calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
2017-07-28 08:00 am
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Loose-leaf Links #44

Iron Goddess, Guan Yin, Guanyin, Quan Yin, Kwan Yin, loose-leaf tea, Adore Tea, Loose-leaf Links, Earl Grey Editing

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 Iron Goddess Tie Guan Yin from Adore Tea. Being an oolong, it’s a little heavier than green tea, though this one retains a bit of the grassy flavour of sencha.

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)
2017-07-24 08:00 am

Ashes by Amanda Pillar

Ashes, Amanda Pillar, Graced, Graced series, Venom and Vampires, paranormal romance collection, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Published: July 2017
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Venom and Vampires collection, Graced #2.2
Genres: Paranormal romance
Source: Author
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available:Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble~ Kobo

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

Aria Ash shouldn’t exist

Born to a were mother and vampire father, Aria Ash is the perfect blend of two races, and in their world, that’s a death sentence. Hunted for as long as she can remember, she now hides in plain sight in the city of Skarva, and will do anything to keep her secret safe.

Sebastian Talien is an alpha were with a troubled past. Ever since his pack went rogue and tried to kill three innocent pups, he’s been dedicated to rescuing children in need. Now an invitation has him heading to Skarva, to help a child he thought he’d failed

Ashes is a novella set in the Graced universe, around the same time as Bitten. While I enjoyed reading it, I ultimately had the same issue with it as I did with Captive: I felt its ambition exceeded its scope.

Since Ashes is part of a collection, I assume it’s meant to appeal to new readers. I feel it’s only partially successful on that front. The beginning works quite well, introducing us to the characters and getting us invested in their relationship. However, the Graced universe is a complex one. Worldbuilding elements necessary for understanding the story were given in a kind of infodump in the guise of one character educating and warning another. The character doing the educating also functioned like a deus ex machina, there to make sure certain things happened. While there is context and an implied reason, it sat rather awkwardly and I’m not sure how it would sit for someone new to the series. It is also old information to returning readers, making it a little bit dull to sit through, even if I enjoyed the cameo from that particular character.

That said, I felt Ashes was a much stronger story than Captive. Aria is a wonderfully fiery character. She’s powerful and quick to protect what’s hers. I really enjoyed the way her strength is something that Sebastian finds attractive, rather than seeing it as a threat. Their relationship is likely to be a bit too insta-love for some readers, but it worked for me. The circumstances and the passion between these two dominant characters sold it. The pair are also able to spend more time together than Laney & Wolf did in Captive. This gives their relationship a more solid foundation before the rest of the action really kicks into gear.

I also really enjoyed the development of the city of Skarva. We got to see the Duke of Ravens in Bitten. In Ashes, we get to meet the Duke of Ashes and learn a little more about the other ruling dukes. I liked that each duke has their own motif, providing a distinctive counterpoint to the vampire nobility of Pinton featured in previous books.

There were also plenty of loose ends left and I’m looking forward to discovering which directions will be explored next.

All in all, Ashes was bumpy in places, but an enjoyable read.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)
2017-07-21 08:00 am
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My Current Podcast Playlist

Podcasts, Earl Grey Editing

I’m a podcast fiend. I find they’re a great way to keep me entertained while I’m doing housework. Over the last few years, I’ve ended up with quite a few shows to listen to. They fall into three broad categories:

Books, Media and Culture

This is far and away the biggest category. It includes podcasts featuring interviews, discussions about fandom, and reviews of books, movies and TV shows.

Fangirl Happy Hour: This Hugo-nominated podcast is hosted by Renay of Lady Business and Ana of The Book Smugglers. They review books, movies and graphic novels, as well as discuss what they’ve been reading or watching more generally. They also talk about the state of SFF fandom and often segue into political commentary and discussions of mental health.

Galactic Suburbia: This Hugo-Award-winning podcast is hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Alexandra Pierce. Much like Fangirl Happy Hour, they discuss the state of SFF fandom, albeit from an Australian perspective. The two podcasts occasionally end up in dialogue over vital issues, such as what can be classified as cake. The ladies of GS also discuss the culture they’ve been reading, watching or otherwise consuming.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

Radio Free Fandom: Another new podcast, in which Claire Rousseau interviews guests about their fandoms. I’ve only listened to the first episode so far and am still getting a feel for it.

Reading the End: I usually prefer my podcasts to be solidly genre, but I make an exception for the Demographically-Similar Jennys. Gin Jenny and Whisky Jenny do often discuss and review genre books, but are just as likely to be reviewing contemporary literature. They also discuss their favourite instances of particular tropes and occasionally delve into research on space, the sea and Arctic explorers. At all times, they remain utterly charming.

SFF Yeah: Book Riot’s new SFF podcast. Sharifah and Jenn discuss SFF news and favourite literary tropes. I’m still deciding if this one is for me.

Sheep Might Fly: A podcast of serialised fiction by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Tansy alternates between previously published work and completely new stories. It’s a delight to hear them in Tansy’s own voice.

Tea and Jeopardy: This Hugo-nominated podcast is hosted by Emma Newman. Each of the guests she interviews has a connection to SFF and each interview takes place in a different (fictional) lair arranged by her morally-dubious butler (voiced by Peter Newman). Guests often find themselves in a bit of difficulty as they leave. The fictional framework doesn’t work for everyone, but I find it fun.

The Math of You: This is a relatively recent discovery from me. Lucas Brown interviews a range of guests about the pop culture that influenced them while growing up. Not strictly SFF; this is geekdom in many flavours. Lucas is a warm and enthusiastic interviewer.

The Writer and the Critic: Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond review a range of speculative fiction. I initially picked this up due to its Ditmar nomination this year and have liked it enough to keep it on. The contrasting perspectives make it engaging. However, I’m also adverse to spoilers, so haven’t yet delved into many of the episodes.

Gaming

This is the newest category in my podcast list and focuses exclusively on tabletop RPGs (which, I’m sure, surprises no one).

The Gauntlet Podcast: Primarily hosted by Jason Cordova, the podcast interviews game designers and signal boosts RPGs being crowdfunded. The hosts also discuss the games they’ve been playing and what has been inspiring them.

The Gauntlet crew also run several other related podcasts. I’ve not yet listened to +1 Forward, but it has recently been nominated for an ENnie Award. However, I have listened to Pocket-Sized Play. I don’t usually go in for Actual Play podcasts, but I’ve been loving their Monsterhearts campaign, Mercy Falls.

Writing Advice

The last category in my list is short. While I appreciate some measure of discussion about craft and industry, I find too much counterproductive for me (it’s hard enough to mute my inner editor).

Ditch Diggers: Hosted by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace. I picked up this one because it was nominated for a Hugo this year and I wanted to judge it fairly. Mur and Matt discuss craft, answer questions and interview other creators. It’s a solid show, though I occasionally find it abrasive in ways that weren’t intended.

Writing Excuses: These short episodes are hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler. Each season has a distinct theme and guest co-hosts. I appreciate the diversity of voices (though it remains sadly US-centric). Each episode ends with a practical exercise.

 

Altogether, these make up my current playlist. Does anything catch your attention? What would you recommend I check out?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
2017-07-17 08:00 am

Trust by Kylie Scott

Trust, Kylie Scott, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: Self-published in July 2017
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Young adult, contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available:Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~Kobo

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

Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love… the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen-year-old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight–getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first–losing her virginity–their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose–each other.

Trust is Kylie Scott’s first foray into Young Adult and I certainly hope it won’t be her last because I was pretty impressed.

There was so much that was great about this book. I appreciated its diversity. This includes race and sexuality–two of Edie’s new friends are lesbians and the other Vietnamese–but it also goes beyond that. Edie herself is an unconventional protagonist. She may be white and blonde, but she’s also considered overweight and has no desire to change that. She has seen her mum go through the constant torture of diets and would rather be happy than subject herself to the same. Of course, she is bullied for being a socially-unacceptable body shape but never by the narrative. Instead, she is also shown as being desireble–and desirable by someone who has a socially-acceptable body shape.

Another thing I loved about the story is the way it advocates for healthy relationships and boundary setting. Edie is not shy about cutting people off if they violate her privacy. She has zero time for other people’s bullshit. While her relationship with John didn’t start under the best circumstances, it is a healthy one–with each one supporting the other through the changes they’re making in their lives. There is also one scene that takes a bit of a dig at Twilight when John unexpectedly shows up at Edie’s bedroom window one night.

This is not a book that pulls its punches. It kicks off with the robbery Edie and John get caught in at the convenience store, and takes us all the way through that traumatic experience. It has all the bodily fluids (and I really do mean all). There’s onscreen sex–and, being a romance writer, Scott isn’t shy about it. There’s awkward sex and sexy sex, and good consent practices at all times.

All in all, I loved Trust to pieces and I’m hoping we’ll see more YA from Kylie Scott.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
2017-07-03 08:00 am

Retribution by Jennifer Fallon

Retribution, Jennifer Fallon, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Published: May 2017 by Harper Voyager
Format reviewed: Trade paperback, 420 pages
Series: Hythrun Chronicles #8, The War of the Gods #2
Genres: Epic fantasy
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

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

Since fleeing Winternest to avoid King Hablet’s wrath when he discovers the truth about her parentage, leaving her slave, Charisee, to take her place, Rakaia has been on quite an adventure. She has met the demon child, traveled the continent with the charming minstrel, Mica the Magnificent, enjoying more freedom then she ever imagined trapped in the harem in Talabar. But her freedom has come at a cost. Mica has committed an unthinkable crime, worse even, than stealing the golden lyre, and she is now his unwilling accomplice, sailing the high seas on a Tri-lander pirate ship, doing everything she can to avoid upsetting the man she once thought she loved, but has now realized is quite insane.

Meanwhile, Charisee, still pretending to be Rakaia, is trying to make the best of her new life as the Lady of Highcastle. But Rakaia’s past will catch up with her, even as her own lies are in danger of being exposed.

As Adrina struggles to hold Hythria together, and Marla tries to deal with the fallout from the shocking events that take place in the Citadel during the treaty negotiations, Wrayan Lightfinger and the apprentice sorcerer, Julika Hawksword, must travel to Sanctuary to find out why the fortress is back. What they will discover is shocking and will affect the entire world, even though they don’t realize it.

The Lyre Thief was one of my favourite books of 2016, so I was delighted to get the opportunity to review the sequel. It didn’t disappoint.

Being an epic fantasy, the book has a large cast of characters. I didn’t stop to reread the first book, instead choosing to dive in. It was a bit of an effort to remember who everyone was, but I soon got my feet under me. The book also has a cast of characters in the back to help, should you need it.

One thing I loved most about this series is that there are women everywhere. Most of the POV characters are female and they drive the action forward at every turn. Although the setting is a generically medieval-influenced fantasy comprised largely of patriarchal societies, the author uses her female characters to examine this set-up and to undermine it to some extent. Sophany and Rakaia are caught in relationships with dangerous and abusive men. Both try to protect people they care about and influence the situation by playing to very traditionally feminine roles. This provides an interesting contrast to Charisee and Adrina, both of whom are more secure in their power, even if it is borrowed from their husbands. These two women use this power to defy the patriarchy more directly, to varying degrees of success.

These women are without their flaws. Some of the minor female characters are downright horrible. And, as with the first book, the POV characters often act selfishly–but this is often a short step from survival and it’s never the sum of who they are. There’s always someone they care about and this helps them to remain likable.

There are a few places where the book wears its influences plainly. This was most notable when a childish king declared it was his mission to drive out the elves and make his nation great again. The story is dark at times, so this may not be the best choice for readers looking for a light escape.

However, if you’re looking for a more hopeful, more feminist alternative to A Song of Ice and Fire, Retribution may be the book for you.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
2017-06-26 08:00 am
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The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

The Furthest Station, Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London, Peter Grant, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: June 2017 by Subterranean Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Rivers of London/Peter Grant #7.5
Genres: Contemporary fantasy
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~Kobo

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

There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there’s a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something.

Enter PC Peter Grant junior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying the crush of London’s rush hour to find the source of the ghosts.

Joined by Peter’s wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person’s life might just be on the line.

And time is running out to save them.

The Furthest Station is a quick novella that retains the spirit of the series but which remains unsatisfying.

Peter’s distinctive voice is present; even though the novella is short, there’s still space for his digressions and pop culture references. There’s even a few footnotes addressed to his American counterpart, though I found these a bit disruptive. They call into question the nature of the story, particularly as there is no framework set up to indicate Peter is addressing someone particular.

The story does a reasonable job of introducing who Peter is and what he does for a living. However, I’m not sure I’d recommend it as an entry point to the series. For example, the oddness of Molly is never explained for a new reader and the references to Beverley and her family are cursory. There’s a lot of background present which is likely to make it confusing.

I enjoyed seeing Peter spend more time with Abigail, though there’s never any real change in their relationship. Preserving the status quo for the novels in such a way leaves it ultimately feeling like filler.

The main plot held up fairly well until the ending. While it was nice to see an acknowledgement that not all police work ends tidily or in a dramatic fashion, the number of loose ends made it unsatisfying to me.

All in all, The Furthest Station was a pleasant read, but not one of Aaronovitch’s better works.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A blue and purple d20 sits on some lined paper. (Gaming)
2017-06-23 08:00 am
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Feminism and Tabletop RPGs

Monsterhearts, Night Witches, Tabletop RPGs

At Continuum 13, I had the pleasure of sitting on the Tabletop Gaming panel with Aidan Doyle, Darryl “Owlbear” Brown, Laura Wilkinson and Bryce Campbell. The discussion was a mix of designer and player perspectives, and remained an upbeat conversation throughout. We could have continued for hours.

One of the things I touched on in the panel was feminism and gaming. I wanted to elaborate a little on that here.

The rise of Kickstarter has brought a new golden age for indie RPGs. As the panel mentioned, you can now find something for everyone. This includes games that have strong feminist influences and encourage diversity. A few of the games that have come across my radar include:

Bluebeard’s Bride by Whitney Strix Beltrn, Marissa Kelly, and Sarah Richardson. This gothic horror RPG is still in production, but you can still preorder and check out their Kickstarter pitch video. Players collectively form Bluebeard’s Bride, playing different aspects of her psyche as she explores her husband’s mansion. Although the game uses the structure of the original fairytale, it encourages players to tell their own versions, allowing space for the empowering as well as the tragic.

Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios is a cyberpunk game which has just Kickstarted its second edition. This game is perhaps a little less explicitly feminist than the others. However, being concerned with posthumanism, it allows space for exploration of gender and disability through mechanisms for swapping and augmenting bodies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has more of a complicated rule system than the other games (which are all Powered by the Apocalypse).

Monsterhearts by Avery Alder is one of my favourite RPGs. It’s an urban fantasy about teenage monsters. As you might expect, teenage sexuality is an important element of the game. This may be why it is the first (and, so far, only) game I’ve ever seen discuss asexuality and allows space for that within the rules. It is also built around the premise that everyone is fundamentally bisexual and can be turned on by characters of any gender–though players always retain the choice of whether they wish to act on these feelings.

Night Witches by Jason Morningstar. Set in WW2, players are members of the all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment in the Russian Army. The game touches on the discrepancy between the Soviet philosophy of equality and how the women were actually treated. It also explicitly mentions queer relationships and one of the playbooks allows for a genderqueer character.

The Watch by Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros. A low magic fantasy wherein a mystical enemy known as the Shadow invades. Able to enter and subvert the minds of its enemies, the Shadow is particularly effective against men. It’s up to women and non-binary femmes to form the Watch and defend their lands. This is another game still in production, but you can still check out their Kickstarter. I appreciate the explicit inclusion of non-binary femmes in their pitch. The game also looks like it will have some mechanisms which deal with mental health.

These games have diversity and inclusivity baked into their premise and mechanisms. While I will always value these sorts of games the most, they’re not the only way of promoting diversity in RPGs. As I mentioned in the panel, simply including diverse people in the accompanying artwork can go some way towards fostering an inclusive environment. The fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons has made some improvements in this fashion (even if the setting retains some problematic elements).

The games I’ve mentioned here are surely just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re a keen tabletop RPGer, I’d love to hear from you: Which feminist RPGs have you discovered?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
2017-06-19 08:00 am
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Rift Riders by Becca Lusher

Rift Riders, Becca Lusher, Wingborn, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea.

Published: Self-published in March 2017
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Wingborn #2
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Author
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The author is a friend. I have done my best to give an unbiased review.
This review contains spoilers for previous books.

On a world cursed to be covered in clouds, protected by the elite Rift Riders who fly on the backs of giant eagle miryhls, Lady Mhysra Kilpapan and her friends are making history. Women are now firmly back within the Rider fold and the future looks bright.

But even though Mhysra and her Wingborn Cumulo have survived their first year as students, there’s more to becoming a Rift Rider than lessons and training. Especially when trouble is brewing in the Wrathlen and the kaz-naghkt are looking for revenge.

Return to the Overworld for the next exciting Wingborn adventure, where strength, loyalty, honour and friendship are about to tested to their limits and beyond.

I am a huge fan of the Wingborn series. What’s not to love about a magical Regency-influenced society where the military ride giant eagles? Wingborn did an excellent job of setting up that society: showing the bond between rider and eagle, as well as the expectations the upper class have of their children.

Rift Riders takes that and shakes it up. Now that the world has been established, a serious threat steps forward. Yullik, a man with mysterious powers, manages to unite the pirate captains of Wrathlen for the first time in history. Allied with savage draconoids, the kaz-naghkt, they may prove unstoppable–even for the Rift Riders. This new threat builds great tension and raises the stakes. It also makes Rift Riders quite a different book to its predecessor. The more domestic aspects of the story, such as society life and the Kilpapan family dynamics, are left behind in favour of a more traditional epic fantasy narrative.

While this was slightly disappointing, the transition works well, with Rift Riders becoming more of an ensemble piece. Mhysra remains an important part of the narrative, but her friends get a greater share of the spotlight, with a few stepping forward to become point-of-view characters. This enables us to see more of what’s going on, particularly when battles break out on several fronts.

The relationships between these characters remain a strength of the story. The groundwork for a few romances was laid in the previous book, but this are dialled back or absent entirely. Instead, the focus is on friendship and duty. Mhysra and her friends do their best to support each other as they struggle to survive and defend the realm. The banter between them is never entirely absent, lightening what could otherwise be quite a grim story. Nor is this friendly teasing limited to the students–Lieutenants Lyrai and Stirla are equally as bad.

Managing such a cast of characters can be a handful, but the story does an excellent job of reintroducing everyone in the beginning. It does so through a tight action sequence which handles both aerial and ground-based combat in a way that sets the tone for the rest of the novel.

All in all, Rift Riders was a delight to read. With at least one more novel to come, and with the shift of tone between books, I’m curious to see what is in store for the remainder of the series.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)
2017-06-16 08:00 am
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Continuum 13

Trigger Warning: This post contains a realistic depiction of brains. You can thank Seanan McGuire.

Last weekend, I attended Continuum 13 in Melbourne. It was also the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention. The Guests of Honour were Seanan McGuire and Likhain.

I took a bit of a different approach to the convention this year. Instead of writing notes, I live-tweeted most of the panels and events I attended. You can find those tweets on Storify. They cover:

To Be Continued… a panel on serialised fiction with Nathan Farrugia, Seanan McGuire, Gillian Polack and Tansy Rayner Roberts.

Creativity and Mental Health with Likhain, Creatrix Tiara, Lauren E. Mitchell, Mary Borsellino and Dorian Ellis.

1001 Ways to Die in Space with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

The Art and Science of Publishing with Devin Madson, Sam Hawke, Donna Maree Hanson and Robert Law.

It’s Okay to Quit, a panel on breaking up with books, franchises and fandoms. Panelists were Seanan McGuire, Tori, Figgy O’Connell, and Lauren Mitchell.

Anime and Manga with Likhain, John Samuel, Bryce Campbell, Laura Wilkinson and Candice Schilder.

Once Upon A Time with Seanan McGuire, Amanda Pillar, Kirstyn McDermott, Jodi McAlister and Sebastian Edwards.

Whitewashing in SF with Devin Jeyathurai, Stephanie Lai, Likhain, Creatrix Tiara and Tori.

Seanan McGuire’s Guest of Honour AMA.

The Ditmar Awards.

Forgotten Mothers of SFF, a panel on women writers erased from SFF. Panelists were Cat Sparks, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Sam Hawke and Jodi McAlister.

Fan Fiction and Fan Art with Likhain, Liz Barr, Elaine Cuyegkeng and Erica.

There are also links to tweets about other panels, such as Asian SFF, Secondary Worlds in Weird Fiction, the Bioware Panel and Likhain’s Guest of Honour speech. And I included a few tweets about the Tabletop Renaissance panel I sat on, but plan to post on that in more detail next week.

Despite this fairly thorough coverage of the con, there were a few things I didn’t mention, or touched on only briefly. I will expand on those here.

Snow on the mountains during the flight to Melbourne.

I arrived early in Melbourne, which afforded me a chance to catch up with a few people before the start of the convention. On Friday morning, Kat Clay took me to the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. The shop windows are a work of art, filled with gorgeous cakes and tarts that are guaranteed to get you drooling. They also do a lovely range of loose-leaf tea. We shared a pot of Earl Grey which had been given a unique twist by the addition of Gumbi Gumbi–a kind of Pittosporum known as Native Apricot. The chocolate pecan tart was also excellent.

In the afternoon, I got the chance to catch up with Ju from The Conversationalist. Being a Melbourne native, she was able to give me a great tour, including the locations of good places to eat and the Kit Kat store–both vital bits of knowledge. She also took me past McIver’s and Lupicia, both wonderful loose-leaf tea stores.

Tea haul

The convention started in earnest at 5PM on Friday. But that doesn’t mean there was an end to the cake. Galactic Suburbia held a fundraising drive for the Octavia Butler Memorial Scholarship.

And there was cake for the launch of Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones.

In keeping with the natures of the protagonists, Seanan had two different kinds of cake from Cake and Madness. One was a traditional cupcake with glittery frosting. And the other… well, the other was a bit disturbing.

Yes, it’s a cake.

Watching it be eaten was a little like finding myself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Moving away from the food theme, I also managed to get in a bit of roleplaying at the convention. Alex Hardison was gracious enough to run a one-shot of Feng Shui for me and a few friends. The game is modelled after Hong Kong action movies, rewarding flamboyant, physics-defying manoeuvres. The system was easy to grasp, making it perfect for a one-shot. Alex had also put together a cleverly modular session based around a train heist. Everyone had a wonderful time.

I made a few new friends this year. I got to meet DUFF delegate Paul Weimer, whose voice remained very familiar after the last few months of listening to the Skiffy and Fanty podcast. It was wonderful to finally meet face-to-face. I also got to meet Kate Laidley, who I’d previously met virtually on Instagram. It was her first convention, so hopefully we didn’t scare her away!

And, of course, no convention is complete without a book haul. My own was fairly modest this year. The first thing I picked up from the dealers’ room wasn’t a book at all.

As soon as I saw those teapot earrings, I knew I needed them.

I came back on Monday to pick up a few bits and pieces. It was lucky I did, because by the time the launch of Down Among the Sticks and Bones came around, there were very few copies left.

The Princess Diarist is also a bit of a cheat because I didn’t actually buy it. It’s on loan from Mayakitten. We’re both making our way through the Hugo shortlists and catch up on a regular basis to discuss them over hot chocolate.

So, that was Continuum 13! It was my first Continuum and I had a fantastic time. Kudos to the programmers, who did a brilliant job with piecing together the panels. And a big thank-you to the committee and volunteers, who were all very friendly and kept everything running smoothly. I’ll definitely be going back when I can.

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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)
2017-06-09 08:00 am
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Loose-leaf Links #41

Chai, Real chai, Loose-leaf Links, Earl Grey Editing, 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 Real Chai’s original blend. As with most proper chais, it needs milk and sweetener in order to taste good. I’m in favour of honey.

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)
2017-06-05 08:00 am

Behind the Mask by Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson

Behind the Mask, superhero anthology, Tricia Reeks, Kyle Richardson, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: May 2017 by Meercat Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction
Source: Publisher
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.

Behind the Mask is an exciting collection of short stories about the everyday lives of superheroes. Ranging from laugh-out-loud funny to deliciously dark, these stories are about the ordinary day-to-day challenges facing these extraordinary individuals growing up, growing old, relationships, parenting, coping with that age-old desire to fit in when, let’s face it, they don’t.

Behind the Mask is a solid collection of short stories that nevertheless left me feeling ambivalent. Since I’m not much of a short story reader, this could definitely be more a reflection of my reading taste than the anthology itself. However, I didn’t find myself hurrying back to it.

The stories often focused on the domestic and the personal, which I rather enjoyed. They’re less about the big, flashy battles–though those make the occasional appearance, such as in Seanan McGuire’s story Pedestal. Instead, the stories use their superheroes as lenses to examine themes such as memory, chronic illness, celebrity, and family dynamics and legacies. These stories are often quite poignant, such as Destroy the City with Me Tonight by Kate Marshall.

It also means this isn’t the most up-beat of anthologies. The tone tends towards the melancholy, and while there are notes of hope throughout, they tend to be muted.

I’d like to make special mention of Stephanie Lai’s The Fall of the Jade Sword. The story provided an excellent contrast to the fare of standard Western superheroes. Instead, it offers a historical fantasy about a young Chinese immigrant living in Melbourne. Chafing under the confines of social expectations, she sneaks out and attempts to emulate the local superhero–a figure the Chinese community recognises as a skilled practitioner of Wushu. It provided a breath of fresh air in an anthology otherwise fairly uniform in tone.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
2017-06-02 08:00 am
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Mt TBR report: May 2017

Mt TBR, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books, Words Are My Matter, Ursula Le Guin, Year of the Orphan, Daniel Findley, Ms Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, Queens of Geek, Jen Wilde, Rosemary and Rue, Seanan McGuire, Nimona, Noelle Stevenson, The Year's Best Asutralian Fantasy and Horror, Liz Grzyb, Talie Helene

It’s official: the Hugo Awards have broken my Mt TBR. The voting packet arrived this month and I am suddenly drowning in books. There’s still some that came in the voting packet that I haven’t yet recorded on my TBR. Nevertheless, I’m quite delighted. In addition to the things listed below, I also made my way through the material provided for the Best Fan Writer and Best Short Story categories. Since they’re not exactly books, it’s hard to know how to capture them in my records.

Mt TBR Status ) Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)
2017-05-31 08:00 am
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Tabletop Renaissance

Continuum 13, Tabletop Renaissance, Earl Grey Editing

Next Friday I’ll be down in Melbourne gearing up for the start of Continuum 13. Continuum is this year’s National Science Fiction Convention and will be running until Monday 12 June. The Guests of Honour this year are author Seanan McGuire and artist Likhain. Both are 2017 Hugo nominees.

Speaking of awards, I’ll be attending the Ditmar Awards Ceremony on Saturday evening. I’ll also be sitting on a panel about tabletop gaming. Exact details are subject to change, but are currently as follows:

Tabletop Renaissance
When: Saturday 10 June, 5 PM
Panelists: Darryl Browne, Bryce Campbell, Aidan Doyle, Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Laura Wilkinson.

With tabletop roleplaying more popular than ever, our panelists discuss the current state of play, their favourite games and which new ones to look out for.

Between us, the panel has quite a diverse range of experience and I’m really looking forward to our discussion.

When not sitting on panels or watching them, I’ll likely be haunting the cafe, looking for my tea fix. If you’re along this year, please say hi! However, if Melbourne is a bit too far away for you or conventions aren’t your scene, I’ll be writing up a report once I’m home again.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
2017-05-29 08:00 am
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Bad Beginnings by Nicole Field

Bad Beginnings, Nicole Field, Less Than Three Press, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: May 2017 by Less Than Three Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Anchors #2
Genres: Contemporary romance, LGBTQIA
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

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

After the recent ending of a relationship, Kit feels lost and uncertain about where he stands without being in a relationship. Dante, on the other hand, has been waiting for this moment for years, and now that Kit is finally single he has no intention of wasting this chance.

But even the most sincere feelings and best intentions aren’t enough to guarantee happiness, and it’s a long road from a bad start to a happy end.

Bad Beginnings is a sweet romance that does a fantastic job of modelling respectful behaviour in a number of different ways.

It’s a friends-to-lovers story. Kit is a lawyer who has started a private practice with his best friend. Having recently split up with his boyfriend, he’s beginning to realise how claustrophobic his life has become: it’s all work and no play. While he’s not exactly happy about this and yearns for the steady relationship his best friend has, Kit is not the outgoing sort. The end of his relationship was a blow to his already low confidence. He’s uncomfortable in his own skin and he’s a bit embarrassed when Dante finds him at the gay nightclub he’s been pushed into visiting.

Dante is the brother of Kit’s best friend and has all the confidence Kit lacks. He runs his own tabletop gaming store, which automatically made him my favourite. He’s also great with people, a caring and considerate guy who tries to help others. When he discovers Kit is single again, he’s thrilled–and he makes his interest plain–but he also never pushes Kit. At every turn, he seeks Kit’s consent and backs off when it isn’t given or is withdrawn.

Consent is not the only way in which the book models respectful behaviour. Kit’s BFF, Con, is a trans man. This is not looked upon favourably by Con and Dante’s parents, who persistently misgender and deadname Con. However, this is never shown on screen. Whenever it takes place within a scene, the author is careful to paraphrase rather than trigger readers by depicting it directly.

Sex is also not depicted directly, so if you like your romances sweet rather than steamy, Bad Beginnings is a good choice.

The relationship between Kit and Dante is the biggest strength of the book and is let down by a weak crisis point. When Kit loses a work case, it triggers a crisis of confidence. However, it’s a sub-plot that never had much strength behind it. It’s a little too vague how Kit managed to lose the case and not entirely plausible that he’s never lost up until that point–particularly since the business has been running long enough to have two employees other than Kit and Con. Kit displaces his feelings of inadequacy by starting an argument with Dante. While this works, the resolution between them came a little too quickly. Instead of seeing Kit wrestle much with what he’s done, we jump back in after he’s already got his life pretty well put back together. It felt a little glossed over, with the story all too eager to focus on the next obstacle of Dante’s parents. The book could have benefited from a bit more length.

Nevertheless, Bad Beginnings was a charming read. I’m delighted to discover that Con’s story is told in the first book, so I will definitely be checking that out.

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)
2017-05-26 08:00 am
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Loose-leaf Links #40

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)
2017-05-24 08:00 am
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Guest Post: Twisted Moon Magazine

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)
2017-05-22 08:00 am
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Children of the Different by S.C. Flynn

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)
2017-05-19 08:00 am

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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)
2017-05-15 08:00 am

Bout of Books #19

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)
2017-05-12 08:00 am
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Loose-leaf Links #39

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.