your picnics?

Have a BBQ
The Man loves his BBQ! The Woman loves to sit in the shade and listen to music while he cooks. It's a perfect combination. What are your favourite BBQ recipes?

Make S'mores
This is one of those being-an-American-in-Britain-is-tough kind of things. Love me some s'mores - but it's hard to find Graham Crackers! I was lucky enough to find a "make your own s'mores" kit this year and, although it only makes TWO s'mores, I'm looking forward to noming on them.

Have a Bonfire
I got myself a small fire basket this year and I cannot wait to spend long summer nights chilling by its light. You know... if it ever stops raining!



Nom on Fresh Fruit
If your house is anything like Castle Vanian, there's never enough fruit & veg. Now that summer's here, it'll be nice to have more of the seasonal produce that was ridiculously over-priced the rest of the year. In fact, there's a melon on my table right now, calling my name...

Make Real Lemonade
Lemonade in Britain isn't lemonade. (Of course.) British lemonade is like Sprite. Nothing wrong with that - it just doesn't hit the spot on hot summer days. I do make a good lemonade. As long as you can handle the extra kick. 😉

Make Sangria
We do love to share a cool pitcher of Sangria made with oodles of fresh fruit. I'm not a huge fan of wine but this is one that makes my mouth happy.

Try Summer Cocktails
Hate summer, love a cocktail. If you have a favorite recipe, share so I can try it!

Make Homemade Popsicles/Gorge on Popsicles
Popsicles make up about 90% of my diet when summer rolls around. With Jay's Diabetes diagnosis, he can't really share so we'll be looking to make our own, healthier version this year. Well, for him. I'll be making the boozier option for me.

Slurp an Ice Cream Float
This could be tricky. I can't do it with Dr. Pepper now (fuck you, Aspartame) and root beer is a pain in the ass to find. Maybe I can score a can at comic con... then, ice cream float ahoy!

Go to a Car Boot Sale
We haven't been to a car boot sale since Jay's mom died, which sucks because I love them so much. It's fun looking for treasure hidden among junk (without the hassle of driving around, like yard sales.) I hope Jay will finally be up for a car boot sale this year.

Visit a Farmer's Market/Grow My Own Vegetables
Fresh fruit & veg! Nom! I'd like to say that I'm confident about my ability to grow my own but... let's be honest, I'm kind of a mess in that regard! I'd be happy to indulge in other people's hard work, though!

Take the Dogs to Play in a Field
Our garden isn't all that small (by British standards) but the dogs love a place where they can run as much as they want. Of course, Blodwyn's usually done well before the boys. Lol.

Feed the Ducks/Moorhens
One of my favorite things ever! It's amazing to watch them grow up and so funny when they come running over for their treats. This is pretty much going to be a daily thing.

Pick Wildflowers
For drying and spellwork, obviously! I'd like to try making some watercolor paintings of wildflowers and photographing some, while I'm at it. (I'm seeing a lot of Benadryl in my future!)

Plant Summer Flowers
Now that I have a garden, let's get some color in it! Any suggestions for low-maintenance summer flowers that my garden will love?

Make a Flower Crown
How is it that I've reached 36 and I've never done this?! I don't even know how to do it! (Of course... I have always been allergic to everything in nature so there might be a good reason this hasn't happened.) I'm hoping Google and I can team up this summer to make my first ever flower crown.



Get a New Gnome
There are never enough gnomes! This year, I have my eye on a gnome riding a unicorn. Seems like my garden is the perfect place for him to frolic!

Paint My Gnomes
Nature, she does wear the gnomes out, doesn't she? Several of my gnomes need a touch up this year. guess I'd better get on that...

Set up a Bee Hotel/Put up a Bird House
I'm big on helping our flying friends. We already have 3 bird feeders and a hanging bird bath but I think we can do more! I've seen more bees this year than the last several but they still need our help. I'd like to build my own bee hotel and/or bird house but I can't see these stupid hands managing that. I'll have to settle for buying them.

Be a Hometown Tourist/Visit Someplace I've Never Been
Even though I've been in the UK for 15 years now, there are still so many places I haven't had a chance to visit yet. Here are the ones in Wales I'm hoping to visit this year:

  • National Botanical Garden of Wales (Swansea)
  • St. Fagans (Cardiff)
  • Dan yr Ogof (Swansea)
  • Barry  
  • Rest Bay
  • The Royal Mint (Llantrisant)
  • Devil's Bridge (Aberystwyth)
  • National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth)
  • Portmeirion
  • The National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth)
  • Penderyn Distillery (Breacon Becons)
  • National Roman Legion Museum (Caerleon)
  • National Waterfront Museum (Swansea)

Send a Postcard
And, of course, send a postcard while I'm there! Because it's a touristy thing to do!



Have a Squirt Gun Fight/Have a Water Balloon Fight
Never grow up, never surrender! I've already warned Jay that I have every intention of doing it so well see if he's ready for the assault. Mwah ha ha ha.

Read in the Shade
It's hard to enjoy myself in our garden because our neighbors are either creepy or nosy and make it very uncomfortable. *sigh* But it's my property, dammit, and I'm going to enjoy my summer afternoons chilling in the shade with (hopefully) a good book.

Go to a Concert
I love a concert - but not festivals! I can't cope with all those people and craziness. So much nope. But a nice open-air concert where I can sit down and enjoy the music? Yes, please.

Make a Summer Playlist
Music is life! It's time for a new playlist to capture the lazy heat of summer. While I'm working on that, you can check out last year's list here.

Catch a Summer Blockbuster
Summer is the time for big, big movies! (It's also a way to keep those kids entertained for awhile.) Plus, popcorn, amiright? (With the added bonus of free air conditioning!) Marvel has a couple of big ones this summer so yay for us geeks!

Perform Random Acts of Kindness
We should all be doing this all the time, anyway, but summer is a great time for helping others. Parents are strung out, kids are being uncontrollable, and everyone's hot and miserable. (Okay, that might be just me...) There are ACKs that are very low cost and easy to do  that the kids can get involved with too. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • donate old clothes
  • donate to a food bank
  • leave change in a vending machine
  • leave a pound in a trolley
  • donate books
  • pick up litter
  • donate to an animal shelter
  • let someone go ahead in the queue
  • hold the door
  • hand out flowers
  • adopt an animal
  • buy someone a cold drink

Tie Dye a Shirt 
Who loves tie dye? Me! The crazy bright colors are just so me. I haven't done tie dye in way too long and it's a perfect summer project. Let's see how much of my house I can dye in the process. 😉

Find a Summer Dress I love
If such a thing exists! I'm not much for wearing dresses but it's soooo hot already! I'd love to have a cute maxi dress... if they weren't all several inches too long for my short legs! Grah! Will the hunt for the perfect summer dress ever end? We'll see...

DIY Spa Day
Pamper, pamper, pamper. I get to feeling so lousy in the summer that self-care is literally a lifesaver. Not that it's easy. The lower I feel, the harder self-care gets. Spoiling myself is even harder. Even so, I have to force myself to have these extra treats, just to get me through the worst of the summer.

Cut my Hair Short
If you've ever seen a poodle in the summer, you have a pretty good idea of what trying to manage my hair is like. Fizz. Poof. Ugh. I like to keep my hair just long enough to put in a ponytail when it's hot. (Any shorter and I look like someone stuck cotton candy on Mr. Potato Head.)

Have a Summer Photoshoot
It would be nice to have a photoshoot for myself but I doubt that will happen. Instead, I think I'll get in touch with some models and go take advantage of that summer sun.

Waiting For...