[REVIEW] The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine – Krissy Kneen

Krissy Kneen
The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine
Text Publishing (AU: 22nd April 2015)
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TRIGGER WARNINGS: Non-consent, bestiality.

The problem with reading a very specific niche of a book is that you may have no baseline story with which to compare it. The publisher’s cover copy calls Krissy Kneen’s The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine a “literary sci-fi superhero sex romp”, which is only kind of accurate.

The “sex romp” description is spot-on. Holly White starts off as a virgin Brisbane uni student with an abstinence ring. When she sexually awakens, she’s encouraged to go to Paris with a suitcase full of erotic classics written in or about the French capital.

I’m not good at defining styles of writing, but we could ascribe “literary” to the many references to books and writers that frequent the pages of Holly White, such as the chapter headings.

Those looking for “sci-fi” will be mostly disappointed. It was a big calling card for me, and I looked forward to learning about orgone energy. (William Reich is real, though orgone energy is pseudoscience.) While it is included, it’s very minimal – really more of a plot device rather than a concept fully explored.

Accumulating orgone energy is one thing, but what you do with it is…well, not really considered in the book. Judging by William Reich’s experiment, it can make mung beans grow, so could it be used to generate plant life and crops? Orgone energy can be collected into a battery, so could it be used as an alternative to electricity?

The novel never goes there, into how orgone energy could change the world for the better. (It does quite the opposite.) Some may claim life is not about the destination; it’s about the climb. And therein lies the problem: when there’s so much sex in a book that you find an orgy scene somewhat boring, that doesn’t bode well.

As for the “superhero” part of the description, absolutely not. Holly’s orgone accumulation may be a “superpower”, but it doesn’t save anyone’s life (quite the opposite), or prevent destruction. There’s nothing “superhero” about it.

I won’t give up on Krissy Kneen, though. I’ve loved her books before (I highly recommend Steeplechase), and I’m sure I’ll love her future books, too. (I’ve heard word about a book of interconnected sci-fi short stories.) And while Holly White has an irresistible WTF concept, its execution leaves a lot to be desired.

December 2015 Releases

Done with November 2015 Releases? Here are December 2015 Releases. For future releases, check Reading Wishlist.

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The White Het YA Cis-Patriarchy

S. B*rgstr*m isn’t the first. He likely won’t be the last.

J*hn Gr**n, J*hn Gr*sh*m, *ndr*w Sm*th, M*ch**l Gr*nt, T*mmy W*ll*ch. You’ve heard of them. But maybe you haven’t heard of the harm they’ve caused, because white het cis-patriarchal society chooses to lessen/ignore any misdeeds on their behalf. Only they’re not seen as misdeeds, as shown by the people who will defend any white het cis-man YA author of any wrongdoing. Because they deem them correct, and the rest of us are all (get your bingo cards out, everyone):

-Piling on
-Manufacturing outrage

Because we’re told not to address problems that occur in the book community, in white het cis-patriarchal society. Our talking is supposedly “screaming”.

They want us to be silent. Oh, we’re allowed to speak, but only if we agree with what they tell us.

White het cis-men are allowed not to agree with each other. B*rry Lyg* said we should be “productive” instead of complaining. He invited people to comment on his blog with YA recs… If only he’d checked Twitter beforehand, he would’ve seen #MorallyComplicatedYA officially first Tweeted by Kayla Whaley, created for the same purpose of sharing YA recs.

Because co-opting women’s ideas is… Well, remember when J*hn Gr**n took credit for a phrase/sentence that a young girl created? He even merchandised it and all. Any time the girl pointed out that Gr**n was profiting from HER words, without giving HER credit, she was harrassed relentlessly. (Gr**n later apologised, but far too late. The damage was done, by him and his toxic followers.)

So yeah, co-opting women’s ideas is nothing new.

Think-pieces came out; wonderful posts from Victoria Aveyard, Jenny Trout, Kelly Jensen, and many more. And even before the hashtag officially launched, Justina Ireland was already speaking out.

Instead, guess who’s saying what women are saying but he’s getting praised for it? A white het cis-man, of course. Ch*ck W*nd*g, who can’t seem to help but turn every discussion in the book industry into a blog post to generate him page views, comments, praise, and thus lots of positive publicity. And the claims from his fans that “Ch*ck’s not like other white het cis-man YA authors.” (#NotAllMen, apparently. *eyeroll*)

Even when we’re discussing sexism, we still declare a white het cis-man as so wise, spot-on, the voice of reason. As if he’s not just saying what everyone else has been saying.

Because CH*CK HAS SPOKEN. Not CH*CK HAS LISTENED. (Credit to Suleikha Snyder for that.)

We can all contribute to a better future. Even at the grassroots-level, we can choose whose voices to amplify. And if we want to hear voices that aren’t from privileged white het cis-men, we need to promote marginalised people’s voices more, even if their content is similar to W*nd*g’s. He’s been rewarded. He doesn’t need to speak for all of us. He is not our saviour.

Because WE matter. Because WE can speak for ourselves. Because not everything is about white het cis-men, nor should it be. Let’s open the doors to more voices, instead of heralding the same guy over again.

The WhiteHetYACisPatriarchy will be fine without us propping them up. Not so everyone else.

24th November 2015 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Megan Hart
Hold Me Close
Harlequin MIRA (US & UK: 24th November 2015)
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Effie and Heath are famous. Not for anything they did, but for what happened to them as teenagers. Abducted and abused by the same man, they turned to each other for comfort until they were finally able to make their escape. Now adults, their relationship is fraught with guilt and despair. Whether fighting or making love, their passion is strong enough to destroy them both – and Effie’s not about to let that happen. She knows it’s time for her to have a “normal” relationship, and Heath is nothing but a constant reminder of the dark past they share. Heath, on the other hand, knows Effie is the only woman he can ever love. She may want to forget what happened, but he’s convinced that they must face their past together in order to move forward. So while Effie continues to bring new men into her life, Heath becomes obsessed with proving he’s the one she needs. Then a new crisis arises and Effie begins to lose every scrap of self-control she ever had. As she struggles against her desire to return to the one man who understands her, she discovers that sometimes the only safety you find is with the person who is the most dangerous for you.

Holly Black
Black Heart (The Curse Workers, Book 3)
Simon & Schuster Saga (US & CA: 24th November 2015)
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Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the government is the right choice, even though he’s been raised to believe they are the enemy of all curse workers. But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and all new secrets coming to light, what’s right and what’s wrong become increasingly hard to tell apart. When the Feds ask him to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he starts to wonder if they really are the good guys, or if it’s all a con. And if it is, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet – on love.

Mira Grant
Chimera (Parasitology, Book 3)
Hachette Orbit (US & AU: 24th November 2015)
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The outbreak has spread, tearing apart the foundations of society, as implanted tapeworms have turned their human hosts into a seemingly mindless mob. Sal and her family are trapped between bad and worse, and must find a way to compromise between the two sides of their nature before the battle becomes large enough to destroy humanity, and everything that humanity has built…including the chimera. The broken doors are closing. Can Sal make it home?

J. Kenner
Unwrap Me (Stark Ever After, Novella)
Random House Bantam (US & CA: 24th November 2015); Hachette Headline Eternal (UK & AU: 24th November 2015)
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Damien Stark is my greatest Christmas wish come true. Immensely powerful and devastatingly sexy, he can undo me with the slightest touch, and with just one glance, he can see straight into my soul. We both have dark secrets, twisted pieces of our pasts that only the other one understands. Though our fierce love and passion keeps me alive, sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if Damien and I hadn’t met in exactly the way we did. How would my life have been different? Would another man have laid claim to my body and my heart? Or were Damien and I destined to be together no matter the cost?

[REVIEW] The Anatomy of Curiosity – Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, & Brenna Yovanoff

Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, & Brenna Yovanoff
The Anatomy of Curiosity (Anthology)
Lerner Carolrhoda Lab (US: 1st October 2015)
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I’ve read and enjoyed some Maggie Stiefvater books, I own but haven’t yet read some Brenna Yovanoff novels, and while I’m not interested in any of Tessa Gratton’s works she seems like an awesome person on social media. The Anatomy of Curiosity is a great opportunity to get into the authors’ heads a bit to see how stories develop out of vague ideas.

Three different authors; three different approaches. Maggie starts with characters, Tessa begins with a world, and Brenna has a topic. They ask themselves questions, rule out possibilities in order to get to the heart of what they want to focus on, and sometimes they meander around in several different ways until finally figuring out what and how they want to say.

Maggie Stiefvater’s “Ladylike” sparked from an idea about an older woman and a teen. The story doesn’t particularly intrigue until the appearance of a guy in the woman’s apartment, and waiting for that to happen includes plodding through some pretentiousness. To the poetry’s credit, when checking on Wikipedia to determine if a poet mentioned in the story was real (he was), the word “algolagnia” added to my vocabulary, so that’s a positive.

When the lady talks about context, and how pieces of the creator end up in their creations, it makes you wonder. A common discussion among readers is how to deal with problematic authors – and by that, do we stop reading their books entirely? Or continue to read them, whilst knowing that some of the authors’ worse personality aspects may end up in their characters? Will disliking parts of the author affect enjoyment of their works?

Tessa Gratton’s idea of magical bombs is intriguing, but the way she tells it doesn’t really appeal to me. I have no interest in made-up lands; I prefer to read about real places. I’m definitely an urban fantasy fan, not one of traditional/epic/high.

But while the author’s inspiration focuses on world-building, based on “Desert Canticle” her strong point is characterisation. The big reveal doesn’t come until the story’s midpoint, but from then on the tale really makes a stand. If Tessa Gratton ever writes a contemporary, it would be awesome.

I’m not sure how to follow Brenna Yovanoff’s “Drowning Variations”, so I’ve decided that it shows several drafts of wandering and explaining, the author talking to the reader about how she found the right story in which to incorporate a teen drowning. And so I believe “The Drowning Place” is the REAL story, and everything else is just leading up to and discussing it. “The Drowning Place” is four-star quality. As for the other “variations”, they take the place of margin notes (which the other authors’ contributions had, but this one doesn’t).

The Anatomy of Curiosity shows how authors’ minds work in different ways, and may give readers new methods of idea development to try. It may not really connect as a fiction anthology, but as a reference text it’s well worth rereading.

4 New Covers (Abbott, McGuire, Panitch, Spotswood)

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4 New Covers (Barnes, Day, Kenner, Yovanoff)

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