June 2022 Wrap Up

For the month of June I decided that I wanted to get through several of the LGBTQ+ books that I have had sitting on my shelves for quite a while. Unfortunately I didn’t get to very many of the older books sitting on my shelves as I had many new ones that I had to get through first. I really did enjoy the majority of the books that I read minus one (the image below is incorrect as I gave The Other Boy 3 stars not 4 and Room got 4 stars not 3).

A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy 

Emmett Maguire wants to be country music’s biggest gay superstar – a far reach when you’re seventeen and living in Illinois. But for now, he’s happy to do the next best thing: Stay with his aunt in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer and perform at the amusement park owned by his idol, country legend Wanda Jean Stubbs.

Luke Barnes hates country music. As the grandson of Verna Rose, the disgraced singer who had a famous falling out with Wanda Jean, Luke knows how much pain country music has brought his family. But when his mom’s medical bills start piling up, he takes a job at the last place he wants: a restaurant at Wanda World.

Neither boy is looking for romance, but sparks fly when they meet – and soon they’re inseparable. Until a long-lost secret about Verna and Wanda comes to light, threatening to unravel everything.

Will Emmett and Luke be able get past the truths they discover…or will their relationship go down in history as just another Sad Country Love Song?

Out of the Blue by Jason June 

Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the monthlong sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder–or fail and remain stuck on land forever. Crest is eager to get their Journey over and done with: after all, humans are disgusting. They’ve pollluted the planet so much that there’s a floating island of trash that’s literally the size of a country.

In Los Angeles with a human body and a new name, Crest meets Sean, a human lifeguard whose boyfriend has recently dumped him. Crest agrees to help Sean make his ex jealous and win him back. But as the two spend more time together and Crest’s pespective on humans begins to change, they’ll soon be torn between two worlds. And fake dating just might lead to real feelings…

This instant New York Times bestselling novel from Jason June dives into the many definitions of the world home and shows how love can help us find the truest versions of ourselves. 

Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper 

From acclaimed author Phil Stamper (The Gravity of Us and As Far as You’ll Take Me) comes a poignant coming-of-age, contemporary middle grade debut novel about finding your place, using your voice, and the true meaning of pride. Perfect for fans of Rick by Alex Gino and The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy.

Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.

When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.

Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake.

But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston 

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue comes a debut YA romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need…

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places. 

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey

A heartfelt and timely middle grade story about a transgender boy’s journey toward acceptance and empathy. Perfect for fans of George and Gracefully Grayson.

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.

Room by Emma Donoghue

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world….

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience—and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough … not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another

I Love You Just the Way You Are (Rock Canyon, #1) by Riley Rian

Kellan, star quarterback and secret manga artist, has fallen hard for Maddie, a trans-girl and Twitch streamer. They’ve gone to school together for years, but Kellan never noticed her until she started presenting as her authentic self. Now she’s all he can think about, even as the rest of his world is crumbling.

But she’s terrified that he’s deluded, not seeing her for who she really is. Will she take a chance and let him in? Will they be able to overcome a cruel society that would rather erase Maddie than accept her? Or will Kellan walk away when the pressure becomes too much?

Written by #OwnVoices transgender author Riley Rian, “I Love You Just the Way You Are” is a timely coming-of-age novel about opening your heart and discovering the power and magic of love. 

Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao 

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Never Coming Home by Kate Williams 

The beach read you have been dying for! When ten of America’s hottest teenage influencers are invited to an exclusive island resort, things are sure to get wild. But murder isn’t what anyone expected. Will anyone survive?

Everyone knows Unknown Island—it’s the world’s most exclusive destination. Think white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and luxury accommodations. Plus, it’s invite only, no one over twenty-one allowed, and it’s absolutely free. Who wouldn’t want to go?

After launching with a showstopping viral marketing campaign, the whole world is watching as the mysterious resort opens its doors to the First Ten, the ten elite influencers specifically chosen to be the first to experience everything Unknown Island has to offer. You know them. There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.

What they don’t know is that they weren’t invited to Unknown Island for their following—they were invited for their secrets. Everyone is hiding a deadly one, and it looks like someone’s decided it’s payback time. Unknown Island isn’t a vacation, it’s a trap. And it’s beginning to look like the First Ten—no matter how influential—are never coming home. 

 

I Love You Just the Way You Are by Riley Rian Book Review

Book Description

Kellan, star quarterback and secret manga artist, has fallen hard for Maddie, a trans-girl and Twitch streamer. They’ve gone to school together for years, but Kellan never noticed her until she started presenting as her authentic self. Now she’s all he can think about, even as the rest of his world is crumbling.

But she’s terrified that he’s deluded, not seeing her for who she really is. Will she take a chance and let him in? Will they be able to overcome a cruel society that would rather erase Maddie than accept her? Or will Kellan walk away when the pressure becomes too much?

Written by #OwnVoices transgender author Riley Rian, “I Love You Just the Way You Are” is a timely coming-of-age novel about opening your heart and discovering the power and magic of love.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was so excited to get a chance to read this book and review it since I hardly find any books with Trans girls in them. I was a bit intimidated when it first showed up on my doorstep though because of how long the book is. I am so glad that I deided to give it a chance though because once I picked it up it was hard to put down, there was just so much to love about this book.

I really enjoyed how in this book you get to see different reactions to Maddie being Trans and we get to see what people say when she isn’t in the room. I liked that we get to see the ways in which Kellan is treated for having interest in a Trans girl by his friends, parents, and coach. I thought it was great to see how Maddie apologizes for this but Kellan recognizes that what people are saying to him is nothing in comparison to how Maddie is treated.

I really liked that this book also included Maddie being a streamer and how that played a large role in her life. I liked the pieces that described her playing games and the throwback to older games and consoles. I liked that streaming is how we get to see another side of Maddie along with Kellan which makes you like her as a character.

Characters: In this book you are introduced to several people through their interactions with Kellan and Maddie. You get to meet Maddie’s family, Kellan’s mom and dad, and both of their friends. I really liked the relationships that are shown throughout this book with all of the characters that are included.

I love the relationship between Kellan and Maddie even though there are times when they both annoy me and there are times that the relationship is toxic. I thought it was very accurate to a teenage relationship and both of their reactions to things were genuine. As a Trans person, Kellan is all I want in someone who loves me, just someone who sees me for me and I love that Maddie gets this. It’s always great to get to see Trans people find love in books and someone who genuinely loves who they are beyond their Trans identity.

While I did love the relationship between Kellan and Maddie at times, it is important to note that there are some issues with it. Kellan pursued Maddie after she consistently rejected him and he even pretended to be someone else to speak to her on her stream. Kellan also then stalks Maddie throughout the summer and stands up for her countless times even when she is uncomfortable with all of this behavior. We know that part of the rejection on Maddie’s end was out of fear but I also think its important to not show men that just being pushy and begging will eventually get you the girl. I also thought it was a bit problematic that Kellan was throwing away a lot of his hobbies, friends, and money to get this girl and I understand that some of these were a matter of his values not aligning with the others but I think there was a better way to go about showing how much he cared for Maddie.

I also really loved the relationship that Hugh has both with Maddie and Kellan. I love that we get to see him be supportive of his daughter and also be able to support Kellan in the way he needs. I liked that we get to see the big difference in Hugh and Kellan’s dad and the reason as to why Kellan may have been the way he was before meeting Maddie.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Maddie and Kellan as it goes back and forth between each of them telling the story. I really liked getting a chance to watch this story unfold through both of their perspectives. I thought this was a great way to tell the story because it allows you to be inside each of their heads and see how they are processing these events. I also like that we get to see both of their concerns before they get together and even during.

Pride Month Recommendations

I have read so many great LGBTQ+ books over the last few years and I want to recommend all of them to you. I’ve really enjoyed getting the chance to see myself in books over these past few years because little me didn’t get to see herself anywhere. Little me didn’t know that people like me could exist and could have happy existences. I am so glad that these books exist for youth now so they can see themselves in literature.

Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas 

With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that–it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend Linus will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: he’s moving out of state at the end of the week.

To keep from completely losing it–and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad–Harrison plans a send-off la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things–big and small–they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.

The Language of Seabirds by Will Taylor

A sweet, tender middle-grade story of two boys finding first love with each other over a seaside summer.

Jeremy is not excited about the prospect of spending the summer with his dad and his uncle in a seaside cabin in Oregon. It’s the first summer after his parents’ divorce, and he hasn’t exactly been seeking alone time with his dad. He doesn’t have a choice, though, so he goes… and on his first day takes a walk on the beach and finds himself intrigued by a boy his age running by. Eventually, he and Runner Boy (Evan) meet — and what starts out as friendship blooms into something neither boy is expecting… and also something both boys have been secretly hoping for. 

No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado 

You should know, right now, that I’m a liar.

They’re usually little lies. Tiny lies. Baby lies. Not so much lies as lie adjacent.

But they’re still lies.

Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.

Except it’s all fake.

Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the facade.

But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.

But it might already be too late. 

Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes 

A sharply funny and moving debut novel about a queer Mexican American girl navigating Catholic school, while falling in love and learning to celebrate her true self. Perfect for fans of Erika L. S�nchez, Leah Johnson, and Gabby Rivera.

Sixteen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers to be known for her killer eyeliner, not for being one of the only Mexican kids at her new, mostly white, very rich Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way.

After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend before transferring to Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: keep her brother out of trouble, make her mom proud, and, most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami.

The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And smart. And talented. And cute. So cute. Either way, Yami isn’t going to make the same mistake again. If word got back to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection. So she’ll have to start asking, WWSGD: What would a straight girl do?

Told in a captivating voice that is by turns hilarious, vulnerable, and searingly honest, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School explores the joys and heartaches of living your full truth out loud.

The Witch Boy (The Witch Boy #1)by Molly Knox Ostertag

From the illustrator of the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist comes a debut middle-grade graphic novel about family, identity, courage — and magic.


In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be. When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself. 

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang 

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon is his brilliant dressmaker, Frances―his best friend and one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect her friend?

Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart. 

Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper Book Review

Book Description

Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.

When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.

Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake.

But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?

Review

Thoughts and Themes: After having enjoyed two of Phil Stamper’s books when I saw this middle-grade book of his on Netgalley I knew I had to read it. I love that there are options for LGBTQ+ youth now because when I was in middle school I remember there were 3 books I read on repeat. I remember being in middle school and knowing something was different about me but not having the terminology or knowing girls could be queer, and books only had gay males in them.

I like that this book isn’t all happy for our main character regardless of the support that he does have from family and friends. I like that we see the reality of what it can be for someone to be queer in a small town. I also really like that we get a glimpse of how Jake’s online world is 100% accepting in the way he had hoped it would be. I think it was great to see that nowhere is 100% safe for LGBTQ+ people and how we navigate spaces that we might not be safe in.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the talk that Brett has with Jake about anxiety. I love how he brings up reading books to figure out his sexuality and how much that helped him. I really liked how they talk about Brett going to therapy to help with his anxiety and how it just is a regular conversation between two friends.

Characters: In this book, you meet several characters through their interactions with our main character, Jake. You get to meet his parents, his best friend, and the guy he is crushing on, Brett. I really enjoyed all of the characters you get to meet throughout this book and Jake’s relationships with everyone.

I loved the relationship between Brett and Jake and how innocent their relationship is. I also really enjoyed how Jake just accepts that Brett isn’t out and understands what being out could mean for him. I like that he just takes Brett’s lead and while it does confuse him at times he does listen to others.

I also liked how Jake has many supportive people in his life, like his best friend and his parents. I loved seeing how supportive Jake’s parents are and I liked that Jake felt comfortable enough to tell his dad that he outed him before he was ready.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the perspective of our main character, Jake. I really enjoyed getting the chance to read this story from his perspective because the main character read his age. I liked getting to be in Jake’s head and see how he feels about everything. I also thought it was great to see how the reaction to having a crush and what it is like to be his age and be out.

Author Description

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained by playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University.

When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write.

Years later, Phil is now the bestselling author of The Gravity of Us, As Far As You’ll Take Me, and other queer books for kids and teens. He works in author development for a major book publisher in New York City, where he lives with his husband and their dog. Golden Boys, the first book in his upcoming young adult rom-com duology, comes out in February 2022. Small Town Pride, his debut middle grade novel, publishes in Summer 2022.

Felix Ever After By Kacen Callender Book Review

Book Description

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am so glad that this was the book I chose for stealing a book from someone’s TBR on the Read Your Own Adventure Challenge. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while but have barely got to it and decided to listen to it on audio. I wish I would have read this book sooner because of how much I loved it. This is one of those books that I wound up tabbing a bunch because so much of it spoke to me.

There is so much that is included in this book that I really enjoyed. I love how throughout this book Felix is questioning their gender and we get to see how that affects him and the feelings that he has regarding love. I also really like how we get to see how Felix feels about relationships and being in love, and how much he wishes that he could have this experience.

Characters: In this book you meet several characters through their interactions with our main character, Felix. You get to meet Felix’s best friend, Ezra, his nemesis/person he is catfishing, Declan, some classmates, and his dad. Each of the characters that are included in this story are lovable and you can’t help but want to know more about them.

I really enjoyed the relationships that Felix has with each of the people that are included in this story. I really liked the relationship that Lucky and Declan have because they get to learn about each other when Declan doesn’t know that Lucky is Felix. I like how this is the way that we get to learn more about Declan.

I really like the friendship between Ezra and Felix and how oblivious Felix is to Ezra’s feelings which everyone else can see. I liked watching their relationship develops throughout the course of the book and how they eventually reveal their feelings for each other. I also liked how someone had to bring up the possibility to Felix before he even considers Ezra in that manner.

Writing Style: This story is told in the first person from Felix’s perspective. I like that we get to see the unsent emails that Felix is writing to his mom in hopes of having a relationship with her. I like that we also get to see Declan’s feelings regarding his father kicking him out of the house for being gay. I love that we get to see this idea of found family and chosen family through both of these characters and we also get a glimpse of this with Ezra as well.

Author Information

Kacen Callender is a Saint Thomian author of children’s fiction and fantasy, best known for their Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award-winning middle grade debut Hurricane Child. Their fantasy novel, Queen of the Conquered, is the 2020 winner of the World Fantasy Award and King and the Dragonflies won the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Callender is Black, queer, trans, and uses they/them and he/him pronouns. Callender debuted their new name when announcing their next young adult novel Felix Ever After in May 2019. 

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White Book Tour Post

Book Description

Hell Followed Us by Andrew Joseph White

Genre: Young Adult Horror

Publishing Date: June 7, 2022

Synopsis:

Prepare to die. His kingdom is near.

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.

But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.

Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.

A furious, queer debut novel about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors. Perfect for fans of Gideon the Ninth and Annihilation.

Content Warning: parental death, graphic death, body horror, violence, religious abuse, discussions of genocide; instances of homophobia, transphobia, misgendering, and deadnaming

Book Links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo ~ IndieBound

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was a bit skeptical of reading this one because of the trigger warnings that are included at the start of the book. I figured though since I was in a good place I could read it and I am glad that I did because I really enjoyed this one.

I love dystopian books especially ones that are focused on pandemic, viruses, etc. that are no where near anything that this world has experienced. I find that this focus allows me to escape into another world while reading even if that world is also not ideal.

I really enjoyed how religion was tied into this story and the pieces of the bible that are included. Some of those pieces hit harder than others even if I knew they were in the bible. I really liked seeing how this book interpreted some of those pieces. For me, I’ve been reading a lot of books that include Catholicism and its been interesting to see how each book uses the bible verses to make their point.

Characters: In this book you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with our main character, Benjamin/Benji. You get to meet his ex-fiance, his mom, other people at the Acheson LGBTQ+ Center (ALC), and more. I really loved each of the characters that you get to meet throughout this story and even found the bad guys to be intriguing.

I really enjoyed the descriptions of each of the creatures that are introduced throughout this story and loved trying to picture what they looked like. I wish this was turned into a movie so that I could see these words come to life and see what Seraph looks like, what the Graces look like, and what the Angels look like. I loved learning about each of them and what they stood for and why they existed.

I loved the relationships that Benji had with each of the people involved in this story. I liked getting to see his relationship with his dad from his perspective and how that differed from his mom. I also really enjoyed getting to see his feelings for his fiancee, Theo, and how those feelings change throughout the course of this book.

I really enjoyed that this book included an Autistic character as the love interest and how we get to see some of those traits throughout the book. I like how Nick tries so hard to not show that he is Autistic to the rest of the group even if they are aware. I like how we get to see him stimming and also moments in which he is overwhelmed. I loved the relationship that develops between Nick and Benji and how complicated their feelings are for each other.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person through the perspective of Benjamin/Benji. There are bits and pieces that are told in the third person to give the perspective of Theo and Nick. I really liked getting a chance to see the story unfold through Benji’s perspective and only getting snippets of the others. I think that us being in their head allows us to see what he is thinking and how scared he is of some of the things that are happening to him and around him.

Author Information

Andrew Joseph White is a queer, trans author from Virginia, where he grew up falling in love with monsters and wishing he could be one too. He is a graduate student in George Mason University’s Creative Writing program and has a habit of cuddling random street cats. Andrew writes about trans kids with claws and fangs, and what happens when they bite back.  

He is represented by Zabé Ellor of the Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency. Author photo by Alice Scott.

Author Links:

Website: https://andrewjosephwhite.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ajwhiteauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajwhiteauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19719767.Andrew_Joseph_White

Tour Schedule

https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/04/26/tour-schedule-hell-followed-with-us-by-andrew-joseph-white/

Out of the Blue by Jason June Book Tour Post

Book Description

Out of the Blue by Jason June

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publishing Date: May 31, 2022

Synopsis:

Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the monthlong sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder–or fail and remain stuck on land forever. Crest is eager to get their Journey over and done with: after all, humans are disgusting. They’ve pollluted the planet so much that there’s a floating island of trash that’s literally the size of a country.

In Los Angeles with a human body and a new name, Crest meets Sean, a human lifeguard whose boyfriend has recently dumped him. Crest agrees to help Sean make his ex jealous and win him back. But as the two spend more time together and Crest’s pespective on humans begins to change, they’ll soon be torn between two worlds. And fake dating just might lead to real feelings…

This sophomore novel from Jason June dives into the many definitions of the world home and shows how love can help us find the truest versions of ourselves. 

Book Links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo ~ Indiebound

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I really wanted to read this book because the cover looks so cute and the description made it sound appealing. I was so happy to get a chance to be on this book tour so I could read the book in advance but I decided to listen to it on audio.

When I first started listening to this one it reminded me instantly of the Disney movie, Luca just this one is obviously Gay. If you liked that movie then you will certainly enjoy reading this book because Ross’s first moments on land are so similar to Luca’s first moments on land. I love how confused Ross is about so many human things and how we get to see what they think about those things and how they try to make sense of everything.

There are so many moments in this book that I am laughing out loud just like Sean is laughing at Ross. I love how clueless they are but also love how innocent everything is because they don’t know about our world. I like how we get to see everything that we take for granted or things we are so familiar with in a different way because of the way Ross is experiencing our world.

I loved getting a chance to hear Ross and Sean both exploring the city of LA. I felt like they were just in my backyard and they made the city sound so beautiful when its my every day. And then this book sold me with the Grey’s Anatomy quote so you all have to read it to see what I mean.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with Ross and Sean. You get to meet Sean’s ex-boyfriend, Dominic, some of the people back at Ross’s home, and Sean’s best friend, Kavya.

I really loved learning about Ross and their world. I also loved that Ross is non-binary in the human world and love how we get to see them navigate this when introducing themself to others.

I kept being frustrated with Sean’s obsession with Dominic but I keep remembering that this whole thing is only happening because Ross wants to help him get his ex back. I love the way that Ross makes Sean see things so differently because they are experiencing so much for the first time. I loved the way that their relationship develops throughout the course of the book and how they were instantly friends.

I just really enjoyed how the relationship between Ross and Sean develops. I liked the way this all started and then what it becomes instead for both of them. I just love hearing their feelings for each other when they are in their heads especially since they don’t share their feelings out loud.

Writing Style: This book is written in first person dual point of view going back and forth between Ross and Sean’s perspectives. I liked that this book goes back and forth between both of the boys so that you can see how each of them navigates things. I also like how this back and forth allows you to get to know more about Ross and their world in the chapters told from their perspective.

I liked getting to hear both of their perspectives because it allows us to see how each of them feels about this whole scheme to get Dominic back. I also liked seeing both of their perspectives because it allows us to learn more about Ross’s world in the ocean during his section.

Author Information

You’ve come here wondering, “What is the meaning of life?” Er, I mean, Jason June’s life. Jason June (it’s a two-name first name, like Mary-Kate without the hyphen or the Olsen twin) is a genderqueer writer mermaid who loves to create picture books that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark, and young adult contemporary rom-coms full of love and lust and hijinks.

When not writing, JJ zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, Pomeranians, and anything magical that takes you to a different world or time. JJ is a tried and true Laura Dern stan, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend.

​His picture books include WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, illustrated by Jess Pauwels, and PORCUPINE CUPID, a queer-inclusive Valentine’s Day story, illustrated by Lori Richmond, both from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. For under-the-sea whimsical adventures, check out the MERMICORN ISLAND chapter book series from Scholastic! And get ready for JAY’S GAY AGENDA, Jason June’s debut YA, queer rom-com, coming June 1, 2021 from HarperTeen!

Author Links

Website: https://www.heyjasonjune.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/heyjasonjune

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heyjasonjune/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15906433.Jason_June

Tour Schedule

https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/04/23/tour-schedule-out-of-the-blue-by-jason-june/

A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy Book Tour Post

Book Description

A Little Bit Country Brian D. Kennedy

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Publishing Date: June 7, 2022

Synopsis:

Emmett Maguire wants to be country music’s biggest gay superstar – a far reach when you’re seventeen and living in Illinois. But for now, he’s happy to do the next best thing: Stay with his aunt in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer and perform at the amusement park owned by his idol, country legend Wanda Jean Stubbs.

Luke Barnes hates country music. As the grandson of Verna Rose, the disgraced singer who had a famous falling out with Wanda Jean, Luke knows how much pain country music has brought his family. But when his mom’s medical bills start piling up, he takes a job at the last place he wants: a restaurant at Wanda World.

Neither boy is looking for romance, but sparks fly when they meet – and soon they’re inseparable. Until a long-lost secret about Verna and Wanda comes to light, threatening to unravel everything.

Will Emmett and Luke be able to get past the truths they discover…or will their relationship go down in history as just another Sad Country Love Song?

Book Links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo~ IndieBound

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I wanted to read this one because I love country music and theme parks, so this seemed perfect. I am so glad this was the first book that I read for pride month because it killed me with cuteness. I was trying so hard not to squeal from the cuteness while reading this at work.

There was just so much that I loved about this book even the parts that I kind of saw coming. All I wanted for both of these boys throughout the whole book was happy because they both deserved it. There are parts of this book that break your heart for all of the characters but then this author knows how to take those pieces they just broke and make your heart whole again.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to a few characters through their interactions with Luke and Emmett. You get to meet Luke’s ex-girlfriend, Luke’s family, some of the people in the Jamboree, and Emmett’s aunt.

I really liked getting a glimpse into Luke’s home life and how that dictated his every move. I liked that we got to see what it was like for him to be poor and feel responsible for taking care of his family, and what that all meant for his dreams of being a chef and coming out. I also liked how seeing a glimpse of his home we got to see his mom who has a chronic illness and how that impacts her life as well as Luke’s life.

I liked getting to see how they each viewed their relationship with each other and the fears that they both had about that relationship. The relationship between Luke and Emmett was my favorite part of this book. I liked how Luke calls Emmett out about what it would mean if he was out and how it isn’t always easy for everyone to be out. I also like how they both get in their heads about things and how if they would just communicate things would be so much easier for both of them.

Writing Style: This book is told from a dual perspective going back and forth between Emmett and Luke. I thought this was a great choice for this book because you needed to know what was going on in both of these boy’s heads. I think hearing things from both sides and getting to know them as individuals made their love story so much more precious.

Author Description

Brian D. Kennedy writes books for young adults. Born and raised in Minnesota, he occasionally elongates his vowels still. He now lives in New York City with his husband and their very photogenic dog. When he’s not writing, Brian can be found working at the LGBTQ Center, sitting in the audience at a Broadway show, or out buying more books—despite the stack of unread ones he has at home.  

Author Links

Website: https://www.briandkennedybooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bdkennedybooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bdkennedybooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20814893.Brian_D_Kennedy

Tour Schedule

https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/03/25/tour-schedule-a-little-bit-country-by-brian-d-kennedy/

Kings of B’More by R. Eric Thomas Book Review

Book Description

Two Black, queer best friends face their last day together with an epic journey through Baltimore in this magnetic YA debut by celebrated cultural critic and bestselling Here For It author R. Eric Thomas.

With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that–it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend Linus will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: he’s moving out of state at the end of the week.

To keep from completely losing it–and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad–Harrison plans a send-off � la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things–big and small–they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was quite pleased when Penguin teen provided me with a copy of this book so that I could provide a review. While I haven’t seen the movie Ferris Bueller, I was intrigued because this book centered around two Queer, Black males, and their friendship which is something that I rarely see in books.

I tend to find Queer books focus so much on the romance that they leave the friendship piece out, or that if there’s another Queer person in the book it’s an automatic relationship so I loved that this book didn’t go that route. Throughout the whole time of reading this book, I was waiting for there to be some romantic gesture made and I just didn’t feel that spark between the two guys so I was happy that they didn’t have any romantic feelings toward each other. I do really love that this book talks about how this is different from a typical friendship and the love that they have for each other that is platonic but still so important and valid.

I love how this book was a take on Ferris Bueller and how the characters point out how different it is because they aren’t white, straight guys. I thought it was important that this was pointed out because some of the events that take place throughout this story are because they are Black, Gay guys.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with our main character, Harrison. You get to meet his best friend, Linus, his sister Corrine, his parents, and Linus’s dad, as well as some of their friends, Aparna.

I really loved the friendship between Harrison and Linus and how we see it develop throughout this book. I love that we get a chance to see how this friendship started and how they both feel about their friendship. I really enjoyed how they both didn’t have to say anything to just understand each other. This whole friendship reminded me of me and my best friend and how space and time don’t change things for us, it’s more than words can describe but this book put that friendship into words.

I also really enjoyed the relationship that Harrison has with each of his family members and how we see this throughout the book. I like how his parents explain why they are so protective of him and I like how close his sister is with him. I like that we also get to see her being protective of him throughout the book and how she also understands him.

Writing Style: This story is told in the third person through an outside narrator, and you also get some show notes from Aparna that are written in the first person. I really liked getting the chance to see both what Harrison and Linus were up to and what Aparna was getting into to keep their travels a secret.

I loved the pieces that were written by Aparna as I felt like she was the actual narrator for this whole story and she was retelling that day. I know that this isn’t the case but it’s nice to think that she just knows all because it fits her character.

I also really liked that this was told in the third person because we got to see what each person was thinking or what each of them was doing at different moments in time. While the majority of the book was focused on Harrison, you did get glimpses of Linus and his thoughts.

Author Information

R. Eric Thomas is a national bestselling author, playwright, and screenwriter. His books include, Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America, which was featured as a Read with Jenna pick on NBC’s Today, Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters, co-authored with Helena Andrews-Dyer, and the YA novel Kings of B’more. For four years, he wrote “Eric Reads the News” a wildly popular daily humor column covering pop culture and politics on ELLE.com.

He has written on the Peabody Award-winning series Dickinson on AppleTV+ and Better Things on FX. Off the page, Eric is also the long-running host of The Moth StorySlams in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and has been heard multiple times on The Moth Radio Hour, NPR’s All Things Considered and It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders. Website: rericthomas.com

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir Book Review

Book Description

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I had heard about this book all over bookstagram and booktok so when I got an advanced listening copy from libro.fm I was so happy to get a change to listen to it. I really enjoyed so much about this book regardless of the emotional roller coaster that it put me on. This book goes through grief, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, rage, and more.

Right from the start of this book, my heart was broken for Salahudin and Noor. This book makes you fall in love with a character to only take her away way too soon. This has to happen though in order for the rest of the events in this book to take place and go the way that they did.

Characters: There are quite a few characters that you get to meet throughout this book through the different interactions that they have with the main characters, Misbah, Salahudin and Noor.

I really enjoy the relationship between Nor and Sal and how that changes from the start of the book to the end. I love how these two trust each other over anyone else, and how that trust developed through their childhood and experiences that they share.

I like the relationship that you get to see between Misbah, her son, Salahudin, and Noor. I like how Misbah was like a mother figure to Noor, and what that meant for both of them. I really liked how Misbah allowed Noor to be herself and taught her about religion even if Noor’s uncle didn’t want that.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the perspectives of Misbah, Salahudin, and Noor. The story goes back and forth from the past to the present. When you are hearing from Misbah, you are taken to the past and are in Pakistan, and when you are hearing from Sal and Noor, you are in the present in California.

I love how you learn more about each of the characters as you listen to the chapters that are written through each of their perspective. I also like that you not only learn about themselves but you learn about the past such as Sal’s childhood through Misbah’s section. I also like that hearing from each of them means you get to know more about this story than some are willing to share.

I really enjoyed how you got to see each of the characters feelings and while they tried to hide their feelings, you got to know them. I liked how in certain sections depending on who was speaking you couldn’t tell how the others felt in a situation but then you went into their chapter and learned exactly how they felt.

Author Information

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.