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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.

Book review :: Rise the Dark

Don’t fall over because I’m posting a review today. I don’t mean to cause any cardiac problems for anyone. 😉 Today’s review for Michael Koryta’s Rise the Dark first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Of course it also appeared there in a more timely fashion, but for those who missed it, I’m posting it here today with their permission.

First line: The snow had been falling for three days above six thousand feet, but it had been gentle and the lines stayed up.

book review - rise the dark

Markus Novak, no longer investigating for the Florida-based Death Row defense firm Innocence Incorporated, is taking on the intimately personal case that has plagued him since his introduction in Michael Koryta’s Last Words–the murder of his wife, Lauren. Garland Webb, the man accused of killing Lauren, is out of prison, and Novak is determined to exact justice for both Lauren and himself. He just has to find the monster first.

Webb’s trail leads Novak back to the scene of Lauren’s death. Then it takes a sharp turn, introducing him to an honest-to-goodness Pinkerton PI and sending them both to a place Novak swore he would never return, Red Lodge, Montana. Here Novak’s past collides with his present, and he uncovers the truth behind Webb–who is just the tip of a terrifying iceberg–as well as the meaning of words left on Lauren’s notebook before she was murdered, “Rise the dark.” As Koryta raises the dark on his determined protagonist with a brilliantly sadistic villain, Novak races time to prevent a global crisis.

Koryta’s second installment in the Mark Novak series is easily appreciated on its own, but readers of Last Words and Koryta’s standalone Those Who Wish Me Dead will delight in small references to his earlier works. While some of the explanations for electrical processes deter from the thrilling action, Koryta constructs an enveloping atmosphere that artfully merges the landscape’s beauty with the plot’s terror and the darkness of his characters. This dichotomy ramps up the suspense, making Rise the Dark heart-poundingly swift and chock full of explosive excitement.