Tag Archives: lgbt literature

ARC Review – When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Title: When the Moon Was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I haven’t read Anna-Marie McLemore’s award winning debut, but when I got When the Moon Was Ours in my goodie bag from #TeensReadFeed back in May, the premise had me completely intrigued. This is a novel about defying odds, encompassing identity, and it just offers a plethora of wonder and enchantment to the reader.

This book focuses on magical realism, sexuality, a transgender protagonist, and a Latina main character, who both inhabit each others worlds in the most beautiful and thoughtful way. The beautiful writing sweeps the reader into such an amazing space, and I found myself completely glued to the words on the page. Sam and Miel’s journey is so cleverly written, and McLemore makes you the reader feel like you’re along for the ride. Their friendship was perfect, perfect, perfect. I loved them, I cheered for them, I wanted them to have everything in the world. I felt like I knew both protagonists so well, and I loved the way in which McLemore dealt with Sam’s identity in particular, as it was so methodically done, and I had so much sympathy for him throughout the story.

I also urge readers to please read the Author’s Note at the end of this novel. It was actually one of my favourite parts of the book as it offers so much insight into how this novel was crafted and cared for. When the Moon Was Ours is a stunning journey for readers who love complex relationships and magical storytelling. I was so sad when I got to the last page of this book, simply because I just didn’t want it to be over.

Five Must-Have Books from #TeensReadFeed

Raincoast invited me and a bunch of other bloggers to an event in Toronto to showcase their upcoming line-up of titles for Winter/Spring 2017. The list of titles that they narrowed it to was completely insane, and if I am being frank, I need to say how impressed I was given the plethora of titles releasing in Winter alone. However, what I love about the #TeensReadFeed events is that they are a chance to talk to other bloggers and publishing staff to learn what folks think are going to be the it titles. It also helps that the event is run by some of the best and most delightful people in the publishing business.

There was also a special guest via Google Hangout for the Toronto Crowd, which was Mary E. Pearson! I am a shame to admit I have only read one book by her. After her discussion about writing and the writing process, I am super excited to check out some of her other books and perhaps continue the Remanent Chronicles. Those lucky ducks in B.C had her in person! SO COOL!

It was hard for me to narrow down the five titles from the event that I believe will be must haves for me personally, but I am going to give this a try. Let’s be honest, I kinda wanted to read all the darn books on the list.

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Caraval by Stephanie Barber (Release Date: January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books)

Oh all the books showcased at the event, this was the one everyone repeatedly stated they wanted to read. I was lucky enough to trade for a copy of it at the event, so I am pretty darn excited to read this one (and keep finding myself tempted to pick it up and fly through it). I am a large sucker for “circus”-style books, or books where it is about performances or games, and this book seems like it’s just a little bit of everything, pixie-dust and more. I’ve heard the writing is beautiful, and that apparently it is a favourite in the Raincoast offices at the moment. Colour me super excited to get to this one. 🙂

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Under Rose-Tainted Skies
by Louise Gornall (January 3rd 2017 by Clarion Books)

Those who have been around the blog long enough know I am a lover and advocate of tough!teen literature, and I love books that focus on much more difficult subject matters. This book is about mental illness, and even more specifically about a girl with agoraphobia and OCD. The author is a mental health advocate, and I am a sucker for books like this which discuss illnesses that I am less familiar with. Sometimes their are topics you just want to have more perspectives on, and I admit that agoraphobia is not a topic I have read a lot about. I am excited to see how Norah’s journey will unfold when the book releases!

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Get it Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough (April 4th 2017 by Chronicle Books)

I have been wanting to read this novel since it released in Australia, and I never bothered to import it (or ask my favourite Aussie about it). I looooooove contemporary fiction sent in Australia, and there’s something about their YA authors that gets authentic teen voices just right. Not only is this an LGBT+ novel, but it looks like the story is going to have a lot of heart, humour and personal calamity. My kind of book!

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The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (March 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire)

Hot on the heels of Alex Gino’s George (a book I adored in 2015) comes The Pants Project by Cat Clarke, a book about a transgendered middle grader who is forced to be someone else because of a school dress code. I always love stories where boundaries must be addressed and broken and I think this book has such the potential to be the kind of story that can punch you in the gut and potentially provide all the feels. I am definitely looking forward to this one!

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The Stone Heart (Nameless City #2) by Faith Erin Hicks (April 4th 2017 by First Second)

And this wouldn’t be a Sam blog post if it didn’t include a graphic novel. I finished The Nameless City back in 2014, and I was clamoring for this sequel the moment I finished it. This book has been a very hard wait for me, even after talking with Faith Erin Hicks back at TCAF 2016 and some of the elements of the story that she said would ramp up in this installment. April is going to be a hard wait for me, but I loved the first book so much that I think I can stick it out (maybe, no, no probably not). I ended up recommending this book for the public library I work at and it has been a hit with a lot of the readers who have been checking it out. If you haven’t read the first book, get on that STAT!


It was so hard to narrow down five picks, but these are the five I am super jazzed about. If I am being honest, almost all of them sound like wonderful reads and I am sure I will likely get to most of them throughout the year.

Huge thank you again to Raincoast for the invite, the food, the swag and the hospitality. I love going to these events and seeing what kind of new gems are going to be releasing. I hope all of these books rock my blogger socks off when they release!

ARC Review – The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

25689042Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am hugely torn on The Art of Being Normal. It was one of my most anticipated reads coming out of last year’s #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast because everything sounded like it would hit all the right notes with me. I love LGBTQIA+ literature and I’ve always been an avid supports of these titles, but something about this novel didn’t work for me.

I do think there are elements of this novel that make it an important read. There’s nothing new in this novel if you’ve read books about trans issues, but it does have so poginent and sweet moments that I did love. I think my main issues came more from the David chapters given that David wants to convey to people that he wants to be a girl and is attempting to push people into referring to him as such. He of course gets called by his “dead name” and it never feels like David is given a chance in the novel to truly transition. I was so sympathic to David throughout the novel, but I struggled with how the author presented David’s transition issues.

Leo, on the other hand, I enjoyed for the most part and I think the depiction of what happens to him worked well for the most part. I could sympathize with Leo, but for very different reasons, especially in regards to his relationship troubles. I think a lot of this novel is presented too simply, and I think it will get overshadowed by titles like If I Was Your Girl where the presentation feels a lot more authentic to both sides of a transition.

I will say as a positive, I did love how Williamson developed the friendship between David and Leo. I thought that was quite splendid and very well written. There was a sweetness to it that I very much enjoyed.

So I am sad. I hyped this book up in my mind as being something larger than it was, and it’s not a bad novel at all. It’s just one that half clicked with me and half didn’t. I think I wanted more out of the story than I got, and I think the resolution of it all didn’t necessarily stick the landing the way I was hoping it would either. I wish there had been more to the characters, and I wish there had been more to the story. Everything just felt too simple, even though the intentions were coming from a very good place.

ARC Review – Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup

23587107Title:  Frannie and Tru

Author: Karen Hattrup

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.

Molly’s Review:

My god, the writing in this book was effortless. I was able to sink down into it. I love it when I read a book and it feels like the words are just washing over my brain.

So I was DYING to read this book and was so excited when a friend gave me a copy. It sounded like such a ME book (dark-ish contemporary, ugly pretty people). And it was such a me book. I loved Tru and Frannie and their interactions with each other. I loved how pitch perfect Frannie’s thoughts and feelings and actions were.

This is the story of family. There’s a little romance in it, but not much, and it is NOT the focus of the book. Frannie’s family is struggling after her father loses his job. There are three kids, Frannie has twin brothers, and they’re at the start of what promises to be a long, hot, boring summer. Then one night Frannie’s mom gets a phone call from her sister and the next thing everyone knows cousin Tru is coming to stay for the summer. Frannie overhears her family talking about Tru and learns that he’s gay. Frannie then assumes that Tru is coming to stay with them because his family (a rich white NYC family) can’t handle it. Frannie tries to be sensitive to Tru while trying to understand him and what his sexuality means.

Only how much does Frannie REALLY know? All she can remember about her cousin is that he’s smart, funny, and well off. She harbors fantasies of the two of them going of into the summer to have grand, sexy, sultry adventures. And while they do, she learns that Tru is hiding something, that he’s not always honest with everyone (himself included) and that behind his charm and swagger is a guy who’s kind of a dick.

The family dynamics, the secrets and interactions between mother daughter sister brother father cousin and so on were so well done. Family is complicated, especially when one side is financially better off than the other. Relationships with blood can be difficult because you know you’re supposed to be a certain way and you can’t always be your true self.

There was another underlying theme playing out in this, about race, that I felt was a little too agenda-y. We find out that due to her family’s financial situation that Frannie will be going to a public school that’s going to be “filled with black kids”. There are black characters and they have discussions about race, but sometimes it felt a little too forced. I DID like the awkwardness of race between Frannie and Devon, that was so natural sounding, but there are a few other things that just kinda stuck out at me kinda oddly.

Overall this book was perfection and I think that it will do really well when it comes out.

ARC Review – You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

27158835Title: You Know Me Well

Author: Nina LaCour & David Levithan

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I recieved You Know Me Well in the mail, I immidately started reading, realizing it was the kind of book I needed in that moment. It’s a book that explores what it means to be out and proud, but also attempting to figure out the next steps in what that actually means. I really adored the way in which the alternative POVs were used, though I did find myself loving Kate’s POV slightly more than Mark’s.

This book has a very memorable opening, one that when you read it, really does a great job illustrating who both Mark and Kate are when they are “truly” themselves. It’s a pitch perfect scene that escalates into a delightful story and an unlikely friendship between two people who likely wouldn’t have become friends if it wasn’t for this event.

A lot of this novel is very vibrant, and given that it take splace during San Francisco’s Pride, that makes a lot of sense. However, not only were our protaginists wonderful to read about, but I actually loved their love interests. While the topic of a broken heart and finding your identity are nothing new, it’s hard not to feel for Mark in a lot of this novel given that he has to watch his best friend fall in love with another person. Kate’s situation is equally something we can all relate to, as she is trying to be the woman she wants to be, and love the woman she wants to love without issue.

I flew through this novel simply because it does an amazing job of sharing what it means to be yourself, while also letting others in who may be afraid to do so. If you love LGBTQIA+ literature, or you love contemporary that focuses on tougher issues, this novel will give you just about everything you’re looking for.

ARC Review – If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

23947922Title:  If I Was Your Girl

Author: Meredith Russo

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself–including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life–and her new love?

Huge thank you to Macmillan/Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I Was Your Girl has the potential to be a must read novel that looks at trans-issues written by a trans woman. There’s a lot in this novel that gives so much insight into trans issues, and I felt it to be a very eye-opening reading experience, even though I’ve read plenty of YA novels that focus on being trans. This one, however, I think provides an authenticity that really does make it stand a part.

My favourite aspects of this novel were the flashbacks during Amanda’s time as Andrew, and her growing into her transition. These were the parts of the novel that I felt to ring the most true in terms of understanding what it means to transition and the desire for people to accept transition as well. This felt so heartbreaking and truthful, and watching Amanda deal with her family at the beginning of the journey just hurt so much. When it moves into current time and we see more of how the parents accept Amanda, it brings a lot to the story, providing the before and after than I think many trans novels sometimes lack.

There was one glaring issue with this book though: I didn’t entirely buy how accepting everyone was of Amanda. It just didn’t feel realistic at all, and if anything part of me struggled with how easy a lot of her friendships felt. Everyone barely knows her and yet they confide all their deepest secrets to her. It just seemed very strange at times and it actually took me out of the story on several occasions. However, I will say that it does do a great job of showing positive friendships, which still seems so unheard of in YA.

I will say, however, that everything with Grant felt quite realistic. I wasn’t really into the smoopiness of the romance at first, but it did work and grow on me and I understood why the author portrayed the relationship as she did. There’s a very nice sense of building in the relationship and the issues that Amanda and Grant face do feel like realistic and challenging. I loved the way in which Grant handles Amanda being trans and how scared he was at first but grows into a mature way of understanding. It’s really something special how a lot of their relationship is portrayed and it did win me over in the end.

If I Was Your Girl is so smart in its depiction, and brave in its execution. I loved Amanda and reading her journey was such an inspiring and engaging experience. There’s definitely nothing out there quite like this book, and if you are interested in trans issues, particularly in YA, then this is a must-read for sure.

Huge thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

I first heard about this book last fall and was very curious about it. I kept missing out on chances to grab a copy or borrow it and I was THRILLED when a copy finally showed up at my house. I was in the middle of THE RAVEN KING and knew that this book would be a balm on my soul for when THAT was over. And I read this in a little less than 48 hours. It is engaging and eye opening and I couldn’t put it down.

The me from before 2007 would probably never have touched this book. The me from pre-2007 was a conservative Republican-by-default living in backwoods Michigan with a vague notion that God and Christianity might be an okay thing and that there were a lot of Wrong things going on in the world. I would publicly support things like Bush and anti-Queer rhetoric. Then I moved to Tokyo and got away from the bible thumpers and closed minded white people and saw a whole new world. My mind opened, my heart changed, and I started to read way more than Vampire YA books. And I grew and my mind expanded and I met people from different walks of life and I am no longer that girl from 2007.

I hope this book will do for some people what leaving my secluded, closed minded town did for me. I hope that people who are cisgendered will read this book or books like it and understand that we’re all people, we all struggle with feelings that we don’t understand, with feelings that other people don’t accept, and we all just want to be loved. I hope that other transpeople (teens and adults alike) can connect with this story and find themselves in this. I LOVE that this book was written by someone with the experiences being written about in this book. I believe that for true DIVERSE books to be out there that they need to be written by people who have EXPERIENCED the things they are writing about. Research can only go so far.

Story and writing wise I think that Russo has a nice voice for YA and that her writing will grow with time. There were a few places in this book that I would have liked to have seen more fleshed out, and there were times when the pace was a little off for me. Amanda was a relateable character because she’s felt things that we’ve all felt growing up and even as adults. Her struggles feel real and her voice was clear. I enjoyed the side characters, but they all felt a little flat and I would have liked to have had more depth in them. The parents were wonderful in the fact that they were both there and not there for Amanda. They had their own struggles with her choices, but in the end they were good, honest people who just did their best.

This is an important book and I hope that lots of people will read it and enjoy it or learn from it or have their minds changed and their minds challenged. I can’t wait to see what more Russo will come up with.

Blog Tour – Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson (Review and Q&A)

Gena/Finn is one of those books where if you grew up loving a fandom so hard with your friends, you’ll appreciate it from head to toe. When I learned about its existence during the #TeensRead event hosted by Raincoast, I knew I had to get my paws on this book. If I’m being honest, this book brought up a lot of great memories and was everything I hoped it would be.

Huge thanks for Raincoast, as well as the authors, for letting me in on this blog tour, and into their worlds. Even if it’s only a little bit.


19254725Title: Gena/Finn

Author: Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:
Gena/Finn is a book that brought up a lot for memories for me. The majority of my university years were spent with people loving and worshiping fandoms. From cheesy Canadian televisions shows such as The Collector to the fantastically aged video game series Suikoden, the majority of the friends that I have came from being a part of a fandom.

This book is told in a mixed media format: chat logs, e-mails, text logs, blog posts, litter the pages this book from beginning to end. It’s actually perfect given how this story is being told. Gena is a young girl who has a secret identity, while Finn is a twenty-five year old recent college grad who is trying to find where she fits into the world. She has the perfect boyfriend, but he doesn’t seem as interested in her fannish life.

The story of Gena/Finn hit so close to home as I was reading it. It reminded me of my university days where I would spend hours looking through message boards (we didn’t have tumblr when I was growing up), I ran a successful Suikoden role-playing community over on Livejournal, and I even shared that love with my friends. We all felt as though we were sharing all our loves and passions, and that is totally reflected in both heroines, Gena and Finn.

When fandom and real life begin to collide and feelings become apart of the equation, this novel loses a bit of the fannish edge in favour of pushing the larger parts of the narrative forward, while still inserting fannish aspects when possible. It’s delightful, heartbreaking, emotional, and I found I could identify with both heroines a lot of the time. The only character I couldn’t identify with was Charlie, seeing as my husband has been a large influence in my life when it comes to fandoms as well. However, I could totally understand and even empathize with him and his personal feelings through the novel.

Fandom often gets such a tough rap and treated as something to be misunderstood. Gena/Finn remind us that fandom came bring people together in remarkable ways. There’s so much love and attention to detail in this novel, and I loved the positive memories that it reminded me of as I was reading it. This story just gave me all the feels, and it’s a book I plan on buying for all my fannish ladyfriends because dammit fandom friendships are rad.


Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson!

As always, Raincoast has allowed all the blog tour participants to ask the authors a question or two in regards to their novel. Here’s what I asked to Hannah and Kat in regards to Gena/Finn!

What is your favourite fannish memory? What fandom do you feel defines a lot of your
personality?

KAT: Before Gena/Finn was a thing, Hannah and I used to write fanfiction together on
occasion. So there was this one night when we’d come up with a project we wanted to start
together. We were up all night hashing out the details – creating a place to host the
stories, making art, outlining what was going to happen. We had a few nights like that
when we were working on Gena/Finn, but I think working on this fanfiction project was the
first. It was the kind of epic all-nighter you can only have with your best friend.

HANNAH: My favorite fannish memory is when I met the stars of Degrassi on their mall
tour. I made them shirts with quotes their characters said on the show. I’m sure Drake
still wears his all the time. (Sam’s Note: We can only hope so, Hannah!)


And that’s a wrap for this blog tour! Huge thank you to both Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson for taking time out of their schedules to answer some questions, and an equally large thank you to Raincoast for allowing me the chance to participate on the tour. If you’d like to see where the Gena/Finn blog tour is heading to next, check out the tour schedule below. Remember: fandom is delightful, and some of the best folks you will ever meet, will be because you loved the same thing so damn hard. 🙂

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