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Review: Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh

Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh by Anna Beer My rating: 4 of 5 stars Disclaimer: I won an ARC ...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Review: The Con Artist - SPOILERS AHOY

The Con Artist The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A mystery sent at a Comic Con, sign me up.

The best-selling point of this novel are the inside jokes about culture – the LOTR references, Star Wars, Cosplay. There are even some interesting points about how it is a Comic Con but most people seem to think that comics are no longer being published. A convention to celebrate something and that thing gets pushed to the margins.

Mike Mason is a comic artist who makes his living by going to cons. He is currently unemployed by a publisher. At the most recent con, he finds himself a quasi-suspect in the murder of his sort of romantic rival who also was a harasser. Mason then sets out to solve the mystery and save the job of a friend, who as a woman artist is in danger of being replaced on the Batman like book.

And along the way, you have rants about everything that is wrong in the comic industry.

Which is fine. The mystery is workable, there are some funny jokes. But, but,

But but.

First the romantic lead is totally added on and feels so false. Second, we have the stereotypical noir of good girl= blonde, bad girl = dark hair, which pisses me off because I have dark hair.

But the main problem for me, and one that isn’t at first obvious, is that despite being a partial critique/send up of comic cons, it still hues to some of the problems of fandom and its treatment of women.

In this book, there are four women of note– the ex-wife Mason still has a thing for and who isn’t an angel; the Pedi-cab driver who is a nice, caring blonde, Mason’s biggest fan who has a pretty good cosplay, and Mason’s artist friend who helped get her start.

The cosplayer is eventually revealed to have mental issues, so female fans are at risk of being crazy; the artist needs to have her job saved and only Mason can do it. See, she’s about to give birth, and her husband has some shit going out his job. Which, quite frankly, jerked me out of the book because the description of her husband’s adjunct life makes very little sense, and I say this as an adjunct. For one, most adjuncts teach in at least colleges/universities. But I digression. The ex-wife is revealed to be a baddie and gets murdered. So that leaves with the romantic interest of a Pedi-cab driver, who really isn’t into the whole con thing and just makes money. She is on the margins, and she is the only woman without problems or in need of saving.

So, women don’t belong in fandom is being showcased whether that was Van Lente’s intention or not. And to be fair, I don’t think it was. He doesn’t describe women by their tits.

Perhaps I am too sensitive to it because I feel like I am always on the fringes of fandom. I tend to prefer the books over the media. I tend to play more attention to plot. I have a decidedly feminist bent to how I look at sci-fi and fantasy.

But still, especially with the treatment of the woman fan, this book just re-enforces the idea of women and fandom not mixing.

Nice artwork, however.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Review: A History of the World in 21 Women: A Personal Selection

A History of the World in 21 Women: A Personal Selection A History of the World in 21 Women: A Personal Selection by Jenni Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: ARC via Librarything

We love lists. We make shopping lists, reading lists, to read lists, movie lists, and on and on. Any book or article that publishes a list is going to get called on that list. So, let’s get that bit out of the way.

Murray’s list of 21 women starts in Ancient Egypt and goes to Cathy Freeman. There is a total of eight women of color, three from the US, and two from France and Russia. Every continent is represented, except South America, which is a bit annoying. Bonus points for having Australia represented by an Aboriginal woman. There is a nice mixture of women in the arts, politics, and sciences. It’s true that a reader does wonder why some lesser known women aren’t mentioned, why, in some cases, the standard women are trotted out. And couldn’t a woman from South America make the list? But all the women either were or are highly influential, usually in more than one field.

But quite frankly, it was so wonderful to see Toni Morrison here, and she isn’t the only artist.

Jenni Murray, host of BBC’s Women Hour, details 21 women using an amazing personal voice as well as with a good critical eye. At times her personal admiration really does shine though. Honesty, Merkel, c’mon, let Murray talk to you, basically so she can ask you if you really did read Playboy to understand Trump.

Murray also does not whitewash the flaws in the women. In fact, at times, she notes her own conflicts with some of the actions the women take – for instance Queen Isabella’s prosecutions of Jews. She handles Bhutto’s political history deftly. The tone of the writing is totally engaging, and the book is quite easy to dip in and out of. It is as if you are listening to Murray present on the radio.

The portraits of each woman are incredibly lovely.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: That Old Witch!

That Old Witch! That Old Witch! by M.Z. Andrews
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was going to use this as my cozy bingo read, but I can't finish it. I cannot take 400 plus pages of this.

You would think it would be good. It almost sounds a witchy version of Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote. But nope.

I mean, I knew I was in trouble when I started - take for instance

". . . a sudden, fierce gust of wind whipped at the newly budded tree branches and sent a spray of gavel dust up into the air, exfoliating the front of the three-story Victorian and the back end of the old jalopy parked in the dirt driveway" (1)


"The pale, wrinkled skin on her outstretched arms sagged from just below her elbows to her armpits, her short elastic sleeves doing little to carry the burden of the excess baggage" (1)


"Arched white trellises covered in pink and purple clematis and lavender-shaded wisteria anchor themselves centrally" (2)


"With her nose still point to the clouds, Kat opened her eyes and ever so slowly dropped her chin." (3)

(I'm not sure how the nose stays pointed at the sky the, to be honest).


"She had only a few minutes to get out of the garden before the magic fertilizer with the rain coming down." (3).

There also are the following questions - if the majority of people in the town are okay with witches, then how is saying you went to witch school a conversation killer? How can never being married means you have no family or friends? If the funeral director let you leave the funeral with a woman's ashes, you should not be surprised when you discover that she named you in her will. If you had to leave town for years, why did you run a diner there? I mean, how could you do that? If you leave in the town for, say, 40 years, and then left for a few years, say 5, shouldn't you know at least the old stories?

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