Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver

E.K. Weaver’s critically-acclaimed road trip romance comic is collected here in this award-winning, commercially-successful omnibus edition. Less Than Epic tells the story of Amal (just out of the closet and freshly disowned by his parents) and TJ (a mysterious and eccentric vagrant) and their journey across the continental United States.

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How I Found This Book

Found this one at Chamblin’s Bookmine, and loved the art so I decided to pick it up. I actually had heard nothing about this before seeing it at the bookstore.

Overall Feeling

I want to never leave this story. I’m OBSESSED with these characters. They’re flawed and real and amazing and everything I could want in characters. I’m also definitely in love with Amal and everything he is. I seriously would read comics about TJ and Amal until the time, I just want it to so bad.

Cons

My only two negatives are this: One, I wish it had been in color. I know that having it in black and white make the very few panels of color that much more spectacular, but I just would’ve loved to see them in full color the whole time. Two, I just need more. The ending was NOWHERE near enough for me. I need to see what happens next. I have no idea if Weaver plans on doing anything else with these characters but I’m willing to beg for it.

Pros

Everything else. The art was done so beautifully. It was so funny and moving at the same time. Amal specifically has so much growth through the book, which I loved watching. I loved being able to see how TJ brought out a new side of Amal that he’d kept hidden for his family. I also loved the impulsiveness that Amal showed throughout the book. I feel we can all be a little more impulsive. It might help us in the long run. Also, as a side note, I’m in love with Amal’s hair.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer characters, character of color (Indian I believe).

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Discussions of drugs, marijuana use, sex depicted

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Wicca by Scott Cunningham

Cunningham’s classic introduction to Wicca is about how to live life magically, spiritually, and wholly attuned with nature. It is a book of sense and common sense, not only about magick, but about religion and one of the most critical issues of today: how to achieve the much needed and wholesome relationship with our Earth. Cunningham presents Wicca as it is today: a gentle, Earth-oriented religion dedicated to the Goddess and God. “Wicca “also includes Scott Cunningham’s own Book of Shadows and updated appendices of periodicals and occult suppliers. 

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How I Found This Book

I found my physical copy in Chamblin’s Bookmine, a local used bookstore. But while searching for Witchy Podcasts, I found The Wiccan Read-Along Podcast where Phoenix read the whole book, chapter by chapter.

Overall Feeling

I fully understand why this has over 400,000 copies sold and is so highly recommended to people who are just learning about Wicca. Cunningham presents the basics in an easy way without ever talking down to his readers. He’s quick to remind practitioners that they can change and modify any and all pieces to fit their needs, and that the only thing that makes a “real” Wiccan, is deciding you’re a Wiccan.

Cons

While quick to point out that you can modify your practice how you want, there were still a few parts where Cunningham would present views as concrete. For instance, he focused very heavily that you MUST worship the Goddess and God, and even seemed to place greater importance on the Goddess than the God, rather than having them equal. I found myself arguing with him on certain pieces, like the one above.

Pros

Cunningham does extremely well with breaking things down into easily understood principals. He has created such a wonderful beginners book, that anyone can pick it up and start practicing should they so desire. He even includes exercises to practice in order to improve your skills of visualization, meditation, and more. I felt like I understood so much more after reading/listening to this book. I also highly recommend checking out the podcast. Phoenix, the narrator, does a wonderful job reading the book, and in later episodes even provides some personal commentary.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Wiccan religion.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

None noted.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble

Seventeen-year-old Luke Chesser is trying to forget his spectacular failure of a love life. He practices marching band moves for hours in the hot Texas sun, deals with his disapproving father, and slyly checks out the new band field tech, Curtis Cameron. Before long, Luke is falling harder than he knew he could. And this time, he intends to play it right.

Since testing positive for HIV, Curtis has careened between numbness and fear. Too ashamed to tell anyone, Curtis can’t possibly act on his feelings. And Luke–impulsive, funny, and more tempting than he realizes–won’t take a hint. Even when Curtis distances himself it backfires, leaving him with no idea how to protect Luke from the truth.

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How I Found This Book

I had heard of this one from some book blogs I follow, but I found a marked up copy at Powell’s in Portland, OR and I just had to pick it up!

Overall Feeling

Overall, it was pretty okay. I’ll be honest in that I was wowed by any means but I definitely enjoyed reading it and was glad I had picked it up. The story was very rushed however, which is something that I didn’t enjoy at all. I felt like we didn’t get enough in terms of character development. However, the story overall was such a good one, and I felt had a lot of realism to it. Obviously, every person’s reaction to HIV is different, but everything Trumble portrayed here made sense and felt very realistic.

Cons

Like I said, the story was just so rushed. I feel like we didn’t actually get to process the character’s emotions in the story, but rather we were just told that they’d grown. For instance, Luke says some terrible stuff to Curtis at one point, and then like two chapters later, he says he’s in love with Curtis. But we don’t get to see his process of going from anger to love. Honestly, the fact that they loved each other was such a stretch to me, because I saw nothing in there that could have lead them to those feelings that quickly. Trumble jumped ahead weeks at a time, with nothing more than “They texted that week.” It made it hard for me to actually like Luke to be honest. I also HATED how we never really saw Curtis coming to terms with his status. Just all of a sudden in the last chapter he was fine with it and ready to date and love.

I did also find the cover a little odd. From what I understand Luke is featured in one of Trumble’s other books, so maybe it makes more sense if you read that one, but I just did not understand why he’s wearing headphones on the cover… At least I think that’s supposed to be Luke. But I cannot remember them ever talking about listening to music, only the band stuff. It just seemed strange…

Pros

Well first I will always love a good story about HIV and how it doesn’t have to mean the end of your life. So automatically Trumble gets points from me for writing this story. Also, like I said earlier, I do think the reactions were very realistic, especially from Curtis. Having to deal with that diagnosis, not being able to tell his family, feeling like he didn’t deserve love or that he was gonna ruin Luke’s life were all so real and really well written. I do still hate that we don’t get WHY he came to terms, but I’m glad that Trumble also showed that part of the story. I’m also glad she showed the experience of how Curtis’ roommate’s mom handled his diagnosis. Reactions like that are still prevalent today unfortunately.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer characters, character with HIV

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Minor descriptions of violence, mentions of depression.

Quotes

I’m as bound to him as the moon is to the earth. He keeps me in orbit; and maybe I do the same for him.

Posted in Bookish Lists

Bookish List: Bookish Problems

 

*Picture by Sarah Anderson. You can find it here.

  1. No comfy reading positions

Sometimes I will go from my couch to a chair to my bed to the floor to back to the couch and all over again. It’s like trying to find cell phone reception in the early 2000s. How can it be this hard just to get comfy? I’m 90% sure this wouldn’t even be an issue if I had a bathtub that I could actually fit in, as I would spend every second I could just sitting in a hot bath reading.

  1. The Book Buying problem

I talked about this as part of my Book Resolutions but it’s a serious problem. The second I enter a bookstore I have to pick up books. I try to tell myself to remember all the books I have at home but then there’s that new book in the series I started or the book that I heard about on that podcast. It’s just so hard to stop picking them up. It also doesn’t help that there’s a local used bookstore and Friend’s of the Library bookstore so I can always pick up a ton of books on the cheap.

  1. No room for new books

Of course once you buy all those books you have to put them on their appropriate bookshelves. Or in my case, because I’m overflowing with books, into their appropriate stacks… I currently own 5 bookshelves and still have multiple stacks on the floor of books because I just keep running out of space. For every book I donate, I buy 5 more. It’s an addiction I tell you!

  1. Unknowingly starting a new series.

I’m a big fan of binge reading a series. I prefer to read the whole series from start to finish, staying in the world and with the characters for as long as I can. Occasionally, I’ll start a series that hasn’t completed yet but only if I hear AMAZING things about it. Otherwise, I mark it on my list and wait until the final book comes out. So there is nothing more I hate then to find out that a book I’m reading is the first in a series that isn’t all out yet! Especially if the first book ends on a cliffhanger. I can usually get over it, if it’s a one-off book that then becomes so popular that they decide to write a sequel, but when it’s the first in a planned series, I just wish they’d put that on the cover!

  1. Nobody to talk to about books.

Unfortunately, all my book-loving friends have moved away. And while we’ve started our own Postal Book Club, I still wish they were here to talk books with. I’ve considered trying to join an in-person book club (my library even does one monthly) but I find it hard to talk to people I don’t know outside of work things. It’s especially hard when I’ve finished such a good book and have no one to discuss or share my favorite parts with.

  1. A fandom of one

Which leads to trying to find an online community to talk about the book with. I typically search Goodreads or just google the book plus “book review” to try to find someone who’s talked about the book. But seeing as I love queer novels, they seem to have smaller fan-bases. Especially queer comics I’m finding. It can suck when I search on Goodreads, and no one else has marked a book as “read” or done a review. I guess one really is the loneliest number.

  1. Book hangover

Most people know of a book hangover as when you cannot start a new book because you’re still living in the last book’s world. This gets especially difficult because when I don’t start another book I then spend more time beating myself up about all the books I should be reading so that my To-Be-Read list can go down. Usually I just have to sit myself down and tell myself that I’m going to start a new book now. It usually tends to work but it’s still a huge nuisance.

  1. Mourning – Characters, series, author’s writing

When a character we love dies, we feel it. When a series is finally and truly over, we feel it. When author we love writes a shitty book, we feel it. But no one understands our need to mourn these things. Especially people who don’t like reading. They cannot understand why when a character dies, we cry and sometimes need to eat copious amounts food to deal. They don’t understand how the written word can affect us so much. But for us readers, it makes all the sense in the world.

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So those are some of my Bookish Problems. What are yours??

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Beasts of Burden (Animal Rites) by Evan Dorkin. Art by Jill Thompson

Welcome to Burden Hill – A peaceful suburb like any other with white picket fences and vibrant green grass – home to an unlikely team of paranormal investigators. Black magic, demonic frogs, and zombie roadkill are just a few of the problems plaguing this seemingly sleepy little town. With the human residents unaware of the danger, it’s up to a determined crew of dogs (and one cat) to keep their community safe.

Horror, adventure, mystery, and humor thrive on every page of Beasts of Burden, which promises to capture readers’ hearts and haunt their dreams. Award-winning comics creators Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) come together to share the lives of some unlucky heroes, first introduced in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, for which Dorkin and Thompson won coveted Eisner awards for Best Short Story and Best Painter. Animal Rites collects those earliest tales, along with the four-issue comic series Beats of Burden.

How I Found This Book

Perusing my local library’s graphic novel section I saw this and loved the art.

Overall Feeling

I need this to become a cartoon show on Netflix ASAP! It’s just so good. Animals who are paranormal investigators? YES PLEASE! These stories were such a great mix, sometimes leaving you laughing while other times leaving a somber taste in your mouth. I loved the dynamic of the characters and the storylines. I really wish there was another volume or more stories or something.

Cons

I honestly don’t think I have any.

Pros

First of all, the art here is just perfect. Jill Thompson provides so much detail too her work that you can feel the creepiness in the town as you’re reading it. The colors were brilliant and the dogs were drawn beautifully. The stories were also so different each time which I just loved. They were creepy and scary and lovely. The characters were each built so differently as well and that’s part of what makes these adventures so great. There’s also some cliffhangers/open endings here and there that add an air of mystery to the series. I really am hoping they do more in the future.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Well, they’re all dogs…

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Death, suicide, murder.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: No House To Call My Home (Love, Family, and Other Transgressions) by Ryan Berg

Underemployed and directionless, Ryan Berg took a job in a group home for disowned and homeless LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) teenagers. His job was to help these teens discover their self worth, get them back on their feet, earn high school degrees, and find jobs. But he had no idea how difficult it would be, and the complexities that were involved with coaxing them away from dangerous sex work and cycles of drug and alcohol abuse, and helping them heal from years of abandonment and abuse.

In No House to Call My Home, Ryan Berg tells profoundly moving, intimate, and raw stories from the frontlines of LGBTQ homelessness and foster care.  No House to Call My Home will provoke readers into thinking in new ways about how we define privilege, identity, love and family. Because beyond the tears and abuse, the bluster and bravado, what emerges here is a love song to that irrepressible life force of youth: hope.

How I Found This Book

I first heard about it on Twitter, but found it in Powell’s Books when I was visiting a friend (did you know they have an entire LGBTQ+ section?!). I ended up reading this is almost one sitting while on my flight from Portland.

Overall Feeling

All the tears ever for this book. Go into this ready for overwhelming sadness to fill your entire body. But it is super important and necessary to read this book. Berg really captures the youth here in a way that reminds us how truly vulnerable homeless LGBTQ+ youth can be. The stories may have you feeling low but the book ultimately leaves you feeling ready to fight for a better foster care system for our youth. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. But do not go into expecting a “everything ends perfectly” type of story. These are real stories, and some provide more questions than answers.

Cons

The biggest con for me is a very personal one: telling other people’s stories. I always feel a little weird about someone writing stories about someone else, especially in the social work field. Don’t get me wrong, they’re extremely important stories to share, but I’m always get a strange feeling about it. I end up wondering did they know their story would be shared, did they agree, do they get profits? I’m curious about that with this book as well, but I haven’t heard much about that piece.

Pros

The stories are powerful and raw, as they should be. Berg doesn’t sugarcoat anything, allowing the stories to show you the trauma experienced by the youth. Berg’s writing tells the stories of these youth in a way that makes you feel as if you’re working right beside him. You can feel not only their struggles, but also the challenges Berg faces as a social work in a flawed system. Berg also offers real solutions to fix the flawed system that is inherently disadvantageous to youth of color or LGBTQ+ status.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Features LGBTQ+ youth, primarily of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Sexual violence/abuse, domestic violence, prostitution/sex work, drug use/abuse, homelessness.

Quotes

This may be all good and true, but gay rights advocates’ interest in blending in with the broader society and their narrow focus on marriage equality have resulted in the neglect of other pressing issues.

Yes, LGBTQ folks are less stigmatized, and more visible, but only when safely celibate, coupled off, and mirroring heteronormative values-standards that present heterosexuality as the preferred, or “normal,” identity.

Audre Lorde taught us, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

The system would need to look through a different lens, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty.

There are more than 2 million LGBTQ adults in the United States willing to foster or adopt, yet 60 percent of foster care agencies report never having placed a youth with LGBTQ couples, and 40 percent of agencies said they would not even accept applications from LGBTQ individuals or couples.

Posted in Bookish Lists

Bookish List: Some Bookish Opinions

I thought about calling this Unpopular Bookish Opinions but I decided not to, because who gets to decide whats popular! So instead, here’s just some opinions I have on bookish things.

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  1. I like e-readers.

I wrote a whole piece in defense of e-readers (which you can find here) but I just really do like them. I love how many books they can hold and how light they are. It’s been especially useful when flying or traveling in general. I find myself bringing less physical books on vacations/trips now.

  1. I don’t like series lasting longer than a trilogy.

I have the shortest attention span. Like super short. A lot of times, after the third book, I’m just tired of being in that world. I don’t know what it is or how to change it. It’s interesting and as I look back, I can usually handle a longer series if I read them as they come out. I remember reading A Series of Unfortunate Events as it happened and I loved it. But after the last one came out, I tried to do a complete reread of them all before reading the last one, and I couldn’t make it past the fourth. I think a part of it may be that there’s so many interesting worlds and characters out there, and I want to read them all so after three books I feel like I’ve spent my time with them. Who knows if this will ever change but, we’ll see.

  1. I love romance books.

I am in love with romance. I know some people knock romance books, but I can’t get enough of them. While the happily ever after may be cliché, it’s exactly what I need. I spend my days running a rape crisis program, and while I do spend some time reading about social justice and hard issues, sometimes I just need to come home and read something where nothing goes wrong. I need to know sometimes that when I pick up a book I don’t have to worry about triggers or trauma. Sometimes I just wanna know that main character finds the one and lands the job and gets it all. I need to know that there is still light in the darkness.

  1. I don’t organize my bookshelf.

This is because of two reasons. One is that most of my books are unread. So, I just throw them haphazardly on the bookshelves until I want to read them. However, I do have a bookcase for my nonfiction, a bookcase for my fiction, and a bookcase for the queer books. The other reason is that I keep so few books that they don’t really need to be organized. It’s easy to find them because they hardly take up two shelves.

  1. I’m bored with heterosexual stories.

I’m just tired of them. I want something different. Give me two men in love. Give me two women finding out they’re meant to be. Give me a character who identifies as bisexual or pansexual. Give me a character who identifies as transgender or gender non-conforming. I just need diversity. Something new. Something different. Something fresh.

So those are just some of my opinions about bookish things. What are some of yours?

Posted in Bookish Confessions

Bookish Confessions: In Defense of E-Readers

 

Hey everyone. It’s me again, here to confess something else. I. Love. E-Readers.

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I know that in the Reading Community there’s a divide between whether e-readers are good or bad. I remember when they first started up and people were afraid that it was gonna be the end of print books. It’s been a while now and we see that it hasn’t been, but e-readers still cause divides in the book community. I, for one, am 100% in favor of them. Which I know I don’t use mine as much, but I still believe they are amazing. Why?

Well first, they a convenient size and can hold a ton of books. I’m packing for a trip right now, and while I’m bringing some physical books, I’m loving that the kindle can fit right into my carry-on bag without taking much room. Plus I can have a ton more books on my Kindle than I can in my suitcase. It fits snuggly in my work bag and I can bring it to conferences to have during the lunch breaks. And honestly, these days the battery life really is amazing.

Now I won’t try and use prices as point in e-readers favor, as it seems that lately you only save a few bucks. But if you sign up with things like BookGorilla or Overdrive through your library you can get free books that way. Plus, it’s online shopping, except your purchase shows up right away, rather than waiting for it to ship!

Now my biggest reason though, is because it has been the best thing for queer people in ages. I first bought a Kindle when the very first one came out. The second I saw it I knew I had to have it. I was working at a Hungry Howie’s and my next paycheck went straight towards that and one book. As soon as it was in my hands, I hid myself in my room and search the Amazon website for hours and hours until I found the perfect book. The thing was, I was in the closet at this time. While I’m sure many suspected, no one knew I was queer. So this was my chance to finally read a queer book. I finally settled on The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (which I have not regretted as shown by this review) and stayed up all night to read it. Finally, I had found the books meant for me. I spent hours finding all sorts of queer books that were self-published and free that I could read without anyone being the wiser. I could sit in the living room with family and read the book without them knowing I was queer. Even after I first came out, I was still too nervous to go purchase a queer book in a bookstore. Kindle was the answer to that for me. While I now have no issue buying queer books now, I still use the Kindle to access a ton of diverse queer novels.

Overall, the choice is up to you. You can buy an e-reader or not. You can read physical books or not. Hell, you can read at all or not. The issue comes in when we try and shame or put others down because they don’t like to do things the same way we do.

But that’s just my feelings I guess.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: The Other Side

Featuring 19 stories by 23 different creators, The Other Side is a celebration of queer romance and the paranormal! Inside, you’ll find positive romance stories featuring a wide variety of queer and trans protagonists-as well as poltergeists, shadow monsters, guitar-playing hypnotists, lost angels, genderfluid vampires, trickster ghosts, and many more!

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How I Found This Book

This was one I found while it was also in its Kickstarter phase thanks to Tumblr.

Overall Feeling

I had an almost equal like/dislike for the stories featured here. The ones I enjoyed were ones I really loved. There were quite a few though that I found myself skipping and not caring for. I think they need to make another one though, and I’m hopeful that a few of the authors/artists will come out with their own works.

Cons

Like I said, it was almost equal for stories I disliked to stories I liked. Some of the art just also wasn’t for me, but of course that varies for everyone.

Pros

Okay the stories I loved were amazing. Yes No Maybe by Kate Leth and Katie O’Neill was so adorable that I wish there was a whole series about the main characters. Bare Bones by Britt Sabo was surprising and I loved the artwork. Third Circle Pizza by Laurel Varian and Ezra Rose was not at all what I expected but exactly what I needed. This is another one I want to be a full series. Pulpit Point by Amelia Onorato was so cute and I loved that they made one of the main characters have a prosthetic hand. And then my ultimate favorite was Black Dog by Fyodor Pavlov which was so incredible and amazing. And I won’t even pretend that if the main character was real I would be totally and completely in love with him. I don’t understand how they drew him so sexy…

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

All of it! Queer artists, authors, characters. Female artists, authors, characters. Non-binary/trans* artists, authors, characters. Artists, authors, and characters of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Some minimal violence.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Sometimes our hearts see things our eyes can’t.

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

How I Found This Book

This was V’s pick for our Postal Book Club that I do with a group of friends.

Overall Feeling

Love, love, loved it! I just cannot get over how much I enjoyed this book. Such a great story about two different kids and their experiences. I really felt like Gephart did an excellent job of building her characters, and letting you really understand who they are. I really enjoyed the smaller side storylines as well, include about the tree and Dare, Lily’s best friend.

Cons

The story was a little slow in some parts. There were times where I just wanted to skip ahead because I wasn’t sure if I needed all the detail. I think that has to do with doing both of their views. Now, that was detrimental to really understanding the characters, but of course that means that you see the same event twice. I really struggle with books set up like this, but I’m glad I stuck with this one.

Pros

Amazing diversity and an amazing story about a trans* young girl and her journey. I loved Lily and her descriptions of how she was feeling with a supportive mother and an unsupportive father. I’m also glad they discuss hormone blockers and therapy and real trans* experiences. I also really enjoyed Dunkin’s talks about his meds and how sometimes he feels they slow him down and make him groggy. Also, I loved Lily’s best friend Dare. Her entire story line was great but especially just how much she pushed Lily to go outside her comfort zone. And how supportive she was of Lily doing that on her own timeline.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Trans* main character. Main character dealing with mental health issues.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Trans*phobia throughout. Mis-gendering throughout. Discussion of bipolar disorder without medications.