Book Review: The Masker by Torrey Peters

We all have heard of Torrey Peters right now. Haven’t you? Gorgeous trans-woman writing stories centering trans-women for trans people. Racy, honest, raw writing that might make us, cis-het, folks uncomfortable, googling a whole lot and feeling like we were not in on the secret. And that is a good thing.

But before unconventional relationships between three woman trying to raise a baby together, there were other novellas, like The Masker, which Peters self-published and sold on her website (or you could get an e-book for free). A few weeks back, she announced that there was to be no more. She was working on revising her work, which would be published by Random House as an affordable paperback.

But while we wait for that to happen, let me tell you about the original, un-revised version of The Masker, a story like no other I have ever read before.

Krys is young and pretty. She has recently transitioned and goes to a famous conference in Vegas for transwomen and cross-dressers. She’s shy and feeling out of place and an older, confident and experienced transwoman wants to take her under her wing and protect her from all the pain that she had to go through when she transitioned. But Krys has a long-time fantasy of force-feminization and being objectified by a handsome guy, and there he is. Handsome and with a reputation for being a bad boy. He seems into her, so will Krys do the right thing?

Peters does a fantastic job at painting her characters with nuance. They are flawed, vulnerable, scarred by pain and life, at times self-serving, but always very real. It feels like an honest look into experiences that are very far from mainstream literature, being mostly centered on cis-het women or occasionally, on gay men. So honest that at times, it feels invasive. It feels voyeuristic. It is erotic and dark and, at the same time, speaks to moral dilemmas that come with trying to be sexually honest.

I can’t wait to see what revisions brings on. In the meantime, I will hold to my now out-of-stock paperback like the treasure it is.

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

 I LOVED Mexican Gothic more than I thought I would. And it’s not that it was over-hyped (was it?), or any of the negative comments circulating about it. It’s just that horror and romance are not my genres. But I did love it. I loved how it was slow paced, building up the excitement until past mid-book. I loved how authentic it felt, all those references to Mexican culture that made me nostalgic for my grandpa, and the deep side of it: the exploration of colonialism and eugenics. But most of it, it’s just an easy, addictive read. And some readers thought it should have content warnings, but I thought it was not too explicit or full of gore. It was pretty mild, in my opinion.

Book Review: Lakewood by Megan Giddings

I loved “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings. At the beginning it gave me a “We Cast A Shadow” vibe (by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, another book I loved!) but though they both deal with racism and the burden of white-centered beauty standards (among other themes), they are very different books.

Lakewood takes us to a tiny town in Michigan, of the same name, where secret and unethical government sponsored clinical trials are undertaken on human subjects, mostly BIPOCs. Lena, a college student just lost her grandma to cancer and is forced to work to pay her mom’s medical bills as well as to continue to afford college. So, human trials that offer amazing insurance and great benefits, how bad can they be? They end up being a nightmare. Though not a horror story by itself, this story is pretty terrifying and cringing, and yet so addictive. Like a horror movie, you want to turn it off and turn a blind eye, but you also must know if Lena will make it out alive. It is so good! Worst part is that it is probably not too far away from the truth. I totally recommend it. I wouldn’t mind picking it up again right now.

Book Review: Fantastic Tales by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti

Tarchetti, in this collection of Gothic & horror tales transport us to Europe of the 1800s. The stories have a ring of fairy tales, but with some darkness to it; there are mysterious Counts, obsessive lovers, magic potions and haunting dreams. They are for the horror fan as well as those readers with a taste for literary fiction. Devoid of all the gore and cheap commercial terror of Hollywood movies, these stories are timeless and make for a fabulous quick read.

Book Review: Petite Fleur by Iosi Havilio or A Novel On Resurrection (Spoilers!)

This review includes spoilers. I don’t usually mind them since I feel that they allow me to understand the book better from the start, but if you do, please do not read any further. A spoiler-free review has been posted to my Instagram page (@literaryinfatuation).

If I could sum up this short and captivating novel in one word I’d say: Resurrection. José, husband of Laura and father to a one year-old girl named Antonia, lives in a small town in Argentina. On arriving to work one morning, he discovers that the factory where we worked was burned to the ground. Consequently, his wife decides to go back to work early and takes a position as a proofreader at the same company, rather than her old job as editor. José, on the other hand, becomes a full-time dad and housekeeper. Laura works long hours, has a very long commute and feels very frustrated due to her demotion. Her spirits are down, and if you couple that with José’s own frustration at his new situation, marital problems are unavoidable. José is bored, frustrated and feeling utterly at loss, how will he fill in the long hours? He quickly devotes his whole energy and time to fixing things around the house and being the perfect dad, husband and housekeeper. He discovers that he is actually pretty good at it, even if Laura seems to mind everything he does or does not do. One day he even decides to start composting and growing vegetables in his garden and heads over to his next door neighbor to ask for a spade. What follows is a crazy journey, full of murder, obsession and paranoia. The novel takes this crazy twist pretty early on, and José’s narration full of frustration becomes even muddier. His marriage gets worse. He loses control of his life and starts losing faith on his dream to become a writer, which he had left long behind to be able to provide for his family. What we will discover along with José in his journey, is the resurrection of lives lost, resurrection of his marriage, and resurrection of his dreams.

If you are a fan of Tolstoy or Ernesto Sabato’s The Tunnel, I feel pretty confident that you’ll love this short novel, packing a lot of action and intrigue in less than 200 pages. If you love authors who “show rather than tell”, you’ll find this story right up your alley.

The only reason why it is a 4 star rather than a 5 star read for me has nothing to do with the author himself. Though I have not had a chance to get a hold of an original version in Spanish, I feel that the translator made sentences shorter to make the narration sound more similar to what it would have if it were written in English. That is not necessarily bad, but being that it is supposed to be the rambling of a very disturbed and confused person, it makes it feel at times unnatural. Plus, as a native speaker of Spanish, such short sentences do not seem possible or natural in the speech of an Argentinian, much less a very frustrated and upset one. I think that the translator should have given the reader a bit more credit. If the reader can figure out dialogues without any punctuation or spacing, then she/he can handle a few long sentences. Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough.