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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dear God (Tales From Foster High #4.5) by John Goode

4 stars

Dear God Dear God by John Goode is a deleted chapter from End of the Innocence, the fourth book in the Tales From Foster High Series, which was excluded from the book because the author felt it would have slowed the pace of the story, but important enough in its subject matter to be released as a short story. In this short piece, Kyle goes to a local church in search of understanding and answers on God, the Bible and Christianity’s treatment of homosexuality as a means of fighting prejudice and those using religion against his friend. His inquiry leads him to some surprising conclusions and forces him to re-examine his own beliefs.

As with all the books in the series, Dear God is well written, and I enjoyed this short fiction for what it is – a means of delving further into the character of Kyle Stilleno, one of the main protagonists in this series, and at the same time examining the issues of Christianity and its treatment of homosexuality, within the context of the overall story arc.

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Reading Round Up: The Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2013

My list of reading favourites for 2013 features a mix of titles, both literary and genre fiction, including action/adventure, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, young adult and (erotic) romance. Most of the books listed were released in 2012-2013, but there are a few that had been on my reading list for years and that I was finally able to get to in 2013. The past year’s best include stories from previously read favourite authors, as well as from author’s that are new to me, and I look forward to reading more of their works in the future.

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End of the Innocence (Tales From Foster High #4) by John Goode

5 Stars

End of Innocence End of the Innocence is the fourth book and the first full-length novel in the Tales From Foster High series. It is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking multi-themed story in which author John Goode throws the doors of Foster High wide open to grow Kyle and Brad’s world by focusing on not only what is happening to them, but also on what is happening all around them, further developing secondary characters and introducing new ones.

In doing so Mr. Goode examines the issues of homophobia, forced outing, marginalisation and cyber bullying from all angles and blurs the lines between bully and victim. The author also deals with the issue of gay teen suicide head on, with the same sensitivity and respect that he’s written all the books in this series. There are tragic events that transpire in this story that are transformative for both Kyle and Brad, their friends and the entire town of Foster. They are also a turning point for the series as a whole.

I found this instalment in the series the most powerful and the best written to date. This is saying a lot because I consider all the books in the series to be extremely well written. What make this particular book stand out so are Mr. Goode’s courage and care in the execution of this story. Courage in tackling with realism extremely difficult subject matter, and care in how the issues are depicted all the while ensuring the integrity of the overall story and its characters. And despite the ugliness of some of the events and the tragedy that ensues as a result, the story conveys incredibly important messages while at the same time leaving the reader with a sense of hope.

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Reading Round Up: Author Q & A with John Goode

My introduction to the writing of John Goode came by way of his debut novella Maybe With A Chance of Certainty, the first book in the Tales From Foster High Series published in October 2011 by Dreamspinner Press. While reading the story I quickly fell in love with Mr. Goode’s writing and in particular his characterisation. The compilation of the first three books in the series, entitled Tales From Foster High, made the list of my Best in LGBTQ Literature for 2012. Since then, the author has been quite busy with over ten published works under his belt, to date, in the realms of gay young adult and adult-themed contemporary fiction, science fiction, fantasy and romance. On the occasion of the release of the latest instalment in the Foster High books, Taking Chances, I invited John to participate in an Author Question & Answer at Indie Reviews.

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The Elephant of Surprise (The Russel Middlebrook Series, Volume 4) by Brent Hartinger

4 stars

Elephant160X233 The Elephant of Surprise is the fourth book in the Lambda Literary Award winning Russel Middlebrook Series that was kicked off by the groundbreaking book Geography Club, and which has been adapted into a feature film slated for released sometime in 2013. Mr. Hartinger continues the tale of Russel and his best friends Min and Gunnar in this fourth volume by mixing humour, danger and romance to unfold an extremely well written story chalk full of life lessons for the threesome. In the process, the author also touches upon important social issues while at the same time not sacrificing the story’s subtleties.

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