The Open Door Project

Okay, so this year I want to do a little project. If you are from a family that doesn’t understand you, doesn’t accept you, doesn’t care to know you then come to my virtual house this holiday season. Let me send you a little Holiday card so you know you are not alone. I know I don’t know you, you don’t know me, that’s okay! We’re family. If you don’t want to give an internet stranger your address (probably smart) that’s cool too. I can send you an email letter or an insta DM, snap, tweet, whatever you like just so you know you’ve got someone this holiday season who has your back. Just want to spread a little love this holiday and every day. If you want to participate that’s awesome too! Just post that you’re opening your virtual home to people this holiday season and hashtag it OpenDoorProject so people can find a safe place for the holiday! 

“Fangirl” – Rainbow Rowell

“Fangirl” Rainbow Rowell

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“Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath it’s something more. Fandom is life. It’s what got her and her sister, Wren, through losing their mom. It’s what kept them close.

And now that she’s starting college, introverted Cath isn’t sure what’s supposed to get her through. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?” – Front Cover, “Fangirl”

So I had been looking at this book for a while; in stores, online, but I always hesitated to buy it, or even borrow it from the library. Why you ask? Well, with a name like “Fangirl” it has a lot to live up to. I am a fangirl. A heavily dedicated, funko buying, fanfiction writing, talk about it to people who don’t even know what it is fangirl. So if I were going to commit myself to reading a book about me and my people then it had to be a good book. It had to be loving, and honest. It couldn’t be condescending and judgmental. It couldn’t be vague and fake. I didn’t want to read 400 pages of someone making fun of me, or worse, trying to act like they got it just so they could fit in to nerd chic and make money off of what was trendy. So I hesitated for about three years. Then I found myself at The Strand book store (for those of you who don’t know it’s a really famous bookstore in New York City) and I came upon the book again. I searched the entire store from Occult gems to Historical non-fiction but I kept coming back to my heart and soul at YA fiction. I carried “Fangirl” around for about half an hour while I browsed and finally my traveling partner asked if we were ready to go – still holding the book I nodded. I bought it. We left and checked the comic book store before heading back to the farmers market. But I digress.

I had every intention of reading it but then the Election was happening and I was focused on our country not going to shite. (Spoiler alert, it did). I wanted an escape. I wanted to feel like the world didn’t exist for a little while. My instinct was to read Harry Potter because he can usually cheer me up. But then I saw “Fangirl” sitting on my nightstand so I finally cracked the book open this weekend. I read the first twenty or thirty pages on Friday but I wasn’t hooked yet and I had gotten used to going to bed early (well, before midnight) so I favoured sleep over reading. Then Saturday night because I’m a crazy and wild girl I was in my room by dusk and needed a break from the world (again) so I opened the book.

I’m very glad I opened that book.

I wasn’t sure at first if I liked the way Rowell goes from Fantasy to Reality (because it was too much like my own head and I’m not sure how I feel about anything happening in there). Then I found myself getting just as addicted to the fantasy as the reality. I loved all the characters, they were all realistic, Cath and Wren (twins in case you didn’t read the description quoted in the beginning) were a polarization but not in a cliché Gemini way. Wren was carved realistically into this world, and Cath… Cath was me. I’m sure that Rowell wrote this this way on purpose – to relate to all the fangirls out there – but it worked. The social anxiety, the constantly re-purposing characters in your head. Comparing everything you’re doing to how you’ve written it! I just.. It didn’t feel insulting. It didn’t feel condescending. It felt like a love letter.

Every character had parts that they were made up of that didn’t define them (anxiety, panic, ocd, bi-polar) but none of these were ever what the character was about and I love, love, loved that. I love the idea of living in a world where people are not their disorders, their genders, their colors, their sexual orientation; where everyone is free to be them and that’s not who they are. It was subtle but this little bit of character development meant the world to me. It would be so easy to make Cath a nerdy shut in who hates people because she was always made fun of for being smart – or something cliche, but Rowell didn’t do that. She had reasons, and logic for every character choice. Or maybe I applied the reason and logic but either way Rowell crafted the web and I was caught in it.

My one “mad” takeaway is one of the main characters names is Levi – which if anyone knows the novel I’m writing so is mine – he was also named after the Old Testament – which so was mine. It was so coincidental that my jaw dropped, I debated changing my characters name (I won’t), and then I wanted to hug Rowell because obviously we share a brain and I need to be her friend.

So yes, I recommend this book. I also recommend being a fangirl/boy first – it’ll probably make it more relatable. I have now borrowed “Carry On” from the library and plan to read that as soon as time allows. I do have to focus on NaNo for a little while since the first weekend I was at Supernatural Con and the second weekend I was dealing with the aftermath of our country’s extremely poor decision making skills. Of course next week is Thanksgiving. So I’ve really got to buckle down now and focus. Best not to get (more) lost in the world of Simon and Baz right now. But I’m looking forward to getting lost in that world soon.

Happy Reading and Happy Nano!

“The Cursed Child” – J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

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In this brilliantly crafted play we get to experience an eighth story in the Harry Potter universe. Continuing from King’s Cross Station nineteen years later the story explores Albus Severus Potter’s first years at Hogwarts. Written as a stage play the formatting strays from the original novels bringing not only a fresh story but also a fresh approach.

I usually avoid writing reviews/opinions/posts that include spoilers but for this one I am making an exception. So if you don’t want any information about the play other than “It’s about Harry’s kid and Jo helped write it” then this is where you should leave. Summary: it’s a good play. You should read it.

Now, for my meat and potatoes review. I really enjoyed this play. Honestly. I thought it was different, fun (in that painful kind of way only fandoms can really explore), and I was so downright excited to have fresh Potter material from Jo Rowling that I would have read the words “Harry Potter” repeated across 300 pages and thought it was the best book ever. I read this book the night it came out (Midnight on July 31st for those of you under rocks). As you may have noticed it has been almost a month and this is the first I’m posting about it. I wanted it to digest and simmer and sit for a minute before I went on about it. I wanted to give people a chance to read it. I wanted to give myself a chance to take it in and read it again (yes I’ve read it twice now, stop judging). After having read it, sat with it, thought about it, processed it, talked about it with friends/family, I have to say firstly I wish I had seen it performed. I would love to see how the characters are brought to life in this play; how the dynamics of these heroes that we have known and loved for years translates into adulthood. I would love to see the second generation exploring their world and growing into their own. Additionally, my instinct is to want this play as a book. I’ve read many a play in my day but I still do prefer books to plays. But I think it’s probably best this wasn’t a book. I think the concept wouldn’t necessarily translate well into prose.

I would never question Rowling on her choices. All I knew from the characters before this play was information Rowling had already given. I just… I didn’t feel like this was her play. It felt like a fanfiction to me. It felt like there were a few fan servicing moments (the Scorpious/Rose dynamic for example, the Slytherin Al, Bella/Voldy). Slytherin Al of course was crucial to the plot of the whole play and I’m completely fine with that. (As I am with Bella and Voldemort; another critical aspect to the play). The addition of Cedric being a catalyst was something I both loved and found forced. I love that Cedric was this turning point in everything (because he was. I mean, “The Goblet of Fire” is arguably the literal turning point of the entire series – others would argue that PoA was but that’s a post for another day). I love that depending on the outcome of Cedric the whole universe could change. Cedric could become a Death Eater! Cedric could still die anyway. Rebels would still exist. I only found it forced because as a very proud Hufflepuff we often get brushed aside as “the leftovers” house or “the weak” house or “yellow” and it makes me super mad. I think I’m a bit sensitive to any time someone tries to use a Hufflepuff as a plot device. Even our Queen. So part of me worried that they were only using Cedric because Jo wanted to prove something about Hufflepuff’s. But the more I thought about it the more I realized it wouldn’t have really worked any other way and I was just being guarded/defensive. I’ve gotten off on a tangent. Despite the fanfiction feeling I’m completely fine with all of it. I wish I could be more articulate in what I’m trying to explain. There was just something… unpolished? about it. It just didn’t feel like Jo. I’m not sure if it was the additional writers or the fact that it was play based so the whole formula is different. I’ve read a lot of second gen fanfics and this just felt like a better written one. The one scene where Al had to kiss Hermione was so awkward. I understand plot wise what was happening but it just made me cringe. There were just a few elements that I wasn’t in love with; which was hard for me to accept since I have always loved absolutely everything Potter regardless of what it is. I think it just … I loved it; but I was expecting that feeling of Hogwarts on September 1st, and instead I kind of got Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida.

I do want to praise a few things as well. I’ve already touched on Cedric and his plot line that I loved the idea that one event can just switch a person. I love the idea of how our lives are shaped by singular events and if just enough happens, or that one final straw is added our whole worlds can flip. Cedric: nice, compassionate, friendly, outgoing, sweet, having a really horrendous fourth year and bam! Death Eater! It seems far fetched but we don’t know what else happened in that AU world; what else made him angry, and aggressive, and twisted. That aspect of human nature is just so cool to me. I loved the Voldemort child concept. Honestly it was a bit deus ex machina (who even knew you could have children after being a literal wisp of nothing and regrowing a body in a cauldron of your enemy’s blood) but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great twist. I love how sneaky Delphi was – I love that she targeted Albus (after unsuccessfully targeting Harry) because what better way to make your enemy pay for murdering your family than ripping his family apart? I love Scorpius. His character was adorable and everything I think Draco always wanted to be but was too afraid to. I love everything about Scorpius. I loved Albus. I think even though Slytherin Albus was a bit of an obvious choice (but again absolutely critical to the plot) I think Albus’ character was a perfect blend of Ginny and Harry. He was an downright thoughtless idiot, like our beloved Harry, but he did it in a selfish way (which calls to his Slytherin nature perhaps?). I mean, think about it, in Philosopher’s Stone Dumbledore makes it very clear that if Harry grew up with everyone praising him he’d be an asshole (yea Dumbledore is more articulate than I am, I get that), but it’s not that dissimilar here. Al was reminded every day from the second he was born that his dad was Harry Freaking Potter. The Boy Who Lived. The Chosen One. The Hero Who Defeated The Dark Lord. And if that weren’t enough to boot his mom was part of this legendary alliance to Dumbledore’s Army, she was a former professional Quidditch player and sports editor for The Daily Prophet. In case that wasn’t enough for young Al to feel bad about his Aunt was Minster of Magic. I mean, talk about a tough act to follow. Al didn’t have an affinity for Quidditch, wasn’t insanely smart… he was a proverbial black sheep. And it makes sense that he didn’t bother telling the hat he didn’t want to be Slytherin (after all at least he’d have Scorpius in Slytherin), and I think, like Harry, he wanted to rebel a little. He wanted to prove he was his own person and not just “Harry Potters son” just like Harry never wanted to be “The Boy Who Lived” they’re so different and so alike. I think Jo crafted Albus perfectly and I am so happy with his character. Additionally I love the AU’s. All of the time-turning and back and forth; the what could have been’s and the never-will’s. So fascinating to me. The time-travel/space time continuum stuff  is just boggling to me but I really do love reading stories that involve it. (Also was it just me or was there some UST in that Rebel Hermione/ Rogue Snape AU?).

The story didn’t allow for us to see much of James, Lily, Rose, Hugo, but I would love to see more of that; how Al interacts with his brother and sister during holiday, what family dinners look like. I think the familial aspect is fascinating and because the formula of the play was driven by the Delphi storyline we don’t really get to see any of that external family dynamic which leaves you with that thirst of wanting more.

Like I said, I loved this play. I hope it comes to Broadway so I have even a small chance of seeing it. I loved having a new Potter book that was fresh and different. I loved being able to feel like I was in the world again with words actually crafted by the Queen herself. Going to the midnight release, feeling the energy of the Potterheads, seeing new young Potter fans getting excited. . . It makes me so emotional just knowing there’s this whole big family of Witches and Wizards in the world and that the story lives on every time the pages are turned.

After waiting 9 years for a new book (Pottermore has been a great appetizer but I believe the whole fandom was definitely ready for another main course) I’m not sure anything could have lived up to that anticipation. That being said, I think this play was great for what it was, and I don’t think it could have been done any other way. Happy reading.

Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

The Curious Case of Miss Jean Louis

It is said by many, if not all, that Miss Jean Louis is elusive. It is also said by many that if you eat too many tacos you befriend the toilet. But that has nothing to do with Miss Jean Louis; in fact quite the opposite. Miss Jean Louis, the ever present presence in the lives of all native Gishers, and “babysitter” to the Overlord (re: Supreme Dictator) Mr. Misha Collins, has been known to delight, enlighten, encourage, and mock all who come across her. One week a year she helps little flower blossoms sprout up into mighty oaks powerful enough to conquer the world (with kindness!). But who is Miss Jean Louis? Where does she come from? What does she. . . do? 

Miss Jean Louis was born somewhere between 1853 and 2011. She was born in some place that probably had a climate and maybe spoke a language. In her early years Miss Jean Louis could be found outside in the great wide world, or inside in the very reclusive small world. Her love of art was outmatched only by her love of kindness. She would spend her days enjoying the sun or the shade. In fact, not much is known about Miss Jean Louis except that she is made of molecules and probably laughs sometimes.

There have been rumors as of late (mostly since the great Fograt fiasco of 2013, and mostly rumors perpetuated by the Wooster) that Miss Jean Louis is actually just Misha Collins in a dress. This has not been disproven, therefore it’s probably true.

In any event, there are some facts that remain certain (whether Miss Jean Louis is in fact Misha Collins in drag, or an actual molecular structure of her own is up for debate), that delightful debacle aside: she is The Queen of Gish. She does in fact think Robots are a bit pretentious and she will only begrudgingly accept their Supremacy one day. She is a lover of all things artistic and weird. She is totally abnosome.

“My Life With The Walter Boys” – Ali Novak

Jackie’s whole world falls down around her after the accident and she’s forced to move across the country. And worse she’s forced to live with 12 boys! Having attending all-girl private schools her whole life she’s in for a journey between healing and learning how to find balance. 

As you know I loved the first book I read by Novak, “The Heartbreakers” (click here if you want to read about that). So I was super pumped to read this book too. 

I really enjoyed this book. There were a ton of characters (clearly from the synopsis you know there’s at least 13) and I felt I still don’t know half of them (which is understandable and good since that’s how the story weaves itself). I found myself getting frustrated with the main characters all the freaking time. I think I yelled at my book more than usual – and at one point literally gasped. 

It was a satisfying read and I recommend it to people who like Novak or the genre. 

“Us” – Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy


“Us” – sequel to “Him” 

Once I finished reading “Him” at eleven thirty last night I did some research and found out there was a sequel. I just about died and instantly bought it on kindle. Seriously; I was not ready to let these characters go. 

With new drama, new characters, the sequel was just as compelling as the first book. One side character, Blake, actually stole my heart and I kind of wish he were real. 

If you read “Him” at my insistence then I highly recommend “Us” as well. Simply perfect.

“Him” – Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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Jaime Canning and Ryan Wesley spend every summer together at Elite’s Hockey Camp, but one summer a reckless dare changes everything. Four years later the two reunite on the hockey rink but now they’ve got a lot of distance between them; can they take a shot and mend their broken relationship?

Honestly the description on the back of the book is better than anything I could write even though I tried.

I got this book on a whim and I thank the Gay Novel Gods I did. I have a read a lot of m/m books (even written a few myself) and I’ve seen them go two ways, either all sex and no plot, or the “tragic teen coming out story” that’s both heartbreaking endearing and movie of the week. This was neither and both. . . Yes there’s a lot of (very steamy) sexual descriptions. But even more than that is the story! I actually fell in love with these stupid boys. Emotionally constipated Wesley and poor stupid clueless Canning. I can’t even explain. Also I care a lot more about hockey now than I did before. . .

I read this book in a sitting and I needed it like I needed air. I’m currently writing a novel about two boys in a band and I didn’t want it to be about the being gay, I wanted it to just be a novel where the two love interests are gay, because I want to live in a world where you can read a book with an LGBTQ couple and not have it be a fricken big deal. That being said, this book deals with the “weird this is a gay story?” without being a coming out or a taboo piece. This book is just a book about two dudes, and I just cannot love Kennedy and Bowen enough right now. Yes there’s the “but people aren’t okay with gay people” aspect but it was so flawlessly executed. Honestly from page one I just loved this book. I laughed out loud, I choked up, I flailed.

And I am so fricken excited to learn there’s a sequel which I’m buying on my kindle right-the-fuck-now.