Tag Archives: transgender

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.

A Kind of Justice

Book Review of A Kind of Justice, by Renee James

I received a copy of Renee JamesA Kind of Justice through Netgalley.

Description from Netgalley:
Against all odds, Bobbi Logan, a statuesque transgender woman, has become one of Chicago’s most celebrated hair stylists and the owner of one of the city’s poshest salons. She is finally comfortable with who she is, widely admired in her community, about to enjoy the success she deserves.  

Then her impossibly perfect life falls apart.

In the space of a few weeks, the Great Recession drags her business to the brink of failure, her beloved ex-wife needs help in facing a terrible tragedy, and a hateful police detective storms back into her life, determined to convict her of the five-year-old murder of John Strand—pillar of the community—and a sexual predator.

As the detective builds an ever more convincing case against her, both of them will be shaken by revelations—about themselves, about their own deeply held secrets, and about the bizarre ritual murder of John Strand. 

I’m having a complicated reaction to this book. To start with, I didn’t know it was a sequel until I went to Goodreads to review it, after finishing it. So, now I wonder what I missed, having not read book one. One the upside, the fact that I never felt I was missing anything until I knew there was a previous book means it stands alone just fine.

Secondly, I liked Bobbi. I loved her relationship to her ex-wife. I thought it was one of the sweetest things I’ve read in a while. It wasn’t perfect, they had some issues to work through. But work through them they did and made a family of sorts and I LOVED that. I liked that Bobbi had close platonic friends and that generational differences within communities was addressed. Not to mention that she was a tad older than the average heroine.

I disliked the detective, but appreciate the transformative journey he went through. I liked the possible love interest and that the book doesn’t end with an unrealistic perfect Happily Ever After. It might get there, but wasn’t at the end of this novel.

I liked that this book isn’t just a murder mystery with a transgendered main character. In a very real way, it’s about being a transgendered woman around whom there is a mystery. It’s why I picked the book up in fact.

Having said that (and here is my complication because I don’t want to sound like I’m saying, ‘the trans book was just too trans’), I felt bludgeoned by Bobbi’s transgenderism. Trans/transsexual/transgender/transwoman/transwomen/tranny is used 197 times in the 320 page book, not counting that the charity is called TransRising and any time it’s talked about but not named. Now, my issue isn’t with the individual words or subject that I felt bludgeoned by, but that I felt bludgeoned at all.

I don’t want to take away from the importance of Bobbi’s real world experiences. They are important. I rather just mean the writing was heavy-handed at times and the constant emphasis on one aspect of the character, even an important one that would be expected to effect every area of her life, blotted out some others that in a mystery novel needed more page-time to develop.

Other than the occasionally heavy-handed writing and the fact that I thought the book was slow at times, I mostly really enjoyed it (even having not read the first book). I’d be more than happy to read another story by James.

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.