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The Color of Our Sky

Book Review :: The Color of Our Sky

First line: "The memory of that moment hit me like a surging ocean wave—drawing me into it—the sour smell of darkness, those sobs erupting like an echo from a bottomless pit."
The Color of Our SkyMukta was born to a devdasis, a temple prostitute,  in her Indian village of Ganipur. Tradition held that as a female off-spring, she too would become a devdasis. Her mother, however, wanted nothing more than to break the evil cycle and free her daughter from this life of daily horror.

Tara was born to upper caste Brahmins from the same village. Because their parents didn't approve of the marriage, Tara's parents were forced to elope, fleeing their village to live in Mumbai. But Tara was still afforded all the benefits of her upper caste heritage: an education, a nice home, plenty to eat.

When Mukta's mother dies at the hands of the villagers, Tara's father takes Mukta away to Mumbai. He has helped many homeless orphans so Tara thinks nothing of Mukta coming to stay with them. But Mukta stays longer than the other children. Tara's mother teaches her to clean the house, cook and escort Tara to school. In short, she treats her like a servant. But Tara teaches Mukta to read, she befriends her and the girls grow close.  Until a bomb in the bazaar blows their contented life into a million pieces.

The Color of Our Sky is the story of these two young Indian girls whose families came from the same village. Told in their alternating first person voices from the mid-1980s to 2008, it's heartbreaking and hopeful, unthinkable and uplifting. Amita Trasi's story canvas shines brilliantly with the colors of her rich characters, the power of her themes, her beautiful setting and optimism. The dark strokes of evil, hate, greed and desperation also add to the magnetism.

I finished The Color of Our Sky reminded of each human's extraordinary value. Race, gender, caste or class, age, sexual orientation, none of it makes us better or worse than someone else. Those are simply traits that fate drops in our laps. We don't control those things. Our compassion, empathy, generosity and kindness are the true measures of a good human being.  We have the power to change these things, and how we choose to wield that power tells the world all it needs to know.

The Color of Our Sky is far from a light beach read, but since we all still have time before the summer season really hits us—at least here in the U.S. anyway—there's plenty of opportunity to luxuriate in the depth and breadth of this incredible debut from Amita Trasi.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

My review today of The Color of Our Sky is part of the TLC blog tour. You can discover what other bloggers are saying about it by checking out the complete tour schedule here.

Book Review :: Loyal

First line: "There are dozens of reasons to love dogs, but the paramount reason for my passion emerged while I was writing the prequel to this book, Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life With Dogs."
Loyal - Brown Dog Solutions

Journalist Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a volunteer in a high-kill animal shelter. Because of her experiences in the shelter she helped found the Deja Foundation, which is devoted to funding the medical care and training costs of dogs rescued from high-kill shelters. This is a true animal lover, and she's put together Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs, a beautiful book celebrating dogs who contribute to the lives of humans in truly extraordinary ways.

If you're a pet owner, you know how much your own furry friend(s) add to your existence.  So it won't surprise you to hear the 38 heartwarming tales Ascher-Walsh has collected in this stunning little book. She found purebreds and mutts, old dogs and young. The common denominator is their pure, unselfish willingness to give of themselves. A Labrador who served in the military, a German Shepard trained as a seeing eye dog for a marathon runner, a German wirehaired pointed adopted from a shelter to improve community relations for a police department, a Spinone Italiano who comforted the children of Newtown following the Sandy Hook massacre. The stories are diverse and fun and inspiring. The full-color photographs in every chapter are top-notch, as you'd expect from a National Geographic publication.

Peppered throughout the book are small call-out sections with special facts or breed background. And the variety of organizations that come to light is astounding. For example, the Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri (PHARM Dog USA) that trains and places service dogs with disabled farmers or Canine CellMates in Atlanta that rescues dogs on the euthanasia list at shelters and matches them with jail inmates to be trained.

Through all of the stories and dogs and individuals, Ascher-Walsh illustrates how the loyalty of dogs can bring out the best in their human friends. Loyal is a perfect book for the bedside table or coffee table. Readers can pick it up for one story at a time, a couple stories or an uplifting hour or two of all the stories. After having read it the first time, I found myself flipping through to look at the pictures again and wanting to re-read the tales as the pictures reminded me of the smiles and warm feelings those words elicited the first time around.

Loyal is an ideal book for any dog lover. It's a great gift book as well, but if you buy it as a gift, you may very well find parting with it a great challenge.

I'm kicking off the TLC blog tour for Loyal. You can check out the full schedule of bloggers and find out what others are saying about Ascher-Walsh's tribute to furry heros. You can find purchasing information at the National Geographic site or at Amazon. And as always, below you'll find the Goodreads link if you want to add it to your reading list.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions
New Photo Friday - Pets

New Photo Friday

Good gracious is this ever overdue. Again, I apologize for the long silence there. Today I have a new photo to share with you and some fun news about Fredrik Backman. Those who know me and my book review history know I adore Fredrik Backman's work. He's absolutely astounding. Anyone who asks me for book recommendations can be fairly certain I'll mention his name. So of course, I'm delighted that his next book, BEARTOWN, is coming out at the end of April. In addition to that, the film version of A MAN CALLED OVE has been chosen by Sweden to compete in the foreign language Oscar category. I saw this film and just adored it—it's true to the essence of Ove and the man Backman created. Of course, I would have liked for it to be about three hours longer so they could have flushed out more of the delightful supporting characters from the plot, but it's a film. What can ya do?

On to New Photo Friday. Last weekend Rufus and I went to a dog fair in the area, so today's photo comes from that trip. I was quite smitten with this St. Bernard puppy. She was a bit resistant to having her picture taken, so I was delighted to catch this shot.

New Photo Friday - Pet photography

I've started setting up a mini studio with some new-to-me equipment I was fortunate to acquire. So you'll probably see some pictures from that new set-up in the near future.

One last little book tidbit—o.k., really it's a big, honkin' bite—for those in the Northeast Ohio area. Another author I recommend regularly and obsessively is Craig Johnson. Hopefully you already know he writes the Walt Longmire mystery series...which the TV series LONGMIRE is based on. He'll be at the Strongsville Public Library on Wednesday, May 24th. Save this date and register NOW. It's free, but I'm fairly certain the event will fill fast, so make sure you get your spot. I'm just thrilled he'll be here in the area. Hope to see you there.

Happy Friday, friends. Have a great weekend!

Quick Updates

My apologies for the delay between posts. I've been dealing with work, photography class, photography club, regular life "stuff" and of course the issues of the country's political mess. I have a book-related post coming up about that. It's mostly an effort for me to deal with my energy about all of this. But in the meantime, I wanted to give you a few fun updates.

First is the February Nerdy Special List, which Pop Culture Nerd has posted. I have a wonderful and timely recommendation over there for you.

Next is my new role at AudioFile Magazine. I'll be posting each Monday about mysteries and thrillers and all forms of crime fiction in audiobook format. This week I have a post about new releases in February. I've offered just a small slice of the new titles out. Stop by and share what you're excited about this month.

For dog lovers in my neck of the woods, this weekend I learned about a new magazine that's launching here in April called CLE DOG. I'm excited because I'm always looking for new things to do with Rufus. This should be a fun publication.

And finally, if you're headed to Honolulu in March for Left Coast Crime, I'll be moderating a panel called "Reviewers & Critics: Are authors at their mercy?" That's Friday at 10:30a.m. I'm joined by two fellow bloggers, Les Blatt and Dru Ann Love, as well as two authors Maggie Margarita and Jane Stillwater. I need to dust off my moderator's hat. It's been awhile. If you're attending, hope to see you there.

More content is coming. While I haven't posted a new photo in awhile, that doesn't mean I haven't been taking them. My goal for myself is to get back on track this week, so look for that on Friday. In the mean time, Happy Valentine's Day!  
Orphan Train

Book review :: Orphan Train

First line: "I believe in ghosts."
Orphan Train In 2013 readers first discovered Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train. I was not among them. I guess you could say, I missed that train. And it's very rare these day for me to be able to circle back on a book I missed when it came out, but this TLC Book Tour for the revised paperback edition of Orphan Train allowed me to do just that. And I'm thankful for the opportunity. What a wonderful novel. Niamh Power is only nine years old when a fire takes her father and siblings and leaves her mother in a mental institution. It's 1929 in New York City and the Children's Aid Society transports orphans west--via train--to families that will take them in. Niamh, a red-haired Irish immigrant, is one of the orphans caught up in this system. Molly Ayer is in a similar situation in Spruce Harbor Maine in 2011. While there is no longer an orphan train, Molly is stuck in the foster system. Her father died in a car accident and her mother spiraled into addiction issues leaving her unable to care for Molly. She's close to aging out of the system, but when she tries to steal an old tattered copy of Jane Eyre from the library and is caught, she's left in a serious predicament: serve community service hours or juvie time.  Molly's boyfriend Jack manages to arrange the community service time with his mother's employer, an old woman named Vivian Daly who needs to clean out her attic. As Molly helps Vivian go through her belongings in the attic, she learns the story of the red-haired Irish immigrant who traveled on the orphan train in Depression-era America, and a special bond forms. Orphan Train is a beautiful, disturbing, haunting historical novel that spotlights humanity's basest creatures and its most compassionate.  The story illustrates the power of determination and the human ability to overcome life's harshest storms with the support of others. Kline's atmosphere thickly envelopes readers, laying them on an old, moldy, infested mattresses on the ground or trudging them through a snow storm. Kline has a letter at the opening of the novel indicating that she's added to a scene that she received many letters about. Not having read the original version, I wasn't able to discern where this addition was made. It is seamless and causes no bumps in the plot. Those who have read the book previously may want to venture back and see how the addition affects their reading of the women's stories. If, like me, you missed the Orphan Train before now, I encourage you to pick it up. This is definitely a train you'll be glad you jumped aboard.  
2016 Favorite Fiction - And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

2016 Reading Favorites

I feel like I just wrote about my favorites for 2015, yet here it is the end of 2016 already. This year I read 105 books by 104 different authors--Fredrik Backman was my only repeat (maybe I'll fit another one in before the technical end, but we'll go with 105). Of the 104 authors, 81 were authors I had never read before. The breakdown looked like this: Fiction - 76 Nonfiction - 29 Male authors - 63 Female authors - 41 (one book was a male/female team) Print books - 74 Audiobooks - 30 73 books were written by American authors; 12 authors are from the UK; and the remaining titles were from Canadian, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Israeli, Australian, Irish, South Korean, and Vietnamese writers. And 14 books were debuts. So from that vast array of books, I'm offering you my favorites in three categories: fiction, non-fiction and audiobooks. I'm including 10 for fiction, 6 for non-fiction and five for audiobooks. I wasn't able to winnow my 6 non-fictions down to 5. Picking the best non-fiction was my hardest task. I read great non-fiction this year. I'll start with the audiobooks:

2016 Favorite Audiobooks

2016 Favorite Books - IQIQ - written by Joe Ide, read by Sullivan Jones. This was the best of both worlds. A fabulous book and an amazing performance. I reviewed this one for Audiofile Magazine. Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil - written by Lezley McSpadden and Lyah Beth LeFiore, read by Lisa Renee Pitts. If I could nominate an audiobook performer for an Oscar, it would be Lisa Renee Pitts for this narration. It is astounding. The book is emotionally charged and the sparks fly from Pitts as she reads. Loved it! This was another review for Audiofile Magazine. Night Work - written by David Taylor and read by Keith Szarabajka. I was floored by this duo last year with Taylor's debut and Night Work resonates just as strongly. Szarabajka is fantastic and these are great suspense novels from Taylor. An Audiofile Magazine review. Charcoal Joe - written by Walter Mosley and read by Michael Boatman. Boatman picked up all the wonderful nuances in Mosley's writing and just made this an engaging listen. In addition to my review for Audiofile Magazine, this audiobook was picked as one of their 2016 Editors' Favorites in the mystery & suspense category.2016 Favorite Books - Lily and the Octopus Lily and the Octopus - written by Steven Rowley and read by Michael Urie. This audio made me laugh and cry and drive an extra time around the block. If you haven't read or listened to this one, don't find out anything about it...don't read reviews or dust jackets, just start it. You'll appreciate it more. And Urie does a fantastic job delving into all the range of emotions then pulling those same emotions from his listeners. I reviewed it for Audiofile Magazine.

2016 Favorite Non-fiction

2016 Favorite Books - BallsBalls: It Takes Some to Get Some - Chris Edwards. Far and away my favorite book of 2016. I reviewed this for Shelf Awareness and it was chosen as one of their favorites of 2016 as well. I wasn't expecting the level of amazingness I experienced when I requested the book, so I was wonderfully surprised. I hope you'll check this one out. It's so worth it! Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World - Baz Dreisinger. Our prison and "justice" system is an issue I'm interested in and constantly wanting to understand better because I feel it is a high priority for our society. This book is incredibly enlightening and looks at prisons on a global level. We can and should learn a lot from Dreisinger's project. Moranifesto - Caitlin Moran. I just posted this review to the blog earlier this week. I loved every bit of this book. Moran is insightful, funny and incredibly smart. I want to share this book with every female who is important to me. Which is not to say men won't love it or benefit from it. Any man that cares about a woman should also check it out. We can definitely use more Caitlin Morans in the world. Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives - Gary Younge. This is a tough but important read. I can't say enough about it. I reviewed this for Shelf Awareness and it was also chosen as one of the publications favorite books of 2016. Younge has a unique perspective and does a stellar job on his research for this eye-opening look at the gun epidemic in the United States. 2016 Favorite Books - You Will Not Have My HatePilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis - Mark Shriver. I am so fascinated--and inspired--by Pope Francis, so I was very excited to get this book for review. He's an amazing human being and Shriver does a lovely job of illuminating the man who leads the Catholic Church now. We can use more Pope Francises in the world too. You Will Not Have My Hate - Antoine Leiris (trans. by Sam Taylor). This short work is beautifully and powerfully written. I read it in one night and it will stay with me forever. As I recover from the awful, ugly hate that filled our presidential election this year, I'm inspired by Leiris work.

2016 Favorite Fiction

The Bo2016 Favorite Books - An Obvious Facty Who Escaped Paradise - J.M. Lee (trans. by Chi-Young Kim). I was so excited to see a new book from J.M. Lee, the author of The Investigation. And The Boy Who Escaped Paradise did not disappoint. Lee is an incredible writer. I hope we are able to enjoy a long career from this talented man. An Obvious Fact - Craig Johnson. A regular on my favorites list, Craig Johnson continues his string of hits with the newest Walt Longmire. The subtle allusions to The Dukes of Hazzard really won me over in this one. What can I say? I'm a child of the 80s. Property of the State - Bill Cameron. The first of this new YA series from Bill Cameron is spectacular. You don't have to be a young adult in years to love the start of this new series. I'm looking forward to more of it. Britt-Marie Was Here - Fredrik Backman (trans. by Henning Koch). Another regular to my favorites list, Backman makes two appearances this year. His third full-length novel is as wonderfully rich and thought-provoking, as delightfully funny and as creatively beautiful as his previous works. 2016 Favorite Books - And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer - Fredrik Backman (trans. by Alice Menzies). I laughed and cried and sat in wonderment at this beautiful novella. It's a treasure. The Opposite of Everyone - Joshilyn Jackson. This was my introduction to Jackson's work and I'm hooked. I loved the depth of character, complexity of plot and amazing atmosphere. She has rich themes and great language. What more could you hope for in a great reading experience. Hanging Mary - Susan Higginbotham. Higginbotham's historical novel about Mary Surratt  kept me fascinated and engrossed the entire time. I read a number of historicals this year. When a person or event is intriguing to me, I'm captivated by the way a writer can mold and craft a story around those elements from history. Higginbotham does a stellar job with the woman who was hanged for Lincoln's assassination. King Maybe - Timothy Hallinan. Tim's Christmas novel, In Fields Where They Lay, is getting a fair amount of attention, but I am giving kudos to King Maybe from earlier in the year. With two books out in a year, you'd wonder if maybe the quality would suffer. Well rest assured, that's a no go. King Maybe is top notch. I've never been disappointed by a Hallinan novel and this was no different. 2016 Favorite Books - DarktownHitman Anders and the Meaning of It All - Jonas Jonasson (trans. by Rachel Willson-Broyles). I had a little bit of a love affair with the translations this year. I was especially drawn to Scandinavian fiction and this is one of the handful I really enjoyed. The social commentary, the style of humor it all works well for me. Darktown - Thomas Mullen. This was a powerful historical novel. Not an easy one by any means, but so authentically done and that's what makes it so amazing. We've made advancements as a society, but Darktown also reminds us how much we haven't changed. This is the level of book that changes you after you've read it.
And there you have it. My finalized list of favorite reads of 2016. What topped your list of favorite books this year? It always ends up being a bit of a struggle to finish these lists. There are a few titles you know right away are on the list, no question. Then you struggle with about 8 titles to fill the remaining 4 or 5 slots. At least that's the way it is for me. There's always a few more I'd like to include. I could give you two or three more for each of my categories. I guess that's the great thing about reading. There's a lot of crap out there, no doubt. But there's also a lot of wonderfulness as well. So here's to a 2017 filled with a lot of wonderful books for you. Happy Reading!
Brown Dog Solutions | Moranifesto Book Review

Book Review :: Moranifesto

I wanted to sneak this review in before my end of the year lists because it will definitely be one of my favorite reads. This is my first experience reading Caitlin Moran, and after I finished Moranifesto, I wanted to subscribe to The Times of London in order to read her regularly. She now rates on my list of heroes. My review first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Hope you enjoy!
First line: "So welcome to my second collection of writing."
Brown Dog Solutions | Moranifesto Book ReviewCompiling a generous collection of her London Times columns written since 2011 and adding brief introductions for each that tie the anthology together, Caitlin Moran (How to Build a Girl) has composed a manifesto. "After twenty-three years of commenting on things, you're not really just commenting on things anymore. You're starting to...suggest alternatives. You're forming a plan."  Moranifesto is her plan: a shrewd combination of culture, politics and feminism; witty and intelligent, honest and silly; a conversation worth joining. Moranifesto is divided into four sections, each including humorous articles intended to entertain--like "I Am Hungover Again" where she concedes the fact she will "never learn to have just two glasses"  because she simply doesn't want to--sidled up next to thoughtful pieces offering social commentary, such as Moran's thoughts--oozing with sarcasm--in "Women Getting Killed on the Internet." "I'll be frank--it does my head in to see someone who lives in a democracy, wears artificial fibers, drives a car, has a wife who can vote and children whom it is illegal to send to work up a chimney, saying, on the Internet--invented in 1971!!!!--'NOTHING CAN CHANGE!'" Her love letter to books in "Reading is Fierce" will endear her to bibliophiles, while her capitulation in "It's Okay My Children Do Not Read" may make them cringe. Moran offers advice, reveals encounters with celebrities and laughs in the face of decorum. She's blunt and colorful, inspiring and authentic. Moranifesto exposes the many facets of this complex, wickedly smart woman. Missing it would definitely be a crime.
Book review: An Obvious Fact

Book Review :: An Obvious Fact

I've fallen so far behind in getting my book reviews on the blog and I apologize for that. I'll try to catch up a little here in the coming weeks so you can have some ideas for holiday book gifts. And of course, I'm always a pusher for this man's books, so if you know someone who isn't reading them yet, they'd make a great gift for sure. So here's the most recent Walt Longmire from Craig Johnson--make sure you read the acknowledgements, it's a bonus story! My review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
First line: "I tried to think how many times I'd kneeled down on asphalt to read the signs, but I knew this was the first time I'd done it in Hulett."
Book review: An Obvious FactFor the twelfth novel in Craig Johnson's highly addictive mystery series, Absaroka County sheriff, Walt Longmire, and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, are in Hulett, Wyoming during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It's August and bikers from around the world are pouring into the area when one of them is run off the road and left in a coma. The investigating officer calls on Walt to help solve the crime. While following the clues, Walt encounters hostile biker gangs, an undercover ATF agent, the namesake for Henry's '59 Thunderbird and a 15-ton, military-grade MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. Meanwhile Walt's undersheriff, Vic Moretti, shows up in her rental car, a bright orange Dodge Challenger. The suspense ratchets to nose-bleed levels and the action races non-stop. Paying homage to what is arguably the most famous orange Dodge, albeit a Charger, Johnson includes a rip-roaring car chase complete with a field full of hay bales. The Dukes of Hazard would certainly be proud. Rounding out a dozen books with his beloved sheriff, not to mention short stories and novellas, Johnson hasn't lost a step. An Obvious Fact is fresh and exciting, while still maintaining all the attributes that make this series so popular. It's witty and complex with pop culture weaved into clever Sherlock Holmes literary references. The brilliantly colorful, snappy dialogue remains second to none. And dynamic characters surprise and delight readers with their charm, authenticity and depth. The most obvious fact is not deceptive at all; Craig Johnson writes a mighty fine story.
Book Review - Fredrik Backman

Book review :: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

First line: "There's a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent."
Book Review - Fredrik BackmanIt isn't Black Friday yet, but I have my first literary gift recommendation for 2016. Fredrik Backman's new novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, is stunning. This beautiful little book is a gem of a read that will be devoured in a couple of hours at most, but will demand to be read over and over. Backman's amazing stroll through the lives of three generations--father, son and grandson--will make your heart smile through the tears your soul cries. He paints a debilitating disease using his magnificent brush of creativity. In phrases only he could compose (and Alice Menzies deserves accolades for her astounding translation), the man who brought us Ove, Elsa and Britt-Marie, tells a mesmerizing story of minds that betray before the bodies wears out. A story of sons and grandsons who have to say goodbye to someone who's still with them. In his letter at the book's opening, Backman says, "This is a story about memories and about letting go. It's a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy." Parts of the book take place in the man's mind, a lovely little town square that he says gets smaller every day. The faces of the people that pass are fuzzy. They look familiar but he simply can't focus in on exactly who they are. The man's grandson, Noah, sits with him in his mind. "Noah's feet don't touch the ground when his legs dangle over the edge of the bench, but his head reaches all the way to space, because he hasn't been alive long enough to allow anyone to keep his thoughts on Earth." The man's wife also visits him in his mind. She's been dead awhile now. "Her hair is old but the wind in it is new, and he still remembers what it felt like to fall in love; that's the last memory to abandon him. Falling in love with her meant having no room in his own body. That was why he danced." While the heart-breaking dementia invades the man's mind, Backman helps the reader experience his glorious life--his blessings as well as regrets. This gorgeous, little volume has less than 100 pages and includes delightful, color illustrations throughout. After you get a copy for yourself--this is one you'll want to keep, but really what Backman don't you want to keep!?--snag some extras to tuck in stockings, to share with friends and family who might be experiencing something similar, or just to gift to someone you care about. I'd add a package of tissues to the gift though. You won't get through this one without crying.
Book review: Balls by Chris Edwards

Book review :: Balls

Earlier this week, Chris Edwards' debut released. My review of Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some was my first to appear in Shelf Awareness Pro, so it's a little longer than the reviews I have from SA Readers. I am just delighted to post it today with their permission because right now this is my absolute favorite book of 2016. It blew. me. away. I hope you'll give it a try. And if you do, let me know what you think! Here's what I thought...
First line: So I'm standing there, peeing at a urinal for the first time.
Book review: Balls by Chris EdwardsIn this bold memoir about gender dysphoria and gender confirmation surgery, Chris Edwards explains, "That feeling of finally being complete—of being who you really are—trumps everything." It ultimately takes Edwards more than three decades and 28 surgeries to realize his consummate body, but in 1974, at five years old, he already knows his true gender. It's everyone around him who seems to be confused, so in his childish wisdom he deduces the answer is as simple as a haircut: "Since everything about me was boy-like—my clothes, my toys, my obsession with all superheroes except for Wonder Woman and her lame, invisible plane—I put my five-year-old brain to work and determined that the only thing lumping me in with the girls was my hair length." However, a haircut doesn't stop the female body from developing around the man locked inside. Throughout high school and college—breasts, menstruation, estrogen and a sorority—Edwards battles depression and thoughts of suicide. Using a cunning blend of heartbreaking sincerity and humor, he navigates his audience through this excruciating stage of his life: "I was apparently too scared to actively take my own life, I drove around without a seatbelt on, hoping for someone to hit me. And I was hit. Twice. But both times the car was parked and I wasn't in it." When Edwards, through the help of an amazing counselor, is finally able to share his battle with his family and friends, he finds support, compassion and encouragement. Despite his first instinct to move away and transition, Edwards remains at his job in a Boston advertising firm and courageously opens his quest to the company's board members, his colleagues and the clients. While everyone doesn't always understand, he patiently educates them—and his readers. Edwards also invites everyone to laugh with him—learning to pee standing up, mistakenly inviting the wrong woman on a date. His stark openness and dogged determination allow the audience to identify with him through their similarities, instead of fearing the differences. Balls is a stunning self-portrait of an exceptional man, an inspiration for others who may be a gender not recognized by those around them. And it is a primer for those fortunate enough to be born "complete." With eloquence and grace, as well as sharp wit and brutal honesty, Edwards explains to his audience, "The key to understanding gender dysphoria is realizing that sexual orientation and gender identity are two totally different and completely separate things." More than anything, he exemplifies the definition of bravery. From opening himself up to his family, friends and colleagues to sharing the intimate details of his story with the entire world, Chris Edwards has no shortage of...um...MOXIE! 😉 Smart, funny, genuine and uplifting, Balls is sure to win a lot of hearts.