Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body

Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body: understanding what it means to be transgendered by Jaime A. Seba

In clear, non-emotional terms, this text (and others in the Gallup Guide to Modern Gay Lesbian and Transgender Lifestyle series) outlines the issues, facts, and myths about transgendered persons. Information for the book was gathered from the medical community, the transgendered political community, and from individuals who identify themselves on the specturm of transgender, as well as parents, siblings, and spouses of transgendered people.

With vocabulary defined in context and also in adjacent sidebars, "extra info" boxes of related information, and plenty of quotes from people who deal with the confusion of transgender on a daily basis, this book will be useful for questioners of all ages. Each chapter also contains a bibliography of books and internet resources for further inquiry.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Dreadnought  by Cherie Priest
Mercy Lynch is a recently-widowed nurse working in a Confederate hospital during a strangely-elongated American Civil War when she gets news that her long-missing father is injured and possibly dying in the distant state of Washington.  Mercy immediately leaves the hospital and journeys West aboard the locomotive Dreadnought, surrounded by all kinds of characters:  a Texas Ranger, a spy, hostile Indian warriors, Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers, Mexican bandits, ladies of easy virtue, and a huge army of zombies.

Steampunk fun in the altered American West : it doesn't get better than this!  Don't look for historical accuracy here--the history of this  America has taken a sharp turn away from our reality, and into a very interesting place of its own.  Dreadnought is the sequel to this author's Boneshaker (another steampunk story, set in gold-rush Seattle), but stands alone beautifully.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  Some romance but no on-page sex (the ladies of pleasure go off-stage for business purposes), some drugs (including the drugs that turn soldiers into zombies!), some wartime violence, plus a few bloody scenes of amputation in a Civil War-era hospital.

The Painted Boy

The Painted Boy  by Charles de Lint
When Jay Li was an 11-year-old kid living in Chicago, the image of a dragon appeared embedded on the skin of his back.  The dragon is not a tattoo, it is, rather, an outward sign of Jay's true inner power as a member of the Yellow Dragon Clan.  Jay's grandmother Paupau trains the boy for six years, and then turns him loose in the world to find his place in it...or possibly, to die in the attempt.

Jay ends up in a small barrio town in Southern Arizona which is dominated by bandas (gangs). With his new friend Rosalie,  his love-interest Anna, a jackalope/girl called Lupita, and a rock band called "Malo Malo", Jay draws on his immature dragon power to drive violence away from town.  However, the bandas are not going to leave without a fight.

Fans of the author will welcome this new tale of contemporary magic; newcomers to the genre may be lost among the confusing powers of the animal clans.  For a better introduction to DeLint's wonderful alternate-universe, readers may want to explore the recent short-story compilation The Very Best of Charles DeLint.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

Five Flavors of Dumb

Five Flavors of Dumb   by Antony John
Piper is a high school senior in Seattle who just might be the best possible manager for the rock band called "Dumb".  After all, Piper is deaf, and can't hear how bad the band sounds.  Besides, since her parents dipped into Piper's college funds to pay for cochlear implants for her baby sister, Piper needs money.

Piper's business savvy is the real key to success for Dumb: she recognizes their strengths, and helps them to strengthen their weaknesses.  However, Piper's savvy stops at "business"; she is remarkably dense when it comes to recognizing that one of the musicians loves her. 

Piper is not a "deaf character"; instead, she is a terrific character with strong opinions, a terrific sense of sarcastic humor (she names her terrible old car the USS Immovable), a deep connection to her family, and a connection to deaf society that may be new territory for many readers.  The Seattle setting is integral to the plot, as Piper and Dumb chase around the city in search of the musical history of rock and roll icons Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. 

Extra stars are awarded for the author's note acknowledging the definitive biographies of Hendrix and Cobain written by Richmond Beach resident Charles R. Cross.

Highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up.  The narrative contains references to the rock-and-roll drug/alcohol culture, but there is no on-page drug use or sexual situations.  The romance is sweet and satisfying. 

Geek Fantasy Novel

Geek Fantasy Novel  by E. Archer
Geek-boy Ralph joins his British cousins on a series of mad quests through twisted fairy-tale landscapes populated by a wicked sorceress, thousands of enslaved sparkle-flinging fairies, and some bunnies that belch fire.

Fun, right?


Despite forcing myself to read half the book, I never actually believed that Ralph is a geek (using a cell phone to send a text message is not tremendously geeky, honestly).  The soceress (who also sells aerobic equipment on cable TV) is unconvincing.  The quests are random and nonsensical--not in a hilarious, mind-bending  "Monty Python" way, but more in a "I wrote this book in a month and then didn't do anything else with it" way.

The bunnies really do belch fire, but only for a page or two.

For best results, I recommend that readers just pick up a copy of the book, look at the terrific cover art, read the amusing blurb on the back, and then read something else.  Because truthfully, this review of the book is funnier than the book itself.

Not recommended.

Maybe Never, Maybe Now

Maybe Never, Maybe Now  by Kimberly Joy Peters

Caitlyn has survived an abusive relationship with her former boyfriend Tyler, and is now trying to move on with her life.  She embarks on a semester-long study abroad program in Quebec, immersing herself in the French language and the life of a daughter in a friendly, overcrowded host family.  Also in Quebec is Caitlyn's faithful friend Connor, who wants to be more than a friend.  But how much more?

Caitlyn's reactions to Connor (who is admirably respectful) border sometimes on panic-stricken.  She recognizes that, despite time and therapy, she has not completely recovered from her time with Tyler, and is clearly unready for intimacy. Adding to Caitlyn's angst (there is a lot of angst in this book) is the letter from her long-missing father, who wants Caitlyn back in his life. 

While most professional reviewers liked this book, Caitlyn's angst-y reliance on horoscopes, mood rings, and coin-flipping to make decisions made my teeth itch a bit.  Still, the intended audience will probably lap it up.  The book is second in a series about Caitlyn and her family and friends, but stands alone adequately.  Appropriate for middle-school and high school audiences, especially reluctant readers.

In a Heartbeat

In a Heartbeat  by Loretta Ellsworth

This is the story of two girls. 

16-year-old Eagan, a figure skater bound for the Olympics, is dead after she hits her head on the boards during a competition.  In life, she loved to skate, loved her boyfriend, and loved her parents--even though she frequently fought with her mother.  Now Eagan experiences a series of flashbacks in a "grey between-place". 

Shy 14-year-old Amelia has lived with a failing heart for several years, and knows that in order  to receive a heart transplant, somebody else has to die.  She wants to be normal, but has been so ill for so long that she doesn't know where to begin.  After Eagan's heart is transplanted into Amelia, the girl is able to walk, and even run...and she begins to dream of Eagan's life, to act like Eagan, and even to crave Eagan's favorite purple lollipops.

The concept of "cellular memory" has plenty of anecdotal support, but real research is still pending.  Still, the idea is interesting enough to keep readers turning the pages to see the many ways that Eagan is able to assist Amelia from beyond the grave.  No sex, drugs, or rock and roll, but there are a few tactful scenes of teen snuggling.

Recommended for middle school and high school readers.