Reel Awesome!

New or old, I'll let you know if it's worth watching.

I can read!

Real books to ebook to fan fiction, if it's worth reading I'll let you know.

What's worth watching?

Whether it's on your tv or streaming online, I'll share my top picks with you.

That's my jam!

The music that moves me and is worth a listen.

General Geekery

Comic books, action figures, conventions and other geeky fun.

Technical Flails!

Apps, hardware and gadgets galore.

I've Got a Something to Say!

I'm a wordy nerd with a lot to say.

Get the Goods!

I'll give you all the details on various services and various products.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 3: Schedules & Stuff

What the Hell Should I do? 

The Panel Schedules: 

The countdown has begun, and the official San Diego Comic-Con programming schedule will be online soon. It usually goes up about two weeks before SDCC. They are posted one day at a time (Wednesday and Thursday panels are announced two Thursdays prior to the start of Comic Con, Friday is announced two Fridays prior, etc.).

You’ll find the official program on the San Diego Comic-Con site. [link] There’s an app you can use to plan out your schedule on their website. You can even upload it to your smartphone and Google calendar. 

There is a preliminary list of panels on the Unofficial San Diego Comic Con Blog. [link

The schedule is big. I mean HUGE. There are too many panels for one person to see them all. The options are limitless and daunting. Which can make trying to figure out your own personal schedule a little intimidating. It’s important to have a plan of attack or you’re going to get so overwhelmed you’ll never leave your hotel room.

I use a three level system to prioritize my schedule. Top level is my must see (I’m willing to camp out or sit in line for hours for this panel). Mid-level is a panel I’d like to see. Min-level is a panel I’d enjoy seeing, but I’m not going to cry if I miss it. Using this system I construct three panel schedules for each day. I make them in a document that I keep on my smart phone (thanks to Google docs). This allows me the flexibility to know my options while on the move in and around the convention center.

Other Stuff

To this daily list I add offsite events, signings and other interesting things I can see or do beside panels. Not to mention any items I’d like to check out or buy from the Exhibit hall booths. Comic Con is far more than the panels going inside the convention center. Downtown San Diego goes geeky for the whole weekend and there are many FREE events and activities to be enjoyed. 

The Exhibit Hall
You can find a map of the Exhibit Hall map and list of all the exhibitors on the main SDCC site. [link

It’s huge and equally daunting as the panel schedule. I don’t recommend trying to tackle it all in one day. In fact, it’s better if you walk the floor a few times in small bursts to get a feel for things you want to see or buy and then come back later.

Tip: Check out the Exhibit hall when popular panels are going on. Everyone will be in line or in Hall H/Ballroom 20, leaving the floor a little less crowded.

SDCC Exclusives

These are special collectables/arts/items being offered exclusively at comic con either for sale or for free. No matter what you like there is likely to be at least one or more items you might want. The Unofficial SDCC blog tracks all the SDCC exclusives. [link]

While the temptation to BUY ALL THE THINGS is ever present I caution you to do your research and look carefully at the fine print. A lot of these “exclusives” will be available online or in stores later in the year. So unless you have a lot of money and are a “have to have it now” kind of collector, most of these items can wait. Though it doesn’t hurt to spoil yourself a little. I always buy myself one collectable item I just have to have. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, just special for you. 

There is also lots of free swag to be had at many of the booths. Again you can find info on them at the Unofficial SDCC blog and the official SDCC site, but also keep your eyes and ears open when you’re on the floor. If there’s a line join it and ask the people in it what it is for. A lot of the time it’s for something free. 

Important note: Only big name booths have free stuff. Many of the other smaller vendors are there to sell stuff. So don’t ask every booth what’s for free. Go to the big names you know (Marvel, Random House, HBO, Lionsgate, etc) and grab all the free swag. Don’t forget to browse the smaller vendors booths and spend your money there too.

Swag Etiquette
Remember Wheaton’s Law “Don’t Be A Dick!” Be polite. Remember the people at the booths are human beings too. They’re working a job with long hours and very few breaks. Say Thank You no matter what free stuff you get. Don’t demand more or throw a fit if they run out. It’s not their fault. Most booths have a set schedule and rules around how and when they hand out swag. They could get in trouble for not following those rules. So don’t ask them to do it.

Special Note: There are often models in costume at big name booths. Many people call them “booth babes.” I hate that name, I prefer to call them models or just ask their name. They are their to draw people to the booth and will happily pose for pictures when asked. Remember many of them are fans themselves, so don’t try to check their geek credentials. Most are not in charge of the booth or involved in giveaways. So don’t harass them for free stuff. 

Book Signings and Autographs

There are books signings and celebrities autograph signing scheduled through out the convention. For details you can check the SDCC site. [link] They will post a schedule close the start of the con. The Unofficial SDCC blogs has a handy guide too. [link

Book Signings & ARCs
For book signings go to the publishers booths and ask about their schedule. Most will either have a paper copy to hand you or will share it with you happily. Some even have it posted on their websites. The publisher booths always have free stuff: bookmarks, pins/badges, temporary tattoos and of course free books. 

Book Booth Etiquette 
Many of the booths have books on display, but DO NOT just grab them. Always ask about what ARCs or free books are available. Be nice and thank them for whatever you get. Remember the people minding the booth are not only in the business, but they love books too. I like to talk with them and ask for recommendations. I get the BEST book recs from people working the publishers booths.

There are celebrity signings going on all weekend too. Some are at booths and some are in special areas. They all have specifically scheduled time and rules. 

Please note: Some of the autograph signings cost money. The price is usually posted and is not negotiable.

Autograph Etiquette
If you’re involved in one be prepared to wait awhile for a few minutes or seconds with the celebrity. There are a lot of people who want that same “moment” you’re hoping for, and they’ve all been standing in line for hours too. When you get your chance with the celebrity keep your words brief, take your picture quickly and move on.

Tip: While you wait in line coordinate with your friends to make a game plan. Decide on who will hold phones/cameras for the pictures and who will hold your stuff while you pose. If you’re by yourself make friends with other people in line and help each other out. Also use the time to think of what you’ll say to keep it brief and impactful. Also don’t forget to breath.

If you’re not involved in the signing don’t loiter around. At big signings big crowds can become a problem, they slow down foot traffic and it’s a considered a fire hazard. Security will usually let you know to move on, but don’t be that person who has to get yelled at. If it’s a big name celebrity at a big name booth (Tom Hiddleston at the Marvel booth) snap a quick picture and move on. 
However, if it’s a lesser known celebrity at a small vendor’s booth signing autographs for money DO NOT take pictures. Most often someone will tell you about this, but sometimes they’re busy running the booth. Part of the draw of paying for a celebrity’s autograph is to also get your picture with them. Taking their picture “for free” is considered rude and taking away from money they could be making.

You’ll find the official program on the San Diego Comic-Con site. [link] There’s an app you can use to plan out your schedule on their website. You can even upload it to your smartphone and Google calendar. 

There is a preliminary list of panels on the Unofficial San Diego Comic Con Blog. [link

The schedule is big. I mean HUGE. There are too many panels for one person to see them all. The options are limitless and daunting. Which can make trying to figure out your own personal schedule a little intimidating. It’s important to have a plan of attack or you’re going to get so overwhelmed you’ll never leave your hotel room.

I use a three level system to prioritize my schedule. Top level is my must see (I’m willing to camp out or sit in line for hours for this panel). Mid-level is a panel I’d like to see. Min-level is a panel I’d enjoy seeing, but I’m not going to cry if I miss it. Using this system I construct three panel schedules for each day. I make them in a document that I keep on my smart phone (thanks to Google docs). This allows me the flexibility to know my options while on the move in and around the convention center.

Offsite Events

There are a ton of offsite events going on all weekend long. There are even events that happen before Comic Con officially starts. So even if you don’t want to wait in lines all day, and all night, for the big must-see panel, you can still find stuff to do. 

James H. Hay hosts a Facebook page for SDCC Offsite facebook events. There are posts for everything from offsite book signings to night clubs events where Elijah Wood is DJing. That’s right, Frodo Freakin’ Baggins is spinning records at Comic Con

The Unofficial SDCC Blog also has a very useful Offsite Calendar. [link]

NerdHQ is one of the biggest offsite events. Nerd HQ is set up in Petco Park and has video games, food and alcoholic beverages (you have to pay for), but they also host special panels with tons of celebrities. These panels are announce on the day they happen, usually via the NerdHQ site and Twitter account. You buy tickets on the site and they go fast, so watch them like a hawk.

The easiest way to find offsite events is to just walk around. There is always something going on. This year there’s a Godzilla statue setup outside the convention center (behind Hall H) available for fans to get their picture with the classic monster. On Thursday night MTV is hosting a huge, FREE, party in Petco Park featuring live music, food and celebrity appearances. In fact, there is always cool stuff happening in the Petco Park parking lot. Take a break from the crowds at the convention center, get some fresh air and sunshine, and see what free swag and fun activities you can find in downtown San Diego, most don’t even require you to have a Comic Con badge. 

Don’t Forget to Take a Break 

Get out of the convention center from time to time. Check out the restaurants in Gaslamp district. Remember you’re here to have fun. 

Sit down and have a margarita. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 2: The Con Bag

Don't leave the hotel without it!

The Con Bag

Once you leave your hotel room your Con Bag is your lifeline while in the convention center or walking around downtown. Nothing sucks worse then getting in line for the panel you're dying to see only to discover your hungry, thirsty, or getting sunburnt. 

As for the bag itself, do not skimp. Get a sturdy bag that will hold up under the weight you'll put in it and being lugged around for 4 days. Shoulder/Messenger bags look cool, but they can strain your shoulders and hit your legs or hips when you walk. So I recommend a quality backpack with lots of room and compartments for all of your stuff. They also often have specific pockets for water bottles and cellphones. Plus it’s fun to decorate it with all the free pins/buttons/badges that get handed out on the floor of the Exhibit Hall.

The convention gives you a cool collector bag for free when you pick up your badge, but I don't suggest using it. Those bags are huge, unwieldy and often more valuable intact as a collectors item. So just fold it up and store it in your actual Con Bag. 

Essentials Supplies

Now there are obvious things you're going to bring like your cellphone and wallet, but I'm going to suggest other items to keep in your Con Bag to help you through the day. It looks like a lot of stuff, but you'll need it and you can always get things in travel size to cut down on weight. 

Refillable Water Bottle. Staying hydrated is a priority. You can fill it in your hotel room before you leave, and there are lots of drinking fountains around the convention center for refilling. This bottle allows you to take a drink no matter where you are. 

Sunglasses. If this isn't an option because you wear glasses bring a hat.  It’s summer in California. Save your eyes.

Sun screen. Put a coat of sunscreen on before you leave your hotel room, but keep a small bottle with you to reapply it at least every two hours if not more frequently (per Again, it is summer time. You’re going to be outside a lot. Even if it’s overcast you will get sun burnt if you don’t protect your skin. Nothing ruins comic con like being laid up in your room with a horrific sun burn. Special note: If you have tattoos it is especially important to be diligent with applying sunscreen regularly as sun exposure can fade your ink.

Camera. This is optional if you have a smartphone with a built in camera. I prefer to take quick pictures with my phone, because it's easy to pull out or I already have it out. But if you want to take high quality pictures a camera might be the better way to go. If you're going to use it regularly keep it close at hand or on a strap around your neck. 

Phone Charger. Do NOT let your phone die. It is your lifeline to stay in touch with friends and keep up-to-date on what's happening at the con. Keep it charged. 

Portable Charger. Even with your charger cord outlets at the con can be hard to find and people are often already using them. That's why portable chargers are a great back up plan. You charge them up overnight in your hotel room and then use them to recharge your phone, camera, ipod, etc. You can find them online or at your local electronics store. They usually cost between $20-$30. I have a a portable charger that doubles as a case for my iPhone and I also carry a another portable charger with me.  

Batteries. Don't for get to pack these for any electronics that take old fashioned batteries. 

Reading material. There’s a lot of waiting at Comic Con, in line, waiting for panels to start, etc. So bring something to read. You can read the guide book the con gives you, but that may get boring after awhile. So why not catch up on your summer reading list while you wait.  I suggest a small book or an ereader. You don’t want to run down the battery life of your phone reading on it.

Extra bag. Between all the free stuff or things you buy you bag can get heavy. There are a lot of SDCC exclusive that are just plain huge. Bringing an extra bag gives your the ability to move all the stuff you don't need right away into out of your Con bag. Then you can leave this extra stuff Bag check costs between $2-3 dollars, there are few locations in the convention center (bag check can fill up by the afternoon so try to plan your purchases accordingly). 

Con food is overpriced and not that good. Starbucks is decent, but the lines are hellaciously long. So it’s best to bring snacks with you. Pack stuff that travels well and won’t get squished in your bag. Be sure to switch up your snacks each day so you don’t get burnt out on eating the same thing.
  • Trail mix/Snack mix
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars/Power bars
  • Crackers
  • Jerky

Geek Supplies

Ziplock bags. I usually have one of each size (sandwich, quart and gallon). I use them to collect all the free swag of various sizes (fliers, pins, patches, postcards, etc) and keep them organized in my bag. I also pack a few extra gallon size bags for garbage in case I’m in line far away from a garbage can. Littering isn’t cool. 

Plastic pouch/Poly Envelope. These are great for small prints, comic books or autograph pictures. It keeps them dry and unbent. If you want to reenforce them you can cut out the side of a cereal box and slip it inside to make it nice and stiff. 

Poster tube. They give away free posters all over the Exhibit Hall as well as on the streets of downtown san diego. A poster tube allows you to store them safety for later. I slip mine into my backpack. It sticks out the top, but usually doesn’t get in my way. The Fox booth gives away free poster tubes ever year, they come with shoulder straps. I usually bring last years tube with me and grab a new one while I’m there. They make great gifts. If you're with a group only one person needs to bring a tube and the whole group can use it. Then you sort through the booty later on at the hotel room.

Markers (sharpies of various colors). These are great for autographs and they work on all kinds of material (t-shirts, posters, books, etc), but be sure to have metallics for items that are dark colors. Also keep an eye out some vendors give these away for free. I got two that came on lanyards last year from the Showtime booth.

Pen. Also good for autographs, and you never know when you’re going to need to write something down. 

Small note pad. You never know when you need paper to write on. 

Sketch Book. A lot of artist prefer to do sketches in them, and it works for autographs too. Plus you can decorate the cover with all the free stickers you get from the Exhibit Hall.

First Aid

You can get a small travel kit for basics, but I would add some more items to it. Here’s the list of basic things I keep in my first aid/survival kit.
  • Bandaids
  • Painkillers (Advil, Tylenol, etc). 
  • Allergy meds (if you need it)
  • Antacids
  • Cough drops. You don’t want to get a coughing fit during a panel. 
  • Safety pins.
  • Moleskin. This is fantastic for preventing blisters. You can put it on your feet in rubbing spots (back of your heel, top of your toes) before you head out for the day, but also keep some with you in case you get one while your out walking around.

General Supplies

Tissues. Boogers happen. It's best to be prepared for them. Tissues are good for all kinds of things. 

Wet Wipes (baby wipes). You can clean stains off your clothes. Clean your face and body. They're just generally awesome things to have. 

Hand Sanitizer. Cons are germ heavens. Stay healthy and use it generously. 

Lotion. You’d be surprised by how dry your hands and face can get from all the recalculated air in the convention center. 

Chapstick. Chapped lips suck. 

Breath mints/gum. Hours of eating, drinking and sitting around your breath gets rank. Do everyone a favor and use them. And maybe politely offer them to others. 

Deodorant. Sweating happens and body oder is a result. Be considerate and freshen up regularly. You could also bring a small bottle of Baby powder to freshen up. 

Change of clothes. Remember when I said to bring extra socks and underwear? Yeah, this is where they come in handy. Changing into a fresh pair of underwear and socks (maybe even a t-shirt too), along with a coat of deodorant, can change your whole outlook like life. You can use one of those spare ziplock bags for your soiled/stinky clothes. 

Contact solution. Contact case and Glasses. If you wear contacts they can become dry or irritated after a fun day of wearing them. Sometimes they just need some rewetting drops, but give yourself the option to just take them out.

Hair clips/hair ties. If you have enough hair that it can get in your face or make you sweat, consider bringing something to put it up.

Comb/Hairbrush. You can get small travel size versions of these. It helps with putting your hair up or just help you fix a bad hair day. 

These are just some of the basics things I like to pack. You can always add more, or leave off stuff I take. Feel free to comment with your recommendations too. I'd love to know what essential items other people pack in their Con bags. 

In the next post I'll talk about the panel schedule, offsite events and deciding what you want to do. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 1: What I Should Pack?

So you think you're ready for Comic Con? 

Or are you new to SDCC, or conventions in general, and have no clue where to start? No worries. Even the most seasoned fan was once a shell-shocked newcomer. I have only been attending for a handful of years, and I am always learning new things. It is my hope that I will save other fans heartache and headaches by sharing some of these tips and tricks. 


Part 1: What the Hell Should I Pack? 

Aside from the obvious necessities like clothes and toiletries there are other things you should consider throwing in your suitcase. 

Dress for the weather. On average the temperature in San Diego can be between 60-80 degrees (fahrenheit). So keep this in mind when packing. Shorts, short sleeve t-shirts, tank tops and dresses are ideal. Light breathable material is best. Though I'd recommend wearing poly/cotton blends, rather than 100% cotton t-shirts to avoid them sticking to you like a second skin when you sweat. 

Extra Clothes. I always pack one outfit per day, and then throw in extra shirts and one addition pair of pants/shorts to give myself the option to change mid day. You never know when you're going to be standing in line in the hot sun for hours, and end up soaked in sweat. Or you might accidentally spill food or a drink all over yourself. It's nice to have a back up outfit and not have to wash your clothes in the hotel sink. Also pack extra socks and underwear. Trust me, it’s better that you pack them and end up not needing them than the other way around.

Pajamas. Sounds like a given, but some people don’t think about it. You’re not going to want to sleep in the clothes you sweat in all day, and you might not feel comfortable sleeping nude in a strange hotel room bed, especially if you're sharing a room for 20 other people you met on the internet.

Bring a Jacket. While the day time weather is hot, once the sun goes down it gets very cold. Especially right next to the water, where most people camp out in line for the really popular panels. So bring a jacket. 

Comfortable shoes are your best friend. Good walking shoes are worth their weight in gold. I even buy special inserts for my shoes to ensure to maximum support and breathability. Even if you plan to cosplay always leave yourself the option to change into comfortable shoes if your feet start to hurt.

Special Note: If you plan to camp out bring a sleeping bag or blankets, and warm clothes. It will be worth the extra baggage fees if you’re flying. Though many sleeping bags are designed to be small and you could carry them on with you. 

Power strip. This is especially helpful if you have a bunch of people, with a various electronics, all trying to charge their stuff at the same time. If you don't want to bring one of your monster power strips from home there are small, travel sized ones you can buy online or at your local electronics store. 

Plastic cups. Whether it’s for water or alcohol, or using them as makeshift bowls these are invaluable. You can buy a big pack of the classic red, "keg" cups from your local grocery store or Target for super cheat. When you pack stuff some rolled up socks inside them so they keep their shape.

Cooler/insulated bag. You can fill these with ice from the ice machine in your hotel and use them to keep all kinds of food and beverages cold. I recommend keeping the bag in the bathtub to avoid getting water on the floor. Refill it with ice before you leave the room and as soon as you get back to ensure everything stays cold. 

This works best for beverages (beer, soda, bottles of water), but it can keep fruit and containers of perishable foods cool too. Just make sure the containers at water tight and remember this can create condensation inside the food container. So put food in there that will be ruined by getting wet. I would steer clear of foods that could get you sick if the ice melts and they get warm, like lunch meat, yogurt, milk, etc. But it works great for hummus, bags of baby carrots, grapes, and celery. You can also get cooler bags in various sizes, even huge ones the size a beach/tote bag.

Bag/Hamper. This is just something to put your dirty clothes in through out the weekend. You can even use one of the free bags you get at the Con or bring a plastic grocery bag with you. It's just nice to have a place to put your dirty clothes that isn't the floor, especially if you're sharing your room with a lot of people, who probably don't want your stinky socks in their face while they sleep. 

Airborne or EmergenC. This is a great hangover remedy, but also a great way to keep your immune system boosted while rubbing elbows with the unwashed masses of humanity both in and outside the convention center. I take one in the morning and one before bed. 

Painkillers (Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc). These are a must have. You never know what kind of ouchies you're going to have. Headaches, hangovers, sore back and shoulders. It's best to be prepared for everything. 

Antacid. With all the various things you eat and the general stress of the Con it’s inevitable that you or someone you know is going to need them. 

Bottled of water. You never know if you can trust the hotel water and with standing in line and walking in the sun dehydration is a BIG issue. There are near by grocery stores where you can buy some if you're flying in. If you're driving or have a friend who is, ask them to bring some with them. 

Fruit. Bananas, apples, pears, and even grapes make a great breakfast or snack (though I'd caution against keeping them in your bag all day when it's hot). They keep your energy up and they're good for you. 

Nail clippers. Broken nails happen. It’s best to have the right tool to deal with them before they split or snag. Plus these can make great make-shift scissors. 

Baby/Talcum powder. It helps to prevent and elevate chaffing. I put it on my thighs (especially if I’m wearing shorts all day) and inside my bra. Any where you sweat and skin rubs against skin, baby powder it. 

Ear Plugs. Bring them, whether you think you'll need them or not. When it’s 3 in the morning and people are drunkenly howling at the moon outside your hotel room, you’ll thank me. You can buy these online or at most pharmacies/chemists. 

Flushable Wipes. I'm not going to explain why you need these, just bring them. 

That's a good start to packing all the things you'll need to have a comfortable and fun time at Comic Con, but that's not all of it. 

In the next post I'll talk about your Con Bag, and all the things you'll need to carry with you while you walk the Con, wait in line and roam around downtown San Diego. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Frenemy of the People by Nora Olsen: Fabulously Flawed Teenage Girls!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Trigger Warning: This book uses the r-word (ableist slur for people with intellectual disabilities and/or Down syndrome). Details on its use are in the review. 

In many ways, Frenemy of the People reminds me a lot of various books and movies I loved as a kid with the notable difference of the leads in this love story are a lesbian and bisexual girl. As a preteen and teen, I longed for a story featuring to girls in love. I wanted something, books or movies, to mirror the kinds of relationships I was having at the time. This book does that so realistically that at times I was laughing with second hand embarrassment. 

“I’m not sure what transgender is yet, but I found a website that’s going to explain it to me.”

The story is told in 1st person, the narrative switches between Clarissa and Lexie’s POV. This not only provides insight into the characters, but also into how they misunderstand and misjudge each other. Resulting in some of the most authentic and rarely seen teen voices I’ve ever read. 

Clarissa and Lexie are spoiled, entitled, and often not likable at times. They think they know it all, jump to conclusion and make a lot of mistakes, just as we all do when we’re young, and even as adults. While they’re slips ups and stumbles are cringe worthy they are also realistic and true to the kind of teens we rarely see in media. They aren’t quirky, fast talking over-educated avatars for adult nostalgia. They put their are misinformed, inexperienced, and often put their foot in their mouths. These flaws are not trivial or token, but rather are tied to who they are and how they were raised. 

“The word man doesn’t mean human,” I said. “We already have the word human, which means human. This is totally sexist.”

Lexie is self righteous, rude, insensitive and disaffected. She embodies the militant, vegan, punk lesbian cliche, complete with straight edge tattoo and blue hair. If that was all we knew of Lexie that’s all she would be, a stereotype. Luckily, we get to know Lexie, and her home life, and see there is real pain and reasons for what she does. Her parents’ emotional neglect plays a huge part in why Lexie acts out and clings to stark views of right and wrong. The story provides insight both through Lexie’s narrative, and Clarissa’s POV into a sensitive and deeply wounded girl, who wants desperately to be seen as good and worthy of love.

I was disheveled, smelly, and full of hate. They should fear me. 

Clarissa could also be dismissed as a cliche, though a whole different one. She is the spoiled popular girl, complete with a gaggle of friends and trophies for horseback riding. Add onto this her sudden realization, at the beginning of the story, that she is bisexual and Clarissa could be the poster child for the “faux bi girl” stereotype. However, like Lexie, Clarissa proves to be complex, intelligent and surprisingly mature. Part of this maturity stems from growing up with a sister with Down syndrome, but some of it also comes form having flighty, fiscally somewhat parents. Clarissa is compassionate and determined, strengths that are all to often discouraged in girls her age, but here they give her the foundation she needs to weather some sizable adversity that has nothing to do with her sexual orientation. 

“Brains, beauty and pizza.”

Let me take a break to talk about my favorite character, Desi. She is Clarissa’s older sister, and she has Down syndrome. A character like Desi could easily be a token or plot device, Desi is neither. She is a teenage girl with a boyfriend and the same dreams many teenage girls have. Desi is blunt and unapologetic, and doesn’t let her disability or people's ignorance about it stop her from getting whatever she wants. She is very aware of how people treat her differently, and even uses it to her advantage. While I wish there were a few more disabled characters with as much of a presence in the story as she has, she does have several scenes with characters other than her sister and parents where she’s treated as an equal. One of my favorites moments in the book is a scene where she’s playing a game with Lexie and another character, Slobberin’ Rob, where she shows she’s a clever little smartass. Desi is everything I LOVE to see in a female character, and wish I saw more in fiction, it’s even more awesome that she is all this and has Down Syndrome.

Lexie and Clarissa are also refreshing female characters in how they’re allowed to not be perfect, or idealized versions of what adults wish teens were like. They both make mistakes and say the wrong things at the worst possible moments, much like we all do. Despite their imperfections and missteps they grow and learn from each other and their experiences. 

A great demonstration of one of these mistakes is linked to the Trigger Warning. Early on in the story, Lexie uses the r-word in reference to Desi, in a comment about how the concept of a Homecoming queen is a joke. Clarissa immediately calls out Lexie and explains that the word is a slur.

It is a important moment for both girls, and their relationship. Lexie is forced to deal with the consequences of what she says, and that she is not as socially conscious and knowledgable as she believed. She also sees Clarissa in a new light, and is forced to reevaluate her view of a girl she’d written off as shallow and ignorant. 

Other stories would either not even use this word, or would give this huge misstep to a villainous character. By giving it to Lexie it not only allows her to be flawed, but to also demonstrate her capacity to learn, while providing a similar opportunity to unknowable readers. It shows the error doesn’t make her a bad person. In fact, her ability to apologize and grow shows her heart is in the right place. Clarissa has similar moments of growing awareness. Both girls go through significant character growth that is grounded in realistic situations. Part of becoming an adult is realizing their you’re not always right, and neither are your parents. 

Speaking of parents, there is a refreshing abundance of parental figures present and deeply involved in the story. While the girls parents are source of stress and emotional pain, they also are sources of love and support. I loved how the parents felt like real, deeply flawed, people too. They had lives outside of the girls, and very realistic dialogue.

All these layers, and thoughtfully constructed characters come together to weave a profoundly enjoyable and surprising emotional read for me. I was transported back to my own youth, and reflected on my own mistakes and turbulent love life with a forgiving eye. That part strikes me the most. 

Women are rarely allowed to forgive themselves for mistakes, even when they are understandable and a natural part of growing up. We are taught, from a very young age, to judge ourselves and other women harshly. I often seen this judgement extend to fiction depiction of women. Where fictional teenage girls are held to unrealistically high standard. They are judged to be shallow, cliche and unimportant simply for not being an idealize version of what adults think teens should be. That is not only unfair, it’s damaging.

Real teen readers should be able to see a wide range of teenagers and teenage experiences. Fantasy and wish fulfillment are great, but not all teen character have to embody ideals that are often unachievable for real teens. We should have a diverse rage of experiences and characters for readers of all ages and all sexual orientations to identify with, especially teenage girls who often are only give a singular, homogenous image of themselves in media.

Showing teens that they can make mistakes, not be perfect, and of course not be straight and still be good people, who find love is profoundly important to the health and well being of LGBTQ teens. Not liking or relating to Clarissa or Lexie shouldn’t be a value judgment on them, just as it shouldn’t be on any young girl. They are not poster girls for lesbian and bisexual teens, they're just two teenage girls in love.

Frenemy of the People is an honest, earnest view of the messy, imperfection of teenage life and young love. It shows how girls are capable, intellect and worthy of love, but most of all it shows how the experience of young love is a universally uplifting, hilarious and even cringe worth at times. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

DearAuthor, YouTube Sexual Abuse and Rape Culture

Dear Author, a popular book blog, posted an article titled Use and Abuse of Girls that talks about YouTube, and the growing popularity of VidCon, as well as Youtube Sexual Abuse scandal. It draws some interesting parallels to Women’s fiction and talks about the impact on young girls.

Personally, I’ve been wanting to see an article like this for awhile, especially considering how John Green, the "savior of YA," is closely tied to several of the accused sexual abusers. 

However, what could have been a thoughtful and informative post is ruined by the use of a quote from Alex Day, one of the admitted abusers, who points out “the inherent problems in these face-to-face events” like VidCon. I will not copy his quote here, he doesn’t deserve the attention and is last person to be treated as a trusted opinion on this subject.

Why not ask a rapist why rape happens? He'll of course tell you it's the fault of women, tight clothing and a million other things, none of which are the true answer. Plus doing so lends credibility to his opinions, while ignoring how that is a slap in the face to his victims. 

An abuser can only show us how they are able to abuse and not take responsibility for it. Which Day demonstrates succinctly by placing fans as the ones at fault for making themselves vulnerable to abuse by being fans in the first place. In other words, he blames the victims. 

Yes, these events and the inherent power imbalance between fans and celebrities creates an environment where abuse can occur, but it is the active choice of an abuser to use their power and influence as a celebrity to manipulate and abuse their fans. Being a celebrity doesn't magically turn a good person into an abuser, but it can give a sexual predator easy access to their victims and shield them from taking responsibility for their actions. 

I tweeted @DearAuthor to point out this oversight, and I got a surprising and disappointing response.

"Quoting one of those who abused the system doesn't make him sympathetic."
Actually, it does when he is the only voice in the conversation. It gives his word, and by extension him, a platform to be viewed as a valued opinion on the subject and allows him to spread misinformation, further distorting our understanding of how and why abuse really happens.

The way that @DearAuthor phrases their response by saying he "abused the system" is very telling. It erase and ignores the fact that he in fact abused human beings. Real women who are being cut-out of a personally relevant conversation.

Why choose to quote an abuser at all?

Why not seek quotes from two women, Lindsey Williams aka PotterMoosh and Lex aka Lexcanroar, who are notable YouTubers in their own right and have spoken publicly about their abusive experiences with Day. 

The choice to quote an abuser verse his victims sends a very clear message about who has the more valued opinion.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: The Maxx by Sam Keith

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Warning: This story deals with rape. [For more details scroll to the end of the review.]

In 1994, a year after The Maxx was first published, I dropped out of high school and eventually ended up on the streets. It was cold, and smelly, sleeping in service elevators and doorways. I hustled for hand outs on street corners and much worse to get money and food, but even in all this darkness I had bits of light. I had friends, who watched my back, and huddled with me in those doorways. We shared warmth, laughter and what little food we had. And looking back now, I learned a lot about the positive sides of human nature, and my own strength and resilience.

I know what you’re thinking. “What’s the connection to a comic book?” Well, there’s a lot. Especailly when we’re talking about a comic book created by Sam Keith.

Years after I got off the streets and got my life back on track. I sat in my warm, cozy living room, and watched I watched the first episode of a new animated series called The Maxx. The sight of a damp, shadowy cardboard box, and the sound of Maxx’s grizzled voice transported me back to my own dark days. It was a visceral reaction, inspiring tears and a deep need to know more about these characters and their story. After I finished watching the episode I went out and bought the comic book, and my view of what comic books were or should be was forever changed for the better. 

As I sat down a few days ago to read it again, I felt those emotions take hold of me again. The connection I feel with this story goes beyond Maxx’s sad existence on the streets. It’s in his complicated friendship with Julie, the dark world of the story, and the secret at the center of it all. The art is lush and wild, it literally cannot be contained by the page. Likewise the story breaks the boundaries of the traditional narrative. The story is told out of order, from varying POVs which are intercut with seemingly no rhyme or reason, but that’s part of the genius of the storytelling. As a reader, you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not. Sometimes it seems like it’s all real, and there in lies an important key to the story. Which I will not spoil. I’ll just say that there is always a reason for everything in this story, even the Outback and the Isz.

The Maxx is unlike anything that came before it, and while there were pretenders to the throne after it’s release, no one has come close to capturing the magic and emotional depths of this series. It is defies genre boundaries, straddling fantasy, superhero adventure story and magical realism. At its hear, The Maxx about flawed people trying to find their place and meaning in a dark, ugly reality that looks a lot like our own. But in this world heroes don’t always look the way you think, and neither do villains. 

While Maxx is the title character, and the primary POV, it is Julie Winters story. She sits at the center of this story and this world. She is a powerful figure, even though she doesn’t wear a mask or costume. There’s a truth that the story revels both about the nature of heroism and the nature of recovery that will resonate deeply with all survivors of abuse. 

[Trigger Warning explained here] The narrative deals with rape both in scenes that hint at it, and explicit conversations about it. It is handled with respectful care. In fact, this is one of the most unique and affective portrayals of how traumatic sexual violence can be for victims and those who love them. But even more importantly it shows the power of compassion and forgiveness, especially when turned inward. 

It’s been over twenties years since the first issue of The Maxx appeared on comic store shelves. Yet this story hasn’t lost an ounce of it’s power or resonance. Whether you’re new to comic books or an old school fan, The Maxx should be on your “to be read” list. Even after all this time it is still in the top five of my personal all time favorite comic books list, and I’m willing to bet it would make your list if you gave it a try.

I recommend it to fans of The Crow, Saga, Sin City, V for Vendetta, and HBO’s True Crime. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Attention Whedonites! This book is for you.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

The book seems to be written in a very open manner, meaning it’s aimed at both newcomers and hardcore Whedon fans. I’m an old school fan, from back in the Buffy days (I was even a fan of the movie). I found new, surprising information in these essays. Many gave me fresh perspectives on shows I thought I knew inside and out, and even inspired me to start rewatch.

It’s not perfect, there are times when the essays meander and spend way too much words/time on justifying points, but the section on Buffy the Vampire Slayer alone is worth price of admission. I don’t always agree with everything said, but I appreciate how every single one of these essays made me think. This is a great tool for any academic seeking to understand the phenomena of Joss Whedon’s work and fan following. It is especially fascinating to read as writer, and critical reader. 

This is a must-have for all Whedonites. It will fit perfectly on your shelf next to your Spike action figure, and your model of Serenity. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Channing Tatum Will Play Gambit!

It is official! Channing Tatum will play Gambit in a X-Men spinoff movie. X-Men Producer Lauren Shuler Donner confirms [see video] that Tatum has the part, and explain her reasoning behind the casting.
"Well, you know he's a rogue, Channing. He's a rascal, just like Remy Lebeau. And he can handle the action. We all know that. And he has a really good heart..."
Variety goes into detail about how Tatum has been lobbying hard to play the part, and confirms it will be in a spinoff movie.  [source]

I personally have no stake in this game. Gambit was never a favorite of mine, and I like Channing as a comedic/action actor. I don't know if he's a fit for the character, but I've been on the fence for a lot of Fox's casting choices in the X-men franchise, and been happily proven wrong.

It wasn't too long ago, I was flipping tables when I first heard they'd cast a six foot tall, pretty boy actor from Australia to play Wolverine. Hugh Jackman proved me wrong and went on to propel the franchise to a box office monster. So, I'm interested to see how it plays out onscreen.

If you're curious about Channing's range and upcoming projects. 22 Jump Street, costarring Jonah Hill and Ice Cube, opens Jun 13th, and Jupiter Ascending, a sci fi Wachowski Siblings film costarring Mila Kunis and Sean Bean, opens July 25th.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Rat Queens RULE!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

I was rolling in nostalgia while reading Rat Queens. It reminds me of all the fun I used to have playing table top D&D campaigns with other women. It especially displays the diversity of female characters that can be found in “non-traditional” fantasy, aka boys club classics. While you don’t need to be a fan of D&D or fantasy to enjoy the humor and art, but it certain doesn’t hurt.

Rat Queens is an action packed, fun ride. It's brimming with sarcastic, raunchy humor and places women front and center. The story revolves around a group of female mercenaries of various species and cultural backgrounds. They’re not just adventuring companions, but they’re friends. Betty, Hannah, Dee and Violet are individual and distinct with their own subplots and hopefully future character arcs coming in future issues. 

Betty is the “Hippy Smidgen Thief.” She also appears to be gay and a magnet for trouble. I adore Betty, both for her playful, stoner attitude, and her very earnest heart. Hannah is a “Rockabilly Elven Mage” with her own magical communicator stone, that looks and acts a lot like a cellphone and involves a hilarious “call” from her mother that had me rolling with laughter. She’s got a complicated relationships with Sawyer, the mysterious captain of the town guard. He’s also a black and sexy as hell. They have great snarky banter back and forth, with a strong undercurrent of sincerity that really shows that they care about each other. 

Then there’s Violet the “Hipster Dwarven Fighter,” who has rebelled against Dwarven traditions and that choice is about has come back to bite her in the butt. I can’t go too much into why I like Violet without spoiling stuff, but I’ll just say that if you like female dwarves in Tolkien’s world you’re going to find Violet’s story very interesting. Last, but certainly not least, there is Dee, the “Atheist Human Cleric” who is also black. Dee was raised in a very “interesting” religion. She began to question the faith of her family and left, or at least she thinks she has. 

Sass and Sorcery is a collection of issues 1 through 5, and it’s a great way to kick off this series. I found myself laughing out loud, and falling head over heels for each one of these characters, and the supporting cast. The world both feels familiar, but is new and original. I can’t wait to read more.

I would caution readers who are sensitive to graphic violence. These ladies are fighters and things can get really violent when you’re battling trolls. The humor is also very sexual, and crude, but that’s a plus for me. This is warrior women being bawdy, fearless and in your face. They enjoy sex, drugs and kicking ass. 

Strap on your big girl pants, and get ready to have a great time.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Argument in Favor of New Adult That Finally Won Me Over!

I've heard a lot of pro-New Adult arguments from authors in the genre and adults in general, but this is the first time I've heard the argument from the perspective of a reader in the target age group and she really won me over. 

While she obviously doesn't know that there are YA books with sex in them (like Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian), I don't think that invalidates her point at all. In fact, I think this misconception about YA only being for "kids" and how it hides YA books with sex from readers who want to read them, only strengthens the argument in favor of giving these kidns of books their own genre. 

Books that do target older teens and "new" adults don't get as much attention, or effective marketing to get them in the hands of readers who need and want them. With the exception of New Adult romances. While there is nothing wrong with romance, there are so many other fantastic YA novels that fit into that New Adult genre that would benefit from the that targeted marketing.

What do you think? 
How would you define the New Adult genre?
What books, YA or Adult, do you think would fit better in New Adult? 

I'll do a future post with a list of many books I feel should be categorized as NA, and why I think both the books and readers would benefit from it. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Movies You Should See: Byzantium

Remember that fantastic vampire movie with a female relationship at the center of the story? Or right, probably not, because it didn't get shit for press or even word of mouth. Well, I'm here to tell you to DROP EVERYTHING AND WATCH BYZANTIUM!

It is hands down one of the best vampire movies I've seen since the original Let the Right One In (Swedish: Låt den Rätte Komma In). This is the Neil Jordan (directing) at his finest. Stunning cinematography. Fabulous performances by Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, plus wonderful supporting performances by Tom Hollander and Johnny Lee Miller. Most of all Byzantium’s strength lies in a compelling coming of age story about a 200 year old vampire struggling with the burden of her immortality, and isolation imposed on her by a controlling mother.

Eleanor's story is not unlike many young girls, full of confusion and pain, but most of all yearning. She wants to be known, wants to tell her true story to someone. This desire is born out of the life she is forced to live. An existence woven together with lies and half truths by her mother, Clara. It is a necessity born out of a need to protect their secret, but like any growing you woman, Eleanor rejects the life Clara has made for them. Wanting more.

Of course there is more to this story, shadowy men in suits tracking the pair of nomadic females vampires, and of course there is a boy, who is fighting a losing battle with cancer, but the relationship between Eleanor and Clara that is the axis of this gothic, blood-drenched tale of the indomitable spirit of love. Not romantic love, but the strange, intense, often tumultuous, but never the less powerful bond between a mother and daughter.

If you love vampires, stories about women, and have a "complicated" relationship with your mother, this might just be the movie for you.

*goes to rewatch it for the third time*

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sex, Love and Shakespeare!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

A lighthearted re-imagining of Shakespeare’s characters in a modern day tale of rekindled love, and sexual exploration. 

Beatriz is sex blogger who’s been stuck with trying to do a review of a sexual position manual at her sister’s wedding. Ben is the guy who got away and the best friend of her soon to be brother-in-law. So, of course, in classic Shakespearian situational comedy style, Ben ends up helping Bea out of (or rather into) a tight jam. 

It’s been a while since I’ve laughed so hard while reading about sex, which is refreshing and sorely lacking in the erotica genre. Misbehaving captures the bawdy, bordering on ridiculous humor of Shakespeare, while updating and adding an emotional resonance that surprised me. 

For the other Shakespeare nerds out there, please note that while this book is billed as a re-telling of Much Ado About Nothing, it is an condensed and edited re-telling. The story primarily focuses on the two primary couples Beatriz (Beatrice), Ben (Benedict), Claudia (Hero) and Henry (Claudio). None of the minor characters from the play were present (that I recognized), though the sassy bellboy, Keaton, felt like an homage to the many eccentric characters birthed from Shakespeare’s fertile imagination. 

I think it’s also important to note that the sex in Misbehaving is unlike most you find in popular erotica. The most notable difference being that it’s some of the most sex positive sex I’ve ever seen written. What I mean by sex positive is that neither Bea and Ben felt guilty or shameful about the sex. It is safe and consensual. Both take joy in their own bodies, as well as their partner’s body, and best of all they talk during sex. 

This might shatter a lot of people’s romantic fantasies about how sex works, but real people do this in real life, and it’s DAMN sexy. But I know that not everyone wants realism in their erotica, so if you’re one of them take note. I however, LOVE it. 

A big part of what captivated me about this story, and characters was how comfortable they were with sex in general and each other. Ben even reveals a little something about himself that I have NEVER seen a male lead in a mainstream romance ever do. I was so stunned and turned on I had to step away from the book.

Let’s talk about the sex. It was fantastic. Some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve read in erotica. Like I said earlier a big part of that was the realism and emotional connection between the characters. As for the terminology used (because I know certain words can trip up some readers) the primary words used in sex scenes are penis, vagina, vulva and clit/clitoris. How they were used made sense, and the sex scenes were extremely hot for me. For the record, I personally have a hard time finding the word vagina sexy (I’m more of a vulva kind of girl), but Reisz has an ability to frame a sex scene where the word didn’t detract from sexiness at all. 

Additional bonus to this all is the fact that Bea is a woman of color, and a naturalized US citizen, originally from El Salvador. She is a departure from the often offensive stereotypes of Latin women, and immigrants that we see in media. Bea is an intelligent, educated and empowered modern woman. While she’s happy to be an American citizen, she doesn’t forget where she came from. She also speaks in Spanish in parts of the story. Also something you rarely see, outside of a historical romance. Bea’s ethnicity isn’t a huge part of the story, but it does influence her character and it’s refreshing to see how a woman of color can be the lead in a story that isn’t an “issues” book. Also, there are no hints of fetishism about her skin tone or body, that is a common misstep in interracial romance novels. 

In summary, Misbehaving is a funny and sexy read. Short, but full of steamy sex, hilarity and love. I highly recommend it.