Tag Archives: Ryan La Sala

The Unofficial Ranking of Top Queer Villains: a Guest Post by Be Dazzled Author Ryan La Sala

I am delighted to welcome Reverie author Ryan La Sala to the site today to celebrate the publication of his dazzling new contemporary YA romance, Be Dazzled, which just released from Sourcebooks Fire yesterday! Before we get to Ryan’s absolutely hilarious and marvelously on-point post, here’s a little more about the book:

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

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And here’s Ryan’s post, an unofficial ranking of queer villains! Take it away, Ryan!

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As persistent as the fatiguingly masculine stalwart hero is the trope of their devious counterbalance—the bad guy who is effeminate, dramatic, and sassy. Wickedly fashionable. Prone to monologues. And, of course, queer-coded to hell. That’s right! Today, we’re talking about the Queer Villain.

A lot, and I mean a LOT, has been written about queer villainy. Its toxic recurrence as lazy storytelling shorthand in narrative arts, its destructive repercussions on the psyche of queer youth, and so on. That’s all good and well and important, but I’d like to take a brief break from the discourse to approach the subject from a different point of view—one of glorious appreciation.

You see, I love queer villains. I practically am one myself, what with all the velvet capes and cackling behind large paper fans. Growing up, I saw these characters not as destructive stereotypes but as answers to the question society kept asking little gay me: How will you survive a society that won’t accept you? What does an intolerant world deserve?

Queer villains answer this in their every action and inevitable yet fabulous failure, and I often root for them. When you understand a villain as queer, a lot of what they do to undermine the status quo starts to make a lot more sense. And so here I go with my unofficial ranking of my top queer villains.

1. HIM (The Powerpuff Girls) — The undeniably BEST queer villain is, of course, HIM. Flamboyant, powerful, and constantly high-kicking in thigh-high spiked heels, HIM is an aspiration in red, a demonic Santa Claus in satanic satin. My personal hero, and the tippity top of my queer, villainous Christmas tree.

2. Ursula (The Little Mermaid) — This is a no-brainer. Ursula is quite literally based on Divine the drag queen. Because of her, for years, I begged my dad to buy me a birdbath (which is what I thought Ursula’s cauldron looked like) so I, too, could trick pretty girls into depending on me for bad boy advice and potions. And never have I forgotten the importance of body language, ha!

3. The Grinch (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) — I think the Grinch is queer. I really do. Disagree? Well then, riddle me this: Have you ever seen a straight person stitch together an entire costume just to center themselves at a holiday party? That’s what I thought. Oh, and let’s not forget the emblematic image of the Grinch plucking bobbles from a Christmas tree using those long, furry fingers. That wrist looks preeetty limp to my little gay eye.

4. Mystique (X-Men) — Mystique is canonically queer, but who needs the canon when you are quite literally the icon of shapeshifting disguises, gender fluidity, and a swept-back hairdo dyed lesbian crisis red? Plus, she has the one power every little gay boy is drawn to: absurd flexibility and a fighting style that incorporates senseless gymnastics.

5. Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender) — Reading Azula as queer was a personal choice right up until she decided to give herself asymmetrical bangs. Then it was canon.

6. Bugs Bunny — Stylish, annoying, and cross-dressing for theatrical antics, Bugs was an early model for the infinite ways we, as queer people, may outsmart and belittle those who invade our spaces in the name of the hunt. Was Bugs petty? Yes. Iconically so. And that’s why they’re on this list.

7. Team Rocket — Messy, dramatic, and constantly in costume, Team Rocket is the queer found family we all make fun of but are actually a part of. I mean, Jessie’s mullet defies gravity, and James never misses a chance to get into drag. And the gayest thing of all? They take orders from their cat.

8. Rita Repulsa — Is Rita queer? I have no idea. Do I unflinchingly embrace the daydream in which she’s my lesbian aunt who brings her roommate over for holiday meals and buys me Sailor Moon action figures even though my parents insist I’ll grow out of my “doll phase” soon? Absolutely.

9. Jafar (Aladdin) — Jafar is adored, yet I still believe he’s deserving of more credit for all he’s done for queer villainy. We need to talk about the wingtip eyeliner. And the perplexingly eccentric choice to imprison Jasmine in a kitschy hourglass. And the fact that the moment he got ultimate power, he gave himself a beefy chest and black acrylic nails. I would make all those choices too.

10. The Trunchbull (Matilda) — Olympian, educator, chocolate lover. The range of this butch icon goes on and on, much like the children she catapults into the sky. Somehow, that feels a little gay too. I’m still not sure why.

11. Yzma & Kronk (The Emperor’s New Groove) — This duo is everything a queer duo should be. Fashionably costumed, theatrically incompetent, and rife with miscommunications that get people turned into llamas.

12. Lady Deathstrike (X-Men) — If you were in the theater with me when I saw Lady Deathstrike bare her indestructible nails, you watched my life change. Sure, she probably is not queer herself, but there is nothing gayer than using your adamantium manicure to skewer Hugh Jackman. Quote me on that.

13. Cheryl Blossom (Riverdale) — I knew Cheryl was queer from episode one. I’ve never known a straight person to combine ambition, charisma, and tartan skirts so well. And, spoiler alert: Cheryl has since been treated to a lesbian love story on Riverdale, and I’m happy for her.

14. Gaston — Bi. Bi as hell. If Gaston isn’t bisexual, explain the brandishing pectorals furred in hair. Explain the flourish of pride when he sings “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” Explain how he instantly knew how to use that gay little hand mirror to telephone our hound-face hottie, the Beast? I have talked to Gaston on Grindr, and he is not nice. But he is queer.

15. Shego (Kim Possible) — I don’t know if you know this, but Shego, the very cool and very bored nemesis of Kim Possible, received her powers when she was exposed to…a rainbow-hued comet. So. There you have it.

16. Barbara Covett (Notes on a Scandal) — Okay, here we have a literal queer villain. I won’t say much because you need to hear it all from Barbara yourself. Her acidic wit, her shrewd fixation on Cate Blanchett, and the fact that she is unrelentingly writing to you through a diary should be all you need to know to seek out the movie Notes on a Scandal or the book it’s based on by Zoë Heller. I highly recommend both.

17. SpongeBob SquarePants (SpongeBob SquarePants) — Don’t laugh. Don’t you dare laugh. It is absolutely undeniable that SpongeBob is chaotic evil. He ruins everything, compulsively. And anyone who pretends their nose is a piccolo in their theme song? And lives in a pineapple? SpongeBob may just be the scariest person on this list.

18. Scar (The Lion King) — Big goth kitty with a smoky eye and a large following kept in line by witty retorts they have no hope of understanding? And the affected accent? We never see Scar with a love interest, but I have more than enough evidence to fortify my head canon in which Scar summers in Andalucía with another male lion named Marc.

19. Skeletor (Masters of the Universe) — Look no further than Skeletor’s fashion if you’re wondering why he’s on this list. A harness…with a hood? A loin cloth….over briefs? Knee-high boots…with a sensible heel? This sort of describes everyone in the Masters of the Universe universe, which is all the more reason for me to keep on believing Skeletor is my eventual final form.

20. Jareth (The Labyrinth) — What can be said about Jareth that hasn’t already been said by David Bowie’s prominent pelvis presented to a crowd of puppets? It’s offensive to even ask me to explain Jareth’s inclusion.

21. Dr. Frank-N-Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) — I’m shivering with antici…patory fear that adding Dr. Frank-N-Furter to this list is going to get me in trouble. But I must! There’s a lot to overlook, yes, but if it means I get to appreciate a sissy in STEM who pulls off a lab coat and pearls, it will have all been worth it.

22. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) — There is a STRONG case for Maleficent’s queerness. Firstly, her best friend is a bird. Second, I’ve never seen a straight person successfully pull off purple and neon green. And lastly, I truly cannot think of anything gayer than showing up to a straight baby shower bearing the gift of curses and then the curse itself is along the lines of “I’m going to give your child a fascination with old-timey sewing machines.”

23. Every other Disney villain — I have a hard time thinking of a single Disney villain that isn’t, in my gay little head, super queer.

24. Every villain from Sailor Moon — That’s right. All of them. Even the weekly monsters. I can’t quite explain why, but there’s something SO self-explanatorily queer about a monstrous, sexy vacuum lady. And the sexy pegasus carousel man. And the fact that every person in Sailor Moon, except for the sailor scouts themselves, gets to use dark magic while wearing couture.

25. Sinister (X-Men) — Often overlooked but absolutely deserving of a spot on this list is Sinister, a baddie who wears a cape made out of ribbons and hasn’t quite found the right foundation to match their icy undertones. And if you want to know Sinister’s power, they themselves will tell you that it’s “overthrowing tyrants and being absolutely fabulous.”

26. Xerxes (300) – When I first saw Xerxes, I had no idea what to think other than “this movie is about the wrong person.” I like the whole hero journey, but if given the choice between a buff guy with airbrushed abs versus a person who shows up to war wearing every accessory they own? I’m going with the warlord who just pillaged Claire’s. Sorry.

27. Snow Miser (The Year Without Santa Claus) — Anyone who makes you watch a whole dance number before agreeing to help you is, by definition, a queer hero, but technically, Snow Miser is kinda bad. I guess. But the little hat! The gleeful pride in being “too much!” We should be encouraging this.

Ryan La Sala writes about surreal things happening to queer people. He is the author behind the riotously imaginative Reverie, and the brilliantly constructed Be Dazzled, both of which made the Kids’ Indie Next List. He has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Tor.com, and one time Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race called him cute! Ryan is also the co-host the Celebrity Book Club Podcast, and a frequent speaker at events/conferences. When not writing, Ryan does arts and crafts and, if he’s lucky, he sometimes remembers to film his escapades for his long-suffering YouTube channel subscribers.

New Releases: January 2021

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (5th)

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (5th)

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Outlawed by Anna North (5th)

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht (5th)

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

This is Not the End by Sidney Bell (11th)

Zacary Trevor is the love of Anya Alexander’s life. Their sometimes tumultuous marriage has survived ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. With successful careers, a lovely home, and a beautiful child, domestic bliss is a hard-earned reality for two people whose hedonistic days are in the not-so-distant past. They’re happy. Enter Zac’s best friend, the deeply reserved Cal Keller.

Zac’s friendship with Cal is the foundation of his career and—until Anya and their son came along—the most important relationship of his life. Cal’s a cipher, someone Anya can’t help but gravitate to, even if they don’t always get along. Even more, she’s drawn to the Zac she sees when he’s with Cal—a careful, cautious version of her husband, someone with hidden thoughts and desires kept secret even from her. Inviting Cal into their home, deeper into their life, is a risk.

Zac should say no. He knows he should. But he doesn’t. From the first, the hint at the life the three of them could have together is exhilarating. And finding a new definition for family just might be worth the risk to every bond that exists between them.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (12th)

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner (12th)

Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.

Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Pedro’s Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonzales (12th)

41z2obk-enl._sx331_bo1204203200_There are many Pedros. One goes to a school where they take away his language, replace it with another. At home, he is afraid to find the words to explain the things they call him. Another crosses the desert, leaving behind a backpack. It contains no clues as to whether he successfully made it across the border and into a new life. A Cousin Pedro comes to visit, awakening feelings that others are afraid to make plain. One goes missing so completely it’s as if he was never there to go missing at all. Another watches his father from afar, unable to ever find ways to close the gap. A Pedro keeps his distance from the other Pedros, in hopes the Meghans and the Johns will think he is one of them instead. One returns to a place he’s never been, to the place his father left, hoping to find him there. Many Pedros journey to many Promised Lands only to learn they may not be promising after all.

Pedro’s Theory is an exploration of these many Pedros, several of them are the author himself, others are the men he might have been in other circumstances. It is a tender exploration of the gap between who the world sees in the author and who he sees in himself, and a unified theory of how racism operates in small town America and shapes so many lives.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner (19th)

Life’s tough when you didn’t expect to be living it. But now that Journey has a future, she apparently also has to figure out what that future’s supposed to look like.

Some days the pain feels as fresh as that day: the day she attempted suicide. Her parents don’t know how to speak to her. Her best friend cracks all the wrong jokes. Her bipolar II disorder feels like it swallows her completely.

But other days—they feel like revelations. Like meeting the dazzling Etta, a city college student who is a world unto herself. Or walking into the office of the volunteer hotline, and discovering a community as simultaneously strong and broken as she is.

Or uncovering the light within herself that she didn’t know existed.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (19th)

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Wench by Maxine Kaplan (19th)

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Get a Clue by Tiffany Schmidt (19th)

The game’s afoot in the next book of the Bookish Boyfriends series—this time starring Huck and Winston! After Ms. Gregoire assigns the works of Sherlock Holmes in English class, a mystery deepens at Reginald R. Hero High. Huck and Win—Curtis’s younger brother—team up to solve the case . . . and while the sleuths gather clues, another swoon-worthy romance blooms in the school halls.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson (19th)

When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.

Boy is he wrong.

Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.

However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.

Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Patience & Esther: an Edwardian Romance by SW Searle (26th)

Patience is a kindhearted country girl, eking out a living in Edwardian England as tremors of social change rock the world around her. When she starts her employment in formal service on the grounds of an opulent country manor, she has no idea that her own personal revolution is about to begin.

Selfless, dutiful, and just a touch naive, she takes to both her place as a parlor maid and to her new roommate, the bookish and progressive lady’s maid, Esther. In another time, the two women would have kept one another’s company forever in their little attic bedroom, living out their days in the employ of a Lord. But it’s now the dawn of a new age. The expanding empire has brought with it not only plundered wealth, but worldliness and new ideas. Suffragists agitate in the street, idle-rich bohemians challenge sexual mores, and Patience and Esther slowly come to realize the world is wider and full of more adventure and opportunity than they ever imagined . . . so long as they find the will to seize it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (26th)

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage . . .

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi (26th)

Nineteen-year-old Tara Muvvala didn’t mean to lead a double life. But her bone-deep aversion to math + a soul-deep desire to please her mother = her failing math grade + exploding food vlog ‘this masala life’.

Enter her mother’s research intern and resident math genius Farah Ahmed. Tara makes a deal with Farah – help her pass the math course and she’ll welcome Farah into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society.

Grumpy girl gets life lessons…

After losing her mom to a heart attack, dumping her small-minded boyfriend (she’s bisexual, not confused) and reluctantly moving to the US to be near her dad – all in the span of eighteen months, twenty-three-year-old Farah has hit the full quota on LIFE. Two things keep her going – her internship with a brilliant statistics professor and the possibility of meeting her dancing idol through the Bollywood Drama & Dance Society. That is, if her new hot-mess housemate will let her.

Soon Tara and Farah are bonding over chicken biryani, dancing to Bollywood Beats at midnight and kissing… against all the odds. And maybe beginning to realize that while life’s even more complicated than math, love is the one variable that changes everything!

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover (January 26th)

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | Indiebound

A Dowry of Blood by Saint Gibson (31st)

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Buy it: Amazon

New Release Spotlight (+Interview!): Reverie by Ryan La Sala

Honestly, I’m not sure what I can say about Reverie that’s going to top the very fact of its containing a drag queen sorceress, but in five words, this is The World’s Gayest Fever Dream, so I hope that helps any reluctant readers over the fence! It also happens to be a B&N book club pick, so bonus points for being able to participate in that after you read! And now, onward to the blurb and buy links!

Reveries are worlds born from a person’s private fantasies, and once they manifest they can only be unraveled by bringing their conflicts to resolution. Reveries have rules and plots, magic and monsters, and one wrong step could twist the entire thing into a lethal, labyrinthine nightmare. Unraveling them is dangerous work, but it’s what Kane and The Others do.

Or did, until one of The Others purged Kane of his memories. But now Kane is back, and solving the mystery of his betrayal is the only way to unite his team and defeat reality’s latest threat: Poesy, a sorceress bent on harvesting the reveries for their pure, imaginative power.

But what use might a drag queen sorceress have with a menagerie of stolen reveries? And should Kane, a boy with no love for a team that betrayed him, fight to stop her, or defect to aid her?

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

Now, as you may know, dear reader, the whole staff of B&N Teen Blog, including yours truly, was let go with approximately no warning, and I had a bunch of interviews lined up as part of my Get to Know a YA Author series, including one by Ryan La Sala himself! And so, I’m gonna go ahead and continue the delight here so you can Get to Know Ryan La Sala!

Describe your new release in 5 words.

I need at least six.

As this is a book blog, let’s hear three recommendations for favorite queer YAs!

We Set the Dark on FireTehlor Kay Mejia – a gorgeously written, compelling story that I return to again and again. The queerness is central to the plot, and the world is incredibly rendered. I adored.

Black Wings Beating  – Alex FREAKING London!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a mind, what an imagination. Proxy was the first book of his that I read, and I would have been a life long fan with just that. But lucky for humanity, he consistently is delivering excellent books. We are so blessed.

The Wise and the Wicked – Rebecca Podos — Wow did I adore this book. It’s creepy, grim, fantastical, and has one of my fav recent romances. I actually didn’t know much going in, and I’m glad. I hope you read it, and love discovering it as much as I did.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing or reading?

Anybody who’s been to my house could answer this: arts and crafts. I have a constant need to create stuff using my hands. Along with drawing, I’ve recently been doing a lot of bedazzling and fabric work. My second book is all about arts and crafts, and specifically cosplay, and it’s directly inspired by my own fascination with using materials to shape an idea into something tangible, cool, and a little magical.

I also go to the gym a lot. Maybe you think that means working out, but it actually means sashaying on a treadmill to Broadway dance numbers, at very high speeds, until a get flung backwards all at once.

Where’s your dream Book Tour stop?

The Vatican. Wouldn’t that be just wild? But the Pope and I haven’t texted in years. So instead I’ll say: DragCon. It’s a massive drag convention organized by RuPaul, and I would love the opportunity to meet many of the queens that inspired me to write Poesy, my own queen in Reverie. It would also give me a chance to talk to young, queer readers, who are the people I’m most interested in reaching with my work.

If you could retell any story as a YA novel, what would it be and why?

I have major aspirations of digging into some of my favorite, old operas and doing YA retellings. In operatic fantasy, there are simply no rules. Just none. It all comes down to the drama, the performance, and the emotion. And I love applying that same production to my books.

That, or CATS, for all the same reasons.

What’s your favorite way to reward yourself for publishing a book?

For any of my achievements, I tend to lean heavy into retail therapy. But not like, “Oh I want this cute sweater” retail therapy. I mean, “decide I’m now a person who cannot bear to sit on a couch that’s not made from crushed velvet” retail therapy. I think it’s because I spend so much time being an anthropomorphic crab person on my way towards publication, what with all the writing and shut-in-tendencies and all that. By the time I actually hit a milestone, I’m ready to husk off my entire self and just reinvent me. And usually the most expedient way to do that is to buy something so bizarre to your everyday life that it feels like an ejection.

What are you working on now?

Between you, me, and the entire internet? A sequel. 🙂

(c) Lauren Takakjian

Ryan La Sala grew up in Connecticut, but only physically. Mentally, he spent most of his childhood in the worlds of Sailor Moon and Xena: Warrior Princess, which perhaps explains all the twirling. He studied Anthropology and Neuroscience at Northeastern University before becoming a project manager specialized in digital tools. He technically lives in New York City, but has actually transcended material reality and only takes up a human shell for special occasions, like brunch, and to watch anime (which is banned on the astral plane). Reverie is Ryan’s debut novel. You can visit him at ryanlasala.com.

New Releases: December 2019

LGBTQReads is an Amazon, IndieBound, and Apple affiliate, which means purchasing through those links will bring a small percentage of income back to the site. Please use them if you have the means!

Collie Jolly by Leigh Landry (1st)

Ashley’s never owned a dog, much less trained one. But she’s not about to let that little detail stop her—especially during the holiday season—from applying for this dog training job. Her new gig is the perfect way to survive the recession while strolling the festive streets of New Orleans with a cute pooch. The biggest challenge? Heeling a growing attraction to her stunning shut-in of a boss.

When her girlfriend died a year ago, Madison found herself overwhelmed by grief and her girlfriend’s rambunctious puppy. Now the dog is an unmanageable, attention-starved reminder of everything Madison has lost. She’s still afraid to face the world, but her vibrant new dog trainer—with the help of a furry sidekick—is determined to bring light, laughter, and Christmas cheer back into Madison’s life.

Buy it: Amazon | iBooks

This Will Kill That by Danielle K. Roux (3rd)

District City is full of monsters. Not the kind that appear particularly vile from the outside. The kind who murder innocent people for no apparent reason. Abandoned houses are haunted by wayward spirits. Leaders of rival Colors clash over the secrets of a brutal past.

After the Plague thinned out the population, Rin Morana figured people would have stopped killing each other. No such luck. Her parents disappeared, and now she is set to take over as the new Lady Morana, head of the Green faction. To be a leader, Rin must contend with her relationship to her rival, Lady Amaya, as well as her own history of violence.

A series of riddles take Amaya Verity out of her isolated room in the Blue compound and into the hidden spaces of the City. Running away from captivity, Amaya takes shelter with Rin at the old Sydis house. There she meets two young men with demons of their own to contend with and abilities to match. Alan who is hiding out from his abusive ex, and Kazuki who might be the only person in the City that remembers the events of the Plague.

As they dig deeper, Amaya and Rin must decide whether to fight monsters or become them.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Reverie by Ryan La Sala (3rd)

Reveries are worlds born from a person’s private fantasies, and once they manifest they can only be unraveled by bringing their conflicts to resolution. Reveries have rules and plots, magic and monsters, and one wrong step could twist the entire thing into a lethal, labyrinthine nightmare. Unraveling them is dangerous work, but it’s what Kane and The Others do.

Or did, until one of The Others purged Kane of his memories. But now Kane is back, and solving the mystery of his betrayal is the only way to unite his team and defeat reality’s latest threat: Poesy, a sorceress bent on harvesting the reveries for their pure, imaginative power.

But what use might a drag queen sorceress have with a menagerie of stolen reveries? And should Kane, a boy with no love for a team that betrayed him, fight to stop her, or defect to aid her?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Runemaker by Alex R. Kahler (3rd)

This is the final book in the Runebinder Chronicles

Tenn thought the spirits wanted him to find his fellow Hunter, Aidan, to win the war against the undead. But with Aidan on the brink of self-destruction and Tenn reeling from his lover’s spite, their fated convergence seems far from promising.

Especially because Aidan no longer appears to be fighting for the living.

With the Dark Lady whispering commands and Tom‡s guiding his hand, Aidan slips deeper into darkness. And while the world rallies for its final battle against the Dark Lady’s minions, Tenn finds himself torn between saving the boy who’s slipping away and fulfilling a prophecy he can’t understand—one that will require him to harness the most powerful magic the world has ever seen: the Sphere of Maya.

And depending on who unleashes its power, that magic could either save humanity…or erase it.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Hot Ice by Elle Spencer, Aurora Rey, and Erin Zak (10th)

In Ice on Wheels by Aurora Rey, all’s fair in love and roller derby. That’s Riley Fauchet’s motto, until a new job lands her at the same company—and on the same team—as her rival Brooke Landry, the frosty jammer for the Big Easy Bruisers.

In Private Equity by Elle Spencer, Cassidy Bennett spends an unexpected evening at a lesbian nightclub with her notoriously reserved and demanding boss, successful venture capitalist Julia Whitmore. After seeing a different side of Julia, Cassidy can’t seem to shake her desire to know more.

In Closed-Door Policy by Erin Zak, going back to college is never easy, but Caroline Stevens is prepared to work hard and change her life for the better. What she’s not prepared for is Dr. Atlanta Morris, her new professor whose tough demeanor is no match for Caroline’s burgeoning confidence.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West (16th)

A femme kink expert who recently realized something new about her own sexuality…

Leah, a 51 year old fat Jewish queer femme, is an experienced submissive who recently came to terms with being gray ace and is trying to figure out how to rework her life and relationships in a way that more fully honors her gray aceness: as a kink educator, as a sex shop owner, and as a polyamorous kinky person with multiple ongoing play relationships.

A newly single butch who wants to finally explore her dominance…

Her best friend Jordan, a 49 year old fat disabled Jewish pansexual stone butch with PTSD, is newly divorced, has just gotten an awesome new job, moved to NYC and is subletting a room in Leah’s apartment. After years of vanilla monogamous marriage, Jordan wants to explore kink and polyamory. Jordan devoted her adult life to parenting her younger sister and building a home with her wife, and now she is going after what she wants, which may even include making a move on Leah after all these years.

Eight kink lessons between friends…

Leah offers Jordan eight kink lessons, one for each night of Chanukah, to help Jordan find her feet as a novice dominant, certain that they can keep it friendly and educational. After all, she’s been keeping her kink life casual for years. Why would this be different?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Kill Club by Wendy Heard (17th)

Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.

All she has to do is kill a stranger.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound | B&N

Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (23rd)

Kiskeya Burgos left the tropical beaches of the Dominican Republic with a lot to prove. As a pastry chef on the come up, when she arrives in Scotland, she has one goal in mind: win the Holiday Baking Challenge. Winning is her opportunity to prove to her family, her former boss, and most importantly herself, she can make it in the culinary world. Kiskeya will stop at nothing to win , that is, if she can keep her eyes on the prize and off her infuriating teammate’s perfect lips.

Sully Morales, home cooking hustler, and self-proclaimed baking brujita lands in Scotland on a quest to find her purpose after spending years as her family’s caregiver. But now, with her home life back on track, it’s time for Sully to get reacquainted with her greatest love, baking. Winning the Holiday Baking Challenge is a no brainer if she can convince her grumpy AF baking partner that they make a great team both in and out of the kitchen before an unexpected betrayal ends their chance to attain culinary competition glory.

Buy it: Amazon

 

 

 

Happy Indie Bookstore Day!

Here at LGBTQReads the sole non-donation income that keeps the site running does come from a certain website’s affiliate links, but don’t let that fool you into thinking we don’t love indies, especially the ones that carry small-press/self-pub queer books! To celebrate those very stores, here are a bunch of links to celebrate indie bookstore day the best way possible and get some amazing books in the process!

This will be an annual feature, so if a bookstore you love isn’t on this year’s list, it may be on next year’s! I obviously couldn’t feature every store or every book, but if this post sells a few books and even helps people find some signed copies of their faves, I feel good about it!

Note: I did not list a book as signed if the *listing* for the book did not say it, but many of these books were pulled from “Signed Books” lists on the sites. If you want a signed copy, double check!

Shop at…

Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville, IL)

YA

Book Culture (NYC Area)

Adult

The Brain Lair (South Bend, IN)

PB

MG/YA

Adult

Non-Fiction

Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

YA

Adult

Gay’s the Word

Books of Wonder (NYC, NY)

PB

MG

YA

McNally Jackson (NYC, NY)

Adult

Little Shop of Stories (Decatur, GA)

YA

Fountain Bookstore (Richmond, VA)

PB

MG

YA

Adult

Joseph-Beth Booksellers (OH/KY)

YA

NA/Adult

Malaprop’s (Asheville, NC)

YA

Murder by the Book (Houston, TX)

Adult

Myst Galaxy Books (San Diego, CA)

YA

Adult

Northshire Bookstore (NY/VT)

YA

Adult

Oblong Books (Rhinebeck, NY)

MG

YA

Adult

One More Page Books (Alexandria, VA)

YA

Park Road Books (Charlotte, NC)

YA

Adult

Poetry

Parnassus (Nashville, TN)

MG/YA

Adult

Powell’s (Portland, OR)

MG/YA

NA/Adult

Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh, NC)

YA

The Ripped Bodice (LA, CA)

PB

YA

NA/Adult

The Strand (NYC, NY)

YA

Adult

Third Place Books (Seattle, WA)

PB

MG

YA

Adult

Nonfiction

Poetry

Trident Booksellers and Cafe (Boston, MA)

YA

Adult

Writer’s Block Bookstore (Winter Park, FL)

YA

Adult