Book review: “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” edited by Saundra Mitchell

All Out: an anthology

I came across “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” - which I will be calling “All Out” in my review for the sake of simplicity - at the beginning of this year. It is a collection of short stories by an ensemble of young adult authors. All of the stories have queer teen characters, as it is evident in the title, and the stories themselves vary in genres and settings.

Synopsis

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Review

I was extremely excited to get my hands on “All Out”. I admit that I was hesitant to buy my own copy, although I was tempted to, as the book was proudly (pun intended) displayed as a Pride Month pick at Indigo stores. I was cautious, as I had not read the books by all of the authors, so I was not sure if I am going to enjoy all of the stories.

As I expected I enjoyed some stories more and some stories less, so I will go through the list with my ratings for each one of them.

“Roja” by Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: It seems like there is going to be a full novel, “Blanca & Roja”, about the same characters, and I am very excited! It is coming out in October!

“The Sweet Trade” by Natalie C. Parker

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: We have a girl who wants to sail away and another one who runs away as well. Not sure the ending worked plus I was not really feeling the characters. It was my first time reading anything by this author and I was slightly disappointed. (I read “Seafire” after I read "All Out".)

“And They Don’t Kiss At The End” by Nilah Magruder

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: Excellent writing and description of asexuality. I enjoyed it, but the skating rink and contemporary YA feel are just not my thing.

“Burnt Umber” by Mackenzi Lee

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: Loved every bit of this story. Excellent descriptions and characterizations. A painter’s studio in Amsterdam was an unusual setting. It was my first time reading a story by this author, and I can not wait to read more of her books!

“The Dresser & The Chambermaid” by Robin Talley

Rating: 2 stars
Notes: I did not like anything about this story. I couldn’t get behind the characters and their actions. Everything seemed a bit too exaggerated and boring.

“New Year” by Malinda Lo

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I liked the background of the story and Chinese New Year traditions and the discussions of immigrants life but I am not a huge fan of Malinda’s writing style, and there wasn’t much of a plot either.

“Molly’s Lips” by Dahlia Adler

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: Once again, I am not a fan of contemporary YA, however, all of the grange music and Kurt Cobain references were on point, so this story is getting an extra star for that.

“The Coven” by Kate Scelsa

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I expected this story to be more engaging than it was. It was confusing at times, and not much was happening. It was okay.

“Every Shade of Red” by Elliot Wake

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: A transgender Robin Hood retelling? Holy crap! Yes! Give me a whole book like that!! Excellent writing and now I am dying for the author to write more! (I know that there are books by this author written several years ago under a different name, but they are not exactly what I would read as they are NA romance novels.)

“Willows” by Scott Tracey

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: I loved the dreamy quality of the writing style. The ending was intense! Now, I want a sequel! It was my first time reading a story by this author, and I can not wait to read more of his books!

“The Girl With The Blue Lantern” by Tess Sharpe

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I liked the premise of the story, and it was relatively well written, but there was not much of a plot, to be honest.

“The Secret Life of A Teenage Boy” by Alex Sanchez

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: I was not entirely on board with the plot of this story. But I liked the descriptions and how well developed all characters were. Will be definitely reading more by this author!

“Walking After Midnight” by Kody Keplinger

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: It was a bit too Hollywood like and sugary for me, but the descriptions were well done. I was just not a fan of either characters or plot.

“The End of The World As We Know It” by Sara Farizan

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: I am not a fan of contemporaries or love stories set on New Year’s Eve, but I loved the references to historical events (e.g., the mention of the mass shooting) and I think more stories should talk about such things.

“Three Witches” by Tessa Gratton

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I liked the setting of the story, but I did not like the characters, and the only thing that worked for me was the ending. The rest was just dull.

“The Inferno & The Butterfly” by Shaun David Hutchinson

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: A story about two apprentices serving two rivalling magicians was adorable. I loved the plot and the characters, and I wanted more! It was the first story by this author that I read, and I can’t wait to check out his books!

“Healing Rosa” by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: I liked the writing style in this story, although there was not much of a plot, to be honest.

Even though I was not in love with all of the stories in “All Out”, I enjoyed most of them, and some of them were so good that I can not wait to get my hands on those authors’ books! I consider it to be time very well spent. I am not sure I would want to re-read any of the stories (except for, maybe, stories by Mackenzie Lee and Elliot Wake). Therefore I am giving this book only 4 stars.

I wish we had more anthologies like "All Out", as it is an excellent opportunity to give LGBTQ+ authors more exposure and for readers to discover new favourites.

Overall rating: 4 stars

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Book review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

The Wicker King  

I came across The Wicker King on Indigo website. I think it was among the new teen releases or something similar. I knew it was tagged as LGBTQ+ on GoodReads, and that is more than enough for me.

 

I got this book from the library, and I kept it on my shelf for awhile before I picked it up.

 

And oh my god.

Summary

 

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

 

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

 

Review

 

I read The Wicker King in less than two days. I would have finished it in one go, if I had time. I picked it up because I was not feeling like reading anything and The Wicker King had such an appealing cover. Besides, I knew nobody else who read this book, and I was very intrigued.

 

Ten pages in, I was so hooked that I couldn’t put the book down.

 

The Wicker King is a hard book to describe as it should be approached more like an experience than the story. It is about two best friends, friendships and loves, relationships, and other worlds. It is a lot about trust, and faith, and abandonment.

 

The chapters in The Wicker King are short. Sometimes just a couple of pages. Sometimes - a paragraph. As the story progresses, the edges of the book get darker and darker - a visual representation of the darkness that is slowly swallowing August and Jack.

 

The synopsis calls The Wicker King a thriller, which is true in the sense that it does create the atmosphere of suspense and tension. However, I would call the novel a mix of contemporary and magical realism. The things that Jack sees and the things that both characters experience at times feel more real than the real world itself. I loved the writing and the characters in the book. You need to pay attention to chapter titles and the small bits here and there, that make the story so compelling, and a bit weird (but in a good way).

 

At times poetic and symbolic, at times outright scary - The Wicker King is a vortex that pulls readers into its depths, spinning heads and breaking hearts. I cried halfway into the book. I cried at the end. I cried because it was over and I was not ready to let August and Jack go.

 

I read the library book and then went and purchased my own copy. The Wicker King is undoubtedly going to be my favourite read of 2018.

 

The Wicker King novella

 

There is a novella set in the same world. It is titled The Legend of the Golden Raven, and it is free on Kindle. You have to read it after reading The Wicker King though, as it won’t make much sense otherwise, and you will get so much more emotions if you read the novella afterwards. I gave the novella the same rating as The Wicker King.

 

I refuse to believe that this is the only book and there is no sequel.

 

Kayla Ancrum has instantly become my auto-buy author. Her next novel, The Weight of the Stars, is coming out in March 2019 (although initially it was listed as October 2018).

 

I can not wait to see what this author comes up with next.

 

Rating: 5 stars

 

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Book/play review: "Outside" by Paul Dunn

I would like to start my review by saying thank you to Playwrights Canada Press for giving me an opportunity to not only read the play but also attend the launch party and the performance at Buddies in Bad Times theatre.  

My review might contain some spoilers.

Outside cover

Synopsis

 

Daniel’s ready to talk. And his friends Krystina and Jeremy are ready to help. But is it too late? Set in separate but simultaneous lunch periods at two different high schools, the teenagers are faced with acknowledging what drove them apart. At his new school, Daniel speaks to the Gay-Straight Alliance about the bullying and depression that forced him to move. He looks back fondly at the bond he formed with Krystina and Jeremy in history class and the trauma he faced from anonymous text messages. At his former school, Krystina and Jeremy are setting up for their first GSA meeting while grappling with the guilt of not doing more to help their friend. For the first time Daniel has an appreciative audience, but his friends face an empty room. The narratives intertwine as Daniel gains more confidence in his queer identity and Krystina and Jeremy try to assess their boundaries as straight people who want to create a safe space. By talking about mistakes, abuse, a suicide attempt and a move, the teens find comfort in perspective and power in numbers.

 

Review

 

I read Outside in one go - it is a short and a quick read. The perspective shifts flawlessly from Daniel to Krystina and Jeremy and back. It is not easy to read this play, as you can see from the very beginning how everything starts to snowball and you begin to dread the ending. As always when I read about bullying, I was overcome with annoyance towards adults in the play who would not interfere or do enough to help Daniel. The thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ followed me throughout my reading experience, and once the play was over, I was left feeling slightly bereft. As if there was something else that was missing from it. Something vital, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

 

Outside launch party

 

I went to the launch party and got to listen to Paul Dunn and Andrew Lamb, the Artistic Director of Roseneath Theatre, talk about the inspiration behind the play, the research they did, and the reception by the targeted audience. Since I barely skim through synopses on the backs of books before reading them - for the fear of spoilers - I had not realized before coming to the launch that this play is written as an educational piece for the way younger audience than myself. It is targeted at grades 7 to 12 kids and is intended to be a conversation starter about bullying in schools and how this behaviour can lead to serious consequences. The play was partially inspired by the stories behind "It Gets Better" campaign, and we see Daniel when he is already in a better place and safe, as his story unfolds through the series of flashbacks.

 

After the party - and getting my copy signed by the author, yay! - we went to see the play. It was a great production with some ingenious set design that allowed the actors to quickly change the scene by moving parts of it. The design is minimalist and parts of the costumes are interchangeable, which allows actors to do everything on stage themselves, and makes touring across the province possible. I loved the cast! They all fit their characters perfectly. The cast is as follows: G. Kyle Shields as Daniel, Mina James as Krystina, and Giacomo Sellar as Jeremy. (I couldn’t place where I had seen Mina before, but then found out that she played Helena in “All’s Well That Ends Well” in Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in the Park in 2016. That was a fun play!)

 

Cast of Outside

 

After the performance, the actors stayed on stage and explained how they usually follow up the performance with introducing themselves, and then starting the dialogue with the audience and answering questions. They talked both about their experiences as actors and as educators and how much impact the play has on schoolkids. Some kids even came up to them after the show, identifying with the characters and sharing their stories.

 

Outside creative team

 

One of the interesting aspects mentioned by the cast is how different it is to perform this play (or read it for that matter) in front of adults and children. Adult viewers can tell immediately how serious things are and how potentially dangerous situation was for Daniel - and this was exactly how I felt while reading the play. Kids, however, are not able to foresee the consequences. In some aspect, their reactions to what is happening on stage is genuine and uninhibited. For example, kids tend to find certain things funny and would laugh in the places, where adults would not. The actors mentioned that even if there is noise during the performance at the beginning, it usually dies down by the end of the play.

 

Andrew Lamb mentioned that after their performances many schools across Ontario started their own Gay-Straight Alliances. To date, over 34,000 young people have seen the play. This is amazing!

 

I was absolutely delighted by the concept of blending theatre and education! Needless to say, the bullying is an incredibly serious problem and can lead to devastating results as it is proven again and again (as I am writing this, there was another story on the news about the boy committing suicide after being severely bullied as school in QC). It is on us, adults, to prevent this from happening not only by executing vigilance, but also by educating kids.

 

This is a wonderful and educational play, and I hope that it would continue its touring across Ontario, and there is also a possibility for it going to US! Wishing all the best to Paul Dunn and the creative team behind the play!

 

Book rating: 4 stars

Performance rating: 5 stars

 

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Musical review: Falsettos (Broadway Revival) - Live from Lincoln Center

Falsettos  

I am so used to going to special events and broadcasts at Cineplex on Thursdays, that I almost completely missed a broadcast of "Falsettos" on Wednesday, July 12 (yes, I am a bit behind on reviews - thanks for noticing ?).

 

"Falsettos" was one of those classic ‘know nothing about but it sounds gay, so I am going to watch it’ moments for me. I got a ticket almost last minute - which for me means a day or two ahead - and spent a lovely evening laughing my heart out.

 

Information

 

DIRECTOR

James Lapine

 

CAST

Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Andrew Rannells, Brandon Uranowitz, Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Betsy Wolfe

 

SYNOPSIS

Live From Lincoln Center & Lincoln Center Theater present “Falsettos” Nominated for five 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Falsettos is a hilarious and poignant look at a modern family revolving around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon-to-be-bar-mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door. Originally created under the specter of the AIDS crisis, this timely musical about middle-class family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion. Lincoln Center Theater’s production stars Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Andrew Rannells, and Brandon Uranowitz, all of whom received Tony nominations for their respective performances.

 

"Falsettos" is absolutely hilarious. There are lots of middle-age crisis jokes, lots of Jewish jokes, lots of ‘my husband is gay and I don’t know how to deal with it because I kind of support him and also want to stab him’ jokes. The time flew by as I watched it.

 

Since I did not know that one of the plotlines of "Falsettos" would touch upon AIDS or I would have mentally braced myself. Earlier in July, I watched the brilliant production of “Angels in America” that I loved to the very bottom of my heart, and was not ready to revisit the subject matter.

 

The musical went from extremely funny and happy to sad by the end of the story. Someone in the audience behind me was crying hysterically at the very end. And believe me, it was indeed really hard not to do the same.

 

Jason, the young son of Marvi, is torn between his drifting apart parents. He is confused by the appearance of a boyfriend in his father’s life, as well as the crazy obsession of both parents to celebrate Bar Mitzvah in the way they want. Jason definitely steals the show at times, but my heart is firmly with Marvin and his relationship with Whizzer.

 

Marvin tries to be both true to himself and also keep his tight-knit family. It is both funny and heartbreaking to watch as he goes between his wife and son, and his lover. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but even when things seem to be getting better - they actually aren’t.

 

I liked the music, and jokes, and the acting, but I would not call "Falsettos" the best musical I have ever seen. The plot is somewhat predictable at times, and as it was set in a certain time period, the ending is sad but unsurprising. I wish it had ended differently, though.

 

Acting deserves at least 4 stars, but the plot is about 3 stars.

 

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

 

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Book review: "27 Hours" by Tristina Wright

27 Hours  

I have received an e-ARC of this book from Entangled Teen in exchange for a free and honest review.

I found out about this new young adult, science-fiction novel at BookCon in New York City this year. I was browsing the app to find new authors or new book releases when I saw that this book promised queer characters, so of course I had to get my hands on a copy.

 

Sadly, by the time I got to the line for the "27 Hours" ARC, it was already capped. I was sad, but since I had other things to tend to, I didn’t even think about leaving a business card with the author or the rep. (Too bad too, as those business card were handmade by yours truly and they all are gone now. Just saying.)

 

I kept thinking about this book when I got back home and eventually decided to do something that usually do not do (because I am a chicken) to approach the author’s rep and ask for an ARC of "27 Hours". Not only I got put on the list for the ARC, I also got an opportunity to review some other books published by Entangled Teen. So, a special thank you goes to Melissa Montovani for giving me this opportunity!

 

Now, onto the book.

 

Synopsis

 

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother's shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon's darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

"27 Hours" is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

 

I freaking loved this book.

 

The plot is fast-paced with lots of twists and turns, that keep you on your toes. Granted, it is a young adult novel, so do not expect it to be on par with big names in literary fiction in terms of style or plot twists, but Tristina Wright knows her way around the prose and does it really well. The narrative flows easily. There wasn’t a moment in my reading when I would think: “ah, this is a bit slow”. It was action after action, and at times I needed a moment to process who was running where and who was almost killed this time.

 

Because I swear, all of the characters of "27 Hours" seem to have a death wish.

 

It is a well-constructed world, with enough composition and descriptions to fill you in as you go. I found the idea of mystic creatures, chimera (not gargoyles, thank you very much), living on the moon fascinating. The rules of the world are well defined, and even though at some point I was a bit confused about the hierarchy of HUBs and colonies, I felt quite comfortable while reading about the rest of it.

 

Characters

 

I think the characters of "27 Hours" is the best part of this novel. I have not read a single other young adult (or adult, for that matter) book that would have this much representation. We have characters of colour, various origins, ability, gender identities, and sexuality. There is no discrimination based on any of that either. However, using her characters’ voices, the author touches upon few very critical issues that exist in our world, making them sound as ridiculous and horrific as they truly are.

 

Quote 1

 

"It's... preconception, You hear gargoyle, and you think monster. What if..." Jude floundered for a comparison that was just as horrible and unconscionable. "Okay, what ifwe labeled certian people as monsters based on their skin color or hair color or gender or whatever? No matter what they did or had done or acted like. You'd have an issue with that, right?"

 

Quote 2

 

Humans weren't supposed to die at the hands of other humans, of people trained and sworn to protect them.

 

I loved this book, plain and simple. It gave me a band of incredibly brave teenagers, who are set on defending their home, even though it seems like a suicide mission. Who are willing to against everything they were taught. Who stand together in spite of differences that try to pull them apart.

 

I loved "27 Hours" so much that I doodled George. I am not an artist but it had to be done. Just because.

 

George from "27 Hours"

 

I loved all the characters in the book, I can’t even decide who is my favourite. And I ship all of the ships. Yes.

 

And today, I ordered my own copy of "27 Hours" - because I need to have something to console me as I impatiently wait for book two in this trilogy.

 

I am usually pretty fair with my rating. To be honest, I would give the plot itself only 4 stars. However, the diversity and representation in this book are so good, that it deserves an extra star. I can not wait to find out what happens next in the story.

 

Personal rating: 5 stars

 

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Book review: "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake

The Uncrossing  

I received an e-ARC of "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake from Entangled Teen in exchange for a free and honest review.

 

The moment I saw this book available for request, I immediately hit ‘send’ button. Gay boys, curses, and magic? Hell yeah!

However, when I started reading the book, my excitement dampened.

Let’s start with the plot.

 

Synopsis

 

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can't break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn't be falling for.

 

Jeremy's been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something's missing. Jeremy's family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it's tied to Jeremy.

 

This might be the one curse Luke can't uncross. If true love's kiss fails, what's left for him and Jeremy?

 

Plot

 

The synopsis sounds more coherent and put together than the book itself. I loved the idea of an urban fantasy set in a modern New York City. I loved that it was all about old curses and family secrets. However, I found the execution of this plot as well as world building rather weak. Magic system seems to be connected to spells, blood, and voodoo-like curses, but the limitations of the magic, or how each character does what they do, is never really explained.

 

"The Uncrossing" lacks exposition to the point that I had to go back a page or two to visualize what is happening. It took me some time to get used to the narration. It is not a poorly written book, but it has holes that often left me floundering and second-guessing what I am reading.

 

Luke and Jeremy though. Ah, those two are absolutely adorable. I enjoyed all the characters in the book, although the attempts at creating morally ambiguous and grey characters, like Andrei and Sergei, with this sort of jumpy narration have largely failed, in my opinion. I liked them both, but some aspects just missed the mark for me.

 

Problematic aspects

 

Even though the book is great when it comes to diversity, the choice of cultural background for the characters left me slightly confused. The Kovrovs are Russian, while the Melnyk family is Ukrainian-Creole. I can not speak for the Creole culture, but I can speak for the Eastern European part.

 

The portrayal of a rich and influential Russian mafia family (because let’s be honest, this is what the Kovrov family is) is so stereotypical for western society to the point of being mildly offensive. The Ukrainians are portrayed as hardworking but poor.

 

Besides mentioning a prayer in Russian or some Russian or Ukrainian words, without actually mentioning them in the text, the cultural background of both families is shown only in their given names and the mention of borscht in the first chapter - which, let me be absolutely clear, nobody would ever serve to an important guest as a meal neither in Russia nor in Ukraine, unless we are speaking of a rural Russia in the feudal times.

 

There are reviewers who love to throw around complaints about “cultural appropriation”, but in spite of my feelings on the subject, "The Uncrossing" is hardly damaging. I would have, however, appreciated a more meaningful portrayal of both cultures. Both Russian and Ukrainian folklore have enough depth to provide inspiration for any fantasy setting or magic system.

 

I had problems with the world building and magic system, mild issues with some of the characters, but I adored the romance part in the book, although it is usually the least favourite plotline for me. I also felt that the ending of the book was better thought through than some middle parts. I found myself more engaged in the book after I hit 50-60%.

 

It is a debut novel, so I hope that Melissa would produce more fiction in the future. Hopefully, it would also be about queer boys and magic. It was overall a fun read, even though it took some time to get used to the style. Recommend for the fans of the YA LGBT books, otherwise, you might find it boring.

 

Personal rating: 3.5 stars

 

LINKS

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Book review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Have you ever been in a situation when you don’t know what to read and then randomly find a book and it is exactly what you have been craving but you just didn’t know that? Well, this is what I felt when I started reading “Peter Darling” by Austin Chant, after seeing it being recommended by Cece at ProblemsofABookNerd. I still mentally salivate when I think about it.

I did not read the synopsis of the book before reading it, and I encourage you to do the same. Not because it is really spoilery (it is but there is just no other way to summarize the books, I guess), but because it does not reflect the dark and surreal feeling that this book inspires. To put it shortly, it is an adult fantasy novel, a sequel to Peter Pan, which features a transgender main character. That’s all you need to know. Go and read it now!

It takes place 10 years after the events of “Peter Pan”. Peter Pan has grown up, but his life has not been easy with Darlings. His father keeps calling him Wendy and his brothers think he invented Peter Pan. Peter feels the pull to return to Neverland, and this time for ever. Once he is back, he has to face his old adversary, Captain Hook. Ten years is a long time, and Peter is not a boy anymore, and it is not only hatred that he feels towards Hook.

I love reading books by indie authors, however, I rarely stumble upon real gems, and this book is definitely one of them. The book is well written with the right amount of angst and action. And I am a big sucker for angst. Peter struggles to be true to himself while managing his relationship with his brothers and parents, who see him only as Wendy. It is striking and moving, and I couldn't help but root for Peter.

Peter, when he returns to Neverland, and Lost Boys are brutal and more savage, which reminded me of “Lord of the flies” in some ways. There is a certain twist in the novel, which I freaking loved, and wish I could rant about it in my review, but it is a big spoiler.

Relationship between Peter and Hook is very believable, and I appreciate the fact that it did not happen out of blue or developed at a warp speed. For those who are concerned with the age difference, remember that Peter is of legal age in this story.

I really, really liked this book. I wish I had a physical copy, but it is definitely joining my favourites collection on my Kindle. I liked this book so much that I immediately went on twitter to tweet at the author and ask if he plans to do more fairy tales retellings/sequels because this one was awesome.

So, if you like queer stories and retellings peppered with angst, go and read it!

Personal rating: 4 stars

Buy on Kindle:

My #LGBTQIAREAD TBR

Okay, I am not very good with TBRs or read-a-thons or read-a-longs as I am a moody reader and prefer to read what I want to read in a particular moment. But when I watched George’s video on YouTube announcing Queer Read-A-Thon, I just had to sign up! I mean, I read queer lit anyway, and it is Pride Month, so I am going to do it!

I put together a list of books and graphic novels that I would like to read in that week. It is, undoubtedly, a pretty big list, but like I mentioned before - I am a moody reader and I need to have options. I also need to tackle some of my eBooks, as I keep shopping on Kindle and not reading them (does anyone else have the same problem?).

 

My TBR:

 

 

The read-a-thon takes place during one week, June 25 - July 1. #LGBTQIARead is going to be the official hashtag on Twitter, if you would like to join in.

 

I can’t wait to start as I have been meaning to read some of those books for awhile!

 

Sign up here: http://daydreamersthoughts.co.uk/lgbtqiaread-is-back/

George’s video: https://youtu.be/xJBK3pQmo4A

Book Review: Long Story Short: An Anthology of (Mostly) 10-Minute Plays

 

I was provided a copy of this anthology by Playwrights Canada Press in exchange of a free and honest review.

 

“Long Story Short” is an anthology of short plays by Canadian playwrights of diverse backgrounds. The introduction by Rebecca Burton gives insight into how she picked the plays and on the background of the authors. Selected plays are intended to appeal to a variety of readers and variety of tastes as they range in genres from satire and comedy to absurdist and dystopian and encompass an array of topics from coming of age, love, relationships, race, gender norms, and death. Every read is bound to find something to their taste.

I have never had a pleasure of reading anything so diverse in genre and style. I found this idea extremely thrilling: an anthology of plays without one topic or common genre or one idea that would bind all of those stories together. With only one common ground of (relatively) short length, they are like mismatched beads, glass and seashells on a single thread. With so many of authors of different backgrounds involved, it is astounding how all of those talents shine individually as well as together.

 

I fell in love with this anthology almost from the very beginning. I did have a couple of instances when I was left confused or detached after finishing the play, however, the overwhelming majority of works left me reeling with emotions and thoughts. I couldn’t wait to review this anthology, only to be left stumped about how to approach something so different.

 

Eventually, I decided to do an overall review and provide a quick synopsis and rating for each play as they all deserve a mention.

 

The Book of Daniel by Lawrence Aronovitch

Summary: A man recalls his schooldays at a Jewish school.

Rating: 3 stars

 

The Baited Blade by David Belke

Summary: A young movie star comes to a veteran actor to receive a lesson in swordsmanship. Dark secrets are revealed.

Rating: 5 stars

 

Green Dating by Chantal Bilodeau

Summary: A teenage girl has very specific environmental ideas about what she wants in a man.

Rating: 4 stars

 

Sisters by Per Brask

Summary: A homage to Chekhov’s Three Sisters

Rating: 3 stars

 

Cook by David James Brock

Summary: The private cook of a demanding family interviews a boy who wants to be their next meal.

Rating: 4 stars

 

The Auction by Trina Davies

Summary: A married couple fights over the junk that the husband keeps buying.

Rating: 5 stars

 

Air Apparent by Sandra Dempsey

Summary: Aisling struggles with the aftermath of 9/11

Rating: 4 stars

 

Summer’s End by Francine Dick

Summary: Three sisters inherit the family cottage but one of them has quite different plans for it.

Rating: 4 stars

 

Pee & Qs by Josh Downing

Summary: Three men find themselves in an awkward situation as they face the workplace washroom rules.

Rating: 4 stars

 

The Prisoner by Jennifer Fawcett

Summary: In an unnamed country, a widow comes to prison to ask a guard about what happened to her husband and warn him about his fate.

Rating: 4 stars

 

This Isn't Toronto by Catherine Frid

Summary: An adult daughter and her mother have a conversation.

Rating: 3 stars

 

Troupe by Ron Fromstein

Summary: Four women attend the hundred and tenth meeting of Khodoriv Dance Collective

Rating: 2 stars

 

Brother, Brother by Meghan Greeley

Summary: A little girl with speech impairment needs to learn important words and asks an older boy to help her.

Rating: 4 stars

 

It’s Going To Be a Bright by Matthew Heiti

Summary: Two people break up and break up again. And again.

Rating: 4 stars

 

Garbed in Flesh by Arthur Holden

Summary: An old sexual offender is interrogated by a young detective and is confronted by his wife.

Rating: 3 stars

 

A Recipe for Tomato Butter by Florence Gibson MacDonald

Summary: A sixty-year-old woman contemplates God, tomatoes, 9/11 and her neighbours.

Rating: 4 stars

 

The Living Library by Linda McCready

Summary: A young woman borrows “a human book” from the library.

Rating: 3 stars

 

Flesh Offerings by Yvette Nolan

Summary: A Cree/Metis woman in Wild West show invites you to her performance.

Rating: 3 stars

 

The Only Good Indian by Jivesh Parasram

Summary: a standoff between a suicide bomber and a police officer

Rating: 5 stars

 

A Friend for Life by Talia Pura

Summary: Kristy is heartbroken, because her boyfriend came out as gay and dumped her.

Rating: 3 stars

 

An Ordinary Guy by Ann Snead

Summary: Jeff is an ordinary guy with an unusual attachment to tomatoes

Rating: 5 stars

 

Say the Words by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

Summary: Everything you have heard about feminists is totally true.

Rating: 5 stars

 

Steps by Jose Teodoro

Summary: People in formal clothes fret and dance to Miles Davis “Flamenco Sketches”

Rating: 4 stars

 

Nancy by Michael Wilmot

Summary: A boy comes across an elderly gentleman sitting in the park.

Rating: 4 stars

 

Burusera by Laura Mullen and Chris Tolley

Summary:  Used underwear for sale.

Rating: 4 stars

 

I think all of my most favourite plays involved death or murder in one way or another (oops) but I enjoyed all of the plays for their diversity and unique taken on various facets of humanity, from ugly to touching.

 

I am incredibly grateful to Playwrights Canada Press for providing me with the copy of this anthology for review. I will be definitely re-reading this one more than once. Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Book review: "Otherbound" by Corinne Duyvis

img_3506 "Otherbound" is, undoubtedly, a very unique novel. It is a YA fantasy novel, told from two perspectives - one is a disabled boy in our world and another is a disabled girl in a fantasy world. Whenever Nolan blinks, he is not Nolan, but Amara - a mute girl servant who has to protect the cursed princess. Because Nolan can't quite literary close his eyes even for a second, unless Amara is asleep, he is considered to be epileptic, as he is constantly sucked into a different reality.

This book has two very diverse protagonists who have to deal with a lot of hardships in their lives. They are connected in some inconceivable way, which is very disruptive for their lives. They want nothing more but to be rid of this link. But when they try to do it, something goes wrong.

I don't want to say much about the plot as I might give something away.

I liked the book although the jerky narrative sometimes made it a bit difficult for me to get into. I really tried to like Amara, but she seemed too volitive and unpredictable for me. I liked Nolan way better, and I found his perspective to be more engaging, even though I did love Amara's world and their system of magic. I disliked Nolan's parents though, even though they were trying really hard.

I can't say much about the princess as I tried liking her and failed. But the plot line surrounding her is really well done.

Overall, it was a very pleasurable read. Not something that I would like to read again, but definitely a book that deserves attention. I had a bit of an issue with the way the plot was wrapped up at the end, but I want to give the author kudos for keeping me on my toes till the very end.

Personal rating: 4 stars