Welcome to Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. This month, we’re discussing romance novels and what the genre has to offer in terms of queer representation and complex, autonomous women characters. In other words, we’re fangirling about Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue and Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient.
Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:
Teal (roman type!) Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek
Hanna (italics, baby!) Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever
Spoiler disclaimer: We kept it spoiler free, so read on!
I’ll start by saying that this whole conversation could just be one long line of exclamation points as far as I’m concerned, because that’s how passionately I feel about our topic of conversation: romance novels in general, and Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang in particular. But since that won’t get us very far, I’ll actually begin with the fact that I love romance novels. My whole childhood basically consisted of flipping through slightly-age-inappropriate books to get to the smutty and/or romantic parts. Of course, my relationship with the genre—and especially with certain tropes (namely heterocentric ones)—has changed over the years. For a long time, especially as I was coming to understand more about my own sexuality and navigating real-life romantic and sexual dynamics for the first time, romance novels stopped being satisfying for me. Reading them was fun, but it wasn’t full of that giddy, half-in-love-yourself feeling that used to be there. I wasn’t connecting with the same dynamics and tropes that used to feel so all-consuming to me. That is, until I read RWRB this past month. I read it three times, and basically forced you to read it too, Teal, because my love for this book (and for you—you’re welcome for introducing you to this brilliance!) knows no bounds. I’m so curious about whether you had the same reaction—did reading this book feel different to you too? And, if so, why are we feeling this way?
If you’re not watching The 100, I do forgive you. It is a CW show, after all. (I don’t know why, but I can’t take the CW seriously! It doesn’t seem to matter how many of their shows I watch and love!) However, if you are unfamiliar with the show, this post is a PSA for you specifically.
Before I get too into it, I’d like to say that though I am aware of the book that inspired the show (thanks, Kass Morgan!), for my purposes, know that everything here refers exclusively to the TV series. And, with that series, there is a lot to get into. But, first and foremost, the main character, Clarke Griffin.
While the concept of a temporally-bound reading challenge is one I find very alluring, actually finishing one is a success I’ve never personally experienced. This year, in an effort to prioritize both reading and sustainable self-care, I’m working on setting myself some more manageable, bite-sized challenges.
If you’re interested in joining me, here’s what I propose: a three-book seasonal reading challenge to usher in the spring. The more I think about it, the more I’m not only excited about the selections I’ve made, but also about the real possibility that this is a challenge I can and will finish. I want to imbue these next few months and reads with as much meaning and springtime symbolism as I can, and I’ve devised these challenge parameters with that goal in mind. Follow along for the three challenges (one per month of spring) I’ve set for myself and the books I’m thinking about reading to fulfill them.
[Image Description: A black background behind an illustration of a gold pentacle design interlaced with leaves and flowers. A white banner along the bottom reads, “Spring equinox.”] Source: Pinterest
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemone folds readers into a world of magic, flowers, romance, and danger. First, I would like to acknowledge this beautiful cover, the one pictured here is an OwlCrate exclusive cover, but the version you can dig up in bookstores is also beautiful. I will not hold back on gardening puns, and I will not apologize! I was worried the story wouldn’t live up the magic of this cover, but thankfully it did. With notes of Practical Magic and Chocolat, we’re pulled into a world with five female cousins, and three generations of mothers, grandmothers, great aunts, and aunts-all who can grow hundreds of thousands of flowers based on their namesake. Which sounds fantastic and they probably all smell really good. But there’s a catch, a few catches actually- if they ever try to leave their home, La Padera, they will die. And if they love a man hard enough, he will eventually disappear. This becomes a problem when all five cousins, fall in love with a girl. What will happen to her? And what of the mysterious boy who appeared in La Padera with no memory of his perhaps sinful past? As a life-long reader of mysteries, I am hard to surprise, but Wild Beauty surprised me, IN THE BEST WAY. Lush writing and full of metaphors and magic and little painted wooden horses.
The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee beautifully illustrates a twist to the historical friends-to-lovers romance. Our protagonist, Henry “Monty” Montague, is a roguish and charming, high-society English lad who is deeply in love with his best friend, Percy—whose gentle nature serves as a fantastic catalyst to Monty’s bravado. Monty’s stern sister, Felicity, also reluctantly tags along on their grand tour of Europe, and uses her book smarts and savage one-liners to survive everything from parties to pirates. Although Monty is thoughtless and selfish, it’s impossible not to love him. His voice and perspective are perfect for fans of British humor—dry and sarcastic but still ridiculously entertaining.
Ah, the transportive joy of reading. It is frequent geek girl companion, and one of my favorite topics in the whole world.
Many geeky people use the new year as a time to set reading goals, make lists, visit bookstores and libraries, and decide how many books they can cram into their brain before the ball drops on another year.
Although I’ve never been the kind to set a physical book goal, I love to journey into new realms of reading, filling my mind and my bookshelf with undiscovered worlds and new pockets of thought, feeling, and idea.
Choosing what to read next is similar to journeying through the wild west: limitless paths with distractions, surprises, and discoveries around every corner. While this “shoot-from-the-hip” style certainly keeps things interesting, it doesn’t make for very intentional explorations of genres, authors, or themes.
As a writer, and a fictional writer at that, reading takes up a great deal of my time. I love perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, searching for new books to add to my library. In celebration of a fresh start as we welcome 2017, I set a fairly lofty goal for myself: to read at least one book per week, aside from the arsenal I already read in professional pursuits. I set this resolution in order to force myself to rethink how I utilize my downtime. Whether it’s a more thoughtful memoir by someone I admire, an educational anthology that’ll help inform my work, or an epic fantasy for pure leisure, I want to make sure that I’m actively enriching my mind with a good book.
For those of you who share my love of reading, and have set similar goals for yourselves, I’ve come with an author recommendation that is bound to keep your reading time well occupied.
Last summer I was introduced to the world of Sarah J. Maas. I was immediately enamored with her work, and read everything that she had published (at the time) in the span of one month. To date, Maas has written two stellar young adult series that are ongoing, currently totaling in eight novels, that are bound to interest readers young and old — she’s easily become one of my favorite modern authors. I even included her debut novel, Throne of Glass, as a part of our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide out of admiration.
A manifesto of sorts, I’m going to do my darndest to tell you why these books are absolutely fabulous, and worthy of a good read (all spoiler free!):
Both series take place within the same meta-universe, and are high fantasy “epics” about some pretty stellar girls doing some pretty stellar things. Throne of Glass, which currently sports six novels (one of which is a little collection of short stories that take place before the events of the first novel), and A Court of Thorns and Roses, which currently has two. Both series are scheduled to wrap up this year, with spin-off novels of the latter, ACOTAR, in the future works. That’s over 3,500 pages of material to blast through.
I’m not alone when I say I’ve had a hard few weeks. Things have felt slightly broken, shook askew, tilted into fantasy mayhem. I’m trying to take the long view, trying to steel myself for a fight, but sometimes some of the best uses of our time is taking a step back and looking through different eyes.
I’m a big reader, so in the days since the election I’ve been trying to understand things through fiction. So here’s a small list of inspiring and thought-provoking books I’ve been dwelling on.
October is our favorite month of the year! Why? Because that’s when GeekGirlCon is on, of course! But there are also plenty of other awesome geeky events on throughout the month; be sure to check them out here:
I first heard of the Guardian Princesses via Black Girl Nerds. With birthdays and gift-giving holidays coming up, and nieces and nephews of the targeted age range for these books, I knew these were books I needed to check out and share.