Friday, July 21, 2017

Driving Lessons: Sophomore Year - Abbey is back, and this time, she's not confused about liking girls!

Driving Lessons: Sophomore Year by Annameekee Hesik

Abbey Brooks has recovered from her end-of-freshman-year heartbreak and has vowed that this year, her sophomore year at Gila High, will be different in every way. Her to-do list: get her driver’s license, come out to her mom, get (and keep) a girlfriend, and survive another year of basketball. As always, though, nothing goes according to plan. Who will be there for her as her plans start to unravel? Who will bring her back to life after another round of heartache and betrayal? These remain a mystery–even to Abbey.

But one thing is for sure, she’s not confused about who she is. And that is going to make all the difference this time.

This is the second book in the series. Check out my interview with Annameekee on the release of Book #1, "The You Know Who Girls."

And add your review of "Driving Lessons: Sophomore Year" in comments!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On a LARP - A Teen Lesbian Mystery in the World of Live Action Role Playing Games

On a LARP by Stefani Deoul

Question: Do any of you know the truly scary part about being seventeen?

Answer: Your brain doesn't actually know, understand or care what it can't do; and, while this sounds great in theory, in my particular case, my under-developed brain apparently didn't know I couldn't fly.

So I jumped . . .
And I plummeted . . .

And I promise you, if I somehow manage to survive this act of immature-brain-encased-in-unbelievable-stupidity, I will gladly tell you exactly how I got here.

Which for the record, is chasing a dark-web killer through the middle of a live action role-playing game, better known as a LARP.

Join brainiac Sid Rubin and her posse, Jimmy, Imani, Vikram, and Ari as they join forces with Detective Robert "Tsarno the Barno" Tsarnowsky and his partner, Detective "Goddess" Emma Macdonald, and become embroiled in a virtual world of clues that will lead them to a very real, very deadly, very steampunk'd world of murder and mayhem.

Add your review of "On a LARP" in comments!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit - A Lesbian Teen, Religious Excess, and Human Obsession

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette is adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves.

Add your review of "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit" in comments!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis - Homophbia, Corporate Responsibility, and A Young Woman Who Falls In Love With Someone Who Defies Gender Boundaries

Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis by Ali Smith

Imogen and Anthea, sisters that are opposites, work together at Pure, a creative agency attempting to “bottle imagination, politics, and nature” in the form of a new Scottish bottled-water business with global aspirations. Anthea, somewhat flighty and bored with the office environment, becomes enamored of a female “interventionist protest artist” nicknamed Iphisol, whose billboard-size corporate slurs around town are the bane of Pure’s existence. And when Anthea and Iphisol meet, it’s a match made in heaven.

Okay, for those like me that didn't know this off the top of our heads, "The myth of Iphis is one of the happier of Ovid's metamorphoses: the girl raised as a boy to avoid her father's wrath falls in love with another girl, upon which her gender is changed by the sympathetic goddess Isis to enable them to marry." -That's from the book's review in The Independent.

This book was recommended for teens by the Scottish Book Trust. Add your review of "Girl Meets Boy" in comments!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trumpet - Colman, An Adopted Teen, Finds Out His Famous (And Now Deceased) Father's Gender Was More Complicated Than Colman Knew

Trumpet by Jackie Kay

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret, one that enrages his adopted son, Colman, leading him to collude with a tabloid journalist. Besieged by the press, his widow Millie flees to a remote Scottish village, where she seeks solace in memories of their marriage. The reminiscences of those who knew Joss Moody render a moving portrait of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, one that preserved a rare, unconditional love.

This book was recommended for teens by the Scottish Book Trust, which is how I found out about it. Add your review of "Trumpet" in comments.

The Lantern Bearers - A Young Man Becomes a Male Composer's Muse... But When The Love Runs Out, Things Turn Violent

The Lantern Bearers by Ronald Frame
Sent away from home for the first time, Neil Pritchard spends the long summer of 1962 with his Aunt Nessie in claustrophobic Auchendrennan on the Solway Firth, a seascape of fast tides and sinking sands. Eager for a pastime to fill the long dull days, Neil sings for Euan Bone, a young Scottish composer whose star is rising fast. Becoming Bone's muse, Neil spends afternoons at the composer's home, hours that become the focus of his adolescent dreams. Inevitably, though, he finds himself expelled from the Eden, a betrayal which will have devastating consequences.

Asked thirty-five years later to write Bone's biography, Neil is tempted to reveal the whereabouts of the composer's lost last work, The Lantern Bearers, but this revelation would have to expose the truth of his own involvement in the violence of love's blind vengeance.

This book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, named the Scottish Book of the Year, and cited by the American Library Association (Barbara Gittings Honor Awards.) It was recommended for teen readers by The Scottish Book Trust

Add your review of "The Lantern Bearers" in comments!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Orphan Blade - a YA Graphic Novel Adventure With LGBTQ Characters

Orphan Blade by M. Nicholas Almand and Jake Myler

Hadashi is a boy with simple dreams, but his life changes when a horrific accident maims his hand. Unable to hold a sword, he's kicked out of his dojo home. But the Orphan Blade is no ordinary sword. When Hadashi comes across the abandoned blade, he finds that not only is he able to wield it--the sword seems to be wielding him! He's not the only one interested in the Orphan Blade, though, and his ownership draws the attention of the Five Fingers of Death--a deadly group of mercenaries who have their own magical and deadly weapons.

Add your review of "Orphan Blade" in comments!

Friday, July 7, 2017

It's Here! #LA17SCBWI! The 2017 SCBWI Summer Conference!

*tosses biodegradable confetti*

There's so much great stuff in store over the next four days, but here are some highlights that I'm really jazzed about:

Friday's LGBTQ + Allies Q&A Social
7:30pm - 8:30pm
Once again I'll host this warm and friendly gathering, with special conference faculty guests! If you're writing and/or illustrating content for kids with LGBTQ characters and themes, this is the place to find your tribe-within-the-tribe.

Saturday's Diversity Social
12:30pm - 2:00pm
Putting together the engine of SCBWI and the diversity fuel of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, let's tune up our ride, work as a team, and break some speed records on achieving more diversity in children's and teen literature!

Four days with my fellow children's book writers and illustrators and agents and editors and publishers and art directors and industry peeps!

Getting Inspired
All those keynotes! All those craft sessions! All those panels!
I can't wait.

I'm honored to be leading SCBWI Team Blog in live-blogging the conference at and updating social media (for me, mainly twitter) with the hashtag #LA17SCBWI.

Here's the full team:

Thanks for letting me share!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

An Interview with Sona Charaipotra, SCBWI Guest Team Blogger for the Summer #LA17SCBWI Conference

Filling in for SCBWI Team Blogger Martha Brockenbrough for this 2017 SCBWI Summer Conference, is journalist and author Sona Charaipotra!

Author Sona Charaipotra

Here's our interview:

Lee: Welcome, Sona!

Sona: Thank you! Hello to my SCBWI LA attendees! So pleased to be in your presence this year.

Lee: Please share a bit about you, and what's been your journey as a children's content creator.

Sona: I’m Sona Charaipotra, the co-author of the dance dramas Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces, co-written with Dhonielle Clayton. Dhonielle and I met in the MFA Writing for Children program at the New School, and bonded over the fact that we rarely saw ourselves represented on the page (or screen!) as kids and teens. To change that, together we co-founded CAKE Literary, a boutique book packager with a decidedly diverse bent – we create fun, delicious, page-turnery books for kids and teens with real, organic diversity to them. Our latest is title is The Gauntlet, by Karuna Riazi.

I also have a Masters in screenwriting from NYU – and my thesis script there was developed for the big screen by MTV Films – so I’m a huge believer in three act structure, in screenplays and in fiction.

Lee: Tell us about your blogging/social media/online background. What do you use, what do you love, and why?

Sona: Before I did the New School program and met Dhonielle, my day job was interviewing celebrities – from Hilary Duff to Priyanka Chopra. I was a writer at People, an editor at the dearly departed TeenPeople, and have since contributed to MSN TV,, TeenVogue, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times and other publications. I frequently write about books for,, and the BN Teen blog.

Lee: Now we want to hear about your journey so far with SCBWI!

Sona: I’ve been an SCBWI member for years – and I’ve been to the NYC conference and local events before. But this is my first LA conference. I’ve heard it’s intense, in the best way. Looking forward to meeting so many amazing people. Definitely join us at the WNDB Diversity Social if you can!

Lee: Yes! I'll be there, too. What project(s) are you currently working on?

Sona: The next book Dhonielle and I have coming out is called The Rumor Game – and it’s juicy and delicious! It’s due summer 2019 from Disney. I have a lot of other things cooking (that I’m super-excited about!!!), but I can’t talk about them just yet. As for CAKE, look for our next one, Love Sugar Magic, by Anna Meriano, via Walden/Harper in February 2018.

Lee: Can you tell us about your involvement with #WeNeedDiverseBooks?

Sona: The values of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement go hand in hand with those Dhonielle and I promote through CAKE, so we’ve both volunteered with the non-profit organization since 2014. I’m proud to serve as the head of content for WNDB – and we’ll be launching a new initiative to elevate diverse voices this fall. Look for our website relaunch at later this summer!

Lee: The top three things you're looking forward to about #LA17SCBWI are:

Sona: LEARNING! I’ve been in publishing now for five years, but I feel like when it comes to writing and publishing, you never stop learning.

CONNECTING! Kids’ book people are the best people. I’m such an introvert (so introduce yourself!), but I can’t wait to meet you guys.

SHARING! Need diverse book recs? I’ve got tons! Ask me what you should read next!

Lee: Thank you so much, Sona! We're delighted you'll be joining us!

Sona: So excited! See you soon!

Find Sona on Twitter @sona_c, and on the web at

You can find out more about The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 2017 Summer Conference here.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Maybe we need a new flag for this Fourth of July

I'm feeling a bit less proud of the USA these days, what with our President (for now) Trump always choosing the most selfish, the most bratty, the most prejudiced path forward on seemingly everything.

Then, my friend Karol told me about how Philadelphia Pride came up with a new rainbow pride flag for their observance this year, adding two new stripes to recognize people of color... and they didn't put them at the bottom! People of color (finally) have top billing:

The new Gay Pride Flag

As a white gay man who tries to be an ally for everyone else who is other-ed, I love this!

And it got me thinking. In this political climate where the statement "Black Lives Matter" – a response to the multiple, ongoing killings of innocent people of color by police – is seen as an insult to fragile white people, where a fragile ego-ed white president of privilege can't see that anyone's life matters besides his own family and friends, maybe we need a new flag for our country.

A flag for the resistance.

A flag I can cheer for this Fourth of July, when I'm not feeling much like cheering for my country that feels like it has gone off the rails...

A flag for LGBTQ people, and people of color, for disabled people, and for the 99%, for journalists, and for activists, for environmentalists, and for immigrants, for everyone who is being other-ed, and for awesome straight white people who care about others and are our allies, we are the majority. And this is a democracy. And we will make this right!

Proudly may it wave.

As President Obama (remember those good old days?) likes to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And at this moment in history, President (for now) Trump is refracting that arc, trying to force it back towards injustice... But he won't be President forever. (Can we impeach this guy already?) And then we will get this country back on the rails. And we can all help bend that arc once again towards justice. We will get there.

This new flag is a reminder of that. To me. And maybe, to you, too.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, June 30, 2017

Ice Massacre and Ice Crypt - A Native American Teen Girl Is Sent To Kill A Mermaid... But Falls In Love With Her Instead

Ice Massacre (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai, #1) by Tiana Warner

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai, #2)

Meela has just returned from the Massacre—the annual attempt to wipe out the mermaids threatening her people’s survival. After forming an unlikely connection with Lysi, a mermaid she was trained to kill, Meela is determined to stop the war between humans and merpeople for good. She knows of a legendary weapon that could bring peace if she uses it against King Adaro, ruler of the Pacific Ocean. But her people have plans for future Massacres and refuse to help her uncover it.

While Meela works in secret to unearth the Host of Eriana, Lysi is held captive under Adaro’s tyranny. Sent to the battlefront, Lysi joins forces with a band of rebels that could either bring her freedom—or have her executed for treason.

Separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, Meela and Lysi must find a way to defeat King Adaro and end the war that has been keeping them apart.

Add your review of "Ice Massacre" and/or "Ice Crypt" in comments!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Winter Seedlings and Winter Suns - Jute and Allie struggle to overcome self-loathing caused by having been sexually abused

Winter Seedlings by Julie Roberts Towe

Jute would like to make herself invisible, but she can’t. Instead, she makes herself repulsive, even frightening. This keeps her step-dad’s hands off her, so it doesn’t matter if people mistake her for a boy or call her a freak. Jute is certain she doesn’t need love anyway, doesn’t want it. She doesn’t even know how to love. But if she did, she would love Allie.

Allie is beautiful, wears vintage dresses, and craves approval. She blames herself for what has been done to her. She knows if she becomes a better person, a person worth loving, a person willing to give up everything, a man will love her. If only Allie could see herself through Jute’s eyes…

When Allie inadvertently puts Jute in danger, they are forced to face their demons. If they drop their guard, will love be able to penetrate their scars and repair their hearts, or will their self-loathing destroy them before it can?

Winter Suns

A teenage girl in Eastern Kentucky has been isolated since birth. She experiences abuse from her father as unquestionably the will of God. She obeys his rules in hopes of banishing her demons and finding redemption. But when she breaks a rule in order to teach herself to read the Bible, she discovers something more powerful than God’s laws. A hidden letter written sixteen years prior by a woman named Allie to her lover, Jute, reveals both disturbing and electrifying secrets. She feels called to find Jute and deliver the letter to her, even if none of the maps in the Bible show the way to Nashville, Tennessee.

Meanwhile, in Nashville, Jute has decided to let go of Allie’s things. She asks her son, John, to take the boxes from the attic to the barn. To him, it’s all junk. He was never told about Allie. But, when John discovers an old photograph tucked inside one of the notebooks, he is instantly drawn into the mystery of what happened to the girl. What he discovers is even more horrifying than the secrets his mother is hiding. He wants to forget it all, but he can’t.

Add your review of "Winter Seedlings" and/or "Winter Suns" in comments!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Guardians of Illyria Series - Middle Grade Fantasy with a Gay Main Character

The Iron-Jawed Boy (Guardians of Illyria, #1) by Nikolas Lee

Year 2300
Protea: Capitol of the Eldanarian Isle

Two hundred years have passed since the lands of the Outerworld humans were destroyed, save but a handful of rebellious cities. In their ruin, the last gods of Earth, the Illyrians, rose victorious. And ever since, it's with a cruel iron fist they've ruled over their subjects--desperate to keep their thrones.

Fast approaching his teens, Ionikus Reaves knows the gods' malevolence all too well, orphaned by them after their call for a military draft on Eldanar, his home island. But when a power once dormant in Ion boils to the surface, he's whisked off to a hidden world of the island, where he comes face-to-face with the mighty Illyrians.

For Ion is a Guardian--a reincarnated god bound to serve and protect the pantheon he's so quickly learned to hate. Now torn between his obligations as a Guardian and his hatred of the gods he's to guard, Ion finds himself in the middle of a war within himself. A war that could uncover a dark secret of the gods'...and split the pantheon in two.

The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Hand of the Moon (Guardians of Illyria, #2)

Year 2301

One month has passed since the death of Lady Vinya. Since the night sky went black in the sudden disappearance of the Moon.

In the aftermath of the vanishing, the scales of the Balance have been disrupted and angered, the dark repercussions felt from the ruined lands of the Outerworld to the floating island home of the gods. Only now do the gods of Illyria stir, their period of mourning coming to a close as they call for a grand tournament. One that will decide the next Hand--a god worthy and powerful enough to pull the Moon back onto this plane. Of the contenders for the Throne, one is a malevolent prince of the Sun, another a twenty-armed inventor, and the third a disgraced father.

But when thirteen-year-old Ionikus Reaves--Guardian of the gods and one-third child of the late Lady Vinya--is forced to volunteer as a competitor, Ion discovers this tournament and the gods who called for it aren't what they seem. For as he battles his way through the abandoned cities of the Outerworld, forced to fight for a Throne he doesn't want, Ion soon realizes he's not just a contender. But a pawn in a vicious game of the gods', where at the end, victory could mean death. And the destruction of the Moon itself.

The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Siege of Sol (Guardians of Illyria, #3)

Year 2302
On the Continent of Origin, deep in the deserts of the High Heat, rises one of the last remaining Citadels of the humans. Defiant and well-defended, it is known as Sol. And in this epic third installment of the Guardians of Illyria series, it will be the stage for one of the greatest conflicts yet waged between the oppressive forces of Illyria and the rebel human race.

Now 14 years old, Ionikus Reaves, Thunder Lord of the Endari, is plagued by the darkness of his past and future. His powers grow stronger by the day, as do the doubts in his plans for revenge. But when the Endari scheme to forge an alliance with an unlikely foe—the humans of Sol—Ion must set aside his uncertainties. One misstep and his allies could become his enemies, his ultimate plan never come to fruition.

Lady Lillian of Illyria has only recently settled into her new position amongst the pantheon she long feared and respected. But soon, she finds her elven blood a problem for the pureblooded gods of Illyria. On top of navigating their foreign customs, backstabbing, and searing whispers, she must also endure their wrath…and the dark secrets behind the fall of the previous pantheon.

Add your review of any or all of the author-published Guardians of Illyria books in comments!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Librarian Friends and Allies: I Hope I'll See You In Chicago at #ALAAC17

I'm really excited that I'll be attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Chicago from Friday June 23 through Sunday June 25, 2017. I'll be working at the IBPA Booth (#3529) helping the IBPA Indie-Publisher and Author-Publisher members with their Author signings.

If you'll be there at #ALAAC17, too, please swing by and say "Hi!"

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unicorn Hunting - A Teen Lesbian Has to Choose Between Unicorns and Humanity

Unicorn Hunting by A.R. Hellbender

Caught between her family's expectations and her own conscience, a reluctant unicorn hunter, Caoilinn "Cal" Valderan, questions the morals of slaying these mystical creatures, and finds herself in a position where she must choose between them and humanity... In this coming of age story, Cal must not only defend her principles and values, as she finds herself caught in a battle between light and darkness, but she must find answers to what others dare not even to question...
What's queer about it? The author explains:

Cal spends the entirety of the book in love with her next-door neighbor and fellow unicorn hunter, Adryan. But in a medieval society in which women are not the first pick when it comes to jobs, she hardly has a chance. Adryan's engagement to Cal's brother changes everything for Cal and makes her abandon life as she knows it and live in the forest with the unicorns.

Add your review of the author-published "Unicorn Hunting" in comments!