Tag Archives: The Meaning of Birds

New Releases: April 2019

Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack & Isabel Galupo/ill. Becca Human (2nd)

Once in a faraway kingdom, a strong, brave maiden is invited to attend the prince’s royal ball, but she’s not as excited to go as everyone else. After her mother convinces her to make an appearance, she makes a huge impression on everyone present, from the villagers to the king and queen, but she ends up finding true love in a most surprising place.

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The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (2nd)

36117102A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

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The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (2nd)

36535913On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

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The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston (2nd)

39725622The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

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A Lover’s Mercy by Fiona Zedde (3rd)

Mai Redstone prowls Atlanta as its hero, Mercy, trying to save people from themselves and each other. With her newly discovered, stronger powers, she acts as if she’s invincible. To those who know her though, she’s as delicate as a cobra lily.

Xóchitl is the complete opposite. Violence comes naturally to her. Hard-hearted and thick-skinned, the softest thing about her is her love for Mai. As part of an elite law-enforcement team in the secret Meta community, Xóchitl hunts and punishes anyone who dares to break their rules.

But when Mai is in danger from her own powerful family, Xóchitl’s soft underbelly is exposed. How can she protect Mai when she can’t even tell allies from enemies? For the first time in her life, Xóchitl feels as threatened as the vulnerable humans Mai protects.
Xóchitl is used to being the strongest one in the room, but when she suddenly isn’t, will she allow herself to surrender to her lover’s mercy?

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The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown (16th)

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Before, Jessica has always struggled with anger issues, but come sophomore year that all changes when Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. And for the first time, it feels like the future is filled with possibilities. After In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from the devastating loss, Jess pushes everyone away, and throws out her plans to go to art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.

Desperate for an escape, Jess gets consumed in her work-study program, letting all of her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected new friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Although Jess may never draw again, if she can find a way to heal and room in her heart, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself without Vivi.

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Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner (16th)

31681158Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?

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Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West (16th)

In this queer polyamorous m/f romance novella, two metamours realize they have crushes on each other while planning their shared partner’s birthday party together. 

Ernest, a Jewish autistic demiromantic queer fat trans man submissive, and Nora, a Jewish disabled queer fat femme cis woman switch, have to contend with an age gap, a desire not to mess up their lovely polyamorous dynamic as metamours, the fact that Ernest has never been attracted to a cis person before, and the reality that they are romantically attracted to each other, all while planning their dominant’s birthday party and trying to do a really good job.

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Not the Marrying Kind by Jae (17th)

Not the Marrying KindSmall-town florist Ashley Gaines loves her little flower shop and putting together the perfect bouquets for weddings and other happy occasions. Her own love life, however, is far from blossoming. Ash has decided that staying in the closet is safer than risking her heart again.

Local bakery owner Sasha Peterson hasn’t had much luck mixing it up with romance either. Besides, she’s too busy whipping up delicious treats to have time for a relationship.

But when their town’s first lesbian wedding forces them to work together, Ashley and Sasha discover they have more in common than they imagined.

During food fights, cake tastings, and slow waltzes, they begin to see each other in a new light. Soon Ashley has to admit to herself that Sasha is tempting more than just her sweet tooth.

What else is on the menu in this delicious lesbian romance? Find out in this second book in the Fair Oaks series by award-winning author Jae. It’s featuring new main characters and can be read as a standalone.

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How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom by S.J. Goslee (23rd)

37534629Nolan Grant is sixteen, gay, and (definitely) still a virgin. He’s never had a boyfriend, or even been kissed. It’s not like Penn Valley is brimming with prospects. And when his big sister stages an elaborate “prom-posal” so Nolan can ask out his not-so-secret crush, Nolan freezes. He’s saved from further embarrassment by bad boy Bern, who, for his own reasons, offers to fake-date Nolan.

Nolan thinks it’s the perfect way to get Daphne off his back and spend the rest of the year drawing narwhals, tending to plants, and avoiding whatever died under his bed a few weeks ago. What he doesn’t think about is Bern’s ex-girlfriend, who seriously wants to kill him.

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A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G. and J.R. Zuckerberg (23rd)

40538740In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and JR Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!

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Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly (23rd)

This is the third book in the Amberlough Dossiers series.

The revolution has come and gone, with Amberlough City striving to rebuild itself from the ashes. The Ospies have been ousted, and the very face of the nation has been changed in the process.

Now, a rising politician is determined to bring Amberlough’s traitors to justice.

Including double agent Cyril DePaul.

Everyone believes Cyril deserves to suffer for his crimes… except an old lover and an estranged sister. Soon, they become entangled in another web of high-stakes politics, underground crime, and personal deceit. Only the most extreme actions can save them from the iron reach of the law, before it is too late.

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Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (30th)

35843729Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places.

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Mama’s Boy by Dustin Lance Black (30th)

40915201From the Academy Award-winning screenwriter and political activist, a candid, vivid, powerfully resonant memoir about growing up as a gay Mormon in Texas that is, as well, a moving tribute to the mother who taught him about surviving against all odds

Dustin Lance Black wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Milkand helped overturn California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, but as an LGBTQ+ activist he has unlikely origins. Raised in a military, Mormon household outside San Antonio, Texas, Black always found inspiration in his plucky, determined mother. Having contracted polio as a small girl, she endured leg braces and iron lungs, and was repeatedly told that she could never have children or live a normal life. Defying expectations, she raised Black and his two brothers, built a career, escaped two abusive husbands, and eventually moved the family to a new life in Northern California. While Black struggled to come to terms with his sexuality–something antithetical to his mother’s religious views–she remained his source of strength and his guiding light. Later, she would stand by his side when he helped bring the historic gay marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mama’s Boy is a stirring celebration of the connections between mother and son, Red states and Blue, and the spirit of optimism and perseverance that can create positive change in the world.

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Belly Up by Eva Darrows (30th)

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

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

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

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Fave Five: Queer YAs About Grieving

37 Things I Love (in No Particular Order) by Kekla Magoon

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

I Felt a Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton

Coming up in 2019: The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown

Rainbow heart

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown!

Please excuse me while I go full fangirl, but if you’ve spent any time asking for recs on the LGBTQReads Tumblr, you know that Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit falls out of my mouth about twelve times a day. So how psyched am I to be revealing the cover of Jaye Robin Brown‘s next f/f YA, The Meaning of Birds, which releases on April 16, 2019?? (Very. Is that not obvious? I’m sorry, I thought it was obvious.) Here’s the story behind the story:

Before:
Ever since her father’s death, Jessica has struggled with the anger building inside her. And being one of the only out teens in school hadn’t helped matters. But come sophomore year, all that changes when effervescent Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. Suddenly the future is a blank canvas, filled with possibilities.

After:
In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased in an instant when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from another devastating loss, Jess falls back into her old ways. She gets into fights. She pushes away her family and friends. And she trashes her plans for art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.
 
Desperate to escape her grief, Jess finds solace in her gritty work-study program, letting her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Jess may never draw again, but if she can find room in her heart to heal, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself.

And here’s the most excellent cover, designed by Jessie Gang with illustrations by Elliana Esquivel!

The Meaning of Birds releases from Harper on April 16, 2019!

Jaye Robin Brownor JRo to her friends, has been many things in her life–jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher–but is now living the full-time writer life. She currently lives in New England but is taking her partner, dog, and horses back south to a house in the woods where she hopes to live happily ever after. She is the author of NO PLACE TO FALL, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, and the forthcoming, THE MEANING OF BIRDS which releases 4/16/19.

Authors in Conversation: Jaye Robin Brown and Amber Smith

Excited to welcome two wonderful authors to the site today, Jaye Robin Brown, author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, and Amber Smith, author of The Last to Let Go, both of which are contemporary YAs with lesbian protagonists! Come learn more about their books and thoughts!

*****

Jaye Robin Brown: I’m so excited to get a chance to interview you! I vividly remember that Madcap Retreat in Gatlinburg, where you shared a room with me and Robin Constantine. I was so sick that first day, barely knew you, but you graciously let me put my germy hands all over an arc of your first book, The Way I Used to Be. Reading the opening pages, I knew immediately you were going to be a force in contemporary YA fiction and I wasn’t wrong. Now, your second book, The Last to Let Go, has hit the shelves and wow, talk about a sophomore book with a bow and a flourish. My heart hurt in so many ways reading it. You took a girl who’d grown up with domestic violence and really showed us how having that model of relationship can seriously mess up one’s own relationships. I loved how as a reader I got so frustrated with Brooke’s interactions and then at some point I got it, like, OH, OF COURSE, it’s the only way she could be. Was this unspooling intentional?

Amber Smith: I know, I’m so excited to get to have the chance to chat with you too! Yes, I remember that retreat! I remember how sick you were. And I remember being so honored for my little arc to be in your germy hands because I had just finished reading your debut, NO PLACE TO FALL and I totally fell (no pun intended) in love with it. Seriously, I became an instant fan of your writing, so when Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit came out I couldn’t wait to get my copy! I had such high expectations and I was not disappointed. Which is why I’m so touched by your kind words about The Last to Let Go.)

I really love creating complex, flawed characters who don’t always make the best decisions. And one of the things I wanted to show in TLTLG was how being raised in an environment rife with violence can often lead to the cycle of abuse being perpetuated in the lives those who witness it. But I wanted to show not only how this happens, but how it is stopped. I think the cycle of abuse phenomenon can be hard to understand, both from the perspective of an outsider, as well as someone stuck right in the thick of things, and so I wanted this “unspooling” (perfect word, by the way) to happen gradually, once we’re in the main character’s head-space, and hopefully seeing things from her perspective.

And while we’re on the topic of characters who don’t always make the best choices… one of the things I loved so much about Peaches is how you showed the main character, Jo, who was always out and proud, make the decision to go back in the closet for the sake of her evangelist father. It was such a fascinating journey because often we read stories about the opposite process—coming out, rather than going back in. Yet the whole time the one thing that remains constant is Jo’s faith. You struck such an amazing balance, and that’s not something I’ve seen before. So, I’m interested to know, what inspired this story?

JRB: It’s funny, some readers got a bit frustrated with Jo and her retreat to the closet, which I totally get, but I think the reality is very real for most LGBTQ people. We’re still in a world where we’re constantly checking in on our “safety” in any given situation. Jo’s decision was based both on her desire for her father’s happiness and maybe a bit of her own fear in a new situation so she got to use her dad as the out. As to the inspiration, it was a combination of things. I heard an NPR segment on the wealth of radio pastors and thought “What if one of those guys had a lesbian daughter?” But I didn’t want to pursue the wealth angle, and it was too easy to write the stereotypical “you’re going to hell” pastor. I was also teaching high school at the time and had seen, first-hand, the devastation a judgmental church family could have on a queer young person. I knew that in larger cities, LGBTQ affirming churches were (and are) a thing. So out of this came Jo, very gay, very Christian, and unabashed about either.

Like you, my first book, No Place to Fall, featured a straight protagonist. I wrote straight characters for many of my early manuscripts (ironically, my first manuscript to land me an agent was a f/f story—but the agent didn’t want to go out with that one—he and I parted ways and that manuscript is shelved). Now that Peaches has been so well-received and my third book releasing in 2019, The Meaning of Birds, also features an already out lesbian teen, I sometimes wonder if I could do straight romance again. I’ll be honest, I think about it from a financial standpoint, would it be a better career move for me? But then I shudder and think, no way, I don’t want to do that, I’m finally OUT in my writing and unlike Jo, I don’t want to go back in. What are your thoughts on making that switch with The Last to Let Go? Were you nervous about the romance between Dani and Brooke being out in the world or did it feel like a big sigh of relief?

AS: It’s strange, I feel like so often people think of coming out as this one definitive event, but the reality is you have to come out a million times; it’s a decision you have to make over and over again. So, it’s been an interesting process to sort of “come out” in many ways with this second book where my main character, Brooke, is so gay. I think because there was really nothing remotely queer at all in The Way I Used to Be, people haven’t necessarily thought of me as a queer writer (despite all my rainbow emojis). So here’s a fun, little-known fact about The Way I Used to Be: in a VERY early draft of that book I played around with writing the main character as bi, but I ultimately edited that out because, much to my dismay, it just didn’t serve the story. But with The Last to Let Go, I knew Brooke was a lesbian from the start—I could see and feel her so vividly in my mind that it wasn’t even a conscious choice. And in this case it really did serve the story, because Brooke’s journey to embrace her identity and her struggle with coming to terms with her dysfunctional family were completely intertwined from the very beginning.

On the one hand it felt so great to write Brooke as a lesbian, but on the other, part of me was nervous about representation. The #ownvoices movement in yalit is so incredibly important, yet it still feels super intimidating to actually call myself an #ownvoices writer. It’s such a big responsibility, and I really wanted to get not only the story right, but the LGBTQ rep part right, as well (because I think we all know firsthand how it feels to see representation mishandled). My third book, which I’m currently working on, is a first love story that features a trans character, so it’s definitely queer, but not the same setup as the f/f love story thread in TLTLG. Beyond book 3, I really don’t know what’s going to be next for me (which is both liberating and terrifying!). I do often wonder, though, if the sequence of my two books were reversed (if The Last to Let Go was my debut rather than The Way I Used to Be) how that might have affected the reception of both books…I’m still not sure.

You mentioned being a teacher, so I’m curious about whether or not your experience working with young people has influenced your writing at all? And what kinds of responses have you gotten from readers about your books—did they differ a lot from NPTF to Peaches, as you moved from writing a straight protagonist to a queer one?

JRB: Oh for sure it was helpful. I miss having that ready access to my target audience, even for simple things like “do you get this reference?” As to reader responses, the response to Peaches has been much stronger than to my first book. I regularly get emails from readers thanking me and telling me how much it meant to read about a lesbian character of faith. And not just from queer youth, but from adults, both straight and gay. It’s heightened my awareness of the opportunity I have as an #ownvoices writer to put meaningful stories into the world and to be out and proud as I do it. It’s very gratifying. And a heady responsibility to do my best.

So here’s a fun (and final) question. What three queer books (currently published and available) would be on Dani and Brooke’s bookshelves and why?

AS: I LOVE this question! Well, since Brooke and Dani’s personalities are so different I feel like their books would reflect that. I think Brooke would have something more classic on her book shelf, like Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. Dani, on the other hand, has a much funkier, more eclectic taste, so I feel like she’d have something like the Batwoman comic book series proudly displayed in her bedroom. But then I could see the two of them reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home together and totally bonding over it!

This has been such fun, thank you so much for chatting with me, Jaye! I’m so grateful that you are out there writing these stories that need to be told. And I cannot wait to read The Meaning of Birds next year!

JRB: It’s been a total blast! And readers, be sure and pick up Amber’s latest book, The Last to Let Go, so you can meet Dani and Brooke for yourself!

And thank you, Dahlia for the invite!

Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to her friends, has been many things in her life–jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher–but is now living the full-time writer life. She currently lives in New England but is taking her partner, dog, and horses back south to a house in the woods where she hopes to live happily ever after. She is the author of NO PLACE TO FALL, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, and the forthcoming THE MEANING OF BIRDS.

Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in painting, she earned her MA in art history. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. She is the author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go. Visit her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.