Handsome by Holly Lorka Book Review

Author Information

At the tender age of 7, Holly ran into the kitchen and announced to her family, “I’m going to be a superstar.” Then she grabbed her brother’s Matchbox car and ran outside to play in the dirt. She kept this belief in her heart while doing the normal kid things- like dominating on the softball field, burning herself with her curling iron, and losing an epic battle with puberty- right up until college, where she made the natural choice to go to nursing school.

Holly spent years working at hospitals in and around Phoenix and realized that the bright lights of the ICU weren’t hot enough, and that giving a suppository didn’t bring her the applause she desired, so she moved to Austin and pursued stand up comedy.

Stand up was good to her. She spent several years on stages, making people laugh, landing gigs like the Boston Comedy Festival, Moontower Comedy Festival, and becoming a finalist in the Funniest Person in Austin contest. She once had a show at Kansas State University, because they didn’t Google her work beforehand. Whoops, Kansas!

After five years of comedy, Holly decided that staying up late and eating fried zucchini wasn’t fun anymore. She quit stand up and started writing stories about gender, shame, and sexuality. She began performing at storytelling shows and was surprised at the overwhelming support she received in doing so; audiences seemed to want to hear and learn more about her problems, so she continued to write and perform. She also kept having new problems, so WIN! Her work has been included in several podcasts, including Dan Savage’s Hot Mic, and in several collections, including the BedPost Confessions Anthology. People have told her numerous times that her stories have helped them to understand the complicated issue of gender fluidity. As a happy side effect, she’s also been asked to speak to high school kids about it, even after the schools Googled her work.

Holly Lorka lives in Austin with a cat who is an asshole, but has a cute face. She remains an ICU nurse, and currently works with the number one gender confirmation surgical team in the world (she gets to tell her dad that she makes dicks and vaginas). She has a side hustle as a wedding officiant, because her wardrobe needs fancy places to go. Her first book, Handsome, is a compilation of her stories, and she hopes it will make folks laugh, cry, and wonder why we ever thought bangs were a good idea.

Book Description

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As a horny little kid, Holly Lorka had no idea why God had put her in the wrong body and made her want to kiss girls. She had questions: Was she a monster? Would she ever be able to grow sideburns? And most importantly, where was her penis?

The problem was, it was the 1970s, so there were no answers yet.

Here, Lorka tells the story—by turns hilarious and poignant—of her romp through the first fifty years of her life searching for sex, love, acceptance, and answers to her questions. With a sharp wit, endearing innocence, and indelible sense of optimism, she struggles through the awkward years (spoiler: that’s all of them) and discovers that what she thought were mistakes are actually powerful tools to launch her into a magical—and ridiculous—life.

Oh, and she discovers that she can buy a penis at the store, too.

You can find the book at:

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Eso Won Books ~ Goodreads

Review

Thank you to Booksparks and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: I really enjoy reading memoirs and especially LGBTQ+ memoirs because I get to see different people’s lived experience. I like seeing that there are people with similar identities to me but they come to that conclusion differently and they all have a different way of viewing themselves.

There were so many times in this story that I was laughing out loud because of something said of because of the cleaver titles of the chapters. I do need to let you all know that this book is sexually explicit which some may find hard to read. I found those moments funny and liked to see how those moments helped Holly figure out her sexuality and gender identity.

I really enjoyed the honesty that you get from Holly throughout this book and how vulnerable the author is in these moments. I think that getting a chance to read these essays/short stories really gives you another perspective on who the author is. I would love to hear some of these pieces on audio because I think that they would be even better heard out loud.

Writing Style: This memoir is told through multiple short essays that have some humor mixed into each chapter. I really liked the variation in length of each of these short essays and how they are not always in chronological order. I liked that sometimes the essays went back in time to connect some of Holly’s past to her present.

Early Departures by Jason A. Reynolds Book Review

Author Information

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Justin A. Reynolds has always wanted to be a writer. Opposite of Always, his debut novel, was an Indies Introduce selection, a School Library Journal Best Book, has been translated in seventeen languages, and is being developed for film with Paramount Players. He hangs out in northeast Ohio with his family and likes it, and is probably somewhere, right now, dancing terribly. His second novel Early Departures will publish September 2020. You can find him at justinareynolds.com

Book Description

Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.

Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.

He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.

But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.

Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?

You Can Find this Book At:

Amazon ~ Goodreads ~ Barnes and Nobles ~ Eso Won Books

Review

Thoughts and Themes: A book has made me tear up, and shed a tear or two but never has a book made me ugly cry. The unfortunate part of feelings happening with me is that I have a hard time expressing them so the ugly crying was more like an anxiety attack over too many feelings at once. Books that can do this, well they automatically go to my recommend to the world pile because I want to share those feelings with others.

I really liked that this book shows that boys and in particular Black boys are allowed to have feelings and that those feelings are a part of living. I really liked the way that this message was sent across throughout this whole book. I think this allowance of feelings for the characters was what ultimately allowed me to cry over the book and it also reminded me to go tell the people that I love that I love them.

This book made me want to throw the book across the room so many times and tear my heart out so that I could stop feeling for just a minute. I can’t imagine what these feelings would have been like had I known what the death of someone close to me felt like. Death is one of those things that I just don’t process well so when books force me to process the idea of death, I just can’t deal with it.

Something else I enjoyed about this book was the addition of the science aspects that were at the start of the book through the reanimation process. I think it was a great way of explaining things and keeping the humanity out of those characters. I did like the later portion of this thought where Quincy gets to meet with the people involved in this operation and you can see more about this operation and the people behind it.

Characters: This book has a great cast of characters whom I love regardless of how much time we get with each of them. I really enjoy the characters relationships with each other and seeing how those relationships are developing with time. I thought that their interactions were great and liked seeing how authentic their relationships with each other were.

Writing Style: In this book you get the story through the perspective of Jamal with one piece that is done through Quincy which I thought was great to see. I really liked how short the chapters were and how they easily transitioned into the next one. I thought that the whole book was beautifully written and liked the back and forth of the story. I thought it was great to see parts of Jamal’s life prior to the death of his parents and I liked seeing his feelings poured out on every page.

Thank you to Booksparks for providing the book so that I could be a part of the #fall2020stacks challenge.

Once a girl, always a boy Book Review

Summary: Jeremy Ivester is a transgender man. Thirty years ago, his parents welcomed him into the world as what they thought was their daughter. As a child, he preferred the toys and games our society views as masculine. He kept his hair short and wore boys’ clothing. They called him a tomboy. That’s what he called himself.

By high school, when he showed no interest in flirting, his parents thought he might be lesbian. At twenty, he wondered if he was asexual. At twenty-three, he surgically removed his breasts. A year later, he began taking the hormones that would lower his voice and give him a beard—and he announced his new name and pronouns.

Once a Girl, Always a Boy is Jeremy’s journey from childhood through coming out as transgender and eventually emerging as an advocate for the transgender community. This is not only Jeremy’s story but also that of his family, told from multiple perspectives—those of the siblings who struggled to understand the brother they once saw as a sister, and of the parents who ultimately joined him in the battle against discrimination. This is a story of acceptance in a world not quite ready to accept.

Thoughts: Thank you to Booksparks for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

I’m always worried about reading memoirs about transgender people especially when they are not written by the transgender person. Sometimes these books make me angry because of the way the people in the story get treated or because of the transphobia that is included throughout by the person writing the story. I went into this one expecting that which is what I got but what I didn’t expect was to learn.

As someone who is transgender it was nice to watch Jeremy’s family struggle to understand him. I tend to get frustrated by my family not understanding my gender or sexual identity and seeing all of Jeremy’s family react and learn gave me a new perspective. It taught me to give people some time to learn, especially the people who I know are trying and to listen to why they’re struggling with things related to my gender and sexuality. While it did show me the other side of things there were moments that I just couldn’t deal with the transphobia from the family. There is one scene in particular with Jeremy and his older brother in which the brother and Jeremy are both not aware of how Jeremy identifies and his feelings are dismissed.

I think one of my favorite parts of this book was watching as Jeremy learned about himself and the sections that were written in his voice. It was also really nice to watch Jeremy learn about himself and come to terms with each of his identities. I was able to relate to so many moments that are included in this book and loved how much of his feelings are included. It was refreshing to see how his understanding of his identity was constantly shifting and how he slowly leaned into who he is. I loved that this story was centered on Jeremy’s adult years and how so many of his coming to terms with who he is and learning about himself happens in his late 20s. It made my journey as a non-binary transgender person feel normal and let me know that it was okay to not have the answers at my age.

This was a great book to be able to read during this stay at home order because it made me feel understood. This book uplifted me in moments that I was struggling with because living at home with a family who uses my legal name and misgenders me without having an escape from it gets rough. This book was a constant reminder that I decide my identity and even when others don’t see me that way my identity remains the same.

I really enjoyed how this book was written in multiple perspectives and you got sections from Jeremy, the mom, dad, and the siblings. It was great to see so many of the same scenes through different eyes.

I recommend this to those of you who have transgender family members or I recommend this to those of you who are parents of a transgender child. For those of you who are transgender, I would caution reading this, this book is about how the transgender person needs to have grace with others and give them time to comes to terms with who you are. I felt that so much of it was how Jeremy accepted his family rather than the other way around and that felt off to me. ⁠

You can get this book starting today at Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, or look for it at your local library.