When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid

5 Stars

Feels Like The Movies When Everything Feels Like The Movies is Raziel Reid’s debut novel and the recipient of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award in the category of Children’s and Young Adult Fiction. Mr. Reid received the award at the age of twenty-four, making him the youngest recipient of Canada’s most prestigious and coveted literary award in this category. The book has also been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children’s and Young Adult Fiction, and for The Ferro-Grumley Award, as part of the Triangle Awards. The novel came in second in the Canada Reads 2015 battle of books as the one book to break down barriers.

Inspired by the tragically true story of Larry Forbes King, a fourteen year-old boy from California who was shot in the head by a male classmate whom Larry had asked to be his Valentine, When Everything Feels Like The Movies is at once the raw, funny, disturbing and heart-breaking story of Jude Rothesay, a fifteen year-old junior high schooler in small town “anywhere” and “nowhere” North America.

Openly gay and fiercely glam, Jude has a penchant for pink lip gloss and his mother’s high heels, and dreams of becoming famous. Jude’s school life is harshly oppressive. He is mocked, bullied and beaten. His home life fares little better as dysfunction abounds. Jude lives with his mother who, although does love and accept him, is a stripper with serious self-esteem issues. Jude’s biological father is for the most part absent, and his stepfather is controlling and abusive. Despite the abuse that Jude suffers at school and the neglect at home, there are a few good things in his life – his younger half-brother Keefer who loves Jude unconditionally and whom Jude both loves and protects, his cat Stoned Hairspray, his best and equally outcast friend Angela and his teacher Mr. Dawson.

For Jude, school is just like a movie set, where no one is real and everyone is playing their part. There’s The Crew that make things happen; The Extras who fill the empty desks; and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Continue reading

Reading Round Up: My Thoughts on the Canada Reads 2015 Finalists and Debates

On March 16, Canada Reads 2015 kicked-off the debate of five books in search of the one book that can break down barriers. The five Canada Reads 2015 finalists and their champions are:

Intolerable Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee (HarperCollins Canada, 2013) championed by Kristin Kreuk, actor.

The Inconvenient Indian The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King (Doubleday Canada, 2013) championed by Craig Kielburger, activist and social entrepreneur.

Feels Like The Movies When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014) championed by Elaine “Lainey” Lui, entertainment reporter.

And The Birds Rained Down And The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyn Saucier (Coach House Books, 2012) championed by Martha Wainwright, singer-songwriter.

Ru Ru by Kim Thúy (Penguin/Random House Canada, 2012) championed by Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival.

All five books are deserving of praise and each stands on its own merit, I cannot emphasize this enough. However, as I read each book through the lens of the one book that can break down barriers – that can challenge stereotypes, illuminate issues, open minds and change perspectives – I felt not all responded in equal measure to this year’s Canada Reads challenge. Of the five, The Inconvenient Indian and When Everything Feels Like The Movies emerged as the strongest contenders for me. I felt that Intolerable by Kamal Al-Solaylee was also a strong contender, until I read When Every Thing Feels Like The Movies. I was so impacted by this book that with the exception of The Inconvenient Indian, I found myself measuring the other books against Mr. Reid’s.

Continue reading

Reading Round Up: Canada Reads 2015

What is the one book that can break barriers? This is the question that will be asked of the five Canada Reads 2015 book finalists and debated by their champions, as announced on January 20, 2015. Canada Reads 2015 is all about books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues.
Continue reading

Training Season by Leta Blake

3 stars

Training Season Training Season is Leta Blake’s debut novel and the first book I’ve read by this author. It features the romance story of Matty Marcus a once Olympic skating hopeful and Rob Lovely a rancher/cowboy with a heart of gold.

Matty’s lack of discipline previously cost him the gold and a back injury completely sidelined him from skating. Now recovered he’s in search of a top coach and a comeback. But in-demand coaches don’t come cheap. A wealthy skating patron steps in to generously contribute to his Olympic dream in exchange for a six-month housesitting stint in rural Montana. This leaves Matty with plenty of free time to train and make enough money to hire the best coach in skating.

Much to his surprise, local residents in small town Montana turn out to be tolerant and friendly, especially his next-door neighbour rancher Rob Lovely, who proves to be much more than a cowboy stereotype. They begin a relationship and Matty learns much from Rob and about himself. With his newfound self-assurance, he drives himself harder to go straight to the top. But competition has a timetable and to achieve his Olympic dream Matty must leave Rob behind to join his new coach in New York City and focus on winning the gold.

Continue reading

151 Days (Tales From Foster High #6) by John Goode

5 Stars

151 Days Aptly entitled 151 Days, Book 6 in the Tales From Foster High series chronicles just that – the last 151 days of high school until graduation for Kyle Stilleno and his boyfriend Brad Greymark. It is Mr. Goode’s best-written instalment in the series to date, as with each successive book the author raises his own bar in terms of writing quality, character development and overall story advancement.

151 Days picks up immediately following events in Book 4, End of the Innocence. It is a turbulent time for Kyle, Brad and their friends as they continue to deal with the aftermath of Kelly’s death. With their support, Kyle sets out to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in Foster High as a means of raising awareness and promoting tolerance so that what happened to Kelly never happens again. But life continues to unfold and the GSA is not their only going concern as choices and decisions must be made about love, sex, graduation, college and their future beyond Foster, Texas. At the same time they must face the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death and a situation that threatens to lead to yet another tragedy at Foster High.

Continue reading

Reading Round Up: A Fresh Start

It has been almost nine months since I’ve posted a book review on this site. An illness in spring 2014 followed by a long recovery and other family issues forced an unexpected hiatus from reviewing for the remainder of the year. Needless to say, 2014 was a difficult year and one that I am glad is over.

While I did manage some personal reading over 2014, I did not read enough to compile a fulsome best of list, as I have previously done at the beginning of each new year. Still, I did not want to pass up the opportunity to mention two books released in 2014 that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

Foolish Hearts The first is the long-awaited second anthology by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction. In Foolish Hearts Lambert and Cochrane once again bring together an exceptional collection of short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology Fool for Love.

The Unwanted The second is The Unwanted by Jeffery Ricker, an action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world.

This post marks what I hope to be a fresh start as I resume reading and reviewing for 2015. There were a number of books released last year that are still on my reading list and that I hope to get to in the coming year. I look forward to reading both past and new releases from beloved authors and as always, hope to discover new authors and works. With this, my first review of 2015 is for the sixth book in one of my favourite series, 151 Days: Tales From Foster High by John Goode.

On a more personal note, I would like to thank the authors that submitted books for review for their patience, understanding and their well wishes. I hope to be reading and reviewing your submissions in the coming year. I would also like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2015.

Reading Round Up: Q & A with Author Jeffrey Ricker

Jeffrey Ricker I’ve mentioned many times of my love for the anthology Fool or Love: New Gay Fiction and one of the reasons is that this compilation of short stories introduced me to several wonderful writers, one of whom is author, editor and graphic designer Jeffrey Ricker.

Since the publication of his first short story “At The End of A Leash” in Fool for Love, Jeffrey has contributed over a dozen short fiction titles to anthologies by some of the best known publishers of LGBTQ fiction, including in: Wilde Stories 2011: The Year’s Best in Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press), The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy (Northwest Press) and Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press); as well as in numerous titles by Bold Strokes Books: Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up, Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir, Night Shadows: Queer Horror, Blood Sacraments: Gay Vampire Erotica, Raising Hell: Demonica Gay Erotica and Riding the Rails: Locomotive Lust and Carnal Cabooses.

Several of his single short fiction stories, such as, Maternal Instincts, Straightening Up and New Normal are available from Untreed Reads and he has also written non-fiction essays that appear in The Other Man (JMS Books), Paws and Reflect: A Special Bond between Man and Dog (Alyson Books) and in the upcoming A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships (Touchwood Editions).

A graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Jeffrey is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

The Unwanted Detours

His first novel, Detours was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books, and on the occasion of the recent release of his second novel The Unwanted, Jeffrey was kind enough to accept an invitation to answer some questions here at Indie Reviews.

Continue reading

The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker

4-5 Stars

The Unwanted The Unwanted, Jeffrey Ricker’s second novel, is an extremely well written, action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world. In it, the author unfolds the story of Jamie Thomas a sixteen-year-old high school junior whose life is turned upside down by the return of a mother he thought was dead, and who is now seeking his help to save her tribe – The Amazons. Mixing action, danger and romance, Mr. Ricker chronicles Jamie’s more personal journey of coming to terms with the relationships in his life to write a page-turning young adult adventure story that has depth and underlying meaning, and one that I could not put down.

Continue reading

Reading Round Up: Winner of Canada Reads 2014 & Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

Each year I await the announcement of the Canada Reads nominees and the Lambda Literary Awards list of finalists to inform my reading list for the year and beyond.

Continue reading

Reading Round Up: Q & A with Editors R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert

TJL-BC As a lover of short fiction I read a lot of anthologies. But, there is one anthology that stands out and has set the standard for me in terms of short story compilations – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors R.D. (Becky) Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert, released by Cleis Press in 2009. Fool for Love is an outstanding collection of sixteen short stories that covers a spectrum of themes relating to gay romance, love and life. It is not only my favourite anthology, but also one of my favourite books and one that I continue to recommend far and wide some five years after its initial publication.

Most recently, I read and reviewed Lambert and Cochrane’s second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love, and equally fell in love with the stories and writing. On Valentine’s Day of this year, Cleis Press released their third anthology – Best Gay Romance 2014.

Best Gay Romance 2014 Foolish Hearts Fool for Love

In addition to co-editing, both are respected authors in their own right. Timothy Lambert’s stories have appeared in Best Gay Love Stories and The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica. Becky Cochrane has published short stories and two novels: A Coventry Wedding and A Coventry Christmas. Together they co-authored Three Fortunes in One Cookie and The Deal, and through their collaboration with authors Jim Carter and Timothy Forry, under the nom du plume Timothy James Beck, they have published five novels: It Had To Be You, He’s The One, I’m Your Man, Someone Like You and When You Don’t See Me.

On the occasion of the release of Foolish Hearts and Best Gay Romance 2014, Becky Cochrane and Timothy Lambert agreed to participate in a Q & A at Indie Reviews.

Continue reading