PRIDE Celebration: An Essay

To celebrate PRIDE Month, our very own Olyvia has an essay to share:

 

What does Pride mean to me? I’ve never sat down to try to articulate that. Pride has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I’ve never actually had to think about what it means to me.

Pride is family. I remember when my dad came out to me and my sister. We were around 7 and 8, respectively. We’d been living with his partner for years and it wasn’t weird to me, it was just like having an extra parent. David loved us and we loved him. My dad didn’t tell us he was gay, or even what ‘gay’ was until they’d broken up, and we were moving out. I couldn’t really tell you why at the time, but I knew my dad being gay was something to keep to myself. He kept it from us, so we should keep it from other people.

Except during Pride. Pride became part of my summer routine in Rochester, NY. Even after moving to Florida, we were back for the summer and still going to Pride. Pride celebrations were some of the only times I got to see my dad be himself, when he was with this family that he’d found. A family that understood and accepted him, when he didn’t always get that from his own.

Pride is courage. When I still lived in Rochester, I told one person that my dad was gay, and I was amazed when she told me she had two moms. It was incredible that my best friend understood my life and my dad perfectly. But I also understood that this was still a secret. A secret that I could finally share with someone, but a secret nonetheless.

A few months after moving to Florida, I was hanging out with my closest friend and a few other people when one of them made some comment about the LGBT community. I could not for the life of me tell you what he said because all I remember was my friend’s quick and fierce response, “my sister is bisexual, do you have a problem with gay people?” Later that day when we were hanging out at her place, she became the second person I ever told that my dad was gay. I figured if she could just tell everyone about her sister and defend her sister, and if my dad could live his life and not be ashamed, I wouldn’t be ashamed of him either. I would be proud that he had the courage to come out when he did and be a single parent at the same time.

Pride is representation. After I started being more open about my life, I got the opportunity to be a part of the first Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school and then would go on to serve as the Vice President of the LGBT student organization at my university. I met two of my best friends, one of whom is trans, the other pansexual, who would become my found family.

In working with those groups and having the majority of my friend group identify as queer I started watching and reading more and more queer media. But also I noticed that as the years went on, there was more and more queer media available. Not all of it good, not by a long shot, but still, there is more and more every year. I listened and saw how important it was to see oneself on a screen or in the pages of a book. More importantly, I started to see myself.

Pride… is honesty. I’d always known that I liked men. I’ve only had relationships with men. I’ve kissed a lot of women, as well as men. But I always assumed because none of that led to a relationship, I was just straight. I knew, logically, that I could like both, but realistically, I’d heard  (and even said) a lot of terrible things about bisexual people.

I met the love of my life five years ago. I have no intention of ever letting him go. He’s good to me, he makes me laugh, he understands me, he listens to me complain about the stupidest shit, he lets me cry and snot all over his shoulder when things are really bad, he tells me bad puns just to see my face crinkle, he teaches me new things, he makes me believe growing old wouldn’t be so bad with him by my side.

The truth is I don’t need to be with anyone else to validate my identity. My identity as a bisexual woman doesn’t go away just because I’m with a man and I plan to be with him for the rest of my life. So this Pride month, I’m going to be honest with myself and with everyone, because it’s important to me. And I think it’s especially important at this point in our world, to be who you are in the face of ever-increasing adversity. My hope is that someone else will see my story and can relate and it makes it easier for them to be honest. And above all, to be proud.

#ReadIndie Book Review: Colorblind by Siera Maley

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Team Midsummer is proud to support Indie Author, Siera Maley, in our first READ INDIE review of the month!  Special thanks to contributor, Lesley, for reading and reviewing this excellent Indie novel!

Harper has a secret…and it’s not that she likes girls. She has a rare and special gift: she can see how old other people will be when they pass away. Nothing she does changes this number, and that becomes especially clear when her mother dies in a car crash. With only one other person in the world who knows about and shares her gift, Harper is determined to keep her distance from everyone. Then she falls for Chloe… whose number is 16. That means that Chloe doesn’t have twelve months to live. She doesn’t even have six. She is going to be dead by the end of the summer, unless Harper can find a way to stop it.

Colorblind by Siera Maley is a story about two star-crossed teens that fall in love and fight the odds.

Harper, 17, can see the number of each person she meets and that number is the age at which the person will die.  Her best and only friend shares her “gift” and is the only person that really gets her.  This “gift”, coupled with the loss of her mother at a young age has made Harper cynical beyond her years.  A heavy dose of teenage angst plus unusual circumstances have caused Harper to close herself off to life and love.  Like so many of us, Harper avoids joy because she believes it will help her to avoid pain.  Enter Chloe, a self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkie” with pretty eyes and a precocious puppy.  Chloe is trying to live life to the fullest, taking risks and looking brightly into the future.  Only Harper knows that Chloe’s future will be cut short because her number is 16.

Chloe pursues Harper without shame and Harper likes her in return, although she won’t express that to Chloe.  Harper tries hard to fight her feelings, knowing how hard it will be to lose Chloe.  She also morbidly tries to figure out how Chloe will meet her end and how she can stop it.  An accident brings Harper to the conclusion that she has no control when Chloe will die and she resolves to help Chloe achieve a summer of no regrets. Eventually love overcomes fear and Harper gives Chloe her whole heart.  They have a beautiful few weeks filled with the magic of first love but as Chloe’s seventeenth birthday approaches, Harper begins to panic.

On the surface Colorblind is a teen romance where a fun-loving kid falls for an emo kid and they share a summer of firsts.  As I dug into Maley’s lovely story, I found so much more complexity.  Seeing life through Harper’s eyes, I saw the fears and insecurities of my youth.  I was afraid of everything; coming out, losing loved-ones, being alone or never achieving my dreams.  I allowed that fear to guide, even make my decisions.  At times that fear paralyzed me.  Like Harper, I learned that love overcomes fear.

Maley tackles some of life’s biggest questions in this book.  Do our choices have consequences?  Is life a random bunch of events or is everything predetermined?  If we knew when life would end, would we live it differently?  While I related very much with Harper, the most significant reminder that Siera Maley gives to readers is that joy is found in the everyday, that each day is a gift.

Reasons that I loved this book:

The characters were three dimensional and relatable.  The plot line was unique and avoided a lot of the tropes that queer story lines tend to fall into.  It was a queer love story but it wasn’t about queerness: the action was in the foreground and the lovers just happened to both be girls.

I give it Five Bards!!!

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Guest Review: More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera

eveThis review was done by another one of Team Midsummer’s favorite people, Eve.  She has submitted reviews to us before, so we were excited to have her on board for LGBT History Month! Thanks so much, Eve!

 

 

 

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

I was immediately drawn into narrative of this intriguing novel, although I’ll confess to being a little suspicious of its potential similarity to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with a sexuality angle rather than the desire to forget a past heartbreaking romantic relationship. But I was impressed by the way the focus wasn’t specifically on any one of the main issues addressed by the story, but rather a cleverly crafted weaving of the elements of grief, mental health, class and social structures, teen relationships, and love developing outside of an expected heteronormative paradigm. For this reason, while the book certainly addresses the complexities and struggle of coming out, I found the whole story to be involving and important – not just the relationship between Aaron and Thomas. It also isn’t a copy of Eternal Sunshine – it has one similar element, the neuroscience of forgetting, but it fans out to be much greater than that.

One thing I will note, because it stood out to me so much while reading that I texted Jess about it at the time, is that Aaron and Thomas say, “No homo” to each other a seemingly inordinate amount of times in the space of two pages. Now, it may be my heterosexual, cisgender privilege showing that I have never had to clarify my sexuality while interacting in an affectionate way with someone of the same sex as me, but I did feel that this phrase was somewhat overused. I’d be interested to know if this is a common experience among young men, because perhaps this phrase is used so frequently and that is part of the culture of hiding homosexual attraction.

Aside from this, the character development seemed very natural and totally solid within a few chapters – I feel like I know Aaron Soto, his friends and family, and have an understanding of his perspective on the world. The outstanding part of this book for me was how bravely and easily it tackled upsetting and painful topics, making it comfortable for the reader to continue (albeit through tears) even when the characters were suffering. Silvera does not shy away from the impact of suicide nor from the violence inherent in some relationships. On top of that, the balance of wit and warmth is spot on, throughout the happy moments and the hard ones.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot but there are twists, and they’re the delicious ones that you sort of see coming but still have to pause and take a moment to think back on and process them once they do happen. The story will have you feeling all of the emotions and, while it certainly has a central homosexual relationship, I think it actually is a more profound commentary on humanity as a whole.

4.75 Bards

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Book Review: Georgia Peaches and other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

I’m not going to lie to you, the beginning of this novel put me off almost immediately.  As a born and bred southerner, I too, grew up in the church, but I grew up in a denomination that is much more accepting and less judgmental than that of the Southern Baptist sect that is depicted in this novel.  Yes, I have been to a few Southern Baptist churches, and I’m not condemning them for their style of worship, because some of them were wonderful, but I do take issue with the church I remember specifically (and subsequently the church in Brown’s novel) preaching fire and brimstone with prejudice against those different than them.  But, unfortunately, this is a real reality in some churches, and not just in the South. Initially, this, and the ridiculous request of Jo’s father to “re-closet” herself for a year really just ticked me off.

Seriously, I hated her father for doing that to her.  But all of these things really culminated in me wanting to continue reading Jo’s story to see if these issues are resolved, and they were.  I can’t fully understand how hard it is to come out as LGBT in the south, since I am a straight, cis woman, but I have a number of close LGBTQ friends and I have witnessed how hard it can be for them.  Disclaimer: I also live in Charlotte, North Carolina, a giant blue dot in a red state, so I can’t totally imagine Jo’s situation in a backwoods Georgia small town.  Brown did a good job of keeping me interested and involved despite almost alienating me with Jo’s father’s request.

The overall message of this book is a good one: do not hide who you are for anyone or anything.  

Sure, the stakes are raised when Jo meets and falls for the picture perfect Christian girl, Mary Carlson, only to find out that Mary also has feelings for her.  A roller coaster happens with Mary desperate to come out and have the small town recognize her as a Lesbian and in a relationship with Jo, but of course that pesky promise she made to her dad kind of hinders that. Serious praise-hands emojis for Mary Carlson, who was the biggest star of this novel for me. I’d pay Jaye Robin Brown for more stories about Mary Carlson and Jo’s adventures after they get out of Rome, Georgia.

More shenanigans and heartbreak ensues, and Jo eventually creates a LGBTQ friendly youth radio program through her father’s ministry, and it made me so happy to have the warmth and love of that ministry involved as a juxtaposition to the bigoted church at the beginning of the narrative. So I think that it was important that Brown started out with the alienating church experience towards the beginning.

I loved the dynamic of the friend group that Jo finds in Rome, and how much they grow to accept her (save for one character and good riddance).

I grew to really enjoy this whole tumultuous story and the way that Brown was able to manipulate my emotions from the polarizing start to the accepting and wonderful ending.

Overall this was a really well written novel, the characterizations and the plot was well executed. Plus, if a novel can make me feel strong emotions, regardless, I will recommend it everyone.

A solid 4 Bards!

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

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

 

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Lesley (left) and Cassie (Right)

As you know, many of my best friends are helping out Team Midsummer with our LGBT History Month Celebration, and today’s Guest Book Review is by Lesley!  Lesley and Jess met at church a few years back, enjoyed many a trivia night together, and are now part of the fabulous five best friend group.  Lesley is now married to Cassie (another one of our Guest Reviewers!) and they are the most adorable of the adorable.

 

11595276When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

I grew up in a very small farming community in rural Michigan.  My parents were evangelical Christians and most of my friends and their families were, in some form, Christian too.  I was a “jock girl”, very tall, athletic, slightly arrogant and underneath it all, very gay.  Given this information, it would seem obvious to anyone reading the notes about The Miseducation of Cameron Post to see why I might have identified with Emily M. Danforth’s plucky main character.

However, Cam’s tomboy antics, Jesus-loving friends and family and pension for lady love aren’t the only things that make her relatable.  In fact, most of us can identify with Cam’s struggle for acceptance and identity regardless of our experiences or sexual orientation.  In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, we follow Cam on a journey from ages twelve to seventeen as she looks for her true self in her relationships, struggles and daily life.  She seeks acceptance from friends, lovers and the adults in her life the way any child would.  In the end Cameron finds the most satisfaction in accepting herself and in starting a life that reflects her beliefs and choices.

After a youthful crush and sugar-sweet first kiss, Cam experiences a devastating loss.  Forced to navigate her formative years with only her born-again aunt and elderly grandma to guide her, Cam gets into the usual trouble created by the boredom of teens in small town America.  Her trouble is often overlooked until her greatest secret is twisted from the truth and revealed as a dark path from which she must be saved.   Instead of finishing out high school, Cam is sent to a rehabilitation school for kids with similar “afflictions”.

This book is one that tells the story of each of us as we grow in a world that prefers the status quo.  While the subject matter is a bit dark, the depth of Danforth’s characters creates a light and lovely story.  It reminds us to celebrate our differences and that a diverse world is a beautiful one.

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone struggling with self-acceptance for any reason.

4 Bards, as I liked the book, but the ending left me hanging, which I didn’t really like.

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: April 11, 2017

“I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back.”

What does a sixteen-year-old girl have to do to kiss a boy? Molly Peskin-Suso wishes she knew. She’s crushed on twenty-six guys…but has kissed exactly none. Her twin sister Cassie’s advice to “just go for it” and “take a risk” isn’t that helpful. It’s easy for her to say: she’s had flings with lots of girls. She’s fearless and effortlessly svelte, while Molly is introverted and what their grandma calls zaftig.

Then Cassie meets Mina, and for the first time ever, Cassie is falling in love. While Molly is happy for her twin, she can’t help but feel lonelier than ever. But Cassie and Mina are determined to end Molly’s string of unrequited crushes once and for all. They decide to set her up with Mina’s friend Will, who is ridiculously good-looking, flirty, and seems to be into Molly. Perfect, right? But as Molly spends more time with Reid, her cute, nerdy co-worker, her feelings get all kinds of complicated. Now she has to decide whether to follow everyone’s advice…or follow her own heart.

Guest Book Review: As I Descended by Robin Talley

cass-profileGuest Review for LGBT History Month is provided by Cassie! Cass and Jess met back in Graduate School when they were both pursuing their Master’s Degree in English Literature.  They’ve been friends ever since.

 

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

As a graduate student of English literature, I spent most of my career ensconced in the Renaissance era, happily devouring poems and plays and studying delightfully weird science texts and recipes from the 16th and 17th century, and I have a special place for all things Shakespeare and Shakespeare adjacent in my heart of hearts.

As such, I love a good Shakespeare retelling.

And let me tell you, As I Descended is a great Shakespeare retelling.

The author writes in her acknowledgements that she wants to write a Macbeth with ghosts and gay people (which are two of my personal absolute favorite things) and she definitely succeeds at doing that – there are an abundance of both in the text and both the ghosts and the gays represent a diverse spectrum; the novel takes place on a restored Virginia plantation, which is rich in history and legends and horrors, but two of the prominent LGBTQ characters are of Hispanic heritage, and I was pleased with the weaving of Hispanic folklore with that of the Old South.

I think that what I really enjoyed most about this novel was the fact that as a reader, you don’t at all have to be knowledgeable with respect to Shakespeare and his plays to enjoy the book – it stands alone as a good read and a great story – but if you are familiar, it just heightens the enjoyment of the novel. As a Shakesqueerian scholar, I love, love, love the homages to the Bard within the text, and how the chapter titles are lines from the play and elements of the hauntings within Acheron Academy are dripping with bloody good nods to the play itself. The narrative stands well on its own as a modern ghost story, but pairing it together with Macbeth makes it tenfold more appealing.

Knowing the play so well can serve as a double edged sword – or dagger, if you will – hanging over your head as a reader; if you know what happens in the play, you know relatively early on which of the characters within the novel will meet a most tragic end. And, ultimately, I found that I didn’t want those characters to meet a tragic end – and maybe that is my own personal bias, as 2016 has been a terrible year for lesbian characters and LGBTQ representation – the “bury your gays” trope has ruined some fantastic characters and storylines, but here, in this space, with these characters, it’s to be expected – but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest, which I think is a great testament to the quality of writing by Talley in this novel. As I read, I found myself feeling particularly sympathetic towards Lily, our Lady Macbeth (who, interestingly enough, to me at least, goes more the way of Ophelia from Hamlet, in a haunting scene on the cursed lake, than how I envisioned her off-stage death in the play itself), which given the nature of her character, I am uncertain as to whether sympathy is the right emotion to feel for her.

Despite knowing going into this that everything is going to end horribly and tragically, because Macbeth, the road to hell is worth riding on, and I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

4.5 Bards!

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Be sure to check out our Calendar to keep up with LGBT History Month here on A Midsummer Night’s Read!

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: January 31, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she’s only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to.

When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki’s mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating.

But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.

Guest Review & Author Interview: Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver

Team Midsummer has reached out to a few friends to participate in our celebration of LGBT History Month, and Jessica’s college friend, Leia, decided to step to the plate to hit this one out of the park! Check out her review of indie author Kiran Oliver’s Daybreak Rising, and the interview below!

 

Celosia Brennan was supposed to be a hero. After a spectacular failure that cost her people their freedom, she is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance at redemption. Together with a gifted team of rebels, she not only sets her sights on freedom, but defeating her personal demons along the way.

Now branded a failure, Celosia desperately volunteers for the next mission: taking down the corrupt Council with a team of her fellow elementally gifted mages. Leading the Ember Operative gives Celosia her last hope at redemption. They seek to overthrow the Council once and for all, this time bringing the fight to Valeria, the largest city under the Council’s iron grip. But Celosia’s new teammates don’t trust her—except for Ianthe, a powerful Ice Elementalist who happens to believe in second chances.

With Council spies, uncontrolled magic, and the distraction of unexpected love, Celosia will have to win the trust of her teammates and push her abilities to the breaking point to complete the Ember Operative. Except if she falters this time, there won’t be any Elementalists left to stop the Council from taking over not just their country, but the entire world. 

Sitting down to write this review wasn’t the easiest thing. I’ll be frank with you; I loved this book. ADORED it. However, in the spirit of being honest, I should also tell you that I adore the author. He and I have been friends for about six years – and he introduced me to my husband. I’ve spent the past few days trying to separate my love for the book from my love for Kiran, but I’m not totally sure that that’s possible. I’m going to do my best to write this review in a non-biased, non-spoilery way!

First, Daybreak Rising’s main character, Celosia Brennan, has dealt with life-crushing failure. This isn’t a spoiler – you learn about it within the first few pages of the book – and it sets the frame for who Celosia is as a person. Through the book, she has this intense weight bearing on her shoulder for what happened before Daybreak Rising begins. You will have to read it to see how she grows from this position, but trust me… the journey is definitely worth it!

Celosia’s journey includes many characters who are people of color and characters who fall many places along the sexuality and gender spectrums. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ve read a more diverse book. These characters added a richness to the story that made me feel like I was making new friends that were real. Kiran’s character development made them real for me.

Another unique piece of the book is the way that magic and technology is woven together. At first, I felt a bit uncomfortable and nervous about the combination, but the two coexisted so seamlessly that it felt natural.

Overall, I don’t want to say too much about Daybreak Rising. It was such a unique, exhilarating experience that I won’t soon forget.

4 Bards

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Author Interview:

Leia on behalf of Team Midsummer (LKC): Thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview. I am really excited to be reviewing your book and everything!

Kiran Oliver (KO): No problem! Thank you for thinking of it!

 

LKC: What inspired you to write this novel?

KO: Honestly my wife. We were doing email-based role-play based off Harry Potter …judge me all you want… and she actually put a stop to it and said, “Look. Your writing is at the point where you need to just sit down and write a book.” so I did. She’s been telling me to write one for years, but she finally put her foot down.

 

LKC: Did you purposefully set out to write with such a diverse cast of characters?

KO: Yes. Absolutely. That’s always been something I was focused on. Particularly as my wife is a queer person of color and I’m a transgender guy on the autistic/ace/queer spectrum myself along with being Jewish. The cultural, religious, and gender/sexuality/romance diversity was important to me to have in there.

 

LKC: One of the things that I love so much about Celosia is that, at the start of the book, she has experienced some major, seemingly life crushing failure. What made you decide to write about a character who had experienced this?

KO: I honestly was just like, “OK. I’m really tired of the standard heroine that has the world at her feet just waiting to be ordered around by her/she can do no wrong. Let’s flip that on its head.” so with Celosia, I was basically like, “Here, have some crushing failure. Now let’s see how you bounce back from it.” having her have to earn the respect of not only her comrades but the entirety of Esonith is something that’s very important.

 

LKC: I happen to know that you are an avid role player. Were any of your characters influenced by characters that you RP?

KO: You can put in there: Yep. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for about 7 years. Kayvun has a lot of ties to my character Caoilainn. Particularly her accent. Though I’ve got to say Kayvun had a better upbringing than Cai did.

 

LKC: What was it like writing about your RP character(s)?

KO: It was so loosely done that in the end I could see glimpses of Caoilainn in Kayvun, but she became her own person entirely by the end of it. The only things still really ringing true for Caoilainn’s influence are Kayvun’s accent.

 

LKC: Can you tell us a little bit about the world building involved in Daybreak Rising?

KO: That was honestly the best part for me. I really enjoyed it. I think my favorite locations have to be Dakul and Basau. Though, in the next book I’m really looking forward to showing everyone what the Ardonians have been up to over the last 7 years. I worked incredibly hard to bring realism in terms of religion and culture into it. This is really seen in Basau and Dakul especially. I also enjoyed the breakdown of not only currency and culture, but magic between regions.

 

LKC: I really loved the way that you combined magic with technology. What made you decide to do that?

KO: I figured it was something that’s usually not done. Often, books are either hard to the left or the right. Either it’s your usual fantasy with oil lamps and furs, or there’s so much technology you feel like you need a PhD in Computer Science just to read the book. I thought it would be best to create a comfortable blend of the two.

 

LKC: What can we expect from you in the future?

KO: I’m going to be working on the next book in the Embers of Redemption series for later next year to be put out by a new publisher, as will all my future titles. More on that publisher later, folks. I’m working on a novel called Dragonsong at the moment, which is a lovely blend of similar futuristic magic and technology in a much more modern secondary world, with a university setting for a large chunk of the story.

 

LKC: That sounds right up my alley.

KO: It involves shapeshifting dragons, centaur baristas, badass knife-wielding princesses, and Knights wearing neon that are kind of your average jocks. It’s glorious.

 

LKC: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

KO: That even if you fuck up beyond belief, keep pushing forward. Keep improving, and don’t give up. Anything is within your reach.

 

LKC: What do you want to say to young LGBT readers, maybe something that you didn’t hear?

KO: Your gender identity is valid. Your orientation is valid. It might change as you get older, and that’s OK. Don’t let anyone put you in a box. If you think a community is becoming toxic, get away from it as fast as you can. Find friends that will support and respect you.

 

Daybreak Rising is on sale for $1.99 this week.  Check it out!

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