Keri, Janna and Sione have one thing in common: they’ve each lost an older brother under tragic circumstances. Convinced that it’s more than coincidence, they dig deep, discovering a rash of similar deaths over the years, all linked to their peaceful New Zealand town. Now they have to deal with a supernatural threat which stands ready to take another life in the near future. Can they unmask their enemy before anyone else gets hurt? With a multicultural cast, an intriguing setting, and a genuine sense of mystery and foreboding, this is an unforgettable read. The characters are rich and complex, the magic is subtle, and the story satisfying.
Archive for category LGBTQ Interest
On the run after the death of the Emperor and the slaughter of her fellow Dragoneyes, Eona is caught in the middle of a rebellion, both figurehead and target. Only one man can teach her how to use her new powers in time to save the empire: Lord Ido, the disgraced Dragoneye who engineered his fellows’ downfall, currently held captive by the wicked false Emperor Sethon. In an epic struggle for survival, Eona must rescue her enemy, master her abilities, and unlock a centuries-old mystery involving her own ancestor. This fascinating sequel to Eon combines Chinese myth, wuxia action, magic, romance, and gender issues, producing a densely-packed, richly-told story.
The Kingdom has been in upheaval for years, plagued by bizarre weather, failing crops, and unnatural creatures. An emissary from the Fae invites human representatives to meet with their Queen, to restore the balance. Among those who are chosen are Kaede, daughter of the Chancellor, and Taisin, a powerful sage-in-training. The perils of the road are many, and slowly the two girls fall for one another, a bond which proves life-saving when they confront the true threat to two kingdoms. This gorgeous fantasy combines heart-pounding adventure and gentle romance. Filled with lush imagery and lovely words, it’s a genuine treat.
As a gay teenager living with his little brother and grandparents on an island community of only 4,000, Zach feels like an outsider, relying on the Internet for peace of mind and interaction with the outside world. When he’s grounded for forgetting to take out the trash, and denied Internet privileges, his desperation for diversion leads him to attempt astral projection. After he tries and fails, he puts the whole thing out of mind, even though the woman at the New Age store totally swore the special incense she gave him would help next time. And then Zach’s little brother, Gilbert, goes missing, and Zach once again tries to astral project in the hopes of finding him. This time, it works. In the astral realm, Zach can track his brother and his kidnappers, but can he find a way to alert the police before something bad happens? Luckily, in the process, he runs into Emory, another astral projector who’s much better at it … and apparently into Zach as well. Together, they can try to save Gilbert and give one another strength and comfort. That is, if the dark creatures stalking the astral plane don’t get them first.
There’s a lot of raw emotion and adolescent fervor woven into the pages of this relatively short roller coaster of a tale. Zach comes off as pretty high-strung, especially once the subplot regarding his little brother kicks into gear and he gets caught up in the tension of the moment. He and Emory hit it off with genuine chemistry, although something about the pacing seems a little off, even rushed. One can chalk it up to the excitement and adrenaline of the situation, but it still feels like they needed more time before reaching the depths of connection that they did. I’ll be honest: I never really bought into the astral projection element as a compelling factor in the story. As a metaphor for escaping one’s bounds and limitations, it’s dead-on perfect and applicable to the characters. At the same time, it fails to capture me as a reader. Certainly, the logic in which Zach decides to use astral projection, which he doesn’t even believe is real and has never successfully accomplished before, as a tool for finding his missing brother, requires a certain leap of faith on the reader’s part, lest the whole thing collapse. Of course it works, and of course the only other person he meets on the astral plane who isn’t trying to kill him, turns out to cute, gay, single, and of the right age. This is a good book, and I’m thrilled to see a YA paranormal featuring a gay teen and a hint of romance, but as a paranormal story goes, it never quite gels. I think it could have benefited from expansion; with a more leisurely plot, a less frantic atmosphere, and a less pressing deadline, this could have been great instead of good. It’s still a nice change of pace, and maybe we’ll get to see these characters again under less intense circumstances, and get to know them better.
Picking up where Cycler left off, Jill McTeague has decided to make something of a fresh start with her life. Thus, she’s off to New York with her best friend Ramie, while she figures out just what she’s supposed to do with herself – and her male alter ego, Jack. Jack may only exist for a handful of days each month, but he’s ready to seize every moment he can take, and indulge in a freedom he’s never known before. It sounds great, in theory. Jill can spend her time working at temp jobs while waiting to see if her boyfriend Tommy ever completes his road trip across America (and obsessing about how and when to lose her virginity) while Jack discovers what makes him tick, in between bouts of vigorous sex with his girlfriend, Ramie. A compromise everyone can live with, right?
Only New York’s not as glamorous as Jill expected. Ramie’s busy getting involved in the fashion industry. Jack’s showing up earlier and at unpredictable times. People are complicated. Tommy’s barely communicating. And sex is still an issue. All too soon, Jack and Jill are both wrapped up in matters of the heart that are beyond their control,and happy endings aren’t looking so likely anymore. Will they discover their true passions and find the right choices, or will New York be heartbreak for all involved?
McLaughlin has an interesting premise, albeit one buried in layers of soap opera complications and relationship woes. The intertwined struggles of Jack and Jill to find a balance in their lives, both romantic and in general, is a universal one, easy to relate to. Jill’s obsession with losing her virginity in the perfect manner makes an interesting contrast against Jack’s rampant sexuality and desire for more personal time. Ramie, who ordinarily balances them out as best friend and girlfriend, is increasingly removed from the action by outside committments and a new focus, forcing them both to think outside the box and make their own choices.
The problem is, these are storylines which would work just as well if Jack and Jill were indeed two separate people. What makes this book unique is the dual-identitied, gender-swapping nature of Jack/Jill McTeague, and how they coexist in the same body. Is Jill a girl who sometimes becomes a guy? All signs point to “yes” given her majority share. Jack is treated (and rightly feels) like an unwelcome intruder, no matter that he can’t control his own existence or manifestations. Draw your own conclusions, this book is rife with allegorical possibilities. Unfortunately, one thing it lacks is explanations. Why is Jill this way? I don’t recall any explanation ever being given. Maybe it’s gamma rays. Why is Jack showing up earlier than expected, or at inopportune moments? Again, no answers. Maybe it’s hormones, or some deep-down self-protective instinct. It just happens.
In short, it feels like there’s a lot of wasted potential here, in which the endlessly fascinating aspects of a gender-shifting protagonist are sacrificed for a more generic set of emotional/relationship stumbling blocks. This book’s open-ended conclusion leaves things ready for another installment if necessary, while leaving all the characters in different places than when they started. I’d love to see a continuation, in which our heroes further explore their own nature and identities. If nothing else, Jack and Jill would undoubtedly find food for thought, and maybe some understanding faces, in the trans community.
Is this a good book? Yes. Could it be a whole lot better? Most likely. It’s enjoyable, fast-paced, and the narrative voices are easy to relate to. It’s a fun read, but there’s still room to grow.
My name is Michael, and, to no one’s surprise, I am a geek. While the manner in which I express my geekitude has changed over the years, from theatre, to writing, to gaming, I’ve always embraced my geekdom. And so I have to say, this is the book I wish I’d had in high school. I really, really wish this anthology had existed back then. Because this book is full of pure whimsical awesomeness, and is a celebration of all things geek. Black and Castellucci have assembled an all-star cast, and encouraged each and every one of them to let their passions and their freak flags fly proudly.
While it’s easy to point at almost any story here and say it’s an excellent piece of work, there are a few which really stand out. First and foremost is Black and Castellucci’s own “Once You’re A Jedi, You’re A Jedi All The Way,” in which a Klingon and a Jedi meet at a convention, have a little too much to drink, and well … the Jets and the Sharks have nothing on Trekkies and Star Wars fans. Can a cross-universe affair work out, or will someone go to the Dark Side? I love the characters, and the situation is both absurd and believable.
Tracy Lynn’s “One Of Us,” about a cheerleader who pays the AV Club to teach her to speak geek in order to impress a guy, is somewhat more predictable in how it turns out, but it’s the good kind of predictable, where you totally root for the characters anyway, and want to see a happy ending. (Hmmm, seems to me this would make a great movie.) It’s a story that really speaks to the importance of owning your passion, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, or classic romance flicks.
Cassandra Clare’s “I Never” explores the potential for trouble that arises when members of an online roleplaying community meet up in real life … and not everyone lives up to their electronic persona.
Devid Levithan’s “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” shows that just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you have all the answers, while some situations don’t have any answers at all.
Lisa Yee demonstrates that geekery comes in every form, such as baton twirling, in “Everyone But You.” I guess it shows my own geek bias that until now, I’d have sniffed at baton twirling, but here, we see that it’s all a matter of perspective.
Sadly, one story which stands out, does so not because it’s good, but because it’s kind of disturbing. Barry Lyga (an author I love to read, by the way), turns in a strange tale of revenge in “The Truth About Dino Girl.” It’s a cautionary tale: don’t mess with the geeks or bully the outcasts, because you never know when one of them will snap and find a way to ruin your life, but it’s still a fairly ugly piece when you think about actions and consequences. Compared to the other stories, it’s a disharmonious note.
Back to something a bit more reassuring, Wendy Mass’ “The Stars At The Finish Line” is a quirky tale of competition, romance, and astronomy. Here’s another story with sympathetic, believable characters, great chemistry, and a feel-good ending.
Naturally, no collection of geekery would be complete without a Rocky Horror story, and Libba Bray’s “It’s Just A Jump To The Left” satisfies that need, and more.
Scattered between the stories are a number of comic strips, further exploring various aspects of geekdom, written by Black and Castellucci, and alternately drawn by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley. These add just that much more flavor to the overall excellent feel of the anthology, and make it truly worth the price of admission. Whether you’re into art, cheerleading, science, theater, science fiction, fantasy, or trivia contests, the message remains the same: embrace that which makes you happy and interesting, stand tall in the face of those who’d mock you, and have fun.
Man, I really could have used this book back then, but I’m damned glad it exists now.
Being hit by a bus is just the beginning for queen bee cheerleader Alona Dare, forced to exist as a ghost until she resolves some personal issues. Then she discovers the one living person who can interact with her: the sullen, freaky Will Killian, an unwilling medium if ever there was one. Forging an unlikely partnership, they help each other out, and even get used to one another, but will this get them through what’s left of high school? Romantic and good-natured, this quirky dramedy gets by on charm and an amusing cover, making for a nice change of pace from the darker books on the shelves.
In life, Karen DeSonne passed as straight, afraid to reveal her true orientation. In death, she’s passing as one of the living, a zombie girl hiding in plain sight. Even as bigots fan the flames of hate and intolerance against the “differently biotic” and make it nigh-impossible for zombies to go out in public, Karen’s going undercover to try and save her friends. But when she starts dating noted anti-zombie zealot Pete Martinsburg as part of the process, will she betray everything she holds dear? Passing Strange, like the others in the Generation Dead series, is a brilliant, poignant, compelling examination of the relationship of the outsider to society, with zombies standing in for any group you care to imagine and Karen as a protagonist worth cheering for.
When disgraced witch Sophie Mercer screws up once too often, she’s sent to Hecate Hall, a reform school for troublemaking witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. Even as she befriends her roommate, the lone vampire student, she runs afoul of a would be coven of ambitious witches, acquires a ghostly mentor, flirts with a handsome warlock, and struggles to master her abilities. Something deadly is lurking in the shadows, and Sophie may be the key to stopping it before the body count gets out of hand. With a solid story, believable characters, and a fast-paced plot, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read from a promising new author, and the start of a fun series.
Vancouver’s Occult Special Investigations unit always, by virtue of its very nature, gets the weird cases. This time, a prominent academic and necromancer has been murdered, while inexplicably wearing an antique suit of armor in the safety of his own home. Now Tess Corday and her team have to figure out who killed Luiz Ordeno and why. To do that, Tess will have to wrestle answers out of the notoriously tightlipped necromantic community, brave the local vampire dens, track down enigmatic demon information brokers, and risk her own life against those who don’t want her to succeed. Along the way, she’ll also have to reevaluate her clandestine relationship with her necromancer lover, keep not one but two supernaturally-imbued teenagers out of trouble, and make time for a long-overdue heart-to-heart with her mother. Just another week at the office.
Where do I start? I love this series with a passion, and Inhuman Resources is definitely my favorite thus far. On the surface, it’s the urban fantasy answer to CSI, with a full team of quirky, talented specialists working behind the scenes and in the office to help Tess and her partners in the field get the results. The camaraderie, snappy patter and easy back-and-forth dialogue helps maintain a steady flow as the information and technobabble comes and goes, and it’s obvious Battis has a real ear for this sort of thing.
I love that when characters talk to one another, it’s open, direct, and productive. There are too many series out there where a misunderstanding or moment of miscommunication could fuel entire books of angst and hurt feelings. Here, for instance, Tess and her boyfriend Lucien actually find time to have an adult discussion that means something, full of honest emotion and forward movement. Sure, they might argue, but they get over it in a manner which rings true and feels real. There’s a subtle maturity to the emotional component of this book that helps it stand out, whether it’s Tess and Lucien, or Tess’ partner/housemate Derrick and his boyfriend Miles, or part-demon teenager Mia (just hitting those moody teen years!) or any of the other fascinating characters who contribute to the plot. It’s an intangible quality; some books have it, some don’t, and this one has lots of it.
I love the juxtaposition of modern science (verging on the futuristic sometimes) and weird magic. Sure, it’s a staple of urban fantasy to blend the real and unreal, but Battis has injected his world with enough cutting-edge technology and forensic techniques as to give this series a slight science fiction edge as well. But then he turns around and introduces us to Trinovantum, the bizarre hidden city of the necromancers, which could exist in a fantasy setting completely separate of the so-called real world. And instead of clashing, these disparate elements work well together.
The main crux of the plot may be your standard murder whodunit, but its packaging is anything but standard; this is top-notch urban fantasy in every regard, and I’m looking forward to the further adventures of Tess Corday and her friends and family.