“Hunger,” by Roxane Gay
2017 Publication , 4 star , memoir , novel , Own Voices / July 31, 2018

“Hunger,” by Roxane Gay, is one woman’s attempt to grapple with the state and size of her body and the way it interacts with the world and the world interacts with it. It’s also a story of endurance, and survival: a story of sexual violence, of eating disorders, of being treated as less than for her weight. Gay is a brilliant writer and accurately portrays the way fat bodies are treated, and the way we take up space and are denied space. She shares the common thing fat people do when entering a room… who am I fatter than? Who is fatter than I am? She talks about the accommodations so often lacking for fat people: proper sized sturdy chairs, booth tables that aren’t too close to benches, stairs, patience. Gay also discusses her sexual history, which includes a gang rape when she was a child– when she was twelve– that shattered her and deeply affected her forever. Gay is Very Fat. She is Obviously Fat. She is I’m Just Concerned About Your Health Fat. She is Can’t Shop In Regular Stores Fat. She is Can’t Shop In Specialty Stores Fat. She is Morbidly Obese, or as some put it,…

“The Woman in Cabin 10,” by Ruth Ware
4 star , female author , novel , thriller / June 28, 2018

“The Woman in Cabin 10,” by Ruth Ware, was published in 2016 and became a New York Times Bestseller… a reputation it deserves. I devoured the book in one day, deeply regretting that I hadn’t taken it with me on a train ride and wait at a doctor’s office (my husband was with me and I wanted to be polite and not ignore him for a book, foolish decision). Note: I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. My opinions are my own. Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a struggling writer at travel magazine “Velocity.” She’s been there for years without a promotion when, due to the illness of a higher up, a plum assignment drops into her lap. She gets a chance to cover the cruise ship “Aurora,” a sparkling miniature gem of a ship that will intimately house rich and influential people. Her task is to interview and report on them and the exciting ship, and hope she can hobnob her way into advertising money for the magazine. Things kick off to an inauspicious start two days before she’s scheduled to leave, though, when a burglar breaks into her flat, robs her, and barricades her in her room. Luckily…

“Caged,” by Ellison Cooper

“Caged,” by Ellison Cooper, is a fast paced thriller about FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair, who winds up leading the hunt for an especially twisted serial killer. Said serial killer is kidnapping young women and locking them in cages, dosing them with psychoactive drugs, priming them with mythology about death and dying, and then starving them. It’s a long, slow, scary way to die. Altair and her team are eager to end the cycle of killings and prevent any more girls from being tortured and killed. I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway, but my opinion is my own. Content Note: forced outing of someone intersex/trans There’s really cliched words used to describe thrillers: roller coaster, page turner, gripping, full of twists, etc. “Caged” is all of those and more. “Caged” is a very fast read with a few great red herrings that come across not as cheap or cheating but as organic parts of the story. When I was fooled, so were the rest of the characters, in a very believable way. Cooper does a great job using our expectations against us. Cooper’s characters are interesting as well: flawed, hurting Altair and her incredible grandmother; her partner Vik; FBI…

“The King’s Justice” by E. M. Powell
2018 Publication , 4 star , novel / June 18, 2018

“The King’s Justice” is a medieval murder mystery/thriller by E. M. Powell, the first in a new series and thus a good jumping on point for people who are interested in murder mysteries/thrillers set in the medieval period. I won this book in a goodreads giveaway and this review is my own opinion. Content Note: threatened sexual assault to more than one party, domestic violence It’s 1176 and Aelred Barling, a clerk in the traveling court of King Henry the II, is sent to a small hamlet in the middle of nowhere to investigate a murder. As a representative of the king, he is there to make sure that proper procedures are followed and justice is served. He brings along an assistant, Hugo Stanton, a messenger that also works for the court. They don’t like each other very much but have to learn to work together… which is a common enough trope but Powell manages to make it feel realistic and organic, not a cliche. The case initially seems obvious. The suspect is locked in a cell and the townsfolk and lord are certain he’s guilty. Barling is ready to give approval for the execution and go home, until Stanton…

“Tender Loving Plastics,” by Amman Sabet

“Tender Loving Plastics,” by Amman Sabet, comes from the May/June 2018 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Harry Harlow is remembered for his “wire mother” experiments, raising baby rhesus macaque monkeys in isolation save for a vaguely mother-shaped dummy. There were two kinds of “mother”: one was wire and wood and had a bottle of formula, while the other was covered in cloth and had no formula. The baby monkeys vastly preferred the cloth covered monkey and visited the wire one only for feeding. Regardless of the type of substitute mother, however, all rhesus monkeys in Harlow’s experiments grew up with mental issues. As cruel as his experiments were, they vastly changed the treatment of human infants for the better. With all the talk of “attachment parenting” it’s easy to forget that relatively recently parents were advised not to pick up or interact with their babies/children too much lest they “be spoiled” by attention. Primates are hard-wired for loving interaction. We need mothers and fathers, or at least guardians, who provide emotional and physical care including holding and cuddling. Neglect is a pernicious form of child abuse, and can be difficult to prove to child protective services….

“Being an Account of the Sad Demise of the Body Horror Book Club,” by Nin Harris

Being an Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club by Nin Harris looks at “body horror” in an interesting way. What is body horror? It’s a genre of horror that deals with the body and the way it can be intruded upon, changed, taken over. Common themes include possession, parasites, mutations, body parts falling off, infection, etc. Certain bodies– those with uteruses and vaginas– have their own special body horror elements surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and the vagina/uterus as some kind of holding cell/pocket dimension out of which slugs, snakes, demons, aliens,etc are free to come out of at will. There’s an entire genre of horror films centering around menstruation, for instance. “Being an Account…” takes 3 approaches to body horror: Lila imagines bodily horror/torture/mutilation/etc happening in the flat above hers Lila’s “body” in the form of her home/surroundings are invaded by a malevolent force The group discusses books and folklore that feature bodily horror Noise is common in shared living spaces. In Lila’s case, she’s in a very large gated condo development. She’s had many upstairs neighbors, plenty of them loud and irritating. But one neighbor is more than irritating, he scares her. Not that they’ve…

“No Man of Woman Born,” by Ana Mardoll

No Man of Woman Born, by Ana Mardoll, is an anthology of reworked short fairy tales/fantasy stories about dragons and swords stuck wantonly into stones and prophecies, most of which are gender based. Mardoll is bisexual, on the ace-spectrum, transgender, and autistic and these stories very much reflect xer lived experience, assuming that their lived experience also had dragons and prophecies and polyamorous warrior clans, etc. Xie is also a very good writer. I should note that I received this as a review copy, and that I’ve known Ana for quite a while and am friends with xer. I haven’t received any compensation for this review, and my opinions are honest and my opinions alone. They’re colored by my friendship with xer, of course, but they’re still true opinions. Reworkings of traditional fairy tales are nothing new. There’s a million anthologies with their own spins on fairy tale retellings. They’re set in outer space, they’re set in modern times, everyone’s a witch of some sort, the bad guys are redeemed or are secretly working for the benefit of the good guys, there’s a bureau of fairy tale characters investigating other fairy tale characters, everything is feminist either earnestly or satirically….

Snake Season by Erin Roberts

“Snake Season,” by Erin Roberts, is a claustrophobic story about love and loss and being forced to make do. Content Note: child death Marie, a pregnant woman with one living child, is visited pretty regularly by the ghost/spirit/manifestation of her first child, Sarah. Sarah slowly, over the course of her childhood, turned monstrous and ultimately Marie killed her and buried her. That’s what she claims, anyway. As we read the story we find that Marie, well meaning and full of love, isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. Time passes and pregnancy after pregnancy results in a baby girl who “goes wrong” until she’s forced to put them out of their misery when her husband Ray is away from home. Now, though, they have Junior… their only son, nearly a year old, and perfect as perfect can be; and they have the baby in her belly who she assumes is also a boy. Everything looks good, right? And then Sarah comes for a visit. Ray is worried about Junior and about the unborn babe. Reading between the lines it’s clear he isn’t worried about them being monsters — shrunken tiny heads, bulbous eyes, arms that reach the floor– he’s worried about SIDS,…

Granny Death and the Drag King of London by A. J. Fitzwater

“Granny Death and the Drag King of London” by A. J. Fitzwater could be described as a story about Queer culture in the early 90s, Freddie Mercury, and grief. But more than just grief, it’s about loss… about losing almost an entire generation of queer men (and many women) to AIDs. Why don’t you ever see an old Drag Queen? Because death comes all too soon, all too young, thanks to a virus. You can read the story at the link, or you can download and listen to the podcast. Lacey James is a bisexual drag king who has nursed many friends ill with HIV and seen their lives end. She’s said good bye to a great many people she’s loved, and that’s scarred her and scared her. She’s far from her New Zealand place of birth, working a job she doesn’t particularly like for a boss she loathes, when one of her heroes and icons dies of AIDs: Freddie Mercury. As you might expect, this absolutely shatters her. She’s already preoccupied with death, occupied with mourning, carrying a litany of names with her. Now she’s lost Mercury, too. It’s odd, but the death of a famous person we’re emotionally…

“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková
2017 Publication , 4 star , short story / April 18, 2018

“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková, is a very short story about a very big issue. The title is taken from Euripedes’ play, which shows two twinned but opposing sides: order and rationality versus Dionysian instinct. Without this wild instinct, this impulse, this influence of Dionysus… humans suffer. When it’s suppressed it turns dark and chaotic, destructive. Dionysus, angered, inspires his Bacchanates to run wild and attack men and cattle, to steal, to destroy what’s in their path. Bethan, drunk and leaning against a wall, begins attacking the concrete wall. She does more harm to herself than to the wall, and her equally drunk from Angharad intervenes and tries to pull her away, calls the cops to get her to safety. Bethan is wild, bleeding, but once fully parted from the wall and tucked into a police car she goes limp and compliant… although still very aware of that wall. At the hospital, they don’t find anything WRONG with her, and Bethan is released. She, Angharad, and Bethan’s mom head straight back to the wall. The wall is surrounded with wild women eager to beat that wall, to pull it down, to destroy it. I’m not familiar with London, but I live…