Category Archives: LGBT

Book Review: The Fox’s Quest

Last year, I reviewed YA LGBT book The Fox’s Mask, the first in the Kitsune Trilogy, by Anna Frost. I really enjoyed it, and was interested in seeing how the story would progress.

I received a copy of the second book, The Fox’s Quest, and was really excited to jump in. I will do my best to talk about the book without giving away any spoilers! If you haven’t read the first book though, I recommend doing so before reading this review, because I have to talk about some things that happened there.

Okay, did you read the first book?

Did you?

Alright, I warned you!

The book picks up not far from where the first book left off. Sanae is dead, but for some reason her soul has stayed on, following around Akakiba and Yuki in her fox form, and helping them on their journey. Akakiba is very much suspicious of the spirit and doesn’t acknowledge who she claims to be, though he still follows her advice, which I find adorable in his stubborn willingness. The dragon Drac is also around, and it is immediately obvious that there is discontent because of the bond between Yuki and his dragon companion.

Nuuuu boys. /tears

Anyways, as the story goes on, we learn more about what is causing the magic to fade from the land, something that is of course detrimental to the Fox Clan and any other spiritual beings in the world. The quest to find the source leads to lots of interesting fights, new characters, and new twists in the story – it was really enjoyable because there were new layers being discovered throughout the book that showed that the plot was much deeper than “let’s kill the Fox Clan.”

What I liked:

  • You know, this time, I didn’t have any twitches to the individual voices of the characters. I thought they were all well done. Part of this might be that I am familiar with the characters now, so I am more comfortable with their voices.
  • I felt like Mamoru had more time within the story, and I like that this character had become such a major plot point.
  • Sanae torturing shinobi was pretty hilarious and amazing.
  • Akakiba did stay true to the gender he identified with – male. Anna had commented on my previous review saying that this would be the case, but I want to say that I really appreciated the dialogue between Yuki and Akakiba on the topic when it was broached. *applauds Anna*
  • Also the boys were just so cute when they finally talked things out *flails*
  • There were a lot of great fight scenes!
  • The story ends with a lot to still be discovered!

What I didn’t like:

  • This is totally my own thing, and I don’t think it’s something that Anna did wrong at all. But I really wish that the boys had resolved things sooner rather than later. BUT that leaves room for more in the third book, right? [RIGHT?!]

The book is already out, so make sure you get your hands on it! I can’t wait for the third one to come out. 🙂

Book Review: The Fox’s Mask

I don’t consider myself a reader of YA novels. That’s not because I have anything against the genre, though. I just generally tend to lean toward books that are more *clears throat* adult in content.

Okay look, I like some smutty stuff, I admit it. It’s not all I read, but these days my time for reading is limited, and maybe I’m drawn more to smutty fiction than anything else.

The only YA book I have previously read [aside from the Harry Potter series] is Cinder, by Marissa Meyer [Tori did a review of it you can check out here]. I keep walking past the young adult section of my local Barnes & Noble, eyeing all the different novels, slightly overwhelmed, and also not quite sure if I will find something that really catches my interest.

And I’m babbling. What I mean to say is, I was pleasantly surprised when I was sent a review copy of The Fox’s Mask, by Anna Frost. This book is labeled as young adult, but it is also labeled as being LGBT, and set in an alternate reality feudal Japan. I was instantly curious and excited and jumped right in. I am also an anime fan, so this book seemed to promise a beautiful mix of things I enjoy.

I have to admit that there is one theme in particular that I really want to talk about in my review, especially if anyone else reads it and wants to discuss it further. The problem is that one element is a huge spoiler. So most of this review will be spoiler-free, until that moment.

The book is written in third person but from the points of view of different characters. The text doesn’t shift how it looks to show who is talking, but it is still generally clear whose point of experience we are hearing the story from. I enjoyed Anna’s style of writing – there is a lot of dialogue and inner monologue, but also great descriptions of settings. Though I was immediately picturing a Rurouni Kenshin setting in my mind, it was just the base for the world she described. The dialogue of the characters flowed nicely, and only every once in a while was I jarred slightly when an internal monologue sounded extremely “teenage-angst-ish.”

The main characters are Akakiba and Yuki. Akakiba is Yuki’s tutor, teaching him the way of demon hunting. Akakiba is 18, and Yuki is only 15. The prologue shows that their meeting was unfortunate, but for some reason Yuki has stayed with Akakiba for three years at the time of the first chapter. Akakiba is a very smart-mouthed character who reminded me slightly of Edward Elric – so of course I liked him right away. Yuki was tough, but not as loud as Akakiba. I liked the balance of their personalities and how they worked together.

With the introduction of demons, it is obvious that this story will have a lot of magical/spiritual elements. Anna weaves in a lot of symbolism and words from the Japanese culture that I appreciated – though she used the Japanese terms to describe some things, I felt like it was always obvious what she was talking about. I’m always on the fence about using different languages to describe things within a story, but this is an instance where I feel like it mostly worked. There were only one or two times I had to think about what was being referred to.

The overarching plot of the story is that for some reason, magic seems to be fading from the land. Healing spirits aren’t around their shrines, there are fewer dragons, and even fewer demons, so it seems. The additional points of view are of Akakiba’s younger sister, Sanae, who adds a different view as trouble starts to emerge within the Fox Clan, and also offers a chance to show some of the traditions and special abilities of the group. Other main characters whose views are used are Mamoru and Jien. Mamoru is from a rival clan, and his story eventually reveals how deep the demon problem is becoming. Jien is a friend of the family, a monk who Akakiba had helped save, and often the comedic relief.

What I liked:

  • The feudal Japan style setting
  • The incorporation of a cultural background with the supernatural, spirits, demons, and dragons felt natural with the story line
  • The undertones of attraction between Yuki and Akakiba
  • I was actually caught off guard with how the story progressed and the ending of the book
  • There wasn’t a love triangle o/

What I didn’t like:

  • Sometimes the inner monologue of the characters sounded jarringly younger, which might just be a personal preference
  • While I liked what Mamoru offered in his chapters, I almost wish there was more – I felt like the balance of points of view was weighted heavily on the two main characters, and having multiple points of view I feel should be well rounded

Recommend if: You like anime set in a feudal/Japanese universe, and supernatural type stories. I could see this being an anime, or a manga, any day.

The book comes out tomorrow, Friday October 19!

Okay, if you have read the book or don’t mind spoilers, here is the part I really want to talk about.

No seriously, spoiler ahead, just stop now if you don’t want to be spoiled for an end of the book reveal.

….you got it?

 

Okay…

 

Continue reading

Anime Review: Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi [World’s Greatest First Love]

In my quest to try to branch out and watch new anime, I decided to suck it up and try watching one based on a boys-love manga. Now, I know that I read a lot of LGBT books, but I have a serious problem with most Japanese boys-love anime/manga. This problem mainly comes from the fact that one person is almost always fighting back. If there is one thing that I can’t handle, it’s anything even remotely close to forced intimacy. Can’t do it. Nope.

Aww look he's so embarrassed!

I decided to give this one a try, and knew that when it got too bad, it would be done for me. However, I ended up finishing both seasons [24 episodes total]. That alone should say something.

Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi was originally a manga and made into an anime last year. The storyline follows three main “couples” that all happen to be involved somehow with Marukawa Publishing. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was the same company in Junjou Romantica – this anime is actually a spin off of it. Junjou Romantica is actually one of the animes that I couldn’t finish, so this wasn’t something that stood out to me right away.

I will admit that I was a little confused by the different storylines at first, and had to actually make a chart to keep track. This way I could make notes about the specific story line, instead of each episode. I have never watched soap operas, but I imagine that people who do might experience the same problem. So I am going to go about this couple by couple after the jump. It’s easy to talk about these couples separately because only once do stories actually overlap.

Continue reading

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is fucking marvelous. Pardon my French, but it’s true. This book, by Emily M. Danforth, is absolutely fucking marvelous. It is exactly the kind of book that young girls – and young boys – should be reading, starting maybe around 13 or 14, whenever it is that kids start their freshman years of high school.  This is a coming-of-age novel with a narrator who isn’t a perfect Mary Sue, but who is incredibly likable in spite of her quirks and faults. Cameron Post is conflicted, intelligent, funny, sensitive, introverted, and athletic, and also somebody I’d truly love to know.

The Miseducation of Cameron PostWhile I certainly can’t profess to have shared Cameron’s experiences – mainly because I’ve never been a teenager in early 1990s small-town Montana who winds up sent to a gay conversion therapy camp – I can certainly relate to her. Her story is all about learning to be who you are, sifting through the nonsense to find a few rare glittering shards of truth. I remember all too well the intensely private internal struggle between the religious dogma that’s dictated your life until you’re old enough to start questioning things and the dawning realization that your sexual orientation isn’t exactly going to be acceptable at prom. To this day, though I’m now closer to 30 than I am 20, I still cringe inside when people ask me tacky questions about lesbians, or talk to be as if I’m some kind of authority on LGBT issues just because I like girls. I turn the serious bits and bats of being queer into broad jokes that even Saturday Night Live won’t bother with because it’s just easier sometimes. Cameron rebels quietly and in a natural, unforced way, which is what I think I admire most about her. She’s a person.

This really isn’t an easy book. But that makes it all the more interesting, with a main character who takes the time to tell us about where she’s coming from – starting with her parents’ sudden death in a car accident when she’s twelve – and where she wants to go. Cameron is plagued by a situation that seems ripped from a blog post gone viral: religious zealots who are not evil but who really and truly just want to help, failing massively thanks to their own ignorance. However flawed they are (and believe me, they are flawed), I love that the characters’ faults are realistic, keeping the book from turning into a morality play stocked with the same old clichés you find all too often in LGBT fiction.

But at the same time, the population of Miles City does seem familiar: Irene, the childhood crush; Lindsey, the budding political activist from Seattle; Mona, the older, experienced college girl; Coley, the gorgeous country girl who always maintains her heterosexuality at all costs, including at Cameron’s expense. We’ve all known girls like them before. (We’ve even loved some of them.) Cameron’s other friends are avid pot smokers whose hobbies largely involve breaking into abandoned hospitals, and they sound like what they are – guys I would have loved to know in high school, but who my adult self knows are the kind of friends who love you but could still get you arrested. Her aunt Ruth has found Jesus and really just wants Cameron to find him too so that they’ll be sure to get to heaven when they die, and she does what she does out of love – it’s clearly depicted as a loving act, although we know how terribly, tragically wrong Ruth is.

The writing is simple without being simplistic, complex without being convoluted. It’s on the longer side, 354 pages in my e-book copy, which is perfect because it allows the plot to unfold naturally. As you’ve seen from other reviews of mine, I can’t take a book that’s too short to really tell the story.  Now, of course, that can go the other way, when a book is overly long and takes forever to get to the point, but this book strikes the right balance. Don’t be intimidated by the length, because the humor and realism will more than make you forget about that. And I love that the author, Ms. Danforth, tells the story of how it’s perfectly fine to be the way that you are, whatever that way is, with subtlety and tact and grace. It’s far more effective than beating her readers over the head with a proverbial shovel, and infinitely more respectful of their intelligence.

But don’t read The Miseducation of Cameron Post just because I’m telling you to read it. Read the book because, like I said at the beginning of my review, it’s fucking marvelous.

Intersexuality: Colonial Virginia

We live in a world where sex is bifurcated into male and female. Anyone who deviates from that dichotomy either through surgery (FTMs, MTFs, transsexuals) or by birth (intersexed individuals) can face bigotry and marginalization. The latter group, intersexuals, are by and large invisible and often misunderstood. One of the clearest examples of this is an early label given to intersexed people that was used to describe people who were born with genitalia that have both male and female components: hermaphrodite. Hermaphrodite means that an organism has fully functioning male and female genitalia and can reproduce without a partner – this does not exist in humans, but the term was commonly used to describe people who had variations of male and female genitalia and, in turn, was used as a way to dehumanize and ridicule.

Intersexuality was viewed as something to be “fixed” by most of the medical establishment in the 20th century. If a baby was born with a “micropenis,” it was determined that the penis (and testes, if present) should be removed and a “functional” vagina was constructed. If the penis was determined “normal” enough (in other words, if it could potentially develop to be large enough to penetrate a vagina – we’re talking some seriously heteronormative, patriarchal rhetoric here), then the vaginal opening would be sewn shut. From there, the individual could face more surgeries throughout their lifetime as well as hormone treatments. There’s a movement to end these surgeries, but this continues to be a common practice.

There is a long history of intersexuality that we get an occasional glimpse of via historical documents. In Colonial Massachusetts we know of one such individual based on court records involving a trial that attempted to ascertain if the person in question was a man or a woman. Thomas/Thomasine Hall endured poking, prodding, interrogations, humiliation, and ostracization from the community ze was a part of. (Side note: gender and sex-neutral terms like ze and hir were 20th century constructions, but I’m going to use them for Hall since he/she and his/her is not accurate.)

In Colonial America, attitudes about (perceived) deformities were adopted from Judeo-Christian dogma that asserted that any baby that was “malformed” was a monster sent by God as a warning. It was often the parents who were seen as the ones to blame for the child’s physicality, a sign that at least one of the parents was a sinner. In addition, women were encouraged to abstain from sex while menstruating as this was thought to increase the likelihood of giving birth to a “monstrosity.”

In 1629, Hall settled in the small Virginia colony of Warrosquyoake, working as a male indentured servant. Shortly after hir arrival, Hall was accused of sleeping with a maid that set of a chain of events that included prying from the entire community. Before coming to North America, Hall had lived in Europe as a woman, wearing women’s clothes and performing women’s tasks, a fact that set the town into frenzy and led to townspeople physically examining Hall, including once while ze slept. The sex of Hall was indeterminate and the community argued over whether or not Hall should be referred to as Thomas or Thomasine.

Early American colonists were guided by European legal rubrics, which included that the punishment for cross-dressing was punishable by execution. But what to do with a person who was not male or female? The protocol (demonstrating that Hall was not the first intersex person to undergo such a trial) was for the court to determine the gender (feminine or masculine) that the person was to perform.

In Hall’s case, when asked whether he was a man or a woman, he replied that he was both saying that he had a small penis, “a peece of flesh growing at the …belly as big as the top of his little finger [an] inch long” and that “hee had not the use of the man’s p[ar]te.” The ruling based on this evidence was that Hall was to wear women’s clothes and perform as a woman, but this was not satisfactory to the elder women, so they snuck into Hall’s room while she slept. They “confirmed” that Hall was a man. It is at this point that Hall’s master checked and was unimpressed by the “flesh” that the women had classified as a penis and demanded to see if there was any evidence of a vagina. Hall was made to lie on a table and underwent a thorough examination, which determined that there was little more than a small hole, but not fully functioning female anatomy.

This physical examination led to a reverse decision and proclamation that Hall was a man and was to dress as one, but once Hall started to perform as a man, the other men in the town accused him of having sexual encounters with a neighbor’s maid. Hall’s case was eventually brought to the Virginia Court where they ruled that Hall was to dress as a man, but wear the accessories of women. This permanent hybrid gender was meant to emasculate and shame Hall and make it known to all that ze was a “monstrosity.” This is the last we have of Hall in the historical record; the remainder of hir life is a mystery.

For more about Thomas/Thomasine Hall, including excerpts from the court transcripts, see Kathleen Brown’s essay in Major Problems in the History of American Sexuality: Documents and Essays.

Book Review: The Persian Boy

I was extremely sad when I discovered that writer Mary Renault had passed away many years ago, though she had lived a long life, and I wouldn’t have been able to read her books when they were being first published. XD Since reading The Persian Boy last December, I have been in love with her writing style and stories. She wrote from the first person, but always spoke from the time period that she was writing from, really transporting the reader to the era she was writing in. This had me hooked, and I don’t usually enjoy reading first person.

Also, she was writing about m/m relationships set in a historical period, and I just can’t ignore that awesomeness. And not to mention that she had been writing stories with gay/lesbian relationships since the 1940s. I wish I could have met a woman who was strong about her beliefs during that time period. Though she did have to move to South Africa in order to live her life and write what she wanted to, but dammit, she made it so that she could do it, and that probably took guts.

The story of The Persian Boy isn’t that far off from what history already claims, and it’s not over the top and keeps the romantic relationship realistic to the time period. It follows the life of Bagoas, a son of a wealthy family who is captured and made to be a eunich, sold to King Darius III and eventually falls into the hands [or bed] of Alexander the Great. From there, Mary takes the reader on a journey of Alexander’s conquests through the eyes of Bagoas, and we see how they grow closer together as his army travels. Even though I knew how the story of Alexander ends, I was still brought to tears [and not little tears, I’m talking bawling here] at the end of the book, and one of my other friends who was reading it couldn’t even finish it. The connection between Bagoas and Alexander is believable and strong, and I was totally drawn into the story and couldn’t put the book down.

The Persian Boy is one of two fictional books that Mary writes about Alexander, the other one being Fire From Heaven, from Alexander’s point of view from childhood up to his father’s death. I will definitely be picking up that book, as well as reading her other historical fiction! If you enjoy Greek history, then I definitely think you will enjoy this book, and her others as well!

 

Book Review: Lord of the White Hell [Book One]

I was first introduced to writer Ginn Hale when I came across her book Wicked Gentlemen at a convention a couple years ago. I ate that book up quickly, and when I came across more books by her last year at the same convention, I was quick to grab them all.

I read book one of Lord of the White Hell while on my honeymoon, and again, finished it in a couple of days. This wasn’t just because I was lounging on an island and had nothing better to do – I just couldn’t put it down and my husband understood and played Puzzle Quest. Such a patient and understanding man he is.I am always looking for stories that show the way that two people are attracted to each other, and how they deal with that attraction. Though I was, at first, not sure if the relationship between Kiram and Javier would move in a way that I liked, I was quickly surprised with the way it went. I’m not a fan of the ‘oh i hate you/now i love you’ route that many stories take.

Kiram comes from a culture that approves of male/male relationships, and where women run the households and are the heirs. The Haldiim seem very earthy and slightly bohemian in their ways. However, Kiram has been sent to a Cadelonian academy, the first Haldiim ever to attend, where the culture is very different, and relationships are strictly reserved for men and women. This, of course, causes issues when Kiram finds himself extremely attracted to his upperclassman, Javier, from the very start.

But it isn’t as simple as that.

The only reason that Javier is assigned to be Kiram’s upper classmen is because of the supposed white hell that is within Javier, which is something that Kiram doesn’t believe in. It becomes quickly clear, though, that there is something different about Javier – something is within him that could kill him, or someone else, if not taken care of, and Kiram wants to figure out what it is.

I appreciated that this book didn’t have Kiram and Javier jump into a romantic relationship right away – that they realistically assessed the situation and knew that them being involved would have terrible repercussions for both of them in the Cadelonian society. Eventually they break through that, and it is the way they become close that I really enjoyed reading. There are many other twists and turns that happen throughout the story, and I liked the trials that were put in their path – again, it felt very realistic that these two young men would be put through some of the social constraints they were exposed to.

Book One of Lord of the White Hell is an exciting read, and Ginn Hale does an awesome job of getting the reader attached to the characters throughout the story – and throws in some crazy turns that I didn’t quite see coming, despite my attempts at guessing ahead (it’s a bad habit I’m sure).  Definitely a fun fantasy read, which i have already read twice. ^^