For 2022 titles, click here.
A Light Most Hateful by Hailey Piper
Graveyard of Lost Children by Katrina Monroe
Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt
Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder
Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle
Today on the site, I’m welcoming Chrissy Holm, author of the new memoir Finding Sunlight, to discuss find herself and her bisexuality after being raised in purity culture. Here’s a little more on the book:
In the inspirational coming-of-age memoir Finding Sunlight (Wise Ink, September 2023), Chrissy Holm separates the pressures of purity culture from all the possibilities of meaningful love. Homeschooled at church and raised by a devout father, Chrissy suppressed her bisexuality and followed all the teachings of purity culture. But when she turned sixteen, her parent’s divorce flipped the script. Devastated and unsure of her values, Chrissy embarked on a long journey, often making mistakes, until she figured out just exactly who she is and what she believes in. Raw and hopeful, this liberating memoir is an intimate look at figuring out how to forgive–and love–after purity culture.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon
And here’s the post!
Imagine soaring in the sky on a hot air balloon ride with an ex-boyfriend, wondering if you should’ve married him while also being interested in pursuing someone else. You feel like you know what you’re doing, yet floating up there, you feel unstable and unable to get down. For me, that state of confusion–while thousands of feet in the air–stemmed from purity culture.
When I was a kid in the ’90s and early ‘00s, I learned from my church that dating was only intended for marriage. That I needed to “remain pure” and abstain from sex before marriage. As a woman, it meant succumbing to traditional gender roles and submitting to men. And it meant that it was a sin to love anyone of the same sex.
But I knew deep down, after a game of truth or dare with one of my friends who was a girl, that this meant I also had to hide my sexuality and desires. As I continued life, I was homeschooled at my church and learned more about “God’s will” and how I could abide by it.
Flash forward a few years when I attended a purity conference with my mom and sisters, where speakers talked about making decisions about relationships and sexual health. They encouraged us to maintain purity, especially in a world that promotes sexual promiscuity. One speaker in particular focused on how she became a grandmother at age thirty-six and blamed it on generations of sex before marriage.
Though romantic relationships were forbidden in my house until I was sixteen, I still sought out connections with boys. And with every relationship I entered, I had to imagine it was my intention to marry them, even at a young age. I also needed to satisfy them and address their needs, as mine came last. And yet, when I had moments of attraction to women sprinkled throughout my teenage years, I had to hide in shame in hopes that no one would discover my secret. If I forced myself not to think about it, I would be safe, and God wouldn’t send me to Hell.
When I turned fifteen, I dated someone who I eventually lost my virginity to. Instantly, I felt shame, guilt, and like I had failed as a Christian. I was going to Hell, and nothing would save me — not even Jesus, whom I had accepted into my heart when I was six. At seventeen and eighteen, I kissed two girls, and those small moments allowed me to slowly unbury that part of who I was, though it would take many more years to express it out loud.
More clarity would start to arrive as I headed to college a few months after breaking up with my boyfriend and the hot air balloon ride. At school, I learned the differences between sex and gender. I learned about gender roles, societal expectations, and sexuality. During lectures about cohabitation, my throat would close, and my stomach would churn, but I realized that it was okay to live together and be in a sexual relationship without being married. It was the first time I had accepted and understood that.
In my college relationships, each moment I embraced sex or intimacy before marriage, I still felt in the pit of my gut telling me it was wrong. But yet, I kept learning and continued embracing my desires. The second night I met my now-husband, we had sex. I had come a long way beyond shame and confusion, and for the first time in my adult life, I felt empowered.
Over the next several years, I learned more about well-being, spirituality, and sexuality. I prioritized my health, set boundaries, sought therapy, and found ways to practice self-compassion. I spent time in nature, hiked, and connected with people who understood the harm of restrictive religion.
On one of those long hiking trips, one person inspired me to dedicate myself to writing a book, a passion of mine since I was little. Over the following five years, my memoir became a space to heal and reflect on these aspects of my life — sex, love, purity, religion, sexuality, and more. And though I stepped away from the church, I built a community and found acceptance and empowerment in who I am. I finally had the courage to share and no longer hide my queer identity.
While there still may be flashes of shame and guilt that sit in my body, it’s finally freeing to know that I can connect the dots and understand where that’s coming from. It’s liberating to know that I can feel stable, get down from that hot air balloon ride, and ground myself with greater clarity.
Chrissy Holm (she/they) is a writer, editor, and project manager. She is the host of the podcast Stirred By Words, where she interviews guests and discusses words, writing, and wellness. Her writing has been featured on Everyday Health, National Council on Aging, and more. She is an alumni at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where she studied Public Health Education and Promotion. Chrissy lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and daughter.
Happy Bi Visibility Day (tomorrow)! Join us in celebrating by reading lots ‘o bi goodness, and for even more bi goodness, make sure to check earlier Bi Visibility Day posts!
Malachi and his friends are just your regular average kids from hell. The suburbs that is, not the fiery pit part. But when Hell’s Bells ring out—signaling that a soul has escaped from one of the eternal circles, Mal and his friends can’t help but take the opportunity for a little adventure.
Before they know it, they’ve somehow slipped through the veil and found themselves in the middle of Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. And what’s even worse, they’ve managed to bring the escaped soul with them! As the essence of one of history’s greatest manipulators gains power by shifting the balance on Earth, Mal and his squad-mates—along with some new friends that they meet along the way—work desperately to trap the escapee, save the people of Earth from the forces of evil, and find the portal back to their own dimension.
If they can’t manage it before their parents realize they’re gone, they’ll be grounded for an eternity. And an eternity in hell is a very, very long time.
Today on the site I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for Derek Milman’s upcoming dark academia YA thriller, A Darker Mischief, which releases from Scholastic on July 2, 2024! Here’s the story:
The Honeys meets The Secret History in a work of dark academia like no other — a boarding school thriller about a queer teen from Mississippi who finds himself swept into a world of old money, privilege, and the secret society at the heart of it all.
Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Look No Further by Rioghnach Robinson and Siofra Robinson
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Echo After Echo by AR Capetta
Happy Latinx Heritage Month! As usual, we’re celebrating with some books by Latinx authors and starring queer Latinx main characters! For even more recs, check out last year’s post!
For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.
Ariana Ruiz wants to be noticed. But as an autistic girl who never talks, she goes largely ignored by her peers despite her bold fashion choices. So when cute, popular Luis starts to pay attention to her, Ari finally feels seen.
Luis’s attention soon turns to something more and they have sex at a party—while Ari didn’t say no, she definitely didn’t say yes. Before she has a chance to process what happened and decide if she even has the right to be mad at Luis, the rumor mill begins churning—thanks, she’s sure, to Luis’s ex-girlfriend, Shawni. Boys at school now see Ari as an easy target, someone who won’t say no.
Then Ari finds a mysterious note in her locker which eventually leads her to an unlikely group of students determined to expose Luis for the predator he is. To her surprise, she finds genuine friendship among the group, including her growing feelings for the very last girl she expected to fall for. But in order to take Luis down, she’ll have to come to terms with the truth of what he did to her that night—and risk everything to see justice done.
Pedro and Daniel are Mexican American brothers growing up in 1970s Ohio. Their mother resents that Pedro is a spitting image of their darker-skinned father, that Daniel likes dolls, that neither boy plays sports.
Life at home is rough, but the boys have an unbreakable bond that will last their entire lives.
Together, the brothers manage an abusive home life, coming out, first loves, first jobs, and the AIDS pandemic, in a coming-of-age story unlike any other.
A scorned god.
A mysterious acolyte.
A forgetting drug.
A dangerous forest.
One girl caught between the freedom she always wanted and a sister she can’t bear to leave behind.
Under the cover of the Night Forest, will Lucha be able to step into her own power…or will she be consumed by it?
Cade has always loved to escape into the world of a good horror movie. After all, horror movies are scary—but to Cade, a closeted queer Latino teen growing up in rural Texas—real life can be way scarier.
When Cade is sent to spend the summer working as a ranch hand to help earn extra money for his family, he is horrified. Cade hates everything about the ranch, from the early mornings to the mountains of horse poop he has to clean up. The only silver lining is the company of the two teens who live there—in particular, the ruggedly handsome and enigmatic Henry.
But as unexpected sparks begin to fly between Cade and Henry, things get…complicated. Henry is reluctant to share the details of his mother’s death, and Cade begins to wonder what else he might be hiding. Inspired by the gothic romance of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and perfect for fans of Heartstopper and Bloom comes a modern love story so romantic it’s scary.
In this bilingual, inventive, and heartfelt debut, graphic novel talent Christine Suggs explores a trip they took to Mexico to visit family, embracing and rebelling against their heritage and finding a sense of belonging.
Sixteen-year-old Christine takes their first solo trip to Mexico to spend a few weeks with their grandparents and tía. At first, Christine struggles to connect with family they don’t yet share a language with. Seeing the places their mom grew up—the school she went to, the café where she had her first date with their father—Christine becomes more and more aware of the generational differences in their family.
Soon Christine settles into life in Mexico, eating pan dulce, drawing what they see, and growing more comfortable with Spanish. But when Mom joins their trip, Christine’s two worlds collide. They feel homesick for Texas, struggle against traditions, and miss being able to speak to their mom without translating. Eventually, through exploring the impacts of colonialism in both Mexico and themselves, they find their place in their family and start to feel comfortable with their mixed identity.
Reina is desperate.
Stuck on the edges of society, Reina’s only hope lies in an invitation from a grandmother she’s never met. But the journey to her is dangerous, and prayer can’t always avert disaster.
Attacked by creatures that stalk the mountains, Reina is on the verge of death until her grandmother, a dark sorceress, intervenes. Now dependent on the Doña’s magic for her life, Reina will do anything to earn—and keep—her favor. Even the bidding of an ancient god who whispers to her at night.
Eva Kesaré is unwanted.
Illegitimate and of mixed heritage, Eva is her family’s shame. She tries to be the perfect daughter, but Eva is hiding a secret: Magic calls to her.
Eva knows she should fight the temptation. Magic is the sign of the dark god, and using it is punishable by death. Yet it’s hard to ignore power when it has always been denied you. Eva is walking a dangerous path. And in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined.
Sammy Espinoza’s life is a raging dumpster fire. Her desperate attempt to win back her singer ex-girlfriend has landed her in hot water at work, and she has one last chance before her editor cuts her column. Luckily, Sammy has a plan to redeem herself, but it won’t be easy.
Rumor has it that Max Ryan, the former rock god, is secretly recording his first-ever solo album years after he dramatically quit performing. And it just so happens that he and Sammy have history: Right before Max got his big break, he and Sammy spent an unforgettable night together.
Exclusive access to Max’s new music would guarantee Sammy’s professional comeback and, even better, give her the opportunity to serve some long-awaited revenge for his traumatic ghosting.
But Max lives in Ridley Falls, Washington, and Sammy has history there as well: a family that never wanted her and a million unanswered questions. Going back would mean confronting it all–but what else does she have to lose?
One last summer.
For Manuela del Carmen Caceres Galvan, the invitation to show her paintings at the 1889 Exposition Universelle came at the perfect time. Soon to be trapped in a loveless marriage, Manuela has given herself one last summer of freedom—in Paris, with her two best friends.
One scandalous encounter.
Cora Kempf Bristol, Duchess of Sundridge, is known for her ruthlessness in business. It’s not money she chases, but power. When she sees the opportunity to secure her position among her rivals, she does not hesitate. How difficult could it be to convince the mercurial Miss Caceres Galvan to part with a parcel of land she’s sworn never to sell?
One life-changing bargain.
Tempted by Cora’s offer, Manuela proposes a trade: her beloved land for a summer with the duchess in her corner of Paris. A taste of the wild, carefree world that will soon be out of her reach. What follows thrills and terrifies Cora, igniting desires the duchess long thought dead. As they fill their days indulging in a shared passion for the arts and their nights with dark and delicious deeds, the happiness that seemed impossible moves within reach…though claiming it would cause the greatest scandal Paris has seen in decades.
All’s Fair in Love and (Pastry) War
Sylvie Campos and Lauren Machado have hated each other since before they were born. For generations, the Campos and Machado families have blamed each other for stealing pastry recipes they claim their great-grandfathers originated before fleeing Castro’s Cuba.
Having spent their lives as rivals, Lauren and Sylvie are now in their early thirties and primed to take over their respective family bakeries. That means working long, hot, seasons of outdoor food festivals where they are forced to endure each other – albeit with a lot of bantering and barb-trading. After all, no one knows how to get under Sylvie’s skin like Lauren.
Sick of dealing with Lauren and her thieving family, Sylvie sets out to unmask the Machados for the traitors they are.
But when the truth is not what Sylvie expects, will the fiery exchanges between her and Lauren turn into something hot enough to melt away generational baggage? Could they get the chance to rekindle what they almost had in high school?
Santiago “Saint” Vega gets a second shot at love with Lola León, but when duty to his family forces him to do something she’ll never forgive, will everything he’s built come crumbling down?
Years ago, Saint walked away from the girl he loved to fulfill his duty. Now he’s struggling to build bridges between his drifting family, take on more responsibilities at his uncle’s construction company, figure out why his daughter refuses to talk at school and curtail his mischievous abuelo’s escalating pranks. Then she walks back into his life.
Social justice advocate Lola León has returned to Humboldt Park for two reasons: to help care for her dear abuelo and to serve the community center she loved, particularly the shelter for unhoused LGBTQIA+ youths. When she finds out that the Vegas are responsible for endangering both, she is more than ready to go to war—even if the boy she never forgot is standing at the front of the battlefield.
Neither of them expects to become allies in saving the shelter, helping Saint’s daughter or ending the decades-long feud between their grandfathers. They definitely don’t expect all of their old feelings to come rushing back. As Saint and Lola enter combat, they can’t help but wonder where the other’s true allegiance lies, and whether they’ll win these battles only to lose each other.
Escaping to NYU for college didn’t turn out the way Cameron planned—he’s flunking his theater classes, about to lose his scholarship, and he still hasn’t found anyone he can call his “people.” When he gets home for winter break, he’s so desperate to avoid a Conversation with his dad that he takes the first acting job he can get—as a mall elf. Despite how Scroogey he feels, the plus side is that there’s a cash prize for the most festive of Santa’s helpers.
But the competition is fierce—especially from fellow elf Marco. Christmas spirit oozes out of his veins. At first Cam is determined to see him as nothing but a rival, but as they spend more time together, Cam starts to second-guess himself. What if he’s finally found his people here—in the fakest consumerist nightmare place on Earth, where he least expected it?
Devin Báez is prepared for a relaxing winter break after his rough, first semester of art school. Sure, his family’s old Florida lake cabin is falling apart, and everything in it reminds him of his late mom. And yes, the Baezes’ next-door neighbors, the Seo-Cookes, are still petty, but things could be worse. That is, until Devin runs into the Seo-Cookes’ now annoyingly handsome son, Julian, who comes to him in need of a fake boyfriend.
Despite having a prestigious mentorship application and their beloved cabin to worry about, Devin reluctantly agrees under one condition: He can use the Seo-Cookes’ luxe vacation home to concentrate on his art. More importantly though, he can use his time there to infiltrate the rival’s domain and uncover secrets to prove they’ve been cheating at the Winter Games, an annual event where the Baezes have taken back-to-back Ls.
Passing off loathing as love is more difficult than it seems, especially when the stakes for this year’s competition are higher than ever. Bragging rights and the deed to the Baezes’ cabin is on the line. Julian may not be the pretentious jerk Devin thought he was, but with their families at each other’s throats, there’s no room for anything but fiction between them. Which is definitely a problem because Devin’s feelings for Julian are starting to feel very real.
Dami is a demon determined to cancel every deal they’ve ever made in order to tether their soul to earth and become human again. There’s just one person standing in their way: Silas. An irresistibly (and stubborn) cute boy cursed to die young, except for the deal with Dami that is keeping him alive. If they cancel the deal, Silas is dead. Unless… they can destroy the curse that has plagued Silas’s family for generations. But to do so, Dami and Silas are going to have to work together. That is, if the curse doesn’t kill them first. . . .
When a Mariachi star transfers schools, he expects to be handed his new group’s lead vocalist spot―what he gets instead is a tenacious current lead with a very familiar, very kissable face.
In a twenty-four-hour span, Rafael Alvarez led North Amistad High School’s Mariachi Alma de la Frontera to their eleventh consecutive first-place win in the Mariachi Extravaganza de Nacional; and met, made out with, and almost hooked up with one of the cutest guys he’s ever met.
Now eight months later, Rafie’s ready for one final win. What he didn’t plan for is his family moving to San Antonio before his senior year, forcing him to leave behind his group while dealing with the loss of the most important person in his life―his beloved abuelo. Another hitch in his plan: The Selena Quintanilla-Perez Academy’s Mariachi Todos Colores already has a lead vocalist, Rey Chavez―the boy Rafie made out with―who now stands between him winning and being the great Mariachi Rafie’s abuelo always believed him to be. Despite their newfound rivalry for center stage, Rafie can’t squash his feelings for Rey. Now he must decide between the people he’s known his entire life or the one just starting to get to know the real him.
High school friends Ray, Sophia, Joaquin, and Isabella embark on a perilous Halloween weekend to Malicia, a now defunct horror theme park off the coast of the Dominican Republic.
Ray enlisted his friends to help him make a documentary of the park where his mother and brother were murdered in a mass killing. But what Ray doesn’t know is that Joaquin, his crush, has a mysterious past of his own. With an impending hurricane and horrors around every corner, they all struggle to survive the park while discovering secrets about each other as their weekend adventure goes off the rails.
The group must not only face the deadly storm and their own inner demons, but also the ancient malignant presence on the island, threatening to plunge them into madness, and destroy them one by one.
No description is available for this one yet, but don’t you need it, just from the title? Of course you do.
The Soler sisters are infamous in polite society―brazen, rebellious, and raised by their fashionable grandmother who couldn’t care less about which fork goes where. But their grandmother also knows the standards that two Latina young ladies will be held to, so she secures them two coveted places at the Alarie House, a prominent finishing school that turns out first ladies, princesses, and socialites.
Younger sister Isla is back home within a day. She refuses to become one of the eerily sweet Alarie girls in their prim white dresses. Older sister Renata stays. When she returns months later, she’s unfailingly pleasant, unnervingly polite, and, Isla discovers, possibly murderous. And the same night she returns home, she vanishes.
As their grandmother uses every connection she has to find Renata, Isla re-enrolls, intent on finding out what happened to her sister. But the Alarie House is as exacting as it is opulent. It won’t give up its secrets easily, and neither will a mysterious, conniving girl who’s either controlling the house, or carrying out its deadly orders.
Today on the site, I’m delighted to be revealing the cover of Darkhearts author James L. Sutter’s The Ghost of Us, a YA romance billed as Ten Things I Hate About You meets Ghost that releases from Wednesday Books on June 11, 2024! Here’s the story:
Eighteen-year-old ghost hunter Cara is determined to escape life as a high school outcast by finding proof of the supernatural. Yet when she stumbles upon the spirit of Aiden, a popular upperclassman who died the previous year, she learns that ghosts have goals of their own. In the wake of his death, Aiden’s little sister, Meredith, has become a depressed recluse, and Aiden can’t pass on into the afterlife until he knows she’ll be okay. Believing that nothing pulls someone out of a slump like romance, he makes Cara a deal: seduce Meredith out of her shell and take her to prom, and Aiden will give Cara all the evidence she needs for fame. If not, well—no dates, no ghost.
Wooing the standoffish Meredith isn’t going to be easy, however. With Aiden’s coaching, Cara slowly manages to win Meredith over—but finds herself accidentally falling for her in the process. Worse yet: as Meredith gets happier and Aiden’s mission nears completion, his ghost begins to fade. Can Cara continue to date Meredith under false pretenses, especially if it means Aiden will vanish forever? Or should she tell Meredith the truth, and risk both of them hating her? And either way, will she lose her only shot at proving ghosts are real?
And here’s the hauntingly romantic cover, designed by Kerri Resnick with art by Sivan Karim!
James L. Sutter is a co-creator of the best-selling Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games. He’s the author of the young adult romance novel Darkhearts, as well as the fantasy novels Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine. His short stories have appeared in Nightmare, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the #1 Amazon best-seller Machine of Death, and more. James lives in Seattle, where he’s performed with musical acts ranging from metalcore to musical theater.
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis (Uruguay)
Brickmakers by Selva Almada (Argentina)
The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel (Brazil)
Thirst by Marina Yuszczuk (Argentina)
Undiscovered by Gabriela Wiener (Peru)
Bonus: While a fantasy novel, The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz is set in a Venezuelan- and Colombian-inspired world.
Today on the site we’re revealing the cover of Girls Night by I.S. Belle, a Sapphic YA Fight Club releasing from Tiny Ghost Press on April 16, 2024! Here’s the story:
Gossip queen ALEX longs to be seen.
Cheerleader TULSI is sick of cutting people on her sharp heart.
New kid CLEMENTINE can’t escape the violence inside.
And wallflower SUNJU is tired of keeping quiet.
When a twist of fate brings this unlikely quartet together, sparks and punches fly.
They call it ‘Girls Night,’ an underground fight club that’s girls only.
Soon every girl at Sterling High is showing up to class with bruised knuckles and split lips.
Alex, Tulsi, Clementine, and Sun have never felt more alive. Until demonic head cheerleader, Quentin Scarhill, steps in the ring with her eyes on Alex.
As Quentin’s hold over Alex tightens, Girls Night spirals out of control.
Can they take back the reins before things turn deadly?
And if Girls Night ends will they throw in the towel their newfound friendships?
Here’s the badass cover by Bhavna Madan!
I.S. Belle writes dark queer YA books with happy endings. She works in a bookshop and stops to pat dogs in the street. She has a Masters of Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. You can find her on Tiktok at @i.s.belle_writes and on Instagram @isbelleauthor.