Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (22)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.

This week, I chose:

Dare You To Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch

Release date: September 4th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When her FBI agent father is framed for murder, Kylene is forced to move in with her grandfather, back to the small town that turned its back on her, and the boy who betrayed her.

All Ky cares about is clearing her father’s name, but someone won’t let her forget the photo scandal that drove her away two years ago. As the threats gain momentum, Ky finds an unlikely ally in the rookie FBI agent sent to keep an eye on her.

Determined to expose the town's hidden skeletons, Ky unwittingly thrusts herself into a much bigger plot. They thought she’d forgive and forget. They’re about to learn they messed with the wrong girl.

Why I'm excited: I'm really into thrillers and mysteries and I really want to read more of them. I also kind of love the tagline about justice being blonde. That's just kind of adorable.

What are you all looking forward to?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

QSR: 7 Queer Summer Camp Books


Well, here's an area that could definitely use some expansion. YA/MG authors, write more queer summer camp books. Although considering I've found 3 published in 2018 already, maybe y'all are on that already! This isn't a rec list so much as a "hey, I like making themed lists"... list. It's largely just for fun.

Let's talk about the ones I've read first!

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

Release date: August 27th, 2001

Summary (from goodreads): Nicola Lancaster is spending her summer at the Siegel Institute - a hothouse of smart, articulate, intense teenagers living like college students for eight weeks. Nic's had theatre friends and ochestra friends, but never just friend friends. And she's certainly never had a relationship.

But on the very first day, she falls in with Katrina the Manic Computer Chick, Isaac the Nice-Guy-Despite-Himself, Kevin the Inarticulate Composer... and Battle.

Battle Hall Davies is a beautiful blond dancer from North Carolina. She's everything Nic isn't. Soon the two are friends - and then, startlingly, more than friends. What do you do when you think you're attracted to guys, and then you meet a girl who steals your heart?

The part where I talk: Do keep in mind that this book is seventeen years old, so it has aged a lot, and some of the things in it are outdated now, but I think it's really interesting to look back at this as such an early queer book and how things have changed. And also not changed.

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson and like a million other peoples because comics be like that

Release date: April 7th, 2015 by BOOM! Box

Summary (from goodreads): At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...

And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

The part where I talk: I'm only putting the first volume of this here, but I recommend the entire series. It's like my favourite comic book series, and it gets better and better as it goes on.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Release date: June 26th, 2018 by HarperCollins

Summary (from goodreads): Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse.

Now, she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself falling for a girl at camp named Adeline. To top it off, Melly's not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock 'n' roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

The part where I talk: The last one on this list I've read! This is such a good summer book, and I really liked it. Seriously hasn't gotten enough attention, in my opinion. I already talked about this more in my queer MG post, so I'm not gonna spend too much time on this one in this post.

Now on to some books I haven't read.

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth

Release date: May 15th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): This modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing takes place at the idyllic Camp Dogberry, where sisters Bee and Hana Leonato have grown up. Their parents own the place, and every summer they look forward to leading little campers in crafts, swimming in the lake, playing games of capture the flag and sproutball, and of course, the legendary counselor parties.

This year, the camp drama isn’t just on the improv stage. Bee and longtime counselor Ben have a will-they-or-won’t-they romance that’s complicated by events that happened—or didn’t happen—last summer. Meanwhile, Hana is falling hard for the kind but insecure Claudia, putting them both in the crosshairs of resident troublemaker John, who spreads a vicious rumor that could tear them apart.

As the counselors juggle their camp responsibilities with simmering drama that comes to a head at the Fourth of July sparkler party, they’ll have to swallow their pride and find the courage to untangle the truth, whether it leads to heartbreak or happily ever after.

The part where I talk: I haven't heard much about this one! But it's set at camp, and it's queer, so I'm curious. Maybe Luci would like this one. They like Shakespeare.

On a Summer Night by Gabriel D. Vidrine

Release date: April 2nd, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): Fourteen-year-old Casey is determined to have fun this summer going to camp with his best friend, Ella. His overprotective mother frets that attending this one instead of trans camp like he’s always done will cause problems, but Casey has his heart set on going stealth anyway.

His mom just might be right.

All Ella wants is love for her best friend, and she’s determined to set him up with someone, despite Casey’s protests that he just wants to have fun, not get involved in a summer romance. But things get complicated when camp bully Ryan focuses his energies on the two friends. At least Casey’s cute bunkmate, Gavin, appears interested in getting to know him better, making Casey rethink the whole romance thing.

Until he finds out Gavin and Ryan are good friends.

Summer camp turns into so much more when Casey has to decide if Gavin is worth pursuing, friend of a bully or not.

There’s just one more problem: Ryan knows Casey is transgender.

The part where I talk: Honestly I just saw this on Twitter and it fit my theme, so here it is! I don't know much about it besides that. It looks cute, though.

Lunaside by J. L. Douglas

Release date: January 6th, 2015

Summary (from goodreads): Moira Connell just wants to drink tea, draw pictures, and hang out with Andrea, her girlfriend. But that's before her mother accuses her of wanting to spend her time making out with girls, rather than planning which universities to court in senior year.

A job as an art counselor at Lunaside, the summer camp down the road from Moira's house, is supposed to help Moira prove she isn't procrastinating, and that she isn't 'girl-crazy' either. Then the eccentric owner of Lunaside ropes her into starring in the camp's new web series before she can say 'on-screen panic attack.' But it's exactly the kind of huge responsibility Moira's mother thinks Moira is allergic to, so she jumps in anyway.

Of course, the fact that Andrea is directing the web series, combined with Moira's sudden, mutual attraction to new counselor Millie, might not help her case. And the way her best friend keeps trying to set her up with Millie certainly isn't helping, well, anything.

And amidst all of this, she's still got an art camp to run. On her own. But how hard could that be?

One summer can change everything. Moira's hoping hers doesn't end in a worst-case-scenario disaster.

The part where I talk: Hopefully I finish this post and get it up before our chat with the author! Otherwise, I'll link to the chat and you can read it, lol.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Release date: September 8th, 2015

Summary (from goodreads): Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment.

A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

The part where I talk: This is a bit different than the rest of the list because it's a graphic memoir, which is something I'd really like to read more of. I know a couple, but I haven't seeked many out.

Okay, that's all folks! What camp themed books have you loved or enjoyed?

Peace and popsicle,
Laina

Saturday, August 25, 2018

JL Douglas Chat Reminder

For our last author chat, we will be joined by JL Douglas, author of LUNASIDE.



August 25th, 2018 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (21)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

Release date: September 18th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When twelve-year-old June Harper's parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can't give up books . . . and she realizes she doesn't have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It's a delicious secret . . . and one she can't keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library's popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle--a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it's powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read.

Why I'm excited: Okay, do you remember a while ago I read a book Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book? Remember I linked to a couple posts from authors, both recent and quite a bit older, and I talked about how I thought a more modern take on that would be interesting? (I think I did, hopefully we all remember that, and I'm not just making it up.) Anyways, I think a modern take on that would be very interesting! And I'm excited to read this.

Now, I think I've rambled enough, so what are you all excited about?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

QSR Guest Post: Four Queer Books by Queer Authors


Hey, Scouts! We've got a really nifty guest blog from Kellie Doherty today! Take it away, Kellie!



Hello everyone! My name’s Kellie Doherty, and I love reading queer science fiction/fantasy books. I bet you do, too! I always enjoy finding new reads, so to that end, here are my top four queer SFF books by queer authors. Hope you find something new to check out!

The Temple at Landfall – Jane Fletcher

The Temple at Landfall by Jane Fletcher is an oldie but goodie. Published in 2005 by Bold Strokes Books, it was my first foray into f/f fiction, and that’s why it makes my recommendation list. Fletcher delivers a fast-paced, character-driven story in a world literally filled with lesbians. It’s a combination of science fiction and fantasy, though it sways more into the science fiction realm, and the plot is a fun and easy read. Lynn, an imprinter who can create new life, feels like a prisoner in the temple. Her last chance to see the outside comes rolling around in the form of relocation to the temple at Landfall, and she’s thrilled for the opportunity to travel. It’s a dangerous journey, though, and one filled with temptation, especially a lieutenant named Kim Ramon, an officer in the squadron of Rangers assigned to protect her. It’s such a fun read, and one that has a sweet f/f romance in its core. I’d recommend this book for anyone who’d like an easy read.

Tengoku – Rae D. Magdon

One of the great things about being a freelance editor is that you get introduced to new books you may have missed. That’s how I found Tengoku by Rae D. Magdon. Published in 2016 by Desert Palm Press, Tengoku follows the story of two main characters: Aozora Kaede, a “lady of autumn” on the run after being forced to flee from home, and Homura Imari, a “lady of a different court” and the daughter of a daimyo. When Imari meets Kaede, Imari decides to ask Kaede for a favor: guide her to Hongshan where a blacksmith lives who Imari hopes can replace her missing left hand. The romance between the main characters—a disabled bisexual woman and a badass trans woman—is sweet, believable, and weaves well within the other aspects of the story. The dialogue is quick and funny, the characters are interesting and well rounded, and story is rich. Plus—and this is the best part for me—the setting is Japanese inspired and I love, love, love that. I’ve always been fascinated by Japan and to read a fantasy story immersed in that culture was a joy for me. I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for an exciting Japanese-inspired read.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers follows the story of Rosemary Harper, a young woman looking for adventure, and the motley crew of the Wayfarer. The crew includes a reptilian pilot named Sissix , engineers Kizzy and Jenks, and their captain Ashby (among others!). Rosemary’s travels with them are funny and dangerous and odd and lovely and everything in between. Published in 2016 from Harper Voyager, this scifi story really centers on the crew, the interactions between them, and the drama that inevitably bursts forth when in tight quarters. It’s an easy read, one that I breezed through in two days, and would happily go back to. The queer aspect of this book is diverse but understated in a way that suggests being queer in this universe is no big deal, and I really love that about the story. Chambers also has the ability to craft an exciting plot that also has a relatable undertone of friendly and romantic relationships, too. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a light and quick scifi read.

A Darker Shade of Magic – VE Schwab

I had to include A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab because she is one of my newest favorite authors and the queer characters in this book (and the rest of the trilogy) are exciting and relatable. Rhy, a prince, is a ridiculously charming and funny bisexual. Alucard, a sea captain, is gay and mysterious and fabulous. Lila, a thief, is seen as gender-queer, though she doesn’t outright say so. In this story, there are four different Londons—White, Red, Gray, and Black—that each have varying amounts of magic, and Kell can travel between them. When a trinket from Black London (a London supposedly dead) comes into Kell’s possession and another traveler comes looking for it, Kell has to work with Lila to hopefully bring the trinket back to Black London before its power corrupts everything. The story has lots of action to keep it moving, the characters are dynamic and fun, and the descriptions are freaking amazing. Seriously, amazing. I read A Darker Shade of Magic in a day, I was that engrossed by the story. I would highly recommend the book (and trilogy!) to anyone looking for a unique fantasy world and a fast-paced read.

So there you have it, my top four queer novels written by queer authors. Have you read any of them? If so, which one was your favorite? If not, what are you waiting for? Go check them out!

Kellie Doherty has a masters in book publishing from Portland State University. Her debut science fiction novel Finding Hekate was published by Desert Palm Press in 2016, and the sequel Losing Hold came out in 2017. Currently, she's working on a five-book fantasy series, and the first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties will be out in November 2018. During the day, she’s an office assistant at the State of Alaska, and by night she's crafting adventures full of magic and daggers...and maybe a few dragons, too. She’s been featured in Flight and Impact (Queer Scifi/Mischief Corner Books, 2016, 2018), 49 Writers Alaska Shorts, Pathos Literary Magazine, F Magazine, and Alaska Women Speak, among others. Find her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Thanks for the post, Kellie!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Monday, August 20, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (77)

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.

One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock

Published: February 27th, 2018 by Scholasic
Genre: Historical MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 205 plus author's note and acknowledgements and such.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself.

Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening, look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.

Thoughts: Yeah, I didn't like this one so much. I think my biggest problem is that this is not written by a queer person. The author's best friend going up was gay, but that does not make this her story to tell. She never went through these experiences, and she doesn't know what it felt like. It's kind of like me deciding I'm going to write about the civil rights movements in the 70s. It kind of doesn't matter if my best friend went through it, or how much research I did, or if I got people to read it, it's still not my story to tell.

And that isn't just about my feelings after reading it. It's reflected in the book and the writing, too. There feels like there's no emotional impact. Everything is kind of glossed over and fixed way too easily. It's like the book is just going through the motions and doesn't think about how the characters would really feel or react. It feels shallow and rushed.

The voice especially is very immature. These kids are supposed to be in seventh grade/around twelve and thirteen, and they kinda talk more like they're fifteen, but it feels more like they're more around fourth grade age. They read very young, and the voice of the book constrasts so much with the content. It talks about very serious things, like assault and the possibility of queer teachers being fired for their relationship/sexuality, but the voice is so simply and sounds so young that I don't think the audience that this is really for would be very interested in it. It's very juvenile.

Also the constant references to 70s pop culture are just clunky. There were so many and it was just unnatural. All in all, while I didn't find this one overwhelmingly offensive or anything, I don't recommend it either.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Published: Originally published in March 2015, my edition was released by Amulet Books in 2016.
Genre: Historical YA with fantasy elements
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 377 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered—a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing—like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies—like fires, wild and crackling—quickly take on a life of their own.

Thoughts: I stopped reading this for nine days in the middle, and I wasn't interested enough for nine days to pick it up. I think that kinda says a lot about my feelings towards this. It's just kind of very average. It does have a neat, kinda creepy premise, but so many of the elements have been done before.

Look, yes, it was hard to be a girl or a woman in... I don't remember when this was set. Mid-1800s. I'm not gonna deny that. It was, however, probably a lot harder if you weren't a rich white girl. This book has no people of colour, no queer people, and, really, besides the poor servants, the only type of diversity is one of the villains.

It's just kind of a meh from me. Points for not pushing a romance, though.

Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys

Published: November 8th, 2016 by Delacourte
Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 287 pages
Part of a series? There's a tease at the end, but I doubt it.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.

Thoughts: I was so, so excited about this and honestly I was kind of disappointed. It didn't wow me the way I hoped it would. When I first saw the cover and read the description, it reminded me a lot of The Invitation by Diane Hoh, which I adored as a kid and still have my copy of. I did like the voice of this, and I think the premise is great. It just doesn't really carry through, honestly.

Now, this isn't something I'm not going to declare myself an expert on, but I follow a Youtuber with cystic fibrosis, and there were a lot of things where I was reading where I was like, "But that's not right." And obviously every person's illness is going to be different, but there were things said about CF that were honestly just not true. And some of that is that Hope's mother is incredibly overprotective, but the book never says that those things aren't true, and like. Hope has access to the internet. She can look up whether it's true or not that she's going to die, like, next year.

I just kind of really didn't like that at one point her mother says she's never going to get married or have kids because she's dying, and the book doesn't dispute that. The youtuber I'm gonna link is married. Her twin sister, who also has CF, is also married, and has a son. Actually, she just posted a video that talked a bit about growing up with CF where she talks about playing soccer, so it's just so strange to hear Hope's mother limiting her exercise (which honestly could be detrimental to her health, even).

The book also acted like coughing was kind of unusual? Like Hope seriously doesn't cough enough, and I get that you probably don't want to write it every single time, but people with CF kinda cough a lot, not just when it would be embarassing or when it's convenient to the plot. Sorry, I'm rambling really badly, but it's just kind of weird.

I did in fact find a review from a reviewer with CF, so ignore me rambling here and go read that instead.

Stuff I am qualified to talk about: The book has an aromisic line that I didn't write down and I had to return the book so I can't quote it or anything, and it kind of whams you with a Bury Your Gays trope out of nowhere. Very not a fan of that. This one lands at like a two and a half at best for me.

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Published: March 6th, 2018 by Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 310 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn't writing back.

Thoughts: Ugh, I'm still feeling all after-crying from this. This is so good, okay, so good. You know, this actually has some similarities to One True Way, only I liked it way better. They both deal with protagonists growing up in religious families who are questioning both their faith and their sexuality. However, I think this handled those aspects better. I'm not sure if it's because the book is over a hundred pages longer, or because the author does have experience with growing up in this type of church and questioning her faith, but it just worked a lot better for me.

While I thought the girls, and the kid characters in general, in One True Way acted way older than they really were, these ones seemed totally and completely their ages. They seem young, but beginning to grow into those awkward tween and early teen years where things are changing, but also they kind of just want to go and swing on the swings at the playground still. I also really appreciated that they decided that even though they were dating, they weren't really ready to kiss more or anything, because they are very young. I think it rings true to the age.

I am going to say - if the reader you're recommending this to is a little more sensitive, give this a pre-read before giving it to them. It does deal with some heavy subjects, and I think a reader who's never encountered the idea that your parents could think your very being is a "sin" for who you like could find that really hard to deal with on their own. This isn't something bad about the book at all, don't get me wrong. I think this is true of many things in MG books, including cancer or divorce, and that's fine. Just know it going in.

Also I hate Evie and Cilla's parents and I will never forgive them for anything.

Oh, and I'll mention a funny moment too - Evie is doing a school project on Italy and she mentions that Cilla did that a few years ago but on Germany, and she didn't like having to eat the "disgusting sauerkraut" and I couldn't help laughing at the idea that somewhere, Luci was suddenly offended and didn't know why.

Alright, that was an interesting group of books! What have you all been reading?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, August 18, 2018

General Chat Reminder

This year we decided to add in an extra general chat near the end August! If you need help staying motivated to finish, this is a great time to come chat!



August 18th, 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (20)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Release date: September 18th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

Why I'm excited: Okay, shallow reason first - this cover is absolutely gorgeous. Like the creepy murderish tree all in silhouette and then the bright red... just so pretty. It also sounds really interesting, and I always want to be more into fantasy. I'm not always that big of a fan, but I always want to, and this sounds like it could be up my lane.

How about you all?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

QSR: Author Interview with Mason Deaver

We have the happy privilege of being Mason's very first interview! How exciting is that?


Q. Tell us a little about your book and yourself!

A. Well, I’m a non-binary author who also enjoys a little baking and gardening here and there. I Wish You All the Best is the story of Ben De Backer, a non-binary teen that tries to come out to their parents, but it doesn’t go as expected. After they’re kicked out of their home they’re forced to reunite with their estranged sister and start a new life at a brand-new school.

Ben plans to keep their head down for the rest of their senior year, but that plans flies out the window when they meet Nathan Allan, a charismatic and charming fellow student. And what started as a tragedy might end up being a chance for Ben to be their true selves, and maybe even find love.

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

A. There are so many stories that inspired me. Simon vs. by Becky Albertalli, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson, This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender, and so, so many others.

They each mean their own things to me individually, whether it was finally seeing a part of myself represented on the page or sharing the same types of anxieties and feelings the main characters do. I feel like it’s already rare to see someone like myself on the page, and while none of those stories feature non-binary characters, I still saw a piece of myself in those words.

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

A. There’s a genuine kind of love I see in queer books, specifically ones by queer authors. That might seem a little vague, but I feel like when a queer writer is writing a book where two queer teens are in love, the way they capture it just makes me so happy.

But seeing two people genuinely in love with one another just makes me so happy, I’m always a sucker for love stories.

Q. Did you go to summer camp as a kid? Got any good stories? Or, if that's a no, got any fun summer reading plans?

A. No summer camp stories, which I’m honestly a little thankful for. As for summer reading plans, I’m sticking to contemporary, there’s something so warm and fluffy about young-adult contemporary books and summer just feels like the right time for that.

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

A. There’s only been a handful of people who’ve read I Wish You All the Best, but a common response is people telling me it made them cry. Which might be a weird thing to pick as a ‘favorite experience’ but hearing that my words got an emotional reaction out of people makes me feel like I did something right.

Q. What are some themes, tropes, or just things in general you would love to see in queer books in the future?

A. Honestly, so many tropes need to be in queer books. We need meet-cutes and insta-love and fake royalty and so many other tropes that queer readers and readers of color haven’t had the chance to see themselves in.

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

A. This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender, I absolutely adored this story and was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. I don’t want to spoil much, but keep an eye on it this October. A few of the books very much anticipating are The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Al by Sabina Khani, The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper, A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson, and Reverie by Ryan La Sala.

(Editing note: I have an e-arc of Epic Love Story, so also keep an eye out around here for a review of that. I hope I like it as much as Mason!)

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

A. Well this is my first interview, so I’m actually not sure. Maybe what my favorite flower is. Which is a hydrangea, if you’re wondering.

Q. Favourite song to listen to in the summer?

A. Oh boy here we go. Is it okay if I pick more than one song? Basically anything by Carly Rae Jepsen. I’ve also really been into K-pop lately. Groups like Pentagon, Seventeen, SHINee, NCT 217, and Pristin. Also Paramore, any song by Paramore is my summer bop, but if I had to pick one it’d be ‘Hard Times.’

Q. Favourite food to cook over a campfire?

A. Smores! Definitely smores!

Mason Deaver is a non-binary author and librarian in a small town in North Carolina where the word ‘y’all’ is used in abundance.

When they aren’t writing or working, they’re typically found in their kitchen baking, or out in their garden complaining the toad that likes to dig holes around their hydrangeas. Find them on their website, on Goodreads (add I Wish You All the Best to your to-read shelf!), or on Twitter.

Thanks so much for the interview, Mason!!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Claudie Arseneault Chat Reminder

Put your hands together for Claudie Arseneault, author of VIRAL AIRWAYS, CITY OF STRIFE, and the much-praised (especially around here) BAKER THIEF.



August 11th 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Thursday, August 9, 2018

QSR: Laina's Queer Middle Grade Rec List Part 1



Alright, let's first talk about what I'm choosing to include. I am choosing to include both books with queer main characters, and books with significant queer characters, like a parent, older sibling, or maybe even a teacher. One of the reasons for this, as I've mentioned before, is that I think part of middle grade's function is a bit different than what we think of being more of YA's function.

While middle grade is absolutely about reflecting the reader's personal self, I also think that it's really important that middle grade fiction reflects the reader's family, and the world around them. This is one reason that parent and adult figures are very important in middle grade. That's why we need books about things like divorce, and single parents, and parents who are in jail. We need books that reflect a child's family in YA too, but it's especially important in MG. Kids who have queer adults in their lives should see them in books, too. And it shows that queer people don't just disappear at the age of eighteen.

So, let's do non-main characters first:

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Released: June 22nd, 2014 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

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.

The part where I talk: I'm also going to point out for this one that this has a relatively safe cover, where it's not very obvious that this is a queer book. That can also be important. Not something I'm going to point out every time, but something I want you to think about reading this list. Remember, most middle grade readers can't buy their own books or read e-books like teen readers.

Both of the Fletcher dads are gay. You can see my review here. Also I really need to read the sequel to this. I ordered it from the library, so hopefully it gets here soon.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

Released: March 19th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary (from goodreads): Best friends Stephen and Marco know a thing or two about impossible missions. It's thanks to them that cell phone thieves at school are apprehended, lost puppies are returned, and gym uniforms are lent out to the forgetful thirteen-year-old masses.

When Marco finds out that Benji - the dream exchange student on whom he has a crush - and his band are playing at the high schoolprom, he enlists Stephen's help to crash prom and get Marco onstage to profess his love. But as most veteran operatives know, not all heists run smoothly. Stephen is sick of Marco calling the shots 99.97 percent of the time, and he's especially sick of being the sidekick.

On top of it all, Marco and Stephen need to act fast - before Benji goes back to England at the end of the school year. Even though these boys are experts in espionage, it's going to take a mission impossible to pull this maneuver off.

The part where I talk: This is told from Stephen's POV, and Marco is gay. See my review here... eventually, I don't think that post is even finished yet. Multitasking! This one is older so there are some choices are made in it that I don't think Hannah would make today, but I still think it stands up and it's got a lot of fun stuff mixed in with some really serious stuff.

Okay, onto the main character books!

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Released: March 14th, 2017

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.

The part where I talk: Mattie is bisexual. In the original hardcover printing, the word "bisexual" is not used, but the paperback is updated so that it is presented as an option, though Mattie has not settled on it as her option, which is fine. I'm pretty sure that this is the first mainstream middle grade book with a bisexual main character. Also, it's just really cute and I liked it a lot.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Released: June 26th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): Find the confidence to rock out to your own beat.

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse.

Now, she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself falling for a girl at camp named Adeline. To top it off, Melly's not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock 'n' roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

The part where I talk: And this is the only other middle grade book I know with a bisexual main character. So far, at least, I'm pretty sure there's at least one coming out either this year or next, but I can't name them off the top of my head. This does not use the word "bisexual" (or pansexual, could you imagine that?) as far as I know (I read an arc, not a finished copy), but Melly does have crushy-y type feelings about boys and girls.

Stop being afraid of the word bisexual, middle grade!

This book has not, in my opinion, gotten the attention it deserves. It's so cute!

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Released: March 6th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm--and what's worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy's drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks--and hopes--that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

The part where I talk: The newest addition to my on-going list! Ivy identifies as "likes girls", and doesn't currently feel attraction to other genders. At the end of the book, Ivy has not decided on a label, and that is okay. As such, I am only calling this book a queer book, not a book with a lesbian MC or anything like that, as Ivy has not stated identifying with any term in particular. (It really bothers me when we try to force labels on young characters who haven't picked one yet. Let them have time to figure it out! They don't need to make a decision yet.)

Side note, this book defines bisexuality in a wonderful way, and it's really nice to see the inclusion of other genders in the words an adult uses to Ivy, not just "both boys and girls". Especially in a middle grade book. Good job, book.

What's that, five?

Let's make this five for now, then! Are there any middle grade books you'd recommend I read? Let me know in the comments.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (19)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.


Throw Your Arm Across Your Eyes by Christian McKay Heidicker

Release date: September 11th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Phoebe Darrow and her mom are lightning rods for monsters.

It seems wherever they travel, they end up fleeing from either flying saucers, flesh-eating plants, blobs from space, or radioactive ants.

Fortunately, Phoebe and her ma can see the man who fills the sky—the one in the bathrobe holding a remote control with a bored expression on his face. Invisible to everyone else, his eyes keep them—and only them—safe by warning them where the next monster will pop up.

All Phoebe wants is to stop jumping from town to town and begin living her own life somewhere like New York or Paris. But when her mom vanishes, Phoebe is left to fend for herself in the small town of Pennybrooke—right where the man in the sky is staring. That’s where she begins to transform…

Why I'm excited: This is actually on Edelweiss and I almost requested it, but I believe it is either fully a graphic novel, or has graphic novel/illustration pages, and my kindle just does not do those justice, and I can't do review copies on my computer. It sounds really neat, though.

What are you all thinking about this week?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

QSR Giveaway: Baker Thief

Well well well, look what we have here! We haven't had a giveaway around here in a while, and I'm super excited.

The wonderful Claudie Arsenault has teamed up to giveaway her new book, Baker Thief!

Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault

Summary (from goodreads): Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.

Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.

When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.

You definitely want to get your hands on this one. I've talked before about how much I enjoyed this one, so let's get to the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Complete terms and conditions are in the Rafflecopter, but the important details are this is a giveaway for one SIGNED paperback copy of Baker Thief, and it's open to everyone. Enter one and all! This is a great book, and honestly look at that cover! Imagine having that beautiful cover in your hands.

And remember, we'll be chatting on Twitter with Claudie on Saturday!


Hope to see you there, and good luck in the giveaway!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, August 6, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (76)

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.

So one of my goals this year is to read a lot of mysteries and thrillers and that kind of thing, and I thought since I also do these old book posts as I want to read through books I own/get rid of books I don't want, I'd combine those goal and read some old books along the mystery/thriller theme!

Also, every book on this list is available on Kindle! That's interesting.

The Callender Papers by Cynthia Voigt

Published: Originally released in 1983, my edition is from Fawcett Junior and I believe it was released in 1984.
Genre: YA Mystery with some gothic leanings
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 182 plus an about the author and listings of other books.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: It's a libray reject.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jean was barely thirteen when she agreed to work with Mr. Theil to catalogue his family papers. She was trying to be brave and independent, but he was a frightening man.

Yet, as she went through his papers, a nightmare unfolded. It was a cruel story from the past...events that long ago shook a peaceful village. And the more Jean learned, the more she knew she was in mortal danger...

Thoughts: Once in school my English class had to read Homecoming and my English teacher got kind of annoyed because I couldn't do any of the "predict what's going to happen" work as I had already read the book several times before that class. That has nothing really to do with this book, but it's a fun story to tell. Anyways, suffix to say, I'm quite fond of this author's writing, and I think it's really awesome that she's still writing today. That's a long freaking career and something to really be admired.

And in general I enjoyed this one, too. It has some good atmosphere and while I guessed the twist pretty late, it's not a bad mystery at all. I wish there had been more focus on the titular papers, since those kind of get swept to the wayside only to be brought back at the last minute.

As well, there's some racism towards Native people that I don't think is... inaccurate, let's say, for the 1894 time period, but was rather inappropriate for the author to write in the 1980s, and it's not challenged or anything. There's also some ableism regarding language around wheelchairs.

I have nostalgia for this author, and I did enjoy a lot of the prose and such in this, and the more Gothic atmosphere, so I will probably personally keep this, at least for now, but I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend you seek it out due to those factors. If you do, be aware of them. If there was slight editing to remove those, I'd totally change my mind, though, as it's an interesting book.

The Vandemark Mummy by Cynthia Voigt

Published: First released in 1991, my edition is from Fawcett Junior and was probably released in 1992.
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 209 plus about the author and acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: Library weeding.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): It's hard for Althea and Phineas Hall to keep explaining to people that their parents haven't broken up; they just have jobs on opposite sides of the country. It's hard to explain because they don't really understand themselves. And although neither one is happy about it, they almost like living alone with their dad, the professor, even if it is on the campus of a small college with practically no one their age to talk to and nothing to do.

But a strange legacy from a rich old man changes that. The mysterious Vandemark mummy and other antiquities are donated to the college with the understanding that Dr. Hall will take care of them. When something happens in the room where the valuables are kept, Phineas and Althea sense that there is danger in the air and that one wrong move could turn a summer mystery into murder.

Thoughts: One thing I find interesting about this is that while Althea is fifteen, Phineas is definitely the main character, with the book being told from his POV only, and he's only twelve. However, I would be very hesitant to label this middle grade - it's pretty solidly young adult. And I find it very interesting how that used to be much more common, for YA to have protagonists who were twelve or thirteen, and now that doesn't happen. In this historical period there was still a pretty solid middle grade/YA divide, however, when you compare books like this to books like Goosebumps or Baby-Sitter's Club. It seems like things were divided much more on a content basis than an age basis.

I find that very interesting on a historical level. The book itself... eh. It's really dated. Like there are a lot of references to stuff that really dates the book. Like the book references the 1989 Batman as just coming out in theatre, and that was three years before the book was even released. And there's a ton of that, which feels so much like the book was trying to be trendy or something? It's weird, and kind of unnecessary.

There's also... there's a lot of talk about feminism and I have trouble telling if the author is exaggerating or if that was kind of just the attitude at the time or... I don't know. It seems very exaggerated, like all the stereotypical "feminist" things that people say, but maybe that's what the author believed? I really don't know.

I also wish there had been a bit more history about the mummy and Egypt and all that. It seems a little lacking in that area. In general, I did like this, but despite my above stated nostalgia and fondness for this author, I didn't like this enough to keep it, and I think I'm going to be passing it along. Which is kind of shocking to me because I'm kind of a hoarder and I really like having complete book collections. But while I did enjoy this, I didn't enjoy it enough to keep it.

This Weekend Was Murder! by Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: First released in 1992, my edition is from March 1994 from Laurel Leaf
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 193 plus other book listings and I think an about the author but my nose is really itchy and I don't wanna touch the dusty book more than I have to.
Part of a series? It is the second of two books starring Mary Elizabeth, but you don't need to read the first to read the second.
Got via: Garage sale, I think, since there's no library stamp or anything on it.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Mary Elizabeth can’t wait for the weekend to begin at the Ridley Hotel, where a famous mystery writer and a troupe of actors are coming to enact a murder mystery for 150 amateur sleuths.

Mary Elizabeth’s role is to discover the “body” in Room 1927, which is supposed to be haunted. But nothing prepares her for the real body she finds in Room 1927…

Thoughts: This was really fun. Compared to modern books, this isn't the least bit diverse, and that's a bit of a bummer, but this really is kind of nostalgic, easy fun. You don't get a lot of books like this these days, where it's not really meant to be super serious even if there is murder. It's fun murder. That's totally a thing. I really liked Mary Elizabeth's voice, and the lighter tone of this is great.

I really like that it's not too serious, or scary. For a lot of the book, the author almost seems to poking fun at herself, with the slightly silly author character, and the amateur mystery readers. It's a really fun idea, and executed very well. I'm excited to read the other book I have by the author, and I would love to read more, too.

The Specter by Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: Originally released I believe in 1982, this edition was probably from February 1993, which means it is about two months younger than me.
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 184
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Library reject!
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Dina is fighting cancer and is angry at the whole world. But when Julie, a nine-year-old survivor of a car accident, becomes Dina's roommate at the hospital, there's no time for Dina to keep on being angry. Because Julie is frightened. Desperately frightened. She's sure that someone caused the accident she was in ‒ someone who will return to kill her. Now she's insisting on being with Dina all the time.

But by befriending Julie, is Dina making herself the target of a dangerous killer?

Thoughts: Now this was a lot less lighthearted and much more serious. Besides like five nasty comments about fat people, I liked this. I really liked the blending of Dina's cancer recovery with the mystery plot, because it wasn't just a Lurlene McDaniel cancer book. (Which is not to say there isn't a place for those in my heart, but sometimes a girl wants more.)

This isn't the best of the best, but it's certainly not the worst. Bad attitude about fat people, possibly some kinda racist stereotypes, but a creepy story, and a good mystery with clues for the reader to figure out. I enjoyed this one, honestly, besides the fat comments. I would still enjoy reading more from the author, especially for my own personal nostalgia. I wouldn't necessarily recommend these automatically and whole-heartedly to modern reasons, but for nostalgia reasons, I'm keeping it. Mostly because I love the cover.

Alright, that's it for this one! This was certainly an interesting group.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Check-in Chat Reminder

It's halfway through, so come tell us about your progress, how your summer's going, or just chat!



August 4th, 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

This is a great time to talk recommendations, things you've read already, or whatever you want!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (18)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.

I have a cool one this week.

Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

Release date: September 4th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” But when her mom brings home a live specimen, Nita decides she wants out — dissecting living people is a step too far.

But when she tries to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold on the black market in his place — because Nita herself is a supernatural being. Now Nita is on the other side of the bars, and there is no line she won’t cross to escape and make sure no one can ever capture her again.

Nita did a good deed, and it cost her everything. Now she’s going to do a lot of bad deeds to get it all back.

Thoughts: This sounds so freaking good and utterly creepy, perfect for when it's coming out as it'll be close to Halloween. (August is close to Halloween for me, okay, I'm that kind of girl.) Seriously, this is just my aesthetic like whoa here. I want it so much, oh my gosh.

What are you all excited about this week?

Peace and cookies,
Laina