Book Review – Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
Genre: Biography
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Publisher: First Second

There is no more straightforward way to put it – this graphic novel is phenomenal. If you need a boost of vitality and determination in such trying times as these, look no further than Brazen. This book makes you reflect on yourself and say, I could do this too. The obstacles suddenly don’t seem so insurmountable anymore, at least for awhile.

Though if I did learn one important fact in this collection, it’s that most artistic and scientific fields historically have been overseen by, well… bigots and incompetents, and even with the efforts of these wonderful women and others, are still very much in dire need of an overhaul in their bureaucracy and ways they practice. Most, if not all of these women, even those alive in more recent years, have had to struggle for recognition because of these institutions and their staunch attitudes that they can do no wrong. If we hope to make any positive change to this little gloom-ball we live on, sometimes the system has to be challenged.

Bagieu tells the shortened but fascinating legacy of thirty important women, both influential and underappreciated, in all their determination, wit and triumph, giving each of their stories their own unique colour scheme. Not only is Brazen a visually beautiful and charming book, but it never feels anything less than passionate and heartfelt on the artist’s part, and is one of the most inspiring collections I’ve read.

What surprised me is that I actually knew most of these women. I’m very familiar with Tove Jansson, Nellie Bly, Josephine Baker, but I didn’t know the sheer extent of their accomplishments. That’s something a simple search won’t really elaborate on. Some of these women were practically the nucleus of their field, it being nonexistent or a hopeless train wreck before they came along. Continue reading “Book Review – Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu”

✨Blood Ballet is Free on Kindle!✨

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Forever and ever and ever, so feel free to pick one up if it interests you! Blood Ballet is a compilation of horror poems with themes of feminism and body horror. It’s also available in ePub and PDF through Smashwords, Kobo, and the other major retailers. In a bit of other news, I’ve had to delay the next few entries in the series, Book 4 to June 16 and Books 5 and 6 to next year, to focus on more important work, so this should make up for it! Enjoy! If you read it, you’re welcome to let me know what you thought. 🙂

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Book Review – Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Adventure / Post-Apocalyptic
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill

“Four years ago this had been a fantasy. Trapped on a beach with nothing but a gut wound, her best friend, and this very ship in pieces. Caledonia could only dream of the day she had the means to stand up and fight. It had come sooner than she could have hoped, the morning Pisces looked at her square in the eyes and said she wanted revenge. It came as they bent their minds to the task of recovering their ship. It came one girl at a time.”

Oh, I am conflicted. Flighty as the tides that carry in the flotsam and treasure alike. Let me just say that I adore this novel. In most aspects, I do. But the traits I didn’t like are extremely troubling in a relentless way that niggles at the back of your head. This book is its own contained Stop & Go Station, a whiplash of dark and urgent and whimsical and tranquil that is still somehow extremely addictive either way it goes. But it also makes you nervous because it’s very obvious when someone’s bound to die.

I really appreciate the simpler prose. Parker doesn’t inject what is really a pretty straightforward story with lacy, flowery padding. My biggest issue was how the characterization was handled, but I’ll get to that. The plot of Seafire concerns a young woman, Caledonia, who along with her best friend, Pisces are the sole survivors of a massacre upon their ship, in some kind of apocalyptic era where the world is extremely hot and oceanic. The waters are controlled by a warlord named Aric Athair who forcibly recruits children and turns them into soulless murder machines.

The praise suggested it was inspired by the film Fury Road, which I was afraid, because it was the praise that compared the two, that Seafire would just be a straight rip-off. Thankfully, it’s not, though there are distinct shades of that movie in this. If you liked it, you’d probably like this too. I did, anyway. Continue reading “Book Review – Seafire by Natalie C. Parker”

✨Blood Ballet – A Free eBook✨

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Blood Ballet is a book of horror poetry laced, in both subtle and violent ways, with feminist themes. There’s no more of a dystopian time to publish something of this nature, hm? Though I expected it to give me a lot more hassle during publication. The paperback may or may not be available yet, depending on what time you look at this, and the “official” Kindle version isn’t free yet, but the ePub and alternate Kindle version is. I know, confusing. Here are the main sellers, but check your favourite eBook place to see if Blood Ballet has arrived there, because it might have.
Fair warning, this entry is arguably one of the darkest, and has some potentially troubling content.

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Poem – “Blood on Your Hands”

Blood on Your Hands

The false sympathy of a fool
Appealing to those you plan to kill
The blood of women on your hands,
Their children, their fathers
I would shatter my vow of violence
To mirror your actions unto you
Never so powerless as I’ve been
Surrounded by the false piety of fools

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Bleak Feminine – Rebooting Blood Ballet

Oh, Blood Ballet. You… I really don’t like you, Blood Ballet. But we’re going to remedy this. The anodyne for this chapbook being, well, kind of terrible, is completely redoing it in the way I should’ve done it initially.
The Blood Ballet that is available as part of Absolute Heaven is more what I wanted it to be, but still not exactly. I wanted it to portray a “feminine gruesomeness” with a horror-movie aesthetic. This go around with the full book, I want it to be somewhat more feminist. Not in an overbearing way, just through dealing with more women’s issues. That’s what it was supposed to be but ended up being like, gross-out junk and surrealist nonsense.

Without going into a tangent, and believe me it would be the god emperor of tangents, I think that just the female experience in general lends itself to a lot of horror – biological, psychological, you name it. Yet rather than mollify unpleasant experiences by discussing them openly, many would rather put up a very thin façade that all women are happy all the time, no matter the circumstance.
I actually received that message, more or less, with a rejection letter for a poem once that works revolving around the problems of women should only be more “empowering” or “inspirational”, that what I wanted to say was too dark for mainstream consumption. They could’ve just said “your writing straight-up sucks” and it would’ve been less offensive than that.

I don’t even care about the poem but I will never let that comment go, because that is not reality. You cannot keep only the good and snuff out the negative if you want someone’s real experiences in a book. Continue reading “Bleak Feminine – Rebooting Blood Ballet”

My Picks For Women in Horror Month

As you’ve probably figured if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, my favourite months for thematic reading are the ones that will actually allow the “creep” of the literary genres into the house. Thaaaaat’s riiiiight, it’s time to get horrific!

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February being a month to celebrate women working in horror is a relatively new thing. True, you could argue that horror is, even from a historical standpoint, one of the most inclusive genres of both genders. Many of its innovators are women – Mary Shelley, Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson – but people are under this impression that has been incredibly to hard to shake off that horror is a hostile genre towards women, or at least obscures its female creators.
Admittedly… this is still something of a problem with horror films and visual media, and every now and then a genuinely misogynistic horror novel pops up, much to the dismay of us who have been trying to destroy that stereotype, but I feel like writing horror is quite a welcoming and lucrative area for women authors.

Before I derail off-topic, however, I’d like to tell you what I have in store for Women in Horror Month. I have some horror creations of my own, which of course you’ll see on here and my other social media.
The 20th anniversary of my all-time horror favourite series, Silent Hill, is coming up at the very tail-end of January, for one thing – a series I will always recommend for its innovation and high quality in its writing of female characters for its medium.

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I’ve written a few brief pieces on that. A sad irony about this series is that the strength and often poetic beauty of the female characters in the original series and even the film adaptation to some degree… does not carry into the spin-off books. There’s something very wrong about that, but that argument is for another day. Continue reading “My Picks For Women in Horror Month”

Book Review – The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Horror / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2017
Publisher: The Asylum Emporium

“I shall devote what is left of my life to making my prison my palace. Just think of it, ladies: an asylum, by definition, ought to be a sanctuary for those who need one, and I fear I shall always need one.”

Not even the devil could envy the madwoman.
The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls juxtaposes Autumn’s personal experiences in a modern mental hospital with the dark magic realism of a fictional womens’ asylum in the mid-1800s, told by an alternate Emily “with a Y”. Emilie and Emily begin to communicate through journals and letters, and find that though the façade of their fate has changed, underneath it… nothing’s gotten better.
A point needed to be made about mental healthcare for women, though it’s one that jitters the nerves of the stomach to think about too much. I believe Autumn’s succeeded, and for that you should read it.

For awhile, I was obsessed with Emilie Autumn’s music. I mean totally engrossed in dark cabaret – finding her album “Opheliac” had a massive impact on what I desired to create in life. I still love her music and I recommend that album especially.
I had heard about The Asylum and craved it desperately. It needed to become a part of my permanent cerebral library by any means necessary, but at the time it was rarer than unicorn blood and about as expensive.

By the time I’d found one of these elusive collectibles and was able to borrow one, I’d rather worn myself out on Autumn’s discography, so I think that combined with the sheer unavailability of the thing had a bad impact and I didn’t like it much. The new version, which is thankfully quite easy to find, is a thousand times improved. In a way it comes across a twisted reversal of A Little Princess, with themes of isolation and friendship in hard times.

Continue reading “Book Review – The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn”

Poem – “Alteration”

Alteration

I see them inject death into their skin,
I see them bleed the shine from their hair
I see them suffocate the years in their heart

Beautiful and pure as the newborn sun,
Sensual and sacred as the matured moon
A purity that can’t be mimicked by metals,
Cruelly broken by the hand that bore it

Never fall prey to a jealous dogma, love
Or you’ll end up drowning in that gutter
Poisoning yourself for infatuation that’s
Nothing but a front for the alteration

©S. M. Shuford 2018
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