Tag Archives: review

Review: Love Lives Here by Amanda jette Knox

I’ve been following Amanda Jette Knox on Twitter for a while now – she’s funny and fierce, particularly on behalf of her family. She writes often of her whole tribe, including her trans daughter and her trans wife. When Love Lives Here, her book about her family’s life, was released, I was pretty sure I’d love it based on her tweets alone.

And readers, I do absolutely love it. It’s honest about difficult things and compassionate with its honesty; Knox is fearless in talking about her own failings and fears, and in talking about her challenges with anxiety – and then in standing up for what and who she believes in.

Amanda Jette Knox’s life can make hard reading at times, particularly the violence of the bullying she experienced at school, and the legacy of both anxiety and resilience that sprang from it. (Having experienced bullying myself at school, though not to that extent, these sections spoke to me and gave me some insights on myself as well.)

Knox’s drive to ‘blend in’ and not be a target comes a cropper when one of her children comes out to her as trans, and so begins Amanda’s journey, and that of her whole family, to a life lived more whole and more authentic to themselves.

Her daughter’s transition, you see, provides the impetus for others to accept and then embrace their whole selves; Amanda’s spouse comes out a year later as trans, and a relationship that had been rocky and might have fallen apart transforms – and then Amanda is able to make and accept some further realisations about herself.

For all the difficulties Knox has faced and overcome, and continues (as we all do) to face and overcome, she also has a great and deep well of kindness and love to draw on, which is also fed by those she loves.

I feel like I’m about to start gushing about how wonderful this book is – and why not? It is wonderful. It has its share of wounds and pain, of fear and grief – but also full of healing and growth, courage and joy.

Love Lives Here is rich in hope, humour and the difference that being your true self can make to the quality of your life, while always recognising how challenging and sometimes dangerous that can be.

While this book is terrific as a potential resource for becoming better informed, for anyone who is transgender or has a trans loved one, I think it has a far wider audience: for anyone who wants to understand the world better, to enrich their knowledge and unlearn some of the ignorant and sometimes cruel things that we’ve absorbed about being human in the early parts of our lives.

The world can sometimes be a dark and lonely place, especially for anyone who doesn’t ‘fit’. But Love Lives Here fills me with hope and joy and the reminder that everyone fits, if only we will stop being afraid of difference.

Buy Love Lives Here

Review: Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure By Courtney Milan

The author Courtney Milan came to my attention recently as the result of some fairly unpleasant decisions (and their consequences) made by the Romance Writers of America in response to some of Milan’s robustly framed but justifiable critique on racism/racist tropes in romance (and on one book in particular). The Guardian has a summary.

Not having read anything by Milan, but seeing the comments threads full of praise for her work, I decided to give her books a try, and the what’s the first thing I found listed but a wonderful tale of 70ish ladies teaming up for delicious revenge and late blooming lesbian love!

Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure is a romp, with a dastardly villain and dashing heroines – the wealthy Mrs Bertrice Martin and the impoverished but proper Miss Violetta Beauchamps. What begins as a gentle kind of lie to get Violetta out of some desperate straits turns into a Regency buddy tale of two fed-up women burning down the patriarchy!

It’s not anything like a nuanced tale set in the gritty realism of London’s seedy streets. As Courtney Milan states in her Author’s Note:

Sometimes I write villains who are subtle and nuanced. This is not one of those times. The Terrible Nephew is terrible, and terrible things happen to him because he deserves them. Sometime villains really are bad and wrong, and sometimes, we want them to suffer a lot of consequences.

The Nephew is indeed Terrible – a liar, a fraud, a sex pest, a bully, and arrogant and insufferably lazy lout – which makes his come-uppance a particular joy. Each woman has her troubles and secrets; each needs to grow and to listen to each other. Even as the plot as a whole is an unvarnished escapade, these two central characters are portrayed vividly. You can’t help wanting them to get away with all their zany plots.

And oh, it’s a glorious and often hilarious ride. Violetta may be a bit diffident, and Bertrice a bit oblivious to her privilege of wealth, but they both know what it’s like to be a woman at the mercy of unscrupulous men, and their schemes of retribution are also the framework that brings them close, helps them to learn their own worth and to accept the love they want and deserve.

It’s always a delight to read some queer historical romance, and the delight is doubled when we get some older women as the romantic leads.

Milan has an excerpt on her website. I for one am an instant fan, and will be looking up more of “The Worth Saga” (of which this is book 2 ¾).

Buy Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

Review: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans

Alison Evans’ Highway Bodies was a superb new zombie apocalypse with its focus on gentle queer kids surviving in a savage world by leaning on love and friendship as well as their own resources.

Their next novel is another sweet tale of young queer people finding their place in the world and with each other, in an environment of fairies, strange green realms and a witch’s curse. It’s as much contemporary fairytale as modern YA novel, which is a good part of why it’s so delightful.

The chapters vary between non-binary Iris, who grew from a seed in the ground, and their new friend Babs, who was cursed by a witch and is sometimes invisible. The two befriend a new trans kid who hasn’t found his name yet, so they call him the boy until he chooses.

Babs, Iris and the boy negotiate school, home lives, art class, the woods and the realm beyond, and learning magic. Babs’ attempts to find and confront the witch that cursed her are complicated by Iris’s promise to the fairies to not help her, and by the attentions of otherworldly threats when they cross into the realm.

Euphoria Kids is charming, filled with lush growing things, wonderful descriptive language and effortlessly inclusive concepts and language. With home life difficulties and wild magic all around, the book’s inherent gentleness isn’t without tension or drama. Instead, Evans guides us through a world that is shifting and often uncertain, but filled with courage, kindness and friendship.

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Review: Wild in the City – A Guide to Urban Animals Around the World by Kate Baker, Illustrated by Gianluca Foli

Most of us have heard about the foxes that frequent London suburbia – I’ve seen a few myself, and a penfriend used to write about the vixen that had kits in a den under her allotment shed. In Melbourne, too, followers avidly check online for the state of the Collins Street falcons (with their chicks so entertainingly called by locals the ‘Murder Pom-Poms’).

It’s hardly a surprise that wild animals with shrinking habitats have found niches for themselves in cities around the world, and Lonely Planet Kids has created another fascinating book for the 9-12 age range on how wild creatures are adapting to the need to live in cities – and at times how humans are adapting too.

Wild in the City‘s critter citizens are presented in nice little sections about habits, habitats, human interactions, conservation status, examples of unusual sightings as well as where/when to usually see them.

For some critters, the book also offers some lovely tips on providing safe environments for bees, birds and other animals – including building bug hotels and the hedgehog highway.

While I’m aware of suburban foxes, squirrels, monkeys, falcons and bats in different parts of the world (and am much too aware of city dwelling spiders), I never knew about the hyenas of Harar in Ethiopia, or of the sloths who literally hang around Panama City.

Gianluca Foli’s illustrations are a charming accompaniment to Kate Baker’s accessible text. Wild in the City is a lovely coffee table book for any budding city-based naturalist in the family.

Buy Wild in the City