Reviews: Charlaine Harris, women’s history, and new horror

Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir. 4/5
Written in Weir’s now well-known informative voice, this tome covers the lives of powerful women of the Plantagenet dynasty: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre; Isabella of Angoulême; Alienor of Provence; and Eleanor of Castile. While Eleanor of Aquitaine has had countless books written about her, it was refreshing to read one focused on the effects of the Crusades in her life, and I enjoyed learning more about the other women Weir includes in the book. For Weir’s fans, this will be a treat; for other readers seeking recent popular writing on the Plantagenets, it will also be a go-to book. Historians will argue with some sources and presentations.

Hijab And Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran. 1/5
This memoir is chatty but plodding, and there’s so much of the author not learning from her own past and not thinking about her actions that she became more irritating than sympathetic. I sympathize with women stuck in abusive cultures dominated by men, but there’s nothing in this particular book that offered any new insights or information about the culture in Saudi Arabia.

The Green and the Black by William Meikle. 2/5
With a good bit of editing and the removal of a LOT of adjectives and adverbs, this could be a good horror story. It has a lot of overlaps with Swamp Thing, though, to the extent that I’d be worried about copyright infringement. I did like many of the details, although the way the group behaved and spoke to one another was not terribly realistic, nor was the way archaeology was depicted.

Lurkers by Sandi Tan. 1/5
I can’t tell if this is a satire or not. In the beginning, we’re introduced to the terrible writing of a Korean pastor in the US. What follows could be his terrible stories. Are they supposed to be? Are they not? Everyone in the book is disaffected; they engage in risky behaviors for no apparent reason–in fact, most of what everyone does is for no reason. It’s a poorly-told tale of slightly overlapping lives of people who are all just total assholes.

The Empty Cell by Paulette Alden. 2/5
Oh, this started off so well! The beginning–depicting the lynching of a Black man in the American South–is strong and attention-grabbing and nuanced, and tightly written. But the drama of the beginning doesn’t continue. The author uses the lynching and trial as points of departure for multiple characters: a young woman, her gay father, a poor and abused Black woman. But these characters fall into stereotypes, and their lives become cliched rather than revelatory. Alma, a Black woman who helped raise the man who was lynched, leaves her abusive husband and goes to New York in search of a better life, but there too she’s abused and becomes an alcoholic, finally returning to the South in shame. Betsy leaves the South for New York where she has a Black lover; her attraction is complicated with white fragility and their relationship falls apart. This comes across like the author expects us to find their relationship daring and bold, but it’s just dysfunctional. Betsy’s father slowly emerges from the closet but it’s made very clear that he’s neither one of those “limp-wristed gays” nor interested in rough trade, no, he’s still a “man,” meaning: he passes for straight and that’s a good thing. Despite its opening, which promised a thoughtful novel about race, instead this book is a retread of Peyton Place.

The Weak Spot by Lucie Elven. 1/5
This is a book that wants to be a Wes Anderson movie, but lacks the awkward fleeting charm of even the bad ones. It tries very hard to be quirky and sinister and odd and beguiling, but it’s just rather dull. The characters are flat and uninteresting, and their woes and observations are mundane; everyone kind of slumps around flaccidly.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin. 2/2
Did I just read this author call a Black person “dusky”? Come on. And did she title this book the exact same thing as a non-fiction account she used for reference? Yes, she did. The setting is enormously compelling and while the characters are rather two-dimensional, the plot, focusing on the events before, during, and after a horrific blizzard in Nebraska, isn’t terrible. I do think the whole thing should get a disability sensitivity read regarding limb difference and a race sensitivity read before it gets published, this will probably appeal to a wide swath of readers.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa. 5/5
Reading this is like watching an ornate and color-drenched panorama of personal drama and tragedy and love and resignation circle around you. It’s horrifying and joyous and moving and about survival and how dysfunctional families and lives can lead to self-sufficiency and resilience and at the same time cause depression and something that goes even beyond depression into death-like living. Highly recommended.

Still She Wished for Company by Margaret Irwin. 3/5
This elegant and odd book is a bit of an enigma: there’s little plot but plenty of lovely description; interesting characters whose stories stop abruptly; and the author introduces a wonderful idea about how time layers itself onto place, but ultimately limits her use of it. Ultimately, this is a bit like a dream, and perhaps that’s what the author intended: specific details nestled inside a flimsier form. Anyone who has ever been captivated by the stories of the women visiting Versailles who claimed to have seen Marie Antoinette’s retinue in the 19th century or Jack Finney’s novels about time will probably enjoy this.

Burying the Dead by Lorraine Evans. 2/5
This book is on a fascinating topic, but it’s not well-written to the point where I nearly gave up. The author’s writing is disorganized on both the macro (paragraph) and micro (sentence) level. If you’re looking for an overview or burial practices around the world, I suppose it might offer some useful information, but for the vast majority of the cultures, practices, and sites included in the book, you’ll find better-written information on Wikipedia.

The Canterbury Murders by E.M. Powell. 3/5
A nice mystery set amidst the rebuilding of Canterbury Cathedral in 1177. I enjoyed the period detail and information, which was good for setting the scene but never overwhelming or too heavy-handed. The characters were well-developed and despite no having read the other books in this series, it was easy to pick up their relationship and history. The denouement felt a bit forced, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

The High-Rise Diver by Julia von Lucadou. 5/5
This is aa elegant and harrowing story of a dystopian world in which career success is all–quite literally–and in which quitting a job, dealing with burnout, or wanting a different life than what has been prescribed for you is unthinkable. Your job performance determines where you live, who you can date, what you eat, and more. This sounds like it’s heavy-handed, but it never is: Lucadou deftly creates a world with delicate strands of information and description, weaving a complex, shimmering picture of a terrifying world.

The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts. 4/5
This is a scorching account of what it is like to be young, uncertain of one’s self, and moored in the climate crisis. The narrator seeks meaning and the ability to communicate through writing, but depression and a sense of nihilism send her into unfulfilling relationships, casual sex, and a steadily declining sense that life is worth living. And she’s not entirely wrong: when the country is on fire and no one seems to care, what do you do?

Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338) by Octavia Butler. 5/5
This is an essential volume in anyone’s collection of speculative fiction. These are some of Butler’s very best works, and also serve as an accessible entry into her writing. Kindred in particular should be on every high school reading list. I’m delighted to see this collection and hope that the rest of her books will receive the same treatment.

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten. 4/5
I really enjoyed this novel, a mix of psychological horror, the gothic, and physical danger. However, it contains a serious problem in the description of Brigitta: intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled, and non-vocal people are not “children in an adult body.” This is a pretty awful misconception, and I strongly urge the author and publisher to remove this ableist description of the character. Change this, and it would be a 5-star review.

Find Me in Havana by Serena Burdick. 5/5
A beautifully-written and compelling novel based on a true story, this book will appeal to all kinds of readers. Estelita Rodriguez’s life is fascinating and tragic, and here author Burdick uses information from her interviews with Rodriguez’s daughter Nina to create a dialogue between mother and daughter that is honest and painful and revealing. Writing a novel about real people is difficult, and can often end up trite or superficial, but Burdick does an outstanding job of making this very real story meaningful and moving.

Dryad Vol. 1 by Kurtis Wiebe. 3/5
I liked this first installment of a new series. Dryad is action-packed, and the characters are interesting and complex. It’s got a heavy Saga vibe to it, but I think that as the story develops, it’ll become more independent–the seeds for originality are already there. The visual elements are great–I really enjoy the contrast between locations and factions. I’ll be looking for more of this.

Hex by Fran Hodgkins. 3/5
I loved the idea of this book–a girl learns how to make enchanted hex signs from her grandmother, and finds that magic has a cost, that even with magic she can’t control everything, and that communities need collaborative strength. But the writing isn’t polished, the plotting is obvious and jerky, and it needs a round of developmental editing to make it really shine.

Shapers of Worlds by Edward Willett. 2/5
I really wanted to like this collection, but although it’s got top-notch authors, most of the stories were duds. It’s as if someone had swept up the dullest pieces by each author and gathered them here. Many of the stories seem to have been dashed off by authors as filler for other books or magazines–I didn’t feel that any of them built or shaped much of a new world. A few had bits and pieces of interesting ideas or language or characters, but overall, this isn’t a collection I’d recommend.

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian. 5/5
This is a delicious book, full of fantastic detail and beautiful writing. Set in Boston in 1662, we follow the life of Mary Deerfield, a formidable young woman who seeks a better life for herself, first through legal means and then through careful and meticulous plotting and planning. The author deftly creates the world of the Puritans in North America, their beliefs and everyday lives and language, and offers up complex characters with realistic internal conflicts and desires. The novel explores power and social hierarchies, gender and sexuality, and the relationship between religion and abuse. Highly recommended.

The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs. 1/5
Ah yes, another thriller featuring an awkward/autistic/neurodiverse genius. The over-fetishization of the main character’s “different/difficult” brain/behavior made me want to throw my Kindle across the room. The author’s technique, too, of using plain language for most characters and then switching to flowerier language for the protagonist was both painful and hilarious. We autistics and folks with anxiety don’t go around thinking of animals making noises stentoriously, and listening to Wagner is hardly a positive characteristic for anyone, not a marker of any kind of higher intelligence or rarefied tastes, And the behavior of other characters is laughable–it’s like the author has never spoken to therapists, police officers, or anyone else about what it is they actually do or how they do their jobs. This novel needed a heavy developmental edit, a sensitivity read or three, and a big rewrite.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken. 1/5
A lot of YA seems to be focused on immortal figures and/or youth who are trained to kill one another to protect their families; Lore is certainly well within this genre. While some of these are ok stories–because the characters are multidimensional, Lore is not. It’s boring. The characters aren’t particularly compelling, and the language is often stilted and at odds with itself–one moment trying to be current and fresh, then ext portentous and speaking of “the ancient tongue” and other cringe-worthy constructions. The action drags, and the gods–or their mortal forms–come across like villains from low-budget 70s movies. And there are other issues. Lore’s BFF is a “magical Negro.” None of the women in the houses or bloodlines ever rose up against the misogyny and abuse? Why is anyone accepting the idea of “bastardy” in the 21st century? Why isn’t Lore at least a little smarter? Why is the plot and info about it so repetitive? Why did I spend the time to finish this? I don’t know, but I can tell you: don’t bother.

Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology by S.B. Divya; Mur Lafferty; N.K. Jemisin; Cory Doctorow; Ken Liu. 3/5
A mixed bag of short pieces, drawn from the archives of the podcast Escape Pod. Some of these were familiar–they’ve been widely reprinted–and others were new. I enjoyed the stories by Cato, which was quite clever, Kowal, Kingfisher, and Jemisin, but a good many of the others were just meh.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. 2/5
This was a bit of a disappointment. I think the author is trying to make a bigger statement than she actually does–and the topic of women’s words and language is a very important topic! But her unwillingness to create real, lasting tension anywhere in the book diminishes the ideas she’s trying to communicate through the novel; problems are easily resolved with little fuss, unpleasant characters who cause problems disappear without much of an impact, the protagonist lives in a comfortable bubble–when the narrator does begin to address class and inequality, she draws away without much engagement. And the very end came as a rather nasty blow, with its hailing of white colonialism as a savior of indigenous Australian languages without noting the immense problems rooted in that attitude.

The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris. 5/5
Charlaine Harris never fails to delight me. In this novel, the third to feature gunslinger-for-hire Lizbeth Rose, Lizbeth heads to the Holy Russian Empire–San Diego, to be precise–to spring her lover Eli Savarov from jail. But the job is complicated by politics, families, magic, and the fact that Lizbeth can’t legally carry guns in the Empire. I loved the development of returning characters, particularly Lizbeth’s sister Felicia, and the wonderful new characters who inhabit this book, Eli’s mother and sisters especially. Lizbeth’s voice is honest and plain and Harris’s storytelling is gold. Readers will probably want to read the previous two novels featuring Lizbeth before this one, as it relies pretty heavily on the events of the earlier books, but I do think it can stand alone as long as readers are willing to enjoy the ride and look into Lizbeth and Eli’s past adventures later.

Medusa’s Nightmare of Poseidon

Here is the opening aria from my opera in progress with Jessica Rudman, based on my novella Protectress (the novella is forthcoming January 2022 from Unsolicited Press).  Medusa, having survived Perseus’s supposed assassination of her, has lived mostly quietly into the modern age and has become a college professor. At the beginning of the opera, though, she’s just come out as immortal, and her sisters Stheno and Euryale have come to visit her to celebrate a big interview she’s done for Teen Vogue. But the first night they’re there, Medusa is wracked with a terrible dream.

Click here for the recording by Augusta Caso, mezzo-soprano, and Mila Henry, piano.

Text:
The foam was littered
with dark bones, minuscule bodies
of men and horses: sacrifices and murders. I couldn’t make out their faces,
but I know— they were the gods Poseidon has trampled.
They hung in his fetlocks,
hair and nails grown long
and brambled as they clung,
wet and eroding
to his legs.

He simply appeared, and
I was struck fast—
I couldn’t, I couldn’t breathe or move, standing in the temple like that night he came ashore—
but this, this was worse—
he stood,
roaring and roaring
like an ocean,
a lion,
an elephant seal,
like the sun screaming with fire,
like engines revving,
like the wind,
like all of the oceans he commands—

And all I could hear and smell and taste were his hooves on stone and
spears on shields
spears and shields, and
bang bang bang bang bang coming closer
closer
close.

There was a great tide of bulls
and they were running over me running and running
sharp hooves digging into my body my breastbone shattered
snakes ripped away
and a harsh, rising water keeps me down trying to penetrate
in every way it can
as the dead oxen trip and fall
the odor and the feel
of decaying flesh
lying on my own
and the running never stops
and the water forces its way in,
and—

Where am I? End of 2020 edition

Upcoming creative works
30 October 2020: Hear an excerpt from Protectress, my opera in progress with composer Jessica Rudman, based on my forthcoming novella of the same name. The excerpt includes the aria “Medusa’s Nightmare of Poseidon” and is the aria that kicks off the whole opera. Produced by the American Opera Project.

TBD: The Opera Elect premiere of Sense of Self, my opera with composer Lisa Neher.

Upcoming scholarly presentations
14 November 2020, 3 PM Central: “Cultural Diversity and the Musical Representation of California in Regional 1970s Television,” American Musicological Society national meeting. Not going to the meeting? Email me for a copy of the paper and slides.

10-11 December 2020: “Singing Together and Apart: The Performance of Jewishness in The Merchant of Venice on Film,” Shakespeare and Music: New Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

Upcoming teaching
5 and 12 December 2020: Writing with Ghosts through Writespace. Read a full description here.

Reviews: a great gothic novella for Halloween and much much more

The Blind Light by Stuart Evers. 2/5
I almost gave up on this, and am still not sure I shouldn’t have. This is a novel about time and trust and the slow building and erosion of that trust. Two men serve together and learn how to use each other, calling it friendship, and this using leads to betrayal. Their wives remain married to the men for protection and for stability–another kind of use. Their children learn to use and not use their parents, each other, friends. Ultimately, this is a dark and cynical novel, slow and often dull, with little to redeem it for the reader.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson. 5/5
The Removed is an incredible book, a book full of honesty and pain and the ethic of keeping on. It’s about dispossession and racism, and about youth and age in dialogue with one another. It’s got passages of sweeping magnificence and as mundane as describing litter, and it ‘s all woven together masterfully in a story that will resonate with me for a long time. The characters are real and flawed and their hopes are true and painful: there’s the daughter who lies to conceal her hurt and history, the gentle and awkward foster child, the wife watching her husband’s dementia whittle him away, the son who has to confront his fears and self-loathing. I felt for all of these characters, and I think other readers will feel for them too. This would be a great book for discussing along with a history of the Cherokee, US colonialism, and race in America today.

Thinking Again by Jan Morris. 2/5
There’s a point near the end of this book where Morris makes a comment along the lines of “perhaps I’ll regret this book” and yes, I think she will. Or maybe not: who knows? The book is a compilation of diary entries and, poorly edited, reads like someone found scraps of said entries blowing in the wind and tried to fix them all together. Morris’s trademark raconteur personal is on display, but often ill-advisiedly, and her tone, once a quasi-acceptable one (albeit given to imperialist apologizing), now feels ignorantly out of touch and lacking in compassion. But did Morris ever exhibit compassion before? I re-read some of her work after reading this, and realized that no, she’s always been brutal and has always written from her position of great privilege and dismissing those she’s deemed beneath her. So perhaps it isn’t so much that Morris will regret this book, but that I regret having read it.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht. 1/5
Oh my goodness was this dull and trite, and no amount of cute literary or pop culture jokes (like a character name Jeremy Brett and so many more) was going to help it. What we have here is a space opera that includes every trope and character type including the kitchen sink all packed into what I think the author wanted to be a fast and catchy romp. But it’s dragged down by all of the extraneous references and stock characters, and there’s not enough originality to get it off the ground.

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah. 4/5
This is a fascinating book about religion and community, telling the story of how one young woman finds comfort in religion and meaning in her life as she becomes a steadfast believer. Young Afaf sees her father become pious and her mother become cynical and depressed after the disappearance of Afaf’s older sister. And loose ends, Afaf first attends prayer services with her father and finds that the local religious community offers a version of the family support she craves. Years later, though, Afaf’s religion is exactly what causes a white man to target the girls’ school she runs, where he kills 14 students before encountering Afaf. The characters and their beliefs and struggles and actions feel very real, and I think this book could help teach tolerance and understanding between people of different faiths. I hope it gets picked up by book clubs and school reads.

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams. 4/5
This is a well-written and compelling historicization of an actual trip made by women convicted of crimes in England and transported to Australia, with a good solid murder mystery thrown in. The author does a good job of describing the difficulties of life for women at the time and how gendered laws and social conventions frequently forced them into crimes both small and large in order to survive. The account of women sewing on board made me look up the real quilt that was made–it is stunning. All in all, a good historical mystery.

Khalil by Yasmina Khadra. 5/5
Khalil takes the reader on a journey into understanding religious radicalization and the path out of it, documenting a young man’s fears and desires and his search for meaning in a world where few human lives are attributed with it. I want everyone to read this book, to try to understand what happens when religion is used for violence and violence becomes the only way someone can achieve recognition or–as many feel–can achieve something important. Khalil is every boy raised by and with violence and in poverty and without education, every young man who finds solace in a form of belief that includes the tenet that to act for the religion equals love from that religion’s god, and, perhaps more importantly, that god’s living representatives.

High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann. 5/5
This is a beautiful and intense meditation on grief and emotional trauma, full of difficult and brutal imagery and at the same time tenderness. Kampmann takes on troubled psyches and regrets amid fields of climate change and poverty; intimacy and distancing; and the value of life and labor. Waclaw’s journey from oil rig to oil rig and city to city illustrates the fragility of the world and of the individual within it. A harrowing, stunning read.

Dear Miss Kopp by Amy Stewart. 5/5
The adventures of the Kopp sisters continue in a fascinating and fun new book. I’m usually leery of epistolary novels, but author Amy Stewart has proven that they don’t have to be stodgy–this one is lively and I Ioved reading Norma’s and Fleurette’s voices. Each Kopp is doing her bit for the war–Norma in France with pigeons, Fleurette touring military bases, and Constance working for what will become the FBI, recruiting and managing smart women as part of her work in seeking out domestic sabotage and other threats. It helps to have read previous Kopp sisters novels before reading this one, but don’t despair–if you haven’t yet, you’re in for a treat.

Portrait of Peril by Laura Joh Rowland. 1/5
I’d hoped that this series had improved since I read from it last, but no: the protagonist continues to be a shallow and often rather dim and conservative person, despite her continual protesting to the contrary. A main character goes missing, but you hardly notice, because his presence is never terribly interesting–he’s window-dressing made to make the books seem inclusive and their characters open-minded. People talk in exclamations and make dramatic statements, then never follow up, and in the end, I couldn’t care much about who did what when and to whom.

Winter Honeymoon: Stories by Jacob M. Appel. 4/5
Compelling stories about families, loss of control, generational relationships, and living through crises in America. Well-written, with interesting characters and dilemmas, all meant to make the reader think and remember and relate.

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken. 3/5
A collection of stories, many of them interlinked, in which characters confront the awkward truths of their lives, their relationships, and their desires. While some of the pieces featuring recurring characters become repetitive, there are also small gems in the collection, focusing on parenthood, marriage, and existential crisis.

A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de León. 4/5
This is a great example of how what seems to be genre fiction–in this case, a thriller–can also serve as social commentary and education. Yolanda, an FBI agent, goes undercover with a Black organization that is seeking justice for the damage done to its community by a local industrial giant. The more she involves herself with the group, the more aware she becomes of why we need Black Lives Matter and other groups working for change.

The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths by Olivier Barde-Cabucon. 1/5
A Baroque mystery set among the powerful of pre-revolutionary France, this novel offers numerous famous and original characters, all of whom are unfortunately rather two-dimensional and boring. While the murder mystery at the heart of the book is is fairly well-constructed, the amount of extra baggage this novel carries weighs it down with gratuitous and over-written subplots and side plots. The Inspector himself is an incompetent and gullible figure with little internal interest–he’s perhaps the most cardboard of the characters. Numerous spies twirl in the orbit of the court, making for threads begun and not really ended; women are objects, even to characters who consider themselves above such considerations; and the entire novel is slow and ornamented to the point of ridiculousness.

Stel Parad by Lisa Menzel. 4/5
This is a dazzling and rich novel that careens from fever-dreams to police drama to exploration of spiritualities and beliefs in min-19th century America. It’s a novel to be read slowly and more than once, as multiple readings provide new insights into all of the connections the author makes across the novel’s many narrators and events.

The (Other) You by Joyce Carol Oates.2/5
A collection in which the inner lives of all of the characters are revealed to be miserable in the face of aging, full of regrets, secretly hating their friends and partners, and ready to die. Many of these intertwined stories ponder about paths not take, decisions that might have been made differently, and in each case, we read the flailings of disintegrating memory and hallucinations, bitterness and anger, and the desire to remain young and in control. AS a meditation on age, these are dark tales, but they are even darker if we consider them at all honest appraisals of humankind.

The Haunting of Beatrix Greene by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, Vicky Alvear Shecter. 4/5
This is a great little horror novel/ghost story in the tradition of M. R. James and all other things gothic. The characters and places are nicely detailed with depth and interest, and the hauntings have excellent layers and causes that the authors reveal slowly and deliciously. I’m not sure why the authors title it like a TV series (Season 1, Episode 1 and so on), but it’s true that it would make a great mini-series.

“Strawberry Man” on WPRB

On October 14, 7-10 am EST, tune in to Marvin Rosen’s Classical Discoveries radio show on WPRB to hear Arwen Myers  sing “Strawberry Man” by Lisa Neher and me!

My lyrics:

“Strawberry Man”
The Strawberry Man
and his little pinto pony
Sweetness, slaked
in the city street

If you’d like to perform the piece, you can buy a digital download  (in multiple keys, even!) from Lisa’s site.  I’d love for this to become part of singers’ repertoires.

The Protectress cover is here!

Medusa was raped.
Medusa was not raped.
Medusa was given rohypnol.
Medusa lured Poseidon from the sea with a bed of seaweed soaked in salt water.
She became pregnant.
She did not become pregnant.
She became pregnant and used her knowledge of the medicinal arts to end her pregnancy.
She became pregnant and gave the resulting child to Poseidon to raise.
She gave the child to her own parents, Phorcys and Ceto.
She and her sisters raised the child, who then became a sculptor, a psychoanalyst, a designer of prosthetics.
Her body after death produced a winged horse and a golden giant.
Her body after death wept from its palms and the tears mixed with earth to create a golem.
Her body after death was dressed by Versace and laid in a bronze tomb in Buenos Aires.

Medusa angered Athena.
Athena was jealous.
Athena was not a feminist.
Athena was a prude.
It did not matter to Athena what actually happened to Medusa.
Athena was required to take action by a committee.
Athena was wise but had already had to deal with mansplaining gods that night.
Athena was a slut-shaming bitch.
Medusa was made an example of through the great wrath of a goddess warrior.

In the long nights, a mortal woman made immortal because of her story ran
from a temple, from a cave, from Kisthene’s dreadful plain eeking blindness, baldness, rebirth
with her sisters.

So many stories. Let us begin anew.

Protectress.
Out January 2022 from Unsolicited Press.

Book cover image showing a dark-skinned woman wearing a gold gilt helmet with gold and green snakes coming out of the top. The text reads: Protectress. Kendra Preston Leonard."