Review of Project Fierce Chicago

projectfierce Title: Project Fierce Chicago
Authors: Caitlin Ricci, Alessandra Ebulu, Andrea Speed, Dianne Hartsock, C.J. Anthony, Leta Hutchins, Sophie Bonaste, Jana Denardo , Rin Sparrow, Blaine D. Arden, Layla M. Weir, Kayla Bain-Vrba, Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas, B. Snow, Kenzie Cade, Talya Andor, Lor Rose, Aeris, Vicktor Alexander
Publisher: Less Than Three Press LLC
Genre: GLBT, contemporary, supernatural, shifter, fantasy, science fiction
Published: July 16th, 2014
Pages/Word Count: 592 pages
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Nobody deserves to be without a home. In collaboration with several authors, Less Than Three Press offers up an anthology of stories about young people who find that home and family are not always where you expect to find them.
All proceeds from this charity anthology will be donated to Project Fierce Chicago.
Project Fierce Chicago’s mission is to reduce LGBTQ youth homelessness in Chicago by providing affirming, no-cost transitional housing and comprehensive support services to homeless LGBTQ young adults. PFC also aims to encourage community-building and civic engagement through cooperative living and youth leadership development.

I love it when authors get together and create these wonderful anthologies. As a reader, I get to sample the talents of authors I may have not read before and I can help out too. This anthology is filled with twenty stories covering various genres; contemporary, science fiction, shifter, fantasy, and supernatural.
Overall I enjoyed all of the stories.
Some of my favorites are Socks by Caitlin Ricci, Pretty Boy and Frankie by C.J. Anthony; Blood is Thicker Than Water by Leta Hutchins, Hearth & Home by B. Snow, Finding Home by Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas and Castle on a Cloud by Talya Andor.

If you enjoy finding new authors while supporting a great cause, check out Project Fierce Chicago.

Alex by Caitlin Ricci
The anthology starts with Alex by Caitlin Ricci. This story has a contemporary setting. It is about a young counselor that works at the Trinity House, a place for homeless GLBT youth. On his way to work one day he sees a youth in an alley that looks like they could use some help. After much convincing he gets them to follow him to the center. When filling out the information they refuse to give a name and Alex calls them Socks. It was odd reading a story with gender neutral pronouns throughout for the found youth, but made sense when the youth did not give any indication of how they identified themselves. It was a sweet story with a hopeful ending.

Redemption by Alessandra Ebulu
This is another story with a contemporary setting. The story is about Samuel Jarvis, who runs a Rehabilitation House, the boys in his care, and his ex. The boys under his care have once again ended up before the judge. Unfortunately the attorney for the court is his ex, Thane Waxen. They do not get along well in court and the Judge comes up with a creative way to work things out. He decides that Samuel and Thane must take on a new boy, Rick Crowell for six months, together, and then it will be decided if Samuel can continue his Rehabilitation house. It is an interesting story, laced with humor while addressing the serious topic of abuse. This does have a happy ending.

Still Life By Andrea Speed
This is a fantasy story in a contemporary setting. Mina is on the streets. She has heard stories of a place to stay on Baker Avenue. When she gets there she finds an old warehouse and is wary but decides to look around. What she finds is a beautiful mural that is more than it appears.

Sammy by Dianne Hartsock
A contemporary story involving a lonely young man named John. John is an accountant that volunteers at a homeless shelter. He passes by a bridge on his way to the shelter where a group of people hang out. Here he meets Sammy, a beautiful young man that works as a prostitute. John is very attracted to Sammy and meets with him occasionally. He also worries about him. One night John comes across Sammy on his way home and it is obvious Sammy has been roughed up. John takes Sammy home with him hoping to be his friend and help in some way. This is a hurt/comfort story. Sammy is a bright spot even when his life is bleak. He never knows if he will have a place to stay and until he meets John, thinks there are no alternatives to his current situation. This was an enjoyable story with a hopeful ending.

Pretty Boy and Frankie by C.J. Anthony
This is one of my favorite stories. Connor is a senior at Loyola Academy and all of the students are required to perform community service. Connor is assigned the Sunshine Center. He dreads this as it is a shelter for GLBT youth and Connor is afraid of what the other students will say. He is gay but has not told anyone. When he gets there he meets Frankie. Frankie immediately dislikes Connor’s rich boy look and starts calling him Pretty Boy. I loved the way the story moves us through Connors experience working at the shelter, the lives of some of the youth there and the relationship between Connor and Frankie. Sweet and romantic.

Blood is Thicker Than Water by Leta Hutchins
This is a contemporary story about a young woman named Bobbi that has been in foster care, moving from family to family for years. She is lesbian and refuses to hide who she is which has not always worked out with some of her foster families. With this background, she is understandably wary of her new foster home. Ben and Marie Carter have never been foster parents before, but have raised two daughters of their own. Although not a working farm, they have a variety of animals and part of Bobbi’s chores is taking care of them. Her favorite is a donkey named George. I really loved the way we get to know Ben, Marie and their family. I thought Bobbi’s fear and acting out was portrayed realistically, especially with her life experiences. This is a touching story that is sweet with a happy ending despite some events that occur.

A Mysterious Savior by Sophie Bonaste
Dylan is homeless and has reached the point of despair. When he decides that committing suicide is preferable to living, a mysterious stranger appears and offers him an alternative. The man takes Dylan to get something to eat and tells him about a place for homeless GLBT youth. – House of Pride. Dylan’s story is sad and unfortunately, not uncommon. The ending felt hopeful for a new beginning for Dylan.

Nothing but Himself by Jana Denardo
This story has a supernatural contemporary setting. Strange lives with his grandmother. She is not your typical grandmother, she runs a brothel in a hotel across the street and when there is a light on in her house, it is a sign that she is “busy” and Strange should stay away. When he is there, she puts him to work at the brothel and if he refuses, the consequences are painful. He tries to stay away most of the time anyway, even sleeping in the cemetery next to the house. When Strange witnesses a murder by a supernatural creature, he meets Detectives Priddy and Greenleaf. They both work with a division that investigates supernatural crimes. Detective Greenleaf not only works with Priddy but is also a Bwbach, which is described as the Welsh version of a Brownie. Greenleaf has been with the Priddy family for a very long time. This story was an interesting take on what homeless or abused youth face. It had its light moments and left this reader feeling hopeful that things would turn around for Strange.

Safe Harbor by Rin Sparrow
The world in which this story is set has vampires in place of homeless youth. It is a world in which Vampires are shunned, thought of as lesser beings and can lose their job if someone finds out their true nature. When Nick, a homeless vampire, turns to the Safe harbor clinic for help, he meets Elliot, a human volunteer that works at the shelter. Nick is attracted to Elliot but fears he is going to be used to satisfy a curiosity. Elliot is attracted to Nick as well, but his actions are misinterpreted and Nick disappears without saying anything to him. There is miscommunication and Elliot hopes to see Nick again to find out what went wrong. The story is not as much about the homeless but how society views those they perceive as different. Hopeful ending.

Map to Bogrive by Blaine D. Arden
This story has a fantasy setting. It involves two countries at war. One is home of the Keysents, a people that envy the magical abilities of the Oranians. The Oranians have a special connection to the earth and her flora and fauna. After an attack on Ruari’s home (a Oranian) , he flees with his remaining siblings and a map given to him by his father. The map is to take them to Bogrive, where a man called Ephraim Debucchi will be able to help them. The story chronicles their passage and what they discover when they reach Bogrive.

Time Thieves by Layla M. Weir
This story has a science fiction setting . The main characters Rogan and Ethan keep meeting at various times in their lives, sometimes the past for one and the future for the other. It is an interesting story involving these two men, and the strife both of them have endured at various points in time. With each encounter they learn more about each other. When it seems like they will never meet at the right time an event occurs that provides them a chance at love and maybe even having a home.

Turning Around by Kayla Bain-Vrba
This has a contemporary setting. I found this story the most disturbing. I think because this situation could happen and the fears of the parties involved did not fit the all light and love romance story. Aaron and Zayne love each other. Simple, right? Not even. Aaron still lives at home, is comfortable with that security, works in a doctor’s office and although he loves his boyfriend Zayne, there are hurdles to overcome that he fears will be too much. Zayne had a promising future, star football player, college was in his future until the parents of his girlfriend come home unexpectedly and find them having sex. It did not matter that they had been having sex for a year, Zayne had just turned eighteen and his girlfriend was still seventeen – for four more months. Her parents pressed charges and now this young man is labeled as a sex offender. He can’t get a job or an apartment because no one sees anything but that. This story was hard. I wanted Aaron to be more supportive of Zayne but I could see just how difficult it could be for these two young men. The story does have a hopeful ending.

Finding Home by Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas
This story has a contemporary setting. Alejandro is in high school hell. Openly gay, overweight, he gets bullied by a group of jocks on a regular basis until one day Skylar takes up for him. Skylar is handsome, has dyed blue hair and is a jock too. What everyone doesn’t know about Skylar is he has recently become homeless. His parents kicked him out when they found out he was gay. This is a heartwarming story about the journey these two young men travel as they become friends. Alejandro’s family are wonderful and accepting and I love the way they embrace Skylar as one of their own. A beautiful story about acceptance and the family we choose.

Hearth & Home by B. Snow ❤
Hearth & Home is a fantasy story with a unique retelling of the Cinderella story. Natasha is seventeen and living in her father’s home with her awful stepmother and step sisters. Her father died and the only thing she has left is the home that was theirs. When Prince James announces he is having a ball to meet all the eligible young ladies in the kingdom, Natasha is forced to attend even though she has no interest in meeting the prince. Even though she enjoyed her dance with the prince, her attention is caught by a young woman named Amelia, who Natasha assumes is a lady in waiting. Just as they are getting to know one another, she has to leave and accidentally swaps shoes with her friend Ella who is hurrying away from the ball before midnight. (I love this) When they try to fit her with the shoes, she tells them who it really belongs to. Her step mother is outraged and in the argument, Natasha reveals her attraction to women, not men. Her step mother kicks her out and she finds out how hard it is to live on the street, how invisible people become to others and how cruel they can be. When all looks lost, she helps a person and gets a second chance. This was a wonderful re-telling of a classic fairy tale with a twist. Very nice addition to an anthology benefiting homeless GLBT youth.

Never Leave by Kenzie Cade
This a contemporary story filled with misunderstandings and lack of communication. When Matthew was younger, he was picked on and beaten by bullies for being gay. His best friend Tony has a big brother named Jake that tried to protect him. When Jake expresses his feeling for Matty with a kiss that is witnessed by Tony, Matthew runs off to college in another city and refuses to communicate with Jake or Tony, thinking Tony will hate him. Years later they meet again, but will Jake be able to win Matthews trust in how he feels?

Castle on a Cloud by Talya Andor
This story is another with a fantasy setting. It is also reminds me of a re-telling of the Little Matchstick Girl story. The story had so many interesting elements. Jant Keed is kicked out of his home after his older brother dies. His aspect (magic) is the ability to create fire. He travels to Skyrill during a festival hoping to sell his tinder orbs. Unfortunately the place is mostly deserted and Jant is freezing. One bright spot in his dreary life has been his occasional encounters with Feharad Bezuyt. Fehrad works for the LeVrie’s estate and even though he is a man of some importance, he is always kind to Jant and buys his tinder orbs, paying more than Jant asks. With no hope of selling his tinder orbs in the deserted town, Jant becomes desperate as the night grows colder and starts using his fire aspect to stay warm. One of the things that can happen when he breaks the tinder to gain warmth, is they can also allow one to see visions. This is a heartbreaking scene in which Jant’s life is played out before him as well as a vision of his older brother and one of Fehrad. All is not lost, as this does not end like the original Little Matchstick Girl. I enjoyed this one very much.

Crash Pad by Lor Rose
This is a shifter tale about a young wolf shifter that is beaten and left to die in another packs lands. Death is the usual punishment when another pack wanders into another’s territory without permission. When he is discovered by the pack’s son, he tells him he is just a pup. The rules are different when a shifter is underage; even though this young man is just barely underage he is spared death. Children are to be cared for and it is obvious the young shifter has been abused. This is an interesting romance that addresses some the hardships that LGBT youth can be subjected to.

Long Way Home by Aeris
This story has a contemporary setting. Alex and Edward met in college. The story is told from Alex’s POV and in flashbacks from his college days to events that have happened in his life and takes us through his and Edwards’s lifetime together to the present. A sweet story of finding love, home and family.

Esperanza by Vicktor Alexander
Wesley funk has been raised in a very conservative, religious household. He is in college now and enjoying the freedom it brings. He meets Devean and they fall in love. Devean is bisexual and has a daughter from a previous relationship who lives with him and his family. One big problem is Wesley’s family does not know he is gay. When an incident reveals this to his family, they try to force the demons out of him and it is a heartbreaking scene to read. Unfortunately, Wesley’s family also threatens to have Devean’s daughter taken away by accusing Wesley of suspected child abuse. They are a piece of work! This is a story that once again illustrates what people sometimes have to endure at the hands of those closed minded individuals. It is short and luckily has a happy ending which was somewhat unexpected and felt a little abrupt but was nice to have after all Wesley had endured.

Socks by Caitlin Ricci
I loved this story! This is a follow up to the first story in the anthology, Alex, by Caitlin Ricci. At the conclusion of Alex, we were left with Socks resting their head on the desk near Alex and Alex wanting to protect Socks from further pain. Now Socks is an adult, Doctor Trin, a child psychologist focusing on high risk youth, gangs and homeless youth. Trin has returned to Trinity house to see Alex and hopefully get answers to some questions that have long been unanswered. I really enjoyed the way this took us into the future, filled in the story and let Socks tell us about themselves. It left me with a huge smile on my face and a happy heart. Lovely story and a great ending to the anthology.

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