Monday, August 20, 2012

Bumbling Into Body Hair - A Review

Title: Bumbling into Body Hair: A Transsexual's Memoir
Author: Everett Maroon
Release Date: March 15, 2012
Format/Page Count: Kindle/250
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Purchased: AMAZON
Synopsis:
A comical memoir about a klutz's sex change, Bumbling into Body Hair shows how a sense of humor - and true love - can triumph over hair disasters, resurrected breasts, and even the most crippling self-doubt. (From GOODREADS)

Expectation: This is another 'found it on Twitter' book. (-: I actually found Everett Maroon on Twitter. I had a good sense of his voice from his tweets. I guess I just knew I would like his writing. Call it a hunch. High expectation for this book.

REVIEW:
“I was Jenifer, and now I’m Everett,” I said. I stifled the urge to say, “Ta da!” ~ Everett Maroon, Bumbling into Body Hair


Every once in a while, a book will come along that has it all. The story is engaging and poignant and the writing is beautiful and the writer’s sense of humour is the icing on the cake. Bumbling into Body Hair is one of those books. From page one, I was fully engaged. Maroon’s wonderful sense of humour came through as strongly as his beautiful, lyrical prose.

A memoir, Bumbling into Body Hair is the story of Everett’s transition from Jenifer. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of family, work environments, friendships—lost and won, acceptance and letting go…and the myriad of emotions and struggles that come with each one of these things. It’s a human story—a story of strength and fear, courage and challenge. And love.


We all want to belong. We all want to be stable and emotionally happy. And we hope our family and friends want the same things for us that we ourselves want. Maroon showed us what happens when these things don’t align and when they do. Seeing his family adapt to Everett was touching and at times deeply poignant. I loved that he allowed us in to witness the way his mother tried so hard to make Everett know she was proud of him and loved him. There were no walls of protection between Everett, his family and friends and the reader. We were allowed to see the good, the bad and the ugly. And even the ugly was delivered with the same finesse and wonderful sense of humour as the rest of the story. This made the punches slightly less painful, in some way, but no less poignant.

Reading about Everett’s milestones throughout the process was wonderful. As a reader, I was ecstatic when Robyn came into Everett’s life. I believe the right people show up at the right time. This was never truer than when Everett came across this angel of a therapist who basically showed him how to blossom and be himself. The little moments when co-workers and family showed him small kindnesses that pretty much brought me to tears were so heart-warming. “I left for lunch and walked back to my office barely twenty minutes later. Fatima had changed the name plate outside my door to read Everett Maroon. Touched by the thought, I also liked how it looked and put my hand on the sign as if Fatima would sense me thanking her from the other building.” Moments like that make this story SO worth the read.

This is not a story without villains (see ‘the ugly’ mentioned above). My anger was palpable when Everett explained some of the scenes he had with his ex, Pat. I kept waiting for even a small clue that there was some redeeming quality to this bully of a person…but I never did see it. Perhaps what redeemed him in the end was that Everett was able to wash his hands of him. As a reader, I was HAPPY to see him go. Without his exit, we would not have seen Everett's relationship with the lovely Susanne...the girl he would eventually marry. And Jeffrey. I still find myself hoping that he eventually came around. The dynamic Everett shared with him seemed real, palpable. That it ended badly seemed like such a waste of a valuable friendship to me. Jeffrey’s stubbornness in the situation was infuriating. To hold Everett accountable at such a huge turning-point moment in his life was unacceptable to me. I kept hoping he would come to his senses.


Every large transition a person goes through is bound to have supporters and naysayers. This look into the transition of Jenifer into Everett, and the life-story in which it is enshrouded, is such a lovely one. The reader had the opportunity to see Everett grow into the person he somehow always knew he was, while at the same time coming into his own in the business world and finding a woman to love along the way. This was Everett’s story, but it could have been anyone’s. We all have families, co-workers, friends. Some—well, we know we can only count on them for so much. While others—they’re in for the long haul. They only want what everybody should want—for their loved ones to find happiness. This was an exquisite story (exquisitely written) of one man and his slightly hilarious, often poignant road to happiness.

Expectation: This SO exceeded my expectations. I expected a funny read and a touching one...but not such a deep experience. The prose in this book was beautiful. Maroon has a wonderful voice and I hope to one day see it dabble in fiction. (-: Go and get this book now! I guarantee you will love it!

Size: 5 (1/2)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Boy Toy - Review


Title: Boy Toy
Author: Barry Lyga
Release Date: September 24, 2007
Format/Page Count: Kindle/410
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Purchased: Amazon 
Synopsis:

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.
Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not.Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won’t stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink. And then there’s Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh’s past. It’s time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.
If only he knew what the truth was . . . (From GOODREADS)


A fan created book trailer for BOY TOY. Complete with some great quotes from the book!

Expectation: To be honest, I went in to this one with only one hope...I hope the author gets it right. I was tentative, because of the subject matter, but interested to see how it was handled.

REVIEW:

TRIGGER ALERT: This story is one of sexual abuse. Be forewarned that it may contain triggering content. It is the story of a 12-year-old boy being sexually abused by a female teacher. If you could potentially experience triggering through reading a story of this nature, BOY TOY may not be for you.

This story opens with a list. ‘Ten Things I Learned at the Age of Twelve’. It’s a quirky little list that could have been created by any twelve-year-old boy. Until you get to the last item on the list. #10 is both shocking and disturbing. #10 brings the reader immediately into the heart of this earth-shattering story.

After the list, Boy Toy opens on the remembrance of the narrator Josh Mendel’s 13th birthday party. Josh has already lived through sexual abuse at the hands of one of his female teachers, Mrs. Sherman. What the reader is given to understand is that everybody else knows what has happened to Josh, but that Josh himself is not very clear on the subject. What goes wildly wrong in the first chapter is the result of Josh’s lack of understanding. When he finds himself in the basement closet of his friend, Rachel, Josh really has no idea what is appropriate and what is inappropriate where thirteen-year-old relationships are concerned. Mrs. Sherman took all understanding away from Josh the day she started sexually abusing him.

This is a story of a boy coming back from sexual abuse. It is an achingly beautiful read and it is a story well told. Looking into this boy’s story gives readers an understanding of the difficulties faced by victims of molestation. Lyga does an excellent job showing the skewed understanding and mixed emotions Josh deals with as a result of his abuse. As Josh narrates the story, he is actually eighteen. He’s getting ready to finish high school and he carries a huge burden. He feels guilty for destroying his teacher’s life…for wrecking her marriage, for causing her to lose her teacher’s career and end up in jail. What he doesn’t realize is that none of it is his fault. His feeling are a direct result of the huge trauma he underwent while the abuse was happening.

When Josh’s teacher is released from prison, he feels her presence everywhere. He’s just waiting to come face to face with her. His fear and guilt is palpable…but so is the sense that he wants to see her. It is around the same time that Rachel, his friend from the 13th birthday party fiasco, comes back for another round. Rachel wants Josh. I’m not sure if this relationship is what Lyga intended…it’s rather sketchy to me. Rachel, in my opinion, is abrasive and pushy. Quite frankly, I could see her actions actually re-traumatizing Josh, if nothing else. This was the part of the story that stood out as iffy to me…and my reason for reluctantly giving it four stars instead of five.

Josh’s relationship with his best friend, Zik, was extremely well played. Zik was constantly there for Josh…but the whole time there was a wall between them. We shall not talk of this became such a huge barrier that it became something else for Josh to feel guilty about. The way the relationship was played out was deeply satisfying.

I readily admit to being totally conflicted by this story. If not for the way Rachel was portrayed, it would have been a 5-star read for me. I just don't understand the motivation behind having Rachel being so forceful with Josh. Maybe it was intentional, I don't know. I can't pretend to understand the author's reasonings.

I do know that should you choose to read Boy Toy, you'll love it. It's well written and it's a skilful look into a topic that is often taboo. I applaud Lyga for tackling it...and for doing it justice. I do highly recommend Boy Toy--Rachel objections aside.


Expectation: Lyga did an amazing job representing Josh’s conflicted feelings for Eve (Mrs. Sherman). Josh’s emotional rollercoaster was so well played, as were his struggle with right and wrong and the confusion he experienced regarding guilt and blame/aggressor and victim. This book far exceeded my expectations. A great read!

Size: 4

Friday, August 10, 2012

Small Medium at Large - Review


Title: Small Medium at Large
Author: Joanne Levy
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Format/Page Count: Kindle/208
Publisher: Bloomsbury
PurchasedAmazon

Synopsis:

After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her overopinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a s√©ance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel. (From GOODREADS)

The Book Trailer for Small Medium at Large


Expectation: Levy had me at the title! This is yet another title I became aware of while on Twitter. Thank Twitter for all my finds lately! My expectation was high for this book, based solely on my love of the title. (-:

Market/Genre: Middle Grade/Contemporary with a dollop of supernatural/paranormal

Review:

It has been a while since I read a middle grade novel…at least a few months. My first thoughts on Small Medium at Large were; kid-friendly, a delight to read, fun and funny, well written in a great age-appropriate voice and, well…FUN (It bears repeating).

Lilah Bloom is 12. She comes from a broken family (that term really needs to be refreshed—a lot of families these days are not so much broken, as they are realigned). As the story opens, we are at Lilah’s mother’s wedding. Everything is going well until the real fun is about to begin—the dancing. At the outdoor reception, Lilah is literally on the threshold of the temporary dance-floor when the skies darken and a tempest brews.

This is when Lilah is struck by lightning!

Thankfully, she makes a speedy recovery. No lasting damage, but a challenging new talent. Lilah becomes aware of disembodied voices. Levy has written these voices so tremendously well that the reader can sense she had a blast bringing this story to life. What must have been a difficult task for Levy was keeping a story like this so utterly kid-friendly. With humour, excellent characters, friendly and mischievous—but by no means dark—ghosts, and a plot that could stand on its own without the supernatural element, Levy accomplishes this in spades!

Throughout the course of the story, the reader is introduced to several ghost characters. One of the delightful things I found about these characters is that they were actually so well portrayed I could envision what each of them looked like, even though, obviously, there were no physical descriptions to speak of. We have Lilah’s Bubby Dora (her grandmother), Prissy LaFontaine (fashion icon extraordinaire), Mr. Finkel (Andrew Finkel’s father—Andrew being the boy that Lilah is head over heels for) and also watch for the young boy ghost Lilah runs into in her school.

There are some truly delightful scenes in this book, scenes that will make your middle grade reader giggle and totally relate to. Keep your eye out for the bra shopping scene and slumber party—truly authentic! Also, there are some great father/daughter scenes with Lilah and her dad—funny, poignant and powerful scenes (also funnily awkward scenes as Lilah and Dad discuss his new dating life).

A sign of a great middle grade book is its ability to resolve the issues of the main characters without coming off as too cheesy or predictable. Small Medium at Large does this. There are plenty of things going on in this story. Levy deals with bullying, divorce, death, first crushes, jealousy—you name it. Her ability to tie up all the threads in a satisfactory way is astonishing. Perhaps one of my favourite threads was the one with Lilah and her grade eight nemesis, ‘Dolly’ Madison. Of course, Dolly was going to be the bully of the story—she’s far superior to Lilah and her friends, being as she’s in grade eight and they’re mere grade sevens. Thankfully, though, Levy played this thread perfectly. Another sign of a great middle grade story is that not all bad characters are all bad and not all good characters are all good. I’m confident readers will love the way this thread plays out. I won’t go into details—as I don’t want to give away any spoilers—but sometimes help comes from the most unlikely of places.

If you have a young reader in your life, share this book with them! I’m sure it will become an instant favourite for them. Lilah’s a good kid—they’re gonna love her!

Expectation: Met and surpassed. I am not surprised that I fell in love with this wonderful book! It will be my go-to for gift-giving for years to come!

Size: 5 (1/2)

LOOK FOR A SHORT AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT/INTERVIEW with Joanne Levy in the near future!