Thursday, November 28, 2013

Follow Friday - Fave Thanksgiving dish

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving Day food? If you’re not American or Canadian, what is your favorite holiday food?
Sweet potato casserole! No competition.  It tastes like a dessert but counts as a vegetable. Seriously, how could you go wrong with that?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 12

It's been a quiet month on Galavanting Girl Books.  I apologize! NanoWriMo has been soul-consuming.  But the blog must go on!

Swedish Cinemas Give Films the Bechdel Test

The state-funded Swedish Film Institute supports the initiative, which is starting to catch on. Scandinavian cable TV channel Viasat Film says it will start using the ratings in its film reviews and has scheduled an A-rated "Super Sunday" on 17 November, when it will show only films that pass the test, such as The Hunger Games, The Iron Lady and Savages.

Many people have pointed out while it's good to consider the Bechdel Test when writing/reading/watching media, it's also not a perfect test and it's unfair to write off any movie that does not pass the Bechdel Test.  The fact that the Harry Potter films don't pass, even though personally I consider them empowering to girls, is an example of the flaw in the system.  Read more here.

Foz Meadows Gets the Worst Comments

So Fox Meadow posted a pretty epic rant about a sexist comic on Penny Arcade that boils down a television show with complicated women characters to their component body parts (aka boobs).
Shit like this is why women are routinely shut down by sexist, sizeist fucks who think that telling us we’re fat or ugly must necessarily invalidate whatever point we’re making, because if a woman isn’t conventionally pretty, then she has no right to take up space by speaking.
The post itself is pretty great, but honestly the only reason I came across it was because she had a super special sort of comment.  And I thought it was on this post, but if you look at the comment section you'll see why I'm struggling to locate it.  But, Foz put it on her tumblr so here is the comment from hell. Even if they are unconnected, both are worth sharing.
Am I sexist? I hope so. Sexist means you can observe reality. Guys and girls like different things. Girls like to infiltrate the boys’ clubs which tends to drive out the boys. Most good writers are men, and as a man, given the choice I will naturally prefer an equivalent male to a female.
Read the full post about Penny Arcade here.  Read the full weird comment here.

Joss Whedon says Some Things about Feminism

Joss Whedon, acclaimed creator of short-lived shows, gave a speech about the word feminism.  At first, a lot of people seemed pleased with the speech but it didn't sit well with others, as most "re-branding" attempts of feminism by men won't.
This is why feminists are feminists—it's why there needs to be a name. Social, political, and economic equality is not the default. The reason Whedon can stand up at the podium and say that equality is natural is because all these feminists he doesn't talk about, from Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth on up, have fought exhausting battle after exhausting, grinding battle to get to this point. "Feminist" is a movement, a history, a faith, and a hope for change—as Firestone says, "if there were another word more all-encompassing than revolution we would use it." Saying equality is natural sounds like a good thing, but Whedon uses it rhetorically to ignore the entire history of feminism.
Read more here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Follow Friday - I will lose

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
 You Are It! We are playing #FF tag this week. Comment on as many blogs as you can, even if they aren’t participating in #FF. Just say Happy #FF! At the end of your comment. Keep a running total if you want and update your post with it. The bigger the number the more impressed we will be!
Guys I love Follow Friday. I don't always participate as much as I want to BUT it's my favorite book blogging meme.  But I'm going to tell you straight up that I will lose this week.  If you haven't noticed this week has been quiet.  Here are my super good (or not) reasons.  1. NanoWriMo - I fell behind on Saturday due to rock climbing and a headache.  2. Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - I'm having a very small party for the occasion which somehow leads to all the cooking and cleaning even though it's only a few close friends.

So tomorrow I will try to play tag.  But my expectations are low. Oh November, you always seem to do this to me!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Follow Friday - Movie adaptations

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Are there any book to movie adaptations where you think the movie is better than the book?
Okay, I feel blasphemous for even saying this, but I've said it before. As much as when I originally read the Hunger Games books I loved them, when I read them a second time I found myself mocking them somewhat.  But the first Hunger Game movies was so well done.  It made Katniss more relatable and likable than the book did.  In some ways, especially for non-YA readers, it was better than the book.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bellman & Black (review)

4/5 stars

Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story (Goodreads | Amazon) was not what I expected. As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with a slingshot.  He's the type of jovial youth who's always up to something, but smart and hardworking, the type of person everyone wants to be around.  His life is nearly perfect, working at his Uncle's mill, marrying a beautiful girl, having children of his own until slowly one-by-one those around him start to die.  At every funeral he sees the same unknown man dressed in black smiling at him.

I expected this story to be scarier, a more clear-cut ghost story, but it leaves you guessing for most of the book.  Are William Bellman's friends and family dying because he killed the rook or are they just dying because eventually everyone does? Not even Bellman himself can be sure whether he's cursed or his luck as turned.
"I see misery and suffering and despair. I see the futility of everything I have ever done and everything I may ever do! I see every reason to do away with myself right here and now, and be finished with it! Forever!" 
For me, the book was more sad than creepier or scary.  We see Bellman build an enviable life for himself, then watch it fall apart as he loses everything he loves.  His desperation, his attempts to bargain with death, are very real and familiar emotions to anyone who has ever lost somebody they loved. And always in the background, always looming is the man in black and this sense of doom and paranoid that Bellman develops over time.

The writing is very atmospheric, setting the place and tone of the novel, and even though the story is slow-moving, it works for this particular novel.  This book is not a sprint, but a marathon, the haunting story of living, losing, paranoia and the potential price of a childhood mistake.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pirouette (review)

2/5 stars

Pirouette (Goodreads | Amazon) just didn't do it for me.  At first glance, a Parent Trap-style twins-seperated-at-birth premise just seems too fun to pass up. Factor in the fact that they're twin ballerinas sent off to dancing summer camp (dancing + summer camp too of my favorite story things) where they meet for the first time this book just sounds like it's full of win.

It's not.  The problem with this book is that it expects you to set aside your suspension of disbelief way beyond what is possible AND the main characters are supposed to be smart, but so obviously aren't.  My problems start when Hannah, the outgoing happy twin, is delayed at the airport by a day which allows her to arrive a day after all the other students so she can meet her sister in private.  It's contrived and feels contrived.  Another problem, is the speed with which Hannah (who has just met Simone) agrees to the switching for the summer despite the fact it'll wipe this prestigious dance camp off her resume (and she has aspirations of being a professional dancer).

I tried to set that aside as hokey fun.  But when Simone, the smart shy twin, begins googling information about DNA tests the bottom kind of fell out for me.  There's this whole section where Simone tries to figure out if a DNA test could prove they're identical twins and insists on doing a mail-in DNA test to prove they're twins.  Let me break this down for you.  Simone (through google) learns that identical twins have identical DNA.  She wants to do a DNA test to prove to their parents they are twins.  If Simone and Hannah have identical DNA there's no way for the lab where they're mailing the tests to be able to tell that the samples came from two people.  For all they know Simone could've sent in two samples of her own DNA and received the same results.  As far as proving this her parents, it's a waste of over $300.  Also, after going through all the trouble of taking the test and getting the results it's never mentioned again throughout the novel.

(For the record, I did some basic googling about twins & DNA.  Apparently they are coming up with tests that might be able to differentiate between identical twins genetically, but we're talking about a mail-in paternity test here).

After the DNA section disappeared and they decide to continue the switch after-camp, the book hit a pretty good stride.  Fooling the family and friends while learning more about the others.  These sections were the best of the book, enjoyable and fun as they walk, occasionally stumbling, in each other shoes  But then, near the end there's another section that's way too hard to believe.  To say more would be spoilers, but it's something that would never happen.

Overall this book was not realistic enough for a contemporary YA and the characters weren't enough to carry the story. For younger YA readers, borderline middle-grade, it would probably be more enjoyable than for older YA readers.

I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 11

I know I know I'm once again behind.  Part of the problem is so much happens that I always feel behind.  ALWAYS.  Somehow being behind makes me procrastinate as the links pile up.  The world is just full of sexism and feminism to cope with the sexism that even what I originally thought was a small subset of the discussion covers a lot of information, articles and posts than originally expected.  In some ways it's great that we're having so many discussions about sexism around the literary, fandom and geek worlds.  Then sometimes it's sad that even though we have SO many discussions this is still the world we find ourselves in.

Girl Leaning Fandoms Get the Worst Haters

This article was written because Den of Geek lost a bet with the internet.  Honestly, their loss equals our win if this is the type of commentary we get.  While the football being for boys thing stings a little bit (big football fan. I think it only skewers male because we don't raise our girl-children to watch it and they also lack the experience playing it), this article is spot-on it's it's commentary on fandom.
     Yet it was in the comments field of that article that one point stuck in my head, where it's firmly resided since. As one commenter put it, "it does seem that fandoms that can be 'female' learning (such as One Direction) do get a lot of stick, but if it's male skewering (e.g. football) then it gets a free pass".
     A further commenter picked up the baton: "anything with a fanbase mainly composed of teenage girls - One Direction, Bieber, Twilight etc - gets tons of these uber-macho comments from people desperate to prove that they don't like this sissy garbage". As such you get "homophobic slurs aimed at the artists and misogynistic ones aimed at the fans".
Read more here.

Cosplay Creeps And You 

This video is pretty much perfect and everybody who attends a con or cares about geek culture should watch the treatment women cosplayers are subjected too.

Do Women REALLY dominate the YA market? 

Stacked took an excellent look at something year hear time and time again.  If we're not worried about the poor boy readers, we're noting that YA is really where the women can get ahead (often disparaging YA in the same article).  This article on Stacked full of numbers, statistics and graphs, all things I love in an article, and really in-depth.
     As should be absolutely clear, there has never been a time women have outnumbered men on the NYT List in the top ten. Never. There have been six weeks where there have been a grand total of four women in the top ten -- January 6, February 24, March 31, May 5, May 19, and June 9.
Many studies have shown that any time there is gender equality, such as calling on students in a classroom, it's always perceived as the women dominating the discussion.  There's too much data in this article so you need to read it for yourself here.  This article also spawned a REALLY long and sometimes confusing (due to twitter's terrible ability to organize conversation) discussion on twitter among YA authors. There is absolutely no way to summarize these so I'm just linking them as well.
First day of discussion is here.
Second day of discussion is here. 

Female Characters Should Be People Too (Duh)

The fact that Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors is a well known fact.  She also makes a regular appearance in this column.  Since the October Daye series is one of my favorites, this particular passage of this excellent post about female characters amazes me.
     Midway through either the second or the third book—I don't remember anymore—I got a note from one of my proofers saying "You can't have Toby do this, she's always been a little bitchy, but this makes her a total bitch. No one will like her if she does this."
      I panicked. I couldn't write a series about an unlikeable character! I'd never get published, no one else would ever meet my imaginary friends, and everything I'd worked for my whole life would be over, all because Toby was unlikeable.
      Then I took a deep breath, and wrote back to the proofer requesting that they do a find/replace on the .doc, and plug in the name "Harry Dresden" for every instance of "October Daye." They did, and lo and behold, what had been "bitchy" and "inappropriate" was suddenly "bold" and "assertive." A male character in the same situation, with the same background, taking the same actions, was completely in the right, justified, and draped with glory. He was a hero. Toby? Toby was an unlikeable bitch.
      The proofer withdrew the compliant. I have never forgotten it.

Read More Here

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Follow Friday - Vlog

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Q: Vlog Feature: Tell us why you would be the best feature ever in a vlog. The best two will get picked for next week’s feature. If you do not want to participate, just tell us why you can’t be caught on video.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Palace of Spies (review)

4/5 stars

Very rarely is a book as much fun as Palace of Spies (Goodreads | Amazon).  Peggy Fitzroy is an orphan living in her bossy and overbearing uncle's house.  But since she has nowhere else to go, she trudges through trying to ignore his increasing insults.  Everything goes awry when her uncle announces her sudden betrothal, she meets said fiancee (he doesn't deserve our Peggy) in unfortunate circumstance and ends up kicked out of her uncle's house into the streets.

Before she knows it, Peggy is swept into impersonating Lady Francesca, one of the lady's in waiting at King George I's court.  A clever girl, Peggy doesn't understand why she's been brought into this scheme but through observation and some snooping, she discovers that Lady Francesca may have been murdered and begins fearing for her own life.

This book is a romping adventure, not that there are pirate ships or lots of sword fights, but it feels like a romping adventure.  Filled with politics, intrigue and the drama of life at court, Palace of Spies is feisty and fun.  In some ways the style of writing reminded me of Gail Carriger, (minus the fantasy elements) and the book has a great sense of humor and snark.

Peggy, too smart for her own good, carries the book.  She's everything you want in a main character, intelligent, funny with a knack for getting herself into sticky situations.  I liked how this book dealt with female characters all-around, rather than making them vapid for wearing pretty dresses and flirting with boys it presented them as master strategists.  Whether it's Peggy, who you have to cheer for, or conniving Sophy, the women of court aren't just eye candy or pawns but playing their own political game.

Whenever I read books filled with mystery and court politics, I always wonder why there aren't more YA novels set in royal courts.  It just seems such a natural fit, royal courts are filled with scheming young beautiful people and someones always plotting treason.  This book has it all, a mystery that keeps you guessing, a heroine to cheer for, handsome young men and mischievous plotting by almost every character in the book.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, November 3, 2013

NanoWriMo 2013

So after falling behind on blogging during vacation we've reached November, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) the craziest thirty days in existence.  This year NanoWriMo will be a different challenge altogether for me.  Last December I moved to Louisville, away from my parent's home and the always-there meals of my mother to the city (or what constitutes the city in Kentucky).

Back home, I didn't have much of a life so NanoWriMo was simpler.  Everyday I would come home from work, eat dinner and write.  But this year will be much more of a balancing act than ever before.  It'll look more like come home, walk dog, cook dinner and then that's where things get interesting.  Having finally gained some semblance of a social life, I'd like to maintain that  during November.  So I'm trying to find a way to watch all my sports, feed myself, go to the climbing gym twice a week, knit and write.  In preparation I looked back on my tip list from NanoWrimos past (see here) and actually the advice is still pretty good even in my new situation.

  1. Time Management - For this year stealing writing time is going to be even more important.  I've already decided that I'm going to have to take my laptop to the office and write during lunch breaks later this month.  I probably need to request a vacation day later this month to help as well.
  2. Sundays - Big Sundays are still my goal.  As soon as this blog is posted I plan to go back to writing.
  3. Rewards - I'm using the climbing gym as a reward.  Right now I'm planning to continue going on Tuesdays regardless, but going on Thursdays will depend on where I am on the word count.  
  4. Don't Let the Bad Bother You  - Always good NanoWriMo advice
  5. Write Different - Like last year, I am writing most of my NanoWriMo novel in Written Kitten. 
  6. Live a Little - Last year this was a challenge I gave myself and this year it's even more important.  I've started a new life here in Louisville and I'm going to maintain it.
I have a few other strategies for surviving NanoWriMo this year, like planning to cook big meals on Sunday so I can eat leftovers more during the week and going to my magical writing place (the apartment complex laundry room where there is no wifi) if needed.  Yesterday I went to my first Write-In which was fun, if not completely productive, and I'd like to try to take advantage of living in a city with other Wrimos.

If any of my blogging friends are dong NanoWriMo this year feel free to add me as a buddy!  And if not, I'll see you around the web because I'm planning to keep book blogging and tweeting throughout this month. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Follow Friday - Embarrassing

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What book are you embarrassed to admit you LOVED? (try to think beyond Twilight).
I'm going to be honest with you here, I don't tend to be embarrassed by books that I love. Sometimes I'm surprised and not sure why I like a book or series so much, but embarrassed...nope. Honestly I think there's a place for fun books and guilty pleasure reads.  Some of my favorite books are silly and snarky and they completely own it.  I'm not the pseudo-intellectual type who gets judgey judgey about the type of books you should like. Like snarky fun YA? GOOD. Love serious literature with densely written prose? Good for you! Devour guilty pleasure erotic e-books? That's fine too (if all you ever read is very poorly written re-purposed fanfiction that might be a problem, but if you read that and other stuff then fine by me). Honestly most of us adults read for enjoyment, so read books, have fun and be merry.