Book Review: The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis (2016)

Monday, September 19th, 2016

There aren’t enough stars in the universe.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for violence, including rape and pedophilia. This review contains clearly marked spoilers.)

The shelter is running a neuter-and-spay clinic next month. One of my jobs this morning is to get the mail, fighting the urge to throw a rock at a speeding car when the driver wolf-whistles at me. The mailbox is full of applications for the clinic, most of them for dogs but a handful of cats as well. Rhonda, the lady who runs the shelter, has me sort them out, dogs and cats, male and female.

Rhonda snorts when she sees all the male dogs on the roster. “People don’t learn,” she says.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Everyone thinks if you fix a male dog it will lower his aggression, but most of the biters are female. It’s basic instinct to protect their own womb. You see it in all animals—the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

The books didn’t help me find a word for myself; my father refused to accept the weight of it. And so I made my own. I am vengeance.

Like her father before her, who abandoned the family when she was a kid, Alex Craft has violent tendencies. Unlike Daddy Dearest, however, what piques Alex’s rage is injustice: bullying, animal abuse, rape jokes, and violence (particularly that of a sexual nature). If her father had stayed, it’s entirely possible that they would have come to blows, since he sometimes seemed one frayed nerve away from wife beating territory. But Alex saw him as a kindred spirit, and in his absence, she has no one to relate to or confide in. No one to teach her how to channel her rage in a productive way.

Alex’s older sister Anna helped to keep her wolf caged. When Anna was murdered, Alex unlocked the door.

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Book Review: A Madness So Discreet, Mindy McGinnis (2015)

Monday, October 5th, 2015

asylum [uh-sahy-luh m] – an inviolable refuge; sanctuary

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received an electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for rape and other forms of violence, ableism and misogyny, and suicide.)

“These are your friends now, Grace Mae. A madman who eats cancer in the dark and another who searches for a different kind of killer, the kind who smiles at you in the light of day. This is your new life. I hope you can stand it.”

Like so many women before and after her, Grace Mae was institutionalized not because she was “crazy,” but inconvenient: Women who possess opinions, as well as the voices to express them; women who have little interest fulfilling their prescribed gender roles; women who don’t want (or can’t have) children – or become pregnant out of wedlock; women whose possessions – money, land, even their very bodies – are coveted by the men in their lives; women who, simply put, stand between men and what they want. Women like Grace, who’s pregnant with her rapist’s child. Her father’s child.

With nothing more than a judge’s decree and a single male relative’s testimony, such women could be forcible imprisoned in “asylums,” many of them never to be heard from again.

Grace’s sentence is lighter than most; after she gives birth, she’s to rejoin the Mae family in Boston. Her friends and extended family think she’s on a protracted European tour. Yet as miserable are the conditions in the Wayburne Lunatic Asylum, she’d rather spend the rest of her years there than be thrown back into the viper’s nest. A man of privilege, and a senator to boot, Nathaniel Mae is used to getting his way. Grace is just the latest in a long line of victims. (Picture New York Magazine’s infamous Cosby cover.)

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Book Review: Spring Fevers, Matt Sinclair, ed. (2012)

Monday, June 9th, 2014

A Solid Collection

four out of five stars

(Trigger warning for discussions of rape.)

One in a series of seasonally-themed short fiction anthologies, the stories found in Spring Fevers revolve around the idea of spring: “Spring is the time of new beginnings, new life, new love. And fevers can result in pain, unexpected visions, and an appreciation for health and normalcy.” Relationships take center stage: from the shy first bloom of new love, with all the exciting possibilities it entails, to love long since withered, left for dead, and buried. Relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, ideas and their creators, the government and the governed, the oppressed and their oppressors; the stories run the gamut, and span multiple genres: fantasy, supernatural, science fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction.

Spring Fevers first caught my attention because it includes a contribution by Mindy McGinnis. I absolutely adore her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink, and hoped that “First Kiss” would help to tide me over until the release of In a Handful of Dust this fall. A supernatural rape revenge story, “First Kiss” is by far my favorite: creepy, unexpected, and very satisfying. At the current going price of zero dollars, you should check out Spring Fevers for this one alone.

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Book Review: Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis (2013)

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

A stunning debut!

five out of five stars

Caution: minor spoilers ahead. Also, trigger warning for discussions of rape.

Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

More than just two lines dreamed up by a long-dead poet, this mantra rules sixteen-year-old Lynn’s life. Born into a world in which fresh, potable water is a scarcity, Lynn and Mother (less commonly known as “Lauren”) guard their pond as though their lives depend on it – because they do. Daily tasks revolve around gathering water, purifying water, storing water, and guarding water from threats both real and imagined. Anyone, human or non, who ventures too close to the pond is shot on sight. If they’re lucky, they get a warning shot first. When not performing daily chores, Lynn and Mother while away their time on the roof, a strategic vantage point from which to spot and discourage intruders.

For more than a decade and a half, Lynn’s life is confined to this small universe: the pond, the roof, and the basement. Mother is her only companion, and aside from the one time their neighbor Stebbs nearly lost a foot in a bear trap and sought Lauren’s help, Lynns hasn’t spoken to another soul. That is, until the fateful fall day when Mother is killed by a pack of especially bold coyotes. Though she attempts to carry on the way Mother taught her, Lynn finds herself sucked into local affairs by Stebbs. Stebbs has something Mother could never afford – a conscience – and he enlists Lynn’s assistance in helping the “Streamers,” a group of expats from the city of Entargo who set up camp upstream from Lynn and Stebbs.

A dearth of fresh water is only one of their problems, as the group will soon discover; more dangerous than the threat of cholera are the men to the south, who make due by looting abandoned houses, stealing from fellow survivors, and kidnapping, enslaving, and raping/prostituting women. They run a trading post in the nearby city of South Bloomfield, where a gallon of gas will get you a half hour with one of their sex slaves, and women can barter their bodies for milk with which to feed their starving children (stolen from the exploited body of a dairy cow, whose own child remains conspicuously absent). When the group attempted to raid Lynn’s house, she and Mother shot several of them dead. Now that Mother is gone, it’s up to Lynn to solve the Southie problem for good.

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