ARC Review | All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren’t Blue

by George M. Johnson

Nonfiction, LGBTQ, Memoir

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.


*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

This had been a book I’d seen from over the pond that had great reviews and looked so promising, so when I found out it was getting published next month in the UK I was so excited to be sent an early copy!

All Boys Aren’t Blue is the hard-hitting memoir come manifesto from George M. Johnson, and it’s a journey that talks about what it is like to grow up both Black and queer. Through a series of personal essays and insights into Johnson’s life, they really bring to life such vivid memories and anecdotes that are so easily sculpted into today’s generation. These essays are both informative as well as interesting.

Johnson writes with so much honesty and heart that it’s very difficult not to get attached to these stories and the people who occupy them. I really appreciated how Johnson was so completely raw and vulnerable, I definitely think this element elevated the stories and made each of them have much more of an impact. Johnson does not hide anything from the reader, he is, quite plainly, an open book. I can already see the good this is going to do in the word, especially for younger Black and queer readers who are only finding their place in the world.

I also really enjoyed how each of the sections of this book were divided into different parts of Johnson’s life – so, for example, there was “teenagers” era of his life, “friends”, “family,” etc. I felt like this was quite a clever way of storytelling, and it seemed as if Johnson deliberately made it cohesive enough to jump into the book at any one of these points. It wasn’t necessarily needed to read this from beginning to end, but instead I thought it could also be read in the order that the reader themselves felt was needed for them. I thought this was a masterful way of delivering such powerful, commanding stories that are sure to inspire and inform many of Johnson’s readers, and I look forward to reading whatever they write next. This collection is definitely one that demands to be read.

All Boys Aren’t Blue is published in the UK on the 4th of March by Penguin Random House, and I encourage you to go out and get a copy of this moving, authentic memoir.


Blog Tour: Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Hi everyone!

Today I have a super exciting post! I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Helen Corcoran’s debut, Queen of Coin and Whispers! If I haven’t shouted about this book enough yet, then hopefully now is another chance to do exactly that. I thoroughly enjoyed this political intrigue fantasy tale with a gorgeous f/f romance at the heart of it!

You can find my full review here!

BLOG TOUR

Thank you especially to Tríona at O’Brien Press for asking me to be apart of this and to Helen of course for writing such a fantastic book! If you want to purchase Queen of Coin and Whispers, then you can do so at obrien.ie or from Book Depository.

You can find Helen at @hcor on Twitter or through her website, helencorcoran.com!


ABOUT QUEEN OF COIN AND WHISPERS

QoCaW

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …


Now, onto the extract!

Xania

The carpet muted my footsteps, giving me a few more moments of stealth. ‘How long?’
Matthias whirled. His face tumbled through shock, surprise, guilt, then settled on anger. ‘Xania.’
‘Miss Bayonn.’ He’d lost the privilege of my name. ‘How long have you been working for her?’ What secrets have you told her?
‘It’s not –’
I whipped the dagger up.
He went still.
‘How long?’
He flicked his gaze from the dagger to me. ‘I’ve known her since childhood.’ He hesitated. ‘However you’re imagining I betrayed you, I didn’t.’
Careful phrasing. Typical Matthias.
The doors burst open, and the new Queen stood in the doorway.
Fear rolled in my gut.

‘Drop the dagger.’ This close, layers of powder couldn’t quite hide the grief or exhaustion on her pale skin. But her gaze still pinned me. ‘Drop it now.’
She spoke as if she’d never been disobeyed in her life, which was probably true. Refusing her meant courting death.
I let the dagger slip from my fngers.
Matthias nudged it towards the Queen with his boot. She scooped it up and held it at her side.
‘Your Majesty,’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘may I present Miss Xania Bayonn, daughter of the late Baron Bayonn and Lady Harynne.’
‘If this is a joke,’ the Queen told him, ‘it’s in poor taste.’
‘It isn’t. I don’t appreciate having the business end of daggers pointed at me.’
My legs tensed, though running was futile. The Queen knew my name now.
She narrowed her eyes. ‘How did you convince the guards to let you through?’ She looked between Matthias and me, then at the walls. So she had told him about the passages – and he shouldn’t have told me.
Matthias grimaced.
At the sound of an approaching patrol, the Queen gestured at him and stepped back into the room. He pulled me inside before I could protest. The Queen shut the doors. The guards’ footsteps faded around a corner.

‘Release her,’ the Queen said, and nodded towards the chairs at her desk.
I sat, keeping my head down. Mama had drilled etiquette into me for years as my most effective shield.
The Queen placed my dagger on the windowsill behind her. I waited for her to speak first. Only the ticking clock broke the silence, until Matthias took an incensed breath through his nose.
‘I’m aware this isn’t the meeting you intended, but here we are,’ the Queen snapped. ‘So instead of acting like a spoiled child, Baron Farhallow, I suggest you salvage it.’
Meeting?
I looked up. ‘I… I beg your pardon, Your Majesty…’
‘It’s a bit late for politeness now.’
Matthias snorted.
‘Would you prefer I leave you both alone with the dagger?’
‘No, Your Majesty,’ he said. ‘I would not.’
‘Good. Start explaining.’

 

From Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran, published by The O’Brien Press.


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#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Sophie Cameron!

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to another author interview! I can’t continue with this post until I remind everyone how important all our efforts our right now and how they should be directed to the Black Lives Matter movement first and foremost! Please keep educating yourself, signing petitions, sharing links, donating if you can and doing anything at all to help the cause! It’s so important to make noise right now, especially for Black trans lives that have been shockingly ignored by the media. Here is a link to a list of petitions that have not yet reached their goals and need your help!

Today we have the fabulous Sophie Cameron for an interview, author of Out of the Blue and the more recent, Last Bus to Everlandwhich you can order from Book Depository here!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

sophie

Hi! I’m Sophie, an author of young adult fiction. I’m originally from the Scottish Highlands, spent around 10 years in Edinburgh, and now live in Barcelona with my wife.

Some of my all-time favourite books include Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Naive. Super by Erlend Loe, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, How to be Both by Ali Smith, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, and More Than This by Patrick Ness.

When I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually studying foreign languages or watching inordinate amounts of TV. Other stuff I like includes: cats, tea, Duolingo, Eurovision, Céline Dion, taiyaki, postcards, Catalan pop music, sudoku, arepas, cheese.


ABOUT LAST BUS TO EVERLAND

everland

Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a “knock-off Narnia” that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants.

Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Sophie! What was your journey to publication for Out of the Blue like? Was it tougher or easier than you anticipated?

I was actually extremely lucky on my road to publication. I entered a SCBWI competition and was one of twelve authors featured in their Undiscovered Voices anthology, which is sent to agents and editors every two years. My agent contacted me through that, so I’ve never had to query, and Out of the Blue was my first book to go on submission. I’ve had quite a few publishing setbacks since then though, so it hasn’t all been plain sailing!

Wow, that sounds great! Not the setbacks, obviously, haha! As a queer author yourself, what is the importance to you for having queer representation?

I didn’t see many queer people in media when I was younger and I think it negatively affected the way I viewed LGBTQ+ lives and relationships, and also the way I saw myself. My books are my own small contribution to counteracting that and hopefully making things a little better for young readers nowadays. There’s still a long way to go, especially where intersectionality is concerned, but I love that we’re now in a place where we can have characters who are incidentally gay or bi or trans or any other identity without it being the sole focus of the story.

Yes, so true!! And speaking of representation, Last Bus to Everland includes a diverse set of characters of all different ethnicities. Is this important to you? Why?

Definitely – Everland can be accessed from multiple portals all over the planet, so it made sense to include characters from all around the globe. More generally, I think it’s important that literature is inclusive and shows the world as it is, with characters from a variety of backgrounds. 

Absolutely! Who are some of your favourite queer characters of all time?

The ones that first come to mind from YA are Teeth from Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz and Michael from The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta – both great books. I also love Lucy Diamond, the lesbian international supervillain from the film D.E.B.S.

Did you always want to be a writer when you were young or could your career have gone a completely different way?

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was about six, so it’s always been top of my list. I studied French and Comparative Literature and would also have liked to be a literary translator. (I translate sales and business copy in my day job, so I guess that’s sort of close?!)

Nico and Brody are two lovely and complex characters, but ultimately quite different. Do you find capturing a narrative voice in a novel difficult or easy?

I don’t usually have too much problem capturing a narrative voice. That’s probably one of the aspects of writing that comes more easily to me, though recently I’ve been working on a dual-narrative novel and differentiating between the two MCs is definitely quite tricky. It’s given me a lot of admiration for authors who can write from multiple perspectives.

There are many LGBTQ books coming out this year – what ones are you most excited for?

Tough question as there are so many, but I think The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar is top of my list. I’ve also been hearing great things about You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.

Yes! Two great books! What’s one of the accomplishments of your career that you’re most proud of?

Honestly, I’m probably still most proud of actually finishing my books! I wrote for years and years before actually managing to stick to something and finish it. That’s still the biggest challenge for me now – I have too many ideas and it’s so tempting to let myself get carried away by new, shiny projects.

I’m sure there are many aspiring authors reading this – what’s your best piece of advice you can give them?

I went to a writing workshop with Juno Dawson around 5 years ago, before I was published, and she advised us to think of ourselves as writers: not “aspiring writers” or anything like that, but writers. That really stuck with me, as it’s what made me take my writing much more seriously and helped me finally complete my first manuscript.

That’s great advice! And finally, what do you have planned next? Are you working on anything for the future?

I had twins a couple of months ago so right now I’m mostly juggling two newborns and trying to find time to sleep! But I’m also working on a couple of new YA novels that I’m very excited about. I really hope I’ll be able to share them with readers sometime soon!


Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, Sophie! We were delighted to have you and look forward to what you release next!

Last Bus to Everland was published last year and I urge you all to go order it—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else you can!

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#QueerRecs: Top 5 QPOC Books!

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to another round of #QueerRecs! First and foremost, I’m leaving a link here like always to a list of petitions that have still not reached their goal. Now, more than ever, is the time to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement!

Today we have my Top 5 QPOC books — either with a queer main character of colour, or written by a queer author of colour. Onto the post!


full disclosureFull Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

This was a recent read for me, but I absolutely loved it. When I was thinking about this list, this was an instant must. Following the story of HIV positive teenager Simone, it was one of the most refreshing coming-of-age YA novels that I’ve read for a long time. With great characters and full of heart and emotion, this debut is incredible! And so great to see a book so sex positive for a change!

 

 


clap when you landClap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This is a stunning verse novel about two sisters who share the same dad but don’t know until the day his plane crashes and he tragically passes away. It’s so rich with gorgeous poetry, raw and beautiful emotion and a heartwarming wlw relationship at its centre. Elizabeth Acevedo is also the author of With The Fire On High and The Poet X and her books are just wonderful!

 


THE BLACK FLMAINGOThe Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Ahhhh, I could scream about this book forever!! Another verse novel, this follows the coming-of-age story of Michael as he grows up as gay, mixed race in the UK and turns to drag to express his true, free self. An incredible novel with so much heart and hope and truth. It’s beautiful and will make you feel so many things all at once.

 

 


the henna warsThe Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

This was a heartwarming, swoonworthy debut from Adiba Jaigirdar. Set in Dublin, it follows the romance between Nishat and Flávia who have both set up rival henna businesses. It’s funny, relatable but at the heart of the book there is so much important emotion and stories explored. Really stunning writing too and I can’t wait to see what Adiba Jaigirdar does next!

 

 


YSSMIACYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

I’m cheating a little bit for this last one because I haven’t actually read it yet, but it’s definitely one I’m going to put on my TBR for next month because it sounds so amazing and I’ve only heard good things!!

 

 

 


And that’s my final #QueerRecs for the month done! Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments below!

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#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: William Hussey!

Hi everybody!

Welcome back to another author interview! I can’t continue with this post until I remind everyone how important all our efforts our right now and how they should be directed to the Black Lives Matter movement first and foremost! Please keep educating yourself, signing petitions, sharing links, donating if you can and doing anything at all to help the cause! It’s so important to make noise right now, especially for Black trans lives that have been shockingly ignored by the media. Here is a link to a list of petitions that have not yet reached their goals and need your help!

Today we have the wonderful William Hussey for an interview, author of the recently released Hideous Beauty—which you can order from Book Depository here!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

will

 

William Hussey is an award-winning author of books for children and Young Adults. As a gay man and a visiting author, he has spoken to hundreds of LGBTQ+ students worldwide. Hearing their stories of modern intolerance, prejudice and the tragic consequences this has can lead to inspired him to write Hideous Beauty.

 

 


ABOUT HIDEOUS BEAUTY

hideous beauty

When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought?

But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown.

Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi William! Congrats on the publication of Hideous Beauty last month. Now this isn’t your first novel – but what makes it different to everything else you’ve written?

Thank you so much for having me!

Well, Hideous Beauty is my first LGBTQ love story/mystery. All my previous books have been very plot-driven YA/Middle Grade supernatural adventures with little of the story devoted to the main character’s sexuality or gender identity. I had always wanted to write a book like this but, when I first started in the industry a decade ago, very few such books were being published.

It was while I was taking a hiatus from writing to care for my late Mum that an avalanche of wonderful queer teen books started to hit the shelves. Authors like Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, John Green and others showed me that publishing was now welcoming the kind of intimate book I wanted to write.

In Hideous Beauty we have what I hope is a very heart-warming, swoony love story wrapped up in a proper twisty, turny mystery. So it is plot-driven in a sense, but the issues I wanted to address – identity, secrets, grief, insincere acceptance of LGBTQ people, and the redeeming power of first love – are at the centre of the narrative.

 

I’m currently reading it and loving it! Grief plays a big part in this novel. Were there any scenes in particular you were writing that you really felt for your characters? Any scenes you found difficult to write?

I cried a LOT while writing this book. I still cry when reading certain sections of it. I wrote Hideous Beauty in the immediate months after losing my Mum to lung cancer and sepsis. I had cared for her during her last illness and the grief was terrible. It was still raw when I was creating Dylan and his reaction to the death of the person he loved most in the world. In fact, the book really was part of the grieving process for me. It helped me understand the trauma I was going through. In the end, I came to the conclusion Dylan does towards the epilogue of the book – that all we can do is move on, carrying our loved ones with us as best we can, honouring them by living the way they believed we could.

One moment in the book absolutely comes from real life. I went to see my Mum in the funeral home and I touched her hand while she lay in her coffin. In the book there is a scene just like this. Dylan describes the coldness of that touch as like nothing on earth. It’s the coldness not of earth or stone or wind but of all the moments that could have been and now can’t ever be. I wept and wept writing that scene. I think it’s the most truthful thing I’ve ever written.

But as painful as these moments are in real life – as painful as they are to write – they inform us who we are. They scar us, leave us hurting, but hopefully they also make us gentler and more empathetic people. What I experienced losing my Mum? I don’t know. I poured it into Hideous Beauty and I’m happy to say it does seem to connect with people.

 

That is such a lovely way to think. LGBTQ representation is so important, especially in YA fiction. As a queer author yourself, do you feel like it’s your responsibility to tell queer stories?

Absolutely. Representation is crucial in children’s literature. I only wish there had been such books when I was a very confused and unhappy teenager. It might have saved me years of needless heartache and self-loathing. I grew up in a rural part of the UK and under the shadow of Section 28: teachers couldn’t tell me that being gay was OK even if they wanted to. The only gay people I saw were stereotypes in sitcoms, caricatures to be ridiculed. Everything I experienced in my life told me it was at best undesirable to be gay, probably even dangerous.

And yes, things have moved on, but not everywhere. I think some people in big cities have the idea that pretty much all our battles have been won and that therefore LGBTQ people should shut up about our rights. But let me tell you, queer teens in rural Britain face just the same prejudice and threats they have always faced. Most of the UK isn’t like London and Manchester and Brighton. Most of it is still actively hostile to gay people. It’s horrible to say, but there it is.

And so representation in books and films and art generally is just as crucial as it’s always been, especially for kids who live in isolated, homophobic environments. Seeing ourselves reflected in literature can still, in fact, save lives.

 

Absolutely! Wise words! Speaking of LGBTQ rep, what are some of your favourite queer characters in any books or TV/films?

Oh goodness, this could be a very long list, so I’ll try to contain myself to a couple of examples. Firstly, in terms of TV, I love how Drag Race has become such a huge hit with queer and straight audiences alike. Can you even imagine such a thing a decade ago?!

From a British perspective, I also have to give massive respect to Russell T Davies. Those wonderful characters in QUEER AS FOLK hit at just the right time for me – they opened my eyes to a world I wanted to be a part of and did it in a way with humour and compassion. He was also doggedly determined in introducing queer characters during his tenure as showrunner on DOCTOR WHO. I think we’ll look back in a few decades and realise just how important that representation was for a whole generation.

 

More recently, I love how Simon Spier has very quietly become an icon for kids. I hate the word ‘normalise’, I’m sure there’s a better way to phrase it, but writers like Becky Albertalli have created literary spaces where people can widen their horizons with characters like Simon. Similarly, Simon James Green has done the same thing with his Noah Grimes books and with Alex in ALEX IN WONDERLAND.

 

When I was a confused teenager, I was also given a battered copy of Armistead Maupin’s TALES OF THE CITY. Just like with QUEER AS FOLK, those magical characters of Anna Madrigal and Mouse and all the others at 28 Barbary Lane spoke very deeply to me. In fact, I hate to think what might have become of me if I hadn’t encountered characters and books like these.

 

Yes!! Russell T Davies is incredible. If you had to do something different as a child or a teenager to make you into a better writer today, what would it be?

Read more. I mean, I was a pretty voracious reader anyway, but the more you read, the better writer you become. I’m sure I could have stolen a few more moments here and there to squeeze in just one more book!

 

How long does it take you to write a novel usually? What’s your process like?

 It usually takes about 6-9 months to fully complete a manuscript. The process starts with a ‘What if…’ idea or a character that pops into my head and demands to be written about. Then, once I’ve done enough research, I sit down and hammer out the first draft as quickly as I can. Honestly, family and friends don’t see much of me for about six weeks. I write it fast and furious! I think if you can get that energy and pace in the first draft, it will always stay there, no matter how many edits come later. I don’t revise at all as I go, I just set the story down, rough and ready.

Then I put it in a drawer for about a month and get on with some other writing. When I go back, I can see clearly all the things wrong with it and I start redrafting. I probably redraft six or seven times, then polish, then send it to my fab editor Stephanie King at Usborne. Then I wait nervously for Steph’s verdict! This usually comes in a very detailed letter, which I cut up into sections and stick to the wall so I can get an overview. I usually get a little grumpy before finally admitting after about an hour that Steph is 100% right about everything and that she’s a genius. I then start redrafting again… and again… and again!

 

Do you find music helps you write or is it more of a distraction?

I love listening to music when I’m thinking about the book. Certain scenes can be brought to life in my head by the right music. But once I start writing, I need silence. I even wear earplugs so I don’t get distracted. You see, I try to be as absorbed as much as possible in the world of the story, which has its own sights and sounds and textures, and so anything outside that bubble is really unwelcome.

 

How did publishing your first novel change your process as a writer?

 

You’re always learning as a writer. About yourself, about your skill set, and about the industry. In terms of my writing itself, I guess I became more efficient. I learned not to spend days drafting and redrafting that opening line or worrying about that tricky plot point in the middle and just push on through to the end. No one needs to see – or SHOULD see – your sloppy first draft, so don’t worry about such things as you go. Once you’re finished, you will have a much better perspective on what works and what doesn’t rather than trying to tinker with things partway through.

 

I’m sure there are many aspiring authors reading this – what’s your best piece of advice you can give them?

 

Read read read read read read READ! Anything and everything. I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me: I could write a book! Then you ask them who their favourite author is and they look at you blankly and say: Oh, I’m not much of a reader! Well, sorry, but you can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader. It’s impossible. Writing isn’t some mysterious arcane craft – anyone can do it. All the skills you’ll ever need are there, waiting between the covers of books. But there is no shortcut – to learn your craft you must study it.

 

I would also advise new writers to grow a thick skin and to be open to constructive criticism. I know it hurts when someone rips your work to shreds, but very often the critic – especially if they’re an editor or agent – knows what they’re talking about.

 

That’s great advice! And finally, what do you have planned next? Are you working on anything for the future?

 

I’ve just finished my next LGBTQ YA love story/thriller for Usborne. It’s out next summer and I can’t really tell you much about it, unfortunately. There is a teaser at the end of Hideous Beauty, however, so that I can share:

‘Imagine a world where it is illegal to be gay’

Intrigued?!


Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, William! We were delighted to have you!

Hideous Beauty was published last month and I urge you all to go order it—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else!

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Review: Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

date me

Date Me, Bryson Keller

by Kevin van Whye

YA Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Kevin van Whye delivers an uplifting and poignant coming-out love story that will have readers rooting for these two teens to share their hearts with the world–and with each other.


When I first heard this book after my friend Gabbie’s recommendation, I just knew it was something I had to read for #LGBTQMonth!

Based loosely off a 90s rom-com classic, Date Me Bryson Keller has one of the best premises I’ve ever heard! Bryson Keller is the popular guy at school and currently taking part in a dare that means every week he has to date someone new, the first person who asks him out. This whole time it’s been girls, until Kai works up the courage to ask him out and everything spirals from there — including the truth about a lot of things.

I really enjoyed this one! I was honestly expecting it to go in a certain direction but it ended up doing a complete 360 and go the other way! I wasn’t mad though because though at times it was heartbreaking and I especially connected to it growing up gay and having to come out during school, there were so many heartwarming moments. I don’t want to spoil it, but rarely do you see generally happy love stories between two queer characters where there isn’t any major disaster or hurdles for them to overcome. This was a joy to read and I felt myself smiling the whole way through. I mean, can a review get better than that?

I loved all the characters, but especially our main two. They just had such likeable personalities and despite their little flaws, I still found myself completely rooting for them! A perfect, sweet romance if you’re looking for a nice summer read. I can’t wait to see what Kevin van Whye does next. Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Becky Albertalli!


4 star

#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Robin Stevens!

Hi all!

I’m back today for another author interview with another amazing author! And as usual, before I dive in, I’d like to take a minute to remind you about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially during Pride month. We need to support and elevate the voices of Black people now more than ever. Read, sign, share, donate! It’s no longer okay to be silent.

Today we have one of my most anticipated interviews – the incredible Robin Stevens! I’m not joking when I say I literally lost it when I found out Robin agreed to an interview! She is the author of the fantastic Murder Most Unladylike series, with the final ninth instalment, Death Sets Sail, coming in August! You can pre-order it on Book Depository here!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

robin

Robin was born in California and grew up in an Oxford college, across the road from the house where Alice in Wonderland lived. She has been making up stories all her life.

When she was twelve, her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and she realised that she wanted to be either Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie when she grew up. When it occurred to her that she was never going to be able to grow her own spectacular walrus moustache, she decided that Agatha Christie was the more achieveable option.

She spent her teenage years at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she’d get the chance to do some detecting herself (she didn’t). She then went to university, where she studied crime fiction, and then worked at a children’s publisher.


ABOUT MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE

MMU

1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find a truly exciting mystery to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t.)

But then Hazel discovers the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls have to solve a murder, and prove a murder has happened in the first place before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally),

But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Robin! Thanks for being a part of LGBTQMonth! You’ve got quite the collection of novels already. What was the one you had the most fun writing?

I’ve loved writing all of my books, but the one that has really stood out is Death in the Spotlight. I’m so proud of the twist in it, and I loved writing about Daisy’s coming out!

I loved that one too! As a children’s author, what do you think of the importance of LGBTQ representation in your work is?

I think it’s crucial. I had no frame of reference from my childhood about what a children’s book with LGBTQ+ characters in it might even look like, so for a long time I felt nervous about including queer characters in my own writing. But I’ve always been clear that I wanted to reflect the world I see around me in my books, and that means queer as well as straight characters. I’ve had the most unbelievable response to my LGBTQ+ characters, especially Daisy – I regularly get emails from young fans telling me how much it means to see someone like them in a book. What you read as a child influences you for the rest of your life, and I hope I’ve done a bit to show young queer people that they belong – both in books and in the real world!

That’s such a rewarding experience! Clearly there’s a lot of research necessary for the Murder Most Unladylike series and it really pays off. Do you enjoy doing research or is it more of a pain?

I love it! So much so that I over-research, and often only a little of what I know finds its way into my books – but I think it’s important that fiction should feel as real as possible.

Haha, amazing! What’s your own writing process like? How long does it take you to write a book?

I spend quite a while planning my stories – everything has to be set before I begin in terms of the crime. I then write a first draft in about three months, as fast as I can, and then spend about six more months editing and polishing with the help of my editor and my agent. Each book goes through about six drafts – it’s important to say that what makes it onto shelves is not that first draft!

So valid! Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ characters in books you’ve read or TV/Film you’ve watched?

It’s so exciting to be able to give a long list in response to this – LGBTQ+ media representation has transformed almost completely since my childhood. I’m currently watching the final season of She-Ra, and I’m particularly fond of Scorpia. The David/Patrick love story on Schitt’s Creek is wonderful, and I recently finished Pose, a show that felt like perfection from start to finish – I love all of the characters, but maybe Pray Tell is my favourite. In terms of books, Red and Blue from This is How You Lose the Time War, my very favourite novel from last year. Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo and Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt are also wonderful – there are some brilliant children’s and YA books publishing at the moment.

Your house is on fire and you could only save one book. What would it be?

Logically, my signed copy of Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones. Realistically, I couldn’t choose!

Do you like to listen to music when you’re writing or do you prefer silence?

Silence when I’m writing, music while I’m editing. I get so lost in the world of my story I don’t need any more noise!

Daisy and Hazel are two amazing female detectives cherished by a lot of people. What do you make of the massive response Murder Most Unladylike has gotten?

It’s overwhelming! I never thought it would happen – it makes me so proud to know that readers love my characters as much as I do.

As they should! What is your biggest piece of advice for budding writers/detectives?

Pay attention to the world! Interesting stories are everywhere if you’re ready to pick them up.

Yess, great advice! And finally, Death Sets Sail, the final book in the MMU series (I’m not crying, I promise) is coming in August. What can we expect from Daisy and Hazel’s last hurrah?

Romance for both girls – they both get their first kisses! Oh, and their most dangerous mystery ever. This is the book I’ve been waiting years to write, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it!


Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, Robin!!! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait for the release of the final MMU book! We were delighted to have you! 

Death Sets Sail is published later this year in August, and I urge you all to go pre-order it—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else!

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#QueerRecs: Top 5 Queer Authors!

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to another round of #QueerRecs! First and foremost, I’m leaving a link here like always to a list of petitions that have still not reached their goal. Now, more than ever, is the time to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement!


patrick nessPatrick Ness

Patrick Ness is the author of many books, some of which including the Chaos Walking trilogy, the recent Burn, my personal favourite Release among many others! There was no question about including Ness on this list! I admire him so much with his authentic storytelling and incredible pacing. He knows exactly how to tell a story and how to make you connect to his characters. With great gay representation too!

 


juno dawsonJuno Dawson

I have a funny relationship with Juno. Way back when, I used to not even like her but now she’s not only one of my favourite authors but one of my biggest idols! I admire her so much and have so much respect for all the activism she’s involved with. It also helps that her novels such as Meat Market and Clean are absolutely wonderful, with vivid writing and always a cast of complex characters!


alice osemanAlice Oseman

Oh, come on? Are we even surprised?? Alice Oseman is one of my favourite authors of all time – she’s written AND illustrated the Heartstopper series, as well as YA books including Radio SilenceLoveless and I Was Born For This!  She has the best representation for the LGBTQ community in her books, ranging from all kinds of sexual identities! If you’ve not read Oseman, then I’m sorry but you are doing something very seriously wrong.

 


moira fowley doyleMoira Fowley Doyle

Moïra Fowley-Doyle is the Irish author of a range of YA novels, including The Accident Season, Spellbook of the Lost and Found and my personal favourite All the Bad Apples! Fowley-Doyle’s books are so unique in tone and in atmosphere that it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. She also has an amazing cast of characters with great queer representation everytime! Please, if you haven’t read All the Bad Apples – read it now!!!


adam silveraAdam Silvera

And finally, Adam Silvera – author of many novels including History Is All You Left Me, More Happy Than Not and They Both Die At the End. Although I wasn’t a fan of his recent fantasy novel, Infinity Son, I think when Adam Silvera writes contemporary queer YA, he really hits it out of the park. Definitely an author to check out if you haven’t already – he’s stuff will drown you in complete emotion.

 


And there you have another post for #QueerRecs! Have you read any of these authors? If you have let me know in the comments below, and shout about some more!

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#LGBTQMonth: Midway Update and Quiz Reminder!

Hey everyone!!

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through #LGBTQMonth! I’ve been having a great time and reading some amazing books! However, now more than ever, it’s so important to elevate the voices of the Black members of our community and across the world. Here is a link to sign such important petitions that have not yet reached their goal! Please sign!


This will just be a quick post to update you on all on what I’ve read so far and to say I hope you’ve been enjoying the interviews and #QueerRecs post!

I’m currently steering a bit away from my planned TBR because I was lucky enough to receive an e-arc of my most anticipated release of the year – LOVELESS! And since it’s about a character coming to terms with being asexual, it couldn’t be more perfect for LGBTQMonth!

I’ve so far finished 5 books and truly enjoyed them all!

 

You can find some of my reviews so far below:

BURN by Patrick Ness

CAMP by L.C. Rosen


I’ve also had a fair share of interviews with lovely authors since the beginning of the month, so in case you missed out of any of them, here’s a round-up of those who have come so far!

Adiba Jaigirdar

Dean Atta

Helen Corcoran

Lucy Powrie

LC Rosen


And finally, just a reminder that the amazing LGBTQMonth QUIZ is happening tonight at 7pm GMT!!

It will be happening over at our Twitter account @LGBTQMonth so make sure you’re there and ready at 7pm if you want to be in with a chance of winning a book of your choice!!

There will be 5 Rounds, and a total of 25 questions! The way it will work means I will be accepting the FASTEST CORRECT ANSWER! If you feel like you’ve got a great LGBTQ fiction knowledge, why not test it out tonight in a fun quiz?

I will be using the hashtag #QueerQuiz after every question so you can keep track!❤️

That’s all from me for now. Hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend and see you tomorrow for another #QueerRecs post!

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#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Adiba Jaigirdar

Hi everyone!!

Welcome back to another day of #LGBTQMonth! I hope you’re all keeping well, and keep fighting the #BlackLivesMatter movement – I’m quite active over on my Twitter, but it’s so important for us all to share, sign petitions, donate if you can and shout about this injustice – ESPECIALLY if you are white. It would be so wrong to celebrate pride month without paying heed to the Black and POC communities that paved the way for us!

Today we have the wonderfully talented ADIBA JAIGIRDARauthor of The Henna Wars which was released last month! If you want to purchase, which I definitely recommend, you can find it on Book Depository here!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

adiba

Adiba Jaigirdar was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has been living in Dublin, Ireland from the age of ten. She has a BA in English and History, and an MA in Postcolonial Studies. She is a contributor for Bookriot. All of her writing is aided by tea, and a healthy dose of Janelle Monáe and Hayley Kiyoko. When not writing, she can be found ranting about the ills of colonialism, playing video games, and expanding her overflowing lipstick collection. She can be found at adibajaigirdar.com or @adiba_j on Twitter and @dibs_j on Instagram.

 


ABOUT THE HENNA WARS

the henna wars

Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.


THE INTERVIEW

Congratulations on your debut novel, Adiba! What was your journey like from writing The Henna Wars to its publication last month? Was it challenging?

There have been definitely challenges along the way, but I think overall I was very fortunate in having a pretty smooth publication journey. I began writing The Henna Wars in January 2018, and by the end of that year, I had signed with an agent. At the beginning of 2019, I had a book deal. In the publishing world, this is quite fast! I was really lucky because I wrote the book at a time when romcoms were just coming back to the fore (there are a lot of really great romcoms out this year), and obviously the diversity movement has made publishing a lot more inclusive than it was just a couple of years ago. When trying to find an agent, I definitely had some micro-aggressive rejections, and I think that’s a challenge that probably all marginalised writers face. There’s also everything with the coronavirus. The Henna Wars was released in the midst of the pandemic and that’s been a challenge, just because it’s unknown territory. I don’t know how debuting at this time is going to affect the book or my career! It’s also just a time of heightened anxiety, and managing that while working on writing and promoting a book has been a real challenge.

That’s so fair, but I feel like the reaction has definitely been a lot of anticipation! Where did the inspiration come from for this novel?

I was really inspired to write this book because of henna! Growing up, henna was always a part of my life, and I always knew it to be a big part of my culture. But I had never been great at applying henna. So, when I was in Bangladesh a few summers ago visiting my grandmother, I decided I would try and teach myself henna since I had a lot of spare henna tubes. I wasn’t successful—but it gave birth to this idea of two girls who were competitors because of rival henna businesses.

Diversity is so important in YA fiction. Your book features two queer, ethnically diverse characters. Was this an important choice for you?

Honestly, as I was writing this book, it never felt like I chose to include diverse characters within it. This book could not have existed without the diverse characters that exist within its pages. Not just Nishat, whose conflicts in the novel arise from her race, religion, and sexuality—or Flávia—who is caught between appeasing both sides of her biracial family. But also diverse side characters or minor characters that appear in the novel.

Once the idea for the book came to me, it really couldn’t have been written without diversity. I also think it would have been disingenuous to the diversity of culture, faith, and sexuality that I have known, experienced, and been surrounded by my entire life, to write a book that doesn’t honour diversity.   

Your house is on fire and you could only save one book. What would it be?

Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali…I could really use a love story after my house burns down, but also I just love that book with all my heart.

What would you say is the most difficult part of your creative process?

Getting started. Whether this is starting a brand new project, or starting revisions…I find that the beginning is always the most difficult, because I’m so convinced that I can’t do it. I’ve forgotten how I’ve managed to achieve it in the past. Once I get started though, things usually get a lot easier.

Agreed!! Do you have a favourite genre to write/read or are you open to many?

My absolute favourite genre to read and write is contemporary. But I really do love reading almost everything. And I would also love to attempt writing any genre. I love writing…and I also love trying to new things and challenging myself. The only genre that I’m not super keen on reading or writing is horror…because I’m a scaredy cat.

Same tbh! I love when authors include little easter eggs in their work unknown to the reader. Are there any little secrets in The Henna Wars that only you or your friends and family would find?

There aren’t really any specific Easter eggs for friends and family, but there are a few jokes in there that you will really only understand properly if you speak Bengali!

What’s your best piece of writing advice for aspiring authors who might be reading this?

Finish things! I think one of the things that separates “aspiring authors” from “published authors” is the ability to finish writing that novel and then going back to it and revising, editing, rewriting. That’s probably one of the most difficult parts of writing because you have to be very honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and the strengths and weaknesses of what you have written…and then you have to make it better. It’s much easier to abandon it altogether and start another project which has all of the excitement of a new idea behind it. But if you don’t finish writing the book and getting it into its best shape, you don’t make it to querying or signing an agent or getting a book deal. See things through, and finish your books!

Thanks so much! Now, who are some of your favourite queer authors that you think deserve to be championed?

So many! I’m a huge fan of Nina LaCour’s books, and I think everyone should read her work. I also love Kacen Callender’s books, and they write in so many different genres and age categories that I’m sure they’ve written something for everybody’s tastes at this stage. I recently read, and loved, Kelly Quindlen’s Late To The Party, and I think everyone needs to read that book. I can’t wait to see what’s coming from Kelly in the future. Also, You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson is out soon, and it’s wonderful! She already has a second sapphic novel planned for 2021 and I can’t wait until I can get my hands on that.

Ooh, definitely can’t wait for Leah Johnson’s book! And finally, what have you got planned next? Are you working on something currently or are you letting some ideas simmer for a while?

I have a second novel that should be hitting the shelves in Spring 2021. It’s about two very very different Bengali girls who get entangled in a fake dating scheme.


Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, Adiba! We were delighted to have you! Your current WIP sounds DELICIOUS!

The Henna Wars was published last month, May 2020, and I urge you all to go order it—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else!

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