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Judith Utz Interviews Liz Jacobs on Her Debut, Abroad, Being an Immigrant Teen, and More

Today on LGBTQReads we’ve got a first for the site: a guest interview! Judith Utz, owner and curator of Binge on Books and Open Ink Press, chats with debut author Liz Jacobs about her upcoming New Adult romance duology, beginning with Abroad; her personal experiences as a queer immigrant teen; and what makes this debut so genuine and hard hitting.

First, check out Abroad!

Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.

Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .

When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?

 Be sure to check out Abroad on Brain Mill Press’s website

Here’s a little more info on the book from Judith:

College might seem like the perfect opportunity to let loose and party, to revel in the chance at being alone, adult-free for the very first time in your life. And even though that’s definitely one aspect of the college experience, there are so many more that define it. Growing up, discovering parts of yourself you never knew existed, and ultimately coming of age is the crux of the new adult experience. With a sharp wit and unflinching portrayal of the ups and downs of college life, Liz Jacobs will blast onto the New Adult scene on June 27th with her stellar debut, Abroad. Russian-born, Jewish, and questioning his sexuality, Nick is an American who decides to uproot his life in the States to spend one year of college abroad in the UK. That too-brief-span of time serves to define and change who he will become.

Struggling to understand himself, his identity, and his constantly shifting feelings about his past, Nick discovers that home and identity are not limited to family or even a homeland. He also learns to trust himself and his own needs, and begins finding friendships in the most unlikely of places. Interwoven into this is a fragile love story that may or may not withstand the year. Liz Jacobs’ debut is a sophisticated and refreshing take on the New Adult novel and she caught up with me recently to talk more about this book and what it means to her.

Judith for LGBTQ Reads: Welcome to LGBTQ Reads! Please tell us all about your debut, Abroad.

Liz Jacobs: Abroad is, to me, a romance, and it’s also a story of coming into your own. It’s about identity and how we hide from ourselves and from others. A lot of it is about one’s cultural identity and what happens when “outsider” identities intersect and how. For instance, Nick has always been an outsider in some sense–in Russia, he was a Jew. In America, he’s Russian. And that’s just for starters. For Dex (Nick’s love interest), it’s being black, it’s being queer, it’s being brilliant and having to carve out space for himself because nobody else will do it for him. For his best friend Izzy, it’s a whole journey of self-discovery she doesn’t realize will happen. It’s also very much about that liminal space at the end of college when you know you’re leaving security behind. It’s also about made families, queer spaces, and people uplifting one another.

Judith: So when did you first have the idea to write this story? How many iterations has it been through?

Liz: I always knew I wanted to write something like this story, because immigrating remains one of the most defining moments of my life. I remember being in sixth grade, speaking zero English, and thinking, “how would I write about this?” I think partly because the experience was so viscerally difficult, it felt like I had to get it out or it would rot inside me. But I didn’t know how to tell it, I didn’t know the angle to take, what to do with it, until I realized that I could write a romance. Then, it coalesced super easily. But it was years of trying different approaches in my mind before this came into being. Then I sat down, wrote the first scene, and it just kept going. In terms of iterations, I’d say it’s one and a half, because the story was always this, but in speaking to someone about it, we realized that it was too much story to be contained in one volume. Also, Izzy’s character was elbowing for her own space, so once she got a POV, it really clicked fully.

Judith: Nick’s experience as a queer, Jewish Russian immigrant mirrors your own experience. Would you say that makes this story autobiographical?

Liz Jacobs: Let’s say, it’s “heavily inspired by” my life, though it is definitely its own story, with its own trajectory and conclusions. But I would be lying if I said that Nick’s character and experiences wasn’t based on my own. I wrote him through that lens, and it was important for me because for years, I kept a lot of this stuff inside, either through fear or the conviction that nobody would want to listen, and it has felt really wonderful, actually, to let this story out. So, not fully autobiographical, not entirely fictional.

Judith: Since it is so heavily inspired, did any of your own experiences infuse Nick’s story?

Liz Jacobs: Yes. Actually, the opening scene is lifted directly from my own life, pretty much verbatim. It has stayed with me for over a decade. It’s one of those “I think about this way more than I really should” moments. It was such a strange moment of cognitive dissonance, realizing that the person sitting next to me who presented very much as maternal and nurturing was holding some exceptionally xenophobic and harmful views with no idea that she was hurting me. The rest, I think, are just little touches, and largely fictional.

Judith: Have you always been a writer? What’s the first thing you wrote?

Liz Jacobs: I have been. I honestly can’t remember what the first thing I wrote was, and I have a feeling it’s through a sense of self-preservation (I was thirteen or thereabouts). Actually, I just remembered that I wrote a LOT of self-insert Mary Sue fic on a message board at 14-15. Really, I just haven’t stopped writing. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. It’s always been my constant, I can’t stop myself. Except for when I’m under deadline, and then my brain blocks it for me.

Judith: What’s a question you hope readers ask you about Abroad?

Liz Jacobs: I’m literally scratching my head right now, because I don’t know! I think I’d be excited to get any questions, to be honest, because it means that I’ve engaged the reader, made them think, touched them in some way. Maybe, “hey, did you have any visual inspirations for the characters?” in which case, I will be, like, “heck yeah, I did. Wanna see?”

Judith: Name your top writing influences (authors, books, tv, music, what have you!)

Liz Jacobs: The first name that comes to mind is, honestly, Anne Frank. She was the first person who made me think I, too, could be a writer. She was also a scared Jewish girl whose inner world was so much bigger than the outside world allowed for. Her words made an indelible impact on my life. I’d say another big influence is Jamie O’Neill, author of At Swim, Two Boys. This book blew me away when I read it at 20, and it continues to blow me away now, every time I pick it up for a reread. The way he brings the reader into each scene, how every character has their own voice, the sheer impact of his work–it’s almost magic to me, except better, because it all sprang from his mind. It took him a decade to write this book, and when you’re reading it, you can see why. That level of dedication, to me, is incredible. There’s another writer who few people outside Russia know about (and, actually, not so many in Russia, either) named Frida Vigdorova. Her writing had such a heart, such an intimacy to it, it made me yearn to write as well as she did. I’m still yearning for it.

Music wise, I’d say Tom Waits, being the giant weirdo that he is! Honestly, I feel like if Tom Waits can make a career out of being a (incredibly talented) whackadoo, why can’t I try?

Other than that, it’s hard to say, because I often feel like I’m an inspiration sponge–I just soak everything up and then stuff comes out without me realizing.

Judith: Speaking of writing influences, of all the authors out there, who would you most want to write a book with and why?

Liz Jacobs: The first person who came to mind was Roan Parrish, because I adore her writing and think she’s amazing. Where We Left Off is one of my favorite books of the last, like, several years. (Hi, Roan!) I also have a friend I’ve written with in the past (let’s call her B) and would love to write something new with her. (Hey, B) I love co-writing, and it also scares the bejeezus out of me, because it brings out the biggest control freak AND self-critic in me, but it can so gratifying and so much fun. You never know!

Judith: And lastly, what else have you written? What’s up next?

Liz Jacobs: Abroad: Book Two, of course! The story is very much not done at the end of Book One, and I’m writing Book Two right now and having a lot of fun with it (when I’m not having angst). I’ve got a whole bunch of things on the back burner that may never see the light of day, but I’m having quite a bit of fun with them, too. I’m writing a queer historical romance that is my happy escape place at the moment about the son of an Earl and a gardener. There’s gardening shed naughtiness. I have another project I’m hoping to develop, but I’m actually a bit superstitious, so I don’t want to say anything about it yet. But it’s YA. Intrigued yet?

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Debut author Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee.  All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.

She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.

She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.

Fave Five: LGBTQ YA Set in the South

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (TN)

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (GA)

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen (LA)

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (GA)

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (MS)

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Ten Intersectional Anthologies and Essay Collections

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Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives ed. by Nia King

Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in the Jewish Community ed. by Noach Dzmura

Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism ed. by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: an LGBT and Two Spirit Sci-Fi Anthology ed. by Hope Nicholson

Black Queer Studies: a Critical Anthology ed. by E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G. Henderson

Prime by L. Lamar Wilson, Ricky Laurentiis, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Saeed Jones, and Phillip B. Williams

Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims ed. by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle

Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction ed. by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle

Moving Truth(s): Queer and Transgender Desi Writings on Family by Aparajeeta Duttchoudhury and Rukie Hartman

QDA: Queer Disability Anthology ed. by Raymond Luczak

New Releases: November 2016

November always seems to be a pretty quiet release month, so I’m just gonna toss a bunch of stuff on my radar (which includes lots of genre f/f!!) together in one post and hopefully you’ll find something fabulous!

Romancing the Inventor, by Gail Garriger (1st)

30731095Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?

This is a stand-alone LBGTQ sweet romance set in Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.

Buy it: Amazon

Marian, by Ella Lyons (3rd)

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When Marian Banner moves to the glittering city of Nottingham with her father, Sir Erik the Fortunate, her entire life changes. She is no longer allowed to run about the countryside in trousers and braids, climbing fences and shooting turkeys, but is thrust into a life of dresses and jewels and dancing lessons, none of which Marian is particularly pleased about. Her dark mood changes when she meets a tiny whip of a girl called Robin Hood. Robin is fierce and brave, and wants more than anything to become a knight, regardless of her gender. Together they explore the city, becoming fast friends along the way.

As time passes, their friendship into something bigger and scarier and far more wonderful. But then Marian’s father is killed in service to the king and she catches the king’s eye.

Can Robin save her one more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Luchador, by Erin Finnegan (3rd)

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Each week, Gabriel Romero’s drive to Sunday mass takes him past “El Ángel,” the golden statue at the heart of Mexico City that haunts his memories and inspires his future. Spurred by the memory of his parents, Gabriel is drawn to the secretive world of lucha libre, where wrestling, performance art and big business collide.

Under the conflicting mentorships of one of lucha libre’s famed gay exótico wrestlers and an ambitious young luchador whose star is on the rise, Gabriel must choose between traditions which ground him but may limit his future, and the lure of sex and success that may compromise his independence. Surrounded by a makeshift family of wrestlers, Gabriel charts a course to balance ambition, sexuality and faith to find the future that may have been destined for him since childhood.

Buy it: Interlude * Amazon * B&N * iBooks * ARe * Kobo * Smashwords * Indiebound

Take Me Home, by Lorelie Brown (7th)

30848832Thanksgiving arrives in one week and one day. Feeling hemmed in by parental expectations? Are they disappointed by your sapphic proclivities? I can help! The only pay I want is the holiday meal!

I didn’t know what I was looking for until I saw her Craigslist ad.

I love my family. I’m lucky to have them—well, most of them. But my aunt? I’m so tired of her giving my mom crap because I happen to be a lesbian. So one pink-haired tattoo artist pretending to be my girlfriend will annoy my Christian fundamentalist aunt right back and make my Thanksgiving perfect.

Only . . . Brooke turns out to be cuter and more complicated than I expected. And before you can say “yorkiepoo,” we kiss . . . and abduct a dog together. I want to keep them both—but Brooke isn’t the kind to be kept. Lucky for me, I’m the kind to chase what I want.

Buy it: Riptide

Timekeeper, by Tara Sim (8th)

25760792In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Blank Spaces, by Cass Lennox (14th)

31567731The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.

Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.

When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.

Buy it: Amazon

Flying Without a Net, by E.M. Ben Shaul (17th)

30124943Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life but confused by Avi’s observance. Dani can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.

Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?

Buy it: Amazon

Of Fire and Stars, by Audrey Coulthurst (22nd)

25164304Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Buy it: IndieBound * Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Book Depository 

Mother of Souls, by Heather Rose Jones (29th)

30072959All her life, Serafina Talarico has searched in vain for a place where she and her mystical talents belong. She never found it in Rome—the city of her birth—where her family’s Ethiopian origins marked them as immigrants. After traveling halfway across Europe to study with Alpennia’s Royal Thaumaturgist, her hopes of finding a home among Margerit Sovitre’s circle of scholars are dashed, for Serafina can perceive, but not evoke, the mystical forces of the Mysteries of the Saints and even Margerit can’t awaken her talents.

When Serafina takes lodgings with Luzie Valorin, widowed music teacher and aspiring composer, both their lives are changed forever. Luzie’s music holds a power to rival the Mysteries, and Serafina alone has the vision to guide her talents. For sorcery threatens the fate of Alpennia—indeed of all of Europe—locking the mountains in a malevolent storm meant to change the course of history. Alpennia’s mystic protections are under attack and the key to survival may lie in the unlikeliest of places: Luzie’s ambition to write an opera on the life of the medieval philosopher Tanfrit.

Buy it: Amazon

The Colorful Catalog of…Shira Glassman!

Hello and welcome to The Colorful Catalog, which focuses on authors who’ve got at least five published LGBTQIAP+ books (including novellas) and gives you an overview of everything they’ve got, as provided by the authors themselves! Hopefully you can find at least one book that screams “I NEED THAT!” from any given catalog, and from there, if you love it, ta da! Instant access to info on where to go next.

I’m delighted to showcase the colorful catalog of Shira Glassman, queer indie rec-er extraordinaire and seriously prolific authoress of all things LGBTQAP. As a bonus, you get to stock up on a whole bunch of Jewish queer lit right before Rosh Hashana! Everybody wins!

Hi! I’m Shira Glassman, and today I’m going to play for you the first movement of the sonata for unaccompanied violin by Arthur Honegger—

Wait, sorry, wrong opening line! I’m sure most of you know me, if you know me at all, from my fantasy series, but since this is a backlist guide: did you know I’ve written two contemporary romance novellas, too? The theme of both is borrowed from my orchestral life. Fearless is about a band mom who falls for an orchestra teacher while everyone is snowed in at All-State, a cute butch lady who might just get her to pick up the violin again after a twenty-year lapse. Lioness in Blue is about the bi girl who sits second oboe, whose flirtation with the hot, beardy older man who sits first oboe finally leads to affirming, mildly femdom-y sex.

Now that I’ve satisfied the people who aren’t interested in SFF: on to The Mangoverse! My series originally started as a combination of three needs: a way to cope with the unexpected loss of my father, a lifelong hunger for f/f princess fairytales (when I was A Tiny we didn’t have K.S. Trenten’s Fairest or Audrey Colthurst’s Of Fire and Stars), and wanting to see love instead of conflict between The Hero and The Dragon—which is relatively easy to find nowadays, but not so much in the 80’s. Every book in the series was written to stand alone, and just be separate but sequential adventures about the same characters, but I have no idea if I succeeded at that so you may want to read reviews.

Another important note is that the main character has problems digesting gluten and some of the proteins found in poultry, and her chief romance is with a palace cook who becomes her personal chef as well as her partner.

The first in the series is The Second Mango (hey, kids, never put the word “second” in the first book in a series. Whoops!) in which a nerdy lesbian named Shulamit inherits her father’s throne suddenly at a far too young and sheltered age to know How to Queen. By the end of the book she’s started to figure her shit out, and has acquired a nice solid Found Family to cherish, including a bi girlfriend. The focus of the book is on solidifying her friendship with her new hetero demi bodyguard Rivka while they ride around having adventures. Rivka’s got a significant romantic arc in the book, too, if you’re looking for demi m/f.

Climbing the Date Palm picks up three years later, where Kaveh, a “bi prince from next door” begs Queen Shulamit for help rescuing his labor activist boyfriend Farzin from a trumped-up treason charge. Apparently King Jahandar didn’t like it when his son fell in love with the guy who stood up to him about wage theft. Oops! Shulamit is determined to find a way to help that won’t involve war, even though Rivka is chomping at the bit. This one includes a poly aromantic cat-shifter and is based on real local events in my home county, in which activist friends of mine fought to establish an ordinance that since its inception (around the time I wrote the book) has recovered around 45 thousand dollars in stolen wages from employers.

A Harvest of Ripe Figs shows Shulamit solving mysteries in her capital city as part of her royal obligation toward justice, while she and her partner Aviva raise the baby princess. A celebrity violinist’s instrument is stolen just after her performance, and it quickly turns into a more general security problem as Shulamit comes to realize illegal magic may have been used to disguise the theft.

The Olive Conspiracy just came out this summer. Shulamit uncovers an international plot to tank her country’s economy by sabotaging their agriculture, their main source of strength. What’s worse, the beautiful straight foreign princess she crushed on as a teenager might be behind it. This one features a new lesbian couple—some farmers she helps when they’re about to lose everything—and a heroic elderly trans woman. I had a good time contrasting Shulamit’s healthy, loving relationship with her partner as an adult with the intensity and one-sided torture of her crush at sixteen. The book has adventure, lots of dragon screen-time, three bi characters, three lesbians, and a rescue kitten.

There are also short stories! If you buy Figs and Olives in paperback, you’ll get all the short stories included, but if you buy the eBooks, the short stories are included separately in a volume called Tales from Perach. There are seven of them all together, and they give some of the supporting characters (like the lesbian farmers or the trans woman chef) an opportunity to take center stage, or recount one of Rivka’s adventures on the road with only her dragon companion before Shulamit hired her. (Rivka’s story features her rescuing an aro ace “damsel in distress”, so if that’s special to you, don’t miss “Rivka in Port Saltspray.”)

As a final note at the end, veering away from Mangoverse again, I do have some erotic shorts available online. “Eitan’s Chord” is a Chanukah fairy threesome, about magic to bless a young, impoverished trans m/cis f couple one winter. “Wet Nails“—ignore the cover; it was part of an anthology and I can’t control that for now—is paranormal sex between two bi women, a lonely grad student and the ghost of her favorite glamorous 1950’s Hollywood actress. “Treasure Hunt” is about two guards who get sent into a dragon’s cave to steal treasure. They doubt the dragon’s existence and use the opportunity to eat lunch and fool around, but the dragon…. is watching.

All of the above focus on Jewish characters and often have holidays and other rituals woven into the text. Mine are worlds where religion and the queer soul are completely compatible—with a note to my non-religious readers that with the exception of some of the Tales from Perach shorts, the Jewishness is more focused on the secular culture than the religion itself. My warrior woman Rivka’s native language is Yiddish, for example.

My one published work so far that doesn’t include anything Jewish is my anti-biphobia short “The Artist and the Devil,” about an art teacher who becomes increasingly suspicious that his businessman crush is actually Satan. I’ll leave it up to you to read and figure out if it counts as contemporary romance or paranormal, because categorizing it under those conditions would be a spoiler! 😉

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Shira Glassman is a violinist living in Florida with a very good human and a very bad cat. She is best known for writing fluffy queer fantasy that draws inspiration from her tropical upbringing, Jewish heritage and present life, and French and German operas. She believes that we need infinite princess, dragon, and superhero stories for all the demographics who never got to play those roles when she was little; some of the ones she’s written have made it to the finals of the Bi Book Awards and Golden Crown Literary Society awards. Her latest is The Olive Conspiracy, about a queen and her found-family saving their country’s agriculture from a foreign plot.

Fave Five: Gay Christian MCs in YA

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown 

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis 

Coming Out Catholic by Alex Dunkin

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen 

The God Box by Alex Sanchez

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Fave Five: LGBTQ Muslim MCs

A Love That Disturbs by Medeia Sharif (Contemporary YA)

Due Diligence by Anna Zabo (Contemporary Romance)

Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam (Adult Contemporary)

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Contemporary YA)

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis (Historical YA)

Bonus: And I Darken by Kiersten White (Historical YA) – Gay MC converts to Islam mid-book

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Backlist Book of the Month: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

In the last month, I’ve been asked a lot for recs of happy LGBTQIAP+ books, and this is probably the #1 I’d found to my dismay that most people still hadn’t read. This book is hilarious and adorable, and it’s also thoughtful, and it’s also fun and joyful and angsty too. I don’t know how to make more people read this one, but I’m gonna keep pushing it until everyone does!

16102490Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.

A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N