Monthly Archives: April 2013

#13: The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future by Fawzia Koofi

Prior knowledge and wild guesses about Afghanistan:

  • Al-Qaeda
  • Taliban
  • We’re at war with them?  We went there because something.  Bin Laden, I think?  I should know this.
  • We have troops on the ground.  It’s been like ten years.
  • We’re leaving now.  Have we already left?
  • People say it’s made up of isolated villages and cannot be considered a unified country because people who live there don’t even really know what a country is, let alone know that they live in Afghanistan
  • I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini a long time ago.  Some women had more freedom and were forced to give it up when the Taliban came into power.
  • I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  I know that it’s about Iran, but I think there might be some similarities.  Maybe?
  • I could probably eventually find it on a map.
  • I really don’t know anything abut Afghanistan, but I think life there sucks, especially for women.

Favored DaughterI picked up The Favored Daughter after seeing an interview with Koofi on The Daily Show.  She was promoting her book, speaking about her plans to continue in Afghanistan’s government, and the importance of fighting for her country.  She was calm and serious and you could tell that she lives her life with clear purpose.  She doesn’t have time to waste time, especially knowing that people want to kill her.  She plans to run for president and knows her life will continue to be in danger.  John Stewart was clearly in awe of her and his sincerity and respect for her story made me want to get her book.

I wanted to know why she is willing to die for her country.

The Favored Daughter is a wonderful mix of memoir and history.  Koofi tells her life story through the politics of Afghanistan because she cannot separate the two.  When explaining why she had to drop out of medical school, she first has to explain how her country changed when other countries interfered.  She has to explain how quickly the Taliban moved in.  She needs you to understand that although it was a patriarchal society where women had little to no rights, some women did thrive in their households.  She knows she cannot explain why a husband would beat his wife so that they could both be proud, but she does want to show you the love and community of her people.  Families are huge and will always be welcomed and helped  however possible.

Her story starts out with her intended death.  Girls were useless and when her mother bore this daughter, she left her in the sun to die.  Koofi did not die and her mother vowed to love and protect her more than any of her children.  Koofi’s father had several wives and she had many brothers and sisters.  Her mother ruled that entire household and it was amazing to see how she managed the other wives in a way that created a family and kept jealousy and anger away.

Koofi was born willful and stubborn.  Refusing to die was the first of her many steps to change her life.  She persuaded her parents and brothers to allow her to attend school.  She was rarely dissuaded from goals.  She would achieve as much as her brothers, for she too was her father’s child.  In fact, she was the only girl child her father asked to see.

As Koofi got older, she saw the power and danger of politics.  Her father served as a government official and people respected him a great deal.  However, this also made him a target and he was assassinated.  During this time, Koofi’s older family members and their neighbors did their best to protect the younger children, especially the boys.

As war explodes in Afghanistan from within (and yes, I still cannot explain the specifics), Koofi and her mother go to Kabul where they are safe.  Koofi loves it there.  She is free to go to school, to wear shorter skirts and a bit of makeup (as long as her brothers don’t see) and walk the streets with her girl friends.  She is a strong student and plans on becoming a doctor.

And then the Taliban move in.

And they move in fast.

She hears tales of this extremist group but no one seems to understand the threat or see what is about to happen.  One day she was happily out with friends and then the very next day she wakes up to young members of the Taliban who refuse to let a woman leave her house without a burqa.  Men and women are randomly gathered to be beaten.  No one can figure out the rules.  A Taliban soldier might decide he’s bored and target someone for not upholding the tenets of what it means to be Muslim.   Men and women are whipped in the streets, their homes are raided, stores are destroyed and forced to close, and anyone can be sent to jail at any time, simply because the Taliban is suspicious of something.

Koofi’s heart breaks when this happens.  She is furious with this perversion of  her Muslim faith.  These men are extremists and she hates how they’ve twisted words to gain power and how they’ve poisoned the minds of Americans and others into believing that this is what it means to be Muslim.

She watches as men who are against what is happening are forced to join in so they can get a job to feed their families.  Some are willing to help quietly, knowing that they could be beaten or imprisoned themselves.  The theme of community and family come up again and again as Koofi shows the kindness of her fellow Afghani.  On the other hand, young men who had no power before the Taliban came in are now greedy with their new positions.  They happily and mercilessly beat women in the streets.  They gleefully collect contraband and destroy it in front of families.  The report everyone they see.  They’ve been given power and it corrupts them quickly and completely.

Koofi watches in horror and shame as her country destroys knowledge and culture.  The Buddhas of Bamiyan are destroyed.  Colleges are shut down.  There is no entertainment.  Wedding ceremonies and celebrations are forbidden.  It’s painful and nearly unbearable, especially since such a short time ago Koofi and other women were able to go to school, to learn, and to begin better lives than their mothers had.  They still have moments of love and safety behind closed doors, but bombs have begun to fall and no one knows where the next threat will come from.

Koofi’s brother arranges a marriage for her, and she is pleased with the man, Hamid.  He came several times to seek Koofi from her brother and was turned away again and again.  He finally persuades the family and they are married, but without the traditional ceremony and celebration, which Koofi aches for.

They have two daughters.  Hamid is delighted with the first, but angry at the second for not being a boy.  Koofi never gets over this betrayal and anger.  However, she does not have much time to dwell on her hurt.  Soon after they marry, Hamid is thrown into jail by the Taliban.  Koofi goes there every day, demanding his release.  She doesn’t not know what the charges are or what is happening to him.  He is finally released and comes home, sick and weak.  She becomes pregnant with their second daughter, but he is taken in again.  This time he gets tuberculosis and they both know he will not live long.

As her story continues, she explains the changes in her country and her different levels of freedom helped me understand what was happening.  The women have their rights taken away, given back, made strong, made weaker, and all of this spurs Koofi into action.  A new government is being formed and it is time for her to take her family’s place.

She seeks the approval from her brothers, and of course is told she is forbidden. They have chosen the family’s candidate and will not let their sister be involved. Like always, she simply refused to hear the word “no” and pushes and pushes until they back down.  Although the ballots were tampered with, she wins.

And then she soars.

Watching her come into her own power is amazing and fantastic and humbled me greatly.  She’s given up everything in order to give others more.  She knows if she continues to work and work and work and make people from her country and from other countries listen, she will make Afghanistan stronger.  She loves her country.  She loves her countrymen.  She loves who she is and what she can do.

It’s beautiful.

I  hate that I’m waiting to hear a news story that she’s been killed.

She has been attacked several times and knows that her convoys are being monitored.  She travels throughout her country to speak with different members of different villages.  She is shocked into tears many times when elders greet her as her father’s daughter and respect her because they loved him.

Each chapter of the book starts out with a letter to her two daughters, Shuhra and Shaharzad.  She talks to them briefly about her history, their country’s history, and why she must dedicate her life to the people.  She often speaks candidly about the fact that people want her dead.  She acknowledges that she feels like she is abandoning them when she travels.  She lets them know how proud of them she is and how her mother would have loved them so much.  It’s inspiring and sad and makes me realize that I really don’t have any idea what’s happening in our world.

Again, I really liked how she tells her story through Afghanistan’s story.  She simply cannot separate the two because she is the child of her country and this connection has brought her through the terrifying times and pushed her through the ranks of Parliament.  There is much corruption in Afghanistan (and really, anywhere there are politicians) and she seeks to end it.  The largest part of her platform is women’s rights.  She is a threat to many in the country and this just makes her stronger.

If you know little to nothing about Afghanistan (that would be me!) then this is a great book because it explains things without being too overwhelming.  I’m not much interested in further reading, but I bet many people have gone on to read more about the country.  If you know a lot about Afghanistan, then I think this book will still be good for you because you get to follow one person and see the changes from a first hand view.

This was a good read.  It wasn’t a quick one, but it was fascinating and inspiring and I look forward to seeing what else she will do with her life.  I hope that it will be a long life.

Welcome, Sperm Enthusiasts!

Apparently when I talk about magic sperm and erotic rage, people relate.

Ladies

And gentlemen.

My Sleeping Beauty Trilogy review has brought in several new followers and I welcome all of you to the musings of my mind when it comes to books.

I read a lot of different things, so hopefully you’ll find more reviews you like.  And if you’re only interested in my rants about sexy times, let me know and suggest some books.  I’m happy to meet the needs of those  confused and intrigued by all things sticky.

Note: I will not read the Shade of Grey series.  However, if you’d like to read an absolutely amazing breakdown of the shitty writing and plot, as well as how much it follows abusive relationship patterns, please head over to Jen Reads 50 Shades of Grey.  She is brilliant and funny and writes good erotica.  Her reviews are hilarious and intelligent.

 

If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em!

John Waters

Fantasy and SciFi: Whoops

fantasy v scifi

I don’t know why I did it this way, but for some reason I fell into the Fantasy-SciFi tag and bookshelf.

I think it’s because they’re usually grouped together in the bookstore, but looking at my books, I read a lot more fantasy than scifi.  I think I need to make two separate tags/bookshelves and look at all my reviews to fix them.

I have noticed that some bookstore are giving them each their own section, so that’s good.

Anyone want to tackle my GoodReads shelf?

Also, go to FLOWCHART: Navigating NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books.  It’s now interactive!

#12: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

SeraphinaI was in love with this book a few sentences in.  By the end of the five page prologue I realized I was going to stay up all night reading it cover to cover, but it was a work night, so I forced myself to stop before 2:00am.  I was not happy about this.

Seraphina lives in the kingdom of Goredd.  There has been an uneasy truce between the humans and dragonkind for four decades.  The humans distrust the dragons living in Goredd, even though they remain in their human shape all year, except for the anniversary of treaty day.  Although time has passed, many in the kingdom still hate the dragons and wish to return to war so they may completely wipe them from existence.  A few hours into their cups and they seem to forget that the dragons are bigger and more dangerous than any one man.

The dragons are distant and logical, and humans confuse them.  They’re sort of a mixture of Spock and Aspies.  (I am aware that people will fight to the death defending the point that Spock is/is not an Aspie.)  Because they live so long, they see humans as quick flickers and don’t bother to learn things like emotion, body language, or even the correct pronouns.  Why refer to a baby as “she” when “it” works just as well?  Their world is pure logic and reason, and when they spend too much time with humans, they return to their Board of Censors where their minds are erased and all ideas of emotion are taken away.  Anything that can be considered self-pleasure, such as music or love, is pointless and makes a dragon weak.  It makes them humanlike, which is abhorrent.

When in human form, they must wear bells to distinguish themselves from the humans, although their manner would quickly show the truth.  Many wear their bells proudly, although a few try to keep a low profile so as not to attract the attention of the Sons of St. Ogdo, the group craving to rid the world of dragons, preferably in the most violent manner they can think of.  A few are allowed to remove their bells and study and teach without having to deal with Goredd’s human interference.

It is quickly revealed that Seraphina is part of both worlds.  No spoilers here; we know very early on that she is half human/half dragon.  This is an abomination on both sides and her father is furious and heartbroken that the woman he loved lied to him.  He didn’t know she was a dragon until she died in childbirth, silver blood pooling around her.

He creates a world of lies for the girl, possibly more to keep himself safe than her.  Perhaps if she was never born, he never would have know what his wife was.

Seraphina’s two sides are almost constantly at war.  Her mother implanted memories in her and if Seraphina is not careful she collapses to the ground, overwhelmed with her mother’s visions.  Her dragon uncle, one of the dragons allowed to teach in secret, has taught her to control her dragon mind and hide her identity to keep herself safe.  She must take time each day to calm her dragon side in order to maintain her secret.

And of course she almost blows her cover in the first chapter.

Her whole life she’s tired to remain invisible, but when she is forced to play at the Prince’s funeral, she’s suddenly known to all.

The Prince’s funeral threatens to destroy the treaty between Goredd and the dragons.  His death is suspicious and points to dragonkind.  They have sworn off eating humans, but perhaps their taste for blood has returned.

Seraphina finds herself on both sides, desperate to keep her true self hidden while saving both kingdoms and the treaty.

She quickly makes friends with members of the royal family as well as discovering that there are more like her.  These other abominations have also crafted secret lives for themselves and are horrified that there are others which makes their secret that much easier to reveal.  If  you’re the only one, you’re safe.  However, a part of them is relieved that they aren’t alone.

There’s lots of twists and turns and forbidden love and heartache and loneliness as Seraphina is forced to confront who she is and what it means.  How does she keep her friends and family safe and will she be forced to choose a side?  If her true nature is discovered, she’s not safe with the humans or dragons and if she is somehow not killed, there is nowhere for her to go that will be safe.

Family secrets are revealed and her own mind and memories begin spilling out  and she’s caught up in so many undragonlike and intense human emotions that it seems impossible that she won’t be found out by either side.  The constant hiding, lying, and redirections are exhausting and I kept expecting her to slip up or simply give in so she didn’t have to struggle anymore.

Hartman follows traditional fantasy paths and I liked it.  Seraphina is a fairly strong YA character, even though at times she does fall a little bit into the plot device of a lost young woman desperate for friends but forced to hide a terrible secret.  There’s also a teeny bit of Mary Sue lurking about when she quickly makes powerful friends who either willingly overlook her oddness or are completely blind to the signs.  I’m willing to forgive this because I liked all of the characters so much.  Sometimes it’s OK to use a pattern if you make it enjoyable.

I’m very pleased that this is Book One and I hope the follow ups get better and better as Hartman reveals more of the story and her writing gets stronger.

If you liked The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater or Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series, then try this.  Seraphina isn’t as strong as the female leads in the others, but she’s a good companion.

# 9 – 11: The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice writing as A. N. Roquelaure

You must be 18 years of age or older to read this post.  Because boobs.

Here’s the deal.  I’m too damn imaginative to read erotica/porn/romance/Harlequin/bodice rippers/whatever.  All I can think about is “Where is all that sperm going?  There’s so much of it!  How is anyone remaining clean in this book?  Dear lord, the UTIs. That’s going to turn into a bladder infection if you don’t drink some cranberry juice!  And tearing!  Oh god, stop.  Take a shower, rest, and put some ice on your vagina, because girl, you can’t be enjoying this.”

Basically I look like this for most of the book:

Aunt Linda

Where is all that sperm going?

wiig bachmann stare

Seriously, where is it going?

Target

Oh god, WHERE IS ALL THE SPERM GOING???

Or maybe I’m not imaginative enough?  I can’t figure out where that third guy is even standing.  And how big is that bed?  Why isn’t she getting scraped up?    

And then I get really fixated on the female orgasm and if she’d get off from this and maybe some women do and what are the statistics for PIV orgasm and maybe because she’s never had sex and now that she’s experienced her first orgasm all she needs is for the sunlight to hit the wall in just the right way to send her off again.

So yeah. I read the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy:  The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release.

I sort of remember hearing about these in high school and that they were soooo scandalous and if you read them you were a special kind of sexy/slutty and no one knew where to get them because there was no way you’d buy them in a store and they’d probably all been stolen from the library, but no one bothered to look.  You could get away with reading Forever and Flowers in the Attic, but if you touched these, holy shit, what is wrong with you?

Seriously, we all read the Flowers in the Attic series.  Incest all over the place.  Our parents bough them for us.  THEY BOUGHT THEM FOR US.

I wrote a review for Briar Rose by Robert Coover and a bunch of my friends were disgusted/intrigued and my friend Jenny handed me The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy.  I think it was a dare.  If I could handle monkey on human sexy times, could I handle … what ever the fuck this is?

OK, so… the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy:   

Beauty 1

The Prince wakes up Sleeping Beauty by having sex with her and immediately becomes her Master.  She no longer wears clothes and is forbidden from hiding herself with her hands or hair.  It’s your basic Master/Submissive relationship: only speak when spoken to, always be ready for sex, only do something if it will please the Prince, only think of pleasing the Prince… 

He marches her naked to his castle, stopping at towns so the people can admire her.  She’s strapped up so nothing is hidden from them while I wonder why her feet aren’t all blisters and blood from walking so far.  It’s humiliating  and yet Beauty slowly puts aside her shame because she doesn’t really know anything about how she’s supposed to act and when a Prince, THE Prince tells her this is how things are, you sort of start to believe it.  Stockholm syndrome in a fairy tale.

In the first book, Beauty is taught how to be a slave in the Prince’s castle.  The Queen rules everything, but she loves her son and is willing to forgive his over-attachment to the girl.  There are other slaves for her to learn from and other Lords and Ladies to rule over her.  She quickly learns what to do and how to do it and her shame turns to acceptance and eagerness to fufill her role as slave and make the Prince happy.  Oh, and all the slaves must do everything on hands and knees, from dressing their Master or Mistress to eating and to move from room to room.  And no one has bruises or calluses or joint pain.  Or UTIs.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand here’s my first complaint, other than the copious amount of disappearing sperm.  I don’t care where she shows up, a Mary Sue makes me stabby.  There is nothing worse than a perfect character showing up and doing everything perfectly and making everyone love her and excited about how perfect she is and blah blah blah flowing hair.  Here’s another link if you’re not familiar with the wretched Mary Sue.

Beauty instantly understands what’s she’s supposed to do, even if she doesn’t understand how she’s supposed to do it.  She’s always horny.  She impresses every single person who sees her.  Characters are constantly shocked and thrilled at how pliable she is, yet at the same time maintaining a spark of rebellion that is entirely alluring and a challenge to everyone.  The first time she tries something, she does it perfectly.  The Queen doesn’t like the Prince’s attachment to her, but when she sees her perform one of the S&M rituals (perfectly the first time she tries it), the Queen realizes that Beauty might be the best slave ever and grudgingly admits that she has pleased her.  Everyone loves her immediately.

Including the slave Prince Alexi.  The best male slave.  The Queen’s personal slave.

Oh yeah, all the slaves are Princes and Princesses from neighboring kingdoms.  The Queen sends for them to serve her and the Lords and Ladies because it will teach them how to be good rulers and eventually she sends them back when they’re ready.  Because…spanking?  (I’m not sure how the Lords and Ladies get there.  Somehow they are invited, but not as slaves.  Or they were slaves, but then get to wear clothes and become Masters and Mistresses.)

OK, so Prince Alexi is the most perfect male slave and he and Beauty fall in love even though they can’t talk to each other but eventually he’s able to sneak in to her and they do it a bunch of times and more sperm magically doesn’t cause problems and now she lives to please the Prince and the Queen and the Lords and Ladies and Prince Alexi and gives herself over entirely to the calmness that is spanking and humiliation.

AND THEN she finds out what the threat of Being Sent To The Village means.  She sees the slave Lord Tristan being loaded on the cart to go to the village and she decides, eh, what the fuck, and takes off running and is caught and put on the cart and even though everyone is bound and gagged Lord Tristan manages to hoist her up and they do it while traveling into the village.

End of Book One.

Beauty 2

OK, so now Beauty is in the village and it’s even more humiliating than the castle because there are less rules and more public humiliation.  And once again people think she is the best slave and she’s bought/rented for a good price and lives in a pretty good area and then given to a Captain who is not gross and she gets tied up and there is a giant orgy where she’s the only one servicing everyone and she likes it and gives in to it and once again the calmness over takes her and she loves the feeling of the warm submission AND WHERE IS ALL THE SPERM GOING?

Tristan gets his own chapters now.  He gets to tell his in first person, but Beauty stays in third.  He also becomes a Super Awesome Village Slave of Amazement and craves the punishments.  His master falls in love with him (of course) and Tristan is proud of how well he serves his Master.

And the whole time he and Beauty are in love with each other, and their masters and the role that they’re currently playing.

Oh Beauty.  She loves everything and everyone, but mostly the person she’s currently talking to.  Or who is having sex with her.  Or spanking her.  Or breathing near her.  Or noticing her.  Or once walked by her.  She’s perfect!

SO THEN she and Tristan and and some other Princes and Princesses who were sent to the village get kidnapped and Beauty has honey and fruit put inside of her for Tristan to eat and seriously, honey?  I hope someone cleaned her out afterwards.  She’s bulging with melons.  Seriously, the word “bulging” is used.  And, of course, she loves it and reacts appropriately and everyone loves her.

End of Book Two.

Beauty 3Now Prince Laurent joins Beauty and Tristan as they arrive in the Sultan’s palace across the sea.  (Laurent also gets to speak in the first person.)  Apparently this place is even more insane than the Queen’s castle and village and the slaves are seen as pets that don’t really have full human capabilities, other than to serve.

And Laurent and Tristan and Beauty become The Best pets and things are awesome as they are punished in new and exciting ways.

And then Beauty gets a girl off who has had her clit and most of her labia removed but because Beauty is so awesome she’s able to get a fist inside of her and BOOM! orgasm.

AND THEN she and Laurent and Tristan are rescued and brought back to the village but they don’t want to go because the Sultan’s palace is sooooooooo much better than everywhere else and they love it here because they’re so good at being slaves that the Sultan himself falls in love with Laurent and Tristan and all the Sultan’s wives love Beauty.

At this point in the story, I think so many things have been put inside of Laurent and Tristan’s anuses that there must have been damage done.  Although I don’t really know how the anus works so maybe it just sort of holds things in there and then goes back to its natural shape after?  Shouldn’t there be blood?  I feel like there should be anal bleeding by now.

OK, so they’re back in the village and even though they were miserable about being “rescued” now that they’re back they are once again in love with being slaves here and it’s awesome and people love them and fuck yeah, the village.

AND THEN Beauty is forced to put on clothes and is sent back to her kingdom, shrieking and crying and horrified that she has to wear clothes again and not be spanked and not be a slave anymore.  And then Laurent is brought clothes and sent home to rule and he is furious.

Tristan gets to stay in the village.  Remember how his master there fell in love with him (of course)?  The Queen decided to give him to the guy so he doesn’t return to the palace and this is awesome.

So now we move back to Beauty and she is bored as shit and all these suitors are sent to her and she refuses all of them.  A prince shows up and she makes him her slave for a few minutes and he’s all “This is AWESOME!” but she’s bored because she wants to be a slave and not have one.  He later sneaks across the border into the Queen’s kingdom and is “captured” to become a slave there.  Beauty is a wicked good advertisement for spanking and humiliation.

And then the book ends and I really like how it ended.  I won’t even tell you what happens.  Even though I didn’t like this series (and yet I read the entire thing just to see what would happen) I was pleased at the ending and didn’t feel like I had wasted precious book time.  If it had ended a different way I probably would have raged out even more than I am about the missing sperm.

And they all lived happily ever after.