TBRainbow Alert: Heists, Thrillers, and Mysteries

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig (January 29th)

Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them—for good?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark (February 19th)

For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s,” it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones,” like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT—but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father—one Robert Foster—is loaded.

Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott (March 5th)

Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.

Sixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out

Buy it: IndieBound | B&N | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Book Depository | Chapters Indigo

The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown (March 7th)

Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town.

He is also unexpectedly dead.

Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?

And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?

As the two girls grow closer in the wake of the accident, it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.

But what is picture perfect June still hiding? And does Sydney even want to know?

Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Waterstones | Book Depository

A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson (April 2nd)


James Mills isn’t sure he can forgive his parents for dragging him away from his life, not to mention his best friend and sister, Anna. He’s never felt so alone.

Enter Tomas. Falling for Tomas is unexpected, but sometimes the best things in life are.

Then their world splits apart. A war that has been brewing finally bursts forward, filled with violence, pain, and cruelty. James and Tomas can only rely on each other as they decide how far they are willing to go―and who they are willing to become―in order to make it back to their families.

Buy it: East City Books | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan (May 7th)

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist (May 21st)

40221949With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club. But Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge. Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

All Eyes on Us by Kit Frick (June 4th)

PRIVATE NUMBER: Wouldn’t you look better without a cheater on your arm?
AMANDA: Who is this?

The daughter of small town social climbers, Amanda Kelly is deeply invested in her boyfriend, real estate heir Carter Shaw. He’s kind, ambitious, the town golden boy—but he’s far from perfect. Because behind Amanda’s back, Carter is also dating Rosalie.

PRIVATE NUMBER: I’m watching you, Sweetheart.
ROSALIE: Who IS this?

Rosalie Bell is fighting to remain true to herself and her girlfriend—while concealing her identity from her Christian fundamentalist parents. After years spent in and out of conversion “therapy,” her own safety is her top priority. But maintaining a fake, straight relationship is killing her from the inside.

When an anonymous texter ropes Amanda and Rosalie into a bid to take Carter down, the girls become collateral damage—and unlikely allies in a fight to unmask their stalker before Private uproots their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: You shouldn’t have ignored me. Now look what you made me do…

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (July 9th)

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman (August 6th)

On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.

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Guest Post & Giveaway: Keeping It Together by S.A. Winters

KeepingItTogether.jpgSian should be tucked in bed when she meets Alisha Hart—beautiful, talented, and the star of a band that’s on its way up.

Alisha doesn’t have to worry about curfews or homework or overprotective parents; in fact, she doesn’t seem to care about rules at all. She makes her own, and lives life her way—something Sian can only dream of, and which draws her helplessly to Alisha.

But love is complicated, and if there’s such a thing as fate, it seems dead set against them.

Amazon * Amazon UK * Less Than Three

***

I want to talk today about the upcoming re-release of a story I wrote a few years back. Keeping it Together is a novella originally published as part of Less Than Three’s Rocking Hard anthology. The original call was for stories about rock stars. Alisha is the frontwoman for a rock band heading for good things. She meets Sian, a 19-year-old college girl, after a gig in some dive bar. For Sian, this is her first relationship, the first time she’s felt this way about someone else, and it’s something of a surprise to her that that someone is female. But the promise of something real, something wonderful comes with the fear of her parents finding out about it.

Below is an extract from the book, and the chance to get your own copy for free.

Enjoy.

***

Alisha was lounging against the old smoker’s shelter, disused since the college faculty had stopped students from smoking on site. She wore a pair of dark denim jeans that clung to her figure and a dark green t-shirt. An unlit cigarette was tucked behind one ear, and her hands were shoved deep in her pockets.

Sian paused, watching her for a moment, drinking in the sight of her. Alisha was beautiful, with her cropped dark hair, pointed chin and well defined cheekbones. Her arms showed beneath the short sleeves of her top, muscle cording her upper arms like she lifted weights at the gym instead of dieting to keep herself slim. But, more than that, there was an art to everything she did—the way she stood, slouching against the shelter, the way she lifted her hand to brush her hair back from her face, the way she turned to look straight at Sian, a mischievous grin spreading across her face.

Alisha raised one hand in greeting, and Sian gave a small wave back, stepping off the kerb into the road, toward the patch of gravel and grass where Alisha waited.

“Coffee?” Alisha asked, her tone hopeful. “I could do with some.”

“Why? Just crawled out of bed?” Sian teased as they began to walk towards the gates.

“Yes, actually. Specially to see you, so some gratitude would be nice.”

Sian gave a slight curtsy. “I am most honoured, my lady.”

Alisha chuckled, and it made Sian’s heart skip, a smile she couldn’t hold back working onto her face. Sian wasn’t used to being the one to make people laugh, but now that she was, she found she liked it, and she especially liked the way it lit up Alisha’s face, made her eyes glitter like precious gems in the sunlight, teeth showing as she smiled.

 

Enter to win a copy of KEEPING IT TOGETHER here

***

S. A. Winters is a British writer with a penchant for the gothic. When they aren’t writing, they like to listen to heavy metal, watch horror films, or piss off down the pub, sometimes all at once.

S. A. Winters most enjoys writing paranormal, but likes to play with other genres from time to time and has been known to dabble in contemporary, steampunk and historical.

You can keep up with S. A. Winters through their twitter account (https://twitter.com/WintersSA) or their website (https://sawinters.com/).

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of one of my most anticipated YA debuts of 2019 on the site today, and once you read a little more about The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante, you’ll see why it’s such a timely and definitely tear-jerking Must Read:

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured stealing across the US border from El Salvador as “an illegal”, fleeing for her life, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Kelley Brady and Theresa Evangelista and illustrated by Kaethe Butcher!

 

So what does the author think of the cover? In her words:

When I first saw illustrator Kaethe Butcher’s work, I was immediately struck by how intimate and tender her drawings were. Delicate lines in a graphic style convey deep connections, almost like electricity. Because of the speculative technology in The Grief Keeper that allows Marisol to experience Rey’s grief, it was important to me that, when Kaethe drew Marisol and Rey together, that web of connection was immediately apparent. I was not disappointed. Their bodies are close and they seem to be weathering a storm while holding fast to each other. The flowers on Marisol’s shirt defy reality and drift into the air, as if they have the power to quell Rey’s pain. The stars in Marisol’s hair speak to the bright and dark in her own life.

It’s such an emotionally charged cover and I am so in love with it. The amazing team at Penguin, Kelley Brady, and Theresa Evangelista took pains to create a cover that reflects all the heart, strength and love in my book. I am so grateful!

The Grief Keeper goes on sale on June 11, 2018, and you can preorder it now!

Brave New Worlds: The Identity Possibilities of Speculative Fiction, a Guest Post by Leigh Hellman

Please welcome to the site today Leigh Hellman, author of Orbit, a cyberpunk sci-fi which released on September 18th and features pansexual and a-spec characters! They’re here to discuss identity in Speculative Fiction, but before we get to the post, let’s take a glance at the book:

Ciaan Gennett isn’t green, despite the brand of light hair that betrays her heritage: an Earth mother. A mother she remembers but doesn’t know, who left one day and never came back. Ciaan’s as metal as her home planet—cold and hard and full of so many cracks she’s trying to ignore that she doesn’t have time to wonder about questions that don’t get answers.

After one too many run-ins with the law, Ciaan finds herself sentenced to probation at a port facility and given an ultimatum: Prove that your potential is worth believing in. With help from her best friend Tidoris, Ciaan stays away from trouble—and trouble stays away from her. But when a routine refueling turns into a revelation, Ciaan and Tidoris find themselves forced into an alliance with an Earth captain of questionable morality and his stoic, artificially-grown first officer. Their escalating resistance against bureaucratic cover-ups begins unraveling a history of human monstrosity and an ugly truth that Ciaan isn’t so sure she wants to discover.

Now they all must decide how far they are willing to dig into humanity’s dark desperation—and what they are willing to do about what digs back.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

Speculative fiction in its many iterations—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, supernatural, and all the sub-categories therein—has fascinated both readers and writers alike for centuries. For all the stratifications between “literary” and “genre” work, fiction as a tool for deconstructing and remaking our world has long been wielded; from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (considered to be the first science fiction novel) to the global phenomenon of fantasy epics like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, speculative fiction has proven itself to be a critical and popular mainstay.

So, what is it about the genre that inspires so widely? Well, in a broad sense, speculative fiction provides a framework wherein to imagine alternatives to our current reality—whether historically, futuristically, or running concurrent to our modern world. Crucial and ever-present issues like race, gender, sexuality, marginalization, and justice can be explored in proxy universes that are free from the constraints of (inherently biased) realism—or universes can be structured specifically to delve into certain aspects of these and similar issues, building parallels and contrasts for readers to consider as they think about the core themes of the story.

But for creators looking to tell these types of tales, there are often barriers that crop up during world-building—especially when it comes to entirely new fantasy worlds and/or futuristic settings—that have to do with what our baseline assumptions are going into a project. For example: in a fantasy setting that has no connection or reference to our universe, what are the assumptions behind structuring racist hierarchies that mirror Western, Eurocentric ones in their history of white supremacy? Or: in a future-set sci-fi world, does it make sense to have characters imposing the rigid sexual and gender binarism on each other (as though the dynamism of LGBTQ identities hasn’t been constantly evolving, even within the past decade or so)? If the story is meant to carry that type of metaphor and purposeful social commentary, that’s one thing—but what if it’s not? Why not build a world where the rules are different, or at least consider why you—as the creator—are not doing that?

I asked myself these questions throughout the process of writing Orbit, my debut new-adult speculative fiction novel, particularly as I was trying to solidify gender and sexuality identities in my near-future setting. Since the story takes place in a speculative future of our current world, it wouldn’t make sense to erase and/or ignore our history of LGBTQ identities and movements—but likewise, it didn’t feel authentic to me that this culture would conceptualize and label gender and sexuality in the exact same terms as we do now. Understanding sexuality as an identity marker rather than an activity-based habit was introduced into mainstream theory less than 200 years ago and the vocabulary of identities remains in constant flux across years, let alone decades and generations. The language of identifiers doesn’t just go in and out of popular fashion; the meanings of the words themselves can and do shift through denigration, reclamation, and basic linguistic evolutions. What LGBTQ people called themselves a century ago isn’t what we call ourselves now, and the cultural discussions around the LGBTQ experiences happen at different octaves with each new social milestone. The verbal identifiers therefore become the most obvious distinction, but the deeper and more complex developments come from the re-forming of socio-cultural norms and beliefs surrounding gender and sexuality.

So that idea—what does the culture that I’m world-building believe about gender and sexuality, and how many of those beliefs do I have to take from our current culture?—became a foundational stone for me. I could keep the same, or similar-enough, rhetoric and identities to signal a familiar cultural framework for the story, and more easily categorize my characters for representation tallies. But that felt disingenuous to how I was coming to understand this world I was building and to how I myself conceptualize gender and sexuality—which is to say, fluidly and running along multiple spectrums. In a culture where the most significant identity markers are pseudo-species (p-person, Earth human, Artificial)—and also taking into account the current growing acceptance of gender and sexuality diversity (not to say that acceptance is universal or equally-distributed, because it isn’t)—it made sense to me that LGBTQ identities would be both more prevalent and less explicitly stated. I tried to demonstrate that (in a story with no explicit romantic or sexual plots) in two subtle ways: 1) a main character’s casual reference to a side character being “alternative” before moving on in the conversation, and 2) ongoing and completely normalized flirting and intimacy between all of the four main characters (two implied cismen, one implied ciswoman, and one explicitly non-binary person). Rather than being read as pushing some kind of non-normative (non-heterosexual) environment that audiences could infer as an exception rather than the rule, I hoped to present this as-is—a world where intimacy and attraction manifest naturally across these spectrums, without needing to make any “no homo” caveats for my characters.

One of the most difficult concerns that I struggled with in this world-building choice was the nagging doubt that I was making a “safe” trade-off, that I was closeting my characters by not explicitly labeling them in our current cultural terminology. Is there still value in representation if it shares an experience but not a name? Honestly, I can’t say for certain one way or the other; what I do know is that my characters are not closeted. There were never moments that I edited to be more coded, nor were there relationships that I played up or down because I felt like that was what would be expected of them. All of my characters are authentic—and that extends to their genders and sexualities. The fluidity—the messiness—of human identities, the fact that for all our boxing and re-boxing we still seep out around the edges, is what fascinates me as a creator. The slippages between binaries—gay or straight, cis or trans, male or female, ace/aro or allo—are not mistakes; they are who we are. We’re reflected in those coloring-outside-the-lines moments, and we are forged in the fires of the struggle for answers that may never be as neat as we want them to be. That’s how I chose to speculate in Orbit, fully aware that there were a thousand different ways I could have gone and that each of them—if they’d been thoughtfully executed—would’ve been worth reimagining.

These uncertainties plague the codified racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other systemic oppressions that are woven into our reality and then parroted back in fiction—if fictional perpetuation of these histories is not mandatory, is it necessary? And beyond that, how can we push for less restricted reimaginings without being hurtful and dismissive of the very real effects of these systems on (our, our readers, and our fellow human beings’) lives?

I don’t have all the complicated and messy answers—nor do I pretend to be an expert in any of this—but I believe that some guidance may lie in our commitment as writers to more nuanced world-building, with ongoing consideration for our (intended and unintended) implications as well as continued self-education and challenging of our internalized –isms. Just as my identity as a queer and non-binary person cannot be erased from my writing, neither can my whiteness or any of the other intersecting systemic privileges that I carry with me. But rather than be complacent with them—rather than say that these define what stories I tell—I try to push back and be purposeful in my narrative and world-building choices.

What is genuine for your characters and the reality they inhabit will always be more compelling than stock settings that rely solely on “but that’s just how it is” deflections. Not every story needs to be a meta deconstruction, nor should most stories be expected to be. But I think that not digging back at those impulses as both readers and writers—to fall back on stereotypes to fill out new worlds, to call out authentic interpretations of an identity experience that differs from your own, to cling to the belief that these systems that we were raised in are always immutable and universal—wastes the full “speculative” potential of our beautiful and vibrantly diverse literary nook in this wide and, all too often, rigidly unforgiving real world.

***

Leigh Hellman Author PhotoLEIGH HELLMAN is a queer/asexual and genderqueer writer, originally from the western suburbs of Chicago, and a graduate of the MA Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After gaining the ever-lucrative BA in English, they spent five years living and teaching in South Korea before returning to their native Midwest.

Leigh’s short fiction and creative nonfiction work has been featured in Hippocampus Magazine, VIDA Review, and Fulbright Korea Infusion Magazine. Their critical and journalistic work has been featured in the American Book Review, the Gwangju News magazine, and the Windy City Times.

Their first novel, Orbit, is a new adult speculative fiction story now available through Snowy Wings Publishing. They also have a historical fantasy piece included in the SWP anthology, Magic at Midnight.

Leigh is a strong advocate for full-day breakfast menus, all varieties of dark chocolate, building a wardrobe based primarily on bad puns, and bathing in the tears of their enemies.

Love is Not a Cure: a Guest Post by Jude Sierra

Today on the site I’m pleased to welcome Jude Sierra, author of A Tiny Piece of Something Greater, to talk about a common but harmful trope in literature: love as a cure for mental illness. Before we get to the post, here’s the info on the book:

37830506Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness on their own and with each other.

And here’s the post!

***

There’s a popular trope I see in media. Movies, books, and television shows often depict falling in love or starting a relationship as a catalyst for fixing or curing someone with mental illness. The burdens or struggles of a character’s illness cease in the light of love. This is a dangerously misleading and painful narrative to perpetuate for many reasons, including the implication that there’s “fixing” to be done. It implies that someone with mental illness cannot be loved as they are, setting up false and damaging expectations. It requires an alteration to an aspect of who we are to be worthy of love. As someone with mental illness who sought out stories with mentally ill characters for years, this trope really drove home several key ideas. Love never “fixed” or “cured” me. Even in love and loved, nothing went away. I constantly searched for myself in stories and walked away feeling more hopeless and broken. Love hadn’t changed what couldn’t be changed.

I was nineteen when I met my husband. It was my sophomore year of college and while I knew I was struggling, there was nothing about that struggle that felt unusual. I’d been low before. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed. In my entire, perfectionist, over-achieving life, I actually came close to failing classes. I called in “sick” to work so often I almost lost my job.

But I’d been worse. I wasn’t self-harming. I wasn’t in an abusive relationship anymore.

On our one year anniversary, I remember turning to him and saying, “This has been the best year of my life.” It had; perhaps because feeling bad felt so normal that my bar for “bad” was set at a different level than that of others. What I remembered most that year was the way I was loved, the kindness and care, the sweetness we shared. Being loved like that was a completely new experience for me.

But when I said that, he cried. He tried to explain, but it was something I never really understood until years later, once I’d begun to understand the scope of my mental illness, and once I began working on recovery. That year was a test for him in a way I wasn’t able to appreciate; watching my depression, watching me navigate a strained relationship with my parents, watching me struggle with absolutely no self-esteem and very little self-worth.

We’ve been together for almost 17 years now, and in that time, we’ve seen and been through a lot. We were together for years before I confessed that I self-harmed, before I ever confessed to having suicidal ideations, and before I ever articulated what my highs and lows felt like. He loved me unconditionally through years when I suffered in silence; I never doubted that love, and it never altered basic truths about who I am. There was no way that any amount of love between us or from him that could have prevented the eventual mental breakdown I had in the wake of a serious postpartum depression.

In many ways, Reid’s story in A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is my own. While I was in long term psychiatric care I worked with a team of professionals in order to find a diagnosis, cyclothemia, a rare mental illness that can be very hard to articulate and see. I learned skills and how to fight, actively, for my own wellness. After I came home my husband and I had to learn to reorient and rework every aspect of our relationship.

There were many lessons and takeaways I can mine from these experiences, one which is very, very important to me. Love is not a cure.

When I first imagined Reid’s story I committed to writing a book about what it is like to live with mental illness, to work recovery, to relearn living, and also, to fall in love, I knew that writing about falling in love would be the fun part. But personally, one of the biggest draws to this story was the idea of exploring what it means to stay in love in these circumstances. In my own experience, navigating a mood disorder such a cyclothemia involves being attuned to subtle cues that my moods are going to swing or are unstable. As someone who works their wellness and recovery the way that I do (constant practice, willingness and strength) it can be chafing or irritating when others try to tell me what they’re seeing or perceiving. It feel like they don’t trust me to know what’s best. But the truth is that sometimes I cannot see the forest for the trees, and the tension these situations cause are very real.

These are moments I wanted to highlight for Reid and Joaquim. The reality of being in love in these situations is that there will be tensions and struggle, and that finding the right person—even the perfect person—for you won’t make those things go away. On the flip side, writing characters who cared for each other so much, for whom falling in love was so beautiful, that writing them learning and struggling to communicate was its own joy. A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was a balancing act: I tried my hardest to represent as accurately as possible the experience of everyday mental illness, but also, the realistic power of love.

A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is a love story, true, but it’s also a story about a boy learning to thrive and manage a new life and recovery. Falling in love with Joaquim enriches Reid’s life just as much as falling for Reid enriches Joaquim’s life. Their love story is just beginning. What A Tiny Piece of Something Greater tries to achieve is a depiction of the first steps of many that people in a loving relationship must take.

Seventeen years into my own relationship, I can look back at this life my husband and I have made made and understand that what we have is a love story and a relationship I am proud of. When I look back at my own life, what I see is a story about surviving my mental illness and right now, absolutely thriving. And that thriving? Our love is a part of that narrative, but isn’t responsible for it. It is not what my wellness hinges on. The most important factor in my wellness is me. In this book, it’s Reid. I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was to write Reid and Joaquim’s love story; but separately, how much it means to me to have written this story that reflects an honest truth. Love doesn’t cure or fix; it supports. It supplements. It enriches.

***

IMG_3575Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include HushWhat it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018.

TBRainbow Alert: YA Starring QPoC, Part 1

I cannot emphasize enough that this list is nonexhaustive, as it only features books whose covers are already public and which I know to have queer protags of color. Stay tuned for more next year!

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (January 29th)

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (February 26th)

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

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Add the sequel to your TBR

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (March 5th)

A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

Buy it: B&NAmazon
Add the sequel to your TBR

Ruse (Want #2) by Cindy Pon (March 12th)

In near-future Shanghai, a group of teens have their world turned upside down when one of their own is kidnapped in this action-packed follow-up to the “positively chilling” sci-fi thriller Want.

Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.

Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.

When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?

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The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum (March 19th)

Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.

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A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson (April 2nd)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Code Name Verity in this heartbreaking and poignant historical thriller.

James Mills isn’t sure he can forgive his parents for dragging him away from his life, not to mention his best friend and sister, Anna. He’s never felt so alone.

Enter Tomas. Falling for Tomas is unexpected, but sometimes the best things in life are.

Then their world splits apart. A war that has been brewing finally bursts forward, filled with violence, pain, and cruelty. James and Tomas can only rely on each other as they decide how far they are willing to go―and who they are willing to become―in order to make it back to their families.

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Belly Up by Eva Darrows (April 30th)

When 16 year old Serendipity Rodriguez attends a house party to celebrate the end of sophomore year, she has no intention of getting drunk and hooking up with a guy she’s just met, let alone getting pregnant. To make matters worse, she has no way of contacting the father and she and her mother are about to move to a new town and in with her grandmother.

It’s hard enough to start your junior year as the new kid in school, but at 5-months pregnant it’s even harder. So when Sara meets Leaf, who asks her out and doesn’t seem to care that she’s pregnant, she finds herself falling.

Juggling the realities of a pregnancy with school and a new relationship are hard enough, but when Jack, the father of her baby, turns back up, Sara’s life goes from complicated to a complete mess. With the help of her overbearing mother and grandmother, Sara will learn to navigate life’s challenges and be ready for anything, as she prepares for the birth of her baby.

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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju (May 7th)

Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race in this funny, feel-good debut novel about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

From debut author Tanya Boteju comes a poignant, laugh-out-loud tale of acceptance, self-expression, and the colorful worlds that await when we’re brave enough to look.

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Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (June 4th)

A bighearted, epic love letter to the LGBTQ community about three friends falling in love and finding their voices as activists during the height of the AIDS crisis.

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance… until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out-and-proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

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Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (June 11th)

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.

There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.

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TBRainbow Alert: 2019 Paperback Redesigns

Switching up how this feature works a bit, I wanted to do these posts on upcoming books with more cohesion between the titles. So of course, I’m kicking that off with something entirely random: books getting new paperback designs for 2019. Whatever, deal with it.

The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr (originally published in 1997; rereleasing March 5, 2019)

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The Necessary Hunger follows two basketball stars–Japanese American Nancy Takahiro and African American Raina Webber–and several of their friends through their last year of high school. For some of them, their senior year will be full of glory, and the anticipation of college. For others, however, stranded in an inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood that promises little in the way of opportunity, it will mark not only the end of their time in school but also the end of their hope.

As Nancy and Raina both prepare to leave the urban neighborhood that has nurtured them, they find themselves looking toward a future that is no longer easily defined. The Necessary Hunger is about families, friendship, racial identity, and young people who are nearing adulthood in a dangerous and challenging world. It is about sports as a means of salvation, about the nature of competition, and ultimately about the various kinds of love.

Our reissue of The Necessary Hunger includes a new introduction by Lynell George, and a new afterword by Nina Revoyr.

Preorder: Amazon

All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson (originally released in 2018; rereleasing February 6, 2019)

41oitx8ccxl-_sx331_bo1204203200_In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.

In his riveting, achingly beautiful debut, Richard Lawson guides readers through an emotional and life-changing night as these teens are forced to face the reality of their pasts…and the prospect of very different futures.

Preorder: AmazonB&N | IndieBound

The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (originally published in 2018; rereleasing March 12, 2019)

51iua8kj-al-_sx331_bo1204203200_We’ve lost everything…and found ourselves.

Loss pulled Autumn, Shay, and Logan apart. Will music bring them back together?

Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan is a guy who can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger who’s struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (originally published in 2018; rereleasing January 28, 2019)

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Tropes Are Made to be Broken (A Little): a Guest Post by Jilted Author Lilah Suzanne

I am so thrilled to have Lilah Suzanne on the site today with a guest post celebrating the release of Jilted, a fake-marriage rom com starring a bisexual cis male MC and a nonbinary LI! Before we get to the post about breaking down tropes, here’s a little more on the book:

Carter’s fiancé is in love with someone else. Link has just been left at the altar. After bonding over mutual heartbreak at the would-be reception’s open bar, Link and Carter pass out in the honeymoon suite—and are mistaken for the happy newlywed couple the next morning. Reluctant to deal with the fallout from their breakups, they embark on an exciting two weeks of fake honeymooning, during which Carter starts to have real feelings for Link. Against the eclectic and electric backdrop of New Orleans, Carter and Link have to decide if a second chance at love is in the cards, or if they’re only meant to be sidelined in someone else’s story.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

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Tropes are important in romance novels; they serve as guiding light for readers who like certain things and want to know what they’re getting into, and also beneficial for writers as tropes are the pillars on which a story is built. But that doesn’t mean they should be sacrosanct.

I have a few random talents that are not only mostly useless, but also very unlikely to impress anyone at a party. I have great free throw form, which would be useful if I weren’t just a smidge over five feet tall. I have a knack for finding things—unless I’m the one who lost them in the first place. I’m also particularly skilled at untying knots. I remember sitting it front of my mom’s jewelry box as a kid, methodically working all the tiny knots out her necklace chains, finding all of the intricate ways the strands wound over around and through, eventually tugging them free. The key, I’ve discovered, is taking the time to understand the knots, the structure of them; you can’t pull at them too hard nor can you blindly yank at the tangled stands hoping something will come loose. Finesse. Respect. Patience. Also, yes this is how children entertained themselves pre-smartphones.

To go with the obvious metaphor here, I treat tropes in my writing the same way I did with those knotted necklace chains. I’m not looking to break beloved tropes apart completely or discard them in frustration. I’m more interested in pulling at the strands, seeing what I can untangle from the knot and make a trope my own. This is not because I think there’s something wrong with them, in fact, I love tropes. I find them fascinating. And I spend so much time taking them apart because I don’t have a smart phone. Kidding! I totally have one. I do it because it’s interesting and satisfying and, I think, forces me to be more thoughtful about my stories and characters as I’m creating them.

For the uninitiated: tropes are essentially commonly seen themes or devices in any given media  type, or as TV Tropes, a wealth of delicious tropeyness, puts it: a storytelling shortcut of situations the audience will presumably recognize. In other words, a thing you see so often that it becomes A Thing. In romance novels, we love our forbidden love, enemies to lovers and friends to lovers. We’re crazy about our sexy billionaires, royal romances, sports romances, historical romance, bad boys/girls, opposites attract, love triangles, and fake relationships. And since I cut my proverbial writing teeth in fan-fiction, I’m also partial to tropes like coffeeshop/bakery romances, forced bed sharing (oh no there’s only one bed what will happen?) soulmates, and mutual pining, and I am sucker for a good domestic PWP fluff story. Now, who’s gonna find me a fluffy historical friends-to-lovers coffeeshop story? I’m waiting…

Of course, as much as we love tropes, they can be overdone. There has to be some suspense in a story. So, yes, there is bed sharing, but they didn’t get together after that? What if it was the opening salvo of two characters realizing they had work to do on themselves instead of on a relationship? What if it was just a desperate, momentary craving for companionship and not the beginning of something? What if it was? There’s space to play within a trope. Not dismantling it, just looking closely and tugging a few strands loose. Maybe it’s because of my time in fandom, where the entire point is to play within someone else’s boundaries, or maybe it’s because of my few useless talents (I’m also pretty okay at baking!) but whatever the reason I’m glad it’s made me stretch a bit as a writer.

We all love tropes because they’re comforting—which is probably the same reason I liked to go through my mom’s jewelry box—and in romance novels that’s doubly true. Romances themselves are comforting; full of swoony love interests and happy endings for all, and in fan fiction, too, where we can imagine a thousand different ways for the same two people to fall in love. And these days especially we can all use a little more warm and fuzzy—or hot and sexy—comfort.

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Lilah Suzanne is the author of Amazon bestseller Broken Records, part of the Spotlight series along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story “Halfway Home,” which was featured in the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.