Review of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion by Jia Tolentino

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Wow. This one. There’s a lot to unload here. First off, Jia Tolentino is incredibly smart and insightful. This was not a book that I flew through in a day, because frankly, she’s way smarter than I am. I don’t say this to be self-deprecating or to underestimate myself. There’s always gonna be someone smarter in the room. That’s partially WHY we read, right? To get a glimpse into the brain of intelligent people, to learn something. Jia is wise and skilled writer, and thus, a lot of her thoughts were deserving of a reread and reflection. The title Trick Mirror is so fitting, if you’re aware of trick mirror photography, which is done by placing a subject between two mirrors to create four reflections. The purpose was to enable a person to see themselves the way other people might see them, to see all angles. Jia has certainly approached a multitude of subject from a multitude of perspectives in Trick Mirror.

c. 1905. Dittrich Studio, Atlantic City, New Jersey. IMAGE: COLLECTION OF CHRISTOPHER B. STEINER

“When I feel confused about something, I write about it until I turn into the person who shows up on paper: a person who is plausibly trustworthy, intuitive, and clear.”

Here’s a warning for people that might be thinking this is an uplifting self-help book… this book gets uncomfortable. It’s about shedding self-delusions. It’s about the necessity, at times, of self-delusions in a cruel world. It gets depressing. It’s poignant and raw, and a slap in the face at times. It’s also necessary and important at a time where we have media, the internet, influencers, politicians, and trolls alike shaping our world and discourse. This book is really Jia working through her inner feelings towards a range of topics: the internet, feminism, sexual assault, marriage, religion, drugs, reality tv, body image, marriage, scams of the century. I’ll tell you, I’m super happy that I read this on kindle merely because I highlighted over 200 quotes… it was almost comical the amount of things I related to, the revelations that I had.

We start out with the internet and the good things that have come about because of it. People found a way to express themselves, creative outlets, ways to promote their business with satisfying and quick results. We were able to connect with friends and family instantaneously. It was all new and glorious. Jia explores how things have become so caustic in the span of a decade. Instead of feeling liberated by the internet, a lot of us feel chained and insecure. Scrolling through our instagram/facebook/twitter/etc., we are exposed to tragedy after tragedy, decimation, unrealistic bodies, opinions shouted merely for the point of shouting, to tear another person down behind the safety of a screen. As Jia points out, it can be overwhelming. It can be depressing. A lot of us also rely on the internet, the business world has become so entangled unto the internet that it seems that there’s no way to escape social media usage at times. Sometimes it feels like we are forced to choose between burying our head in the sand or taking severe hits to our mental health when it comes to internet usage, we have become so reliant on it.

“Platforms that promised connection began inducing mass alienation.”

What started out as getting to know our peers, ended up being in a never-ending competition with our peers and strangers alike. Jia points out that while the internet can seem incredibly rewarding for some (in fact, for those who are alienated in real life, it can be the only place they feel rewarded, in front of an adoring audience that barely knows them), it is also incredibly harmful and alienating for others. The internet doesn’t forget. The internet doesn’t go gently into the good night… it rages. It rages over big and small things alike. It ruins lives without a second thought. Every comment, every troll, every sarcastic retweet and stray thought can be the undoing of another person.

“Online reward mechanisms beg to substitute for offline ones, and then overtake them. This is why everyone tries to look so hot and well-traveled on Instagram; this is why everyone seems so smug and triumphant on Facebook; this is why, on Twitter, making a righteous political statement has come to seem, for many people, like a political good in itself…

Few of us are totally immune to the practice, as it intersects with a real desire for political integrity. Posting photos from a protest against border family separation, as I did while writing this, is a microscopically meaningful action, an expression of genuine principle, and also, inescapably, some sort of attempt to signal that I am good.”

Moral superiority is easy when all you have to do is repost an article with an emoji or quip. For some of this, this feels like the only way that we can help, by spreading awareness. The internet was made for instant gratification. We are so used to it that we can repost a multitude of tragedies, political statement written by other people, feel-good stories while scrolling down our feeds and it seems like we’ve done our part. We are not like “the other side” —because there’s always the other side— we are worldly and we understand everything so much more clearly than THEM.

“These deranged takes, and their unnerving proximity to online monetization, are case studies in the way that our world—digitally mediated, utterly consumed by capitalism—makes communication about morality very easy but makes actual moral living very hard.”

“The internet reminds us on a daily basis that it is not at all rewarding to become aware of problems that you have no reasonable hope of solving. And, more important, the internet already is what it is. It has already become the central organ of contemporary life. It has already rewired the brains of its users, returning us to a state of primitive hyperawareness and distraction while overloading us with much more sensory input than was ever possible in primitive times. It has already built an ecosystem that runs on exploiting attention and monetizing the self. Even if you avoid the internet completely—my partner does: he thought #tbt meant “truth be told” for ages—you still live in the world that this internet has created, a world in which selfhood has become capitalism’s last natural resource, a world whose terms are set by centralized platforms that have deliberately established themselves as near-impossible to regulate or control.”

The fact is that we spend every day in our own little bubbles, our internet is shaped for our needs. The algorithms on the sites we visit are catered to us: they know what enrages us, what makes us exclaim in excitement, what political figures appeal to us. These constant feeds designed specifically to us only add to our moral superiority. It’s all designed to keep us coming back, to keep us scrolling, to keep us screaming our opinions into the pit that is the internet. And yet, like Jia points out, it leaves us with the feeling that we can’t change anything. We can yell and yell all day but we still get scammed. As a people, we LIVE for being scammed. We eat up empty promises. We are scammed by the politicians that promise outlandish things that they’ll never accomplish (because they know we want to hear it), by the atheleisure outfitters charging $90 for a pair of leggings to look good in an outfit that yells to the world, “I WORK OUT. LOOK AT HOW MUCH I’M WILLING TO SPEND TO MAKE SURE YOU NOTICE THAT.” We are scammed out of our private information. We get scammed into buying millions of products that we think make us look good because being beautiful (especially when you’re a woman) is the most important and profitable thing in our society. We get scammed into festivals that aren’t really happening because we have a fear of missing out.

This depth of what Jia discusses here is so mind-blowing that it’s never going to be feasible for me to unload it in a blog post. The woman has looked at things from all angles. She defends feminism and can blow apart mainstream feminism in one sitting, gracefully. She is proud of the feminist movement, yet can see how people use feminism to self-serve. There’s many self-proclaimed feminists that can accept the reckless, “bitchy”, bossy woman but rejects another woman fighting for our rights while building a home, or being “basic”, which totally defeats the purpose of loving women outside of the box that society expects. The “boss lady” who built her empire on the basis of female power while firing workers because of pregnancy isn’t a feminist for the collective, she’s hungry for power at the expense of other women. Jia eloquently points out that women fought SO LONG for recognition outside of the home that sometimes it can feel like we HAVE to be unruly, we have to be “nasty women.” The fact is, and it’s important to us to understand this, women don’t have to be ANYTHING SPECIFIC to be a good feminist. We can have a multitude of qualities. We can be basic, loud, alternative, domestic, married, single, quiet, kind, bitchy, etc. as long as we are supportive of women as a whole. Now, this does NOT mean that women are free from criticism solely because we are women. Jia notes how people, often people that have NO USE for feminism, will pull the “you’re not a good feminist” card when it comes to people criticizing.. say, the women of the Trump administration. Like I said, Trick Mirror. Looking at things from all angles. There’s so many facets to everything that Jia talks about and she explains it all so much better than I am. I’m just rambling about the stuff that she opened my eyes to, or articulated thoughts that I’m sure a lot of us have had.

One more interesting topic, and this is going to be a controversial thing for many, that Jia brought up was her loss of religion. She grew up in Houston: mega churches, religious guilt and shaming, private high school, conservative college, the whole lot. First off, I think this is proof that a person can make their own political and religious decisions despite their upbringing. It’s pretty amazing, actually. I guess that’s always an option as an outcome though, you have it shoved down your throat so completely that eventually you purge it out of your system.

“I have been walking away from institutional religion for a long time now —half my life, at this point, dismantling what the first fifteen built. But I’ve always been glad that I grew up the way I did.

“It gave me a leftist worldview: a desire to follow leaders who feel themselves inseparable from the hungry, the imprisoned, and the sick.

“It made me want to investigate my own ideas and what it means to be good. This spiritual inheritance was, in fact, what intially spurred my defection: I lost interest in trying to reconcile big-tent Southern evangelicalism with my burgeoning political beliefs.”

What I found super interesting is that she compared her religion to experimentation with drugs. She related the high of having faith in God to the high of ecstasy.

“Both provide a path toward transcendence—a way of accessing an extrahuman world of rapture and pardon that, in both cases, is as real as it feels.”

This sounds outlandish, especially if you’ve never experimented with drugs or had a religious experience. I haven’t had many experience with either, but the experiences I have had are extremely relatable. Everything is heightened, you feel enveloped with possibilities, the good is great and bad feels like a slap in the face. She compares a woman who had “talked to God” and experienced feelings of joy, peace, love, invincibility and said the come down from that feeling was almost painful, that she felt a feeling of being weary of oneself to the transcripts of Erowid, a site that catalogs the experiences of people who have used psychoactive substances as treatment. I find this interesting because drugs and religion are two of the most controversial subjects, often outsiders aren’t able to understand people’s need for one or the other, but people that use them are often searching for something. This may be a sense of self, safety, love, acceptance, avoidance, enlightenment. It’s also curious that addicts often go through programs where a love of God often seems to be a tool to replace that addiction. Even though that wasn’t specifically one of the points that Jia made, it makes a lot more sense to me that this actually works after reading this book. People are looking for a reason to be.

Alright, I feel like I could ramble on for ages about this book and I haven’t even began to scratch the surface. Jia discusses Trump, the way he has scammed the US into voting for him, his various scams over the years in his businesses, his treatment of women, and more. Through her bashing of the internet, she also praises it for taking us to places that never seemed possible: a revolution towards the treatment of women, the age of TRUE reckoning towards sexual predators (or at least the start of it), the livelihood many of us reap from it. The institution of marriage, the shapes that it has taken over time, her disdain for it, and finally her realization that though it may not be for her, marriage in our generation has transitioned more towards partnership instead of the ownership/loss of independence for women. She talks about our society’s need for things and people to beautiful, that even though that beauty can be inclusive of many types, we focus more on beauty than we do on things/qualities that should be more important.

“The default assumption tends to be that it is politically important to designate everyone as beautiful, that it is a meaningful project to make sure that everyone can become, and feel, increasingly beautiful. We have hardly tried to imagine what it might look like if our culture could do the opposite—de-escalate the situation, make beauty matter less.”

Just… read Trick Mirror. It can be a challenging read. You will read a passage and think you have a handle on what Jia thinks and then she will come at that from two more perspectives. Jia is the first to admit that she’s full of contradictions, but that’s the beauty of this book: we are all full of contradictions. Some of these contradictions are easily changeable, some of them require more effort, some of them are seemingly impossible at the moment and often a product of the society we live in. If you want a feel for what this book is about, definitely go check out some of the quotes on Goodreads. This is one of those books that YOU could literally make a book dissecting. It’s not gonna be for everyone. You might hate it. You might learn or unlearn a way of thinking. A few criticisms after all of the mad raving I’ve done: some of the passages we long-winded and seemed to veer off on a tangent… they often circled back to the point that she was trying to make but at times it was easy to lose sight of that point because of the sheer length of those passages. I also understand that like Jia said, this is her trying to make sense of all of these thoughts bouncing around in her head and writing is her way of doing it. Also, the passages about Jia tended to be far more interesting and attention-worthy than some of the other passages. I know that Jia didn’t want to make this all about her as part of the book’s focus was how we as a society tend to do that. It was just that in the other passages, there’s a lot of bouncing around to her various references (which she gratefully  cites at the end of the book), and that could be distracting at times, too. On the other hand, it would have been impossible to make this book without most of them! This all being said, it’s pretty reasonable that this book would end up on Obama’s favorite books of 2019. Even though it’s one of my first 10 reads in 2020, it’s probably also going to be one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking for me.

 

WELL, that’s enough of me today. My brain is melting. Time for a fantasy read.


“I have felt so many times that the choice of this era is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional—to be wrecked, or to be functional for reasons that contribute to the wreck.”
Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror

A Review of The Folk of the Air series

This is an inclusive review for the series of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air. It is comprised of The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing. There’s also a novella called The Lost Sisters (which I didn’t read and don’t intend to… Taryn isn’t my favorite character). I’m reviewing them all at once because I read the series in three days and the reviews on them separately would be pretty short.

First off, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this series so much. YA fantasy set in a faerie world isn’t exactly my favorite form of fantasy, usually. This book is perfect for people who want a little bit of romance in their fantasy, who like their fantasy mixing with reality, who enjoy murderous, politicking, badass female leads.

“To our clever Jude, who made the Folk remember why they stay in their barrows and hills, for fear of mortal ferocity.

It was a good fix for me! Will it be a series that I read again and again? Probably not, but it was immensely enjoyable while I was reading. The Cruel Prince starts out with three girls in their mortal home, their world is turned inside out when a man walks in and murders their parents. Madoc (aka the murderer) is the father of their eldest sister, Vivi. He takes all three girls to live in faerieland and acts as father to them all. Jude (our main character) and her twin sister Taryn were young enough that they accept the faeries as their people and Madoc as their father easily. Vivienne, not so much, even though she’s the only one with powers and faerie blood. Jude happens to be a badass fighter and a target to the faerie nobles around her. She won’t submit to them and they don’t enjoy that. Her biggest enemies are Cardan and his group of friends. Their friend, Locke, befriends Jude and becomes a romantic interest. Cardan is known for being cruel (hence the title), spoiled, hateful. Jude makes it a personal mission to get on his bad side after a few attacks from his group.

So, I’m not gonna go into much more plot for this, but there’s a lot of betrayal. By friends and family alike. I was truly surprised by one of the twists early on during The Cruel Prince and lets just say… Taryn, is a bad person for the majority of this series. The last book kinda redeems her, but she really is so selfish. She’s 100% my least favorite character.

“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks,” Taryn says. “Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”

My favorite things about these books, besides Jude being a badass with a sword who slowly poisons herself each day to build an immunity… the romance between (minor spoiler, but most of the books are based on this) Jude and Cardan. The chemistry between them is one of those that while you read, you’re smiling to yourself and blushing.

“But kissing Locke never felt the way that kissing Cardan does, like taking a dare to run over knives, like an adrenaline strike of lightning, like the moment when you’ve swum too far out in the sea and there is no going back, only cold black water closing over your head.

The Cruel Prince ends with a lot of political maneuvers to get the crown and Jude is a HUGE mastermind behind this. This leads us into The Wicked King. The Jude and Cardan hate/romance continues and the political scheming continues. There’s war with the Undersea, which is another kingdom. Holding onto the monarchy is not easy, and Madoc is a huge instigator in this.

“You can take a thing when no one’s looking. But defending it, even with all the advantage on your side, is no easy task,” Madoc told her with a laugh. She looked up to find him offering her a hand. “Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”

There’s a lot of murder, as usual. Jude is the biggest strong arm in the series besides Madoc. She’s truly his daughter, even though she isn’t biologically his. The intricacies of their relationship is one of my favorite. She knows she should hate him, but she doesn’t completely. She knows she shouldn’t love him, but she does. She admires him, she’s afraid of him, she loves him, she hates him. And he feels the same, except I don’t know if he even hates her. I think he respects her but is still true to his own maniacal nature.

“Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder,” Locke calls after me. “We would be surprised to find that,” I call back.

Eventually, just when Jude is starting to really trust Cardan, after he saves her from a dangerous situation, he seemingly betrays her. This leads us to Queen of Nothing. It starts out with Jude exiled to the mortal world, where she doesn’t fit. She’s stuck here until Taryn comes to ask her for her help with a task.

“Prince Cardan will be your last born child,” the Royal Astrologer said. “He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.”

We learn a lot about Cardan throughout this book. We learn more about his mom and her horrible parenting. We learn about his dad and the prophecy that shunned Cardan from his love. We learn why Cardan was so accepting of his cruel brothers’ behavior/love. Cardan at the beginning of the series seems unredeemable, but there’s a lot of psychology involving the way that he acts.

“Prince Cardan ought to have been suspicious of this kindness, but he’d had little enough of the real thing to tell true from false.

Jude learns a lot about herself too. She realizes that she’s been so conditioned to expect betrayal that she didn’t think Cardan’s “betrayal” through. She learns that Cardan HAS been learning from her, and has started using his cleverness and power to make changes. She didn’t want to see it but he did. Cardan and Jude FINALLY admit their love to each other just in time for him to be cursed into a giant serpent, where she’s faced with a choice.

So, here’s some overall thoughts:

  1. Vivienne adds almost nothing to the story except a reason for her father to come kill their parents. She is supposed to hate her father so much but there’s a only few words here and there, and some snideness. She’s almost entirely useless. I guess she’s useful for helping their brother Oak stay in the mortal world but a lot more could have been done with her.
  2. Taryn is an utterly annoying character, but she is needed. The divide she creates in their household provides for a good storyline. The fact that she is Jude’s twin is good for confusion among the characters. That doesn’t mean that she’s a good sister, in fact she’s a pretty awful and selfish one, but she’s a good character.
  3. 70% of my interest in this story after book one was the love story between Cardan and Jude and MY GOD, there needed to be more interaction there. The last two books could never be 5 stars for me because of the bouncing around and the missed opportunities to provide that, but that’s just me.
  4. I love that Jude realizes that a lot of her inclination towards violence is because she’s so unhappy within.

“It feels good to be fighting someone other than myself.

With all of that said, here’s my final ratings:

The Cruel Prince: 4.75/5

The Wicked King: 4/5

Queen of Nothing: 3.75-4/5 (hard for me to decide this one)


And my god, would I love a POV from Cardan. He makes the story so much fun.

“By you, I am forever undone.”

Body Image and Self Reflection (Non-Book Related Blog)

Body Image

I have struggled with body image since I was a young girl. I remember being in elementary school and hearing one of my sister’s friends saying I was chubby. I wasn’t. I probably still had baby fat and experienced swelling because of the constant steroids being pumped into my body (asthma), but I wasn’t overweight. So begins the consciousness of my body. I had never before even thought of my body as fat or skinny, I was an innocent kid living life without a thought to my appearance or anyone else’s. But that seed was now planted in my brain.

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Know My Name by Chanel Miller: A Review and Reflections

“Gone is the luxury of growing up slowly. So begins the brutal awakening.”

I recently finished Know My Name by Chanel Miller. If you are unaware of this book, maybe you’ve heard of Brock Turner and Emily Doe (aka Chanel Miller). Chanel Miller was sexually assaulted while unconscious and blacked out. The trial was covered throughout the nation (and world), with her identity kept secret throughout it. This is her story, her silence broken. 

“In this story, I will be calling the defense attorney, the defense. The judge, the judge. They are here to demonstrate the roles they played. This is not a personal indictment, not a clapback, a blacklist, a rehashing. I believe we are all multidimensional beings, and in court, it felt harmful being flattened, characterized, mislabeled, and vilified, so I will not do the same to them. I will use Brock’s name, but the truth is he could be Brad or Brody or Benson, and it doesn’t matter. The point is not their individual significance, but their commonality, all the people enabling a broken system. This is an attempt to transform the hurt inside myself, to confront a past, and find a way to live with and incorporate these memories. I want to leave them behind so I can move forward. In not naming them, I finally name myself. My name is Chanel.”

First off, it was easily a 5 star read for me. You can tell that writing is therapeutic for Chanel Miller.  Her metaphorical writing style expresses all of the emotions that she has endured pertaining to her assault by Brock Turner. It’s her way of dealing with those emotions bubbling out of her without just saying, “I’m hurt. I’m angry. I was violated. You took away my feeling of safety. The End.” Because it’s never as simple as that. We are poetic, layered beings… and the way we express and work through trauma is the greatest nod to those dimensions. 
For all of the metaphors used, she also spoke incredibly clear when it came to the abuse she suffered. I will be quoting her a lot in this blog because I can’t say it much better than she did. Not only did she suffer physically from the assault, but her mental state took a turn. Her emotions ran wild. If this book was simply about the way that Brock physically molested her, it would be a very short book. Assault is more than the physical stuff. It’s everything that comes after, too.
She suffered at the hands of cruel strangers on the internet, willing to drag a stranger and vilify a woman instead of believing a white, privileged male assaulted her. 

“Haven’t you ever heard of gang rape in India. There are women out there suffering real abuse and you want to call this assault. Bored suburban kids can’t keep it in their pants. Lame. It’s not like he dragged her. If she had a boyfriend why wasn’t he there? Mother of the year award. What kind of mom dumps her two daughters at a frat party? Not trying to blame the victim but something is wrong if you drink yourself to unconsciousness . . .She didn’t even go to Stanford. Did she pass out with her underwear off while peeing? Whatever happened to the buddy system? I, for one, am not convinced there was a crime of the felony magnitudes charged here, and possibly no crime at all aside from consensual lewd behavior. Did he give her a roofie? If not, why would any woman get so drunk? I have never allowed myself to get so drunk that I don’t know what I am doing… 


They seemed angry that I’d made myself vulnerable, more than the fact that he’d acted on my vulnerability.”

She suffered at the hands of the trusted individuals in the legal system, the ones that were supposed to help her heal, the ones that were supposed to set an example for other victims of sexual abuse, the ones who are put in place to protect us from people like Brock Turner. There were witnesses that stopped Brock. Brock ran. He was able to lie and create a narrative for Chanel because SHE didn’t remember. 

“When Brock was arrested and questioned by the detective, all the supposed dialogue between us that he failed to mention was not due to a lack of memory. It was due to the fact that he did not have an attorney to help him construct a narrative, feed him words, brush the clouds from his mind, and figure out which story might get him off scot-free.”

They showed videos of her in court with her dress hiked up, behind a dumpster, breast out, and she looked DEAD. Her dad saw these photos and said it looked someone tried to throw a body into the dumpster and missed.The jury favored Chanel. The judge obviously favored Brock, because he got six months in jail with an almost guaranteed release of three months (which he got). You’d think looking at photos of a clearly unconscious woman, after a man has admitted that he was performing sexual acts on said woman, the obvious answer would be to punish harshly (and fairly). Ah, the good old boys club. 

“Alcohol freed Brock of moral culpability. The judge laid out reason after reason: he was youthful, had no prior criminal offenses, no weapons, and the degree of monetary loss to the victim is not really applicable. He said the crime didn’t demonstrate criminal sophistication, Brock did not take advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the crime, and registering as a sex offender was already a consequence. Obviously, a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I was struggling to comprehend, wanted to lean forward and tap my DA, What’s happening?“

Chanel knows this isn’t a unique situation, and her anger is for ALL women. The rules are different for men. Chanel cries in court, she’s weak. She’s seeking attention. She’s unfit to testify. She isn’t allowed to get angry. She’s not allowed to be too numb to it. Chanel isn’t allowed to enjoy drinking. She isn’t allowed the mistake of overindulging… because she was born a woman. Her every reaction to her assault was monitored and analyzed. To compare, like Chanel did in this book, remember when Brett Kavanaugh cried in court?  Remember when he threw a fit? Remember him talking about beer? “Well duh, of course he’s crying, why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he be angry? Okay… he likes beer, is that a crime?” Nope, not when you’re a man. Make no mistake, this isn’t a hate letter to men. This is ripping the ugly bandaid off of the misogyny associated to women dealing with pain, to helping victims or catering to their abusers. They uncovered texts of Brock regularly eating acid, smoking, trying different drugs, multiple run ins with the campus police over alcohol. None of this was a judge of his character. Chanel’s dress, her phone call to her boyfriend about sex, her alcohol tolerance WERE ALL front and center, a defamation to her character. Those don’t define her. They don’t make sexual assault okay, or more understandable. Brock’s recreational drug and alcohol use don’t define him. What he DID to her should be the defining factor. I love that when Brock’s father and the judge said that Brock’s “twenty minutes of action” would cost him so much for so little, Chanel immediately related it to swimming, which Brock excelled in. One one-hundredth of a second can cause you to lose everything in swimming… but twenty minutes shouldn’t mean anything when it comes to sexually abusing your power over an unconscious girl? 

 Twenty minutes was just the beginning: Who counts the six-hour flights we took back and forth across the country? Who counts the doctor visits, the hours spent wringing my hands in therapy, the nights spent lying awake? Who counts the trips to Kohl’s, wondering is this blouse too tight? Who counts the days devoid of writing or reading or creating, instead wondering why I should wake up in the morning? Who counts it?


At the very start of the sentencing, the judge said that the question he had to ask himself was, Is incarceration in state prison the right answer for the poisoning of Chanel’s life? I thought it had been strange the way he’d phrased it. To him, my lost job, my damaged hometown, my small savings account, my stolen pleasures, had all amounted to ninety days in county jail.”


Chanel so eloquently points out that Brock was treated with empathy by the judge and many others, something that would never be extended to her by these people. Poor Brock, he sexually assaulted someone and *gasp* is expected to face consequences for it. Chanel’s hours of therapy don’t matter to them, the way it has changed her relationship with sex and sexuality don’t matter, the shattering of her feelings of safety don’t matter, the money she put into this case doesn’t matter, the analyzation of her body by medical professionals/legal professionals/family/friends/strangers… NONE of that mattered to this judge and to Brock or his family. She was a girl who got fingered while unconscious behind a dumpster, “whoo hoo, er… I mean, 90 days in jail, you naughty boy.”

“There is a certain carefree feeling that was stripped from me the night of the assault. How to distinguish spontaneity from recklessness? How to prove nudity is not synonymous with promiscuity? Where’s the line between caution and paranoia? This is what I’m mourning, this is what I do not know how to get back. Still I keep those memories close and remember it is possible to be naked, amongst men, and not be asking for it.”


This issue with the legal system isn’t uncommon. I watched a friend go through this. I went to court with her. Talked to police. She was young, he was a trusted adult. Known for encouraging his young daughter’s friends to drink around him. A pedophile. A year in jail, out in six. Much like Chanel’s case, the prosecutor confused (bullied) her into agreeing to less time. The cop on the case made a deal with the abuser for less time in exchange for information that would be a bigger win for the cop reputation. When you aren’t familiar with a legal system, it’s easy to get confused. You’re trusting people to work for you and your wellbeing. It’s often not the case. This isn’t okay. Chanel writes that it’s completely possible for the boy next door, the trusted adult, the president, the judge, people of usually upstanding character… to sexually abuse someone. The good person you know is able to be a person who has done bad things, too. The goodness that they’ve done for you doesn’t excuse the bad they’ve done to others. They’re two separate things.  Chanel… thank you. Thank you for being strong enough to write this. Thank you for months of your case being plastered to every insensitive asshole with a smartphone or computer. Thank you for SCREAMING at the men who catcalled you daily, after this. Thank you for scaring them. I’m sorry that it has come to that. I’m sorry that you HAVE to scream that you don’t have any interest in a man for them to leave you alone. I’m sorry all women deal with this. 

“Men had lines other men didn’t cross, an unspoken respected space. I imagined a thick line drawn like a perimeter around Lucas. Men would speak to me as if no line existed, every day I was forced to redraw it as quickly as I could. Why weren’t my boundaries inherent?


…screamed with my chest open, ruthlessly. My friends were stunned, began laughing, and the men grew testy, looking around uncomfortably, stuck at the red light. They began peppering my scream with Crazy bitch! Crazy bitch! But I didn’t care. Their polished Mustang, their specks of hair, their dumb logistics; even if we did want to come to the club, we couldn’t all fit in the tiny car. I don’t want to have sex with you, I don’t want to go to the club, I don’t want you walking next to me, asking me where I’m going, how I’m doing, in a tone that wraps around me and pulls my shoulders up into my ears, making me want to go deaf and disappear. The tire full of nails had burst, tinkling like rain down onto their car. I felt powerful, intimidating, insane. I didn’t care if the entire world woke up.”


Chanel, you are paving the way to a safer world for women. We aren’t there yet, we’re not even close, but you’ve taken the first step. You’re brilliant. You’re not just a victim. My thoughts have been jumbled here, there’s a lot of quotes and a lot more I want to say. Just read this memoir. Women, hug each other. Men, please understand how exhausting it is to walk around every day trying to make yourself smaller as to not get catcalled, covering your drinks at the bars, evaluating the attention that your clothes will draw from salacious eyes. Some of you roll your eyes when you hear this stuff. Please uncondition yourself to misogyny. Don’t call at that random woman walking down the street. Don’t take it upon yourself to touch a woman without asking. We are tired of being told to protect ourselves because men can’t control themselves. Be an ally to the women around you. Open your eyes. We aren’t all just bitching to bitch. We deal with the burden of being expected to be FLATTERED by unwanted attention. We just want to be left alone. We want women’s bodies to be as OURS, as men’s are to THEM.

Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom.

A Witch in Time: E-ARC Review

Thanks to Netgalley, Redhook Books, and Constance Sayers for the opportunity to review A Witch in Time by providing me with an uncorrected proof. 4 stars from me! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Helen has lived many lives… she just doesn’t know it yet. Newly divorced and reeling from the heartbreak of betrayal by her husband Roger, she starts dating. This is how she meets Luke, a stranger who is somehow utterly familiar to her. With his help, she begins piecing together her past lives. See, Helen has been cursed by her mother, of all people, to live out many lives, during which she relives a doomed relationship with Roger. During each of these lives, Luke appears to help her regain her memories and heal from the heartbreak… until her untimely death by age 34. Helen discovers that she began as Juliet, a muse to an artist named Marchant, who was a bit older than her. Her mother accidentally set her curse in motion when she became pregnant by him. Her life continues on as Nora, Sandra, and eventually, to Helen. In each of these lives, she deals with heartbreak at the hands of her lover and only then is shown her curse through the help of Luke, who is tasked with holding her to her punishment for eternity. She discovers a lot about her heritage and the reasoning behind her mother’s actions. Her mother was a minor witch, able to do a little bit of magic-work here and there, and she slowly realizes that she has magic in her veins, as well.

Man, I’ve had some Netgalley misses lately and this one REALLY made up for it. For those looking for an intricate magic system, don’t look here. The magic in this was so subtle and lightly interjected into the plot. For the most part, our characters are seemingly normal people who got where they are by extraordinary circumstances… which just happen to involve magic. I liked that. I wasn’t looking for a fantasy read, when I read this synopsis. I’m not sure WHAT I was expecting, maybe more of a historical fiction? It kind of defies most of the tags you would normally try to tag it as. It has romance and is definitely focused on multiple love stories, but it’s not a steamy, breathless, bodice-ripping novel. It has magic, demons, witches… but it’s not saturated with it. It’s different from most things I’ve read and that really helped me race through this book.

Helen revisits all of her old lives through visions that start coming to her after her heartbreak. This could have gotten really stale if the author made us replay the same story over and over, but thankfully, each life was evolved from the last. Helen and Roger’s past lives were always THEM, but different. Her heartbreak was always different, their lifestyles were always different, the way they reacted to their situation was always different, the way they die is always different, sometimes their sexual orientation was even different. They kept characteristics true to themselves though; he’s always involved with art of some form, she always discovers an affinity for the piano, they both love each other to some degree despite the heartbreak. Throughout all of this, Luke helps Helen through all of her lives. Sometimes he makes things worse. Sometimes he helps her completely work through what Roger has done to her. Sometimes she hates Luke for the things he has done to help her. It was all kept very fresh and thus, was an extremely easy and enjoyable read. With each life we learned more about the backstory of how Juliet’s mother could have possibly cursed her daughter this way. We learn about why Luke is in charge of holding Helen to her curse. Many things that seemed like plot holes in the beginning, tidied themselves up by the end. There were times that the writing of minor characters seemed a bit immature or undeveloped, but not often enough to discourage me from continuing. This never seemed much of an issue with the main characters, either.

There are controversial themes: underage sexual relationships, forced child loss, rape. There are demons, witches, etc. Providing this as a trigger warning to anyone who prefers reads without this type of content.

A Witch in Time will be available in February of 2020 for you to pick up. Well done, Constance Sayers.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales Omnibus

These Buffy and Faith Funko Pops?! Oh my god, in love.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen that I’m rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is definitely reconfirming it as one of my all-time favorite shows. Just got to Hush the other day and CRIED because it was so well done, it’s always been one of my favorite episodes. It WAS nominated for an Emmy, so I guess it is warranted. Well, as you may have seen with my post of Fray, I’m delving into the Buffyverse by reading the comics. Fray was good, but Tales blew my mind.

The various contributors did a masterful job with this. These comics draw from the evil within humanity to shape their monsters, as well as myth and legend. We see characters that we know and learn some of their backstory. Jack the Ripper, Nazis, Dracula, Buffy, Xander, Spike, young Watchers. There’s so much information to be learned. I loved how the illustrators matched their issue’s style to the topic at hand. Jack the Ripper’s style resembled a late 1800’s Wanted Poster, black and white, hints of blue, very little color. The slayer in Nazi Germany realized that evil is all around her, and the style was reminiscent of the propaganda posters that the Nazis used as fear tactics. Spike and Drusilla were very realistic and as we know them on the show. There was a sweet little sing-song-y comic about finding a vampire and the style was like what you’d see on a holiday children’s show. Lots of thought and effort was put into this collection. An outstanding round of applause for the creators!

The Familiars: A Review

I just finished listening to The Familiars by Stacy Halls, narrated by Billie Fulford-Brown and was compelled to immediately write a review. 4 ⭐️ from me! The first few chapters, I was unsure if this was going to be for me. It started off leisurely and was a slow build. By a quarter way through, I was thoroughly intrigued. By halfway through, I was hungry for more. I love historical fiction and the witch hunts are especially interesting and heartbreaking.

Fleetwood is the lady of a noble house and is pregnant. This is her last ditch, last hope attempt for a viable pregnancy and a united family. Fleetwood finds a letter addressed to her husband from a doctor that states that his wife will die if she attempts to give birth again. Bravely, Fleetwood takes her and her child’s life into her own hands. She encounters a young lady, Alice, who gives her hope. Fleetwood has had midwives before, but they were entirely unpleasant and obedient to her husband’s wishes. She’s convinced that in a flourishing environment, with a woman who is attentive to her needs and not her husband’s wishes, that her and her child can survive. Slowly but surely, she builds a friendship and a trust between herself and Alice.

At the same time, a witch-hunt is sweeping the nation, led by their power hungry family friend, Roger. Fleetwood is thriving in her pregnancy under the care of Alice’s knowledge of herbs and remedies. It isn’t long before Alice is accused of witch craft, as most intelligent, capable women were in those times. Soon begins Fleetwood’s race to save Alice, and in turn, her baby and herself.

This story is one of betrayal, of strength in impossible times, of the perseverance of women in a world that expects little of them. Things aren’t what they seem in this book. Fleetwood’s seemingly progressive husband, Richard, isn’t Prince Charming. He is another man in a world and time saturated with men who believe their women are possessions, that their indiscretions are a God-given right, that a knowledgeable woman is a dangerous woman. And to that last point, they are right. Women ARE dangerous when taking hold of their full abilities. Dangerous to male ego and pride. Dangerous to the people who have wronged them, holding them accountable to their actions. I won’t go too much into Richard’s story because there’s a major plot line that I think is better discovered by oneself.

Fleetwood knows that women were convicted of witch craft because their intelligence threatened the men around them. Wise-women who had knowledge of herbs and natural remedies and applied them more aptly than the nearby apothecaries threaten the business of men. Mid-wives who pay attention to the female body and needs are dangerous because they are for the goodness of THE WOMEN, and not the master of the house. Men who craved power knew that the forged demise of a few women was the safer route than hard work, or the challenging of another man. Why not take the easy route? Women were little more worth than a household servant to the men, their word holds no value. Fleetwood shows incredible bravery by challenging the men around her. To do this is completely out of her comfort zone. She has spent her life under the finger of everyone around her. She doesn’t even have the heart to ask her paid servants to do anything for her. She is under the complete authority of others. So to see her fight for herself, her child, and another woman, was heartwarming. She took journeys alone, she championed for Alice to powerful men who could have easily convicted HER of witchcraft for even doing so. Fleetwood is delivered blow after blow by life but builds herself in determination with those blows. I think it’s worth it to mention that there were a lot of women in that time who were content to be nothing more than the lady of a house, who were conditioned to accept the judgement of a male meekly and without a fight. Those women were content to let other women fall under the guise of witchcraft because it kept them safe. If they scorned “witchcraft” and the woman accused, they could keep living their comfortable lives. Fleetwood is willing to sacrifice that for what is right. One of the big risks at this time is being a women with an animal companion, hence The Familiars title. Witches were “known” to have a familiar, and Fleetwood has a dog that constantly trails her. It’s even more courageous of her to fight for other women when she has so many traits that could condemn her.

Speaking on the topic of familiars, do you think men were afraid of compassion, especially in that time? I know it was seen as a sign of weakness. But the same thing that makes women good mothers, compassion and an internal instinct, is the same thing that draws animals to them. Compassionate women tend to care for and own animals. They are wise-women, midwives, people who care about the wellbeing of those around them. I’m sure this is why many *witches* were seen with *familiars*. I think compassionate women were a risk for men, who felt they needed a hard heart to rise in life. Who couldn’t be seen with any “feminine” qualities. A woman who treated all people and things with respect and care, confounded their view that MEN were the most important, the elite. As you can see, The Familiars was a very thought-provoking book for me.

The star I knocked off was for the tepid beginning. Unfortunately, I can see many people DNFing if they’re the type of person to put down a book that doesn’t grab them in the first chapter or so. And they’d be missing out on a great book if so. Another reason it wasn’t five stars for me, was Richard. It’s discouraging to see male characters pay no price and get their whole life paved out exactly the way they would like. Is this unreasonable for that time? Not at all. This is historical fiction, after all. A man paying for misdeeds against a woman is entirely unlikely. A female character as strong as Fleetwood deserves more than him, though. During the author’s note, I found out that these characters were actually real people that this was loosely based on. So it’s a bit unfair for me to expect anything different, anyway. But still… eff you, Richard.


Here’s to all of the midwives out there, to the women climbing ladders of success, to the women who crave knowledge and actively seek it, to the women who embrace our rights and fight for them. You’re doing your ancestors proud. They sacrificed for you. Don’t let them down.

November Wrap Up and December TBR

Shall we see how my tentative TBR list for November compares to what I actually read? People who stick solely to their original TBR without getting sidetracked by throwing other books into the fray have some WILLPOWER.


Here we go, this was my list:

Finish:
The Black Prism
Senlin Ascends
Fate of the Fallen
Start/Read:
The Subtle Knife
The Family Upstairs
The Blinding Knife
Master of Sorrows
Lanny
Backups:
Before and After
This Side of Paradise
Limited Wish
The Great Pretender
Something Wicked This Way Comes 
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone 
Six of Crows

This is what I ACTUALLY read:

Unnatural Magic: 3 ⭐️

The Black Prism: 4.5 ⭐️

Senlin Ascends: 3.5 ⭐️

The Family Upstairs: 4⭐️

The Blinding Knife: 3.5 ⭐️

Six of Crows: 4 ⭐️

Before and After: 3 ⭐️

The Immortalists: 4 ⭐️

Pumpkinheads: 4 ⭐️

Fray: 4 ⭐️

Red Queen: 3.5 ⭐️


Now for December TBR:

Finish:

Master of Sorrows

The Familiars

Start:

The Great Pretender

Lanny

The Subtle Knife

Crooked Kingdom

The Broken Eye

Glass Sword

A Witch in Time

Backups/Wildcards:

Ten Thousand Doors of January

Nevernight

The Wives

Dear Edward

Red, White, and Royal Blue

The Cruel Prince


Wish me luck! Anyone have favorites off of these lists?

The Blinding Knife: A Review

“By what right do I bend men to my will? Or is there no right, only ability?”

Okay… there’s a lot for me to process here. First, I gave The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks a 3 star on Goodreads. It’s really a 3.5 star to me. And I debated between rounding up to a 4 or keeping it at that 3 rating. Here’s the thing: I LOVE this storyline. I love the world that Brett Weeks built. I love the magic system. I love the spectrum of colors and how each character represent and relate to the colors that they can draft.

So why the 3.5 star? I mean, you see a star in the 3 range and you think it’s a book you could take or leave. Make no mistake, I WILL be finishing this series because I am invested in what happens to these characters… but dear lord, maybe it was because Weeks was shut away writing for months/years on end but I think this man needed to get LAID. Every single time a female character walked in for the first 3/4s of the book, attention was drawn to her breasts, her curves, her butt. I can take a certain amount of attention to the human form, it is natural. But there doesn’t need to be comments every time a female character is around. Why does there need to be mention of Gavin and Kip studiously avoiding looking at cleavage? I get that this is supposed to enhance their “good guy” image, because they refrain, but then… just don’t mention it?? You’re still putting those thoughts out there, you’re just doing an “oh look at me, I’m a nice guy because I’m not taking advantage or sexually harassing you” thing. Yes, there’s a few mentions of women looking at the men. But maybe one mention for every five that a male character makes. And like I said, a remark or thought here or there would not bother me. I can only hope that for the remaining books, Brent Weeks’ wife or publisher or SOMEONE was like “Hey, dude. Tone it down a bit.” Do I think that Brent Weeks is a bad dude? Probably not. Do I think maybe he didn’t realize how sexist some of this comes across as? Yes. I know that in recent years, we have made leaps and bounds in helping generally good people identifying potentially toxic behavior, so I’m giving him a small pass.

The whole bed slave thing is so cringe, too. I’m not gonna totally crucify the dude for it because whatever, it’s a fantasy world. Slavery has existed and still exists in certain areas of the world, and people are always gonna crave power over other people. There’s also characters that realize slavery is wrong and are working towards freeing people from it. But coupled with the constant sexual chatter, it’s not a great look.

Now that my ranting about THAT subject matter is over, here’s what I love. Despite all of what I said earlier, in every other regard, Brent Weeks is an amazing writer. He has built a world rich with possibilities. The good vs evil dynamic is amazing because it is so complex. Who IS the good in this? On one hand, you have dGavin and Kip’s side: people who train and follow guidelines to ensure a safe environment, a democratic government with people from all colors who make decisions. They also have slaves, kill people when they become color wights, and train people to be obedient to their ideals. Then you have The Color Prince/Liv’s side: encouragement to practice and hone your power, belief that you do not need to die when you become a color wight, but embrace it. You are pushed to be proud of yourself and your own “pleasure” instead of being embarrassed by it. You also have a destructive leader who makes decisions for all and used brutal force to do so. Which is right? Neither… both. That’s the duality to humanity. It’s usually not wholly one or the other. We see it in every day life: in politics, at work, at home. Well-meaning intentions go awry. Brent Weeks does a fabulous job with this plot line.

They made it so that we can’t change it from within. They made it so we must kill to break it. If we be monsters, we’re monsters made in their image.

Liv annoys many people, and I can say she annoyed me too. ONLY because I don’t know how you turn on your family and friends so quickly. I completely understand why she is enticed by The Color Prince’s ideals and the power. But she goes into war knowing that her father and friends could be a casualty of her actions and is like, oh well.

“Do you know what you can do to an enemy but not to a friend? Stab her in the back.”

I’m curious to see where Kip and dGavin’s storyline goes. I’ve always thought that dGavin treated Kip very well for him not being his rightful son, but to hear him admit that he doesn’t love Kip as his own son was very human and honest of him. Anyone who has a kid knows it a different kind of love. But… people adopt. They form bonds. Deep love grows, it isn’t commanded. I hope that they get there one day. I love the growth from both characters, too. Kip is building his own family within his friends. He’s gaining acceptance because people like him for him, and not just because of dGavin. He’s proud, stands up for himself, and TRIES. Constantly. He may not be the best, but he’s got heart. dGavin has finally stopped being a love wimp and lets Karris (almost) wholly into his life. He’s in the midst of losing his shit but he’s also making progress at the same time.

They were deeply in love. Smitten. At their age. Sad.”

^made me laugh out loud when dGavin thinks this about two of his friends, such irony.

Lastly… I’m just gonna say, my heart bursts for Ironfist. He’s the best, the purest soul. (Here’s to hoping all you people out there who’ve read through aren’t sitting there like, HAHA IRONFIST KILLS A WHOLE VILLAGE OF DEFENSELESS PUPPIES, YOU SWEET SUMMER CHILD)

I’m not going to go into much more detail even though I’d love to comment on aspects of the last quarter of the book, but there’s just so much potential with how it ended. Where is this gonna go?? Kip and his newfound… friend. dGavin’s current… position. What’s Karris gonna do? Is Liv ever gonna stop being someone else’s puppet and think fully for herself? Is Andross ever going to be a decent human?? (Probably not)


Until next time!

The Immortalists: A Review

“It sounds like you’re saying we can choose to live. Or we can choose to survive.”

Would you want to know the day that you died? The Gold children decide to take a risk and visit a Gypsy who is known to foretell a person’s death date. They are given various days, from the very young to the elderly. After reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, I can say that I wouldn’t want to know.

Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya all take their fortune and deal with it in different ways. Simon and Klara decide to live life THEIR way. Daniel and Varya play it safe. The fear and skepticism of their impending deaths taint their lives. Simon decides life is too short to deny his homosexuality, he can’t stand the thought of living life in the shadow of his parents and their desire for him to take over the family business. He flees to San Francisco, one of the only places he can truly feel free, with Klara. Klara has believed and adored magic since she was young and spends her life building a legacy as a magician for herself and her future family.

“Most adults claim not to believe in magic, but Klara knows better. Why else would anyone play at permanence—fall in love, have children, buy a house—in the face of all evidence there’s no such thing? The trick is not to convert them. The trick is to get them to admit it.

Klara and Simon both resort to relationships and alcohol to distract themselves from the doom hanging over them. Daniel and Varya go to school and interchangeably take care of their mother. They outwardly deny their prophecies, while inwardly quaking. Daniel marries, but is always thinking of his role in taking his siblings to see the Gypsy. He grapples with his religion and doubts the existence of a higher power.

“The truth is that most people enjoy a certain level of impotence. But I think we do have control—so much that it scares us to death. As a species, God might be the greatest gift we’ve ever given ourselves. The gift of sanity.

Daniel focuses on his work as a doctor for the military, and when he is put on leave, starts obsessing about the fortune teller and how she ruined their lives. Varya spends years advancing human longevity treatments, protects herself from illness or germs at all costs, and fears living her life or connecting with another human being.

“The cost of loneliness is high, she knows, but the cost of loss is higher.

So here’s the thingI GET why the reviews are all over the place. It’s a depressing book. You get to know the characters, and yeah, a lot of them die. They’re not handed a bunch of happy endings. But I personally really enjoyed it. The writing was poignant and engaging. I wanted to return to it and I easily read it within a day. The Gold children suffer serious mental affections because of the knowledge of their foretold deaths, and some of them are never able to move forward. Some of them are so worried about doing all they can in their rushed lives, that they hurt others. They hurt themselves. Some of them do as little outside of their comfort zone as they can, not wanting to upset any balance. They ALL develop mental illnesses to a degree. Bipolar, depression, OCD, extreme paranoia, Msyophobia.

But damn… isn’t that realistic? If I knew the day of my death, I’d be worrying about vacations I never took, books I never read, financial stability for my family, whether I could cheat death, if I could make myself healthier, the things I hadn’t accomplished. There would be a million things stopping me from enjoying life. Better to not know. I believe in living life like I could die, IN THEORY: going to the nice restaurants, taking my son to all the wacky events that kids love, going on multiple vacations a year, reading 100 books a year, etc…. but those work because you’re enjoying them and not racing towards them in fear for your life.

“The point is that you have to live a lesser life in order to live a longer one. Don’t you see that? The point is that you’re willing to make that bargain, you have made that bargain, but to what end? At what cost?

I think this is a good book because it makes us uncomfortable. For me, I would rate it 4 stars. The reason it isn’t perfect for me is because while I enjoyed the setup, which was one POV at a time (until that character’s death), I didn’t enjoy how the storyline bounced around WITHIN that POV. I don’t think it added anything to not stay linear within each person’s story, it just adds confusion to bounce back and forth from past to future. In some of the POVs, it did this much too often to make it smooth reading. But personally, if you’re on the fence about this one, I say pick it up.


She’d tell herself that what she really wanted was not to live forever, but to stop worrying.