Author Interview

Q & A with B.T. Gottfred

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Happy Tuesday, bookworms! I recently finished The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy and gave it 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this YA novel because it powerfully depicts the fluidity of masculinity and femininity. I’ve always been a fan of gender discourse, so this book was a pleasure to read. Hence, I’m very grateful that the author granted my wish for a written interview. I highly encourage you to pick up THGAHBB when it comes out next month. 😀 If you want to know my thoughts, feel free to check out my review. Happy reading! ❤


 

  1. What inspired you to write THGAHBB? Is the topic of gender stereotypes close to your heart?

“Almost all my books are born first with the character voices speaking inside my head. Unlike some of my books (like Nerdy and Dirty), I always knew Art and Zee would be in the same book opposite each other. So then the question of “If Art and Zee are voices in your head, are you gender and sexuality fluid?” arises and my answer is I think ALL people are, even if many if not most people don’t identify that way publicly or even consciously. So yes, this topic is close to my heart. ;)”

  1. Among all of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, who do you think is the most marginalized/misunderstood nowadays?

“Trans people are going to be the most marginalized until there is a major break through in understanding gender. If not a total deconstruction and rebuilding of what gender even means. I have friends who are as progressive and liberal as one can be on many topics, yet are downright archaic when thinking about gender.”

  1. Is it possible to identify or label the sexual orientation of Art and Zee?

“They certainly try to make sense of it, in their own way, with the ‘Zert Scale’ (which is a bonus at the end of the book). But part of what both they (and I) are trying to do is say that labels and identification should only be used if they are (1) self defined and (2) self empowering. No one anywhere ever should be telling anyone else who they are or who they should love.”

  1. How much research did you have to do before (or while) writing  THGAHBB? Are you a scholar of Feminism?

“An academic scholar, no;) I’m far too lazy for such a feat. But I was raised by a feminist and I married one so I feel like my scholarship has been lived more than studied. I do think all any writer (or person for that matter) with any ounce of imagination has to do is imagine, “what if I was born differently than I am” and they would immediately realize that equal rights is the most important thing there is. Period.”

  1. What gender stereotypes do you dislike the most?

“Anything aimed at children. I have two small boys (2 and 4 years old) and you can see they pick things up from classmates and others such as “that’s a girl’s show” or “that’s a boy’s toy” and yet, when they are not being tricked into stereotypes, both of them love to sing princess songs and have their toenails painted like their mom. I guess in a broader sense, I hate any stereotypes that tries to limit people’s ability to be the person that makes them most happy.”

  1. If you had the chance to go on a picnic with one of your characters, whom would you pick and why?

“Asking me to pick one of characters is like asking me to pick one of my kids… just can’t do it. I will say that as for Art and Zee, I would bring Art for his joy and Zee for her strength.”

  1. When it comes to gender/sexuality, on which side are you on: nature or nurture?

“I’m on the side of only the individual has the power to decide who they are. There are dangers to both nature or nurture and I don’t want any individual being told who they are by anyone or thing else.”

  1. Are you friends with Cale Dietrich? Who are your YA author buddies?

“I do not know Cale, but I just followed him on twitter because of this question. 😉 Jessica Brody got me into YA, so I will always credit her first. I’m in a writers group with Gretchen McNeil and Jennifer Wolfe and they both helped a ton with my book. I have dozens of others friends in YA and meet more every week. I must say some of the nicest/kindest people in the world are YA writers.


About the author:
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B.T. Gottfred (Brad T. Gottfred) is a screenwriter, producer, director, playwright and young adult novelist. He wrote and directed the digital series THE BOONIES, which premiered on go90 in 2017. His debut novel, FOREVER FOR A YEAR, was released in July 2015 by Macmillan/Holt, followed by THE NERDY AND THE DIRTY in November 2016. His third book, THE HANDSOME GIRL AND HER BEAUTIFUL BOY, will be released in May of 2018.

 

Visit B.T. Gottfred’s website

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Book Review

Divine Neutrality

CirceCirce by Madeline Miller

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for giving me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

I finally finished this book after reading it for more than a month. I have seen nothing but praise for Madeline Miller’s books. I genuinely liked this one, but unfortunately, I did not love it.

Circe is essentially a story of female empowerment. It’s the story of an ostracized goddess who gradually finds strength in isolation. Many wayward visitors come to Circe’s island, ranging from malicious humans, to haughty gods, to demigods on the run. Hence, this book has multiple story/character arcs. In a way, Circe is less like a novel and more like a collection of short stories. If you’re a fan of Feminism and Greek mythology, you’ll definitely have an enjoyable reading experience.

When I come to think of it, I probably didn’t love this book simply because it was a far cry from the YA books that I usually devour. Out of the 10 books that I was currently reading, Circe was the only adult book. Hence, reading it felt like going out of my comfort zone; I wasn’t that excited to pick it up.

Objectively speaking, I honestly had a problem with the pacing. It was quite dragging since Circe was stuck on an island for almost the entire novel. Also, some of the characters and events seemed irrelevant or just there for fan service. For example, I didn’t care about Jason and Medea and how they stole the Golden Fleece from Aeëtes. I guess I would have liked this book more if it had less than 400 pages.

To be fair, I did enjoy Circe’s character development. I had fun reading about how she discovered her magical abilities. I was impressed that Circe was able to antagonize Athena just by utilizing the power of various things found in nature. Furthermore, I liked that Circe’s best quality was her humanity. Compared to her divine peers, she was the most sensitive, compassionate, and forgiving.

Another thing I enjoyed was the romance. Circe had many love interests, but I particularly favored Daedalus, Odysseus, and Telemachus because each of them brought out Circe’s redeeming qualities. Even though Circe’s romantic relationships didn’t last for a long time (her lovers weren’t immortal like her), I appreciated that they were very evocative and meaningful.

Overall, I liked Circe enough to give it 3.75 stars. I most likely have an unpopular opinion, but that’s okay. After all, it can also be fun to be a part of the minority. I personally didn’t love this book. Still, in light of its empowering content, I won’t stop anyone from buying a copy.

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Book Review

Love Is Love

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful BoyThe Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A man who reads effeminate may well be consistently heterosexual, and another one might be gay. We can’t read sexuality off of gender. —Judith Butler

Have you ever been subjected to gender stereotypes? That’s probably a rhetorical question. Hahaha. I myself have experienced being criticized for not conforming to traditional or hegemonic masculinity. Even though there are many kinds of masculinity, most people prefer only one: the kind that includes athleticism, big muscles, and other “macho” qualities. The same can be said of traditional femininity, which is typically tantamount to outward beauty, gentleness, and silence. In college, I learned about a feminist named Judith Butler. According to her, gender is a social construct or performance. In other words, your gender (behavior) isn’t determined by your sex (genitals); males aren’t necessarily “masculine,” and females aren’t necessarily “feminine.” Following this logic, I can’t help but think that gender stereotypes are stupid.

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy is a novel that powerfully illustrates the latter truth. It’s the story of two teenagers who are bombarded by gender stereotypes. Because of their divergent looks and behavior, Zee’s and Art’s sexuality is always put into question. It eventually comes to a point where they themselves aren’t sure of their orientation. However, as Zee and Art become closer, they realize that gender is not as solid as people want it to be.

It was my first time to read a book by B.T. Gottfred, so I was pleasantly surprised by his humor and candor. He didn’t sugarcoat anything in this supposedly YA book. The emotions and conversations of the characters were raw, and the love scenes were pretty graphic. Hence, although this book features YA characters, its content is for a more mature audience. I personally did not enjoy the explicit scenes, but I commended the author for deviating from the norm, just like his characters. I plan to read more of his novels, so I guess I should prepare myself. xD

Zee and Art were unquestionably quirky and fascinating. I had never encountered such a weird yet perfect couple. Zee was turned on by Art’s effeminate looks and behavior, and vice versa. There were times when I was so confused because I didn’t know if they were straight, gay, or bisexual. Seriously, there were so many mixed signals, and it was impossible to label them using gender stereotypes. In the end, it occurred to me that that was probably the author’s intention. Zee and Art were in love with each other, so what was the point of labels?

In addition to gender discourse, this book had lots of family drama. Zee suddenly met her biological father after losing her mother to cancer, and Art’s parents separated after one of them became unemployed. I found their problems to be of equal magnitude, but I was particularly invested in Zee’s dilemma. She had a lot of hang-ups to address before she could start a relationship with her dad. That being said, I loved Art because he was selfless enough to set aside his issues and help Zee attain reconciliation.

Overall, I gave The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy 4.5 stars because it was very funny and insightful. Readers who are familiar with Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity will definitely enjoy it. Art and Zee powerfully illustrate the fluidity of masculinity and femininity, so this book is perfect for anyone who hates gender stereotypes.

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Book Review

Crows Are Not Better than Roses

Lost Crow Conspiracy (Blood Rose Rebellion #2)Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You think because I am a girl, I am weak. Because I speak for those who are given no voice here, my voice should matter less. You are wrong, on both counts. —Anna

Sequels are very unpredictable. You never know if they’re gonna hit the mark or miss it completely. I loved Blood Rose Rebellion when I read more than a year ago, so I was eager to dive into this book, believing that it would be even better. Unfortunately, most of my expectations weren’t met. To be optimistic about it, at least I enjoyed this book enough to give it more than 3 stars.

For the most part, Lost Crow Conspiracy was a very educational read. Just like the first book, it integrated much history into its fantastical plot. I rarely pick up historical fiction, so reading this book was an opportunity to widen my horizons. I enjoyed how the author retold the Austrian-Hungarian War and its global repercussions. She did it in a way that was unique, refreshing, and comprehensible. In other words, it was anything but info-dumpy. I was particularly fascinated by discriminated praetheria because their standpoint in European society was similar to that of the Jews during World War II. I wasn’t sure if this allusion was intentional. Nonetheless, I really appreciated it as someone fond of Christian history.

I also enjoyed Anna’s character development in this book. Anna continued to be underestimated because of her sex, but she didn’t hesitate to address the corruption in her society. Breaking the Binding definitely made her more mature because it pushed her to be a voice for the weak and oppressed. In a world ruled by men, she was one empowered female. Truth be told, the only thing I didn’t like about her was her tendency to lie to her loved ones; her refusal to tell anyone about Matyas’s “death” resulted in much undue stress. xD

As for Matyas, I was surprised that the author decided to keep him. I totally didn’t expect him to be resurrected. I had already become used to the idea of him being dead, so I didn’t care about his story arc. It didn’t help that his chapters were less interesting than Anna’s. In a way, his chapters felt like…fillers or padding. However, in light of his new powers as a shaman, it was clear that he still had much to contribute to the plot. I guess Anna would have had no allies if he hadn’t been there.

This book’s main weakness was its pacing. Oh my, the last 100 or so pages were difficult to get through because I almost fell asleep with boredom. It was weird because the climax was supposed to be the most exciting part of the novel. Anna had a price on her head, and her journey through various forests and villages was a drag. There was hardly any interesting confrontation since all she did was run and hide.

Overall, Lost Crow Conspiracy was intriguing and educational. I loved Anna’s character development and the book’s rich historical content. Still, some parts of the book were utterly boring. I gave the first book a higher rating, so I guess this one suffered from second book syndrome. Hopefully, the third installment will be better. 🙂

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Book Review

Best Friend, or Worst Enemy?

All That WasAll That Was by Karen Rivers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There is maybe a fungus that has woven me to Piper. Piper is the fungus, invading my roots. It’s more parasitic than that.

Last night, my brother asked me why I looked so serious while reading this book. I was tempted to laugh, but my contemplative mood prevented me from doing so. All That Was deals with a lot of heavy topics, so don’t mistake it for a typical contemporary novel. Out of the four books I’ve already read this year, it’s actually the most enlightening.

All That Was is the melancholic story of Piper and Sloane, two girls who have been best friends since childhood. Indoctrinated by the Feminist movement, they vow to abstain from boys and any kind of romantic attachment. Surprisingly, Piper snags herself a boyfriend named Philip (a.k.a. Soup), who happens to be Sloane’s long-time crush. When Piper mysteriously dies, Sloane and Soup are stricken with guilt. After all, the last thing Piper saw before her death was the two of them kissing.

I primarily enjoyed this book because it made me reflect upon the complexity and true meaning of friendship. Piper and Sloane were indeed best friends, but they certainly weren’t good for each other. In fact, their relationship was dysfunctional to the point that it bordered on codependency. Honestly, Piper was a terrible, terrible friend. I have three reasons for my opinion.

First, she wanted Sloane to feel ashamed of her purity. Piper practically forced Sloane to give away her virginity to a stranger, claiming that it was Feminist to take charge and objectify boys. Also, Piper believed that her friendship with Sloane would be strained if they didn’t have the same “hymen condition”. Sloane constantly expressed her misgivings, but Piper didn’t listen to her. To make things worse, when Sloane felt like she was raped, Piper said, “You didn’t say no.” In other words, Piper was a fan of rape culture (i.e. blaming the victim).

Second, Piper made a move on Soup even though she knew that Sloane liked him first. With that in mind, the love triangle in this book was stressful because it was born out of betrayal. If my best friend and I happened to like the same girl, I definitely wouldn’t callously court her at the expense of my best friend’s feelings.

Third, Piper was talented at discouraging Sloane. I highlighted the passages where Piper “teasingly” called Sloane boring and criticized her passion for filmmaking. I really couldn’t imagine what possessed Piper to make her so insensitive and mean to her own best friend. It was a wonder that Sloane put up with her for so long.

Hence, I didn’t feel so bad that Piper was dead. I was so annoyed with her that “Good riddance!” popped up in my head every now and then. Piper and Sloane’s friendship wasn’t healthy, especially for Sloane. It sucked that she was willing to sacrifice her happiness in order to avoid losing Piper’s favor. Ugh. I would never want to have a friend whose purpose in life was to make me miserable.

Although I obviously hated Piper, I was glad that she encouraged me to evaluate my own relationships with people. Is there any way you can be sure that all of your friendships are genuine? If any of them is tainted by emotional abuse, it’s probably better to say good-bye. Humans are indeed made for relationships, but we must always remember to choose our friends wisely.

I also enjoyed this book because of its Feminist discourse. Before I read it, I didn’t give much thought to rape culture (I actually had to Google its definition). It’s absurd how rape victims nowadays are sometimes said to be “asking for it”. Those who want to absolve lustful men of guilt are despicable. All That Was made me realize that the world would be a better place if people stopped justifying or trivializing rape.

My sole complaint was the writing style, which was characterized by an abundance of run-on sentences. As someone who works in the ESL industry, it was difficult for me to ignore such a…sin. Hahaha. Since many sentences (independent clauses) were connected by “and,” the clarity of the writing was often compromised. I knew that the writing style was meant to reflect the freedom of human thought, but there were times that my brain couldn’t keep up with the continuous flow of ideas within a single paragraph.

Nevertheless, I genuinely liked All That Was. I highly recommend it because of its well-developed characters and very insightful content. People who aren’t Grammar Nazis will surely enjoy it more than I did. 😀

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Author Interview

Q & A with Amanda Hocking

Hi, everyone! As a participant in a blog tour for Between the Blade and the Heart, I was given the opportunity to have a written interview with Amanda Hocking, one of the most popular authors of YA literature. BTBATH was the last book I read in 2017, and you can find my review here. Hopefully, this Q & A will encourage you to check out BTBATH, which comes out today. 😀

(Note: The questions with a red asterisk were submitted by my fellow blog tour participants.)

Cover Between the Blade and the Heart


  1. What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the Heart

“I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many mythologies.”

  1. What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book? 

“That love is a strength, not a weakness.”

  1. If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters, who would you choose and what would you do together? 

“Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch bad movies.”

  1. Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were male?

“Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and daughters, and friendships between young women.”

  1. What is your definition of true love in YA literature? 

“There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical, but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is based on mutual respect and selflessness.”

  1. *What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start writing?

“My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way to get better at writing is by doing it.”

  1. *What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?

“I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world, particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.”

  1. *How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know in real life?

“It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself. With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin, Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the ones we use now.”

  1. *Which mythological character is the most like you?

“Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined, and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.”

  1. *You’ve said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your writing. How do these things intersect for you?

“In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar, they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.”

  1. *Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or something else?

“All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to when writing.”

  1. *Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?

“It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above, and the other below.”

 


 

About the author:

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Visit Amanda’s website

 

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Book Review

Between Valkyrie Profile and City of Bones

Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie, #1)Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I reviewed this book as a participant in a blog tour hosted by the publisher. Thank you, Macmillan (Wednesday Books), for sending me an e-galley and a finished copy.

Did I choose to be a Valkyrie, or did it choose me? —Malin

Being a fan of Valkyrie Profile, I was very excited to delve into Between the Blade and the Heart, Amanda Hocking’s new novel about a teenage girl tasked by Odin to gather the souls (kill) of chosen individuals. After reading the first few chapters, I felt like I was devouring a revamped version of City of Bones. The setting was dark and urban, filled with creatures that were divine, diabolic, and something in between. Intrigued by the book’s great premise and familiar world, I was able to fly through each short chapter.

Essentially, this book had a strong beginning but lackluster ending. As a result, I had a hard time sorting through my conflicted feelings. Thankfully, this book had strengths that prevented me from giving it a lower rating. For example, most of the characters were diverse; there were many people of color. Moreover, there was an emphasis on female empowerment; it was impossible for males to be Valkyries. Gender equality obviously wasn’t shown, but it was nice that the female characters deviated from stereotypical weakness. Finally, the author’s application of Norse mythology was concise and excellent. I particularly loved learning about the history of Valkyries and the gods that governed mortals and immortals.

Romance was the thing that nearly ruined my overall enjoyment. The love triangle was unique since it involved a straight dude, a bisexual girl, and a lesbian. After all, queer love triangles are rarely seen in YA. However, I really disliked how Malin always compared Asher and Quinn. Her comparisons made Quinn (who was lesbian) seem inferior to Asher (who was straight). In spite of that, Malin couldn’t make up her mind. She claimed that there were more important issues to deal with than her complicated love life. I understood the urgency of her world’s destruction, but I couldn’t help but wince at her insensitivity. Asher was my favorite character, and I was annoyed that Malin was inadvertently toying with his feelings.

In the end, I decided to give Between the Blade and the Heart 3.5 stars because for the most part, it was fast-paced and entertaining. Its premise made it one of the most unique books in my library. Regardless of its flaws, I look forward to reading more books by Amanda Hocking. ^^

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