Etty Hillesum: A Celebrant of Life, by Paul Willis

Source: Etty Hillesum: A Celebrant of Life, by Paul Willis

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The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person

As a person who strongly identifies as an HSP, I found a great deal in this article that resonated. 

Source: The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person 

The highly sensitive person is different.

Being different means that they often live in the shadows.

I thought about this today when I was reading an article about feminism in Great Britain, written by Anna Ford, a respected British journalist.

What struck me about the article was her wonderful description about the marginalisation of women, an endlessly repeating story that she has experienced her whole life.

The wonderful qualities that women bring to the table are mostly devalued.

Isn’t that also true of highly sensitive people?

The Marginalization Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Marginalization is an interesting and recurring experience for many people.

It manifests in the process of othering.

Othering is nasty.

It is a way of relating to someone as if they really do not have the same right to be here on the planet, that in being different there is something wrong with them.

Are there any HSPs who haven’t had that experience?

As a highly sensitive person, I have been othered my whole life.

Othering can be subtle or overt.

It is often patronizing or condescending.

When being othered you are often invisible.

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Review: Glass, by Alexis Hall

This story is . . . perfect, a small masterpiece, really. Haunting & heartbreaking & beautiful.  I was just, so incredibly deeply moved by it.

It’s like a line in the story itself: “The silence ached.”

This story ached.

As ever, this author kills me, the way his writing is so emotionally evocative without being emotionally descriptive, the perfect example of “show, don’t tell”. I always think it’s like the words somehow literally encapsulate feelings, so when you read them they’re transferred to you.

But in this, there’s also this striking theme of opposites running through it. Like the way the narrator’s spare, clinical voice sets off the rare instances of lyrical description like stunning gems in a stark setting. And then there’s a scene of cruelty juxtaposed against the beautiful prose & imagery of a rising and setting sun and moon, making it all the more heartbreaking and all the more beautiful all at once. And in the end, of course, there’s the dichotomy of brokenness vs perfection.

And then there’s the way, for all that the main character is a being of Artificial Intelligence, or more likely because of that, that this story is so deeply evocative of loneliness and human suffering. So particularly redolent of feelings of SPOILER REMOVED, SCROLL DOWN TO VIEW SPOILER Which, if any of these things resonate, it kind of breaks you to read this, but the ending kind of glues you back together again, (or, at least it did me) so it’s okay ❤

I would recommend this to everyone, but this story is currently only available to subscribers to the author’s newsletter. So I guess if you want to read it, go forth and subscribe 🙂
 

 

 

SPOILER:

So particularly redolent of being unwanted, unloved & unlovable, defective, not good enough, worthless, alien, dehumanized, used. Of trying too hard to be what someone else needs. Of breaking yourself to be loved.

Book review: Forbidden, by Beverly Jenkins

Oh wow, I have all the feels, and I do mean all the feels, for this book!

This is my first book by this author, first of trilogy, and now I really can’t wait to read the other two in the series! And beyond, as I know she has an entire treasure trove of stories out there to dive into 🙂

Before I go on, I’m going to talk about elements of plot in this review. Mostly I don’t think they’re very spoilery, they’re things mostly revealed or hinted at in the blurb, the Prologue, or both. But I’m not going to hide anything under spoiler tags, so if you’re acutely spoiler averse, this is your cue that this review may not be for you. 🙂

This is the story of Eddy Carmichael, a young black woman circa 1870, on her way from Denver to San Francisco where she hopes to open a restaurant. But a series of misfortunes results in a detour to Virginia City, Nevada, and to a fateful encounter with Rhine Fontaine, who is not only handsome, charming, honorable, and kind. He is possibly the richest man in town, and he’s also a white man – or, so it appears. Which makes the attraction instantly sparking between the two of them a problem for both, due to the times. Marriage between whites and persons of color was forbidden then in most states, and Eddy Carmichael is a woman with far too much self-respect to become a wealthy white man’s mistress. What she doesn’t know and the reader does, is that Rhine Fontaine, to whom we’ve already been introduced in the Prologue set 5 years before these events, is in reality a black man and a former slave, born on a Georgia plantation. With the end of slavery following the Civil War, because he is very light skinned, Rhine has been able to pass as white, and has chosen to do so. And in doing so he’s risen to a position of power & respect in the white community, a position he consistently uses to support his own people at every opportunity. But his choice has also come with a price, and this story is as much the story of Rhine coming to terms with that & rethinking his choices, and the story of Eddy coming into her own as an individual and a member of a community, as it is the story of Eddy & Rhine’s relationship.

It’s very much a slow burn, both in terms of the story & the romance, so it took a while for me to realize how truly awesome this book is. I didn’t mind, I just took it as a sort of leisurely read, figured I’d probably be giving it a four star rating. But somewhere just past the mid-point things really caught fire in this story and I ended up finding it just incredibly romantic, meltingly sexy, and more than anything, powerfully moving. And no question, it’s a solid 5-star read for me.

The reason it’s such a slow-burn is that quite a bit of time is spent in setting up the story, introducing us to a fairly large cast of characters – to an entire community, really – and in introducing them to each other, allowing relationships to form and build. Quite a lot is also spent in allowing the main character, Eddy, find her place in her new community, and to blossom in a way a life of hardship has never allowed her to do before. Laying this groundwork is necessary and there’s a big payoff later in the story, a greater emotional impact to the things that happen, for having this deeper sense of knowledge of the characters and their lives. But it does mean that much of the earlier story proceeds at a sort of pedestrian pace.

Once this story really hits its stride, however, that all changes; and the story fairly explodes with drama and feeling. The building love story between Eddy and Rhine deepens, their relationship becomes touchingly caring, and then passionately romantic & sexy, whoa, in a deliciously seductive way I have to confess I’m particularly fond of. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned style of sexy, I suppose, sensuous in detail without being explicit, but I found it no less affecting for that. But the power of this story goes far beyond sex & romance. To be able to have Eddy in his life in the way he wants her, in the way that respects her as she deserves, Rhine must make a courageous, life-changing decision. This becomes a catalyst for ensuing events. Reactions to this by the other characters of both races show their true colors in ways that have nothing to do with race and everything to do with human decency, courage, compassion, or the lack thereof. And with true self-respect, vs false-pride.

This book was exciting, swoony with sexy romance feels, made me laugh out loud, gave me such fond warm fuzzies for the characters I wanted to reach into the book & hug them at times, moved me to anger, then to cheer each time the good guys gave the bad guys their well-deserved comeuppances, and moved me to tears many, many times, tears of joy, of compassion, of pride in the courage of these characters, and just for those little moments of human resonance, where something happens and you’re like, yes, I know exactly how that feels.

This is a great story, and if you like slow-burn romance and don’t mind a slow buildup, I would unreservedly recommend this to everyone.

As a bonus, there are some really cool notes on the research for this story at the end, with some fascinating stuff about the true bits of history that inspired parts of this story. Also, I see that Rhine Fontaine appeared as a character in a much earlier novel, Through the Storm, so now I need to go back & read that one too!

Meanwhile, on to the next book in the trilogy, Breathless!

Conversion Therapy, Revenge Porn, and Criticism

Here’s an important perspective, I think, for anyone who reads or writes LGBTQIA+ romance.

'Nathan Burgoine

I always feel like I need to start blogs like this with a caveat: I’m not telling someone they can’t write something. I will never tell someone they can’t write something. Much like my latest “Why You?” post over at SpAN, or previous discussions over Pseudonym vs Identity or Gay-For-You, I want to be super clear on this point, again, just in case: I’m not suggesting a limitation who can write what. At all.

What I am suggesting is there are topics that need a tonne of forethought, and that some topics are definitely going to get critical feedback. This? This is critical feedback.

So. A book crossed over to my radar yesterday which had multiple plot threads that gave me pause. I only ended up talking about one of them because I had spoons enough for one go, but I’ll touch on more today likely.

Now, this book…

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Book review: The Whites of Their Eyes: A Collection of Queer Horror by Xen Sanders

Blurb

There are no happy endings here.

In the town of Inverse, Silvino and Scott Orellano discover the darkness in their deepest hearts. At the cusp of a new life, Kane Orwell learns terrible truths whispered by a black and eldritch mouth. Torn between one identity and another, Shania Logan struggles to hold on to the fragments of her self. 

And standing on the threshold of the afterlife, a grieving wife balances between life and death on the flicker of a candle’s flame. 

Inverse. 

Insurrection. 

Mouth. 

Flicker. 

Four tales of horror, written from a queer perspective. In this collection of short stories and novellas, our heroes and heroines will explore the depths of terror both macabre and mundane–and live their darkest fears, reflected in the whites of their eyes.

Review:

This was some strong stuff, most of it quite intense, packing a powerfully visceral and psychological punch. Seriously, it was the stuff of nightmares. 

But it was also just incredibly good, very moving and so well written. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess one was Mouth, because I loved the relationship between Kane and Michio, even though that made the horror aspects of the story even harder to take. 

Mouth also contains these words, which so struck me with their feeling of familiarity; it’s one of the best descriptions of toxic shame and it’s causes, that I’ve ever read in a work of fiction. 

“He’d spent so long being told he had no right to exist, that he should apologize for being in this space or that, for taking up room, for breathing air.

It was like some deep harsh part of him demanded he apologize for his success, too, as if the entirety of the world was leaning in and saying how dare you.


How dare you, someone like you, want anything for yourself.

The other one I was especially drawn to was Flicker, because it was so full of love. Even though I cried all the way through, because the story of that love was told in context with it’s imminent, heartbreaking loss, it was still very beautiful.

Book review: Business Makes Strange Bedfellows by E.E. Ottoman

Blurb: 

Dr. Gert Bower’s day goes bad fast when she accidentally releases an abominable monster of the abyss on the streets of New York City. Desperate to stop it, she turns to the only person who can help her track the monster down. Vi De Luca is a private detective and creature of the night, a vampire more than willing to help Gert—for a price. 

In exchange for catching the monster, Gert must spend one night with Vi, and let Vi have her way with Gert’s blood and body. Though she does not remotely trust Vi, for the good of the city Gert agrees. Yet tracking the monster turns out to be more than either of them had bargained for. When Gert embarks on an experiment to try and reanimate a human corpse things just keep getting worse.

Review:

I’ve had this story for a while but when the author sent out a free copy as a Hallowe’en treat for people who get their newsletter, it reminded me I’d never gotten around to reading it. 

I really liked this a lot! And wow, it totally wasn’t what I would have expected, based on the word “business” in the title; I actually think that’s what put me off reading it so long. But I had apparently forgotten what the blurb said: This is no ordinary blah-type business we’re talking here! 🙂

This was partly an f/f rendering of Frankenstein, only it’s kind of . . . Dr. Frankenstein meets cool vampire detective for scary adventures and hot sexytimes, and both are surprised when things take a turn into deeper feels.

The story was, by turns, grisly, erotic, disturbing, surprisingly thought provoking, and genuinely lovely. And the ending managed to take an act of blinkered ambition with predictably horrifying results, and turn it into a creepy-sweet HEA that tugged hard on my heartstrings. In the end, all I could feel was awwww! 

I also can’t stop picturing these characters as Edward Gorey illustrations. Particularly poor, dear little Matilda! 🖤🖤🖤

“Me Too”: LGBTQ+ people and sexual assault

An important intersectional contribution to the conversation, originally blogged by Sam Hope at thequeerness.com

When all LGBTQ+ people including men are at elevated risks of sexual violence, how can we speak about this without erasing men’s violence against women? Sam Hope shares some intersectional insight on the issue


Facebook and Twitter are alive with a #MeToo hashtag, an attempt for people to show just how prevalent gendered sexual violence and harassment is, in the wake of stories about Harvey Weinstein and Ben Affleck.

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

My trans and trans-friendly connections started to throw up alternatives to this original copy&paste meme: “women and non binary people” was one alternative, “women and femmes” another, as people struggled to include the complexity of how gendered violence impacts our diverse world. What was less surprising, perhaps, was how many of…

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Book Review: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, by Zen Cho

This is adorable! Such a charming story & I love this clever, witty heroine with her sharp humor & insightful observations. And she’s a book reviewer, which I kinda got a kick out of 🙂

The story is told through the medium of a series of journal entries & one letter to a friend, which had a confidential tone I liked. I also liked that characterizations are very nuanced portrayals. There are no real villains, just people with flaws & weaknesses  & vulnerability, even the worst of them likable at times.

Something else I appreciated was the story’s nuanced portrayal of the racism which is simply organic in the heroine’s life. I thought it was an excellent representation of the  unconscious & very normalized face of racism. We see it internalized; we see people making racist assumptions who are otherwise fairly decent people. Even the heroine, a marginalized person herself, says something thoughtlessly offensive about the religion of a very good friend.

I’m probably making this sound like more of a thing than it was by focusing on it so much. This is not at all heavy handed or the focus of the book.  It’s subtle, yet ubiquitous, like background level radiation, but that’s what struck me about it. Jade or Geok Huay (her real name) notices it, remarks on it with wry humor, but its also just part of the fabric of her life, & the way the story almost silently shows us that pervasiveness sort of makes a point without  making a point of doing so, if that makes sense.

Beyond all of that, this was a lovely story of a young woman determined to “be true to oneself, and taste as much as one can of the varied buffet of life”.  How she indulges in a scandalous affair, gets a bit more than she bargained for, finds friends in surprising places along the way, and surprises herself most of all by falling in love. And that love story itself I found very endearing, funny & sweet.

All in all there’s a lot packed into this rather small package. I’ve read one other thing by this author & really enjoyed her work, so I definitely plan to read more.

Book Review: Enemies like You, by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers

Omg, this was amaaazing! This is one of those books that should absolutely be a movie, just sayin’!  What a grippingly suspenseful little spy thriller, and oh my word, we are talking hot!  Like seriously hot, with a generous serving of kinky.  And if that’s not enough there’s genuine tenderness, humor, a great mystery that builds tantalizingly towards a highly satisfying conclusion, and a heartbreaking revelation for one character near the end of the book that briefly gave me such feelz I nearly broke down over it in public.  Don’t worry, though, there’s definitely a happy ending 🙂

There are also two incredibly fantastic lead characters, both of them strong but also very vulnerable, both heroic, yet only too human.  They each come with complicated emotions and a moving backstory.  And they’re both extremely appealing, but in entirely different ways.  For that last reason, this isn’t just an enemies-to-lovers romance, it’s also an opposites attract sort of thing, because really, each man could hardly be any less like the other . . . or so it seems.  Because the more you read, the more common threads are revealed.  And not to be too trite & all “in the end we’re all the same” about it, but it’s the combination of all this that makes them such a great couple, makes them, in fact, actually so perfect for each other that it felt to me quite “meant to be”.  And that’s something I have a real soft spot for in romance, because it’s one of those supposedly “fantasy” elements that I actually find to be very  true to life – or at least it has been in my experience.

I loved both characters, but I do have to admit to being really partial to Kit ❤ ❤ ❤ I mean, for one thing, if there’s ever a contest Kit would win, hands down, if for no other reason than having the most killer line in the book.  And possibly in the history of killer lines.  So, of course I have to quote it here.  I gotta warn you though, it’s kinda spoilery for something we learn around 10% into the book – though if you’re anything like me I suspect you’ll have guessed it much earlier on (not because it’s too-easy but just, y’know, it only makes sense, assuming you’ve read the book description) – but anyway here it is, for the non-spoiler averse among us, or those who have already read the book:

SPOILER ALERT

“They don’t like it that I’m twice the man they’ll every be and prettier than any woman they could ever get.

What can I say? I’ve always been an overachiever.”

END SPOILER

I mean, just . . .*ded*! Am I right? Is that, or is that not the best line ever?! Okay, technically 2 lines, 2 sentences anyway, but whatever.  James Bond couldn’t even touch it. I pretty much gave it my own personal standing ovation in my living room 😀

Aanyway obviously I really loved this 😉   I’ll add that I’ve read Joanna Chambers before & always love her work, but this was my first time reading Annika Martin . . . or so I thought!  Until I found out she apparently also writes romantic suspense as Carolyn Crane.  I’ve only read one Crane book, the first of her The Associates series, and it was sexy & good & well written, but somehow I wasn’t in love with it.  And was disappointed by that as I’d heard such great things about it from people whose tastes tend to align with mine & whose literary opinions I really respect.  So I’d chalked it up to a case of maybe-this-author/series/genre(?)-just-isn’t-for-me.  But I’m so blown away by this book it’s convinced me to give that series & author “brand” another try.  Particularly as I’ve been hearing that the 2nd book in that series is particularly awesome.

Either way, I’ll definitely be up for the next thing by this author duo, and will be checking out more Annika Martin books as well!

Highly recommended for anybody who likes enemies-to-lovers and/or sexy, kinky espionage-flavored romantic suspense.