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. 

 

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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!

 

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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 — 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.

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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

#ReadProud Week 2!

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!

 

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#ReadProud Week 2!

 

Category A:  LESBIAN SPECULATIVE

What I'll be Reading: 

TREMONTAINE by Ellen Kushner *et all – Serial

THE BETTER TO KISS YOU WITH by Michelle Osgood

Suggested Titles: 

UNICORN TRACKS by Julia Ember (meeee!)

THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US by Emily Skrutskie

THE RENEGADE by Amy Dunne 

THE SECOND MANGO by Shira Glassman

OF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey Coulthurst

ASH by Malinda Lo

NOBLE FALLING by Sarah Gaines

MY LADY KING by Kayla Bashe

THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE by Neill Gaiman

(you may read any other book of your choice that falls into this category)

 

Category B:  LGBTQ Middle Grade or Younger

What I'll be Reading: 

GEORGE by Alex Gino

Suggested Titles: 

RED: A CRAYON'S STORY by Michael Hall

AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Justin Richardson 

HEATHER HAS TWO MOMMIES by Leslea Newman

10,000 DRESSES by Marcus Ewert 

I AM JAZZ by Jessica Herthel 

(you may read any other book of your choice that falls into this category)

 

Update us on your progress in the comments! 

 

COMPLETED BOOKS

1) The Abyss Surrounds Us … Jamie 

2) Lumberjanes Vol 3 … Jamie 

3) Red: A Crayon's Story … Bhavya

4) And Tango Makes Three … Bhavya

5) George … Nicole

6) Unicorn Tracks … Laura

7) Tango Makes Three … Laura

8) George … Becky

9) The Second Mango … Serena

10) George … Lauren

11) George … Serena

12) Donovan's Big Day … Crystal

14) Tremontaine … Rebecca

15) Fairest … Chasia

16) George … Chasia

17) George … Nina

18) I Am Jazz … Bhavya

19) The Abyss Surrounds Us … Bhavya

20) Unicorn Tracks … Bhavya

21) George … Mia Siegert 

22) George … Bhavya

23) Introducing Teddy … Rebecca

24) Unicorn Tracks … Kara

25) George … Kara

26) Tremontaine … Julia

27) Women Were Warriors … Becky

28) Unicorn Tracks … Michelle

29) The Second Mango … Meredith

30) George … Amber

31) The Abyss Surrounds Us .. Bogi

32) The Abyss Surrounds Us … Amber

33) George … Amber

34) The Manny Files … Meredith

35) How it Feels to Have a Lesbian or Gay Parent … Bogi

36) Graveyard Sparrow … Shira