Rainbow Book Fair

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC. Though I didn’t have a chance to read, I did hang out at the Bold Strokes Books table and met some amazing readers and other authors! I was thrilled to FINALLY meet Jeremy Jordan King, whose book, In Stone I loved. I also met YA author Nora Olsen whose novel Swans & Klons comes out next month.

I was thrilled to sell a copy of Andy Squared to one woman in particular. She is older and her grandson is in the sixth grade. This is my favorite story from the even, and possibly my favorite reader ever. She purchased a copy of my book after deciding she would buy it, and give it to her grandson as her way of coming out to him. She said she had waited too long to do it, and he should know.

I am so honored that she is using my book to do this. I wanted to sit behind the table and cry afterwards. I did not catch her name, as she wanted to personalize the book to him herself, but I wish her the best of luck and if I could meet her grandson, I’d tell him what an amazing grandmother he has.

Stay tuned later this week for a guest post by author Madison Parker whose new books, Play Me, I’m Yours has just come out through Harmony Ink Press!

Book Review: Sara by Greg Herren

Are you one of those people who often can guess the endings of books or solve the mystery before everyone in the book even has all the clues? Because the book is often that predictable?

Fear not. This book will leave you guessing until the end, and when all is revealed, you will be blown away.

Sara by Greg Herren is the story of Tony and his friend, Glenn. When Glenn decides to come out during the summer before school starts, Tony stands by him, but finds it difficult to accept the change. Nevertheless, he remains a friend and when others turn their back on Glenn, he stays by his side. Despite feeling uneasy about his friends newly revealed sexuality. When Sara shows up in town, things start to go very, very wrong. All the students who have tormented Glenn start showing up dead. One after another they die, and Tony starts to wonder what is happening in their small town.

This book was incredible. It is a mystery that will stay with you until the very last page, but it does have supernatural/paranormal elements at times. After all, why do these kids start to die? How is it possible?

I don’t want to ruin anything by saying to much, because the story is just that good. Go read it for yourself. I will, however, say that I loved the characters. Even the teachers are fantastic. When coach gives a speech to Tony about trusting teachers, and the reasons people become a teacher, I felt as if the author had taken my words from my mouth and put them in the book. It is the same thing I have said to my students time and time again. The reason I teach is because I care, and I want to help.

But I see Tony’s view, too. Teachers are often thought of as “untouchable.” I also can’t tell you how many times my students have seen me outside of school and are shocked that I actually emerge from the building to live a life outside of my classroom.

Let’s talk about Tony. He is a fantastic narrator because of how honest he is. And I found his discomfort around Glenn to be realistic. Though there are many people who stand by their friends when they come out, it’s not unreasonable that some of them do feel uncomfortable around them for a while because of the changes and the potential fear that they will have to face whatever prejudices the friend faces. And Glenn’s hurt at Tony’s slight rebuff is also realistic. If Tony is such a good friend, he shouldn’t care, should he?

This is a book that needs to be read. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

This book is available for purchase at Bold Strokes Books and Amazon.

Book Review: OMGQueer by Radclyffe and Katherine E. Lynch, PhD.

This is a much different book review from what I’ve written before, because I’m writing my reactions to each of the stories as I go.

OMGQueer is an anthology of short stories by queer youth that has been put together by Radclyffe and Katherine E. Lynch, PhD. The stories are varied in content and voice, and for that reason I chose to write about my reactions to each one. I felt there was no way to justify just saying the book was amazing and leaving it at that.

These authors are young. Some may be close to my twenty-seven years of age, but others are likely even younger. And they are definitely names to watch out for in the future. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see some of them start publishing their own full-length novels in the near future. So here we go, a review of eighteen incredible, yet incredibly different, short stories. I’ll try to be, well, short.

Oh, and there might be spoilers for some of the stories. So, you’ve been warned.

“Jelson” by Brenna Harvey

WOW. This story blew me away. I loved the idea presented and found myself believe it, and the voice of the narrator was perfect. Jelson is the name of the best friend of the narrator, who happens to be a Swop. In this story, a Swop is a person who can change their gender at will. (Kind of like if you saw that movie Zerophilia, except in the movie it’s not really at all…) Jelson is able to change from boy to girl and back again whenever s/he wants to. By the end something more interesting is revealed about the narrator and Jelson. I loved the revelations and thought it was brilliantly executed. This is an author to look out for.

Maybe some more books with this idea? I’m all for that!

“The Tea Bowl” by Justine F. Lane

Any story that takes place in Japan, especially involving English teachers, is going to pique my interest. This one did just that. The end of the story isn’t sad, however it does have a wistful tone to it. In reading this, it felt almost like a memoir to me, and I wondered if the author actually did experience this. Well-written and while not overtly exciting, it is a wonderful story about longing for something one cannot always obtain and the complexity of love.

“The Piano Player” by Thomas Graziano

Will falls for a boy after hearing him play the piano at his grandmother’s funeral, and then runs into him on campus while he is doing just that – playing the piano. The story is sweet and light, despite the sad opening. I especially liked the pact Will and Tiffany had made about turning 40. I wonder just how many teens make pacts like that. I know I did, and it gave me a connection to the narrator.

“Crystal Crisis” by A.J. Slater

A story where girl falls for her friend that is dating a guy, and takes readers from the past to the present to tell the story. I enjoyed that part the most about it. Seeing Ryan’s story from what it was like for her in high school to where she is now gives hope to the reader that even when things are bad, they will eventually get better. The one part that bothered me was just because of my profession. When Ryan and Crystal are being tormented and the teacher doesn’t notice, and then when it gets even worse, there is no teacher around. As a teacher who doesn’t tolerate anything like that, it made me cringe, and it worries me that teachers like in this story actually do exist out there.

“A Tale of Modern Magic” by Olivia Dziwak

This one made me grin the entire time. The narrator is funny and awkward in a way that I’m sure most of us (at least I hope I’m not the only one) have been as teens. Especially aorund someone we are crushing on. In the midst of a World AIDS Day celebration, two teens who have barely spoken to each other find themselves working together, talking, and discovering they have some things in common besides their Polish backgrounds. I loved the writing. It, like the tale, felt magical.

“Indulge Me” by Ashley Bartlett

Interesting piece. I liked it, and felt that it was both too old for this volume and yet perfect for it at the same time. The narrator thinks she’s amazing, as many young adults do, and at the same time finds she’s not really all that. This story is very obviously written by a young adult, but it has qualities that make me think the author is older as well because of how reflective it is while being self-assuring at the same time.

“Ignite the Sky” by Julie R. Sanchez

This story goes from the present to the past and back again, but in a different way from the previous story that did. It doesn’t stay focused on two points in time. No. It goes over multiple days, which I found interesting. I did feel, however, that the story was cut short. What happens to the two girls at the end? Do they have a destination? Do they turn back? I would be interested in finding out.

“A Round Trip” by Warren Smith III

I grinned the whole time. If I had my way, I would have a romance like this one. Just a moment of connection with a person that turns into a spontaneous day of adventure. I didn’t want this story to end. I wanted to see more between Zack and Ethan. Lovely story, and written in what felt like an older style that was still incredibly effective.

“Butch Fatale” by Kirsty Logan

I think this might have been the shortest one so far, but I might be wrong. It just felt that way. I did like the relationship between Bex and the narrator, and the passage of time shows how good friends don’t have to be together all the time for their friendship to remain strong and for things to go back to the way they were before change is introduced. At least that’s how I read it. 🙂

“Pool of Sorrow” by Sam Sommer

I felt nostalgic while reading this, for a time that I could not have known, having been born in 1985. That’s how well written this piece was. It brought alive a time for me that I have never known. But it was also heartbreakingly sad. The boys – Teddy and AJ – are brought together because no one else is around during the summer, and while AJ knows his feelings for Teddy, we don’t know how Teddy feels about him. The ending was perfect for the length of the piece.

“My Lips” by Joseph Aviv

I feel repetitive and like I have nothing of value to say, but again, I LIKED the story. No, actually I loved it. I loved how the narrator ages, and we see how he changes through the actions of his lips. It was very well done and honestly not something I would have expected from this anthology. I think this one may be one of my favorites. I would like to read more from this writer.

“Fighting for Lies” by Aimee Lukes

Another story that shows that not everything is perfect in this world and we don’t always get what we want. Or that not everyone is honest with themselves. Painful yet honest story and well worth the read.

“There Was a Knocking on the Door” by Andrew Arslan

Is this one really a story or was it a memoir? Because it felt so real. I could feel the tension between the narrator and his parents. I understood his pain in having his mother repeatedly call him stupid, and his anger at his father’s hypocritical “acceptance” of anyone gay, unless it’s his own son. However, the ending had a hopeful note, and it made me feel less despair.

“My Aahna” by Ariana Montoya

Heartbroken. How I felt after reading this one. I really had hoped it would have a happier ending, but I know not all stories, unfortunately, have them. It was still beautifully written and I loved the narrator’s last words to her roommate, Aahna.

“First Time” by Archer Darke

Sophisticated yet young at the same time. I thought the elegance of the evening combined with the fast food was a fantastic touch that made it much more realistic and romantic at the same time. I also liked the dialogue because it was authentic to me. Two young people enjoying a moment together, yet each seems to parrot what the other is saying. However, at the same time this is definitely a story for older readers. I’m not used to sexual situations such as this one being in books for teens. Most of what I’ve read before fades to black and lets the readers imagination take over. This one most certainly doesn’t.

“Hella Nervous” by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Love love loved this one! Tracy and Oksana are very different characters that are drawn to each other. Maybe because of their differences? Either way, I liked that Tracy, the narrator, had a crush on Oksana for as long as she did. And I loved how everything turned out. The ending was adorable and perfect. Also, the ethnicity of Oksana was fantastic. I wish more books and stories were proud to show characters with different backgrounds.

“Chili Powder” by Anna Meadows

I liked that this story incorportated Spanish words, and while many of them I knew, for others I was confused about the context. When I asked my friend who speaks Spanish, she was also confused with some of them as well, as she had not seen them used in such a manner. However, I did like the characters and even though it’s brief, the beginning of their relationship is sweet. (Or should I say spicy?)

“Graduation” by Brighton Bennett

Pardon me for a moment while I curl up in a ball and cry for the wistful feelings I have after reading this one. How many of us have wanted to have another try or just one more time with a former boyfriend/girlfriend? How many of us have wondered, what if? This story gives the readers just that, with a conclusion that is both fulfilling and heartbreaking for reader and characters alike. A great ending to this anthology.

Overall I would have to say this anthology was fantastic. Especially after reading the varied accomplishments of the young authors of these stories in the contributors section at the end of the book. I applaud their efforts, and the editors who put this together. Absolutely a must read. I look forward to more from these authors.