Short, Diverse Reads for Max TBR Takedown

 

Novellettes: All the fun in a quarter of the time.

 

So, we're halfway through October, and I know that for the competitive among you, this is the time of year when you start to look at the looming total of books you still have to read to complete either GoodReads or blog-based challenges with a feeling of panic.

Don't fear! I'm here to help you.

All of these great stories can be read in under an hour based on the average reader speed of a page a minute.

As an added bonus, every single one of these feature either a LGBTQIA main character, a POC main character, OR BOTH.

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

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Title: Hunting Monsters

Author: SL Huang

Publisher: The Book Smugglers

Length: 50 pages

Read Time: Less than 1 hour

Diversity: Intersectional: on page  lesbian couple, POC cast by a POC author

Synopsis:

Ever since she was a small girl, she has learned to be careful on the hunt, to recognize the signs that separate regular animals from human-cursed grundwirgen. To harm a grundwirgen is a crime punishable by death by the King's decree – a fatal mistake that her Auntie Rosa and mother have carefully prepared her to avoid.

On her fifteenth birthday, when her mother is arrested and made to stand trial for grundwirgen murder, everything she thought she knew about her family and her past comes crashing down.

Mini Review: I was struggling for a bed time read, flipping through things in my kindle, but when I started this, it instantly grabbed me. I loved the build up the relationship between Rosa/Mei, and how the child narrator gradually became more aware of complexities over time. Beautiful, vivid writing. A fascinating fairy-tail mashup of Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.

My Rating:

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Title: The Vishakanya's Choice

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Publisher: The Book Smugglers

Length: 27 pages

Read Time: Half an hour

Diversity: POC cast and mythology by an author of colour. #ownvoices

Synopsis:

Early in her life, Sudha's fate was divined to be a lonely, fruitless future of young widowhood. So, it was considered a blessing when she was brought to the Hastinapur harem to become a vishakanya–a weapon, an assassin, a poison maiden whose very touch is toxic.

Mini Review:

A beautifully written (who expected anything else from Roshani Chokshi??), dark little short story. Considered death incarnate as a result of her star-chart, Sudha is fed poison and turned into a living weapon. Her agency is stripped away and she's treated like a dangerous possession. The depiction of setting is super vivid.

This story is about a girl taking her choices back, standing up for herself, becoming powerful and it's wonderful.

My Rating:

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Title: The Rainbow Flame

Author: Shveta Thakrar

Publisher: Uncanny Magazine

Length: 16 pages

Read Time: 20 minutes

Diversity: Full POC cast by POC author. #ownvoices

Mini Review:

This is the absolutely beautifully told story of Ripali, the last in a line of magical candlemakers who mix parts of their own imaginations into the candles they create. The candles are used by Spell Singers, who use them to protect the population. But Ripali isn’t happy with her situation – why should she be the one to lose her visions and her memories?

The prose and ideas in this are stunning. Shveta is basically the master of gorgeously constructed imagery and metaphor. This is a portal fantasy of sorts, but the transition is so seamless you almost forget.

My rating:

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Read it Online Via Uncanny Magazine!

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Title: The Terracotta Bride

Author: Zen Cho

Publisher: Zen Cho

Length: 51 pages

Read Time: Less than an hour

Diversity: POC cast and mythology by a POC author. #ownvoices

Synopsis:

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It's a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn't choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she's reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua's creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.

Mini Review:

A totally fascinating blend of mythology and modernity. This is a super quick read novella read with a unique and interesting cast of characters. Beautifully written and easily readable in an hour.

I loved the way the story talked about hell and reincarnation. It's not always a peaceful process, but something that a lot of the souls dread. Siew Tsin's naivety made her a perfect narrator.

My Rating:

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Genre: Paranormal

 

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Title: The Artist and the Devil

Author:  Shira Glassman

Publisher: Shira Glassman

Length: 15 pages

Read Time: 20 minutes

Diversity: Gay Romance

Synopsis:

Noah has an uncomplicated life–he teaches art at a high school, then sketches outside all afternoon until he gets hungry and has to go home, and finally spends the night grading papers. His life is thrown into confusion when he encounters a mysterious burly businessman one day in the park. Noah keeps finding clues that the man is Satan–and the worst part is, he's growing more attracted to him every day.

Mini Review:

When I first started reading, I was little bit skeptical. I kept thinking, wait, hold on Noah, you have absolutely no evidence for your accusations? Where are you getting these thoughts from?

And I read on, thinking, well this is cute But

BUT THEN: THE TWIST. THE BEAUTIFUL DIAMOND TWIST that turns this from simply a cute gay romance short, into a larger commentary on stereotypes and jumping to conclusions.

Love it.

My Rating:

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Genre: Sci-Fi

 

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Title: The Siren Son

Author: Tristina Wright

Publisher: Lightspeed Magazine

Length: 19 pages

Read Time: 20 minutes

Diversity: Very, very queer 😀

Mini Review:

Read and adored Tristina Wright's "The Siren Song." I loved the beautiful ocean imagery and the sweet love between Killian and Neal.

ALSO the image of a merking living in a coral castle being rammed with a battleship … one of my favourites lines of all time! <3

My Rating:

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Read the story at Lightspeed!

#YASH: Introducing CM McCoy and Eerie!

 

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Hello, Scavengers! Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt Fall 2016! I'm super excited to be on the Purple Team this season, hosting CM McCoy and her novel Eerie!

My name is Julia Ember and my debut YA Fantasy Romance, Unicorn Tracks, came out this year from Harmony Ink Press. If you're not familiar with it yet, you should definitely click the link! 😀

The rules of the game are simple … Enjoy the amazing bonus content all the author have put together while searching for the secret number concealed in each post. Once you find all the numbers for the Purple Team, total them up and submit your entry on Yash.rocks!

Repeat the process until you complete the hunt for all the teams. There is also a Special Giveaway on this post for a £25 Amazon Card and a Paperback Copy of Unicorn Tracks! Use the Rafflecopter entry at the bottom of the content!

… Ready?

 

About CM McCoy

CM McCoy knows full well nobody can pronounce her last name. Hence the pen name. Also known as Colleen Oefelein, CM is the PR Manager for Inklings Literary Agency. She leads writing conference workshops on a spectrum of topics like book promotion and tippity-tapping into your way around writer’s block. Her paranormal debut, EERIE, released last year and was featured in an April issue of PEOPLE Magazine. Colleen loves to Irish dance, drink whiskey, and sing WAY too loud. Thankfully, her Last Frontier neighbors (the moose) don't seem to mind. Though she holds a B.S. in chemical engineering and one in German from Penn State, she's happiest writing the stories of monsters in Alaska (with an awkward kiss in the mix.) While working 911 dispatch for State Troopers, she learned to speak in 10-codes, which she still does…but only to annoy her family.

 

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Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

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About EERIE:

EERIE is a YA Paranormal Romance with crossover appeal (which means that even 27 year olds like me will enjoy it! I bought it and I'm looking forward to reading it!), published by Omnific Publishing.

“Eerie is a deliciously dark, surprisingly funny teen novel, full of quirky characters and jaw-dropping surprises.” – Goodreads review

Hailey Hartley has just enrolled in the world's premier supernatural university. It's a school she's never heard of, located in a town called The Middle of Nowhere, and run by a creature that's not supposed to exist. But at least she got a scholarship…

Hailey’s dreams have always been, well…vivid. As in monsters from her nightmares follow her into her waking life vivid.

When her big sister goes missing, eighteen-year-old Hailey finds the only thing keeping her safe from a murderous 3,000-year old beast is an equally terrifying creature who’s fallen “madly” in love with her. Competing to win her affection, the Dream Creature, Asher, lures her to the one place that offers safety—a ParaScience university in Alaska he calls home. There, she must learn to live with a roommate from Hell, survive her ParaScience classes, and hope the only creature who can save her from an evil immortal doesn’t decide to kill her himself. 

You can watch her amazing book trailer here:

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CM McCoy has provided an exclusive deleted scene for her bonus content! I thought it was brilliant and has definitely ramped up my excitement to read the book …

 

Deleted Scene:

The Pre-Med group began the day’s seminar with a presentation on staying healthy and a stark reminder that Hailey wasn’t in Pittsburgh anymore.

“Remember,” said the too-groomed man at the front of the room, “Bear Towne hospital is a teaching hospital that treats humans and non-humans alike, which sometimes leads to inadvertent mix-ups. Now,” he said holding up a superior finger as his nose also went in the air, “despite the rumors, we haven’t had an accidental transmutation in almost a decade—”

“Thank you, Professor Starr,” said an equally well-groomed, but younger man, who ushered the professor out of the way and took over the presentation.

“Bottom line—” he told them, “I’ve got five reasons to NOT end up at Bear Towne Hospital. Dr. Starr already mentioned the transmutations,” he said holding up his thumb. He added a finger at each increasingly horrific reason to stay away from campus health care.

“Second—there has been an increased incidence of Flesh-eating Zombitis among patients treated in the emergency room. Third—and this is no rumor—the hospital has a resident banshee, who doesn’t always follow the prescribed treatment plans—if you know what I mean,” he said with a nervous laugh to a roomful of crickets.

Hailey tried not to look as shocked as she felt. Honestly, Professor Starr had her at “transmutation.” Everything after that was fodder for nightmares.

“Also,” he continued, adding a fourth finger to his count, “I-MET drives the ambulance and finally, I’m sure you’ve all heard of last year’s Soylent Green incident in the hospital’s cafeteria.

“So, do what you need to do to stay healthy, because there’s no telling if you’ll come out of the campus hospital in better or worse shape than when you entered.”

Campus safety for humans was next. The student handbook laid out most of the information on Bear Towne’s predators, but Hailey did take a few notes from the I-MET worker, who marched to the front of the room wearing a presidential mask—Reagan it looked like. For instance, she had no idea you could use a shotgun to kill mosquitos. Also, the colored flag atop the Trinity Center indicated the mosquito climate for the day, with green meaning a low concentration of blood suckers (usually due to high winds); yellow meaning no amount of DEET will protect you, and red meaning grab the shotgun.

Things wrapped up with the campus priest blessing the freshmen and reminding everyone to tend to their soul—go to church, be nice and don’t kill anyone was his advice.

Seemed easy enough.

 

Continue the Hunt with the Purple Team! …

Head Over to Hannah Rials' Blog Next!

 

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Win a £25 Amazon Gift Card and a Paperback Copy of Unicorn Tracks!

 

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9 Upcoming Queer YA Books from Small Pubs

As an author with one and soon to be two different smaller publishers, making small press books more visible is a topic I am passionate about! In the last few weeks, this topic was called into the Literary Twitter Forefront by Adam Silvera, who tweeted about how other authors treated him in the wake of his first book deal with a smaller house. Other big name authors such as Maggie Stiefvater, originally published by Flux, also chimed in. 

Spotlighting diverse books is also important to me, so I wanted to write up a list of upcoming titles many of my twitter followers and readers might not have on their radars yet! 

One thing that I noticed while making this list, is that even among small publishers, unless the publisher is directly devoted to publishing diverse titles … there was a shocking lack of books about POC or LGBTQ characters. Lots of small publishers (and mid-sized!) publishers didn't have a single diverse upcoming title in the next 6 months! I'm shocked by that. Maybe I shouldn't be, but I am.

 

 

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October 20 2016

Interlude Press / Duet

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Synopsis: 

Luke Aday knew that his sister’s death was imminent—she had been under hospice care for months—but that didn’t make her death any easier on him or their family. He returns to school three days after the funeral to a changed world; his best friends welcome him back with open arms, but it isn’t the same. But when a charismatic new student, Eddie Sankawulo, tries to welcome Luke to his own school, something life-changing happens: In a moment of frustration, Luke runs into an empty classroom, hurls his backpack against the wall—and the backpack never lands. Luke Aday has just discovered that he can stop time.

Why I'm Interested … 

(1) This sounds like a contemporary novel with a just a hint of the paranormal. I’m curious to see how Luke’s new ability will help him deal with his grief.

(2)  I’ve been told that the m/m romance in this is super cute. The main pairing is also interracial.

(3) I trust the sensitivity reader who publicly endorsed the book. 

(4) I love a good tearjerker when the sad parts of the book have literally nothing to do with being queer.  

 

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Ylva Publishing

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Synopsis: 

It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.

But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella.

As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1) We moved to the UK when I was 10. I attended an international school where kids came and went all through middle and high school. Moving abroad as a teen is a book topic that interests me!

(2) I still feel a bit 3rd culture … I live in the UK again, in Scotland, which isn't really like England where I grew up, and definitely isn't Chicago. Figuring out how to balance overseas friendships is HARD.

(3) This promises to be a really cute f/f romance. 

 

 

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October 20 2016

Harmony Ink Press

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Synopsis:

Hunter Donovan’s temper never used to be a problem. He lived the perfect life with the perfect family before the dark truth came spilling out. Now his dad’s in prison, and after Hunter explodes at school, accidentally hitting a teacher, his mom has him committed. 

Hunter doesn’t belong at Better Days. He needs to be stronger, not sent to a well-dressed loony bin. If he’d been better, less selfish, he would have realized something was going on under his own roof. No amount of psychoanalyzing and group therapy can change the past.

But among the bullies, fights, and bad cafeteria food, Hunter meets a group of friends: anxiety-ridden Casey, wild and exciting Rosie, recovering bulimic Bethany, and Stray, a self-harmer who doesn’t think he belongs anywhere. Around this group of misfits, Hunter doesn’t feel so alone and angry anymore.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1)  I attended a virtual panel with Nyrae Dawn through School Library Journal about mental health representation in YA books. She was terrific. As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, this is a topic I’m passionate about and I’m always on the lookout for new YA books featuring protagonists with mental illnesses.

(2) I've read some of Nyrae's other books and loved them. There is comfort in familiar authors that you can trust to deliver! 

 

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November 3 2016

Harmony Ink Press

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Synopsis:

When Marian Banner moves to the glittering city of Nottingham with her father, Sir Erik the Fortunate, her entire life changes. She is no longer allowed to run about the countryside in leggings and braids, climbing fences and shooting turkeys, but is thrust into a life of dresses and jewels and dancing lessons, none of which Marian is particularly pleased about. Her dark mood changes when she meets a tiny whip of a girl called Robin Hood. Robin is fierce and brave and wants more than anything to become a knight, regardless of her gender. Together they explore the city, becoming fast friends along the way.

As time passes, their friendship changes into something bigger and scarier and far more wonderful. But then Marian’s father is killed in service to the king, and she catches the king’s eye.

Can Robin save her once more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?

Why I'm Interested: 

(1) ROBIN HOOD f/f … Yes, I am a huge fan of the gender swapped historical fantasy. Really excited to see what elements of the folktale will change and what will stay the same. 

(2) Damsels learning to save themselves. I've been promised it by the synopsis. 

 

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November 7 2016

Triton YA / Riptide Publishing

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Synopsis:

Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he's . . . well, pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark.

But being a Junior Hero means that Javier gets all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets. It's hard enough working for the Legion of Liberty and fighting against the evil Organization, all while trying to keep on top of schoolwork and suspicious parents. Add in a hunky boyfriend who's way out of Javier's league, and an even hunkier villain who keeps appearing every time said boyfriend mysteriously disappears, and Blue Spark is in for one big dollop of teenage angst. All while engaging in some epic superhero action and, oh yeah, an all-out battle to protect Liberty City from the forces of evil.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1)  I’ve really been on a super hero kick recently. I loved Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee, a queer girl super-hero novel that came out earlier this month. Here’s the queer boy answering book.  And I’ve readily watched and loved every single of one of the Netflix/Marvel superhuman series. I love them.

(2) ENEMIES TO LOVERS. I am here for that trope. Every damn time.

 

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November 1st 2016

Skypony Press

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Note: Okay, unless you've been living under a twitter rock for the past six months, the chances are that if you read diverse books, you've heard of this one. However, it is coming from a smaller publisher, and I am really excited about it. SO I AM GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT AGAIN. This is my blog and I do what I want. 

Synopsis:

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1) Everyone I know who has read it is obsessed with it. I take this as a good sign.

(2) STEAMPUNK. VICTORIANA. CLOCKTOWER MAGIC. Love it. 

(3) Even though this sounds like it will play heavily on a forbidden love trope, I like that the reason their love is forbidden doesn't sound like it's because it's gay love. It's forbidden because one of them is a magical being. 

(4) That cover. I love it. I need to touch it. 

 

18-monthsDecember 13 2016

Bold Strokes Books

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Synopsis:

Alissa Reeves came out for Hannah Desarno. Hannah is smart, beautiful, and has just gone missing. Worse, she isn’t Alissa’s first girlfriend to disappear. Eighteen months ago, Alissa was caught kissing bad girl Lana Meyers. Too scared to admit her feelings for Lana, Alissa let her friends blame Lana. Weeks later when Lana disappeared, no one in their small town thought much of it until months later when her body was found.

With Hannah gone, Alissa finds herself following clues that will help her discover what happened to both girls, and the truth will change everything.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1) Queer girls gone rogue badass conspiracy mystery, drama!!!!!! 

(2) I am really wondering if the main character is going to turn out to be a villian. I have to know. 

 

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Triton Ya / Riptide Publishing

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Synopsis:

Being orphaned and almost kidnapped in the space of a week sent Blake Marks into hiding. For months, Blake tries to help the Calvers—a family of vigilante bodyguards—investigate the people behind the hit on Blake’s father, Isaac, but then the safehouse is compromised. Just as hired thugs storm the house to grab Blake, Daelan Calver dives into the fight, getting them both out alive.

Hiding isn’t an option anymore, but hit squads, under-the-table deals, and international espionage? Blake has no idea how to handle any of it, not even with Daelan’s family there to play teachers. The one thing Blake knows for sure is that there are only two options: keep up with the Calvers or get out of their way.

But even with the Calvers’ help and the glimmer of a possible future with Daelan giving Blake hope, chances of survival keep shrinking. The man who ordered the hit on Isaac may be dead, but his partner is viciously cold-blooded, and her plans could change the course of history. Blake wants to finish what Isaac started, but it’s looking like someone is going to die before this is over. And that someone might be Blake.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1) We've talked about my morbid fascination with assassins before, yes? Queer boy assassins. Yes, yes yes. 

(2) I read the first book in the series and loved it. Each of the books focuses on different but related characters, though, so this book could be read first as a standalone. 

 

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27 October 2016

Harmony Ink Press

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Synopsis: 

Explore fiction in all genres—from contemporary realism to experimental fantasy—featuring characters in every color of the rainbow. The unique voices within these pages represent the future, and they bring distinct perspectives on love, loss, and growing up in a changing world. Whether they stem from firsthand experience or pure imagination, these are tales that praise diversity and call for unity, understanding, and compassion. Because while the road to adulthood can be full of obstacles and even unhappiness, there’s also much beauty to be found on the journey.

Why I'm Interested: 

(1) These are short stories by actual queer teens … sharing their experiences, their imaginings, their hopes, their fantasies. 

(2) I was lucky enough to critique some of these when they were being considered for the contest. The quality of writing is high and I think it's so great to glimpse what queer YA writers of the future are doing.

 

 

Let me know what's on your radar in the comments! Had you heard of all of these before?

Baby Author Firsts: My first panel!

I've had this post on my To Do list for a couple of weeks now, but I wanted to detail my first experience as a Con panelist! 

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to Nineworlds Geekfest in London to speak on the Writing Queer Characters panel. It was my first experience of speaking on a panel, so I was genuinely really nervous before I went. Luckily, I arranged to meet up with fellow #WO2016 author, Emma Adams, to share accomodation and generally hang out! Despite talking online frequently, Emma and I had never met before. 

 

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On the positive side, I didn't die. Our panel went relatively smoothly, although I do feel that the moderator could have been better prepared and it would have been helpful to have some indication of specific questions prior to the day. It may have helped if I'd been able to arrive earlier, but due to some travel chaos, I *just* made it to the panel in time. However, I was able to discuss polyamory and bisexuality in quite a lot of detail and the audience had some great questions. Our room was packed, which is also a great feeling! I also got to pimp some great Queer YA books like THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US … and the audience seemed pretty wowed by the idea of Lesbians and Seamonsters. 

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Getting down to the panel itself was more than a little bit of a challenge. I caught the train early Saturday morning — and our train HIT A PERSON. Honestly, it was one of those horror stories that you hear about but think are actually really rare. We were delayed for about four hours, and the whole time I was getting more and more anxious with conflicting emotions. I felt terrible for the person as it was ruled a suicide. Even worse for the driver who now has to live with the guilt and the surviving family members. Then, I hated myself for worrying so much over a panel in the light of … death. By the time I actually made it down to Nineworlds to meet Emma, I was pretty worked up and arrived approximately 5 1/2 hours later than I had anticipated. 

Once I arrived, I did have a really great time. I loved seeing all the cosplay at the event and I got some frankly hilarious Loki Tea at the expo. Nineworlds is extremely inclusive and they build in a lot of places for quiet space around the venue. I went to some great panels on Fan Fiction and Fandom culture, as well as one on Plus Sized Heroines. I would have liked to see more YA book panels, but I appreciate that not every event can be focused on this magical category. 

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2016 Isn’t Over: Fall 2016 Queer Reads

 

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In the past few weeks, I've noticed a definite shift on blogs I follow and on Twitter towards looking at Books To Come in 2017. As an author, I'm definitely looking forward to 2017 because the first book in my High Fantasy series, Tiger's Watch, will come out in August. But I can't help feeling like authors whose books come out in the fall get a little left out sometimes by the fast-paced blogosphere that likes to focus on the future and ARCs to come! 

And I feel a little bit sad about that because several of my "most anticipated" for 2016 are fall releases. In fact, although I've been MAGNIFICENTLY SURPRISED AND DELIGHTED by many Spring/Summer 2016 books, the only queer YA book that was on my radar at this time in 2015 that has actually come out is AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White. 

Which is why I wanted to write a blog post focusing on some late summer/fall Queer Books that I am dying to read. Let's salivate together, hmm?

Ignore my innuendos. 

FIRST UP …

22 November 2016 from Balzer and Brey

OF FIRE AND STARS has been on my radar since last fall, when I stumbled across the Publisher's Weekly announcement on twitter. The brief description told of an arranged marriage and a princess who falls in love with her betrothed's horse-crazy sister instead. When I read that, my brain just about exploded. 

I am a sucker for the arranged-marriage-gone-wrong trope. I am a sucker for horse-crazy girls who fall in love with other horse crazy girls. 

And everything that I've heard about this book since that point has only strengthened my desire. The fuller synopsis tells us to expect forbidden fire magic, assassinations and court intrigue. Plus this insanely gorgeous, lesbians-in-full-view cover. And the author herself is a married lesbian, so #ownvoices LES YA abounds in this read. And it's fantasy. 

My heart is pounding so fast it might explode.

Someone please fetch my smelling salts. 

If, like me, you want to pre-order this marvel, you can do so here: CLICKY

 

AND SECONDLY …

5 September 2016 from Triton Books

Okay. Those of you who have followed me on Twitter for a little while are probably aware of my deep and enduring obsession with female assassins. I mean, some people say they're tired of them, but I WILL NEVER GET TIRED OF BADASS LADY ASSASSINS. NEVER. I am obsessed with Throne of Glass, Grave MercyAssasin's Heart … basically, you name it, if it has a female assassin in it, I'm here for it and will probably end up rating it 5 stars. 

I'm not really sure what it says about my psycology that I love such violent protagonists, but let's not analyse that too in too much depth. 

Anyway, the synopsis for this book has me totally intrigued. We have a morally ambiguous protagonist, whose father trains her an assassin from a young age. But when he misses a mark, her world gets thrown into turmoil. Then she gets kidnapped, and by the synopsis' promise of a "green eyed stranger" …

I am going to go out on a limb and say she probably gets kidnapped by her love interest, who I am promised is a female, and that combination is causing me to type really fast and make this crazy runon sentence because I am so excited I actually cannot contain myself. 

*heavy breathing* So, our f/f romance is going to have a kidnapping. And thus possibly another favourite trope of mine — ENEMIES TO LOVERS. 

You can also preorder this one: CLICKY 

 

MOVING RIGHT ALONG …

1 November 2016 from Sky Pony Press

 

I had heard of this book, vaguely, but didn't really know what it was about until after its cover reveal. Then I checked it out, and had one of those moments where my interest level ramped up by 190% because I suddenly realised: THIS BOOK IS GAY. 

This book promises so many things that I love. It's set in a Victorian-inspired world, featuring time spirits and all kinds of forbidden magic. What's even better, is although the synopsis hints that the romance between mechanic Danny and clock-spirit Colton is forbidden — it's not forbidden because they're gay, it's forbidden because one of them is a magical being. 

I am so intrigued by this setting and by what promises to be a truly unique system of magic. This book is really activating my inner world-building nerd. I like it and I NEED IT. 

You need it too! Pre-order: CLICKY

 

OUR JOURNEY CONTINUES … 

3 November 2016 from Harmony Ink Press

 

MARIAN is an f/f Robin Hood retelling with a gender-flipped Robin. Let's all just take a moment to appreciate the beauty of that premise. I have always been a fan of well-executed retellings, but the brilliance of AND I DARKEN has me especially pumped up for another legend/quasi-historical/quasi-medieval genderflipped, queer retelling. MARIAN is promising to deliver on that. 

When I read the synopsis, the last line really stuck with me: "Can Robin save her one more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?" The reason is that I feel like one of my favourite t-shirt sayings may soon be widely applicable to a YA novel. (that saying being: We're Damsels. We're in Distress. We got this.) I am really looking forward to seeing how Marian develops as a character herself — since the classical portrait of Marian shows her as being quite weak! 

Jump on the pre-order bandwagon with me! CLICKY

 

WHEREIN OUR HEROINE CHEATS … 

6 September 2016 from Delacorte

I'm cheating with this one because I've already read it.  HA! Be jealous. 

I'm including it because this book is quite possibly my favourite book of 2016 so far and one of the most beautiful, haunting and important books I've ever read. 

Girl in Pieces is a heart-breaking book that handles the difficult topic of self-harm with sensitivity matched with a sort of stark realness. The prose quality genuinely reminded me of Margaret Atwood. 

You can read my full review here.

You can preorder this marvel here! 

 

 

AND THE ADULT BOOKS …

3 November 2016 from Interlude Press

The first of my non-YA future-flails has to be this one. From the cover and the synopsis, LUCHADOR promises to be a mashup of angel mythology and Latin-american Christiana, gayness and Fight Club awesomness. I love conflicted main characters … especially when their inner conflict comes as a result of desire juxtaposed with faith. 

The synopsis tells us that Gabriel enters the world of the lucha libre, training as an elite wrestler and performer and becoming embroiled in the underground counter-culture surrounding it. Faced with career prospects and too many temptations, Gabriel has to choose between wealth and staying true to his faith. 

This cover calls to me. The strong character-based narrative calls to me. 

NEED. 

Sadly not available to pre-order yet, but you can add it to GoodReads!

 

AND OUR HORSEY ROMANCE … 

8 August 2016 from Dreamspinner Press

This one is a very personal selection. The synopsis promises a tender romance between a cowboy and a former eventer, struggling together to heal a damaged horse. It genuinely sounds like a gay version of The Horse Whisperer and I really could not be more ready for this, even though I know it is going to destroy me emotionally. Nothing makes me sob as fast as animal stories. 

Currently, my old event horse of sixteen years is on a downward spiral. He's old. Just turned 24 and keeps having more issues with his tendons and ligaments. 

A story of finding love while healing horses … going to BREAK ME. But I think, in a good way. 

Pre-order Link!

 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST … 

29 August 2016

Okay … so, confession time: I am a former online gaming addict. #PokemonGO aside, I've had to ban myself from playing because it's so easy for me to get hooked. I also fucking love Alexis Hall. 

When I realised Alexis Hall had a book coming out about two guys who meet in an MMO and fall in love … I knew I had to have it. I'm not entirely sure what the central conflict is going to be, if I'm honest, based on the synopsis of this one. But, I have the utmost faith that the characters and the voice will be rocking in this … because Alexis Hall is a fucking genius. 

Preorder clickety!

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#ReadProud Wrap-Up and Winners

A month ago, I started the #ReadProud challenge as an initiative to encourage bloggers and readers to pick up more LGBTQIA books this month.

Lots of readers pledged their time and made the commitment to read one or two LGBTQIA books a week. We had 36 starters in the challenge and 24 people finished, maintaining their momentum for four consecutive weeks! Many more people participated individually, choosing to read queer books through other challenges or on their own momentum. Over the weeks of the challenges, #ReadProud readers read and reviewed 137 queer books from different genres and age categories. These books came from Big 5 publishers, independent Publishers, small presses and self-published authors.

 

Top 5 Most Read Books

1) George by Alex Gino … 9 Readers — Middle Grade, Trans Contemp.

2) If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo  … 6 Readers … Young Adult, Trans Contemp.

     This book was also the highest rated of the challenge, averaging 4.67 stars.

3) Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sarah Farizan … 6 Readers … Young Adult, Lesbian Contemp.

4) Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler … 4 Readers … New Adult, Lesbian Contemp.

5) Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember … 4 Readers … Young Adult, Lesbian Speculative.

 

Readers had the choice to enter either the Silver Challenge or the Gold Challenge. Silver Challenge Readers read 1 book per week, while Gold Challengers read 2. Each category will have a prize draw. Gold Challengers were automatically entered in both draws, as they read two books per week.

All challenge completers were entered into a randomizer for the draw. Here are the winners:

SILVER PRIZE ($50 for AMAZON, B&N, WATERSTONES or FOYLES): Lauren from Let's Get Beyond Tolerance / Shooting Star Magazine

GOLD PRIZE ($100 for AMAZON, B&N, WATERSTONES or FOYLES): Amber from Bookstacksamber

I hope that both of you will continue your queer reading momentum and get lots of LGBTQIA new books!

Sadly, I cannot give a monetary prize to everyone, but I would also like to mention Jamie from Books and Ladders and Bhavya from Books and Calm for being FUCKING BADASSES in terms of number of books read for this challenge. These guys are like little queer reading power houses. I would like to gift both of you a free queer ebook of your choice — please follow the same instructions to claim it as other prizes.

To claim your prizes, please send me an email at juliaemberya AT gmail DOT com — let me know where to send your prizes! All these prizes are giftcards effectively, and will be sent digitially on or before July 15 as long as claimed promptly.

It goes without saying, maybe, but I want to say it anyway: Queer Books and Queer Spaces are important all year round. If you are looking for new books to read, I absolutely hope that you will check out the lists compiled by GayYa.org or LGBTQReads.com as well as follow them on twitter for regular updates, new books and challenges.

 

#ReadProud — Why it Matters Now by Johanna Pankhurst

A part of me didn’t even want to write this blog post. I haven’t wanted to write much of anything since I woke one morning and learned that 50 people had been killed in cold blood at a gay bar the night before.

When I first learned about this tragedy, so many potential root causes ran through my brain: trans bathroom law that make LGBTQ+ people seem lesser, terrorism that continues to consume parts of our world, lack of gun regulation that gives us a country filled with AR-15s…and author censorship.

I know, the last one seems initially out of place. It’s not, I promise. Here’s why.

In recent weeks, a number of authors have come forward to talk about they’ve been disinvited from speaking at schools that had previously invited them for author visits. Kate Messner was disinvited from a school in Vermont (my homeland!) because her most recent book deals with heroin addiction. And then Phil Bildner was disinvited from a school district in Texas. The reasons for that disinvitation are muddled, but it’s been suggested the whole thing occurred because he recommended George, a book about a transgender kid, to students the last time he visited.

We all know that the path to building a community of people who love, care for, and support one another—despite differences—is building empathy within children and young people. We know this. We know building empathy is how we create a generation that sees differences positively and can look at others’ perspectives when they disagree. And you know what’s key to building empathy? Exposure to new things. Different things. Different people. People who may or may not be like them. Other. Same. Every type of person in every type of place.

Only most schools and parents don’t have money to ensure that kids visit hundreds of different places and meet hundreds of different people. Luckily, they don’t need it. They have something better: books.

As many before me have noted, books are the mirrors and windows of the world. They are how we build empathy for a person a thousand miles away and how we understand someone who believes in things we’ve never believed in.

Most kids access books in three places: libraries, schools, and their parents. So at least one of those places has to deliver books that show multiple perspectives on the world…only this can we something something teachers and librarians struggle with. We struggle against school boards and parents and communities who say our kids aren’t ready to read about certain subjects, or that we’re trying to turn them into something, or that we’re imposing our beliefs on them.

It can be a rough road at times. And that’s just one of many reasons why #ReadProud month is so important. It’s a chance for those of us who have been called to act as the “gatekeepers” of books for children and teens to discuss that responsibility. A chance for us to share things like how we have difficult conversations with administrators, parents, and school boards. A chance for us to discuss and learn about wonderful books and bring them back to the people who want and need to read them.

Tough conversations like these are never easy or fun. But #ReadProud gives us the opportunity to support one another in how to have those conversations—and we must have them. Having these conversations is one of our best chances at preventing tragedies like the Orlando shooting.

We have a responsibility to build a better next generation, and we will not build that generation by censoring the lives of one another. So #ReadProud, and share that pride with all the children and teens in your life. 

 

—————————–

Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.

To learn more about Johanna or her books click here!

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#ReadProud: Week 4!

Thanks to the outpouring of support for #ReadProud, I'm starting a different blog post for each week to keep things a little bit more organised. You can read about the overall structure of the event here. You can also find out about the prizes there! 

Remember, each week there are two categories. Participating in one category and reading one book per week makes you eligible for the Silver Prize Draw. Participating in both categories and reading two books (or more!) per week makes you eligible for Gold Prize Draw!

For your book to count towards the draw, you have to leave a review on GoodReads and at least one retailer website. If you're not comfortable posting reviews, you can still participate, but unfortunately you won't be eligible for a prize draw. Leave links to your reviews in the comments for the Week!

THIS IS THE FINAL WEEK OF THE CHALLENGE!

 

readproud

Category A:  GAY YA

What I'll Be Reading: We Are the Ants by Shawn David Hutchinson

Bender by Gene Gant

Suggested Titles: 

JERKBAIT by Mia Seigert 

SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli 

DAGGER by Steven dos Santos

BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan

FJORD BLUE by Nina Rossing

 

Category B: WILDCARD 

Surprise me. Surprise us all. As long as it's LGBTQIA. I'd LOVE people to bring forward some terrific Asexual, Bisexual and Non-binary books. 

 

1) Jerkbait … Jamie

2) Bender … Julia 

3) False Hearts … Julia

4) We Are the Ants … Bhavya 

5) Bender … Laura

6) Waiting for the Flood … Laura

7) None of the Above … Nicole

8) Boy Meets Boy … Serena

9) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe … Rebecca

10) Symptoms of Being Human … Nina

11) Fun Home … Becky

12) We Awaken … Jamie 

13) Daybreak Rising … Jamie 

14) Wonders of the Invisible World … Serena

15) Five Stages of Andrew Brawley … Chasia

16) Noble Falling … Chasia

17) Out on Good Behavior  … Rebecca

18)  Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda … Bhavya

19) Jerkbait … Bhavya

20) Alex as Well … Bhavya

21) One Man Guy … Amber

22) This Song is Not For You … Amber

23) Strong Signal … Lauren

24) Simon Vs … Bogi

25) Half Bad … Meredith

26) A Distant Soil … Meredith

27) Freakboy … Bogi

28) None of the Above … Michelle

 

 

#ReadProud Week 3!

Thanks to the outpouring of support for #ReadProud, I'm starting a different blog post for each week to keep things a little bit more organised. You can read about the overall structure of the event here. You can also find out about the prizes there! 

Remember, each week there are two categories. Participating in one category and reading one book per week makes you eligible for the Silver Prize Draw. Participating in both categories and reading two books (or more!) per week makes you eligible for Gold Prize Draw!

For your book to count towards the draw, you have to leave a review on GoodReads and at least one retailer website. If you're not comfortable posting reviews, you can still participate, but unfo

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readproud

Category A:  AUTHORS OF COLOUR

What I'll Be Reading: ASH BY MALINDA LO 

Suggested Titles: 

IF YOU COULD BE MINE by Sara Farizan 

SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE by CB LEE

THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson

THE BATTLE FOR JERICHO by Gene Gant

TREASURE by Rebekah Weatherspoon 

 

Category B:  LESBIAN CONTEMPORARY 

What I'll Be Reading: OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR by Dahlia Adler 

Suggested Titles: 

ANNIE ON MY MIND by Nancy Garden

AT HER FEET by Rebekah Weatherspoon (over 18s!) 

CAREFULLY EVERYWHERE DESCENDING by LD Bedford

EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU by Nina LaCour

IRON AND VELVET by Alexis Hall

STYLE by Chelsea Cameron

 

1) If You Could Be Mine … Serena

2) Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel … Mia

3) Everything Leads to You … Nicole

4) Style … Laura

5) Treasure … Nina

6) Treasure … Laura

7) Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel … Mia

8) Out on Good Behavor … Jamie

9) Everything Leads to You … Crystal

10) Anthology of Fiction Trans Women of Colour … Shira

11) You Set Me on Fire … Jamie 

12) Saving Mongomery Sole … Jamie

13) You Know Me Well … Jamie

14) Afterworlds … Jamie

15) Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel … Serena

16) Ash … Becky

17) Friends that Still … Chasia

18) Harmony … Karis Walsh

19) The Summer Prince … Bhavya

20) Ash … Bhavya

21) Everything Leads to You … Bhavya

22) Out on Good Behavior … Bhavya

23) Everything Leads to You … Rebecca

24) Tell Me Again how a Crush Should Feel … Rebecca

25) Tell me Again How a Crush Should Feel … Michelle

26) Everything Leads to You … Becky

27) Ash … Meredith

28) Style … Meredith

29) Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel … Lauren

30) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe … Bogi

31) If You Could Be Mine … Bogi

32) Out on Good Behavior … Amber

33) At Her Feet … Amber

#ReadProud — Ace in the Hole by Calista Lynne

 

Ace in the Hole

a Guest Post by Calista Lynne

 

Asexuals.  The myths. The legends. Should we fear this lack of sexual attraction which has pervaded our society?

Well considering there’s more asexuals than Canadians in the world, I’d say not. You probably know one yourself.

On July 14, my novel, We Awaken, is coming out and it is currently available for pre-order. People seem excited when they hear the description until they come to learn that the two female protagonists are asexual. Then half my audience stands there in a state of either disappointment or confusion and the other half is beyond elated.

The confusion is understandable. Most people- or, at least, older people- have only ever heard the term asexual used in reference to plants and think this is some new liberal idea that will pass with time. Between Snapchat filters and Kardashians, people like this tend to see the downfall of humanity in many harmless things, so I wouldn’t be overly worried. Asexuality is very much real, though, and not a new phenomenon.

Allow me to explain it to you: asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. Most people growing up begin looking at men or women or both and think ooh what a fine piece of person that is I want me some of that action.

Asexuals don’t.

It’s important to me that asexuals learn that this is not only a sexuality but a valid one because so many young people think they’re broken because neither gender does it for them. Sometimes asexuality is even confused with bisexuality just because the person doesn’t feel attracted to both genders equally.

In my novel- which has all the cheesiness one would hope for from a young adult fantasy- the main character begins the story thinking she is a lesbian, which comes with it’s own set of issues. One sexuality crisis is bad enough but coming to learn she’s asexual causes a total re-evaluation.

But there are happy endings. Asexual people love. They can (and do) have sex. They aren’t broken and this isn’t a disease.

And if you’re asexual and people are giving you shit about it, come to me and I’ll fight them for you.

 

———————————-

Calista Lynne's book, We Awaken, will release from Harmony Press on July 14 2016. 

 

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Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.

——————————

About the Author … 

Calista Lynne is a perpetual runaway who grew up on the American East Coast and is currently studying theater in London. She is oftentimes seen screeching at Big Ben and pointing out the same landmarks on a daily basis, and is having difficulty adjusting to the lack of Oxford commas across the pond. She writes because it always seemed to make more sense than mathematics, and has superb parents who support more than just her latte addiction. If Calista Lynne could change one thing about her life, it’d probably be her lack of ability to play both of the ukuleles adorning her rainbow bookshelves.

Twitter: @calistawrites