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“Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen” by Arin Andrews (A Book Review)


Some Assembly RequiredRaw, real, and brilliantly human, Some Assembly Required,” is a much-needed journey through  the life of a brave young man in a time when policies have become more important than people.

17-year-old Arin was born Emerald, but he knew from a young age that wasn’t who he was. Through years of rough housing with his cousins, tutus, beauty pageants, YouTube videos, girlfriends, proms, and every other messy part of growing up, Arin finally came to terms with his identity and began to take the steps to finally being wearing his “soul on his skin.”

Just on the writing alone, “Some Assembly Required” is a great read. Arin has a great narrative voice and a gift for storytelling that puts his life, the people in it, and his inner turmoil in vivid color. If you’re looking to write a memoir, I highly recommend checking this book out. I’m not usually one for memoirs, but I couldn’t but this one down.

On a more personal level, Arin captures every feeling, every moment, in brilliant detail, bringing his experience–an experience increasingly in the spotlight–out into the open in a way that’s easy to understand and follow, regardless of a reader’s previous exposure to trans identities. This makes his book a great teaching tool, story, and conversation-starter in equal parts.

So, if you looking to familiarize yourself with the experiences of trans teens in America (which is a good idea honestly), “Some Assembly Required” is a great start. It’s personable, informative, and just and enjoyable read.

That being said, please do keep in mind that Arin’s experience is one of millions in America. While “Some Assembly Required” is a great introduction, it shouldn’t be the end all of your reading on the subject. There are plenty of other great titles available that dive into different trans experiences and identities, which would also make great reads. 🙂   


Things in books that should be left behind in 2016 — That Bookshelf Bitch


Hey, everybody. Sorry, no review today, but as we go into 2017, I thought this was an important article to share. Personally, I’d like to see all these tropes disappear in 2017.

Hi there, everyone! A little over a week ago, I publicly released my first ‘Shealea says’ post that talked about what it’s like to be a woman in 2016. In that particular piece, I discussed the problematic culture of victim blaming and internalized misogyny. Today, however, I want to bring something else into light. With […]

via Things in books that should be left behind in 2016 — That Bookshelf Bitch

A Creature of Many Faces: The Aswang of the Philippines

A Creature of Many Faces: The Aswang of the Philippines

Deep within the jungles and city allies of the Philippines lurks a creature rather unknown in the West, but believed in by an estimated 80% of the populationIts method of feeding and favorite foods vary from island to island, but none of the options are pretty. In some places it’ll suck your blood like a vampire. In others, it’ll use its long tube-like tongue to suck out your entrails or unborn children. If you’re lucky, it’ll wait until you’re a corpse, steal your body, and eat your heart and liver. In many regions its torso can rip away from its lower body and fly away, making it as horrifying as it is deadly.

This creature of many methods of horror is the aswang.

While the origins of the aswang are rooted soundly in Philippine folklore and tribal religion, belief and fear of the creature took off once Spanish missionaries arrived. Babalang,  or medicine men and women, were labeled as aswang to make people flock to the church out of fear. During the Spanish occupation, numerous rebellions were organized by women, who were also labeled aswang to discourage people from supporting their causes. Between the rebel leaders and the fact that babalang were most often women explains why the aswang usually has a female form, but not why there’s so much variation on what they they do or why they’re so prevalent even today.

The aswang is said to turn into so many different things that they’ve actually been categorized to keep them all straight. The usual kinds of aswang include humanoid, canine, porcine, avian (also known as the tiktik), and feline. Animals such as stray dogs, pigs, and cats are so common in the Philippines that it would be too late to tell if the creature is what it seems, or a blood-thirsty aswang.

Lucky for us, there are as many ways to defend yourself from an aswang as there are incarnations of it. If you’re religious, you could carry holy water or recite the Lord’s Prayer. If not, there’s always the option of garlic, gold silver, bronze, salt, or even sunlight. If you want to get really creative, you could stick a needle with a broken eye in the frame of your front door.

Unfortunately, all these things don’t stop aswang from stalking prey. Maria Labo, a woman who turned aswang and ate her children, apparently roams the province of Capiz, hoping to find more to eat. There’s even been reports of aswang attacking people as late as 2015.

So, be careful tonight. The aswang can look like anyone or anything. Their tell-tale signs are usually their blood-shot eyes and tangled hair, but that could just as easily be a person trick or treating or on their way to a Halloween party. The only way to be truly sure is to look into a person’s eyes. If your reflection is upside down, they are an aswang, but by then it’s probably too late, so investigate any possible aswang at your own risk.

Happy Halloween.

Image from

Tune in on Halloween for the Final Creature Feature!


Hey, everybody. No Creature Feature today. Due some last minute panic–induced scribbles planning for National Novel Writing Month, I wasn’t able to get the article done in time. Sorry about that! But I’ll be back with my favorite monster I’ve discovered through the course of this series on Halloween. See you then! Get out there and get pumped for Halloween! 

Pixies: Not Just Another Creature-Guest Blog Post by Ashley Fae (Creature Feature 5)

Pixies: Not Just Another Creature-Guest Blog Post by Ashley Fae (Creature Feature 5)

Hey, ya’ll. Due to travel and some other complication, the Creature Feature is a day late. Sorry about that. Thankfully, once again Ashely of has my back. This time, with some interesting discoveries about pixies. Take it away, Ashley!

“You’re about to learn that all that flutters are not fairies.  Pixies – also known by a plethora of other names like pixy or even pigsies – originate from Celtic roots. The mischievous pixies, in today’s world, are often confused with sprites or fairies, but throughout history, there were said to be even wars between the groups of fluttery ones.  The similarities between the races don’t stop there; it is thought that the name pixie, originating from the Swedish dialect, actually means little fairy.  Oh, will the similarities ever stop.  Perhaps not.

Today when one might look upon a pixie they’d see a short being that is very childlike.  Huge groups of them often gather outdoors dancing and even wrestling.  These gatherings often lasted all through the night.  What I found quite interesting is that when an actual description given in modern times, the pixie is described much like Peter Pan – pointed ears, dressed in green with a pointed hat.  Perhaps not an exact match, but that’s what I see in my mind.

The mythology of pixies is quite odd because it is so entwined with that of the fairy.  Even the origin of the name in the Swedish dialect means little fairy.  Pixies can often be clothed or unclothed.  It is said that in the medieval era when Christianity was prominent, pixie was often thought to be the souls of children who died without being baptized.  Once the clothing of the deceased child was placed in the clay funeral pots with their earthly toys, they would then change to pixies.

A super interesting fact to anyone who ever read, or was read, The Three Little Pigs might know that in 1853 there were actually three little pixies, not pigs.  Great Britain is where most of the myths of pixies come from, specifically Cornwall and Devon.  The legends say that pixies used to lure children into playing with them by disguising themselves as a bundle of rags.  These pixies were said to have normal relationship with people and loved music and dancing.  They were even said to be helpful to widowed women and other humans with their housework.

Although, they sound quite pleasant on the surface, they were also known, according to Wikipedia, for “misleading travelers.”  It was known as “pixy-led.”  The remedy, they say, was to turn your coat inside out.  However mischievous these pixies were, the queen of the Cornish pixies is considered to be good luck.

Pixies and fairies have battled each other throughout mythology.  The story goes that the pixies won and that by the 19th-century contact with humans had diminished.  In 1824, it was written that just as with chivalry, the age of the pixie was gone.   Does that mean they’re really gone?  Or are they lurking somewhere along the way of a weary traveler, or around the kids as they play?  Maybe they only come out on All Hollow’s Eve?  Watch out for them and tell me what you see!”

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Plot Twist: I AM Like Other Girls

Plot Twist: I AM Like Other Girls

My name is Elisabetta Smith. My friends call me Lizzy. I have long brown hair, am conventionally attractive (even if I don’t realize it) and only ever where jeans, sneakers, and nerdy T-shirts because I don’t like shopping or make-up like other girls. For some reason, however, I’m attracted to the same teenaged heart-throb as all the other girls and, for some reason, he’s attracted to me. It’s probably because I’m not like other girls. He finds my klutzy ways adorable and my social awkwardness endearing. I’m a high school student, but unlike everyone else, I actually like learning. English is my favorite class. Shakespeare was a genius and Jane Austen is my muse.

Have I mentioned that I’m not like other girls?

Okay, okay, I’m being a tad hyperbolic (okay, really hyperbolic), but there’s no denying that the “I’m not like other girls” trope has plagued YA for some time and has seeped into New Adult as well. For some reason, readers and authors alike have come to think that being low-maintenance, nerdy, and introverted are divine signs of uniqueness and, more disturbingly, make a character superior to “other girls” who tend to have more feminine interests. As someone who’s been there, read that, and come out on the other side with girl friends who are nerdy, sporty, masculine, feminine, snarky, sweet, and a million other things, I’ll let you in on a little secret: that protagonist is actually a lot like other girls and that’s okay. I’m feeling generous today, so here’s another secret: there’s nothing wrong with “other girls.”

The irony in how prevalent this trope has become slays me every time it comes up. The simple fact that it’s used so often, both in realistic and speculative fiction, makes it so that these girls are actually a lot like other girls, both fictional and real. Why else would writers keep using it to snag readers? We want to see people like us tackling both realistic and larger-than-life challenges. It’s comforting to know that if someone like us can walk through fire and come out okay on the other side, so can we. However, in giving girls and women that comfort, you’ve blown the whole illusion that your character is “not like other girls.” Obviously quiet, nerdy, awkward, introverted girls like us don’t like to draw attention to ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we’re rare. Thanks to social media, popular movies, TV, books, and the existences of this trope in the first place, it’s become rather obvious that there’s a lot of girls like us. That’s okay. I like being like other girls. It means I can talk to them about my interests, passions, and dreams. Being around girls not like me allows me to learn about new interests, passions, and dreams, ruining the delusion that there’s something inherently wrong with “other girls.”

I could write a textbook on the social conditioning behind belittling feminine interests and hobbies. For the sake of time, I’ll condense: there’s actually nothing wrong with them other than the fact that our society has deemed them “feminine.” Seriously, what’s the real issue with pumpkin spice lattes, make-up, and girly clothes? When push comes to shove, absolutely nothing, yet the girl who’s “not like other girls,” is praised for shying away from such things like she’s been dodging the zombie virus.

While there’s nothing wrong with liking girly things, I think there is something wrong with being shallow and judging someone’s intelligence and character on such superficial things. It’s petty, vain, and pretentious, kind of like the stereotypical mean girls we as writers seem so desperate to distance our characters from.

Instead of pouring all our time and effort into figuring out what our female characters are NOT, what if we focused on what they ARE, where they’ve been, and how they shape their future because of it? After all, where we go in life, not what we like, is what really what makes us unique. That’s been my experience anyway.

That’s not to say female characters can’t be low-maintenance, nerdy, awkward and introverted, but when that’s all our females characters are for fear of being “like other girls,” they fall flat. Round them out. Let your female characters be girly, gender-neutral, and boyish in turn. Let them get excited about silly little stuff, because everyone gets excited about silly stuff. Let them get bored of Jane Austen for a minute and have them watch a stupid funny YouTube video for once. Stop being scared that your female characters are going to be like “other girls” and let them just be them.

And, if you’re someone who’s afraid to be “like other girls,” be kind to yourself. Let you be you.

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Creature Features: A Special October Article Series

Creature Features: A Special October Article Series

It’s October and you know what that means!!! HALLOWEEN!!!!!

                I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of Halloween. The costumes, the candy, the pranks, the movies, I love all of it. No other holiday captures our imagination and creativity like Halloween. No other holiday brings out the creepy, crawly, whimsical, and wonderful quite like Halloween either. That’s why, on every Tuesday and Thursday in October, my friends over at Truth About Books and I will be bringing you tales, histories, and warnings about what sort of creatures to look out for this month.  After all, if you’re going to catch a glimpse of a pixie, a vampire, a werewolf, or some sort of other odd creature, it might be nice to know a bit beyond what the movies have taught you in case you want to strike up a conversation, or if you have to run for your life.

                Stay tuned as we explore creatures both frightful and kind, malevolent and benign, whimsical and solemn all this month!

                Happy Halloween!

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