🌹 Reviews: Permanent Record by Mary M.K. Choi

The first fifty to hundred pages on this book are fantastic. There was so many good lines about identity, depression, race and how all of those things are intermix in a confusing fashion that make it really hard to explain unless you are living it. At one point our main character Pab says, “I don’t even know what we’re arguing about at this point, but it’s clear that being locked in an idiot’s arms race of saying ignorant things is easier than having a real discussion.” That’s a fucking brilliant line, and contextually an even more brilliant summary on how important discussions often get handled.

The next hundred of pages however? A mess. The author’s acknowledgements make a point to say that second books are really hard and she broke her brain trying to write it and I think this book needed more time to actually bake in her mind since she did not what you wanted to say with this story so says nothing for most of the book, leaving us with this raw contradictory rambling of a book.

Reviews will highlight the gems in this story. Show the strength of Mary H.K. Choi’s writing style, but I don’t really see any reason to going to find those gems myself. An honest summary of the book would be two characters with self made problems who aren’t working together as much as they’d like because they aren’t honest with each other or themselves. Mary H. K. Choi’s first book, does not have this problem. Which makes Permanent Record come off more as an author deeply confused trying to empathize with both these two extremes and unable to bridge her own thoughts.

I want to end on a good note so I’ll say now and always, the hardcover of this book is a work of art. The dust sleeve being part of the cover, but yet not. The work that is hidden underneath the dust cover is amazing. I got my copy for like ten bucks versus the nineteen cover price so I don’t feel like the time or money was a waste. I just wish I had popular highlights in my paperback version that marked the hidden treasures so I could view the collective thing as work of art. More then any other book I’ve read that ability would also better reflect the theme. The online listing doesn’t do the cover justice, go look at it the next time you are in bookstore.

I’m officially calling this #spelunking trip over at 205 pages, when writing the review I tried to flip through the book but felt it fall even more apart. If you make it to the bicycle seen I feel like Lee over the idea of finishing this. If you’re the Pab here, or both at once, maybe this book is what you needed, like I hope it is what the author needed even if I’m left with more concerns then I started out with.

🌹 Reviews: Asexual Erotics

As you can imagine this book discusses erotics with a focus on asexuality. It’s introduction focused on how the meaning of erotic had changed since Freud and how more modern queer theorists define it to mean more than simply the “sexual”. The great thing but about it hitting such a specific note is this discussion is all but nonexistent when it comes to social ace places. It asks what are we missing when we make ‘erotic’ be a single note. 

The book definitely is not an introduction to asexuality, it has a strong academic voice at times that make the points less clear than they could have been, but if you hang around queer spaces and think your life could use more theory, history, or a look at discussions of human development then this is definitely the sort of book to pick up. 

In my opinion the book also does a good job explaining how white women were rewarded for being “sexually liberated” while in the same decade people of color were and are punished in a number of ways for even the appearance of the same. In doing so, this book showcases that social change is not an absolute for all people, but varies along intersectional lines.

The book also goes over ‘political celibacy’, why it exists, how it often differs across race, and why it’s often grouped under asexuality history. It’s the first time I’ve seen a reason it’s so casually grouped and a spells out those reasons instead I’d just casually glossing over.

I feel like the chapters on childhood and ageism could have been combined for a stronger point instead of a more vague “this is a thing that people debate about”. I also found the epilogue featuring the discussion of violent entitled sexism felt like an afterthought more then an ending note. 

Despite my less than rave review for some chapters, overall the book left with me new things, ideas, often history nearly lost to time to consider when discussing how complete freedom can be gained for all. Here’s a few quotes I haven’t posted in our “ref” tag or on twitter that I enjoyed. 

“It is only through asexuality that a sufficient critique of compulsory sexuality as limiting to people across spectrums and different positionalities can be developed.” 

“Where there is queerness there is also asexuality.” 

If you’re curious to read more you can get your own copy here.

🌹 Reviews: Waking Up The Sun

Waking Up The Sun front loads a protagonist who has anxiety and has already learned ways to cope with it. It mentions magic almost right away too, but my favorite part of that is that a potion is considered magic instead of just having a spell go “cure” him. It’s a great bit of world building I wish more things had. Having a lead character who has to consider their racing thoughts and find medicine because that’s part of their basic needs is so a plot point, instead of a casual one off line. That’s amazing to see.

Around the 20% mark you see the consideration of being lost in the woods and having to wash your clothes. These are such small things that most writers just ignore because they think it will ruin— whatever. But these are the exact things that makes Waking Up The Sun real and something that feels new.

The only criticism I have of this was I thought the writing could be tighter. Sometimes I thought why is this being mentioned now, or at all. It may not be the best read for the sex repulsed for similar reasons but maybe this review can serve as your content warning.

With that said, this book is why I like to read from LGBTQ authors, generally found from small publishers. They have a number of important things that aren’t found elsewhere. Both men in the pairing are sweet. Awkward only in an realistic way instead of being an often sexist adorkable trope. I think my favorite thing is how much they check in with each other, ask if the other is okay.

[Learn more or buy your own copy here.]

🌹 Reviews: Our Bloody Pearl

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Our Bloody Pearl cycles in ace places because Dejean is an ace of color and everything is respectfully done when it could have easily been a trash fire if written by someone who didn’t care about the community. But ace rep isn’t the only plus this book has going for it. The story ✨ shines ✨ as it talks about disability and healing from abuse. That’s where the heart of this novel is to me and almost every line about accepting your disabilities is a popular highlight for good reason. If you even passively like mermaids and pirates I’d absolutely recommend this book. Also, I love Dejean v much, kthxbuy!

🌹 Reviews: The Tyrant’s Tomb

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Haikus as chapter titles are just fun.

As a pagan, particularly one with an affinity towards Apollo and Artemis. Rick Riordan’s Trials of Apollo have a special place for me. The first book in the series used to be my favorite, I wasn’t really into book three. But book four? Book four is really something wonderful. The way it talks about pain, abuse, and life. The fact that these are intended for middle-grade kids and have such an honest talk about such things gives me hope. While this isn’t really anything new for the PJO series, it’s nice to still see these things in a series that has so many books and so much attention. And if you missed out on the very first PJO book, maybe you can embrace anarchy like I did and start with this spinoff series.

I saw several people, including myself, miss that book four was even out in the first place so be sure to pick it up while it’s easy to find sales!

PS: Chapter 41 went hard with Aro Ace Rights 😭

 

New Year, New Books

A lot of people will make lists full of self help books around this time of year. And those books can be great, but at lot of times they aren’t really that life changing so instead of filling the little free library with books that might slightly changing someone’s point of view I decided to think of any book fiction or non-fiction that drastically changed how I go about things about life and the world around me. No need to count down from ten, because this short and sweet list won’t keep you long!

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

You know how titles are meant to encapsulate the whole book’s theme? Boil everything down to a moment or message? Nothing does that as well as More Happy Than Not. It’s a beautiful and sad book about identity and reminds me of a YA version of The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. But unlike the story, I actually repeat this title back to myself on rough days. I remind myself if I’m more happy than not, then my troubles are just troubles. There isn’t anything that needs fixing.

The Dictator’s Handbook

Did I give you whiplash with that sharp turn? This non-fiction book subtitled Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics is something I think back on a lot these days. Every time something weird and “un-presidented” happens I think about the stats laid out in this book and what it can mean for (us). If you can’t afford a copy right now, check out these two video summary of sorts: Rules for Rules and Death & Dynasties.  No matter what party you are, no matter what country you are from this book will change how you view political power and how those with it gain it and often keep it.

This chart stuck with me the most after reading the book. Maybe it was timing, maybe it was wishful thinking. Either way I find it such a simple and interesting stat collection. Other gems in the book is discussing how the Art of War shouldn’t be your reference for non-war things.

Review: Culture’s Skeleton by Adam P. Knave

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Culture’s Skeleton by Adam P. Knave

First off, the paperback is such a small, cute, and perfect size.

Culture’s Skeleton has the vibe of Hitchkicker’s Guide to the Galaxy while having its own voice. Things in Mur work by their own rules and Mur is really its own character. A lesser writer might have made characters from different time periods tropes of that era, but instead readers get a feeling of how people are connected despite where (or when) they are from. If you are looking for something with a lot of style and heart look no further!

Nemesis Series Review 1 & 2!

Today I’m reviewing two books! Dreadnought and Sovereign both by April Daniels. Here’s a quick overview of the series before I give you my thoughts on each.

About The Book: Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Dreadnought

That’s it, that’s my whole blackout poetry inspired review for Dreadnought. Kidding! This book shines by interweaving own voice experiences with a world where a kid picks up the mantle of a famous superhero. It also has the worst bad guys in any story I’ve seen in a very long time. There’s nothing redeemable about them, but since their motivations are so every day I found myself rooting for their downfall even harder.

sovereign

Dreadnought is back! I normally care most about the plot in sequels since when continuing a story the story is a really important factor. But here, I cared more about how Dreadnought was doing. And that answer makes up the majority of the book. It’s also nice that book 2 showed more community issues giving us a bigger picture of both the superhero and transgender world. There were several lines in this book that were simply brilliant and I stopped to think only a thoughtful author like April Daniel could have pulled them off. Villians continue to be the ~worst~ but to my delight, we also get another trans superhero, Kinetiq, who I love dearly.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m pretty happy how this book ended and I’ll be among the first to nervously and hopefully read a book 3 when we get it.

As a series, I give these two ★★★★½ ! I’d suggest this series for anywho who has ever even vaguely enjoyed superheroes, burnt out on the “trend” or not this story has something unique and powerful to offer.

Assassin’s Creed Rewind and Review

If I said I was a fan of Assassin’s Creed series since the beginning, while technically true,  it would be misleading. I stopped playing after Assassin’s Creed 3. I’m all about those modern Assassin’s and I was utterly convinced that Ubisoft was throwing that plot line away. Add in the release of Blackflag and my dislike for the boats in AC3 and it became the first title in the series I missed. I played Watch Dogs and enjoyed it more than most, so I likely could have been convinced to come back the following year. But then…

In retrospect, this was a bigger fuss than was warranted. But, at the time there was a joke of ‘when will my love of [fandom] come back from war’ which summed up my feelings about the series.

In 2015, I missed Syndicate for no reason besides I was just still unhappy. Ubisoft had let me known plenty. But it was getting praise for its inclusion of women and had the first trans character in the series.  (And later learned also its first bisexual character.) The following year Pulse happened, and I was watching E3 trying to process what was happening to my community. I was hoping someone would say something because when bad things happen I feel like the world needs to take a moment. And it rarely does.

Ubisoft’s conference comes on and everyone was wearing rainbow ribbons, and they take a second to express their own heartbreak for the community. And since they had been working on adding LGBTQ characters before this, it was enough. It was something. 

Come November, Watch Dogs 2 has another trans character who has an even bigger role, rainbow flags everywhere, you can visit gay clubs and flirt with whatever gender of your choosing, you can buy pride shirts and wear them for the whole game.  The last four things are really minor, but WD2 is literally the only game that does that and it was nearly healing to see cut screens with PRIDE written on his damn shirt for half the game.

Because of this, I think I should go back. 2013 wasn’t the greatest time and I kept thinking how about an abusive person got an Assassin’s Creed because of me. I still think of Assassin’s Creed as something that was in the past and lost. But one thing the queer community always does is reclaim things so since Unity seemed to better themselves I gave it a shot and played Syndicate.

And ADORED it. I cannot fully express my love of Syndicate. It honestly might be my favorite in the whole series. If you quit Assassin’s Creed, play this one. If it doesn’t win you over nothing will. (At least nothing that is currently out). Everyone’s character feels real, and none of the customization mechanics feel clunky for the first time. The DLC has Darwin, and you can go ghost hunting with Dickens!

Working backward I played Unity next. And oh boy, Unity was utterly and completely mismarketed. They pushed the multiplayer too much (which I never even got to play because no one else was playing Unity in 2017). Everyone expected a French company to tell us their history, and Ubisoft does not. Almost weirdly doesn’t. But it does do an incredibly good job at making all the actions a bit in the gray.

Help Napoleon today, and you help the people.
Help Napoleon tomorrow, and you are helping a tyrant.

With patches, it’s no longer buggy and even though the controls are not as good as Syndicate it says a lot without giving you history or a ton of lore. Unity is about being a person living in a revolution. The hope that you can help, the struggle of not being about to save everyone and focused a lot on personal choices for a game that isn’t choose your own adventure. I had expected angsty romance and Templar apologist plot lines from the debut trailers, what I got was something truly honest about activism and chillingly timely for 2017. It also includes among the best speeches I’ve heard in my life.

The Creed of the Assassin’s Brotherhood teaches us that nothing is forbidden to us. Once, I thought that meant we were free to do as we would. To pursue our ideals, no matter the cost. I understand now. Not a grant of permission. The Creed is a warning. Ideals too easily give way to dogma. Dogma becomes fanaticism. No higher power sits in judgement of us. No supreme being watches to punish us for our sins. In the end, only we ourselves can guard against our obsessions. Only we can decide whether the road we walk carries too high a toll.

We believe ourselves redeemers, avengers, saviors. We make war on those who oppose us, and they in turn make war on us. We dream of leaving our stamp upon the world…even as we give our lives in a conflict that will be recorded in no history book. All that we do, all that we are, begins and ends with ourselves.

At this point, I’m pretty much on an Assassin’s Creed high so for the first time pick up an Assassin’s Creed book. I’ve always been interested in them but skipped the because they were mostly game retellings. That is until, Assassin’s Creed Heresy.

It follows Templars which is a huge red flag for me, but it’s Joan of Arc. She is like my Templar expectation always. Like Unity, the historical parts are set in France and it does a very good job of explaining very complex motivations in revolutionary times without excusing the harm that can be done.

I had worried it would be a straight dude pining over Joan but again like Unity does not cheapen its female characters by doing so. I think this was largely because of the author choice. However, my one real complaint is the ending is weak and heteronormative. With those two points aside it does a brilliant job picking up from Unity. It mentions both Arno, the sword of Eden as well as showing an important Templar shake up we might see in future games.

Having unfairly judged all of the above, I decided to go all the way back pick up Blackflag. I figure the boats are better, I love the series as much as I always have. I’m excited to play it before AC: Origins and just have an Assassin’s Creed filled year.

And…. I absolutely do not understand the appeal. At all. I know that’s a nearly unheard of opinion. Even more so from me who at least decently liked nearly every Assassin’s Creed anything but… I can’t empathize with someone who is driven by profit for so much of the game. I could have gotten on the “He’s doing it because he can” boat if they had literally given me anyone besides a straight white dude who skips town on his wife. I’m only sorry that it apparently takes so long for Edward to be a decent person.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you want to see Shaun and Rebecca, play Syndicate.
If you want to know about sages, read the Assassin’s Creed comics.

They star Charlotte de la Cruz a Latina modern assassin and have a whole range of other modern assassin’s, an arc with a gay man who wants to avenge his boyfriend, and you see Erudito. I’m not in love with the art style but otherwise, I don’t know what more I could want out of them, to be honest. There are 3 trades that are out and a spin off series called Uprising (left) that introduces more people of color.

I’ve also read the short run of Assassin’s Creed Locus which only has four issues. I don’t feel like it’s important to know lore wise, but it includes a disabled animus user and the arc covers why he wants to use the animus which I found both unique to the series and important when talking about ableism as a whole.

In conclusion, if you dropped Assassin’s Creed because of too little focus on modern characters, clunky boat or other mechanics, and lack of diversity. Now’s a pretty good time to pick up what you missed without that brand new sticker price.

 

Phaethon Review

Hackers, fae, and a new breed of corporate greed battle over the future of the human race….

Hacker couple Jack and Rosie crack technology, but the newest device, the Phaethon, isn’t like other phones. The parts are junk, yet it can do the impossible. Through gentle prodding and data theft, they learn it’s powered remotely…by a living creature.

Cracking the Phaethon enters them into a war. Some, like Calthine, the bitter Bogle, are on their side. Others are controlled by a new type of fae; the bosses of the Phaethon corporation, who have steel for eyes and iron for souls. Now, the hackers have to fight creatures they’ve never heard of to save the friends they’ve just made.

Rachel Sharp is an author and lifetime member of the Somewhat Eccentric Creative Persons Club (which she just invented). Her books include the Planetary Tarantella trilogy, as well as the hacker & fae novel Phaethon from Pandamoon Publishing.

Originally from Vermont, she now lives in New York City with her partner, several plants, and her boundless sense of inappropriate humor. At time of writing, she is working on entirely too many projects. The previous statement will be true regardless of time of reading.

She also lives with chronic illness, plays ukulele, and tries to save the planet.

REVIEW ★★★★★
I adore this book. I think it’s cute, it’s sweet, it’s adventurous. It has main characters that I really wish were my friends. Characters so real I feel like I have a chance of meeting them in the great wild that is this urban fantasy hacker filled world. It made watching Finding Bigfoot after reading oddly fun. It’s really a strange and fun book full of tech and creatures.
Do yourself a favor and grab this gem of a book!