Quick Review: The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter

This is embarrassing to admit but there is some comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who thought this but *sigh* I didn’t realize there was a difference between the Vulva and the Vagina. I kinda thought they were the same thing. The words were interchangeable. It really is sad how little we know about women’s body and how for centuries the medical profession didn’t really feel it necessary to study women’s bodies and health the same way they study men’s. That’s where Dr. Jen Gunter comes in. Twitter’s doctor as she is known spells out the fact from the fiction. What we know to be true and what isn’t and really what works for her. She lays everything out in a very straightforward way. Her explanations are easy to understand and makes perfect sense to me. She has set it up in a way that you can jump around and read on what you want to know. Sure you can read from front to back and I’m sure it’s beneficial. I started it that way but then skipped forward to later chapters as they pertained more to my own personal questions. I did go back to the chapters I missed but I didn’t bother me that I didn’t read it order. I like to think of it as my own choose your own adventure book. The real strength is that as I have more questions as time goes on, I can always go back to reference. So ladies, I do recommend adding this book to your library. All of our lives, we have been told misleading or even out right lies about our anatomy that continue to do us harm. It’s time to take that knowledge back.

Quick Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Shout out to all the Smart, Fat girls out there. Elisa is here for you. Elisa is a Princess who marries a King and is a bearer of the Godstone so much is expected of her. She’s also not the conventional beauty aka skinny. If you are not stick thin you can identify with Elisa. For most people it’s hard for them to look beyond our weight and see us to be anything more than just fat and lazy. Over and over again, Eliza is overlooked and underestimated. She’s dismissed, not just because she is fat but also because she is a teenage girl. She is able to assert her authority thanks to her intelligence and quick thinking. Her years of devout study and her growing belief in herself allows her to defeat her enemies but for some it doesn’t matter how strong, smart or capable she becomes she will always be her weight. At one point in the novel, she loses some weight thanks to traipsing across the desert. When she returns to her husband, the King he doesn’t recognize. He only found her to be desirable once she reached a “desirable weight” while others like Humberto and even Hector saw her for who she really was no matter her size. Again so many of us can identify with that. Elisa is a great character for girls and woman to look up too. I looking forward to seeing where Elisa goes from her and proud of myself for finding this series after it has been completed. I’ve also made progress. haha

Quick Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

So for a book that is about Witches, their familiars and the Pendle Hill Witch trial all of those things don’t really play much a roll in the main narrative. Yes, the witch trails plays in the background of the story as woman are starting to be rounded up and arrested but it’s a minor plot point that doesn’t really come into place into the very end of the book. It’s really about the limited roles that women have. Fleetwood may be the mistress of her house but if she can’t produce an heir she could see herself without a home and husband. She is the money and privilege but is very limited in her choices. When she finds a letter from her doctor to her husband that says that 1 more pregnancy will most likely kill her she is devastated because she is pregnant and had lost her previous 3 pregnancies. She goes for a ride and runs into Alice in the woods she is convinced she is the only midwife that can save her. Alice is a poor single woman who works as a midwife and a barmaid to support herself and her father. When Alice helps Fleetwood after she fell off her horse she is convinced that Alice is the only midwife that can help her deliver a healthy child and keep her alive. Things get complicated when Alice is named as part of the Pendle Hill witches and Fleetwood must try to save her. Now Fleetwood Shuttleworth and Alice Grey are real people. Fleetwood was indeed the mistress of a noble house in Lancanster. Alice Grey was accused of witchcraft but was the only one acquitted. This I don’t think is a spoiler since anyone with google could have found that out. There is no historical document that links them to each other so the story is entirely fiction. Anyway, over the course of the book the two women bond and find that even though they come from different backgrounds, they really aren’t that different. They lives are completely controlled by their circumstances and they are pretty much powerless to do anything about it. Which is definitely frustrating. It is never fully explicit that Alice is a witch though she does seem to have a familiar as a fox. Again, that really doesn’t play much in the story. While the book is interesting and has some important things to say about the limited roles of women in our society I feel like it’s a missed opportunity. I wish the story would have been from Alice’s point of view instead of Fleetwood. So we could have gotten more with the witches and witch hunt. Also I didn’t really think Fleetwood was all that interesting. Sure, I felt sorry for her. She was married at 14 and at 19 and living with the pressure of producing an heir. Something that she had a failed to do for 5 years. Her husband at first seems supportive but well, I’m not sure how we are supposed to feel about Richard Shuttleworth. He dotes on Fleetwood but is constantly travels. We find out later she has a mistress who is also pregnant. Fleetwood tries to get him to help her with Richard and he only really does it when her life on the line. In the end, they seem to live happily ever after as if nothing in the book mattered at all. It’s weird. I feel like this book could have been better.

So that ends my Pop Culture homework assignment. It was interesting to read different interpretations on the witch myth. While witchcraft probably exists but for the most part witches are not evil. Most of those who were accused of witchcraft were not witches but women who dared to want or live above their stations. All the novels dealt with idea that witches needed to hide who they were because discovery would be dangerous for us. As a woman, I identify with that. I think all women do. We all have been taught how to act in public to not draw attention to ourselves or to draw attention to ourselves when need be. Who we are at work, with friends and at home are often different because we have to be different for the environment we are in. In that way we are all witches. Welcome to the coven ladies.

Review: Firebug by Lish McBride

I have completed a book from my pop culture homework assignment! Firebug is the tale of Ava, a teenager who can start fires with her mind. She is the main assassin for the Coterie, which is like a mafia for magical people. This is not something she wants to do with her life. For one, the head of the Coterie, Venus, killed her mother. For another, she’s a member for life and can’t ever get out of her contract. It’s not awesome. She’s met some good people in her time in the Coterie, though. Ezra, a shape shifter who turns into a fox and Lock, whose mother is a dryad, so he is part dryad, are her team and help her when she goes out on assassin missions. They’re both amazing and I really enjoyed the dynamic between the three of them. The main thrust of the story is that Ava is asked to assassinate someone and she doesn’t want to. This kicks off all kinds of shenanigans. I was riveted. Couldn’t stop listening to this audio book.

This book was excellent. I devoured it. I can’t wait to dig into book two (after I finish my challenge, of course). Beth did a really great job picking this for me. I liked it so much.

Review of Witches, Midwives and Nurses by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English

I feel the best way to express how I feel about this book and it’s content can best be summed up by this gif.

The way that women have been excluded in not just the medical fields but been excluded from the own knowledge about our own bodies is pretty disheartening and infuriating. How much knowledge have we lost because men didn’t like that woman were doing something that they could not or not willing to do themselves. Instead of learning from or trying to understand their knowledge they pushed them out completely. They accused them of witchcraft, they called them unnatural. They made people who would have benefited from their expertise afraid to use them. And for what? To keep power? It’s true that a lot has changed since when women were being burned for witchcraft and even more from when this book was originally published. However it’s 2019 and women are still not fully in charge of our own bodies. Every day a new law is passed that regulates our bodies and limit our medical resources. Lies about our bodies are shared as facts and all because men didn’t want to share space with women. We live in turbulent times but I have faith that the women today have learned from the women from the past and we have no interest going back and will not be excluded from the discussion again.

Quick Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

You know how often the book is so much better than the movie? Well this was exception to the rule because I have to say I like the movie better. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the movie multiple times and am fans of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I don’t know but the book was kind of blah. A lot of descriptions with not a lot happening. No wonder they made so many changes to the movie. They both follow sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens who both have had some bad luck in love. Sally is widowed early on in the book just like in the movie. She is also focused on being normal even though everyone else in her family are okay with being themselves. Gillian is still the wild spirit that runs away from home and ends up in an abusive relationship with Jimmy who ends up dead but that’s kinda of where the the similarities end. The book takes place primarily in Long Island then in their Aunt’s house in Massachusetts. Maybe that’s what I didn’t like it as much because the Aunt’s were not in it as much as they are in the book. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing are kinda the best part of the movie and without them the book is kind of lacking. The urgency that is felt with the dealing the spirit of Jimmy isn’t there. There is no build up of the romance between Sally and Gary Hallet. He doesn’t even appear until the last 50 pages of the book. As for a book about witches there really isn’t much witchcraft going on. I was a little disappointed in it but at least I can always watch the movie.

Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

This was truly everything that I wanted it to be. It was a space action adventure. It introduced me to Korean folklore and was just plain fun. Min is a 13 years old and is a fox. Not a real fox but can turn into one or really shapeshift to anything. Her family must hide their heritage since foxes are thought to be untrustworthy. Unlike other supernaturals, like Dragons, Goblins and Tigers who are able to work freely. Many think Foxes are extinct. No, just in hiding. Min’s brother goes missing from his Space Cadet mission and thought to have deserted to look for the Dragon Pearl. A mystical object that can transform worlds and make them more inhabitable. She knows her brother Jun would never do something like that so she goes off and looks for him. While she is away she discovers that there is more then meet the eye. The mystery of what happened to Jun gets mixed with with Ghosts, politics and who can get the the pearl first. Min is sassy and smart. You could say she is clever as a fox. Sorry, I had to. It is interesting how the fox myth differs from Korean and Japanese folklore. In Julie Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox, Yumeko is seen as being a trickster because of her fox heritage but not exactly an outcast the way Min and her family would be if they were discovered. It’s fun to learn how different cultures tell similar stories. Anyway, back to Min. She keeps finding herself in impossible situations but uses her intelligence and fox powers to get herself out. She is brave. There are many reasons that she should give up and just say this is too much for me but she knows what is at stake. Not just for her and her family but for everyone. If the pearl falls into the wrong hand it could be used as a weapon instead of a tool for the better. This books has a lot of twists and turns. Betrayals are all around and friendships questioned. So far it is my favorite of the Rick Riordan presents imprints. Its a shame that at the moment, it is only planned as a standalone because there is so much potential. Obviously it has been left open that if Yoon Ha Lee wanted to come back and right another and I hope he does. It definitely makes me want to check out his other books now.

Review: Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

***MInor Spoilers***

All and all this was an enjoyable series. The Caraval trilogy is about sisters, Scarlett and Tella. In their own ways they both are obsessed with a mysterious and magical game called Caraval. It is lead by the even more mysterious Legend. Scarlett for years wrote letters to Legend begging him to bring his game to their small island for her sister’s birthday to no avail. That is until the invitation to play the game finally comes on the eve of her wedding. Scarlett is thrilled at the offer but doesn’t want to accept because she has convinced herself that her upcoming marriage will save her and her sister from the abusive father. Tella has either ideas and with the help of the charming Julian, Scarlett is whisked away to Legend’s private island to play Caraval. She plays the game in earnest as Tella is taken and to win the game she must find her before anyone else. It’s whimsical and heartbreaking as Scarlett overcomes her own fears and traumas to win the game and find her sister. Now, Tella I do not like as much as Scarlett. In fact if my sister did to me what Tella does to Scarlett I wouldn’t be so forgiving. I was very upset with how it ended and after finding out the second book, is from Tella’s point of view I almost didn’t want to read it. It wasn’t that bad. While Scarlett is earnest and constantly thinking of her sister and others, Tella is selfish and self involved. This Caraval isn’t like the others because it’s the real this time. The Fates who once ruled and were cruel were trapped in a deck of cards and are threatening to be released. The only person in their way is Tella. She made a a deal with the Prince of Hearts to help her get to the Caraval and in return she needed to find the true identity of Legend. Tella didn’t know she made a deal with a Fate. In the process of playing the game, Tella falls in love with a man named Dante who is more then she bargains for. If Tella wins she will either doom humanity by betraying Dante and Caraval or lose more of her family by betraying the Prince of Hearts. Well, things don’t end the way anyone thought and the final book has alternating POV of Scarlett and Tella. Honestly, I really wish it had more Scarlett then Tella but it was welcomed development to have Scarlett back. She was a little frustrating at first because she insisted on getting to know the Fiance she left behind and for little pay off. He was there and then not. Same with their Mother. Tella spends all of the second book, trying to release her only to have her die a few chapters into the third. Minor criticisms. The biggest issue I have that was never addressed is this. The end of the first book, Tella is believed dead by their abusive father. When the second book, they are invited to go with Caraval to the capital of the Empire. Scarlett doesn’t want to go because her former fiance lived there and was afraid they might be seen and word would get back to their father. So what does Tella do? She gets in engaged to the heir to the Throne. Their abusive father is the Governor of the island they grew up on. While news may travel slowly to their former home, it would eventually get to him that the heir was engaged and surely he would have recognized his own daughter. It was like this whole plot point was just forgotten and we are supposed to forget it too but it bothered me the rest of the series. Other than that, I enjoyed this series and I’m glad that I waited to read it until it was completed to start reading it. It’s nice to read a series all together for once.

Quick Review: Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard

Fans of the Red Queen series should devour this short story collection. Even if they have already read the two previously released short stories, it is still worth the read. Broken Throne is gives more insight into the world building that author Victoria Aveyard did to create her series. Historical notes by Julian is the perfect way to go deep into how Norta, Montefort, Lakelands, Piedmont and neighboring countries came to be and gives perspective on where they are now. In between the history lessons are short stories, new and old, set in this world that focuses on supporting characters or backstory. The story that fans will probably be the most interested in reading is Fire Light. Fans who were left a little disappointed on how Mare left thing with Cal at the end of War Storm will get some closure in this story. Mare and Cal have been through a lot. They have both done things to others and to each other that they can’t take back. They both needed time to heal from everything that has happened and accessed who they are now and not who they were before they meant. Can they forgive each other? Can they forgive themselves? It was a sweet story that wraps up their story nicely. While I think this was a wrap of the series but I think there is a lot here for more book set in this universe. The Nortan states push towards a representative government is rocky and the epilogue mentions further drama that could easily be turned into a series. There are a few countries that were mentioned but we haven’t been that could be explored. Not to mention, as more and more Reds turn out to be New bloods, there could be so many more stories about them and how that plays out in the world. So what I’m saying, I don’t think we have seen the last of Norta or the Lakelands or Montefort or the last of Mare, Cal, Evageline, Iris, Farley and the other characters either. Whenever Victoria is ready to come back she should know I’ll be waiting.

Reviews: Aru Shah and the End of Times by Roshani Chokshi and The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

I’m going to do a double review for these two books because they are both published under Rick Riordan Presents publishing tent and I read them back to back. Like Rick Riordan’s work, they both are children’s books that are based in Mythology. So why didn’t Rick write them? Well, I think he learned from his Kane Chronicles that you can do all the research you can on culture and mythology you are not a part of or familiar with it’s going to come out a bit messy. Not to say that the Kane Chronicles was a bad series. I think for many of his readers, it was their first introduction into Egyptian mythology so they were not aware of any errors but I could tell that Rick was comfortable and the flow of his writing wasn’t as crisp. So Rick decided he was going to use his platform and start his own imprint and publish Authors of color tell their own stories and mythologies. This is how you ally. Use your resources to uplift marginalize voices and give them a platform to speak.

Both Aru Shah and the End of Times and The Storm Runner follow the same formula that Rick uses in his Greek stories. Introduces the Demigod, send them on a world saving quest that requires them to complete smaller quests along the way to help them be successful, while interacting with other mythological characters or using the myths they grew up hearing to help them get out of trouble. Here I was taken through various Indian and Mayan myths and it was enjoyable. I do admit I enjoyed Aru Shah a lot better then The Storm Runner. Aru lives in Atlanta with her Mom and goes to a elite prep school. Aru is a liar. Well, she has a huge imagination. She often tells her fell kids at schools lies about her life to make her life seem more exciting and things start to go south when a few them catch her in her lies. Technically, Aru isn’t a demigod but the reincarnation of one of Indian mythologies greatest heroes. With the help of Mini, who is also a reincarnation of Aru’s brother hero, are able to save the day. What I liked about this book is that Aru is not the perfect girl. She’s a liar and definitely a troublemaker. She doesn’t have a lot of friends because she feels like an outsider and bullied. Both girls have had trouble making friends and opening up to each other isn’t easy but they do and it’s what allows them to succeed. I love who it really plays up their friendship and the importance of female friendships. Not to mention, Aru is a hoot. I laughed all the way through this book.

Maybe one of the reasons I liked Aru better is that I have some familiarity with Indian Mythology. I know nothing about Mayan. So I was going into this book fresh and learned quite a lot. Did you know the Mayan’s have a Goddess for Chocolate? That is awesome. The Storm Runner follows Zane who lives in New Mexico with his Mother and Uncle, next to a volcano. Who knew there were volcanoes in New Mexico? One night, a plane crashes into his volcano and then Zane meets Brooks, who he calls the most beautiful girl he has ever meant and boom we are off and running. Zane releases Ah-Puch, the God of the Death among of other things and well now he’s in trouble. Only he can kill him and do it before the other Mayan Gods find him and well kill him too because Gods are not supposed to have children because they see this as an imbalance in the world. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did but I found Zane to be frustrating. He really doesn’t listen to what people tell him. He is given good advice throughout the book and he either ignores it or doesn’t want to listen because “who are they to tell him what to do”. Things kinda go from bad to worst when he does this until the end when faced with his own death does he actually listen to what people are telling him and it turns out okay. There were moments in the book that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be alright but it wasn’t easy to get through. Again this could be because I don’t know anything about Mayan mythology. With Rick’s Greek and Roman and even a little with Aru’s Indian, I knew enough Myths to figure out what was going ton and how they might be able escape. I didn’t have that here and maybe that made it harder. I also found Aru to be more likeable then Zane but I also identified more with Aru. I should mention that Zane has a disability. One of his legs is shorter then the other and he has to walk with a cane. It seems like his weakness but it turn out it s his strength. I think that is an important message for kids to read and allow them to be seen. I would recommend both books for anyone who loves Percy Jackson and are looking for stories outside Greek and Roman mythologies. They both are good in their own right and I look forward to reading the next books in both series..