Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine by Michele Lent Hirsch

33931697Though young women with serious illness tend to be seen as outliers, young female patients are in fact the primary demographic for many illnesses. They are also one of the most ignored groups in our medical system–a system where young women, especially women of color and trans women, are invisible.

And because of expectations about gender and age, young women with health issues must often deal with bias in their careers and personal lives. Not only do they feel pressured to seem perfect and youthful, they also find themselves amid labyrinthine obstacles in a culture that has one narrow idea of womanhood.

Lent Hirsch weaves her own harrowing experiences together with stories from other women, perspectives from sociologists on structural inequality, and insights from neuroscientists on misogyny in health research. She shows how health issues and disabilities amplify what women in general already confront: warped beauty standards, workplace sexism, worries about romantic partners, and mistrust of their own bodies. By shining a light on this hidden demographic, Lent Hirsch explores the challenges that all women face.

Review:

Part memoir, part anecdote, and part research, Invisible does an amazing job looking at women society deems “too young” or “too pretty” to be sick.

The good:

  • The book is own voices for both health issues and being queer, which is awesome in its own right, and her conscientious efforts mean…
  • …it may be the most intersectional book I’ve ever read. Lent Hirsch mentions how each woman interviewed identifies and the range across race, sexuality, religion, and gender is amazing.  She goes into how each of these identities affect how a woman interacts with health care as well as friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners.
  • This care is reflected in own voices reviews for Invisible.  My favorite is by Corvus who identifies as Queer, trans, and disabled.  They write, “This is the first book of this kind that I have read – that was not specifically about LGBTQ populations – that didn’t let me down.”  Their whole review is wonderful, go check it out here.
  • There’s a thoughtful discussion with several people about using the word “disability” in relation to themselves, and why they do or don’t embrace it.  There are many answers to this question and I like how so many different angles are covered.
  • Large sections of the text are straight from discussions the author had with women of all sorts.  While reading I thought – if a straight cis white man wrote this book he would only grab the juiciest quotes and summarize the rest through the lens of his own experience.  Lent Hirsch, however, has each amazing woman speak for herself and the book is stronger for it.
  • Even though my own experience as a patient is thankfully limited there are still parts that hit close to home.

    The new pharmacist was great.  He never commented on my looks or how my body made him feel.  What a low bar I was holding him to: he was ‘great’ because he didn’t harass me.

The not-so-great:

  • Only one thing here – I would have liked the 30,000 foot level writing to be stronger.  There are themes that could have been developed to make the book gel as a cohesive whole and their lack feels like a lost opportunity.

Invisible is an insightful look at what women of all sorts go through while dealing with chronic illness.  It’s a must read if you have any tiny bit of interest in the subject – I loved it.

Thanks to Beacon Press and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.

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Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey #3)

192892The wealthy old woman was dead – a trifle sooner than expected. The intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of “amour” – staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Here the modern detective story begins to come to its own; and all the historical importance aside, it remains an absorbing and charming story today.

Review:

Listening to this book cemented my love for Ian Carmichael’s narration.  I’ve since watched bits of the BBC series, where he plays Wimsey, and you get the feeling he’s doing loving caricatures of his fellow actors.  I couldn’t help thinking, “he out-Bunters Bunter!”  Just delightful.

Unfortunately the mystery in Unnatural Death is my least favorite so far.  We have a good idea who the murderer is but Wimsey and his crew have a hard time getting motive, means, and opportunity  to align.  Genealogy and the vagaries of inheritance law play key parts, and neither sketching family trees nor debating the legal meaning of the word “issue” work well on audio.

Even with a less than enthralling story line I enjoyed hanging out with the regular cast of characters, and I’ll be saving the next book in the series for a literary “rainy day”.

Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon (Real Love #2)

34369582Davis: I’ve had my eye on Grace Buchanan for a while now. Unlike the bubbly blondes I usually date, the feisty, flame-haired bartender both intrigues and bewilders me. There’s only one problem: She hates me. But when Grace bets me that I can’t get a date with a non-blonde if my life depends on it, I’m determined to prove her wrong by landing the ultimate non-blonde: her.

Grace: I like giving Davis a hard time, and he’s kind of cute in his suit and tie—if you’re into that kind of thing. Anyway, I don’t care how many blondes he takes home . . . until one of them sidles up to him in my bar. Nuh-uh. But after my little bet with Davis backfires, our first date lands us in the sack. So does the second. And the third. Neither of us wants more than the best sex of our lives. The trouble is, it’s not a question of what I want. It’s what I need. And what I need is Davis.

Review:

I was looking for a fun contemporary romance and this fit the bill. Both the hero and heroine are serial daters who drop people before they get too attached – Davis because he was abandoned at the altar, Grace because her divorced parents have warned her away from marriage. A friendly bet turns into sparks and the couple has to decide if they’re willing to go all in on their relationship.

The good:

  • Davis is an odd mix of alpha and beta hero that I haven’t seen before.  He works in finance and makes tons of money but after work he wants nothing more than to make dinner while nursing a beer.
  • Despite a black moment near the end the story is relatively angst-free.
  • Grace knows what she wants and goes for it even if other people in her life don’t get it.
  • I wouldn’t go as far to call this romance a comedy but it is light-hearted.

The not-so-good:

  • Grace knows her own mind until a single conversation late in the book that brings on our couple’s black moment.
  • It’s totally her fault, and she realizes that, but Davis ends up apologizing anyway, even though he acted rationally and did nothing wrong.  Grah.
  • To make up for angst some drama is thrown in to move the plot forward but it doesn’t click with me.

Overall Arm Candy is light and enjoyable enough but not particularly memorable.


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Command and Control by Eric Schlosser

6452798Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years.  It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policymakers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can’t be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust.  At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.

Review:

While I’ve read books about nuclear power this was my first about nuclear weapons and woah. By all rights we should all be dead by now, maybe ten times over. There are two interleaving story arcs, one about the history of nuclear weapons from the Manhattan Project through the early 2000s, and another that covers a Titan II missile accident.

I had no idea that there were so many mishaps, mistakes, and close calls – planes holding H-bombs catching fire on the runway, nukes lost at sea, early warning systems that misinterpret the moon rising over Sweden has incoming ballistic missiles.  I thought everyone would be behind more safeguards against human error because no one wants to blow up their town by mistake, but it turns out the military was largely against safety measures.  A well-protected weapon requires more checklist steps and time before launch, and those minutes would be crucial in a nuclear attack.

The narrative structure is similar to Columbine in that two separate timelines are alternated – here the history of atomic weapons and a missile accident in Arkansas.  I had never heard of the accident and didn’t know how it ended up so Schlosser’s account kept me riveted.  It also serves to break up the history portions and keep the narrative fresh.

I listened to this as an audiobook and really enjoyed it.  I had no problems with the reader and was able to push the speed over 2x, which is a help when the book is over 20 hours long.

My school history books didn’t do a good job covering the Cold War so Command and Control helped me reach a much needed deeper understanding. We should all know this history, if only to make sure we don’t repeat it.


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20820098 Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters by James Mahaffey

Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey (Ly-San-Ter #1)

More romance backlist!  The NPR Swoon-Worthy Romance Novel list has my favorite synopsis:

763774There are probably more sensible books by the great Johanna Lindsey — she’s better known for the pirate yarn Gentle Rogue — but none so outlandishly fun as this tale of a space-faring security officer who lands on a planet of giant leather-trousered barbarian warriors and winds up claimed by the biggest brute of them all.

And I mean, look at that cover.  Perfect for my “give me the crazy!” mood.  (They put a more modern cover on the re-release, but that’s no fun.)

Originally punished in 1990, Warrior’s Woman is a paranormal romance before paranormal was a thing.  Tedra is a top-level security officer on the vaguely dystopian planet Kystran when her government is overthrown in a coup.  The new dictator’s hired muscle is a brand of warrior they’re unfamiliar with – tall and physically intimidating, they wield swords instead of phazors and still manage to win fights.

Tedra sneaks off planet with her supercomputer Martha and android Corth in search of help and end up on the warriors’ mother planet.  She promptly transfers down to say hi and loses a challenge to the most intimidating guy there, ending up in his service for a month.

~cough~

As long as you know the hero is an alpha caveman who basically drags his woman back to the cave you’ll be just fine.  The world building is interesting as long as you don’t think too hard, the plot makes the 452 pages breeze by, and I was transported to another world for a few carefree hours.  Excellent.

There’s plenty I could nitpick but that’s not the point.  I read some backlist, upped my romance knowledge, and was able to escape from the real world for a few hours.  Seems silly to complain about that.

Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling #3)

458034As an Arrow, an elite soldier in the Psy Council ranks, Judd Lauren was forced to do terrible things in the name of his people. Now he is a defector, and his dark abilities have made him the most deadly of assassins – cold, pitiless, unfeeling. Until he meets Brenna…

Brenna Shane Kincaid was an innocent before she was abducted – and had her mind violated – by a serial killer. Her sense of evil runs so deep, she fears she could become a killer herself. Then the first dead body is found, victim of a familiar madness. Judd is her only hope, yet her sensual changeling side rebels against the inhuman chill of his personality, even as desire explodes between them. Shocking and raw, their passion is a danger that threatens not only their hearts, but their very lives…

Review:

When the world gets tough, the tough read romance.  I turned to the Psy-Changing series because I wanted to escape with paranormal in a well-thought out universe, but sadly the tropes worked against me.

Both our hero and heroine are damaged – Brenna after being abducted and abused by an Evil Dude, and Judd as part of his Psy upbringing.  I don’t often read romance where the trauma comes from both directions and it’s not really my thing.  I never completely bought the romance between the two and the thought that Judd was being hurt (like, blood dripping out of his ear hurt) when he felt love for Brenna doesn’t do it for me.

I would have given up a third of the way through but I don’t want to give up on the series yet.  There’s an overarching plot through all the books and I hate the idea of missing something so I plowed on.  Here’s hoping the next book is more my thing.

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

33358438Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.

But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.

Review:

This is the second book by Chant I’ve read and I think I love it even more than the first.

The good:

  • This is a trans story written by a trans writer – huzzah own voices!
  • I love how Neverland lets Peter be most himself and how it relates to the romance in the story.
  • I know next to nothing about Peter Pan but it didn’t matter.  I’m guessing that if you’ve read the original there are parallels and references but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
  • One of fiction’s most powerful side effects, I think, is experiencing life as someone utterly unlike yourself.  I’ve read about body dysphoria in a non-fiction sense but feeling what Peter goes through makes it more clear than any informative article could.
  • The writing is just what it needs to be – exciting during the adventure parts, romantic during the “oh wait maybe this is love” parts, and held together with a solid plot.  It’s utterly different from Coffee Boy but Chant switches gears seamlessly.

The not-so-good:

  • While the book fits its pages I wanted so much more than a novella.  I don’t know if Chant writes as this length because it’s comfortable but I think he could blow us away with double the space to run around in.

A fun read that took me away from the crazy of real life just when I needed it.  A must for anyone who’s into LGBTQIA+ reads or retellings.

Broken Play by Samantha Kane (Birmingham Rebels #1)

23834711Birmingham Rebels offensive linemen Beau Perez and Cass Zielinski are inseparable, on and off the field. Cass, the captain with the cowboy swagger, is a loose cannon. Beau, the veteran tight end, is cool under pressure. And ever since they were caught on tape in a steamy threesome, their exploits have fueled more than a few tabloid headlines—and naughty fantasies.

Marian Treadwell knows all about the video. And now that she’s the Rebels’ new assistant offensive coach, she can’t look at Beau and Cass without picturing their hard, naked bodies—with her pressed in between. Marian would like nothing more than to indulge those impulses, but she knows better than to get too close to her players, a bunch of adrenaline-fueled alpha males who don’t always follow the rules.

Review:

This is my second Kane book and man, does she have great characters.  They’re all deeply layered with flaws and ambitions and baggage, and their interactions feel real and unforced.  I fell in love with even minor characters, and I can’t wait to see them get their Happily Ever After.

And did I mention that all of the books feature MMF triads?

There’s a bunch of other good stuff here.  There’s racial and sexual diversity, hot sex, characters owning their kink, and more.  I only have one problem – Marian, an assistant coach, is in a relationship with two players under her.  The book skirts around the issue, saying that there’s no league rule against fraternizing because no one thought a woman would be in a position of authority on a football team, but it still irks.

I ended up liking Broken Play much better than the third book in the series, Jacked Up, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest.