Done last week (20170521Su - 27Sa)

May. 28th, 2017 10:00 pm
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[personal profile] mdlbear

Big week. The sale of Rainbow's End (now "Rainbow's Ended"?) closed on Tuesday, after a marathon clean-up session. (The buyers had done a walk-through Monday evening, and called with a list of things that had to be cleaned up. If they weren't done by EOD Tuesday, they were going to hold up closing. Since the closing for our purchase was scheduled for Wednesday, that was a non-starter. Cleanup had to be done.)

First (realtor) Chris and I cleaned up the messes left by the movers who ghosted on us last week, the housekeeper, and me when I came by both Thursday and Sunday and simply ran out of spoons. I think some valuable things may have been hauled off by the guys from 1-800-GOT-JUNK, but I was pretty low on spoons at that point.

After that, (this is still Tuesday!) I met G at UHaul to rent a truck so that we could get his motorcycles out of the garage. Fortunately, our housekeeper (G', if you've been following the details of my notation) offered to store them at her house. We probably came within inches of dropping a bike, more than once.

After that, I came back to the house (no longer ours, since they did close on time) to pick up the hazardous materials we'd taken out of the garage, since GOT-JUNK doesn't do hazmat. I came around to the front after that, and took a blossom and a bud from the Royal Amethist rose. Then I sang "The Mary Ellen Carter" on the way home to keep from losing it.

Wednesday, the purchase of our new house on Whidbey Island closed. I also learned that 1. the household hazmat site on Aurora Avenue is closed on Wednesdays, and 2. latex paint is not considered hazardous, so they won't take it. I was, and still am, too short on emotional cope to react significantly to either event.

Thursday I bought cat litter for solidifying the paint. I was kind of out of it, and didn't do much except reading (see links).

Friday I found out that C had not gotten signed up for Medicare. Damnit, she was positive that she had; if I'd known we could have done it when we visited the office to deliver our marriage license. Weeks ago. Shit. I also took care of the nine cans of paint that actually had room for cat litter to be added.

Saturday I tried to get C signed up for Medicare, and failed. (I failed again today.) There's still a lot of other stuff I've been neglecting.

Meanwhile, I've been doing paperwork mostly connected with health care, utilities, you name it. If I'd been under any illusions that retiring was going to be less stressful than working, well, ... Maybe it gets better? Damned if I know. I've also been reading a lot, mostly math and computer science, probably because it gets me into a flow state where I'm not really aware of anything else. Not being aware of anything mostly sounds pretty good right now.

Oh, yeah; I ought to schedule an appointment with my therapist. Not that that's been doing any noticable good lately. I have difficulty imagining how it could do any good, which may be part of the problem. (That's not a new thing; except for learning about CBT and getting me on the first of a series of drugs that may or may not still be working it didn't do a whole lot for me back in California, either.)

And don't get me started on politics.

Notes & links, as usual )

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[personal profile] littlereview
My Country's Wardrobe )

We had a quiet morning watching the Maryland women win the national lacrosse championship while Adam researched computers and flights to Greece and Daniel played with his Nintendo Switch. Then we had homemade waffles and eggs and picked up my parents to go to Fort Ward near Alexandria, which has a Civil War museum plus some of the earthworks and cannons. It was drizzly, so we then went to Alexandria with the intention of walking around the Torpedo Factory, but we found the replica Spanish ship El Galeon and many geese, ducks, and fish, so we actually spent more time out on the waterfront.

We had dinner (and several desserts) for my father's birthday at Bilbo Baggins, in an upstairs room that we had to ourselves because there was a big party in the room with the Hobbit murals. Then we came home and watched Inferno, which Daniel had not seen (nor read the book, so it was all new to him) and I have to admit that despite its flaws I still like the movie much better than the book. Now we're watching a rerun of the National Memorial Day Concert, which I always find uplifting when it's about World War II veterans and incredibly bombastic whenever modern events are mentioned. Some pics:

17ward2
Around Alexandria )

Black Sails

May. 28th, 2017 09:34 pm
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[personal profile] tiggymalvern
We watched the final episode of the final season of Black Sails tonight. This series has been absolutely rock solid in the writing throughout, with smart people making decisions for reasons that make internal sense, even when you don't agree with the reasons, and they lead to horrific outcomes. The twists and turns of it have been so frequent throughout, with constantly shifting alliances and betrayed friendships, that we went into the last episode with absolutely no clue how it was going to turn out (other than Long John Silver has to be alive, because of the book). And in the end, all the violence of the series is underpinned and triggered by the love stories of its main characters, and I cried myself thoroughly snotty over them.

The way the writers interwove the stories of historical and fictional characters and tweaked both to create a satisfying whole is so clever. And since the network didn't cancel it and let the writers complete their chosen ending, there's absolutely no reason to write fanfic for it. I'm just going to plug it one last time because it's good.

not that Fig is a fussbudget

May. 28th, 2017 05:32 pm
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
But if he notices Ibid is sleeping with his tongue out, he tries to tuck it in.

There is nothing quite like

May. 28th, 2017 05:21 pm
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
A gaggle of adorable little girls spontaneously charging towards the edge of the stage to divide people into those who freeze in a crisis and those who don't.
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[personal profile] catherineldf
Here are suggested books, shows and movies that were mentioned during the WisCon panel, Red as Blood: Women in Gothic Horror.

Gothic Blog: https://gothicfictionblog.wordpress.com/ 

Tor.com talks about Gothic: http://www.tor.com/2012/06/19/whats-gothic-now/

Here's a good primer page: https://www.google.com/#q=Gothic+Fiction

Your friends at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1230.Best_Gothic_Books_Of_All_Time

Gothic Movies: http://www.indiewire.com/2015/10/18-great-films-of-gothic-horror-and-romance-to-watch-before-crimson-peak-112007/

Some suggestions from the panelists and the audience:

Books:

Windward Heights by Maryse Condé

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Affinity and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Respectable Horror edited by Kate Laity

Speaking to the Skull Kings and Other Stories by Emily Cataneo

Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau by Jewelle Parker Rhodes

“The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

 

 

Films and TV:

Crimson Peak

The Orphanage

Penny Dreadful (TV)

Victor Frankenstein

The Babadook

Salem (TV)

The Woman in Black

The Handmaiden

 

 

Comics:

The Girl from Raw Blood by Sarah Vaughn

Dude Watching with the Brontes by Kate Beaton



Athena’s Graduation, in Pictures

May. 28th, 2017 06:58 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Yup, she did it, and here is the photographic proofa photo set with her (and Hunter, her boyfriend) before, during and after the graduation ceremony. Enjoy it as if you were there your very own self!

(And for those wondering, it was a fine ceremony, and very quick, since Athena had a graduating class of 32. Small rural schools, man. But it was enough time to get all misty-eyed.)


[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

C

Taming the Highlander

by May McGoldrick
September 6, 2016 · Swerve
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Omphale. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

This new historical romance from May McGoldrick pits one spirited lass against her biggest challenge yet: a Highland lord who has no desire to lose his heart.

Innes Munro has the ability to “read” a person’s past simply by touching them, but her gift comes with a heavy price: her freedom. Forced to stay at desolate Castle Girnigoe, Innes never expects to be drawn to the wounded warrior who haunts its dark passages and challenges her at every turn.

Conall Sinclair, the earl of Caithness, carries the scars of battles with the English and the lash marks of their dungeons, but the wounds that fester within give him even greater pain. Isolating himself from his clan and the rest of the world in a tower perched on the wild Scottish coast, Conall is reluctant to let the spirited Innes close to him, however neither can deny the growing passion that ignites with every look, every touch.

But can Conall ever love a woman who can read his darkest secrets and feel the pain he hides… and can love really tame all fears? As dangerous forces close in, Conall and Innes must take the ultimate leap of faith and forge a bond of trust that will save them both…or lose each other forever.

Here is Omphale's review:

Taking place in a Highland setting a few years after the Rough Wooing, this is the middle story in a trilogy about young women possessed of mystical stone fragments and attendant powers. Innes Munro inherited one of these stones from her mother, and can, by the power of touch, though only with her hands, read the current thoughts and past of others.

Innes accompanies her sister Ailein to the northern Highlands to attend Ailein’s wedding to Bryce Sinclair, the Laird of the Sinclair clan. While there she hears of Connal Sinclair, the Earl of Caithness, who has ceded title of Laird to his brother following his capture by the English and presumed death. Connal is reclusive, avoiding interacting with the clan while he recovers from his battlefield wounds (he loses his dominant hand) and subsequent imprisonment and torture.

I’m not an enormous fan of paranormal elements in my historical romance (I prefer my fantasy to be that everyone had good teeth and no dysentery), but I liked the way that Innes’ power is shown to be both useful (she can tell when people are lying) and restrictive (she not only sees their thoughts and memories but feels their feelings). Connal’s suffering post-trauma displacement with his role in the clan – essentially he’s given up the day-to-day responsibilities of running the clan, but he’s still using his title in external negotiations. He’s dealing with a fair amount of survivor’s guilt, as well as getting over the loss of his hand – all of which Innes learns in their first few encounters when she meets him without her gloves. She’s used to keeping her talent a secret, but also is keenly aware of how violating it is to use it, so she’s basically consigned herself to pragmatic spinsterhood.

So neither of them really thinks they can get involved with life in general, and are trying to keep themselves separate from everyone else. Obviously then, they keep meeting and keep being thrown together by matchmaking siblings and clanspeople. But their emotional conflict makes sense, they respect each other, and they start out with mutual friendship (even though they both have pantsy thoughts). They are two cautious souls who respect each other’s right to be prickly, and I liked that they were given room to get to know each other. Their courtship is ultimately satisfying.

(BTW, there’s external conflict with an evil man chasing the stones, and we meet H+H from the first book, but that kind of just wanders in and out of the storyline until the last quarter of the book.)

So H + H make sense as a couple, mystical elements are in service to emotional conflict, love didn’t fix them, but inspired them to fix themselves, and very little series-itis. All good stuff. So why the C grade?

The structure and pacing of the book is…weird. It reads as though there were originally going to be two stories about each couple (siblings Bryce and Ailein being the other) with interweaving story lines, but then at some point that idea was dropped and only Conall and Innes’ was told. This means that there’s this throughline about the mysterious death of Bryce’s first wife, Shona, who had been betrothed to Conall before his supposed death. It’s no spoiler to say that Shona was the Evil First Wife trope, which I’m sure most of us Bitchery types hate with a fiery passion. But usually Evil First Wife exists to provide an excuse for our hero’s reluctance to commit, ye-old-standby “I trusted an evil harpy, and now I hate all women” (or, if you’re reading Mary Balogh, “I trusted an evil harpy, and now my poor heart is so crushed that love terrifies me.”)

But Shona’s horribleness appears to have no effect on Connal, and very little for Bryce- although his and Ailein’s courtship is entirely conducted in the background. And Ailein is the main investigator into her death, and Innes is just kind of along for the ride.

Show Spoiler
And the end result of the mystery-solving is that nothing happens to the murderer, I guess because Shona was such a bitch? 

You see why I’m assuming there was more to the sibling-plot, right? Otherwise there’s just this kind of floppy storyline featuring an unhappy woman who died, whom nobody mourns, and whose life and death had little effect upon our main characters.

So, yeah, throw in a distractingly large subplot featuring a StrawBitch Trope, and I’m going to have dock you. In sum, there’s good stuff here, but the bad stuff outweighs my ability to recommend.

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[personal profile] hollymath
So Pink News, which seem to cause me some kind of headache every few weeks, put up an article today called "Is bisexuality real?"

As soon as I saw the headline, I angrily thought (and tweeted with a link to this terrible question):
Is EVERY damn "LGBT" thing biphobic? Are we sick of it to literal death because biphobia kills people? The answer to all of these is yes.
It turned out the headline was just clickbait; for once this was an article whose title was a Question To Which The Answer Is Yes (Betteridge's Law dictates that the answer is No, of course).

The reaction that I saw to that tweet was, at least a few hours ago...not what you'd call good. It ranged all the way from sarcastic to angry. My awesome friend [twitter.com profile] natalyadell said, "I nearly didn't read the damned article, saw the headline was biphobic, ran away. When trying to fix prejudice, committing it is No.1 fail."

And...unfortunately it gets worse than the headline. If you actually do read the thing (which I wouldn't recommend, but here's a tweet screenshotting the relevant bit), it says "Unlike pansexuality, bisexuals do often recognize the binary genders but are attracted to both males and females."

Which, at the very least, indicates to me that the writer is not bisexual. As Sali Owen who does all the bi stuff for the LGBT Foundation has pointed out, there are no bi activists or organizations that use this definition and it tends to drive bisexuals up the wall. We have to argue about this all the damn time.

I genuinely do not know anyone who thinks this. I can credit almost everything I do know about trans people and issues and history to the UK bi community I feel part of. It includes plenty of non-binary gendered people and I promise that they're as likely to be fancied by bisexuals as binary-gendered men and women are. (That this charming quote refers to "males and females" instead of men and women is just the icing on the shit cake.)

It's such a weird fight to have to keep fighting, but in this case I think it's enough that, as I said, it's an indication we're unlikely to be dealing with a bisexual writer. In a way, this is the same problem as I complained about earlier with regard to immigrants: we're being talked about, not talked with. Much less listened to.

"Nothing about us without us" is a valuable concept from disability activism that I really wish applied to bisexuality within LGBT activism. It applies in bisexual activism, because there's absolutely no reason to even do that if you don't have a horse in the race -- there's no money in it and no one else, straight or gay, seems to care about it. About us.

And this, if nothing else, means we know a lot about bisexuality that other people don't because they have few if any ways of finding it out. We're the only ones talking about our rates of mental illness, domestic abuse, homelessness, and other grim stuff, which are higher than the rates in straight or gay/lesbian people.

We talk about stuff nobody else will think of to say about us and that is why our voices are needed. It's not my ego saying this, it's all the suffering my friends and I are going through. We've seen these kinds of suffering decrease in gay and lesbian people because of resources that have been poured into their health, housing, education, employment protection, and other stuff. Bisexuals are like the control group: we show the world how bad it'd be without all those specialized resources. And...it's pretty bad.

The "LGBT" organizations are still stuck on "does bisexuality exist" when you cannot imagine a LGBT publication writing "is homosexuality real?" We're still fighting to clear that first hurdle when there's so much else to talk about. Biphobia kills. And no one but bisexuals is saying this, so most people don't know it because our voices aren't reaching them.

We're the bit of LGBT that's likeliest to go unrepresented in LGBT events and venues: this year bisexuals are going to be excluded from Pride In London for spurious reasons: 320 entries in the parade and none for us. You'd never have such a big Pride with no gay-specific groups. Or lesbian ones. Or even, now, trans ones. And if anybody tried it, there'd be outrage. But this? If you're not bi and following a few people on Twitter or reading The Queerness, you probably don't know about it (I'm grateful to The Queerness for covering the issue (and really well!), because I haven't seen any others of the so-called LGBT media do so).

It frustrates me so much, because there's no reason it has to be like this. There are tons of good writers just among people I know who write well about bisexuality. I've tried to do my bit, on everything from how "love is love" sounds good and supportive but isn't enough to encompass the experience of being bisexual, the perils of being a bi asylum seeker, and even what it's like when biphobia happens on the main stage at Pride. There are so many of us out there. And plenty of us are unemployed or underemployed or just poor, partly because of all this shit that's more likely to go wrong for you if you're bi!

So c'mon, Pink News, hire me and I'll make your bisexual stuff awesome, instead of this worse-than-useless stuff you're putting out now. Hire one of my friends, or all of them. You've probably got more than one gay writer; you should have more than one bisexual, too!

This is not at ALL romantic

May. 28th, 2017 01:53 pm
[personal profile] miladygrey
Woke up on Friday morning with the achy limbs and scratchy throat that usually presage a cold. Went into work anyway, because I already took a personal day this week and there's stuff that needs doing. Aveline was dealing with mild food poisoning, so we both slogged through the day. I came home, took some cold medicine, and hoped I'd wake up Saturday morning ready for the holiday weekend.

A day and a half later, I think I have galloping consumption, and it sucks, and this is not a romantic thing in the slightest, 19th-Century Authors. I am coughing so hard and so badly that I've scared both cats, I am either shivering with fever or sweating through my T-shirt, Yeats has made two trips for various cough syrup/drops and ice cream and tea for my throat, we had to call out of Tall and Steff's annual Memorial Day shindig, and I live on the sofa now amid a scattering of handkerchiefs.

Have I mentioned how much I hate this? Because I HATE THIS.

Reading Log: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh; The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford; Star's End by Cassandra Rose Clarke; A Girl From Yamhill and My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary; The Purple Diaries by Joseph Egan; Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray; The Radium Girls by Kate Moore; Brimstone by Cherie Priest; The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Designed to create failures

May. 28th, 2017 06:25 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath
It then seemed to me that the immigration system was designed to create failures was the quote my friend [twitter.com profile] SMerlChest pulled out of this story when she tweeted it.

I read it with a panicked heartbeat (only eventually assuaged by remembering that I (very nearly) have citizenship now so this can't happen to me; after a decade of anxiety verging on panic attacks at reading stories like this, a few days apparently isn't sufficient for me to have trained myself out of that reflexive reaction). The tl;dr version is that a Canadian living in Scotland with a good job and a wife and little kids who's just been granted a huge sum of money for his academic work is set to be deported in a couple of weeks, and it seems to be only because he was told the wrong thing to do by the Home Office ages ago and had no idea until a couple of weeks ago.

My friend [twitter.com profile] elmyra quickly pointed out "Oh look, he's white, middle class, and Canadian, so media are paying attention." (They are a white Eastern European immigrant to the UK, one of the voices I'm so grateful to have in my book, so they know whereof they speak here.) [twitter.com profile] SMerlChest added that the class thing might be crucial (contrasting this with another Canadian family that got deported from Scotland recently). I said that I think having young British kids also makes this guy's case more likely to get media attention.

And as we were all talking about this, about what would actually help this man avoid deportation vs what has made this story get media attention that tons of similar stories won't get (which is an overlapping circle but not the same: the good job is in both circles, the British kids are in the latter (because British family didn't save the poor woman deported to Singapore...see, she's not white and she was a carer rather than having a proper job and don't tell me those things didn't count against her). I actually also think this story is getting media sympathy because he can claim the Home Office made this error; he himself is an innocent, falling afoul of red tape which is a particular hatred of the British for whatever reason.

As I was sort of dispassionately discussing the elements that make a good sympathetic immigration-horrors story, I didn't want to make it sound too much like I wasn't genuinely sympathetic for the man. My fledging panic attack was borne out of my awareness that the same thing would happen to me. And something that I never let myself think about too much consciously until now that it's over...I knew that if it had come to it, my story would not have gotten the sympathetic media attention that this has.
  • I don't have a proper job and for the last year neither has my husband, however British he is.
  • We're both disabled, which Britain is not sympathetic to generally.
  • We don't have any children.
The last especially: not having those babies (and yes they'd be white!) being all photogenic and British and everything to pull on strangers' heartstrings and to legitimize my presence here in a way that my childlessness cannot.

It's one thing to feel that your life might not measure up to the goals you have for it or the expectations your parents have for it, it's I think on another level to have to think about how your life compares to what the Home Office approves of, what the public will approve of if you have to take your immigration horror story to the media.

It seems like something not a million miles from the current concept in America of being "popular enough to live," getting enough people to back your GoFundMe that you can pay your medical bills. Thankfully immigrants having to appeal to the British public and/or Home Office as sympathetic less common than crowdfunding healthcare has to be in America.

Musing on this, and finally letting myself admit the lens through which I had to look at myself as an immigrant, and thinking about what I wrote here yesterday about not being happy or even relieved yet about my citizenship got me to tweet: "OKAY I THINK THE RELIEF AT BEING A CITIZEN HAS FINALLY KICKED IN."

This is why I paid thousands of pounds and put myself through this? Just so I don't have to panic, just so I don't have to think about how my life looks to the Home Office. Andrew and I don't seem enough like a family, my work is that "second shift" women do that doesn't look like work, it'll only be my nationality and my whiteness that made this as easy for me as it has been.

Just a Few More Cycles...

May. 28th, 2017 12:49 pm
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[personal profile] cathugger
So I finally started my period again about a month after my eighteen-day period that began three days after another eight-day period.

Menstruation talk )
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[personal profile] hollymath
This morning I saw someone quote an idiotic tweet, "Do you want a world of women-only screenings, or a world where everyone can go see a movie with no gendered problems? You can't have both."

This is in reference to a movie theatre in America scheduling women-only showings of Wonder Woman, and is part of the inevitable backlash of men who can't cope. Poor little snowflakes, who don't realize they've made the whole world into their safe space and now don't see why anyone else wants one.

It got me thinking, though: while I don't need women-only screenings (it'd mean I can't go with either of my usual moviegoing partners/carers who I'm happy helping me get around in the dark, for starters!) I would love some only-"people who are okay with the existence of women-only screenings" screenings. (This would get me both of my boys back, of course, as well as anybody else I'm likely to feel happy being around!)

It also got me thinking about the saying that's cropped up recently: "When you're used to privilege, equality feels like oppression." I really loved it at first and have made a lot of use of it but...I'm starting to realize the situation is even worse than that. These women at the women-only screenings still face gender pay gaps, the "second shift" of housework and caring responsibilities, street harassment, and the million other instances of individual and systemic misogyny that women endure.

They're getting to hopefully escape all that for a couple of hours (except however much there is in the movie, I guess; I thought I remembered fatphobia but I guess that's only in the advertising campaign outside of the cinema, where all the men are).

This is not equality.

It's not equality that is making the privileged men feel oppressed. It doesn't take anything as profound as that. Maybe a more accurate version of this modern proverb could be "When you're used to privilege, even a momentary gesture towards equality for a few people feels like oppression." Yeah, it's less snappy, but sadly it's more true.
Anything that carries the merest whiff, the possibility, the potential to even slightly threaten the privilege is greeted like oppression.

Heaven knows how the privileged would react to actual equality. We have no way of knowing, since it's never happened yet.

Brightest and best

May. 28th, 2017 05:33 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath
Today I saw a politician (Philip Hammond this time, but it could've been any of several) quoted as saying Britain "need[s] to continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores" and I think that was just one time too many for me with that terrible phrase, best and brightest.

I always and only ever hear in the context of a Labservative government reassuring the xenophobes (even when, like now, they have nothing to reassure us about; Britain is hemorrhaging citizens of countries that will remain in the EU for longer than the next year and a half and the Tories want to cut immigration to less than half of what business says the UK needs).

I finally realized exactly what it is I so dislike about the phrase "best and brightest" -- apart from its obvious politician-speak and doesn't really mean anything. Beyond that, I just managed to articulate this morning that I think I hate it because it's evidence of something I am always complaining about: that immigrants are always talked about, and never talked with (much less listened to). That British media and politicians mostly talk about us as if we can't hear or read what they are saying.

As an immigrant, I hear this and think: What on Earth makes the UK think it's so special it can only even tolerate those immigrants who are "brightest and best"? But it's not speech directed at me. It's directed at British people who are wary of accepting any immigrants, it's not challenging them on that xenophobia but just saying, however grudgingly, that we need a few immigrants, lads, but don't worry, we'll make sure they're only the good kind. The best.

What it sounds like from the outside is that Britain is telling all the other countries in the world: Don't even think about sending us anything less than your best and brightest! But it isn't, and it wasn't even before Brexit, doing anything to convince the rest of the world that it deserves the cream of their crops. Indeed, it's doing everything in its power to persuade other countries that it doesn't deserve or even really want their brightest or best: even before Brexit we outside the EU have suffered a lot, as any of my readers surely are sick of hearing about by now.

Still British politicians talk like the world is a labour force to be tapped if necessary. I am not the most informed person to be drawing comparisons between Brexit and the British Empire as often as I do, but I can't help think that mentality is at play here. There's this idea that the rest of the world is composed of resources that Britain can take advantage of as often as necessary and to whatever extent is necessary. This went for natural resources all over the world, but also human resources: people. Post-World War II, when Britain needed more workers, its colonies, especially the West Indies, were called on to provide them. Britain still hasn't learned the lessons about racism and exploitation that this and other such history could have taught it, and I swear this has contributed to the casual idea that Britain can get exactly as many immigrants as it needs and not one more, from exactly the places it wants them, at any given time.

As if the rest of the time, these black and brown people, these people who speak with derided accents, are patiently waiting in case they can be of service. Dutifully sending their brightest and best people out of their own countries, just as they had to send their food even when it left them with none, send their gold even when it left them poor, send everything bright and good to Britain.

Dukes, Knitting, & More!

May. 28th, 2017 03:30 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

Off Base

Off Base by Annabeth Albert is 99c! This is a contemporary m/m romance with forced proximity, as the two heroes seem to be roommates. One of them is also a virgin if that’s your catnip. Many readers found this to be a pretty satisfying read. However, some felt they wanted more depth and connection with the characters.

After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike’s flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike’s arrival would spark from Zack’s teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can’t refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won’t be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He’s an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he’s had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can’t risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack’s restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn’t know how to be the man Pike deserves.

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Sugar Daddy

Sugar Daddy by Sawyer Bennett is 99c! If the cover looks familiar, that’s because it was a former podcast sponsor. The book ends on a cliffhanger and I want to issue a trigger warning for rape. Readers loved the heroine and her need for revenge. However, the hero works for a man who runs a “sugar baby” organization. It’s honestly the thing that’s kept me from reading it yet. It has a 4.1-star rating on Goodreads.

Seduction has never been so sweet! The New York Timesbestselling author of the Cold Fury series—Alex, Garrett, Zack,and Ryker—returns with the first novel in a hot new trilogy.

Sela Halstead lost her innocence in a way that no sixteen-year-old should ever have to endure. She’s spent years trying to forget that night even while wondering about the identities of the monsters who brutalized her—until a telltale tattoo flashes across Sela’s TV screen. The incriminating ink belongs to Jonathon Townsend, the millionaire founder of The Sugar Bowl, a website that matches rich older men with impressionable young women. Obsessed with revenge, Sela infiltrates Townsend’s world, only to come face-to-face with a tantalizing complication: Beckett North, his charismatic business partner.

The tech mastermind behind The Sugar Bowl, Beck always gets what he wants, in business and in bed. And yet, for a man who’s done every dirty thing imaginable, there’s something about the naïve, fresh-faced Sela that sparks his hottest fantasies. Because with her, it’s not just about sex. Beck opens up to her in ways he never has with other girls. So why does he get the feeling that she’s hiding something? In a world of pleasure and power, the shocking truth could turn them against each other—or bind them forever.

Note: Sugar Daddy ends on a cliffhanger. Sela and Beck’s story continues in Sugar Rush and Sugar Free!

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An Improper Arrangement

An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels is $1.99! This is the first book in The Little Season series and features a romance between an American heiress and her chaperone in London. Readers warn that the book starts slowly, but many loved the banter between the hero and heroine.

Experience the drama of the Little Season in the first of a new series by USA TODAY bestselling author Kasey Michaels, in which three dashing war heroes have finally met their matches… 

Gabriel Sinclair has returned from battle as reluctant heir to a dukedom. As if his new responsibilities weren’t enough, Gabriel’s aunt enlists him to sponsor a young heiress through London’s Little Season. Yet Miss Thea Neville is hardly the tedious obligation he expected. She’s exotic and enchanting—and utterly unaware of the secret poised to destroy her family’s reputation.

After ten years in America, Thea is ready to do her duty and marry well. Deportment lessons, modistes, balls—the ton is a minefield she could scarcely navigate without Gabriel’s help. By rights, she should accept the first bachelor who offers for her. Instead, she’s succumbing to a dangerous attraction to her wickedly handsome chaperone—one that could unhinge her plans in the most delicious way.

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Knit One, Girl Two

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman is $1.99! This isn’t necessarily a sale, but it’s definitely something the Bitchery might be interested in. It’s a lesbian romance between two Jewish women and one’s a yarn dyer! Readers say it’s a cute and sweet romance, but mention it’s novella-length.

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida.

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

C-

Taming the Highlander

by May McGoldrick
September 6, 2016 · Swerve
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Christine. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

This new historical romance from May McGoldrick pits one spirited lass against her biggest challenge yet: a Highland lord who has no desire to lose his heart.

Innes Munro has the ability to “read” a person’s past simply by touching them, but her gift comes with a heavy price: her freedom. Forced to stay at desolate Castle Girnigoe, Innes never expects to be drawn to the wounded warrior who haunts its dark passages and challenges her at every turn.

Conall Sinclair, the earl of Caithness, carries the scars of battles with the English and the lash marks of their dungeons, but the wounds that fester within give him even greater pain. Isolating himself from his clan and the rest of the world in a tower perched on the wild Scottish coast, Conall is reluctant to let the spirited Innes close to him, however neither can deny the growing passion that ignites with every look, every touch.

But can Conall ever love a woman who can read his darkest secrets and feel the pain he hides… and can love really tame all fears? As dangerous forces close in, Conall and Innes must take the ultimate leap of faith and forge a bond of trust that will save them both…or lose each other forever.

Here is Christine's review:

When I first read the synopsis for Taming The Highlander by May McGoldrick I was very excited because it had so much of the catnip I enjoy in a romance novel, including a learned heroine, mystical stones and a tortured hero. Seeing it was an award nominee only whetted my appetite all the more. Once I started reading however, it became harder and harder to push through it. So many more intriguing books came my way that I gave it up for quite a while then had to talk myself into going back, rereading what I had forgotten, and finally finishing it solely because I had committed to reviewing it. The treat had turned into a chore.

Set in the Scottish Highlands of 1544, the heroine, Innes Munro has inherited from her mother a fragment of stone that enables her to not only “read” the emotions and experience of any person she touches but feel the physical sensations, including pain, that a person went through. Innes has used her talents for most of her twenty seven years serving as the chief advisor to her father, Baron Folais, clan chief of the Munros, helping to further the clan’s interests. For the past three years she has also been “reading” the suitors for her younger sister Ailein’s hand and reporting back to her all their flaws, mistakes and lies, causing Ailein to reject them, one after another. Having recently decided this was depriving Ailein of a chance to not only judge for herself, but marry, Innes refused to “read” laird Bryce Sinclair when he came to court her sister. Instead she relied on her sister’s “weak-kneed reaction” to the young, handsome and recently widowed Scot. Now Innes has traveled with her family to the castle of clan Sinclair for Ailien’s wedding. Knowing her “gift” will deprive her of having a husband and family of her own, and tired of her stepmother’s jealous criticisms, Innes is determined to carve out new life for herself as soon as she sees her sister married and settled. Seeing Bryce’s older brother’s portrait, then meeting the reclusive earl himself, stirs something in Innes, who immediately strikes sparks off of Conall.

The hero, Conall Sinclair the earl of Caithness, is a veteran of the Scottish wars with the English, to whom he lost his right hand and freedom until his younger brother Bryce emptied the coffers of their clan to free him from their dungeon. Long thought dead, Conall returned to find his younger brother made laird in his stead and his former betrothed had wedded his brother, become pregnant and died in suspicious circumstances all while he languished as a prisoner. Feeling Bryce deserves the title of laird, and stewing in guilt for the clan bearing the cost of his ransom, Conall chose to become a virtual recluse in their castle. Now that the wedding day has arrived and Bryce is to marry his beautiful and wealthy Ailien, Conall cannot help but but be drawn from afar to the bride’s older sister. With her serious demeanor, habitual black dress, ubiquitous gloves and streak of white in her dark hair, Innes is no beauty by conventional standards. Conall tries to resist the lure of her attractions but after Innes tumbles into his arms on the stairs he can think of little else. Standing between them is Innes fear that no man can accept her “gifts (as her father rejected her mother) and Conall’s belief he is repellant and unloveable due to his physical and mental scars.

Writing all of this out makes it sound much more interesting than it was to read. Both Innes and Conall are good initial concepts for characters, but McGoldrick never fleshes them out or does anything original with them. We are told that Conall lost his hand, is scarred and suffered terribly in his imprisonment, but he never struggles to adjust to being a one-handed warrior. He rides, catches Innes in his arms when she tumbles on the steep stairs and fends off other fighting men without any problems. Unlike other books, such as The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly, where the military man has lost a hand, we never see Conall struggle with his loss or his dexterity. For a warrior whose entire identity centered around his fighting skills, It’s as if Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones just shrugged and carried on without missing a beat. Conall is solitary and has some nightmares but he never progresses from a cliche of a the boiler plate “dark and tormented” hero. Oh, and he has a tame wolf named Thunder, because of course he does.

Innes bored me a bit on my first reading and then started to grate on me by my second time around. She wears only black because she is “mourning the loss of innocence in the world” which sounds like the kind of pretentious statement one expects from an emo teen not an almost 30 year old woman. When her sister comes to her crying on her wedding night because Bryce, who had wooed and charmed her up to this point, suddenly did a 180 degree turn and declared they would have separate chambers and their marriage was just for procreating. Innes mostly takes Bryce’s side implying Aliein is being childish, that it is clan business and she better suck it up and thank Bryce for “covering” for her not wanting to have sex with him. In the meantime Innes plans her future where she will travel about where she wants, then eventually pick some convent to settle in. She has no intent to use her powers again or help her country or her fellow Scots in any way. Clearly she is unfamiliar with the concept of “With great power comes great responsibility.”

While Ailien is learning her new duties as wife of the laird, settling into her marriage, working hard and trying to find out the circumstances of Bryce’s first wife’s death, Innes goes for walks, refuses to attend meals in the hall with the others, sketches and tells Conall (who correctly points out wandering off unarmed and on her own is dangerous) that she does and will do exactly what she pleases. Must be nice. She also steadfastly refuses to use her powers to help Ailien find out why and how wife #1 “fell out a window.” Bryce is not under suspicion because he was “away” at the time, but if my sister was the most desirable and well dowered young lady in the Highlands (and even if she weren’t) I’d take a secret peek at her impoverished husband myself, just to make sure Ailien wasn’t married off to a budding Bluebeard. Or maybe I just like my sister a lot more than Innes likes hers.

When we finally see Innes use her well hyped powers, it’s a bit of a let down. Sure she feels Conall’s suffering when she brushes against him, but the guy just came back from a couple years in a dungeon after his hand was cut off in battle. You don’t have to be Sookie Stackhouse to pick up on his pain. I can’t predict what I will have for lunch tomorrow, but even I could suss out that much. Innes also astounds some young ruffians (and the Sinclair brother’s aunt Wynda) by telling the ruffians what village they came from and their mother’s name, but it seems like the kind of cold reading Sherlock or Patrick Jane from The Mentalist could just pull out of their memory palace, no magic stone required.

Innes and Conall eventually do become involved after a series of chess matches and meetings and every member of their respective families has either been scheming to bring them together or is completely thrilled with the idea. Everyone is also either oblivious to or completely fine with them having a lot of premarital sex. Ailien’s virtue was CLAN BUSINESS that had to be advertised at all cost on her wedding night, but Innes and Conall are above all these petty rules and customs that their siblings were subject to. When Conall finds out Innes’s secret there is a bit of angst (he doesn’t want to cause her pain) but it gets worked out pretty quickly.

Eventually the Big Bad shows up in the form of an Englishman who is marauding his way through Scotland, searching for all the pieces and holders of the original stone tablet from whence Innes’s fragment came.

Show Spoiler
By the time he shows up in the area, he has already picked up the terrifying skill of bringing people back from the dead by killing the previous possessor of this talent and taking their stone. As the power of the stone is not passed on unless the holder is dead AND their stone is taken by another, you would think Innes would do something sensible like: 1.) secretly bury the stone in the cellar of the heavily guarded castle she is staying in or 2.) entrust it to Ailien (who is next in line for the power) so that if Innes is killed Ailien will automatically succeed her 3.) put it any place other than on her person, so if she is caught there is no point in killing her and/or the power will not pass to whatever maniac is killing people for it 4.) have some secret pocket or specially designed place in her clothes to conceal the stone if she insists on foolishly walking around with it everywhere she goes.

Of course Innes takes none of these, or any other, sensible precautions, (despite being described throughout the book as uncommonly clever) so when she is betrayed by the secret castle villain, the toady of the Evil Englishman can just tear the pouch from her waist and triumphantly carry it to his master, leaving her to be murdered.

Of course Innes isn’t killed, the stone is taken by the E.E. to set up the next book in the series, Conall and Thunder save her and the couple from the previous book (whom I know nothing about and in whom I have no emotional investment in) show up in the nick of time to lend a hand and spread the prequel bait for their story. Innes and Conall get their happy wedding, anyone left with the stamina for it can follow the quest for the stones in the next book, and I have finally reached the end of my endurance test and assuaged my Catholic guilt over not finishing the novel previously.

I do however, still feel a bit guilty about my review because this is not a horrible book. It’s not an F or even a D grade. It’s just very, very mediocre. It’s actually the hardest kind of review to write because there is nothing to either gush or rave about. There is nothing new to be found here – which isn’t a crime in itself as I really enjoy tropes or even very simple romances if they are particularly well written, touching, charming or just fun. This book isn’t. This is the kind of book where nothing stands out. It’s not poorly written or outrageous. It’s….OK. It’s the kind of book that is damned with faint praise and in the golden days of yore would make its way to the used paperback store to get traded in for something better. It does make me wonder, as I often do this time of year, about how this C- book made it onto the list of finalists. Do people really think this is amongst the handful of best books in its genre published in 2016? Because sadly, I don’t.

History question

May. 28th, 2017 09:55 am
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
History question: does anyone remember the dates of the 1979 King Tut exhibit in Toronto? Aside from the year?

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