Tag Archives: Julian Winters

Happy (Upcoming) Bi Visibility Day!

Happy Bi Visibility Day! Of course, the best part of this day is that you don’t really need to choose a single book to read; you can think all of them are damn fine! (I’m sorry, I cannot let a single BVD go without making a horrible joke. Anyway, here are some great bi things.)

Books to Read Now

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

31351689“I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

Buy it: B&N* Amazon

Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Seventeen-year-old Sebastian Hughes should be excited about his senior year. He’s the Lions’ star goalie, his best friends are amazing, and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask any team members to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah ends up on the team, Sebastian realizes his future is in the hands of the one guy who hates him. He’s determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the team. Sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than friendship between them. How can Sebastian convince Emir he can trust him again without wrecking the team’s future?

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

False Hearts by Laura Lam

Orphan Black meets Inception: Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult.

Raised in the closed cult of Mana’s Hearth and denied access to modern technology, conjoined sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When the heart they share begins to fail, the twins escape to San Francisco, where they are surgically separated and given new artificial hearts. From then on they pursue lives beyond anything they could have previously imagined.

Ten years later, Tila returns one night to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder—the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Tila is suspected of involvement with the Ratel, a powerful crime syndicate that deals in the flow of Zeal, a drug that allows violent minds to enact their darkest desires in a terrifying dreamscape. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life. But during her investigation Taema discovers disturbing links between the twins’ past and their present. Once unable to keep anything from each other, the sisters now discover the true cost of secrets.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Inkmistress_JKT_des2_CC15.inddAsra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.

Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sonderby

Failure to Communicate (Xandri Corelel #1)As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.

Buy it: Amazon

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The King of Bourbon Street by Thea de Salle

The King of Bourbon Street (NOLA Nights, #1)Hotel chain mogul Sol DuMont is about to learn that some of life’s biggest surprises come in deceptively small packages—namely a petite heiress named Rain who’s hell-bent on upsetting her family’s expectations—in this first book in the all new series by Thea de Salle, set against the sultry backdrop of New Orleans.

Thirty-seven-year-old Sol DuMont is a divorcee and the owner of a mid-sized hotel chain in New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina, his father’s death, and the decision that he and his ex-wife Maddy are far better off friends than lovers, he’s lost interest in almost everything he held dear—parties, people, and pushing limits.

All his limits.

Then Arianna Barrington checks into his hotel.

Twenty-four-year-old Arianna “Rain” Barrington could have been society’s sweetheart. Her family is moneyed, connected press darlings, and make sweeping headlines from coast to coast for reasons both good and bad. But when her mother shoves her at Charles Harwood—the obnoxious, entitled heir of Harwood Corp—to cement a billion-dollar business merger, Rain does the only thing she can think of to escape: she creates a scandal so big Harwood doesn’t want her anymore before fleeing to New Orleans for much-needed rest and relaxation.

All she wants is jazz piano, beignets, and to sail the Mississippi. What she gets is Sol DuMont, a whirlwind affair, and a hands-on education in sex, power play, and pushing limits.

All her limits

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Small Change by Roan Parrish

Small Change by [Parrish, Roan]Ginger Holtzman has fought for everything she’s ever had—the success of her tattoo shop, respect in the industry, her upcoming art show. Tough and independent, she has taking-no-crap down to an art form. Good thing too, since keeping her shop afloat, taking care of her friends, and scrambling to finish her paintings doesn’t leave time for anything else. Which … is for the best, because then she doesn’t notice how lonely she is. She’ll get through it all on her own, just like she always does.

Christopher Lucen opened a coffee and sandwich joint in South Philly because he wanted to be part of a community after years of running from place to place, searching for something he could never quite name. Now, he relishes the familiarity of knowing what his customers want, and giving it to them. But what he really wants now is love.

When they meet, Christopher is smitten, but Ginger … isn’t quite so sure. Christopher’s gorgeous, and kind, and their opposites-attract chemistry is off the charts. But hot sex is one thing—truly falling for someone? Terrifying. When her world starts to crumble around her, Ginger has to face the fact that this fight can only be won by being vulnerable—this fight, she can’t win on her own.

Buy it: B&NAmazon

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

So Sweet (Sugar Baby, #1)Desperate times call for desperate measures…

And desperate is the only way to describe Kayla Davis’s current situation. Out of work and almost out of money to cover her bills, Kayla finally caves to her roommate’s nagging and follows her to Arrangements, an online dating site that matches pretty young women with older men of a certain tax bracket.

Convinced this “make-rent-quick” scheme will surely fail – or saddle her with an 80 year old boyfriend – Kayla is shocked when Michael Bradbury, Internet billionaire and stone-cold salt and pepper fox, offers her a solution to all her financial troubles. It’s hard enough for Kayla to accept his generosity, but what’s a girl to do when the wealthiest man she’s ever met is a dream in and outside of the bedroom?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde’s quirky and utterly relatable novel.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be
perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

9780763691646Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Books to Preorder

The Spy With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (Oct. 2, 2018)

The Spy with the Red BalloonSiblings Ilse and Wolf hide a deep secret in their blood: with it, they can work magic. And the government just found out.Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.

When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria (Oct. 9, 2018)

Beneath the CitadelIn the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Home and Away by Candice Montgomery (October 16, 2018)

Note: Bi character in this book is the love interest, not the narrator

37941689Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s a senior, she’s got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them—but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

The Resolutions by Mia Garcia (Nov. 13, 2018)

The ResolutionsNew Years are for fresh starts, but Jess just wants everything to go back to the way it was.

From hiking trips, to four-person birthday parties, to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable—and unstoppable. But now, with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been splintering off and growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them for each other—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, show your paintings, learn Spanish, say yes to everything.

But not even the best laid plans can take into account the uncertainties of life. As the year unfolds, Jess, Ryan, Nora, and Lee each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heart breaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 15, 2019)

30340865Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

Preorder: Amazon Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound Goodreads

Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale (March 19, 2019)

Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?

Preorder: Amazon * B&N

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins (May 7, 2019)

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. Heartbroken and ready for a change of pace, Millie decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Soon, Millie is accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Here, the country is dreamy and green; the school is covered in ivy, and the students think her American-ness is adorable.

The only problem: Millie’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can’t stand each other, but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, but Millie knows the chances of happily-ever-afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?

Preorder: Amazon * B&N

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (May 28, 2019)

When Ben DeBacker tries to come out to their parents as non-binary, their life comes to a screeching halt as they’re thrown out of their home. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they find a new home with their estranged sister Hannah, and a new school.

But attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic fellow student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, feelings begin to change, and what starts as a disaster looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life, and find first love.

Out Summer 2019 from Scholastic!

Preorder: Amazon * IndieBound

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (June 4, 2019)

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides―namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Preorder: Amazon

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Guest Interview: Julian Winters Talks to Author Adib Khorram in Honor of the Release of Darius the Great is Not Okay!

What happens when you get two delightful authors of queer YA coming together to discuss one’s new release, that just happens to be so beloved by me that it’s this month’s new release spotlight? This amazing interview, conducted by the absolutely wonderful Julian Winters, author of Running With Lions. I’m thrilled to have Julian and Adib on the site today discussing mental health rep, relationship dynamics, and more! Come check it out!

***

Hi Adib! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your amazing debut YA novel, Darius the Great Is Not Okay. I don’t know if you’ve heard but… I’m a huge fan. The last book that drew me in and stayed with me like this one was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The friendships, the look at parent/child relationships, the journey and growth of the characters—everything a reader needs, especially a young adult reader, is in this book. Can you tell us a little bit about your book journey and what inspired you to write this one?

Thank you for having me! Aristotle and Dante is amazing company to be in. It’s one of my favorites, so I definitely hoped to hit some of the same notes.

I started writing Darius while I was visiting my dad’s side of the family (the Iranian side) in Vancouver for Nowruz. I had just finished a first draft of a book I thought was unique and different and was sure to be the kind of book that would get me an agent. It seemed fresh and fantastic.

The next day I saw a deal announcement from Publishers’ Weekly that sounded like…pretty much what I had just finished. So I flipped some tables and moped for a day or two and then I decided to write something only I could write: about being Iranian-American, torn between two cultures, growing up with depression. Things I knew intimately, that I still struggled with, and that I felt I needed to reconcile.

I wrote it, and revised it, and revised it, and revised it, and revised it some more, and started querying. I did an R&R at one point that made some hugely beneficial changes. And I eventually landed an agent, Molly O’Neill, who loved Darius and wanted to represent it. So we revised it more and then she started sending it out to editors, and we got acquired by Dana Chidiac at Dial. And then we edited it even more! But I’m so happy with how it came out.

Darius is such a soft boy. He cries, struggles with his emotions and appearance. He loves hard. It’s so heartfelt but also very real. He also has clinical depression and I loved the way mental health is treated in this book. It’s openly discussed and Darius—nor his immediate family—never once tries to ignore that it’s there. Can you talk about how important it was to show Darius’ depression? Also, his relationship with his father in regards to depression?

I’ve been heartened to see the increased representation of depression and mental illness in YA literature, but a lot of it didn’t speak to my experience, which was and has been, for the most part, one of low-level, persistent melancholy rather than suicidal ideation or other crisis. I wanted to write about people whose depression is manageable, whose lives are informed by it without being defined by it.

I think, because there’s a genetic component depression, and because my own family has a long history with depression, it was important to acknowledge that it can be a generational disease, and I think generational diseases can lead to complicated feelings for both the parent and the child.

I’m glad you mentioned how soft he is. I think it’s so easy to characterize people with depression as aloof or detached. But I often experienced it as too much feeling. And I also think it’s important to show boys that it’s okay to be soft. Unpacking and dismantling toxic masculinity is something I hope to grapple with in all my work.

The father/son dynamic is honest and incredibly-well done. Darius’ issues with his father ache somewhere deep. They don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but they have one common groundStar Trek: The Next Generation. For me, that hit home because the only connection I have with my own father are through our shared love for sci-fi series or movies. What inspired this interesting look at father/son dynamics?

It came from a lot of places. Like I said, some of it came from my wanting to examine how generational disease can shape relationships. And part of that is that, as the child of diaspora, I and others like me often have a hard time dealing with parental expectations.

I also wanted to explore how we form our loves. I got some of mine from my parents, and some from my friends. I was introduced to Star Trek by my friend in second grade, but it was something that my grandma and I watched every Thursday (which is when new episodes aired on our local NBC affiliate). I think those special moments of shared experience can really come to define our relationships. And it sounds like you found that, too!

Darius has a lot of great relationships—his mom, grandparents, Sohrab—throughout the book. My favorite was the one with his younger sister, Lelah. It’s apparent how much he cares for her. But he’s also quietly frustrated with how easily she blends with his family in Yazd—something he’s struggling to do—because she speaks Farsi. And how their father welcomes her into the ST: TNG viewings when that’s the only thing Darius shares with him. Again, those moments were so easy to connect with. Was that an aspect of sibling relationships you set out to write? Was it something that developed as you wrote?

That’s something that developed in the edits. Originally Darius and Laleh’s relationship was maybe a little too saccharine; my genius editor pointed out that no matter how much Darius loves her, there would still be moments when he was sick of her. That’s just human nature. And I’m so glad she did point that out, because I think it makes their relationship read as so much more real.

Majority of the book takes place in Yazd, Iran. It’s rare but wonderful to see a YA contemporary novel take place in somewhere other than America. It was refreshing and insightful. Was it difficult to explore Darius’ journey while also taking readers on a journey through Yazd’s landscape, explaining cultural differences, food, Persian holidays, and Farsi?

Actually, I don’t think I could have told the story without having it take place in Yazd. To me, Darius’s internal journey was always mirrored by his external one. He couldn’t know who he was without knowing where he came from, and he couldn’t appreciate where he came from without understanding how that influenced who he was.

By the way, my life goal now is to have you introduce me to the wonders of faludeh!

I accept this challenge. It can be hard to find but it’s worth it.

There’s this beautifully understated romance in this book. But it’s not your paint-by-numbers romance. It’s not even a boy-meets-boy romance. It’s Darius falling in love with the city of Yazd. It’s the platonic romance of Darius and Sohrab. It’s Darius falling deeper in love with his grandparents and, by extension, himself. Were those your intentions—to show a main character experiencing a different type of love? Was there ever any push for you to have a romantic storyline in the novel?

All of my most important relationships in life have been non-romantic love, and that was even more true when I was a teenager. I think it’s important and true to show that the love between two friends, or the love between a son and his grandmother, can be as life-shattering as a romance.

There was never any push to add romance—indeed, one of the first things Molly said to me on “the call” is that she loved that Darius told “the love story of a friendship.”

Okay, we have to address the nerdiness of Darius. It’s perfect! His excitement/dedication to things like the Lord of the Rings and ST: TNG is as much hilarious as it is relatable. How much of that is you? And, for the record—besides Captain Picard, who is your favorite ST: TNG character?

I’m super nerdy, and I am beyond excited to see Captain Picard’s return! It’s like a dream come true! So I did borrow a lot of my own nerdiness to bring Darius to life, though I tried to channel the shape my nerdiness took when I was in high school rather than what it’s like today. I feel like I loved things in a really remarkable and passionate and consuming way when I was a teen, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

Favorite character aside from Captain Picard? Hmm. Probably Guinan.

Can we talk about Sohrab for a second? I loved him. He’s an unexpected delight and a great best friend to Darius. He’s excited about anything that involves Darius and that was such a poignant part of Darius’ journey. To feel like someone understood him and loved everything about him. Someone who made Darius “belong.” SPOILER ALERT: When Sohrab gave Darius the Team Melli jersey? I experienced a major containment failure.

Sohrab isn’t without flaws. He makes mistakes. He also owns up to them. Did he represent anyone in your own life?

When I was Darius’s age, I already had a small but stable friend group of really close friends. Darius has never had that before, though, so I kind of borrowed bits of lots of my other friendships when trying to craft Sohrab.

I also tried to capture the feeling of meeting and instantly falling into friendship with someone, something I didn’t experience myself until I was much older and had a day job and found myself instantly friends with some of my colleagues.

Let’s talk writing methods: I read you don’t necessarily write to music playlists. Shocker! You did write Darius to Young the Giant—hello, I could write to Mind Over Matter for years, such a great album—but what helps you in your writing process? What inspires your writing moods?

Right? Home of the Strange came out while I was in revisions and it was even more perfect for Darius!

I can’t write without tea. I need the ritual to kind of get into my writing headspace. And I need to be in a place that’s “for work” and not for relaxation. If I’m writing at home, I’ll sit in a different place than I sit if I’m watching TV or playing a game. But I love writing at coffee shops even more.

The buzz leading into the release of this book has been phenomenal. Starred-reviews. Authors talking non-stop about it. Obviously, that’s exciting and always a positive, but has any of it been intimidating? Any advice for other debut authors about handling the pressures of a book release?

It has been super intimidating. I’ve always been the kind of person that’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. My good friend Lana Wood Johnson said during her agent search that she always took rejection as a sign she was working hard, and so hearing yes was a strange feeling, and I think she really hit the nail on the head. So some days, I still struggle with the feeling that everything will come crashing down around me. I try not to listen to that voice, though.

My advice is to have a good support network. Some need to be writers, and some need to not be writers, because you’re going to need to unburden different parts of the experience to different people.

I’m calling it—there’s going to be a lot of “book hangover” once people finish Darius. People are going to need something to tide them over until your next great novel arrives. What books are you enjoying, either in the same vein as Darius or beyond?

For other people wanting awesome Iranian characters, I’ve loved Arvin Ahmadi’s Down and Across and Sara Farizan’s Here to Stay. For people wanting stories about life-defining friendships, I’d point them to your debut, Running with Lions! I’m still reeling from my own book hangover from that.

For a self-deprecating narrator, this may be a surprising recommendation, but I’ve been obsessed with Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries, a series of novellas about a rogue SecUnit (essentially a cyborg designed to provide security for humans) who can’t seem to stop caring about people, despite trying not to.

The book world is going to fall in love with you, which only means one thing: What’s next for you? Will we see further adventures of Darius and Sohrab?

Well, I’m working on another book, another stand-alone, but I can’t say too much about it right now. I will say that it’s another contemporary, it takes place mostly in a Kansas City high school, and the main character is a GSA President with some serious Leslie Knope-ish tendencies.

I really loved getting into Darius’s head, so I’d never say no to returning to him. I think I know what story I would want to tell. But ultimately that’ll be up to the book doing well enough to make a companion novel viable. Fingers crossed!

Thanks so much for agreeing to this interrogation Adib! And thank you Dahlia for this wonderful opportunity. Now, Adib, how many lights are there?

Thank you, Julian! And you, Dahlia! It’s been a blast.

And THERE! ARE! FOUR! LIGHTS!

***

Amazon bestselling author Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his debut novel.

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Running With Lions by Julian Winters

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Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. 

Buy it: B&N * Amazon* Kobo

 

And now, the excerpt! 

Sebastian is almost ninety-eight percent certain that teenagers should be banned from making decisions during the summer, especially teens bored out of their skulls at night, like him. Summer should be a thought-free zone. No school. No extra brain usage. He should be on house arrest, not climbing through Emir’s window on a Wednesday night.

Of course, most of this is Willie’s fault. They were in their cabin, marathoning Stranger Things on Netflix. Free-for-all pizza was for dinner, so Willie conked out after the second episode. The guy can put away some Hawaiian pizza.

Sebastian can also blame some of his bad decision-making on the fact that summer is ticking down. Camp is almost over; less than two weeks are left.

The vault inside is almost perfect, but Sebastian smacks his shoulder on the floor. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s embarrassing. “So, so,” he stutters. Blood rushes to his head. His view of Emir perched on his bed is upside-down. He rolls over, laughing. “You weren’t sleeping, right?”

The lamp is still on. An open book sits in Emir’s lap. Ink- dark hair falls around his temples instead of standing in its usual sleep-mussed disaster.

“Nope. Just finished my Isha’a.”

Sebastian stands. He dusts off his ripped jeans, fixes his checkered flannel shirt. “Ish- what, now?”

“Isha’a,” Emir repeats. “It’s the last of the salats, daily prayers we do as Muslims.”

These reminders about Emir’s religion and his life at home light memories that flicker through Sebastian’s brain like tiny paper lanterns in the wind. He remembers the adults in Emir’s family fasting during Ramadan and a small backyard gathering to celebrate a feast day Sebastian can’t remember the name of, but he recalls the beautiful clothing, the music, and Emir’s parents passing out gifts to the children. And he remembers the giant, toothy smile Emir wore while pressed to Sebastian’s side on a sticky June evening.

“Is this a bad time? Should I go?”

“No.” Emir closes the book, carefully placing it on the desk by his bed. “It’s okay.”

“Okay.”

Sebastian’s snuck in here every evening lately. After dinner, he crawls in to find a space left for him on Emir’s bed. Sebastian talks nonstop with his head on Emir’s chest. His fingers trace the shape of Emir’s mouth. Sometimes, Emir talks, shedding his shyness. Eventually boring conversations turn into making out.

“Hey!” Tonight Sebastian came with a plan. He tosses Mason’s keys in the air, then catches them. He didn’t steal them; Mason always hands them over during the week so he doesn’t lose them. Being the token “good guy” has its advantages. “You wanna get out of here?”

“Are we allowed to leave?” Emir asks. “Didn’t bother checking the rule book.”

Emir runs a hand through his hair; his fingers catch on the tangles. He says, “You wrote the rule book.”

It’s not an attack on Sebastian, but he still flips Emir off. He blames his lack of a solid comeback on the way the bridge of Emir’s nose crinkles when he snorts.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Sebastian says. His mind has been drifting lately, more than usual, wondering what this thing with Emir is or isn’t. “I dunno, I just want to get out of here. Just me and you.”

“Okay.”

“You’re sure?” Sebastian squeaks in an unnaturally high voice.

Emir shrugs and stands. “Yes, Bastian,” he says. He grabs his beanie, pulls on a pair of slightly wrinkled black skinnies, grips a hoodie—

The sight of Sebastian’s last name in blocky gold letters across Emir’s back is mesmerizing.

JulianWinters

Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

The Magic of Friendship in LGBTQ YA Books: a Guest Post by Julian Winters

I’m delighted to once again have on the site Julian Winters, author of the upcoming bi YA sports romance Running With Lions! In case you missed his last post, Julian interviewed webcomic creator TJ Ryan, and today, he’s back to do some book recommending!

***

In Running With Lions, the main character Sebastian has two things he believes he’ll never survive without: soccer and his friends. He’s in his last year of high school, faced with the choices of what lies next for his future, and trying to navigate a troublesome re-connection with his ex-best friend, Emir. The only thing he can fall back on is his friendships. I thought it’d be fun to look at some of my favorite YA books that tackle coming of age, hardships, humor, and romance, but also my favorite topic: “How much do our friendships help shape people we become?”

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

29904219Superheroes? Check. Girl crushes? Check. A band of uncertain teens taking on a corrupt agency while trying to keep their own friendships together? Double check. This book (and series) is a fun and wonderfully diverse with a great look at how friendships change when secrets are involved. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with the main character, Jess Tran or her genius little brother and their MonRobot, Chả.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

23228.jpgIn a town where the quarterback is the homecoming queen, cheerleaders ride motorcycles at pep rallies, and being LGBTQ+ is like wearing a T-shirt and jeans, Paul faces more important things than his crush on the new guy, Noah. He’s torn between being the ultimate best friend to Tony, who lives in a town where he can’t be openly gay, and trying not to meddle in his other friends complicated drama. The ever-changing dynamic in Paul’s circle of friends takes a toll on his life and asks all the right questions about how far we can go for friendships.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

35960060.jpgDaniel’s senior year of high school isn’t exactly what he thought it’d be. Yes, he’s been accepted into his dream art school, but the rest is a journey through dark family secrets, pining over his best friend, standing up against policies, and dealing with loss. But Daniel’s complicated relationships with his friends is an honestly raw look at what we’ll do in the name of friendship and to amend for mistakes we’ve made in the past.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

12000020Aristotle Mendoza doesn’t have friends. Or, at least, he doesn’t set out to find any. He’s fighting his own battles with family secrets, identity, and anger from an unknown place. And then there’s Dante—the squeaky-voiced boy who loves his parents and swimming (and Aristotle), but struggles with his heritage. Their journey is a magnificent and sometimes painful exploration of friendship and how it heals wounds we never see. How friendship can also unlock pieces of ourselves we’ve unconsciously fought against.

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

31246717Abby’s goals aren’t like her friends. She’s not interested in romance. She wants to rule the fashion world and she’s not missing an opportunity to get her start by interning at her favorite boutique. Abby refuses to be the queer, fat girl sidekick in her own story. This book is filled with humor and delightful girl crushes and empowerment. It also never shies from letting friendships take centerstage. Abby’s on an unexpected journey of self-love but leave it to her friendship with Jax (and their quest for the best burger) to sweeten this already wonderful summer book.

Openly Straight/Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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Exploring sexuality and identity is not an easy thing to do when your miles and miles from home. Especially not at an all-boys school where Rafe is struggling to closet himself again and Ben is navigating his own questions about sexual identity. Packed with humor and honest questions, both books have a unique cast of friends that help both main characters understand themselves. It’s those friendships that are just as pure and lovable as Rafe and Ben’s clumsy, complicated (and sometimes non) relationship.

Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski

26176756.jpgQuirky best friends Meg and Linus have hit their share of bumps in the road, mainly a break-up and an unrequited crush. But they have each other. For the most part. This fun friendship book is a must-read. Are the things we do for others really in the name of friendship? Can we fly solo without the one person we’ve always depended on? How do we stay true to ourselves when everyone else wants us to be something else? You can’t help but geek out with this sweet duo.

The Weekend Bucket List by Mia Kerick

37802033Sometimes it’s hard being the “good apple.” The one that never steps out of line. Never does anything outrageous. But Cady and Cooper are in their last days of high school, unsure of their place in the world, and ready to take the plunge with a bucket list of things to accomplish. This book isn’t about romance; it’s about finding yourself amidst an evolving friendship and life choices. It’s about redemption when those roads we thought we should walk turn out to be the wrong one. Those changes aren’t easy, but Cooper and Cady’s journey (along with dropout Eli) makes for a wonderful story.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

94072Russel Middlebrook believes he’s the only gay kid in school. But he’s not. There’s a soccer player, the all-star baseball jock he’s crushing on, and a few more, including one of his best friends. Funny antics follow Russel everywhere, including awkward dates with a girl to help his other best friend’s romantic woes. At the heart of this book is Russel’s struggles with coming out, the hurtful choices he makes, bullies, and being himself in the face of who his friends think he is.

***

Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

Julian Winters Interviews TJ Ryan, Creator of Witchy Webcomic Quinn, Dreaming

I am super excited about this matchup today, because rarely do novelists and comic artists cross in this space but today you’ll get to meet both! Julian Winters is the author of the upcoming YA sports romance Running With Lions, releasing from Interlude Press on June 7, and TJ Ryan is the creator of Quinn, Dreaming, a webcomic that, to quote their Tumblr, “follows Charles August Quinn, a dream witch trying to make it to graduation with minimal incident, and failing spectacularly.” Sound like a dream combo? Just wait until you read this interview…

First, let me express how excited I am about this. As a comic book geek, I have always wanted to pick the brain of my favorite artists—now I have the opportunity! Quinn, Dreaming is such an interesting take on magic, sexuality, friendships, crushes, and what things represent. Tell us about how Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” inspired the comic/story.

6cae9ff3-5aa0-431f-a473-830904a8ad48Thank you so much! I’m really excited too! I had been shuffling around a story of magic and witches in my mind for a while, but there wasn’t any sort of organization that I could create out of those thoughts. I was listening to Fleetwood Mac (as one does) and really focusing on the lyrics. The lines “It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and, have you any dreams you’d like to sell?” were really what started it all. I knew I wanted it to center around a dream witch who sold dreams but also sort of lived in his own.

I’m a really musical person so I get inspired by it constantly.

Can you tell us anything about the companion novel, Citrus Witches?

Citrus Witches was actually the working name for Quinn, Dreaming. It followed Arthur as a main character rather than Quinn, and really strayed far and wide from the story I ended up using for the comic. That draft exists in all its rough glory on AO3 under the Citrus Witches title. Enjoy my old Merlin fanfic too if you decide to go snooping.

The companion novel to it that I’m currently writing takes place in their first year of college and involves a whole new set of adventures, that will set it apart enough from the webcomic so that people who didn’t read it can still enjoy it, and the folks who did follow the comic will get new shenanigans with the same characters.

How far do you plan to take the webcomic?

The plan is to follow Quinn and the crew until the end of senior year. They’ve only just made it to the end of October so still lots more to come!

While I absolutely love the wonderfully awkward romance between the main characters, Quinn and Sorrel, the diverse cast of supporting characters truly lends to creating a well-shaped story. Will there be more of them in the book?

Absolutely! The book actually follows Sorrel as the main character. There’s definitely tons of awkward romance with Quinn, Arthur to lend to his bad ideas, Statice to film it, and Daphne to talk them out of it.

I’m a big fan of epic platonic loves, and Arthur really is that for Sorrel. There’s a lot of him in the story, really existing as a solid part of Sorrel’s life. I spent a lot of time exploring Sorrel’s relationship with his twin sister, Statice, as well.

There’s some fun new people too!

There’s a subplot that looks at trying to “cure” people of magic. Is this a metaphor to anything in real life?

22e98fe0-df04-40d9-a726-40090b3dc8c4Creating a “cure” for magic in a world where magic exists in everyday life started from a very personal place and spread to something I think is really universal. Growing up bisexual and nonbinary, I always heard “Well have you tried not being this way?” or “You should see a therapist/doctor/psychiatrist, I bet they could fix it” because I grew up in a very small conservative town. But you see it on the news and online and on talk shows all the time. People questioning the validity or the sanity of other people based on something that’s just a part of them.

Magic is just simply a part of these witches. It’s as simple as Quinn having brown eyes or freckles. He’s a dream witch, but now there’s this entire organization that’s dedicated themselves to trying to ‘fix’ that and prove it’s something dangerous. I just felt like it was a storyline that a lot of readers could find themselves relating to.

Okay, I love all the magical components of the story and a few of the dark themes, but let’s talk about all the humor and adorableness—I’m looking at you, Sorrel Seong—that is featured. Also, Quinn has this shy, uncertainty about himself and his powers. It speaks so well to how sometimes people see this admirable quality about us that we often overlook because of self-doubt. Are those the kinds of elements you always try to incorporate into your artwork/writing?

Sorrel is literally and metaphorically the light of my story!

I always try to work self-doubt into at least one character in my story, because it’s such a human trait. I know with my art I’ve often looked at other artists’ work and been hung up on how amazing they all are and how I’ll never compare. Quinn’s sort of a low-level dream witch surrounded by all these powerful witches with ‘cool’ powers, and that leads to him really shrinking in on himself. He learns though that no one else is going to do magic like Quinn does magic, and that his powers can be really beautiful and unique. It’s something we all need to learn about ourselves.

You have a tremendous following, especially from authors. Is this intimidating? Inspiring?

Both! It’s incredible. I would’ve been happy if Quinn, Dreaming had gotten five followers, but it took off and people constantly interact with me about it on Twitter, Tumblr and now on my Patreon. Having so many authors in my corner has been a dream though. You all inspire me with your creativity and your story telling so much. Ultimately, it’s what pushed me to finally start a webcomic in the first place. I’m a librarian—my first big love will always be reading. Knowing that I have these incredible authors that I respect and have welcomed me to come live in their worlds for a while, really pushes me to create something worth hanging out in as well.

You’ve done a lot of amazing artwork for other books—S.J. Goslee’s Whatever, Tara Sim’s Timekeeper series, Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Are there any books or LGBTQ+ characters you’ve wanted to draw but haven’t yet?

I drew Aiden and Shannon once from Taylor Brooke’s Fortitude Smashed, but I’m itching to draw Daisy and Chelsea from the sequel Curved Horizon. I’m weak for the southern sorority girl and punk princess relationship. I need to do some serious art for the Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum as well, because that book was absolutely beautiful, and it stirred up my imagination from start to finish.

Your artwork is so loveable. The way you capture characters is fun but precise, too. Are there any current webcomics or artists that inspire you?

Check Please! Is always the first webcomic I tell people about. It’s so fun and sucks you right in. I binge read it in a Denny’s while I was in college. I couldn’t leave my booth until I was done. It’s just so good. I’m a huge fan of Noelle Stevenson and her comics Nimona and Lumberjanes. I’ve been reading Rainbow Rowell’s latest work on The Runaways. There’s a webcomic on Patreon called Constellation Grimm by Gibslythe that’s a really amazing fantasy with some of the best art as well.

Outside of Quinn, Dreaming, can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on?

I am currently finishing up writing a book about a Canadian vampire named Steven Pancake. He decides he’s going to make the most of his afterlife and buys himself a canoe. His camping trip goes awry, he meets a broody handsome 17th century Romanian vampire named Nicolae, wacky woodland hijinks ensue! There’s werewolves, aliens, some rednecks, and kissing!

Want more TJ Ryan? Here’s where you can find them:

Weebly — https://tjryanart.weebly.com

 

JulianWintersJulian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

Around the Blogosqueer: Queer Black Sites, Books, and Posts

On this final day of Black History Month of 2018, here are some books, sites, and posts to read, enjoy, promote, support, review, and share:

Sites

Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.

2016-18 Books

Middle-Grade

Young Adult

Adult

Adult (Speculative)

Books You Can Add on Goodreads

Young Adult

Not yet on Goodreads, but take note:

(Electric Literature editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and Iowa Writer’s Workshop fellow Brandon Taylor’s REAL LIFE, a novel of unexpected intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, and a story collection, to Cal Morgan and Riverhead, in a pre-empt, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company.)

Posts

Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA Lit?

Black History Month Roundtable via Autostraddle

Have more to share? Add them in the comments!