Sunday, August 23, 2015

No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, by Grace Anne Stevens

No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth tells the story of Grace Anne Stevens, née Larnie Steven Rabinowitz, who transitioned from a man to a woman in her fifties. This heartfelt memoir is an honest portrayal of how Larnie felt growing up, going to college, getting married, and raising three children. As his marriage deteriorated, he began to explore cross-dressing, and met friends with whom he could truly be himself. It took years before he admitted to himself that he really was a woman inside, and began to explore transitioning.
Grace describes her relationships with family and friends, and the many people who helped her along the way. Having worked for decades in the information technology industry, she began to explore psychology and earned an MA in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University. She shares many of the exercises and writing that she created as part of her journey. I found her story to be uplifting and heartwarming. The only downside to this book is that it would have benefited from a good editor. Nevertheless, I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the transgender community.

If you're interested in learning more about Grace Anne Stevens, you can check out her website here.

Grace Anne Stevens. No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth. Lexington: Graceful Change Press. 239 pages. ISBN 9780986300301.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Hidden Child, by Camilla Läckberg

After I read Camilla Läckberg’s The Drowning, I was reading a little bit about her online. I noticed another of her books with a dust jacket that looked familiar, so I checked my shelves and found The Hidden Child there. The Hidden Child was published a year before The Drowning, and is the book just before it in the series about Erica Falck, an author of true crime fiction, and her husband Patrick Hedström, a homicide detective. Set in a small town in Sweden, Erica and Patrick solve crimes.

In The Hidden Child, Erica is going through her mother’s belongings and finds some objects that raise questions about her mother’s life as a teenager during the Second World War. She finds a series of journals that reveal her mother to be very different from the cold, unfeeling woman she knew. She also finds an infant’s dress covered in blood, and wrapped around a Nazi medal. The intrigue begins when the man whom Erica asked about the medal turns up dead. When another of her mother’s childhood friends is found murdered, Erica realizes that she has uncovered a mystery that someone wants to stay buried. Her investigation into her mother’s childhood and Patrick’s investigation into the murders cause them to work together at times, and at other times at cross purposes.

As with The Drowning, the cast of characters in The Hidden Child is rich with a variety of personalities that reflect modern cultural and political values. Nazi sympathizers from both the past and present focus the reader on anti-immigrant sentiments that exist throughout Europe. Another character is afraid to reveal her relationship with another woman, and only reluctantly opens up to her co-workers. The plot is compelling, and the writing (and translation) excellent. Anyone who enjoys crime fiction will appreciate The Hidden Child. Camilla Läckberg deserves to be read and will hopefully find an appreciative audience in the U.S.

Camilla Läckberg. The Hidden Child. New York: Pegasus Crime, 2014. 526 pages. ISBN 9781605985534.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Drowning, by Camilla Läckberg

Camilla Läckberg is another excellent import for anyone who enjoys well-written crime novels set in Sweden. Her books are centered on Erica Falck, an author of true crime non-fiction, and her husband Patrick Hedström, a homicide detective. In The Drowning, Erica’s friend Christian Thydell has published his first book, a literary work called The Mermaid. As his book is launched and he begins to participate in promotional events, it’s revealed that he has been receiving threatening letters for 18 months. Frightening personal attacks follow the letters, and others from his past are targeted as well.

Erica is working on her own book, but can’t help being drawn into the drama surrounding Christian. She convinces Patrick to help investigate, which he does reluctantly until it becomes apparent that there are connections between Christian’s background and a recent murder nearby.
The pacing of The Drowning is good; it kept me turning the pages and although it’s a long book (476 pages) I was able to finish in just a few days. In addition to the main characters, the book explores the relationships between Patrick’s co-workers and Erica’s sister as well as their children. Ms. Läckberg has a light touch of humor in how she treats some of the characters, like Patrick’s boss who is incompetent in his job but endearing in his treatment of his girlfriend’s grandchild to whom he’s grown attached. The Drowning is 6th in a series of 12 books featuring Erica Falck and Patrick Hedström, so I’m late to the game, but it’s good enough to leave me wanting to read the rest of the series.

Camilla Läckberg. The Drowning. New York: Perseus Crime, 2015. 476 pages. ISBN 9781605988566.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Departure, by A.G. Riddle

Departure begins with the crash of an airliner that was heading to London. When the survivors escape the plane they find themselves in a region with no cell service and no rescue in sight. How can a plane go down over England but no one comes to rescue them? It doesn't take long before the survivors begin to suspect that time travel is involved.
Departure cover image

Two of the passengers immediately form a bond: Harper Lane, a writer, and Nick Stone, a venture capitalist. Other passengers seem to know something about what's going on, but they're soon separated into two camps. I don't want to give away any major plot points, but the secret behind what's going on includes a secret society, a virus that's killed off most of the world's population, and a decision that needs to be made that could correct what's happened, or leave the status quo intact. The survivors are pitted against each other, leading to a battle in which many of them die.

While Departure's narrative moved along at a steady pace, and the story was entertaining, it suffers from all of the other books that exist which rely on time travel as a plot device. If you think about it too hard, nothing at all makes sense, and you can go around and around in circles trying to think of all the ways that the story doesn't actually work. It can be a little frustrating, but if you don't think too hard about the logic behind the story, it's a nice weekend diversion. I read this while I was feeling stressed about something, and it was a good distraction. Although the main characters are adults, this book has a decided YA feel, so it might be appealing to that audience.

I received my copy as an advance reader's edition at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA. It won't be available for purchase until October, and there are already 2,979 reviews on Amazon (with a rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars), so HarperCollins has clearly been promoting this book pretty heavily.

A.G. Riddle. Departure. New York: Harper Voyager, 2015. unpaged. Advance reader's edition ISBN 9780062434746.