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Redefining Realness

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redefining realness

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock is a memoir about Janet discovering and living her truth. For Mock this truth is that she’s trans* but that is not all that defines her. Unfortunately while Mock has many traits the one that she had the hardest time to come to terms with was her gender.

“I often say I always knew I was a girl since the age of three or four, a time when I began cataloging my memories. No one-not my mother, my grandmother, my father or my siblings- gave me any reason to believe that I was anything other than my parents’ firstborn son, my father’s namesake. But it was my very first conviction, the first thing I grew certain of as a young person. When I say I always knew I was a girl with such certainty, I erase all the nuances, the work, the process of self-discovery. I’ve adapted I always knew I was a girl as a defense against the louder world, which has told me-ever since I left Mom’s body in that pink hospital atop a hill in Honolulu- that my girlhood was imaginary, something made up that needed to be fixed” (pg 16)

This quote replayed in my head all day after I read it. I can’t even begin to imagine needing to edit part of your story so it fits better with the current accepted narrative.  When Mock first meets her boyfriend she can’t believe how easy he talks about his past. She marvels at it, and wonders what it would be like to just be able to talk about it without fear of rejection.

Mock takes the reader through her journey starting when she is a young boy in Hawaii to living her truth in New York and finding the love of her life.  She doesn’t gloss over any part of her journey which makes for a heart wrenching and inspiring tale.

Mock’s story of triumph is all too rare, most trans people aren’t this lucky. Want a scary statistic? Mocks group is the one most liking to be prayed on, abused and murdered. Can you imagine living your life knowing you’re one wrong person away from being killed and most people wouldn’t fault them for killing you? The life that these woman are forced to live is shameful. The fact that we have and continue to allow any group of people to face this kind of hate on a daily basis is despicable.

This book has been on my to read list for so long and I don’t know why I waited.  This book makes me want to run down a crowded street and yell at everyone to read it.  

Trigger Warnings:

Child Abuse

Child molestation

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

N/A

*any and all description terms I use in this review are Mock’s. This review is about Mock’s story, not my white, cis one.

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

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After Dark

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after dark

 

 

After Dark by Jayne Castle is advertised as a romance, fantasy, mystery book.  I love fantasy books but this one was the pits. The main character Lydia is trying to put her life back together after a bad experience in an alien tomb. She lost her job at the university and is now a private contractor working to help people find artifacts for their private collections.

This claims to be the first book in the series but if that’s the case the world building sucked. It took me about half the book to find out that the humans were the alien species on the planet.  From what I could gather that humans journeyed (maybe on a spaceship?) to the planet, Harmony, through what was referred to as a curtain.  Humans carved out a place on the planet and while they were doing that the curtain closed and they were forever separated from Earth. If someone has read this series and knows if any of this is even close to understanding the world please let me know. Even though this book was awful I may just read the next the book to see if I understood the world even a little bit.

The story starts with Lydia and her first client Emmett discovering a dead body. The body turns out to be Lydia’s friend Chester.  Thus starting the kind of crappy, really not well thought out mystery or romance.

Emmett is super rich and he’s handsome to boot! But even though he wants for nothing he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. That’s right ladies if you need help painting your wall and Emmett shows up in a nice suit he’ll just grab a paintbrush and start helping! He also just decides to fix things in Lydia’s life without her asking (ex. Lock on building). But there is one problem… HE IS A GHOST HUNTER AND LYDIA HATES THOSE! Lydia spends a lot of time saying she hates them and making assumptions about them and then Emmett gets annoyed. Does Lydia figure out that she should stop doing this? Nope, which is super weird considering before her incident she was a well published academic.

Emmett also suffers from the condition that most male leads in romance novels have, that he keeps secrets from Lydia. If you think that sounds kind of dumb, you don’t understand, he knows what’s going on. Since he knows what’s going on he continually tries to explain to Lydia that she’s not safe and he needs to fire her. Why? BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHATS GOING ON! Lydia is just going to get hurt and even though he repeatedly says that he knows she’s not fragile he keeps trying to decide whats best for her.

The repetitive nature of Castel’s writing frequently made me groan. Miss what someone said because you were too busy rolling your eyes? Don’t worry it’ll probably be mentioned again in the next page and a half or so.

Also why do people who write books that take place in the future do weird things to what they call marriage? In this book you could have one marriage for no kids and another for if you were having kids. But if you wanted to have kids and you were in a no kid marriage you had to dissolve your first one and get remarried. THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE! Why would a society do that? Why? This is just Castle trying to show how “weird” and “different” the future is without really putting any effort into it. It’s just lazy. This reminded me a lot of J.D Robb (Nora Roberts) In Death series, if you like those books then this series is for you.

Trigger Warnings:

No known

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

Kindness Goes Unpunished

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Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson is the third book in his Longmire series.  Walt accompanies Henry to Philadelphia, where Henry is giving a lecture Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  Walt’s reason’s for going aren’t entirely to support Henry and keep him company, Walt’s daughter Cady lives there.  The first few pages will make anyone who has ever had to deal with children laugh out loud. Walt is trying to read a fairy tale to a room of children and it’s not going well, “My daddy hides his medicine whenever anybody knocks on our door…He says he doesn’t have a prescription…He smokes his medicine.” (p. 3) Shortly after Walt and Henry arrive in Philadelphia Cady is attacked and barely survives.

A good portion of this book is spent on Walt and Henry’s love for Cady. You can feel their raw pain and confusion about what to do. And though this is a vital part of the story and could have easily be dragged out to the point of losing its potency, Johnson doesn’t do that.

The setting of this series is as important as the people, Wyoming almost feels like another character. This book doesn’t take place in Wyoming though, it takes place in Philadelphia. I wasn’t sure if Johnson would be able to hold onto the magic if he moved Walt to a city. I don’t know why I was worried. Walt’s not some country bumpkin, he’s traveled the world but I still didn’t expect him to do as well as he did. Walt being in city doesn’t change him, he still wears his cowboy hat and boots, so he stands out a bit more than back home.

We also are introduced to Moretti’s family. It’s easy to see where she gets her no nonsense attitude.

Spoiler time: It comes out in the book that Cady is in an abusive relationship and while I hate that she is in one, I love the way Johnson wrote it. Cady is described as a strong, independent, intelligent, and well-loved woman.  Normally when we are introduced to a woman in an abusive relationship these women are the exact opposite of Cady, and are so desperate for love that they’ll take whatever they can get even if it leaves bruises. Those women are only one part of victims of domestic violence and women like Cady are often seen as too smart to “get themselves” into a situation like that but that’s not reality. All women from all walks of life are venerable to an abusive relationship. Johnson doesn’t condemn Cady for this though we and by default, Walt, are directed to take our anger for this out on her abuser (which is where it belongs.)

 

Trigger Warnings:

Animal Death

Abuse

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

Not a Drop to Drink

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not a drop to drink

 

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis is about a dystopian future where water has become worth killing for.  The beginning of the book introduces us to Lynn and her mother, Lauren.  People always ask why I love young adult fiction and this is why. We have a female protagonist in a dire situation and she can take care of herself.  Lynn never knew her father and it’s just been her and her mother defending their pond. The pond is a clean source of water and one of the only consistent ones in the area. Lynn’s family has owned the land for generations and she and her mother are determined to defend it at all costs.

The beginning of the book reminds me a lot of The Road by Cormac McCarthy but less bleak. Just like the two main characters in The Road Lynn and Lauren have gone from house to house to grab whatever goods they can use.  There’s not a lot of action going on and we are introduced to the world that has formed with water becoming scarce. Lynn learned to shoot as soon as she was big enough to hold a gun, she and her mother take turns sitting on the roof sniping anyone that gets too close. When they’re not sitting on the roof they’re gathering water or food to store for the winter. Luckily for Lynn her mother was a big fan of National Geographic and understands the basics of living off the grid.

Like most young adult novels there is a little bit of romance but thankfully not the creepy stalker kind. Lynn does meet at young man but he’s not verbally abusive or manipulative. It’s a sad statement of our media that I find it refreshing that when a girl meets a boy he doesn’t treat her like crap and she doesn’t become a different person for him. The romance in this book also has the traditional roles reversed, Lynn can hunt and defend herself but Eli grew up in the city and doesn’t know the first thing about how to survive.

This book poses the interesting question what would you do if one day no more water came out of your faucets.  Reading how hard Lynn and Lauren work just to survive makes me eternally grateful for our modern day conveniences.

 

Trigger Warnings:

Rape

Sexual Assault

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

Death Without Company

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death without company

 

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson is the second book in the Longmire series.  This mystery starts when a local woman, Mari Baroja, dies at Durant Home for Assisted Living. This is also where Lucian, Walt’s mentor and former sheriff, lives. Lucian insists that Baroja’s death wasn’t the caused by old age and demands an investigation be opened. Walt, being the current sherif, is forced to figure out if Lucian is right or if Baroja died of natural causes. Walt is forced to unravel his mentor’s old secrets and those of Baroja, but don’t worry he still does it with his dry wit.

A nice addition to this story is Walt’s new dog, Dog. It’s a perfectly fitting name for Walt to give an animal; it fits better than Fido ever would. We were introduced to Dog in the first book, The Cold Dish¸ but Dog belonged to Vonnie Hayes. In the end of the last book after Vonnie committed suicide, Dog just shows up at Walt’s door and won’t leave.  They grieve for Vonnie together, in a way that no one else can.

The interplay between Walt and the other characters is what makes this series work.  A lone cop trying to solve a crime wouldn’t work in this world and thank god for that. Walt doesn’t get to pull stupid stunts and then we’re told how brave and wonderful he is.  When Walt does something stupid everyone that sees him tells how they feel about his recent antics. Henry, his best friend, and Moretti, one of his deputy’s, are fleshed out more but they keep their distinct voices.

If you have any problems with graphic abuse and sexual assault do not read this book. I repeat do not read this book. These acts are horrific and Johnson describes them in a way that makes you fully feel their weight.

I was nervous that the second book wouldn’t pull me in as strongly as the first one but I shouldn’t have.

Trigger Warnings:

Abuse

Sexual assault (graphic)

Rape (graphic)

Domestic Violence

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

The Color of Magic

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              The Color of Magic by Terry Prachett is the first novel in a science fiction series about a far off world named Discworld. I’m pretty lucky because no one told me this book was going to be amazing so it had no hype to live up to. If you don’t like the idea of a flat world resting on the back of four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle this is not the book for you. This isn’t one of those books where you can skim whole paragraphs because if you try that suddenly you’re in a completely different part of the world with no idea as to how you got there. Hell, sometimes if you don’t skim you still just end up somewhere with no idea as to why or how that happened. The book isn’t one whole story but more of a collection of four short stories. At times this does cause the book to feel jumpy and confusing.

I didn’t hate nor did I particularly like the main characters, Rincewind, a failed wizard, and Twoflower, a tourist. Twoflower bumbles around being excited by everything meanwhile, Rincewind follows him around trying to keep Twoflower from getting himself killed. My two favorite characters were Death and the Luggage. The Luggage is a magical chest that has the personality of a big, loyal, sloppy dog. If it ever gets separated from Twoflower, its master, it will run over anyone and anything in its path to get back to him, hilariousness ensues. Death randomly pops in and out to see if Rincewind is going to get out of whatever mess he’s in or if Death can finally take him. Whenever Rincewind does manage to survive Death is very put off and sulks, which an amusing image.

This book is funny, but it’s the kind of book that gets funnier the each time you read it. Knowing what I know now some of the jokes in the beginning are hilarious, but when I first read them weren’t even laugh out loud funny. This book series has a cult following and it’s easy to see why. Almost every review of this book I’ve read said that this is the weakest book in the series, so if this book doesn’t quite do it for you try another one before you completely give up on the Discworld universe.

 

Trigger Warnings:

No known triggers

happy pooh bear

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Not even close. Unless I miscounted there are only a handful female characters in the entire book. They all have names but they never interact with one another. This book travels through  an entire world and we never have more than one female character in a scene at a time. That makes total sense…

yeah sure

 

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

What Angels Fear

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what angels fear

What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris is a historical mystery sent in London in 1811. The main character Sebastian St. Cyr is accused of a brutal murder of a young actress. Our hero, knowing he is innocent flees arrest and attempts to solve the mystery himself.

The mystery was enough to keep me engaged. I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was fairly early but I wasn’t sure how all the pieces would fall together and if Sebastian would be able to clear his name. All of the characters were well rounded and thought out. This is the first book in the series and we are not privy to all of the characters secrets yet. Besides the main mystery there are little tidbits here and there hinting at future plot lines. None of these hints felt forced and were tantalizing enough that I want to continue the series.

If Sebastian were a lady everyone who reads this book would have call him a Mary Sue, but he’s not a lady.  Men can be obscenely perfect but the ladies can’t, if you think I’m wrong, apply the standards of a Mary Sue to Batman. Sebastian has super awesome hearing and eyesight, so awesome he can almost see in the dark. His hearing is so good that he can hear whispers in another room. I kept waiting to find out he was part demon or something but nope just a human with some super awesome senses.

pshhhhh

Sebastian is wounded emotionally from a bad breakup that caused him to sign up to fight France. When he returns he is more damaged than before. Sebastian is the tired hero that keeps insisting that he’s “no hero” and everyone just nodding their heads and smirking. To keep Sebastian in line he’s given a little helper in the form of a street child named Tom.  He surprises Sebastian more than once with his resourcefulness and perceptiveness. Tom is adorable and street smart, he definitely adds to the story.

Next time I’m in the mood for a historical mystery I’m going to have zero qualms about picking up the next book in this series.

Trigger Warnings:

  • Rape
  • Necrophilia
  • Animal abuse mention
  • Gore

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No.

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)