Saturday 31 August 2013

Guest Post: Once Upon a Time by Chelsea Pitcher

Today, we have Chelsea  Pitcher, author of The S-Word, with the most personal post so far about her own experience, finding representation in literature, and how this has affected how she writes.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a girl.
Yeah. That happened.
I was sixteen years old and, to be honest, it took me completely by surprise. I’d only ever had crushes on boys before. But this—this was not a crush. This was full blown, head over heels, earth shattering first love. And it changed everything.
It was also incredibly difficult.
Not only did I have to navigate the often-rocky terrain of a first time teenage relationship, I had to do it with someone who couldn’t tell her family about us, for fear of being disowned. I had to figure out how to tell my friends and family what was happening in my life (and in my heart) when I couldn’t even name it. Was I gay now? Had I always been gay? Was I bi? Was I something else entirely?
As I often did in times of emotional difficulty, I started searching for forms of media that represented people like me. I fell in love with But I’m a Cheerleader, related a little too much to Heavenly Creatures (um…the non-murdery parts, anyway) and put up with the cheesiness of Lost and Delirious because the message spoke to me. I rooted for Katchoo in Strangers in Paradise and snatched up the issue of Girlfriends magazine with Willow and Tara on the cover. I gobbled up everything I could find that made me feel like I wasn’t a total weirdo-freak, and in a lot of ways, I was successful.
Except with books.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that fiction with queer characters did exist. It wasn’t a mythical unicorn that people whispered about but never saw. Still, finding it was difficult, and trust me, I tried. For years, my girlfriend and I went down to Powell’s and scoured the shelves, looking for stories that featured people like us. We found uh… let’s say “instructional” books in the Sex and Sexuality section. Several more on sexual theory in non-fiction. But in terms of queer teen novels, we just didn’t have much luck, and it’s too bad, because we could’ve used them.
They would’ve helped us through some really difficult times.
Made us feel like we weren’t alone.
Maybe, they could’ve saved people’s lives.
That’s the thing about fiction: even when the rest of the world refuses to acknowledge your worth, or even your existence, books are there to make you feel loved. Books are there to make you feel understood, valuable, real. Books are there to tell you: you exist.
I think that’s why I’m so insistent on putting queer characters into my stories now. Besides the obvious life experience that allows me to write certain tales with authenticity, I just can’t imagine handing one of my books to a queer teen and saying, “Sorry, you’re not represented here.” I can’t imagine creating a world where queer characters don’t exist, because that wouldn’t be representative of reality. Even when writing fantasy (which, yes, I dabble in), I wouldn’t want to create a world without queer characters because that world would be drab and colorless without them. It would be like painting a picture using only shades of blue, pretending reds and greens and purples don’t exist. It would be a form of dishonesty.
And art, if nothing else, is about telling the truth. That’s why characters like Jesse will always exist in my stories—characters whose gender and sexuality can’t be labeled so easily. Jesse refuses to conform to traditional gender stereotypes, sometimes dressing in women’s clothing, and sometimes men’s. In terms of his sexuality, he’s still figuring things out. Maybe he’ll be figuring them out his whole life.
And as for me, well, I’m done trying to figure things out. I spent far too many years wondering WHO AM I? What is my label? What is my official sexuality? And anytime I thought I’d figured it out, something happened to surprise me. Something, or someone.
Life’s funny like that.
In the end, I decided those labels were more important to other people in my life than they were to me. Other people wanted to define me, but love can’t be defined. Love can’t be contained, stuck into a box, labeled and put on a shelf for easy referencing. I love who I love. So should you.
Your heart knows the way.
I want to end by mentioning some wonderful GLBTQ novels that have come out in the past few years. There are so many more than there used to be, and here are some of my favorites:
This is the book I wish I’d had when I was sixteen. I related to each of the main characters so well. One of them has always known she’s gay, one of them isn’t sure, and the other is struggling with a long-distance romance (something I also dealt with in my first relationship!) I laughed, I cried—I wanted to reread it the minute I was finished.
Maybe you’re like me, and “gay” and “straight” don’t really define you. Well never fear, my darling dear, this book is for you! Libba Bray, the illustrious genius that she is, has included gay, bi and trans characters in this hilarious story about friendship, survival and identity. One of my all time favorites!
Get ready to cry (or maybe that’s just me—I am a sap), because this story will tug on your heartstrings. This stunning, laugh-out-loud coming of age story features two Latino boys learning about life, friendship, family and love.
My absolute favorite urban fantasy series, featuring multiple queer characters, including faeries! You really can’t go wrong with that.
Two short story collections from the goddess of magical realism, featuring gay and trans characters. Block’s lyrical writing has kept me coming back for over a decade. A treat for the heart and senses! 

 Chelsea can be found at her Website, on   Facebook, on Twitter, at her blog and on Goodreads,
You can buy The S-Word on Amazon, and you can read my review of The S-Word here.

Book Review-The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer

Apologies! This is a day late. The post actually scheduled for today will be posted later.

Title: The Dark Wife
 Author: Sarah Diemer
Series:   N/A
Published:   12 May 2011 by Createspace
Length: 256 pages
Warnings: rape, non-explicit sex, misgendering
Source: free download from OceanID
Summary : Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.
Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.
Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.
But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.
Review: This is the story of Hades and Persephone, in which Hades is female. Hades offers Persephone freedom from the expectations of Olympus, romance grows between them and Zeus tries to take Persephone to do what he wants her to do.
Hades and Persephone is a famous story, not particularly one of my favourites due to the fact that  it can be read as rape, but anything that retells Greek myths well is my kind of thing.
It starts off with Persephone falling in love with the nymph Charis and planning to leave so that Persephone doesn't have to do what Olympus says. Then Zeus rapes Charis because,  well Zeus is Zeus, aka a colossal asshole and also a complete fricking monster at times, leaving Persephone alone. Then Persephone, after meeting Hades at Olympus, chooses to go with her, and, with the help of Pallas, settles in to life in the Underworld.
Persephone is nice enough. She isn't particularly standout to start with, but she's likable and sweet. By the end she's standing upto people  and being a bit more independent. Pallas is a bit more interesting. Hades is the best-more on that later.  Charon is very interesting-a merge of all the souls he has collected payment in formats other than money.
The romance, it was a bit more subtle than I would have liked because at times it didn't feel there. The plot is good, mainly involving finding a way to stand up to Zeus.  There's some nice development of Persephone's character.
I love Hades' resentment at the fact that humans don't believe a woman can run the Underworld, when she does it fine. I feel like this could be a metaphor for the whole ancient Greek view of lesbianism (ie, it doesn't exist, because sex can't happen if a penis isn't involved)  but  could also be a general rage against the patriarchy, which I'm also totally up for.
Sarah's writing style is very gentle and descriptive. I liked it and it suited Persephone's character.

Overall:  Strength 3.5, probably more a 4, to a retelling that added more to it's original story.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Author interview and GIVEAWAY - Zoe Marriott

Today we have Zoe Marriott, author of The Night Itself (which I really enjoyed with a review to come), Frostfire (which I really enjoyed last year, with a review to come if I find time to re-read it), Wild Swans and Shadows on the Moon (which I plan to read one day).
Anyway, Zoe has answered so fully that you're only getting a selection of her answers, because otherwise this post would be ridiculously long. She'll pop up in later posts too.

How important do you think LGBTQIA books are for teens?
Very, very, very. When I was a teen I never read a single book aimed at my age-group in which there was a gay character. Not one. There certainly weren't any acknowledged gay characters on TV or in films. And since I went to an extremely rough school in a very deprived, working class area where racism, homophobia and all kinds of nastiness were rife, I don't think I even realised gay people existed in real life except as the butt of vile jokes and insults until I started working in the public sector, years later. Books were my only real window on the wider world, and sadly that window let me down when it came to gay characters.
It took several more years for me to glom onto the fact that this was a war - like the battle against misogyny and racism - that was being fought around me every day. My privilege had insulated me from all awareness, and as a result it didn't occur to me to include a non-heterosexual character in my own work until my third book (there was a big gap between my second book, which I wrote when I was twenty-two, and the third, which I finished when I was twenty-eight, and I did a lot of growing up and learning in that time). If there had been books which introduced gay characters as a simple part of the story, having adventures alongside straight kids, I'm sure I would have started trying to to be a QUILTBAG ally years earlier.

Do you think any part of the LGBTQIA gets overlooked/subject to erasure?
My personal feeling is that transgender and genderfluid/genderqueer kids are getting a bum deal right now. For some reason gender binaries seem to have become a bit of a frontier in the portrayal of non-hetero characters. People who seem perfectly fine with a mainstream portrayal of gay and lesbian characters will get squirmy over the idea that gender in our culture is a largely artificial construct (there is no pink gene on the X-chromosome, dammit!). But I also think that bi/pansexual kids and asexual kids aren't seeing the representation they need, either. Like I said above, we still have a long way to go.

What's your favourite genre for LGBTQIA fiction?
The same as it is for everything else - fantasy!

How do you avoid sterotypes when writing?
Stereotypes are basically a result of a lack of knowledge. They're a product of only having One Story about what gay or transgender or genderfluid means; the fact that really no one in our culture gets a fair and nuanced representation in media apart from straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied males. So the first step in avoiding stereotypes and one dimensional or offensive portrayals is to learn. Read books, watch films, seek out TV programmes that portray all kinds of different QUILTBAG people doing all kinds of different things, like falling in love, conquering strange planets, solving crimes, making funny YouTube videos. Seek out and join groups that seek to promote allyship among different groups. Talk to people in real life and online. *See* people. See people as people first and whatever other labels are attached to them later, not even second, but way down the list af
ter their taste in books and whether they're, you know, annoying or maybe a Linkin' Park fan...

Do you feel you accurately represent LGBTQIA people in your writing?
I feel that I do. I hope that I do. I'm not sure how 'accurate' is really defined though. It's not like... I don't know, say, 'accuracy' in your depiction of playing the violin. If you show someone doing it with a hammer rather than a bow, you've got it wrong. I don't think there's a right or a wrong answer if you're presenting readers with what are hopefully complex, fully-realised characters. I'm mostly concerned with making readers love the characters I want them to love, hate the characters that I want them to hate, and with making all my characters seem like evolving people. I do try to be aware of stereotypical or negative portrayals of marginalised groups in the media so that I can avoid adding to them,

Zoe can be found at her website, her awesome blog, and on twitter.

Giveaway time! I have one copy of The Night Itself to give away. UK only, rafflecopter entry, be age 13 or above, giveaway ends 29 September.
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Wednesday 28 August 2013

Book Review-Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Title: Luna
 Author: Julie Anne Peters
Series:   N/A
Published:  February 2006 by Little Brown
Length: 246 pages
Warnings: attempted suicide, transphobia
Source: bought
Summary : Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance.
Review: Luna is a transwoman who was given the name Liam, but first thought herself as Lia Marie and then as Luna. For years, she’s only been dressing as herself at night in the basement she shares with her sister, Regan. This is the story as she starts to transition and showing the world who she really is all the time, instead of being a girl who can only be seen by moonlight.
Basic research of LGBTQ YA told me that Julie Anne Peters was a good writer. I  chose to read this one by her because it was actually at the shop.
I really like the fact that it’s told through the eyes of Luna’s sister, Regan. It brings a totally different perspective to the story compared to stories told through the eyes of LGBT teens, showing the family a little more, and making it easier to relate to the story for the majority of readers.
Both Luna and Regan have issues to overcome. Luna, as well as being trans, has attempted suicide, and relies on Regan to hide. Regan in turn has become not very comfortable regarding romance and friendship, and is not independant at all. The co-dependance leads to a most beautiful ending. Both Luna and Regan develop a lot over the course of the novel, and watching Luna’s confidence grow and grow was wonderful. Teri Lynn, a transwoman who Luna looks up to, is a wonderful way of showing Luna’s potential.Regan’s insecurities make her relatable and likeable.
This is a good book, I think, for cis people to understand some of the things that some trans* people face. It’s written from a cis perspective, and the narrator is having to understand her sister’s issues from a cis perspective, and shows family effects well.
The ending was really emotional. I don’t often cry at books, but this one made me cry. Not in a bad way, it’s a happy ending, but it’s an open-ended culmination to the story that hints at good things for both Luna and Regan.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to an emotional and educational novel about a determined main character and her search for acceptance.

Monday 26 August 2013

Author Interview and GIVEAWAY-Daniel A Kaine

Today, I have Daniel A. Kaine answering some questions. He's also answered a few of the discussion questions, so you might be hearing from him at some point later. 

Is there any specific reason you prefer writing LGBT fiction with supernatural elements?
When I’m reading a book, I like to escape from reality. It’s the same with my writing. I like to go to other worlds, or experience things that you wouldn’t see in the real world—deep space travel, shapeshifters, vampires, and magic. I do have a couple of non-supernatural books that I’m working on right now, but they both have something else to offer that sets them aside from contemporary works. One is set in a dystopian future following the collapse of society as we know it, and the other is a rather dark crime/romance that, in my opinion, will really push people’s comfort zones.
‘No Angel’ is the most contemporary of my books, but even that features a bit of the supernatural. All five of the main characters have special abilities, ranging from turning invisible, to creating force fields, and scrambling electronic devices. Sam, the eldest of the group, can even sprout a set of white angel wings. For me, this adds a layer of mystery to the story, because if these things can happen, then anything is possible.

Was Dreamspinner Press the first publisher you approached?
Yes, it was. I had self-published two novels previously, and, in all honesty, was going to continue doing so with my future books. But then I made some great new friends at GayRomLit in Albuquerque last year, and they’ve been such a great support. They encouraged me to take the plunge and try submitting to a publisher. After weighing up my options, I chose Dreamspinner Press, and after almost nine weeks of checking my emails every day, I received an offer from them. That was the best feeling ever. Having being through the submission process now, I feel a lot more confident and am going to, hopefully, continue signing books with publishers.

What was your favourite book to write?
Of the books I’ve finished writing, my favourite was definitely ‘No Angel’. Firstly, I loved writing the characters. Each of the kids has their own quirky personality, and with everything they went through, I couldn’t wait to give them their happy ending. But also, it was the first book where I looked at writing and could see how far I’d come since I started back in 2010. That newly found confidence in myself made this book a pleasure to write, and I hope that others will feel the same when they read it.

How do you make your characters different?
That’s a tough question. My characters tend to come to mind almost fully formed. I don’t force them into being different, but instead let them be who they are. Of course, I’ll try and avoid too many clich├ęs, but I think it all comes down to the situations you place them in. Even the most ordinary character can become something great, if you give them the push they need and the opportunity to shine.
One thing that I do, though, is try to include a diverse range of sexual orientations. Mik, from Dawn of Darkness, doesn’t identify as gay, despite his love interest being male. He originally, and mistakenly, believed himself to be asexual/aromantic, but quickly came to fall for his best male friend. Even then, there was no attraction to other men. Ash, from the same book, is bisexual, an orientation I feel often gets overlooked. Sam, from ‘No Angel’, is gay, and Josh never labels himself as anything. I can’t recall that I’ve had any lesbian characters yet, so I’ll have to work on that one.

Is there anything else you would like to say?
Every day, homeless youths die on the streets. The fact that these young people have been forced out of their homes in the first place is something that sickens me to the bottom of my stomach. Even worse when it’s because of their sexuality. And so far, I’ve done nothing about it. I want to change that.
‘No Angel’ will be out on August 26th. The five main characters are all young people, who have either been thrown out, or ran away, simply because they were born different. They each have special abilities, which they use to help make survival on the streets a little easier. In reality though, homelessness is harsh and degrading. Statistics say that an LGBTQ youth dies on the streets every four hours.
I’m not going to sit back and do nothing any longer. I want to give something… anything… even if it’s only enough to help out a handful of teens for one night. To that extent, I’ll be donating a portion of my royalties from ‘No Angel’ to charities that work to provide shelter for LGBTQ youths when they have nowhere else to go.

Daniel A. Kaine was born and raised in the Land of Rain, more commonly known as England. Originally trained as a biology teacher, he was always unsure what to do with his life. That is, until he chanced upon a fanfiction site and began jotting down stories between his favourite anime characters. To this day, he still cringes at the mere memory of all that cheese.
In 2010, Daniel came across the NaNoWriMo boards and started work on his first original piece of fiction. Since then, his fingers have been unable to keep up with all the ideas and characters his brain keeps throwing at him.
When he's not writing, Daniel enjoys staying active, whether that be by running along the river banks near his home, or going to the gym. He also enjoys reading, playing video games, and learning new skills, such as image manipulation.

Daniel is very kindly offering 1 ebook copy of No Angel, in formats epub. Mobi, html and pdf.   Book is due out from Dreamspinner Press on August 26th. Giveaway ends 29 September and is open internationally to people over 13.
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Book Review-Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A Kaine

Title: Dawn of Darkness
 Author: Daniel A. Kaine
Series:  Daeva #1
Published:  October 20th 2011 by Smashwords
Length:290 pages
Warnings: drunk sex, dubious content, attempted rape, sex scenes, violence
Source: bought
Summary : Unburdened by the pain of loss and heartbreak, Mikhail is content with his life of solitude. But everything began to change the day he realised he has a psychic ability — the power to alter the emotions of those around him.
Ushered into the Military Academy with others like him — other Daevas — Mikhail does his part to help tip the scales of war against the vampires that destroyed the world and plague what remains of humanity. But after going up against his first vampire, Mikhail starts to question everything he thought to be true.
To discover the truth and expose the lies he once believed, Mikhail will set out on a journey of discovery, and learn some things about himself in the process.
Review: Many years ago: vampires come out of hiding. Some people like them, some don’t. Few years later: plague comes, as those who don’t like vampires said it would come. People stop liking vampires. Also, many people die (see plague). Setting of story: Mikhail is a Daeva, a supernaturally enhanced human. In service at the Military Acadamny, he and his squadron keep the city safe from vampires. Until one day when things happen and he ends up in a group of resistance fighters, learning new things about his powers, the government, and himself,
Mikhael, also known as Mik, starts off as someone with attachment issues. He then (after drunk sex) falls in love with Ash, opening up. I both liked and disliked Mik. He’s driven throughout the novel, and I liked watching him experiment with his powers. what I didn’t like about him was the fact that he was annoying at times and went on and on about Ash at times.
My favourite character was either Daniel, the werewolf, or Violet, the vampire. Daniel would be an awesome friend and Violet was quite memorable. Russel was a creepy antagonist. The squadron I didn’t really care for. Marcus is a very intriguing character.
The world is different. I like the backstory and the closed offness of the city,  and I liked the travelling between France and London, which is randomly renamed Aldar and strangely un-post-apocalyptic for reasons unknown.
The plot and the romance are ok, the friendships were better, the twists were good, the final one was great. The first almost half is romance and action, the rest is more action. the vampires are totally unsparkly, as shown by the very gory results of their actions.

Overall:  Strength 3.5, very slightly more a 3, to a fantasy post-apocalyptic novel with many good and bad points/

Links: Amazon  | Goodreads | Author website

Sunday 25 August 2013

Author interview and GIVEAWAY- Suzanne van Rooyen

Today, we have Suzanne van Rooyen answering our questions! Suzanne actually answered a lot more, but it didn’t all fit in one post, so you’ll see her other answers in the main discussion posts.

How important do you think LGBTQIA books are for teens?
They're as important as any other type of teen literature. YA literature needs to reflect the diversity of real in race, religion, culture and sexuality, approaching the various issues facing young people today with sensitivity and authenticity. Teens should be able to pick up a book in any genre and relate to the character, to recognise themselves in the character.
Do you feel LGBTQIA teens have a good selection of books today? I think they have a great selection of sexual awakening and coming out stories. There is, however, a lack of stories for teens that show LGBTQIA teens leading normal, happy, rainbow lives where their sexuality is incidental to who they are. We need more LGBTQIA books where the entire story doesn't revolve around the main character's sexual preference.

Do you think any part of the LGBTQIA gets overlooked/subject to erasure?  Hm... Having not read all of the LGBTQIA books available, this is impossible to answer. I'm sure there are aspects that are not as well examined as others. Perhaps it's more about a lack of balance, where most stories tend to focus on the discovery of sexuality and the coming out process, especially in teen fiction.

LGBTQI fiction is often shelved separately in bookshops/libraries. How do you feel about this?I think it's silly and I'm hoping that as LGBTQIA characters become more prevalent across genres, that these books will simply be shelved according to their genre (romance, SF/F, thriller etc.), instead of their main character's sexual identity.

Do you think there should be more LGBTQIA characters in YA fic, and is there a particular way you'd like them to be presented?"Absolutely! I'd like to see them represented authentically - if the guy's a jerk, he's a jerk even if he's gay. Being LGBTQIA should feel as natural as hair colour and should not be forced into the story for the sake of it. Authors also need to step out of their hetero-normative moulds - two guys in a relationship are two guys, there is no husband role or wife role that one or the other fulfills.  I'd like to see more bisexual male heroes and more trans characters take leading, butt-kicking roles in genre fiction. I'd love to read a teen Supernatural type story where the Winchester roles are filled by an LGBTQIA sibling pair or romantic couple."
Have you ever had issues with the way LGBTQIA characters (in general or in a particular book) have been presented? Not really because I'm quite picky when it comes to what I read. I have been mildly annoyed by certain gay characters being presented as super emotional to the point of melodrama as this is borderline stereotyping. I'm also saddened by books where the futuristic world is shown as open and accepting, even encouraging, of same-sex couples and yet, the main character remains hetero and only ever engages in a hetero relationship despite almost every other character around her being bi or homosexual.

How do you avoid sterotypes when writing?
I try to be as authentic as possible in my characterization. I'm quite an odd person and have had the privilege and delight of interacting and befriending many colourful characters throughout my life that do not conform to stereotypes. Drawing from these experiences and being conscious of how stereotypes are used in fiction, has helped me to avoid them. I like to buck expectations so every time I've got characters that need to behave a certain way, I try to put less likely individuals into those roles.

Have you ever gotten homophobic, transphobic or otherwise negative reactions regarding your inclusion of LGBTQIA characters? How did you deal with it?
No, thankfully. What I have noticed, which serious irked me, is that some reviewers put 'warnings' on their reviews for LGBT content. They didn't warn people that my book contained bad language, violence, underage drinking, or depictions of self-harm and suicide. No, the big bad thing about my book was the LGBT content which included an alluded to blowjob and some kissing. This offended me. I wanted to edit every single review I'd ever written and put 'WARNING: Main character is straight. Avoid if that's not your thing* - See how ridiculous that looks? So why 'warn' people of LGBT content? I really thought we'd be past this by now.
Suzanne has written Dragon’s Teeth, Obscura Burning, short stories for various magazines and other things.  You can find her at her website, facebook, twitter and tumblr.

Also, because Suzanne is awesome, she has very kindly offered a giveaway of Obscura Burning.
Open internationally, ends 29 September 2013, you must be 13 or over to enter, prize is either epub, mobi or pdf, use the rafflecopter to enter.
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Saturday 24 August 2013

Book Review-Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Title: Wildthorn
 Author: Jane Eagland
Series:  N/A
Published:  6 February 2009 by Houghton Mifflin
Length: 359 pages
Source: library
Summary : Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor's daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself - and others - in order to be set free. And love may be the key...
Review: Louisa Cosgrove is  on her way to live with a family her brother knows-or so she thinks. But when the carriage pulls up at a building too imposing to be a home, she is told she is at Wildthorn: she sent to an insane asylum. She has no idea why, but there she is stripped of her real name and her freedom. She must find out why she got sent there, who sent her there, and she must also try and escape.
I loved Louisa so much. She's a very determined and intelligent person, very set on doing as her father did, going to medical school, and defying social expectations. She puts up with what her mother makes her do, but still tries to nurture her dreams. When she ends up at Wildthorn, she uses her determination in a different way, keeping the plot moving.
The rest of the characteors are varied, but not amazing. I liked Louisa's father the best, as he encouraged Louisa  to go for it. Tom, her brother, and her mother, are very annoying: partially because they're very stuck in the attitudes of the time to keep to gender norms, and partially because they're not that interesting. Most of the staff at Wildthorn are sinister and good villians.
The romance between Louisa and Eliza, a maid at Wildthorn is subtle, and quite sweet. And then there's an epilogue which just seems out of place and a not very satisfying ending to the novel.
It would have been nice to look a little more at lesbian themes in the 19th century. There is a little about Eliza not wanting to tell everyone, and Louisa dreaming of being able to be open about it all, but it could have been looked a little more in the asylum context (because of 19th century attitudes to homosexuality, and also there's just not enough decent LGBT historicals in my opinion).
The writing is good. It's very descriptive and very good at making you feel like you're there.  You're pulled in quite quickly, feeling the confusion that Louisa feels at the start and wanting to know more.  I liked the alternating between past and present events:it was good at getting information across and making you interested. The climax of the plot, while being intriguing and twisty, felt  rushed compared to the detail we got of the buildup.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a 19th century mystery with an ending that's not as good as the setup.
Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Author website |

Friday 23 August 2013

Blog tour post and GIVEAWAY ENDS SOON- Brian Rowe

Today, we have Brian Rowe talking about ho

w important it is to have LGBTQ characters in books where the focus is not sexuality.

As a reader of many gay young adult novels, both good and bad, I've made the distinct effort over the last year and a half to write YA novels with gay main characters that don't necessarily revolve around the characters' sexuality. Since March 2012 I have written three YA books with gay characters at the center (one is Over the
Rainbow, the other two are forthcoming), but none of the three books is what anyone would call an "issues" book, or a book that's specifically about how the character is dealing with his or her sexuality. Zippy's homosexuality plays a big role in Over the Rainbow, but from the get-go Zippy is comfortable with who she is, and doesn't set out on a journey to find herself, but to find the person she loves.

I want to write young adult novels where the main character just happens to be gay, not young adult novels that's all just about how the main character is gay. Why not allow the main character of a major fantasy franchise be gay? Andrew Garfield got a lot of heat when he suggested, "Why not have Spider-Man be gay, or at least be exploring his sexuality?" Why is it so automatic that the hero of a book that may be more geared toward teenage boys than, say, adults, have to be heterosexual? With each passing year, we as a nation are becoming more and more accepting of the LGBT community, and I love the idea of major books and films using gay characters not just as stock, as a friend or in the background, but as the core central character.

Over the Rainbow is at the heart a romance between two girls who never know if they will ever meet each other, but it's also a rip-roaring action adventure, the kind geared for boys, that just so happens to have a lesbian protagonist at the forefront. Should this element make the action scenes any less enjoyable for male teenage readers? There are car chases, sprints through the forest, a duel to the death with a velociraptor on the top of a moving vehicle. I want readers to see Zippy as a bad-ass, not as a gay bad-ass. And I especially want young lesbian readers to find a character on the page that they can truly call their own.

My next two books, still in the works, both tell of a gay male protagonists who are trying to make something of their lives, but neither one is simply about dealing with teenage life as a homosexual. I've always been gay, ever since I can remember, and I've never let it be the one thing that defines me. And I want the same to be true of my LGBT characters. The more gay YA novels written, the better, but the more that are written that aren't just about simply being gay, we're going to really start making progress.

Brian wrote Happy Birthday to Me, the Grisly High Trilogy and some other stuff.
His latest release is Over The Rainbow, a redo of The Wizard of Oz. You can find it on Amazon and Goodreads.
You can find Brian at his website and on twitter.

Also, giveaway! This is part of Brian’s tour, so there’s some epic prizes: a $25 Amazon gift card, 3x signed copies of Over The Rainbow (Guessing this is US only), and 10 e-copies of Over the Rainbow.
This ends in... 18 hours? Sorry about that. Get in there quick!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday 22 August 2013

Book Review-Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Title: Cruel Summer
 Author:  James Dawson
Series:   N/A
Published:  1 August 2013 by Indigo
Length: 324 pages
Warnings: violence.
Source: bought and publisher
Other info: You can do a quiz to see which Cruel Summer character you are here. You can read my review of James’ other book, Hollow Pike, here.  
Summary : A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…

Review: Leavers’ dance night. Janey Bradshaw commits suicide. One year later. Her old group of friends Ryan, Katie, Alisha, Greg, and Ben, with the addition of Greg’s girlfriend Erin  meet for a holiday in Katie’s Spanish villa. Then Roxanne shows  up, with claims that Janey was murdered. Then someone else dies,  it comes out that someone at that villa is a killer, and soon they’re all caught up in mysteries and secrets of both the present day and the past.
Reason why I read this: I loved Hollow Pike and expected it to be just as good. It didn’t disappoint.
Ryan, I think there may be something wrong with him. He sees everything as part of a TV series that he is the star of. It’s good, a quirky character trait, to start with, but it gets weird when someone dies and he’s still stuck in that mindset. He’s a little annoying, but a really nice, funny guy too.  Most of the cast are likeable, and all are intriguing with secrets and exploration and development. I liked Alisha or Katie equally best.  They both develop the most, and they’re both strong girls who are awesome. I like the fact we got to know quite a bit about, and get kind of close to,  Janey too, considering she's dead.  
It plays out very much like a classic teen-slasher film. Everyone fits into classic stereotypes, and it’s self-aware, with genre savvy Ryan and booky girl Katie.
It is written as scenes, each following a certain character. Most of the time it’s Alisha and Ryan, but there’s some flashbacks to fill you in on backstory. Everything gets revealed after hints, and it’s unpredictable, and gripping.
Mostly there’s mystery, and  horror regarding the murders and something else that happens that I don’t think I should say, but there’s also bits of romance and coming of age/figuring out who you are.
The mystery is epic. Everyone is a suspect at some point, with motives and the writing turning on them.  The amount of twists and turns in this is amazing. I read Cruel Summer in about two hours cover to cover in one sitting, and I have never said “I was not expecting this!” so often.
There is one bit at the end, in which I think a Hamlet reference opportunity was sadly missed. The best bit about the ending is finding out why the killer does what they do and it’s so unexpected but then you think about how it was there all along  and it’s clever and you can’t stop thinking about it. And then there’s a big scene which was just. Well. Definitely unexpected, but a fitting ending that I really enjoyed.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a mystery that pulls you in from the start and doesn’t let you go. Perfect summer reading.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Author Interview-James Dawson

Most of our authors who were interviewed answered the questio
ns that everyone else did. I’m putting all of these interviews before the main discussion posts, so you can see everybody’s  views. Also, I’ve finalised the schedule for Rainbow Reads and just realised that I have a month’s worth of posts, which is much more than I was expecting. Thank you everyone!

Today, we have one of my favourite authors, James Dawson.

--Props for making Kitty and Delilah bi and in a committed relationship. Do you think bisexuals get unfair representation in YA literature?
To be honest, I think bi characters aren't represented AT ALL! There are pitifully few LGBT* characters full stop, but there are slightly more gay and lesbian 'best friends'. It's a sad fact that a lot of people, even within the LGBT* community don't really believe that bi people exist.

--Have you ever gotten homophobic or otherwise negative reactions regarding your inclusion of LGBTQIA characters? How did you deal with it?
I honestly haven't had any negative feedback about Kitty and Delilah. Ryan, in Cruel Summer, is the main character so it'll be interesting to see what reaction he gets. Personally I've had homophobic messages on my Facebook fan page - I suppose given how open I am about my sexuality it was only a matter of time. Rest assured, I won't be deterred.

--How important do you think LGBTQIA fiction is for teens?
This is an interesting question. Much LGBT* fiction for teens is ABOUT being LGBT*. I find this very odd. I'm confused as to why it's such an issue. All these books about depressed LGBT* characters having epic dramas about their sexuality doesn't always ring true. I'm much more interested in seeing LGBT* characters going about their business. That said ANY LGBT* character is important so young readers can see themselves in the world of books.

--LGBTQIA fiction is often shelved separately in bookshops/libraries. How do you feel about this?
I understand why you'd want a gender theory or gay theory section in a book shop. I also understand why you might have a gay erotica section, anything else should be in fiction, right? Most bookshops wouldn't segregate Hollinghurst, Maupin or Waters. I hope. Most YA fiction with LGBT* characters just goes in the YA section which is quite right.

--Discuss getting LGBTQIA fiction published. Do you think publishers have changed their attitudes over time?
-one has ever suggested that Kitty, Delilah or Ryan should be straight. In fact, Ryan started life as the 'best friend' because I thought my publisher wouldn't want a gay main character. How wrong I was! My editor identified Ryan as the most compelling character and insisted he be brought centre stage. I can only speak for my experience and my publisher has been overwhelmingly supportive.

--Do you think any part of the LGBTQIA community gets overlooked/subject to erasure?
I think trans characters are very overlooked. I wonder, at this stage, if writers feel any book with trans characters would have to be ABOUT being trans. I think authors worry both about getting it right and angry internet people.

--Any recommendations for LGBTQIA fiction?
Well Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer OBVIOUSLY! Aside from them, Tales of the City was a watershed book for me and truly changed my life. Gay men should read The Velvet Rage too - it really holds up a mirror to the behaviour of some gay men. Pantomine by Laura Lam; What's Up With Jody Barton? by Hayley Long and, my favourite book of 2013, Every Day by David Levithan.

--Anything else you'd like to say?
Being A Boy follows Cruel Summer in September. It's called Being A Boy and it really is for all boys - gay, bi, curious and straight. There's a discussion about sexuality, but the whole book is universal. Whatever your sexuality, we're all having the same puberty, first loves, first shags and heartbreaks.

James Dawson wrote Hollow Pike, which I loved and you can see the review here, and Cruel Summer, which I also loved and you can read the review tomorrow. You can find James at his website/blog, twitter, and tumblr

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Book Review-Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

This will be on offer for the giveaway when it happens.
Title: Annie on my Mind
 Author: Nancy Garden
Series:   N/A
Published:  February 2007 by Square Fish (my edition), first published July 1 1982 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Length: 263 pages
Source: Caroline
Other info: It has been banned in some schools. Nancy has also written Good Moon Rising, Endgame  and some other things.
Summary : From the moment Liza Winthrop meets Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there is something special between them. But Liza never knew falling in love could be so wonderful... or so confusing.
Review: Liza meets Annie. They fall in love. They get outed, as do a couple of teachers at Annie’s school. things happen.
The issue I have with simple romance and LGBT books is that sometimes, nothing happens that an outside party, one who doesn’t know these people very well, would care about. I mean, yes, I know you’re going through a period of discovery or you’re finding the love of your life, but why should I care? This was what I got for the first part  of Annie on my Mind.It picks up about halfway through.
Annie on my Mind is set in the 80s, and reading it in 2012 makes me realise and appreciate how much attitudes have changed. Well, there’s still some people who don’t understand the whole be nice to everyone  regardless of who they love, but  still. Compared to the 80s, where pretty much everyone, when they learn about Liza and Annie and the two teachers, you see how far we’ve come.
From the start, Liza’s opening letter, you can tell that something big has happened between Annie and Liza and so you get more into it emotionally and you want their relationship to go well but due to the opening you know something’s going to happen and....  *this is where I break down to incoherent fangirl emotion babbling thing*
*comes back* can we just talk about the adorableness of Annie and Liza? From the mock swrodfighting at the museum to the accidental getting of almost identical rings, the early days have an excellent friendship and romance building.
Liza and Annie are both exploring feelings for eachother and the world. This book captures really well the emotions that come with questioning -wondering what you’re feeling for this person, what they feel about you, the slight sacredness- feelings for everyone- it’s something that everyone can relate to.
The secondary characters could have been developed a bit more. Sally and Poindexter especially.
The writing was simple but conveyed emotion really well. It’s quite open ended-ending a year after the main events. Anything could happen.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a short sweet story about first love and attitudes at the time.

Monday 19 August 2013

Rainbow Reads-Introduction and some terms you need to know

Welcome to Rainbow Reads, a month of discussions, reviews, interviews and giveaways regarding LGBTQIA representation in teen literature.

Over the past few weeks, I've been begging you to take part in the discussion. Some of you did, for which I am ever grateful for, providing interesting responses to the questions. There'll be posts with your answers and my own responses. Some of our featured authors have things to say on the topics, so follow throughout to see what they say. In addition to this, there'll also be reviews and giveaways  , spanning many genres, so hopefully you'll find something you like. b

I had the idea for this sometime in March, because it had been a long time since there'd been one (Caroline, Portrait of Woman, did one in February 2012). So I thought August would be a good time around exams  and other commitments, so I set it for then (well, now). And then America gets a Pride Month so you get a whole load of American authors doing stuff, and then Jo Stapely's running LGBTQ Month during July, so I suppose you guys may be a little fed up with LGBT YA.

But here. I hope this is a different approach, one with a set of really awesome participants  who have provided diverse opinions and and some giveaways of great books, and  that you  will enjoy and find it as intriguing as I do.

To start us off,  I'm going to provide a set of definitions to that  may be useful for posts for later on, and is just generally information that will probably be useful in life.

Sex is the way that someone is defined by biology: chromosomes, hormones and anatomy.
Intersex describes someone whose sex is ambiguous chromosomically, hormonally and anatomically.

Gender is a social construct that labels people as and applies roles to men, women or other. People are almost always assigned genders at birth based on their sex.
Gender expression is the way that someone presents their gender identity. This can be via clothes, speaking patterns, behavior and other things.
Gender identity is the way that someone identifies as male, female, neither, both or other.
Transgender/trans* is an umbrella term  for people whose gender identity is not the same as the sex that they were assigned at birth.
Cisgender is a term for people whos gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
Trans and cis are terms that are only used  in discussions where trans topics are the focus. Otherwise, there is no need to differentiate.
Gender binary is the system that says that gender is male or female, with no variation.
Genderqueer is a term used by those who reject the gender binary. They may be agender (without a gender), bigender (of two genders),  or otherwise non-binary.
Cross dressing is wearing clothes typically associated with those of another gender.
Drag is presenting gender for performance. Very associated with cross dressing.
Passing is being able to be percieved by others as someone wants to be percieved.

Sexual orientation, if you're going  to be picky  about the word, is only to describe the gender of someone that someone feels sexual attraction for, but is pretty much always used to describe emotional and romantic orientation too.
Romantic orientation is used to describe the gender of someone that someone feels romantic attraction for. Often lines up with sexual attraction, but not always.  Asexuals often differentiate romantic and sexual orientations.
Homosexual, gay and lesbian describes someone who is only attracted to someone of the same gender. Lesbian applies to women.
Heterosexual or straight describes someone who is only attracted to someone of another gender.
Asexual describes someone who is not sexually attracted to any gender.
Bisexual describes someone who is sexually attracted to two (or more) genders. 
Pansexual describes someone who is sexually attracted to all genders.

Queer is a massive umbrella term for all people who are part of a sexual or gender minority. (mostly) Historical slur, has been mainly reclaimed.

Heterosexism and cisgenderism are the assumptions that everyone is heterosexual/cisgender (they aren't) and that people who are these are superior to those who aren't (they aren't).
Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, going by the word, are irrational fears of LGBT people (OED says phobia = an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something). Generally used to mean all discrimination, violence, prejudice and negativity towards LGBT people. Applies on multiple levels and to various severities. 

Sex ≠ gender identity  ≠ gender expression  ≠ sexual orientation

I do not claim to be all-knowing around these topics. These are defintions that I have learnt over the past few years, and these are how I understand them. If I have gotten anything wrong,  I'm very welcome to corrections.  I have only included the most common terms that will be relavent to this event, but there are plenty of sites that you can use for further research. I hope these have been helpful.