This week’s news roundup!

  1. Missed my first newsletter? Check it out below!

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I know, I know, this has been WAY too long in the making, but I finally sent out my first newsletter today. If you missed it, you can check it out here and sign up for upcoming updates here and get news, current projects, and queer book recs directly to your inbox!


2. Check out my interview on Carrie Pack’s Bi Sci Fi Podcast!

Okay, so I already mentioned that being a guest on podcasts is my new favorite thing ever, so I’m super excited to share my very first podcast interview with the lovely Carrie Pack on her Bi Sci Fi podcast here. I had a ton of fun chatting about Empire of Light, labels, and finding community both among writers and queer peeps in general. We also talk about #QueerSpec and book recs!

Also, check out the rest of the episode to hear Lex Chase talk about mental health and better mental health representation. Thanks so much, Carrie, for having me and making my first ever podcast interview awesome (even though Luna Cat totally started screaming in the background at some point. Because she is a cat and demands to be heard.)


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3. EMPIRE OF LIGHT ARCS ARE HERE and you can snag one and become part of The Harrowing, my awesome review and street team!

There’s just a special kind of elation mixed with panic to have your book’s advanced reader’s copies (ARCs) out in the world. So, if you want to contribute both my excitement and my terror, you can snag an early copy of Empire of Light on Netgalley or sign up for my review team, The Harrowing here. I’d love to have you on board to make this launch awesome!

Warnings: graphic violence (including shootings, beatings, tasing, mild gore, depictions of a hanging, and an execution by burning), explicit sexual content (including mentions of sex work, a sexual relationship that begins in a negotiated contract for sexual services, and on- and off-page descriptions of explicit sexual situations involving bondage, control, mild pain play, and Dominant/submissive dynamics), trauma (including allusion to past physical and sexual abuse, and a depiction of a panic attack), deaths of supporting characters (including a young teen, mentions and depiction of assisted suicide, and one queer character who is a person of color), as well as substance abuse (alcohol, smoking, drugs, and a mention of an overdose)


4. Come to my launch party and signing with fellow debut fantasy author Sarah Chorn on March 1st!

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If you’re on Facebook, you can RSVP to the public event here! There will be readings, a Q&A and awesome swag!


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5. Want the eBook of EMPIRE OF LIGHT three days early? Preorder it directly from NineStar Press!

In case you missed it, you can pre-order the digital version of Empire of Light directly from NineStar Press and get it three days before publication. Links to preorders on other retailers and print copies coming soon!

How to Deal with Your Queerphobic Family: One Queer Book at a Time

The holidays can be really hard, especially when your family doesn’t accept you for who you are. Many of us get misgendered, ignored, or suffer from a barrage of micro-aggressions that make this season a rollercoaster of trying just to exist between the peaks of fights and loneliness and the valleys of doubting your own validity. So, how do you deal with queerphobia from family members and others?

Spoiler: it’s queer books. Yes, I’m predictable like that, but hear me out.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: books open worlds. They might be how many of us first saw themselves represented and were first given the words to know and describe ourselves. But they also make perspectives accessible to those that maybe don’t share them, possibly because they have never come across anything that confronted them with diverse characters and experiences outside of their own bubble. If nothing else, books open discourse unlike any other form of media, so here’s a list of queer books to challenge your queerphobic family, to support queer creators, or maybe just because the holidays are hard and you deserve a great, happy queer read to make it through.

For Kids of All Ages:

PRINCE & KNIGHT by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis

This picture book is probably one of the most adorable things I’ve read all year (thanks to the lovely Mason Deaver, who recommended this on Twitter). As the title may hint at, this book is about a prince who falls in love with a knight after they both deal with the dragon who is attacking their kingdom. The art and storyline in this conveys just so many happy, on-the-page, queer feels without a lick of homophobia. I’m 31 and I bought this book for myself and several others both with and without children. Everyone needs to read a picture book like this.


THIS BOOK, YOU ALL!

Okay, a little backstory first: somehow this had completely flown under my radar (probably because I didn’t realize that it was a graphic novel at first), but then my awesome friend Ren sent this to me for my classroom as part of a super awesome car package after I’d talked about really struggling with mental health this year (did I mention how I have the best of friends?) and this book just owned my heart in the happiest of ways. It’s about Prince Sebastian who hires a dressmaker to create the most gorgeous dresses for him to wear at night when he becomes Lady Chrystallia, one of Paris’ most fashionable socialites.

This is another one of those stories that is literally for kids of all ages. It’s been the most checked-out book in my classroom and pretty much my go-to for anyone in need of a happy read that subtly explores themes of queerness and identity in a ver accessible way. Get this for EVERYONE in your life!


The lovely David R. Slayton gave me this entire series for my birthday this year and I couldn’t recommend it more: This is the queer lady pirate comic series full of badass queer women of color that my heart has always wanted. Also, note that while this is a spinoff of the Princeless series, you don’t need to have read it to love this series. I highly recommend Raven the Pirate Princess to anyone in your family who loves comics and may need to be hit over the head with the unique brand of happy intersectional queer feminism that is integral to this series. What’s more, this series has been struggling in sales, so in buying and reviewing it, you help get more queer comics out into the world.

There are probably many more queer comics I could recommend, but this one is particularly close to my heart because of its all-female cast and excellent pirating adventures, so go get this one!


For your Disney-obsessed Family Members:

THE SEAFARER’S KISS by Julia Ember

I’ll admit that it took me some warming-up to retellings. Blame me having grown up with the original fairytales by the Brothers Grimm and still not being over Struwelpeter (nightmares, you all) but I’m all here for darker, much queerer spins on fairytales, thanks to books like Julia Ember’s The Seafarer’s Kiss (while you’re here, check out its sequel, The Navigator’s Touch as well for enby-rep and general Nose shield maiden badassery).

What I loved so much about The Seafarer’s Kiss was how much it spoke to that part of myself who always wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up, but also still maintains that Ursula is the best ever Disney villain, because she’s both badass and fabulous (fight me on this). This story wraps up both The Little Mermaid and Ursula’s origin story into one, while giving it a delightfully queer spin, with a giant heaping of Norse mythology (and enby Loki!) on top. I wanted to read this book for its fat, bi mermaid rep, but I love it for how much more it is.


When I first heard of this book, it was described to me as a trans Peter Pan and to say that I’m SO here for it would be a massive understatement. Also, note that this is actually an adult retelling of Peter Pan, though not super explicit sex, so if that’s a concern in your gift-giving choices, fear not. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone in your family who has never come across trans characters in fiction, because this is a great place to get started. It should also be noted that while Peter’s transness is part of the plot, it’s not the plot itself, but rather woven into the story in a way that adds to it, rather than problematizing it. This is a great gift for anyone who loves enemies to lovers tropes and for all of us who secretly or not so secretly harbor a massive Peter Pan complex ourselves (because really, who of us doesn’t want to visit Neverland one day)? Pick this up for a different spin on a familiar tale, a lovely slow-burning romance, and a story that won’t leave your head anytime soon.


It may not have been until Yuri on Ice that my love for queer sports romances was ignited, but now it’s burning with full force and Julian Winters’ debut, Running with Lions is the perfect blend of cozy summer read and queer YA sports romance. This is a book both fans of soccer and fans of cozy reads, will adore. Plus, its super diverse cast with characters who identify across the queer spectrum, will allow many to see themselves on the page. My favorite thing about this book was that this opened up the issue of queerness in sports and treated it with a lot of nuance, compassion, and ultimately lots of happy endings. I personally want to hand this book to any coach of school sports who still feel that queerness is an “issue” when it comes to gendered teams (really, can we shake that up in general?) Running with Lions definitely adds a level of inclusion that I wish existed on all teams so that homophobia in sports just won’t be a thing anymore.


For that Family Member whose fantasy shelf consists of Cis-Het White Guys Only:

THE BLACK TIDES OF HEAVEN by JY Yang

Honestly, get the entirety of JY Yang’s Tensorate Series while you’re at it, because you will want to read all three novellas after reading The Black Tides of Heaven. The world building in this series is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m personally sorry I didn’t listen to all of my friends who told me to read these books sooner (I highly recommend the audiobook, which has all three novellas in one).

In the world of the Tensorate, everyone starts out non-binary, which honestly was a really cool way to subvert gender roles, along with family dynamics. Many of the characters in JY Yang’s work will eventually choose a gender, but not all of them are binary, which was a truly refreshing take on fantasy world building and something that I hope will inspire many. Beyond that, the characters and plot in this series are wonderfully morally complex, which is just about my favorite thing in lush fantasy worlds. So, definitely check this series out, both for that family member who only ever seems to name cis-hit white male authors, and for yourself.


For the Sci-Fi Geeks or Those Who Keep Telling You They Don’t Do Politics:

THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET by Becky Chambers

Okay, let’s be fair, by now you really should have read this book, but chances are your family hasn’t yet, and hey, if you’re looking for a great book to get your family invested into world building and characters that make them question traditional family and relationship dynamics as well as gender roles: ta-da! This is your book. Plus, it’s just SO MUCH FUN! Seriously, this is how I got my wife, the self-professed “Non-Reader” to come around to the Dark Side that is audiobooks (also, she lies, she reads a ton, but this got her into novels, because “Hello, queerness in space!”)

This book is perfect for fans of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly—and another one that I would also highly recommend in audiobook format, especially if you have “non-reader” family members. This one might just cure them of that particular affliction—and hey, maybe this actually opens up some nonthreatening discourse about how this word is vast and so are genders and relationships.


For That Person Who Might Need a Nudge into the Right Direction:

HOW TO BE YOU by Jeffrey Marsh

This book is truly for anyone: whether it’s That Person Who Just Doesn’t Read Fiction or the family member who has Questions but is afraid to ask them. How to Be You is part autobiography, part self-help, and part interactive workbook and it only makes a great gift for anyone who might have slipped your list—or really, really needs this book to work through their questions, biases, and other issues that might make life more complicated for them, for you, for…everyone.

While How to Be You is written with a teen audience in mind, its content honestly works for anyone, from teen to adult to your grandparent who might think they’re too old for all that newfangled gender and sexuality stuff. Really, they aren’t. No one is too old or too young to question and to discover themselves and get the courage to be themselves bravely and unapologetically. This is another one of those books that might open up some discussions—and hopefully help people to finally “get” it.


For the Person Who Constantly Asks You To Be Their Personal Google:

THE ABCs OF LGBT+ by Ash Mardell

We all have those people: “What does asexual mean?” “How is someone nonbinary?” “Wait, there are more than two genders?” “How do you pronounce Mx?” Ash Mardell’s The ABC’s of LGBT+ is perfect for those of your family and loved ones that just need a solid foundation of terminology that solidly gets them into the 21st century. Plus, this book is adorably illustrated, which is always a plus. It even has a cheatsheet for those who still can’t remember current terminology and need that extra shove outside of traditional binary thinking.

One thing I love about this book is that it makes everything really accessible, going over basic, as well as more advanced terms, and ultimately making people think about their own biases and preconceived notions. From providing a great overview of spectrums, gender, and going into sexual and romantic identities, this lovely book should serve as a comprehensive and insightful guide for those family members who seem unfamiliar with trustworthy search engines or honestly just want to learn. Yes, please learn. Here you go!


I hope you found something new and fitting for yourself and those who might just need a nudge to widen their perspectives. Frankly, giving happy queer books is probably my favorite thing ever because my hope is the more queer books find readers, the more people will finally get it.

So, what are your go-to queer books that everyone should read? Please share them in the comments!

Happy reading and take care of yourselves!

Alex

TBR Bingo!

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My TBR pile is slowly but surely getting out of hand. Okay, let's be honest, it's by now stretching across multiple shelves and that's not even adding my eBook TBR on my Kindle. So when I saw Dahlia Adler share the idea of TBR Bingo, I jumped on it and made a card with a good chunk of my current TBR: Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 9.32.11 PM

The rules are pretty simple:

Every time you see one of the books on social media, on a shelf, or someone mentions it--READ IT. Cross them off as you go.

If you have anything that doesn't get any buzz, read it anyway and share about it on social media.

Once you get a bingo, treat yourself to a new book, ARC, etc.

Personally, I try to make it through most of my TBR by the end of the year, but also keep adding pre-orders and impulse-buys based on recommendations (OMG, SO many impulse-buys, because I LOVE recommendations!)

You may notice that my card only has first books in a series and I'm not including my #TheReadingQuest TBR. I also added one just for my Kindle list since it's so much easier to lose track of your eBook TBR:

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I love how predominantly queer my eBook TBR is. Can't wait to read all of those.

What are you currently reading? How are you conquering your TBR pile? Tell me in the comments!

Cheers and happy reading!

Alex

 

Slaying my TBR with #TheReadingQuest Aug. 13 - Sept. 10

I love reading challenges, especially when my TBR is huge. Which it is pretty much always. So, when I saw Aentee (Read at Midnight) sign up post for #TheReadingChallenge, I couldn't resist. Especially because I love the idea of reading challenges RPG-style. Check out Aentee's post here for #TheReadingQuest rules and how it works.

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I'll start with the Mage path, because magic! But am hoping to at least do the Rogue path as well.

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Here is my TBR for #TheReadingQuest (the Mage path is the first down path):

A book with a one-word title: WANT by Cindy Pon (+20 EXP)

A book that contains magic: THE BONE WITCH by Rin Chupeco (+20 EXP)

A book based on mythology: NOW I RISE by Kiersten White (+10 EXP)

A book set in a different world: CHAMELEON MOON by RoAnna Sylver (+20 EXP)

The first book of a series: BEYOND THE RED by Ava Jae (+20 EXP)

#TheReadingChallenge starts on Sunday, August 13 and ends on Sunday, September 10. I'm excited to see what everyone else is reading. Come join me and share your TBRs, reading thoughts, and reviews!

Happy reading!

Alex

 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks: 2017/18 Classroom Wishlist

This school year marks my fifth year of being an English, Journalism, and now Creative Writing high school teacher. In the past years, I learned that one of the most effective--and important--ways to connect with my students is through book recommendations. More importantly, book recommendations that click with them because they find themselves and stories that they want to see in these books. My classroom is really diverse, most of my students are high school seniors who can't remember the last time they read, let alone finished a book. It's my favorite thing to recommend books to my students because it opens up a conversation about their background, their likes, dislikes, and oh-so-many issues that they have with reading or people who assign books seem to have with them. IMG_0814

Some of my favorite discussions and moments I've had with students in the past include:

  • The student who breezed into my classroom enraged because there were not nearly enough queer YA books about characters that don't identify as gay boys in our library.
  • The student who excitedly talked to me about how much she loved that one of the supporting characters in a book I recommended was a hijabi Muslim girl. She had never seen characters like her in books and devoured that series.
  • The boy who slightly blushingly asked me if I had any YA romance and the happy astonishment in his face when I said yes and asked him whether he wanted straight or queer romance. He hadn't known that people wrote queer YA romance.
  • The group of three athlete boys who decided to make reading between them a competition because the book I recommended (and had enough copies of for all of them) grabbed them so much that they couldn't put it down.
  • The girl who checked out books from me all through the school year and kept one of the books all through summer only to come back the next school year, apologizing that she had kept it so long, telling me that she had lent it to a friend, so she figured she'd pick up a new copy for me. Also, could she come by every once in a while to visit and talk books now that she had graduated?

There are more moments like these, but the above are some of my favorites.

I always make time for students reading in and out of my classroom. I also always try to keep my classroom library as up to date and diverse as possible, because while our school library is amazing and probably one of the most diverse in the state, nothing beats being able to pull a book from the shelf and talk to a student about it right away--never mind using examples from a lot of them in my English and Creative Writing classes.

So, here's my classroom wish list for the 2017/18 school year. Some are debuts,  some have been out for a while, and some are only available for pre-order right now.

Anyway, I'm sure this list will grow. Let me know if you have any other recommendations--I am especially looking for YA by and about Pacific Islanders, Latinix, and disabled folk.

Review: HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME by Adam Silvera

25014114This book broke me in the best of ways. I can't count how many times this book made me tear up and days after finishing, it still sits with me. Partially, this might be due to HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME being in many ways a reflection of what I went through when I lost my best childhood friend to a car accident at 18. Although this happened more than 11 years ago now, so much in this book brought me back, from that very first scene of Griffin's refusal to go see Theo at his open casket funeral to the way he keeps talking to Theo as if he was still around and could answer his many questions at any moment. HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME definitely was a book that hit me on a very personal level, but that's not all that made it work for me. Some might comment on how its pace is often slow and how this is a book that, while split into dual timelines of history and now, is very much steeped in the past. This, and Silvera telling Griffin and Theo's story predominantly from a second person point of view made this book a unique experience and drew readers even more closely into Griffin's grief.

It is incredibly challenging to build tension and reader sympathy when the ending already is a foregone conclusion--or so it seems. It turns out that there is much more to Griffin's story than Theo's death. This is a story about friendship, love and loss, family and mental illness. What I loved most about HISTORY is that it completely skips any platitudes. Instead, it is often painfully honest, complicated, and oh, so very messy in its treatment of grief and all the character relationships entangled in it.

Speaking of character relationships, there are so many of them to root for, no matter what we already know about the ending. And in a way very much reminiscent of Silvera's debut, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, there always are unforeseen twists woven into the narratives that kept me turning pages and left me unable to put this book down.

A special shoutout goes to the overall good representation of both LGBT issues and mental illness. I loved how coming out hardly was an issue in this book and I couldn't help but love both Griffin and Theo's friends and family for the way they supported both of them. Also, despite all of its sadness, this book contained one of the funniest condom-buying scenes I have ever read. I'm still smiling just thinking about it. Loved that part.

When it comes to mental illness rep, I loved the way Silvera portrayed Griffin's OCD as such an integral part of who he was. I loved how it was part of both Griffin's character and the plot--this story wouldn't be the same without it and I loved the nuanced approach Silvera took in describing how Griffin, his family, and his friends all respond to it. I want more books with this kind of intersectionality, please.

Overall, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME was a book about relationships. Not just romantic relationships, either, but I loved how both Griffin and Theo's families were such an integral part of what made this story work. All relationships in this book are complex, messy, and ultimately real, which is why this book and its character will probably stick with me for a long time to come.

So far, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME definitely is my favorite read of 2017. While the year is still new, I anticipate this one to keep its place among my favorites for a while. So, go read it and come discuss your thoughts with me!

Cheers and happy reading!

Accountability Roundup: What I Wrote and Read in August

So, August. The end of summer. The beginning of a new school year and a new semester of my master's degree. And yet, I set out with the ambitious goal of writing 25,000 words this month to bring my current draft of Mental Note to 40,000 words. Here are my stats: 2016-08-31 21.25.01

Writing:

  • Goal: 800 words a day or at least one hour of editing a day
  • Total word goal for August: 25,000
  • Total Words written: 24,571
  • Total writing (and editing) days: 14 (+3 pure editing days)
  • Average words/writing day: 1,755
  • Best writing day: August 24 (3,872 words)

Okay, so, even though I'm 429 words short of my goal, I am considering this month a huge success. Yes, that includes the fact that I am finding that I totally have to go back and edit the shit out of the first 40,000 words of this new draft, but that's okay. Thanks to writing group feedback I've pinpointed some of the underlying issues with this draft that I really need to fix before moving on and that's a good things.

Another pattern that's apparent is that my writing and editing momentum tapered off dramatically once school started. Seriously, my writing to nap ratio basically grew in the inverse. I am fixing that. As a matter of fact, today was the first day where I felt my old stamina and energy come back. With the beginning of the new school year and getting used to 240-ish new students that much was to be expected. As I'm facing September, I aim to do better. Also, huge shoutout to #AugWritingChallenge and the awesome people who have helped keep me accountable. Looking forward to September already! Plus, fall! My favorite writing season!

Reading:

  • Goal: 8 books/month toward a total of 100 this year
  • Total books read in August: 15

Holy writing and reading month Batman. I guess writing begets reading. I do love when the two go hand in hand. I completed the fun Pokemon-inspired #ReadThemAllThon challenge, which was an added boost. Here's what I read in August:

  • Kiersten White - AND I DARKEN: I seriously cannot rave enough about this book! Just go read it!
  • J.K. Rowling et. al - HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD: What can I say? I am a sucker for HP fanfic and probably always will be.
  • Dahlia Adler - UNDER THE LIGHTS: Not my usual, but I enjoyed it. Vanessa was awesome.
  • Kameron Hurley - THE GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION: This book incensed and inspired me. So much yes.
  • Stacey Lee - UNDER A PAINTED SKY: I loved the prose and tense action in this one. Again, I don't usually read Western, but this YA was just a lot of fun.
  • Tanya Huff - THE HEART OF VALOR (Confederation, #3): This series just keeps getting voicer and more and more character-driven. Love the audio.
  • Sarah Kuhn - HEROINE COMPLEX: Yes, I'm a sucker for subversions of comic book tropes. This was lots of fun.
  • Sabaa Tahir - AN EMBER IN THE ASHES: I positively devoured this in one sitting. Could not put down.
  • Sara Farizan - TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL: I really liked how this book played with some tropes and twisted it into something that both made me happy and was totally unexpected.
  • Kekla Magoon - HOW IT WENT DOWN: I mostly read this for my students. I think this fictionalized Trayvon Martin-esque story is important and I'm glad to have it in my classroom.
  • Kate Elliott - COURT OF FIVES - I loved the nuanced way this book treated classism and family ties. More, please!
  • Roshani Chokshi - THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN: The prose in this is gorgeous. I just wanted more plot to go along with it.
  • Matthew Quick - FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK: Yeah, have to say,  this book wasn't for me. I thought that the treatment of mental illness and gay relationships was highly problematic, so, not for me.
  • Heidi Heilig - THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE: This was such a cool, diverse twist on the pirate YA genre. I loved the world building and the writing. Also, Kashmir!
  • Pat Schmatz - LIZARD RADIO: This read like dystopian conversion camps with lizards! Fast-paced and fun!

Okay, wow, that's quite a list for this month. Anyway, I'm going to try something new for September and try to track my time edited instead of words written, because that's basically where I am at with this WIP. Also, I upped my reading goal from 100 books in 2016 to 150. This might be as lofty as my TBR, but we'll see. Challenges abound!

Until then, happy writing!

Gotta read them all: my #ReadThemAllThon TBR pile

readthemallthon Because I'm a giant PokemonGO nerd, I couldn't resist joining this Pokemon-inspired reading challenge. You can find more on what it is and the rules here, but basically you commit to reading 8 books that correspond to the 8 gyms of the Indigo league over three weeks. The #ReadThemAllThon starts today, August 14 and ends on Sunday, September 4th.

My starter: Charmander, I choose you!

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Here's my #ReadThemAllThon TBR:

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This one has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a while and I have heard so many good things, so I can't wait to dig into it!

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

464 pages; +46 CP

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How It Went Down has been on my classroom reading list for a while. I am anticipating this to be a tough read, but an important one.

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

352 pages; +35 CP

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So many authors I love, most recently the fabulous Gail Carriger, keep recommending this book, so on my TBR it goes.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

464 pages; +46 CP

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I loved Sara Farizan's debut, If You Could Be Mine and am so excited to read this one!

Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is a relief. As an Iranian American, she’s different enough; if word got out that Leila liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when beautiful new girl Saskia shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would. As she carefully confides in trusted friends about Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila begins to figure out that all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and some are keeping surprising secrets of their own.

320 pages; +32 CP

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Another one who's been on my TBR pile for too long and I have heard so many wonderful things about.

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

352 pages; +35 CP

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Girl pirates and time travel? Hell, yes.

Heidi Heilig's debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City, to nineteenth-century Hawaii, to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father's ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility. Its witty, fast-paced dialogue, breathless adventure, multicultural cast, and enchanting romance will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Nix's life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix's father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he's uncovered the one map he's always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix's mother died in childbirth. Nix's life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix's future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who's been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

464 pages; +46 CP

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Another one on the "everyone keeps recommending this, so it must be amazing" list.

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s  stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him in contact with Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

384 pages; +38 CP

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Post-apocalyptic queer SF for the finish!

In a futuristic society run by an all-powerful Gov, a bender teen on the cusp of adulthood has choices to make that will change her life—and maybe the world.

Fifteen-year-old bender Kivali has had a rough time in a gender-rigid culture. Abandoned as a baby and raised by Sheila, an ardent nonconformist, Kivali has always been surrounded by uncertainty. Where did she come from? Is it true what Sheila says, that she was deposited on Earth by the mysterious saurians?What are you? people ask, and Kivali isn’t sure. Boy/girl? Human/lizard? Both/neither? Now she’s in CropCamp, with all of its schedules and regs, and the first real friends she’s ever had. Strange occurrences and complicated relationships raise questions Kivali has never before had to consider. But she has a gift—the power to enter a trancelike state to harness the "knowings" inside her. She has Lizard Radio. Will it be enough to save her? A coming-of-age story rich in friendships and the shattering emotions of first love, this deeply felt novel will resonate with teens just emerging as adults in a sometimes hostile world.

288 pages; +29 CP

I'm super excited about this diverse list of books, authors, and characters and can't wait to dive in. Let's do this!

If you're joining or have joined #ReadThemAllThon, leave the link to your sign up post in the comments so we can cheer each other on.

Go, Team Mystic!

We Need Diverse Books: Especially in our Classrooms.

book-rainbow-01-e1325017684748 Every year I make a list of diverse books that I want to add to my classroom library.

I teach at a school with a very diverse student population and it's easily my favorte thing about what I do.

I've found that handing the right book to the right student--especially those who thought they aren't or never could see themselves represented in a book ever--is one of the most important connections I can make with a student. Diverse books make a difference in the lives of my students every day.

Just last year I had a student come to me enraged and disappointed because she wasn't able to find any books with queer girl main characters. I was able to hand her a few I had on hand, but this has definitely been a bit of a gap on my classroom shelf as well. Same for books about trans or genderqueer characters. I have a few I love and hand out often, but there's always more I feel I can do.

This year I want to expand my list especially as far as queer characters, POC, and characters with disabilities are concerned.

So here's a list of 25 diverse books I want to add to my classroom library in 2016/17:

Of course I feel like I've totally forgotten some. Drop me a comment with any other suggestions, please!

I'm especially looking for any YA featuring Polynesian characters. If you have ideas, please share them with me.

Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in June

June went by quickly! Granted, there were two weekends of road trips and some pretty crazy things involved, but I constantly seem to underestimate just how fast the beginning of summer breezes by. Needless to say, as you can see, not much writing, or rather, editing happened this past month. Instead I read a ton. Since it was Pride month, I decided to prioritize LGBTQ+ books, but let's face it, I do this any other month, as should everyone, because representation is important.

Anyway, here are my totals for this month:

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Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day or 1 hour of editing
  • Total word goal for May: 15,000
  • Total Words written: 1,675
  • Total writing days: 1
  • Average words/writing day: 1,675
  • Best writing day: June 8 (1,675 words)

So, obviously I didn't make my goal by a long shot, but some things that took some time were reworking my seven-point outline for Mental Note along with quite a few reincarnations of what is now the new chapter one, with which I am actually really happy, so there's that. Add querying and research to that and I don't feel like June was wasted in terms of writing. At least now I am doubly prepped to jump into #CampNaNoWriMo in July!

Reading:

  • Goal: 8 books/month toward a total of 100 this year
  • Total books read in June: 15

Yes, it's been a most epic month of reading for me. So many good books! Here is what I've read:

  • WE ARE THE ANTS by Shaun David Hutchinson: My one-word description for this book? Beautiful. And so important. Thank you, Shaun David Hutchinson for writing this wonderful book about depression, loss, and dealing with going on.
  • WHO KNOWS THE STORM and WHO KNOWS THE DARK (Vigilante Book 1 and 2) by Tere Michaels: This was basically gay Batman, that is to say, really fun!
  • PLOT & STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell: One of the first great books on craft I read. Definitely recommend this one to anyone looking to brush up on plotting or deepen their understanding of plotting and structure.
  • THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS by James Scott Bell: The lovely David R. Slayton sent me this and it was full of concise and relevant advice for writers at every stage of the process. At this point, just read anything James Scott Bell writes on writing.
  • I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson: This was a slow burn for me. It sat on my TBR for much too long, but in the end I drank up every word.
  • YOU KNOW ME WELL by Nina LaCour and David Levithan: I read this the day after Orlando and this positive LGBT book about the power of friendship and finding just the right person exactly when you need them the most honestly helped me cope.
  • YOUNG AVENGERS by Kieron Gillen: How did I not know this series existed? Hulkling and Wiccan may just be my favorite YA superhero pair ever. And Ms. America is a queer Latina, yes!!
  • SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin: I absolutely loved how pronouns are never an issue in this book. As a writer, Jeff Garvin pulled this story together incredibly well. Another one I am definitely adding to my classroom library.
  • READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline: I do love the audiobook version of this even though this much exposition just shouldn't work. And, yet, I am willing to forgive many flaws as long as you throw enough nerdiness at me.
  • THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER by Tim Federle: This was a pretty quick read for me. I wish it had had a little more depth, but I still really liked how this explore love and loss through pieces of screenwriting.
  • TELL THE WIND AND FIRE by Sarah Rees Brennan: Fun retelling, but I honestly expected a little more from this. Maybe just not for me, but I experienced quite a bit of trope fatigue with this one.
  • HERO by Perry Moore: Finally listened to the audiobook version of this on one of our road trips. This book is probably always going to be among my top five favorite books of all time.
  • ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Saenz: I just LOVE this book so, so much! And Lin-Manuel Miranda reading it? Yes, please!
  • JULIET TAKES A BREATH by Gabby Rivera: this was Gay YA's readalong pick and basically so many of my lesbian book club books rolled into one fabulous YA book.

So, yes, there you have it. All the reading, plotting, and fairly little editing, but I promise to make up for it in July. I am honestly still working on not being so hard on myself all the damn time, but it's a process. As far as July goes, I am participating in both #CampNaNoWriMo and the #JulyWritingChallenge to up my editing game. My goal for July is to edit and revise 20,000 words.

What about you? How is your summer reading holding up? What are your writing goals and what are your strategies to meet them? I know I need to rejig my methods for editing as that's different from word sprints, so I am always down for new ideas.

Cheers and happy writing!

Alex