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review 2018-09-13 00:01
Sleeping Beauties: A Novel - Stephen King, Owen King for Modern Masters of Horror
Sleeping Beauties: A Novel - Stephen King,Owen King

  I enjoyed this enormously. There were some surprises and some poor reading on my part (my earlier race comment was wrongish, because of my failure to notice and/or remember the race of characters, but also kind of accurate given later developments - it's complicated). Anyway, nice work with archetypes and fairy tales and a premise that is clearly fantasy, but also very grounded and concrete. There's a large cast and lots of plot. But also really nuanced and generous, kind even. Stephen has always showed an understanding of and sympathy with abused women, so a whole lot of compassion towards the inmates of a women's prison is no surprise. But there is also a lot of anger, some of it directed at people behaving badly and some of it directed at society for creating and exacerbating iniquity. Dickensian.

 

Good on these two for writing a book that is absolutely entertaining, but more than just entertaining.

 

Good for many squares, and recommended to those who don't care for horror in general.

 

 

Library copy

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review 2018-09-07 04:20
Tess of the Road - Rachel Hartman 
Tess of the Road - Rachel Hartman

Woah. I will try and write something more reviewish after time  to reflect. For the time being there is nothing about this book that isn't fabulous.

 

Amusing coincidence: the author photo shows Hartman in an orange blazer. The author photo for Naomi Novak, who has also written a bestselling series about dragons, shows her in an orange blazer. Orange is my least favorite color, but clearly it works for some people.

 

Library copy 

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review 2018-09-02 14:10
The Last Hours - Minette Walters 
The Last Hours - Minette Walters

The first outbreaks of the Black Death in Dorset. There is crime and secrets and lies, but this is counterbalanced by great kindness and cooperation and thought. You wouldn't think it could be a hopeful kind of book, but even as the plague strikes so swiftly with such high mortality, it does free up all the wealth and power that was gathered into so few hands.

 

Now I just have to wait for the story to be continued.

 

It's situations like this that make me reluctant to start a series until it's all written

 

Library copy

 

Edited to add, 9/2/18:  I often give authors of fiction about plagues a hard time for giving their imagined diseases an easy transmission, an incredibly high mortality rate, and a very brief latency: these three ratios all being very high means an infection will burn out in a population too quickly to spread. Even the worst plagues in naive populations don't score high on all three. They also tend to avoid people getting ill and recovering, which some portion of the population usually does. Most fiction wrlters avoid the importance of hygiene and sanitation and supportive care: they have everyone dying from the primary disease directly rather than address indirect mortality. I've encountered more than a few books that use 99.99% in order to decrease the surplus population. I mention this because I can only think of two writers who don't cheat that way: Connie Willis and now Minette Walters. If you want realistic plagues, these are the women to read.

 

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review 2018-07-03 05:00
Lovely children book on gender
Introducing Teddy: A gentle story about gender and friendship - Dougal MacPherson,Jess Walton

Errol and Thomas the teddy are friend. 


They play together.

 

Thomas is unhappy. 

 

Thomas the teddy wants to tell Errol that she is a girl teddy and not a boy teddy. 

 

The story is about gender identity for little children. Girl teddy being mistaken as boy teddy would make the girl teddy unhappy. It is good to allow the girl teddy to identity herself as girl teddy. 

 

 


Image result for Introducing teddy

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review 2018-06-25 10:35
Boy Erased - not really a Memoir by Garrard Conley
Boy Erased: A Memoir - Garrard Conley

This memoir should have started at least ten years later and told us how the young man who once signed himself up for "ex-gay therapy" (which we all know is pure bullshit) turned into a person who at least calls himself a gay man. His epilogue and bits of the memoir proper hint at the real story, but sadly it's just a sketch. I understand being so traumatized that you can't hold memories or be sure what is your memory and what is your intellect saying "this must be the way it happened," but I'm not entirely sure that's why this memoir is sketchy.

 

Ten years after an 8-day outpatient visit to Love In Action, the author hears his one-time group leader on a book/apology tour admitting that the therapy was nonsense. This, understandably, raises real anger. How can this guy with his vanity press book be on NPR and so cavalier about the lives he played havoc with? And this brings an aspiring novelist to write a "memoir" about those eight outpatient days. One gets the slight feeling, after reading the book, that part of the anger was that this guy was able to hawk his book on NPR while Conley was still struggling in various ways with no book or tour, but that's not the whole story, just a thought.

 

As someone who has done many outpatient stays (and several inpatient, locked ward ones too,) honestly, I doubt I could write a book about any of those visits. Now, my stays were overall more of a plus than a minus, and only rarely were they more traumatic than what brought me in. They also weren't trying to erase my person or self. Could any of us write a memoir about eight days? Maybe. There's just very little to recommend this book because nothing much happens and the author does very little to help us understand what exactly, beyond the horrific idea of conversion therapy -- which we already get -- what exactly traumatized him.

 

He makes a point in the epilogue that liberal America may not understand what would push someone to deny their sexuality just to "fit in." (He doesn't say that, but that's the truth I think he was pushing toward.) Many liberal lgbtq people have just as much trouble coming out. They don't typically seek this particular type of therapy, but many a liberal kid has gone into therapy at least to work through the fear and other emotions involved in coming out. Many kids are dead today rather than face up to our cultural disdain of anything less than toxic masculinity. You don't have to be an Evangelical to understand this is a tough time for many people, and only in recent years has coming out become slightly less than terrifying and often traumatizing.

 

As trite as this sounds to me: change is tough. When we finally allow our "outsides" to match our inner selves, to become more authentic, that can be excruciating even while it's healthy and holds the promise of a much better life - eventually. And that's true for anyone. It inevitably involves losing people and places that were comfortable and often affirming in other ways, not to mention our homes. Very often it involves estrangement of sorts with at least some, if not all, family members. I wanted to hear about the growth, or if not that, at least understand what created a traumatic reaction so bad that he's blocked it out. What I read was a family based in love. If they didn't express it fine, but they were there -- before, during and after (the final sentence in the epilogue is wonderful in showing this purely,) for this young man. When he finally left mid-eighth day, his mother didn't question him, she simply drove the two of them away. (She'd been staying with him in a hotel during the outpatient assessment.) That's a serious blessing, having your family stick by you, especially when their religion, culture, job (his father is a pastor) and upbringing tell them to do something very different.

 

My impression was that a lot of the trauma involved expectations -- both perceived and real -- that he'd internalized and struggled coming to terms with. That anger was displaced onto the therapy he sought out and willingly subjected himself to. He wanted to be someone other than who he was/is. THAT is the trauma. And that would make a much better memoir than incredibly florid, rambling prose and unstructured random memories (not about the therapy) ostensibly about an 8-day outpatient assessment. Also a serious thanks to his God that he was strong enough to see through the bullshit and walk out before someone compelled other drastic and inhumane measures we've now learned happened in many of these places.

 

One final thought, Love In Action and its parent corporation is, thankfully, now gone and very few similar programs exist in the US, but worryingly, they've taken their circus on the road to other countries (notably Uganda, complete with laws and real danger for lgbtq people)  - something the author mentions in one sentence and doesn't seem to see as a problem. "At least it's not me anymore" is not a pleasant trait in anyone, no matter their story.

 

I believe Garrard Conley has a real story to tell, about how he started hating himself, how he couldn't see a way for his authentic self to fit with his family and community, the fear and existential dread that must have accompanied many days, how fundamental Christian beliefs offer no room for difference or questions of any kind, how the fear of ruining his "eternal soul" has haunted him long past his heroic walk out of the treatment center's doors, how his family managed to overcome pressure from their church and community and whole lives to come to a place where this book could be written with his parents' blessing, how he functions as a gay man in the world when he was a kid from a very restrictive and fundamentalist background, etc etc: both the logistics and the emotional sides are interesting and important -- these are the types of stories that save lives. While I think the promise of a horror-show called "ex-gay therapy" is probably what gave this book the juice to get published, the real story still hasn't been told. 

 

I really wish this man well. I know he's lived through some very tough things, but I don't know any of that from reading this book, and there's the rub. We shouldn't require people to morph bad moments into freak shows for them to tell their stories. He will write another book. I'm betting my life on that one. I'm sure he's writing as I type. He's wanted to be a writer and has an MFA in creative writing. I just want him to write from a more fearless place next time. 

 

 

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