A love story starring my dead best friend by Emily Horner

First book of the school holidays and it was a great choice.  This is a great cross-over novel, meaning written with appeal to both teenage and adult readers.  Emily Horner has a great website with lots of good stuff about this book and a thoughtful blog as well.

Cass is desperately missing her friend Julia.  Julia was killed in a car crash and it has rocked all her friends and her boyfriend, but Cass and Julia had one of those friendships which was deep and complex.  A finish each others sentences kind of friendship.  Julia was obsessed with drama and was writing her masterpiece when she died, the friends decide that they should put on the show she wrote.  This creates lots of difficulties because it isn’t exactly  your standard school musical, the title is Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad which is enough to set alarm bells ringing with the school staff.

In the meantime Cass sets off on her bike, to complete the journey to California that she and Julia always planned to make, bringing Julia’s ashes with her in a tupperware container.  The bike trip is beautifully written.  The relationship she has along the way, the feelings this brings on and the mechanics of the relationship are written in a realistic way. Tentative and scary, but also with comfort. The lonliness of being on the road, the dangers from big trucks, people you meet and dealing with the memories of someone you love who has gone from your life, dealing with your emerging sexuality and also love, lots of love in many forms, all make for riveting reading.  This is a wise book.  I know my girls would have loved it when they were teenagers, but it is also a book I would give them now.  This book has lots of the feeling you get when you read John Green or David Levithan and I’m really looking forward to reading more by Emily Horner.



Sing you home by Jodi Picoult

I’ve recently finished this book, having sworn off Jodi a couple of her releases ago.  She seemed to me to be a little bit predictable, I felt I’d kind of finished with court room fiction and the issues based dramas that she tackles, and then I bought this book for my partner who reads them all – although had also been feeling a bit jaded with them.  Anyway after Sing You Home had been around the traps being read by others and they all raved over it, I thought oh well give it a whirl.

So glad I did.  It is a great book.  Of course it tackles the big issues of the day and in this book those are the difficulties facing those gay couples who hope to bring children into the world and raise them, and also the issues of frozen embryos sitting in storage created by married couples who have now broken up and who they belong to and what will happen to them.  Lots of issues.  Lots of conflicting views, ideals and expectations.  The lesbian aspect of the book had made me a little bit worried, but she does it really well.  Lovely romantic scenes, she explores the feelings really well and captures the togetherness and the isolation that often occurs in public situations for lesbians.  No words are minced when she deals with the unfairness of the law as it relates to homosexual relationships.

Then there is the whole religious thing, right wing evangelists manipulating and spending so much money to win in the law courts.  The conflicting feelings of Max the ex husband as he struggles with what is happening to him and the different directions he is being pushed.

I recommend the book to everyone.  This is as good a book as The Pact and Salem Falls which are my two favourites of Jodi Picoult and if you are a lesbian wanting a book which affirms this will be a good choice.

The  link below will take you to the Guardian website where Jodi talks about why she wrote the book and why she tackles these issues so frequently in her fiction.  Watch it here.


Trick of the dark by Val McDermid

Val McDermid is one of the most reliable crime writers around.  She always manages to keep me guessing till the end and she holds on tight to your attention, disrupts your sleep, disrupts sunny afternoons when you should be out doing other things.  I probably should confess to owning a copy of every book Val McDermid has ever written.

This one took a little while for me to get totally hooked but once I was there I was constantly reading it.  There is a very strong lesbian theme which she doesn’t explore in too many of her other books so it was quite unexpected for me. It is great to read a book with lesbian characters which treats them as real people and which doesn’t turn them into some guys fantasy.  This is gritty and real.   I really liked the main character Charlie Flint, and she is the sort of character who could easily appear in a series, nicely flawed and not dissimilar to someone you might actually meet in real life.

This is a story about a series of murders which are all linked to one person but the twists and turns lead you on a wild goose chase of multiple suspects and good guys who may not be so good. It is set in Oxford and London far from the grim North of England and Scotland where most of the books Val writes are set, and I enjoyed the change of scenery.  I liked the relationship between Charlie and her partner, I liked their conversations which seemed very ‘real’ and although I could pick a few holes in the story in a couple of places I found it a good satisfying read and I’m ready for a new book now please Val, I think you are great.

The Trevor Project

The new cause celeb in the states, but this one works for me.  Check out The Trevor Project website.   It’s about anti bullying and anti gay bashing. There is a nice line in one of the vids about being proactive and going and talking to a teenager you think might be having a hard time.  Nice thought, and now my thought:  Show these kids that you can have a normal ordinary and fulfilled life as a grown up gay person!  You don’t have to be troubled and miserable all your life, gay people are just as successful and fabulous as the rest of the population. Be out, and happy with it and happy with who you are and show by good example that life is for living.

The video here is Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame (oh how I love Project Runway) – talking about his experiences with bullying and suicide.  It is moving and very real.

Kathi Griffin says somewhere in the video below, that people don’t remember the Matthew Shepard story any more and I think she is right, and yet at the time of this incident people were so shocked and outraged.  The video below is from the Larry King show and while I’m not usually a fan it is worth investing 10 minutes to watch this one,the whole video isn’t here but you will get the drift and I guess if you want the rest you will find it on YouTube for yourselves.

The Girl Who Played with Fire – the movie

It is a terrifying thing to go to the movie of a book you absolutely loved.  This book kept me up very late at night, I was totally engrossed in this book and the characters were so cool check the posting on it.  So, going to the movie was a bit scary, would it live up to my expectations?  Would they ruin it with cinematic tinkering?  No they didn’t.  I really enjoyed it.  I don’t know how you would cope if you hadn’t read the book, there is a lot of stuff happening in this and they certainly left out quite a lot of the detail, but man there is such a lot of detail in those books and I guess they had to.

Look it isn’t as good as the first movie, but it is a close second and I really liked it once I got back into the groove, and the fabulous woman who plays the main character is just perfect, when I grow up I’m going to be like her, great love scene too actually.

A sign of changing times?

Every now and then a organisation that you don’t admire or respect, and whose product you detest, does something cool.  McDonald’s has done something of that kind in France.  France the home of fine cuisine, even that word is French for goodness sake is promoting their product with a gay friendly advert. Is this the beginning of gay going mainstream?  Well maybe a tiny first step.

This is how the ad is described on the GayNZ site:

“With the tagline “Come As You Are”, the ad shows a high school student sitting in a McDonald’s booth gazing at his boyfriend in his class picture, then calling him to tell him he misses him.

The teenager’s father then returns with a tray of food and says “Is this your class picture? You look just like me at your age.  Let me tell you I was quite the ladies’ man!  Too bad your class is all boys … you could get all the girls.”

The high school student responds with an ironic grin.

It finishes with the slogan “venez come vous etes,” meaning “come as you are.”

It is interesting that finally the whole area of being gay is becoming something that people don’t shy away from, that people are actually prepared to discuss and have attention drawn to.  One day, who knows the whole slang thing of using the word “gay” as in “That is so gay” will die a death that will fill me with joy.  As I say to the boys I work with every day, “so gay means stupid?”  causing them to backtrack when they realise they might have offended me.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson

Well, I’m done.  I’ve knocked the Millennium Series off now, and they great!  It seems that if you start talking about these books in a public place it makes it really easy to strike up conversation, everyone is reading them.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the third and final one – if you don’t count the unpublished one they have found on the authors computer, but can’t publish because of disputes over who should be paid the royalties.  Steig Larsson is dead now, no more fabulous books to keep me up late at night – till 2am a few nights, such a shame.

Actress Noomi Rapace who plays Lisbeth Salander

This third one I found, in the beginning, took about a 100 pages or so for me to sort out all the characters and get them ordered in my mind.  Lots of names all beginning with the same letters and sounding the same in my mind, but, this is the book that pulls all the threads together, you couldn’t possibly stop after the second book.  This one gives you closure.  You have been reading a story where lots is going on and there is so much action that you don’t need to think too much about how it all fits together, but in this one you get lots of ah ha moments as you find out exactly who was double crossing who and why.

If you want to watch a preview of this movie, which is out in Europe but a long way off here, given that the movie of the second one isn’t even here yet then go and have a look here (YouTube Link).  Have a look at Mary Whipple’s blog for lots of links to the videos and info.  I also like this interview with the actress who plays Lisbeth Salander.

There has been a bit of discussion at school about whether the books are too violent to have on the shelves.  I love this kind of discussion, and it’s great to get people talking about these kind of books because often it is the things that make some readers uncomfortable that also make them have to think about what it really is they object to.  In the case of these books it is the violence usually that they cite, but I also think that the frankly written sexuality in the books is something that makes people really uncomfortable.  Lisbeth’s fluid sexuality is really well written I think, and the fact that there is well written lesbian sex in the books – written by a man – makes some people really uncomfortable.  There is also heterosexual sex, violent sex and rape in the books, but if you ban the books for that reason then you are really missing the point.  These books, I think, are about power, control and manipulation by the state.  There is blatant, state sanctioned misogyny in the story as a kind of back story, the original title was Men who hate women, and the author had spent many years researching Sweden’s dark and seedy side. It seems that a lot of what he knew to be true, about how the State manipulated the media and managed to control the lives of ordinary citizens is written into these books as a fictional situation.  I imagine this is not particular to Sweden, and you have to remember that they are fiction.  Maybe fiction based on some real situations but fiction nonetheless.  See the post about the other one in the series here.

The Topp Twins

movie_front_mediumTonight folks, I will be at the Regent Theatre along with the rest of the lesbian poplulation of Dunedin, and indeed a whole bunch of staight ladies and gentlemen to see The Topp Twins. Woot to that we say!

It will be fun, funny and frolicky and I can’t wait.  My ticket is an early birthday pressie which is pretty damn cool.  I have always wanted to learn to yodel, mostly cos I really in my heart always wanted to be a Topp Twin, sadly I’m a shy and retiring kind of a girl and the stage – and singing in public was not for me.  Sigh.  Looking forward to a night of lots of audience interraction and ridicule.  Last time I saw them was with my lovely sister at the Blossom Festival a long time ago, and woman o woman did we have fun!  So I imaging tonight will be a similar hoot.