Slices of life.

I’m hesitant to call this book a “slice of life” novel, because it’s not. But the book is formatted in an episodic, here are slices of A life sort of way. This is the second book I won this month in LibraryThing’s Early Review program: Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo.

I’ll admit: I did not like this book at first blush. I finished the book and couldn’t figure out why a quick, engaging, thought-provoking novel left me cold. When I finally figured it out, I realized I did like the book, just not in the way I wanted to, but rather in a better way (which is why it made me think).

The main character, Barry, is the villain of the story. Let me be clear: he is not A villain. Rather he’s the villain of the story. He married a woman he did not love to cover up his gay affair, he took her away from her home by moving to a different country, he had two kids with her that he by turns hyper-criticized/spoiled rotten, he didn’t leave his wife when the children were grown, he wasn’t careful about hiding his affair from his kids (so they grew up in a house of a lot of secrets), and he treated his lover, Morris, abominably for many years. I sympathize with Barry – he had a lot of difficult decisions to make – but he is absolutely the villain of the story. He’s created a broken house around himself all because it was more comfortable. He is selfish and sometimes cruel.

That all being said, the writing was excellent. Dialectal differences between characters, accents portrayed in spelling, even the different styles of speaking from the two narrators, were all extremely well executed. The character development, while Barry changes little (in true villain form), was well done for all the others, and it was an incredibly interesting experience to experience the story from the villain’s point of view. (To be fair, some people may call Barry an anti-hero, but I don’t think he fits that mold as well.) The past was told mainly in the wife’s voice and I really appreciated getting to see her points of view. They were a necessary balance to Barry’s very selfish, fault-casting personality.

There are also some very interesting discussions in the books about feminism, religion, race, and the immigrant experience. Barry, Morris, and their wives were born, educated, and raised in Antigua, then moved to England. This entire book is about discovering how to live the life YOU want, and these discussions are secondary to Barry’s secret sexuality, but they are VERY much a part of what both of the families have to deal with in a culture not their own and not particularly welcoming.

Barry is flawed and ANNOYING. He’s lied to everyone (including himself, convincing himself that it’s not an affair if he’s not sleeping with other women) his entire life. He has a lot of internalized/generational sexism and homophobia. He’s a pretty terrible parent. He’s so imperfect. But this story wasn’t ever meant to be about perfection or redemption, so far as I can tell. It was about a series of lives long lived in the shadows and how each person needed to find their way out. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, but I did very much enjoy it myself.

B+ (excellent writing in style and execution, interesting narrator choices; main character difficult to appreciate/relate to)

[><] & [::]

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Women AMAZE in Science Fiction!!!

For those of you who missed the Women DESTROY Science Fiction!!! kickstarter, this title is going to be less awesome. For those of you who missed it and regret it (or didn’t miss it and still want to support awesome, diverse SF/F), the Crossed Genre’s kickstarter could use some love. (Included the link for the first one because you’ll still be able to buy the awesome special edition, just with less perks).

I won two bids this month on LibraryThing. (I need to write a rave review of this book social media website, because it’s awesome and I love it.) The first review is for Walking Contradiction by Nancy Jane Moore.

This is definitely the best book I’ve received from the Early Reviewer program. Walking Contradiction is a fantastic compendium of short stories written by Moore. I love best the dedication, because I think it explains so much about the psyche of the book:

“For every woman who ever read an adventure story and wanted to be the hero, not the hero’s girlfriend.”

But there’s even more to this great anthology – not only is it woman positive, but sex positive, identity positive, and people of color positive. I LOVE that diversity went much deeper than just, “Let’s add women in.” There were several main characters of color and a new gender designated “ambigender” (though, it should have been designated a sex, as gender and sex are separate), which was most interesting for me as I am non-binary and LOVED seeing a character who was neither one nor the other sex. I would LOVE to have that body. There was also a woman who presented androgynous AND had a different genital structure than what is typically considered female. She, however, unabashedly identified as female, and that was respected. Also, trans people and the proper pronouns (as in: the ones they wish to use) were touched on briefly and as a side. I was happy to see that, but wish there could have been more. How little it was discussed felt like trans erasure more than if the discussion hadn’t happened.

I love that the main characters weren’t moral absolutes. They were pirates, soldiers, freedom fighters, investigators, etc. They were given complicated decisions to make in the face of difficult situations and the response wasn’t some simple, trope-filled, “Well, I’m a girl, so I have two choices: fall in love (and do as I’m told by my male lover) or make an ultimately emotional decision that is stupid and idealistic.” I liked that some of the decisions were stupidly idealistic and some were downright cold. A lot of them were of a dubious morality and the only decision to be made was a logical, if unsatisfying decision. Basically, these characters were SO *human* and I LOVED how human they were. It’s something we don’t see enough of. Love did not make them weak, sex did not make them whores, and the decisions were self-motivated, not love-interest motivated.

I have three things I wished I could see more of/differently. As mentioned, I wish there had been more trans characters and/or stories and not such a quick “peek-a-boo we kind of exist, but not really” attitude. The ambigendered characters were still cisgendered, there was just a new gender in town. It felt like a very timid way to deal with non-binary people – make a culture that doesn’t have a binary. I also would have liked to see less heteronormative relationships. The ambigendered dated the ambigendered (except for the occasional self-loathing trip to a club for males/females who fetishised them), the women dated men (even the woman who has ambiguous genitalia dates a man), or there were no romantic/sexual relationships in the story. There was one woman who spent her entire story focusing (or trying not to focus) on a fight she had with her boyfriend, which wouldn’t have been SO bad if the story didn’t end with, “As long as we’re together, this terrible world is okay.” That twigged me out just a bit.

Really and truly, though, I enjoyed this book. The stories were engaging, the world building was amazing, and I saw characters more like myself than I have EVER seen in SF/F. Nancy Jane Moore has DEFINITELY made it onto my radar.

A (people/sex/race positive science fiction, diverse character body; heteronormative, some trans erasure)

[><] & [::]

Back in Business

So, it’s been a while. And a lot has changed.

Here’s the deal: the blog gets to change, too.

This will still be a review blog, but – as you can see – it’s not just about books anymore. It’s about books AND games. I back a lot of games on Kickstarter and watch Geek and Sundry’s Table Top show (also, gaming is how I met my future husband). I’m part of the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing. I love books. I love games. And I LOVE sharing them.

So, it’s time for a change. It’s time to expand. I’ll be cross posting my reviews from LibraryThing and I’ll be writing, once a month, a game review. First of the Kickstarter games I’ve backed and received, then some of the favorites I’ve learned and loved along the way. Keep an eye out, my loves!

[><] & [::]