Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver

E.K. Weaver’s critically-acclaimed road trip romance comic is collected here in this award-winning, commercially-successful omnibus edition. Less Than Epic tells the story of Amal (just out of the closet and freshly disowned by his parents) and TJ (a mysterious and eccentric vagrant) and their journey across the continental United States.

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How I Found This Book

Found this one at Chamblin’s Bookmine, and loved the art so I decided to pick it up. I actually had heard nothing about this before seeing it at the bookstore.

Overall Feeling

I want to never leave this story. I’m OBSESSED with these characters. They’re flawed and real and amazing and everything I could want in characters. I’m also definitely in love with Amal and everything he is. I seriously would read comics about TJ and Amal until the time, I just want it to so bad.

Cons

My only two negatives are this: One, I wish it had been in color. I know that having it in black and white make the very few panels of color that much more spectacular, but I just would’ve loved to see them in full color the whole time. Two, I just need more. The ending was NOWHERE near enough for me. I need to see what happens next. I have no idea if Weaver plans on doing anything else with these characters but I’m willing to beg for it.

Pros

Everything else. The art was done so beautifully. It was so funny and moving at the same time. Amal specifically has so much growth through the book, which I loved watching. I loved being able to see how TJ brought out a new side of Amal that he’d kept hidden for his family. I also loved the impulsiveness that Amal showed throughout the book. I feel we can all be a little more impulsive. It might help us in the long run. Also, as a side note, I’m in love with Amal’s hair.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer characters, character of color (Indian I believe).

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Discussions of drugs, marijuana use, sex depicted

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Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble

Seventeen-year-old Luke Chesser is trying to forget his spectacular failure of a love life. He practices marching band moves for hours in the hot Texas sun, deals with his disapproving father, and slyly checks out the new band field tech, Curtis Cameron. Before long, Luke is falling harder than he knew he could. And this time, he intends to play it right.

Since testing positive for HIV, Curtis has careened between numbness and fear. Too ashamed to tell anyone, Curtis can’t possibly act on his feelings. And Luke–impulsive, funny, and more tempting than he realizes–won’t take a hint. Even when Curtis distances himself it backfires, leaving him with no idea how to protect Luke from the truth.

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How I Found This Book

I had heard of this one from some book blogs I follow, but I found a marked up copy at Powell’s in Portland, OR and I just had to pick it up!

Overall Feeling

Overall, it was pretty okay. I’ll be honest in that I was wowed by any means but I definitely enjoyed reading it and was glad I had picked it up. The story was very rushed however, which is something that I didn’t enjoy at all. I felt like we didn’t get enough in terms of character development. However, the story overall was such a good one, and I felt had a lot of realism to it. Obviously, every person’s reaction to HIV is different, but everything Trumble portrayed here made sense and felt very realistic.

Cons

Like I said, the story was just so rushed. I feel like we didn’t actually get to process the character’s emotions in the story, but rather we were just told that they’d grown. For instance, Luke says some terrible stuff to Curtis at one point, and then like two chapters later, he says he’s in love with Curtis. But we don’t get to see his process of going from anger to love. Honestly, the fact that they loved each other was such a stretch to me, because I saw nothing in there that could have lead them to those feelings that quickly. Trumble jumped ahead weeks at a time, with nothing more than “They texted that week.” It made it hard for me to actually like Luke to be honest. I also HATED how we never really saw Curtis coming to terms with his status. Just all of a sudden in the last chapter he was fine with it and ready to date and love.

I did also find the cover a little odd. From what I understand Luke is featured in one of Trumble’s other books, so maybe it makes more sense if you read that one, but I just did not understand why he’s wearing headphones on the cover… At least I think that’s supposed to be Luke. But I cannot remember them ever talking about listening to music, only the band stuff. It just seemed strange…

Pros

Well first I will always love a good story about HIV and how it doesn’t have to mean the end of your life. So automatically Trumble gets points from me for writing this story. Also, like I said earlier, I do think the reactions were very realistic, especially from Curtis. Having to deal with that diagnosis, not being able to tell his family, feeling like he didn’t deserve love or that he was gonna ruin Luke’s life were all so real and really well written. I do still hate that we don’t get WHY he came to terms, but I’m glad that Trumble also showed that part of the story. I’m also glad she showed the experience of how Curtis’ roommate’s mom handled his diagnosis. Reactions like that are still prevalent today unfortunately.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer characters, character with HIV

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Minor descriptions of violence, mentions of depression.

Quotes

I’m as bound to him as the moon is to the earth. He keeps me in orbit; and maybe I do the same for him.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: No House To Call My Home (Love, Family, and Other Transgressions) by Ryan Berg

Underemployed and directionless, Ryan Berg took a job in a group home for disowned and homeless LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) teenagers. His job was to help these teens discover their self worth, get them back on their feet, earn high school degrees, and find jobs. But he had no idea how difficult it would be, and the complexities that were involved with coaxing them away from dangerous sex work and cycles of drug and alcohol abuse, and helping them heal from years of abandonment and abuse.

In No House to Call My Home, Ryan Berg tells profoundly moving, intimate, and raw stories from the frontlines of LGBTQ homelessness and foster care.  No House to Call My Home will provoke readers into thinking in new ways about how we define privilege, identity, love and family. Because beyond the tears and abuse, the bluster and bravado, what emerges here is a love song to that irrepressible life force of youth: hope.

How I Found This Book

I first heard about it on Twitter, but found it in Powell’s Books when I was visiting a friend (did you know they have an entire LGBTQ+ section?!). I ended up reading this is almost one sitting while on my flight from Portland.

Overall Feeling

All the tears ever for this book. Go into this ready for overwhelming sadness to fill your entire body. But it is super important and necessary to read this book. Berg really captures the youth here in a way that reminds us how truly vulnerable homeless LGBTQ+ youth can be. The stories may have you feeling low but the book ultimately leaves you feeling ready to fight for a better foster care system for our youth. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. But do not go into expecting a “everything ends perfectly” type of story. These are real stories, and some provide more questions than answers.

Cons

The biggest con for me is a very personal one: telling other people’s stories. I always feel a little weird about someone writing stories about someone else, especially in the social work field. Don’t get me wrong, they’re extremely important stories to share, but I’m always get a strange feeling about it. I end up wondering did they know their story would be shared, did they agree, do they get profits? I’m curious about that with this book as well, but I haven’t heard much about that piece.

Pros

The stories are powerful and raw, as they should be. Berg doesn’t sugarcoat anything, allowing the stories to show you the trauma experienced by the youth. Berg’s writing tells the stories of these youth in a way that makes you feel as if you’re working right beside him. You can feel not only their struggles, but also the challenges Berg faces as a social work in a flawed system. Berg also offers real solutions to fix the flawed system that is inherently disadvantageous to youth of color or LGBTQ+ status.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Features LGBTQ+ youth, primarily of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Sexual violence/abuse, domestic violence, prostitution/sex work, drug use/abuse, homelessness.

Quotes

This may be all good and true, but gay rights advocates’ interest in blending in with the broader society and their narrow focus on marriage equality have resulted in the neglect of other pressing issues.

Yes, LGBTQ folks are less stigmatized, and more visible, but only when safely celibate, coupled off, and mirroring heteronormative values-standards that present heterosexuality as the preferred, or “normal,” identity.

Audre Lorde taught us, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

The system would need to look through a different lens, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty.

There are more than 2 million LGBTQ adults in the United States willing to foster or adopt, yet 60 percent of foster care agencies report never having placed a youth with LGBTQ couples, and 40 percent of agencies said they would not even accept applications from LGBTQ individuals or couples.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: The Other Side

Featuring 19 stories by 23 different creators, The Other Side is a celebration of queer romance and the paranormal! Inside, you’ll find positive romance stories featuring a wide variety of queer and trans protagonists-as well as poltergeists, shadow monsters, guitar-playing hypnotists, lost angels, genderfluid vampires, trickster ghosts, and many more!

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How I Found This Book

This was one I found while it was also in its Kickstarter phase thanks to Tumblr.

Overall Feeling

I had an almost equal like/dislike for the stories featured here. The ones I enjoyed were ones I really loved. There were quite a few though that I found myself skipping and not caring for. I think they need to make another one though, and I’m hopeful that a few of the authors/artists will come out with their own works.

Cons

Like I said, it was almost equal for stories I disliked to stories I liked. Some of the art just also wasn’t for me, but of course that varies for everyone.

Pros

Okay the stories I loved were amazing. Yes No Maybe by Kate Leth and Katie O’Neill was so adorable that I wish there was a whole series about the main characters. Bare Bones by Britt Sabo was surprising and I loved the artwork. Third Circle Pizza by Laurel Varian and Ezra Rose was not at all what I expected but exactly what I needed. This is another one I want to be a full series. Pulpit Point by Amelia Onorato was so cute and I loved that they made one of the main characters have a prosthetic hand. And then my ultimate favorite was Black Dog by Fyodor Pavlov which was so incredible and amazing. And I won’t even pretend that if the main character was real I would be totally and completely in love with him. I don’t understand how they drew him so sexy…

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

All of it! Queer artists, authors, characters. Female artists, authors, characters. Non-binary/trans* artists, authors, characters. Artists, authors, and characters of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Some minimal violence.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology

Beyond is an anthology of queer sci-fi and fantasy comics. Featuring 18 stories by 26 contributors, Beyond is a 250+ page, black and white, queer comic anthology, full of swashbuckling space pirates, dragon slayers, death-defying astronauts, and monster royalty. Each story celebrates and showcases unquestionably queer characters as they explore the galaxy, mix magic, have renegade adventures, and save the day!

The Beyond Anthology was born from a desire to see stories inspired by people like us (queer people with diverse genders and sexualities) slaying dragons, piloting spaceships, getting into trouble, and saving the day—without having to read for their queerness from between the lines. We wanted to see beautiful, heartwarming, and adventurous stories that reflect and celebrate the many facets of gender and sexuality, without having to worry that their queerness would cast them as a villain, a pariah, or turn them into a cautionary tale.

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It popped up on my Twitter feed back when the Kickstarter was just starting. I decided to contribute because I love to support queer art.

Overall Feeling

This was such a fun read. I loved most of the stories in the book and the art was all around superb. It really felt like a good mix of science fiction and fantasy, which I feel other collections have struggled with. It also opened my eyes to some new artists to follow on social media.

Cons

As with most collections, there were some stories that just weren’t my thing. I found myself skipping one or two stories cause they just weren’t my thing.

Pros

Such diversity! I loved reading so many different queer stories. Some of my favorites include Of Families & Other Magical Objects by Reed Black, O-Type Hypergiant by Jon Cairns, and The Next Day by A. Stiffler and K. Copeland. The art and stories were amazing in these stories, and I wish they could’ve been full series. I’m hopeful they do another Beyond anthology because Sfe R. Monster (the editor) sure can pick them!

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

All of it. Queer authors, artists, characters. Female authors, artists, characters. Non-binary/trans* authors, artists, characters. Authors, artists, and characters of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Some fighting/violence. Mentions of PTSD.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

It’s Dade’s last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a “boyfriend” who won’t publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend), and parents on the verge of a divorce. College is Dade’s shining beacon of possibility, a horizon to keep him from floating away.

Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid. Falling in real love finally lets Dade come out of the closet – and, ironically, ignites a ruthless passion in Pablo. But just when true happiness has set in, tragedy shatters the dreamy curtain of summer, and Dade will use every ounce of strength he’s gained to break from his past and start fresh with the future.

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How I Found This Book

Many years ago, when I was just 17, I purchased this book for my original Kindle and devoured it in one night. It’s still one of my all time favorite books.

Overall Feeling

I’m still in love with this book. Every time I read it, I find out more and more about myself. I think reading it now, it provides even more insight to things I had felt in high school and college. The writing is so beautiful that it just keeps you engaged from start to finish. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without this book. Dade is such a relatable character and I find myself rooting for him every step of the way.

Cons

I don’t know if I have any cons about this book. I do wish Nick Burd would right another book but so far he hasn’t.

Pros

Everything. This was so different from a normal “coming-out” novel and spends more time focusing on Dade as a person rather than just his coming out process. The writing is hauntingly poetic and I always find myself captivated by it as I read. I also feel that it wraps everything up nicely, providing a good ending where you don’t need a sequel (although I would totally read one). I also love the main character so much. I first read this book at 17 and I feel I can still relate to him in some ways. I also love Alex still and as I was rereading this I remembered why I deemed him my perfect book-boyfriend when I first read it.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer main character. Queer author of color.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

Mentions of suicide.

Quotes

I was afraid of giving myself away.

All you do is look for places to get lost

Let it all out. If only I could. Letting it all out would involve me exploding like a firework, a beautiful riot of rainbow sparks bouncing around the car and lighting up the entire lot. Everyone would look over to see what was going on, and one by one they would understand everything I had inside me.

You’re not lonelier than anyone else in the world.

Start fresh. Start with nothing, man. Then work your way back. That’s my motto.

Things and people may just appear, but they appear for a reason.

I’d think back to the times when I felt like everything was closing in on me, those times when I thought I was stuck, and I realized that I was wrong. There is always hope. The world is vast and meant for wandering. There is always somewhere to go.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: Out in the Open by A.J. Truman

Libraries are meant for studying – not sex

College sophomore Ethan Follett never says what’s on his mind and never wants to rock the boat. After a high school social life spent anonymous and alone, things are finally falling into place for him. He’s found a group of friends just as studious as he, and is on track for a promising legal career. Out in the open, things couldn’t be better, but secretly Ethan yearns for some real excitement in his life.

He finds it in cocky fratboy Greg Sanderson, who challenges every rigid, preconceived notion Ethan lives by. Soon, their sparring relationship turns sexual, and these enemies-with-benefits get their freak on all over campus. Yet the more Ethan comes out of his shell, the more Greg retreats into his, working overtime to keep his ladies man public persona intact. As the sex gets hotter, and they get closer to getting caught, one part of their arrangement can’t stay hidden any longer: love.

OUT IN THE OPEN is a M/M new adult romance filled with humor, heart, and hot guys. The book is intended for audiences 18+ as it contains explicit sex and language.

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How I Found This Book

I used to get emails from BookGorrilla and this was free for a limited time so I picked it up.

Overall Feeling

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that definitely conveyed the feeling of falling for a “straight” guy trope. Both sexy and sappy I would read this again and again. There were a few scenes that made me fan myself, they were so hot. But it was the overall story and character development that sold me on this story.

Cons

Definitely too short. I also found it hard to like the main character at times. If he were a friend of mine I would’ve yelled at him to stop being an idiot at least three separate times during this book. I also felt that it had that stereotypical “fall in love right away” feeling that I didn’t completely buy from the main characters.

Pros

It was such a cute story. The falling in love with a “straight” guy trope is one I thoroughly enjoy so I was glad to see it done so well. It wasn’t the typical story but still really reminded me of my college days. I feel that you saw character growth from Ethan throughout, which I loved. You really see him coming into who he is as a person, and shedding some of that self-doubt. I really felt he needed it, and it was very believable as you read it. I also felt the writing was done very well, keeping the reader engaged.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer main characters. Queer author.

Trigger Warnings (Possible Spoilers)

There’s a brief scene that leans a little too close to attempted sexual assault.

Posted in Book Reviews, Queer Reads

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

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How I Found This Book

I saw this on one of those lists of LGBT YA books you must read. I finally found it at my local friends of the library store.

Overall Feeling

I wanted to cry during the whole thing. Saenz’s writing conveys a melancholy that starts in your soul and just comes rushing to the surface the second you open the book. I almost couldn’t stop reading, putting it down only because my eyes needed to close. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult Fiction, but especially to Queer youth.

Cons

To be honest, the only con I wanted was more to this story. The climax seemed to happen right at the end and I needed more than just that resolution. I believe he’s writing a sequel so hopefully I’ll get everything I need from there.

Pros

Is it too much to say everything? I just loved this book. I really loved Ari and just about everything he said and did reminded me so much of myself in high school. Ari was so honest throughout the book as well, which is something I don’t think we get to see often enough. Saenz did a great job portraying Ari and Dante’s friendship as well. The book really grabs you as well and I found myself feeling like I was breezing through it only to find I had read only a couple pages.

Diversity? (Possible Spoilers)

Queer main characters. Main characters are people of color, specifically Mexican. Queer author. Author is a man of color and identifies as a Chicano.

Trigger Warnings (Possible spoilers)

There’s mentions and brief descriptions of homophobic violence.

Quotes

Words were different when they lived inside you.

It was so beautiful and scary, I wondered about the silence of storms and how sometimes it seemed that a storm wanted to break the world and the world refused to break.

That’s what I did with everything. Kept it inside.

I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt.

But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.

Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere.