Isa Lavinia

I'll read anything, even the back of shampoo bottles, if there's nothing else.

Taken By The Toaster: An Inanimate Love Story by Dick Thumper

Taken By The Toaster: An Inanimate Love Story - 

Dick Thumper
This is one of the funniest things I've read in recent years.
Onto the plot:
John, a basement dwelling weeaboo neckbeard, spends his time on "intellectual pursuits at [his]computer" and cannot spare any more of it, not even for Christmas dinner, which his mother brings down to the basement so he won't have to join the festivities above. 
He is adamantly against moving out of his parents' house for, as he puts it, "Pussy-Slasher underscore 1975 is almost forty and he still lives at home", and seeing as he's a "level two hundred paladin" he's a worthy role model. 
But more importantly, for Christmas, John got a toaster. And is immediately enamoured by it. Oh, he tries to fight it, but as he says, "that harlot of a toaster just wouldn't quit".
And that was the beginning of a steamy and passionate relationship.
Reminded me a lot of this comic (sorry, I don't know who to attribute credit):




I strongly recommend it.

Reblog: The Soapbox: On Authors, and Entitlement, and Magical Unicorns

This is gonna be pretty short because I think I've made it pretty clear that when people start these pointless and silly Authors versus Teh Evol Reviewer type battles, I'm going to side with Teh Evol Reviewers. Every time.

90% of authors are pretty cool people. But 10% of them subscribe to a really shitty attitude. Like, "Oh, I wrote this awesome book and these people are too stupid and jealous to get my genius!"


Reviewers can say whatever the hell they want about your books and that's their right because -- guess what -- THEIR REVIEW IS THEIR REVIEW. And once you release your book into the wild, it stops being your precious little baby.

And hey, maybe once in a while, a reviewer gets something wrong. They have a typo or they don't read until the end of the book or they say something that is completely irrelevant. Does that give you the write [sic] to correct them?


Does that give you the right to call them names?


Does that make them an inferior human being in any way?


Authors need to be really fucking careful about what they say because they have a lot of people watching them. That's the price of fame. It makes things unequal. However much you FEEL like you're the victim, what you LOOK like is the bully beating up smaller kids on the playground to compensate for...whatever it is you're trying to compensate for.

You're more than a person, you're a brand. And if you are a brand that is unsatisfying (or outright hostile), you're going to find yourself a very unsuccessful brand.

Because -- and here's the thing -- however great you think you are, you're only as great as the people who buy your books and blog about you and support you MAKE you. Authors cannot be authors if they don't have readers. And if you treat your readers like shit, they will ditch your sorry, ungrateful ass.

It's important to remember that most bloggers don't get paid for what they do. They are doing this because they have a passion for it, and that's pretty fucking incredible, don't you think? I think so. You don't have to treasure every review that comes your way (although I do, and a lot of the authors I consider friends do), but you DO have to be respectful. And you can start by following your own advice -- if you can't say anything nice, just don't say anything at all. Thank your five-star reviewers, maybe, instead of taking them for granted as the status quo.

/soap box


The Mussel Eater by Octavia Cade

The Mussel Eater - 

Octavia Cade
First of all, that is one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen and, shallow as I am, I had to read it.
Anyway, I happen to have an obsession with the monstrous feminine, so if this review is too involved in the subject, then I'm sorry. 
Every culture possesses this element to their mythology: a monstrous woman who is an object of lust. 
We are all familiar with how the story goes: serpent/demon/snake/dragon/goat/siren/mermaid/etc. woman is spotted by knight/prince/chief's son/random nobleman who instantly wishes to possess her, to attain her otherness for himself, to claim and tame her monstrous beauty.
Said monstrous lady falls in love, accepts to live with this man, but soon he grows disenchanted from how marvellous and magical she is. He betrays her/breaks a promise made to her/cheats on her/etc. and it all ends in tragedy.
It has always fascinated me how these strong women - for women they are, seen through the eyes of fear of femininity - would always fall for these wastes of sperm and egg. 
Western mythology tends to claim these women will be granted mortal souls when married to a man, but I like Queen Yseult's explanation in Ondine by Jean Giraudoux: 
ONDINE : Leave Hans? Why?
YSEULT : Because he is not made for you. Because his soul is small.
ONDINE : I do not have one. It's even worse!
YSEULT: The issue does not arise for you, nor for any non-human creature. The soul of the world breathes in and out through nostrils and gills. But man wanted his soul to himself. He stupidly divided the general soul. There is no soul of men. There are a series of small batches of soul, where flowers grow sour, and vegetables are shrivelled.
YSEULT: You don't know what this is like, ondines have very great souls.
(the translation from french is mine, so sorry for any mistakes)
I was expecting something along these lines, especially considering the original legend of Pania of the Reef who falls in love with the son of a Māori chief named Karitoki. 
He wishes to have her for himself, even though the Pania must always return to sea at dawn under penalty of death. 
Karitoki tries to trick her and, while she is asleep, tries to feed her cooked food, knowing a Pania who eats anything but raw food cannot return to sea. 
It's the usual betrayal of men who promise love to monstrous women, who somehow accept them despite their mortality, despite their little souls.
This retelling, however, was absolutely subversive with a strong feminist core. 
The feminine monstrosity of the Pania, in all its fish scented oils and scales, dried seaweed hair, sharp nails, and deadly shark teeth, is explored in depth.
Karitoki's fascination is lustful, even if he is disgusted by the Pania herself, even if he fears her. Especially because he fears her.
And the way it ended... I wouldn't spoil it for the world, but it has the most satisfying ending possible!
This short story has about 30 pages and managed to become one of my all time favourites, if that's not recommendation enough, then I don't know what is!
Olivia Cade's website

Buy The Mussel Eater

The Astronomer Who Met The North Wind by Kate Hall

The Astronomer Who Met The North Wind - 

Kate Hall
Science fairy tale, YAY!!!

Unlike Minka, my parents and family friends showed nothing but support when it came to my science filled future. 
Of course, once I actually entered the STEM fields, I was in for a very rude awakening regarding the place of women in science - worse, regarding the place of women of colour in science. But that's a sad story, unlike this book.
Minka's father is a world renowned astronomer. And as such took his family on an expedition which his wife, Minka's mother, did not survive.
Minka's father was over protective but well intentioned, the other adults were the same but they really grated on my nerves (not to mention Minka's!) with their constant dismissal of Minka's scientific interests.
Enter the North Wind and his sister, who changed Minka's life. 
Do you even know how awesome it is to have something as precious and creativity building for little minds (and grown-up minds as well) as a fairy tale and then intertwine it with science?
As Einstein said: 
"If you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent read them more fairy tales."
Buy The Astronomer Who Met The North Wind



The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

The Last Hour of Gann - 

R. Lee Smith
TW: graphic descriptions of rape, sexual slavery, torture, murder, violence towards women, violence towards children, xenophilia, and I'm probably forgetting a thousand other things...
Don't let the trigger warnings discourage you (or really, really DO if they are trigger warnings to you), like many epic fantasy/sci-fi works most of these things are present. They didn't keep A Song of Ice and Fire from becoming a best-seller, and they don't keep The Last Hour of Gann from being an amazing book.
Amber, our female protagonist, crashed along her sister and a bunch of other humans (this seems so weird to write, but bear with me, I'm still on that human vs aliens mindset after 1277 pages of it) into an unknown planet.
What follows is a pretty good illustration of human character when faced by survival: horrid.
That's not to say that the power dynamics which arise aren't absolutely enthralling! 
Scott (he can't really be thought of as the main antagonist because so many villains pop up in this book and they are absolutely despicable, but he's certainly the one who lasts the longest) who by virtue of embodying insufferable andunflagging male entitlement, no matter how repeatedly he is proven wrong, becomes so hateful that I ended up longing for his appearance just so that I could hate some more.
They end up finding one of the indigenous species of the planet: a lizardman (for lack of a better descriptor). Meoraq is part of the elite of an oligarchic society, a warrior priest, who defines himself by his strict religion.
I was expecting the romance, since I read the book's Goodreads' page, but I was still a bit... iffy about it?
I mean, when you think of a dreamy hero your mind doesn't automatically go to a lizard. ...Hopefully. 
But here's the thing, their relationship is so sloooooooow moving, and so well developed that when they get together (way, way into the book) it just seems natural. 
One thing I absolutely loved! 
Amber doesn't find Meoraq attractive, and Meoraq doesn't find Amber attractive. They fall for each others' mind, spirit, character, strength, morals. 
I find that great! Too often books gloss over these things, but think about it: why would an alien find a human woman attractive? This is the Mars Needs Womentrope at work, and I'm glad R. Lee Smith avoided it. 
The action never lags, I never found myself bored - in fact I wish I did! There never seemed to be a moment of peace! 
The plot is coherent and addictive, the pacing is phenomenal, the characters feel real... I have nothing but praises about this book!
Then why the 4 star rating instead of 5 stars?
It was too much for me. Bear in mind that this is a purely personal complaint, and does not reflect upon the quality of the book!
But, as I said, for me, it was too much. Too much violence, too much rape (it's never rape for the sake of rape, it's always there for a reason and adds to the realism of the story, considering the society in which the characters find themselves), but too much... too much!
Still, it was an amazing read, and I highly recommend it to fantasy/sci-fi/romance fans.
R. Lee Smith's blog 
Buy The Last Hour of Gann
@ amazon ($8)

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods - 

Emily Carroll
As soon as I saw this book I knew I had to read it! 
I thought this would be a book of gruesome fairy tale retellings, but Emily Carroll corrected me (to my unending delight) with this gorgeous book:
1) Emily Carroll writes her own gruesome fairy tales.
2) Emily Carroll writes her own gruesome fairy tales which are so amazing you feel like you've known them your whole life. 
These fairy tales touch on our most primal fears: the dark, the uncanny not quitehumans who prey on us and may replace her loved ones, the body horror, blood, dark enclosed spaces, pain, monsters, and death - all of them connected to the woods, the mythical place which the hand of civilization left untouched, where wild beasts roam, and nightmares dwell.
I read this on a cold winter night, and while it definitely improved the reading, I can't say I'd advise it to other readers...
Imagine reading this while the wind howls outside, and you're cold down to your bones:
Haha... ha. Yeah... "Sweet, wet voice." Good... ...stuff. 
I think the beautiful artwork and the colour choices (not to mention the use of light and dark to create an atmosphere) speak for themselves. But Carroll is also a master when it comes to pacing, and she has that little something only a few possess: the ability to invoke true horror in the readers' hearts.
As Alfred Hitchcock said, "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." And Emily Carroll certainly know how to make use of this...

Please, please!! go read her comics on her official site!
Not only are they free and amazing, but they also have some connections to the stories in this book.
My personal favourites were The Prince and the Sea and Anu-Anulan and Yir's Daughter, which are, admittedly, the least creepy and more romantic of the bunch, but I read them at about 3 a.m., so what could you expect of me?
Buy Through the Woods

The Bone Flower Queen (The Bone Flower Trilogy #2) by T.L. Morganfield

The Bone Flower Queen - 

T.L. Morganfield
Book provided by the author for review.
trigger warnings: incest, self-harm, human sacrifice, violence


The first book of this series was hard to read - not because it wasn't good, quite on the contrary! - but because it dealt with issues that are culturally taboo to me, namely incest. It makes for an uncomfortable love story when it's between two siblings...
The thing is, it was one of those books that stay with you. I thought of it on and off between its release and this one's release. So you can say I managed to set my discomfort aside.
That being said, I was much more open to enjoy this book.
Quetzalpetlatl and Topiltzin finally build their holy city and rule side by side as husband and wife. 
Things aren't all HEA, even when Quetzalpetlatl is impregnated by the god Quetzalcoatl, and Topiltzin and her raise the boy as their own, the heir to the throne they worked so hard to attain.
There are promises made to gods, promises that get in the way, battles with demons, dissent in the city...
And Quetzalpetlatl growing fear that she's losing herself, turning into something... else. 
I must admit, I spent a lot of this book feeling frustrated. Quetzalpetlatl's actions seemed nonsensical, they put a lot of hurdles on what could have been a smoother path. 
If you read this book and you find yourself struggling with the same issue I beg you KEEP READING! The plot twist near the end makes ever inconsistency clear and reveals a heretofore hidden depth, in what was already a pretty deep book.
I'm always astounded at the research that goes into the books of this series. There is real love for the craft here. Real care and respect for the culture being represented. 
And I always learn so much reading this series!
I hate how I only learned about European mythology in school and university. There is such a wealth of rich cultures to be studied and appreciated...
I simply cannot wait for the next (and final, ugh!) book in The Bone Flower trilogy!

T.L. Morganfield's official site

Buy The Bone Flower Queen
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)



Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, and Milla Vane

Night Shift - 

Nalini Singh, Lisa Shearin, Ilona Andrews, Milla Vane
This was an uneven anthology of novellas, which is a pity, because one of them was very, very good.
Three of my favourite authors were included, so I needed to get my hands on this asap.
Nalini Singh's Secrets at Midnight
Though I love Nalini Singh, her Psy-Changeling series is very hit-or-miss for me. I can love a book with all my heart and then hate the next with just as much passion. 
This usually depends on the agency a woman is given in the novel. 
Sure, when I was a 15 years old, alpha males were dreamy, now I honestly don't mind them as long as the leading lady is an equal in the relationship. This is just the evolution of my tastes, it doesn't signify, in Nalini Singh's case, a deterioration of the writing quality of her books.
I've always liked - and couldn't wait to read about! - Mercy's brothers!
So reading about Bastien finding ~true love~ had me super excited for this novella.
I don't want to give anything away, but Bastien went too alpha. Kirby, his future mate, made weak attempts at being independent, which I applaud, but there was a pervasive theme of Bastien ignoring her ~for her own good~ and then being proven right.
Personally, I find this lack of body autonomy frightening and emotionally unhealthy. Kirby would tell him she did not wish for medical attention and Bastien would just ignore her and carry her to the nearest medical post. 
It could be argued that she may have actually needed a Dr. but that's ignoring the ethical implications of the matter. Imagine a stranger came out of nowhere, started sleeping in your house and took away your medical autonomy from you. Your choices no longer matter regarding medical treatment, it's what this stranger wants.
Of course this stranger is her ~mate~ so obviously she is silly to be upset over this and in fact she's wrong because he knows better and blah blah blah.
Listen, this is not a badly written novella, and I'm 100% sure that fans of the series will like it. I'm just saying this type of thing isn't my cup of tea, so...
Ilona Andrews' Magic Steals
I have to be honest here and admit I kind of gave up on the Kate Daniels series. Kate and Curran's relationship is devolving from an adult, sensible and mature relationship to YA drama with a sprinkling of New Adult angst on top.
I still leaf through them so I can keep up with what's happening with the secondary characters. Whatever their faults the Andrews team know how to write AMAZING secondary characters, I basically love all of them, so whenever a novella about them comes out I know I'll get the old urban fantasy non paranormal romance Kate Daniels ~feel~.
I adore Dali! So this second novella we get about her relationship with Jim, and her family's relationship with both of them was a heaven send.
Dali is adorable as ever, Jim is honestly an amazing love interest - see? this is how you write alpha males! - who has a very, very healthy dose of respect for Dali's abilities and decisions, standing by her side, supporting her, and considering her his equal. 
Why can't all relationships be like this???
The plot was super mysterious and amazing, add to that all the well researched cultural background (there was real work put into this novella!), the family dynamics, the issues involved in a developing relationship... It was great!!!
 Lisa Shearin's Lucky Charms
This was a mess. 
I don't mean to discourage others from reading since I didn't find anything incredibly objectionable about it, so read on and make up your own mind.
I found the writing to be subpar, the characters undeveloped - there was simultaneously too much info dump and very little usable information - the main character is insipid, tstl, and is used to bring the element of humour into the story. Too bad she isn't funny in any kind of way.
The plot is just an unending cascade of clichés, the heroine just stumbles upon the answers instead of working effectively or, God forbid, using her brain, and did I mention that she is tstl? I did, didn't I. It bears repeating, though...
Milla Vane's The Beast of Blackmoor
Milla Vane is, of course, the lovely and talented Meljean Brook. I'd be lying if I said that Meljean wasn't the reason I picked up this anthology; she honestly cannot write a bad book.
That being said, this is probably the lowest rating I've ever given a book of hers. 
Though, at 3,5 stars is still high ;)
The thing is, I loved the plot, I loved the characters, I loved their relationship and UST (the lady knows how to write stuff to bring on a blush!) and I loved their quest and their rectitude facing the world and rules they were bound to follow. 
It's just... This novella should come with a trigger warning. There was soooo much rape and sexual slavery! 
I know, I know, it's a barbarian world and it stays true to the epic fantasies where the evil warlord/sorcerer creates a realm of pure evil who Conan our heroes will eventually defeat and restore whatever passed for peace in those times.
And honestly, the story is so good that I still think about it. I couldn't stop reading it - Brook's stories are always like that. 
...But I couldn't fully immerse myself in the story because of the issues above.
Which is what I felt, as an individual reader! And shouldn't stop anyone from reading this novella because Meljean Brook deserves to be read :)
Buy Night Shift
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)
Nalini Singh's official site
Ilona Andrew's official site
Lisa Shearin's official site
Milla Vane's official site (and Meljean Brook's official site)

Ok this has stopped being funny





Reblogged from Isa Lavinia

Thug Kitchen comment



Thug Kitchen and Cultural Appropriation

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook - 

Thug Kitchen,  LLC

pictured above: racist, cultural appropriators
who censor and delete any criticism
'Thug Kitchen' Is the Latest Iteration of Digital Blackface
"Thug Kitchen—a brand that got popular by writing recipes in a tone reminiscent of African American Vernacular English—is run by two WASPy white people from California, Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, whom Epicurious refers to as “masterminds.”" - Vice 
 "The Root refers to Thug Kitchen as “a recipe in blackface.” Belittling and commoditizing “ghetto” symbols and imagery for white gain is a form of racism and appropriation. It draws on a long history of white persons feeling entitled to control over non-white spaces. Whites draw on their immense social power to pick and choose from vulnerable communities from the safety and comfort of their spaces of privilege." - The Academic Abolitionist Vegan



The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - 

Eric Carle
Yes, I know, I have never, ever read this book before - it just wasn't a book available for some european kids. 
And we were missing out!
I admit I become interested in this book after seeing this on tumblr:
I felt this on a deep spiritual level. 
The book did not disappoint. 
A very hungry caterpillar eats its way through a wide variety of foodstuffs, teaching children how to count, and the days of the week, while doing so.
I bet the puncholes are super awesome for little kids, I myself was fascinated by them, which is something I shouldn't have admitted out of self-respect, but here we are.
If you have little ones, or if you like children's books, or if you are interested on what shaped the early childhoods of children in other countries, you just have got to get your hands on this book!
Eric Carle's official site
Buy The Very Hungry Caterpillar 
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)

I don't know why they never choose my questions :/

Sparky! by Jenny Offill, Chris Appelhans

Sparky! - 

Jenny Offill, Chris Appelhans
A little girl keeps begging her mother for a pet. Her mother's pet requirements are simple: it mustn't need to be walked, or bathed, or fed.
The library holds the answer:
Soon the little girl gets her new pet sloth, Sparky, in the mail.


Admittedly, Sparky isn't the most active of pets...
But in the end Sparky turns out to be the best pet!

Jenny Offill's official site
Chris Appelhans' official site

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Winterspell - 

Claire Legrand
arc provided by Simon & Schuster through Edelweiss
DNF @ 50%


I have to admit that, while I liked The Nutcracker when I was a little girl, since I grew up I find it absolutely terrifying. Toys and food coming to life in the middle of the night?! 
When you're a kid that's all fun and Christmas magic, but once you grow up... I mean, they come to life at night! I'd be setting the house on fire and moving to another continent, to be honest.

Still, it's written by the great Claire Legrand, whose writing style I absolutely LOVE, as you can see from my reviews of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and The Year of Shadows.
Not to mention that Kate Beaton managed to prove that The Nutcracker can lend itself to worthy retellings:

Still, I was a little apprehensive - Susana disliked Winterspell, and we tend to like, or dislike, the same books... Not to mention the fact that I really disliked the Summerfall novella...

There was nothing to do but to read it myself. I mean, I've had it pre-ordered for months now, and I was really, really looking forward to having the actual book in my hands - and I was fortunate enough to receive an arc!

Sadly, I really couldn't connect with this book.

The pacing is dreadfully slow, I couldn't bring myself to like Clara, I abhorred the victim blaming that permeated the whole book, and, worst of all, there was the disappointment that Legrand wrote this.

I don't understand how Claire Legrand writes such amazing Middle Grade books only to end up writing... this. I read up to 50% mark and I had to give up, I felt guilty somehow, for disliking it so much, I mean this is Claire Legrand!

I love how she has always written mature, determined and independent female leads - Victoria and Olivia hold a special place in my heart. They feel real, they are strong, you root for them, and you love them long after you've read the books.
And while I held some hope - not for Clara, but for Anise, this hope was dashed.
The relationships Legrand writes in MG are amazingly complex and satisfying. To quote myself: "Claire Legrand writes perfect little one-day-maybe OTPs". 

So I was extremely excited to finally read an actual OTP. Imagine my disappointment when the relationship was underdeveloped, their ~love~ rushed and senseless - she didn't know him, after all! He was a statue! - and the whole thing extremely boring.

Besides, while supposedly YA, it read an awful lot like New Adult... which I hate.

All in all, I was extremely disappointed. 
I can only hope Claire Legrand will keep writing Middle Grade books, she truly excels at those.

Buy Sumerfall
@ Amazon (with free worldwide delivery!)

Buy Winterspell
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)

Summerfall by Claire Legrand

Summerfall: A Winterspell Novella - 

Claire Legrand
Umm... Not the best prequel. 
I don't know if it's as poor as I thought it to be, or if Legrand's writing has filled me with too high expectations.
I must say, though, that I disliked Rinka, the blatant Mary Sue, the talk of ~destiny~, and the New Adult vibe that permeated the whole novella - I honestly wasn't expecting something like this from Claire Legrand...
Let us hope Winterspell is better...