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The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club

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On Thursday nights, the players assemble in the back of Readmore Comix and Games. Celeste is the dungeon master; Valerie, who works at the store, was roped in by default; Mooneyham, the banker, likes to argue; and Ben, sensitive, unemployed, and living at home, is still recovering from an unrequited love. In the real world they go about their days falling in love, coming o On Thursday nights, the players assemble in the back of Readmore Comix and Games. Celeste is the dungeon master; Valerie, who works at the store, was roped in by default; Mooneyham, the banker, likes to argue; and Ben, sensitive, unemployed, and living at home, is still recovering from an unrequited love. In the real world they go about their days falling in love, coming out at work, and dealing with their family lives all with varying degrees of success. But in the world of their fantasy game, they are heroes and wizards fighting to stop an evil cult from waking a sleeping god. But then a sexy new guy, Albert, joins the club, Ben’s character is killed, and Mooneyham’s boyfriend is accosted on the street. The connections and parallels between the real world and the fantasy one become stronger and more important than ever as Ben struggles to bring his character back to life and win Albert’s affection, and the group unites to organize a protest at a neighborhood bar. All the while the slighted and competing vampire role playing club, working secretly in the shadows, begins to make its move.


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On Thursday nights, the players assemble in the back of Readmore Comix and Games. Celeste is the dungeon master; Valerie, who works at the store, was roped in by default; Mooneyham, the banker, likes to argue; and Ben, sensitive, unemployed, and living at home, is still recovering from an unrequited love. In the real world they go about their days falling in love, coming o On Thursday nights, the players assemble in the back of Readmore Comix and Games. Celeste is the dungeon master; Valerie, who works at the store, was roped in by default; Mooneyham, the banker, likes to argue; and Ben, sensitive, unemployed, and living at home, is still recovering from an unrequited love. In the real world they go about their days falling in love, coming out at work, and dealing with their family lives all with varying degrees of success. But in the world of their fantasy game, they are heroes and wizards fighting to stop an evil cult from waking a sleeping god. But then a sexy new guy, Albert, joins the club, Ben’s character is killed, and Mooneyham’s boyfriend is accosted on the street. The connections and parallels between the real world and the fantasy one become stronger and more important than ever as Ben struggles to bring his character back to life and win Albert’s affection, and the group unites to organize a protest at a neighborhood bar. All the while the slighted and competing vampire role playing club, working secretly in the shadows, begins to make its move.

30 review for The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club

  1. 5 out of 5

    lauraღ

    1.5 stars. Oh boy. So two things about me: I'm really gay and I really love D&D. (Well, I've never played it myself but I'm obsessed with Critical Role, which counts, do not @ me.) So a book about a bunch of queer nerds in a role-playing club? I wanted to love this. And I really think I could have, because somewhere in the middle of this mess is a really cute, campy, silly, but heartfelt story. But this needed some serious doctoring. First, this wasn't the book's fault, but the copy I received wa 1.5 stars. Oh boy. So two things about me: I'm really gay and I really love D&D. (Well, I've never played it myself but I'm obsessed with Critical Role, which counts, do not @ me.) So a book about a bunch of queer nerds in a role-playing club? I wanted to love this. And I really think I could have, because somewhere in the middle of this mess is a really cute, campy, silly, but heartfelt story. But this needed some serious doctoring. First, this wasn't the book's fault, but the copy I received was really badly formatted in terms of the line and paragraph spacing, which made it really difficult to read. Secondly, the plotting was all over the place. There were several threads of the story that just came in at awkward times, plots that got too much or too little screen time, a few points that were just nonsensical/unneeded, even in a light-hearted romp of a story. The whole vampire thing was unnecessary, and didn't ever work into the story in a coherent way. The characters all had arcs, but some were given more precedence than others, and none of them felt particularly fulfilling. The little bits of character development weren't very satisfying, and even though some things changed for some characters, it just didn't feel that way, beyond the obvious. There are a few romances, but none of them, not even the main one, made me feel anything in particular. The story spread wide enough, I guess, but it felt really thin and shallow. The subplot within their D&D campaign was fun? But again, disjointed and a bit all over the place. The silliness got to be a bit too much for me at times. I did like how the scenes played out, and how their real life discussions/arguments bled into the game sometimes, but reading it as a whole... it just wasn't cohesive. I didn't mind that not all the rules and terms were what I'm used to (they could have been using another edition or homebrew rules) but I just wanted there to be more structure. There's also a super clumsy moment in the vein of, 'hmmm, how do I let readers know this character is trans EASY I'll deadname her almost immediately.' I liked this story's potential more than I liked anything about the way in which it was executed. The bones of something good are here! I love D&D, I love silly, I love campy, I don't mind a lot of innuendo and comedy, but none of these really got pulled together in a way that made for a satisfying story, which is a pity. ☆ Review copy provided via NetGalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stuart McCarthy

    This was wonderfully written and incredibly descriptive! It had a story within a story and I didn't want either of them to end. Seeing characters who were so human and so relateable going through their everyday lives was so enjoyable. Its just a lovely, lighthearted read that really made me smile. I hope that Doug Henderson writes more of these, because I will happily sit down to read more stories about Valerie, Celeste, Mooneyham, Huey, Ben and Alfred exploring the depths of Dungeons and Dragon This was wonderfully written and incredibly descriptive! It had a story within a story and I didn't want either of them to end. Seeing characters who were so human and so relateable going through their everyday lives was so enjoyable. Its just a lovely, lighthearted read that really made me smile. I hope that Doug Henderson writes more of these, because I will happily sit down to read more stories about Valerie, Celeste, Mooneyham, Huey, Ben and Alfred exploring the depths of Dungeons and Dragons, and seeing how they grow and mature as people.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wart Hill

    I received a free ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review DNF at 46% I really wanted to like this one. I am queer and I play D&D so I was super excited about it! Unfortunately it fell really short for me. One of the first signs that this book and I weren't going to get along was when the narration dead named the trans character, but I see that a lot with Cis authors so I was like if that's the only time/the worst thing, then I can deal... But unfortunately there were just a lot of things I received a free ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review DNF at 46% I really wanted to like this one. I am queer and I play D&D so I was super excited about it! Unfortunately it fell really short for me. One of the first signs that this book and I weren't going to get along was when the narration dead named the trans character, but I see that a lot with Cis authors so I was like if that's the only time/the worst thing, then I can deal... But unfortunately there were just a lot of things with this book that didn't work for me. For one thing, none of the characters felt like they had any real depth. Part of this might have been because there were so many, but even Ben, who I feel like we spent the most time with in the half of the book I made it through, didn't feel really all that developed. They all felt like archetypes rather than fully created characters. Also they all just really annoyed me. Another thing that frustrated me was a lot of the dialogue felt unnatural. There's some great writing in this book, some really good descriptions when setting the scene that truly bring things to life, but the dialogue was often awkward and didn't feel like how people really talk. Also some of the writing in other sections felt like a completely different style to those scene setting bits and it was very jarring. The last thing that frustrated me was the D&D itself. Speaking only as someone who plays, not as someone who has ever been a DM, I felt like Celeste wasn't really the best about DMing. I also found it weird when they let Huey join them in the middle of a battle?? Like that is a lot of information to throw at a first time player and I feel like "why don't you watch for a bit and if you're still interested we can work on a character/how to introduce them next session?" makes way more sense. I don't know. This book just didn't feel fully formed to me. It was a lot of ideas thrown together and none of them really felt like they got the proper attention.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    A lighthearted romance with geeky overtones. Sometimes you can really tell the author isn't a native Clevelander, but then there are parts that are genuine enough. Yes, we really do have a horrid paucity of late-night diners on the east side. What is up with that? Remember Chuck's Diner? The Red Chimney? Yeah. AHEM. The high point is a sexomancy orgy and a kiss-in, which tells you this story keeps a low-level buzz of sexuality going. I felt the ending was a bit rushed, though. A lighthearted romance with geeky overtones. Sometimes you can really tell the author isn't a native Clevelander, but then there are parts that are genuine enough. Yes, we really do have a horrid paucity of late-night diners on the east side. What is up with that? Remember Chuck's Diner? The Red Chimney? Yeah. AHEM. The high point is a sexomancy orgy and a kiss-in, which tells you this story keeps a low-level buzz of sexuality going. I felt the ending was a bit rushed, though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Sledge

    Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Strap in, gents and lass, as we delve deep into a world where your wildest dreams can take flight. A world with paladins, and wizards; orcs and goblins all waiting to see your worth. Build your stats to enrich your experience and leave all the rest to the roll of a dice. Such is the world for four twenty-somethings and their Dungeon master in an all LGBTQ game of Dungeons and Dragons. Follow our heroes in game Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Strap in, gents and lass, as we delve deep into a world where your wildest dreams can take flight. A world with paladins, and wizards; orcs and goblins all waiting to see your worth. Build your stats to enrich your experience and leave all the rest to the roll of a dice. Such is the world for four twenty-somethings and their Dungeon master in an all LGBTQ game of Dungeons and Dragons. Follow our heroes in game and out as they try to navigate love, acceptance, and fitting in. This was a nice quick read with a solid story and characters. I wouldn't call this a romance book, as happy endings aren't guaranteed, but each of our main characters deals with romance in one way or another. I would classify this novel under New Adult as these characters at time make sexual comments, but nothing off-putting or pit of place. The pacing could feel a bit off at times and some story plot lines didn't really fit, but I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would. There were some Dungeons and Dragons pieces that didn't really fall in with the rules, but that can be part of the fun of a homebrew based on your DM, so it's not really my place to judge. I recommended this for anyone 20+ looking for a quick read and who loves Dungeons and Dragons. I wouldn't recommend it for young LGBTQ youth as some of the ways the characters become more comfortable in who they are could lead young impressionable minds to feel like they have something to hide or be ashamed of. Three stars for this one for me, I had a high persuasion DC and the novel just happened to role low.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kyla Vaughan

    As a lesbian D&D player. clearly this book was made for me in mind. However, I wasn't a fan. Every single character is either unlikable or boring. I thought Ben was whiney, Mooneyham was a dick, and Albert was just kind of there as a romantic interest. As this was written by a gay man, I understand the focus on other gay men but I feel like Valerie really fell to the wayside and the whole vampire subplot seemed pointless (I am honestly not even 100% sure I understood the explanation for it, if t As a lesbian D&D player. clearly this book was made for me in mind. However, I wasn't a fan. Every single character is either unlikable or boring. I thought Ben was whiney, Mooneyham was a dick, and Albert was just kind of there as a romantic interest. As this was written by a gay man, I understand the focus on other gay men but I feel like Valerie really fell to the wayside and the whole vampire subplot seemed pointless (I am honestly not even 100% sure I understood the explanation for it, if there even was one). This book is so sex-focused, it's a turn off. I do think we LGBTs should be able to talk about sex just like straight people, but all of the sex comments were too much. Even the D&D campaign was about an orgy ritual and sex magic. I didn't love the portions of the book that were the Dungeons and Dragons campaign narrated; I think that it worked better to have the characters describe what they were role playing rather and honestly the story of the campaign wasn't that exciting. There were also a few mistakes when discussing D&D. Bluff is not a check you make in D&D, it's deception. Points also don't go into linguistics, only ability scores, and languages are learned because of race and background. I would go so far as to say that I actively disliked this book, which I am really sad to admit because the concept seemed so perfect. Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the ebook in exchange for a review!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    This book had a great set up. Unfortunately, it only really had a great set up. I was waiting for something hilarious to happen. It really felt like a comedy set up so maybe I was just waiting for the wrong thing. It read sort of like bite me by Christopher Moore, but that build up never actually paid off. There were some side plots that maybe you could invest in and get to a better place than I did. But they were fundamentally strange in a lot of ways. Like why did Ben keep agreeing to hang out This book had a great set up. Unfortunately, it only really had a great set up. I was waiting for something hilarious to happen. It really felt like a comedy set up so maybe I was just waiting for the wrong thing. It read sort of like bite me by Christopher Moore, but that build up never actually paid off. There were some side plots that maybe you could invest in and get to a better place than I did. But they were fundamentally strange in a lot of ways. Like why did Ben keep agreeing to hang out with someone he hated? Even if the guy usually didn’t show up? What’s up with Moneyham? Like at all. It’s possible that things were lost because we had too many characters. We had 7 or so main characters. Most had D&D alter egos. Then there were at least 4 relatively important side characters. That’s at least 15 characters to keep track of and develop which is a lot for ~200 pages. Maybe I would have been more invested if we just picked one. I liked parts of how the D&D sessions were written. I like the story in a story. I like that the characters sometimes say ridiculous things because the players are saying them like “I didn’t roll high enough”. I like that the DM periodically does a deus ex machina to end a session. That all feels real. The stories I like less. The monsters don’t seem challenging or impressive to overcome like they do in other D&D content I’ve listened to of people playing in real life, and the solutions aren’t interesting. It kind of feels like reading a not great D&D session. I recommend Polly. The book could have used way more Polly making her own custom dildos for Etsy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Janna

    i hate to say it, but this book was so disappointing. it features way too many characters to keep track off and the perspectives keep changing. i usually like 3rd POV, but here it made me feel so disconnected from ALL characters. there was too much distance and it made the characters feel so unrelatable. more things i disliked: • usage of a slur against Romani • way too many unnecessary "sex jokes" • female characters felt lflat • feels like it's written for the cis gay white gaze and not so much for i hate to say it, but this book was so disappointing. it features way too many characters to keep track off and the perspectives keep changing. i usually like 3rd POV, but here it made me feel so disconnected from ALL characters. there was too much distance and it made the characters feel so unrelatable. more things i disliked: • usage of a slur against Romani • way too many unnecessary "sex jokes" • female characters felt lflat • feels like it's written for the cis gay white gaze and not so much for the whole LGBTQ+ community (like the title would suggest..) • hp references i received a digital arc by netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I wanted very much to like this book, it hit all my geeky checkboxes, but sadly, it was a miss for me. The premise is solid, and the characters are full of possibility, but the plot and character development just didn't seem to get anywhere. I can see where it was trying to go, but the whiny protagonist, constant sex-references (it was basically an early 2000’s ebaums world video in here) and the subplots that don't go anywhere made it hard for this story to shine. I am usually a fan of “books ab I wanted very much to like this book, it hit all my geeky checkboxes, but sadly, it was a miss for me. The premise is solid, and the characters are full of possibility, but the plot and character development just didn't seem to get anywhere. I can see where it was trying to go, but the whiny protagonist, constant sex-references (it was basically an early 2000’s ebaums world video in here) and the subplots that don't go anywhere made it hard for this story to shine. I am usually a fan of “books about nothing” that prove to be a little bit about everything, but this one just didn't meet the mark. Granted I have written exactly zero books, so maybe I am missing something, but nonetheless I am putting this one in my “don't recommend” pile.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Justin Bowers

    ** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review ** I’ve been thinking a bit about how to approach reviewing this novel. Let me be very clear, I absolutely loved it, and I really enjoyed the very raw and emotional struggles and triumphs Mr. Henderson very smoothly navigates in it. My quandary comes from approaching this book without discounting the very heartfelt issues presented within. Yes, this is a LGBTQ+ focused story, but, while the viewpoint is presented ** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review ** I’ve been thinking a bit about how to approach reviewing this novel. Let me be very clear, I absolutely loved it, and I really enjoyed the very raw and emotional struggles and triumphs Mr. Henderson very smoothly navigates in it. My quandary comes from approaching this book without discounting the very heartfelt issues presented within. Yes, this is a LGBTQ+ focused story, but, while the viewpoint is presented from and about largely homosexual characters, the core story presents situations and feelings that are far more inclusive. Plus, its about the amazing glue that a game of Dungeons & Dragons sticks people together with. Ben is a young man of twenty-five who lives in his parents basement with his cat — Onigiri — and spends his time thrifting and selling old toys and collectables online. Ben is openly gay, but has never really had a real relationship. Ben is also a member of a gay gaming group at a Cleveland-area local comic book and gaming shop along with the other primary characters of this story. This is the annoying part of any of my reviews where I tell you that I’m not going to tell you anything more about the story, but, in this case, I think that it is particularly important not to. The primary charm for me, aside from the amazing role play that happens during the gaming sessions, is how each character, and their story, unfolds in the context of where everything opens. The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club (a title that I absolutely love and is an utter mouthful) is about how each of these individuals set up their personal orbits: how each of the characters sees themselves, and the whos and whats they surround themselves with. Everything in this book seems so incredibly personal to me, and, while I started out trying to identify with it as a gamer, I realized very quickly that the identification really came from being a normal human with human doubts, fears and desires. This story loops way out into the day-to-day hopes and angst of just being a member of society in a harsh reality, and then circles right back in to the semi-controlled comfort of the Thursday night gaming session. There is even a little jab at discrimination that doesn’t exactly land where the reader thinks it might land. This was a hidden gem for me. I really thought there might be more “in-world” parts of the book, but I found myself turning more from that aspect being the core of the story to seeing as the neutral ground each of the characters could work out their inter-personal issues with. Kudos to Mr. Henderson for presenting probably the most realistic — to my experience — gaming session presentation I have ever read about in a work of fiction. This one is a real winner.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Len

    recommend to people to enjoy ttrpgs (disclaimer I got this free to review) Every Thursday Ben, Celeste, Valerie, and Mooneyham meet up at Readmore to play D&D. A new player Albert joins the group. Ben is living in a basement and reselling collector's items online. He's sweet and dorky but not my fave. Valerie works at the store the game is hosted at, she plays a bard and starts a rivalry with the vampire roleplaying group. She's my favourite, I liked her personality and wished we had a little more recommend to people to enjoy ttrpgs (disclaimer I got this free to review) Every Thursday Ben, Celeste, Valerie, and Mooneyham meet up at Readmore to play D&D. A new player Albert joins the group. Ben is living in a basement and reselling collector's items online. He's sweet and dorky but not my fave. Valerie works at the store the game is hosted at, she plays a bard and starts a rivalry with the vampire roleplaying group. She's my favourite, I liked her personality and wished we had a little more of her. I didn't think I would like Mooneyham at first, he seemed like the kind of asshole rules lawyer I hate in my own game but I grew to like him. All these characters are distinct and well written. Celeste didn't make too much of an impression because she doesn't really have a conflict like the others, but I liked her and related to her as a DM :) Though honestly the way all the characters acted reminded me of my own games, superstitions about lucky dice, the unique frustration of trying to teach a new player who isn't all that interested and just wants to hang out with their bf, forgetting what's in your inventory and not realising you have really useful stuff on you, etc~ not exactly writing or plot-related stuff just small details and references made me happy. This book reminds me of things like LARPs the series or The Guild (which is what I was hoping for when I saw the title and read the description), where you'd think the story is about the game but its actually about the players and their relationships and the game affecting and paralleling things that happen in real life. I love how the awkward out-of-character dialogue comes through in the in-game scenes it's one of my favourite things with these kind of books/shows. I read it in a day which is unusual for me with anything other than an audiobook so I can say with confidence the book is well-paced and doesn't drag on at all. I don't know how much someone who doesn't play any ttrpgs would enjoy this but the book is written in a way where you don't really have to understand the game as it's not the main focus. There are personal conflicts for the characters that all coincide into one story thanks to the game. I am a prude so some parts were...not for me-so that's the only negative I have and I know that's just a me-thing so take that with a grain of salt. The ending made me unreasonably happy, I was so worried about how things were going to end when the ebook said 99% but it all came together nicely.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Midu Hadi

    I requested this book on Netgalley and I’m glad that I did! I had picked up this book, expecting to be taken on a very cool D-n-D kinda adventure. I didn’t get to go on one, though. I’m listing some of my biggest turn-offs here. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for why things happened in the story. Add to that the fact that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The protagonist was whiny, spineless. Another of the main characters only thought about sex. Yes, teenagers do that but rea I requested this book on Netgalley and I’m glad that I did! I had picked up this book, expecting to be taken on a very cool D-n-D kinda adventure. I didn’t get to go on one, though. I’m listing some of my biggest turn-offs here. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for why things happened in the story. Add to that the fact that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The protagonist was whiny, spineless. Another of the main characters only thought about sex. Yes, teenagers do that but reading about was boring as heck! Also, these people were supposed to be tweens. With such a rainbow cast, I was expecting fireworks and not a meandering plot that made me ask why did I continue reading. A really disappointing read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Corinne Colbert

    I was so interest in everything that was given to me in the blurb. Nerdy role play. Potential romance. Sign me up! Flat. So flat. I felt as if the author is actually a 15 year old imagining what his romantic life will be at 25. The main character, Ben is 25, unemployed with a college degree, selling stuff on the internet and living in his parents basement. Not a person I have much interest in as an escape in the pages of a book. He spends the entire book mooning over Albert, a charismatic guy in I was so interest in everything that was given to me in the blurb. Nerdy role play. Potential romance. Sign me up! Flat. So flat. I felt as if the author is actually a 15 year old imagining what his romantic life will be at 25. The main character, Ben is 25, unemployed with a college degree, selling stuff on the internet and living in his parents basement. Not a person I have much interest in as an escape in the pages of a book. He spends the entire book mooning over Albert, a charismatic guy in their new Dungeons and Dragons group who is employed at a local record shop, which also seems to be the place his previous crush also works. Oh and Albert is sleeping with that same crush. It's angtsy and in a way that doesn't draw me in enough to care. We get a full rainbow flag of characters, trans, a closeted banker, 2 lesbians, and a flamboyant waiter who don't even really up the excitement enough to make you care. You almost don't understand why they even spend hours together one night a week. There are strange transitions in how the dialog is written. We go back and forth between the humans actually in the room and the game play conversations happening in the D&D game. It feels weak. Again, like maybe a high schooler imagining what D&D action will feel and sound like when he's older. Overall, I'd suggest most people pass on this one and hope for someone else to take a run with this idea. It's a good concept poorly executed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    SassyBooks

    The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 1/5 stars. This book was supposed to be right up my alley. I love D&D, my friends and I who I often play with in D&D campaigns are LGBTQ+ (myself included). I had expectations for this book and I thought this could be great, also a nice book to give to friends to introduce them to D&D. It was an incredible concept. Personally, the book just missed it completely. The characters, who were supposed to The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 1/5 stars. This book was supposed to be right up my alley. I love D&D, my friends and I who I often play with in D&D campaigns are LGBTQ+ (myself included). I had expectations for this book and I thought this could be great, also a nice book to give to friends to introduce them to D&D. It was an incredible concept. Personally, the book just missed it completely. The characters, who were supposed to be 25ish (similar to me and my friends), all felt more like teenagers finishing high school. Some of the story arcs were interesting, I have to give Henderson that, yet just when they were about to grab my interest more... they turned weird. The jokes were very sexualized, uncomfortable even at times and I quote ''Such was the life of a barbarian; always some slave girl or a princess clutching onto them. (I don't know if this sentence will make the final book, of course). As someone who should've been the target audience of this book, and I even discussed the things happening in this book with my LGBTQ+ D&D friends, I feel like this unfortunately for me fell flat. TW: Homophobia

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vince Darcangelo

    Doug Henderson has written an anthem for all the geeks and outcasts from the Rust Belt. His wonderful debut novel transported me back to the early 1990s, when me and my friends would haunt Twice-Loved Books and various used record shops in and around Youngstown. We went to metal shows all over northeast Ohio, so obviously, I related most to Albert, the chaos agent of Cleveland Heights. He works at a record store, listens to death metal and has a wardrobe consisting of black band T-shirts and jean Doug Henderson has written an anthem for all the geeks and outcasts from the Rust Belt. His wonderful debut novel transported me back to the early 1990s, when me and my friends would haunt Twice-Loved Books and various used record shops in and around Youngstown. We went to metal shows all over northeast Ohio, so obviously, I related most to Albert, the chaos agent of Cleveland Heights. He works at a record store, listens to death metal and has a wardrobe consisting of black band T-shirts and jeans. The action begins when he joins an LGBTQ D&D group who meet every Thursday in the back of a comic shop. He is a welcome addition to all members of the party except Ben, the protagonist. Lacking in nerve and self-confidence (as well as a job or apartment), Ben is flustered by Albert’s intrusion. He complains to Celeste, the dungeon master, “He’s too good looking to play D&D.” Behind his objections, of course, is an irrepressible and terrifying attraction. The tension between them drives the novel, fueled by Henderson’s sharp prose and humor. There is so much I love about this book, and I wasn’t ready for it to end. Henderson certainly laid the foundation for an epic, with a large ensemble cast, including the gamers, a rival vampire role-playing group and some banker bros (including Mooneyham, a member of the campaign who hasn’t yet come out to his coworkers). Mooneyham is perhaps the most compelling member of the group. While the others are traditional geeks, Mooneyham is an alpha male with locker-room charisma who hides his inner nerd beneath a power suit. He is annoying, but as the novel progresses he shows depth and vulnerability. He is less open about his sexuality because, as he explains, the others were misfits whose reveal was not a huge surprise. When Mooneyham comes out, it will be a bombshell. It might also derail his career. Unfortunately, this storyline fizzles into a missed opportunity. Henderson has built up many interesting characters, but the novel’s brevity doesn’t allow their arcs to fully develop. And while a common (and often justified) critique of cis-het male authors is that they struggle to create well-rounded female characters, this is not exclusive to straight men. The group’s women, Valerie (cis) and Celeste (trans), have a ton of potential that isn’t realized. I wanted their stories to be more significant. But ultimately, the book is about Ben and Albert, and their journey is portrayed brilliantly. It’s a strong debut, and I look forward to where Henderson takes us next. Personally, I would like a sequel. I love this group of adventurers and want to spend more time in the geek shops of northeast Ohio.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sara “Small Town Sara Reads”

    Thank you to @netgalley and Iowa University Press for the early copy of The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club in exchange for an honest review! ⠀ The absolute best part of this book was how wonderfully nerd centric it was! Role playing, D&D, cosplay, comic books, action figures, video games, Ninja Turtles. It was all oh so wonderful. ⠀ And I really loved the way the book would move between reality and the game. We would be in the game play watching the characters go throug Thank you to @netgalley and Iowa University Press for the early copy of The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club in exchange for an honest review! ⠀ The absolute best part of this book was how wonderfully nerd centric it was! Role playing, D&D, cosplay, comic books, action figures, video games, Ninja Turtles. It was all oh so wonderful. ⠀ And I really loved the way the book would move between reality and the game. We would be in the game play watching the characters go through it. Which was a really fun way to incorporate the fantasy element! ⠀ I enjoyed the beginning and most of the middle of the reality part of it. The characters were cute and I enjoyed getting to know them. But somewhere just past the halfway point we started getting chapters about more and more of the characters in the club and while I wanted to learn about them it felt a little like taking snippets of lots of things instead of big chunks of a few. ⠀ Basically we only got to scrape the surface of everyone instead of really learning about them. I felt like some of the characters were cheated out of a real story. And then the ending kind of wrapped up too perfectly and too quickly and by focusing on only a couple of the characters. ⠀ I enjoyed the read but it felt like the author was trying too hard in places. But it also had some really fun moments! ⠀ TW/CW: deadnaming, some anti-gay behavior, talk of sexual activities, objectification of women, fantasy fighting,

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    DNF at 15% Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the gifted review copy of this book. I really wanted to love this book--Queer D&D sounded right up my alley! But I was immediately brought down by the blatant transphobia about 5 pages in, when the author decided to deadname a trans character for no apparent reason except to explain that they are trans? No. Uh uh. You do not do that. There was no purpose to this deadnaming at all except transphobia, whether intentional or not. I truly hope th DNF at 15% Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the gifted review copy of this book. I really wanted to love this book--Queer D&D sounded right up my alley! But I was immediately brought down by the blatant transphobia about 5 pages in, when the author decided to deadname a trans character for no apparent reason except to explain that they are trans? No. Uh uh. You do not do that. There was no purpose to this deadnaming at all except transphobia, whether intentional or not. I truly hope that line is removed from this book before the finished copy comes out. The characters were also flat and uninteresting to me in the parts I read, and the weird emphasis on sex in all of the scenes and with the characters for no real reason felt... a little stereo-typy to me. I frankly find it unrealistic that this people who aren't even friends would be so blatantly talking about sex with each other, especially around someone brand new. It kinda felt like the hyper-sexual-queer stereotype in action. I hope these issues with the representation are fixed before the final copy. CW: Homophobia, Deadnaming, Sexual Content

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Love the concept of The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club by Doug Henderson, but not the execution, or lack there of when it came to the character development. Being a geek who reads comics and plays Magic the Gathering, I really enjoyed reading about the group’s time spent playing D&D and their run in with the vampire LARP group, since I could actually see things like that happening. I think if Henderson were to write a D&D novel he would do a great job. But the charac Love the concept of The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club by Doug Henderson, but not the execution, or lack there of when it came to the character development. Being a geek who reads comics and plays Magic the Gathering, I really enjoyed reading about the group’s time spent playing D&D and their run in with the vampire LARP group, since I could actually see things like that happening. I think if Henderson were to write a D&D novel he would do a great job. But the characters were all stereotypes of geeks and nerds… which is fine since some stereotypes really do fit geeks, but I wanted more character development. Valerie was there to make a couple of scenes weird and Celeste, well I really don’t know. Mooneyham and Huey were there to add in a homophobic layer, and Albert/Jeff were there as love interests to Ben, who I guess had the most development. If you think a 25 year old who goes to thrift stores to sell items on eBay and still lives in his parent’s basement is a well rounded character and not just a stereotype. While I think this book was supposed to take place in present day, it felt more like the 1980’s when groups of kids would get picked on for playing D&D… especially since in present day, D&D and MTG are played by some pretty cool people like MMA fighters, football players and actors. I think if you’re a geeky, young adult questioning your sexuality or already know that you’re LGBTQ, then you may enjoy this book, but even to you it may come off as a bit shallow.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Giulia Colma

    I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I'll admit it, I have never played D&D in my life, nor I know how it works, but I was intrigued about the story of a queer group of friends who gather together on Thursday night to play in the back of comic store. I loved how the character's stories perfectly merged with the game and I loved the witty and iconic one-liners. The characters were loveable and well-rounded and I was rooting for Ben and Albert all the time! While th I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I'll admit it, I have never played D&D in my life, nor I know how it works, but I was intrigued about the story of a queer group of friends who gather together on Thursday night to play in the back of comic store. I loved how the character's stories perfectly merged with the game and I loved the witty and iconic one-liners. The characters were loveable and well-rounded and I was rooting for Ben and Albert all the time! While the atmosphere was mostly fun and relaxed, the book treated some important themes like homophobia and hate crimes and I appreciated how the author incorporated them in a light but not ridicule way. Henderson's writing was fluid and entertaining but it didn't completely catch my attention. I often felt the need for a thicker plot, even though the book was more character-oriented. I recommend this to D&D players and people looking for a fun queer story! Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an early copy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean Whatshisface

    This title left me feeling.... shorted. I have several complaints: The first mainly being the amount of sexual innuendo in the story. Yes, The Gays (TM) love a good sex joke, but this felt excessive to the point of stereotype. With how much queer folx have had to work to get out of the over-sexualized image we've had for decades, it's disheartening to see it reflected in a story that's meant to be for and about us. Second, some of the story arcs felt very loose and out of place. The vampire subpl This title left me feeling.... shorted. I have several complaints: The first mainly being the amount of sexual innuendo in the story. Yes, The Gays (TM) love a good sex joke, but this felt excessive to the point of stereotype. With how much queer folx have had to work to get out of the over-sexualized image we've had for decades, it's disheartening to see it reflected in a story that's meant to be for and about us. Second, some of the story arcs felt very loose and out of place. The vampire subplot in particular I just did not understand and felt deserved it's own book alone. I don't know enough about the author, but this feels like a first-novel type of problem, where the author wants to include All The Ideas instead of focusing on a singular plot hook. Some of the supporting characters felt flat. Particularly the feminine ones -- but I suppose I can let that slide a little since this is a book about gay male romance. But still, would've been nice to see some of those characters fleshed out a little more. And worst of all -- I didn't want the two main boys to end up together. I don't know if this is a failing on the author to create characters I could empathize with and like (and thus hope they ended up together) or if it was a lack of writing good chemistry between the two. Either way, I thought Ben was kind of a whiny incel-type, and Albert was too far up his own ass. Again, there's a stereotype that people who play D&D all live in their parents' basements with zero friends -- and Ben kind of fits the bill for that, which might be why I disliked him. Albert is wishy-washy about what he wants and hurts Ben in the process, which makes me unsympathetic to Albert, so why would I want the two of them to end up together? I really, really love the idea of a book centering around a queer-focused D&D group. Though it's a little bit niche, I feel like there's a lot of potential for compelling characters and exploration of a number of contemporary topics.... but I just feel like this one missed the mark and left me unsatisfied.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    How could you not want to read a book called The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club? Doug Henderson’s new book had me from the title and fun cover. Luckily, I got an ARC from Netgalley and University of Iowa Press to allow me to write an honest review. This book about a group of friends who play Dungeons and Dragons every week was a nice light book that was just what I needed during a dreary winter. Was it perfect? No, but I was willing to let the flaws slide. I wish Be How could you not want to read a book called The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club? Doug Henderson’s new book had me from the title and fun cover. Luckily, I got an ARC from Netgalley and University of Iowa Press to allow me to write an honest review. This book about a group of friends who play Dungeons and Dragons every week was a nice light book that was just what I needed during a dreary winter. Was it perfect? No, but I was willing to let the flaws slide. I wish Ben wasn’t written as the stereotypical nerd, but there is enough diversity within the cast of characters that he made up for it. There were actually too many characters in my opinion. and the storyline got muddled with things that weren’t important or necessary (ie. the vampire story). I think Henderson wanted to tackle a lot of issues from love to sex to discrimination to anxiety and more, which is great, but leads to us just getting a taste of each instead of a full meal. I don’t feel like I fully understand most of the characters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    TW/ deadname. Around page 15 a deadname for a trans character is included... I hope this is removed in the final version. Unfortunately this one was not for me. I was intrigued by the premise, as someone who has never played D&D but has seen a few play-throughs and found those fun, and as someone who is queer. I really enjoyed the descriptive writing style and also the way the story inside of a story was told. I found the tone clashed in the 1st half (sometimes YA sometimes New Adult); the book ge TW/ deadname. Around page 15 a deadname for a trans character is included... I hope this is removed in the final version. Unfortunately this one was not for me. I was intrigued by the premise, as someone who has never played D&D but has seen a few play-throughs and found those fun, and as someone who is queer. I really enjoyed the descriptive writing style and also the way the story inside of a story was told. I found the tone clashed in the 1st half (sometimes YA sometimes New Adult); the book gets more solid in the 2nd half and i became more invested in the "real-life" plot then. Other CW: homophobia, religious trauma, mental illness depiction, sexual & violent content. Thank you to NetGalley and the Iowa University Press for an eARC

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I was really interested in reading this book. I’m not into role playing games but many friends are. And I know many of my friends who would love to be on queer only teams. So I had high expectations going in. However...it was just okay. I didn’t completely dislike all the characters, which is probably why I never felt truly invested in any of them. I didn’t care if Mooneyham and Huey actually tied the knot (they’re both pretty shallow), I didn’t care about Valerie and Polly (Polly was frankly re I was really interested in reading this book. I’m not into role playing games but many friends are. And I know many of my friends who would love to be on queer only teams. So I had high expectations going in. However...it was just okay. I didn’t completely dislike all the characters, which is probably why I never felt truly invested in any of them. I didn’t care if Mooneyham and Huey actually tied the knot (they’re both pretty shallow), I didn’t care about Valerie and Polly (Polly was frankly really annoying) and the one character I really enjoyed, Celeste, went nowhere. The big triangle of Ben/Jeff/Albert was predictable, but predictability is good in a way. It made the read easier. Overall I wasn’t thinking about the characters much inbetween reads which is always an indicator to me that they just didn’t make an impact on me. My biggest complaints that really helped me know this novel would benefit from some outside perspectives were dead naming Celeste (c’mon it’s 2021, not cool), the use of G*psy as well as E*kimo. It just felt very dated, and I thought those were big “oofs” that won’t jive with the mindset of most readers now. I don’t know if I would read anything else by this author. It was fine, but I wasn’t grabbed at all.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wendriel

    I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down. It’s been a very long time since I met a cast of characters who I not only liked, but who are genuinely good people navigating very realistic situations. This is such an important, powerful novel, especially in how it touches upon so many themes particularly relevant to LGBTQIA+ people: families of choice, expectations surrounding physical appearance, difficulties in coming out. It also does a wonderful job of portraying the world and strug I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down. It’s been a very long time since I met a cast of characters who I not only liked, but who are genuinely good people navigating very realistic situations. This is such an important, powerful novel, especially in how it touches upon so many themes particularly relevant to LGBTQIA+ people: families of choice, expectations surrounding physical appearance, difficulties in coming out. It also does a wonderful job of portraying the world and struggles of young adults in the modern day, and the pressures under which they often find themselves. The plot is a juxtaposition of moments in the lives of the members of the titular role-playing game group alongside scenes from the campaign that they’re currently playing out. Some of the best humour comes from the in-game scenes, and the structure is very reminiscent of Felicia Day’s The Guild. Make no mistake, though: while this book will have you laughing out loud in several places, particularly if you’ve been immersed in geek and gaming culture at any point in your life, it can also hit you right in the feels when it needs to, and does so frequently. Outside of the game scenes, there are no heroes or villains, only people doing their best to navigate the ordinary mess of life. But they do navigate it, not perfectly, but heroically. These people are survivors, but more than that, they are family, on such a profound level that no one ever needs to state it. It permeates everything about them and their interactions. I particularly enjoyed the romantic subplot between Ben and Albert. I read a lot of M/M romance, and triangulation setups are usually far from my favourite, but there’s something very different and special about the way that this one is executed. It is messy and of course it results in drama, but it also feels very authentically messy. This sort of scenario can and does happen, but more importantly, Ben and Albert navigate it as gracefully as they can. Neither of them is handed the “Conflict Ball” so that they’ll cause the de rigueur massive argument at the 70% mark. Like everyone else, in every other situation, they do their best, make mistakes, and try to move on and focus on what’s important. There are so many moments of quiet, mundane beauty in this book, so many lovely metaphors that I won’t spoil. The author’s style is fast-paced, and yet I always felt as though I had enough detail to visualize everything, from the Cod and Piece to the back room of Readmore’s. The only criticism that I have, and what stops me from giving this book the five stars my subjective enjoyment of it would demand, is that there are far too many typographical, grammatical, and formatting errors, particularly in the first half of the book. To be fair, I am reading an advance copy of the book, and those may well be corrected in the release version, but at the moment, they are frequent and severe enough to detract from an otherwise thoroughly wonderful reading experience. That criticism aside, however, I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone. It’s rare to see such quality representation of queer people anywhere, and to have it alongside such a clear love letter to geek culture and interwoven through such wonderful, human stories is an absolute gift. *ARC provided free of charge through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* #TheClevelandHeightsLGBTQSciFiandFantasyRolePlayingClub #NetGalley

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jayde Devine

    First I want to thank NetGalley, Doug Henderson and University of Iowa Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions of the book are my own and are in no way influenced by the gifting of this book. My knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons is basically nothing. I only real knowledge of the game is what I have seen on The Big Bang Theory. So like I said, nothing. However, the concept of the game has always been interesting to me. The story follows First I want to thank NetGalley, Doug Henderson and University of Iowa Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions of the book are my own and are in no way influenced by the gifting of this book. My knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons is basically nothing. I only real knowledge of the game is what I have seen on The Big Bang Theory. So like I said, nothing. However, the concept of the game has always been interesting to me. The story follows the five players of the LGBTQ Sci-fi & fantasy role playing club. Celeste; The dungeon master, Valarie; who works are Readmore Comix and Games, Mooneyham; a banker who like to argue and Ben, sensitive, unemployed and living at home and still recovering from unrequited love. In the real world they go by their daily lives with varying success but in the fantasy world created in their game, they are heroes and wizards fighting to stop an evil cult from waking a sleeping god. I loved the Dungeons and Dragons parts of this story. Whenever, we were playing the game and the story was told from the perspective of the D&G characters, it was completely immersive and so much fun to read. Almost makes me want to play. I have no idea as to accuracy of how the author writes the game play so I am taking it all at face value. Either way, I enjoyed the fantasy world writing and adventures. The majority of the characters were very basic because they just didn’t have enough of a character arc. There was a lot of wasted potential with all of them. Saying that, I think that this book contains way too many subplots instead of one focused story. I honestly feel like I forgot most of Mooneyham & Huey’s main storyline was and I have basically forgotten what Celeste’s storyline was. I found that I was mostly interested in romantic plot between Ben and Albert. I believe that this could have been a much more intriguing book if it was just focused on the romance between the two because there just wasn’t enough detail and story building for me to really enjoy this book. I hate to say it but the plot was very messy. There was just a lot going on and none of it was exploited to its full potential. Parts of the storyline really didn’t need to be in there, like the Kiss-in??? I am still beyond confused with that section of the story and why that was the best way to get the characters to where they needed to be. The whole idea of it was bizarre. In terms of the authors writing style, it was very clean and concise, and easy to follow where the story was going. I feel like I could read more books by this author as they have a very comfortable way of telling the story. The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-fi + Fantasy Role Playing Club is an interesting book. It has a large amount of potential but ultimately there were too many sub plots and not enough focus on the characters. However, the D&D parts were full of fantasy and adventure and are the most entertaining parts of the book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Thank you, Netgalley, for providing me with an arc in exchange for a honest review! TW: Homophobia This book follows a group of D&D players as they deal with their daily struggles of life, romance, and coming out, and their meetings on Thursdays that deals with evil cults and sleeping gods. Things take a turn for Ben when the group gets infiltrated by a new, extremely attractive, way out of his league, not single, guy, Albert. I must be honest, I don’t know much about d&d, I have never played it, b Thank you, Netgalley, for providing me with an arc in exchange for a honest review! TW: Homophobia This book follows a group of D&D players as they deal with their daily struggles of life, romance, and coming out, and their meetings on Thursdays that deals with evil cults and sleeping gods. Things take a turn for Ben when the group gets infiltrated by a new, extremely attractive, way out of his league, not single, guy, Albert. I must be honest, I don’t know much about d&d, I have never played it, but I’ve always been curious about it, so it was interesting to get to know the game though the love and passion these characters have for it. I did really like how the story setting completely changed when they got to the D&D parts, and it was those parts that felt the most thought out. I admit though, I still don’t 100% understand the game, but that’s on my peanut brain. This book felt very pointedly targeted against an extremely specific demographic, male, gay d&d nerds who are in their mid twenties to thirties who also are constantly thinking about sex. Which me as a queer girl who isn’t even in her twenties yet had trouble relating to. You’d think since this book had a wlw couple, it would appeal to the queer women demographic on some scale, nope. No such luck. I was not fond of any of the characters, Ben and Valerie both came off as whiny and entitled, and just stayed that way with no development. Mooneyham really is just another asshole and I never really got a feel of Celeste’s character. Huey really was one of the better characters in this book, but he barely showed his face. Most of the relationships felt forced, Ben was always on Alberts tail, even though he had a boyfriend, and he acted like he deserved for Albert to like him back. Valerie was so overprotective of Polly that it almost came obsessive and honestly it did not seem healthy. (view spoiler)[The last straw was after she assaulted the vampire, she really had the nerve to think that she did no wrong. (hide spoiler)] She takes zero responsibly of her actions and in the end she blames it all on the vamp. I did however like the one scene with Mooneyham and Huey, where we got to see how they met. The scene was very short, but it was the only scene in this book that actually felt genuine to me. The language was sort of brutal at times and weirdly constructed and the monologues felt forced. The story jumped around a lot and I honestly think the story would be easier to follow and more well rounded if it all was from Ben’s POV.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zach Freking-Smith

    Originally published on The Best Freking Book Blog I love D&D. I first started playing when I was in high school. I would always play a paladin or a ranger. My ranger was always named Ranger Rick James because, come on, if you have a good name, you stick with it. One night, we were playing at my house instead of our DMs. We played until around 5 AM in our dining room. Joel kept wanting a tower shield for no other reason than that it is cool. Bill made sure we were trap free as we ventured throu Originally published on The Best Freking Book Blog I love D&D. I first started playing when I was in high school. I would always play a paladin or a ranger. My ranger was always named Ranger Rick James because, come on, if you have a good name, you stick with it. One night, we were playing at my house instead of our DMs. We played until around 5 AM in our dining room. Joel kept wanting a tower shield for no other reason than that it is cool. Bill made sure we were trap free as we ventured through a dungeon, constantly stopping to “check for traps!” He somehow found a toy magnifying glass in my house and, man, that was funny. Eventually, we were all goofing off when someone somehow rammed the back of their head into Ian, our DMs, face and gave him a real bad black eye. I found some frozen veggies for his eye. It was the most memorable game I played with them. The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club by Doug Henderson took me back to those high school campaigns. The groups were full of angst and internal conflicts, but they all gathered for the love of their favorite game. The book focuses on three characters: Valerie, Mooneyham, and Ben. Celeste, their DM, introduces a new person into their group, Albert. He’s beautiful and cool and Ben doesn’t think he is there for all the right reasons. But, he’s also nice to Ben, something he isn’t used to. During their first session as a group, Ben’s character is killed. Albert, the paladin (oh yeah baby), wants to venture into the City of the Dead to bring him back. Of course, this is all the proof Ben needs that Albert likes him. Unfortunately, he’s dating Ben’s sort-of ex boyfriend. Meanwhile, Valerie is being followed by a top-hatted mystery man named Varnec. He’s one of those guys who dresses up like a vampire and is just straight-up weird. All the while, she’s trying to adapt to working a full-time job for the first time in her life. Mooneyham is closeted and works at a bank where he’s part of a group of guys who are aiming for the top. Things are going great until his boyfriend informs him that he was by a group of men while walking home from work. When Mooneyham finds out that one of the guys from the bank is in the group, he struggles with how to come out to these hyper-masculine idiots that he works with. It’s a beautiful book full of love and humor and heartbreak and joy. Anyone who grew up against society’s norms can see themselves in some character of this book. Henderson’s understanding of not only the game, but of how people interact during a campaign is something to behold. I’m most likely going to pick this up when it comes out on April 15, 2021. 5/5, 10/10

  28. 5 out of 5

    dia

    (I received a free ARC of this book through Netgalley.) When I read the title of this book - and then the synopsis - I got so excited I talked to my own RPG group about it, hoping for the best. Sadly, it is with great disappointment I have to drop it at 44%. The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club follows a group of D&D players that are all (kinda) friends and also LGBT, and despite promising vampires so far I’ve only seen weird goth people acting silly, adding to my list (I received a free ARC of this book through Netgalley.) When I read the title of this book - and then the synopsis - I got so excited I talked to my own RPG group about it, hoping for the best. Sadly, it is with great disappointment I have to drop it at 44%. The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club follows a group of D&D players that are all (kinda) friends and also LGBT, and despite promising vampires so far I’ve only seen weird goth people acting silly, adding to my list of disappointments with this book. It should be good, something nice to read since it’s relatable and original, but it overall felt really flat. The descriptions all felt a bit weird; the characters are all introduced in a very impersonal way, and since it’s all a very Away 3rd person narrative, I felt like we didn’t really get to see inside the characters at all. Their dialogues felt weird too, awkward, and they all sounded the same, very flat. While the author spent quite a bit in each chapter describing useless things (like mundane items, or spaces I don’t think we’d come back to), while reading the characters interacting it was like they were suspended somewhere in the void, not really doing anything, not feeling anything, no inflection to their voices at all. The characters also didn’t feel very likeable - I can’t say much about the other characters because they were all so flat and one-dimensional I can barely remember their names, but it was Ben I particularly disliked. It’s probably a very personal thing, maybe others could relate better to a 25 year old crying over not dating a boy he met Once. The RPG Group scenes also didn’t add much to the plot, I think, at least not until I read. There were long narratives about what the character’s characters were doing in the fantasy world, and not enough interaction between the actual players, in my opinion. Also, the fact the author deadnamed their (only?) trans character didn’t make me feel very open to give it all a chance with an open heart. It’s an interesting premise, and I think it could’ve been executioned better, but maybe if you’re looking for a light, quick read, without having to think much about plot details or anything in depth at all, it could be a good choice. trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[homophobia, deadnaming a trans character, violence during roleplaying scenes, and I don’t know if something else shows up after the point I decided to drop the book. (hide spoiler)]

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leah Shannon

    First off— it is REALLY frustrating to see that this author has received the exact same complaint from tons of other people and didn’t edit it before final print. Seriously. That is completely unprofessional and frankly given the mistake, feels like an intentional act of transphobia. So there’s that. I cringed at first when the author deadnamed Celeste in the first chapter but gave him the benefit of the doubt until I read all these review before the book even made it to final print. Then I becam First off— it is REALLY frustrating to see that this author has received the exact same complaint from tons of other people and didn’t edit it before final print. Seriously. That is completely unprofessional and frankly given the mistake, feels like an intentional act of transphobia. So there’s that. I cringed at first when the author deadnamed Celeste in the first chapter but gave him the benefit of the doubt until I read all these review before the book even made it to final print. Then I became really annoyed that he didn’t take that out. Here, Doug, let me fix it for you: “Ben knew Celeste before she transitioned.” Easy. Simple. Tells us shes trans without using her deadname. Hell you could even tell us what she used to look like. But the deadname is a no-no. Be a better ally for trans folks, please. In this current political climate, it’s absolutely vital that cis authors listen to this feedback. The only other thing I really couldn’t stand were the sex scenes- and not because there was too much sex. I like sexy books. But these weren’t written well. The only lesbian sex scene in the book was really cringe. Oh and the way Polly is described as being “so beautiful, with her fair skin” felt a little… I dunno. Weird. Some of the descriptions of Polly from Valerie’s POV sounded more like how a straight man would think, not a sapphic woman. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. This is a cis, white male author from an MFA program. It’s sad that no one with a diverse background (def no trans women or lesbians) had any hand in helping to edit this book or was even consulted, clearly… But oh well. There is some good writing here, as others have said, which is why I gave it three stars instead of one. I finished it quickly and I actually thought the storylines were fine and easy enough to follow. And of course I loved the D&D storyline the most (kind of would have preferred more of that tbh) - there were at least a couple pages that I do not feel were edited at all for consistency, but overall it was an ok read. It would have done better as a YA novel if the author would just take out all the sex and put the main characters in high school or something. The writing wasn’t really mature enough to meet the story, if I’m being honest. If you ever get the chance to reprint this PLEASE take out that line deadnaming your only transgender character. And maybe fix the rest of the typos and consistency issues.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Keylime

    I picked up tCHLGBTQSFaFRPC... hm, even the acronym needs an acronym... I picked up CH on a whim, my attention piqued by the lovely cover and a title that hinted a good cast of characters engaged in nerdy pursuits. In general, the book did deliver on this, but I walked away rather unsatisfied by several of the story's subplots and disappointed with the flatness and lack of growth of some of the characters. My perspective already colored by similar books in YA and LGBTQ circles, I went in expectin I picked up tCHLGBTQSFaFRPC... hm, even the acronym needs an acronym... I picked up CH on a whim, my attention piqued by the lovely cover and a title that hinted a good cast of characters engaged in nerdy pursuits. In general, the book did deliver on this, but I walked away rather unsatisfied by several of the story's subplots and disappointed with the flatness and lack of growth of some of the characters. My perspective already colored by similar books in YA and LGBTQ circles, I went in expecting a perhaps a D&D campaign to which our cast to escape into as we see the struggles in their 'real' non-game lives where the character arcs or campaign arc would eventually begin to mirror/help shed light on their non-game lives. While this duel-narrative existed, they felt rather disconnected, and I found myself increasingly annoyed by the interruptions in the 'real' world story lines by the D&D segments of gameplay. While the club gives the cast a natural meeting place, these segments are heavily narrative with minimal direct character interaction and rather predictable story beats. I would love to have seen more of our DM's perspective of her thought process and choices in designing these encounters, not just watching it play out. In between the D&D segments, we get to see each character's life during the rest of the week. It was with these segments that I felt most engaged, and I generally liked each character. However, as the book proceeded, it seemed like the character arcs were not really moving at all, each character staying in roughly the same position physically, emotionally, and spiritually that they were at the beginning. By the end, the only real notable changes I saw were in a handful of secondary characters our mains regularly interacted with. While I don't expect every character to have a significant arc, either positive or negative, I'm unable to name one main character who truly grew either in game or out of it. For all that happened in the book, nothing really felt significant or permanent, rather like a cartoon resetting to the status quo at the end. In the end, it was a solid premise that never quite wrapped up for me in a satisfactory way ( and I'm still confused about the vampire sub-plot). While the characters didn't feel like outright stereotypes, by the end, they felt flat and predictable rather than like friends whose stories I was invested in. Don't get me wrong; I did enjoy the read as there were scenes I really enjoyed and lines that I laughed at, but looking at it as a whole, I feel I expected more than the book was able to deliver. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC; the opinions expressed above are mine and mine alone.

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