Thursday, October 31, 2013

The First by Henry Harvey

The First, by Henry Harvey, is a novel about a brain transplant.  The plot line is a simple one where we have a critically injured adult male whose brain needs a body transplant. While the pre-purchase précis on Amazon included the phrase "...but the donor they find is a brain-dead teenage girl" held some hopeful promise for this reader, taking the chance on buying it was a bit of a crap-shoot. Would this be just another mundane tale of forced feminization; maybe a "Frankentransian" horror tale; or, could it somehow offer a new and exciting twist on the subject?  In actuality, this novel was much more the later, but clearly not in the way this reviewer expected.

In some ways, namely as an extraordinarily exciting and well-written book that was more about terrorism, counter terrorism and religious extremism, in the context of where modern science may be heading, The First offers a scary and powerful projection of our present world direction. In so doing, it proved to be a lot more powerful a book than this reader ever expected. Heavy on military ordnance, FBI strategy and a realistic look into the mind of terrorists, this is a novel that may scare you a bit in its realism.

Lucky or perhaps very unluckily for our formerly male hero’s brain, the confluence of medical science and microchip technology make this all possible. How the wife, daughter and our hapless protagonist him/herself all deal with the switch is secondary to the fact that this type of transmogrification is just not ok in the minds of some folks. We're talking about those single-minded individuals who would rather kill you and destroy others to save your soul, rather than tolerate your blasphemy.

All-in-all, The First is a fine work. However, this reviewer is a bit sad to report that the much hoped for rise in the gender titillation meter fell significantly short of expectations. Although there were some potentially exciting forays into gender switch issues encountered by this married man (his brain anyway), these took a back seat as this cautionary tale was not so much about gender transformation as it is about the clash of modern day science and fundamentalist religion. In the final analysis though, being a bit disappointed was fine for me. I'll take it and you should too, because, simply put, The First is a genuine page turner.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TRANS(per)FORMING Nina Arsenault by Judith Rudakoff (Editor)

TRANS(per)FORMING Nina Arsenault an eclectic (and beautifully illustrated) collection of material that serves to explore, examine, and explain the experience of a stunning young woman who is her own body of work. Judith Rudakoff has gathered actors, playwrights, professors, critics, and Arsenault herself to dig deep beneath more than 60 surgical augmentations to reveal how and why a young man named Rodney has invested $200,000 in becoming someone who is almost more than woman.

As the book reveals, Arsenault is definitely not your average transgender woman. Creatively subversive, she is very much aware of herself a biological and emotional paradox. While many might call her journey an obsession, calling her unreal, unreasonable, and unnatural, it’s a deliberate expression of her need to physically realise the impossible contradictions within herself.

The chapters are deliberately arranged to contrast one another, rather than to form any sort of cohesive story, but opening with Sky Gilbert – drag queen and veteran of the stage – is a perfect move. His is one of the most accessible chapters in the book, and really serves to begin building an understanding of the subject. Todd Klinck’s reminisces of Arsenault during her sex trade days is a definite eye-opener, but one that paints an important picture of how our desires can shape ourselves.

While it would have been very easy to approach this as either a celebrity expose or a fawning tribute, Rudakoff takes a very balanced (if sometimes dryly academic) approach to exploring Arsenault. Ironically, for someone who has deliberately chosen to retain her penis through all the surgeries, Arsenault often comes across as kind of a radical feminist. She very clearly understands the contrast between the impossible, unattainable image of beauty she has worked so hard to created, and the passionate, determined, proud woman at its core.

Both a work of art and the artist behind that work, Arsenault has made a career out of exploring herself through photography, theatre, and writing. Her own contribution to the text, in which she talks about travelling and performing in the Yukon, is absolutely fascinating. She talks (or rather performs upon the page) about removing herself from the anonymity of big city life, not wanting to become an event, and ultimately finding the freedom to be herself.

A few last pieces follow, exploring theatrical, cultural, and religious thematic threads within Arsenault’s work, concluding with her one-woman play, The Silicone Diaries. The script provides a fascinating glimpse into how all the elements of her life and her work come together. While it can be argued that it should have come first, allowing readers to begin with that very theatrical introduction, Rudakoff cleverly forces us to evaluate the work separate from the woman.

It’s a rather dense text at times, with some arguments that certainly went over my head, but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating. What’s more, once you read through her play, peruse the photos that follow, and then revisit a few chapters, the experience changes . . . just as Arsenault herself does, time and time again.

Reviewed by Sally

As originally published in Frock

Monday, October 28, 2013

Interested in Writing for Frock? We'd Love to Have You!

Have you ever wanted to see your name in print?

Have you ever wanted to contribute a little something to the trans* community?

Have you ever wanted to share those little tips, tricks, and techniques that make you so comfortably feminine?

Then why not share your gift with the readers of Frock!

Specifically, we're looking for some interesting how-to pieces, covering everything from fashion, to hair, to makeup, to walking and talking. The kind of articles we're thinking of are topics like 7 Musts For A Good Transition, How to Paint Your Nails, The 5 Essential Rules For Passing In Public, and so on (although those are just examples).

We're only looking for about 800 words, so there's not a great deal of writing involved, but any photos you can contribute would be absolutely lovely!

If you're at all interested, please drop me a line ( and I'd be happy to discuss it with you!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tears of the Innocent (Trail of Tears) by M.N. Thomas

Tears of the Innocent, third in the Trail of Tears series (see our review of M.N. Thomas's first book in the series, Princess of the Desert), is one of those novels where you desperately want to know the ending, yet you don't want it to end. Tears of the Innocent is a wonderful and exciting mystery, police and foreign intrigue story about two emotionally damaged individuals, a former-FBI agent and his transgender fiancé, who with the assistance of some supportive associates, seek to right a serious but deeply concealed societal wrong. It also features another main character, a very believable, superhero-like transgender operative who has been subjected to the vilest of brain washing and forced feminization. It is a continuation novel of the type that triggers the full range of human emotions in the reader. Sad, exciting, provocative, titillating, it touches into the darkest aspects of human behavior and degradation.

Well-written and brilliantly edited, the plot weaves in and out, unfolding many secrets and twists along the way. It is a novel about prejudice and redemption, one that this reviewer cannot say enough good things about. A sad and haunting love story, it provides a revealing mirror into male/female relationships and gender roles and stereotypes. Because there is some review of the prior books provided, it is not necessary to read the earlier novels in this series to get full value from this book, but just know that the author's earlier associated works are all exceptionally good and worthwhile reads that will evoke many of the same feelings while assisting the reader to get up to speed about the general theme. By the conclusion, Tears of the Innocent leaves the reader wrung out and wanting more.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekend Freebies - Get 'em while they're fantastic and free

While Bobbi wasn't able to pull together a Freebie Fetish Friday post yesterday, I found a pair of freebie reads that do something interesting with the concept of gender.

The Prisoners of Gender by John Bushore

It's not the same old love story when a princess and her guardian exchange bodies due to a botched magic enchantment. Add a clueless maid-servant, along with a half-witted giant who loves pretty girls, and this bawdy, spicy romance takes off with plenty of adventure and situational comedy.

Princess Marissa, a virgin, yearns to be a man so she can control her fate. Captain Bardak is sworn to protect her. The caravan is attacked; all are killed, save the princess, the badly injured captain, and Janella, a loyal, but superstitious servant. They are taken captive by the minions of a vengeful man intent on torturing the princess. A spell goes awry, and the captain and the princess switch bodies, although they manage to keep the transformation secret. Can Bardak, in his unfamiliar, frail, female persona, manage to save Marissa, near dead in his battered body, so he can return her form in a virtuous state? It'll be a tough battle, because Marissa quickly learns to enjoy being a male full of testosterone and wants to try out her new "equipment." It doesn’t help matters that Janella lusts for the captain, not knowing it’s really her mistress. And even if Bardak succeeds in preserving “his” virginity, he’s likely to be executed by the princess’s suspicious, hardhearted father.

We, three: A letter from Lyin by Gabriele Sala

WE, THREE - "What would it be like if the world evolved with three sexes instead of two?"

The new series "We, Three" tries to answer to this question narrating the lives of three different characters: Lyin Lawrence, a physician and researcher who decides to write a novel to describe the events that took place before hor house was set on fire, and hor two partners: Anvee Hartley and Lyarell Newell. In a world where men and women are substituted by mwons, mwuns and mwyns, we are thrown into a parallel yet real, almost tangible universe where biology, sociology and even religions are substantially altered in often complicated yet fascinating ways. Lyin's scientific work toward a revolutionary discovery in the field of medicine, one troubled past after hor mwyther's premature departure and the stormy relationship with Anvee and Lyarell has influenced hor life in ways that hon would have never expected, while leading hom to eventually become a great scientist and a responsible parent.

A LETTER FROM LYIN - In this short letter, Lyin describes what happened to hor apartment in New York one month ago, during a cold November evening in 2033, when somebody put it on fire for still unknown reasons and why hon decides to start writing a book about it. Shocked by the deaths and the unexpected turning of events that the fire has brought with it, Lyin is suggested to publish a booklet containing something that is particularly important to hom: a letter toward the victims of the fire, something very similar to what has haunted hom for all hor life...

An old letter from hor lost parent and two survived children would move Lyin forward in hor live and make hom realize that there is always hope, even in the face of tragedy.

Remember, even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the titles through one of Amazon's free reading applications, and covert it (if need be) with Calibre. I can tell you I do most of my reading on my iPad, using Kindle for iPad, and it works beautifully.

Please do be sure to check the price before downloading anything, though, as most freebies are limited time offers, and some are specific to certain regions.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gender, Lies and Suicide by Walt Heyer

Gender, Lies and Suicide is a book attempts to drive home on almost every page, a 41% attempted suicide rate for transgender individuals, as described in a study of 7,000 transgender people conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, released in October 2010. If this study has validity, and I have no reason to doubt that it does, the major reason for this self-destructive behavior is not that "transgenders" - Walt Heyer's seemingly derisive term for gender variant individuals - are misguided, misdiagnosed, compulsive, impulsive, fetishistic, or at the mercy of the money-grubbing medical/psychological establishment. The reason for their angst, in my opinion, is because self-righteous individuals like this author, backed by those of the religious right, have made transgender ideation such a sinful, shameful thing, when in reality, why should anyone really care?

The one good point the author makes is that an individual needs to be extremely careful before making important decisions such as changing sex. Of course, this is true for any major choice. The medical and psychological community has serious guidelines, as described in the Standards of Care. It is very important that all issues be addressed holistically, not just the "should I or shouldn't I transition?" ones. Co-occurring mental disorders and substance abuse are key concerns, but these are more the result of a prejudicial society than anything else. Allow people to express themselves fully from birth and the idea of gender transition would lose its charge.

This author and others like him have placed themselves in the position of moral guardians of society. What they describe as God's word is a biblical interpretation by human beings. There are many religions in the world, and all express themselves and see God's word differently. Who really knows what God wants? Perhaps, be kind to others? If God exists, would he or she want transgender individuals to be oppressed? My suggestion is to permit transgender individuals to live in peace and stick to more meaningful pursuits that help your fellow man such as dealing with overpopulation, world hunger, disease and religious strife.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sissy Godiva by Mykola Dementiuk

Mykola Dementiuk's books are always an adventure. They represent a slice of life that no doubt rings true for anybody who lived it, but which can seem ugly and sleazy from when viewed from years and miles away. It's rare that you walk away from one of his books in love with any of the characters, but they always undergo a sort of personal transformation that demands a measure of respect.

Here, in Sissy Godiva, it's Vinnie who undergoes a transformation, forced as he is to so boldly confront his blossoming sexuality. He's both attracted to and repulsed by his ex-classmate Joey, who has so successfully been reinvented as the beautiful Sissy Godiva. Watching him dance around the issue, throwing out insults and sneers at every opportunity, is almost as painful as witnessing the disgust and the shame that he feels for himself. As for Sissy Godiva, while she may have gleefully embraced her true self, there's still a lot of shame and fear buried beneath the addictions that get her through the day. If watching Vinnie is painful, than watching Godiva is just sad.

I'm not sure I would ever classify Mick's work as erotic, but it is very sexual. He does a wonderful job of capturing those urgent, desperate, fleeting attempts at physical intimacy, without letting us forget the social context. In terms of endings, this is probably one of my favorites - by no means a happily-ever-after, but an open-ended one, with just a hint of happiness . . . and, one hopes, a little self-acceptance on the horizon.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Season for April (Part 1: Summer Storms) by JP Alden

A Season for April (Part 1: Summer Storms) is a realistic and deeply spiritual novel, this is the story of a young person, born in the body of a boy, but with the mind of a girl. This child spends the first decade of her life presenting as the boy she phenotypically is, desperately trying to fit in as a male. However, unlike most transgender individuals, although not too dissimilar from those on the intersex spectrum, this child suffers from a rare genetic condition that remains unidentified until her early teen years.

As puberty begins, emerging female characteristics have the parents concerned. A medical specialist discovers that the young Antonio is out of kilter genetically. This revelation confirms Antonio's thinking that even as a young child, this charming little person had a sense that something was wrong and that he should have been a girl. The novel is in part the story of Antonio's transition to April. But it is also a story about true love and support, prejudice, hatred and violence, set on a foundation contextualized by the always interesting and sometimes inspiring Church of Latter Day Saints. This is a group which the author often depicts with love, but realistically having some members who are as flawed in their thinking as those in any other organization having guidelines that "know and judge" what is right and what is wrong for others.

Much deeper than it appears at first glance, JP Alden's book speaks to us about genuine forgiveness. It tells us that if we learn to forgive, accept and embrace that which we truly are, even our imperfect side, only then can one really live and learn to accept others. Regretting not having had that perfect childhood or even a half-way decent one not only serves no purpose, if we actually lived and grew up in that fantasy world of our dreams, we probably would have no real depth of character. The author describes this attribute as a virtue honed only through the pain and disappointment of living life's experiences to the hilt.

This is also a book about the love of parents, siblings and the bond of real friendship; about the inequities of society, our flawed legal system and the way nasty people sometimes react and treat others who are dissimilar to them. It is a novel that gives one pause. If our heroine April had a "bona fide" reason to transition to a female gender role to rectify her clearly identifiable genetic variance, a gender transition which in itself was only marginally accepted by a judgmental society, imagine what people having only the "excuse" that they know in their heart of hearts they were born in the wrong body, but not the genetic incongruence must endure to transition?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Freebie Fetish Friday - Get 'em while they're hot (and free)

Well, if it's Friday, then that must been it's time for Freebie Fetish Friday!

Every Friday I take the initiative to search through thew newly free titles on Amazon, and to identify those that might be of interest to trans* readers, fans, and lovers. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the titles through one of Amazon's free reading applications, and covert it (if need be) with Calibre. I can tell you I do most of my reading on my iPad, using Kindle for iPad, and it works beautifully.

Please do be sure to check the price before downloading anything, though, as most freebies are limited time offers, and some are specific to certain regions.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you this week's freebie reads (just click on the covers below):


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Legend of Alfhildr by HW Coyle and Jennifer Ellis

As the uncovering of an ancient English burial site progresses, it reveals the truth about who is buried there. The Legend of Alfhildr is a story within a story about an archaeological dig and the very revealing findings it discloses, not only about the legendary Viking warrior Alfhildr, but also about one of the young student excavators of her grave site. Alfhildr was a Dane, living in England around the turn of the second millennium, 1000 AD, a time of great peril and conflict between warring Saxons and Danes who inhabited the land.

An individual apparently born with ambiguous genitalia, we learn that Alfhildr was initially raised as a boy until events beyond this young person's control reveal the true nature of her being. In an act of desperation and rebellion, she takes up the sword and in so doing, embraces the life of a warrior. Before long she becomes a legend known for her disparate qualities of fighting prowess and personal compassion, while slowly coming to terms with her emerging womanhood.

HW Coyle and Jennifer Ellis' story is fraught with uplifting ideas about feminism and glimpses in to what it means to be a woman and make oneself heard in the world, particularly in a society where females are subjugated and dominated by angry and almost constantly warring males. Thought by many to be a witch, Alfhildr is in reality a fine example of a human being, who in part, because of her own internal conflict, transforms into a fierce and fearless champion of the downtrodden who displays an empathetic, innocent and caring spirit, making her an example to all she encounters. Wise beyond her years and deeply spiritual in ways that the Christian portion of the populace considers pagan, Alfhildr demonstrates a mystical rapport with animals and people alike, while displaying her skills as an accomplished archer, swords person and fighter, leading an ascetic life in her forest realm as her legend unfolds.

The Legend of Alfhildr is a haunting and magnificent adventure, filled with raw battle scenes, complex and realistic military strategy, while depicting wonderful and moving spiritual relationships between the main protagonist and a host of characters including a very unique wolf and crow. The author, a master of history, dialogue, symbolism and the depiction of graphic battle scenes, sets the tone for a realistic glimpse into these harsh times of yore that eerily reflect our present day conflicts and prejudices, be they religious, sexist or transphobic. The author uses this tale and the descriptions of her characters to paint a critical portrait of English society at this ancient time. However, it would seem that her story has great parallels in our modern day world and brings to mind the old saw that those who do not learn by the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Transvestite Addictions by Jack A Shelia

Subtitled as it is, “The Story of One Individual’s Odyssey through Crossdressing, Alcohol, Escorts, Strippers, Sex, and Money,” My Transvestite Addictions really doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It’s an extraordinarily candid look at the life experiences of Jack/Jacquelina, alternately amusing and horrifying, cautionary and inspiring.

The story begins with the harsh contrast between a 10 year old lying in the comfort of his own bed, full of innocent prayers for God to turn him into a girl overnight, and 47 year old laying on the cold floor of a jail cell, tortured by questions about what left him broken and bleeding . . . and where he goes from there. It’s a shocking contrast, and one that serves to set our expectations for what’s to follow.

Make no mistake, both Jack & Jacquelina are responsible for actions that many readers may find distasteful, but you can’t help but understand – and even appreciate – the thoughts, feelings, and desires behind those acts. We may shy away from stories of anonymous, public sex; heavy drinking; acts of violence, and dangerous, expensive indulgences with transsexual escorts; but we can’t help but confront the doubts, feelings, and insecurities behind them. Clearly, we don’t all deal with our issues in the same way, but there’s a commonality to our issues that’s important.

Something that may jump out at a lot of readers is the terminology and phrases that are used throughout the book. Jack makes no attempt to be politically correct, to pick and choose his words, or to tailor his comments not to offend. He uses terms that he himself admits may be controversial, but which are honest reflections of the world in which Jack & Jacquelina have battled for so long. As uncomfortable as they may make some reads, it’s important to note that he never uses terms like ‘shemale’ maliciously, and never refers to anyone as a ‘tranny’ out of spite. Instead, he adheres to the lexicon that shaped his development, the words that defined him and those around him at the time, regardless of how they may be viewed today.

Over the course of the story, we see Jack & Jacquelina battle for supremacy, with both controlling aspects of his life, but neither representing the whole of who he is. Eventually, he comes to a conclusion that I suspect many readers may share . . . and others might wish they could:

“I am both Jack and Jacquelina. I do not have to choose between the two. When I feel like Jack, I’ll dress as Jack. When I feel like Jacquelina, I’ll dress as Jacquelina. I’m both male and female, depending on my mood.”

In Jack’s case, his crossdressing started out rather innocently – despite those childhood dreams of femininity – as a bold, daring, exhibitionistic form of self-expression. It only evolved into an addiction, and became paired with his other addictions, because of his personality. Throughout his life – and the course of the story – Jack ‘blames’ a lot of things for his problems. Genetics, hormones, and chemicals in the brain are all suspect. Similarly, the inability of those around us to acknowledge, understand, and accept anything that varies from the norm is presented as an easy target for blame. Ultimately, however, this is a story of personal responsibility, one that acknowledges blame and excuses are “a bit of a cop-out.”

While those of us who fall anywhere outside the rigidly defined binary of male/female can be said to have something important in common, some bond that connects us, a key theme of Jack’s story is that, deep down, we are all different. We are human, we are complex, and we are individuals. We cannot be easily defined or explain away, and we need to allow ourselves the freedom to explore, and to discover just who and what we are. For most of us, those explorations aren’t likely to lead us to the extremes that he experienced as Jacquelina, but if they should, we can take some solace in the fact that we are not alone.

Jack’s is a difficult story, full of as many highs and lows, and one that may be seen to have an rather open-ended, happy-for-now ending. Like so many of the great stories of addictions, this is a story of a long, winding road-trip through the emotional and sexual psyche. There’s no promise of eternal bliss, no easy answers provided to the question of gender, and no definitive declaration of what makes a transvestite versus transsexual. Instead, it’s simply the story of a journey – one that is not yet complete – and the lessons learned along the way.

Reviewed by Sally

As originally published in Frock

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Cure by Katie Leone

This novelette is a wonderful, unique and titillating fantasy about a gender dysphoric man, who with the assistance of modern science and the encouragement of a very insightful doctor, comes to terms with his true gender. The author, in her own unique style, creates an element of suspense that builds throughout, leading the reader to an eye popping conclusion. Along the way there are insights galore into how decisions that alter the very fabric of our lives are often made.

As with her other works, Katie Leone in The Cure, demonstrates her own special brand of sensitivity. She does so in such a way so that we the reader can readily relate the experiences of the protagonist to our own life-altering decisions be they about gender issues or not. What a gift it would be to be able to have the experience of clearly looking back in time to replay the key moments of our lives and re-write the schemas we have created, giving up the guilt and shame that shackles us and does not allow us to be who we really are.

Yes, there are some typos and grammar issues here, but I always overlook these in self-published works if the plot and the feelings the story evokes are terrific. This little book clearly succeeds in achieving this.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gender Swap Lollipop by Raminar Dixon

Please Note: The following review is suitable for adults only.

Yummy, yummy, yummy! I was looking for some hot, sweet, sexy gender-swapping fun the other night, and happened to see that chapter 1 of Raminar Dixon's Gender Swap Lollipop was available for free over at Amazon. I am telling you right now, don't waste your time on settling for the first chapter. Trust me, and buy the handy all-in-one collection of all five chapters or you'll regret waiting to enjoy it's last licks!

This was such a fun story, and one that's almost as imaginative as it is hot. Raminar Dixon (get it? love the name!) definitely not only has some literary talent, but clearly enjoys the act of telling a story. The set-up is almost picture perfect, with some poor young lads taking part in an extremely lucrative drug trial for cash. They're told up-front that it's a hormone treatment, but they're not told about the delicious side effect that turns some of them into gorgeous, big-breasted, sex-hungry bimbos!

Evan is such a fun character to follow along with, and as much as I wanted him to test-drive the new equipment with his hottie roommate, I really didn't expect it to happen. Unlike so many authors in the genre, Raminar Dixon doesn't shy away from the obvious implications of suddenly being a sex-starved bimbo, and gives the characters plenty of room to enjoy themselves.

Yummy, yummy, yummy indeed!


Friday, October 11, 2013

Freebie Fetish Friday - Get 'em while they're hot (and free)

Well, if it's Friday, then that must been it's time for Freebie Fetish Friday!

Every Friday I take the initiative to search through thew newly free titles on Amazon, and to identify those that might be of interest to trans* readers, fans, and lovers. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the titles through one of Amazon's free reading applications, and covert it (if need be) with Calibre. I can tell you I do most of my reading on my iPad, using Kindle for iPad, and it works beautifully.

Please do be sure to check the price before downloading anything, though, as most freebies are limited time offers, and some are specific to certain regions.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you this week's freebie reads (just click on the covers below):