Review: Party Monster

stjamespartymonster

Party Monster
by James St. James

★★★½☆

2003 (originally published 1999) • 288 pages • Simon & Schuster

Quoth—or paraphraseth—Snatch Game: RuPaul’s Drag Race is so mainstream… (How mainstream is it, Clare?) RuPaul’s Drag Race is so mainstream that it won’t let you watch the current season online if you don’t have a cable subscription. Wherefore, RuPaul’s Drag Race? Why does being a millennial without a television mean that I must sacrifice the pleasure of worshipping at Kim Chi’s beautifully shod feet? Why can I not contribute to the eternal engine of RuPaul?

Yes, RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul, LogoTV, and World of Wonder have become awful cuddly as of late—presumably the result of natural aging, a more welcoming society, and higher production values. (Although I still spend a lot of episodes murmuring, “Man, remember when Mac was a sponsor?”) But they weren’t always that way. Once upon a time, RuPaul and the personalities of World of Wonder were young, tough, and viciously glamorous. Case in point: James St. James,

Continue reading

Review: Just Ella

just-ella1

Just Ella
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

★★★½☆

1999 • 240 pages • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

As a kid who liked books and organizational supplies (in that specific order), Scholastic Book Fair was like manna from heaven. (And equally unexpected, given my total obliviousness to things like calendars and recurring events as a child.) There’s a post making the rounds on tumblr celebrating Scholastic Book Fairs in a typically bombastic and curse-laden way. It hits very close to home, from the unexpected nature of the fair to catalog browsing to all the little totchkes. The pop-up bookstore clearly works, as this model shows us, and whoever can adapt it for an adult market will… have a traveling independent bookstore on their hands, but at least it’ll be interesting.

Continue reading

Review: Burn for Burn

hanvivianburnforburn

Burn for Burn
by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

★★★½☆

In middle school, I was an angry kid.

There were a lot of reasons for this: hormones, undoubtedly, the utter inability to grasp the obvious fact that I was queer, and unknowingly being the only introvert in a house of extroverts, despite once melodramatically collapsing into my brother’s walk-in closet after being overstimulated at school. (Nobody would shut up to watch The Prince of Egypt! I was trying to focus!) I don’t call ‘em the Wombat Years for nothing. But I always had a sneaking suspicion that my outsized emotions, especially my anger, was being dismissed because I was a girl. When my brother accidentally deleted several hours’ worth of writing, he didn’t apologize to my screamingly red face—he dismissed what I had been writing. Boys at school laughed at my attempts to assert myself until I beat one of them over the head with a bag full of my dirty gym clothes. Even my mother once tricked me into taking an herbal anti-anxiety supplement when she thought I was getting too worked up.

In short, any expression of my anger was dismissed, enraging me further. I could have used a lot of primal screaming sessions.

Continue reading

Review: Mothership

Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

leichtnealmothership

As a concept goes, “pregnant teenage girl on a spaceship” is a pretty arresting one. Young adult speculative fiction is an exciting and developing field (hint, hint, Hugo!), but I haven’t really seen any depictions of teen pregnancy, let alone a mostly positive one. This might reflect more on my personal experience with the genre, but I’ve only seen the young adult speculative heroine stave it off, if it comes up at all. (Recommendations, as always, are welcome.) So a novel very much about a young pregnant woman was quite welcome. It also helps that the paperback edition features the hideous pun “Resistance is fertile,” which practically made me swoon.

Continue reading

Review: Here, There Be Dragons

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

heretherebedragons

Three years have elapsed since I first mentioned that Here, There Be Dragons was on my reading list. I was unable to expunge the spoileriffic twist from my brain in those three years, despite having earned my bachelor’s degree in that time frame. Thus, I must warn you, gentle reader: this review is full of spoilers. (Not saying “here, there be spoilers” is testing every cell in my terrible comedy body.) Normally, of course, a good story can function even while spoiled. I thoroughly enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back, even though existing after 1980 meant that I knew the major twist. The fact that this is an issue for Here, There Be Dragons should tell you something about its quality.

Continue reading

Review: Evening’s Empire

Evening’s Empire by Bill Flanagan

Every once in a while, I like family epics. Usually, I don’t have much of a taste for contemporary domesticity in fiction—which is hilarious, considering how much of a homebody I can be—but something about it spread over generations or, if done properly, a single generation, engages me. I’m also fond of self-made families, whether they’re chosen or not; I’m reminded of a bit in the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty when Don Hahn talks about how the animators at Disney, during a particularly grueling production period, essentially composed a family all their own. I find their dynamic interesting because the bond is deeper, yet more ephemeral than blood bonds. This, rather than an interest in the history of rock-and-roll, is what prompted me to pick up Evening’s Empire.

Continue reading