Fem-Friendy Book Rec: 'The Beekeeper's Apprentice'

Posted at 12:35 PM Dec 23, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

I'm pumped about seeing RDJ in Sherlock Holmes this weekend (anyone wanna send over some steampunk jewelry so I can get in the spirit of things?), but I'm frustrated nonetheless: whither the big-screen female detective leads? Surely intrigue and monocles and murder are not the exclusive domain of dudes with dapper facial hair?

In the movies, you win this time, boys--but oh, my dear, finding excellent female detective leads in fiction is far more elementary. Over this Christmas break, I'm immersing myself in the world of Mary Russell, the whip-smart feminist-minded accomplice (and more!) of one Sherlock Homes in a series of books by Laurie R. King.

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What We're Reading: Southern Vampire Mysteries

Posted at 9:32 AM Dec 29, 2008

By Andrea Grimes

clubdead.jpgSaturday night, I happily munched on a lovely homemade pizza while piled up with a couple of cats in my lap, ready for my occasional crazy catladyhood to descend upon me in the form of a weekend night reading a vampire mystery novel. Yes, I could have been at a show, cocktailing or getting some, but this is how I know I am destined for lifetime feline companionship: I preferred the book.

Or, I preferred the book until I realized it was horribly offensive. Club Dead, the third book in the "Southern Vampire Mysteries" by Charlaine Harris came highly recommended, not only as fluff reading but as the inspiration for the supposedly excellent HBO hit show True Blood. My local bookstore didn't have the first or second books in the series, so I started as early as I could with the third. Now, after reading my own bound paperback copy of pure crap, I'm seriously reconsidering the sanity of the friend who recommended the Southern Vampire series.

I felt bad reading the weak-girl warbling of Bella in Twilight, and gagged at her worshipful love of Edward Cullen. But still, I enjoyed the stories, which were engaging and sexy, even if it seemed pretty clear that Stephenie Meyer has, consciously or not, ripped off a lot of the Southern Vampire conventions and, amazingly, made them enjoyable. Sadly, Sookie Stackhouse, the Southern Vampire heroine, lives not in a world of sexy vampire sexiness, but among a bunch of redneck bloodsuckers and shape-shifters entangled in a transparent plot line that seriously calls the books' "mystery" label into question. To top it off, the characters are subject to some of the worst writing I have ever, ever read. I know elementary schoolers who could give Charlaine Harris some tips.

But if a bad plot and crappy writing were all that was wrong with this Sookie Stackhouse book, I might be able to let it pass. The thing runs so thick with gender-stereotypical, anti-feminist blood, it's nigh undrinkable. Sookie constantly moons at "real" men who do "real" men things, like build stuff. Real men love building stuff! But the best part is when she gets raped by her boyfriend and then feels bad about how she might have hurt him.

That's right! Bill, one of Sookie's "real" men, rapes her in the trunk of a car. Afterward, Sookie wonders if having feelings for another man might have been wrong. I put the book down after that. Feel free to spoil the ending for me.

Can anyone out there recommend a good vampire novel that isn't patently offensive to women?

What We're Reading: 'The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty' by Anne Rice

Posted at 6:00 PM Dec 18, 2008

By Bonnie Ruberg

51rsFLLZZhL._SL500_AA240_.jpgWe dolls don't read romance novels. At least, not ones that we normally admit to or talk about. No, we read philosophy and go to grad school and have only super intellectual things to say. Right? Well, not always. This doll for one has been greatly enjoying A. N. Roquelaure's (i.e. Anne Rice's) trilogy The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. No, it's not vampire Anne Rice, as Twilight appropriate as that would be. And thank goodness no, it's not born-again Christian Anne Rice -- what is up with that? -- but erotica Anne Rice. Written back in the 80's under a fake, French, sexy-sounding name, these three books take a classic fairytale and turn into a decadent, sadomasochistic bedtime story I probably would have been the only child who would've enjoyed. The book's cover says it "beckons the reader into a sensuous world of forbidden dreams and dark-edge desires." Yuh-huh.

While I'm normally pretty stuck up about the fiction I read -- Is it well-written? Is it original and not cliché? -- this stuff is just too fun to look down on. No, it's not great literature, but it's still a lot better than your typical romance novel, with a lot less teasing and a lot more outright maiden-taking. Check out this passage from the first pages of the book, when our prince first wakes up Beauty:

As he broke through her innocence, he opened her mouth with his tongue and pinched her breast sharply. He sucked on her lips, drew the life out of her into himself, and feeling his seed explode within her, heard her cry out. And then her blue eyes opened.

Yeah, you know it's good. So go on and read for yourself. Or better yet, tell us what you're reading.

What We're Reading: 'Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi

Posted at 10:13 PM Dec 03, 2008

By Bonnie Ruberg

51QgrznejqL._SL500_AA240_.jpgLife has been too crazy lately for this doll to do any serious reading -- Wuthering Heights has sat on my iPod for the last two weeks, un-listened to; does that count? --but luckily I did get to sneak in a few hours on transcontinental Thanksgiving flights to down a new book: Persepolis. Okay, it's a graphic novel, which means it has pretty pictures, but it's also about war and strife in Iran, so I earn at least a few thinking points, don't I? Anyways, maybe you've heard of the book, which got turned into a big animated movie last year. I meant to read the original when I lived in France and be all language-y, but instead I ended up with a copy from the San Fran public library in plain old English.

All of which aside, I really do recommend this one. It's not about sex, it's only a little bit about gender, and it's definitely not about technology or video games -- but still, it fascinated me.  Me. It's not a tough read, and it's an easy, fun way to learn about the history of a country we Americans too often lump into "that whole Middle East-y area." Or maybe that's just me.  Anyways... Mixed with the educational bits you've got stories of awkward, adolescent love, youthful rebellion, and a grandma who puts flowers in her bra.Yeah, you know you're curious about that last part...

What We're Reading: 'Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex'

Posted at 1:24 PM Nov 20, 2008

By Bonnie Ruberg

It may surprise you to know that we heartless dolls have the power to read. Okay, that probably doesn't surprise you -- and neither will the fact that we love books. Some of us are in grad school reading at ruler-point, others of us are would-be academics squirreling away novels from the library, and some of us just really like a good story. That's why we're bringing you this new regular feature called "What We're Reading."

Today on the agenda: Mary Roach's Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Roach is also the author of a book on the entertaining science of corpses, called Stiff. She turns otherwise only mildly entertaining topics into excessively entertaining ones, by researching their history and poking fun at things like -- in this case -- penis implants, in-lab orgasms, and the poor souls whose job it is to impregnate sheep. Oh, and Roach has a chapter on Fucking Machines, a subject near and dear to this sex writer's heart.

Bonk is in-depth enough to interest a sex expert, approachable enough to interest a non sex expert, and funny enough to hold anybody's attention. Go on, read it!

What's so funny about the Kama Sutra?

Posted at 12:03 PM Nov 20, 2008

By Bonnie Ruberg

This makes me giggle and I can't figure out why. Today on my doorstep arrived Kama Sutra in a Box, a pink and black novelty set of sex position cards and a how-to book from DaCapo Press. Instead of being thrilled to see a naughty review copy first thing in the morning (which trust me, normally I would be) I just shook my head and laughed. Another Kama Sutra book? How silly.

I opened the box set wondering: well, why is it silly? Because this is sex advice for the mainstream public (which is normally so unsexy)? Because it's trying to be transgressive but actually it's all vanilla, hetero, romantic nonsense? Maybe because the softcore porn photos that illustrate the book and cards are clearly an excuse to show off hot, naked people in the name of sex education? No, I realized once I'd given things a harder look. Kama Sutra in a Box is silly just because. Take these suggested positions for example:

- "Sesamum Seed with Rice," in which a man lies on his side behind a woman (and no actual food is involved!). "This gentle and universally favored position... is a perfectly natural one in which to then fall asleep." No clean up? Sorry, Kama Sutra, but post-sex pass-outs are a thing of the movies.

- "The Pair of Thongs," in which a woman sits on a man's lap, facing away. The card says this one puts the woman in full control, since she can "bounce up and down at her own pace and rhythm." Bounce? Really? For a book that's all about cheesy, sensual pleasure, that seems a bit porn star.

We won't even get into "The Hanging Bow," which requires a woman to bend over backwards and support her body weight with her arms while her partner penetrates her upside down. Then there's the chart on genital size, which informs readers that all people fit into one of three categories: "hare," "bull," and "horse" for men, "deer," "mare," and "elephant," for the ladies. Thanks, Kama Sutra in a Box, now not only am I giggling, I'm also vaguely traumatized by the idea of an elephant vagina.

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