The Week: 15th – 21st April

Red Autumn Leaves Autumn Colours Canberra ACT Australia Sonya Heaney 17th April 2019 Garden Blue Sky Nature

Mid-autumn in Canberra, and it’s still summer dress weather. And I saw on the news that it is snowing on the other side of the country! What is going on?

Ibis Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery New South Wales NSW near Canberra ACT Australia Autumn Heatwave Bird Sonya Heaney 17th April 2019

A random ibis at the cemetery in Queanbeyan on Wednesday afternoon. Actually, there were quite a lot of them around – but no kangaroos for once!

The tragedy of the loss of Notre Dame in Paris

Poor Notre Dame…

Happy Easter! I also have Ukrainian Easter next week.

Happy 203rd Birthday to Charlotte Brontë

NPG 1452; Charlotte BrontÎ by George Richmond

The Mister by E.L. James. Just… no.

The Mister by E.L. James. Just... no.

Recently Reread

devil-in-spring-ravenels-book-3-by-lisa-kleypas-uk-cover

“Dutch Artists Paint Giant Bookcase On An Apartment Building Featuring Residents’ Favourite Books”

Dutch Artists Paint Giant Bookcase On An Apartment Building Featuring Residents’ Favourite Books

Love & Desire at the National Gallery

John William Waterhouse The Lady of Shalott 1888

107 Years Ago: Titanic survivors rescued by the Carpathia

153177-004-E74B054C Survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic being helped abord the RMS Carpathia 15th April 1912

The Mister by E.L. James. Just… no.

The Mister by E.L. James. Just... no.

I wrote a full thousand words about E.L. Fifty Shades James’ new book (which came out this week), a book that turns the sex trafficking of Southern and Eastern European women – and the women themselves – into a fetish, but I’m thinking it’s something I’ll regret putting out there publicly.

So, instead I’ll simply say this: this book is racist. On so many levels. I’m offended on behalf of my Ukrainian family. And I’m sickened that the publisher only saw dollar signs and couldn’t care less about decency.

And now I will direct you to this review:

E.L. James’ The Mister is so much worse than Fifty Shades: EW review

Alessia Demachi is an Albanian immigrant, working illegally in England after escaping from would-be sex traffickers. Here are Alessia’s defining characteristics: She is a piano prodigy, chess master, and although she attended university in Albania to become an English teacher, she’s still befuddled by new words and speaks in the “charming” broken English of a helpless nubile sex-doll to be.

This contradictory depiction of Alessia is unbalanced and fundamentally inaccurate, reinforcing infantilising clichés about Eastern European women. As for the Albanian men in the novel: They’re all Neanderthalic thugs who are either kidnapping Alessia (something that happens multiple times) or selling her off in marriage to another kidnapper.

And this one:

‘The Mister’ by E.L. James is Bad, But You Knew That Already

Some people are not equipped to write stories of social realism that delve into topics like domestic abuse and sex trafficking. E.L. James is to these topics what Hannibal Lecter is to vegan cookery. The Mister features a heroine who was smuggled by traffickers from Albania to London to escape her abusive fiancé but escaped before she could be sold into sex slavery, and these matters are treated with the same care and focus by James as she affords to scenes where Maxim details his favourite music or the lavish meals they eat together.

The Week: 11th – 17th March

Happy St Patrick’s Day! (And happy birthday to my uncle, whose middle name is – you guessed it – Patrick!).

What a terrible week for New Zealand. I don’t think there’s anything that can be said about it that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over. Since I first visited Christchurch nearly a decade ago they have had a really rough time with earthquakes, and now a terror attack.

Canberra Day and Canberra Kangaroos

kangaroo-dog-and-man-810x520 ‘Only in Canberra’ Bizarre stand-off between kangaroo and dog caught on video

New Cover for Mary Balogh

My review of St. Patrick’s Journey by Calee M. Lee

Browser the Library Cat

Out Now: Toxic Game by Christine Feehan

Remember “Romantica”?

Remember “Romantica”?

Wild Card (Elite Ops #1) by Lora Leigh

Around a decade ago, everyone in the romance community was talking about a new subgenre: “Romantica”. It was when romances started getting super-steamy, but they also had the classic romance-genre Happy Ever After. They weren’t erotica, but nobody had a better term for them.

Remember that? Because it was a term I used to use fairly often, and until a few weeks ago I’d totally forgotten about it. There’s not a great deal of purpose to this post other than to observe how quickly things in publishing change.

I was reminded of “Romantica” because I was rereading Smart Bitches’ hilarious 2009 review of Pregnesia, which was connected to a discussion about Lora Leigh’s Elite Ops series, which led me to read some old reviews of some of those books. I don’t remember much about them other than that the first one used the misogynistic term “dumb blonde” a lot, and ended with a scene involving surprise anal sex, where the hero commented that he’d finally “touched his wife’s soul”.

Things change so fast in Romancelandia that I doubt these any of these erotic romance books would be written the same way now, only a decade after they were first published.

In the years since, a certain Twilight fan by the name of E.L. James wrote some fan fiction about another blonde-hating brunette who got spanked by a billionaire, and suddenly “erotic romance” was in the mainstream everywhere.

Not all change is good. I’m growing increasingly annoyed with readers who one-star books – particularly historical romances – because the characters don’t perform like porn stars on the page, or because the heroine is a virgin (unmarried pregnant girls in the 19th century often ended up on the streets – or dead. There’s a reason there were so many premarital virgins). Amazing authors like Mimi Matthews have to self-publish because her books aren’t filled with the steamier stuff so many publishers demand.

I wonder what – another ten years on – we write, read, and talk about now will seem spectacularly outdated then.

Chinese writer sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

An author in China has just been sentenced to over a decade in prison for writing a book with homosexual scenes. You can read more HERE, and I’ve shared a few paragraphs of the story below.

Chinese censorship is extreme. You can’t even access basic sites like Google, Instagram, Facebook – or even Goodreads! – over there. Heaven forbid someone learns something not approved by the government.

The most frustrating thing about travelling in China is the absolute ignorance of social issues the tourists bring with them. It’s one thing to wonder at the Forbidden City, and another thing entirely to be oblivious to the hammer and sickle symbols everywhere, and to not think there’s anything odd about the denial of the massacre in Tiananmen Square (and don’t get me started on what’s happening with Interpol – the whole world should be worried).

A Chinese author of erotic fiction has been sentenced to more than 10 years in jail for writing and selling a novel that featured gay sex scenes

Chinese writer sentenced to 10 years’ jail over book with homoerotic sex scenes

A Chinese author of erotic fiction has been sentenced to more than 10 years in jail for writing and selling a novel that featured gay sex scenes.

The female writer, who uses the pen name Tianyi but was identified in state media by her surname Liu, published the book Occupy in 2017, and sold it through Chinese online shopping site Taobao.

Local media reported police arrested Liu in November last year, and that she confessed to writing the book.

A court in China’s Anhui province sentenced her to 10 years and six months in jail for the crime of making and selling obscene articles for profit.