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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Hard to Die

Hard to Dieunknown

by: Andra Watkins

Word Hermit Press LLC   Charleston, SC

ISBN:13978-0-9908593-7-6

 

I tagged this book with “historical fiction” because the characters are certainly historical.   The primary character is Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of Aaron Burr (remembered primarily for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel).   Theodosia died under “mysterious circumstances” and therefore has found herself in Andra Watkins Afterlife series.

Those whose deaths are unresolved find themselves in Nowhere.  They have limited memories of the circumstances of their deaths, and no memories of their time in Nowhere.  Each has a “conductor” who charges them to help a living person make a better choice in their lives.  The dead have 13 chances to find resolution or they will be trapped forever in this in between place.

Theodosia’s life was filled with political intrigue.  Her father was tried for treason.  Her godfather was probably a spy.  She herself was highly educated and involved with many of the movers and shakers of her time.  (She makes an appearance in the musical Hamilton.)  It is not a surprise that her Afterlife story would also be filled with spies, treason, and political intrigue.

Set in the Hudson River Valley near West Point, the geography and legendary history of the area also play a role in the story.  The scenes in New York City revolve around Grand Central Station and its starry skied ceiling.  Theodosia is having her past life in 1950.  Her mission is to help one of the West Point cadets make a good choice towards a better life.

Unfortunately for Theo,  Nowhere is hardly a solitary place.  There are several other characters from Theodosia’s life who are also struggling with resolving their deaths.  The interplay between what has past and what is happening in the story, still our history, adds to the intrigue and suspense.

Andra’s novels bring historical characters into three dimensions. She makes her characters come to life and places them in settings that contribute to the story telling. Hard to Die grabs the reader from the start and hangs on tightly through all the twists and turns. I’m not sure I like Andra’s Theodosia, but I found her fascinating. Looking forward to more Nowhere novels.

 

Also by Andra Watkins:

toliveforever

 

 

 

 

To Life Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis   This is Andra’s first novel and the first in the Afterlife series.  Meriwether Lewis is quite the character and the harrowing run towards the place of his death along the Natchez Trace adds color and history to the story.

notwithoutmyfather

Not Without My Father   A memoir of her journey as she walked the Natchez Trace, her father along as her back-up and support.

natcheztrace

Natchez Trace: Tracks in Time   The photo journal of Andra’s walk

 

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Luna

Lunaluna

by: Julie Anne Peters

Little Brown and Company  NY, NY 2004

ISBN: 978-0-316-00127-3

 

Luna is a typical coming of age story.  It is a story of siblings in their teens each struggling to find who they are and each looking to move into a world outside their disfunctional family.  These siblings understand each other in ways no one else can.  Still, they are teens and neither is aware of the damage their own struggle is doing to their sibling.

Luna is an LGBTQ novel.  It is the story of a teen struggling with gender identity.  It is the story of how hard it is to find yourself in a world that expects you to be something you simply can not be.  It is about finding the strength and courage to be honest with the world about who you really are.

Luna is an outsiders tale.  There are no surprises here.  The transgender dynamic and sibling relationship is established in the first chapter.  The point of view character is the sister of the transgendered teen.  She is the protector, the peacemaker, the refuge for her sibling.  The story is about her struggle.  She accepts her sibling, but doesn’t believe anyone else will.  She is an outsider because she must stand by an outsider, be impacted by an outsider.

The author is very free with her use of gender pronouns.  The transgender character is identified as both he and she by the sister.  Some of the gender use is “situational”.  She uses the gender for her sibling that everyone expects.  Some of the gender use is “role based”.  She uses the gender based on how her sibling is actively presenting.  Some of the gender use is simply the sister coming to terms with the reality of who her sibling really is.

This is a sweet and honest look at some of the emotional struggles family members may have with a transgendered sibling.  Because of my exposure to the disability community I am very much aware that siblings and sibling’s emotions can get short changed when families are confronted with a “real” problem.  This story allows the sister’s experiences to be “real” as well.

On the other hand, it doesn’t offer much of a lifeline to the point of view of the transgendered youth.  There is definitely a sense of “It gets better”.   There is a clear representation of the repression of role playing and the freedom to be who you are. But for all of the LGTBQ content, this is not an LGTBQ story.  It is a sibling story.

I really do recommend this book.  It’s a point of view that isn’t well represented in the literature.   This book would be welcomed by the sibling of any “outsider”.  I also think that it’s a generally LGTBQ positive rendering of a difficult family story.

This book is about gender, not about sexuality.  There is some banter about being gay.  The name calling is teen typical (if inappropriate, it still underlines character and it’s interesting that as supportive of the sister is of trans/queer she doesn’t hesitate to call a teacher retarded).   There is teen attraction, but nothing beyond a kiss.   I would say that makes this book very appropriate for pre-teens interested in the topic.

 

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2017 Reading Challenge

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Everywhere I look I’m seeing new reading challenges.   I get them on Facebook.  My friends are talking about them.  The library wall is covered with recommendations to meet them.  It seems like 2017 is the year to expand the scope of what readers read.

I look at the lists and mostly think “no problem”.  Sometimes I find a category that would be a challenge for me (like sports).  I haven’t found a category yet that I can’t think of SOMETHING I’ve read along those lines.

Certainly there are genres that I prefer and those I don’t.  I read plenty of science fiction and fantasy.  I read a lot of YA novels.  I’m fussy about the non-fiction I pick up.  I honestly don’t enjoy reading graphic novels.    We are all entitled to our preferences.

The point of most of the challenge lists is to encourage people to expand their point of view.    One of my lessons in 7th grade English was to look at “To Kill a Mockingbird” and try to “put on someone else’s shoes.”   Reading is an opportunity to see the world differently, to have experiences that go beyond the scope of our own lifetimes.

Challenges are supposed to be challenging.  So I decided perhaps it was time to do another year of reviews, in support of all those reading challenges.  I’m going to try and write another 50 reviews.  This time I’ll work to tag them with typical reading challenge categories.

So, if you’re looking for something to fill in that spot in your reading challenge list, I hope this will help.

Happy Reading!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in Reading Challenge

 

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