Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth is a memoir-style novel about a teenage girl growing up in small town, conservative America in the 1980s. It's very good, and it's nice to see something literary added to the pool of coming of age lesbian fiction, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting. What I was expecting was a young adult book, of some flavour of the genre. What I got was a book twice as big as I expected, that read a lot like a memoir, and mostly used much bigger words than the typical YA book. And had an awful lot of depressing religious conservatism in it, hemming our main character around.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

This is a guest review from Bookocalypse Book Reviews. They also wrote the Dare, Truth or Promise review.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a coming-of-age young-adult novel about a girl growing up in Miles City, Montana, USA. Her parents are killed in a car accident at Quake Lake the same day she kisses her best friend Irene for the first time. She’s twelve, and thinks it might be God punishing her.

For a book that begins with the main character being orphaned, it’s warm, funny and readable. Cameron is instantly engaging. She’s brave, independent, athletic, intelligent and daring. The book follows Cameron’s viewpoint and way of talking, giving the book a unique voice that is never forced.

It’s a lovely evocation of a small town, so well-drawn that it’s no surprise to read that the author, Emily Danforth, grew up there. I’m going to go ahead and assume that the book is somewhat autobiographical. The joy of the summer months, the confidence with which Cameron spends her days around town, the stores and festivals and local personalities, are wonderful to read. This does what a good book should: transport you to another time and place and make it feel real.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Anthology Review: Sidecar by Ann McMan

Sidecar is a collection of four short stories by Ann McMan, of Jericho fame (one of my favourite books of the year so far, which I reviewed back in January).

Sidecar contains four stories of varying length and a nice introduction by reviewer (and wife of the author) Salem West of The Rainbow Reader which discusses the type of writing you can expect from Ann McMan, and quickly introduces the stories. While obviously written by the same person, there's a nice variety in mood and characters and settings. They're all romances and feature Ann McMan's apparently trademark elements of witty dialog and fine wine. The longest and best is the hilarious "Bottle Rocket", a parody on lesbian publishing. The others are less comic and more romantic, but each seems to indulge a particular theme or impulse in the conversations, from parody to romance to rudeness, but always staying on the sweet side of interesting. I'd read at least one before, and I suspect a couple of the others may also be available to read for free online, but "Bottle Rocket" is brand new and exclusive to the collection.

There are some common themes; all our characters are reasonably literary and intellectual. Even the more backcountry, or stereotypically lower class ones turn out to be well able to hold their own. All but one of them is something of a wine lover. These are all romances, and generally involve a lot of punning, arguing and witty dialogue between the lovers. We don't get any sex scenes. While there's some kissing and groping and we're told that Sex Happened, it's a very non- explicit collection of stories. Entirely safe for work and children. Well, as long as they don't understand some of the references in "Bottle Rocket".

Like Jericho, the writing is elegant, intellectual (that means 'wordy but I like it'), and excellently edited. Finding a single missing quote mark in the third story felt like managing to pick the one piece of sky out of a pile of near identical jigsaw puzzle pieces. I wanted to photograph it and send it in to the author for a prize.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Anthology Review: OMGQueer: Short Stories by Queer Youth

OMGQueer, edited by Katherine E. Lynch & Radclyffe, is an anthology of GLBTQI short stories written by young(ish) queer authors.

So, I hate this book. It's the worst kind of anthology with the worst kind of short stories. The kind that are short. The kind that end after deceiving you into identifying with the characters and relaxing and getting really into the story. Oh, sure, some wrap up neatly and are perfectly paced, but others? Others cut you off just as you forget this was meant to be short story.

So I repeat, I hate this book. You should read it.

It's not perfect. Some things about it are downright disappointing. A few stories don't appeal to me (though they may to others), only two of them are genderqueer/transgender (and one of them has a lesbian main character), and some of them would have fitted in much better in an adult anthology (about a third of the stories feature older teens or adults in their early twenties).

The majority are actually lesbian stories - which is great, in a genre still dominated by gay male stories, but sad, because this book was touted as an all inclusive anthology dealing with the entire spectrum. I suspect that the number of lesbian and 'adult' stories might be attributed to the editors' taste or author connections (Radclyffe writes adult lesbian romance - and is well known for it).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Gossamer Axe by Gael Baudino

Gossamer Axe by Gael Baudino is an urban fantasy, featuring a Celtic harper centuries out of her own time, who gets caught up in the world of 1980s heavy metal in a quest to rescue her lover from the Sidh.

It actually felt like it could have been part of any of Mercedes Lackey's urban fantasy books (specifically the Bedlam's Bard novels with Rosemary Edghill), in style and readability, intertwining of music and magic, themes of good and evil, and the duality of the Sidh and the modern day. Some of the themes, such as the Sidh being unable to create, were common themes, although explored in different directions. But actually, the Sidh in Gossamer Axe could have easily been a small enclave cut off from the rest of Sidhe society in one of Mercedes Lackey's books.

Gossamer Axe took a slightly darker, less idealistically polished, spin, was a little harder to read and felt a bit more real and worthwhile. Flawed characters, truly flawed characters, are much more fascinating than tragically 'ganged up on by fate' characters.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Review: Dare, Truth or Promise by Paula Boock

This is a guest review from Bookocalypse Book Reviews.

Dare, Truth or Promise by Paula Boock is a sweet and gutsy coming of age book about two girls living in Otago, New Zealand. It won the New Zealand Post Book of the Year Award in 1998 and took out the top prize in the Senior Fiction category (the biggest book awards in New Zealand).

Louie and Willa are well-drawn characters with whom readers can sympathise and admire. The book alternates between their viewpoints. Louie is an outgoing, funny actor with a wide circle of friends, a close-knit Italian family and an overbearing mother. Willa is down-to-earth, quiet, a daredevil. She lives in the pub where her mother works. She has a dog called Judas and wants to be a chef.

Refreshingly, Louie welcomes her crush on Willa. She doesn’t doubt how she feels, but only wants for Willa to want her back. She’s delighted when she does. Louie thinks, of her first kiss with Willa, “this is my first kiss. It wasn’t, of course, she’d kissed a number of boys…” She feels disbelief:
“not that she was in love with a girl, for it seemed suddenly absolutely natural that she be in love with this girl – but that, god only knew how, this girl should love her back!”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Young Adult: Genre Overview

  1. Links to booklists, reviews and other things to do with YA lesbian literature
  2. Some quick reviews of books we've read
  3. List of recommended Nonfiction and Anthologies
  4. Misc 'see more' links.

This is a selection of recommended titles for lesbian teens. Most GLBT books for teenagers focus on coming out, although a few other storylines are starting to be written and published.

All these book lists focus on lesbian YA fiction, unless otherwise stated.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Genre Overview

Fantasy and science fiction has many very good books to offer in the way of lesbian authors, characters and plot. You can browse by genre (fairytale, fantasy or science fiction) or by author (overview of authors and their books past the genre summaries)

  • Alternate Fairytales
Rewriting well known fairytales is a popular genre, and one obvious twist is to change the preferences of the characters involved. There are some very well-written stories around lesbian storytale heroines. There's a round-up of Lesbian Fairytale Fiction here.
Read all the fairytale book reviews by tag.

  • Fantasy
Whether a magical world or simply an alternate reality, fantasy has a long and marvellous history, Some of this history includes lesbians. Some of these lesbians are fairies, others are mages and others are simply ordinary people in a strange world. 
Read all the fantasy book reviews by tag.

  • Science Fiction
The mirror sister of fantasy, sometimes science fiction psi is almost indistinguishable from magical mind reading, and sometimes fantastical worlds are only found in space. The technology based genre of science fiction has its own share of lesbian writers, whether set in a future society, or just a twist on today's world.
Read all the science fiction book reviews by tag.

Book Lists: Quick lists of lesbian books by genre, topic, Award, etcetera.
  •  Other fantasy & scifi-themed book lists include:

    Yuri Manga: Genre Overview

    Yuri is a term for a type of Japanese manga and anime, where the storyline focuses on 'love between girls'. Yuri is also is a pretty common Japanese name (it means 'lily').

    Yuri Manga Reviews so far:

    1. Subtext only - the original manga of Utena (although not the film which is pretty clear that there is lesbianism going on!), Voiceful and a lot of other stories that involve two girls getting really close, mostly rely on subtext (or wishful thinking!). There might be blushing and hints, and deep bonds, but they could equally just be two really good friends. A lot of these could also just be described as shoujo-ai, rather than yuri. (Shoujo-ai is where it focusses more on the emotional aspects than the sexual).
    1. Light, teen yuri - Strawberry PanicThe Last Uniform and Hayate X Blade are all standard manga for young adults, with no nudity or sex. But they all also have definite yuri couples and kissing.
    1. More adult yuri - Maka Maka and Between The Sheets are two examples of this category. English adult manga is often westernized, or independently published, and tend not to be the serial popular titles. They actually focus on lesbian relationships, usually between older characters and have a higher mature rating.

    There's a complete list of yuri manga published in English here and we are working on guides to scanlations and moreindividual reviews.

    There are three main categories of yuri manga:
    Yuri books are usually part of a series of manga titles, so we'll usually link to the first book (or complete omnibuses). Be aware that, due to the nature of manga, most individual titles may not feel like complete stories.

    Another facet of manga is that it is almost always released as an anime (animated film or series) as well as a manga (style of comic book) - in some cases there's even a film, as well. The storyline may differ significantly between the media and where possible, this will be reviewed as well. However, some good titles are only available in one media - because of the nature of publishing, many very good yuri books or shows are never translated, so there are very few on offer to the English speaking market. Luckily, more diversity is gradually creeping in and you can now read quite a lot of titles on scanlation sites, such as Lililicious (which translates and scans titles not available in English).

    Recommended Scanlation Sites:

    The Other Reviewer will be reviewing some yuri manga on this site. In the meantime, check out the lesbian Graphic Novels page and this Yuri Manga and Anime page on Squidoo.

    Book Review: When the River Flows Out of its Bed by Gaelle Cathy

    When the River Flows Out of its Bed by Gaelle Cathy is a mystery romance that straddles the fine line between YA and 'adult', romance and thriller, believable and over the top. It starts off a bit rocky, and in your face over the top, but it settles down and we get to know the characters properly, and then it hooks you in with a well written relationship and an underlying mystery.  It's good.

    Quick Overview: Rich girl Eliza is a rebel and a party girl who sleeps with every girl in sight. Constantly in trouble, she's been brought back to her home town of Lorien to try and finish her final year of high school. There she sees the shy and mysterious Julia, a girl deliberately excluded from social contact or personal freedom, and is captivated by her. Eliza makes it her purpose in life to become Julia's friend and uncover the secrets keeping her a prisoner. Along the way, she starts to grow up a bit herself and falls in love for the first time in her life.

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Book Review: The Warrior's Path by Catherine M. Wilson.

    The Warrior's Path is a historical coming of age story by  Catherine M. Wilson. If you've kicked around the interwebs looking for lesbian literature, you've probably heard of When Women Were Warriors trilogy; well, this is the first book in the series.

    It's not the vast epic I was imagining, although there are two more books in the series. It's more of a coming of age story, following one girl's fostering and apprenticeship over the course of a year, and her developing relationship with her warrior, a mysterious, mistrusted stranger that has been taken in by the Lady of the region. It is a charming, easy read and should appeal to both fantasy and historical fans, and the setting is as much - or more - of a character as the actual characters.

     The first book in the trilogy, The Warrior's Path, is available for free on the Kindle, but the second and third aren't (with the obvious, dastardly plan of sucking people in and getting them to pay for the second and third books. Sadly, I think it's working on me).