Book Review: You Never Forget Your First

Despite having a weird name, this book is actually a presidential biography. A biography, of course, about our first president: George Washington.

The Book

You Never Forget Your First
Author: Alexis Coe
2020
Amazon Link

I first heard about this book in a CNN article about it. It praised the book as being written by a female author, the first female-authored biography of G-dubs in 50+ years, and credited that with some of the unique perspectives seen in the book. It claimed that this was the first biography to reveal the real Washington and tell you what was what. I hadn’t thought about how all the history books I’ve read except the biography of Rachel Jackson had been written by men, so I thought this one would be interesting to pick up.

A Spoiler-ific Review Because Why Not

I thought this book was a good introduction to Washington but, probably because I’m so used to reading and enjoying books by the “thigh men” Coe repeatedly lambasted, it felt woefully non-comprehensive. This was a book for someone vaguely interested in Washington or looking for a new perspective on his life (especially if interested in his relationship with slavery, and especially if not interested in a more nuanced look at Washington’s thoughts and actions regarding the villainous practice). It’s a short enough biography that someone only glancingly interested in Washington could pick it up and get through it, but I’m not sure they’d get anything out of their time anyway.

I credit Coe for her extensive research on Washington’s slaves. This portion of his life seemed to be one of the primary focuses of the book and perhaps was one of Coe’s most ardent causes in writing the book. Slavery, especially about specific individuals, is a difficult thing to research simply due to incomplete records, destroyed records, and silenced voices. For this reason, I think the biography is an interesting addition to the litany of Washington-focused works.

However, those items which are most associated with Washington – such as much of his adventures during the Revolutionary War or a lot of details about his presidency – are absent. Coe cites her reasoning as that the “thigh men” have already investigated and written about this in excruciating detail, which I understand, but the book is already sufficiently short that I didn’t agree with the choice to cut these aspects. The part about the Revolutionary War was especially short, as she only provided a table summarizing his battles. She focused on his effective spy network, but that made the excuse not to expound on the military aspects further questionable; others have also expounded upon the spy network (or this other one – God, there’s a lot), often in conjunction with the military.

The lighthearted tone could be engaging, but it left the book feeling non-academic and made me question the authority of the author (for which I feel guilty, since part of her goal was to show women could be authorities on these subjects). I think I wasn’t a fan of the approach to be entertaining and funny, since a biography – even one this short – can be served by an element of gravitas in order to confirm scholarliness. However, this tone may be appreciated by people who haven’t read as many biographies, and certainly by someone who hasn’t read so many biographies about apocryphal lunatics like Andrew Jackson (that’s me, by the way).

So, in the end, the book was enjoyable enough, but I was left feeling like I’d not gotten information about some of the things I went in seeking. I believe I’m in the “middle” ground of people familiar enough with Washington to expect more than what Coe provided, but not familiar enough with Washington to need something other than the besmirched “thigh men” biographies to keep me entertained. Perhaps dismissing and insulting the “thigh men” biographies, which I happen to like, just set me in the wrong mood in the first place. Even in the sciences – where you’re supposed to be “above” such things – it’s well known you never insult another person’s work like that, much less make fun of it with a term like “thigh men”.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

In Other News…

I also read Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life upon the suggestion of Peter Martuneac in his Genghis Khan review linked. Not only did Martuneac, who seems to enjoy history books similarly to myself, suggest Chernow’s work, but I’m pretty sure A Life was THE EPITOME “thigh man” book.

It was enormous, and it took me a long time to slog through (in part because I had so much real life work to do). I will say this, though: after having read Chernow’s work, I went ahead and took off a snowcone. A Life was more detailed, perhaps just due to the length, but it was also done respectfully and with attention to even Washington’s dirtier aspects. While I do admit Chernow wrongfully deified Washington a bit, especially during the first third of the book, Coe went too far in the other direction. In fact, she committed a cardinal sin of publishing: she derided works, and their authors, for no obvious reason other than to advertise her own work’s value. If her book could not stand on its own, it is still poorly served for having wasted some of its word count talking about how much the author dislikes Chernow and other “thigh men.” I found no obvious reason for her making fun of the other group of historians, so I hereby dock thee one snowcone!

If you want to read my review of Chernow’s work, you can find it on my Goodreads.

Next week:

I’m going to read about Cherokee Mythology from the James Mooney book! It promises to be an absolute ride through a very important aspect of American history that we often overlook. Stay tuned!

Book Review: Union 1812

The War of 1812 is something I’ve obviously studied due to its importance in the life and times of my main man Andrew Jackson, but I know very little about the Northern Front. I understand about what made the war happen and how tensions kept getting higher, but those initial stages and larger decisions made by Secretary of War Monroe still elude me.

The Book

Union 1812 read 2021

Union 1812
Author: A.J. Langguth
2006
Amazon Link

I borrowed the ebook version of this from my library, which meant I had to read this pretty quickly before the library took it away. That’s a misfortune, because I like to take more time with these sorts of books. So here we go – the book that links the end of the Revolution to the Second War of Independence, Union 1812. 

A Spoiler-ific Review Because You Know What Nonsense This War Was

First off: the Southern Theater was well-known to me. I was already very aware of the feud between Jackson and Wilkinson, how Jackson pretty much just made his own army and took matters into his own hands, and how the slaughter was pretty crazy. If you want to read about (white) American successes in the war of 1812, this is the theater you should read about.

And Langguth did a pretty fair job of it. He did describe the slaughter in a negative light, and that’s something I’ve found lacking in other works (Remini *cough*). He showed a clearer connection between Jackson’s raising an army and keeping the army loyal to him moreso than to the cause. He did have a bit of a lax description of New Orleans and the tactical nonsense leading up to it, but I’ll forgive him due to space constraints.

But the Northern Theater?

What a fricking mess.

I hadn’t studied the Northern theater nearly as much, so my knowledge was pretty much limited to “burning of the capitol” and “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”. And Lord Have Mercy (lord have mercy), that’s about all that went well for the Americans. Though the Americans often had larger forces, their forays into Canada were absolute garbage, their tactics horrible nonsense, and their training absolutely negligible. I’m glad I found out how absolutely bad the Northern Theater was, because it makes Jackson’s victory and subsequent fame a lot more sensible.

Also, the real hero of the Northern Theater was probably Dolly Madison. You go, Dolly.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

I read the relatively new biography of George Washington, You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe!

Book Review: 1776

Everyone who’s paid even half-hearted attention to my book reviews knows that I tend to study The Age of Jackson with something of a vengeance. As I was reading Remini’s John Quincy Adams, I realized something else: the folks of the 1820’s talking about the Revolution is like us talking about Vietnam. It was recent enough to be relevant to them. It was about some of their parents or – in the case of Jackson – about them, as well.

To understand The Age of Jackson, I’m taking a short trip back further in time and looking at the American Revolution.

The Book

10671776
Author: David McCullough
4th July, 2006 (had to put the full date because lol)
Amazon Link

Ok, spoiler alert: I bought this book for myself as a high school graduation present. I’d already read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex because a teacher at school had loaned them to me, but I hadn’t read Meacham’s American Lion because it hadn’t come out yet (and, by the time it had, I was knee-deep in the Remini trilogy that I love). So I bought this instead.

So I know I enjoy it, but I also remember it not being terribly exciting. Let’s see if my opinions have changed!

A Spoiler-ific Review Because You Know We Won The War

This book was about as “Ok” as I remember it being just before college. It’s detailed and contains a lot of information about the first year of the Revolution and the battles carried out therein. It is not politically focused and only goes into political detail inasmuch as it affects the war efforts. For instance, it talks about politics when Congress whimps out and there’s a troop shortage, or the Declarations stiffens resolve.

Even so, there was so little tension in the book. When I’m reading a book about a war, I want to feel like there’s something to be won or lost. By ignoring a significant amount of the political element of the Revolution, the war feels somewhat empty. I am a pretty big fan of America and American history, but somehow this book didn’t give me enough reason to root for the underdog colonials as I read. Washington and his underlings would sometimes call their losses (a.k.a. DEAD SOLDIERS) “inconsiderable” and would lead their men, repeatedly, into stupid, stupid conditions. I didn’t like the presentation of Washington well enough to feel into rooting for him.

Part of what was very good about other battle-focused history books I’ve read are the introductions to the main players. Remini’s Battle of New Orleans (for a review, check my Goodreads!), for example, does a great job explaining who Packenham (the British leader) was, and Foote does an INCREDIBLE job explaining the myriad faces in his Civil War series. These introductions do a great job drawing you into the narrative and making the tension greater. McCullough doesn’t do that well and, instead, seems to depend on the reader already knowing a certain amount of information. While he explains some about Knox and Greene, the majority of the book doesn’t really involve them and Greene is often just sick.

Another problem I had with this was the focus on American viewpoints. There were moments wherein he looked at the British side, but there wasn’t enough attention paid to personal accounts of the British for emotional connection to occur. The commanders of the British forces were portrayed (perhaps accurately) as pompous assholes, and the lack of balance to that made the British army seem like an unreal, almost monstrous force. I wasn’t a fan of that, and I am not familiar with another war book that gave me the same feeling.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

I read Union 1812, a book about the War of 1812!

Reading List – November 2021

I read a lot of history books in my preferred era, but there’s always something missing. When I read about the Jacksonian Era without reading about the Revolutionary Era, it would be like a future historian reading about today without understanding the Vietnam War or who Reagan was. This month, I’m reading a variety of “prequel” books to my preferred era.

1776 – David McCullough

David McCullough is what one would call a “super famous” pop historian. 1776 is one of his more famous works, and I know it’s alright because I read it before (long ago, albeit). The focus of the book is on, of course, the year 1776 (which, for you non-Americans, is well known as the year history began).

From this book, I hope to glean information about the Revolution, including what average people thought and how infighting between tory and rebel contributed to the coming political age. If I remember correctly, though, it may just be a military history, which is interesting in and of itself.

Union 1812 – AJ Languth

The War of 1812 is a war easily forgotten in American classrooms. Even I, who really cared about my American history class, noticed that this important event was only briefly spoken about. Perhaps it’s because the capitol was burned, or perhaps it’s because the treaty of Ghent pretty much gained Americans nothing, but people just don’t know that much about the war unless they go looking.

Me? Oh, you know me. I’ve read up on this baby, but I admit my knowledge is quite stacked. I’m familiar with the Southern Theater and the associated Creek War, but I know little to nothing about the Northern Theater. I want to read this book with the intention to draw more information regarding that less-successful-theater, as well as look into the roles of the Madisons, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams.

You Never Forget Your First – Alexis Coe

The quirky title and a CNN article praising Coe’s You Never Forget Your First got me interested enough to rent this one from the library for a little perusal. This is actually a biography of George Washington, which I thought would go along well with 1776 up there.

Washington is one of the more interesting founding fathers (if only because he’s not Jefferson who, regardless of your opinion on him, I find incredibly dull to read about), so I’m excited to see what Coe has dug up. The articles I’ve read praising the book indicate she brings a new vision and interpretation of the historical documents, so perhaps I should have boned up on the more typical works first! 😉

Hint, however: I have already read this book as of posting, and I did read another George Washington biography in the meantime. I have a brief aside comparing the two, but you’ll have to read the review when it comes out to discover my thoughts!

Cherokee Mythology – James Mooney

I believe, wholeheartedly, that the history of Indians has been so woefully overlooked that it’s a sin. As a North Carolinian who grew up in the western part of the state, I’ve always been at least a little interested in the Cherokee. I even wrote about Sequoyah, an important Cherokee inventor, on the Carrot Ranch. Though it’s not terribly difficult to find information on the Cherokee post-colonization, I was looking for something more foundational and old. I wanted to see what pre-columbian history and thoughts are available to us.

This book contains a pretty in-depth history of the Cherokee people as well as a pretty large collection of myths. It was sanctioned by the government, and most of the information comes from primary source documents. There’s a companion, The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee, that may be of interest to me later. Both are free on Project Gutenberg as they are now in the public domain.

Book Review: Collective Darkness

One of my stories recently got accepted into Collective Fantasy, which will be published by the awesome Collective Tales Publishing. As soon as I got the approval, the publishers swept me off my feet with kindness and just amazing community. I saw they had a previous book come out, Collective Darkness, and that it performed REALLY well on Amazon.

Here’s what I found…

The Book

Collective Darkness
Editor: Elizabeth Suggs
2020
Amazon Link for Kindle (though you need to go through their site for a print copy!)

This is a book of dark, creepy shorts. There are all sorts of horror inside, but little of it should really trigger people. As it says in the “disclaimer”, there is some descriptive violence, but honestly I didn’t think it was very extreme.

On With The Review

This is the first multi-author compilation I’ve read in which every story was at least 3 stars (and that 3-star was, without a doubt, not because of low quality – it was just because of my own weird tastes). Most of the stories were 4 or 5 stars. I’ve never given a multi-author compilation above 3 stars total before.

Part of what made this compilation so good was the consistently high quality of editing. I didn’t find any mistakes in the work, which is something I tend to find in at least one author’s story in these compilations. I bet it’s hard to get every story from multiple authors to feel like they’re all done well and edited to their best!

Another thing that made the compilation so good was the darkness that linked them. Though the theme was very vague, the creepiness factor remained the same for all the stories. Though they had disparate settings, characters, and even sometimes genre, the collection went together very well. The order in which the stories were presented was also perfect; it went together like an album of music.

When I review a compilation, I like to leave a review of 3 stories: my favorite, one that stood out, and my least favorite. This time, I’m proud to say, I even liked the least favorite!

The Favorite: Padua’s Eyes

HOLY MOLY. This story turned vampire stories on their head. Padua was a vampiric horse that helped her human rider seek vengeance for turning her father. Not only was the story an exciting bit of fantasy, but the journey that Padua and her rider Cordelia make is dark and filled with difficult decisions. I also loved the author’s choice of a German-inspired setting. Even though it was simple, the small hints and flicks of German inspired names, dress, and activity gave it just that little kick that made this story my favorite.

The Standout: Red Flag

This was a Southern Gothic tale, and I loved it. There were all kinds of little niceties about how being quiet and maintaining honor was important, even if it was never explicitly stated. Though I think some of the Southernness was a bit heavy-handed, the short as a whole made good use of the setting. The first line of the story, “Shane told me he’s going to kill somebody,” leads to a paranoid, macabre set of twists and turns. By the ending I knew what was going on and what needed to happen, but I couldn’t look away because it was so intense.

This was one of the stories in which violence occurs, but unless you’re really, truly bothered by it, the paranoia and creepiness is absolutely worth it.

Least Favorite: Crimson Snow

Honestly, this story wasn’t bad. There was mystery, a sense of dread instilled by the chilly setting, and a plot that had a beginning, middle, and end. It fit the book well. Even so, I guess it was my least favorite because the story blended reality and vision in a way that my brain, which was seeking easily digestible material at the time, decided it didn’t want to try so hard. Eventually some monsters show up, and I thought it was ok but wasn’t the more sociopolitical direction I’d thought the story was heading.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

It’s a new month! Stay tuned!

Book Review: The Secrets of Plants in the Environment

Imagine you’re me: a scientist, but perhaps a niche one, who receives a book review request from another scientist. And, what’s more, this book is non-fiction. It’s a legit, researched book that’s for sale on Amazon.

I couldn’t resist.

The Book

The Secret of Plants in the Environment
Author: Rishikesh Upadhyay
2020
Amazon Link

I usually reserve this spot for things like trigger warnings or information about how to get the book. Well, there’s really only one way to get this book in America: Amazon.

What you might not know is that this was published through Notion Press, which seems to be a small press/other self-publishing thingy in India. Even though this book seems to have a publisher, I think an indie or small publisher fits the bill for the “indie months” on my blog.

Non-Spoiler Review

Upadhyay’s work is rather thorough and well-organized. Each portion of the book leads you through a different challenge that plants may have to face, from simple things such as temperature to wild things such as radiation or magnetism. He does so in such a way that brings a wide swath of history in plant biology and brings you up to date on many modern theories and work. At the same time, he uses very applied examples with common food crops (especially common in India, where he is based) so the book shows the usefulness of the knowledge.

At the same time, the surprising thoroughness for such a small volume lends to it reading like a review paper or a textbook. This lends authority to the writing, but it is not what I would classify an “easy read” for you to snuggle into a recliner with and just relax. It also requires a reader to have some level of background knowledge in biology, biochemistry, and/or plant biology. I’m rather familiar with the biochemistry part, so I found much of the work very interesting – the level of information presented was perfect for someone of my field looking to expand their interest and learn without having to struggle. I think it’d be a good book to read in a second-level college plant biology course, where you’ve already learned the basics and can now investigate the next piece.

Most importantly, the book seemed well-researched. Like I said, I’m not an expert in the field, but I did go through the citations briefly and found several journals I recognized the names of. Something like this could probably go into a peer-reviewed space, or at least would not feel out of the ordinary in such a place (save for the fact that it is long!).

Though there were a few grammar or typos present, as a whole the writing was very smooth and readable. Word choice was flawless. After having read this, I would like to put in this review that I’d 100% like to see Upadhyay write something with either a more Pop-Science feel (the quotes at the beginning of the chapters lead me to think he’d be good at that), or I’d encourage him to find colleagues who’d like to write a plant biology textbook. Obviously got the chops.

Either way, the book was good, but the audience may be limited due to requisite knowledge to understand it.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Not going to lie, the part with magnets and about pre-treating seeds with them? That was nuts. Just do a quick Google search, and you’ll see what I mean. Upadhyay did a good job explaining some of the mechanisms, and it really did blow my mind.

Next week:

I read Collective Darkness, a book published by the same press that published Collective Fantasy! I don’t have a story in Collective Darkness, but I wanted to see what kind of quality the Collective Press people put out! See you there!

Book Review: Walking Into Trouble

Geoff LePard is a popular blogger ’round these parts, and some bloggers have been urging me to read his works for a while. So, when I received a review request from him through my Review Request Page, I knew I had to read it!

That being said, it’s not my usual genre, so hold onto your butts.

The Book

Walking Into Trouble
Author: Geoff LePard
2020
Amazon Link

As a note for people who are thinking about this book: there are a lot of intense sexual implications, innuendo, and scenes. The book is not erotica, but sex takes a front seat of importance in the story. I’d honestly classify this as a “sex mystery,” as the story is essentially about trying to solve problems surrounding who slept with who and when. Those who are triggered by intensely sexual content may want to be aware before reading the book (or, honestly, before reading my review).

Non-Spoiler Review

Walking Into Trouble is in a genre I’m not quite sure I’ve read before. It’s in this liminal space between mystery, soap, and contemporary. It has a very unique structure built around the central backbone of “three men on a long set of walks.” There’s a lot of timeline skipping and many different narrators, but LePard adds each piece of the puzzle in a sensible, understandable way. It’s hard to have a non- or semi-linear plot work out, and he pulled it off here. Another feat was how well he incorporated multiple narrators with this non-traditional plot structure.

The story also leaves you hanging while you wait for the next clue. It gives you red herrings, it leads down misbegotten paths and into deep truths, and it shoves you into desperate situations along with the characters. The problems faced by Chris, Marty, and Peter were very intense, and the combinations of their secret worries threatens to tear their friendship apart throughout the whole book. This constant drive kept the book engaging and held the tension through to the end.

One of the characters I enjoyed reading about the most was Felicity. She wasn’t a main character, but the role she played was essential to spreading just the right amount of rumors without solving anything. Her motivations were always a little cloudy (at least until the end) that you couldn’t quite trust her gossip. I thought she was well done.

Something that was difficult was how sleazy all of the characters (main or otherwise) were. I swear, if one of them contracted an STD, probably all of them would have caught it immediately. I couldn’t really identify with any of the three main characters or Diane because of how much sleeping around was done. All the sleeping around was necessary for the plot to work out (“who the baby daddy” was of course one of the main questions), though, so it made sense as I read. It was still probably the most difficult part of the book for me, and ultimately I think I’m not a big fan of the genre.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I don’t really do spoilers reviews for indie books, so I’m going to complain/whine/chat about something irrelevant.

What kind of walking trail puts you at a different city/town at the end of each day? A trail on which you can just head to a hotel after a day’s walk? I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’ve never hiked/backpacked/walked on a trail that worked that way in even the remotest fashion. Is that type of trail an English thing? Or am I just crazy and haven’t found one of those trails in America before?

Or, do they do lots of switcheroos with cars at either end of the day’s hike? However the methodology, the fact that the three main characters would walk for the day and then have *access to a hotel every night* blew my fricking mind. No eating spilled spaghetti off a rock? No bear bags or water purification tablets? What kind of walk was this!?!

Anyway, rant over.

Next week:

It’s time for Secrets of Plants in the Environment, my first non-fiction indie book read!

Book Review: We All Die In the End

Elizabeth Merry is a prolific blogger who writes fantastic stuff. Her prose is always delicious, and she’s so nice! And, despite that kind exterior, she offers this book of dark tales set in a seaside town. I was excited to read this and see what she had in store.

Many of these stories had been elsewhere showcased in other anthologies, so it’s also possible you’ve seen one before, but never packaged so neatly like this.

The Book

We All Die In the End: Scenes From a Small Town
Author: Elizabeth Merry
2020
Amazon Link

This is a book of 19 shorts focused on various characters that live in the same seaside, Irish town. As a warning, some stories in the book are incredibly dark and many either contain or hint at emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. There are explicitly sexual things in the book, though not at great detail for each scene in which they appear. Because the stories are all shorts, however, any content that may be unacceptable to a reader can easily be skipped and other stories enjoyed.

On With The Review

Without a doubt, this collection of short stories was the most well-curated of any I’ve seen. Not only did the stories fit together well thematically, and not only did they have the same general setting, but they wove into each other by mentioning various characters that showed up later. For instance, the first story is about Arthur, but he talks about Jennifer and her dogs. Jennifer shows up in the next story, and they introduce other characters. Carmel works at the grocer’s, and Julia and Sadie down at the pub are mentioned repeatedly.

It. Just. Works.

Most of the stories make you think, and many contain complex social relationships that only reveal themselves in their fullness at the end. That being said, I sure wouldn’t want to live in this town – too many bad guys and terrible people! There weren’t many characters I could really get behind and root for, as many of them were morally gray or completely decrepit. Even so, they were all interesting, and Merry writes very well.

When I review collections of shorts, I also like to select a few stories to talk about in more detail.

The Favorite: Myrtle

I LOVED the Myrtle scene. Because the story was told with a narrator positioned just behind Myrtle’s shoulder and with Myrtle’s personality in mind, I couldn’t get a true physical description in my mind. That being said, when the little kid was afraid of her at the grocer’s, I immediately went to “completely insane cat lady” in my head. I was not disappointed. It went from crazy to VERY CRAZY in the span of no time, and Myrtle was just the best. I loved her, she was terrible, it went great.

Meow.

The Standout: Angela

This was probably the most different from all the other stories. Though it took place in the same town, it felt somewhat cloistered away from the rest of them because of its focus on the nunnery and school. How it turned out was completely unexpected, and it’ll probably be the last story that goes fuzzy in my head.

Least Favorite: Eugene Curran

This one was the very last story in the book, and to be honest, I had to stave off writing the review for a few days because I knew it would linger in my mind and spoil what was otherwise a great collection. This one was the most horrifying and abusive, and I was never really sure what the storyline was except for being about Eugene’s abusiveness and baseless paranoia. It did, in a way, come full circle to the paranoia seen in the first story, but it enveloped the lives of others who were terrified and prevented from escaping domestic abuse. While abuse was present in other stories, this was the only one so deeply dark that I couldn’t get my interest up.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

It’s a new month! Stay tuned!

Reading List – July 2021

It’s the summer indie book month, and boy do we have some hot reads this July! You’ll want to stick around for these.

1NG4 – Berthold Gambrel

I recently met Berthold Gambrel through his website, and I then also followed his twitter. Peter Martenuac (of His Name Was Zach fame) retweeted that 1NG4 was on a free weekend, so I had to check it out!

Not only that, this is a pretty short book. That’s why, on THIS WEDNESDAY, I’m going to be posting one more review than usual on my blog!

Amazon Link

Liars and Thieves – Diane Wallace Peach

I have reviewed three D. Wallace Peach books in the past (See reviews for The Melding of Aeris, Soul Swallowers, and Legacy of Souls). Peach is a reliably good author, and I’m excited to see what this new series entails. One of Peach’s sneak previews that she posted on her blog indicated that at least one of the main characters was going to be a goblin, and any sort of non-human character excites me. I don’t believe I’ve read anything published with a goblin main character, so it’s time to see how Peach pulls that off!

Amazon Link

His Name Was Zach – Peter Martuneac

Last year, Peter Martuneac submitted his book Her Name Was Abby through my review request form. Though it was the second book in the series (Zach, here, was the first), I was blown away. I assume Martuneac experienced some artist growth between the two books, but I was very into Abby and looked forward to reading this installation. The third book is out, too, so I have to catch up!

Amazon Link

We All Die In the End – Elizabeth Merry

Elizabeth Merry and I follow each others’ blogs, and I know she’s got great style. Her characters are vivid, and her prose beautiful. This collection of shorts (“scenes”) look to be connected by setting, and I think the book as a whole may benefit from this connection. Definitely looking forward to what each tale may hold for me.

Amazon Link

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Transgender History

I read two books earlier this month that were more memoir-ish in scope. I thought that was well and good but, as I was reading, I realized that I didn’t have a great handle on the background of LGBTQ+ history and collective experience. As you can also tell if you read my reviews of Sissy or Johnny Appleseed, I needed something for Pride Month that I was going to like.

And I rarely find a history book actually bad.

The Book

Transgender History
Author: Susan Stryker
2017 (revised from the 2008 edition to include new info)
Amazon Link

As the author admits in the beginning of the book, this book does focus on white American transgender history. While it does intersect with the history of non-white Americans, those people appear far less often in the book than whites. I offer this caveat here because the review will be within the context of a book about white Americans, and I’m going to avoid criticizing the book for the lack of pinpointed focus on non-white people. I think it’s probably hard enough to distinguish what is specifically important to the current state of transgender people in America, and the history of people of color is often harder than the history of whites in America to uncover.

Non-Spoiler Review:

As a whole, this book was an enjoyable read. It felt similar to most of the history books I enjoy in that the author’s tone held gravitas and authority in the subject matter. It was blatantly, obviously clear that an enormous amount of work went into the research for the material; just going over some of the citations present in the work was fascinating. Stryker’s book has very high academic quality, which surprised me. It surprised me because almost all LGBTQ+ material I have consumed have a clear and present push for a certain political agenda, which wasn’t the case in Stryker’s work until the very end (where it got into Trump). As a whole, it was apolitical in tone even if the substance was unavoidably political.

Stryker does a great job setting the scene with some international history by looking at how the terms “transsexual” and “transgender” came to be and what they are. I was fascinated to learn that the now somewhat-taboo-among-the-youths “transsexual” was, for a long time, the kinder, more appropriate term. Older people who many would consider transgender today still prefer the term transsexual, which made sense to me when I’ve thought about what other people have told me. A review doesn’t have enough space to go into detail, but suffice to say that I was glad to see how transgender tends to be the appropriate term for a wide swath of people today.

I was fascinated to learn a lot about a group of people I didn’t know much about. However, I must admit that my biggest complaint about the book was how slanted it was toward the transfeminine/transwoman side of the story. As a transgender woman herself, Stryker probably has reason to focus on the stories of transwomen. There’s also a current push in liberal circles to accept transwomen, as the records indicate they (especially transwomen of color) experience enormous levels of abuse. However, it was odd to me that the book was probably a 75:15:10 split in terms of transwomen:transmen:non-binary stories. I don’t know if I believe Stryker’s stories when it comes to the brevity of discourse on challenges faced by transmasculine and non-binary people. Something about that just didn’t ring true to me, and honestly I think it may be that transwomen are simply more visible for whatever reason. There may just not be as much material there for research.

As a whole, though, breathtakingly readable and very well researched.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

It’s the start of one of my indie book months! Stay tuned to find out what I’m consuming.