Saturday, November 26, 2016

Review: Forget Me Always

Forget Me Always Forget Me Always by Sara Wolf
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am curious to go back and read the first book now because I think I would appreciate the series as a whole more if I started from the beginning. That said, as a stand-alone book, I was lukewarm about it as a thirty-something adult, but I can understand why a lot of teenagers enjoy it. I really liked Isis as a character. She is witty and sharp, even at the beginning of the book when she's overcoming amnesia and physical trauma. Some reviewers are saying they did not like Sophia. I mainly felt sorry for her. I felt like she had a big heart that had been twisted and broken a few too many times, and as a result, she was mean to people as a defense mechanism. It wasn't always right, but I understand the reflex. Jack annoyed me at times, but I still cared about him.
The writing style was engaging, but plot wise, I lost interest about halfway through because some elements of the mystery became too obvious. Also, I felt that there were more characters than were really necessary to keep the plot moving along. However, I can appreciate Jack and Isis's relationship. They have a strong connection and are trying to figure out what they are to each other in terms of a romance. That resonated with me. Isis goes through very real struggles as a teenager and as a woman: body image issues, trauma, men who treat her badly. I felt for her, and I appreciate the book being brave enough to tackle some of these issues. Overall, it was solid; not great, but solid. I think it would be worth having in high school libraries, and some young college students would enjoy it as well.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Review: Black Widow: Forever Red

Black Widow: Forever Red Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book, but I thought it hit a slow period in the middle. Toward the end, the momentum picked back up, and I really liked the way it closed out. The story definitely started out strong, and I found Natasha Romanoff intriguing as a character. I would have liked more character development, although I realize it was meant to be more of a plot-driven novel. I think I would have cared more about the two teen protagonists if I had known more about them, although I know some of the mystery behind them was intentional. In that regard, I think shortening the book would have helped the story arc. I also think it would have been more effective as a graphic novel. I would have enjoyed seeing the action scenes out in front of me, and it would have been visually engaging, I think. I also believe it could potentially be a good film. Overall, I think it was a worthwhile read, but know going into it that it is more plot-based and entertaining, but without a lot of character analysis or depth.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: On Your Own

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: On Your Own Buffy the Vampire Slayer: On Your Own by Andrew Chambliss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was an enjoyable read, especially in light of recent events. Buffy learns and grows in so many ways, and her relationship with Spike becomes even more complicated and complex. Plus, some of Andrew's old habits die hard. I don't want to give too much away, but the art work is captivating, and the story is enjoyable. I can relate to Buffy's desire for something better, yet feeling like she needs to earn it. Slay those vampires, Buffy! I need a female protagonist with some serious feminist strength right now. :)

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: Cosplayers

Cosplayers Cosplayers by Dash Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book and thought it was a lot of fun. I'm noticing that it's getting mixed reviews. I think people who are into fandom/nerd culture, like me, are more likely to relate to the stories. Also, it is a certain brand of humor: wry, witty, a little snarky and sarcastic at times, so it worked for me. It is a pretty accurate snapshot of CONs, cosplay events, comic shops, and who tends to frequent them. I needed a good laugh during this political season, and this book accomplished that goal for me. I recommend it. Dash Shaw and I are roughly the same age, so I'm impressed at how much he's done in his writing and creative career. It motivates me!

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for Avid Bookshop's YA book club, and I enjoyed it. To me, it was Libba Bray's The Diviners meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only set in Brooklyn (with moments in Harlem) and with a more diverse cast of characters. I loved Sierra as a character and saw a lot of myself in her. Also, my sister went to Columbia for law school, so I'm familiar with the university and with that area of New York, and the author does a great job of describing it. It definitely gave me a different perspective on how some people might perceive Columbia. The mystery plot of the book is very well done, and I loved the suspense and the "ghost story" elements.
I guess the only part of the book that keeps me from giving it 5 stars is Sierra's relationship with Robbie. I totally understood that they had an artistic connection, and I could relate to that. But the romantic chemistry seemed a little forced to me. Sierra is more of a pragmatist, and like me, she's tough and a little slow to trust people sometimes, especially those of the opposite sex who are interested in her. So, I had a hard time buying it that she would fall for Robbie so quickly. I think it would have worked better if they were more like Hopper and Joyce in Stranger Things, really good friends and "partners in crime" with the potential for more to develop as the story goes on, especially since the novel apparently has a sequel, if not more books to come. But maybe I'm just jaded. :) Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot, and I could definitely appreciate Sierra's interactions with her realistic family. She's a spunky and brave character, and I'm glad she's hitting the YA shelves.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: Empath

Empath Empath by S. Usher Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love how this is a fantasy story framed by instances in the real world, which seemed almost a little bit too real for me at times! The best way I can describe it is Rogue from the X-Men meets a modern-day fantasy story in which the heroine ultimately saves herself. It takes some typical romance and fairy tale tropes and re-writes them, which I can truly appreciate. I would not have known about this book if it weren't for the Dragoncon YA Literature track, so mad props to Dragoncon! I'm a bit of an "empath" myself, so I can appreciate the balance Lauren had to strike between healing others and taking time to address her own inner dragons. I can relate to the story on a personal level, and I'm glad the book addresses real life issues: anxiety, depressive episodes, the pressure for young southern women to get married by a certain age (without it always mattering to whom), trying to find a vocation you truly love and that fits you, I could go on! I almost wasn't sure I could finish the book because it almost seemed a little bit too real for me, but I'm really glad I did. Really, I'd give it 4 1/2 stars if I could, as I really enjoyed going on this journey.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: The Edge of Everything

The Edge of Everything The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of this book and think that everyone who loves YA, Horror, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Young Love books should read it. It's gripping like a horror story, and you fall in love with the characters, who are realistic and believable. Also, I love how it switches back and forth between X's and Zoe's perspective, and as a teacher, I think all readers will appreciate it and relate to the characters. Jeff Giles is apparently a big Peter Jackson/Lord of the Rings fan, and it shows; this book actually reminded me a bit of the Lord of the Rings narrative, only set in the present day. Also, it explores parental relationships in a complex way, and only so many YA novels really do that well. (Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever is another novel that does a good job of this, but I've only found so many). This novel actually doesn't come out until January, but lucky me, I got an Advanced Reader's copy! It's awesome, and enjoyable to read, so put it on your Goodreads and/or Amazon wish list now!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: Ghosts

Ghosts Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was sweet and a lot of fun to read. I have a younger sister, so I could very much relate to Cat and Maya's relationship. Raina Telegeimer is always spot on in her depiction of sister relationships. Also I love the Bay Area of California, and with the fog, it really is the perfect setting for a ghost story. There is a serious side to the story with Maya's cystic fibrosis diagnosis, but it is balanced out with fun stories of a young adolescent and her kid sister. I think the cystic fibrosis struggle could have been delved into more deeply, but I also understand that the author was trying to keep the story age appropriate. The family is quirky, but loves each other, like mine! There's diversity of character representation in this story, which is done well. Raina did her homework, and as someone who has been to The Mission area of California, I felt like I was there with the characters. I found myself wanting to visit my brother-in-law and sister in San Francisco close to Halloween one year, so I can go to one of the "Day of the Dead" celebrations in The Mission. Overall, this was a solid and enjoyable read.

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Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally finished this book, and I'm so glad I did! Honestly, it took me a while to get into it. I tend to be more of a horror, urban fantasy, and modern-day fantasy person than I am a high fantasy person, although The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorites, and I love the Lord of the Rings movies. However, about 1/3 of the way through, it REALLY got good, and I was hooked for the rest of the novel. I was afraid it was going to be predictable, and in some ways, it was. However, there was a twist at the end that I did not see coming. Some of you heard me rant at Dragoncon about how I'm tired of the Love Triangle plot in YA literature, and (not to be too spoiler-ish), there is a little bit of a love triangle plot here because two men are interested in the protagonist. However, I forgive it, because the love triangle is secondary, and she's a totally tough, smart assassin who reads voraciously, and I love Celaena (a.k.a. "Lillian"). Also, since I love fairy tale retellings, I appreciated the murmurings of a Cinderella plot...only she's an assassin instead of a maid, thank goodness! Traditional gender roles, be damned! Also, I appreciated the "other world" and mystery elements of the novel greatly. I'm not as hooked on this one as I am on Vivian Apple and some other two-part and series books, but I did enjoy it, and I might read the others. Many of our English Education YA literature students/Teacher Candidates loved it, so I'm glad I read it in part to connect to them. I think it's an important step forward in children's and YA literature because the protagonist takes charge of her own story, and it has blatantly feminist lines in it, which I love. So, overall, it was a great read. I recommend it!

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy the science fiction/dystopia world of this comic, along with the exploration of intersectional feminism. In this world, women who do not fit societal norms and who are deemed "non-compliant" are sent to a prison place called "Bitch Planet." Yet over time, they find a way to fight the system, which is run by patriarchal White men. Among the most clever panels involve advertisements and advice columns for women, some of which are eerily similar to ones we see in the modern-day. I love the female characters in this book, and they come in many different shapes, sizes, skin tones, and personalities. Kelly Sue Deconnick really is a writing genius. I look forward to the next volume. Also, the discussion questions at the end of this volume are great, and I love that because I read this book for my comics/graphic novels book club at Avid Bookshop. I'm studying book clubs and literary events for my dissertation research, so I love any questions that fuel good discussion. Also, I can't help but wonder if I would be sent to "Bitch Planet" in this fictional universe? Probably. :)

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Review: Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Vivian Apple at the End of the World Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cross between John Green's Paper Towns and the Veronica Mars TV series with a post-apocalyptic plot, so I was interested and read it very quickly. I think it's an important book to read during today's political times, and it was very thought provoking for me. There were a few small issues I had with the plot, but overall, I really enjoyed this book. It's edgy, but in a good way, and it definitely has a feminist flare to it, which of course appeals to me. It also reminds me of the TV show Angel in some ways, particularly Season 4. It's thoughtfully critical of capitalism gone wrong and religious fanaticism. This book is dark, but also spunky, so teenagers and adults who love YA alike will really appreciate it. A worthwhile read!

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review: All American Boys

All American Boys All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Just wow! I read many books and love many books, but there are only so many that move me to tears and cause me to look at the world in a different way. This book is one of them! It raises so many important issues, such as police brutality and racism, and in a very moving and powerful way. The writing is lyrical, and both of the main characters are wonderful. It's the first book we're reading in Dr. Kajder's and my YA literature class this fall, and I'm so excited to hear what the students have to say about it. Really, this is "that book" that you need to drop everything and read, like, yesterday. Did you love John Lewis's March graphic novel series? Well, then you'll love this book even more. Read it. You'll be glad you did, whether or not you are a YA literature fan, and it will change your life.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of course I loved it, and I even got choked up a couple of times. It was nice to take a break from academic writing/reading to take a journey back to Hogwarts, especially during my travels. :) There's only so much I can say about it without totally spoiling it, so I look forward to chatting with friends about it, at Dragoncon and otherwise. <3

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Rhonda V. Wilcox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I greatly enjoyed this book and found it helpful for both my fandom interest and also for my academic interests. It helped me have a greater appreciation for Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a television show. Some of my friends know that I have complicated feelings about Season 6, but this book helped me better see how that season reflected Buffy's Hero's Journey and how her relationship with Spike was necessary for tapping into her dark side. A fair warning, though: Don't read it until you've watched at least through most of Season 7 because there are a lot of spoilers! If you're a BtVS fan and also a literary fan, you'll love this book as much as I did. :)

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review: Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier

Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier by Rhonda V. Wilcox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been cherry picking this book, but the chapters I've read are very helpful to my academic work and also entertaining for me to read as a "Browncoat." In particular, I enjoyed Chapter 4 "The threat of the 'Good Wife': Feminism, Postfeminism, and Third-Wave Feminism in Firefly" by Laura L. Beading, Chapter 7's discussion of the Dystopia genre, and Tanya Cochran's Chapter (19) about fan culture. If you're interested in feminism, speculative fiction, and fan culture as applied to Joss Whedon's work, check it out.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Review: Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and the section entitled "Understanding Comics Culture" made me feel emotional at times. Anyone who wants to study, write, or draw comics will understand it and why we love comics so much as artists and/or scholars. Scott McCloud's passion comes through for the whole book, and it's a good mix behind the theory of Understanding Comics and the more pragmatic aspect of creating comics. As a comics scholar, I think it helped me understand the medium better. As someone who has aspirations to also write comics scripts, it was also helpful for me in that regard. I appreciate his discussion about collaborating with visual artists, which I will need to continue to do, since that is not my forte. Sometimes, I feel like the universe played a cruel joke on me by giving me an artist's soul, but not quite the pipes to sing well, the body joints to dance for a living (although I enjoy it as an occasional hobby and a way to exercise), or the fine motor skills to draw well. But fortunately, I can write stories and write scholastic commentary on this awesome visual media, and Scott McCloud continues to teach me about it. Well done!

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Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Last Gleaming

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Last Gleaming Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Last Gleaming by Joss Whedon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This volume was definitely sad, and I don't know what else to say plot-wise without spoiling it. But there was beauty and hope amid the sadness, which is what I love about the Buffyverse narratives. The art work in this volume was exquisite and presented well even on my new Kindle, which yes I finally did cave in and get to better control the book clutter in my house! After reading this volume, I look forward to eventually reading the Buffy/Faith comics, and hopefully to meeting Eliza Dushku at Dragoncon this year.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Twilight

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Twilight Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Twilight by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this one in one sitting, literally, and I absolutely loved it! This is one of my favorites in the comics series so far. I am team "Bangel," as many of my friends and fellow fans know, so I was very happy to see Angel make an appearance. Also, I thought the Twilight satire was hilarious! I must admit that I loved that series at the beginning, but grew to gradually hate it more as it went on. Breaking Dawn = Blah! And Buffy is so right when she says her vampire story is oh ever so much better! But anyway, again, even more amazing artwork, and I hope Georges Jeanty is at Dragoncon yet again this year, so I can get him to sign more comics. He always impresses me, and I enjoy hearing his thoughts about the Buffyverse. I'm growing to love it more and more as I go on, and yes, I'm aware that I am a mid-thirties fangirl and proud of it. Stay tuned for more Buffy reviews! These comics are making their way into my creative fanfiction work and, hopefully, into my academic work too. I can't wait to see where all of this goes. I just wished I had watched Buffy during high school and college when it was first a thing because I think I needed these characters in my life at that point.

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Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Retreat

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Retreat Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Retreat by Jane Espenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one wasn't one of my very favorites so far in the comics series, but I enjoyed it. Jane Espenson is a terrific writer, and I always enjoy her portrayals of female characters. It was nice to see Oz make a reappearance. I always hoped he and Willow would eventually get back together, and I was a bit sad that this volume seemed to close that off as a possibility. It did show that they still have a very strong connection, though, and I liked the honestly of the awkwardness between them, even though they were basically on good terms with each other. By the way, if you want to see another ending to the Oz and Willow saga, check out my fan fiction story! I'm Georgia Unicorn on both and the Twisting the Hellmouth website: As usual, I thought the art work in this comic was stupendous!

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: Dietland

Dietland Dietland by Sarai Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it touched on many important issues regarding feminism and the way women are treated. Avid Bookshop's Social Justice book club is discussing it on Tuesday night, so I look forward to hearing what others have to say about it. Don't let the title fool you. It's not about dieting. The main character is an overweight young woman (new adult age) who struggles with confidence issues because of her size and the way people treat her because of it. And yes, the book is critical of the dieting culture and the beauty industry, in a good and thoughtful way. But it is also a feminist manifesto of sorts: Plum learns to stand up for herself, as do other women who have been mistreated for different reasons. If I have/raise a daughter one day, I will give her this book. I will say that it requires a certain suspension of disbelief, as some of the events seem farfetched. But if you're willing to go with it and to let your imagination run free, definitely read this book. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could. In particular, the momentum really picks up halfway through, and there's some entertaining satire throughout the book.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review: Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World

Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some parts of this book intrigued me more than others, but overall, I found it interesting, fun to read, and helpful. I initially read it more so for fun and to help me get ideas for my own fanfic work, but some of it will also be helpful for my dissertation writing. I learned a lot about the history of fan fiction and fandom in general. Fan fiction writing used to be in the form of Zines, which I very much want to look at. Since I now write Buffy fan fiction myself, I particularly enjoyed that part of the book. I do think fan fiction will continue to influence the literary and popular culture worlds, so this book is an important one.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Review: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! It suits me in part because of my interest in fandom, speculative fiction, and fan fiction, and in part because I'm very similar to the protagonist in some ways. I was an overachiever in high school and got good grades, unlike Scarlett, and I did not grow up with a poor single parent, although I have family members who did and have heard their stories. But like Scarlett, I sat at the "genius table" at lunch but had a few friends in the popular click, but I definitely wasn't popular, so I floated a bit and didn't always know where I stood with people. (Adult me still feels like she has these struggles at times). I have secret/not so secret nerdy interests, and I'm fiercely protective of the people who I care about, and I'm not afraid to call people out on their crap, which often makes them mad at first, but then they usually do admit that they are wrong...and I have to admit when I am to high on my horse...all of which are true of Scarlett. Also, Scarlett and I both have struggled with both superiority and inferiority complexes, which I totally relate to, and she eventually learns to see herself more accurately. She has a complex family, as do I, yet she eventually learns to appreciate them for what they bring to the table, which every teen goes through at some point. Her batty old lady friend Ruth reminds me of my Gran, so I loved their friendship. The plot line of this book was so original and fresh that I devoured it quickly! Also, I can relate to the struggle of being honest in one's writing without hurting the people you love. This book was real, and amazing, and if you were/are the oddball girl who loves to write, or the small town person who wanted to get out, then you should read it...and even if you're not, you'll still love it.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

My Personal Journey: Why I Love Diverse Comics and Young Adult Literature

     As you'll notice from my blog posts, many of the comics and Young Adult books I read have diverse representation of characters, in terms of race, gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. Part of why I read such an array of books is because I go to wonderful events at Dragoncon, Decatur Book Festival, and Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, where these books are promoted and encouraged. (When I lived in Atlanta, I went to an amazing place called Little Shop of Stories, where the same things were true). My goal is for these books and events to continue to influence my scholarship, including my dissertation research.
     Yet, I will have to continue to ask myself, why am I doing this work? In many ways, I am a very privileged person, so I have to be careful and mindful about how I write about marginalized and non-dominant groups of people, both in my academic writing and my creative writing. People who only know me on a surface level might wonder why I want to do this work. I am a white, cisgendered female from an educated middle/upper middle class family who identifies as heterosexual/straight, thought I believe gender and sexuality to be on a spectrum. Many aspects of both my upbringing and my life experiences have made me aware and interested in issues surrounding diversity. Though I spent my teenage years in Marietta, Georgia, I was born and raised in two suburban small towns near Flint, Michigan. We lived in a townhouse, followed by a smaller house. I went to a private school that we could only afford because my mother taught there, and many of my friends were black, Hindu, or Jewish.
    While I am of the dominant race in the United States, there are less apparent aspects of my identity that are non-normative. At various times of my life, I have been diagnosed with ADHD, a visual-spatial learning disability, and anxiety disorder. My sister is married to a Jewish man and covered to Judaism, so I have a Jewish extended family that I very proudly claim. Two of my ancestors, Walter and Jakob Ruffing, survived the Dachau concentration camp during World War II. We're not sure if they were there because they were Jewish, part Gypsy, or political dissidents. At any rate, there's no reason why they had to endure that treatment, and I believe need to educate ourselves on that dark period of history so it dare not repeat itself. Though I was Baptized as an Episcopalian, my religious beliefs have been precarious over the years, in part because my parents wanted my spiritual journey to be my own and not one that was forced on me, as they sometimes felt that religion was pushed on them at the churches in which they were raised. Now, I go back and forth between a UCC church in Atlanta and a Unitarian Universalist Church in Athens. I believe in God and in the value of the Bible, but I do not believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and I feel like that makes me non-normative in the Southeast US, where I currently dwell.
    Although I do not identify as Queer, many friends near and dear to me do, particularly those I have met in graduate studies courses, and I consider myself to be an ally to the LGBT community. I love my friends for who they are and want my home and my professional places to be safe spaces. I've always been a "late bloomer" and unique in my approach to potential romantic relationships, so I understand that not everyone's path to true love takes the same course. Also, I am a politically liberal feminist with socialist leanings, and many of my political ideals (I am told by my more middle of the road Southern conservative friends) more closely mimic those of Europe than those of the US.
     I suppose the most non-normative aspect of who I am is in my past, but is still very much a part of me. I had a severe overbite as a child, to the point where an expander and braces alone could not correct my issues. Therefore, I had to have jaw surgery, which left me temporarily disabled for several months, in terms of my ability to speak and to perform physical activities. And to top it all off, I was quite overweight as a small child and had to buy clothes in the "pretty plus" section. Now, I have a more normative, perhaps even an attractive face. While my weight fluctuates and I am not currently at my ideal weight and am considered overweight on medical charts, I am roughly average sized for an American female adult. Yet the self-consciousness from these aspects of my childhood and the merciless bullying I experienced as a young child from neighborhood kids (but not school kids) because of my embodiment are like shadows that still sit on my shoulders. I often still worry about my weight, although I make an effort to eat right and be active; fortunately, I enjoy being active. My anxiety disorder is in part hereditary, in part a result of the trauma I experienced as a child for having a body that some considered freakish.  I've felt compelled to open up to people about my mental health issues only during this past year, not because I want people to feel sorry for me, but because people need to know that bullying hurts, even when the person is an adult who has outgrown her awkwardness and had surgery to fix her freakish face, in part because she had to chew her food right, but in part because society sucks.
      Few people have had the experiences I had as a child, as two friends since middle school pointed out when I had lunch with them this past week. But I am sure there are kids out there who have, which is why I am writing a fiction YA book that is loosely based on my own experiences with the jaw surgery and my recovery period, which was both physical and psychological.  I feel like someone has to tell that story, and it might as well be me. That's why I love to write articles and blogs about books and comics that give voice to the non-normative, regardless of our reasons for not fitting the norm. I believe books can save lives, and books got me out of a depressive funk I was in during late middle school and early high school. If books did that for me, then I want to find, write about, and write stories that will help other kids. That is, and will continue to be, my life's mission and my calling.

Review: You Know Me Well

You Know Me Well You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I definitely enjoyed this book, and both of the main characters, Mark and Kate, were wonderfully done. I could relate to them both, and in particular, I understood Mark and his ideas about relationships. Kate was reckless at times, but I understood her tendency to run just as things were getting good, in part out of fear. I loved how romantic relationships were going on in the book, but the primary focus was Kate and Mark's friendship. Without spoiling anything, there was one part of the book that had me crying right in the middle of the airplane last night, as I was surrounded by strangers who had no idea what brought me to tears. If you've ever had unrequited love with your best friend, feared your own success, doubted yourself as an artist, or been great friends with a couple despite being the third wheel because they just don't make you feel like one since the connection is great with them both (yes, all of these described/describe me), then you'll understand this book. It's awesome. Even though two authors wrote the book, the writers and editor did an excellent job of making it flow as one voice. I thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic, and that was my only disappointment. However, as a heterosexual/"straight" person, it might be hard for me to relate to a pinnacle ending that involves a pride parade and coming out" for one character, although I did appreciate the bond between those involved in the last scenes. Overall, a very well done book that celebrates love of all kinds.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth

Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth by Lalitha Vasudevan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for one of the Red Clay Writing Project Summer Institute book groups and found it helpful for both my research and teaching interests. I have a better understanding of concepts surrounding image theory and photography as a result of reading this text, which carries over into my passion for comics and graphic novels. I also learned a lot about the benefits of using fan fiction and social media in classroom settings, particularly those involving writing. Because of my drama background, I also appreciated the theater chapters, although I thought they got a little bit repetitive toward the end. Overall, I was impressed with the book and hope K-12 teachers and university professors alike will read it. I can't wait to hear what the rest of my book group thought of it. These topics of arts education and social justice are so important and timely.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Review: Weetzie Bat

Weetzie Bat Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had conflicting feelings on this book, but I liked the way it ended. I would give it 3 1/2 stars if I could, but I wasn't quite impressed enough to give it 4. I think the book would have benefitted from more dialogue, and I felt there was too much telling and not enough showing. It's almost like it was too short. However, I enjoyed the magical realism element to it, and the characters were interesting. I appreciated the overall message of it, which is that sometimes, romantic relationships, babies, and the like don't work out quite the way you'd hoped, but your friendships and the people closest to you carry you through. And honestly, I did not like Weetzie. I thought she was self-absorbed, reckless at times, and immature. She reminded me of certain past dating interests I've had, and not in a good way. I thought Dirk and Duck were amazing, and I think I would have liked the book better had it been told from Dirk's perspective. He was very loyal to everyone who came into his life. I also thought Charlie Bat, Weetzie's dad, was an interesting character. While I was sad about the way things turned for him, I understood where he was coming from, and I wish things had been better on his end. I'm glad I read this book because apparently, it was a real trail blazer when it was first published in the late 80s. I'm tempted to read the next book in the series, since they're short, just to see where some of these plot lines go.

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Review: Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for my comics/graphic novel book club at Avid bookshop, and I thought it was fun. I liked the supernatural/fantastic/possible extraterrestrial slant to it, which seems to be a common theme in books and comics that I enjoy. Since I was born in the early 80s, I only vaguely remember some of the historical and pop culture references of 1988, but I appreciated them. In particular, I love how Michael Dukakis was referred to, as that was the first presidential election that I remember my parents discussing. Also, at the end of the book (without revealing too much) there's a time shift to 1999. So, I can't wait to read the next volume to see how the series depicts the later end of my teen years. :) The characters of the story are interesting and captivating, and I like the larger theme of trying to hold onto one's youth.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

May Discussion, YA Book Club

    I love my book club discussion group because they sometimes help me to re-think my perception of a book I have recently read. The YA novel we discussed on Sunday was The 100 by Kass Morgan. People within the group seemed to have very mixed feelings about it. Many folks were eager to read it because they had seen the show on the CW, which is apparently surprisingly good, and came to the book with high expectations. Some of them were disappointed because they didn't think the book explored issues in as much depth as the TV show. Additionally, the TV show producers and writers have made an effort to have a diverse cast, and since most of the characters in the book are not described in detail, the diversity in terms of racial representation and character development is not as apparent. I will say that their comments convinced me to order Season 1 of The 100 TV show on, especially since it's not that expensive.
    I realized that the book was not high brow literature, but I enjoyed reading it and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. I described it as being "like candy" because it was plot-driven, fast paced, and engaging, and it was the perfect read during the end of the semester when I was stressed and pressed for time. The only disappointment I had was that it fell back on common tropes, such as choosing between an old reliable romantic partner and a new exciting one and the whole Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story trope of a rich girl falling in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. We've read those story many times, so if you're going to do them in a novel, you have to do them really well.
     That being said, there were elements of the plot that I really liked. I appreciated Octavia's struggle with addiction and how Bellamy handled the situation, along with the Lost-like plot of teenagers on an apparently deserted planet trying to survive. Also, I don't want to spoil it, but the ending had a great twist that made me tempted to read the rest of the series.
     My book club group mates did make me more skeptical of the book, though. They made some valid points about the lack of character development. Also, although I am not as much of a hard core Science Fiction fan as some of my book club mates, I saw their points about the world building being underdone. It was the kind of discussion I wish we had more of in my high school English classes. I liked how Will, our book club leader, mainly let us have control of the discussion and steered us only when we got a little off course, as all of the Avid Bookshop book club leaders have done a good job of that.
    On the flip side, one book club member who said she did not like the book when she came in said she disliked it less after our discussion. :) Therefore, it seems that we're able to influence each other. I saw more of the book's flaws after our discussion, whereas some book club members seemed to appreciate it more.
     As we discussed future book club possibilities, other points of discussion came up, the main one being the lack of gender neutral bathrooms in some buildings on UGA's campus. However, there are more inclusive steps being taken in this direction, as the UGA main library now has gender neutral bathrooms, and they're becoming more open about the reasons for this decision. The group members seem to feel comfortable around each other and able to discuss issues beyond the book, which is nice. Most of us do not know each other outside of book club, and we range in age from early 20s to early 50s. To me, it's been uplifting to see how much of a community we've formed.
     I tend to go to some sessions of the YA, Comics/Graphic Novels, and Star Wars book clubs at Avid, depending on my other time commitments and interest in the books. I am now reading Bloodline (Star Wars) by Claudia Gray, which is about Leia after Return of the Jedi but before The Force Awakens, and I'm enjoying it so far. In addition to exposing me to great books, these book clubs are a nice outlet for me outside of my Ph.D. program, and I enjoy the new friends I've made because of them.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Female Representation in Speculative Fiction Teen Romances and Superhero Stories: Past and Present

When two of my colleagues and I were preparing a presentation on the Romantic Industrial Complex for my Women's Studies class, I found a meme that I think says it all about how female representation in teen romances and speculative fiction stories has ebbed and flowed over time:

I have an interesting take on these two tales because Buffy the Vampire Slayer was popular when I was in high school and college (I was born the same year as many of the primary characters), and the Twilight series was popular when I first started teaching middle school in 2006. I did not watch Buffy in high school and college, as I was focused on Dawson's Creek, Felicity, and Friends (although I was a little young to watch Friends when it first came out), and I was not as into speculative fiction as I am now. However, I wish I had watched Buffy when I was younger, as I think a lot of the themes would have been helpful to me at that age. I binge watched it more recently as a thirtysomething and found it healing, for reasons I'll elaborate on in another writing piece.

I started reading the Twilight series in my mid-twenties, in part of out curiosity because of my love of vampire stories and in part to relate to my students, who pointed me into the direction of Twilight and The Hunger Games (which, by the way, was better). I liked the first book in the Twilight series, but I thought they got progressively more problematic as they went along. When I watched the Twilight films in my late 20s, I wondered why Bella didn't go for Jacob, with whom she seemed to have a healthier relationship. Although I found aspects of Buffy and Spike's relationship problematic, particularly in some episodes of Season 6, I would far rather my female students, potential nieces, and daughters (if I have one) have Buffy as a role model than Bella. I don't have a problem with teenagers reading and watching the Twilight series, but I think they should do so with critical literacy and critical media literacy perspectives that encourage thought and discussion. I heard Stephanie Meyer speak once at a Barnes and Noble in Atlanta, and she said she thought many readers misunderstood Jacob's intentions. Since Bella narrates the novels, Edward comes across more positively than Jacob, although the movies clearly paint Jacob in a more positive light. Perhaps part of the discussion could be how people perceive their relationships when they are in them and very young, versus how we perceive them once we are older, more distanced from them, and have had some time to reflect.

Since we FINALLY have a Wonder Woman movie coming out soon, it's intriguing to me to think about how Wonder Women has set the tone for other female characters, particularly characters like Buffy who are superheroes or who have superhero-like qualities. Lillian Robinson's book Wonder Women (2004) explains how Wonder Woman as a superhero has changed over time in correlation with the values of various decades. This visual post is spot on in showing these shifts over time.
During World War II, men were fighting, and women were working so-called men's jobs in the U.S. Charles Moulton, known otherwise as psychologist William Moulton Marston, had a feminist view of Wonder Woman as a dominating, strong female who ruled a female's utopia known as Paradise Island. Moulton had a worldview in line with radical feminism and believed that women’s empowerment in sexuality and in other areas of life would make the world a better place. 

Eventually, Wonder Woman left Paradise Island, in part to follow her love interest Captain Steve Trevor (Robinson, 2004). It is ironic that although her creator subscribed to feminist beliefs, some of which were radical, she still ended up making a major life choice based on following a love interest. Still, her overall persona in the early comics conveyed strength, although some later artists and writers of the Wonder Woman comic did not follow Marston’s vision and made her a more traditional woman. Over time, Wonder Woman’s history shows the changes of people’s attitudes toward women, as she is much more empowered during some decades than others (Robinson, 2004). In spite of these shifts in representation, Robinson (2004) argues that Wonder Woman has paved the way for more recent postmodern comics with non-linear plotlines and female characters who, akin to Judith Butler’s (1990) theories, challenge ideas of traditional gender performance, such as the Incredible She-Hulk, Xena the Warrior Princess, Elektra, Scarlet Witch, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, and Sue Storm Richards a.k.a. “Invisible Woman,” among others. 

I know some of my hard core comics friends disagreed with me on this, but I was disappointed in the Batman vs. Superman film, including the portrayal of Wonder Woman. Her superhero costume was great; it was short, but it looked like a warrior costume, and I loved her in the fight scenes toward the end. However, before she was in her Wonder Woman garb, I thought she was hyper-sexualized in some scenes. I can see the point that part of the idea was to depict her chemistry with Batman, but those low-cut dresses? Seriously? And I know they addressed why she didn't come through until the end, but I would have liked to have seen more of her in superhero form sooner. Maybe they will make up for that when she has her own film, though.  

Overall, I remain hopeful. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still a cult classic that fans of all age watch more than once. People are looking a teenage romance novels, and romance novels in general, with a healthy critical eye. We now have a teenage Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel and many other comics with diverse characters, in terms of race and gender. And, to close, we have Zoe from Firefly and the Serenity comics and film, and hopefully even more characters like her will follow. 


Robinson, L. (2004). Wonder women: Feminisms and superheroes. New York, NY: Routledge.