"It started with the genchangers, human-made genetic viruses designed to meld animal features into humans for fun, fashion, or fetish."
That, right the...more"It started with the genchangers, human-made genetic viruses designed to meld animal features into humans for fun, fashion, or fetish."
That, right there, is what initially drew me to Sinews of the Heart, even more so than the transgender romance element. I loved the idea of exploring what might become of a world where technology outstrips judgement, and fetish becomes integrated with everyday life. You can argue that we're already well on the way, and I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing, but there's always a point where too much of a good thing is just that - too much.
Anyway, Cody L. Stanford introduces us to a world where that fetish technology has run amok, resulting in a war between 'pure' humans and furry 'mutants' that has decimated the planet and forever altered the balance of power between the two. Stanford does a wonderful job of portraying the new races, making us believe in the anthrotigers, the anthrowolves, and more, but still maintaining a core of humanity beneath all that fur. Even as we see them swarming across the landscape in packs, exerting their dominance, we also see the bonds of family and friendship that survive the end of everything else.
Our window into this world is Nikki, an anthrotiger who also happens to be transgender. Humans look at her, and all they see is tiger, while her father looks at her, and all he sees is boy. While her anthro nature is, of course, a metaphor for her gender and her sexuality, it's more than that. It's an important part of the story, a physical reminder of just how easy it is to see our differences, rather than what connects us together. As her family journeys across the wastelands of America, she encounters an angry young human named Kane, who condemns her as much for her gender as her fur. Theirs is a tense, awkward sort of relationship, and one that only becomes more interesting as his homosexuality is revealed through the love for a fellow human boy.
There, really, is where my only complaint about the novel lies. Maybe I'm just too old to appreciate it, but why does it seem as if all YA fiction has to involve at least one love triangle? To me, it just seems like an arbitrary way to add a little tension to the story, to ruffle some feathers (or, in this case, fur), and force the reader to choose sides. That said, Stanford handles it well, I just think the Nikki/Kane relationship was interesting enough on its own.
Without giving too much away, this is a story that's ultimately about acceptance. It's about coming out, connecting, and being loved. Sinews of the Heart is also a very violent story at times, with some confrontations and fatalities that genuinely surprised me, but it's all within the context of the post-apocalyptic world. Well-written and imaginative, it's also as entertaining as it is thoughtful and sensitive. Kudos to Cody L. Stanford for doing something profound within the genre, for making Nikki such a genuinely positive heroine, and to Storm Moon Press for taking a chance with such a different sort of tale.
While I don't read a lot of children's books, and my son isn't quite old enough to yet read them with me, I am always on the lookout for stories we ca...moreWhile I don't read a lot of children's books, and my son isn't quite old enough to yet read them with me, I am always on the lookout for stories we can enjoy together when he is old enough to sit still (without eating the pages).
As certain as giraffes are tall, there are some who fear anyone that is different.
Gordon The Giraffe is the story of the hidden kingdom of Ugladunga, where children pair up (always one boy, one girl) to play the game of Mulunga Doo. When Gary ask him to play, Gordon is at first excited (nobody has ever before asked him), but ends up fleeing the taunts of the other children . . . straight to his mother, who tells him he must follow his heart. When Gordon goes looking for Gary, the other giraffes plan to teach him a lesson . . . but he ends up coming to their rescue instead.
Because giraffes have the biggest hearts of all the creatures. They can't help but love . . . even those that are a bit different.
This is a cute story, beautifully illustrated, with a subtle but heart-warming theme of acceptance at its core. Even thought Gordon is never branded as gay, the suggestion is there, backed up by his mother's understanding - and, more importantly, acceptance. While most children may not pick up on it, those who feel a bit different themselves - about anything - or those who may have parents that are a bit different will certainly appreciate the message.
She didn't know what to say at first, but when she looked into her son's saddned eyes she knew.
Well worth picking up for anybody who reads (or plans to read) to a child.
While I suspect some of the humour either went over or under my head (it’s been a while since my high school days), and I have a few issues with the b...moreWhile I suspect some of the humour either went over or under my head (it’s been a while since my high school days), and I have a few issues with the basic premise, My Invented Life was still a fun, crazy read.
While there’s a bit more to their relationship that drives the story, things really begin when Roz becomes convinced her sister is really a closet lesbian, after finding a suspicious book in Eva’s room. When Eva denies being a lesbian, Roz pretends to come out of the closet herself, all in an effort to convince her sister that it’s okay to be a lesbian . . . so she’ll dump her boyfriend, and leave Roz to swoop in to catch him on the rebound.
While it’s handled respectfully, and is ultimately supportive, the very idea of the fake-lesbian storyline bothered me. It just doesn’t seem like something I could imagine a teenager really doing, no matter how much more accepting her peers might be than when I was in school. Of course, humour is most often borne out of absurdity, so I forced myself to just go with the flow . . . and enjoyed it.
Besides, there are more than enough LGBT supporting characters in the book to provide a welcome balance. After all, this is a story built around a drama club . . . not that I’m trying to stereotype anyone. (grin) Roz is such a drama queen, with her Shakespearean insults and odd habit of rehearsing conversations (a quirk I share), it was hard not to like her. She’s ridiculously boy-crazy, going to extreme lengths to get her man, and crazily competitive as a sister, but she’s also a good person at heart. In the end, once the challenge has gone too far, all she wants is to have her best-friend back in Eva.
Eva I found much harder to like, especially since she seemed to spend much of the novel sulking. It would have been a very different novel had she been allowed to take the lead, but as curious as I am how things would have looked through her eyes, it would have robbed us much of the fun.
Overall, a good book (even if it’s not one I would normally read), and one that kept me smiling, even as I shook my head in wonder! (less)
There’s a lot going on here – a fantasy adventure, set in alternate-reality dystopia, with a lesbian romance – but it works remarkably well. Kara capt...moreThere’s a lot going on here – a fantasy adventure, set in alternate-reality dystopia, with a lesbian romance – but it works remarkably well. Kara captured my imagination right from the start. I loved her single-minded drive, her bold heroism, and her sweetly romantic nature. She not only stands out from her surroundings, she seems to brighten the world around her. Dylan was harder to warm up to as a character, but her relationship with Kara brought her to life, and set her up for a much stronger role in the final arc of the story.
With only a matter of days for Kara to complete her quest, the story is (by necessity) fast-paced. The world-building suffers a bit, since there’s only so much you can see and do in a few days, but Inbetween still comes across as a fully realised world. Even though we don’t get to experience it all, characters like Glint the goblin gave the confidence that it all existed, and was just waiting to be revealed in future stories. Here’s hoping!(less)
I jumped at the chance to review Pulse of Heroes as soon as I read the bit in A. Jacob Sweeny's bio about "immersion in world myths and her archaeolog...moreI jumped at the chance to review Pulse of Heroes as soon as I read the bit in A. Jacob Sweeny's bio about "immersion in world myths and her archaeological fieldwork." That experience defintely shows. For me, the novel was definitely strongest when exploring the history of her immortals, transporting the reader backwards through time and across the world.
The sheer detail sometimes bordered on overwhelming, but I loved being immersed in the history of places like Russia, Egypt, and even Transylvania. The descriptions were extraordinary vivid, and as clear to the mind's eye as Sweeny's love for the material. What's more, the sense of danger was palatable, as was the extremity of pain that seemed to haunt her characters - both in living and reliving the past.
Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the plotting and loved the history, I had a problem connecting with any of the characters. Michelle came across as desperate and immature, almost as if she were attempting to live the cliche of a paranormal romance heroine. I wanted to like her, but as much as I kept reminding myself that she was a teenage girl, the way she seemed to throw herself at the men in her life, and the way she overlooked cruelties that bordered on abuse, made it hard.
As for the men, I liked them as historical characters, as warriors who had lived through history and had a hand in shaping the parts of the world they touched, but as romantic partners . . . I'd have kicked half of them to the curb, and put a restraining order against the others. Michelle does redeem herself somewhat in the latter half of the book but, by that point, she simply had left me with too much baggage to overcome.
The language of the book is beautiful, and the descriptions of sceney and action were fantastic. Sweeny paints a vivid picture, and really excels at talking you through it. The frequent (and abrupt) changes in POV were an issue for me, and were enough of a distraction to make me take a pause to collect my thoughts.
Overall, probably not a series I'd be interested in pursuing, but one that I suspect has strong appeal for a younger audience.(less)
On the surface, The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer is another simple YA fantasy about an outcast boy (one of two humans born without magic), with a...moreOn the surface, The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer is another simple YA fantasy about an outcast boy (one of two humans born without magic), with a special ability (only he can read the retrograph snapshots of other lives), who lives for adventure (he excavate relics to sell to collectors), who is destined to save the word (from an evil sorcerer). He’s a little Harry Potter, a little Young Indiana Jones, and even a little Frodo Baggins.
I say ‘on the surface’ because the story never quite goes where you expect, especially as it careens towards a frantic surprise ending (that I’m not sure I entirely liked, but I understood). Definitely suitable for younger readers, it’s just as much fun for us not-so-younger readers as well.
This is a busy book, with a lot of different characters, races, and magical elements, but that’s precisely what I look for in a fantasy novel. I love to get lost in a world that’s familiar, yet completely different, and to surround myself with fantastic creatures. We’re sort of dropped into the story, without a lot of preamble or asides to explain things, which means you have to pay attention and accept that it may take a few pages before you understand the significance of something. As a reader who gets easily frustrated with the spoon-fed approach, I loved that.
On a closing note, I will say I enjoyed Higgins more than I did Skyhammer, but that may have less to do with any flaws in his character, and more to do with my tendency to latch onto the sidekick.
All in all, a fun read, with definite cross-generational appeal.(less)
Twice Bitten was a very curious read for me. On the one hand, I enjoyed what was there but, on the other hand, I was disappointed by what wasn’t there...moreTwice Bitten was a very curious read for me. On the one hand, I enjoyed what was there but, on the other hand, I was disappointed by what wasn’t there – which is entirely unfair to the author.
As a paranormal gay romance for young adults, the book works very well. It captures that sense of adolescent emotional turmoil very well, exploring not just the troubles of being a teenaged celebrity, but of being a gay teenaged celebrity . . . who not only becomes undead, but who becomes a wholly new form of undead that`s part werewolf and part vampire. Talk about pressure! The dialogue (from what I`ve observed at the mall), seems very authentic, and the characters come across as genuine. Granted, I might have liked to see a bit more depth and development, but that`s a minor quibble in a book of this length.
Where I found myself disappointed is with the potential that could have been exploited, had this been written for a different audience. As a complaint, that`s unfair to the author, but it does speaks highly of the story itself. I was sufficiently intrigued by (and attracted to) these young men that I wanted to explore the more adult scenarios we`re used to in the realms of paranormal romance. It`s a shame we couldn’t go there, but also entirely understood.
Definitely an fun concept, with an interesting twist on the vampire werewolf theme, this is a welcome addition to the young adult shelves – I`ll be curious to see what Dave does next.(less)
The Flight of the Silver Vixen is the kind of book you’ll enjoy immensely, but really wish you could have read as a young girl. It’s a fun, all-girl,...moreThe Flight of the Silver Vixen is the kind of book you’ll enjoy immensely, but really wish you could have read as a young girl. It’s a fun, all-girl, swashbuckling adventure that makes you giddy with joy, even as it causes you to pause every once in a while to reflect upon what's happening beneath the story.
This is the story of a band of teenage girls who steal an experimental spaceship called The Silver Vixen. Forced to enter an ether crease (think Star Trek wormhole), they find themselves on the other side of the universe, on a planet very much like their own, and surrounded by barbarian space-pirates. That’s where the obvious conflict begins, but centuries of isolation on their sister world have created societal and political differences that create deeper, more subtle conflicts of their own. As you might expect, the girls are forced to grow up quickly, as very adult demands (the kind upon which entire civilizations turn) are suddenly placed on them.
To truly appreciate the threat posed by The Kang, it is first necessary to understand the question of gender that’s at the heart of this novel (and which, coincidentally, first appealed to my own heart). The Flight of the Silver Vixen is the story of an intemorph race, one that, to all appearances, consists entirely of women. Of course, when it comes to sex and gender, it’s never quite that simple, and this is by no means a Utopian sexual ideal. In fact, the division of gender is still very sexist, with the blondes being smaller, cuter, more emotional women who need to be buckled in and coddled; and the brunettes being physically larger and stronger women who take on the heavy jobs, and who are often (affectionately) dismissive of their blondes.
The Kang, meanwhile, are schizomorphs – gender mutations who have split into two visually distinct male and female sexes, each exaggerated and extreme in adherence to ‘human’ stereotypes. Beast-like, violent, and aggressive, the men of The Kang are sword-wielding barbarians who could have escaped from any teenage boy's swords-and-sorcery fantasy. Although less advanced in all areas of development, they’ve armed themselves with stolen technology, and are guided by the Dark One (an ancient demon who plays a significant role in the two sister worlds).
The writing is solid, the characters are well rounded, and the dialogue is wonderfully natural – it pulls you in and makes you wish you could interject, comment, and take part in the discussions. There are elements of (alien) teenage girl speak, but these women are mature beyond their years. It is primarily through their interactions with each other (and their sister civilization) that the book’s concepts and assumptions about gender, social class, and philosophy are fully explored. Instead of forcing understanding upon us with narrative asides and long, drawn-out explanations, we are almost subconsciously fed a little more knowledge with every interaction.
Additionally, the more we get to know these girls, the more plausible it seems they’d be able to get away with stealing the Queen’s ship . . . and the more plausible it seems they’ll be able to deal with so many levels of conflict. This is, indeed, a swashbuckling adventure, and one that mixes interstellar battles, sci-fi motorcycle races through fantasy wildernesses, gun-battles and sword-battles (sometimes at the same time), and some verbal sparring that’s as fun and feminist as it is clever (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
My only complaint (and I realise this is a limitation of YA fiction), is that I would have loved to learn more about the sexual nature of the intemorphs. There are a few tantalizing hints and suggestions, and perhaps the questions are meant to be more exciting than the answers, but it still leaves me wondering how it all works. I'm not talking graphic or obscene - I'd just be interested in seeing how a romance might be handled, how a family unit operates, or simply whether attraction lies alongside 'gender' lines (blonde vs brunette) or is more open. I suspect there is still more story to come, so maybe we'll learn more as we go.
Regardless of my curiosity getting the best of me, this is a stellar effort (if you’ll pardon the pun) and definitely worth a read.(less)
This is a beautiful, powerful, emotional read. It grabs you by the heart and gets into your head like few books I have ever read. It’s the first book...moreThis is a beautiful, powerful, emotional read. It grabs you by the heart and gets into your head like few books I have ever read. It’s the first book in a very long time where I not only had no idea how it was going to end, but was sincerely concerned with how the situation would resolve itself.
I could write an essay about this book, what it meant to me, and how I feel about it. I loved it and I hated it. I was afraid to read another chapter, and I never wanted it to end. My head wants me to wrap Brian Katcher in my arms and thank him for such an amazing story, even as my heart wants me to pound on his chest and demand that he rewrite the ending.
I fell in love with these characters – Logan as much as Sage, to my surprise – and didn’t want to let them go . . . especially not like that.
Instead of an essay, though, I’d just like to touch on the things that Brian did so well:
1. He perfectly captures the awkwardness, the joy, and the sorrows of growing up. I didn’t go to high school with the characters, but a part of me wishes I did. It’s a small cast of characters we’re presented with, and there’s no space wasted on clichéd high school conflicts that don’t contribute to the story.
2. He has written a carefully-plotted story that is driven by a romance, not a romance that comprises a story in itself. There’s a significant difference there, in both style and approach, and it’s what makes this such a compelling read.
3. He presents us with a story that’s real, complete with all the flaws and all the unanswered questions of life. As much as my heart craves a tidy, happy ending, he really couldn’t (and shouldn’t) have ended it any other way. Having said that, I would not be at all disagreeable to reading a sequel that catches up with Sage somewhere down the road.
4. He sprinkles in just enough humour to relieve the tension, but never at the expense of the characters or the situation. The moments of humour are completely appropriate and very much appreciated.
5. He offers us an honest exploration of gender identity and expression, filtered through the eyes of an outsider. As fascinating and heart-breaking as Sage’s story is, it’s only by putting us inside Logan’s head that we’re able to truly appreciate her struggles. It’s what makes the story so widely accessible, while also helping to preserve the emotional and physical mystery.
Ultimately, this could just as easily been a story about racial, religious, or cultural identity. The elements of the story could have worked with any other struggle at the heart, but I dare say the book would not have been as powerful (or nearly so interesting). Through the question of Sage’s gender identity we also get to explore questions of sexual identity/orientation, particularly with Logan, who struggles with what it means to love a girl who used to be (and, from a purely biological standpoint, still is) a boy.
Brian Katcher’s novel is as brave as it is bold, and he’s to be applauded as much for his choice of subject, as for his talents as a story teller.(less)
For a YA novella, this one had some surprising depth. William is an interesting, well-rounded young man (with a strange fetish for coffee grinders), a...moreFor a YA novella, this one had some surprising depth. William is an interesting, well-rounded young man (with a strange fetish for coffee grinders), and Pat is a perfectly awkward best friend (with an equally strange fetish for big words). As for Samantha, for a girl who spends most of the book off-stage, she's surprisingly well-crafted.
Personally, I had hoped William would spend more time in Samantha's body, but that portion of the book is very well-handled and (most importantly) quite realistic. The obligatory scenes of struggling with a bra and heels are there, but it's handled with sensitivity instead of being used for slaptstick comedy. His emotional and mental struggles are the focus here, and they're quite touching.
Ultimately, what I think really pulls the story together is the backstory of William's family, including the tragedy of his sister's death.(less)