Whatever it takes to make me Lizzie Bennet

March 11, 2021 at 2:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I made a thing. No one find it as amusing as I do, but I thought I’d paste it here so y’all know I’m not dead.

Stuff is happening, especially with the refugee sponsorship group! Here’s a pretty pic of all our original members. It was taken in February, and our group has doubled in size since then.

We are mentoring an Iraqi couple, and Qusay (the man) is an exquisite artist. More on that soon, but here’s a taste!

YES I am in the process of setting up an Etsy store for him (and a designated web site, which isn’t live yet), with better pictures than that. It’s already live, but haven’t measured the paintings yet but will hopefully do that tomorrow. I will also set up the ability to order prints of each painting.

Check it all out right here!

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And Now For Something Completely Awesome

February 8, 2021 at 11:59 am (Uncategorized)

Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are both on Netflix now, and I watched them both all the way through with Chris.

I’m aware that there are issues, particularly with Korra and the Westernisation of it all (especially Republic City), but I heartily enjoyed the 20s vibe of it all. There are also issues with the villains often making good points about societal problems (well-written villains, yay) that don’t really get dealt with (oopsy).

Both shows are really well written, beautifully animated, and you know what? Not even a tiny bit rapey! I especially liked the final season, which begins with Korra utterly destroyed physically and psychologically. A powerful woman having to rebuild herself from total weakness? As a disabled A-type person, that means a lot—especially the fact that it doesn’t happen quickly, and she goes into the climax not knowing if she can even win a fight against a single human person.

But today is my birthday, and the best thing about today is that, last night, I watched the very last episode of Korra.

SPOILERS!! Go watch every episode of both shows. I’ll wait 🙂

Here’s the final scene:

And here is a video compilation of various people reacting to that scene:

The finale of Korra first aired in December 2014. A little over six years ago. There are so many people outright weeping in the above video. Some of them are weeping in utter delight, and some of them weep a long while before the moment when Korra and Asami hold hands—weeping in pain, knowing that a beautiful, healthy, respectful girl-on-girl relationship couldn’t possibly happen. Especially in a children’s show, because gay people are considered dirty and perverse.

And then it happens, and it’s real, and it’s almost like a gay relationship is not dirty or shameful at all, but a beautiful and happy ending to a beautiful show. Then they cry even more.

Others fall on the floor, scream, and swear. There are two moments in the above video that really get me:

The woman who says, “Did that really happen? I’m just going to rewind it.”

I didn’t believe my eyes either. I turned to Chris and said, “That was gay, right?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “Korrassami. Totally gay. You really didn’t know about this?”

I shake my head.

“Thank goodness I didn’t accidentally spoil it for you.”

Indeed.

I was lucky; I avoided a lot of stress because I was able to watch both shows in a relatively short time span, without comparing notes to other new viewers in real time. That also meant I wasn’t discussing what I thought would happen with anyone. It was only in the last couple of episodes that I thought, “Hold on, Korra doesn’t have a love interest.” I winced, thinking she might end up back with Mako (even though their relationship clearly didn’t work) or Bolin (even worse), and then I thought, “Okay, so she gets to be a strong independent woman. Cool.”

Then, to my absolute amazement and delight, she instead got together—quietly, with barely a word spoken—with the character who was absolutely the most suited to her. And, although the showrunners didn’t get permission to have them kiss on screen (and weren’t able to lead up to it in obvious ways), it was very clear that these two beautiful women were now in a romantic relationship.

Which brings me to the second reaction from the above video that broke my heart in the best possible way.

In amongst all the swearing and “Oh my God”s, one woman says, “Jesus loves me this I know”. It’s the first verse of a Sunday School song popular with the teachers of very young children:

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong

They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so.

It is absolutely heartbreaking that two fictional girls holding hands could possibly make a person feel, in an unguarded moment, like maybe Jesus really does love her after all.

Six years later, there are way more examples of healthy, happy, gay relationships in both fiction and real life. I’ve written and published a bunch myself. And if one of my stories makes another queer person feel, even just for a moment, that maybe Jesus DOES love them after all. . . then happy birthday me.

Today is a good day.

PS I am now reading roughly 1,000,000 internet articles about Korra, and I’m reminded that Bolin kissed someone who was DEFINITELY not into him, back in Season 1. Not okay, Bolin. Even you are not that dumb.

PPS Also, there were loads of hints about Korrasami throughout the entire show, but I didn’t register them because I assumed they were both straight. Silly me 🙂

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To Sir Phillip, Get Lost You Creep

February 7, 2021 at 8:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Finally I’m up to Book 5, aka To Sir Phillip With Love aka the one about Eloise, at last.

Spoilers.

Also, content warning: depression, suicide, sex, childbirth, and rape.

No. Stop. Burn it. Burn them all.

Oh, this SUCKS. This sucks so much, it turns all previous non-sucky moments into pure suckitude.

Julia Quinn, what is WRONG with you?

Rest of the world, WHY did you buy these books?

The love interest is an actual, literal rapist. THIS is who intelligent, feminist Eloise is meant to live with? THIS is her happily ever after?

No.

Every single book in this series is just so rapey, but this one is worst of all.

There are ameliorating circumstances, to a limited extent. The rape happens when Sir Phillip’s first wife, who was always badly depressed, is even more depressed after giving birth to twins. Sir Phillip waits until he’s sure that she’s physically recovered from the birth* and then goes and has sex with her. Although she “doesn’t say no” it is “like having sex with a corpse” and he’s so sickened by the whole thing that he throws up afterwards, and then doesn’t have sex for eight years.

In case it’s not obvious, she is too depressed (and too aware of her “marital duties”—sadly women often WERE raped by their husbands, and still are today) to say no to him. But obviously, it’s still rape.

One of the most icky tropes plays out through this book: the idea that women are a strange exotic species that can’t possibly be understood by men.

It’s not romantic, it’s lazy. And it is directly linked to “grey rape” scenarios like the above, where the man supposedly doesn’t know he’s raping someone.

Even though he’s having sex with (or rather ‘at’) someone who is as responsive as, to quote the text again, “a corpse”. 

How long did he spend thrusting into his completely dry wife? We know he had an orgasm.

It is perfectly obvious when a woman is not into having sex with you. Any decent man knows that sex hurts for a woman if she’s not at least a little turned on. (Which begs the question of how many other times he used her like a blow-up doll in the past.) If you have sex, you make sure that the woman is ready before you penetrate her. EVERY decent human does that. Every time. She doesn’t even have to say anything. Her breath might quicken, she may give you a sexy look. She may open her legs.

It’s. Not. Rocket. Science.

It’s also not a modern invention. Yes, women have had it worse in historical times. But we’ve still had good and bad sex, and known the difference—and shown the difference in our behaviour, our words, and how we relate to our menfolk the rest of the time (shrinking away in horror? Avoiding him? Or seeking him out, touching him as we pass, exchanging secret we-totally-had-sex smiles across a crowded room).

So don’t give me “historical accuracy”. Jane Austen somehow managed never to be rapey, not even a little bit. 

But in every book, Quinn emphasises how big and tall the men are; how strong—which is all fine—and how they use their superior strength and status (as men, as husbands, as rich people, as a higher class) to intimidate the women they ‘love’—which is not.

Clearly Quinn thinks that a man threatening to rape his wife is sexy. Apparently she even thinks a decent man could rape his wife, get his orgasm, and all the while not realise that he’s raping her.

No.

I understand that there’s an appealing element to a strong, powerful man who totally could rape or kill or financially ruin a woman, and never ever will. But it’s not okay for a man to deliberately loom over a woman in an argument. That’s step one on the road to physical abuse (it starts with scaring her with a load voice or scary posture, then he breaks physical objects to intimidate her, then he physically hurts her). 

So I won’t be reading any more Bridgerton books.

(It’s worth mentioning that Daphne rapes Simon in both Book 1 and in the TV show’s Season 1. It’s slightly less cut and dried in the TV series… more like theft of his sperm, but at a very vulnerable moment that should have been sacred and loving. But it’s still using sex to gain power over another person. I forgave it in part because it was still physically possible for him to stop her, and it was clearly a one-off. Also he refused to have sex with her after that, which was rational. They didn’t have sex again until trust was restored.)

And yes, the character of Eloise was absolutely unrecognisable. It was almost better that way, because the alternative was to say that she “grew up” and that’s why she didn’t want to go to university or rail against the plight of women any more.

Sigh.

I’m so angry, and depressed, and scared. Scared because this whole rapey/power thing is considered okay, which it is NOT.

The good news is that I’m working on a story set in the Regency Era myself, and anger is a great motivator for creating better art.

*As someone who’s had kids, the first time after sex is a big deal and needs a lot of discussion before, during and afterwards. If you’re a man, try using a cheese grater on your genitals and then see how you feel about your sex life. (Even when it’s healed, it’ll never be the same.)

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Romancing Mister Bridgerton

February 5, 2021 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Did I like it?

Yes.

Was it rapey?

Fundamentally, no.

This was a good book! Yay!

The author also avoided having her main couple commit violence on anyone/each other, AND she avoided the phrase “ancient rhythm”. So congratulations to her. The only truly annoying thing (which has, sadly most definitely been taken up by the TV show) is the use of “indeed”. It gets thrown onto the end of sentences willy-nilly and is annoying.

On the other hand, having, like, been a teenager in, like, the 90s… I should probably, like, admit that meaningless words do tend to breed when left unchecked. And not just in, like, fiction.

On to Eloise! Will the most interesting character be reduced to a heteronormative cliche?

Let’s find out. . .

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An Offer From A Gentleman: ugh or ooh?

February 4, 2021 at 6:44 pm (Uncategorized)

I was disappointed to note that this book is about Benedict, because I’m hanging out to read Eloise’s story (mainly because she doesn’t want to marry and does want to go to university and I’m terrified to see her spirit crushed into the “hetero marriage and many many babies” mould… I’m desperately hoping I don’t hate her story even more than I hated the second book in the series).

On to Book 3!

Spoilers, darling!

Benedict is the artist of the family. It’s a little ironic that he’s a tad depressed at being largely interchangeable with his brothers, when the characters of the brothers tend to be largely interchangeable within the text too. (I’m being a little mean, there’s at least one adjective that sets each brother apart: The oldest is the oldest; Benedict is an artist; Colin is funny—ooh, and he likes to travel. That’s two things.

Book 3 is 100% a Cinderella story, and it adapts very well into the Regency setting. Also, Benedict is attracted to the heroine because of her joy.

Thus, the entire first half of the book is genuinely good.

The author even manages to refrain from describing vigorous sex with the phrase “ancient rhythm” (although I’ll certainly report any further uses of that phrase, as she’s still using it an average of once per book). It felt sufficiently different to the first two books that it was worth bothering to read—mainly because the heroine was in a VERY different class, which meant all their interactions were a lot freer than in the other books.

Except… in their very first interaction, Benedict believed the heroine was of the same class as him, and he took her to a private balcony and kissed her which…. huh? We’ve spent two books talking about how women of that class will be ruined forever if they’re alone in a room with a man. So either Benedict is a right a-hole, or the author got a bit bored of intense glances across a ballroom and decided to rush into the hanky panky this time. Which, for the sake of novelty, I shall forgive. None of us are actually living in Regency times, and we’re not in this for the historical accuracy.

No one got accidentally OR accidentally-on-purpose forced into marriage, which was nice for a change. They even had sex before marriage, which—again, for the sake of variety, I would forgive (especially since she actually bled slightly, so points for realism there). . .

except

once again, things got rapey.

*sigh*

The ‘offer’ of the title seems to be Benedict’s offer to graciously invite the heroine to become his mistress.

What a . . . gentleman.

The heroine vehemently refuses him, many many times (he’s all like, “But… so much MONEY?!?! Don’t you GET IT? Are you just stupid?”) She is not at all being coy. Yes, she’s a virgin. She’s also a bastard, which is 100% why her life sucks. She is determined not to do that to her own kids.

And, although it’s not spelled out in the text, a mistress is in an extremely precarious position. She’s wealthy only so long as the man who likes having on-tap sex continues to find her convenient. So if she gets old, or sick, or he marries… she’s suddenly lost everything. Being wealthy and dependent on a fickle man is better than having nothing at all, but it IS basically a step above high-class prostitute. Which is fine if that’s your choice. It very clearly isn’t hers.

But Benedict picks at her and picks at her, cajoles her and threatens her. He refuses to let her find her own employment, and instead literally forces her into his mother’s household. Yes, it’s a fantastic workplace… except he lives on the same street and actively stalks her around the house, waiting for her in dark corners and popping up the second she’s alone, etc.

You know, like the slimy and awful male progeny of all the worse households of this era (and this specific book). He is physically strong, wealthy, influential… she is completely at his mercy, and even though she tries over and over and over and over again to avoid him (and anyplace he might show up) he makes himself impossible to avoid.

So he doesn’t technically assault her, but he 100% definitely harasses her, traps her, stalks her, and makes her entire life a misery.

(She also gets nearly gang-raped by a previous master and his friends, which HE KNOWS but does not connect to his own lecherous behaviour in any way.)

It works out in the end, he marries her, and I forgive him. It’s not his fault he’s badly written.

But I don’t forgive the author. Did she even read this book? Does she understand what women are like?

There’s some punching-style violence by the two main characters, again. Maybe the author should be writing action heroes instead? (Witty ones; she certainly is witty.)

Girl, I get the fantasy of a wealthy man who happens to be handsome and funny and so on. No one minds getting true love and worldly riches at the same time. But when you have super powerful men constantly forcing your very innocent and powerless heroines to do what they want… that’s a rape fantasy, not a romance.

Please stop.

And don’t you dare do awful things to Eloise.

I love her, and I shudder to think what you’re going to do to her.

In all fairness to Julia Quinn, CLEARLY I’m devouring all her books so she can’t be that bad an author, can she?

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7 Things to Know About Chronic Illness

January 28, 2021 at 3:12 pm (Uncategorized)

7 Things to Know About Chronic Illness

(from someone who is fat, female, mentally ill, and chronically ill with fibromyalgia including migraines)

  1. Medical gaslighting is a huge issue, especially for women (especially pregnant women, fat women, mentally ill women, those who struggle to communicate clearly in English, and most of all women of colour). ‘Gaslighting’ means convincing someone that something true is not true eg When a patient reports severe pain but a doctor tells them the pain is normal (because the doctor doesn’t immediately find an easy solution either due to laziness, lack of knowledge, or unconscious bias against women/chronically ill people/people of colour/etc). 

This is often literally fatal. Women of colour are the most vulnerable to medical gaslighting, which is a factor in these awful statistics (these are all focusing on Aboriginal people, but you can extrapolate for refugees):       

2. Women’s medical health is poorly studied. Medical researchers are aware that male and female bodies react differently to medication, so a shocking number of trials only study men in order to simplify results. Many medical conditions that are specific to women (eg to do with periods or childbirth) have barely been studied, and chronic diseases like fibromyalgia that effect more women than men are often dismissed as psychological conditions (the modern equivalent of Victorian-Era doctors describing any female patient’s issues as ‘hysteria’). Around 10% of women suffer from endometriosis, a condition in which period tissue grows in or on other organs. It causes extreme pain, infertility, and many other issues. One of my friends had severe endometriosis and was told by her mother and by doctors not to complain so much about her bad periods. When she attempted to have a child in her early twenties, the internal scarring was so severe that she was not able to conceive naturally. That was 100% preventable if anyone had listened to her. It’s not like endometriosis is even rare! And guess what? One of the treatments is COUNSELLING. Do you think doctors would recommend counselling for a broken leg? Another woman I know bled heavily, including clots, from the rectum during every period. A gynaecologist told her that her body was “special and unique” and advised her not to seek further treatment. Rectal bleeding can be a symptom of bowel endometriosis, or bowel cancer.

3. Many so-called “invisible” illnesses such as migraines, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and depression cause weight gain. Some people eat badly in order to deal with constant pain; some have hormonal imbalances; some take medication that causes weight gain; etc. Western society reacts very differently to those who are underweight than those who are overweight. An underweight person is accepted/celebrated (usually—plenty of people feel free to comment on a woman’s “health” aka weight, even if they are complete strangers). An overweight person is always condemned, and that is especially true in the medical community as “concern trolling” is the usual form of fatphobia ie people say they are concerned about a woman’s weight when really they simply dislike looking at her (or are fighting so hard to stay in an acceptable weight range themselves that they cannot cope with someone else being fat and happy). With doctor’s extra power, this gets extremely harmful extremely fast. Personal story: I am unable to diet because it sends my mental health into very dangerous territory within 24 hours. I have had weight-loss surgery (surgery is extremely serious) recommended to me by: several GPs, a diabetes specialist, a neurologist, a dermatologist, nutritionists, and many more. You’ll note that none of them are even surgeons. One side effect of weight loss surgery is that if the patient overeats, they get diarrhea. Since I am highly intolerant of many vegetables due to being intolerant of FODMAPs and salicylates, I get diarrhea a LOT (and all the more if I eat “healthy” food). It would definitely not stop me eating junk food. Yet surgery gets recommended to me by almost every medical professional I see, regardless of their specialty. It is dumb and dangerous. No doctor has ever mentioned to me the dangers of dieting (which are considerable, and far greater than simply being overweight). 

4. For all these reasons, it takes a long, long time to get a diagnosis for any kind of chronic illness (plus I bet doctors would rather it was something neat and solvable). During that time the patient will constantly be exhausted by medical visits and tests while simultaneously being told that they’re just lazy or making it all up. This is also true of neurodiverse conditions such as autism. It is common for a diagnosis to take 5-10 years. So if someone has a chronic illness, (a) Believe and support them unconditionally, including taking them to specialists and probably several specialists in the same field until you find one that actually listens to them. (b) Know that they’re in this for the long haul. Sometimes life just sucks are there aren’t easy answers—especially when someone has been through trauma, and their body has been permanently damaged in a mysterious way as a result. But a diagnosis is worth fighting for IF the patient is physically and psychologically able to fight.

5. Be aware that medical stuff is genuinely terrifying, and exhausting, and that there is often a lot of trauma that comes from merely seeing doctors (or existing in a world that judges a person based on their weight, their poor grooming—because chronically ill people are too tired to look good—their gender, and most of all the colour of their skin.

6. Gotta Catch ‘Em All! Someone with one chronic condition is likely to have (or get) more. The body gets stressed, and it gets sicker in new and exciting ways. When someone with one condition starts thinking they have more than one, they’re not crazy or a hypochondriac or trying to get attention. They’re almost certainly right. (Yes, even the mentally ill ones. We KNOW we’re mentally ill and we’re used to spending every day sorting rational from irrational thoughts.)

7. Disability or chronic illness is not the end of the world. Way too much media says, “I’d rather die than be disabled” and that’s really not helpful! Yes, be sympathetic if someone wants sympathy, but don’t bother ranking whether someone’s life is better or worse overall. I’m clinically depressed and at the same time I’m kind of content and happy with my life. Weird but true. Most of the time, the constant barrage of negative thoughts is something I am strong enough to keep at bay. Most disabled or chronically ill people never get better, and that’s okay. Life can still be good, and the fight to make it a bit better is usually worth it.

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Whistledown, eat your heart out

January 25, 2021 at 3:51 pm (Uncategorized)

I got opinions, and you’re not all going to like them.

I am, however, utterly correct in every particular.

Content warning: discussion of rape and rapey behaviour

SPOILERS FOR SEVERAL SEASONS/BOOKS OF BRIDGERTON!!!!

I’m up at 3am because I simply must finish the book I’m reading—not because I love it, but because I loathe it.

One of the biggest TV shows so far this year is “Bridgerton”, a regency romance which is absolutely hilarious and also definitely NOT something one should watch with one’s parents (it’s MA+ for all the sex scenes). I watched it; I loved it. I hated the patronising, controlling, hypocritical, and emotional older brother (although he had a few nice moments and improved SLIGHTLY throughout the season).

I wanted more.

It’s already been renewed for a second season, and possibly eight seasons altogether since it’s based on a series of eight books. I figured I might as well try one of them, and I was surprised and delighted by it. The wittiness was all there, and beautiful. It was FUN. I was only a teensy bit disappointed that the books are all about white people, while the TV is delightfully inclusive of people of colour (or at least, inclusive of the British equivalent of African Americans—I don’t recall seeing any Asians, which is jarring to an Australian).

It turns out that each book focuses on a different sibling from the Bridgerton family. Given that it’s a romance series and the second-oldest sister was vocal in her desire to do something with her life other than marry and have children, I was a little saddened at her likely fate (married and popping out babies) but I was cautiously optimistic that she’d marry someone who encouraged and enabled her. Perhaps he’d be studying, and teaching her everything he learned? Perhaps they’d travel the world together? I dunno. It seemed that a lesbian romance was unlikely, which is a real shame but a familiar one.

And I discovered that Book 2 (The Vicount Who Loved Me) focused on that awful older brother, Archibald (or Anthony? Whatever, I don’t care). In the TV show’s first season, he basically ruins all his sister Daphne’s marriage prospects by refusing to let anyone near her except an ancient, ugly man who attempts to kiss/rape her, and then force her to marry him (which would mean lots and lots of rape, obviously). When Aaron’s mother gives him a stern talking-to about his hypocrisy (because he’s sleeping with a mere opera singer) he goes and dumps the opera singer—which includes financially ruining her, because he has been ‘keeping’ her (apartment and all) and in fact had repeatedly promised her that he would always protect and look after her. (Later on he has a change of heart, but by then she’s attached herself to another man in order to survive, because being a woman sucks.) He also gets talked out of duelling (and probably killing) Simon not once but twice—and the second time only relents because Daphne announces that she and Simon are engaged (sacrificing her dream of having children in the process). All the many MANY times Daphne begs him not to kill Simon are ignored; she’s only able to save Simon’s life by marrying him. (Great job being a caring older brother, Adam.)

Abraham’s not quite as awful in Book 1 (The Duke and I), but he’s still arrogant, annoying, and determined to kill anyone who makes his sister cry (including her husband, after they’re married), while not realising that the principle cause of her misery is himself and that everything he does to “defend” her makes her life worse. Which she tells him. In words. Repeatedly.

So I hesitated before reading Book 2, but I was kind of dreading the TV equivalent so it seemed like I should read the book and let it win me over.

Reader, it did not win me over.

Augustus’s beloved dad died when Armando was eighteen, and his father was thirty-eight. It was brought on my a bee sting, so Archer is now deathly afraid of bees. He’s also so obsessed with his hero worship of his dad that he’s secretly convinced that he’ll die by thirty-eight.

That’s super dumb, but okay. Romances thrive on dumb obstacles that can be overcome by a simple conversation or a bit of therapy. So his silly superstition combines with his active sex life to make him decide that okay, sure, he’ll get married—but he will make sure it’s NOT a love match. Because reasons (one of them being that he definitely plans to keep sleeping around—which the main girl, Kate, hears him say aloud to one of his mistresses).

So then there’s the problematic trope of ‘enemies to lovers’ in which he and Kate bicker constantly. Except it’s more than bickering, because he decides to marry Kate’s younger, prettier sister based on her reputation as being nice enough, pretty, and moderately intelligent. And Kate hates him, first for his reputation as a rake and then for the rude stuff he says about her, women in general, and her sister. He enjoys making her furious. But he also believes all the sexist, heartless stuff he says.

Uhhh… I don’t mind bickering, and I adore witty banter (which this mostly isn’t), but sexist is sexist. Kate is right to hate him. And he hates her, but who cares what he thinks?

But then he has a sexy dream about her, and can’t stop thinking about her sexually. He does a coupla nice things (such as comforting her during a panic attack), and a coupla awful things. He grows to heartily enjoy making her angry, and then find he also likes scaring her. Looming over her, locking her alone in a room with him, and kissing her. (She’s into it a LITTLE BIT which he crows over—and then continues courting her sister.)

No.

Forcing yourself on a woman (to any degree) and/or deliberately scaring her is not sexy. Never has been, never will be.

Anakin is so, so rapey. Both generally and literally. He doesn’t technically rape her (yet… I’m not finished the book) but he physically abuses her a bunch. Invading her space, not letting her leave, kissing her, etc. When they’re married and she asks to put off having sex for a few days, he repeatedly tells her how she’s his wife and his possession and he can lock her in their room and rape her as much as he likes (not that he describes it as rape).

Pretty soon, it wasn’t just Alfredo I hated. It was the author. I’m confident she won’t ever read this, so I can speak freely: the odd little (and not so little) problematic moments in the first book are clearly just the beginning of a world of problematic, harmful, and abusive tropes that this writer is clearly very very fond of.

Plus she’s just dumb, sometimes. I’m only in Book 2 and there are hugely repetitive aspects. I have a feeling they’ll be in every book, too.

  1. An extremely innocent heroine, who has never been kissed (fine) and never felt sexual attraction in her life (really??), and who is considered terribly plain. (In the TV show, Daphne is widely proclaimed to be super hot from Day 1—which is somewhat more believable, especially with the ridiculously gorgeous cast.)
  2. A much richer, higher-ranking man who is very sexually experienced. It is abundantly clear that the advice that “reformed rakes make the best husbands” is something the author actually believes. I don’t, particularly when it comes to sexually inexperienced women. It was cute once. Twice is problematic. And I bet there are six more of the same.
  3. Through some stupid circumstance, the main couple must marry. Each of them wants to, but believes the other doesn’t.
  4. The night before the wedding, the woman’s mother does a fairly bad job of explaining sex to her daughter.
  5. During the wedding night, the woman describes the sensation as “odd” in between raptures. (I found it all very sweet and actually realistic the first time. The second felt like sex by numbers.) At least once per book, preferably more, thrusting is described as an “ancient rhythm”.
  6. Every single character, male or female, is constantly threatening (and often actually doing) violence on the others. It was cool when Daphne punched out her attacker in Series 1 of the TV show. It was dumb when the men started beating each other up. It was super, super dumb when all the Book 2 characters did the same thing, whether male or female.

I haven’t finished Book 2 yet but I’m assuming the following:

5. The married couple has lots of great sex, then a huge fight due to the man’s daddy issues. The woman assumes the marriage was always doomed due to her low self esteem.

6. Fight is resolved, probably by 1-2 conversations, and they live happily ever after.

Edit: Yeah, I finished the book. There was an author note about how a lot of men with dads who die young become convinced that they’ll die young too. I don’t have a huge problem with that. I do have a problem with Anton being a horrible person though.

Also? Massive spoilers in the books’ bonus epilogues. But at least that means I can prepare for certain relationships on the horizon.

Ugh. Arnold just really really sucks, y’all. And so does Julia Quinn.

There, I said it.

Gonna go read a nice cleansing speculative fiction story now.

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Today’s Adventure

January 10, 2021 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been a while since I made a post here, but this is a good one…. here’s how my day has been, as reported on facebook.

9:00am Sunday 10 January, 2021

3:00pm, Sunday 10 January, 2021

NB: International readers please note that “thongs” in Australia refers to flip-flops aka a type of plastic shoe often worn at the beach since they’re so easy to slip on and off.

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Fundraising Gift Shop

October 30, 2020 at 11:47 am (Uncategorized)

2020 is OVER and so is the 2020 Gift Shop and the ‘Tinsel Island’ Christmas display.

But the GoFundMe is still active!

Our Christmas fundraisers gained us a little over $500.

I am the coordinator of the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. We are currently participating in the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative‘s Mentor Program in preparation for sponsoring a refugee family in 2021-2022. Sponsoring a family means taking care of them in a myriad of ways: we’d pay their airfares, meet them at the airport, take them to a house we’d set up for them, and stay in close contact for a full year. We’d help them with English, with paperwork, with the school system, with weird Australian customs, and with meeting more local people (and organisations) so they can grow their own lives here in Canberra. We’d also back them financially for their first year—that is, if they were unable to work for whatever reason, we would pay for all of their living expenses until they could go onto Centrelink/Disability Payments.

If you’d like to donate directly, you can email me at fellissimo@hotmail.com with ‘Castle of Kindness’ in the subject line, or simply donate to the GoFundMe.

This is our beautiful sponsorship group. Please don’t comment on the fact that four of us are floating heads; they’re very self-conscious about it.

From November 1-December 31 this year, we are running a Fundraising Gift Shop. Authors, artists, and others have donated a huge collection of wonderful items and services. Every dollar you spend here (with the exception of postage fees) will go directly into our refugee fund.

HOW TO BUY STUFF: Comment here with your email, and pay by PayPal using fellissimo@hotmail.com OR mention your preferred payment method in your comment and I’ll email you details. Most of the books here are donated by the author, so please tell us who you would like them signed to! Some of us will even gift-wrap and label them for you so they can be sent directly to your loved ones! Please allow lots of time for postage this year.

BOOOOOOKKKSSSSS!!!!!

For younger kids:

Octopus and Family: Kid-Friendly Edition by Annabelle Lee

A picture book of terrible octopus puns that kids (and weird adults) love.

Remaining Copies: 3

Cost: $20

Welcome to Australia by Felicity Banks

This is a bilingual picture book designed for migrant kids. There are three versions: English-Indonesian, English-Mandarin, and English-Spanish.

Please note: Although this book has been accepted by a publisher, it is not yet finished, let alone printed. It is unlikely to be ready in time for Christmas.

Remaining copies: 10

Cost: $25

For kids 8+ but each one of these is truly for all ages (arranged roughly in order of youngest recommended reader age)

The Adventurous Princess and other Feminist Fairy Tales by Erin-Clare Barrow

This is a beautifully illustrated book of short stories that are both familiar and new.

Remaining Copies: SOLD OUT

Cost: $25

Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae by Felicity Banks and many more

This is a story told through three parcels that are posted to you once a week for three weeks. Each parcel contains several pieces of art, at least one physical object, and a question for you to answer (but getting it wrong doesn’t hurt the story at all).

A phoenix child is missing. Have the dragons taken her?

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost: $70

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

Anne of Green Gables graphic novel (not by one of my author friends)

Remaining Copies: SOLD OUT SORRY

Cost: $20

Books (an illustrated book about books, with great retro illustrations)

Not by one of my author friends, so can’t be signed for you.

Remaining Copies: 1

Cost: $20

The Monster Apprentice and/or The Princess and the Pirate by Felicity Banks

Rahana is a world like Narnia, but with pirates.

Book 1: When Dance’s island is threatened, she knows their only hope of survival lies with the monsters that killed her sister.

Book 2: Princess Ana is sent to find her long-lost grandmother and bring her home. But Captain Sol is a vicious pirate, and she has her own plans.

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost $18 per book

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

This series is a beautiful, funny, bittersweet treat. I don’t want to say any more in case I ruin it.

Copies Remaining: It’s a secret

Cost: $18

Be Warned! These will be posted from outside Australia, so if you want them to arrive by Christmas (despite COVID-19), you need to buy them NOW.

For young adults and adults:

The Antipodean Queen Trilogy: Heart of Brass, Silver and Stone, and Iron Lights by Felicity Banks

High adventure in a magical steampunk Australia. Each book has a bonus interactive short story at the back.

Copies Remaining: 20ish

Cost: $24 each or $60 for all three.

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire by Felicity Banks and others

This story is a steampunk romance told through letters, objects and art (similar to Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae except it is sent as a single parcel). It is set in the same universe as The Antipodean Queen Trilogy (and a stripped-down version of the story is included with Iron Lights but doesn’t include any of the objects or most of the art).

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost: $60

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage. Or want to buy it in a pack with the three novels.)

Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday by Felicity Banks and others

This is a cozy murder mystery told through letters, objects, and art (and set in Canberra). It is similar to the Magic in the Mail stories except. . . well, there’s a murder. There are clues throughout (including in the pictures) but, again, if you don’t catch the clues it won’t ruin the story for you. It was originally sent in 8 parcels but now it’s packaged into one. You can ration them out over 8 weeks if you have VERY good self-control.

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost: $70

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

Ashes of Olympus Series: The Way Home and The Ivory Gate by Julian Barr

These books are retellings of the ancient myths—full of battles, betrayal, and honour.

Remaining Copies: 2 of each book

Cost: $25

Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow

When the author told me she lives in a small town but hopes her kids get OUT I understood this book.

Remaining Copies: 3

Cost: $24

Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys by BG Hilton

A rollicking steampunk adventure with a murder mystery (or two) at its heart.

Remaining Copies: 10

Cost: $25

The Chronicles of the Pale Trilogy: The Pale, Broad Plain Darkening, and The Ruined Land by Clare Rhoden

Dystopian fiction with flawed characters and a compelling story.

Remaining Copies: 3 of Book 1, 1 each of the others

Cost: $24

Please note: These will not be signed as they’re already in Canberra, and Rhoden is not.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Y’all. This is Eurovision in space. It was also a Hugo finalist or whatever.

Eurovision. In Space.

Copies Remaining: It’s a secret.

Cost: $25

Be Warned! These will be posted from outside Australia, so if you want them to arrive by Christmas (despite COVID-19), you need to buy them NOW.

The Dark Poet interlinked short story collection by Kathryn Gossow

I haven’t read this book, since I know it’s too dark for me.

Copies Remaining: 3

Cost: $19

Grasping at Water by Carmel Bendon

A young woman is pulled, alive, from Sydney Harbour but the mysteries about her only deepen from there. This is a tale of motherhood, loss, and belief.

Remaining Copies: 4

Cost: $24

SERVICES

Babysitting (Canberra only)

Availability: 5 sessions

Cost: $20/hour for 1 kid; additional $5 per additional kid

Cleaning (North side only)

This is a bit different to everything else on this list, because the money would NOT go into the refugee fund—the cleaner is a new migrant, and she is looking for cleaning work. So the money goes directly to her.

Availability: Unlimited, including regular cleaning

Cost: $60/hour

Dinner (served at West Belconnen)

Menu and details are here.

Availability: 5 sessions

Cost: $100 per person

Editing (via email only) by Felicity Banks

Do you have a manuscript* that needs to be looked over by eyes other than yours? Do you need proofreading, a structural edit, or both?

Availability: 2 full-length manuscripts

Cost: $100 per thousand words; $150 for both a structural and a line edit.

*I will not edit books with certain types of violence

A Song Written and Sung For You (virtual only) by Robbie Matthews

You can check out his music and creativity here.

Availability: 1

Cost: $50

Tutoring: Maths (to Year 10) English (from Kindy to university level including English as a Second language), Indonesian (to Year 10), Adult Literacy.

Availability: 10 sessions

Cost: $50/hour

ART AND MUSIC

Diamond Pictures (some framed) by Erika Sargeant

This one is framed, and the frame has a stand so you can put it on a tale or shelf. It is 20 x 30cm.

This one is 20 x 25cm.

This one is 25 x 30cm. There is a frame available, but it would require a mat as the frame is larger.

This one is 20 x 30cm, framed (but there is no hook so you’d need to add string or something like that).

This is 20 x 15cm.

Availability: 1 of each (with a leopard on the way)

Cost: $15 unframed, $20 framed

A4 professionally framed Art Prints by Graham Gercken and Emma Losin (frames are A3 size)

These are really hard to photograph through the glass. . .

(scroll up to the Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire book to see what she actually looks like)

Availability: 1 of each

Cost: $50 each

Custom Framed Original Painting “Full Moon Beaming” by Michelle “Seashell” Bedford (approximately A2 size)

Availability: 1

Cost: $300

3D Magnets and Shadow Boxes by Wendy Bloomfield (including custom creations)

The mini boxes above can be magnets but I think they’re better hung on a wall. Only the one on the left is still available, but they can be made to order (and can even include small items that you’d like included such as single earrings). This one is still available, but has no magnets:

“Steampunk Laboratory” custom shadow box (not available but you can order another laboratory to be made for you).

“Beach House” custom shadow box. This one is not available, but you can order an original beach house shadow box.

Availability: Every item is unique, and can be made to order

Cost: $5 small; $10 mini shadow boxes; $25 larger shadow boxes.

3D Labyrinth Paintings by Wendy Bloomfield

Availability: Every labyrinth is unique

Cost: $10-$30 depending on size

Music by the Littmus Steampunk Band

This brilliant Australian steampunk band is well worth a listen. They specialise in story songs (not to mention albums). Check out their music here (and then email me to say which album you’d like to buy, and to arrange payment).

Availability: 10 albums

Cost: $12 for digital album

MISCELLANEOUS

Mechanics Laboratory Car with Electric Motor (new in shrink wrap)

  • An extremely well-equipped laboratory where the principles of mechanics and engineering can be learned in an entertaining way.
  • The game contains more than 250 components with which 50 constructions of increasing complexity can be created.
  • It is even possible to build a helicopter, a motorised crane and a car with an electric engine in which a child can move the gear stick and steering wheel!
  • The large illustrated scientific manual will guide the child through the various stages of assembly, which can done in complete safety.
  • The concept, design, development and manufacture are entirely Made In Italy!
  • Recommended age: + 8 years old.

Availability: 1

Cost: $200

Toaster Oven (Canberra/Queanbeyan only but we’ll deliver it to you)

Yes it works.

Availability: 1

Cost: $20 including delivery to any location in Canberra or Queanbeyan.

Backyard BBQ (secondhand) Canberra only

Availability: 1

This is a great BBQ that has been well loved and cared for until it was put into a shed when people moved house.

Cost: Choose your donation amount. Anything from $50 and you’ll need to pick it up from Page (Canberra).

Literally gold and diamond jewellery

9ct gold and diamonds. Matching ring and earrings.

Availability: 1

Cost: $250 including postage (in the original box) within Australia

Hey look! You made it to the end. If you didn’t see anything you like but still want to contribute, here’s our GoFundMe.

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Fundraiser: Dinner For Two (or One, or up to Six)

October 29, 2020 at 9:35 pm (Uncategorized)

The Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group is running a Fundraising Gift Shop until the end of 2020. We have loads of wonderful goodies ready to be bought.

I love cooking, and I know a lot of people miss eating out. So why not make a mini restaurant at my house in West Belconnen?

This would cost $100 per person for up to six people.

Babysitting and/or designated driving would be negotiated as part of that.

Menu

Amuse-Bouche

Steamed Pork and Ginger Dumplings (with Soy Sauce, Sweet Soy Sauce, or Sweet & Sour Sauce)

Entrée

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

A mellow blend of orange vegetables with a subtle ginger kick (with optional Sour Cream and Chives). Served with Buttermilk Bread and Freshly-Churned Butter

Mains

Maple Marinated Salmon on a Bed of Coconut Sesame Rice.

Summer Salad with Baby Spinach, Danish Fetta, Tomato Medley and Lemon-Mint Dressing (with Chicken and/or Peanuts)

Desserts

Sorbet: Choice of Summer Berries, Mango, and Lemon Sorbet (or combination)

Fudge & Friends (After-Dinner Mints, Home-Made Caramel Fudge, and Byron Bay Macadamia Shortbread Bites)

Restaurant Opens 12:00pm-4:00pm and 5:30pm-9:00pm. Early dining recommended.

Friday Dinner, Saturday Lunch, or Saturday Dinner Only.

Please Note: We are not professional chefs but we’ll do our best.

Outside Dining Recommended (depending on the weather).

BYO

All dates and locations subject to change if required by COVID-19 issues.

Curious cats may or may not appear.

Questions:

  1. Do you require a designated driver (North side only)?
  2. What non-alcoholic drinks would you like (we will buy and chill them for you)?
  3. Would you like tea and coffee (before and/or after dinner)?
  4. Would you like a take-home pack of Fudge & Friends?
  5. Are there any menu selections you do NOT want?
  6. Would you prefer chicken, peanuts, both or neither in your salad?
  7. Which sorbets would you like?
  8. Do you have any food allergies, intolerances, or preferences?

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