Author Interview – Aimee Davis

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll remember that a while ago I read and reviewed ‘The Wheel Mages’ by Aimee Davis – and if you didn’t see that, you can go read it here -and I was so stoked about the book that I asked the author herself if she would be interested in doing an author interview for here.

She said yes, and we had quite an interesting discussion – just a few of the things that came up throughout were how difficult it is to kill your own characters, the wonderful delight that is ‘Malec’, and possible spin-offs.

Lets begin!

(all headings are mine, but the gifs and other images are sourced from Google Images)

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What was the initial inspiration behind ‘The Wheel Mages?’ What was the one thing which got you started on the writing and planning of the book?

Innocuous as it may seem, this is a doozy of question to start out with. The Wheel Mages came to life in a behavioral health facility (which is really a euphemism for a mental hospital). I’d self-committed for a host of reasons, but I’m pretty confident the intake paperwork read ‘suicidal ideation’. I was in an incredibly dark place, but while I was in the hospital, I had time to clear my head. I wouldn’t say that environment is particularly therapeutic, but it certainly shakes things up and makes you confront the truth of yourself. In a hospital like that there isn’t a ton to do to occupy your time. They take away your electronics – cell phones, Kindle, tablets, iPads, whatever. There is one TV shared by all the patients (I think there were maybe 15 people in my unit). You’re only allowed to use the phone for short periods of time. You can only have visitors on certain days for about an hour. There are therapy sessions and meetings with doctors, of course, but you find yourself with a lot of free time. That environment also stirs up a lot of emotion. For me, reconnecting with my emotions was what I needed, and that’s how The Wheel Mages came into existence. When the book came to life in my head, it wasn’t as much a series of events as it was a series of emotions. Alena started to take shape in my mind as a symbol of determination, of strength. She sort of helped drag me through this very difficult time in my life. In my first draft of the manuscript, the first sentence literally reads, “I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.” Obviously, during the editing process this was revised because wow – what a terrible hook, but at the time I wrote it, that’s exactly what I needed to do. Breathe, in and out. I was in a terribly vulnerable place, where I needed strength from somewhere – anywhere, and my brain responded by giving me this vision of Alena, standing tall, chin lifted, breathing slowly. She was afraid, but she was strong. That’s what I needed to be.

 

As for planning… I wish I could tell you there was a plan, but there really wasn’t. I have never been a plotter (this used to drive my writing professors crazy!)

 

How hard was it to give Nikolai that ending that you did? I know when I write, I can’t bear to do anything bad to my favourite characters. I just can’t.

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Ugh… it was terrible. I think every writer (with maybe the exception of George R R Martin and perhaps Shakespeare) struggles with hurting his/her characters. When I first started writing, I couldn’t bear hurting any of my characters, not even the bad guys. Everyone in my early manuscripts is not only redeemable but also redeemed. I avoided having to truly hurt anyone that way, but that’s just not reality. I had a professor in college who used to challenge me to dig deep into my characters’ heads, I mean DEEP, she’d ask me to figure out what they ate for breakfast, what kind of shoes they liked to wear, really learn to love them, then kill them. As silly as it may sound, it helped me learn to “do what needs to be done” so to speak.

It was still extremely difficult though. Actually, in my first draft, the ending is a lot more detatched. When you read it you can tell I was avoiding the inevitable. It sort of reads… and then some stuff happened, the end! That made the editing harder than the writing, because it wasn’t until the editing that I really dove into the details and the emotion and forced myself to experience that right along with Alena. It really was not fun. Nor was the backlash from my beta readers! I think I told you this, but I have one beta reader who still hasn’t forgiven me and will just randomly yell at me over that ending in the middle of a critique.

 

Do you have a writing process? Like, certain things you do when you’re writing, or things you eat/drink during? I want to hear all about the process, because I know it’s different for everyone. Do you write any of it by hand, or is it all on the computer?

 

Ah yes – process – the mystical thing. So much ink has been spilled on this topic, but you’re absolutely right, process is different for every writer. My process is probably considered somewhat unhealthy, to be perfectly frank. I definitely don’t have writing habits that would make one of those “10 healthy writing habits” articles I see all the time. First of all, I don’t write every day. That’s something you hear frequently in writing circles – you must write every day. I don’t. I write a lot, but some days I just don’t feel like it, and I don’t force myself. I also don’t adhere to those “word count goals”. For me, they’re silly. If I don’t have 3,000 words in me, then I don’t have 3,000 words in me that day. I hate to sound trite, but I really do consider writing art, and art isn’t quantifiable. I’m not pumping out words to be the next big thing or publish all the books as quickly as possible, I’m writing to be the best version of myself. If I’m forcing myself to do it to fit into some box, then I’m not being authentic and it’s not enjoyable. If writing wasn’t enjoyable to me anymore… what a terrible thought. So I don’t force it. I write when I’m inspired, as cliche as it sounds. I’m fortunate to be inspired quite a bit, so it works out.

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When I’m writing, I also tend to write until I can’t think straight anymore. That’s another traditionally unhealthy habit. Hemingway famously said to stop when you know what will happen next, that way you’re never stuck. It’s good advice, but I don’t take it. I write until I’m completely drained. My process is very “binge-y”. And when I’m “in the zone” I basically tune out the rest of the world. Sometimes I’ll go days without eating, though I never go without coffee. Coffee is my lifeblood when I’m writing. Those two things – not eating and drinking way too much coffee are unhealthy in general. I’m not kind to my body most of the time, so if you can write another way, I recommend doing that. My process is definitely not a model to follow.

 

One thing I do recommend, however, is writing by hand. I write absolutely everything by hand. My entire first draft is written by hand, then transcribed onto the computer. My edits are done by hand after I’ve printed drafts. Writing by hand is out of fashion, but it comes highly recommended from me. I tend to be long-winded (I bet you couldn’t tell), and writing by hand helps me curb that tendency, because it slows me down. I have to think more about each letter, each word. I also like682-11 to write by hand because I do a ton of writing in the bathtub (also cliche, I know), and it’s easier to have a legal pad in the bath than a laptop. Sometimes I listen to music, but it depends on my mood and what kind of scene I’m writing. Sometimes I need complete silence. The one thing I can’t do, though, is write with a TV on in the background. The sound of people speaking is incredibly jarring to me when I’m writing, to the point it’s almost painful. I also have a terrible habit of becoming incredibly cranky when people interrupt me when I’m writing, so it’s probably good I live alone!

How long would you say it takes you to write your first draft out – before you transcribe it onto the computer?

I swear one of these drafts I’m going to keep track of that, because I get asked this often enough to wonder myself! I would estimate it’s about 3 months of work, and I have no idea how many hours. Lots. Lots and lots of hours. Hundreds.

Would you class Changing Tides as a young adult novel, or more middle grade, or leaning towards adult? In other words, will you ever include some slightly more explicit scenes in your books? I’m thinking somewhere along the line of Sarah J Maas’ books where sex is heavily implied, and beautifully described, but it’s not erotica or pornographic.

Ah, this is another really great question, and one that will require a few confessions on my part. First, I was extremely late to the Maas train. I hadn’t actually read any of her work until after The Wheel Mages came out and a couple people compared it to her. Obviously, I was intrigued, so I picked up the first book of each series and proceeded to consume every one of her books within about 6 days. Love her. She lives in the county over from mine, too, so maybe there’s something in the water, I don’t know.

The other thing I have to confess is I didn’t actually realize there was this newish subcategory of YA called “New Adult” until my editor suggested I consider reclassifying The Wheel Mages as YA/NA. That said, the way she described it to me, is basically the classification has less to do with the content (although content can push you over the edge) than it does to do with the voice of the character and the character’s age. Alena is 18 in The Wheel Mages. At the start of The Blood Mage, three years have gone by, so she’s 21. This puts me firmly in the older YA/NA classification all by itself, without regard to content.

With regard to content, sexually explicit/suggestive content is something I’ve been researching a lot lately. This subject is rapidly developing in YA, and I’m excited to develop with it. Like we were just discussing when it comes to labels though, I think the thought behind content goes back to remaining true to your world and your characters. There can’t be sex just for the sake of sex, it has to be authentic to your characters. At the same time, there can’t not be sex just because you don’t want to “go for it” in your writing. I think an author’s job is to be unafraid when it comes giphy2to displaying truth, but every character’s truth is different. Without revealing too much, I will say that readers will see this discussion play out in The Blood Mage. Something else they’ll see is an issue I feel is extremely critical not just to the audience, but to this period in history, and that’s the issue of consent. I’ll also just go ahead and tease the fact that my editor is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and I’m really looking forward to working with her on this book.

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Going now to the LGBTQ+ characters, are you planning on having any same-sex relationships take central stage in future books? Two characters with a relationship that fans can really, really ship – like Cassandra Clare’s Magnus and Alec?

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I just have to say, I love Magnus and Alec. What a great coupling, seriously well done on Clare’s part. Magnus especially is such a well-developed personality, I adore him. That aside, the answer is absolutely yes. Readers will see a same-sex coupling in The Blood Mage front and center, in the first few paragraphs of the book, actually. They’re a pair I’m super excited about, and I hope readers will be excited about them too. They literally came to me in a dream. I sprung out of bed at 3 o’clock in the morning and ran to the other room to jot down notes because I didn’t want to forget anything.

Speaking of Magnus though, in the books he specifically says that he’s bisexual – he actually uses the word, which is rare since a lot of authors (and people) avoid that particular label/term. Do you think this is an important thing, and do you think you’ll have any canon bisexual characters in your books that use the word bisexual to describe themselves?

That’s a really interesting question, and it’s one I haven’t put a ton of thought into, to be completely honest. Because the Changing Tides series is set in a time and place that’s sort of modeled after the Victorian period (loosely, at least), labels aren’t something I’ve had to put a ton of thought into. Obviously, the exploration of relationships and sexuality is something that appears throughout my work, but I’ve largely been able to avoid label issues due to the nature of the world. The Trade Nations aren’t exactly enlightened, nor is the Sanctum.

I do think though, that if it’s authentic to your world, you shouldn’t skirt around an issue just because you might be afraid it’ll turn someone off or scare away readers or whatever other reason authors might have for shying away from particular issues or terms. You need to be true to your characters and your world. Otherwise, why are you writing? For Clare, I think Magnus calling himself bisexual is extremely authentic. Clare’s Shadowhunter world is essentially present day, and labels are part of our world. For the word bisexual to be dodged would be kind of strange, I’d think, because here, in the present day, we have a word for Magnus’ sexuality, but that’s a somewhat recent development in terms of history. The term bisexual wasn’t used in its modern sense until the early 160217ad3a9da7eeadce3bcf2e8bd015f890s. And even then it wasn’t used colloquially, but was primarily relegated to academia, so for it to appear in a world like the world of the Trade Nations would be almost anachronistic. Anachronisms are particularly jarring for me as a reader and a lover of history, so I try to avoid them in my writing as much as possible. You’ll also notice I don’t use labels like “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” either, because they didn’t come about until after WWI. Instead, I default to the older “lover”. I think the main thing to remember is that when you’re writing, you’re not ticking off boxes, you’re creating a world, and that world has rules, and social norms, and customs, and cultures, and you have to always have those in the back of your mind.

Hm…I realize I haven’t really answered your question precisely, but it made me think so I might have gone a bit off tangent. Straight answer: I think it’s important to call a character what he or she would call him or herself, regardless of how it might be received or how it might make you feel. Also, there will be (are) characters in my upcoming books who are bisexual (look for the third book and the new series for them), but based on the world, they probably won’t use that label to describe themselves. I actually almost wish it was true to my world, because it would be easier to use our more precise modern language. The word bisexual doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all, but the word lover sure does!

Did you ever have your own version of Nikolai? Someone who took you and helped you for the better, someone you look up to?

You know that saying that women tend to fall for men like their fathers? I think that’s at least a little true for me, and Nikolai is a bit of a reflection of that. I’m not saying Nikolai is in any way based off my father – weird – but he does have some qualities I admire in a man which I’m sure I admire because I see them in my dad. Nikolai is, in my mind, a consummate protector, and that’s something my dad is too. I’m my dad’s only child, and he’s incredibly protective of me. In a dad, that’s great, but in a partner, I think it’s much more complicated, and I try to touch on that a little bit in the book.

 

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Have you any plans for a sequel at the moment? What’s happening on that front?

Absolutely! The Wheel Mages is the first book in a trilogy. The whole trilogy is already drafted, and Book Two, The Blood Mage, is due to my editor on Monday actually. The editing process is longer than the writing process or has been for me thus far. My content editor, Katie, will see the entire book at least twice and certain scenes more than that before it’s passed off to my copy editor. So that process goes something like:  Katie reads it and provides “big picture” feedback. She’ll look for plot holes and character development issues, she’ll tell me what’s paced funny, what needs development, what is too developed, things of that nature. Then she’ll send it back to me to make changes. I’ll make changes based on her suggestions, and she’ll see it again and provide additional feedback and let me know if I’m o2016-01-28-1454001267-3939501-20081203_redpensn the right track, so to speak. That will go on back and forth for a few months, then when it’s at a point we’re both happy with, I’ll send it to the copy editor, who will look at it for the minutia. The copy editor is the one with the red pen. She’ll fix grammar and redundancy, tell me if certain phrases don’t make sense or seem to be out of character for the voice of the character, the kind of line by line finishing touches stuff. After that, the book will be ready for formatting, which is a nightmare of a process I dread.

Anyway, while the book is with the editors, I’ll work with my graphic designer on cover art and new promo material and eventually, many months down the road, these pieces will all fall into my lap (or really, my hard drive) and I’ll fit them together to create a book. I’m hoping this will happen sometime in late June or early July. Then we’ll start all over again!

I’m also currently working on a completely different series still in the Sanctum universe but set several centuries before Alena’s time, which I’m really excited about as well. I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but I’ll tell you it’s written in third person close (which is actually my preferred POV), not first person, and there’s a princess.

Is there any characters in particular from ‘The Wheel Mages’ that you think would do good in their own spin off series? Like how Maria V Snyder has spin off series’ for smaller characters from her original Study series. I know I’d love to see a series about Celine in particular.

Yeah, actually, I was recently contemplating what a spinoff might look like for Celine. She’ll be back for The Blood Mage, but there’s this three-year gap between the books in which she has quite an interesting back story that I know and is hinted at in the next book but I would love to explore more, maybe even in standalone or novella form. Genevieve, too, has a crazy three years in between books which one of my betas is extremely insistent I explore further, and may happen in long-short form.

The one thing I will tell you you won’t see though, that has been requested, and I’m sort of opposed to, is Nikolai pre-Alena. I don’t know if my heart could bear it, nor do I think there’s enough conflict in his past to make for a very interesting spinoff.

What do you see for yourself in say, ten years time? What do you imagine you’ll be doing then? Will you be like J.K Rowling or Cassandra Clare, and still be releasing material for this world you’ve created in Changing Tides, or will you have wrapped up this series and into a new one?

If I ever become like J.K. Rowling or Cassandra Clare in terms of success… I’m grinning like an idiot. That’s quite a big dream.

Oh, sorry, you meant in terms of what world I’ll be working in, right? In that case, I have two more series in the works for the world of the Sanctum right now, so I’ll be there for awhile. That doesn’t mean that will be the only world I’ll be set in though, because there are plenty of other ideas running around in the attic.

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Now, let’s let everyone else have a chance to get to know you a little better – I’m going to ask you a string of random questions (like, really random) and you just answer them, okay?

The last three shows on your Netflix watched list?

“The Propaganda Game”, “Winter on Fire”, “WWII and the Man of Steel” (I might have mentioned I’m a bit of a history nerd)

Your favourite song at the moment?

This one is tough because it depends on my mood what genre of music I even listen to, but at this exact moment I’m super into Sia’s “The Greatest”. It’s like my girl power anthem helping me through this last push of edits. Katy Perry’s “Rise” gets credit for this same period during the process for The Wheel Mages.

Main celebrity crush of the moment?

Hands down Trevor Noah. I have not crushed on a celebrity so hard since I was 18 and in love with Shannon Leto from 30 Seconds to Mars.

Favourite colour?

Blue, specifically Carolina blue.

What would your last meal alive be?

Probably some combination of battered cheese fries and Panera broccoli cheddar soup. I’m not ashamed to admit I have a love affair with cheese.

Guilty pleasures?

Eating copious amounts of cheese.

If you could trade places with one of your own characters, who would it be?

Yikes, that’s tough because I’m not particularly kind to my characters. This question feels a bit like karma! Probably Lukas though, you’ll meet him in the next book.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl for sure, although I don’t sleep much at all to be honest

Cake or pie?

Pie, definitely. I don’t actually like cake, which apparently makes me weird.

Ross or Rachel?

Ross. I’m a total geek. I relate.

America or UK?

Well, I AM American, but things are kinda crazy here right now, and I like being able to reach Europe so easily, so I feel like I have to go with U.K. Plus, the accent is lovely.

Books or movies?

Books, obvi.

Washing dishes, or doing laundry?

These are both equally terrible and go in the “put off as long as humanly possible” category. But because I hate folding more than most everything, I will say dishes.

Personal chef or personal fitness trainer?

Chef, definitely. Working out is something I also put in the “put off as long as humanly possible” category.

Spicy or mild?

Spicy!!! All the hot sauce and peppers please!

Kittens or puppies?

I love both but I’ve fostered both and kittens are vastly easier to take care of,  so kittens.

Favourite Disney movie?

So hard to choose, but probably Frozen. “Let it Go” is another anthem song for me.

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Thank you so much, Aimee, for this interview – I love how much of an insight I got into you, and your writing, and the whole Changing Tides series.

If you want to see more of Aimee, you can follow her on any of her social media:

Twitter | Goodreads | Blog

And if you want to read ‘The Wheel Mages’ for yourself, you can click on either of these links here:

Goodreads | Amazon UK

Happy reading!

LGBTQ Favourites

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of LGBT-themed books – I’m always either reading one, or looking for another to read – so I figured I’d let you in on my personal list of favourites that I’ve read in past years. Some are recent, whereas others, I haven’t read in a while. These are in no particular order, just because I’m the most indecisive person in the world, so just enjoy.

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)

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Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My Feelings: If you’re looking for a cute YA boy-on-boy romance that ends with a ‘Happily Ever After’, then this is bound to leave you smiling from ear to ear by the end of it. It’s sweet and adorable, without being too cliche and sugary. Also, the sequel (of sorts) is coming out this year!!!!!

You can read my review here.

 

Fox-Hat And Neko (August Li):

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Synopsis: Tokyo high school student Tsukino Ayumu never wanted to stand out. He’s always been content to run at the middle of the pack and go unnoticed, and he doesn’t expect much to change when he moves to the small fishing village of Yuuyake to live with his grandfather.

In Yuuyake, Ayumu makes his first real friend in Ikehara Haruki and forges close ties with two girls, Shizuka and Chou. Together, the four friends muddle through the messy world of dating and relationships while trying to succeed in school and prepare for the world they’ll enter when it ends. Fate has other plans for them, though, and Ayumu in particular, as an invisible threat targets the village’s young people.

After being plagued by disturbing, violent dreams, Ayumu learns what the spirit world expects of him. He must learn to fight and to lead—but he’s only ever been ordinary. With the support of friends he would die to protect, Ayumu faces a destiny only he can fulfill. But others have taken an interest in Ayumu. The mysterious Fox-Hat and Neko know more about Ayumu than he knows about himself, and they lead him onto a path that might end in the destruction of them all.

My Feelings: This was the first ARC I ever recieved, and it’s a delightfully quirky mix of fantasy, and folklore, and romance. Warning though, you’ll get way too invested in these characters by about halfway through the book. That’s how good it is.

You can read my review of this here.

 

What Happened To Lani Garver (Carol Plum-Ucci):

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Synopsis: The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl?

Claire McKenzie isn’t up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani’s arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons–and the possibility that angels may exist on earth.

My Feelings: This book brings together philosophy and teenagers in a way I wasn’t expecting to get drawn into so much. Lani Garver, this androgynous angel, who is just what Claire needs, is absolutely perfect. Everyone needs a Lani in their life in my opinion – someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the hard truth when you need a reality check, but who’ll also hug and comfort you when you need that as well. This is a must-read for everyone.

You can read my review of this here.

 

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me (Julie Anne Peters):

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Synopsis: When Alix’s charismatic girlfriend, Swanee, dies from sudden cardiac arrest, Alix is overcome with despair. As she searches Swanee’s room for mementos of their relationship, she finds Swanee’s cell phone, pinging with dozens of texts sent from a mysterious contact, L.T. The most recent text reads: “Please tell me what I did. Please, Swan. Te amo. I love you.”

Shocked and betrayed, Alix learns that Swanee has been leading a double life–secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time she’s been with Alix. Alix texts Liana from Swanee’s phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news.

Brought together by Swanee’s lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they’d thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to–but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too?

My Feelings: If you want an adorable girl on girl romance that’ll keep you on your toes, this is something you need to read. The whole time I was reading it, I was waiting for the moment when the truth was going to come out, but it was a good feeling. It’ll make you shiver with….

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You can read my review of this here.

 

Anything Written By L.A. Witt.

 

This is more of a generalisation, but seriously, I am in love with all of L.A Witt’s books, and she’s one of my top auto-buy authors at this point, even though I only discovered her back in 2015 when I started this blog and started looking for ARCs on Netgalley. She writes these intriguing Male/Male romances, with just enough steam in them to get you a little hot under the collar. I know, I’ve felt hot and flustered quite a few times while reading (especially with Running With Scissors).

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Here are ones I’ve read and reviewed, and if you click over to my Book Review page, you can read the reviews for each of these.

 

Also, I just finished reading Just Drive by L.A. Witt, and To Live Again, so look out for those reviews coming up soon!

The Art of Being Normal ( Jeff Garvin):

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Synopsis: The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

My Feelings: Yay for diversity! This is a heart-wrenching novel about someone who just doesn’t fit in – the lost sock in the dryer of life. I was entranced the whole way through, and I just became so invested in all of these characters – Bec, Riley, Solo. If you’re looking for a book that deals with gender fluidity, and identity, this is a must-read. Well, it should be a must-read anyway, but that goes without saying.
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If you have any recommendations for me, my comments section is right down below, and I always want LGBTQ books to read! The more diverse the better.

Happy reading!

Book Review – Symptoms of Being Human

Title: Symptoms of Being Human

Author: Jeff Garvin 22692740

Synopsis: The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

Rating:  4 Stars

Review: This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out months ago, but I’ve only just been able to finally read it, and honestly, I wasn’t disappointed.

“The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval.”

 

Riley’s gender fluid – but also so far in the closet that he/she’s almost in Narnia. Riley also suffers from anxiety, which isn’t made any better by his/her dad running for re-election as a Congressman. Add onto that the normal stress of starting at a new school, and you’ve got a pretty messed up day to day life. Things start to seem a little better though, when Riley starts writing a blog under a pseudonym about being a gender fluid teenager, and he/she actually finds a cause to get behind.

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I absolutely loved this book from start to end – especially the character of Riley him/herself. One of my own original characters is a gender fluid character called Riley, so I found myself attached to this Riley from the start because of that, but as the book went on, I genuinely found myself empathising with this Riley and what they were going through.

 

I’m gender fluid. Not stupid.

 

I just loved Riley altogether – Riley’s snarky and sassy and will give as good as they get, but they’re also very emotional, and insightful. Some particular parts of the book just explain gender fluidity so well, even to someone who already understands it well enough.

 

It’s like I have a compass in my chest, but instead of north and south, the needle moves between masculine and feminine.

 

One of the things I really appreciate as well, is that despite the events that happen near the end of the book, we never find out what biological sex Riley is – because it doesn’t matter. Riley is both a boy and a girl and somewhere in the middle, and the point of this whole narrative is that it doesn’t matter what’s between Riley’s legs, or between anyone’s. It’s the person who matters, not their genitals. That’s just a lovely concept, isn’t it?

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As for the supporting characters, I found Riley’s friends Solo and Bec to be a little off at the start, but I warmed to them quickly. I ended up disliking both Riley’s parents through most of the book, just by how they were acting, but they redeemed themselves eventually.

 

Want to hear some of my favourite parts? Of course you do. Here you go:

 

“People do judge books by their covers; it’s human nature. They react to the way you look before they hear a single word that comes out of your mouth.”

 

“My mom says crying is just your body expelling all the bad stuff. Like a sneeze. Like your soul sneezing.”

 

“That’s none of your business,” I say. “And, while I’m flattered by your interest, you’re really not my type.”

 

I give this book a four star rating because despite loving it, and having absolutely devoured it within the course of one day, it doesn’t make me want to squeal with excitement and fangirl about like other books do. It’s great, but not fangirl-worthy for me at least.

The Secret Life Of The Book Blogger

I wasn’t specifically tagged for this one, but I saw that Aman did this tag and tagged everyone in general, so I took a crack at it. This was actually really fun to write up, as a matter of fact. Yay for blogging moods!

Let’s get started!

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What is the best part?

Honestly, I think the best part is getting to create these bookish posts, about something I’m passionate about, and having other people read it and comment, and getting a conversation started from that. That’s my favourite part about blogging.

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What is the worst part?

The worst part is the coming up with ideas part. Ugh, why does creativity evade my grasp?!

How long does it take you to find/create pictures to use?

I generally use Google images if I need stock images, but usually Tumblr if I’m looking for specific gifs to use in my posts. I’d love to have some decent rudimentary skills in Photoshop though, so I could make my own graphics to use.

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Who’s your book crush?

Really? Just one? Well, I guess if I had to choose a single one of my book crushes, I’d go with Daemon from the Lux series. Yeah, he’s an alien and could probably kill me without a second thought, but he’s hot and funny and witty. I like that.

What author would you like to have on your blog?

Oh god, if I could get the queen herself – J.K. Rowling – on my blog, I think I would die and go to book blogger heaven. That would be a dream come true.

What do you wear when you write your blog?

A t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and usually barefoot. I’m a chilled out person.

How long does it take you to prepare a post?

It depends on how much inspiration I have – sometimes I can bang out a great post in twenty minutes and format it in five, but other times, it’ll take me a few sessions to get a post satisfactory enough to post online.

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How do you feel about the book blogger community/culture?

I honestly love the book bloggers – yeah, there’s drama when we get into heated discussions over certain issues, but overall, there is just so much love for books and book characters, and it’s amazing for me especially, to have this network of people I can gush about books to, when I don’t have anyone in real life who really understands.

What do you think one should do to have a successful blog?

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I think it just depends on what each individual regards as being ‘successful.’ My blog has grown so much over the last year and a bit, and I now have over 200 followers, but I considered it a success when I even had just twenty-five followers! It depends what your personal goals are – if you feel like you’ve reached or surpassed those goals with your blog, then you’ve got a successful blog.

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I tag:

Alex @ Whimsy Pages
Kim @ By Hook Or By Book
Saara @ Pages Of Ink

#ReadThemAllThon Time!

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I haven’t properly taken part in a read-athon in AGES but since I’ve recently been obsessed with Pokemon Go, this is the perfect way to get my butt moving and actually posting.

This read-athon is being hosted by the fabulous Aentee (Read at Midnight) and it runs from August 14th through til September 4th. Basically you choose a book for each of the reading challenges, and for every one you finish, you earn a badge. Besides, Aentee has made some freaking awesome graphics for this, which is a definite plus.

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Thanks to Sasha’s recommendation video, I’m going to read ‘Ruby Red’ by Kersten Gier. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to get into it, and then hopefully the sequels.

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I’m going to re-read ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes for this one – that definitely made me cry when I read it the first time.

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Jenny Han’s ‘To All The Boys I Loved Before’ is my choice for this category because I’ve heard all things about this series, and I still haven’t read it. Might as well get it over and done with.

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I listened to part of the audiobook a while back, but I haven’t actually read the book yet, so that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to read ‘Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe.’

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Talk about a great romance – I’m going to re-read ‘The Raven Boys’ and bask in the gloriousness of Blue and Gansey, and Blue and Adam.

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I think it’s about time that I dipped back into the Morganville Vampires series, with ‘Glass Houses’ for this category. Yay!

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Time to re-read ‘Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ again, methinks.

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For this one, I’m going to read ‘Unravel Me’ by Tahereh Mafi – it’s set in a world brought to a grey ruin, and it’s perfect for this category. Also, it’s been forever since I’ve read ‘Shatter Me’ so this is an ideal time for me to get back into the series.

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You can sign up any time between now and the end of the readathon, so if you’re interested in something to do between now and September, get on to Aentee’s post and sign up!

Happy reading, and catch ’em all!

#BookBloggerConfessions

I was browsing Cristina’s blog – because she’s awesome, obviously – and I came across this post she did way back in January about blogger confessions. Well, it got me thinking about what my own blogging confessions would be, and then this post came to be, because why not?
 
  • I procrastinate so much on reviews, it’s ridiculous. I have a long list of books I’ve read recently that I have reviews to write for them, but even when I do have time, I procrastinate and watch Youtube videos, or read more books.
  • Sometimes I go off on a tangent and do posts that aren’t in any way connected to books of any kind. I know this is a book blog, but sometimes I just want to write about other things.
  • I’m a sucker for a nice aesthetic. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Well, what if the book has a really pretty cover that makes me feel all happy when I look at it?
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Ravenclaw aesthetic!

  •  I’m obsessed with finding the perfect gif for every post.
  • I will more often than not use a Supernatural gif, because Supernatural has a gif for everything. #sorrynotsorry

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  • I’m not too stressed about getting fancy ARCs from publishers – if it ever happens, aside from on Netgalley, I will be thrilled but I’m not going to stress over whether or not I get one.
  • I hate book reviews that just focus on very academic things like the tone of the book, or the history of the author. When I read a review, I want it to be warm and welcoming and interesting, instead of being as cold and clinical as an operating table.

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  • I’m so grateful to all those bloggers who posted about getting started in the blogosphere. Otherwise, I would have been absolutely lost to get started.
  • I would love to have a bookstagram, or a strictly book-themed Twitter, but that’s too much work…
  • I worry that people judge me because most of the books I read are either Young Adult, or LGBTQ.
  • If I didn’t look unattractive on camera, and weren’t an awkward turtle, I’d be a Booktuber.
  • When I started, I was all on my own, in my own little corner of the Internet, but now I’ve got a small following – just about 200 followers – and I’ve made amazing friends in the book blogging community,
  • I want to get into audiobooks, but I’d much rather have an actual book in my hands, or my Kindle.

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  • Physical books will always come first for me, no matter how much I love ebooks and their handiness.
  • I hate writing meh reviews or even reviews of books I just didn’t enjoy, because I’m always afraid I’m being mean about it or the author.
What are your book blogging confessions? Spill your guts to me in the comments, and let me know what deep dark secrets you’ve got, or even just letting me know which of mine you agree with.
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Happy reading!

Blogger Interview – Heir of Glitter

So, here on Shih Tzu Book Reviews, I have  a little feature that I call Blogger Interviews (by the way, if anyone can  think of a cooler name, I’m all ears) and now it’s Olivia’s turn to get interviewed.

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I actually did a Blogger Spotlight on Olivia a while back, so once you finish reading this, take a jump on over there and have a gander at that.

Now…on with the post!

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Tell me a little about your blog – how did you come up with the name/URL for it?

I knew I wanted to include glitter somehow, because I love it as much as Magnus Bane does. 😄 Then I was trying to incorporate glitter into the title of one of my favorite books, which at the time were the Throne of Glass books. My ultimate favorite was Queen of Shadows, but I thought “Queen of Glitter” sounded a bit too girly, so I went with my second favorite, Heir of Fire. Then “Heir of Glitter” was born. 😀

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How long have you been blogging?

I posted my first post on September 13, 2015, so…nearly 9 months. 😀

What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about being a book blogger?

My favorite thing is interacting with other bloggers and talking about books, because I’ve yet to make any real life reader friends. 😉

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My least favorite thing…would have to be making time to write a post. Now that I’m on summer break I have much more time, but I try to balance reading a lot and posting frequently. During the school year, the challenge is balancing school work and blogging. :/

What’s been your favourite post that you’ve posted so far?

Oh, gosh…I don’t know. Probably any of my discussions, because I love talking to people and comparing opinions. 😀 I also like doing reviews, especially for hyped books it’s taken me forever to read – Vampire Academy, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and soon Six of Crows.

Are you planning any new features for your blog?

Not at the moment, but I might try to come up with something fun over the summer. 🙂

If you could take over any book blog for a week, who would you take over and what would you do with their blog?

I wouldn’t want to take over anyone’s blog, because it’s their own little spot of the Internet, and I know I wouldn’t want anyone taking over mine. 😉

If you could move to any fictional universe, which would you choose to inhabit?

PRYTHIAN. That’s from the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, if any of you don’t know. ❤

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In your opinion, which fictional couple would you happily break up? And which couple would you lock in a room until they were happily, deliriously in love?

I would break up any relationship Tamlin got involved in. He doesn’t deserve anyone. He should be alone. 😄 But seriously, probably Lara Jean and Peter from my current read, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, because I don’t like Peter. ^.^

And who would I lock in a room to make them fall in love? Feyre and Rhys don’t need any help. 😄 So…Rose and Mason from Vampire Academy, because Rose needs to get over Dimitri. He’s seven years older and the idea of them is just weird. ._.

Who are your top five auto-buy authors?

Sarah J. Maas, Cassandra Clare, Rick Riordan, Marissa Meyer, and…probably Jennifer L. Armentrout. They’re all evil geniuses. 😀

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Pizza or Burgers? Neither. 0.0

Music or books? Both, but if I had to pick one, books. 😉

Guys or food? Food. Duh. Unless we’re talking fictional guys… 😄

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Tamlin or Rhysand? RHYSAND. ❤ I loved Tamlin in ACOTAR but after reading ACOMAF he can just leave.

Ugly and smart, or pretty and dumb? I don’t think anyone is really ugly, but…ugly and smart. I’d rather have brains than looks. 😉

Bath or shower? Shower.

Beach or pool? Beach, for sure. I don’t live close to any, but I definitely prefer them. 😀

Fiction or non-fiction? Fiction, of course.

Hermione or Katniss? Both…okay, Hermione.

Online or offline? This is hard. I like being online to blog and offline to read…but offline. Because if I didn’t read, I wouldn’t have a blog anyway! 😉

Girls or guys? Girls. I have nothing against guys, but I think girls are easier to relate to in books and real life. Not to mention, all but one of my favorite characters and authors are girls. It’s not intentional, it just happens. 🙂

John Green or David Levithan? John Green.

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LGBT books or hetero books? I like both, but I’ll always prefer LGBT because books need more diversity. 😀

Jace or Will? I love all Herondales! >.< But I guess I have to say that Will did steal a little bit more of my heart than Jace.

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(Credit – Felwyn on Deviantart )

Thank you so much for doing this, Olivia!

To anyone else, if you want to be a part of this feature, then shoot me an email at shihtzubookreviews@gmail.com, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy reading!