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Thursday, August 31, 2017

QSR: Wrap-Up Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

It's the last day of Queer Summer Reading!! I'm so sad it's over, but I really loved doing it.

And to finish things up, you guys know what time it is.

It's time for our last twitter chat!

Tell us how you did with the challenges, talk about previous chats, whatever you want. Say goodbye to summer with us! Join us at 11pm UTC / 4pm PDT / 7pm EDT, or see your time here, for this last one!

Peace and popsicles,

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

QSR Guest Post: Reading as a Queer Teen

Well, August is almost over, but QSR isn't quite yet!! Our giveaway is still open and we still have a couple more things this week before we're done, finishing up with our final twitter chat on Thursday.

One of those things is this awesome guest post from Kav! Everyone say hi to them!

I’m a nonbinary, biromantic, asexual teen. Basically, I’m as queer as it gets. Growing up, I never really saw that in media, but now, being an active member of the diverse book community, I always know when there’s a new queer release and jump on it immediately. To be honest, that’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Reading queer books, and diverse books in general, has improved my reading life so much that I actually cannot read non-diverse books usually. Reading queerly has not only given me the opportunity to see myself represented, but it has given me the opportunity to learn about others.

On my social media and YouTube channel, I talk a lot about how representation has helped me, how it has made me less alone and more normal. While all of that is true and is important to talk about, I believe it’s also important to discuss how representation has helped me understand others. By seeing stories of people unlike myself, I gain a better understanding of the challenges and triumphs they experience - often in relation to their culture, gender, religion, romantic/sexual orientation, and more. I particularly enjoy reading #OwnVoices - a story written by an author who shares the same identity as the main character - stories of people unlike me because those give me the opportunity to see a personal account of that person’s life. Now, I could choose to read the history books written by privileged people who have no understanding of that person’s life and omits queer history completely, or I could read the underrated YA novels that are both enjoyable and educational and some of the most important pieces of media I’ve consumed.

For example, over the summer, I read Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, a story about a hijabi Muslim teen who was sexually assaulted. I can relate to zero of those elements, but that book has become one of my favorite books of all-time because of how it taught me about a culture and experience that I’ve never experienced. Now, that wasn’t a queer example, so let’s take another book - We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. We Are Okay is a story that deals heavily with themes of grief and loss and shows a past f/f relationship with blurred lines and no real labels. Again, I cannot relate to those experiences. I have experienced grief in my life, but never of that magnitude. I have never been in a f/f relationship and have never been in a relationship with lines as blurred as that one. Reading We Are Okay gave me the opportunity to see someone else’s story and understand their experiences.

Seeing yourself represented is so important and a privilege no one can take for granted, but so is reading someone else’s story.

Kav is a 15 year old nonbinary, biromatic, asexual, South Indian teen who loves media, books, and social justice. They are frequently active on Twitter and YouTube talking about a combination of book-related and social justice-related topics.

Thanks so much for your post, Kav! We're so glad to have you posting here.

Leave them a nice comment Scouts, okay?

Peace and cookies,

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (55)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Published: March 10th, 2015 by Dial Books
Genre: MG Graphic Novel
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 240
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid's life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole...and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Thoughts: I don't think I've ever read a book about roller derby before, and especially not a middle grade one. While this has its faults, I thought it was really cute and it was a fun book to read at the beginning of summer.

There are basically two problems I had. One is that it lacks some diversity in its main cast, especially some body diversity/disability diversity. There's no fat characters like at all, and also no queer characters (but there is a part where a character teases Astrid by calling a friend her girlfriend). And the second is, the story that isn't the roller derby parts, has been done a lot before. I've read a couple of these "why did my childhood friend and I stop being friends" recently and I don't think the message about how friendships can change as you get older is a bad one, just not a unique one. And when you read three books in one year with the same subplot, you kinda notice.

But the roller derby angle is unique, and really fun. I learned some stuff I didn't know, and how few male characters are actually in this book is kind of refreshing. It's all about the girls. Astrid's relationship with her mom is also really sweet, and nice to see. They don't always get along perfectly, but you can see how much they both love each other, and it's nice to see such a reasonable parent in a middle grade novel. Overall, I think this could have done a tiny bit better with its inclusiveness, but it's a fun book anyways.

(Although, nitpick time. Pro-tip to authors? You can totally save most colourful hair dyes if you don't use the whole bottle. There's no chemical reaction going on. That's not a thing that they say not to do in the instructions.)

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 129 plus the about the author and whatnot.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Franny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny's parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny's name.

When Leah's older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren't coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn't--and if she's right--she could lose her parents.

Thoughts: Okay, let's get something out of the way first - this is short. It's supposed to be. That's the point. Orca books mainly publishes what are sometimes referred to as "hi-lo" books, or high interest low reading level books. That means books with more mature subject matter and low reading levels/simpler vocabulary. These are designed for selective readers, teens who struggle with reading, people learning English as a Second Language, readers with learning disorders, etc. This isn't actually easy, and it takes a lot of skill to do it well. This article discusses 3rd to 5th graders, but it's a good place to start reading. This one, too, explains how much work it takes to write one of these well. If you're going to complain this is short, or that the plot is too simple, realize that this book might not be meant for you, and also you are missing the point completely.

Okay, now let's talk about the actual book. I really liked it. First over, I'm never going to be over seeing YA use the word queer positively. And the relationship between Leah and Franny is an established one, which I haven't seen very much before in YA. They're also, frankly, adorable. Like, Franny calling Leah a dork? That is so freaking cute.

Everything in the book is also handled so respectfully. And I adored that it was unapologetically pro-abortion. Despite everything that happens with Franny's parents, and how scary that is, Franny's opinion that people have a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies and their pregnancies never wavers. The only thing I wish is that the book had stated that not only women can get pregnant/need abortions.

All in all, I was so impressed by this. Queer girls, a really cute romance, frank discussion of anti-abortionists and abortion rights, what it was like to be a doctor before abortion was legal, really supportive parents, and some decent tension in the plot. I very much recommend this one.

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Published: First published in 1997, this edition was released June 1st, 1999 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 272
Part of a series? No
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. Though her father grew up there, Liyana knows very little about her family's Arab heritage. Her grandmother and the rest of her relatives who live in the West Bank are strangers, and speak a language she can't understand. It isn't until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is Jewish, and their friendship is silently forbidden in this land. How can they make their families understand? And how can Liyana ever learn to call this place home?

Thoughts: Something that's been really interesting about doing Diversity Book Bingo is that I've been reading way more newly released books this year than the last couple years. So it's kind of interesting that this is quite a bit older than anything I've read for bingo. This almost would fit more in one of the posts I do of old books!

This does read more like a book from 1997, but considering it's a full twenty years old, it's not as dated as it could be. The emotions of moving to a new place are pretty universal, although modern young readers would probably notice that there aren't a lot of references to email or cell phones - in fact, the Abbouds don't even have a landline for several months when they first arrive in Jerusalem, and Liyana at one point is said to not like computers and only wanting to learn how to type.

The voice is a touch dated, being a bit more of a removed third person, and there's a bit of fatphobia and ableism, but overall the feelings of moving to a new place are pretty universal, and it was definitely an interesting book. Check it out if you want. I think it's worth a read.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lapage

Published: This edition was released April 19th, 2016 by Chronicle Books, but it was originally published in French in 2014 by Editions Somme Toute.
Genre: Adult graphic novel, I think.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 104
Part of a series? Not that I know of.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Not to worry, a book on anxiety is finally here! A clever antidote to everyday angst, this illustrated book captures universal truths and comforting revelations about being human. Artist Catherine Lepage uses her wry humor to help us see that "thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest."

Thoughts: This is interesting. I'm not really sure how I feel about it, though. It's definitely a short, quick read. I didn't even have time to take any notes. I don't know. There were times where I was like, sold, I completely understand these anxiety feels, but also I'm not sure if there was really time to get a deep connection.

The art was neat, though, and I guess that it's kind of the point that it's not supposed to be that deep. It was different from what I usually read, so that was neat. Lots of thinky thoughts on this one, and I don't think I really have a conclusion. There's probably a metaphor or something there.

Okay, well, I think that's everything! What an unusual round up of books this time

What have you guys been reading?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, August 25, 2017

QSR: Kathryn Ormsbee Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

Wow, I can't believe QSR is almost over!! But before it is, it's still everybody's favourite day of the week!

Tune in for a chat with Kathryn Ormsbee, author of Tash Hearts Tolstoy, at 7pm UTC / 12pm PDT / 3pm EDT, or find your time here.

Peace and popsicles,

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

QSR Interview: Chelsea M. Cameron

I should do way more interviews. This is a lot less work for me than my normal blog posts!

Please give a warm welcome to Chelsea!

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

Oh, wow that’s a loaded question. Haha. I feel like I try to write romance that’s just a little bit quirky. A little bit (or sometimes a lot) nerdy. Romance that is both intense and funny at the same time. Even my most serious books have dick jokes in them. I can’t seem to help myself. And I write the books I want to read. When I wanted sweet f/f romance, I wrote it. When I wanted an office romance where SHE was the boss and he was the employee, I wrote it. This strategy has paid off so far, so I think I’ll stick to it.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

Like I said above, I write the stories I want to read. Usually my books start of as a question “what if I wrote about…” and go from there. Especially with my queer work, I’ve tried to think about people are asking for more of, and run that parallel to what I want to write. So many of my friends/readers were wanting a fluffy f/f romance that didn’t center around trauma about coming out, and it just so happened that I wanted to read that too, so I wrote it. It was the BEST writing experience I’ve ever had. I loved it. I cried while writing. It was amazing. I’ve had so many wonderful and intense experiences writing books and sometimes I look back and read them and realize that I was working through some of my own struggles without even realizing it. Especially in my m/f books. There are SO many queer undertones and I had no idea.

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

Queer romances are my jam. I love stories that don’t center on the trauma of being queer, and instead have other conflict just like every other relationship has at some point. I love queer flirting. Seriously, banter is the BEST. I love reading about queer friendship groups. I love baby queers just figuring themselves out. I love messy queers who maybe don’t know what they’re doing, but they do their best. I love people who are problematic and human and real.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I am so hopelessly behind on my Goodreads goal this year, it’s humiliating. But right now my TBR is filled with delicious queer book goodness. Some books that are at the top: Chameleon Moon, Misfits, Knit one, Girl Two, Labyrinth Lost, Every Heart is a Doorway, Ramona Blue, The Melody of You and Me, A Darkly Beating Heart, Coffee Boy, the list goes on. But I'm determined to make my way through as many queer books as possible this summer.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

One of my favorites happened at my first book signing in Orlando. A girl rushed up to my table and told me how much she loved my book, My Favorite Mistake. She said that she’d been so engrossed reading it that she’d been ignoring her boyfriend and he got mad because he said he had something to ask her. Finally, she put the book down and he got down on one knee and proposed! She showed me the ring and it was so cute.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

YES, I’M ON TEAM QUEER VAMPIRES. Totally. I love the idea of taking all the “tired” tropes from romance and just making them queer: enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience, co-workers, all that. I also want, with all my heart, a f/f multi-book fantasy series with rich world-building and a huge cast of queer characters. I want that more than ANYTHING.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

I recently read An Unnatural Vice by K. J. Charles and it was LOVELY. Seriously, her books are great. I’m eagerly anticipating the third book in that series because reading the description, I think one of the leads is going to be genderqueer! I’m DYING for Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. Seriously. I would do evil things for an ARC of that book. When the Moon was Ours is one of my favourite books ever.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

Huh. You’d think that having a degree in journalism, I would have thought of this before. Oh, maybe what’s one book that you’ve learned the most from?

Q. Favourite summer drink?

I love a good pina colada, but my real go-to is a good half-and-half (half lemonade, half iced tea).

Q. Favourite frozen summer treat?

A. Ice cream! I love cookie dough, vanilla with butterscotch, and Lobster Tracks. It’s too cold to eat ice cream any other time, so I go wild during the summer. I also don’t turn down a nice freeze pop. The kind that comes in a huge bag and all those neon colors.

Chelsea M. Cameron is a New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. She's a red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world's worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car, tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman) and playing fetch with her cat, Sassenach. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon.

Thanks for the interview, Chelsea!

Peace and popsicles,

Monday, August 21, 2017

YA Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Published: June 6th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 367 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? I wish!
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Review: Not going to lie, I was super nervous about this. Ace rep is... not so great, sometimes. A lot of the time, it doesn't exist, or it's kind of terrible. So I get nervous ('cause if you didn't know, I'm ace). It kind of worked out, though, that this didn't show up until July 28th so I didn't have time to put it off if I wanted to get it read in July. And luckily I really liked this! The premise of a book based around characters running a webseries is really interesting and not something that I've actually ran into in a book before.

Really neat premise, good characters, some really cool discussions about relationships and the different ways that people connect, a voice I absolutely loved, and a depiction of asexuality that doesn't make all the choices I perhaps would make, but still does a ton of things I liked and isn't anything I personally would say is harmful, More just a different experience than mine. And there is a wide world of experiences out there, not just mine, so that doesn't mean bad, just different.

Plot Talk: The "stuff happening" plot covers Unhealthy Families, Tash and her best friend Jack's webseries, being boosted by a vlogger with a much larger following causing them to have a big uptick in popularity, the ending of the series, and it being nominated for a web award. The "emotional/character stuff" plot involves some family drama, Tash figuring out some stuff about herself, figuring out some stuff about her relationships with others, and a little bit of romance.

I describe things badly! But I was a fan of the plot, and I think everything works together very well. I was never bored and I think the balance is great.

Characters: I'm actually going to mess around with my normal pattern and talk about Tash probably last. Because why not.

Tash's family in this is a really strong element, and I really like how it's worked into the book. Her relationship with her older sister specially reflects a lot of the other growth Tash does in the book. I thought having a family that was mixed-faith, with their dad being Christian, Tash and their mom being Buddhist, and her sister being an athiest, was really neat and different.

The group of friends Tash has is also really cool - I liked that she sort of had different levels of friendship. It's neat to see a book where the main character has a couple very close friends, and a larger group of more casual friends, and they still all like each other and all that, but it's a different type of relationship. One of the themes in the book is about knowing people and understanding why they are the way they are, and I think that's a cool aspect when it's all together.

Now, for Tash. I adore Tash's voice. Something interesting I think about challenging myself to consciously read more diversely this year (besides enjoying way more of the books I read) is that I'm reading a lot of books that are more recent, and I find I really enjoy these sort of more "modern" voices, for lack of a better term. Books that mention Twitter or Snapchat, and some current events, and that sort of thing. I think, while it could date it a tiny bit at some point, it does make it really relateable and interesting. I love her obsession with Tolstoy, I love her drive, and I love that she's super a teenager - she doesn't have everything figured out and she's still kind of learning who she is. She seems perfectly young and like a really authentic teenager.

So, I think we'll use that to lead into talking about the ace rep. There might be some slightly spoilers, because I really want to talk about this. So. Tash is heteromantic asexual. Thankfully, that's not a spoiler. It's said in the summary, including the dust jacket flap, which. That's kind of amazing. Anybody who picks this up at the bookstore or library because of the cool cover or whatever is going to read the word "asexual" on the flap. It's not hidden from the reader. That's... I'm so glad that the publisher did that.

The book almost takes it as a given that you know for the first part, I think, with Tash kind of hinting at things at first without using the label, like saying she's not a fan of kissing, talking about not liking some kinds of flirting (which was really neat to see, honestly), some tension about certain things with her friends, until about a hundred pages in when she uses her label, heteromantic ace, and talks a lot about her process of realizing that. There's a lot of detail given to this and I think a lot of care. It isn't just a label said and done, and I liked that while the entire book isn't wrapped up in it, it's a significant part of the book and Tash's character arc.

That is honestly something I really liked. Tash is not confused, and in fact states that very, very clearly (thank you), but she talks about the process of realizing you're ace, and it is so, so relateable. I think a lot of people are really going to see themselves in that. I think something that's really great is Tash is a year and change past that first part, so it's not all about that, but it recognizes that "coming out", is a process that can happen in degrees and you might not even do it with everyone you know, even your family. I also thought it was a nice touch to have Tash not explain things very well the first time she tried to come out, and that her friends don't blame her, but they are a little confused and want to know more because they care about her and they want her to be comfortable. The importance of communication is stressed a lot and that is awesome.

...okay, I've just rambled for four paragraphs. I should move on... but I'll probably add a little more later in another section because I do have a couple more things to say.

Oh, but I will say here - the romance was cool. I was kind of hoping at first that things wouldn't go the direction they did just because I think that would have been a cool subversion, but it's a well done romance that I do think is important, as the conversations about it work against some stereotypes, and portray that it can be a positive experience, which is important to show. Romance for alloromantic or demi/greyromantic (etc) asexual people can be a scary, confusing thing, and lead to a lot of self-blame and guilt (which is something Tash talks about!) and I know people would definitely see themselves in this. That is neat, in my book.

PG-13 stuff: Basically what you'd think. It's pretty standard for contemporary YA. Very, very light on the underage drinking which is neat, a little bit of cursing, and some good conversations about sex (no on-screen scenes though). TWs for pregnancy, and some aphobia. Mind you, it is all countered by the narrative, and it's about things that Tash has dealt with, or deals with in the book, not things that the book says that I'm pointing out as aphobia as a reader.

Specifically, there's a mention of someone at her school's GSA saying "A is for Ally" which made me want to trip a fictional character into a mud puddle, a lot of talk about certain stereotypes, and that very familiar "you're too young to know you're asexual", "you're just afraid of sex", "the internet made you think this you're not really asexual" stuff that, like. It's very true to life and I personally think the inclusion of these things in the book help to show what people go through. It was kind of cathartic to read, honestly.

I do not think that there was anything arophobic, but tbh I was kind of really excited reading it and I might have missed things. But nothing stood out as hurtful to me personally. I might check with other aros, but it doesn't really talk about aromanticism, and the book is good about talking only about how Tash feels, not about others. And it definitely points out that Tash is heteromantic and asexual, and doesn't roll it all together. Both labels are important.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: The book does do a thing I'm not very fond of overall where lack of interest in sex (Tash is somewhat sex-repulsed/very much not interested) is conflated with not feeling (or seldom feeling) sexual attraction, which is the definition of asexuality I use for myself and in general. However. This is an ownvoices book. I read an interview with the author, and between that and... the book... it's kind of obvious that this is somewhat reflective of the author's experience. I'm not exactly going to sit here and say someone's experience is wrong.

That would be pretty freaking awful.

So what I will say is, this experience is an experience that is a little more common in the more "mainstream" ace books I've read, whereas, say, a sex-positive asexual experience (someone who doesn't feel sexual attraction but still likes sex) isn't as represented in these "mainstream" books. (I'm not well versed in indie ace rep.) But considering that's a grand total of three whole books it's not like the well is exhausted. I think I said something similar in my EHAD review, but this doesn't mean that this is a bad book. It means we need way, way more ace rep. And aro rep!

Am I making sense here? I hope so.

Oh, and it does hit that one pet peeve of mine, where it says that asexuality is a lack of a sexuality, or the character has no sexuality or orientation. Asexuality is an orientation! An awesome one!

Other things... there's a tiny bit of cissexism and like nothing for trans rep. One character has a pretty severe allergy which is neat, but there's not much for disabilty rep otherwise, and it's pretty white, although not entirely. There are other queer characters, though, which I appreciate. Nothing much for fat rep, either. Could have done better in other areas diversity wise, let's just say.

Cover comments: It's definitely weird, but it grows on you. It's very different from a lot of other things out there, and I appreciate that.

Conclusion: Oh my god how long is this review. Too long, probably. I'm not checking the word count. Nobody tell me, please. And I feel like I went for on a really long time about the negatives, but please keep in mind that's just because I want to be very thorough here. I really, really did like this. I'm on the aromantic spectrum, but it's still an incredibly relateable book for me, and I am incredibly grateful and glad that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It's so nice to see a character actually use labels, and have good, respectful, heartful representation. I think this would be great for teens, and I'm really glad to have read it.

And again, the premise is just really neat. I enjoy webseries, and it was really fun to read about someone making one. I'd totally watch Unhealthy Families if it was a real thing. I'm knocking a half rose off for lacking some diversity in other areas, but overall, I really enjoyed this, and I'm glad it stood up to my expectations and I wasn't disappointed. Four out of five roses.

Other notes:

- It's funny that two out of the three ace books I've read this year have a female friend named Jack in them.

- I am shocked I got this review done for August. No joke. I didn't think I would.

Peace and cookies,

Friday, August 18, 2017

QSR: Michelle Kan Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

What are you up to today? Because it's everybody's favourite day of the week.

It's Twitter Chat time! And today's special guest is Michelle Kan!! Join us 10pm UTC / 3pm PDT / 6pm EDT or find your time here.

See you there!

Peace and popsicles,

Thursday, August 17, 2017

QSR Guest Post: Sex Repulsed Aces in Fiction

Hey Scouts! Please welcome Tabitha to the blog! This is a post I think you guys are going to find really interesting. I know I do!

Growing up, I never saw anyone like me in fiction—a sex-repulsed asexual person. This left me basically thinking I was the only person on the planet who hated the thought of ever having sex. So it’s amazing to now get to read about characters who actually have similar feelings to mine; it means so much to finally see myself reflected in stories. Here are a few sex-repulsed/averse ace characters who have especially resonated with me (all of whose names, coincidentally, start with “N”):

Nevian from City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

When I started this book, I knew there were several ace characters, but it was still a pleasant surprise to discover that Nevian was a sex-repulsed ace almost as soon as he was introduced: “Nevian didn’t know who she was trying to impress with that. Not him, he hoped. He had no interest in these things—not with her, and not with anyone. The thought had always made him recoil a little.” I appreciate that his specific orientation is made so clear—he doesn’t just lack interest in sex, but actually has an aversion toward it.

And then this later encounter made me smile:
Nevian jumped back as if the door had burned him. Why was the High Priest naked in the middle of the day? Then he heard a woman’s stifled giggles, and Varden hushed her. The door snapped shut and they shuffled inside. Nevian would never understand that kind of desire—he had never even experienced attraction and doubted he one day would—and physical proximity unnerved him. He waited, wishing people were more reasonable about this whole sex thing. Because, really? The middle of the day?
Having been regularly forced to overhear my former neighbors doing certain… things… at random times like 10AM or noon, I am completely with Nevian here. I haven’t seen many characters who are uncomfortable with being aware of others’ sexual activity (although Nadin is another one—see below!), but that is my experience, and it was exciting to find a character who shares it.

Nadin from Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari

Like Nevian, Nadin is also disconcerted at witnessing others’ sexual desire on display:
The man said something I couldn’t hear and pulled the woman close. She giggled and draped herself around him, her hands snaking up under the tight fabric of his shirt. I grimaced and pulled the hood of my cloak further over my face.
[…] “They were just being affectionate,” [Isaak] said.
“You mean that didn’t”—I paused, struggling to find the right word—“bother you?”
“No. Honestly, it’s the first time since I've been here that I've seen anyone act human.”
I glared at him. “How is that what makes someone human?”
Sex scenes in movies = me covering my eyes and asking when it’ll be over. You’re not the only one it bothers, Nadin! (And yay for her calling out the idea that sex makes us human!)

Later, her boyfriend initiates a passionate kiss for the first time, which completely freaks her out. When she expresses her discomfort, he gets upset:
He pushed away from me, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry, Nadin,” he said, his voice impossibly small. “I thought… I thought you loved me, too.”
I jumped up after him. “I do love you!” I protested.
“Then why don’t you—” I flinched, and he lowered his volume. “Why don’t you want me?”
When society equates love with sex, and when even other aces often emphasize that asexual people can still have sex to please their partners, it’s powerful to me to see a character who isn’t able to just go along with sexual activity for their partner’s sake—not that there’s anything wrong with choosing to do that, if it is indeed a choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make myself, and I relate to Nadin because she can’t either.

Niavin from Sinners by Eka Waterfield

I fortunately don’t relate to Niavin’s experiences too much, as he’s been through a lot worse than I have because of his sexuality, but I certainly understand his feelings:
He could never desire anyone and yet he simply had to. He was the last of his House, and it depended on him to survive. Children were rare among the sidhe; the union needed to be a formal marriage blessed by the Queen, and even then it would take countless nights, countless decades of copulation. Niavin would have to endure that. His aunts and uncles and nephews had fallen to war and duels and other misfortunes, and the House had to go on.
I felt so alone growing up because the adults around me talked as if everyone got married and had children someday—it was just inevitable, just what people did. But Niavin, like me, knows that making babies is not for him (and fortunately, he gets out of getting married). I also really appreciate that by the end of the book, he knows there’s nothing wrong with that: “He did not need the flesh of another to be happy, that much was for damn sure.”

Trigger warnings for these books:
  • City of Strife trigger warnings
  • I don’t know of an official list of trigger/content warnings for Fourth World, but the second scene I quoted contains a description of a non-consensual kiss. Nadin also grapples with feelings of brokenness after that encounter.
  • Sinners trigger warnings
Tabitha is an ace vegan feminist who loves thinking and talking about representation in media. One of her short stories with an ace main character has appeared in Vitality magazine. You can find Tabitha on Twitter @tabithawrites and on Wordpress at tjoconnell.wordpress.com.

Thanks for joining us, Tabitha!!

Peace and popsicles,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

QSR: Giveaway!!

Hey everyone! Who likes giveaways?

(If you don’t, this post probably isn’t for you :P)

I’m giving away a queer book for up to 15€ from Book Depository and a sticker from Queer Enough :)

You have to be 13 or older if you want to enter, and you need your parents’ permission if you’re a minor. Only entries submitted through Rafflecopter will be counted. The book has to be queer, and own voices books would be great. Book Depository and Queer Enough have to ship to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy reading!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

QSR: Jasmine Gower Interview

Hi everyone! We have Jasmine Gower over for an author interview today :D

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

I’ve got two books coming up that I’m very excited about. First is my fantasy romance novella, A Study of Fiber and Demons, which is being published by Less Than Three Press in ebook and paperback on August 9, 2017. It’s a polyamorous enemies-to-lovers story about a group of bitter academics who have spent their whole careers sabotaging each other and find themselves assigned to work together on the same research project studying demon magic.

I also have Moonshine coming in February 2018 from Angry Robot, also in ebook and paperback. Moonshine is set in a fantasy 20s-esque world during a magic prohibition and focuses on Daisy Dell, a young flapper and secret mage who gets a job working in an office for a shady boss.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

I actually went into Fiber and Demons with a specific set of things I wanted to incorporate into the story: a female asexual character, a rivals-to-lovers storyline, and polyamory. I think the main character, Alim, was also inspired by my disappointment in another series I read that featured a queer-coded Arab character that never committed to making his queerness explicit, although I wasn’t really consciously thinking about that when I started writing Fiber and Demons.

Moonshine was more directly informed by things going on in my own life. I had just gotten my first Real Job out of college and was finding that I didn’t really understand the purpose of the work that I was being asked to do, which got me thinking about a character who has similar misgivings about her workplace that turns out to be a front for an illegal magical moonshining operation. (My job just turned out to be generic exploitative capitalists getting me to train my own replacements so they could underpay them even more than they underpaid me. Not quite as fun.) But that was where Daisy’s story in Moonshine came from. Her boss, Andre, has his own storyline that was inspired by my experiences as an aromantic reader looking to see more non-romantic intimate relationships explored and celebrated in fiction.

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

I’m pretty excited for any queer content in books, provided that it doesn’t involve queer people needlessly suffering Because Queer. Some things in particular that I’d really like to see more of, though, are non-binary characters who are human (not aliens, not shapeshifters, etc.), characters that don’t require dedicated romance subplots to establish their orientations (whether it’s because the character is ace/aro or just a gay, bi, or pan person who happens to be single the whole book), and more intersex characters in general.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I’ve been trying out my local library’s ebook lending for the very first time, which has so far involved getting started on Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba series, so I’m hoping to get all caught up on that. I’m also reading Keith Yatsuhashi’s Kojiki, which I’ve been dying to read since I saw the cover for its sequel, Kokoro. (Kojiki and Kokoro are both published by Angry Robot, and they had just revealed the cover for the second when I started getting into talks with them about publishing Moonshine, and seeing Kokoro's beautiful cover got me really excited to work with Angry Robot for my own book.)

Other than that, I’m really in the mood for some epic high fantasy, but I’ve got so much editing to do this summer that I don’t have a lot of room to add more to my reading list.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

My romantic heroes in A Study of Fiber and Demons are not exactly… heroic. They are quite terrible and rude, in fact. After one of my friends finished reading it, the first thing she said to me (in sheer delight) was, “These are the worst characters you’ve ever written.” Interestingly, my editor had a similar reaction. I guess the new rage in romance is embittered middle-aged academics.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

I’ll second the call for queer vampires. My favorite series of all time is a vampire-hunting high fantasy, but the queerness of the characters is pretty aggressively subtextual, and that series ended two years ago, anyway. There’s such an extensive (and honestly kind of ugly) history of vampirism as a symbol of queerness, and the advent of Twilight kind of reassigned vampires to heteronormativity just as they were starting to be culturally regarded as sympathetic. I think we’re long overdue to reclaim vampire symbolism, and thankfully I think the vampire oversaturation caused by Twilight and its imitators is starting to wear off and publishers are becoming more open to vampire stories again.

Q. What queer book are you looking forward to?

I’ve been kind of drifting away from YA lately, but I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. I’m a sucker for thief-slash-assassin archetypes, as well as genderfluid characters. Admittedly, that second category is one I see a lot less of in fantasy.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

In 2014 I was in a documentary called Gaming In Color, which is about queer gamers. They interviewed me at the premiere GaymerX convention while I was in full cosplay as Anders from Dragon Age II.

Q. Favourite summer drink?

My favorite cocktail is a Honey Jack Lemonade (lemonade with honey whiskey), which is really a summer-specific kind of drink. But I’m also partial to just regular lemonade.

Q. Favourite frozen summer treat?

I’m an Oregonian, so of course I’m partial to Tillamook Dairy’s marionberry pie ice cream.

Jasmine Gower is from Portland, Oregon, where she studied English literature at Portland State University. Jasmine was drawn toward writing years before amidst a childhood of fantasy novels and 90s video games and has a passion for exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and disability through the conventions of speculative fiction and fantasy worldbuilding. Find her at jasminegower.com, on Twitter @Jas_Gower, and on tumblr as jasgower.tumblr.com.

Thank you so much for joining us!



Monday, August 14, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (54)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published: March 1st, 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 299 in my copy
Part of a series? No, but I wish.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea.

Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

Thoughts: I really like middle grade books about sisters, I'm realizing. I love that Dicey Tillerman, Delphine Gaither type of character. Sol reminds me so much of them that I feel like I should start keeping a list of this type of book. Her voice is so mature and that lends itself very well to a character that feels the weight of the world on her shoulders.

I actually went into this expecting something quite a bit fluffier in tone, mostly because of the cover. (Side note, as adorable as the cover is, Sol is a little um. A little lighter on the cover than she's described in the book, where she talks about being fairly dark skinned. Cover, what's going on?) The subject matter of this, though, is quite serious. There's child abuse, the heroes bully a girl (and later come to realize how wrong that was), and it can be a little intense.

Overall, I loved the voice of this and the characters were great, so vibrant and interesting. The only thing I don't love is that the abuse in the book is left kind of unresolved. I realize this is realistic and try in the real world, but sometimes I don't want books to be one hundred percent true to life because I want kids reading to know it's okay to tell someone about something like this, and to have hope things will get better. And they do, but I guess I want a way that's a little more drastic and permanant than what happens in the book, I guess. I just feel like there wasn't enough resolution for the abuse subplot. I would honestly be wholeheartedly behind a sequel to this.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed this and the voice was so good that I really want to read more of the author's books.

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Published: May 17th, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 287
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie.

But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Thoughts: Hannah is a friend so factor that into this as much as you need to, but I enjoyed this. I've read a couple books with non-standard formats this year, and I've really enjoyed them. This is true of this as well!

This reminds me so much of being in a fandom. (Yes, I am, and no, you don't get to know which one or what my name is there, lol. I like my things separate.) It reminds me of that blurry space between friendship and love and romance and queerplatonic relationships and how complicated and confusing that can be. (Spoiler ahead.) I love how this depicts a non-conventional relationship and it's not about "picking" one person.

I also think it's really interesting that this is definitely a YA book, but one character is twenty-two and graduated from college and one is eighteen and just starting college. It's really different from most YA and what you'd think of as YA, but it works very well. Honestly, I think this is sort of what we originally thought New Adult was going to be before it turned into all college-set erotica. I wish that we'd gotten more like this, frankly, because this is a lot more interesting to me.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: A very heavy hardcover
Page Count: 462 plus
Part of a series? This is the first of the Six of Crows duology, which itself is a sequel series to the Grisha trilogy. You don't have to read the Grisha trilogy to read this. I didn't, and I was cool, and the general consensus of my informal twitter poll was people agreeing it was cool.
Got via: The library.
Amazon and there's a free Kindle sample / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

Thoughts: I definitely didn't love this as much as everyone else, but I liked it. This is not my favourite genre (I think I mention that every time I review a fantasy book similar to this), but it never made me get well and truly lost like some books do to me, and I appreciate that. Someone mentioned that a lot of the world-building is done in the first trilogy, and maybe that actually worked in my favour. Maybe too much world-building just doesn't work for me?

I do think this is a little slow in the beginning and definitely takes a while to get moving, and maybe a couple too many flashbacks in the first 100 pages or so that drag a bit. Again, not my favourite genre, so it might be I have a little less patience, but I do feel like it took a little while to get into the action. I think also that, while I know some characters were coded as POC, no one really seemed to have skin darker than "bronze" and that could probably have been done better. I didn't find any reviews addressing this, but hit me up if you know any. (This book has like fifteen thousand reviews - it's so needles and haystacks.) I did like that there were a couple queer characters, though.

All in all, I enjoyed this enough that I've already ordered the sequel from the library. I liked the characters a lot, and the world is cool. If you actually like fantasy, you'll probably love this, but as someone who doesn't generally love it, it was still pretty cool.

TW for some serious gore at one point. (Page 158 specifically - why is it always that thing also? That thing always gets me. *shudders*) Also, the pages of this are edged in black and I cannot accurately state how freaking cool that is. It really does stand out.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: February 28th, 2017 by Brazer and Bray/HarperTeen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 444 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Thoughts: I am way, way, way too white and too privileged to act like I have any right to really review this or talk about how things are handled in it. This is another one where I want to give my platform and my support and love for a book but I also don't think my review actually matters.

But also I have feels and a blog and I gotta let them out, dude. This seriously amazed me. It's just... all the feels. I have been reduced to a puddle of Tumblr ooze. And there are a lot of things in this I wish I saw more in books - people with tattoos that aren't magic tattoos (seriously, I didn't realize how little I saw this in books, especially parents, until Starr talked about her father's tattoos in such a beautiful, positive way), parents who have been incarerated but aren't completely villanized for it (I'm gonna link an article here because relavant), like everything.

I am going to say though... this book does lack some positive fat rep. It's not fat-shaming, generally, (being called fat is treated as an insult at one point, and there's also a bit of body shaming towards very thin girls) but there isn't great fat rep. And I'd be a really, really bad fat activist if I didn't talk about it, because fat rep is incredibly white (and cis allo straight, etc, not the place for this rant) and we owe so much to amazing black and brown fat activists. Come to think of it, it is lacking a little in queer rep too. Queerness, fatness, disability, race, these things can't be separated from each other when they exist in the same person. A lot of the book is about Starr struggling with feeling like she lives in two worlds but fits in neither, like she has two halves of herself and has to pick one depending on who she's with. How incredible it would have been to talk about that with queerness or fatness or disability, because people don't break down into tidy boxes where you get to choose just the parts you like.

But (editing Laina: Wow, you had caffeine when you were writing this, didn't you?) those things, while they would have been a nice addition, don't take away from this being really, really good. It's so engaging and... just wow.

That was a lot of rambling and I apologize. I had many feels.

And I think that's it for this post!

Peace and cookies,

Friday, August 11, 2017

QSR: C. M. Spivey Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

How are you guys doing today? How's the weather where you guys are? Do you know what day it is?

It's Twitter Chat time!! This week we have C. M. Spivey as our special guest! Join us 11pm UTC / 4pm PDT / 7pm EDT or find your time here.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm super excited :D

See you there!

Peace and popsicles,

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

QSR Author Interview: Ana Mardoll

Please give a warm welcome to Ana!!

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

I’d love to! I have two lines of books, my fairytale retellings (Pulchritude, and an upcoming release I can’t talk about just yet! but am very excited about!) and my Earthside paranormal series (Poison Kiss, Survival Rout, more to come!). Both lines delve into my lifelong interest in magic and fairies, while dealing with queerness and issues like survivorship and rape culture. I like to write grim books with happy endings to them—although admittedly it took me a little while to hit that stride, ha!

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

Oh gosh. I worry that if I start navel gazing, I won’t come back up for air! Content notes for domestic violence below.

Pulchritude was my first novel and in some ways was a therapy book for myself. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, heavily seasoned with domestic violence. I’d just come out of an abusive marriage where I’d been physically trapped with someone I loved and yet who hurt me, and Beauty and the Beast resonated with that place in my heart. I wanted to show how a lover can be both a “good person” and yet do horrifically abusive things from a place of selfishness and control. In many ways Pulchritude is a redemption story, but not one with a happy ending. Pulchritude is also an early tree ring in my queer journey and it painfully shows; one of the characters is a blink-and-you-might-miss-it lesbian who is incredibly shy around women. She’s achingly subtle in part because I was still so scared of my own sexuality and afraid of coming out after being brought up in a bigoted environment.

But after Pulchritude, I realized I wanted happy endings in my books because I was coming to accept my own queerness and my need for happy, affirmative, non-shaming stories embracing my queer identity. If Pulchritude was me working through my abusive marriage, Poison Kiss was about my escape from an abusive upbringing and my embrace of a bisexual label for myself. My protagonists Rose and Lavender—who are both wonderfully bisexual—escape a world of control, forced heteronormativity, and sexual violence. They come out from fairyland to find an accepting “earthside” community of like-minded queer outcasts and survivors, and they work together with their unique magical powers to fight back against the fairy forces who seek to recapture them. It’s a straight-up unapologetic paranormal romp, but there’s allegorical elements of my own captivity as a kid in a violently anti-queer community.

Survival Rout, the sequel to Poison Kiss, uses those same elements of captivity to explore rape culture in a setting which is superficially set in fairyland but metaphorically an exploration of my first college experience. Men and women were heavily segregated at my Christian school and in many ways we were trapped—my dorm had the most incredible security features for locking down girls at night to make sure we weren’t out having sex—and yet in the midst of these trappings of purity culture, rape was rampant and heartbreakingly commonplace. Survival Rout focuses on a group of girls who, despite being trapped in this environment of purity and rape, fight back and use their powers to escape. Once out, they surprise their boy allies by not being as passive as previously assumed. It’s a book about power differentials between groups, and how allies can be genuinely good people and still not “get it” sometimes. One of the boys is a good guy who would never hurt a girl, but still has to be brought around to understanding the sheer depth of anger the girls have towards the boys who did hurt them.

My two upcoming works—a fairytale anthology and the third Earthside book—are about my transgender identity as a nonbinary trans person and my identity as a fat feminine person in a world that isn’t always kind to us. I’m very excited about these books and just need to write faster!

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

My favorite stories are huge ensemble casts that work together. X-Men stories, Star Trek stories, stories with lots and lots of people who are all weird and unique and who solve puzzles by combining those weird unique skillsets in new and exciting ways. That’s what I gravitate towards in my reading and writing: big ensemble queer casts where everyone is special and unique and so very queer. I like communities and cooperation and happy endings wrested from a harsh world intent on hurting us. Grimdark but with hope and triumph at the end. Hopebright? Is that a word? Can we make it a word? I want all the fat and queer and disabled characters to have lovely happy endings together.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I know this sounds so incredibly trite but I want to read Lord of the Rings again. Trungles did a read-through on twitter (which was lovely and the storify is glorious) and it reminded me how much I enjoyed Tolkien as a kid. I haven’t read the books since I was a baby—I’ve seen the movies and played the video games and I know the content, but I haven’t read the actual original words in forever—and I’d really like to go back and see how those books influenced me and where I can do better in my fantasy writing. I just have to steel myself to get through all the singing.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

The funny thing about writing books me is that when I set one free into the world, I don’t think about it much. I go from an intense one- or two-year time period where the book is my entire life and then set it free and move on to other things. So it’s always beautifully surprising when people message me about my books. I’ve had bisexual and polyamorous women contact me in tears to say how much Poison Kiss gave them the f/f/m triad relationship they needed to see in their lives. I’ve had abuse survivors write me about Pulchritude to say how much their experiences resonated with mine. Their messages are so touching and humbling and remind me why I do this; I really do write because I want to put words out in the world that people like me are thirsty for. Pictures of ourselves, doing amazing and magical things.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

Oh my god, I have all the feels about queer vampires. I have a WIP in my head, with a little dabbled on paper, with a lesbian trans woman vampire and her beautiful fat human Wiccan girlfriend and they fight crime (as naturally you would!) but I just need the time to get all the words to line up and march. I love noiry angsty vampire fiction and it is just so very much our turn to have fun in the sandbox here. I always feel so sad when people talk about vampires—or really any genre—being ‘played out’ when that genre still very much needs queer rep.

Speaking of, where are all the queer cozy mysteries? My mother loves cozy mysteries and I would like so very much to sneak some queer ones into her TBR pile. That’s the thing I love about queer fiction, the way it’s like a Trojan Horse onto the Kindles of bigotry. It’s harder to hate someone you’ve come to love for being an amazing character, and it’s harder to hate yourself when you see someone just like you on the page. That’s one reason why I try to keep my cover art very chaste and “stealthy”; my books are books I would have loved to read as a kid and would’ve sneakily checked out from the library under the veil of plausible deniability.

For my own books, I’d like to produce more and better ace and aro rep in the future. Earthside has ace and aro characters quietly in them, and an acearo character I strongly personally identify with, but I was still closeted to myself when I wrote the first two books and I fell into some stereotypes that I know hurt some readers. I want to fix that moving forward with better rep and with more rep all over so that no one person reads as “the” only way to be ace or aro. This goal is as exciting and scary for me as my First Bisexual Character and my First Trans Character were; it’s always thrilling and terrifying when I write myself onto the page and worry whether the self-portrait I’m painting is a masterpiece or a mess.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

I really, really want to read Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller; the protagonist is supposed to be a genderfluid assassin which sounds like the best thing ever. I’m a wee bit trepidatious because I’ve heard mixed reviews but honestly the big reason I’m waiting is because I’m trying to push to finish my own genderqueer project and time has just been flying by, ha. I’m saving Mask of Shadows as a reward for the end.

The most recent queer book I read was Snake Eyes by Hillary Monahan and the protagonist resonated with me so deeply that I honestly sobbed for a day afterwards because I just need more of this and forever and also retroactively as a kid, please. It’s a paranormal kitchen-sink urban fantasy book—which is my favorite and why I write my own paranormal settings—with a protagonist who is a lesbian woman who also possesses two working penises because she’s half-snake. It’s complicated. But she’s perfect and I adore her and she just hits me right in my genderqueer heart feels and the book is an amazing portrait of familial abuse and why and how it’s so hard to combat and overcome. FEELS.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for using semicolons or adverbs.

Q. Favourite summer drink?

PINK LEMONADE. The minute the temperature spikes, I’m digging the pitcher out of the cabinet above the fridge and measuring out the pink dust and tap water and trying to get the ratio just right. It tastes like summer and childhood to me, and I can’t get enough. Then autumn will come around and the pitcher goes right back into the cabinet for the next seven months, ha. Sense memory is such an odd thing.

Q. Favourite thing to do on a rainy summer day?

This is going to sound silly, but I do my best writing on rainy days. I live in Texas and rain is a rare luxury here, so it’s always been a beautiful sound to me. Every time it rains here, you can hear the relief in people’s voices. “Lotta rain today.” / “We need it.” The bliss contained in that simple six-word exchange is so hard to convey to someone who hasn’t lived here. Rain kissing the driveway and pattering against the fireplace flue is the most relaxing thing in the world.

So when it rains, I write. If I can’t write that day because of a pain flare-up, I’ll read. I would always read on rainy days as a child. One of my fondest memories as a child is being bundled up with wet hair from the rain in my pink bedspread and reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Rain reminds me of those getaways, of being able to slip into another world through the power of words.

Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Her favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. She is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories.

Aside from reading and writing, Ana enjoys games of almost every flavor and frequently posts videos of gaming sessions on YouTube. After coming out as genderqueer in 2015, Ana answers to both xie/xer and she/her pronouns. Find her at www.AnaMardoll.com, on twitter as @AnaMardoll, on Youtube at www.YouTube.com/c/AnaMardoll, and on Patreon.

The Poison Kiss and Survival Route art in this post was created by Laya Rose who you can also find @layahimalaya. It's gorgeous, and if I hadn't included art from the person who made the art for the cover of Chameleon Moon, Luci might actually have flown to Canada and murdered me.

Thank you so much for joing us Ana!

Peace and popsicles,

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

QSR Guest Post: 5 Queer Nonfiction Books

Hey Scouts! Please welcome the one and only Lucia to the blog! Tell them how awesome they are, okay?

Hi everyone! August has finally arrived, and with it four prompts to have fun with. I know nonfiction is hard for some people, so here’s a list of cool books that you could read for the nonfiction prompt:

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

A collection of fifteen essays written between 1976 and 1984 gives clear voice to Audre Lorde's literary and philosophical personae.

These essays explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde's intellectual development and her deep-seated and longstanding concerns about ways of increasing empowerment among minority women writers and the absolute necessity to explicate the concept of difference—difference according to sex, race, and economic status.

The title Sister Outsider finds its source in her poetry collection The Black Unicorn (1978). These poems and the essays in Sister Outsider stress Lorde's oft-stated theme of continuity, particularly of the geographical and intellectual link between Dahomey, Africa, and her emerging self.

(Summary from goodreads.)

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg John-Barker and Julia Scheele

Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel.

From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.

Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.
Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.

(Summary from goodreads.)

Mini Review: I read this a while ago, and while there were many things I liked, there were several things that bothered me, too, and a few points that I disagree with altogether. I enjoyed the diverse illustrations and think the language is easy to understand even without an academic background. However, I was disappointed that, although the Kinsey scale is discussed, asexuality is only brought up very briefly – so briefly, in fact, that I couldn’t find it without rereading the whole book – and aromanticism isn’t brought up at all. Reading the book, I got the impression that the author’s approach to the subject was too broad for the length of the text. As a result, I felt like there was a lack of depth to the book.

All in all, I think the book is a good starting point for learning about Queer Theory.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

(Summary from goodreads.)

But Not Up Here: Poems About Remembering In Neon by RoAnna Sylver

Words about love, loss, grief, PTSD, and jokes with no punchline.
Steps toward finding yourself and singing down the stars.

(Summary from goodreads.)

The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker

What if you weren't sexually attracted to anyone?

A growing number of people are identifying as asexual. They aren't sexually attracted to anyone, and they consider it a sexual orientation—like gay, straight, or bisexual.

Asexuality is the invisible orientation. Most people believe that "everyone" wants sex, that "everyone" understands what it means to be attracted to other people, and that "everyone" wants to date and mate. But that's where asexual people are left out—they don't find other people sexually attractive, and if and when they say so, they are very rarely treated as though that's okay.

When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as "asexual." Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.

In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people's experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.

(Summary from goodreads.)

Mini Review: I first read this book before I came out as asexual, and it really helped me define my identity. It’s very informative without being prescriptive, and contains a good list of resources for further reading. I like that you can read the different sections of the book out of order, which makes it easy to get answers to some of your questions first before reading the whole book.

I would recommend this book to people who are still figuring out their identity and everybody who wants to be an ally to aces.

My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters Through the Centuries by Rictor Norton

DEAR BOY is an anthology of gay love letters between illustrious men for almost 2,000 years. Correspondents include Marcus Aurelius, St. Anselm, Erasmus, Calvacanti, Michelangelo, Sir Phillip Sydney, King James I & VI, Thomas Gray, von Kleist, Byron, Hans Christian Andersen, Melville, Whitman, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Henry James, Frederick Wm Rolfe, Wilfred Owen, Hart Crane, T. E. Lawrence, Cocteau, Auden, Pasolini, Allen Ginsberg, Wm Burroughs, among others.

(Goodreads link.)

Mini Review: If you like love letters and queer history, this book is for you! I haven’t finished it yet, but what I have read so far has been both sweet and sad.

If you’ve been counting, you’ll notice that this is book number 6. The reason I didn’t count it is that it is extremely hard to get in print, and there is no eBook available. However, you can read much of it for free on the author’s website.

I hope you found something on the list that looks interesting to you! I tried to get some different types of books so hopefully there’s something for everyone. Of course, there’s a lot more out there 