Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

 

I feel like I’m way behind the times, but this is the first time I’ve heard about Swoon Reads. It’s a pretty great concept, and if you’re an author looking to be published you should check it out.

Queens of Geek is told in alternating POVs. Charlie is a big-time vlogger turned movie star who is at SupaCon for the promo of her break-out movie The Rising. She’s openly bi, fierce, and trying to establish herself on an international level. Taylor is her BFF who’s tagged along to the convention in the hopes of meeting her fav author. She’s a full on fangirl, completely in love with their other best friend, Jaime, and is determined to get through the weekend without her anxiety holding her back.

This book is all kinds of sweet. The friendships are cute, the storyline is fun, and I love all things fandom which really helped moved the book along.

Charlie and Taylor were both completely separate and easily identifiable, their storylines were interesting and I had fun reading.

Taylor’s anxiety was another high point. It was well researched and I was able to relate to a lot of what Taylor went through from having social anxiety for a lot of my younger years. Every time Taylor stopped herself from doing something for fear of it drawing attention to her, I hugged the book a little tighter.

That said, after recently reading Geekerella, this book lacked the extra depth to make me fall in love. The writing was straightforward and easy to speed through, but I would have liked to see it go into further detail and really make me feel what the characters were feeling. Charlie’s relationship with big time vlogger Alyssa (who was a great character) fell short, and I wasn’t swept off my feet like I expect from a romance.

SupaCon was great, but the fandom aspect wasn’t well developed and I feel like extra details that would have made this book shine were cut down to accommodate the two storylines. Reese (Charlie’s ex) was also very two dimensional and had zero character development. Instead of making this a multi-POV book, I would have liked to see both storylines made into their own separate books so Wilde could give the world building the richness it needed.

Overall, it was a fun book and great if you’re looking for something light and fluffy.

 

AOaR_3star (3)

(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

Review: ‘Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography’ by Neil Patrick Harris

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Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?

Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born in New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life, you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.

Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, but make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!

I remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and dog-earing pages when I made decisions, so that I could go back to the last fork in the road if the one I chose didn’t work out for the best. Since I am now opposed to dog-earing pages, I don’t know how I’d have handled reading this autobiography. Lots of bookmarks, maybe?

Fortunately for me, I listened to the audiobook instead, and it was sooooo worth it. For a start, Neil Patrick Harris does the reading, and he’s as a great a voice actor as he is any other kind of actor. Secondly, instead of including transcripts of different moments, the audiobook includes a few actual recordings instead, including of Neil giving a speech on optimism when he’s a young teen, and a chapter with some gorgeous interjections by his husband, David.

The story still jumps around a bit, because instead of choosing to skip ahead or back (which would have been impractical when I was driving), Neil just advises you to “keep listening” or “wait a bit”, or says “we talked about that already”. The made-up parts of the book are clearly fake — he dies in gruesome ways that become eerily familiar at least four or five times — but they are hilarious. Also included are magic tricks, recipes and different celebrities’ anecdotes.

I don’t often laugh or externally emote when I’m reading (or listening to) a book. That’s why books that make me cry are few and far between. So are books that make me actually LOL. But this book had me laughing constantly. It is also touching and sweet and made me naww more than once.

Another thing that was really interesting about the memoir was hearing Neil’s own, gradual discovery of his sexuality. He describes himself as not so much being in the closet as being unaware of his sexuality; he was a rather asexual teen, and then thought he was bisexual for a while. Eventually (some time after his first sexual encounter with a male), he realised he was straight-up gay.

No pun intended.

Seriously, you guys. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography is one of my favourite reads of the year.

Parental advisory: This book has swears, and talk of drinking, drugs and sex, both gay and straight. It’s not full on, but it’s there. In case you’re bothered by such things.

AOaR_5star (3)

Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy author with a forever-unrequited crush on Neil Patrick Harris. But she’ll soldier on.

Cassandra Page

Guest Post: Is LGBTQI Enough Character(s) For You? by I. E. Kenner

Welcome and thanks to I. E. Kenner, who is an Aussie sci-fi writer and good fun to chat to on Twitter (look them up). They’re joining us today to give us their insights on writing LGBTQI characters. — Cass

So you would like to write an LGBTQI character into your novel. Well of course you would! So many lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and intersex people are completely awesome (as are many straight people, but of course straight people get more press ;o).

Most of us at least know a lesbian, bi, gay, trans, queer or intersex person, but you may not be across some of the community terms, issues and challenges that will help round out your character. Unless you are yourself gay, trans or queer or spend a lot of time in the LGBTQI community, you may not feel entirely comfortable writing a character with which you don’t completely identify. We all face these issues when writing any character from with background different from our own. I myself struggle with aliens. And conservatives. But hopefully this article can help some of you out there writing your LGBTQI characters!

Before I start, let me tell you a little bit about myself: I am a trans person, which (for me) means my gender identity and the way I express my gender do not match my birth sex. You will note I say “trans person” because at this time in my life I am still trying to work out exactly what gender really is and where I fit into that spectrum (you know…once I work out what the spectrum is). I am a parent of three crazy, fantastic children; a partner to a wonderful, patient, caring woman; a writer (mostly of fiction); a blogger (mostly of bullshit); and a pretty prolific Twitterphile.

I have a lot of straight, gay, lesbian and trans friends and I feel I have a good understanding of many of the issues, challenges and struggles people in the LGBTQI community face, despite having been mostly accepted in my own experiences. I face some of these challenges myself every day by presenting myself the way I feel rather than the way much of society expects me to, though I have always gone with the motto: ignore the arseholes and embrace everyone else. I am not an all-knowing oracle on this subject, but I think I can give you a few pointers.

So…how can we start to write your character?

Well, to begin with, you must remember that LGBTQI people ARE STILL JUST PEOPLE. Everything you do every day is probably not outrageously different to what a trans person or a lesbian person may do. Also realise that despite the stereotypes we, as a society, are bombarded with, not all people who identify as this, that or the other sexuality or gender match the stereotype. For example: not all gay men are exceptionally effeminate, neat and tidy; not all lesbian women wear their hair short and wander about in boiler suits; and not all trans women get about in lingerie and gaudy makeup. Everybody is different, even within the confines of community labels. As long as you have a character background that makes sense for the way in which your character behaves, the world is your character oyster!

Some things to be aware of though: terminology is important. Very, very few trans people will refer to themselves or any other trans person as a “tranny” unless they are super comfortable in their own skin and they are talking in joking, irreverent manner the way we do to good friends in private. The same goes for lesbian ladies and the term “dyke”, and gay guys and the term “fag” or “poof”. All of these terms are slurs and will almost never be used by anyone in a professional or very public situation. The LGBTQI community is gradually taking back these terms, but they are still slurs and some people will get deeply offended if anyone uses them, ever. (In fact I will wait for my hate mail to come in about this paragraph.)

Also, some intersex people are resentful of being included in the term LGBTQI and, indeed, resent being considered part of the LGBTQI community. I do understand this and I feel for those people who resent this inclusion; however, the community I know and the people I know in it are inclusive of just about anyone. If you’re not an arsehole and you would like to be a part of the community you’re welcome to be a part of it. So please forgive me, those of you who don’t like the idea of being “lumped in”, but I consider it a privilege, not a punishment.

As far as I’m concerned the only thing that differentiates LGBTQI people from anyone else is the way society treats them. In designing the background of your LGBTQI character, consider carefully that times have changed in most western countries. How old your character is may affect how they see the world and how the world has treated them. Is there actually such a thing as “coming out” to them? For most of us older folk, we had to go through a time in our lives (or are still going through it) when we have revealed our sexual orientation or gender identity to the people around us. In many cases, this does not turn out well. So with that in mind, if your character is a bit older or they live in a very conservative community, have they come out? If so, to whom? For a lot of people, coming out can be a terrifying experience because they feel (with good reason) that their family will react badly and or they will lose friends because of who they are. It can be an incredibly daunting prospect. For others, like myself, the journey is ongoing and the whole concept of coming out is actually a process of revelation within us and expressing that revelation (carefully) in our lives.

“Coming out” and the issues around doing so have historically had enough gravitas to produce any number of novels, films and the odd riot all by themselves.

Speaking of riots…keep in mind that community attitudes heavily affect LGBTQI people. A lot of people born in conservative communities will suffer serious negativity, and even violence. Such serious negativity that if they survive, they end up escaping to a more accepting place very early in their lives (sometimes dangerously early). How has this hate affected them? How will they treat people in their new home town? How will they be perceived? Will they shy away from people and social situations or will they embrace their new-found freedom to be themselves and be reborn into a more accepting community? Will they get involved in the LGBTQI political scene and promote, fight and speak out for the rights of LGBTQI people, or will they keep to themselves and just get on with their lives?

What if you’re not sure about the stuff you’ve written? Is it realistic? Is it unintentionally offensive? Is it not offensive enough? (Real life can be offensive; so can fiction, and offensive scenes can have a profound and ironically positive effect.) If you’re not sure, use the resources you have out in the world. Ask your CPs to read your work and provide a critique. Use your Twitter tweeps or Facebook friends who may be LGBTQI or may be more familiar with the community; ask them to read your work and critique it, particularly for the references and realism of your character.

I have a trans woman character in my WIP and I have struggled to shape the character because in my world of the future, the concept of LGBTQI is no longer a thing. People just are who they are and it is not something people discuss, so do I introduce this woman as trans? If so, how can this be done? How do people react if they learn that she is trans? How far into her transition is she? How does this affect her psychologically?

I have lots to work through with this character, and here I am writing from my own experience!

Finally something to think about if you’re NOT considering having an LGBTQI character in your novel. Based on a 2012 survey in the USA, 3.4 percent of people surveyed identified as LGBTQI. A 2014 survey in Australia came out with almost exactly the same percentage. I would suggest this is not a coincidence, but rather a statistical reality. So if you have 30 characters in your book, chances are at least one of them will identify as LGBTQI. Do we have to make a character’s sexual preference or gender identity the focus of the book? Of course not. Do we need to consider the nuances of each character’s world as different from the worlds of their peers and families? Of course we do. They’re our characters and creations, we want them to come alive!

Happy reading and happy writing, folks.

IEK

Trans Terminology

  • Transgender: A broad, generic term covering anybody identifying as transsexual, crossdresser, drag queen, drag king or gender queer
  • Transsexual: A person whose birth sex does not match their gender identity and/or gender expression
  • Trans: Shortened form of the above
  • Trans Man: A person who is trans who presents and identifies as a male
  • Trans Woman: A person who is trans who presents and identifies as female
  • Gender queer: A relatively recent term used to refer to someone who does not specifically identify with either binary gender
  • Drag King: A woman who dresses either professionally or for fun as a caricature of a man
  • Drag Queen: A man who dresses either professionally or for fun as a caricature of a woman
  • Intersex: A person who is born with both male and female genitalia
  • Crossdresser: A person who derives sexual excitement from dressing as the opposite sex (the term “transvestite”, unfortunately for Frank N Furter, is considered a slur these days)

Author details

Website/blog: http://iekenner.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/OTS_Bifrost (@OTS_Bifrost)

Facebook: http://facebook.com/iekenner

IE Kenner

YA Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

 

 

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In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.
Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.
Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”
Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

 

People are mean!

I’m sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Whenever I read Historical Fiction I usually cry over my book because people are just so mean. Why?! Why is it hard to be nice?!

Yes, this book made me despise humanity slightly. But it also simultaneously restored my belief that there are always nice people, even in a horrible time.

So what’s the book about? Mainly: racism. 

It’s sit in 1959, so yes, I am going to use Hairspray musical gifs (that’s set in the 60s, but same basic principle) and The Help gifs (also 60s) and you’re welcome in advance.

The writing was fantastic!

Despite the first 30% being one day, the pace is brisk and the writing’s tight. I abhor wading through kilometres of dreary interior monologue. Ugh. But this? This was perfect. It is co-narrated by Linda and Sarah, which surprised me. Their voices were different though. No confusion.

Sarah is black and Linda is white. They start out with a hate relationship (duh) with gradual melts into love. Honestly, Linda is mean girl personified. She’s introduced as a snob! The second I met her through Sarah’s POV, I thought, “Here comes the rich snark — pretty hair and shallow soul, right?”

WRONG.

I am oh-so-impressed with Linda. 

Sure Sarah had to fight racism, going to a horrible school where she was physically and emotionally bullied day after day. But Sarah had support. Anyone with dark skin new what she was going through! What about Linda? Little rich white girl? Pfft, go cry to your daddy when you don’t get your lollipop.

What we don’t think of (during that awful time of rights for everyone), is rights for women in general. Linda wasn’t going to college because she was getting married. THAT was the peak of her life. And why did she want to get married? To get away from her abusive father. I’m 1000% impressed that the book covered sexism against women as well.

My only negative is I felt the story was predictable.

Yeah, it was full of meanies! Don’t get me wrong! The bullying the black kids had to go through in the all-white high school was so wrong. But I didn’t get any plot surprises. I didn’t get any character development surprises. It all seemed pretty en route to awesome to me. It was predictable and nice

And where was the Southern food?! This is VIRGINIA. I’ve watched The Help peoples, and I know there’s more to Southern life than grumpy newspaper people and racism. There is fried chicken. WHERE WAS THE FRIED CHICKEN? Maybe everyone would’ve been happier if they ate more…

 

AOaR_4star (3)

Cait is tentatively planning to do NaNo (never too early to plot, right?) unless she gets too excited and starts in October instead. So many book ideas to write! Find her on twitter and her crazy blog.

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