Review: Don’t Read This Book

Don't Read This BookDon’t Read This Book (2019 Not A Pipe Publishing) by Benjamin Gorman

At once hilarious and heartbreaking, this novel uses fantasy monsters and rollicking comedy to make sophisticated philosophical and political points about identity and meaning. A tall order that Don’t Read This Book fulfills, and then some.

The story is set in our familiar world, but with one difference: all the monsters and magical creatures of myth and legend are real, hiding among humans … and preying on them. They have long ago formed a governing body with rules that prevent the various creature factions from attacking each other. They meet annually in Las Vegas for a convention. Bel (vampire) and Nando (werewolf) are buddy cops, tasked with capturing and punishing monsters who break the rules. But now they have a new unofficial assignment: rescue a kidnapped human writer and keep her—and her manuscript—away from the necromancer who would use this book to destroy modern civilization.

It would be a spoiler to reveal why he believes a novel could do this, but it has a lot to do with what gives life meaning and how that differs depending on who you are. Lena, the writer in question, exists at an intersection of identities: Black, Latina, lesbian, Millennial…Oregonian. She begins the story full of doubt and fear but under the influence and protection of her unlikely rescuers, she rediscovers her voice and power. Her heartbreaks and triumphs felt real and I couldn’t help rooting for her.

In addition to Las Vegas, Gorman makes good use of real-life settings in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and France for scenes of narrow escapes and monster battles. Also like the real world, his monster population includes literal internet trolls, flinging flaming poo and thriving on chaos. Most real of all, it takes all the good guys working together to achieve their goal. Still, my favorite character and the true hero of the piece is Josef, a faceless clay golem who punches Nazis. Go, Josef!

Until April 19, 2019, you can pre-order your copy (and consider getting one for your local library) using the Kickstarter here! Or ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore, or order from Amazon here.

Review: Greener

GreenerGreener (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2018) by Heather Ransom

Calyssa Brentwood of Going Green is back in a sequel that’s even better than the first book. In that volume, she wasn’t yet fully Green—a genetic enhancement that allows humans to photosynthesize, saving resources and time so they can devote themselves to bettering their community (with a side effect of improved health and attractiveness.) She became close to the Non-Green Staytons, even falling in love with hunky Gabe, and blamed herself for a terrorist bombing at their farm.

Greener opens eights months later, with Lyssa fully Green, in college, working an internship at her father’s company Advanced Human Genetics Assessments (AHGA), and helping care for her sister Livvy as she recovers from a near-lethal viral infection that has left her yellow and unable to photosynthesize. Lyssa uses her internship for secret investigations into possible corruption among SciCity’s Security Enforcers.

Lyssa is drawn back to the Stayton farm when her friend Ana Stayton dies from a black market Green enhancement gone wrong. Meanwhile, her new friend Ayva is into Nock, an enhancement to the enhancement from a private, unregulated lab that makes Greens Greener with party-drug side effects … but it also has a dark, dangerous side. And Livvy has a few secrets of her own. Everybody seems to, including Lyssa and Livvy’s long-lost mother. Themes of secrecy, loss and regret are woven through the narrative, as well as those of peer pressure, community, and loyalty.

Lyssa thinks she knows about loss, but also recognizes her privilege. She lost her mother as a child, had to give up her first love (who now blames her for his sister’s death), and nearly lost her own sister to the virus. In this book, the losses pile up and even wealth and power can’t shield her.

I was glad to see that music still plays an important role in Lyssa’s life. Her family is after her to choose a practical career, but playing cello is where she really comes alive and feels a connection to her mother. I particularly appreciated the realistic but compassionate portrayal of a college freshman, who feels so much more mature and knowing than she was in high school but is still naive and vulnerable. Lyssa believes she is a better spy than a pro, who is secretly keeping tabs on her and Livvy. Lyssa is unusually susceptible to the attentions of handsome genius Maddax Steele and can’t quite bring herself to ask if that’s why he’s paying attention to her. She takes crazy risks, pulling back before anyone is hurt but with real consequences.

A much bigger plot takes over before Lyssa’s personal dramas can be resolved, so there is still much to come in the inevitable 3rd book. I hope she has her cello with her after the disaster; music may be the thing to save her world.

You can get your copy here:
Oregon Books and Games, Grants Pass: HERE
Barnes & Noble: hardcover HERE, trade paperback HERE
Amazon: hardcover HERE, trade paperback, HERE
Kindle: HERE