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JJ: Blog Reviews

With Love For Books (Includes Interview)

For All the Books I’ve Loved So Far

The Writers Will

Lost in a Good Book

Hans M Hirschi

The Nerd Girl Review

Deep End Review

Adan Ramie

Eliza Andrews

Looseleaf Reviews


A Frolic Through Fiction


Live to Read


Cover2Cover Blog

Goodreads Reviews
Amazon Reviews

 

IF YOU SEE ANY OTHER REVIEWS YOU THINK I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT, PLEASE TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS <3

Let’s Talk Sex – In My Books

 

A question that I get asked a lot, especially after the release of Loving Lakyn, is why there aren’t any smut or sex scenes in Just Juliet. I often answer this in person, usually to the response of eyerolls or huffs or ‘well you could have done better’s. Sometimes this issue rolls right off my shoulders, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me, Just Juliet is my book and I wrote it how I wanted to.

Other days, it leaves me feeling insecure and like I did something wrong. Like I hurt myself, my fanbase, and the community of queer girls. Today, I was asked this question again, and this time it prompted me to write an answer to everyone who has ever wondered why I made the decision I made.

First – I was a young writer when Just Juliet was born. I had practice, but the majority of it was amateur. Outside of a few college classes, I had no real idea what I was doing. What I knew was that I had a story in my head and I wanted to put it on paper. I wasn’t prepared for the idea of writing anything above a PG rating. I’d never even thought of trying.

Second – the idea that Juliet and Lena would have a sexual relationship never personally occurred to me. A lot of people will remark that they’re ‘teenagers girls who are attracted to each other of course they’d be banging’ as if teenage females have absolutely no control over themselves whatsoever and must jump the first attractive person they see. But that wasn’t a thought that ever crossed my mind.

I could possibly blame my own highschool experience on this outlook. I am from a very small town, and my graduating class had a grand total of 17 people in it. Out of my entire class I’d say at most 4 of them had had sexual relations before graduation, but can only confirm 1 because he had a baby to prove it xD Regardless, no one really talked about it. We were kids. Young and awkward and acne covered. There were boyfriends and heavy make-out sessions and ‘so, he touched my boob’, but that was about it.

Third – There is a certain comfort level that you must have when writing smut and I simply didn’t back then. In case it’s slipped anyone’s attention, the words in Just Juliet come straight from my own mind. I know a lot about sex, any kind of sex, I find it interesting and fascinating and I collect so many facts that married people will come to me and ask me about things. But the thing is that I view sex as this scientific, factual thing. To take this knowledge that I have, pour it into two 17yr old characters, and then compose it in a way that is either heartwarming and emotional or hot and steamy is just not … simple. Especially when you feel like said characters don’t have that kind of range.

Which brings me to my last few points.

Fourth – Anyone who has been with Just Juliet from the very beginning remembers it’s Wattpad days and remembers that there was a fade-to-black heavily implied sexual scene. I didn’t write this because I wanted to, but because I felt pressured by my readers. Everyone was asking for it, and I spent many nights messaging readers I had become close to and calling my sister and crying. I was stressed because I didn’t want to write smut, but I felt like I owed it to everyone to do so. Thus, I compromised. And of course, people still weren’t happy, so it was all for not.

Fifth – I wrote Just Juliet for closeted teens, for anyone struggling with coming out and wanting a book a little more cheerful to turn to for help down that path. It wasn’t meant for girls that were already there and ready to jump their girlfriends, it was meant for the girls still sneaking looks from the shadows. I could check my demographics on Wattpad and see who was reading, and my largest age range was 12-15. Why was I trying to please the handful of older readers when the younger ones were my audience? Who writes smut for 12yr olds with a clear conscious? No one good. (or ya know, other 12yr olds.)

Sixth – The characters. Juliet wasn’t a virgin when she met Lena, but Lena was. Not only that, but she’d never dated another girl before, nor had she ever been in love. The girls had a year together, but if you take out the summer that they spent ‘broken up’ and the months before they were dating, it was maybe half that, which isn’t really a lot of time.

I feel like the reason people get upset with me for my decision to not include smut or sex or implications in the published version of the book is because women deserve the right to be sexual beings. And they do. But with this specific book where is the line between that being the point I was trying to make, and it becoming ‘girls can’t really be queer unless they’ve had sex with another girl.’?

 

So why then is there sex in Loving Lakyn? I have points for this too, so settle in.

First – I started just Juliet in 2014, I started Loving Lakyn in 2016. It’s just two years, but it’s two years of being a published, professional author, and growing within my writing. By the time LL came along, I felt like I was ready to try my hand at writing smut. And I had a lot of help with this. Have you guys noticed the acknowledgement? I didn’t throw all that down by myself.

Second – Despite the main character’s ages, LL isn’t a typical YA book, the darkness of the material described warranted it a higher rating, which meant that I could include sex scenes without alienating a huge chunk of my readership.

Third – I knew from the get go that Lakyn and Scott’s relationship was sexual. Neither of them were virgins when they met, and neither of them expected anything romantic either. They very much had a friends-with-benefits start and that had always been a thing.

Fourth – No one is questioning their sexuality. Closeted as he was, Scott was very sure he was gay, and Lakyn was out. There’s no confusing feelings about what they want. And it’s a bit sexist, a bit stereotyped, but also biologically proven that males are more sex driven then females. I also feel it’s noteworthy to mention too that Scott and Lakyn aren’t always having sex in the most healthy of ways, and that their relationship has always been very different from Lena and Juliet’s.

 

 

TLDR; There’s no sex in Just Juliet because Lena was a questioning teenage virgin who wasn’t ready and her girlfriend respected that, while there was sex in Loving Lakyn because Scott and Lakyn are ho’s and very gay for each other.

Being an Ally

Hey guys, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve actually put a post up. I say this a lot – I don’t always have the most active life. I’m usually sitting in my room, on my laptop, writing away. Most weeks, I don’t have anything to talk about, which would explain my long absence.

This week I do.

I normally don’t like to post about personal stuff, and I don’t want to put anyone on blast believe me, but something happened this weekend that I feel like I needed to talk about: I witnessed someone being an ally.

Now here’s the thing – I’m out. I live out, everyone close to me knows I’m out, my family is an Out Family of an LGBT child. Because of this, I see lots of Good Movement from heterosexual people. My parents are my number one supporters, so by no means am I slighting them by putting the spotlight onto someone else. They probably deserve posts too, so maybe one day.

What happened was this: I was at a birthday party for a relative. An older one, so my company was mostly parents, it was late, everyone had been drinking, and someone was telling a story about their six year old boy who had a habit of trying to kiss his female classmates. His explanation for this was “I don’t see what’s wrong with kissing pretty girls.”

Already, there were comments I wanted to make, but I kept my mouth shut because honestly I was tired and most people don’t want to listen to me rant anyway. It wasn’t my birthday party, so I wasn’t going to make a scene. It was then that a close family friend rattled off, “well, at least he isn’t trying to kiss pretty boys!”

Agreements went up and my heart sank because I was reminded what it was like to be outside of my friendly LGBT accepting bubble and back into the real world. I was reminded that heteronormativity and bias starts this young. I was reminded that the people in that older generation that I’m closest to still think this way. I was a small child again, reminded to sit down and keep quiet because what I was feeling wasn’t normal. It sucked, but I was okay. I was used to it.

And then the wife of the man who has spoken suddenly turned around and said “shut up!” he argued and she quickly put him in his place, reminding him of where he was and who he was around. It shocked me, because of where I was and who I was with above all, but it also sent this feeling of immediate relief rushing through my body.

Here’s the thing about being an ally guys, it’s not always just loving and accepting your LGBT+ friends and family members. It’s speaking up for them when they can’t speak for themselves, it’s making sure you know your LGBT+ person feels safe with you, it’s making sure they’re safe even outside of your homes. It’s having the courage to say something even to someone else you love. It’s reassurance and support.

You can find many other blogs about this concept, so please feel free to google it if you want more information on how you can be a better ally. I just felt the need to share this little story. As always, rather an LGBT+ person or an Ally, please know your surroundings and make sure you are physically safe before acting.

I hope you guys have a gay day in every way <3

-Charlotte

That Book is So Gay

A common question I get asked is what LGBT books I read in high school, or what LGBT books I would recommend now, and I always kind of cringe a little. I still haven’t fully figured out how to answer that. And here’s why:

I wouldn’t call my mother strict, per say, but she payed a lot of attention to what I was reading. I read constantly, I always had my nose in a book, I took them everywhere with me. I remember pretty vividly there was a year when I wasn’t allowed to read about vampires and I would hide the covers anywhere I went. (The rule didn’t stick – I got so obsessed that to this day half of my bookshelves are still vampire books).

If I wasn’t going to read about vampires, I definitely wasn’t going to read about lesbians. There was no taking home a book that looked like Just Juliet for me. Nope, nu-uh, not gonna happen. So there’s half the answer I guess – that I didn’t read LGBT books in high school, or any younger than that. In fact, I’m not even sure I would have known where to find them. I went to an extremely small school in the middle of nowhere Texas. I’m almost positive we didn’t have LGBT books in our library. (I was an aide my Junior year and we spent a solid week having to flip through books and cross out the curse words so, ya know. That was the environment I had to pick out books in.)

I did read a shit ton of Alex/Paige and Dylan/Marco fanfiction in my Degrassi days but does that even count? That was pre-Ao3 guys it’s been a w h i l e.

“So what about College, Char?” – nope. I was busy in college, I don’t think I read anything during those years. Sure, I had a full bookshelf, and went to B&N at least once a week to buy something new, but I don’t think I ever actually read anything. Although here is where the facts change a little, because in 2014 I found Wattpad. And oh boy, did that change things. Suddenly finding gay books was as simple as searching [boyxboy] or [girlxgirl]. (those old school tags my god)

I still remember the first one I read. It was a gay love story by A.M Snead and I was honestly surprised because A.M is religious. Being raised where I was, there was always this overlying factor of  ‘you can’t be a christian and support homosexuality at the same time’. A.M was basically like ‘lol that’s not true’ and proceeded to write beautiful, christian, homo love stories. There was something about her doing this that inspired hope in me. If she could be christian and support LGBT rights, then there were others that could too, right?

These days, I’ve made it a goal to only read books that have at least one LGBT character or theme in them. I have a list, but I must warn you that I’m notorious for reading from male perspectives, because until college – aside from Harry Potter – I read only female so I’m trying to balance that out.

Lesbian: Ash by Malinda Lo – while I haven’t actually read this yet, I love the concept so much that it’s made it only my male pov only shelf so~

GayBoy Meets Boy by David Levithan – If I ever stop rereading TRC and TFC I might actually manage to make it to this one. It looks super cute?

Bisexual: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – I have a love/hate relationship with this series but ultimately I was there for the characters so. It doesn’t really get gay until the last book, although the second one is very gay charged and the third one is all subtle gay, so it’s there. There’s a bisexual boy, even though I’m pretty sure the word is never said, he’s a lovely bi baby and I will throw hands for him.

Transgender: Luna by Julie Anne Peters – there’s a line in here about ‘a girl that can only be seen in the moonlight’ and that has always really resonated with me. I read this awhile ago so it doesn’t fall under my ‘male pov’ rule because Luna is, undeniably, a girl.

Queer: All for the Game by Nora Sakavic – anyone who knows me knows I can’t go long without talking about The Foxhole Court so here it is again. But guys this book is so inspiring to live and fight for what’s worth it and just. Stuff like that. Also, there’s a ‘straight cousin’, can you believe? I’m sticking it under queer just because there’s gay characters and there’s a demisexual character. Are we still using queer as an umbrella term or should I be more inclusive in that? Hm. Let me know if I’m wrong here.

Intersex: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio – I’m going to be honest and admit that I’ve never read about an intersex person before, but I’ve heard this book be recommended places, so. If it’s bad – let me know, lol.

Asexual: The Sum of it’s Parts by E.M Holloway – my favorite thing about this series is that it’s about werewolves, not sexuality, and it just so happens that one of the main relationships is asexual. It’s also really, really good – and self published – and I feel like the author deserves more love so. Hit it up. For real.

For someone whose life revolves around books I really don’t read enough.

Anyway, that’s the last of my #InspirationChallenge posts. Have you guys ever felt inspired by an LGBT book? Tell me about it in the comments!

“Girls like girls like boys do, it’s nothing new~”

If I remember correctly, the first LGBT song I ever heard was by t.A.T.u. All the Things She Said was actually really popular back in, like, the 2000s which is kind of ironic because of the controversy it struck. In fact, there were moves to ban the video world wide. It actually took me awhile to figure out what they were singing about, because I thought the lyrics were ‘all the things you said’ (heteronormativity, whuddup). I’m pretty sure the video put it into perspective and then I was like. Oh shit, cool!

And I’m all mixed up, feeling cornered and rushed
They say it’s my fault, but I want her so much
Want to fly her away, where the sun and rain
Come in over my face, wash away all the shame
When they stop and stare – don’t worry me
‘Cause I’m feeling for her, what she’s feeling for me
I can try to pretend, I can try to forget
But it’s driving me mad, going out of my head

All The Things She Said (video)

Since their glory days there’s been some controversy surrounding – well, Yuliya Volkova and some pretty homophobic comments she made in 2014, but this song is still the first one I ever heard with female on female pronouns, and the first video I ever saw with female kisses, and it’ll always have a spot in my heart. I also always really loved All About Us, even though it’s more subtle gay. Can you guys believe these girls are Russian? I know, mind blown.

After that I mostly spent a lot of my time digging up any LGBT-esque song I could find on youtube. I don’t remember coming across much, which could have been a sign of the times or a sign of my skill when it comes for searching for things. I do remember seeing that a lot of things were queerer than I had though, like Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful (2002), or a few music videos that were gayer than the lyrics suggested (Like Avicii’s Addicted To You).

But besides the point, here’s a small breakdown over the years:

I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry (2008)
Fever – Adam Lambert (2009)
Do it Like a Dude – Jessie J (2010)
Born This Way – Lady Gaga (2011)
Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2012)
Girls/Girls/Boys – Panic! At the Disco (2013)
She Keeps Me Warm – Mary Lambert (2014)
All American Boy – Steve Grand (2015)
Son of a Preacher Man – Tom Goss (2016)

But wait, Charlotte, isn’t this challenge supposed to be about things that inspired you? Well, yes, technically, I guess. You guys don’t want to just listen to me ramble? I suppose that’s fair.

Alright, so listen, I have a lot of love for Hayley Kiyoko.

“Tell me something nobody knows about you, something you are afraid to sing about?”
I immediately thought, well I like girls and that’s what I want to sing about, but even then I struggled to say it out loud. – Paper Magazine.

She’s beautiful, she’s talented, but what she said that really inspired me personally, was this:

“Most of the time, you become confident after years of struggling during your young adulthood. I want to encourage the youth to find that confidence now. Not later. For them to know their own self-worth at an earlier age.” . – Paper Magazine.

Hayley’s 25 years old and she’s doing her best to be herself and be a role model at the same time. Her confidence to not only come out, but to do so publicly, to stake her career on that, is honestly breath taking. I adore her music. I’m living for the message she’s sending. If you do nothing else, watch the video I paste below. It’s very relatable.

I also really suggest Cliff’s Edge and Gravel to Tempo and Sleepover.

 

And that brings us to Troye Sivan.


Some people were lucky enough to know Troye from youtube before he was famous, I wasn’t. I found him after hearing him on the radio for the first time. Actually, originally I wasn’t much of a fan, his music wasn’t really my type. But the longer I listened, the more I liked it, and the longer I really listened, the more I fell in love with him.

I adore Troye Sivan for a handful of reasons: he’s cute, he’s hysterical, he makes music that’s important to him, he’s an activist, and he made sure to come out before he got signed so that no one could make him stay in the closet. On youtube, the way youtubers do, for the rest of us to see.

“This is not something that I’m ashamed of,” he said, “and it’s not something that anyone should have to be ashamed of.” – Out Magazine

I have a lot of love for Troye and his ability to do what he loves, have fun with it, and have it matter. This boy is important, and he’s going places. Check out his GLAAD Media Award speech if you’re interested. If you haven’t watched any of his music videos, I suggest starting with the Blue Neighborhood trilogy, and then watching Heaven if you feel like crying. It’s powerful.

part two part three

I was going to stop there but you know what these are all a little sad so, have the remix of Wild because it’s honestly just warm fuzzy feelings and I adore it

Also, I saw this boy in concert and I’m pretty sure it killed me. I’ll never be over it.

 

Alright that’s all for now guys,

Peace!

-Char

Everyday is a Gay Day

Back in the day I only used Youtube to watch anime and the occasional music video (and by music video I mean mostly t.A.T.u’s stuff but we can talk about them later), but at some point I got a tumblr and one gif changed my world. I remember which one it was too~

I just thought that it was like? Really cute? And then somewhere in the list of notes was a link to the video it came from [x]. This started a low-key obsession, and I say ‘low key’ only because it wasn’t, like, creepy. At this point in my life I wasn’t in the best place mentally/emotionally. To put it simply, I was struggling. With living, with where the future was going to take me, with my sexuality. There were very few things then that made me happy.

I was late enough to Mark’s channel that there was at least a years worth of videos, so I could watch them daily. He and his boyfriend, Ethan, start off each and every one with: “Good morning, good morning! Today’s gonna be a great day and do you know why?! Because everyday is a great day.” (They actually make merch of it now and honestly I need it so bad.) There was something about hearing that every day, about watching Mark’s unending enthusiasm, that really did a lot for my morale. Eventually even I began to think ‘everyday is a great day’.

Mark’s Coming Out Story was the first one I ever watched, and then I was all over Youtube, going through as many as I could. I think a lot of us tend to do that though, right? To figure out how other people did it, how their loved one’s reacted. Asking questions like ‘is it worth it?’ and ‘will I be okay?’. A lot of them actually blur together now, I can’t tell you many individual stories, except for maybe Troye Sivan’s (we’ll talk about him later too), and Ethan Hethcote’s. (Yes, he’s Mark’s boyfriend. Yes, these two mean a lot to me okay).

While Mark was the one I flocked to for a mood boost, it was Ethan that I immediately related to. In his video he talks about how he figured out he was gay young, but that it scared him, so he told himself he was straight.  (“Hid myself deeper under the clothes in my closet.”) If I remember correctly, he grew up in a small town, around farms and conservative people where no one was Out. I instantly saw myself in his story. Ethan was lucky enough to have an accepting family, although his father wasn’t quite on board in the beginning. But, he came around, and that meant a lot to me. To know that it was possible for someone to change their minds.

I could talk about these guys forever, but I think I’ll stop here. I’ll leave you with some links~

 

And then, of course, there’s Tyler Oakley.

I feel like there’s probably a better gif to satisfy my needs but I made my decision so now I must stick with it. Also I miss his lilac hair? Honestly what a cool color?

Anyone who follows me on Social Media knows I loooove Tyler Oakley.  I just think he’s honestly a good person, and I love that he uses his platform to talk about activism, especially with LGBT Youth and suicide rates and just the community in general. I love that he talks about things that are important to him and that he supports numerous charities. He’s just one of my favorite people.

Tyler has like 10 years worth of videos so lord knows I haven’t watched them all, but I am trying. Mostly I just dig into his life as a source of entertainment, I wish I remembered the first video of his that I watched, but unfortunately I don’t. I’m pretty sure it was a collab with someone else though, and I found him so funny that I fell into his channel. So what is it about Tyler that really resonates with me?

His mantra to be his most authentic self, and for us to do the same. (“The time to be your most authentic self is now.”)

Without getting too personal, I feel like authenticity is something that I’ve always struggled with. There were contributing factors to this issue while I was growing up.  Things that made me feel like I had to keep even the tiniest detail about myself hidden and protected. (I had a really good childhood, it was just a complicated situation). And then of course there were years worth of sitting in a closet. While I wouldn’t say that I was a liar, I wasn’t a truther either. I molded myself and my personality to the situations around me. At some point I lost my self of sense. I couldn’t even tell you who I was, because I was whoever I needed to be at any given time. It was a mess, honestly.

So something about Tyler drew me in. Something about how he’s unapologetically himself,  how he’s made a career out of what he loves to do, how he’s happy.  At some point, he became my role model, and he’s helped me strive to always be true, not only to myself, but to other’s too. It’s a message I want to live through.

If you haven’t ever watched a Tyler Oakley video, I encourage you to. This year for Pride Month he did a series called ‘Chosen Family’ and I think it’s as good as any place to start.

 

The thing about Youtubers that I fell in love with is the same as Ellen – they’re real, and these guys even moreso, because all they’re doing is filming their everyday lives and sharing it with the rest of us. They’re non Hollywoodized accounts of what it’s like to be gay. Representation matters, and lgbt youtubers are providing that representation in real life in real time. They’re also part of the reason why I write uplifting stories. Besides the fact that I got tired of how lgbt people are generally portrayed – I get a lot of joy out of watching youtubers, they make my day better. They make me feel better about who I am, and show that any little thing can make a difference. I hope to be one of those good things for someone.

So while I watch many youtubers, these are the two that have inspired me the most.

All the best,

Char