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 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 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.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Storm Vol. 1 Make It Rain and Storm Vol. 2 Bring the Thunder

Thief. Goddess. Headmistress. Queen. The X-Man called Storm has always defied a single title. And her desire to better the world has never been limited to only her own kind. On an ongoing mission to foster goodwill and safeguard both mankind and mutants, Ororo Munroe will travel the globe, confronting villains, gods, monsters and everything in between. She will overthrow tyrants, quell tsunamis and strive to see her dream for the world realized. She is Storm, a hero like no other…and the skies will tremble at the sight of their namesake. But now, Storm must handle the fallout caused by familiar faces from her past.arrow-bow-old-shoot-weapon-feathers-5d2jlw-clipart

How I Found This Book

I found the first volume while perusing my local comic book store. I then immediately went home and put a note on my calendar for when the second volume came out.

Overall Feeling

Storm has been one of my favorite X-Men characters since the beginning of time. She’s always been a smart and strong leader, and has deserved her own run for years. And this did not disappoint. I loved seeing her struggle with being the headmaster at Xavier’s school as she’s always so used to doing so much more. And I loved seeing her relationship with Logan. A must pick up for any Storm fan.

Cons

I know it may seem small, but I just wish it had been written by a woman of color. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the storylines that Greg Pak did. It’s just that it would be nice to have Storm written by a woman of color. I also felt that I wish it had been wrapped up a little better. Now, I’m not sure if they knew the last issue would be the last issue or not because it seems like it ended prematurely (which I do believe it was canceled but don’t quote me). But I would’ve liked a more complete ending to the run.

Pros

Everything else. But seriously I loved her characterization here. I loved seeing Storm talk about her past and seeing old characters pop up. I especially loved her and Gambit going back to their thieving roots. I felt that Storm showed her leadership skills in this run plus took no shit from anyone. I loved the artwork as well in both volumes and the cover art was spectacular.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Features a woman of color lead.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

None

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology

Beyond is an anthology of queer sci-fi and fantasy comics. Featuring 18 stories by 26 contributors, Beyond is a 250+ page, black and white, queer comic anthology, full of swashbuckling space pirates, dragon slayers, death-defying astronauts, and monster royalty. Each story celebrates and showcases unquestionably queer characters as they explore the galaxy, mix magic, have renegade adventures, and save the day!

The Beyond Anthology was born from a desire to see stories inspired by people like us (queer people with diverse genders and sexualities) slaying dragons, piloting spaceships, getting into trouble, and saving the day—without having to read for their queerness from between the lines. We wanted to see beautiful, heartwarming, and adventurous stories that reflect and celebrate the many facets of gender and sexuality, without having to worry that their queerness would cast them as a villain, a pariah, or turn them into a cautionary tale.

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It popped up on my Twitter feed back when the Kickstarter was just starting. I decided to contribute because I love to support queer art.

Overall Feeling

This was such a fun read. I loved most of the stories in the book and the art was all around superb. It really felt like a good mix of science fiction and fantasy, which I feel other collections have struggled with. It also opened my eyes to some new artists to follow on social media.

Cons

As with most collections, there were some stories that just weren’t my thing. I found myself skipping one or two stories cause they just weren’t my thing.

Pros

Such diversity! I loved reading so many different queer stories. Some of my favorites include Of Families & Other Magical Objects by Reed Black, O-Type Hypergiant by Jon Cairns, and The Next Day by A. Stiffler and K. Copeland. The art and stories were amazing in these stories, and I wish they could’ve been full series. I’m hopeful they do another Beyond anthology because Sfe R. Monster (the editor) sure can pick them!

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

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

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Some fighting/violence. Mentions of PTSD.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

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How I Found This Book

This actually popped up in my “for you” on Amazon. I immediately put it on hold at my library and had to start it the second it came in!

Overall Feeling

Not exactly what I thought it was gonna be but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was interesting to see Graham’s life throughout the years and hear about the work she’s done. I wanted a little more from the Gilmore Girls specific chapters but it was still so much fun to read. Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the revival, reading her words on it showed how much the show meant to the cast. Definitely pick it up if you like Lauren Graham, but if you’re looking for a juicy tell-all this isn’t it.

Cons

Like I said, I would’ve liked more on the Gilmore Girls chapters. They were a little short and the first part was just a recap of her watching the show. I would’ve liked more on meeting each of the other actors and what it was like. I also would’ve liked a little more on the Parenthood part of her life too.

Pros

It was just so great to get to hear about Graham’s life and career. Her writing conveys her humor perfectly and I found myself laughing out loud at times. She really makes her book seem like you’re just conversing with a good friend. I also really enjoyed her sharing the “Kitchen Timer” writing method, which I will be adopting in the new year.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Female author, and I count female main character since it’s a memoir.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

None that I can think of.