Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp

Published: 1st June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

I love the titles of Anthologies because it is fascinating to see how a theme or concept is explored through so many different voices and narrative styles. For this one, not only are there queer stories, but these stories embody everything that kindred means and stands for.

These stories are not about finding love, or coming out, they are about finding someone who is like you, who knows you and understands you, if there is romance in there, great. But there are many wonderful stories about kids finding another person who understands them, and someone who, whether they know it consciously or not, are supporting them.

Not all characters in this are teens, a couple characters are in their 30s that I can best estimate, others aren’t specified, but their stories are still valid. There are a range of genres and each author has put up a story that encapsulates the theme. Kindred can mean so many things and seeing how each writer has interpreted this is wonderful.

While these are queer stories, they are also #LoveOzYA as well which showcases the great talent our LGBTQIA YA authors have. There are household names and there are new talents I didn’t know and getting some new names added to my #LoveOzYA repertoire is always a bonus. Some of these stories found their own place with me and I particularly loved Waiting by Jen Wilde. I saw myself in that story and it is proof that these stories are for everyone to enjoy.

The range of genres and representation was incredible. There’s representation from so many different cultures and voices and shows why representation matters. The tone across the stories were so different, form light hearted to dystopian, with a few futuristic and fantastic thrown in. There are some tough subjects and harsh realities but I found it refreshing because these authors don’t shy away from the realities of the world but they also treat it with a powerful care and respect.

It was a great decision to include Benjamin Law’s story at the end because while it is a story, it also acts like an essay and it is a thought provoking one that (hopefully) makes people question the things that they may do or say around LGBTQIA people.

With any anthology I am always so in awe of how one theme could be interpreted by so many different genres and approaches. It is a fantastic reminder that no matter what circumstance, no matter what reality, there is a commonality between people and the emotions and desires are universal.

You can purchase Kindred: 12 #LoveOzYA Stories via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Speaking Out!: An LGBT Anthology edited by Steve Berman

Published: 20th September 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Speaking Out features stories for and about LGBT and Q teens by fresh voices and noted authors in the field of young adult literature. These are inspiring stories of overcoming adversity (against intolerance and homophobia) and experiencing life after “coming out.” Queer teens need tales of what might happen next in their lives, and editor Steve Berman showcases a diversity of events, challenges, and, especially, triumphs.

This collection of thirteen stories tell a variety of stories from a variety of own voices. These are fictional stories but each author has a small bio at the start of their story which lets you see a little into their lives and their own experience being part of the LGBTQTIA community. These small paragraphs are an extra inspiration for readers who may be experiencing their own hardships and having these authors of all sexualities put their own experiences down are real life references outside of these fictionalised stories. The authors are American but a lot of the stories have a focus on the people rather than setting. There is a lot to gain from reading these stories even if you are from outside the States.

I found myself becoming quite invested in some of these stories. When they ended I wanted to know more, I wanted to see the scene after, the scene where they tell, where they act. I had to remind myself not only are these short stories, but they are short stories that capture the moment of speaking out, the events that lead them to have the confidence to do so. This is a testament to the power of these stories, and certainly some were better than others as all anthology readers will attest to. I found myself enraptured by the strength of these characters against homophobia by friends and family, and the danger that that homophobia can have.

The stand out stories to me were Sparks of Change by Dia Pannes which was a powerful read about family and changing the small mindedness of small towns; another one was the beautiful and mystical imagery of Steve Berman’s Only Lost Boys Are Found. One story I particularly adored was Forever is Composed of Nows by Will Ludwigsen; a story about returning back to the place where you had bullying and trauma as a teen, only to return as an adult. It was incredibly well done and insightful to read.

As I said, there are a range of identities and sexualities represented in this anthology and each one is explored in so many different ways. Seeing these characters discover who they are, who they are publically prepared to be was uplifting and something I can imagine teens and young readers would find not only empowering but comforting. Personal stories and essays about experiences by the LGBTQIA are important literature to have, but having fictional worlds to escape to and relate to are also important. This is a great collection of stories and one I found an absolute delight to fall into.

You can purchase Speaking Out! via the following

Book DepositoryDymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Also Known As Lard Butt by Ann Herrick

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th June 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Books We Love, Ltd
Pages: 80
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Laura finds out that, Ricky, the boy who created her horrible nickname, “Lard Butt,” has moved back into town—and immediately schemes to keep him quiet. After all, she can’t let her new swim teammates, especially drool-worthy Noah, hear the horrible name! No way! 

She’s determined to put a million years between grade school and junior high—even in the face of a father who drives an éclair, a would-be-movie-star mother who suddenly moves back home, and a past that comes back to haunt her with the dreaded nickname.

Although Laura’s embarrassed about how she looks in a swimsuit, she tries to stay true to her vow to take risks. She even lets Maria talk her into going to the school dance, where she braves negotiating a truce for a quarreling couple.

New friendships form, Laura’s mother starts getting too domesticated for Laura’s comfort, and hints of romance start to develop—or do they?

Another review I could have sworn I posted ages ago and yet here we are, unable to find it and therefore posting it. This was a decent story, short and sweet. The idea of this ‘Lard Butt’ is a bit strange, Laura isn’t overweight, she just has a large bottom. The way she talks about it is like it’s an abnormal growth but it seems to just be a bit bigger than most. Her thoughts about it switch from acceptance to being self conscious, her mother calls it a problem which wouldn’t help, and she was teased as a kid (hence the nickname), but she has learnt to try and deal with it.

Laura is shy and not confident, she has one friend she has known since primary school, and she is starting at a new school with apprehension. But at the same time she is determined to make changes in her life and leave the old her behind. It’s sweet in a way, Laura doesn’t try and do a complete remodelling of herself or her personality, she just decides to take risks and do things that may be out of her comfort zone.

The ‘Lard Butt’ aspect isn’t a major focus, it plays a role but it acts more of a starting point to what else happens in the book. Laura’s history and own feelings about it are understandable, especially memories of being teased, but the constant references she makes to it can become tiring, especially when it isn’t really a crucial plot point.

Being young and a bit naive Laura has a good voice and story to tell. Seeing things from her perspective provides us with her thoughts and opinions, and it also shows us how clueless she can be as well. Understanding people and situations when Laura does not makes you read a lot more into the story than the one she gives, which makes it more rounded, but there remains a focus on Laura and her growing confidence than really delving into multiple character backgrounds.

The characters are quirky and sweet and varying versions of interesting and they are as deep as they need to be for the story. Some certainly more than others, but because we see things through Laura’s eyes many references or details are briefly addressed or skipped entirely. There are many secondary characters you grow attached to like Ricky, and even a teacher at times, sweet people around Laura that help fill her world and help change her way of thinking. Her relationship with her friends and family is strong and Herrick explores these different connections with varying degrees which work quite well meaning you get a great understanding of her relationship to each person.

There are both happily ever afters and not so happily ever afters which is a great balance, it reflects reality quite well, varying degrees of good and bad things happen, nothing too life changing or exciting, just daily life. The story is quite short which I think works to its advantage, there isn’t enough to sustain a longer story and I think Herrick has balanced everything out nicely, providing conclusions, hope and resigned you to the fact that life isn’t always perfect but you can make the best of what you’ve got.

Dark Lands: Requiem (#1) by Lyn I. Kelly

Published: 26th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Lulu Publishing Services
Pages: 216
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Life. Death. Time. They have now been circumvented. Welcome to the Dark Lands. In this cataclysmic realm where the most benevolent and most caustic of souls wage war for the rights to eternity, siblings Webb and Sundown Thompson find themselves reborn. If they are to survive they will have to overcome their fears and prejudices, understand the powers inherent within them, and navigate the trials and temptations that surround them. The tide of battle is turning and the influence of evil under the reign of the Dark Man is growing. It is their world. It will effect everyone’s future. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I was intrigued by the premise of this story, a limbo-type world where you’re dead but haven’t moved on. The battle for good and evil rages on and these two siblings have been pulled into the fight upon their untimely deaths. Our introduction to the world is filled with immediate danger and suspense and with no baseline anything could quite possibly happen.

There isn’t a lot of depth in the characters but you almost don’t notice as there is a lot to take in. Sundown accepts her place in this new land fairly easily but Webb has a lot of questions, as does the reader, about the workings of this place. Webb is used to fill in these gaps as Kelly uses his queries to explain things to readers. There are of course comparisons to Harry Potter’s world in the magical schooling aspect, but there is a uniqueness as well.

With his inquisitiveness a lot of Webb’s personality is brought forward. He is hot-headed, impatient as he wants a result and he wants answers. This is where you can understand a lot of Webb’s feelings, removed from his life into this war with no real say is bound to cause anger and I think if Kelly had both characters accept their fate then this would be unsatisfying. Sundown’s age and nature plays a role in her decisions but it also makes for conflict especially when Webb’s anger has consequences in itself.

The concept is interesting and Kelly has a lot of mysteries which she leaves clues for throughout but I wasn’t entirely captured by it. There is a touch of predictability and while some aspects were engaging, other parts were not. The writing is ok and the premise is interesting but I couldn’t get right into the story. I didn’t really care about the characters and whether that had something to do with their lack of depth I’m not sure. Being the first in a series no doubt things will develop further but aside from a few moments, I’m not really engaged enough to keep going.

You can purchase Dark Lands via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

 

 

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

Published: 29 January 2019 (print)/29 January 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harlequin Australia/Harlequin Audio
Pages: 440/10 hrs and 52 mins
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.

Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…

This is a fantastic story if you know the history of Henry VIII and his wives and even if you don’t it is an amazing, complicated drama about high school politics which can only be told in the setting of an American school. Even if you don’t understand the entirety of the Tudor history Capin still tells an engrossing story and provides enough clues without ever breaking from the present day reality.

Not only is the premise brilliant, but Capin is a master with her metaphors. She doesn’t throw them in your face right from that start but when they come out they are the ideal representations of who these character were and the roles they played in history. The comparisons are not exact for obvious reasons, but Capin is incredibly close with her high school student equivalents and the more I thought about the historical events and the events and characters in the narrative I was even more in awe.

Our narrator Cleeves is a budding journalist and the use of journalistic chapters is a clever touch and while it does put everyone in their high school boxes, it works as an additional storytelling tool from Cleeves’ perspective. I love Cleeves because she has a journalistic mind but she is also passionate about what she wants and while she is a “good” character, she isn’t afraid to step outside the lines for a bit of fun either. She is a feminist and a fighter and the amount of girl power in this book is so fulfilling. Capin via Cleeves isn’t afraid to point this out and I loved how Cleeves isn’t afraid to speak out.

I loved everything about Cleeves, she isn’t pure but she is malicious either. Her friendship to Henry is solid and seeing her react to the things around her and the events that unfold is marvellous. Capin draws you in and once you are in deep to this stunning tale of drama she starts to plant her seeds and despite knowing the history you still aren’t entirely sure about what will happen. It’s an incredible journey to go on.

There is a strong chance I love this book more because of the ties to history. I got quite excited when I realised who characters were representing and what roles they were playing as the story unfolded. I can see how this might be too dramatic and convoluted for some people and overly dramatic, but if you read it as a modern Henry VIII then it becomes just as dramatic as history has always made it out his life and relationships to be, perhaps compressed into a few months rather than over years.

What makes this a strong story I found was that it wasn’t even much of a stretch. When I thought about Henry VII and his relationships, it easily translated into high school drama. While some of the historical events have been excluded, there is still enough to see the events of Henry and his court unfold in the modern day. Capin includes key aspects of Henry’s life and the lives of his wives, and while not everything is translatable, the references that are there are creative and true to her characters.

As I say, so much comes back to metaphors and Capin’s ingenious weaving of history into a modern setting which works so ridiculously well. I never even thought I needed a retelling of Tudor history but now that I have it I’ve realised what magic I have been missing out on.

You can purchase The Dead Queens Club via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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