Tag Archives: trans romance

cemetery boys

Book Review: Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

Aiden ThomasCemetery Boys has been on my radar for a while. I finally got around to borrowing an audio version of it from the libarary

cemetery boys

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

my review

I have been intending to read Cemetery Boys for a while now. I’ve only put it off because I’m always afraid of books that have gotten too much hype and because I have to be in a particular mood to tolerate young adult literature with character on the younger end of the scale. (I’m 43-years-old, after all.)

I’m happy to say Cemetery Boys lived up to the hype and was very good. Sure, I personally thought some of the school bits and much of the general teenage angst was tedious (not the trans self-consciousness, that was different) . But that’s just a symptom of being old. I loved how immersed the reader is in the Brujx and Latinx cultures. I appreciated that, though Yadriel’s family struggled with his trans-ness, it was obviously not out of cruelty or a lack of love. And who wouldn’t adore Yadriel and Julian’s fierce dedication to one another by the end?

I did struggle a little with Yadriel’s father’s sudden acceptance. If felt a little too pat, but more importantly, I felt like he accepted the external confirmation that Yadriel was a Brujo, while I saw no evidence that he would have accepted him as a man on his own otherwise. I also guessed the end at the halfway mark. So, the mystery isn’t super hard to figure out.

All in all, however, I’m glad to have finally given this one a go.

Documenting light

Book Review of Documenting Light, by EE Ottoman

Documenting LightI bought a copy of Documenting Light, by EE Ottoman.

Description from Goodreads:
If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you are supposed to be here?

When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.

Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.

Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.

As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.

I devoured this thing! It arrived with the afternoon post, about 3:30pm and I finished before going to sleep. I hardly set it down long enough to eat dinner and put the kiddos to bed.

Grayson and Wyatt make an incredibly cute, though painfully awkward couple. They and their budding relationship are sweat and slow to boil. There’s sex, but it’s not the point. These are two people learning to love and accept each-other and themselves.

It’s not a flashy plot, but it’s darned effective. And some of this is affected by the importance of the mundane. They must make tea, cook dinner and wash dishes a dozen times in the course of the book. And while I felt that repetition, I also recognized that this was two people living life. Meals get made, laundry gets washed, carpets need vacuuming. People fall in love and find new purposes in life. Who needs billionaires bad boys or alien, monkey, space pirates for that?

I did think some of the book’s themes were telegraphed a little too aggressively, eclipsing the story in favor of the occasionally didactic message. But more often than not it managed to find the right balance and the writing is just beautiful.

As an aside, have I mentioned how much I love ordering physical books from Brain Mill? The book geek in me gets all sorts of breathless. The first editions are always lovely, with color embellishments and come signed.

EE Ottoman signature

What I’m drinking: Bigelow Classic Oolong. This is currently my favorite oolong tea, with a depth I’ve not found in other oolongs. I keep claiming that I’m going to take a bag into on of my local tea shops, either Traveling Tea or The London Tea Merchant, ask them to brew it up and recommend a fancy loose-leave version. In the mean time, I think I might be keeping Bigelow in business going through as many boxes as I do. That, by the way, is my favorite mug; all crooked and oddly glazed. I love it.

Chained Melodies

Book Review of Chained Melodies, by Debrah Martin

Chained MelodiesAuthor, Debrah Martin sent me a copy of Chained Melodies for review.

Description from Goodreads:
“Chaos is about rejecting all that you have learnt, chaos is about being yourself.” Emile M. Cioran

If chaos theory applied to anyone, it’s Will and Tom. Best friends since childhood, life takes very different courses for them until they’re thrown back together in the middle of their own individual chaos. Surviving the terrors of war in Northern Ireland and the heartbreak of childlessness and a broken marriage, Tom learns that bravery isn’t about daring death, it’s about facing life. For Will, it’s about being yourself – or in his case, herself, as he starts an unusual journey towards being just that; the woman, Billie.

Spoiler Alert: I’m not planning to give anything significant away, but I do plan to discuss the ending.

I have some real mixed feelings on this one, because some aspects of it I really loved and others not so much. Before I get to any of that, let me just say the writing here is marvelous and the late 70s-through 80s was a wonderful setting. My only real complaint, writing-wise, is that Will/Billie’s journaling didn’t really work for much of the book. His/her* POV is provided in the format of a diary, and it works in the beginning. But as the book progresses his entries become longer and more narrative-like, until eventually they no longer read like diary entries at all. The language is too florid, the descriptions too rich, the details too frequent to be a believable diary entry. It was a pleasure to read if you ignored the fact that it was supposed to be what it was supposed to be.

I liked both characters a lot and I really liked their…I’ll call it a romance, even though it’s not really. Neither acknowledges it as such. But their thoughts about eachother are sweet in a romantic (though not erotic) kind of way. I liked this a lot.

I did have some trouble believing Will’s transsexualism. And I don’t think I should have. The author’s research was apparent…a little too apparent at times. Some of his experiences were just a little too textbook. But mostly my trouble arose because his self-exploration took the form of some kind of soft focus, bemused curiosity. There was no anger, shame, disgust or bad feelings about himself or his body at all. Not to suggest all transgendered individuals must feel this way, but every real-world account I’ve come across or interview series or personal account, etc all heavily accentuate this as part of recognizing they are not residing in the correct body. Will just sort of floats along wondering if he’s gay or not and then suddenly meets a transsexual and decides that’s what he is. I couldn’t buy it.

I understand that up until a certain point he can only consider himself in ways he has a perspective for, and sexuality was something his worldview presented as possible for exploration and gender was not. I understood that, but I never sensed he had any real issue with his body, until suddenly he did. It all felt kind of sanitized.

This was all exasperated a little bit by the fact that he’s described as being so obviously feminine. This is emphasized to such a degree that I felt that having a feminine appearance was integral to being transgendered, as if he couldn’t have been if he was 6′ 2″, 200lbs and balding. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked him as a character and I was willing to accept what I was being told, but I had to make a conscious decision to do so.

Tom, however, Tom I bought completely. I really enjoyed his oblique self-revelations. I liked that he tried so darned hard to be a good man and failed over and over again. I loved his self-reproach and cowardice. He was a shit (and I’m pretty sure that’d be the word he used to describe himself), but he was a shit who was trying to learn to be a better man. But this is part of why I had trouble with the events involving his ex-wife that led to the ending. It’s not that I don’t think he would do it in some circumstance, but I thought that bridge had been burned a little too thoroughly for a man trying to break free to cross again. Especially since the ex-wife was such the cliché manipulative harpy.

Actually, I had a lot of trouble with the end. I have to just come out and ask, what is with all the unnecessary tragedy? I mean, it’s the story the author wanted to tell, so it’s not pointless per se, but a very real part of me wants to ask why non-cisgendered/heterosexual characters almost never just get an unmitigated happy ending. It’s like they’re the Red Shirts of the romance realm. Why do they have to suffer (be punished) before being given a little scrap of happiness they are expected to be thankful for, even in books like this one, that I’m confident was written in support of such characters?

I did really appreciate how richly the characters lives were depicted and how visceral the time period was shown to be. People have real problems—mental illness, abuse, neglectful parents, alcoholism, hopelessness, illness, infertility. And I liked that these are realistic blue collar people. Tom joins the army then works in a factory. Nothing glamorous in that, but it’s real-life for so many people.

All in all, I had a few rather major complaints about the book (or certain aspects of it), but I generally really liked it. I liked Will/Billie and Tom. I liked their slow realizations. I liked the depth of writing and the patience with which the plot progresses. I think the book is well worth picking up.

*I use both pronouns here, instead of just the feminine, because for much of the book Will is unaware of his gender dysmorphia and Will and Billie are almost presented as separate characters. To ignore Will (him/he) would leave out an integral part of the story.