The Spoon Knife Anthology edited by N. I. Nicholson and Michael Scott Monje, Jr.

This anthology starts off answering the question “what is a spoon knife?”. If you want to know the answer, you’re going to have to buy this anthology!

While I’m not certain if every contributor to this is autistic, there are many autistic faces familiar to me, including Nick Walker, Kassiane A. Sibley, Elizabeth J. Grace, Dani Alexis Ryskamp and Marc Rosen. There are also a whole host of others I am discovering for the first time. Although I’d read about this anthology when it first came out, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to actually read it.

The anthology is a good mix of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Some authors have more than one contribution. I have to admit I skimmed some of it and will have to go back to re-read it several times. A lot of it was very moving and difficult to read, emotionally. Definitely a book that sparked my brain cells.

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Monkee Music by Andrew Hickey

This book is unlike any other I have ever read. It’s about the music recorded by the band The Monkees. It’s not about their careers as such or their private lives, just their music.

Andrew goes through each and every album they ever recorded and critiques each song. Although I don’t quite understand all the musical jargon, that did not detract from this book at all. It was insightful as well as humorous and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And I think I now want to listen to a lot more songs recorded by The Monkees as it’s been too long since I listened to them.

He has also written similar books about The Beach Boys and The Beatles, and has also written fiction in the form of mystery novels. I’m definitely going to be reading more of his work.

Fingers In The Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham

Disclosure: I have had a huge crush on Chris Packham ever since I first saw him present The Really Wild Show when I was a kid. I adored that show and adored him. And to discover that he was autistic made me so incredibly happy. So I was extra excited to read this memoir.

I read a comment on Twitter recently that autistic people cannot possibly write good memoirs as our lives are so boring. Chris Packham’s memoir shows that comment to be an utter lie. Because even though his story may seem boring to some (weird boy, who doesn’t talk much and gets bullied a lot, and spends a lot of time outdoors exploring wildlife, gets a bird. It dies. The end.) the way he writes is captivating. He really truly is a talented writer and could have a career as such if he ever gave up the TV work.

I did have one problem with this book. More of an issue with a literary device he uses than with any of his words. And it’s that some of the chapters are written in the third person. Not just the short chapters written in italics, describing his sessions with a therapist. I rather liked those. But other ones throughout the whole book. Often describing people who came in contact with him but also about him. He sometimes even refers to “Christopher” in those. And for me they ruin the flow, as I have to spend some time trying to figure out who they are about and what is going on. They are beautifully written, but I would have preferred if the book stuck to either that style, or the more “traditional” memoir-ish style of the other chapters, which are written in the first person. Instead it felt more like two books meshed into one. Others might not have any problem like this, and some might actually like it a lot, but it did make the book difficult to read for me.

I never normally do more than glance over the Acknowledgements at the end of books. But his were so well written I had to slow down and read them. Again, not a word out of place. Kept me entertained to the very end.

Burn the Ashes by Heather Shahan

This is a novel set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the Trinity have created a new world from the ashes of the old. But when some children, known as Talists, develop mutations that give them certain “powers”, the powers that be get scared and round them up into death camps.

The story follows Peony, newly arrived at one such camp. And how she and a few others formulate a plan of escape. Each chapter is written from the point of view of one of the main characters, so you get to see things from multiple perspectives.

I really enjoyed this book. And although it was violent and depressing throughout most of it, there was enough hope to keep you going till the end.

No spoilers but I will say that a second book in the series is currently being written and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Love, Partnership, or Singleton on the Autism Spectrum. Edited by Luke Beardon and Dean Worton.

This is a collections of essays compiled by Luke Beardon and Dean Worton. Luke and Dean also give a short introduction to each essay, which was a nice addition as they added some thoughtful comments about each.

The book covers the whole spectrum of relationships artistic people can have. As the title suggests, this includes those who found romantic love, those who remain single either by choice or circumstance, and those who have made intense yet platonic friendships.

The book contains a mix of essay styles, from “self-help” type hints and tips, to more memoir style writing. It busts many myths about autistic people and our ability to form relationships. It was great to see the diverse collection of people all talking about similar subjects. Again, it emphasized both how similar and how unique we all are.

I really enjoyed this book and it’s a great addition to what I call my “Luke Beardon Collection”.

Retard by Daniel I Russell

[TW ableist slurs, attempted rape, murder, violence, child abuse]

This is a book that is quite disturbing, and yet I found it quite a good and easy read. I know that sounds contradictory but I think it’s due to the way it was written. The worst of the violence etc is implied rather than spelled out.

It is set in the eighties and follows the story of a boy that wasn’t diagnosed as autistic but would be if he existed today. It covers the space of a few days in the lead of to the finale which is set on Christmas days and shows how his single mother becomes more and more abusive as time goes on.

And yet, in her mind, she is just a single mother doing her best for her troubled son. It is written from her point of view, from the point of view of her son, plus that of a present-day psychologist who is trying to piece together the events of that day.

It shows how things can spiral out of control and have unintended consequences. And, best of all, it has a twist that I could never have foreseen. I pride myself on seeing twists a mile off, but this one took me completely by surprise. So, no spoilers but this book has one of the best endings of any books I’ve ever read.

So, there you have it. A short and harrowing read, with a great ending.

The Hustle by Elizabeth Roderick

TW for drug use, sex incl coerced sex, violence.

I have to start by pointing out that none of the characters in this book are explicitly described as autistic. Though the main character shows some traits that remind me of myself, and there is a minor character that very strongly reads as autistic. This does not take from the book in any way, but just thought I’d point it out.

If you like sex, drugs and murder, then this is a book for you. The main character, Liria, is a heroin addicted lesbian who is trying to sort out her life. It is set in California, Vegas and New York, with a side trip to Chicago. Elizabeth captures the atmosphere of these places very well.

She also captures the life of an addict. Though I have never used heroin, I did live with an ex-addict and he’d told me a lot about his former life. Elizabeth’s account sounded authentic and realistic.

The novel contains quite a few sex scenes. So if that’s not your thing, then this book might not be for you. If it is your thing, however, then you are in for a treat. Elizabeth writes these scenes really well. The scenes are mainly f/f though there are a few m/f scenes at the start.

Though it’s not exactly a detective novel, there are some murders along the way. And I like trying to figure out whodunnit in these cases. I kinda had it figured out, mostly saw the plot twists, but missed the major one at the end. Which did leave me quite confused as I’m still not certain what exactly happened. But that’s a good thing, as at least it wasn’t boring.

So, all-in-all I really enjoyed this book. Just the thing to while away an afternoon while avoiding chores. Think I’m going to have to read the rest of the series now…