Monday 30 September 2013

Does Queer Lit help?

 Today, we have Suzanne van Rooyen,  Zoe Marriott, Charlie MorrisIlljolrasSean CummingsAshley Chunell,  Ria Bridges,AlfieRieCaitlin,  Megan,  and Harriet. talking about how LGBT literature can affect people in real life in either positive or negative ways.

Do you feel LGBTQIA people can relate to characters they find in literature?
Harriet: Yes. We all LGBTQIA or not, can relate to any character LGBTQIA or not. We normally relate to their experiences or how they view ideas and such, not what sexual orientation they are (unless you relate to them in that way.)

Suzanne:Another tricky question to answer. I'd like think yes but it totally depends on how that character's being portrayed. The more stereotyped, the less likely I think people will be able to relate to the character.

Illjolras: yes, mostly

Charlie : Personally I've yet to read a character I think 'oh that could be me, I get that!' Although I've had my eyes opened to the experiences of others. I think the only way this can improve is for more content to be available by more writers.

Megan: I think so.  More so now, I think.  There are loads of varied LGBTQIA in YA lit now and I think that's good and I think everyone can find someone to relate to.

Caitlin: I hope so. I wouldn't want to speak for others but I hope so.

Sean: Reading is purely subjective but because there isn't much of it out there then yeah, it's hard to relate to.

Ashley: I'm sure a lot of people can and I hope people are able to relate to my gay characters in "A Melody in Harmony." Even if there are people who relate to the bigots in the book, hopefully as they read the story, they become enlightened and touched by the love my two main characters share.

Rie: There isn't a wide enough range of LGBTQIA characters for everyone to find a character they relate to, but I'm sure some have found characters they relate to.

Alfie:  Not always, no, because authors insist on moulding the sexual sides of characters to completely unrealistic lengths

Ria: Too broad a question to answer. In some ways, that's like asking is straight and cisgendered people identify with straight and cisgendered characters. Sometimes, but it depends on the character and the person.

Does LGBTQIA literature help LGBTQIA people?

Zoë: This is a tough one to answer because - so far - I seem to be straight and cis-gendered (although I reserve the right to take that back at any point if my understanding of my sexuality changes, for example if Mila Kunis ever returns my calls). And I can't speak for anyone who isn't me. I do know that reading about and empathising with QUILTBAG characters is what made me realise I needed to be actively engaging in as much ally work as I could; and I hope that as a result I've made my tiny corner of the internet and literary world a better place for people who aren't straight and cis-gendered. So.

Ria: I think it does. Greater exposure often leads to greater acceptance. And it can be very heartening to read about characters who think the same way you do, who experience problems that you do. It makes you feel less alone in the world, and like there's someone out there who gets it.

LH: If it helps even one person then that's a good thing.

Alfie: Sometimes, it depends how well the characters are presented.

Ashley: I hope it does, if it's written right. If it focuses on equality and fighting for love, like "A Melody in Harmony," I'm sure it helps people of the LGBTQIA community.

Caitlin: Again, I hope so. I know reading about characters who are similar to, and going through similar situations to myself has always helped me.

Megan: Probably.  I'm not LGBTQIA but I think it does.  It probably makes them feel more equal and more accepted.  And I think they can be really inspirational - for LGBTQIA and for those who aren't.

Charlie: I believe so. It gives a sense of not being alone, that there are others going through similar thought processes and emotions.

Illjolras: yes, definitely

Harriet: "Certainty. Morals can be learnt, ideas can be taught, understandings can be broadened. That's just how literature works (it isn't just LGBTQIA literature!)

Saturday 28 September 2013

Cover reveals for two awesome series-Emma Mills' WITCHHUNT and Laura Lam's SHADOWPLAY

Exciting news for two series that I really love-we have covers for the next books in the series!

First up is Emma Mills' Witchblood series-the final novel in the series, WitchHunt, has a cover.

I like the way all the covers in the series look together-pale face with bright eyes is a nice theme when done with different colours.

Blurb-contains mild spoilers for Witchlove
‘I know it’s selfish, but I don’t want you to go,’ Daniel said, a couple of minutes later.
I looked at him and smiled.
‘I’ll be fine, I will.’
‘You’d better be. I don’t know what I’d do without you. Those months I stupidly spent apart from you… they were torment for me,’ he said.
‘They were torment for me too.’

As the Christmas season is ripped apart by the news that Jess’ old friend Alex has been turned into a vicious killer, festivities are dropped, Jess returns to England and the hunt begins. But Alex isn’t the only one being hunted, for Mary has found a way to extinguish the entire bloodline of Malden witches, and it is Jess’s book of shadows that’s the key. As things hot up, Jess finds she must leave Daniel and the safety of Manchester in a final hunt for her nemesis, Mary. In a fight-off that only one of them can survive, loved ones will fall… daemons will rise… but who will survive?‘I know it’s selfish, but I don’t want you to go,’ Daniel said, a couple of minutes later.
I looked at him and smiled.
‘I’ll be fine, I will.’
‘You’d better be. I don’t know what I’d do without you. Those months I stupidly spent apart from you… they were torment for me,’ he said.
‘They were torment for me too.’

As the Christmas season is ripped apart by the news that Jess’ old friend Alex has been turned into a vicious killer, festivities are dropped, Jess returns to England and the hunt begins. But Alex isn’t the only one being hunted, for Mary has found a way to extinguish the entire bloodline of Malden witches, and it is Jess’s book of shadows that’s the key. As things hot up, Jess finds she must leave Daniel and the safety of Manchester in a final hunt for her nemesis, Mary. In a fight-off that only one of them can survive, loved ones will fall… daemons will rise… but who will survive?

Released 4 November 2013
Emma has a  website, twitter, goodreads, and Facebook.
 There's also a  giveaway to gain likes on Facebook. It's easy to enter, so go for it!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now for Laura Lam's Shadowplay.

Blurb: The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great
magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus--the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...
A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

IT'S SO PRETTY. I like the little details on the cards and the makeup.
I really can't wait for this.

Laura has a blog, twitter, and facebook.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Q&A-What is there for us to read?

So, today, we’re talking about genre and selection. A full post from me on this will come shortly, but for now, here’s the awesome people you’ve
been seeing al
l event: Suzanne van Rooyen,  Zoe Marriott, Charlie MorrisIlljolrasSean CummingsAshley Chunell,  Ria Bridges,AlfieRieCaitlin,  Megan,  and Harriet.

What's your favourite genre for LGBTQIA ?

Suzanne: Science fiction and fantasy. Speculative fiction is one genre where the books tend not to focus on the sexuality of the character, where it's just incidental to the character and doesn't make them any more or less of a butt-kicking hero be they slaying dragons or fighting aliens. That said, I would love to see more LGBTQIA teen heroes in genre fiction.

Ria: Fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction. That's my favourite set of genres in any case. But there are very few LGBTQIA protagonists in YA works in those genres...

LH: I like realistic YA. I wonder sometimes if placing LGBTQIA characters in a more fantastical setting somehow provides a sort of explanation for their sexuality.

Alfie: My favourite genre full-stop is Fantasy. I don't have a specific genre for LGBTQIA fiction, that'd be really quite weird.

Rie: "YA contemp. I would love to see more LGBTQIA characters in paranormal books as it's my favourite overall genre, but it seems most of the time in paranormal books it's still full of stereotypical gay characters.

I'm a huge fan of the show Lost Girl and her sexual identity is skimmed over instead of a deep discussion of what is to be bisexual and I would love to see that more in other types of media."

Ashley: Romance.

Caitlin: I like it in all genres. I think I prefer it when it's just, slipped into a genre you wouldn't expect. So like, not a contemporary book that's ABOUT being LGBTQIA but say, a fantasy or a crime book that has those characters in.

Megan:  Paranormal.  But that's just because paranormal is my fave genre.  I also love the historicals and the romances.  David Levithan is a fave.

Charlie M: I do like contemporary YA, but am also partial to a good fantasy or sci fi book.

Charlie: Drama, not romance.

Do you feel LGBTQIA teens have a good selection of books today?
Zoë: I kind of hesitate to be speaking on behalf of marginalised teens; I think they get silenced and invisibled enough. All I know is that until the average gay or transgendered or pansexual or questioning teen can walk into a shop and find a book that reflects characters like them in a nuanced and complex fashion without too much trouble, we probably still have an awful lot of work to do. And I don't think they can do that now. There are books out there, beautiful, wonderful books. But they're not prevalent, and they're not necessarily easy to find, with a few notable exceptions.

Suzanne: 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.

Ria: A good selection of books in general? Absolutely! A good selection of books including like-minded protagonists who aren't cisgendered and/or heterosexual? Not so much.

LH: It's getting better but there's still taboo areas around sexuality, and I think a lot of these haven't been explored at all. There's a reason Judy Blume is still so epochal in terms of what she wrote about and I think that's maybe because nobody's quite ever done what she did.

Aflie: We have the same selection of books as all teens. There isn't any sort of ""anti-LGBTQIA"" barrier that stops us from purchasing ""straight"" books.  Oh, being a minority.

Rie: I think it's improving, but no it's nowhere close to where it should be. Even then it's only improving on the first 3 letters of the alphabet soup. You rarely to never see characters that are transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual.

Ashley: Honestly, no. Like I said before, I haven't seen many PG rated LGBT books that would be good for teens. I kept "A Melody in Harmony" PG with lots of romance and cute moments between two young men, but also tried to focus on equality and shed light on the bigotry that still sadly exists in the world.

Sean: Not at as much as I think is needed and definitely not in genre.

Caitlin: No. I think we always, always will need more diversity in fiction, be in LGBTQIA or racial diversity or whatever. The books ARE out there, but we can always (and should always) have more.

Megan: "Much much better than before.  You have historicals, paranormals, contemporaries, romances, funny books, mysteries, coming-out...  And in loads of them, being gay isn't the main focus.  There are monsters to hunt, mysteries to solve that go beyond just deciding how to come out.  It's becoming, I think, more of a norm, you know?  Like it's just like having... brown hair or something rather than a thing that's this huge secret or whatever.  Of course, that's different in historicals or whatever, where being gay wasn't even recognised as... well, anything.  But I like the selection now.  I think there's a good varied bunch."
Charlie: Not enough. Although I'm pleased to see at least two more LGBTQIA inclusive young adult books being published in the UK on the 1st ?august. But the percentage of representation, and the skewing of those figures to the white cis male perspective, is worryingly small. I think both public perception and the attitude of publishers and writers need to become less timid when it comes to matters of diversity.
Illjolras: Not at all.
Harriet: "I do know that there are many LGBTQIA fictions out there and even more fanfictions out there. In more recent times, authors are more willing to have gay/lesbian/bi/etc characters. I have seen many appearances of LGBTQIA teens in novels. Even if my desired genre of book may not be LGBTQIA, I do believe that all avid readers suffer from not having a bigger and better selection of books in their favourite book genre. It's not just LGBTQIA teens that are suffering!"

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Waiting on Wednesday-Shadowplay by Laura Lam

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where we show off books that we want to read but have not been published yet. 

Title:  Shadowplay
Author: Laura Lam
Release Date: 4 January 2014 by Strange Chemistry
Link to / Summary from Goodreads:Micah has another juggling act to perform — he must help Maske, the once-great magician who shelters Micah and Drystan, at his last chance for redemption, escape those who pursue him, and find out how he and the new magician's assistant Cyan are tied into the mysteries of ancient and modern Ellada.

Why I want it: I had SO MUCH LOVE for Pantomime. And yeah, even with the ending, and the loss of one of my favourite characters, the world and the remaining characters are so memorable they've stuck with me and I can't wait to go back to Ellada.

What are YOU waiting on this week?

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Book Review-I Am J by Cris Beam

Title: I Am J
 Author:  Cris Beam
Series:   N/A
Published:  2011 by Little Brown Books
Length: 352 pages
Warnings: cutting, transphobia
Source: library
Summary : J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was; a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.
Review: J has always known he was a boy. But since puberty hit, he started hiding his biologically female body, and getting shut up from the world. He is then shunned by his best friend after a failed romanctic advance, and this is the push to him deciding he’ll get hold of testosterone, more, better friends, and to be who he really is.
Even within the selection of LGBT fiction, there doesn’t seem to be that much of the T. It’s good to see a book featuring a transgender main character. It also deals with a lot of issues some people may go through,  regardless of gender-family, love, acceptance.
J has a lot going on-as well  as his gender and steps to transition, there’s a lot of friction in his family. I Am J is told in close third person, so you get a lot of his emotions coming through. As well as through the writing, you get a lot of him through his photography, a unique way of passing on feelings. He isn’t totally defined by his gender and transitioning, he’s determined in everything he does.
I dind’t like Melissa. She was a in certain things. Chanelle was my favourite character-she’s really supportive for J and is a more positive than the majority of the cast.
There’s a lot of learning and development for J and the people around him. J’s family’s attitudes change  as he educates them and J learns about honesty from his relationship with Blue.
Cris tells the tale honestly and sensitively. I imagine the research and personal connections with the trans community helped her write this, and it shows with the depth of the story developed.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a deep novel addressing identity, relationships, and being true to yourself.

Monday 23 September 2013

Erasure in Literature

This was meant to be long and eloquent. It stopped being so after the second paragraph. Enjoy.

 Representation has gotten better over the years (I'll do a post about that towards the end of the event) but we've still got a long way to come in terms of full representation of the queer com has a long list of book featuring LGBTQ characters. This list is helpfully sorted out by whether the characters are gay, lesbian, or other. According to Word bullet numbering, there are 108 with gay male characters, 37 with lesbian characters and 12 with trans or otherwise queer chararacters (bisexual characters are included by gender of them and who they endup with). Nearly 3/4 for gay males. 23% for lesbian. 8% for trans and otherwise queercharacters. Literature doesn't feature that many representations of queer characters that aren't attracted to someone of the same gender.

It also doesn't feature many characters who are not attracted to anyone. I can think of one book with a confirmed asexual character, and that's only because I looked it up in general research for this event.

Same goes for genderqueer/non-binary characters.

When we do get queer characters, there's a distinct lack of of people of colour. Sure, we get some, like Magnus from The Infernal Devices/The Mortal Instruments, the main characters of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Kitty from Hollow Pike. But queer representation in teen lit, heck, queer representation in most mainstream literature, is predominantly white, and this needs to change.

Literature doesn't seem to get that being gay and being trans are not exclusive.

Don't get me started on queer erasure in fandom.

Bisexual people don't get that much representation, and when they get it, they get lumped by gender. Even London's only LGBT specialist bookshop, Gay's The Word, doesn't have a specific bisexual section.

According to this tumblr "Random House uses “Gay and Lesbian”, HarperCollins uses “Gay Studies” and “Gay and Lesbian Fiction”, Macmillan uses “Gay and Lesbian Studies”, Simon and Schuster uses “Gay and Lesbian”," (credit here to fuckyeahlesbianliterature), which, while I'm glad means that B and T people don't waste time looking there for things relating to them where they're not there in the LGBT tag, pretty much sums up the lack of full queer representation.

So, yes. This has been me summarizing what I haven't seen in queer lit. I haven't read every single book featuring queer characters (and I don't intend to), but of the selection I have, and of what a non-detailed google search tells me, there are some key things that we're missing.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Guest Book Review-Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett-reviewed by The Book Addicted Girl

Hi guys! Today, we have the totally awesome Megan, aka The Book Addicted Girl, with a review. Definitely check out her Month of Guests-it's really good! 

Series: Discworld, Book Thirty-One
Publisher: Corgi
Format: Paperback
Published: 1st October 2004
Number of Pages: 496
Book: Bought
Genre: Fantasy, Humour, Science-Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Action-Adventure, YA, YA-Child Crossover
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Swearing, Violence, Alcohol References
No Drug References

It began as a sudden strange fancy…
Polly Perks had to become a boy in a hurry.  Cutting off her hair and wearing trousers was easy.  Learning to fart and belch in public and walk like an ape took more time…
And now she’s enlisted in the army, and is searching for her lost brother.
But there’s a war on.  There’s always a war on.  And Polly and her fellow recruits are suddenly in the thick of it, without any training, and the enemy is hunting them.
All they have ontheir side is the most artful sergeant in the army and a vampire with a lust for coffee.  Well… they have the Secret.  And as they take the war to the heart of the enemy, they have to use all the resources of… the Monstrous Regiment.

I study A2 sociology.  I know what it means when they use the phrase "gender norms".  Basically it's the general belief of what it is to be a boy and what it is to be a girl.  For example, girls get pink clothes (indeed, one of the references in the book is of the girls having "pink blankets") and are expected to be quiet and well behaved whereas boys wear blue and are expected to be loud and active.  Often books conform to this, although now we've generally moved on.  But none the less, we tend to stick to girls being girls and boys being boys.  Yet I get the appeal.  Way back when, girls were meant to sew, be quiet and do round-the-house jobs.  That would drive me freakin' crazy.  I can't shut up.   I hate being domestic.  I can barely make toast.  And the whole idea of being able to help people more... well, let's face it: you'd have waaay more freedom as a guy than as a girl.  For example, Polly needed to find her brother, and there was no way she could do that when she was trapped at home - and trapped in a dress.  
Now, a girl making herself a boy to join the army to defend/protect/save their family has been done before.  Generally, though, they don't tackle the, um, grosser side of becoming a boy.  For example, the "ape-like" walk, the belching and farting and whatnot.  Monstrous Regiment deals with all of those.  And then more.
But moving onto a question:
 What exactly does it mean to be a boy?  What makes boys boys - and what does a girl have to do to pass off as a boy?  This is what Monstrous Regiment tackled - gender norms, stereotypes and expectations.  It also tackles this: when you are raised as a girl and don men's clothes, even when you’ve planned obsessively and practiced, can you ever truly pass yourself off as a boy?  For Polly and the others this was a lifestyle choice, not really who they were.  They were girls in men's clothing, being soldiers and trying to fool everyone around them.  Sometimes they were successful.  Other times... not so much.  But the difficulties they faced when passing themselves off as men was a real eye-opener.  Polly planned everything out and yet was still called out. There was always something that, to the right observer, labelled her a woman.  And yet, ironically, Polly and the others couldn't hide their newfound 'man' behaviour when they were once more disguised as women....
But saying this, if you asked me, Polly's personality fit more with the Borogravian and 'traditional' views of a boy, rather than those of a woman.  She was strong, stubborn, brave and tough, an excellent fighter and marvellously witty.  She could easily hold her own with men.  And the way she didn't feel guilty about her hair, the way she did feel guilty about being caught in a dress (a real 'wait a minute' moment), how she said they could "disguise" themselves as women... all these little things almost made it seem like she was born for this – for being a soldier, for fighting for what's right, for not being restricted by all of Nuggan's stupid Women Can't rules.  Polly was her own person and her own person was probably an Abomination to Nuggan but who cares!
All the other characters were brilliant - they all had their own individual reasons for being there, and each had their own personality.  One of my favourites had to be Maladict - he was just so brilliant!  And I really liked how he, when a wee bit on the edge, just mimicked Polly's orders (she always thought of them first; he protested... and then agreed; hilarious!).  Sergeant Jackrum was brilliant too, and was a good guy, really.   I liked how he never treated Polly and the others differently even though they were women.  Hell, he seemed to like them more because of it!
But one thing I think Pratchett captured brilliantly was the strength of women.  This was a world where women weren't even allowed to write, let alone go into a war.  Hell, to wear a man's clothes was a blasphemous Abomination!  But these women, they were braver than some of the men.  They didn't need to be there: there was no reason for them to put their lives at risk.  And yet they did.  Maybe I'm biased.  I'm a feminist.  I want equality in all areas.  But I liked the way Pratchett captured all the different personalities on both gender sides: No one was alike and everyone was represented (there were lesbians – the most amazing couple, btw – and even a theatrical, cross-dressing man – albeit only for theatre).   I also liked how the characters themselves acknowledged the strength of women: Jackrum compared women to lionesses; Blouse listed a number of fierce women throughout history; Vimes... well, I think he was just intrigued; the soldiers were afraid of them.  Girl power...?!
Another thing Monstrous Regiment perfectly captured was the crazy effect religion has on gender norms and expectations.  Maybe I'm thinking with my sociology brain, but when you compare the very oppressed women in Borogravia to, for example, Sergeant Angua in Ankh-Morpork, you can see the huge difference the religion has.  Girls in Borogravia could read, but not write: that was an Abomination to Nuggan, the ridiculous and tetchy god.  Also an Abomination: a woman wearing men's clothing.  The other races and their gender expectations were similar: Igorinas weren't allowed to perform the Great Work, troll women weren't allowed to carry clubs or wear lichen...  I liked something that Polly said: "I suppose men are the same the world over."   This says it all: no matter what or who or where you are, discrimination and suppression seems to be the same.  
But the sad part about Nuggan and all his rules is that in some cultures there are rules like this, when women are restricted by the most insane beliefs and rules.  If you ask me, a religion-free world would eradicate most inequalities (gender, sexual, everything), most wars and conflicts.  Back to the point: Pratchett takes a lot of things from the real world – which is what makes his books so ingenious and oddly hard-hitting.
But what I loved most about Monstrous Regiment was that it has so many levels.  It tackles religion, society, war, being different and a whole variety of gender issues.  The fact that a girl, who is just as capable as any boy thank you very much, has to wear a man's clothes to save her own brother.  The fact that she needs to hide what she is to do what she has to do.  How very different boys and girls are…  
But now I make it sound like gender was the biggest thing in this book - like it was the focus.  It wasn't.  It was wonderfully subtle - a theme but not the overbearing, in-your-face kind of a theme.  It tackled many other issues too - bravery, patriotism, uniqueness, religion, reasons for dressing up as a boy and joining the army...  And more than this, it was just an amazing read.  Fun, fast paced, full of laughs and just such an easy and enjoyable read.  You could, like me, obsess over everything - every little detail.  Or you could just enjoy the ride.  Either way, it's recommended by me!
But here’s a warning from a feminist: Girls can do everything boys can do, so don’t ever patronise us.  Just ask that poor guy what Polly did to him when he patronised her… 

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

 Once again, thank you very much, Megan!   You can find her at The Book Addicted Girl blog, goodreads, twitter, tumblr, and facebook. She also has a new blog with Emma called The Girls of YA. You should definitely go visit.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Book Review-Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I’m back! I am SO SO sorry for the random disappearance! Stuff happened with the internet and then I didn’t have motivation to do things. Seeing as it’s now impossible to fit everything into the original schedule, Rainbow Reads will run over into the beginning of October. All giveaways will end on the 29 September as planned. Normal posting resumes today!

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

 Author: John Green and David Levithan
Series:  N/A
Published:  April 2010 by Dutton Books,  10 May 2012 by Penguin in the UK
Length: 308 pages
Source: publisher
Other info:  David Levithan has written Boy Meets Boy and some other things. John Green has written The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns and looking for Alaska. John Green is awesome.
Summary : One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Review: Will Grayson goes to a concert with his friends, but isn't let in because his fake ID says he's not old enough.  Will Grayson goes to Chicago to meet a boy he has been chatting to over the past year. Both of them meet in an adult shop, meaning their lives go in different directions. Will starts dating Will's friend, Tiny, who is  putting on a musical at school.
 I read this sometime last year. I forgot to write a review. I reread it again for Rainbow Reads. It didn't seem any better or worse second time round.
For ease of reviewing, the Wills are going to be referred to by the person who wrote them. John's Will starts off  with a funny quote from his father and his explanation of why he is friends with Tiny Cooper. David's Will starts off telling us that he is “constantly torn between killing [himself] and killing everyone around [him]”. They're two different  characters with different issues and things to work out, but they're both intriguing and well fleshed out.
Tiny is a little annoying to start with, but you soon get used to him. He's very OTT, but does become a bit more complex as it all goes on. I really liked Jane, and the way the relationship between her and John's Will progresses.
I like David's stylistic point of David's Will only writing in lowercase. David's Will is living with depression, and the way David gets into the head of someone with depression is powerful and emotional. 
Plotwise, there's Tiny's putting on of a musical, and there's David's Will and Tiny's relationship, and there's Jane and John's Will's relationship, and there's the varying friendships, and there's character development from everyone, mainly David's Will. Not particularly epic, but you get to like the characters so much that you just want to know about and spend time with them.
Will Grayson Will Grayson covers the full emotional spectrum. There's happiness, there's heartbreak, there's anger, there's a good bit of humour, everything conveyed really really well.
Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fun story about four peoples' journeys through life.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Guest Post by Cassandra Rose Clarke-Bisexuality in Fiction

Today, we have Cassandra Rose Clarke on bisexuality in fiction.  This is a topic holding particular interest to me, and I found myself agreeing with lots of Cassandra's points. Here. Enjoy.

A few years ago, I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, by John LeCarre. It’s a spy novel—an excellent one, in fact, that swaps out running the bad guy down in a car with sifting through old records, showing just how unrealistic James Bond really is.
It also features a bisexual character named Bill Haydon.
This inclusion struck me as notable partially because the book was published in 1974 and partially because Haydon’s bisexuality is a significant part of the plot (which I’m about to spoil for you BIG TIME, by the way) without being portrayed as deviant in and of itself (mostly).
Seriously, these spoilers will ruin both the book and the movie, so turn away now if that’s a problem.

Bill Haydon is the spy in the title, the mole who’s giving British secrets to the Russians. The main character, George Smiley, is unable to see him as such because Haydon carried on an affair with Smiley’s wife, creating a blind spot of sorts for Smiley as he investigates the case (all depicted so beautifully in the 2011 film, by the way). But Haydon is also involved with Jim Prideaux, another agent who was tortured when his mission was blown by the Soviets—because of Haydon’s betrayal. In fact, I would argue that the relationship between Haydon and Prideaux is one of the most emotionally arresting in the novel.

When I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I enjoyed seeing a bisexual villain whose villainy came from his political affiliations rather than his bisexuality. That being said, Haydon’s character still reveals some of the troubling attitudes about bi- and pansexuals, forty years after the book’s publication.

Remember, Bill Haydon is a spy, a double agent who works both sides: Western and Russian, straight and gay. Was this connection made on purpose? I honestly don’t know. It’s never clearly stated whether Prideaux is bisexual as well, the way it is with Haydon, and so as much as I love this book, it still hints at that unsettling concept of the double-crossing bisexual.
It’s not an unfamiliar concept, either. Bisexuality inhabits a space on the LGBT spectrum that is at once too gay and too straight. While most people don’t assume bisexuals are international double agents (most of us don’t have lives nearly that interesting), people do accuse bisexuals of refusing to “pick a side.” To many, male bisexuality is a rest stop on the road to gayness, while female bisexuality is a detour on the path to heterosexuality. These attitudes often make it difficult to write about bisexuality because so many readers will make assumptions and ignore bisexuality as on option. Just as a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man will frequently have her identity called into question, bi- and pansexual characters in fiction often have their identities erased and replaced with the more easily categorizable “gay” or “straight.”
A character in one of my current WIPs is bisexual, and I’ve struggled with establishing this clearly in a way that won’t read simply as lesbian. Her sexuality is not a significant part of the plot—that is, this isn’t a book about being bisexual—but it is a significant part of her character. I suspect that may be where some of the difficulty lies. After all, I want her bisexuality to be there, but I don’t it to be a thing. Which, of course, is how bisexuality (and any other sexual identity) works in real life.

Fortunately, there are a handful of bisexual characters in fiction already out there! A great place to start if you’re interested is the Bisexual Books tumblr, which offers loads of reviews and resources about bisexuality in popular culture. I would also recommend L.R. Lam’s Pantomime. Now, she is a fellow Strange Chemistry author, but, to be clear, I’m recommending this as fan more than anything else. The main character’s bisexuality is included as a facet of his character in a lovely, subtle way. Malinda Lo is perhaps a more obvious example, but her latest book, Adaptation features a bisexual love triangle (something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to see!), and the main character of Ash has always read as bisexual to me as well. You can also go for more of a college assigned reading thing with Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, arguably one of the first novels to feature a bisexual character. Woolf gets around the restrictions of the time by making her main character switch genders, but the book w
as based on a bisexual lover of Woolf’s and that definitely shines through in the text.
Finally, one last interesting note: I learned while researching this post that Mystique from the X-Men was going to be written as bisexual! Unfortunately, this was during the early 80s, and depictions of homosexuality were banned in comics at the time. Thirty years on, such bans have (mostly) disappeared, and as we work to broaden the range of representation in literature, I hope to see more bi- and pansexuals in the future.

Fantastic post, Cassandra. Thank you for raising such excellent points!
Cassandra can be found at her website, goodreads, twitter, tumblr and facebook.
You can buy The Assassin's Curse here and The Pirate's Wish here. She has also written The Mad Scientist's Daughter and two shorts in the Assassin's Curse verse.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Stephen King Readathon October 2013 Sign Up Sheet

Quick break from Rainbow Reads for something I've suggested for a couple of weeks.

 Stephen King readathon! 

I want to do this because I'm loving watching Under the Dome, I enjoyed some of his stuff a couple of years ago, and I feel I should read some more of his stuff. What better time than Halloween (ish), eh?

Anyway, if anyone else wants to take part, please do.

  • It would happen from Monday 14 till Sunday 20th October.  
  • There will be no prizes for participating, except hopefully having read and enjoyed books from a prolific horror/suspense author.
  • I will be doing this regardless of whether or not anyone else joins me. 
  • All my reviews will be posted in the days leading up to Halloween.
  • Any participants should totally follow for follow and keep in touch and things. 
  • Spreading the word would be awesome. 

I hope you enjoy, if you choose to join me.

Signups below.

Q&A-Negative Portrayals

Hello! Today, we're discussing negative portrayals of the queer community, ie h
ow it has been shown badly, and  how some of it isn't shown at all.

Do you think any part of the LGBTQIA gets overlooked/subject to erasure?

Suzanne: 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.

James: 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.

Ria: Absolutely. Asexuals and agendered people get overlooked all the time. That's been slowly changing, and work is being done to legitimize those identities, but if a positive gay role model is rare in teen fiction, then a positive asexual or agendered role model is rarer still. I can think of only 1 single asexual character in teen fiction (at least none where their asexuality isn't explained away as being due to religion or trauma), and I can't think of any agendered characters.

Alfie: Yep. Our actual thought processes, not being accepted by everyone. It generally tends to be shoved to the side in favour of ""WOO LESBIAN SECKS And while I have no problem with sex in fiction, don't use an LGBTQIA character for the pure sexual aspect of it."

Zoë: 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.

Rie: Intersex and Asexual, both seem to be completely ignored.

Sean: That depends on the whims of the editor.

Caitlin: I'd say LGBT gets a lot more coverage than the QIA side, maybe because people feel more comfortable writing about it? Maybe I just haven't been reading the right books? This is why I am very much looking forward to your event, Nina!

Megan: I think gay/lesbian/bisexual gets covered quite a lot.  Definitely more than before.  The others...  Not as much really.  That I know of, anyway.

Charlie : I cannot name a book that features an asexual character, except maybe Struck By Lightning by Chris Colfer (Carson Philips has an intellectual crush on Rachel Maddow, but is otherwise more interested in pursuing his career.)

Illjolras: Anything but gay, white, cismen or lesbian, white, cis women. Writers act like there's no such thing as bisexual, nonbinary, asexuals, pansexuals,trans*, more than one way to be lesbian etc.

Have you ever had issues with the way LGBTQIA characters (in general or in a particular book) have been presented?
Suzanne: 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.
Me: I don’t like the fact that LGB peoples’ sexualities are, unless they’re the main character, often their defining feature.

Ria: Mostly in that books involving LGBTQIA characters often completely centre around the character's sexuality, giving the impression that that's all there really is to someone. I won't deny that seeking validation and acceptance is a big part of coming to grips with your own identity, especially when you've got bigots bellowing at you that you're wrong for being who you are. But that isn't the only thing that matters. And currently, most fiction doesn't express that well. A single issue has been focused on to the exclusion of so much else, and it does some people a disservice.

Alfie: I can't think of any specific books presently, but it's generally the points I outlined previously.

Rie: The Immortals series by Alyson Noel has one of the most stereotypical gay characters I have ever read.

Ashley: I do think there has been a lot of stereotyping, but from shows I've watched with gay characters, I think they've mostly always been presented well.


Caitlin: Not that I can think of off the top of my head no. Which, I guess, is a good thing?

Megan: "I feel sometimes guy-friends are made gay to support a plotline: like, their sexuality is just a convenient way of getting rid of a love triangle, rather than the boy feeling actually like they are real. 
Also there can be stereotypes, as mentioned earlier, and I hate this."

Charlie: Yes, I think sometimes writers have one viewpoint they are trying to put forward and they forget to look at the bigger picture. If characters are casual insulting other marginalised people in the LGBTQIA spectrum who might be reading the books, then that is counterproductive (unless their prejudices are part of the narrative intent.)

Illjolras:Yes, plenty of times. The gay best friend trope is so over used and so easily ruined.

Harriet: no, not at all.

So...a wide range of answers for the second question, a smaller one for the first. What are your opinions on these topics? 

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Book Review-The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Title: The Song of Achilles
 Author: Madeline Miller
Series:   N/A
Published:   September 2011
Length: 384 pages
Warnings: gently described sex scenes, taking of women as prisoners to most likely be used and abused, the normal gore/death/blood that comes with Greek mythology and war
Source: library
Summary : Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.
Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Review: Patroclus, son of a king,  is just a boy when he is exiled for accidentally kiiling another boy. Sent to the court of King Peleus, he gradually befriends and falls in love with his son Achilles, growing close over training for war and despite sea-goddess Thetis, Achilles’ mother, disapproving. Carry on a few years. Helen of Sparta’s been kidnapped. Achilles is destined to go to war and be the greatest of the Greeks. Patroclus is honour bound to go to war because of an oath he swore when he was nine and being put up as a suitor for Helen. Together they go to war and meet their destinies.
I’ve been in love with Greek mythology since I was...eight? maybe. And ever since we studied the Trojan War in history when I was ten, I’ve loved it (even though the thing I’ve always remembered most is that Hector dies and Achilles drags his body round Troy three times). So yeah. Retelling of Illiad. Fun times.
Patroclus is really the main character, despite the title. You follow him from an early age, you get into his head a lot, you see him following around Achilles a lot. Achilles is a bit annoying at times, but also kind at times, mainly because Patroclus asks him to be. My favourite character is Briseis, a girl from one of the villages raided that Patroclus asks Achilles to claim, and then befriends. I also really liked Odysseus. Some of the Greek kings were idiots.
The romance features heavily. The connection between Patroclus and Achilles is different to the typical male/male relationship structure seen in Ancient Greece-it’s a very deep one, grown over years, that you can easily see how it would set up the climax of Patroclus’ story-Achilles sulking after Briseis is taken, Patroclus going off in Achilles armour, and the following events.
You get a lot of action written well. It’s all very quick, you feel as though you’re there. Madeline uses the mythology really really heavily, giving sea-goddess Thetis a starring part, and having gods like Apollo show up onthe battlefield. I would have liked to go a little more into the way that the gods interact with humans, but I guess that wasn’t really the focus. Also, there’s a lot of stories from along the timelines of Patroclus and Achilles, for example the killing that sets it up, the training of Patroclus and Achilles with centaur Chiron, the hiding as a woman at someone’s palace that Achilles does to avoid  being called to war and so on. I would have liked Madeline to put in a bit more of her own spin on things like plot and characterisation, instead of the only major additions to the stories I already know being Patroclus gushing over Achilles (which he does fairly regularly).
The writing is poetic, the dialogues a little less so. It’s kind of awkward going into a book knowing that your narrator dies. However, Madeline keeps the story going after this happens, really well, before drawing it to a good conclusion.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a beautiful retelling of the Illiad, with further backstory and character interaction.

Book Review-Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Title: Boy Meets Boy
 Author: David Levithan
Series:  N/A

Published:  September 2003 by Knopf
Length: 192 pages
Source: publisher and netgalley
Other info: David Levithan co-authored Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green.
Summary : This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right. Review: Paul, who's known he's gay his entire life and lives in essentially a utopia for the LGBT community, doesn't have any problems. Until he meets Noah and falls in love.
I read this because everyone's just like “Yay! David Levithan!” and I wanted to know what all the fuss is about.
I think this would have been so much better if someone other than Paul was the main character.  Hopefully Tony, whose religious household means that he has to hide his feelings for other guys, or Kyle,  whose struggling with his sexuality. (I think) Both of them have much more interesting storylines than Paul, whose seems to be “I met a guy. I messed up. I want him back.” Paul himself isn't that interesting either, so having him as our main character didn't make me care too much for this book.
As I said, this is a utopia of sorts. The gay and straight scenes got mixed up. The only opposition to the LGBT community is from the overly religious, and there's none of the  outright or casual homophobia that is often seen in highschool environments. The star football player is a drag queen, and there's a small subculture. I'm reading it thinking “this is lovely and all, and I love the fact that there's very little discrimination and such, but it's just a bit too  optimistic; I can't see this happening in a contemporary, modern day setting”.
Apologies for the shortness of this review but I just sat there thinking “this is boring. Boring. Bored.” And couldn’t really formulate many thoughts past that.

Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book where the side characters and plots make for much better stories than the main one we have.

Monday 9 September 2013

Q&A-The Writers' Edition

Hello! For today's  Q&A for Rainbow Reads, it's the invasion of the writers!. Ok, you’ll have seen some of these answers already from them being posted in their own interview, but I put everyone’s answers  in the collection of answers and I don’t have the patience to go throug
h them. Anyway, I think it’s good you’ve got everyone’s answers in one place.

How do you avoid sterotypes when writing?
Suzanne: 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.
Daniel: Being gay, bi, straight, or anything in between, shouldn’t define the character, it should just be another part to them. Every character should be their own individual, regardless of their sexuality and whether or not they fit any of the stereotypes. For that reason, sexuality is the last thing I decide when creating my characters.
Zoë: 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 after their taste in books and whether they're, you know, annoying or maybe a Linkin' Park fan...
Illjolras: I just write them as people, not a serious of boxes that need ticking to make up a queer character.
Charlie: Research, ask people, think.
Sean: I think avoiding stereotypes is something authors try to do but it's very hard unless you've walked a mile in someone's shoes.

Ashley: While writing my two main characters in "A Melody in Harmony," I completely stayed away from stereotyping and it was easy. I didn't think of the characters as "two gay men," I thought of them as two young men in a relationship and just like any other couple.
Ria: It's hard. I kind of believe that some stereotypes exist for a reason. Not in that every gay male is flaming, for example, but let's be honest -- some are. So if I write a character who's like that, it comes across as me believing that every gay male acts that way, when that's a skewed perception. So it's very difficult. It's almost gotten to the point where the opposite of many stereotypes have become stereotypes in themselves (e.g., the gay jock as a contrast to the effeminate man). The only thing I can do is write the characters as they come to me, try to be fair and balanced in my presentation, and hope for the best.

Do you feel you accurately represent LGBTQIA people in your writing?
Ria: I feel that I'm doing it as accurately as I can, based on my own personal experience. But then again, I'm sure people who are badly representing LBTQIA characters feel the exact same way - writers don't set out to write badly."
Ashley: I hope I do. It's all about love. Writing the love my two main characters share, I think I did it justice.
Sean: Not yet I don't as I haven't written one. Actually scratch that, I am .. but it's not supernatural
Illjolras: I feel like yes, but that's because I am queer.
Suzanne: I accurately represent the characters I'm creating and try to be as authentic as possible in those representations. I don't try to represent any subgroup, be that race, religion or sexual identity. Some of my characters might accurately represent LGBTQIA people, others might not simply because they're oddities themselves and that's okay because diversity in real life is something to celebrate.
Zoë: 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,

Have you ever gotten homophobic, transphobic or otherwise negative reactions regarding your inclusion of LGBTQIA characters? How did you deal with it?
James: 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.
Laura:  So far, there's been no homophobic outcry in response to Pantomime, and I think that's surprised some people. Though I might have gone and jinxed myself now by saying that. In fact, the only controversy has been some people wishing the blurb was more open about the intersex nature of the protagonist. I think that's great.
Suzanne: 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.
Illjolras: Someone said I was trying too hard to be diverse when a story I wrote had very few straight characters. I said 'so?'
Ashley: "A Melody in Harmony" is brand new, so I haven't yet, but a lot of the bigotry and homophobic remarks that appear in my novel are actually things that I have witnessed in real life. I decided to take the hate and ignorance and bigotry that I've seen and put it into my story, which I think makes it all the more realistic.
Ria: Most of what I write hasn't seen public eye. But what little has has generally been well-received. I'm lucky in that regard. I have, however, received negative reactions based on my own identity when it comes to sexuality and gender expression. I don't delude myself into thinking that people will avoid negative comments on what I write when they won't avoid it on what I am.
Zoë: Apart from a couple of reviews on blogs or Goodreads (which did make me fuming mad, but obviously weren't directed at *me*), no. I thought that I would, and braced myself for it, but it hasn't happened yet. I think that, in a way, being a midlist author with a quite small but devoted group of readers is an advantage in that way.

Yet another set of fantastic answers from a wide range of authors. As always, please comment with your thoughts and remember our multiple giveaways.