COMIC REVIEW: PRINCESS PRINCESS EVER AFTER- by Katie O’Neill

So, it’s fair to say that I am a little bit old to be the target audience of Princess Princess Ever After, but after spotting it in an article on The Mary Sue  I thought I’d give it a look. I love anything to do with fairytale worlds with strong women women in it, and sometimes you just feel like reading something  colorful and feel good. Honestly, it’s just a cute, fun story that I’d recommend to any kid- and not just because its progressive, but because its got a good sense of humor and adventure, with characters that are surprisingly nuanced for such a short book.

The most obvious thing about Princess Princess Ever After is that yes, it is a  fairy tale with a same sex couple aimed at children. And that’s a big thing. Although things have generally gotten better with LGBT people in media aimed at adults and even a YA audience, even liberals are often uncomfortable with the idea of a same sex couple in a kid’s book or tv series (see Korrasami). This is because while they see opposite sex romance as fully encompassing romance, companionship, and innocent first love, they see same sex as equaling gay sex.

This book shows that this doesn’t have to be the case. The tone is perfect for children: sweet, innocent and with a good sense of fun. The story is far more about two very different young women bonding and going on adventure together (with a prince in tow) than it is about romance- although their relationship is adorable.

The characters are all likable and surprisingly fleshed out for such a short story. Its two main heroines are Princess Amira, the tomboyish knight, and Princess Sadie, the cute girly girl.

Princess Amira is a great character. Strong and brave, who ran away from home to avoid conventional gender roles. In a genre which overwhelmingly glorifies delicate white (usually blond) women, it’s great to see a black Princess who’s not the usual ‘white woman painted brown’, but has a hair that looks like a style that a black woman is more likely to have and comes from an African culture (my guess would be North Africa, judging by the desert). Though an aside… does something about Sadie and Amira remind you of anyone?

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Princess Sadie is the more conventionally feminine one,and my God, is she adorable. She’s sweet and cries a lot, but possesses a kind heart that makes her a good leader. They do have a traditional butch/ femme dynamic, though this is clearly done to show that there’s more than one way to be a girl rather than out of a belief there has to be a ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in every relationship. This book does try and mix it up a bit and show that feminine does not equal inferior and Princess Sadie is just as useful as Amira. It’s a lot like Ruby and Sapphire from Steven Universe or Haruka and Michuru from Sailor Moon, or Utena and Anthy from RGU. As a woman who’s been in the army and seen that the tomboys really don’t perform better than the femmes, I’d totally love to see a story where the girly girl is a kick ass fighter and rescues her butch girlfriend, but hey, Sadie does get some rescuing in too..

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The villain is one that shows that sometimes it’s the ones closest to you that can hurt you the most. The only downside is that the main villain was defeated in a very quick and convenient way once the emotional confrontation was over. This seems to happen a lot (especially in stories aimed at girls), but the book was never about the final showdown and packs so much in that it doesn’t really matter.

The drawings are also really cute and make it a joy to flick through. They’re full of bright, round designs with lots of cute fairytale creatures like dragons and unicorns.

Verdict: This is a brilliant comic and one I’d recommend to any kid- especially little girls, who can probably find a bit of themselves in both our heroines.

Rating: 5 tomboy and girly girl animated couples out of 5

REVIEW: THE COLOR PURPLE- by Alice Walker

Set in the deep American South between the wars, THE COLOR PURPLE is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

Some novels you admire; some novels you love; and some novels are so powerful, so thought provoking that they make you grow as a person and give you characters that will live in your heart for the rest of your life. The Color Purple is definitely the latter and is without a doubt one of the greatest novels I have ever read. I’m not the alone in this estimation. When this novel came out, it became a living obsession of Oprah Winfrey, adored by thousands of black women and won a Pulitzer prize in spite of the tendency of POC and women (especially one who is both) to be overlooked. What makes the story so compelling? Continue reading REVIEW: THE COLOR PURPLE- by Alice Walker

REVIEW: MANGA SHAKESPEARE, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTS DREAM- illustrated by Kate Brown

Shakespeare’s enduring characters are set adrift in present-day Athens, but a present with a massive difference – an alternative history. Rigid class systems and `god given’ monarchies of the past have not been lost. Modern technologies meet ancient tradition; and the citizens of Athens are frustrated by continuing restrictions and hierarchies. Only the forest, home to the fairies and fey spirits can offer the illicit lovers what they seek.

You would never think that ‘manga’ and ‘Shakespeare’ would go together hand in glove; however, Brown’s work on A Midsummer’s Night Dream demonstrates why manga is the the perfect medium for studying the work of the Immortal Bard. It allows you to read all the dialogue of the play and also gives it accompanying visual imagery. Unlike with the theatre of movie versions, the manga incarnation allows you to take it in at your own pace and to flip back to previous pages at your leisure. Continue reading REVIEW: MANGA SHAKESPEARE, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTS DREAM- illustrated by Kate Brown

REVIEW: DINNER WITH FLEXI- by Jason Werbeloff

It’s not often that a book has me stumped. When it does, it’s  always a surrealist piece or some post modernist crap that attempts to be experimental but just ends up being tedious and less thought provoking than if they’d wrote out their message flat out. But I honestly don’t even know where to begin with Dinner With Flexi, or even what I just read, where am I, or where Werbeloff is getting his crack from. I think if I knew the answer to the last one, I’d either have some awesome hallucinations or be in a better position to review this short story.

Okay, the plot. Flexi is a sex-bot (a must have in every cyber punk story ever written). And she services men. Not just with sex. No, she serves the men by allowing them to eat the flesh of human women. You see, this is a world where all other food sources have been destroyed and the only solution is eating human women. Of course it is. This story from the mind of a man who decided the most logical solution to a lack of the metal required for internet hardware was to replace search engines with human brains- in that context it makes perfect sense.

As you’d imagine, I have so, so many questions about thhis premise: what condition could humans survive that hardy creatures like cockroaches or rats could not? Unless they stole the insta-pregnancy solution from Hedon, how could women reproduce fast enough to keep up the food supply?But I’ll and turn my brain off since this is meant to be farcical and only ask this: wouldn’t fucking and feeding at the same time be distracting and the cause of a lot of heartburn?

But of course, though Dinner with Flexi parodies a lot of Philip K Dick, it primarily parodies the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies. As for the latter, It’s either parodying the way women’s bodies are commodified, or the language that is used when talking about objectification.

It’s a very bizarre reading experience, which falls into a standard ‘taking the red pill’ narrative until its ending. Is it sexist? After all, women are reduced to cattle and a lot of horrible things happen to them for the sake of black comedy. Then again, women are the only ones who are sympathetic and have any kind of depth while all the men are the most over the top evil patriarchal moustache twirling monsters imaginable. Is it feminist? It’s clearly not making a deep statement or about women overcoming the patriarchy because of the endng. And speaking of…

What I really have to give it credit for is its ending, which is somehow perfect in a terrible, bleakly comic way. It’s so over the top, so cruel and such a downer and yet told in such a blase way that the only reaction left is laughter.Maybe it’s meant to be subverting the ‘downtrodden rebellion against dystopia’ narrative.Maybe it’s just meant to be fucked up. One thing I can say about Werbeloff though; whether he’s on form or just missing the mark, he is never boring and never less than completely memorable.

REVIEW: HERA- THE GODDESS AND HER GLORY (OLYMPIANS BOOK 3)- By George O’connor

The story of Hera, Queen of the Gods, and the heroes who won her favor.

Volume 3 of Olympians, Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, introduces readers to the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses in the Pantheon. This volume tells the tales of the many heroes who sought and won Hera’s patronage, most notably Hercules.

In Olympians, O’Connor draws from primary documents to reconstruct and retell classic Greek myths. But these stories aren’t sedate, scholarly works. They’re action-packed, fast-paced, high-drama adventures with monsters, romance, and not a few huge explosions.

O’Connor’s vibrant, kinetic art brings ancient tales to undeniable life, in a perfect fusion of super-hero aesthetics and ancient Greek mythology.

Before there was the Jeremy Kyle show, there was these two: Zeus and Hera, the world’s original high-drama power couple. Zeus and Hera are well known for destroying everyone around them in their explosive marital fights; in what began as a playful debate over which gender gets more pleasure out of sex, Hera ended up blinding Tiresias for taking Zeus’ side- while Zeus in turn gave him ‘special disability powers’ to see into the future. And then there was Hera’s penchant for driving everyone mad. Continue reading REVIEW: HERA- THE GODDESS AND HER GLORY (OLYMPIANS BOOK 3)- By George O’connor

BOOK REVIEW: Guardian Of The Spirit-

You’ve never read a fantasy novel like this one! The deep well of Japanese myth merges with the Western fantasy tradition for a novel that’s as rich in place and culture as it is hard to put down.

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river — and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy — the Prince Chagum — on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince’s own father.

Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit is the first in a series of nine novels (and counting) that were extremely popular in Japan and adapted into an anime. The first two books were published and translated in the West, but unfortunately the series was cancelled after that. This is a shame, because Moribito is the most engaging YA series I’ve read since The Hunger Games. Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Guardian Of The Spirit-

BOOK REVIEW: The Experience Machine- Jason Werbeloff

The skullcap sits to one side of the chair. Its snaking wires and sensors throw a Medusa shadow against the basement wall. I touch its plastic. Stroke its wiry hair.

The Machine gives me everything I want. Or the one thing I want. Life in a woman’s body, under the tangerine glow of the Spiral Arm Nebula. But nothing remains the same for long, not even in the timeless worlds of the Experience Machine.

Fantasy; obsession; impossible desire. The Experience Machine is a brilliant dark horror/ science fiction story about living in a world that’s so cold and stifling, that building a machine that allows you to live out any desire is the only way you can be yourself. The happiness found in the Experience Machine comes at a price, however, as our protagonist finds their life in the real world slowly unravelling and each jaunt in the machine taking a dangerous toll on his health.

I think we can all relate to (the unfortunately named) Manfred, as there’s been a time in everyone’s life where things have been so dreadful that you feel like the only escape is to the world of fiction. Manifred’s desire is even more desperate because s/he’s going through the worst struggle of all- feeling like s/he’s in the wrong body and attracted to men in a dysphoria where it seems like transgender/ genderfluid and gay community don’t exist.

I’m currently using male pronouns to describe Manifred/ Mascara because male pronouns that are used throughout the story (and in his cameo in Hedon). Manifred doesn’t use the words ‘trans’, and it is not pinned down whether our protagonist is trans or suffering from gender dysphoria. This makes sense, because the world of Manifred/ Mascara is populated by strawman bigots and Manifred/ Mascara is still young and living with their bigoted religious parents, so they probably lack the freedom and language to fully explore their identity.

Our protagonist’s voice is very well done. The writing and language is very simple, flowing and engaging. We find ourselves gripped by Manifred’s struggles, and by watching him try to straddle between his two worlds- the real world of coldness and bigotry, and the fantasy world of romance and acceptance. Like with a lot of Werbeloff’s other works, the religious people our protagonist has to contend with are presented as crude, strawman bigots who vomit  homophobic bile every time they open their mouths. I might object to this portrayal of homophobia as oversimplified, but sadly, as Werbeloff lives in America- the land of Donald Trump and televangelists- I can’t criticize the portrayal because there’s sadly too much truth in it.

The best part of this story  was its  twisted, brutal and glorious ending. When I started reading this, I was certain I knew how it was going to end, but I was glad to be proven wrong. The ending went full slasher as it devolved into a delicious bloodpath that was sick, graphic and yet refreshing and extremely funny. In his other short stories, Werbeloff often stumbles to make the dismount with his finales, but here he made his landing with Olympic-level form. I have no hesitation to recommend this to anyone who wants to read grizzly sci fi horror dripping with black humour.

RATING: 5 mad scientists/ 5

BOOK REVIEW:OLYMPIANS: APHRODITE, GODDESS OF LOVE- by George O’connor

Don’t let the fact that this is a comic deceive you; Aphrodite, Goddess of love is one of the most sophisticated and engaging explorations of Greek mythology you’ll ever read. Not only does it give a faithful portrayal of the original Greek myths, but it also elaborates on the characters and explores some of the attitudes behind them.
Continue reading BOOK REVIEW:OLYMPIANS: APHRODITE, GODDESS OF LOVE- by George O’connor

REVIEW: The Scent of Sunlight- by Annie Bellet

 

Single mother Queenie Hayes struggles to support her two young children and tells them stories of a world filled with sunlight instead of concrete, a world called the Veldt where magical creatures are abound and her family roams, free from the trials of the real world. As a social worker threatens to break apart her family, the Veldt offers her family a chance to escape if she can find the courage, and imagination, to reach for it.

The Scent Of Sunlight is one of the best short stories that I have ever read. Forget the sexy ‘strong independent sassy ass kickers’ , Queenie is a far more real and admirable woman than the legions of ‘grrl power’ protagonists who populate urban fantasy. Continue reading REVIEW: The Scent of Sunlight- by Annie Bellet

BOOK REVIEW: CINDERELLA OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER-By Charles Perrault, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia

Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper combines the most popular 1697 version of the tale by Charles Perrault with the gothic illustrations of Camille Rose Garcia to give this classic story a whole new feel.

It’s funny how  illustrations can completely change the reading experience. Normally, when reading Perrault’s popular fairy tale, I would be taken to a Disneyesque world full of fluffy animals and doe eyed princesses waiting for equally squeaky clean and bland princes to come. But the illustrations in this edition gives it a different experience. Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: CINDERELLA OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER-By Charles Perrault, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia