A Place for Wolves by Kosoko Jackson

 

Well, you may have heard about this book – a gay YA romance/thriller was supposed to be published either in late March or early April, got a lot of backlash because of supposed insensitivities to Muslims given its setting, and was withdrawn from publication by the author.

I, like many others, was granted an eARC by the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, shortly before the author withdrew the book from publication.  I just finished the book last night, since my copy was still valid, and this is my honest review.  It may not necessarily be unbiased, but it is honest.

First, I will simply assess the book itself.  Then I will talk about the controversy surrounding the book.  This book was a little over 300 pages.  It is told from the perspective of James Mills, a black boy who is also gay and adopted.  His parents are highly educated aid workers – his mother is a doctor, and his father is an engineer.  They travel around the world offering their expertise, and they’ve brought their kids, Anna and James, along, so James has been around the world already.  In the novel, however, Anna has already gone to college at Georgetown.  He and his boyfriend wake up one day to find that James’s parents have gone missing, their home ransacked, and the town completely empty.  A letter left behind reveals that his parents have been abducted, and that James and his boyfriend need to get to the embassy.  This story is their attempted journey to safety.

The book alternates between James’s present-tense narrative and the letters he writes to Anna.  It is in the letters we learn about James’s life before the Kosovo War and how his relationship with Tomas Sousa, his Brazilian boyfriend, started.

James’s voice is good and he is witty at times.  The action in the present-day narrative is a stark contrast to the letters he sends to his sister, since life seemed very normal – going to school, exploring the town and surrounding area, hanging out with his classmates and slowly falling love with Tomas.  His narrative is quite dark, as the story, at its core, is one of survival.  James ends up killing at least two people on their journey to the embassy.

There is also violence, and it is graphically described.  I thought it was kind of slow at the beginning, but picked up about halfway through the book.

The villain is suitably powerful and infuriating…and also brutal.  Not much is said about the actual conflict that the boys get caught up in – the main antagonists are members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, an organization that existed in real life, and we see foreshadowing of the villain himself and their slow takeover of the town in James’s letters to Anna.

There isn’t a whole lot of what I would call SJW preaching, except for one incident with a stereotypically blond-haired, blue-eyed, sharp-jawed German boy named Georg, who basically calls Tomas a faggot in German, or something.  James punches his lights out, and is disciplined by his parents for it.  Also, James uses the phrase “toxic masculinity” in one of his letters, and I am pretty sure I didn’t hear that phrase until recently.  Based on where James is at the time of the Kosovo War, which was in the late 90s, he and I would be roughly the same age, give or take a couple of years.  I also read a lot of teen and women’s magazines…and no mention of “toxic masculinity.”

Since this was an eARC, there were some punctuation errors and other problems, most notably some incorrect word usage that I found a bit confusing.  I had to guess at what the author actually meant.

As I said, it picks up about halfway through, and is quickly-paced, but that pacing seems to be interrupted by the letters to Anna.  Near the end, you’ll just want to know what happens next, not the weird shit James wanted to share with his sister (such as the first time he and Tomas have sex…I don’t know about anyone else, but I have two sisters and we didn’t talk about our sex lives with each other…that would have been weird).

So the end…the climax is good and satisfying, but the actual resolution left me wanting.  The Epilogue is told in the third-person, from Anna’s perspective, and then it ends.

I also read through the Author’s Note, and I pretty much agreed with what the author was trying to say – that, often times in conflicts such as the Kosovo War, nobody is totally innocent or totally evil.  Not all Serbians were evil, and not all KLA members were good.  I was, however, surprised that the author’s research was done with only three or four resources, all of which were listed at the end of the author’s note.

Not only that, I still don’t know why the author thought this particular incident warranted a YA thriller, beyond wanting more people to know about it.  Did he have any sort of connection to the Kosovo War?

I would normally give this book three stars on the GoodReads scale…maybe three and a half, but I gave it four stars for having a nuanced message on the nature of war and such.

So now that’s the review of the book.  Now I want to discuss the issues surrounding the book.

It is said that this book is insensitive to the Albanian Muslims that were supposedly genocided by the Serbians.  The book doesn’t go heavily into the conflict, which makes sense, since James and Tomas are there as its happening.  Furthermore, they’re both foreigners to the land.  They probably wouldn’t have the deeper understanding of a native who’s been living there for a long time or their whole lives.  I wondered why the author chose to make an American kid his main character, other than the whole “staying in one’s lane” nonsense.  I thought it was even more baffling that he chose another foreigner as the love interest.  It might have been more interesting if James’s love interest had been a local boy.  That would have also required a lot more research, and might have made it far too political for a YA novel, so I dunno.

None of that warrants cancelling the publication of this book, however.  The conflict itself is handled well and not in an offensive way.  The only time we really get a whole lot of romance is in James’s letters to Anna.  Whenever they are romantic to each other in the present-tense narrative, it’s in the context of, “we might die here, so we should die together” or “I am not leaving you behind.”  Since they’re both trying to get to the embassy (and later on, to rescue James’s mother), there isn’t much time for making out or having sex.  They’re trying not to get their shoes stolen, or shot by KLA goons, etc.  They’re trying to survive in a foreign country during a violent conflict in the dead of winter.  That’s how gritty it is.  Oh, and both boys wisely stay as far away from potential spots of conflict, and for good reason, so we don’t really see much of the conflict – just their attempts to survive.

I don’t think it is insensitive to the people that suffered through it, unless you count a couple of foreigners being present during the conflict insensitive.  I think the people that complained about this book were making a big deal out of nothing.

Now, about the villain.  We first meet the villain in James’s letters.  He describes his new teacher, Professor Beqiri, as an Oxford-educated snob who, nonetheless, is a good teacher and expects a lot of his students.  His teacher is also very anti-Serbian and expects his political beliefs to be reflected in the work he assigns to his students.  Yeah, we Conservatives won’t be surprised at that.  After all, a great deal of our public school teachers basically parrot their political beliefs to their students and expect those students to regurgitate those beliefs in their schoolwork.

So, it turns out that his well-dressed, well-groomed teacher abducted his parents and some of the other foreigners, including Clara, a German girl with an ambassador for a father, to help in the KLA’s efforts.  He became a professor to these foreigners so that he could get closer to them.

Beqiri is an extremist and a zealot, but for the KLA’s cause, which is independence.  At no point in the novel is it ever indicated that Beqiri is religious, much less Muslim.  His one and only goal is that of the KLA’s goal – independence for Kosovo.  He’s not a Muslim terrorist, and in fact, I don’t think Beqiri is religious at all, especially given that he’s Oxford-educated.  Now, I am sure that a great deal of the KLA might have been Muslim, but that does not mean all of them were religious.

Then again, the left seems to think that Islam is an ethnicity or race.  It is not.  A white, red-haired dude can be Muslim, you know.  Anybody can be Muslim.  It is a religion, not a race or ethnicity.

So, in conclusion, the critics are utterly full of shit.  This wasn’t insulting to Muslims.  It took a nuanced view of the Kosovo War, and since, in the eyes of these people, Muslims can do no wrong, because they’re rather high on the Progressive Stack of Victimhood.  This is also one reason why they find 9/11 memorials so offensive.  Who gives a shit about the people murdered by Muslim fanatics – Muslims everywhere might feel discriminated against, and that’s clearly more important than the memory of our countrymen!

Make no mistake – the attack on the book was politically motivated.  The author did not show the proper deference to one of the left’s pet victim groups.  The author, though he can claim Black and Gay Victimhood Points, did not check his Privilege.  Therefore, he had to be punished.

I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for granting me a copy of this book.

Captive by Catherine Oxenberg

captive
This is a book by actress Catherine Oxenberg and her attempt to save her daughter India from the NXIVM cult – you know, the one actress Allison Mack was involved in.
She had help writing it, as you can see on the cover, and it is very chatty and conversational, but still very riveting.  I remember watching Catherine’s reality show I Married a Princess, which she did with her ex-husband Casper Van Dien.  India was just a tween on that show, and I was saddened to hear that she got caught up in this horrible cult.  Catherine does reveal quite a bit of details too.
She also goes into her own life, including an instance of abuse in her own childhood, her eating disorder and her own #MeToo moments as an actress.  She even reveals some political leanings, such has her stance on abortion.  She’s had one (I think more than one) and while she acknowledges that it’s a horrible decision to make, she wouldn’t “take” that “choice” away from anyone.  Well, I, obviously, disagree with her stance on abortion.  It is the taking of innocent life, and while she seems to know and understand that, she still thinks that the choice is more important.  I don’t understand that at all.
Through her persistence and connections, the New York Times did a story on the cult, and this actually spurred the police and politicians – including the governor of New York and that slimy sack of shit, Sen. Schumer, to do something about this cult already.  She made a swipe at how only extremists use the term “fake news” – an obvious swipe at Trump without actually naming him.  After all, the cult did brand the NYT article as “fake news”.
Comparing Keith Raniere, the cult’s founder and leader, to President Trump is shitty.  But I wouldn’t necessarily dissuade anyone from reading this book, because aside from that, it’s still pretty good.  The exposure and dismantling of any cult is a good thing.
At the risk of spoiling it, her daughter still seemed caught up in the cult, even after Keith and Allison got arrested for the things they did.  I hope that they all heal from this awful experience.
If you want to know more about cults beyond Scientology and Peoples Temple, this is a good choice.  I do admire Catherine for going above and beyond for her daughter, as any decent mother would.

My Favorite Books of 2017

The best books of the year, in my opinion, are the following.  All are non-fiction, and I think all are very timely.

road to jonestown

The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn

This is a biography of the infamous Reverend Jim Jones, aka the leader of the Peoples Temple cult.  It started in Indiana, then moved to California, and finally ended in Guyana.  It’s a complete account of Jones’s life, up to the massacre/mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.  The opening prologue is chilling and well-written.

This isn’t the only book I’ve read about the Peoples Temple cult, so I already knew the basics.  But this one gives you so much more, because it covers Jones’s background and life prior to Jonestown, of which was officially called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project.

The author seemed to be somewhat sympathetic to Jones due to Jones’s political views, and it almost seemed as if he were saying, “oh, if only he hadn’t been a drug-addled megalomaniac…he would have been a great guy otherwise!”  Yes, Jim Jones was anti-racist, and I think part of it was genuine, but in the end it was very, very obvious that he just used that as a hook to gain followers.  Just like he shamelessly used Christianity as a hook to gain followers.  He was never really a Christian and at the end was very anti-Christian.  Jones was also a communist.

The events of the book happened a few years before I was born, which made it doubly fascinating.  People don’t really talk about this anymore.  It was one of the deadliest days in American history before 9/11. I have some theories as to why, but I won’t go into it.  I highly recommend this book, though.  It’s riveting and very timely, considering the whole Scientology issue and all.

milo dangerous

Dangerous by Milo Yiannopolous

When I heard that Simon & Schuster was going to publish a book by Milo, I was so excited.  Then the pedophilia hit job happened and it was cancelled.  I was not happy.  But Milo never gives up.  He started his own publishing company and published it himself, and with a better cover image.

This is kind of a memoir/political commentary kind of book.  He does briefly talk about his background but mostly covers some of the political issues of the day, and with his signature humor.  His voice is excellent, and I could easily imagine him reading each line aloud.

I think it is an important book for those of us on the right, and should especially be read by politicians.  This book, like Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie, gives excellent advice on how to handle the shit the left slings at us on a regular basis, and insights as to why the left is the way it is.

As of this writing, Simon & Schuster has basically leaked the original manuscript of this book, complete with their editor’s notes.  I’ve only started to go through it.  Like, I’m only about seven pages in.  Most of the criticism is baseless and tone-deaf, but some of it is legit.  I might do a review of that whenever I finish reading it.

Milo, after the cancellation of his book, sued Simon & Schuster for breach of contract, so that’s why they leaked the manuscript.  It was entered as evidence, so I guess it’s not really a leak per se, but still.  It’s the entire book and you can read it for free.  Kind of a dick move, but whatever.  As I said, I highly recommend the finished version.

lastcloset

The Last Closet:  The Dark Side of Avalon by Moira Greyland

I’ve already written a separate review for this, so I’ll be brief.  The daughter of fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen has published her memoirs/tell all through Castalia House, exposing the ultra-progressive sci-fi community as the disgusting perverts they are.  Calling them perverts is too mild, I guess.  What they’ve done goes straight into abuser territory.

It’s a very tough read, as she is pretty frank about what her parents did to her, but does not go into lurid detail.  She’s also very honest and open about how the abuse affected her mentally.  It is also a sad read, but a necessary one.  Moira comes to the conclusion that homosexuality is not good for society, and leftists – those who bother to acknowledge the book’s existence, that is – will be apoplectic about it.  However you feel about homosexuality and its place in society, I still think this is an important book to read.  There’s serious issues in that community that really needs to be addressed, and sweeping it under the rug and shrieking HOMOPHOBE isn’t going to do anyone any favors.  Furthermore, as I said in the original review, expect to see much more of this as the children of today grow older.

gosnell

Gosnell:  The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer

I’ve already reviewed this here, so I’ll be brief.  This is a pretty good and compelling account of Kermit Gosnell’s crimes and the grand jury report that initially exposed them.  It also covers his trial, and the authors even interviewed him.  He’s still completely unapologetic, by the way.  It is going to be turned into a movie, but I haven’t heard much about that lately.  The abortion industry is just flat out evil, and it’s a tragedy that many abortion supporters care more about it remaining legal and utterly problem-free than they are about the health and safety of the women that seek such (horrible) procedures.

The Last Closet by Moira Greyland

I should probably be ashamed of not knowing who Marion Bradley Zimmer was. I am only 35 as of this writing, and when I was younger, I stuck to books on astronomy and other random kid books until I moved to Japan, when I read Sweet Valley Twins novels. Then, in high school, I graduated to R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series and eventually moved on to Stephen King novels. It wasn’t until recently that I actually got into fantasy and sci-fi novels.

So, a couple of years ago, more or less, I read this post at Ask the Bigot, about the daughter of a famed fantasy writer who had been molested by both parents. My eyes went wide like saucers as I read it.

A few months ago I realized that the daughter, Moira Greyland Peat and I were in a social media group together. I was like, wow. And she was writing a book, and it was going to be published by Castalia House. I was so very excited, which is kind of messed up, given how truly tragic her story really is.

And it is. The book is The Last Closet – the Dark Side of Avalon and it is one hell of a read.

She goes into her parents’ background, not justifying the things they did, but explaining why they were the way they were. She manages to…I dunno, describe, or at least recount the things her parents did to her. She doesn’t go into excruciating detail, as I imagine that would have been far too traumatizing, but is pretty frank about it.

She is also very, very adamant on being against gay marriage, given her upbringing. Her parents both had homosexual relationships outside the bounds of their marriage. She is one of many children of gays that have such tragic stories to tell. Note that she does not hate gay people or anything. She even says as much in the book, but she does condemn the “do what thou wilt” mentality that is so present among the libertine left.

Moira is very, very brave and very strong to write this memoir. She really is, because one of two things will happen: either the left will just ignore her, or they’ll absolutely savage her. Some fringe sci-fi SJWs did just that, but for the most part, she has been ignored.

Mark my words – you’re going to hear more and more stories like this in the coming decades. The children of today are going to grow up, and they’ll grow up in this disgusting sewer culture and they’ll all be messed up. At some point, they’ll realize what’s been done, and boy howdy I bet a lot of them will be pissed. Hell, that’s probably putting it mildly.

My own childhood wasn’t a picnic either, but I am grateful to my parents for not being like Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen. I just want to hug the both of them fiercely right now, even though they’re on the other side of the country.

Moira also has a great sense of humor, of which is peppered throughout the book. I’m glad…a lot of it is grim. There is a lengthy appendix that could be its own book, and a foreword by Vox Day.

One more thing…I was, and still am astonished at the similarity between Walter Breen’s insane Great Vision for the world, and the philosophy of one of my villains. Freaking spooky. Both are sex addicts who think that sex with everyone, all the time will make for a better world. I used to think I was being over the top with that – that nobody, nobody could possibly think that way in real life. I was wrong, dead wrong.

This book should be more widely read, but it won’t, because it doesn’t even come close to fitting the left’s preferred narrative, and we all know that the left is largely in control of our culture, and that they love that control more than anything else. But we shouldn’t despair…thanks to the Internet, we have a platform. We can speak out, and we should. The truth should prevail.

The only criticism I have would be some of the typos and minor errors I found. I tried highlighting them all in case Castalia House wants me to email them, but Amazon’s stupid iOS Kindle App mysteriously lost a great deal of my progress, including the highlights and bookmarks I made. Fortunately, I remembered which chapter I left off of.

This was easily one of the best books of the year (along with Milo Yiannopolis’s Dangerous and The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn – both I highly recommend).

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

gosnell

by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer

I don’t know how anyone can be pro-abortion after reading this, or the grand jury’s report. I’ve read both, obviously. It’s harrowing and shocking. A political party that just loves regulation and government intervention conveniently decides that both are bad whenever it comes to abortion.

As someone who is for limited government, even I must admit that some regulations are necessary. The Gosnell murder case is an excellent example of that. Putting aside the morality of abortion for a minute, how could one possibly be okay with the notion that dirty, filthy clinics full of unqualified must be acceptable simply so that “access” to abortion isn’t “denied”? Don’t these women deserve to be treated properly? They don’t go to these clinics to become permanently sterile, yet that’s what happened when Gosnell “performed” abortions on these women.

The book covers pretty much every aspect of the investigation and trial. Even though I pretty much knew what happened, it was still a compelling read. You are left with no doubt that Gosnell was guilty and that he is precisely where he belongs.

I noticed some typos and misspellings in my copy…I’ve been noticing this in a lot of book releases lately. It’s not something that cannot be corrected, and it does not detract from the story too much.

Every time I see that little family on the front of 3801 Lancaster, I get sad. The little icon is just so Orwellian. People don’t go to these places to start a family. They go there to destroy them.