23 February 2011

Counting down to chat!

Less than 48 hours until I'm chatting at Coffee Time Romance & More's Erotic E-loop Yahoo Group. (Whew! That's a mouthful!) Haven't joined the group yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Hop to it!

Caffeinated Fantasy: Chat with Maia Strong
25 February 10-12 PST (1-3 EST)

Excerpts! Prizes! Fun!

Be there.

22 February 2011

Kate Davies' New Release!

Check it out, check it out! Kate Davies' latest, Take a Chance on Me, released today! You need to go read all about it on her blog right now. I just went and got my copy over at Samhain's Bookstore, and you totally need to do the same! And BONUS, it's on sale. So get yourselves on over to the Samhain site and pick it up. You'll be glad you did!

18 February 2011

LGBTQ YA Fiction - YoRY Part 5

Last time I mentioned Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. Here's part of what it says on Goodreads:
The story's narrator is Paul, who, like most teenagers, is preoccupied with love and its attendant feelings. However, Paul is gay. He has "always known it," and his kindergarten teacher confirmed it on Paul's report card: "Paul is definitely gay and has very good sense of self." But in high school, things are a bit more complicated. No, it's not what you're thinking. The world in which Paul lives is utterly devoid of homophobia. It's Paul's love life that's complicated. See, Paul finds himself crazy about a new boy, Noah, but is leery of letting his ex-boyfriend, Kyle, know it. Then there's Paul's best friend, Joni, who is dating Chuck, whom everyone hates -- especially Infinite Darlene, the drag queen who serves as both homecoming queen and star quarterback at Paul's high school, which gives a whole new meaning to the term "progressive."

So you see why I likened it to the fairy tales I talked about in YoRY Part 4. I would love this to be every high school (and it reminds me a little of the high school setting for the musical "Zanna Don't!") but that's not gonna happen anytime soon, sadly. Thank goodness that David Levithan imagined it and shared it!

Another queer-themed YA novel I read was Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I actually read this one first, and it inspired me to read Leviathan's other title. (He has several, but I've only read the one, hence my use of the singular.) Again, from Goodreads:
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

I loved this book beyond all reasoning and for a number of different reasons: Each author took a single Will Grayson and wrote from his point of view. Each chapter alternated between the two Will Graysons, so you got each unique point of view and insight into each Will Grayson's life in entirely different voices. I love straight WG's best friend, the enormous and gay Tiny. And I less-than-love gay WG's friend, whose name I am sorry to say I do not remember. And yet, as much as I less-than-loved her, I could see why the character behaved in the way she did. But still... ::shakes head:: I don't want to spoil it for you.

It had been a long time since I'd read any LGBTQ YA--at least that I can remember. I know I read and loved Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden back in the early '90s, but I can't think of another specifically gay-themed YA novel I'd read since. Plenty of adult books I've read have queer themes and characters--and not just the erotic romance books, either--but not so much with the Young Adult. What I love about both Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Boy Meets Boy is that they are written for boys. Or at least they are about boys. Historically, women have gotten less flack for being gay than men have. (Notably, gay male sex was a crime punishable by hard labor and imprisonment in Britain far too long, while there was no law against gay female sex. Okay, it was because of the ignorant belief that women couldn't have sex (as the law defined it?) with each other, but still. It's easier for a tom-boy of a girl to fly under the radar, you know? At least in my pre-teen and teen world, this was the case.) There are loads of YA and Middle Readers books about boys, but until recently, not so many that gave a positive image of and for gay male teens. I love this trend! When I was at Powell's in Portland last November, there was an entire endcap display in the YA section devoted to LGBTQ YA books. I picked up a new one that I haven't read yet called How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, about which I know nothing beyond what you'll find behind that link and the fact that I got it from that endcap.

What about you? Do you have any LGBTQ YA recommendations to offer? I'd love to hear them!

Next, and probably the penultimate YoRY post, will be about the YA lit of New Zealand. Which reminds me, I have a book to look for. I'm crossing my fingers that it's finally available in the US, or at least in Canada. It was too much to pay for and too heavy to pack flying home from NZ last May. I've been impatiently waiting for a North American edition ever since. Wish me luck!

14 February 2011


I've had some interesting feedback lately that brings a question to mind. That question is: Do readers have different expectations for ebooks and print books? It's clear from my small experience that publishers certainly do. For better or worse, I don't know. I do find it interesting. The top-most discrepancy between the two seems to be the amount of "white space on the page". Ebooks tend to have more white space on the page than print books (which I find silly, as it really comes down to formatting, IMO). Case in point, I'm reading a print techno-thriller and an ebook cozy mystery. All genres aside, I will say that there's a helluva a lot more text per page in the print book, and yet it's far more compelling than the less text-heavy ebook. I'm not trying to slam the medium, mind you, I just wonder where this notion came from. Do readers have different expectations for the different media, or is this something that's been manufactured, or simply misinterpreted, by publishers? My only expectation for any book I choose to read, particularly any book I choose to purchase rather than borrow from the library, is that it live up to its potential.

What do you think? Have you even thought about it? Am I over-thinking it? (I suspect the last is the case. LOL)

07 February 2011

Fairy Tales - YoRY Part 4

I my previous Year of Reading Youthfully post, I mentioned fairy tales. Specifically, I mentioned The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. (Many people may know it by the movie, which I have not seen so I won't get into.) Another fairy tale I read over the year was I, Coriander by Sally Gardner. Both were for the YA Lit book club I'm in, otherwise I don't think I would have gotten around to ...Despereaux. It just wasn't so much on my radar. (Another book with a fairy tale vibe that I read on my own was Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. But that one falls into LGBT YA, so I'll get to it later.)

A little background on each:

The Tale of Despereaux (from Goodreads.com): The adventures of Despereaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin.

I, Coriander (also from Goodreads.com - This is, in fact, the beginning of the book.):
It is night, and I have lit the first of seven candles to write my story by. My name is Coriander Hobie, and I have a great many things to tell–of silver shoes that tempted me and an alligator most rare; of London, the home of my childhood, and another, stranger land, one that I thought only existed in dreams; and of an ebony box whose treasure only now am I beginning to understand. The box was once my mother’s, but its secrets were meant for me.
This being my story and a fairy tale besides, I will start once upon a time . . .

So, we know the latter is a fairy tale because it says so right one the first page, and we can assume that former is also a fairy tale because it has talking mice and princesses. Are we all agreed? Good.

There was a lot of discussion over both of these books, and some complaints about I, Coriander's portrayal of the beautiful, mistreated heroine and the handsome prince of the fairies, and the evil hag who does everything to keep them apart. Does the heroine have to be so pretty? Must the prince be handsome? Why is the evil one also physically ugly? Well, I say, because it's a fairy tale and that's the way fairy tales work. Simple answer? Yes. Valid answer? Yes. Honestly, those questions never even occurred to me while I was reading it. I was far more engaged in the story, itself: the setting (London during the Interregnum, and the land of the fairies); the characters (strong-willed heroine; steadfast, shy step-sister; father and allies to her father; mother and her mysterious past; quirky ally in fairy-land; evil queen; tormented prince); and the different sorts of magic that existed in both worlds. I was wrapped up in the tale, and thoughts of what this was telling young girls about what can and can't be, what they should and shouldn't look like or expect out of life never crossed my mind. It's a fairy tale, from "Once upon a time" to the end.

As for Despereaux, well, I enjoyed it, but it didn't touch me particularly. I think it was oversold, to be honest. I love talking animals. Princesses and dungeons and soup are all entertaining things, but to be honest the love of Despereaux for the Princess Pea, while charming and sweet, wasn't particularly meaningful to me. Roscuro's part of the tale was sad and dark, as was
Miggery Sow's, but they didn't especially move me. I can appreciate the book on an academic level, but not so much on a personal one. It was a lovely story, well-written, and worthy of its awards and accolades. But yeah. I think the problem was the heightened expectations I had going in. And that's something it's very hard to overcome.

Fairy tales serve a purpose. They elaborate the human condition in a fantastical yet accessible way. They provide the opportunity to adventure, to be bigger and better than we are in real life. They can teach lessons about how one should behave, how one should treat others, about chivalry and honesty and all sorts of laudable qualities. The bad guys always lose and the good guys always win (which make them a little like Doc Savage novels, but that's another subject entirely). In the end, though, they are entertainment, to be taken for whatever value you personally place upon them. Me, I'm more inclined to dig on a fairy tale set during the Interregnum, just because that's who I am. I mean, how often do you see that, right? Crazy! And yet it worked!

Do you have any fairy tales you particularly love or hate? Tell me about them!
How about books, YA or not, set during the rule of the whack-job Cromwell
(anyone who bans theatre is irredeemable, IMO) and his intolerant round-heads? Let's hear 'em!

(That reminds me, have you read Witch Child by Celia Rees? I'd talk about that, but I read it a few years ago. Starts in England (early into the Restoration, I think), but the heroine flees to America to escape being executed for witchcraft like her grandmother was. The catch? The people she travels with and goes to live with are Puritans, and she really is a witch.)

03 February 2011

Fun with grammar

I still say good grammar costs nothing, but I have to also say that I love what this guy has to say:

Five big things grammar Nazis get wrong.

Or watch it here:

For anyone wondering, I will get back to my Year of Reading Youthfully very soon.

And don't forget to come chat with me on 25 Feb 10 - 12 PST on Coffee Time Romance's Erotic E-loop!