My most anticipated books still to come in 2020

Hi everyone,

This was both so fun and so difficult to write because today I’m talking all about my most anticipated books still to come in 2020. And I have so many. Initially I was going to keep to just 10 books as I did in my favourite books of the year so far list, but I just couldn’t do it. And you’ll see why when I tell you about these books because they all sound equally awesome!

I’m going to be looking at my 15 most anticipated books releasing in the second half of 2020, so July – December. To help me out with narrowing it down, I decided to not include any books which I have received an ARC for since technically I’m no longer anticipating them. This really helped me narrow the list down, but I do want to shout out the books that would’ve made this list had I not got an ARC:

As you can see, that is quite a few books and thus if I had included them in my list below, I would have failed even more badly to narrow this down. So without further ado, here are my 15 most anticipated books releasing in the rest of 2020!

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Release date: July 21

This is a horror novel everyone has been screaming about how scary it is and thus I am so incredibly excited to read this even if it terrifies me. The Year of the Witching is a feminist horror fantasy novel about a woman living in a Handmaid’s Tale esque, cult-like society and what happens when she discovers her mother consorted with witches.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

Release date: August 4

I’ve only read Emezi’s young adult novel, Pet, so far, but I loved it so much and I’m hoping to get to their adult novel Freshwater very soon as well. Their third book, The Death of Vivek Oji, promises to be every bit as lyrical and powerful as Pet. It follows the life of Vivek Oji and their relationships with friends and family before their death.

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

Release date: August 25

It’s so close!!!!! 40 days if we’re being exact but who’s counting… Darius the Great Deserves Better is the sequel to one of my favourite books, Darius the Great is Not Okay. Darius is back in the US, now has a boyfriend and an internship at his favourite teashop, but something still seems to be missing.

Transcendant Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Release date: September 1

Another of the few literary fiction novels that made it onto this list, Transcendent Kingdom follows a Ghanian family in Alabama, specifically Gifty, a young neuroscience student who is researching addiction and depression as she attempts to find answers for her brother’s overdose and suicidal mother. But as she explores the hard sciences, Gifty also reaches back to her childhood faith for answers.

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez

Release date: September 15

Not only does this have one of my favourite covers on this list, it also has one of the most exciting pitches! Crosshairs is set in a near future dystopian world where anyone “other” is rounded up into camps. So a group of queer allies, lead by a queer Black performer, team up against the regime.

Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall

Release date: September 15

Any contemporary that makes it onto this list is surely going to be incredible, because it takes a lot for this fantasy lover to be this excited over contemporary books. Who I Was With Her follows closeted bi girl, Corinne, after her girlfriend dies and she has to learn to deal with her grief without anyone knowing, except the one person she really shouldn’t be leaning on for support: her dead girlfriend’s ex.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Release date: September 15

Having just read Ninth House, I am here for more secret societies at university, and in Legendborn this is combined with a society descended from King Arthur! But also it’s like super super queer too. Legendborn follows Bree as she attends a residential camp for bright high school students at the local university. But on her first night on campus, she witnesses a demon attack and ends up embrolied with a secret society who claim to be descendants of King Arthur working to prevent a magical war.

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

Release date: September 15

The Secret History but make it queer?! I haven’t even read The Secret History and I know this is the vibe I need in my life. These Violent Delights follow Paul and Julian who meet at university in the 70s and whose obsession with each other leads to a shocking act of violence.

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

Release date: September 22

Bisexual vampires is all I need to say for this one, right? Set in a Prague where monsters exist, this book follows a vampire hunter and his relationship with a widowed noblewoman (and secret vampire).

The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J Hackwith

Release date: October 6

If you read my post all about my favourite reads of 2020 so far, you would have seen the first of this series there, The Library of the Unwritten which has to be one of the most fun fantasies I’ve ever read. The Archive of the Forgotten continues the story of Claire, Brevity and Hero as books begin to leak a strange ink that could alter the afterlife forever.

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald

Release date: October 13

Chaos lesbian alert! Beyond the Ruby Veil is a dark YA fantasy about Emanuela, a girl who accidentally kills the only person who can create water in her town and now has to find a way to make water herself before the entire town dies of thirst.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth

Release date: October 20

This is the adult debut from the author who wrote The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I admit I haven’t actually read, but Plain Bad Heroines just sounds so amazing this book made it onto my most anticipated list! This is described as a horror comedy set at a girls boarding school in New England which closed after a series of terrible murders. But now the doors are reopening as a Hollywood cast prepares to create a film about what happened. But soon it isn’t clear where Hollywood ends and the curse of the boarding schools begins…Insert ominous drum roll.

The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

Release date: November 3

Moving into literary fiction realms again, The Thirty Names of Night follows three generations of Syrian Americans and a mysterious bird that ties them all together. This is ownvoices trans and Syrian-American rep, and explores the history of queer and trans communities in the Syrian community and promises to be an entrancing read.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Release date: November 17

If you haven’t seen Chloe Gong’s hilarious videos marketing this book, first of all where have you been?! And second of all, go check out her Twitter because she is hilarious. These Violent Delights is a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, yes we’re really getting a book that sounds THAT AWESOME in 2020.

The Burning God by R.F Kuang

Release date: November 26

The finale to R.F Kuang’s Poppy War series is almost here and it promises to be as destroying as the first two in this series! I’m not going to say too much about this one to avoid any spoilers for those still reading The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic, but suffice to say, I am ecstatically excited to find out what happens to Rin, Nezha and Kitay.

And that’s my 15 most anticipated releases for the rest of 2020! What’s your most anticipated release still to come? Let me know in the comments below.

30 Days of Pride: Contemporary YA

Hi everyone,

I can’t believe there’s only four days left of Pride month and that I’ve actually managed to post every day…. I’ve spoken a lot over the past month about fantasy and science fiction because that is by far the genre I read most. But last year, I also fell in love with YA contemporary, thanks in part to two incredible books which introduced me to the genre (Darius the Great is Not Okay and Deposing Nathan). Thanks to these two books, I was introduced to this whole new genre that I’ve found so much fun to explore! So today’s post is all about some of my favourite YA contemporaries and some of the ones I hope to read during the rest of 2020.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

It’s no secret that this is one of my favourite books of all time, thanks in part to how personally I connected with Darius. This book follows Darius, a teen living with depression, as he visits his grandparents in Iran one summer. It’s a book about depression and losing people to depression through ways other than suicide, it’s about family and friendship, and is just such a beautiful story, it had me sobbing, I love it so fucking much.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Anger is a Gift is a heavy and very difficult read, and follows Moss after his father was killed by a police officer. Six years later, Moss has been left with horrific anxiety and panic attacks. But he’s sick of the way his school is treating him and his classmates like criminals, so they decide to fight back.

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

Today’s list has so many yellow covers and I’m very here for it. Late to the Party is a recent 2020 release about Codi, a teen who’s not exactly the most adventurous, having never been to a party and would rather spend time with her two best friends inside watching Netflix. But when she decides to crash a party and catches one of the popular kids, Ricky, kissing another boy, an unexpected friendship is formed. Ricky introduces Codi to a new wild summer, as well as a cute girl called Lydia. But Codi doesn’t tell her best friends anything…

By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

Yellow cover number 2!! And this one even comes with bees. By Any Means Necessary is about the impact of gentrification, class and cultural identity. It follows Torrey who, on his first day as a college freshman, gets a call that his uncle’s bee farm has been foreclosed. Torrey has to decide whether to save his uncle’s farm or to escape the neighbourhood that’s slowly killing him.

All the Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman

Beware a very heavy content warning for suicide in this one folks. All the Things We Never Said is a very difficult read, following three teens who sign up to MementoMori, an online service that matches you up with others wanting to commit suicide, and plans your death for you. Mehreen, a depressed, anxious, Muslim teen; Cara, a lesbian wheelchair user; and Olivia, sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, are matched with each other and MemontoMori starts giving them tasks to prepare. But the three girls bond with one another, and as they get closer to the day of their deaths, they begin to want out of the pact. But MemontoMori won’t let them stop. As I said, do not read this book if you are not in the headspace to handle the content. It’s a very dark book, but one about the power of friendship and the strength of survival.

Camp by L.C Rosen

I still haven’t read L.C Rosen’s first YA (Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)), but I’ve heard so many good things but L.C Rosen’s sex-positive, funny writing that I really need to get onto both Jack of Hearts and his newest, Camp. Camp is a comedy critiquing toxic masculinity in the queer community, and follows Randy, a queer teen who tries to ‘man’ himself up to get his crush to fall for him.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

A book I finished only last weekend, The Gravity of Us is a sweet contemporary romance set in a world still enthralled by the space race, with NASA preparing for an expedition to Mars. Cal’s father is on the team of astronauts for the mission, and so his family must uproot their lives to move to Texas. But in Texas, Cal begins to fall for fellow astronaut son, Leon, and the longer he stays there, the more it seems like there are secrets being kept from the astronauts and Cal must find a way to reveal them without hurting those he loves.

Look by Zan Romanoff

Look feels like such a current book! God, I feel like that statement makes me sound so old, pretending to know what’s current with the kids… It follows social media influencer, Lulu, after a video of her making out with another girl is accidentally posted and her boyfriend breaks up with her as a result. Look is a coming-of-age story for the social media world, full of commentary on presentation versus who you really are.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

A beautiful book about grief, We Are Okay follows Marin who hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since she moved to university. But her best friend, Mabel, has had enough and is coming to visit. This is such a soft, touching book about friendship, loneliness, complicated queer relationships, and coping with grief.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

I just picked this book up from my library and I’m very excited to give it a go, not least because of how cool this bright yellow cover is. Juliet Takes a Breath follows Puerto Rican Juliet as she spends a Summer interning with her favourite feminist author and coming out, to herself and her family. And an update at the time of scheduling: I have read this now! I’ll have a full book review coming in July, but this had such a great voice and managed to make a book that could be very preachy, not preachy at all.

Are any of your contemporary favourites on this list? Let me know your favourites in the comments! As this is a pretty new genre to me, I am certain I will have missed A TON.

30 Days of Pride: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Title: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: 4 February 2020

Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary | Romance

Page extent: 314 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

The Gravity of Us is YA for space nerds. It was a fun and enjoyable read but lacked substance for me. It felt very familiar to K.Ancrum’s The Weight of the Stars, with just a bit more focus on the space science and a little less focus on the excellent character development. Which is probably why I thought The Weight of the Stars did gay space YA better.

The Gravity of Us follows teen journalist Cal as his family is uprooted from his home in Brooklyn to Texas, after his dad gets a job as the last astronaut on a mission to Mars. But when they get there, Cal’s journalism reveals unhappy truths about the project, and he needs to find a way to tell his family without hurting them.

The Gravity of Us very much hearkened back to the 60s era space race. The energy and passion in the book brought that era into a modern day setting, with new reality TV show ShootingStars following the drama in the astronauts lives. This felt so realistic and I could 100% imagine exactly this book happening if we ever did start a mission to go to Mars. I liked the emphasis on the fakeness of reality shows, it felt like a (lighter) version of Unreal, a show I absolutely adore for the way it utterly takes down reality shows like The Bachelor. It also started a journey to exploring the reasons behind space travel, thanks to the focus on the less central employees (i.e. not the astronauts) at NASA and their reasonings for joining the program. But I wish it had gone deeper. There’s a few vague ‘but what if this could change the future for the better’ lines but nothing that goes beyond surface level arguments for space travel, which I think would have made this more interesting.

There is also both anxiety and depression rep in this book, which is really great to see. However, both of these felt a little surface level 101 representation. Leon was sad. Cal’s mum didn’t like parties because she’s anxious. And….that was about the entirety of their mental health rep. Cal’s anxiety was better handled, it felt more fleshed out and delves deeper into the real impacts of living with anxiety, such as the way Cal always feels the needs to fix things, to want to be seen as a normal family etc. I wanted the secondary characters to be more fleshed out. Which leads to my main issue with the book: everything felt very surface level, except for Cal himself. It felt like the Cal show. I appreciated The Gravity of Us shows Cal fucking up multiple times, and him trying to change and realising his mistakes. But I couldn’t quite forgive the time he spent trying to change Leon. The way Cal handled Leon’s depression just felt….yeah not good. I don’t know how to put it into words. It felt like he didn’t understand (and didn’t really try to understand) how Leon’s depression appears. Cal spent a lot of time thinking about his mum’s anxiety, and about situations that would make her uncomfortable (the aforementioned parties), which is great to see a kid taking that kind of care with their parents! But why didn’t he do that with Leon as well? It made Leon’s depression seem less important, and less life-impacting, than anxiety.

But despite my issues with the book, as this isn’t a particularly deep book, my problems with it are therefore not particularly deep either. It was fun and cute, the romance was sweet, it was cool reading about a modern day space age and I liked the focus on the scientists and their passion in this book. I feel like most of my issues probably stem from the fact I went it knowing this had a very similar pitch to The Weight of the Stars and subconciously thinking I would get something similar. And K.Ancrum is particularly brilliant at writing difficult, sometimes dark, and deep discussions into her work so I think I expected a bit more of that, rather than all cute, sweet romance. But that’s my fault!

If you’re looking for a fun, light gay romance, or looking for a contemporary book with a bit of a space geek edge, then I totally recommend this book to you! If you’re looking for particularly deep discussions about space exploration or detailed mental health representation, this isn’t for you. But it does cute romance well.

30 Days of Pride: Trans, nonbinary and gender diverse books

Hi everyone,

It has certainly been A Week for the trans, nonbinary and gender diverse communities. There’s been a lot of hate and vile directed at these communities, some thanks to authors we had looked up to and who provided a lot of comfort to us. But in the wake of that hate, just remember you are so fucking valid. So let’s get rid of all that hatred from awful authors and instead celebrate some of the brilliant trans, nonbinary and gender diverse books and authors out here!

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Anna-Marie McLemore is an absolute legend in YA which makes it so terrible that I’ve only read one of their books, their newest release, Dark and Deepest Red. This is a retelling of both the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Red Shoes and a documented dancing plague from Strasbourg is the 1500s. The book is told in alternating POVs from the past and present, and follows four teens as they encounter prejudice and racism, with McLemore’s goregous, poetic writing style to pull you through.

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Fantasy retelling of Hamlet with a trans lead character? Hell fucking yes. Especailly when it comes with incredible gods. This book is told in two POVs, Eolo, a warrier helping Prince Mawat reclaim his city, and a God, The Strength and Patience of the Hill, who is, essentially, a rock. Yes you read that correctly. Both POVs are told from this God’s perspective, with Eolo’s POV told in second person POV. I loved the POV of The Strength and Patience of the Hill, who tells you of the worlds origin and how Eolo’s present came to be. It’s a wonderfully interesting book full of magic and gods and wars.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet is a quick and brilliant read about a young trans girl of colour hunting for monsters. Jam has grown up in Lucille, a town which claims there are no monsters anymore. Jam has lived her whole life believing this. So when Pet, a creature from one of her mother’s paintings, comes to life and climbs out of his frame, claiming to be on the hunt for a monster, Jam isn’t sure she believes him. Especially when he tells her the monster in in her best friend Redemption’s house. This is a story of the monsters who hide in plain sight, of what to do when adults don’t believe you. It is so poignant and relevant and I honestly had chills reading this book, the language and writing style is just beautiful, every sentence is full of meaning and impact. Don’t miss this one!

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

I Wish You All the Best is one of my favourite books, it is a beautiful, vulnerable debut from Deaver who has become one of my Must Read authors after this book. I Wish You All the Best is about Ben, a nonbinary teen who comes out to their parents and is kicked out of home. They go to live with their sister, who enrols them in the local school where they meet Nathan, who notices Ben when they don’t want to be seen and are struggling most. It is both a love story and a story of hope, one that shows there is light and hope to be found even at life’s darkest.

Nevada by Imogen Binnie

A bit more literary now to give a bit of variety, this own voices trans story not only has a beautiful cover but a beautiful story. Nevada is about trans woman Maria, a punky woman trying to stay true to her punk values whilst working in soul destroying retail. When she gets fired and her girlfriend lies to her, she embarks on a road trip and meets James, a man who reminds her very much of herself in her early 20s. It’s a book filled with personal discussions of gender and sexuality and I really think it should have way more ratings on Goodreads for a book that’s been out since 2013! So go read it!

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Bell

Sherlock Holmes reimagining with a pansexual female Holmes and trans Watson? Hell fucking yes. Set in a weird and wonderful fantasy world, Captain John Wyndham takes up lodging at 221b Martyrs Walk, where he lives with Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a difficult sorceress with a dark reputation. Miss Haas is hired to solve a blackmail case against an ex-lover, and Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into the mystery. He embarks on an investigation that will have him encounter all manner of creatures, including vampires, pirates (I actually wrote that down as vampirates first, and WOULDN’T THAT BE AMAZING?!), mad gods and sharks, in a reality bending universe of mayhem.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

This is one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it was everything I hoped it would be. It also has quite possibly my favourite cover of the year (or at least one of the top few!) Felix Ever After is about a queer, Black, trans teen (Felix) who catfishes his transphobic bully for revenge and somehow ends up in a quasi-love triangle. But he goes on a journey of discovery to redefine how he feels about himself and his identity. A hugely important and personal story, I think Felix Ever After is going to be one of my favourite books of the year.

The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean

I don’t read a huge amount of middle grade, but this is one I’m going to make an exception for. I think it’s going to be one of those books that just absolutely breaks you apart. Rowan knows who he is and what he likes – but his schoolmates say they don’t want to hang out with him anymore because he’s not the right kind of girl, or the right kind of boy. His mum ignores him, and dad abuses him in the worst possible ways. He finds a way to share his secrets by writing them on paper and tying them to a balloon, watching them float away. But then he befriends a classmate who understand him and loves him for who he is. It’s a book about trauma, survival and the bravery it takes to stand up for yourself.

Dreadnought by April Daniels

I think it’s time to talk about trans superheros!!! In Dreadnought, Danny has been trying to hide the fact she’s transgender. But then the city’s most powerful superhero, Dreadnought, dies in front of her and transfers his powers to her. And also changes her body to what she’s always thought it should be. But she’s faced with awful transphobia from her father trying to “cure” her, her best friend who thinks he’s now entitled to date her, and on top of all that, she’s pulled into the hunt for the Dreadnought’s murderer before they destroy the city. This is the first in a duology full of superheros, supertech and supervillains!

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Genderqueer zombies? Another hell yes from me! When Z wakes up after a car crash that killed their family, they have to adjust to life as a zombie. A witch whilst alive, now they can barely access magic and are…decaying. They have to figure out a way to fix the magical seal holding their body together, with the help of secret werewolf classmate Aysel. When a person is killed in a werewolf attack, Salem becomes even more hostile to magical beings and Aysel and Z have to work hard to survive in a town that doesn’t want them. Full of body horror and sarcasm and friendship!

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

And let’s finish with another of most anticipated books of the year (and probably second favourite cover of 2020 behind Felix Ever After). The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea follows pirate Flora, who takes the identity Florian to earn the respect and protection of the crew. But then they fall in love with a noble the pirates have kidnapped to sell into slavery. This book promises to me one of my favourite fantasies of the year: there’s a genderfluid pirate, a witch, critique on colonialism, and mermaids!

I hope you found some books to add to your TBRs on this list! What’s your favourite book with trans or nonbinary rep? Let me know in the comments.

30 Days of Pride: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Title: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication date: 5 May 2020

Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary

Page extent: 368 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

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.

How do you describe a book which just completely floored you in all ways imaginable? A book that tells you you’re valid, even when your whole body says you aren’t, when society says you aren’t, when your own family says you aren’t. This book is amazing. It’s fun, the story is so engaging (I read it in less than 24 hours, I can’t remember the last time I read a book so fast), the voice is excellent, I can say with complete confidence that this book is going to be one of my favourites of the year!

Felix Ever After follows Felix Love, a 17 year old Black, trans, queer boy at art school. When someone puts up a gallery of his old photos before his transition, along with his deadname, Felix decides to catfish his bully to try get revenge. Instead, he somehow ends up in a quasi-love triangle, even though Felix has never even been in love himself.

First and foremost, this book has one of the most incredible YA characters of all time. Felix was written so realistically and so honestly. He makes terrible decisions, he’s impulsive, he doesn’t think before speaking and I loved how flawed he was. He just felt so much like an actual teen. But most importantly, there were so many moments when I had to just pause for a second because I was tearing up seeing how much I related to him. Felix is a character going through a journey of questioning who he is, he’s terrified he’s a fraud at being trans now that he as a niggling feeling that sometimes he doesn’t feel like a boy (though he knows he doesn’t feel like a girl then either). It’s always so heartening and validating to see characters in books going through the same journey you are, especially as someone who has always felt like a fraud in the queer community because I’m in a cishet appearing relationship. More than anything, I feel like I’m Felix at the start of his journey. I’m not yet at the stage of being happy and proud of who I am, I haven’t reached the end Felix yet. But seeing that it is possible is so hopeful (and also terrifying) and one of my favourite things about reading queer books like Felix Ever After.

This book is very clearly written for trans teens, and that’s what I love most about it. It’s so open and honest about the struggles teens feel when trying to work out who they are, and what they want to do in their future. It also shows the complicated relationship queer people often have with their families, and I liked the way Felix, and characters around him, struggled to resolve their feelings with family. In Felix’s case we see both the absent parent and the one who’s there, who clearly loves him, but who constantly causes pain and hurt by deadnaming him. We see the complicated relationship this results in: Felix knows his Dad loves him, after all he helped him get on T and have his surgery, but his Dad forgets or doesn’t seem to try at other things. We see this relationship contrasted again with Ezra’s parents, the rich absent parents who seem to care only for their son when he’s on show, and then again with Declan, whose parents don’t want him. We see so many of the difficulties queer people have in their families, I feel almost all of us will find a family we can relate to in Felix Ever After.

This book does have lots of transphobic comments (it’s literally about a guy trying to get revenge on his transphobic bully) so do be prepared for that going in. I really appreciated that Felix Ever After also addressed trauma and pain coming from inside the queer community. It’s something we don’t often talk about, but which occurs so readily for some of us. And when it comes from inside our community, where we’re meant to feel safe, it hurts so much worse than if it had come from somewhere else. We see how this furthers Felix’s fears that he’s a fraud, even down to the way he’s terrified he’ll be asked to leave Callen-Lorde (a queer only pharmacy and clinic) because he isn’t queer enough. It’s just so fucking relatable it hurts, and I loved that Kacen Callender confronted this trauma head on because fuck me, is it something that needs to change. The constant transphobia, biphobia, acephobia from members of the queer community is so unacceptable. Felix Ever After is set during Pride month, this month where we’re supposed to celebrate who we are, where we’ve come from and be proud. I’ve never been to Pride because I’m terrified of the hate I’ll receive from the queer community. And as much as I hate that others also receive this hate, I’m glad that Callender openly wrote and addressed this in Felix Ever After.

All in all, I think it’s very clear I adored this book. Despite the dark discussions it has, it’s also really fun and hopeful and Felix is pretty much my favourite character in YA now. This book is so important for anyone who’s ever felt left out, who’s felt like a fraud, or who’s questioning their identity. It’s just phenomenal!

30 Days of Pride: Gay Books

Hi everyone,

Happy Saturday! Following on from yesterday’s lesbian bonanza, today I’m here with some of my favourite books with gay characters. I don’t think I read nearly as much m/m as I do sapphic books, but there’s still several brilliant books to add to your TBR here! I hope you enjoy!

Reverie by Ryan La Sala

If you’re looking for a joyful, gay book with magic rainbows and a drag queen sorceress, then this is the book for you!! This is pure, gay chaos in book form. Reveries are these dream worlds pulled into reality by the subconscious of a person, where they then act out as the “hero” of the reverie. Kane has recently woken from an accident with no recollection of what happened. When the police are interrogating him, a mysterious individual called Posey also interogates him. Posey promises to keep the police away from Kane if he finds out how his accident happened. As Kane investigates, he falls into his first reverie and a world of magic and drag queen sorceresses as he tries to find out what’s going on. Reverie is full of action and imagination, and with rainbow magic is pretty much the queerest book ever. Check out my full review here.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This is one of the books I’m most excited to read this month! It has received heaps of praise in the last year, and with Vuong’s experience as a poet, it will likely prove to be a beautiful read. On Earth We’re Briefly Goregous is a letter from Little Dog to his mother who cannot read, about his life growing up in the US as Vietnamese-American. The book discusses war, intergenerational trauma, race, masculinity and how to survive when you’re caught between different worlds.

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

I’m not a huge reader of thrillers, especially not YA thrillers, but this one definitely wants to make me change that and read more. Keep This To Yourself is absolutely full of twists and turns, and that ending. The book is set a year after a series of murders in a small, coastal town (which is pretty much my favourite setting for thrillers and mysteries!) Mac is trying to put the four murders behind him, which is difficult when his best friend Connor was the last victim. When Mac finds a cryptic note from Connor he realises that the killer might not have been the drifter everyone assumed it was, but someone much closer to home.

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell

Back to the literary fiction with the highly provocative and unique Cleanness. Garth Greenwell won heaps of acclaim with his first novel, What Belongs To Us. This novel follows the same character, although you do not need to have read What Belongs To Us to understand Cleanness. And moreso, I found Cleanness even better than his novel. Cleanness is structured in 9 short stories, with a very interesting thematic mirroring across the book. It’s a book discussing relationships, sex and the power in these for a gay man living in Bulgaria.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Black Flamingo is a very unique YA novel told in verse by poet Dean Atta. It is a coming-of-age story where a boy, Michael, struggles to come to terms with his identity as a mixed-race, gay teen. When he gets to university, he begins to discover himself as a drag artist. A phenomenal and outstanding story told through poetry about accepting yourself and your uniqueness.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

I ordered this book with my library, got a notification saying it was waiting for me, AND THEN THE LIBRARIES CLOSED. I was devastated. But then, a Pride miracle, the libraries reopened on June 1 so I was able to pick this up to read this month. Real Life is about Wallace, a gay black man from Alabama who is working for his degree at a predominantly white Midwestern university, who has to face up to the violence and intimacy in his friendship group. All I can say is I have heard nothing but exceptional things about this book and I can’t wait to read it.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

Sex positive and funny, Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) does what not many other YA books have done: talk about sex openly and honestly. This book follows Jack, a teen who starts an online sex advice column. But after he starts it, mysterious love letters he’d been receiving turn creepy and stalker-like, demanding that Jack stop flaunting his unashamedly queer lifestyle. This book sounds very much like a book version of Sex Ed (the Netflix show, which I adore), and I’ve had this sitting on my Kindle for SO LONG, I really need to read it asap.

Alex in Wonderland by Simon James Green

A wonderfully fun and sweet summer YA romance! Alex is painfully shy (what a mood) and has been abandoned by his two best friends for the Summer. He lands a part-time job at Wonderland, an amusement arcade on the beach, and the group of employees there begin to bring Alex out of his shell. He even starts to fall for his co-worker, Ben. Who has a girlfriend. Oh dear. This isn’t a gay coming of age story – Alex is already openly out and gay, happy with who he is. Instead, it’s both a fun, happy romance and a story about friendship as Alex, Ben and the rest of the Wonderland crew have to work together to save the arcade from being shut down by debtors.

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

Zombies + queerness = pretty damn epic. Wranglestone is set in a town at the centre of a lake, a lake which keeps the dead from the town. But when Winter sets in, the dead can cross the ice. Peter puts everyone in the town in danger when he lets a stranger came onto the island and so he is made to help out Cooper, a rancher who herds the dead away from the shores. Peter and Cooper make a discovery that reveals the dark, secret past to the town. And obviously, they also fall in love.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels

And lets end on a book that will break your heart and have you sobbing! Along with Real Life, this book is on so many most anticipated queer books of the year lists, which means it’s going to be pretty fucking great. At 18, Brian moved to New York City, like many young, gay men. But 6 years, his lover and friends are dead, and the city is in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. So Brian returns home to Appalachia, a place he never wanted to go back to. This is a book about home and family, and how fear and shame can change what that means. Highly anticipated, highly emotional, and hugely important to revisit and familiarise ourselves with the history of those who came before us.

I think today’s list is possibly one of the most contrasting so far: you have either highly emotional literary fiction, or really fun YA, apparently I have no inbetween. Let me know what your favourite book with gay rep is in the comments below!

30 Days of Pride: Lesbian books

Hi everyone,

Today we’re moving onto books with lesbian characters and relationships! When I was going through all my books to write these posts, I noticed a pretty terrible trend in sapphic books: lets never dare mention whether a character is lesbian, bisexual, pan…. It was much more common in f/f books than it is in m/m which is quite annoying and made it rather difficult to try and celebrate books in lists like this. But! I hope I’ve managed to get together a list of ten marvellous books with lesbian characters for you to enjoy.

Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir

A book that’s not afraid to actually use the word lesbian on the blurb! Gideon the Ninth was probably one of the most hyped books of 2019, and with good reason – it brought lesbian necromancers into the mainstream. It’s a very very different book, combining very technical and complicated science with the fantasy magic of necromancy. Alongside that is a murder mystery, a complex relationship between a necromancer and her cavalier and a huge number of other characters (tip for reading this: make good use of the character guide at the start, it is hugely helpful). I found it very difficult to get into this book, but I’m glad I pushed through because I really loved the ending! Check out my full review here.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

From lesbian necromancers to a lesbian witch! These Witches Don’t Burn follows lesbian witch Hannah, who has the power to control the four elements. If a non-witch ever sees her use magic, Hannah could lose her magic for good. Thus, she spends most of her time living a fairly normal live, avoiding her ex-girlfriend (another witch). But a blood magic ritual disrupts an end of school event, and then signs of dark magic appear all over Salem so Hannah must team up with her ex-girlfriend to try find them. These Witches Don’t Burn also now has a sequel, This Coven Won’t Break.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

K. Ancrum is one of the authors I will always read, no matter what she writes! The Weight of the Stars is her second novel, a lesbian love story about space (kind of). Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a space exploration mission to the edge of the solar system. She stays up every night to try and catch a message from her on her radio. After a horrific accident breaks Alexandria’s arm, Ryann helps her listen to the radio and two grow closer. This is a very soft and quiet contemporary YA with an edge of science fiction, about found family and love that binds you across a solar system.

The Afterward by E.K Johnston

The Afterward is a quiet fantasy about what happens after the quest is over and the heroes have to go back to normality. Two of these heroes grew close over the quest, Kalanthe, lesbian knight, and Olsa, bi thief. But now they are back to their everyday lives. Kalanthe must betray her heart and find a husband who can pay off her debt to knight school and Olsa must find a way to esacpe thievery now that she’s famous. Switching between Before (what happened during the quest) and After (how the heroes get back to life), The Afterward is a wonderful, calming and lighthearted fantasy with a beautiful sapphic relationship as its focus. Check out my full review here!

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Varela describes this as “lesbian slow burn enemies to lovers fantasy” and it is definitely that, I love all of these words!! This is a brilliant, well loved YA fantasy that features all your favourite tropes (including two of my favourites, enemies to lovers and ‘there’s only one bed’). Years ago, in the War of Kinds, Automae, made to be the playthings of human nobles, rose up against their human owners and took over. Now, humans are the servants and playthings of the Automae. Crier was Made to be her father’s heir, inherit the the land and rule in his place. But that was before she met Ayla, a human servant in the castle.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

This is a very dark and difficult read, so please research content warnings for this one before reading. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali is about a lesbian, Muslim girl whose parents take her to Bangladesh to be married after they discover she’s gay when they catch her with her girlfriend. This books deals with lots of very difficult issues, including racism and homophobia, but ends hopefully. It was interesting to read about how Rukhsana felt dealing with all the different pulls of culture on her, from her Bengali heritage to her American upbringing. You can read my full review here.

In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard

This is a dark lesbian x bisexual retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where both are women, with an all Vietnamese cast, a blend of science and fantasy, and *drum roll* where the Beast is a motherfucking dragon. (Yes you read that correctly). Add this to the list of queer novellas which are just killing SFF right now. Dark sapphic Beauty and the Beast is the retelling we all needed.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is a YA contemporary full of gorgeous, lyrical prose. It’s about Audre, a Trinidadian girl who is sent to America after her very religious mother catches her with her girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. In Minneapolis, she meets Mabel, a chronically ill girl who helps her navigate an American high school, and the two fall in love. It’s promises to be an absolutely gorgeous, so beautiful, tender sapphic love story.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Lesbian pirates and sea monsters, oh my! I don’t think I can describe this book any better than that?! This is an action packed fantasy about Chinese-American Cas who has spend her whole life raising sea monsters to fight pirates, who then gets kidnapped by a pirate and forced to raise one of the sea monsters for the pirates. And then she falls in love with one of the pirates which really just complicates everything even more. The monster pups are just adorable (but still killing machines!), there is a fiersome (and totally sexy) pirate Queen and lots of fun, morally questionable activities!

Pulp by Robin Talley

Robin Talley is a legend in the land of queer historical fiction and Pulp is no different. This is a book told in two timelines, in 1955, where we follow Janet who explores her sexuality through books about women falling in love with other women. 62 years later, Abby is completing her senior project on classic lesbian pulp fiction, and feels strongly connected to one of the authors who wrote under the pseudonym Marian Love. Pulp is the story about the connection these two girls share even though they live completely different lives in completely different times.

That’s it for today’s glorious lesbian characters – do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments below, I always need more lesbian books in my life.

Book review: It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood

Title: It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood

Publisher: Text Publishing

Publication date: 6 August 2019

Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Romcom

Page extent: 304 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: When her parents announce their impending separation, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting or at least mildly upset. And now that Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, have fallen in love, she’s feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward.

Where does she fit in now? And what has happened to the version of her life that played out like a TV show—with just the right amount of banter, pining and meaningful looks?

Nothing is going according to plan.

But then an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a tender, funny and joyful novel about longing, confusion, feeling left out and finding out what really matters.

As a disclaimer, please be aware that I do now work for this publisher (for about a month now!) This has in no way influenced this review nor did they ask me to review this book on my blog. All opinions are my own. I just read it and fucking loved it!

Yes!! I read a book on my TBR that isn’t sad and stressful but is happy and full of joy and fun and snark! This was so much fun. A brilliant romcom about a stressed and anxious teen who accidentally falls in love with her best friend’s brother. This reminded me of all my favourite romcoms, from Red, White & Royal Blue to Amelia Westlake to Only Mostly Devastated (I apologise for only having queer comps, turns out I rarely read hetero romcoms! Who’d have thought it!) This was absolutely the perfect book for me to read right now, it is lighthearted, fun, and the main character is such a mess, I adore her, she is me and I am her.

It Sounded Better In My Head is the story of Natalie, a young adult on the cusp of change, as she prepares for university in Melbourne. But on Christmas Day, her parents reveal they’ve broken up (and have been for 10 months, they just didn’t tell her). To top it off, her two best friends are dating each other so she constantly feels like a third wheel, she’s racked with fear, shame and anxiety over her acne scars which destroyed her self esteem as a young teen, and now, when she’s finally starting to fall for a boy, he just so happens to be her best friend’s older brother. Suffice to say: her life is a mess.

Natalie is quite possibly one of my favourite characters in YA. She is immediately relatable and likeable. I think this book joins Only Mostly Devastated as book with most lines I squealed at, screenshotted and sent to my partner to exclaim how similar she is to me. She is so self deprecating, so sarcastic, and incredibly destroyed from her experience as a young teen with severe acne. And underneath all her martyr-like behaviour to avoid being vulnerable, she is deeply hurt and broken by her parents divorce, and is terrified of being alone forever. She is such a brilliant character, she was so messy and imperfect and clearly aware of how messed up she was but at the same time totally unable to change, and it felt so realistic and relatable.

This book is light hearted and so full of fun. I absolutely raced through it and found it the perfect antidote to the constant stress and bombardment of bad news from the virus situation: this book felt like a hug. Highly recommend if you, like me, are an anxious mess and would like to feel warm and cosy and safe for the first time in a while.

Five on my TBR

#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR. Thank you E. for the awesome graphic for these posts as well!

Hi everyone,

I hope everyone is well. May the force be with you today! Sorry it has been a few weeks since joining this weekly meme, I have no excuse except that I could not stop playing Animal Crossing and so had no time to write blog posts. But I’m back this week! And excited to talk to you about five contemporary books on my TBR. Contemporary is a genre I really hadn’t read much of until last year, where I discovered YA contemporary and read so many favourites and thus fell in love with the genre. So here’s some of the books I’m desperately looking forward to read.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar

Starting off this list with one of my most anticipated books of the year that is releasing in just ONE DAY. And the stunning cover is not the only reason I’m excited. Felix Ever After is about a trans teen who tries to get revenge on his bully by catfishing them, and somehow lands in a quasi-love triangle. This a book about the exploration of identity and self-discovery and I’m pretty sure this will end up being one of the best books I read this year.

Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee-Browne

The first adult contemporary on this list, Cherry Beach is published by a small, independent Aussie publisher who I’m lucky enough to now work for! So I managed to snag a copy of this gorgeous novel! This is a book about friendship and desire, and tells the story of Hetty, confident and life of any party, and Ness, social wallflower, best friends who move away to live in Canada. But Ness has a secret: she’s completely in love with Hetty. But in Canada, Ness finds love in an art gallery while Hetty’s life deteriorates, and Ness might finally lose the person she loves most.

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

This book has been on my TBR since the middle of last year and I really really really need to read it because I know it’s going to be brilliant. It has just been shortlisted for several awards over here in Australia as well, so now seems like the perfect time to get around to reading it! This is a book about the intersections of mental illness, family and culture and promises to be an emotional but hopeful read.

Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

The other adult title on this list, Hex is about a biological scientist, Nell, who researchs poisons and antidotes (HOW FUCKING COOL, RIGHT?!) and her mentor, Dr Joan. Told through a series of notebooks/journals that Nell keeps, Hex explores the relationship between Joan, Nell, and several of their friends, the illicit relationships, grudges and obsessions between them.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

And now finishing with another of my most anticipated books of the year, The Henna Wars finally releases this month! It may take quite a while for it to get to me with the current situation but that means I’ll just be even more excited to read it by the time it arrives. If you haven’t heard about this killer book yet, it’s about two girls who set up rival henna businesses for a school assessment, though one of them is appropriating the other’s culture. But amidst “sabotage and school stress” their lives get tangled and a crush might develop into something more…

That’s it for this week. Are you excited to read any of these? Or have you read any of these already? Let me know what you think of them!

Book review: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication date: 14 January 2020

Genre: Historical | Contemporary | Magical realism | Young adult

Page extent: 309 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

I’m a reader whose favourite books tend to be massively detailed fantasy tomes, with lots of rich worldbuilding. I’ve always found this results in me not clicking with magical realism/fabulism/contemporary fantasy quite as much, because there is often some aspects of ambiguity or suspension of disbelief required for the world to make sense. So whenever I read a novel of this type, I find I either really love it or just feel a bit meh. And unfortunately this was the later for me, which I am devastated about because I was so excited to read my first Anna-Marie McLemore book. But saying that, I was every bit in love with McLemore’s writing as I expected to be, and I fully plan to continue my dive into their work!

Dark and Deepest Red is a dual timeline story: 1518, where a dancing plague rolls through the town of Strasbourg, and modern day, where a pair of red shoes force a girl to dance. Inspired by the real historical accounts of a dancing plague as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Red Shoes. I’m not familiar with that fairytale so I came to this book very new to the story. This is also my very first Anna Marie McLemore book, and I was hugely excited because so many people in the book community absolutely rave over their books.

I’d like to start with the really positive which is that I 100% want to read more of McLemore’s work. I found the language and writing absolutely beautiful, and that really lived up to what I’ve heard from others about their work. The language was what drew me through the story and made me want to keep reading. As expected also, let’s shout out to the awesome rep in this story: there is a lead trans man and he is absolutely my favourite character! I adored Alifair. He’s actually the only character who doesn’t get his own POV, and I wonder if I therefore liked him so much because he felt so mysterious compared to the others.

Unfortunately, I think it was the story itself that I didn’t click with. The ambiguity and lack of explanation got to me and I think I would prefer the story a bit more resolved. I also felt the structure of three different POVs, each section only a few pages long, made it difficult to ever root for a character or get a chance to understand them a bit more. A story like this, which is so heavily dependant on its characters to make up for the ambiguity in its world/magic, really needs strong characters and I just didn’t get a chance to feel close to the characters because we were whisked away from constantly.

So whilst I wasn’t in love with this particular story and world, I really was awed by Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing and I will definitely be picking up one of their earlier books which might work better for me.