Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man" by Chaz Bono

245 pages

Chastity was the only child of the world-famous Sonny and Cher. She grew up in the spotlight, on her parents' show as a child and later in the tabloids. Then she made headlines when she came out as a lesbian in her twenties. Through all of this, Chastity felt like something just wasn't right. She never felt comfortable in her body or, really, anything related to being female. She finally realized that she was transgender, meaning that though she had a female body, her gender identity was male. This started a years-long process of soul-searching that ultimately led Chastity--now Chaz--to physically transition from female to male, using surgery and hormones. In this memoir, he reveals what it was like to feel like he was in the wrong body and all the obstacles he encountered on his journey from female to male.

This is certainly a very interesting story, as Chaz has had a very unique life. Growing up in the shadow of Sonny and Cher was one thing, but dealing with his sexuality and gender issues under the scrutiny his celebrity brought was a whole other issue. He had to deal with the usual aspects of coming out and transitioning--self-acceptance and explaining everything to family and friends, for instance--but everything was made more complicated by the fact that the tabloids were watching his every move. Chaz worried a great deal about how the public's reaction to his transition would affect his mother (his father had died by this point). Although I can't relate to any specific aspect of Chaz's story--the gender crisis or the celebrity--I definitely know what it's like to worry about disappointing my parents so I connected with that part of his memoir. Chaz is so open and honest about everything that I feel like I now have a much better understanding of what it's like to be transgender. Some parts of the memoir felt repetitive and almost lost my interest--namely, Chaz's constant internal struggle and inner dialogue about whether or not to become a man. I'm sure he struggled even more than it comes across in the book, but maybe it could have been summarized better. Still, I enjoyed this story and think it helped me getter a better grasp on an idea that's often misunderstood.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


House of Night Book 1
by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
306 pages

Zoey is a typical high school student, struggling to pass geometry and worrying about her almost-boyfriend's alcohol intake.  Then a vampire tracker comes and marks Zoey as a vampire fledgling, ending her normal life once and for all.  Zoey, through a genetic mutation, is now undergoing the "Change" and is becoming a vampire.    She must move to the House of Night and re-start her entire life.  However, something happens to Zoey before she makes it to the House of Night, filling in her mark and making her unique among vampire fledglings.  It appears that the goddess Nyx has something special in store for Zoey...

In many ways this was your typical ya novel, full of teen angst, romance, and girl drama.  However, the vampires portrayed here are unique.  They do not become vampires through vampire bites or other traumatic events.  They become vampires due to a random genetic mutation.  Each vampire is born human, but undergoes the change in their teens.  This was definitely unique.  Vampire religion was also unique in this novel. Vampires appear to have worship rituals that have strong Wiccan elements, with nature being the heart of the religion.  There does appear to be an anti-Christian sentiment in this novel, though it appears to be aimed toward intolerance, rather than a complete condemnation of Christianity.  Definitely an interesting read that ends with unfinished business.  However, I'm not sure whether I'm invested enough to read the next book or not.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"The Dragon Factory" (Joe Ledger #2) by Jonathan Maberry

486 pages

In "Patient Zero," Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) saved the world from a plot to unleash a zombie virus upon the United States. Now Ledger and his colleagues are back, and this time they're up against two competing groups of genetic scientists. The first group is mixing genetic material to make dangerous mercenary armies. The second has an even more evil purpose: to use modern technology to fulfill the Nazi mission of wiping all non-white groups from the face of the earth. The clock is ticking, and the stakes have never been higher.

Maberry delivers another exciting thriller with this one. It took me a little longer to get into it than "Patient Zero," but I'm not sure if that's because of the story itself or because I've been particularly ADHD lately (Oh, is that something shiny over there?!? No? Okay, where was I?). Nevertheless, once I got about a third of the way through I couldn't put it down. Joe Ledger is a really interesting character. There's almost a Wild-West feel to his personal moral code. He has strong convictions and he'll fight to the death for them. This particular story is not only thrilling but also quite thought-provoking. The Nazi psycho-scientists demonstrate how dangerous a few extremists can be when they come into some power and money, and they show how racism and prejudice are hazardous for everyone. It's like the Martin Luther King Jr quote "None of us is free until all of us are free" but in reverse: None of us are safe when there are crazies who want to eliminate certain groups of people. Not to mention the fact that these plans are just plain evil. This story also got me thinking about the idea that history repeats itself. The value of understanding what's happened in the past is that it helps us learn from our ancestors' mistakes and prevent atrocities from happening again, if possible. It's not fun to think about, but it's good to be aware of the bad things that people have done to each other in order to stop them from reoccurring. And if you can be entertained at the same time, as with this novel, then all the better.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


by Kriston Cashore
576 pages
ARC copy

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

I was graciously lent this arc copy, which I have been dying to read. But I must say I was left unsatisfied. It just took too many pages for Bitterblue to learn what she must and for them to finally locate and befriend the Dellians -- Lady Fire. And I had read the author's blog, which she says she's so happy about the cover "feeling like Bitterblue" and the significance of the keys. So I was expecting some grandness to the keys. Well, guess, what? They unlock a mystery. Really? And the way Bitterblue comes to own them was sort of anticlimactic for me.

And I like my endings all tidied up, which this story did not give. Yes, very unsatisfied indeed.

When She Woke

When She Woke
by Hillary Jordan
352 pages

I could not put this book down! In a possibly not so distant future US, Hannah Payne has just been turned into a Chrome. Chromes are criminals who have been injected with a virus that turns their color a certain color-each color represents a certain level of criminal activity. Hannah has been turned Red-for the murder of her unborn child. Facing the prejudice that comes with being a Chrome, Hannah starts to question everything she was raised to believe, mainly her faith. I think the main question of the book is: is free will rebellion against God or a gift from Him? Hannah is someone I think everyone can relate to because everyone has questioned their beliefs at some point, or faltered in their faith. I think it's just human nature.