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Land of Unbelief (The Analyst) (Volume 4)
Land of Unbelief (The Analyst) (Volume 4)
by Brian Geoffrey Wood
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.98
4 used & new from $14.98

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Not Stand-Alone, January 11, 2015
The first thing to know is that this is not a standalone book, but rather the first part in a multiple-book story arc, ending on a cliffhanger. The second thing to know is that, despite being hawked by the author as "intended as a jumping-on point for new fans; reading the first three is not required", the book relies heavily on pre-established events and characters. I suppose it is feasible to read the book and follow the basic plot, but much of the meaning (and in some cases, plot points) would be lost to a new reader starting with this book.

The Analyst series has always been frustratingly light on details- some authors put far too much effort into world-building, but Wood is terribly vague and skimping on precisely the details that are of most interest (at least, to me)- the intricacies of both the regulated and unregulated paranormal goings-on. Even I couldn't articulate fully what an Analyst and Operator does; I can't imagine a new reader would even begin to understand it (especially considering there is only a single such DPSD standard-operating-procedure event in the book). And whether you liked Dead Roots' "manifestation vs. non-manifested creatures" set-up or not, it's gone now.
What Wood does best remains the same: fantastic grisly monsters, and delightfully charming dialogue (epseically, as always, the repartee between Tom and Artie and extending to others within their circle). Annoyances remain much the same as well: the omnipresence of cigarettes, pointless sex scenes (whoa, Tom gets laid a lot! So much that Artie's gotta comment on it! But, y'know, it's okay, because in the end, he's kind of sad about it!), oddly shoehorned pop culture or current event mentions. This book is even more explicit in its portrayal of Tom's suffering of anxiety and panic attacks and his treatment of such (a good thing), but there's precious little emotional development; aside from a lovely reaction to a crisis, Tom essentially remains the same flat, non-introspective character he's been for three books, switching between his normative states: exhausted, in action, and wanting a cigarette and/or medication.

It also bears mentioning that the entire series has been praised- or at least promoted- as being LGBT-diverse, but considering that readers get zero insight into the non-work lives of its queer characters (while being slammed over the head with the heterosexuality of our protagonist), it feels like little more than lip service. It's nice to have bisexuality and transsexuality explicitly divulged, but when the characters are fairly one-dimensional, it ultimately makes little impact. (The trans character in the previous books, by contrast, is where Wood got it right).

Only the next book(s) can say whether Land of Unbelief is the rocky start to something great, but I will say that the "shocking" [read: cliche] reveal made me groan "Are you *&$@ing kidding me?" and the one that followed it felt equally trite. If you loved the previous three books, you will likely enjoy this one. If you disliked any of the previous characters or plots (including *spoilers* some you thought were gone), be forewarned that they make a re-appearance and by no means is this volume a fresh start for the main characters with an entirely new cast of minor characters. Ending as it does on a cliffhanger, it's difficult to tell whether the ambitious scope of the plot- and apparent entanglement of several threads- will pay off.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2015 1:48 AM PST

The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
by Michelle Goldberg
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from $1.62

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Piece of Work, March 21, 2011
Although I, like many other readers, I imagine, picked up this book expecting to hear a good argument in favor of reproductive rights, it is much, much, much more than that. This is not a book about abortion, although it includes abortion as a crucial topic. But rather, this is a book with a simple but somewhat revolutionary premise: that the solution to our most pressing concerns, both individual and societal, is the liberation of women around the world.

Michelle Goldberg makes her case very well- the book is fastidiously annotated and full of relevant statistics, well-researched history, and she strikes the perfect balance between listing the data, extrapolating its meaning, and illustrating it on the personal level with the stories of real-life men and women. Her writing is highly readable; while clearly academically rigorous, it is never too dry, too academic, bogged down in statistics or boring, nor is it overly familiar or reductionist. Or, in plainer words- I loved reading every minute of it, and there were plenty of late nights, reluctant to go to bed before I'd finished out a chapter.

Goldberg also does a tremendous job of addressing criticism- she discusses the overt colonialist nature of population control both in its infancy and in some cases, even today, she reports well on the callousness with which individual women were treated by organizations whose only goal was reducing the number of births. She carefully discusses the debacle of Rosita, wherein the very women seeking to help the young girl and her mother escape and terminate the pregnancy may have inadvertently or even knowingly and complicitly covered up her stepfathers' abuse and involvement. She acknowledges that plenty of feminists and cultural relativists both have rejected support for measures that they saw as colonialist, and have defended acts like female genital cutting. And she cautions against paternalistic measures that impose Western ideology onto foreign cultures, instead championing the support of feminists in their own countries, who are working to change attitudes and policy from within. She walks a fine line in her attempts to respect culture and avoid bias, and ultimately succeeds when she writes that when women are running away of their own volition and sometimes risking death, there is undoubtedly something wrong with that culture.

Goldberg also does well to describe discrepancies in statistics and trends that others might gloss over- she admits that the legalization and wide availability of birth control can also increase the rate of abortion, rather than depress it, as learning they can control their fertility, women seek to control it even further. She widely discusses the apparent anomaly presented by India, where increased education of women hasn't translated to an elevation in their status. And even after debunking much of the religious right's desperate pleas for population growth via a return to traditional family structures, she doesn't merely sweep away their worries, pointing out that the dwindling ratio of young people to pensioners is a valid concern, one that can and should be remedied. She admits that it may very well be America's religiosity that contributes to our uniquely higher birth rate, and contrasts maternal care between Sweden and Germany to explain the latter's lower birth rate. It is hard to find any bias and holes in her discussion of the research- she has done a phenomenal job of explaining unclear data and admitting when there is ambiguity that cannot easily be explained.

This book does not make any new conclusions- as Goldberg readily acknowledges, pointing out that the UN, UNFPA, IPAS, and other various governments and NGO's have explicitly stated her conclusion decades earlier. For those of us who do not closely follow international summits and are not well-versed in international feminist politics, though, this book is a wealth of information and its conclusion and call to action, I suspect, will be eye-opening to most.

I found it highly readable, well-researched, and immensely logical. The stories within its covers are depressing and sad, infuriating, and horrific, but also inspiring, hopeful, and amazing. This is not a pessimistic book, but an optimistic one that lays out the problem, demonstrates what has and has not been shown to work in the past, and says in no uncertain terms "This is what can make the world a better place." It is vastly important in scope- even if you think you don't care about reproductive rights, you should be reading it. Even if you disagree with the very concept of reproductive rights, you should be reading it. It comes highly, highly recommended . . . before I had even finished my library copy, I went out and purchased one for my own bookshelves- that's how impressed with it I was, and how sure I was that I would want to quote it later and need it handy.

Bravo to Michelle Goldberg- I look forward to reading her other works based on the incredibly favorable impression she has left me with thus far.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2012 7:47 AM PST

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
by Jessica Valenti
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from $7.87

14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, If A Bit Repetitive, April 20, 2009
"The Purity Myth" is a fantastic book- well-researched, well-written, and well-thought-out, making a perfectly logical case that America is far too focused on virginity, and it's costing women.

I won't go too much into detail, but the book is definitely worth a read, by anybody, men and women both, virgins (hey, what IS a virgin, anyways?) and non-virgins alike, feminists and those who might not consider themselves so. This is not a radical book by any means- unless your definition of "radical" includes women being strong, smart, and independent.

The book DOES get repetitive at times, but covers enough topics (masculinity, abortion rights, etc., etc.) that it stays fairly varied. It's an easy read, not dry or scholarly academic at all.

There is only one quibble I had- part of me feels like the book's premise- that the virginity movement (as a whole and especially certain sects of it) has ulterior goals of traditional gender roles and silencing women- while spot-on, leaves behind and does not address those who are part of the virginity movement and who actually ARE feminist (in the modern sense of the term). Pointing out hypocrisy and antifeminists posing as feminists is wonderful, but what about the true believers in virginity? I came to this book after reading Wendy Shalit's "Girls Gone Mild", and I felt that Shalit had both valid points and a strong sense of feminism, so it was kind of sad to me to see less engagement on Valenti's part against the feminist wings of the purity movement.

But that's my only criticism; other than that, it's a fantastic, much-needed commentary on a society that uses words like "damaged goods" and "sloppy seconds".

Pornology: Noun--1: A Good Girl's Guide to Porn; 2: The misadventures of the world's first anthroPORNologist; 3: A Hilarious Exploration of Men, Relationships, and Sex
Pornology: Noun--1: A Good Girl's Guide to Porn; 2: The misadventures of the world's first anthroPORNologist; 3: A Hilarious Exploration of Men, Relationships, and Sex
by Ayn Carrillo-Gailey
Edition: Paperback
71 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Most Thoroughly Enjoyable Book I've Read In A While!, August 8, 2008
I had high hopes for this book, and it didn't disappoint! Funny, quirky, with a strong voice coming through, and even a happy ending, it really made for a fun, quick read (I finished it in one sitting) that had me laughing out loud.

Mind you, it occasionally is a little too "precious"- it sometimes reads a little bit like "Sex in the City" and other chick-lit horrors (gushing about sex with my gal pals and having drinks, oh yes!), and it takes away some of the magic of the story to hear that, while true, it was also "slightly elaborated" with dramatic license. Hence the way everything works out perfectly- not a single thread left untied, and even a Hollywood movie ending that would charm fans of rom-coms everywhere.

But if you take it lightly- as the cute fluff that it is- it is a very enjoyable read and one that actually sheds a lot of light on how porn/erotica can be empowering for women (and moreover, how doing the unconventional and challenging yourself can lead to wonderful things). Very sex-positive, and yes, funny, too.

Attack of the Theater People
Attack of the Theater People
by Marc Acito
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.66
114 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars He Hit It Out Of The Park Again!, May 12, 2008
I think pretty much everyone who read "How I Paid For College" must have instantly fallen in love with Marc Acito's writing style and that zany cast of characters, and had their heart broken to see that he had no other books to his name.

This one doesn't fail to deliver. It's just as good and wacky-crazy as the first. For those who might want a light reading just like the book's predecessor, it might come off a little bit darker and not as funny as the first (though it still has wonderful laugh-out-loud moments), since Edward is of course growing up and facing some difficult challenges.

Read it- it's fun and delightful.

Satyricon USA : A Journey Across the New Sexual Frontier
Satyricon USA : A Journey Across the New Sexual Frontier
by Eurydice
Edition: Paperback
11 used & new from $3.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Poor Tourguide Into The Sexual Underworld, May 2, 2008
Eurydice's book is a sometimes fascinating, sometimes painful read- not because of the subject matter (please- anyone the least bit seasoned or knowledgeable in the so-called `fringe' or `extreme' sexualities knows everything in this book), but to watch the authoress herself as she struggles to make sense of what she witnesses. As another reviewer says, it truly does seem like she brings a lot of baggage to the book.

The author, as far as I know, doesn't occupy any public space that makes her worthy to comment on the things she's seen. She psychobabbles on and on, but has no professional, or even academic, experience on psychology/psychiatry. She has had no long-term exposure to any of the communities she enters and willingly pulls all her generalizing comments from oftentimes one single event or only a handful of interviews. I found myself reading and asking why I should listen to what Eurydice has to say: not only does she seem blase towards the subject matter, but her commentary is about on line with being grabbed by an uncle at a family reunion and having all his opinions heaped on you, under the guise of sage and wise advice. It simply doesn't fly.

I'd have rather read a fiery rhetoric about the evils of these various sexual communities- at least that would have some passion. I don't know if Eurydice simply has no real feelings about them (except for her own conflictions, which are ever-present), or if she feels that objective writing must be dry as tinder, but either way, it falls flat. If not for the very exuberance of the subjects themselves (through interviews), it wouldn't be worth reading at all. The book simply tries too hard where it cannot quite deliver. Eurydice's prose is fantastically complex (she even made this grad student pull out her dictionary once or twice) and elegant, which makes me wish that she had either a better medium or a better subject matter, because it often gets in the way. This is by no means a clear perspective on the sexual frontier. There may be occasional moments of brilliance (as well as repeated, disheartening occasions of bigotry hiding under the mask of `objective psychoanalysis'), but it's simply too muddled to be of any real value.

If anyone is reading this review wondering what I mean . . . it's hard to say. I supposed you simply have to sample Eurydice's style for yourself to understand her writing style. Suffice to say, it wasn't cutting it for me- it felt pretentious and tired, she sounded at best bored and at worst terribly jaded, and in the end, the crowning thesis of the book- that there isn't a wild and rampant sexuality underneath our smooth exteriors, but rather a bane normality underneath the crazy acts that [according to Eurydice] we do to feel rebellious and different- well, this isn't big news. Hell, I could have told you that.

The only saving grace of the book is its sheer diversity- Eurydice hits not only the sexual minority "givens" (cross-dressing, BDSM and bloodplay, strip clubs, cybersex), but also talks about a few topics I had not seen elsewhere, including necrophilia, sex in the military, and alien sex. Fresh topics that you simply don't see anywhere else, and it was these chapters that kept me going when I felt like putting down the book.

All in all, "Satyricon" is a book that makes me sad. When I finished reading it, I did not feel like I better understood the sexual minority's participants, and I didn't feel like I'd been shown some great realization about our sexual culture. It simply seemed like the author had grimly set herself out to write a book about sex, and found the whole process disdainful. It comes across on every page, and what stands for objectivity ends up feeling cold, clinical, and even a little mean (you can't help but wonder, oh yeah, Eurydice? Well, what turns you on?). And it's sad that it gets in the way of the material, because she often asks good, thought-provoking questions. If only her attitude were a little different.

Dark Designs (Black Lace)
Dark Designs (Black Lace)
by Madelynne Ellis
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
64 used & new from $0.78

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, But . . ., April 7, 2008
When I think about all the disparate aspects of this novel, it seems like it was made for me. Male/male action, a Japanese guy (they're my weakness), bisexual m/m/f threesomes, a girl who gets off on that and likes yaoi, a Gothic aesthetic . . . and yet something's missing.

The book starts off tremendously well, with a hot scene that introduces Remy and Takeshi, and you just a get a feel that they're going to be the pair that you root for. And that's just the way it is- Takeshi is a brilliantly well-drawn character who you feel like you instantly know from the beginning, with his cute little idiosyncracies (his Real Doll, for example), and you like watching Remy try and fail to combat his lovely charm.

And then in comes the character of Silk. I'm sorry, but as a reader, nothing about Silk captivated me except for the description of his physical beauty. He's vain and shallow and there's not much in the way of character development that endears me to him. His cross-over to stalwart straight boy to totally-fine-with-gay-sex happens much too fast and easily. Takeshi's seduction of him is absolutely hot, but nothing about the ending of this transition felt all that realistic. I just couldn't understand why Remy was so head-over-heels in love with Silk, and thus couldn't relate to a good deal of the book.

The side characters were pretty nice and funny and cute, in particular Takeshi's friend and the three Gorgon sisters . . . but Takeshi takes the cake.

A good novel if you like the girl-boy-boy love story, another one to add to the collection rounded out by Emma Holly's "Menage" and "Strange Attractions" and Mandy Dickinson's "Out Of Bounds", but Takeshi is the shining grace of the novel- the guy I wish I could bring to life.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2009 9:24 AM PDT

Bi Ranchers Bi Mates
Bi Ranchers Bi Mates
by Bill Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.45
27 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Jerk-Off Material, But Be Warned, February 3, 2008
This review is from: Bi Ranchers Bi Mates (Paperback)
This book is hot, and believe me, it's rare for me to say that. If you're a pansexual person who hates having to switch books to get your fill of delicious gay male erotica, lesbian erotica, and straight erotica, this might be for you. If you love for all sexual boundaries to be crossed, this is the book for you.

Not since Carol Queen's "The Leather Daddy and the Femme" have I encountered such a sexy, jam-packed full of action erotica book to push all my buttons. The only thing that would have made it better would be the inclusion of some gender-variant people like the abovementioned book, but maybe this is better, as people who prefer manly men and feminine women won't be put-off.

The plot here is threadbare, a setup essentially to allow for the hot sex. If you're looking for the same sort of hot pansexual sex with a little more of a plot and characterization, you might want to try Bill Lee's other bisexual novel, "Different Slopes". This book revolves around a woman who gets picked up in a casual, anonymous hookup in a bar and, after a night of hot sex, explores the ranch she finds herself at. The man she had sex with ends up living there alone with his teenaged son, and consequently, in need of a woman's touch. Our protagonist agrees to stay there with them and cook and clean and act as a maid in exchange for lodging and food and all that jazz. Of course, it's a lot more hot sex with everyone and a few additional weekend visitiors to the ranch. The main form of a problem is in Sally's past, which is coming back to haunt her. I won't say much in way of that so as not to spoil it, but it's rather weak, unrealistic, and quite too-tidily solved up.

This book ought come with a warning, however. There are many elements in the book that may put off some readers. Included in this are sex with a minor (one case which I would clearly put in the category of 'pedophilia'), incest (male-male and male-female), and sexual abuse. One of the minors is a fairly full-blooded teenager who engages in sex with adults as well as his peers, and while that might be considered somewhat okay, another scene involving young children is most certainly not. There is also the issue of incest; one ongoing relationship in the book is incestual but consensual (how consensual it can be if the participant is a minor is up to you to decide), and the other case of incest is blatant sexual abuse (whose aftermath is dealt with rather poorly). These sexual encounters do not make up a large portion of the book, but they should be mentioned for readers who may take offense. Be forewarned!

The writing style is mediocre at best; Lee writes nicely and while he tends to often fall back on less-than-creative sexual descriptions, he varies things enough to keep it interesting and has less typos and cliches than some of the other poorly written erotica out there.

If you're looking for something to get you off and get you off fast, "Bi Ranchers, Bi Mates" is the way to go- it's hot, it's dirty, it's bisexual, and it will do the trick. If you're looking for something more intellectual, more queer-oriented, more explicitly romantic, or with a more engaging plot, you'll have to look elsewhere. But it's great one-handed fiction.

Hope that helps you!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2009 9:02 PM PDT

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
by Julia Serano
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.13
103 used & new from $7.19

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Brilliant Feminist and Transsexual Analysis I've Ever Read, September 5, 2007
"Whipping Girl" is not a light, airy autobiography, so if that's what you're looking for, go elsewhere- there are many wonderful ones. Rather, Julia Serano dives headfirst into some deep issues and instead of repeating the same old tired mantras, proposes new theories and different interpretations.

I found myself reading with my highlighter out because I was consistenly blown away by some of the arguments and insightful comments Serano made. Her very background makes her the perfect analyst: as a biologist, she has the foremost knowledge on scientific reasons for transsexuality and related subject matter, as a transsexual woman she has an intimate knowledge of the effects of both testosterone and estrogen, and of how society treats men and women. Feminists, students of gender, or just the average lay person could all benefit greatly from this book, in my opinion.

The reading can sometimes be a little dense- while much more readable than most, it still is primarily an academic text. And sometimes Serano can come off a bit cold and distant- not angry (or when she is, I believe it to be justified), but not exactly a warm and cozy narrator that draws teh reader in. Still, to me, that's a small price to pay.

All in all, it's something you have to read. But I thoroughly anticipate that this book will be revolutionary- a new, fresh perspective on feminism, transsexuality, and the queer movement.

Read it!

My Femme Divine
My Femme Divine
2 used & new from $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Butch and Femme Identities, September 1, 2007
This review is from: My Femme Divine (VHS Tape)
I haven't seen this, although I would like to. I simply wanted to put a little synopsis of it up here for others who wonder, like I did, what this mystery video is all about.

My Femme Divine is an exploration of the terms "femme" and "butch" in lesbian culture -- are these terms which are even descriptive in the contemporary world? Director Everett uses examples from her own life, as well as documenting the women who identify with these roles today.

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