Trans-Sister Radio

Trans-Sister Radio

126814 “Trans-Sister Radio” by Chris Bohjalian

Synopsis: With Trans-Sister Radio, Chris Bohjalian, author of the bestseller Midwives, again confronts his very human characters with issues larger than themselves, here tackling the explosive issue of gender.

When Allison Banks develops a crush on Dana Stevens, she knows that he will give her what she needs most: attention, gentleness, kindness, passion. Her daughter, Carly, enthusiastically witnesses the change in her mother. But then a few months into their relationship, Dana tells Allison his secret: he has always been certain that he is a woman born into the wrong skin, and soon he will have a sex-change operation. Allison, overwhelmed by the depth of her passion, and finds herself unable to leave Dana. By deciding to stay, she finds she must confront questions most people never even consider. Not only will her own life and Carly’s be irrevocably changed, she will have to contend with the outrage of a small Vermont community and come to terms with her lover’s new body–hoping against hope that her love will transcend the physical.

*****

2 out of 5 stars

I really had high hopes for this book, even though the title is a tortured pun. Unfortunately, I feel underwhelmed.

The story is told from four different view points; that of Dana who ends up in a relationship with Allison right before going through gender reassignment surgery. Allison, who is a divorced grade school teacher and the mother of teen aged Carly. Carly who dealing with her mother’s lover as she leaves for college, and lastly Will, Carly’s father and Allison’s ex-husband.

Let’s begin with what I liked. My favorite thing about this book was the internal struggle that Allison goes through. Her male lover transitions into her female lover and she really struggles with that as she is not a lesbian. She never sees Dana as something other than what she is – a woman after the surgery and Allison deeply mourns that. I often feel that in relationships where one partner transitions, there is huge pressure for the remaining partner to stay in the relationship even if that’s not the right thing for them. I felt that this part of the story was realistic and sensitively written.

Trans-phobia is also a huge issue in this story. It’s set in a small town and the townspeople are not happy that a deviant, a man in a dress is parading around their town and making a mockery of them. Allison feels immense pressure to leave her job and is even asked to move out of the center of town so no one has to see her and Dana together. The towns people are brutal and friends quickly become enemies. It’s scary how quickly that shifted in the book, and eye opening.

I didn’t like a couple of things. One glaring thing is the use of the words “tranny” and “trannies”. Those words are typically used as derogatory terms. I understand the need to take back certain words, especially in the LQBTQIA+ community, but this was not an appropriate forum.

Also, back to the titles radio reference. Both Will and Carly work with NPR broadcasting and use Dana’s story as Carly’s big break. Dana actually had very little to say during the broadcasting, but everyone else offered their opinion. It was a little jarring how her story was used with very little thought to Dana herself.

And, finally, that odd happy ending. That ending made this book the complete opposite of a book about transgender issues and relationships. Just weird and a little too neatly tied up in a bow.

Not a great book, but not the worst.

The cover is surprisingly lovely.

 

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Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls

24796533 “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living” by Jes Baker

Synopsis: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is a manifesto and call to arms for people of all sizes and ages. With her trademark wit, veteran blogger and advocate Jes Baker calls people everywhere to embrace a body-positive worldview, changing perceptions about weight, and making mental health a priority.
Alongside notable guest essayists, Jes shares personal experiences paired with in-depth research in a way that is approachable, digestible, and empowering. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is an invitation to reject fat prejudice, fight body-shaming at the hands of the media, and join this life-changing movement with one step: change the world by loving your body.

Among the many Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls that you don’t want to miss:
1. It’s Possible to Love Your Body (Today. Now.)
2. You Can Train Your Brain to Play Nice
3. Your Weight Is Not a Reflection Of Your Worth
4. Changing Your Tumblr Feed Will Change Your Life
5. Salad Will Not Get You to Heaven
6. Cheesecake Will Not Send You to Hell

If you’re a person with a body, this book is for you.

*****

5 out of 5 stars

It’s not often that I review nonfiction and the book has to be really special to do so.

This book is really special.

I’m a huge fan of Jes Baker and have followed her blog  The Militant Baker for a long time. She was one of the first people I started following who was so completely herself when it came to her mental health and her size. I admire her so much for being so vocal and visible in the body-positive movement.

“Things No One will tell Fat Girls” is not necessarily a book that only fat girls should read. Or girls. Or anyone fat. Basically, if you have a body at all, you should read this book.

The book is filled with essays from Jes’ own life and guest essays from other body-positive activists like Virgie Tovar that make it such a personal read. I don’t know of any person who has not experienced an instance of some sort of negativity towards their body. I remember when I was a small child my mother constantly dieting (she’s bulimic) to the point her hair fell out. I remember being told by a neighbor to stop biting my fingernails because no one would want to marry a girl with hands that looked like that. I remember starving myself because a boy I wanted to notice me only liked skinny girls. I remember an old lover criticizing my body and my reaction was not to tell them to fuck off, but to try and fix those perceived flaws. And, I remember how much all of that hurt.

The main philosophy running through this book is that all bodies are good. All bodies are good, and have worth whether they be fat, skinny, able bodied, disabled, straight, queer, and anything else you care to label. This alone was so impactful for me. To read that the way I look – my shape, my size, my gender, my everything is good and right was amazing. It’s nothing that I could not have come up with on my own, but to see it in print was something else.

Sex positive, body positive, brash and unapologetic is how this is written and how Jes Baker lives. She is a little bit my hero and a lot of who I aspire to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Spoiled Brats

Spoiled Brats

20706308“Spoiled Brats: Stories” by Simon Rich

Synopsis: Twenty years ago, Barney the Dinosaur told the nation’s children they were special. We’re still paying the price.

In his collection SPOILED BRATS, Simon Rich takes his absurd, culture-skewering style to new heights, marrying the literary polish of writers like Karen Russell and George Saunders with the humor of Steve Martin to deliver truly dazzling tales.
SPOILED BRATS is about the battles we fight with the ones who love us most: our parents. In “Family Business,” a young chimpanzee offends his working class father by choosing to become a research animal instead of joining the family grub-hunting business. In “Proud Mom,” a young mother is so besotted she doesn’t realize her child is actually, truly a monster. And in “Animals,” the fate of a terrified classroom hamster hangs in the balance when a notorious kid is picked for hamster care duty.
SPOILED BRATS confirms Rich as one of the most “adept, inarguably funny” (San Francisco Chronicle) young writers at work today.

*******

3 out of 5 stars

This is an amazing, horrific, funny, bizarre, and crass collection of short stories and vignettes. It’s a quick read with some laugh out loud moments and some horrible ones as well. The majority of the stories are exceptionally well written and all of them will make you think.

The theme of all the stories in this book is that of spoiled brats. Whether that brat is the main character, or interacts with the main character, or is in some other fashion in the story there is always a spoiled brat. I loved this, that all the stories have the same reoccurring theme. I also think it’s quite funny that two of the brats in the stories are named Simon. Coincidence? Probably not.

There were a few that stood out for me that I wanted to share.

“Animal” is the story that opens the book and to be honest, I was shocked. It is a fairly accurate (to me) story of the abuse that a family of hamsters faces at the hands of a child in a classroom setting. Told in the first person narrative of the hamster’s point of view, it was chilling to read of the total disregard of life at the hands of this child (Simon) and the lack of care given by the teacher. Starving and battered, the hamster reaches his breaking point and bites the child, but whose fault is that? Certainly not the child’s!

I almost didn’t finish the book because this story affected me so much. It’s well written and quite powerful for a short story, but I feel that it is misplaced here. Most of the rest of the stories have at least a thread of humor in them. “Animal” did not.

“Elf on the Shelf”. I’m not sure how to say I liked this story without saying I liked this story. It’s not a pretty or sweet story at all. This is the story of an actual Elf on the Shelf, send to monitor the behavior of a child and report back to Santa whether or not he or she deserves a Christmas gift or coal. The child he’s assigned to is a 10 year old monster who decides to use the Elf as a masturbation tool and lights him on fire. Hopefully reporting that kind of behavior to Santa will make it stop!

“Sell Out” is the best of the bunch and is the most fleshed out story, more of a novella. It’s the story of (once again) Simon’s great-great grandfather waking up 100 years after he was pickled in a keg of brine. Awakening in modern day Brooklyn he must learn to adapt and learn to survive. This is a great example of the clash between classes and a well done satire on hipster culture.

I’m glad I finished the book as I did enjoy it. Looking at it, I do understand why “Animal” is first – it’s the best hook of the bunch to reel you into the rest of the book. I haven’t read anything else by Simon Rich but look forward to doing so.

The cover is perfect!

 

 

 

 

Monsterland

Monsterland

26835271“Monsterland” by Michael Phillip Cash

Synopsis: Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.
Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?

*******

3 out of 5 stars

Most of the time when I read, I have an image of what I am reading playing in my head – like a movie. Some of the books I read fall into this imaginary movie nicely and I can see the characters and action quite clearly – those are the books I enjoy the most. I’ve even thought about how any given book would translate into an actual cinema movie; could it be done with the characters and scenes in the time allotted and make sense to a viewer. Some of my imaginary movies don’t work quite as well and the action in my head doesn’t run quite as smoothly.

“Monsterland” is a good book, and an OK imaginary movie. I couldn’t find if it was originally listed as a YA read but it most definitely is, geared toward a teen aged reader. The premise is original – the big three scary monsters (zombies, vampires and werewolves) all gathered in one theme park for an audience to view. Very Jurassic Park.

The werewolves are in a glass enclosure that allows the visitors to the park to travel through by boat. They are forced to change on a regular basis with an LED moon. The zombies are actually plague victims and are housed in a walled off part of the park that is made up to look like any suburban neighborhood. The vampires are forced to perform and Victorian entertainers alongside a hunchback in some bizarre play. None of them are happy to be there, having been tricked or captured.

Wyatt is our main character and he and his friends win “back stage passes” to Monsterland’s opening night through a chance meeting with the park’s owner Dr. Vincent Conrad.

In a park full of monsters, what could go wrong? Surprise, everything of course! In Jurassic proportions, every single thing that could go wrong in a grand opening with a park full of monsters does. And, apparently that is just the beginning of the disasters.

This book had the potential to be truly campy, but it missed the mark. It’s a fast and easy read and it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is the main reason I enjoyed it as much as I did.

The cover is great!

ARC provided by NetGalley.

 

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

23512999 “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King

Synopsis: A master storyteller at his best—the O. Henry Prize winner Stephen King delivers a generous collection of stories, several of them brand-new, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.
Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.
There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.
Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant reader—“I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”

*****

3 out of 5 stars

As you know, I am a huge fan of Stephen King. My mother actually introduced me to his books when I was a very young teen as she is also a huge fan. I’m assuming she did because she thought I would read her books anyway.

My parents built the house that I grew up in, and my father made sure he built himself a “library”. It was just a small nook off of the living room with a big wing-back chair that had seen better days, and floor to ceiling books. Shelves of books all the way to the very high ceiling stacked three and four deep on the shelf. My father’s taste in reading runs more towards mysteries and crime thrillers (he is a huge Travis McGee fan) and my mom always read things more to my own taste – horror and  the like.

I remember sitting in that big chair and reading “Nightshift”, thirty five or so years ago. I must have been 12 and it may have been one of my earliest introductions to Stephen King.

“Bazaar of Bad Dreams” is a collection that is kind of a mixed bag. Not all horror, there is a poem in here too. I did enjoy that at the beginning of each short story (or poem) there is a quick intro about how the story came to be. While I enjoyed the book as a whole, there are a few stories here that really stood out for me.

“Ur” – An English teacher buys a Kindle to impress his lady love and ends up with a pink one that does not technically exist. It’s filled with books written in alternate universes.  I liked the story, but will admit this was a shameless plug.

“Under the Weather” – Deliciously creepy! Ad man goes to and from work while taking care of his ill wife. Or, so he says. The lead-in reads that it’s best to stay one step ahead of the narrator and in this case, I agree.

“The Little Green God of Agony” – This story has stuck with me since I’ve read it. It’s the story of one of the richest men in the world desperate for relief of the pain he has been in since a horrific accident. The premise is that his kind of pain is caused by a little god who feeds on pain, and the only way to rid the body of it is by exorcism. As someone who lives with chronic pain, I was asked by a so-called healer a long time ago to try to visualize it as a separate entity and make friends with it if possible. The closest thing I could come up with was the cartoon roach from the old Raid commercials. Needless to say, it didn’t work. This story is one of the best in the book.

“Summer Thunder” – The story of the end of the world. A beautiful and sensitive story and I can’t say I wouldn’t want to choose the same.

This is a good book and I enjoyed it. Not the best from King, but certainly not the worst (that distinction belongs to Dreamcatchers – do not read!). I will always read whatever King writes. Period.

The cover is gorgeous with a little bit of creepiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl in 6E

The Girl in 6E

20640318 “The Girl in 6E” by A.R. Torre

Synopsis: I haven’t touched a human in three years. That seems like it would be a difficult task, but it’s not. Not anymore, thanks to the internet.
I am, quite possibly, the most popular recluse ever. Not many shut-ins have a 200-member fan club, a bank account in the seven-figure range, and hundreds of men lining up to pay for undivided attention.
They get satisfaction, I get a distraction. Their secret desires are nothing compared to why I hide… my lust for blood, my love of death.
Taking their money is easy. Keeping all these secrets… one is bound to escape.
What if you hid yourself away because all you could think of was killing? And what if one girl’s life depending on you venturing into society?
Enter a world of lies, thrills, fears, and all desires, in this original thriller from A. R. Torre.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

Warning: Could be triggering for violence and child abuse

This is the story of Deanna Madden, who moved into her apartment 3 years ago at 19 and has not left since. Locked in every night by her drug addicted neighbor at her request, she lives a very solitary life. She has not seen another living person in three years.

Deanna is alone, except for her wildly successful webcam business. There, she is Jessica Reilly, a college student who moonlights as a virtual sex cam girl. On the web cam, she is anyone they want her to be and she can forget who she really is for a little while. Her income is in the seven figures and is her nest egg should she give in to what she really desires.

Other than the neighbor who locks her in, her two psychiatrists that are only a call away, a hacker who keeps her identity safe, and the UPS guy who delivers all the things she needs to live, Deanna/Jessica is completely alone. By choice.

She has three rules:

1. Don’t leave the apartment.
2. Never let anyone in.
3. Don’t kill anyone.

You see, Deanna lives every day with the urge to kill. She fantasizes about killing her neighbor, killing the UPS man, killing anyone really. She dreams of killing and of blood and has locked herself away to keep the world at large safe … from her.

Her life seems fine and she is relatively happy until one particular customer on her web cam asks her for things that make her sick, and make her afraid for the little girl he asks her to pretend to be.

Deanna is forced to do what she most fears – leave the safety of the apartment in order to save a little girl from a predator.

This is an excellent book! A very original premise with a heroine who reminded me of Dexter a little. There was obviously a HUGE amount of research done into the world of virtual sex and web cam girls. I found it fascinating. There is very little in the way of actual sex in this book, but the descriptions of virtual sex are very graphic. I think they need to be in order to understand the logistics of how virtual sex really works.

This book is also a love story, believe it or not. I could have done without the love interest, but it does help flesh out Deanna’s character and help her to become a little more human. I personally like the psychopathic side of her as well as her decision to become a vigilante.

There is a LOT of sex in this book. Graphic sex acts for the web cam, not so much with another person. It’s an excellent book and I’ve already started the second book in the series.

The cover is amazing and perfect for the book.

 

 

Stinger

Stinger

28421871 “Stinger” by Katya Harris

Synopsis: Kara was born and raised on the cold mining planet of Reach, and has dreamed her whole life of being somewhere else. Stuck with an abusive mother and a dead end job, she longs to experience the worlds she only sees on the vid-screens.
Then those other worlds come to her by way of a stranger, when she saves his life the night he arrives. From a planet called Haven, Sarit is a breed of human created to survive the unhospitable planet and who are now seen by many as less than human.
Though it causes resentment and brings her new trouble, Kara defends Sarit against abusers and builds a friendship with him that soon becomes the best part of her world. Try as she might though to enjoy the time they have together, even with the danger they face, it’s impossible to forget that eventually Sarit will return to traveling the stars and she’ll be left more alone than ever.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

This is a sci-fi/fantasy novella that I really enjoyed. Even though it’s a short read, the author does an amazing job of building the inhospitable world that our main character, Kara, lives on. It’s an icy, dirty planet and the people living there are much the same. The main source of work is mining – hard, brutal work for hard, brutal people.

Kara works as a barmaid, serving drinks and trying to stay out of arms reach of the men who frequent the bar. On her way home, she sees a stranger attacked by a group of men and helps save his life.

The stranger is Sarit, a breed of human from the planet Haven. The Haven people had to use nanotechnology in order to survive their planet which left them with the ability to control electricity. The name stinger is slang for that use as their fingertips glow when they use it. Sarit is on the planet of Reach to repair some of the mining equipment.

Sarit is shunned by the entire populace; all except Kara. She feels safe with him for the first time in her life. Safe from her abusive mother and safe from the predatory men on her planet. Sarit is only there for a short time and Kara is left to face what life will be like when he leaves.

I haven’t read anything by Katya Harris before, but I will definitely be looking for more of her writing. It’s very original and I connected so much with both Kara and Sarit. I’ve also never read any story where one of the main characters is asexual and/or aromantic. I very much liked the exploration of platonic love vs romantic love. Sarit can’t feel romantic or sexual feelings, but that does not mean he doesn’t need and crave friendship, kindness and simple human touch.

The only thing I did not like about this book was the cover. It was dark and gloomy enough to show the planet, but I think a book like this deserves a better cover.

ARC provided by NetGalley