Wednesday, August 16, 2017

QSR: Giveaway!!



Hey everyone! Who likes giveaways?

(If you don’t, this post probably isn’t for you :P)

I’m giving away a queer book for up to 15€ from Book Depository and a sticker from Queer Enough :)

You have to be 13 or older if you want to enter, and you need your parents’ permission if you’re a minor. Only entries submitted through Rafflecopter will be counted. The book has to be queer, and own voices books would be great. Book Depository and Queer Enough have to ship to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck and happy reading!

xoxo
Lucia

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

QSR: Jasmine Gower Interview

Hi everyone! We have Jasmine Gower over for an author interview today :D

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

I’ve got two books coming up that I’m very excited about. First is my fantasy romance novella, A Study of Fiber and Demons, which is being published by Less Than Three Press in ebook and paperback on August 9, 2017. It’s a polyamorous enemies-to-lovers story about a group of bitter academics who have spent their whole careers sabotaging each other and find themselves assigned to work together on the same research project studying demon magic.

I also have Moonshine coming in February 2018 from Angry Robot, also in ebook and paperback. Moonshine is set in a fantasy 20s-esque world during a magic prohibition and focuses on Daisy Dell, a young flapper and secret mage who gets a job working in an office for a shady boss.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

I actually went into Fiber and Demons with a specific set of things I wanted to incorporate into the story: a female asexual character, a rivals-to-lovers storyline, and polyamory. I think the main character, Alim, was also inspired by my disappointment in another series I read that featured a queer-coded Arab character that never committed to making his queerness explicit, although I wasn’t really consciously thinking about that when I started writing Fiber and Demons.

Moonshine was more directly informed by things going on in my own life. I had just gotten my first Real Job out of college and was finding that I didn’t really understand the purpose of the work that I was being asked to do, which got me thinking about a character who has similar misgivings about her workplace that turns out to be a front for an illegal magical moonshining operation. (My job just turned out to be generic exploitative capitalists getting me to train my own replacements so they could underpay them even more than they underpaid me. Not quite as fun.) But that was where Daisy’s story in Moonshine came from. Her boss, Andre, has his own storyline that was inspired by my experiences as an aromantic reader looking to see more non-romantic intimate relationships explored and celebrated in fiction.

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

I’m pretty excited for any queer content in books, provided that it doesn’t involve queer people needlessly suffering Because Queer. Some things in particular that I’d really like to see more of, though, are non-binary characters who are human (not aliens, not shapeshifters, etc.), characters that don’t require dedicated romance subplots to establish their orientations (whether it’s because the character is ace/aro or just a gay, bi, or pan person who happens to be single the whole book), and more intersex characters in general.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I’ve been trying out my local library’s ebook lending for the very first time, which has so far involved getting started on Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba series, so I’m hoping to get all caught up on that. I’m also reading Keith Yatsuhashi’s Kojiki, which I’ve been dying to read since I saw the cover for its sequel, Kokoro. (Kojiki and Kokoro are both published by Angry Robot, and they had just revealed the cover for the second when I started getting into talks with them about publishing Moonshine, and seeing Kokoro's beautiful cover got me really excited to work with Angry Robot for my own book.)

Other than that, I’m really in the mood for some epic high fantasy, but I’ve got so much editing to do this summer that I don’t have a lot of room to add more to my reading list.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

My romantic heroes in A Study of Fiber and Demons are not exactly… heroic. They are quite terrible and rude, in fact. After one of my friends finished reading it, the first thing she said to me (in sheer delight) was, “These are the worst characters you’ve ever written.” Interestingly, my editor had a similar reaction. I guess the new rage in romance is embittered middle-aged academics.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

I’ll second the call for queer vampires. My favorite series of all time is a vampire-hunting high fantasy, but the queerness of the characters is pretty aggressively subtextual, and that series ended two years ago, anyway. There’s such an extensive (and honestly kind of ugly) history of vampirism as a symbol of queerness, and the advent of Twilight kind of reassigned vampires to heteronormativity just as they were starting to be culturally regarded as sympathetic. I think we’re long overdue to reclaim vampire symbolism, and thankfully I think the vampire oversaturation caused by Twilight and its imitators is starting to wear off and publishers are becoming more open to vampire stories again.

Q. What queer book are you looking forward to?

I’ve been kind of drifting away from YA lately, but I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. I’m a sucker for thief-slash-assassin archetypes, as well as genderfluid characters. Admittedly, that second category is one I see a lot less of in fantasy.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

In 2014 I was in a documentary called Gaming In Color, which is about queer gamers. They interviewed me at the premiere GaymerX convention while I was in full cosplay as Anders from Dragon Age II.

Q. Favourite summer drink?

My favorite cocktail is a Honey Jack Lemonade (lemonade with honey whiskey), which is really a summer-specific kind of drink. But I’m also partial to just regular lemonade.

Q. Favourite frozen summer treat?

I’m an Oregonian, so of course I’m partial to Tillamook Dairy’s marionberry pie ice cream.

Jasmine Gower is from Portland, Oregon, where she studied English literature at Portland State University. Jasmine was drawn toward writing years before amidst a childhood of fantasy novels and 90s video games and has a passion for exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and disability through the conventions of speculative fiction and fantasy worldbuilding. Find her at jasminegower.com, on Twitter @Jas_Gower, and on tumblr as jasgower.tumblr.com.

Thank you so much for joining us!

xoxo

Lucia

Monday, August 14, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (54)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published: March 1st, 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 299 in my copy
Part of a series? No, but I wish.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea.

Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

Thoughts: I really like middle grade books about sisters, I'm realizing. I love that Dicey Tillerman, Delphine Gaither type of character. Sol reminds me so much of them that I feel like I should start keeping a list of this type of book. Her voice is so mature and that lends itself very well to a character that feels the weight of the world on her shoulders.

I actually went into this expecting something quite a bit fluffier in tone, mostly because of the cover. (Side note, as adorable as the cover is, Sol is a little um. A little lighter on the cover than she's described in the book, where she talks about being fairly dark skinned. Cover, what's going on?) The subject matter of this, though, is quite serious. There's child abuse, the heroes bully a girl (and later come to realize how wrong that was), and it can be a little intense.

Overall, I loved the voice of this and the characters were great, so vibrant and interesting. The only thing I don't love is that the abuse in the book is left kind of unresolved. I realize this is realistic and try in the real world, but sometimes I don't want books to be one hundred percent true to life because I want kids reading to know it's okay to tell someone about something like this, and to have hope things will get better. And they do, but I guess I want a way that's a little more drastic and permanant than what happens in the book, I guess. I just feel like there wasn't enough resolution for the abuse subplot. I would honestly be wholeheartedly behind a sequel to this.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed this and the voice was so good that I really want to read more of the author's books.

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Published: May 17th, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 287
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie.

But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Thoughts: Hannah is a friend so factor that into this as much as you need to, but I enjoyed this. I've read a couple books with non-standard formats this year, and I've really enjoyed them. This is true of this as well!

This reminds me so much of being in a fandom. (Yes, I am, and no, you don't get to know which one or what my name is there, lol. I like my things separate.) It reminds me of that blurry space between friendship and love and romance and queerplatonic relationships and how complicated and confusing that can be. (Spoiler ahead.) I love how this depicts a non-conventional relationship and it's not about "picking" one person.

I also think it's really interesting that this is definitely a YA book, but one character is twenty-two and graduated from college and one is eighteen and just starting college. It's really different from most YA and what you'd think of as YA, but it works very well. Honestly, I think this is sort of what we originally thought New Adult was going to be before it turned into all college-set erotica. I wish that we'd gotten more like this, frankly, because this is a lot more interesting to me.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: A very heavy hardcover
Page Count: 462 plus
Part of a series? This is the first of the Six of Crows duology, which itself is a sequel series to the Grisha trilogy. You don't have to read the Grisha trilogy to read this. I didn't, and I was cool, and the general consensus of my informal twitter poll was people agreeing it was cool.
Got via: The library.
Amazon and there's a free Kindle sample / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

Thoughts: I definitely didn't love this as much as everyone else, but I liked it. This is not my favourite genre (I think I mention that every time I review a fantasy book similar to this), but it never made me get well and truly lost like some books do to me, and I appreciate that. Someone mentioned that a lot of the world-building is done in the first trilogy, and maybe that actually worked in my favour. Maybe too much world-building just doesn't work for me?

I do think this is a little slow in the beginning and definitely takes a while to get moving, and maybe a couple too many flashbacks in the first 100 pages or so that drag a bit. Again, not my favourite genre, so it might be I have a little less patience, but I do feel like it took a little while to get into the action. I think also that, while I know some characters were coded as POC, no one really seemed to have skin darker than "bronze" and that could probably have been done better. I didn't find any reviews addressing this, but hit me up if you know any. (This book has like fifteen thousand reviews - it's so needles and haystacks.) I did like that there were a couple queer characters, though.

All in all, I enjoyed this enough that I've already ordered the sequel from the library. I liked the characters a lot, and the world is cool. If you actually like fantasy, you'll probably love this, but as someone who doesn't generally love it, it was still pretty cool.

TW for some serious gore at one point. (Page 158 specifically - why is it always that thing also? That thing always gets me. *shudders*) Also, the pages of this are edged in black and I cannot accurately state how freaking cool that is. It really does stand out.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: February 28th, 2017 by Brazer and Bray/HarperTeen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 444 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Thoughts: I am way, way, way too white and too privileged to act like I have any right to really review this or talk about how things are handled in it. This is another one where I want to give my platform and my support and love for a book but I also don't think my review actually matters.

But also I have feels and a blog and I gotta let them out, dude. This seriously amazed me. It's just... all the feels. I have been reduced to a puddle of Tumblr ooze. And there are a lot of things in this I wish I saw more in books - people with tattoos that aren't magic tattoos (seriously, I didn't realize how little I saw this in books, especially parents, until Starr talked about her father's tattoos in such a beautiful, positive way), parents who have been incarerated but aren't completely villanized for it (I'm gonna link an article here because relavant), like everything.

I am going to say though... this book does lack some positive fat rep. It's not fat-shaming, generally, (being called fat is treated as an insult at one point, and there's also a bit of body shaming towards very thin girls) but there isn't great fat rep. And I'd be a really, really bad fat activist if I didn't talk about it, because fat rep is incredibly white (and cis allo straight, etc, not the place for this rant) and we owe so much to amazing black and brown fat activists. Come to think of it, it is lacking a little in queer rep too. Queerness, fatness, disability, race, these things can't be separated from each other when they exist in the same person. A lot of the book is about Starr struggling with feeling like she lives in two worlds but fits in neither, like she has two halves of herself and has to pick one depending on who she's with. How incredible it would have been to talk about that with queerness or fatness or disability, because people don't break down into tidy boxes where you get to choose just the parts you like.

But (editing Laina: Wow, you had caffeine when you were writing this, didn't you?) those things, while they would have been a nice addition, don't take away from this being really, really good. It's so engaging and... just wow.

That was a lot of rambling and I apologize. I had many feels.

And I think that's it for this post!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, August 11, 2017

QSR: C. M. Spivey Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

How are you guys doing today? How's the weather where you guys are? Do you know what day it is?

It's Twitter Chat time!! This week we have C. M. Spivey as our special guest! Join us 11pm UTC / 4pm PDT / 7pm EDT or find your time here.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm super excited :D

See you there!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

QSR Author Interview: Ana Mardoll

Please give a warm welcome to Ana!!

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

I’d love to! I have two lines of books, my fairytale retellings (Pulchritude, and an upcoming release I can’t talk about just yet! but am very excited about!) and my Earthside paranormal series (Poison Kiss, Survival Rout, more to come!). Both lines delve into my lifelong interest in magic and fairies, while dealing with queerness and issues like survivorship and rape culture. I like to write grim books with happy endings to them—although admittedly it took me a little while to hit that stride, ha!

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

Oh gosh. I worry that if I start navel gazing, I won’t come back up for air! Content notes for domestic violence below.

Pulchritude was my first novel and in some ways was a therapy book for myself. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, heavily seasoned with domestic violence. I’d just come out of an abusive marriage where I’d been physically trapped with someone I loved and yet who hurt me, and Beauty and the Beast resonated with that place in my heart. I wanted to show how a lover can be both a “good person” and yet do horrifically abusive things from a place of selfishness and control. In many ways Pulchritude is a redemption story, but not one with a happy ending. Pulchritude is also an early tree ring in my queer journey and it painfully shows; one of the characters is a blink-and-you-might-miss-it lesbian who is incredibly shy around women. She’s achingly subtle in part because I was still so scared of my own sexuality and afraid of coming out after being brought up in a bigoted environment.

But after Pulchritude, I realized I wanted happy endings in my books because I was coming to accept my own queerness and my need for happy, affirmative, non-shaming stories embracing my queer identity. If Pulchritude was me working through my abusive marriage, Poison Kiss was about my escape from an abusive upbringing and my embrace of a bisexual label for myself. My protagonists Rose and Lavender—who are both wonderfully bisexual—escape a world of control, forced heteronormativity, and sexual violence. They come out from fairyland to find an accepting “earthside” community of like-minded queer outcasts and survivors, and they work together with their unique magical powers to fight back against the fairy forces who seek to recapture them. It’s a straight-up unapologetic paranormal romp, but there’s allegorical elements of my own captivity as a kid in a violently anti-queer community.

Survival Rout, the sequel to Poison Kiss, uses those same elements of captivity to explore rape culture in a setting which is superficially set in fairyland but metaphorically an exploration of my first college experience. Men and women were heavily segregated at my Christian school and in many ways we were trapped—my dorm had the most incredible security features for locking down girls at night to make sure we weren’t out having sex—and yet in the midst of these trappings of purity culture, rape was rampant and heartbreakingly commonplace. Survival Rout focuses on a group of girls who, despite being trapped in this environment of purity and rape, fight back and use their powers to escape. Once out, they surprise their boy allies by not being as passive as previously assumed. It’s a book about power differentials between groups, and how allies can be genuinely good people and still not “get it” sometimes. One of the boys is a good guy who would never hurt a girl, but still has to be brought around to understanding the sheer depth of anger the girls have towards the boys who did hurt them.

My two upcoming works—a fairytale anthology and the third Earthside book—are about my transgender identity as a nonbinary trans person and my identity as a fat feminine person in a world that isn’t always kind to us. I’m very excited about these books and just need to write faster!

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

My favorite stories are huge ensemble casts that work together. X-Men stories, Star Trek stories, stories with lots and lots of people who are all weird and unique and who solve puzzles by combining those weird unique skillsets in new and exciting ways. That’s what I gravitate towards in my reading and writing: big ensemble queer casts where everyone is special and unique and so very queer. I like communities and cooperation and happy endings wrested from a harsh world intent on hurting us. Grimdark but with hope and triumph at the end. Hopebright? Is that a word? Can we make it a word? I want all the fat and queer and disabled characters to have lovely happy endings together.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I know this sounds so incredibly trite but I want to read Lord of the Rings again. Trungles did a read-through on twitter (which was lovely and the storify is glorious) and it reminded me how much I enjoyed Tolkien as a kid. I haven’t read the books since I was a baby—I’ve seen the movies and played the video games and I know the content, but I haven’t read the actual original words in forever—and I’d really like to go back and see how those books influenced me and where I can do better in my fantasy writing. I just have to steel myself to get through all the singing.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

The funny thing about writing books me is that when I set one free into the world, I don’t think about it much. I go from an intense one- or two-year time period where the book is my entire life and then set it free and move on to other things. So it’s always beautifully surprising when people message me about my books. I’ve had bisexual and polyamorous women contact me in tears to say how much Poison Kiss gave them the f/f/m triad relationship they needed to see in their lives. I’ve had abuse survivors write me about Pulchritude to say how much their experiences resonated with mine. Their messages are so touching and humbling and remind me why I do this; I really do write because I want to put words out in the world that people like me are thirsty for. Pictures of ourselves, doing amazing and magical things.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

Oh my god, I have all the feels about queer vampires. I have a WIP in my head, with a little dabbled on paper, with a lesbian trans woman vampire and her beautiful fat human Wiccan girlfriend and they fight crime (as naturally you would!) but I just need the time to get all the words to line up and march. I love noiry angsty vampire fiction and it is just so very much our turn to have fun in the sandbox here. I always feel so sad when people talk about vampires—or really any genre—being ‘played out’ when that genre still very much needs queer rep.

Speaking of, where are all the queer cozy mysteries? My mother loves cozy mysteries and I would like so very much to sneak some queer ones into her TBR pile. That’s the thing I love about queer fiction, the way it’s like a Trojan Horse onto the Kindles of bigotry. It’s harder to hate someone you’ve come to love for being an amazing character, and it’s harder to hate yourself when you see someone just like you on the page. That’s one reason why I try to keep my cover art very chaste and “stealthy”; my books are books I would have loved to read as a kid and would’ve sneakily checked out from the library under the veil of plausible deniability.

For my own books, I’d like to produce more and better ace and aro rep in the future. Earthside has ace and aro characters quietly in them, and an acearo character I strongly personally identify with, but I was still closeted to myself when I wrote the first two books and I fell into some stereotypes that I know hurt some readers. I want to fix that moving forward with better rep and with more rep all over so that no one person reads as “the” only way to be ace or aro. This goal is as exciting and scary for me as my First Bisexual Character and my First Trans Character were; it’s always thrilling and terrifying when I write myself onto the page and worry whether the self-portrait I’m painting is a masterpiece or a mess.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

I really, really want to read Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller; the protagonist is supposed to be a genderfluid assassin which sounds like the best thing ever. I’m a wee bit trepidatious because I’ve heard mixed reviews but honestly the big reason I’m waiting is because I’m trying to push to finish my own genderqueer project and time has just been flying by, ha. I’m saving Mask of Shadows as a reward for the end.

The most recent queer book I read was Snake Eyes by Hillary Monahan and the protagonist resonated with me so deeply that I honestly sobbed for a day afterwards because I just need more of this and forever and also retroactively as a kid, please. It’s a paranormal kitchen-sink urban fantasy book—which is my favorite and why I write my own paranormal settings—with a protagonist who is a lesbian woman who also possesses two working penises because she’s half-snake. It’s complicated. But she’s perfect and I adore her and she just hits me right in my genderqueer heart feels and the book is an amazing portrait of familial abuse and why and how it’s so hard to combat and overcome. FEELS.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for using semicolons or adverbs.

Q. Favourite summer drink?

PINK LEMONADE. The minute the temperature spikes, I’m digging the pitcher out of the cabinet above the fridge and measuring out the pink dust and tap water and trying to get the ratio just right. It tastes like summer and childhood to me, and I can’t get enough. Then autumn will come around and the pitcher goes right back into the cabinet for the next seven months, ha. Sense memory is such an odd thing.

Q. Favourite thing to do on a rainy summer day?

This is going to sound silly, but I do my best writing on rainy days. I live in Texas and rain is a rare luxury here, so it’s always been a beautiful sound to me. Every time it rains here, you can hear the relief in people’s voices. “Lotta rain today.” / “We need it.” The bliss contained in that simple six-word exchange is so hard to convey to someone who hasn’t lived here. Rain kissing the driveway and pattering against the fireplace flue is the most relaxing thing in the world.

So when it rains, I write. If I can’t write that day because of a pain flare-up, I’ll read. I would always read on rainy days as a child. One of my fondest memories as a child is being bundled up with wet hair from the rain in my pink bedspread and reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Rain reminds me of those getaways, of being able to slip into another world through the power of words.

Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Her favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. She is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories.

Aside from reading and writing, Ana enjoys games of almost every flavor and frequently posts videos of gaming sessions on YouTube. After coming out as genderqueer in 2015, Ana answers to both xie/xer and she/her pronouns. Find her at www.AnaMardoll.com, on twitter as @AnaMardoll, on Youtube at www.YouTube.com/c/AnaMardoll, and on Patreon.

The Poison Kiss and Survival Route art in this post was created by Laya Rose who you can also find @layahimalaya. It's gorgeous, and if I hadn't included art from the person who made the art for the cover of Chameleon Moon, Luci might actually have flown to Canada and murdered me.

Thank you so much for joing us Ana!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

QSR Guest Post: 5 Queer Nonfiction Books

Hey Scouts! Please welcome the one and only Lucia to the blog! Tell them how awesome they are, okay?

Hi everyone! August has finally arrived, and with it four prompts to have fun with. I know nonfiction is hard for some people, so here’s a list of cool books that you could read for the nonfiction prompt:

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

A collection of fifteen essays written between 1976 and 1984 gives clear voice to Audre Lorde's literary and philosophical personae.

These essays explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde's intellectual development and her deep-seated and longstanding concerns about ways of increasing empowerment among minority women writers and the absolute necessity to explicate the concept of difference—difference according to sex, race, and economic status.

The title Sister Outsider finds its source in her poetry collection The Black Unicorn (1978). These poems and the essays in Sister Outsider stress Lorde's oft-stated theme of continuity, particularly of the geographical and intellectual link between Dahomey, Africa, and her emerging self.

(Summary from goodreads.)

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg John-Barker and Julia Scheele

Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel.

From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.


Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.
Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.


(Summary from goodreads.)

Mini Review: I read this a while ago, and while there were many things I liked, there were several things that bothered me, too, and a few points that I disagree with altogether. I enjoyed the diverse illustrations and think the language is easy to understand even without an academic background. However, I was disappointed that, although the Kinsey scale is discussed, asexuality is only brought up very briefly – so briefly, in fact, that I couldn’t find it without rereading the whole book – and aromanticism isn’t brought up at all. Reading the book, I got the impression that the author’s approach to the subject was too broad for the length of the text. As a result, I felt like there was a lack of depth to the book.

All in all, I think the book is a good starting point for learning about Queer Theory.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.


(Summary from goodreads.)


But Not Up Here: Poems About Remembering In Neon by RoAnna Sylver

Words about love, loss, grief, PTSD, and jokes with no punchline.
Steps toward finding yourself and singing down the stars.


(Summary from goodreads.)









The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker

What if you weren't sexually attracted to anyone?

A growing number of people are identifying as asexual. They aren't sexually attracted to anyone, and they consider it a sexual orientation—like gay, straight, or bisexual.


Asexuality is the invisible orientation. Most people believe that "everyone" wants sex, that "everyone" understands what it means to be attracted to other people, and that "everyone" wants to date and mate. But that's where asexual people are left out—they don't find other people sexually attractive, and if and when they say so, they are very rarely treated as though that's okay.


When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as "asexual." Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.


In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people's experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.


(Summary from goodreads.)

Mini Review: I first read this book before I came out as asexual, and it really helped me define my identity. It’s very informative without being prescriptive, and contains a good list of resources for further reading. I like that you can read the different sections of the book out of order, which makes it easy to get answers to some of your questions first before reading the whole book.

I would recommend this book to people who are still figuring out their identity and everybody who wants to be an ally to aces.

My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters Through the Centuries by Rictor Norton

DEAR BOY is an anthology of gay love letters between illustrious men for almost 2,000 years. Correspondents include Marcus Aurelius, St. Anselm, Erasmus, Calvacanti, Michelangelo, Sir Phillip Sydney, King James I & VI, Thomas Gray, von Kleist, Byron, Hans Christian Andersen, Melville, Whitman, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Henry James, Frederick Wm Rolfe, Wilfred Owen, Hart Crane, T. E. Lawrence, Cocteau, Auden, Pasolini, Allen Ginsberg, Wm Burroughs, among others.

(Goodreads link.)

Mini Review: If you like love letters and queer history, this book is for you! I haven’t finished it yet, but what I have read so far has been both sweet and sad.

If you’ve been counting, you’ll notice that this is book number 6. The reason I didn’t count it is that it is extremely hard to get in print, and there is no eBook available. However, you can read much of it for free on the author’s website.

I hope you found something on the list that looks interesting to you! I tried to get some different types of books so hopefully there’s something for everyone. Of course, there’s a lot more out there 

xoxo

Lucia

Monday, August 7, 2017

YA Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Published: February 7th, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: Modern Historical YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 470 plus acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary from goodreads: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

Review: The summary of this almost gives the wrong idea of what the book is going to be like. Or, maybe not wrong, but not a detailed enough idea. I'm actually quite surprised by this. It's a very complex book, and I went into it more expecting something kind of cute and maybe a little fluffy, and this really is not that. We'll talk more about that later.

Now, I read mostly YA, so I'm not one of those people who are like "this is such a good book I'm surprised it's YA" (we all know those people, right?) but this is a book where I think it easily could have been published as an adult novel just as easily as a YA. And it's not a matter of subject matter or anything, but the voice and tone of the book feel, to me, at least, more like an adult book. I would personally have called this an adult book with crossover potentional if anyone had asked me. I'm not even sure how to describe it, really, but there's something about this where it's not that I think it's miscategorized or people label it wrong or anything (like certain adult books with young protagonists I could mention), but... maybe it's just a book that could go either adult or YA.

It was something I found very interesting while reading, but I definitely enjoyed it. It's different from most of the YA I read.

Plot Talk: There's a lot of plot in this book! The summary gives you a basic idea, but it doesn't give you as much of the depth it goes into and how much of the books actually happens after the summary ends. It's a deep, complex plot that and the book honestly surprised me with how different is was from what I expected. I'll bring up one of the plot elements later, as it's a bit of a spoiler, in the pg-13 section. I had things I was surprised by plot-wise, but I think I'll leave those for you to discover.

One thing I didn't know going in was this is set in between 1989 and 1993, which you guys know is normally a pet peeve of mine. It works really well in this, though. I think there is a whole lot of difference between a queer person's 90s, and a cis allo het's person's 90s, and the fact that the protagonist is queer means there's the question of "why is this set in the 90s" is answered and the reason isn't just "nostalgia". It also says it on page when it's set instead of just leaving it vague.

Characters: Danforth has a real knack for characters that are deep and complex. There are people in the book who do things that are pretty awful, and others who condone it, and the book doesn't erase that people can treat you badly or do things that hurt you while still meaning well, and that the hurt doesn't mean you don't still love them or care about them. I thought Cameron's relationship with her grandmother was especially well done.

I really liked Cameron in general, too. Is it a surprise? She's just the kind of character I enjoy, cranky and queer and prickly and all mushy and soft inside where it matters. The grief she deals with in the book is so poignant and really heartfelt, too.

I also think the parts set in Montana are so accurately small town. It's a combination of character and really great description that sets the scenes there brillantly. And I liked that even in a small town, Cameron wasn't the queer unicorn - there's a lot of queer people in this book. There's also, in the last third, a really prominent character with prosthetic leg and a Native American character, so that is neat.

PG-13 stuff: There's things to talk about here. Spoilers, obviously. Trigger warnings include drug use, underage drinking, a fair bit of sex, a lot of cursing (there's one particular f-bomb that I think was probably the best used f-bomb I've ever read in a book), the obvious slurs you'd expect because it's set in the 90s, and the whole thing where Cameron is violently outed and sent away to a conversion school. That's some heavy stuff.

Once there, most of the stuff that happens isn't violent, but it is (and this is stated in the book) emotionally abusive. The book also points out that it's a sneaky kind of emotional abuse - there's no one screaming profanity at them or anything like that, but the whole point of the school is to make them hate themselves into not being queer anymore. I think it's important to be aware of this going in. The last third or the book is set in the school, and it doesn't shy away from that.

Major self harm and some gore trigger warning - a boy who is in the school hurts himself badly and it's described in some detail. It's meant to show how horrifying the school is and the whole idea of conversion therapy, and to point out that even though the people running it think they're doing the right thing, they're wrong, but it is upsetting. I had to stop reading for a minute, honestly. But for the record, no one dies in this book besides Cameron's parents.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: A little bit of fatphobia comes up now and then and I wasn't so down with that. A tiny bit of girl hate now and then, and some slut shaming, but it's not awful about it.

One of Cameron's friends at the school, Adam, is Native as I said earlier and two-spirit (named in the book as "two souls person"). I found two things talking about it, one a blog post from Debbie Reese and one an article from the journal Bookbird by Robert Bittner. They pretty much have drastically different stances. Because of Debbie's especially, though, I would not personally recommend this as rep in that area, and prefer to defer to those articles instead of stating my personal opinion.

(My personal opinion was pretty much that I thought it was neat to see an underrepresented identity in a book, but I wasn't the right person to decide if it was good rep, for the record. So *points* go read those articles.)

Although one thing I will say is - as far as I know, neither of those people are two-spirit themselves (please correct me if I'm wrong!). I looked for reviews from two-spirit reviewers and I couldn't find anything. And I really wish I could. I feel like that would be the most imporant POV and I don't want to erase those voices.

Cover comments: I really like this cover. I think it's really cute. But I think that's part of the stuff that made me think this was going to be more "cute Montana queer romance" than it was.

Conclusion: I'm not going to take the two-spirit rep into consideration, negatively or positively, because I don't think that's even remotely my place. On that matter, see the things I linked to. My overall feelings on the rest of the book, though, are quite positive. I'd read two books I really didn't like before this, and I was really glad this wasn't another book not to like, lol. It's a really interesting book with a unique voice, and I like what it had to say on how queerness and sexuality isn't always black and white or easy to understand even if it's yourself.

And while I'm all the way here for contemporary queer books where things are happy and nice (dear gosh we need that more), this reminds me a bit of Accidents of Nature where the book being set in a time period that isn't modern day is for a reason. Talking about this kind of history is important, in my opinion, and the experience of being queer in the 90s is very different from being queer today.

It's getting late and I'm getting rambly, but my grand concluding thoughts are... I really liked this. I'm not one hundred percent settled on a rating, but I think four out of five roses is what I'm going to land on.



Other notes:

- I actually managed to get a review of a queer book post during QSR. Go me! I wasn't expecting myself to.

- It's actually my mom's birthday today, lol.

That's it!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, August 4, 2017

QSR: Lizzie Colt Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

I'm really thinking about getting an ice cream sandwich or a popsicle before writing this post.

Anyways, you know what time it is!

It's time for another twitter chat!

Today we have Lizzie Colt, aka L. J. Hamlin, joining us as our special guest! Come chat at 5pm UTC / 10am PDT / 1pm EDT or find your time here.

See you guys there!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Thursday, August 3, 2017

QSR: 21 Middle Grade Books with Queer Characters

This post is going to be a little different than my other lists. I tried to have my lists only have books where the main character was queer, at least the books I chose. It felt right there. While I definitely found ones where that was true here, I'm also including books where, say, the main character has queer parents. In middle grade, books where the main character is queer are incredibly important, obviously, but I think it's also important to show adult queer characters, to show that things can be okay and normal, you know? I also think more YA should have happy, non-tragic queer adult characters, sidenote, but I've talked before that I think sometimes MG and YA have different purposes and that's okay. And what does it say when kids (who may or may not be queer themselves) can't see their queer families in books?

I'm rambling a little, but I wanted to talk about why I chose to include what I did. I'll point out when it's not the main character, to the best of my knowledge. And again, I haven't read these. Thanks to Vikki Vansickle, Lee Wind, and LGBTQ Reads.

Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle

Published: October 1st, 2009 by Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): What do Katie-Rose, Yasaman, Milla, and Violet all have in common? Other than being named after flowers, practically nothing. Katie-Rose is a film director in training. Yasaman is a computer whiz. Milla is third in command of the A list. And Violet is the new girl in school.

They’re fab girls, all of them, but they sure aren’t friends. And if evil queen bee Medusa— ’scuse me, Modessa—has her way, they never will be. But this is the beginning of a new school year, when anything can happen and social worlds can collide...

Note from Laina: One of the girls has two moms, and people have seriously gotten this serious banned all over the place for that. Seriously.

The Misfits by James Howe

Published: October 1st, 2001 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby -- they've been friends forever. They laugh together, have lunch together, and get together once a week at the Candy Kitchen to eat ice cream and talk about important issues. Life isn't always fair, but at least they have each other -- and all they really want to do is survive the seventh grade.

That turns out to be more of a challenge than any of them had anticipated. Starting with Addie's refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance and her insistence on creating a new political party to run for student council, the Gang of Five is in for the ride of their lives. Along the way they will learn about politics and popularity, love and loss, and what it means to be a misfit. After years of getting by, they are given the chance to stand up and be seen -- not as the one-word jokes their classmates have tried to reduce them to, but as the full, complicated human beings they are just beginning to discover they truly are.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Published: January 1st, 2014 by Delacort Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa.

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.

Note from Laina: Obviously the family in this has two dads.

Better Nate Than Ever

Published: February 5th, 2013 by Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune?

With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

George by Alex Gino

Published: August 25th, 2015 by Scholastic Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part. . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Note from Laina: This is the summary/blurb that Alex's website uses as well, so that's what I went with, but remember that we shouldn't deadname Melissa, okay? Just putting that out there.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Published: November 4th, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Note from Laina: I've heard this might be problematic, so I'd suggest reading some reviews. (I love this list of reviews in particular.) But it does exist, so I'm listing it.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

Published: March 7th, 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided (whyyy?) that girls had to wear skirts, while boys were allowed to wear pants.

Sexist. Dumb. Unfair.

“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”

I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me.
The issue was the first word. Girls.

Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy.

Note from Laina: The MC in this also has two moms.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

Published: March 28th, 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sumac Lottery is nine years old and the self-proclaimed "good girl" of her (VERY) large, (EXTREMELY) unruly family. And what a family the Lotterys are: four parents, children both adopted and biological, and a menagerie of pets, all living and learning together in a sprawling house called Camelottery. Then one day, the news breaks that one of their grandfathers is suffering from dementia and will be coming to live with them. And not just any grandfather; the long dormant "Grumps," who fell out with his son so long ago that he hasn't been part of any of their lives.

Suddenly, everything changes. Sumac has to give up her room to make the newcomer feel at home. She tries to be nice, but prickly Grumps clearly disapproves of how the Lotterys live: whole grains, strange vegetables, rescue pets, a multicultural household... He's worse than just tough to get along with -- Grumps has got to go! But can Sumac help him find a home where he belongs?

Note from Laina: Honestly I don't actually know what this book's deal is, but I think something or someone is queer in it. It's tagged that way on goodreads, at least.

The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister by Charlotte Agell

Published: July 22nd, 2010 by Henry Holt and Co
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Fourth grade is a year of changes, challenges, and ordinary joys for India McAllister. She lives in Maine with her artist mom and their dog, Tofu. Her father lives in the next town over with his new partner, Richard and their bird, Beatrice Strawberry. India – named for the ink, not the subcontinent – was adopted from China as a baby.

Being the only Chinese girl in her small town fuels India's search for identity. India reports in her own words and drawings about life, adventures (many with her good friend Colby) and all things annoying as well as what makes her happy. First three on the happy list: Tofu, Bird, and Colby!

Note from Laina: Queer parent in this one.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Published: May 3rd, 2016 for Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Lily Jo McGrother is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Note from Laina: Kinda edited the summary from goodreads. Thought the deadnaming was unncessary. I also saw some reviews on goodreads saying the bipolar rep was not the best, so maybe look reviews up for this one, too.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

Published: March 19th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Thirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco onstage to confess his love for (and hopefully steal the heart of) Benji, the adorable exchange student and bass player of the prom band.

Of course, things don't always go according to plan, and every heist comes with its fair share of hijinks.


My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer


Published: January 1st, 2012 by Harcourt Brace and Company
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old June Farrell is sure of one thing—she’s great at making pies—and she plans to prove it by winning a blue ribbon in the Champlain Valley Fair pie competition. But a backlash against Vermont’s civil union law threatens her family’s security and their business. Even when faced with bullying, June won’t give up on winning the blue ribbon; more importantly, she won’t give up on her family.

Note from Laina: Queer parent in this one, and also this sounds adorable and I want to read it right now. Also I kind of want pie now.

See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles

Published: May 1st, 2012 by Candlewick Press
Genre: Contemporary MG (What else?)
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school.

Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true.

But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

Note from Laina: Gay older sibling obviously.

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Published: March 14th, 2017 by Aladdin
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Best Man by Richard Peck

Published: September 20th, 2016 by Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth--Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school.

But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn't see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story.

The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Published: October 27th, 2003 by Speak
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Staggerlee is used to being alone. As the granddaughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple in an all-black town, she has become adept at isolating herself from curious neighbors.

But then her cousin, Trout, comes to visit. Trout is exactly like Staggerlee wishes she could be: outspoken, sure of herself, beautiful. Finally, Staggerlee has a friend, someone she can share her deepest, most private thoughts with. Someone who will teach her how to be the strong girl she longs to be.

But is Trout really the girl Staggerlee thinks she is?

Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko

Published: August 30th, 2005 by Chicago Review Press
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Lizzy McMann is a feisty twelve-year-old who lives with her mother and Manny, her father (she thinks), in a fleabag hotel. One night, Manny’s sudden announcement that he wants a divorce causes mother and daughter to move to upstate New York to live with Lizzy’s grandmother—a mixed blessing.

At school, Lizzy befriends, then falls in love with, Eva Singer, who is dyslexic, looks like Natalie Wood and lives right down the street. Like all girls her age, Lizzy has to deal with her first period, her first bra and her first boyfriend. But what scares her most is her love for Eva.

She is also concerned with getting a new husband for Mama—especially after reading Mama’s letters in the attic. Then Eva gets a boyfriend and Mama’s life enters what seems to be a new crisis.

The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey

Published: September 20th, 2016 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh.

But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down.

It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.

Best Friend Next Door by Carolyn Mackler 

Published: May 26th, 2015 by Scholastic Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet Hannah. Her name is a palindrome. Her birthday is on New Year's. She wishes she had a cat. She's medium height and a little awkward. Her life has NOT been fun lately -- her dad and stepmom are having a baby and, worst of all, her best friend next door just moved away. Now a new girl is here, taking over her best friend's bedroom . . . and her own identity.

Meet Emme. Her name is a palindrome. Her birthday is on New Year's. She loves her enormous orange cat. She's so short that last week she was mistaken for a kindergartner. She's found moving hard . . . but at least there's the girl next door, Hannah. Maybe they'll become friends?

While Hannah and Emme are alike in so many ways, they're also different in some wrong ways, too. Is this the perfect friendship . . . or a recipe for disaster?

Note from Laina: One of the girls has two moms.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Published: October 4th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: MG Fantasy
Part of a series? This is the second in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands.

If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high.

Note from Laina: This is like the only middle grade book I can find with a genderfluid character. I know very little about this series honestly, but I'd be remiss not to mention it.

Also, this one made me really how ridiculously lacking middle grade fiction is in non-contemporary books with queer characters. Holy cow and I thought the YA lists were bad. There's this, and I decided to add also the only one I have read:

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

Published: September 13th, 2016 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Fantasy MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—No-Furs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else.

Note from Laina continued: There's a teacher in this who's nonbinary and uses neopronouns. It's a relatively small character, but we're not actually swimming in enby rep in middle grade, so I figured it was worth mentioning.

Okay! Scouts, do you have any queer MG I didn't mention? Leave it in the comments!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina