[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome!

Sep. 9th, 2013 08:05 pm
calissa: (Default)
Hi there!

This post is for those people I've just met and/or those who want to get to know me. I enjoy making friends and getting to know people, so I encourage you to introduce yourself if you haven't already.

Family )


Interests and organisations )

I do have some health troubles, mostly to do with my upper body, arms and hands. Sometimes managing the pain can be a challenge and can limit the amount of time I can write and spend on the computer.

I also like to get to know people. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :D

Last updated on 15 August 2016.
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Australian Grapefruit, Adore Tea, sencha, green tea, Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Australian Grapefruit from Adore Tea. It tastes like a plain sencha at first, but finishes with a strong citrus aftertaste.

Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

20170522_112146 no chip

It’s no secret that I’m fond of reading speculative erotica. So, I was delighted when Twisted Moon Magazine launched their first issue. With the second issue due out on Friday (in time for the New Moon, natch), I’ve invited the editors to share a little about their publication.

Why erotic speculative poetry?

What made us, the founders and editors of Twisted Moon Magazine, decide that the world of online poetry needed an even more niche publication?

We would be lying if we said it wasn’t partly because we all really like reading sexy poetry. We do. It’s pretty great. And aside from wanting a reason for people to send us their naughty writing, we came to the consensus that there wasn’t really anything out there which published the sort of work we were interested in reading. We imagine this is the way a lot of literary publications come about — the editors want to read a particular sort of thing, and being unable to find it in sufficient quantity or quality, they create a space for others to contribute and help expand the genre in question.

It’s probably worth taking a moment to discuss the idea of ‘speculative’ as a genre.

A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that speculative poetry/fiction has been defined by Suzette Haden Elgin as being “about a reality that is in some way different from the existing reality.” Fantasy and science fiction often overlap with the speculative genre for this reason, but neither fantasy/sci-fi nor Elgin’s definition are exhaustive. Strange Horizons commented in an article that what makes poetry speculative is a feeling and/or set of references. It’s an ‘I know it when I see it’ category, and while vague for the purposes of crafting some kind of formal definition, it’s not really necessary to have such a definition in order to get a feel for the speculative genre.

Speculative works are often relegated to their own publications because they can’t quite seem to find a home in more mainstream ‘literary’ magazines — not for lack of quality, but because they often have an element of the fantastical, whimsical, or uncanny that feels out of place next to works of stark realism or literary fiction. It’s these elements that make the speculative genre appealing to people wanting to tell stories which are either themselves outside of the mainstream, or which look at the world from outside the mainstream perspective. There is a great wealth of literary fiction that speaks to the human experience, and some of it is truly outstanding, but oftentimes the experiences on which such works focus are limited, and so are the ways in which those experiences can be described or conveyed.

The speculative genre encompasses elements of fantasy and science fiction, as mentioned before, but also elements of myth, horror, magic realism, fairy tales, and the supernatural. Many of the themes common in these elements are also common in Own Voices stories, which — for those who haven’t come across the term — are stories about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group. We want to be clear: we’re not saying that diverse stories and experiences are a form of fantasy, or that they cannot be told through literary fiction. We’re saying that the tropes common to speculative works — themes of transformation, otherness, identity, a quest for justice, the transient vs the permanent — are also often found in stories told from non-mainstream perspectives.

Those who don’t see themselves or their experiences reflected in conventional narratives are often drawn to unconventional narratives, such as those found in speculative fiction and poetry. The motifs and metaphors available in the genre are unique, and sometimes, they make it easier to speak plainly about the often undervalued stories of individual communities.

What, then, does eroticism have to do with it?

For one thing, diverse narratives are even more marginalised when it comes to talking about sex. Narratives created by outsiders about marginalised groups are often exploitative – predominantly created by people outside of the group being portrayed, and are rarely representative of the experiences of the people within that community. This is visible in mainstream long-fingernailed lesbian porn, or trans sex workers having to label themselves with slurs to find an audience, and many other areas besides. More accurate and representative narratives often don’t get the distribution or recognition they deserve, and the lack of accurate and diverse representation can cement marginalised groups as outsiders.

But the reality is that people have sex. All kinds of people and all kinds of sex, and once you move away from the restrictive spaces these people are talking about, we’re sharing and celebrating these forms of eroticism. The Western world has more or less gotten to a place where the social consciousness is aware that sexuality is a spectrum and there are more than three sexual positions, but the paradigm still needs to be to shifted away from ‘normative’ and ‘nonnormative’ sex, towards the understanding that all forms of sex are kind of weird and entirely worth writing about.

Poetry, and in particular speculative poetry, can create a space for this – a way to explore sexuality through new and different lenses, to celebrate the weird and find novel, interesting ways of expressing desire in all its forms. As queer women, Twisted Moon Magazine’s editors are very aware of how important it is to have diverse and accurate representations of queer sexuality. This is also applicable to other groups – people of colour and trans people (women especially) are often depicted by outsider groups as fetishised or hypersexual, while disabled people are often depicted as nonsexual. As far as we can, we hope to give folk the autonomy to depict their experiences and desires, and add to the range of Own Voices work out there.

Is it really necessary for such stories to be told through erotic speculative poetry? Can they be told equally as well through plain old erotica and romance genre fiction, or some other way?

Of course they can. We’re not trying to say that the incredibly niche genre that Twisted Moon Magazine has chosen to publish is the only way in which diverse stories can be told, nor that the only stories which can be told in that genre are diverse ones. We want so badly for there to be more literary fiction, and historical fiction, and non-fiction that dives beyond mainstream experiences. We’re also really into works that tell familiar stories in new and clever ways. There are so many, many ways to tell stories, and honestly, erotic speculative poetry is a pretty specific way.

But it’s a way we’re keen to explore and expand. We received more submissions when we opened than we expected to, and some of them blew us away. We all had ideas of the kind of stuff we wanted to read, and it’s been delightful to have those ideas expanded. It’s also worth noting that we had multiple authors telling us they were submitting poems they’d had since before Twisted Moon Magazine was started, which they’d never found a home for. We can’t claim to be a home for everyone – we know we’re exploring a very niche market – but we do at least try to be a warm, inviting bed.

We think it’s important to emphasise our interest in Own Voices work and diverse stories because it’s vitally important to boost the voices and experiences of people with non-mainstream lives and experiences.

We have been very encouraged by the response – a number of the poems we receive have included notes explaining that their poem is, for example, an exploration of gender, or of a poet’s experience of eroticism as an asexual person, or a response to recent politics. We are thrilled that poets feel able to use Twisted Moon Magazine as an avenue to explore these connections and get their work out into the world.

That said, there’s no strict requirement for what the poetry we publish has to be, other than erotic and speculative. We have guidelines on our website, which we very, very much appreciate people reading and sticking to (especially the one about removing your name from the document!) but a speculative poem doesn’t have to retell a deeply personal experience, and it doesn’t require allegory or veiled meaning. Sometimes a masturbating mermaid is just a masturbating mermaid. (Note: we are into that.)

The point is that the genre allows for fun, sexy fantasy for its own sake, as well as for diverse and/or marginalised stories to be told in a way that is distinct from many other literary genres.

Really, we just hope Twisted Moon Magazine can enrich the reader by showcasing poetry from all over the world, by people from all manner of backgrounds – or at least gift them some beautiful words about fae orgies, robot eroticism, and centaur sex.

 

 


 

Twisted Moon Magazine is an Australian-based online magazine of speculative, erotic poetry. The editors are Hester J. Rook, Liz Duck-Chong, P. Edda, and Selene Maris. We all decided there wasn’t enough sexy speculative poetry in the world and we launched Twisted Moon to help remedy that problem. We publish tales of naked witches dancing by moonlight, the smell of your ghost lover’s skin, the whispered memories of dying stars as they yearn across galaxies. The poems you read to your lover over the phone just to hear their breath catch.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Children of the Different, S.C. Flynn, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: September 2016 by The Hive
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Dystopian YA, speculative fiction
Source: Author
Available:Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and emerge either with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.

In the great forest of South West Western Australia, thirteen-year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.

After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia–if they can reach it before time runs out.

Children of the Different is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.

I’m always keen for SFF set in Australian landscapes, so I had high hopes for Children of the Different. Unfortunately, I found it somewhat disappointing.

The surreal aspects of the story was one of the strengths of this book. It is set in both the real world and the Changeland, a kind of dreamscape. I enjoyed the diversity of the scenery within the Changeland, which ranges from desert, to caverns, to road tunnels.These scenes are mutable in the manner of dreams, changing with little warning. However, as with dreams, there’s always a sense of underlying rules and logic.

Each teenager who passes through the Changeland emerges with special abilities. I particularly enjoyed how these manifested in Arika. It struck me as a bit unusual and watching these transformations from her perspective was very effective. I also appreciated that the use of her abilities came at a price, though this was something that could have been given a bit more weight.

The story did become repetitive at times, retreading old ground as first one twin, then the other is captured by the various parties seeking them. Despite this mirroring, it seemed to me that Arika was often a more passive character than her brother. She is the first to be captured and prevented from rescuing her brother. She is unable to resist her captors in the way that Narrah does and must literally go with the flow. This seemed more or less a trend with all the female characters. who were generally outnumbered and (with the exception of Arika and Toura) don’t really seem to do much.

There was also other questionable representation. I was disappointed to discover the only explicitly Aboriginal character had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

The romance elements were completely unnecessary and felt tacked on. Although this part of the plot had been foreshadowed to some degree, this foreshadowing lacked emotional engagement and was therefore ineffective.

Overall, Children of the Different had some interesting ideas but was ultimately let down in its execution.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Queens of Geek, Jen Wilde, contemporary YA, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea.

Published: March 2017 by Swoon Reads
Format reviewed: Paperback, 288 pages
Genres: Contemporary YA
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available:Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know its going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans shes over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlies long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie, no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

I loved Queens of Geek. I read the whole thing in an afternoon and I’ll be shoving it into the hands of friends as soon as I’ve finished writing this review.

The book is written in first person, alternating between the perspectives of Charlie and Taylor, the two main characters. Charlie is a rising star with a popular YouTube vlog. She also recently starred in an indie movie that was a hit with audiences. She’s very much in the public eye and she’s come to SupaCon at the behest of the film studio to promote the movie and the sequel. However, neither she nor her agent have much influence in the industry and so even though Charlie’s friends have come along for moral support, they’re unable to get VIP passes and are separated from Charlie early on in the story.

This gives space for Taylor’s side of the story to develop. Taylor is an Aspie with social anxiety. Coming all the way to America for a big convention is a huge step outside her comfort zone. But she’s determined to meet her favourite movie star, and her best friend Jamie is there looking out for her. I loved the relationship between these two. It’s clear from the start that Jamie cares about Taylor by all the small things he does to ease her way and to check on her. When she inevitably has a meltdown, he never pushes, but gives her the space she needs, often without her even having to ask for it. I also loved that he is as much of a geek as she is. They talk in movie quotes and his own interest in comics is present alongside her love for fandom. It was refreshing to see a relationship portrayed between geeks instead of between a geek and an outsider or from an outsider’s perspective of geekdom.

The book touches on a lot of different issues. While Taylor is negotiating the challenges presented by her social anxiety, Charlie is dealing with sexism in the entertainment industry and the division (or lack of it) between her public and private lives. And the story also touches on bisexual erasure, when Charlie’s ex declares he doesn’t believe bisexuals exist. The presentation and resolution of these issues isn’t always the most subtle; like most fangirls, this book wears its heart on its sleeve.

It also constantly shows examples of women supporting each other. Even when things are falling apart for Charlie, she’s always there for Taylor’s big moments or whenever Taylor needs a friend. Likewise, even when Taylor is competing against other women, it never stops her from holding out a hand in friendship–especially when its needed. And this support is also demonstrated over and over again by minor characters.

Queens of Geek made me so happy and I’d love to see more stories like it.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Queens of Geek, Jen Wilde, The Grief Hole, Kaaron Warren, Bout of Books, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea.

Round 17 of Bout of Books wrapped up yesterday, so it’s time for me to check in with my progress!

In my sign-up post, I mentioned my goal was to get through a minimum of three books. I got off to a roaring start. By Tuesday, I’d finished Kaaron Warren’s masterpiece of atmosphere The Grief Hole, and blasted through Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde. The two books balanced each other nicely, with the contemporary YA making a wonderful antidote to the lingering creepiness of the previous book. I’ve got a review of Queens of Geek going up on Friday but (spoilers) I loved it a lot and can’t wait to share it with you. You’re going to have to wait a little longer for my review of The Grief Hole, which will coincide with Kaaron’s turn as MC at Conflux in October.

My reading rate dropped off after Tuesday. An impending deadline ate my brain and I also had a few social commitments. I think some better planning is in order for the next time around.

What about you? Did you join in Bout of Books last week? If so, how did you do? If not, what did you read over the week?

For those interested in the next Bout of Books, it will take place on 21-27 August 2017. For further details, keep an eye out here or head over to the Bout of Books blog.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Milky Oolong, Tea Centre, loose-leaf tea, Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Milky Oolong from the Tea Centre. It’s a light, sweet tea with a creamy flavour (as the name suggests), making it lovely for after dinner.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

 

And lastly (just for fun), Ann Leckie reviews some blends from Adagio Teas.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta, The Lumatere Chronicles, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Published: September 2008 by Viking Australia
Format reviewed: Trade Paperback, 416 pages
Series: Lumatere Chronicles #1
Genres: Young adult, fantasy
Source: Secondhand book shop
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself.

Melina Marchetta made a huge impact on Australian literature with her contemporary YA novel Looking for Alibrandi. More than a decade later, she made her debut into fantasy with Finnikin of the Rock. Reflecting this path, the book comes across as patchy, showing Marchetta’s experience as a writer in some places, while showing the flaws of a debut author in others.

Finnikin of the Rock shares some thematic concerns with Looking for Alibrandi. Both are concerned with identity and the experience of immigrants. However, while Looking for Alibrandi is concerned with an individual, first-generation Australian looking to negotiate between the different cultures she belongs to, Finnikin of the Rock is more concerned with nationhood and the plight of refugees. When the story begins, the nation of Lumatere is under a curse. A significant portion of its citizens were magically expelled from the kingdom, which has also been sealed off from the rest of the world. Attempts to enter the kingdom have resulted in death. Finnikin has long since given up hope of returning. Instead, he has concentrated his efforts on securing land for the refugees in order to establish a new home for them.

Marchetta doesn’t shy away from showing the plight of the refugees. Many camps are squalid and plagued with illness. There have been massacres and while the nobility are tolerated in other countries, the majority are shunned. Through Finnikin, the reader is encouraged to identify with them and sympathise with their desire for a place of safety, for a home.

Finnikin is an understandably angry character at the start of the book. Futile negotiations with foreign kingdoms on behalf of his people have left him despairing, though he never gives up. Marchetta shows her strengths as a writer in this complex character, gradually bringing him back to hope but in a way that brings him little comfort.

Evanjeline is less complex, but no less interesting. Her purpose is intentionally quite obvious from early on and she causes Finnikin no end of grief–particularly when she completely disregards his orders. I appreciated her strength of character and the tension between her purpose and her relationship with Finnikin. There is an inversion of power dynamics that grants her agency and keeps Finnikin on the back foot, reacting more than acting. In some respects, the book is more Evanjeline’s story than Finnikin’s.

Although the story was compelling, the pacing was also a bit slow. At one point, Finnikin is literally forced to backtrack in order to advance his relationship with Evanjeline in a manner that felt contrived and quickly undermined.

This is also a book concerned with violence against women. This primarily manifests within the kingdom of Lumatere itself, where the usurper and his forces prey on the (mostly young) women of the kingdom. There is also an attempted rape against Evanjalin. While these elements contributed to the bleakness of the story, they felt unnecessary. Perhaps the threat to the women of the kingdom was intended to show the ways in which people are kept oppressed and vulnerable. However, it came across a shortcut way to express the evil of the current rulers of Lumatere.

One other element I appreciated about the story was the presence of religion. It’s rare to see the inclusion of religion in fantasy in a way that is generally positive and contributed to the plot.

Overall, I found Finnikin of the Rock a promising debut, despite some flaws.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Mt TBR, Mouse Guard, David Petersen, Ms Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, The Grief Hole, Kaaron Warren, Crow Shine, Alan Baxter, vN, Madeline Ashby, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson, Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta, books and tea, tea and books

April was already a great month for my reading, but it was nice to have Dewey’s readathon to give it an extra boost. Mt TBR has increased a little with the release of the shortlists for the Hugos and the Ditmars. However, the award shortlists also mean I’m not having any trouble meeting my new year’s resolution to get to the library more often.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2016: 327
Mt TBR @ 31 March 2017: 307
Mt TBR @ 30 April 2017: 306

Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon badge

Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon took place on Sunday, Australian time. For those who have somehow managed to miss my incessant posting about it, the event is basically a chance for book geeks across the world to get together and read as much as possible. It is also held in honour of its founder, a book blogger who went by the name Dewey, who passed away several years ago. I participated in my very first read-a-thon in April 2011 and haven’t looked back since.

The blow by blow )

The next read-a-thon will be taking place on 21-22 October 2017. Don’t forget to mark it on your calendar. It has a great sense of community that keeps me coming back. I do hope you’ll join us next October.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Sharp Turn, Marianne Delacourt, Twelfth Planet Press, Tara Sharp, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: December 2016 by Deadlines
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Tara Sharp #2
Genres: Crime, paranormal
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

Tara’s quirky PI business is attracting some even quirkier customers. She’s not sure how Madame Vine’s Escort Agency got her number. And then there’s the eccentric motorcycle racing team owner, Bolo Ignatius. Both these clients want to Tara to investigate suspicious circumstances that turn up dead bodies. That can only mean one thing in this town: John Viaspa. Tara goes in for round two with the local crime boss, while balancing the tight rope of her deliciously complicated love life.

Sharp Turn is the second Tara Sharp book and continues to be fast-paced fun. Although Tara finds herself in some prickly situations (sometimes quite literally), the story maintains a light-hearted tone.

The first book in the series got off to a bit of a slow start, but Sharp Turn came roaring out of the gate. Within two chapters, the story had reintroduced reoccurring characters and set up several new plots. It verged on a little too fast for me, but fortunately settled.

I really enjoyed the return of some of the characters. Cass was a particular surprise–a streetwise teen who helped Tara out in the first book. She’d seemed like just a passing character, so I was delighted to see her back. Not only that, but she gets fleshed out as we learn a bit more about her background. She serves as an excellent foil for Tara. The fact she has more life skills than Tara–particularly when it comes to cooking–highlights Tara’s privilege, as does Cass’s relationship with Tara’s mother.

The romantic relationships were a bit of a weak point of the book. There are appearances from both love interests, just long enough to remind us that they are still there with very little meaningful interaction. New complications are added to both relationships, but these felt flimsy and unsatisfying. Overall, Tara gives the impression of not being interested in any kind of relationship beyond the superficial.

The mystery elements were stronger, with each of the cases deftly intertwined. Coming from a family of motorbike enthusiasts, I also really enjoyed the setting. It felt vibrant and full of tension.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read, Sharp Turn doesn’t disappoint.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links, Earl Grey Editing, Lapsang Souchong, T2, loose-leaf tea

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Lapsang Souchong from T2. The cooler weather always has me craving smoked teas and this is one of the more smoky varieties.

Awards News ) Community ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Bout of Books 19, reading challenge, Queen of Geeks, Jen Wilde, The Rebirth of Rapunzel, Kate Forsyth, Temeraire, Naomi Novik, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Dewey’s 24-hour read-a-thon takes place this weekend and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m hoping it will help me put a dint in Mt TBR and my reading for the Hugo Awards. But I know I need all the help I can get. Therefore I’m planning to follow it up by participating in round 19 of Bout of Books.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 8th and runs through Sunday, May 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 19 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.– From the Bout of Books team

Being a low-pressure challenge, Bout of Books lets me set my own goals. As with last few times, I’m aiming to get through a minimum of three books. I’m not entirely sure yet what I’ll end up going with, but there’s plenty to pick from. At the moment, I’m leaning towards Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek and S.C. Flynn’s Children of the Different. And there’s still reading to be done for the Hugos and the Ditmars.

If you’d like to join in, there’s still time to sign up!

What’s on your TBR pile this week?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Nerve Ending, Tobi Hill-Meyer, transgender erotica, Anne Rowlands, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: February 2017 by Instar Books
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: LGBTQIA, erotica. Stories are a mix of contemporary and speculative fiction.
Source: Publisher
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A trans woman watches her sleeping lover and contemplates the moment of his departure. A genderqueer sissy fantasizes alone about connection in their hotel room. A trans woman adjunct professor and sex worker is hired for a sex party held by her colleges philosophy department. A trans boy has a Craigslist hookup with a queen embarked on detransition. A bodiless AI announces its gender, takes a lover, and works to revolutionize the world.

Presented here are thirty stories edited and with an introduction by Tobi Hill-Meyer that offer revolutionary erotic fantasies by trans people, about trans people, and for trans people at the crossroads of history, biology, anxiety, and love.

Editor’s note:I acquired a review copy of Nerve Endings on the recommendation of a friend. I thought reviewing it would be a good way to boost trans voices. However, once I started reading, I quickly realised I wasn’t the intended audience. Furthermore, this thread on Twitter from Corey Alexander made me realise I could be doing more harm than good by reviewing it. So, I invited Anne Rowlands for an Own Voices perspective on the anthology.

 


 

Transgender people are not a plot twist: the introduction of Nerve Endings reminds us of this essential point. It is a point recently discussed in Liz Duck-Chong’s essay on the play The Trouble with Harry and is also often used in more erotic novels in a way that is not only dehumanising but out-and-out stupid. A person who is transgender wants not to be treated as a special bit of “spice” or worse a surprise. They want to be wanted, loved, cared for, or just simply not to be told they are playing pretend.

The central idea of Nerve Endings is to help us realise and capture this in a way that keeps transgender stories present in our minds when we, the transgender audience, are at our most lonely. These stories keep us remembering that our lives are worthy. That we matter. Nerve Endings never shies away from being written by trans people for trans people. Anyone else who likes it, that’s fine, but it’s not for them, it’s for us. This was so clear as I read that I really understood why I was asked to write this review.

Nerve Endings is proud in its erotica and its kink, its few polyamorous tales. It is never there to shame, or to make readers feel less (or more) than what we are: a part of society, transgender or not.

Each story brings us into a universe that we can almost imagine is real. Even when the characters are a Demon and his summoner, or an AI and their partner, or just a simple trans woman, man or boi trying to make their way in the world.

I’m always a little left wanting with short stories anthologies. Each tale is almost always slightly less than perfect, ending bitter-sweet, or offering only a brief glimpse into the life and emotions of the characters. Almost every story left me wanting more. More of the characters. More of their love. More of the things they do to conquer their fears and anxieties. More orgasms. The unashamedly erotic, the consent, the kink, the characters and their needs and desires. It’s too much and not quite enough at the same time. I was left with a profound sense of needing–not just wanting–more. I really hope this is just the first serving of a new genre of positive, consensual stories about transgender people told in erotic, loving, caring and knowledgeable ways.

4 out of 5 stars.

Anne Rowlands

 

Anne Rowlands is a transgender woman librarian, in her spare time she is also an artist and poet. You can find her on Twitter as @anne_rowlands.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon badge

Dewey’sread-a-thon is my favourite reading challenge and runs twice a year–in April and October. It runs for 24 hours, but participation for the full length is optional. Which is a good thing, because this round will be kicking off at 10 PM on Saturday 29 April for the east coast of Australia. As usual, I plan to be going to bed around then, but will be up early to cram as much reading as possible into my waking hours.

When I signed up last round, my Mt TBR had just hit 300 books. It hasn’t been below that since. I’m hoping that this will be the push I need to help get it down again.

Of course, a read-a-thon requires books! Here’s a few things I’m thinking about tackling:

Dewey's readathon, read-a-thon, Heart of the Mirage, Glenda Larke, The Dream-quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson, The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley, Ms Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

With the exception of Heart of the Mirage, these books are all on the Hugo Awards shortlists. I’m hoping to get through them before they’re due back at the library.

Each time I participate in Dewey’s I try to get a little more involved with volunteering. Last year, I hosted a mini-challenge for the first time.This year I’ll be one of the co-hosts, allowing the organisers to get some well-earned sleep. I’ll be hosting Hours 18-20, which correspond to 3-5 PM AEST.

If you need to tame your own Mt TBR or are looking to connect with a great community of book bloggers, I do hope you’ll join me. It’s not too late! You can sign up, follow on Twitter, join the Goodreads group or any combination of the three. If you’ve already signed up, I’d love to hear about what you’ll be reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Aurealis Awards, Clariel, Garth Nix, tea and books

The 2016 Aurealis Awards were presented on Friday night. Congratulations to all the winners!

As most of you know, I had the great honour of being one of the judges on the panel for YA novels and YA short stories. Now that the results are out, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what it was like to be a judge.

I signed up for a few different reasons: because I love SFF reading challenges, because I wanted to learn more about Australian YA SFF, and because free books! I’d wanted to sign up for a few years, but hadn’t been confident my reading speed was up to par. However, I’d read 91 books in 2015, which was close to a personal best. I figured it would still be a bit of a struggle. After all, I still had to review one book a week here for the blog and it wouldn’t be appropriate to review the material I was judging. But I figured it was manageable. I also picked the YA categories because they were one of the smaller categories in 2015. As much as I’d dearly love to tackle the fantasy novel category, I’m not quite that masochistic (yet)

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

In the end, the YA panel received 53 novels and 55 short stories. Pretty much all of the short stories came in electronic format, whereas the novels were more of an even split. Publishers covered the full spectrum: self-published indie authors, small and big press. Reading through all of it highlighted for me the fact that YA is not a genre, but a target audience. I appreciated that because it meant I could change things up by switching genres rather than glutting myself on one.

Each of the judges came up with their own shortlists, one for each category. As soon as I handed mine in, I started second-guessing myself. But there was a consensus among the judges as to which pieces stood out, even if there was some negotiation around the exact order. The process was surprisingly quick, once we got down to it.

Amusingly enough, the first thing I did after the shortlist was finalised was buy more books. I’m told that’s pretty common among the judges and I guess it takes a certain kind of person to judge a book award.

Would I do it again? I think so. It was stressful at times. But it also taught me a lot: about reading, about the processes behind book awards, and about Australian YA SFF (as I’d hoped). I discovered new authors. So, yes, I would do it again. But first I need a year or two to recover.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Twist, Kylie Scott, Dive Bar, contemporary romance, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Published: April 2017 by Pan Macmillan
Format reviewed: Trade paperback, 273 pages
Series: Dive Bar #2
Genres: Contemporary romance
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his brother’s account and shut it down. Until he reads about her – Alex.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they’re emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets . . . apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.

Kylie Scott shows why she’s one of Australia’s most beloved romance writers with her new book Twist. It’s the second book in the Dive Bar series but, as with most romance, it’s not necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one.

The start is compelling. Alex has flown into town and shows up at the Dive Bar in her little black dress and towering heels, looking to crash Joe’s birthday party. It’s an uncharacteristic move for her, but she was goaded into it by her best friend and she’s been trading emails with Joe for months via a dating site. Except Joe has been using his brother’s account. So, when Alex throws herself at Eric, thinking he’s the man she’s been emailing, chaos ensues. I have a bit of a humiliation squick, so the opening was hard going for me. It read like a nightmare that I kept expecting Alex to wake from. However, I thought she handled herself pretty well, and wanting to find out what happens to her helped me push through the discomfort.

Joe is used to women passing him by in favour of his brother. It’s not that he’s unattractive–being broad, bearded and blond–but women like their bad boys and that’s just not him. Joe’s family and friends mean a lot to him and he bends over backwards trying to please everyone. But although he loves them, his friends and family drive him nuts sometimes. His emails to Alex were a place he could safely vent. Joe treats everyone with painstaking respect, making the times he crosses boundaries all the more jarring. However, one of the things I enjoyed most about his character is that he readily admits when he’s done something wrong.

The story is told in first person solely from Alex’s perspective. Nevertheless, it manages to do an excellent job of conveying Joe’s feelings. This is partly helped by the inclusion of some of their emails at the start of each chapter, but mostly the result of Joe’s earnestness and some excellent storytelling.

A couple of the plot twists felt a little forced, but it is difficult to say more without spoilers. The ending also featured a cameo by characters from Scott’s previous series. As a new reader, I found this a bit disorientating and I briefly wondered whether I’d stumbled into a preview for another book.

However, despite these flaws, I found it to be an entertaining and down-to-earth read. Twist is my first foray into Scott’s work and I’ll definitely be seeking out more.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Angry Naruto)
20170123_060748

The Earl Grey Editing website is down at the moment and that's having an effect on the cross-posts here--notably the photos. I'm not entirely sure what the problem is or how long it's going to take to be fixed. The back end is as inaccessible as the front, so it's currently out of my hands.

I'm not taking this enforced holiday with good grace.
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links, Chocolate Dream, rooibos, neo naturally australian

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Neo Australia’s Chocolate Dream. It’s a sweet rooibos blend, with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cocoa nibs. Fans of chai are sure to enjoy it and it takes milk.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer, Tor Books, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: January 2017 by Tor Books
Format reviewed: Hardback, 336 pages
Series: Titan’s Forest #1
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Library
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nations opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy’s slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

Crossroads of Canopy is a debut novel which has some amazing worldbuilding and explores a number of social issues.

Unar is a servant to one of Canopy’s thirteen deities, having come from poverty. Her escape from abuse and slavery had made her ambitious, helped by the fact she possesses a powerful potential for magic, and she firmly believes she’s destined to be the Bodyguard to the next incarnation of her deity. She’s not an entirely likeable character–she’s impulsive, occasionally selfish and lashes out at her loved ones. However, her strong desire for justice saves her from being unsympathetic. Despite being born to poverty, Unar grew up in Canopy–literally the highest stratum of the forest–and, as such, is privileged. Thus, it is unsurprising that she shows prejudice on occasion. However, unlike the other citizens of Canopy, she catches herself and constantly questions the injustice embedded in the status quo.

Although I felt some sympathy for Unar, I found the story held me at arm’s length and didn’t engage me on an emotional level as much as I would have liked. This may have been intentional, as one reoccurring theme of the story is unrequited feelings across many relationships, both romantic and otherwise.

However, there was plenty for me to engage with on an intellectual level, and it reminded me a little of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice trilogy in that sense. There’s a common perception that fantasy doesn’t examine social issues in a way that science fiction does. Crossroads of Canopy dispels that notion by putting class and race at the heart of the story.

The world is separated into three different societies located at different levels of the forest. Canopy is the highest level with access to abundant sunshine and fresh water. Understorey lies below, receiving very little sunshine and dealing with the refuse that is tossed on their heads from Canopy. We see very little of Floor, but the story indicates its citizens are plagued by floodwater and monsters. These three societies combine to form a literal class strata, where the higher you are the better off you are. This class structure is also intrinsically tied to race. Canopians are dark-skinned, while the sunlight-deprived Understoreans are pale.

The story also deals with issues of ageism and ableism. This comes primarily through the Canopian society, where the citizens make offerings to one of their gods to protect their children from falling over the edge of the branches which form their home. However, the disabled and elderly too feeble to work are pushed to their doom. In this way, it highlights society’s cult of youth.

Another thing I particularly liked about the worldbuilding is that it doesn’t use the typical broadleaf forests found in the US or the UK. Instead, we have the kind of rainforest often seen in Australia or Southeast Asia–the kind that features an abundance of gum trees and parrots.

The story is a bit slow-paced with few action sequences. The writing style was also a bit difficult to get used to at first; there was a lot of terminology and names to wrap my head around, and I found the occasional use of alliteration distracting.

However, overall Crossroads of Canopy brings a fresh approach to fantasy, making it well worth reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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