Review: Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

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Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Barudgo was a definite pocketful of feministic glory. I hadn’t actually ever seen the Wonder Woman movie or read any WW comics, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment AT ALL. Leigh Bardugo is masterful! It was a bit slower than I expected, on a whole, but still so fun and full of empowerment to minorities and EXPLOSIONS. Which obviously every good superhero action sequence needs.

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The story starts off on a mysterious secluded island of Amazons where Diana, daughter of the queen, is the only occupant who was born there and not earned her place through bravery and war. She’s desperate to prove herself as strong as everyone else — but during a race to do just that, she gets caught up rescuing a girl from a shipwreck. Helping a human on the island can equal banishment, but Diana takes the risk anyway to get Alia back home safely. But after consulting the Oracle, Diana learns that Alia is a warbringer and will insight wars and destruction forever unless she’s killed. Or cured. And Diana’s going to help find that cure.

I’m absolutely so impressed by how it features strong female friendships! This is so rare to read, especially in YA, and I can’t even remember the last time I read a good solid female friendship that didn’t dissolve into jealousy or cattiness over a boy. But Wonder Woman gives us not one but two solidly epic, uplifting and empowering female friendships. I adored Alia and Diana’s bond. They were sisters of war by the end, even if Alia was a small breakable human nerd and Diana is like AMAZON EPIC. And then Alia has her very close friend, Nim, who is feisty and funny and passionate. I’m so so impressed. Feminism for the win.

I also adored all the mythology of course! I didn’t realise how steeped in Greek mythology this would be, so that was a pleasant surprise. Think Percy Jackson = but with epic girls.

It’s also super diverse, with almost all the characters being people of colour. How awesome is that?! Here is an action adventure story featuring diversity in race and skin and sexuality in all the leading roles.

I’m also a huge fan of witty dialogue and banter and this book delivered that so well.  The dialogue and banter was laugh out loud worthy and there was even a small Easter egg reference to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows series that had me very impressed. Also Diana experiencing the mortal world was hilarious. That will never get old omg I laughed so much.

The characters are all terrific and so winning. I rooted for them the whole time! Diana and Alia take turns narrating, with distinct and complex and emotional voices. Then, of course, there’s Nim — who is a designer and bisexual and very protective of Alia. We also have Theo who is a gangly dork and hilarious and super annoying. Also of course Jason, Alia’s older brother, who is Mister Bossy Pants but loves his sister so much and just wants her safe.

I won’t even hesitate to say that Wonder Woman: Warbringer was thoroughly….wonderful. (Har har I couldn’t resist.) It was exciting with stunning and feels-smashing plot twists, with delightful feminism woven all through. Definitely an empowering and masterful tale.

If Hermione were the Main Character in Harry Potter

Harry PotterWhile this blog post doesn’t contain uncensored swearing or sexual references, it does refer to a website story that does (and a related topic that features some random what-the information). So if you’re easily offended, now might be the time to temporarily click away.

The sweary/sexual innuendo website story in question is BuzzFeed’s If Hermione Were The Main Character in ‘Harry Potter’. Because, frankly, she absolutely should have been. I mean, really. Who among us hasn’t been frustrated that she had to constantly play second fiddle to two friends who, though sweet enough, had nowhere near her smarts or nous?

This post is essentially a feminist reading of the book, with Hermione forced to fight the Patriarchy. But it’s much more genius than that. It enables us to envisage an alternate reality, where we readers see the story as it could and probably should have played out. Plus, there’s plenty of pathos and sass. Often all at once.

First instance as case in point: It shows Hermione’s parents being proud they have a witch for a daughter, then Hermione feeling forced to wipe their memories of her in order to protect them from the Voldemort return-inspired war. Below the images of this harrowing scene is a note below the image saying she shipped them off to Australia ‘where nothing dangerous ever happens’.

BuzzFeed is occasionally criticised for collating content rather than producing original work. In recent times, it’s expanded its repertoire and sophistication by creating works such as this Hermione tale slash meme. It’s bang on subject- and execution-wise for me. I love, love, love it.

In the Harry Potter reworking, Hermione, the girl who ‘literally gives zero f&#ks’ learns such things as the skill of ‘throwing shade’ (she threw some excellent shade over the course of the films and BuzzFeed does well to pick up on and run with it). The reworking also taps into the thing that while reading the books most drove me wild: ‘Without Hermione, The Boy Who Lived would be dead as sh%t’. About 10 times over, to be precise.

The tale says if social media had existed when Harry Potter was released, Hermione may have inspired the #BossWitch hashtag. I’d like to think she’s inspiring it now. (As a side note, BuzzFeed Books has obtained information that the 16 weirdest Harry Potter-related searches include that ‘Draco should never use tampons’. That search alone confounds my mind. If anyone has any suggestions for that search’s purpose, I’d like to know. No, really. It’s puzzling me. I did, however, like that people wondered if the sorting hat was a horcrux. Those who thought of that are super cleverer than me. I mean, imagine if that had come to play out?)

Truly, though, this story touches on some significant and timely cultural tropes about women and feminism. And pervasive, ingrained, often invisible sexism. And how we’re judged and boxed in even when we’re supposed to these days be considered equal. The ‘not all wizards’ and ‘destroy the joint’ references are eminently clever.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I will say it offers an alternative to the incredibly unrealistic Hermione and Ron ending JK Rowling gave us that continues to completely, utterly, aneurism-inducingly infuriate me. This ending made me fist-pumpingly proud.

So, although the story is significantly sweary, I’d highly recommend checking it out. It’s an important and insightful and inspiring re-imagining of Rowling’s tale.

Tara Moss, The Fictional Woman and Feminism

The Fictional WomanI had the great fortune to attend an author event for Tara Moss who was promoting her new book The Fictional Woman. For those who don’t know, Moss is a Canadian-Australian author that started out as a model at 14 years old. She claimed she was a tall nerdy girl at the time but kept hearing people say “you should be a model” so much that she eventually did. Her dream was to be an author but you aren’t much encouragement as a teenage girl to pursue a dream like that. To date Tara Moss has nine novels and The Fictional Woman is her first non-fiction title.

I was hoping to have had a chance to read The Fictional Woman before going into the event but you know what it is like, sometimes life and, more importantly, other books get in the way. I didn’t even have a chance to read a few pages to get an idea of what the book would be like but I have had a quick look since the event. There is something about an author event that I love, the experience to hear them talk about the book often makes me excited about it as well; even if it is an event for a book I hate.

Putting aside the fact I haven’t read the book, I still want to talk about it. The title comes from that idea that everyone seems to have a fictional element to their life, we tend to be placed into moulds and people don’t always believe everything we do or say. Tara Moss, like most people have had this experience; she even took a polygraph test to prove that she wrote her novels. It is important to note that this is not strictly a memoir but also a social critique on our modern world and feminism.

For Moss to write this topic, she needed to provide some historical context, how women have been treated from out the ages, etc. Looking at women in fiction we often see similar archetypes, like the rags to riches story from Cinderella, which requires a man to be happy. Look at the heroines; they are normally facing off against an evil woman, often a crazy old woman that has been depicted as a witch. Thinking about these archetypes and we see they all stem from fairy tales or medieval fiction, a time where woman weren’t considered as equals. There is also the historical context of Tara Moss‘ life that is important to look at; how a model changes peoples’ opinions of herself and all the choices of her life that have influenced her views on feminism, this is why people tend to treat this book as a memoir rather than a social critique.

It is obvious that I’m very impressed with Tara Moss; she is an intelligent woman that puts a lot of thought and research into her books and her interests. I think as far as role models go, she makes for an excellent choice. She went as far as creating Makedde Vanderwall (from her crime series) so she could learn about the world of psychology, forensics and so on. But she takes her research much more serious that that; becoming a qualified private investigator, and taking lessons on how to use weapons. She was even set on fire and choked unconscious just to understand what it felt like. She is an impressive person and even though I was looking forward to reading her new book, seeing her live has really excited me. I’ve since started reading The Fictional Woman and can confirm this book is well worth picking up.

Mid-month round-up – the I want to write like you edition

If you are the type who likes to put a pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard, as the case may be – you’ll often find that your first thought after finishing a really excellent book is wishing you had written in. My writer’s envy goes off pretty often; set off by writers such as Bill BrysonChuck Palahniuk or Marion Keyes, or by  individual books such as deliciously filling and wonderfully waspy Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, or by This Is a Call by Paul Brannigan, his biography of Dave Grohl (partly as I do like his writing style, but mainly as he got to hang out with Dave in all sort of awesome rock and roll venues, and I am a huge screaming fangirl for the Foos.)

This month Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman rocketed straight to the top of the that list. Caitlin writes about many subjects so very dear to my own heart – feminism, religion, pop music and pornography – with a spectacular lack of reserve and respect for her own dignity, and brilliantly blasphemous sense of humour. It’s fun, it’s funny and it is bang on at making points I usually struggle horribly to explain at about 1am and after my eight beer.

“Because the purpose of feminism isn’t to make a particular type of woman. The idea that there are inherently wrong and inherently right “types” of women is what’s screwed feminism for so long – this belief that “we” wouldn’t accept slaggy birds, dim birds, birds that bitch, birds that hire cleaners, birds that stay at home with their kids, birds that have pink Mini Metros with “Powered by Fairy Dust” bumper stickers, birds in burkas, or birds that like to pretend, in their heads, that they’re married to Zach Braff from Scrubs, and that you sometimes have sex in an ambulance while the rest of the cast watch and, latterly, clap. You know what? Feminism will have all of you.

What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.

Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”

In short, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re both in committed relationships (with me getting married next month), I would be completely in love with her. As it is, I just want to be able to write her next book.

Also on reading list was Ben Elton’s Meltdown. Elton was a writer I wanted to be like in the early 90’s, when he released books like Stark and Gridlock; funny, sarcastic and challenging all wrapped up in an excellent read. As the years wore on though, I found he was losing me, culminating with the preachy and over-laboured Blind Faith (which might have been a good short story, but certainly didn’t need a whole book to thrash its point out). So it was with a little trepidation I picked up Meltdown and found to my delight it was an excellent return to form.

Published in 2010 against the backdrop of a world still reeling from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC, not KFC as I keep thinking) it follows the changing fortunes of a group of friends brought high in the good times and dashed against the rocks of their own hubris. Anyone can handle success, Elton points out, it’s how you handle failure that really matters. Meltdown is funny, touching and relevant, political and personal, and a return to the books that I wanted to see Elton writing – and to the books that started me writing myself back in my late teens.

And lastly on my list of reads this month is Yann Martel’s Booker-prize-winning Life of Pi. I wasn’t reading  this one so I could finally shut up all those people who react like I have just said I hate puppies to when I tell them I haven’t read it (tempting and all as that is) but instead as this month’s Book Club book. What did I think of it? Well, this blog post took a little longer than planned (I got lost once again giggling at How to Be a Woman) so I’ll have to tell them first, as I think I can hear the first of them – clinking wine bottles in hand – at the door.

It’s My Party And I’ll Knit If I Want To

It's My Party And I'll Knit If I Want To!Some months ago I visited a knitting club—the sassily named Stitch ‘n Bitch—for a story I was working on. To my surprise, I loved the group so much that I upped needles and joined. I’m now the most novice of novice knitters, but am also one of the most proud.

Each week I have to ask for help to cast on and then cast off (were it left up to me, there would be dodgy knots at both ends) and I’ve succeeded in knitting wonky rectangles that aspire, if you squint a little and imagine a lot, to be scarves.

Depending on how you look at it, I’m an unlikely knitting convert candidate. On the one hand, I keep myself so busy working, playing sport, and reading that I couldn’t possibly slow down to fit in knitting (or shaft reading for it).

On the other, I’m perhaps the prime candidate: someone who needs the soothing, meditative quality of knitting, while still getting that sense of achievement of doing something with her hands and having something to show for it at the end (even if it is a dodgy rectangle that not even a mother would love).

Turns out knitting is undergoing something of a revival, with it no longer being the realm of nannas or cat-owning spinsters, but of educated, articulate, funky, young professionals. I’m reasonably late to the party and have been grappling with just what makes knitting so much fun and what’s bringing it out of the closet and into the pub. I’m not the only one. Sharon Aris arrived a little earlier and wrote a book covering such questions.

SnB Brisbane organiser Fiona Smith loaned me her copy of Aris’ It’s My Party And I’ll Knit If I Want To!, a light-hearted book that examines why the traditionally daggy knitting is the new cool. I’ll admit that a book pertaining to chart the history of knitting might well be considered as enthralling as watching paint dry, but Aris is a woman after my own heart. Her journey mirrors mine (ok, arguably mine mirrors hers, but semantics peoples)—a sort of cynic who is now a complete, utter, and unashamed knitting convert.

And the book is funny. As in witty, amusing, tongue-in-cheek. Aris has chapters that include such titles as ‘Knitting is the new yoga’ and ‘Knitting is the new feminism’, and starts sections with agony aunt-style questions such as ‘Should one share needles?’

Through reading the book and attending knit club, I’ve learned such terms as ‘yarn barf’ (when the middle of the ball of wool explodes outwards) and ‘UFOs’ (un-finished objects they started knitting but have now discarded for the latest project). In It’s My Party, Aris also examines knitting faux pas and meets a guy who’s knitting a sock for his nether regions for an upcoming planned sporting event streak. Alright, not quite rolling-in-the-aisles stuff, but still chuckle-worthy.

Of course, the irony is that taking up knitting hasn’t taken me away from books—it’s introduced me to ones I would otherwise never have known about, much less read. Now that I’ve devoured It’s My Party And I’ll Knit If I Want To!, I plan to improve my knitting sufficiently to be able to follow a pattern. Then I’ll buy up big on cute and quirky knitting books—of which, I’m suddenly discovering, there are many. Stay tuned.