In Every Reality (A Short Story)

She moans against me, and I bite down the need to pull her closer. The sound is so familiar to me that ignoring it feels like ignoring my need to breathe, but I do. I have to.

I’ve traded my soul for this, and I can’t forget that. I traded my soul for twelve hours, and I’ll have to do everything perfectly if I plan to run away with more.

“What is it?” she whispers, pulling away from me. Her eyes glow under the fluorescent streetlight and I have to remind myself that this isn’t high school—isn’t prom night when I walked her home and we snuck through her bedroom window so her parents wouldn’t hear us. This isn’t even Ocala anymore—not really. This isn’t the town where we made our mark on the sidewalk and on each other. This is the reality where the ridicule became too much, and I ran. This is the reality where I drove off into the night and left her behind. This is the reality where I died.

“We should go,” I say. “Your place?”

She shrugs. “Fine, but it’s nothing like you remember.”

Continue reading “In Every Reality (A Short Story)”

James Wolfson

“The Little Queer Werewolf Who Could”

James spent his whole life listening to stories of his father’s old wolf pack and eagerly awaiting his first full moon–the day he would officially become a werewolf. But when the day came and he finally went through his first shift, James found he couldn’t transform completely leaving his body trapped somewhere between wolf and thirteen-year-old boy. To make matters worse, when the moon finally set, he didn’t change back.

A year later, James gets an opportunity he can’t refuse–the chance to go to a school for cryptids, become a true werewolf, and claim his rightful place in his father’s old pack.

But school is school (even in the supernatural world), and James struggles to place in the Horror course, his only real chance to be a true werewolf, while his father is keeping a secret about the pack that James can’t seem to crack. Between bullies, gym, and first love, James must learn what it means to be a werewolf, what it means to be a boy, and exactly where he falls somewhere in between.

James Wolfson is slated to release in 2018.

Want exclusive first looks as they become available? Pledge to my Patreon!

Welcome 2018! What’s New?

Hey y’all, after my December hiatus, I’m back and I’ve changed a lot of things so here’s an update of what’s what. First and foremost, you may have already seen that I updated most of the website. Reviews are (mostly) gone and I’ve added some new pages, so here’s where I’m going to go over all the changes so it all makes sense.

1. Book Reviews

As most of you know, I ran into some issues regarding my book reviews in the latter part of 2017. Books reviews have been a major source of stress for me, and besides the unwanted, negative attention they’ve attracted, they’ve also done a lot to kill my enjoyment of reading. So starting in 2018, I’ll only be writing reviews for books that I would rate 3 stars or higher. The truth is, 2 star and under books are usually books I want to DNF, so to discourage myself from finishing a book I hate just to get the review written, I won’t be bothering with less than 3 star reviews. This will also hopefully mitigate the harassment I’ll receive from people who disagree with my reviews.

I’ll only be posting my reviews to Goodreads and retail sites (like Amazon & Barnes & Noble) for the foreseeable future. I don’t want my blog to be associated with reviews anymore, so I’ll be leaving those out for now. I might change my mind, but this is the easiest (and happiest) way for me to kick off 2018.

I’ll still talk about books on Twitter (how could I not?), but I DO NOT consider myself to be a part of book Twitter anymore. I’ve made a lot of friends via book Twitter and I don’t intend to cut them out of my life because of this change, but I’m done dealing with book discourse, discussing reviews, etc. etc. I’ll talk about books I love (and books I want to fan over), but that’ll be it. Books are supposed to be fun, and that’s how I want to keep it.

And while I’ll still be reading YA because I enjoy YA, I’m going to be cutting back on YA novels so I can make room for my other loves: poetry, graphic novels, and Circa Adult. (See: what is Circa Adult Fiction here)

2. Education

I won’t be providing social media education anymore, which is something I discussed before. However, I can’t say that I won’t engage in political discourse as I’m a minority, and my life basically is political discourse. The point here, though, is that I won’t be taking time out of my day to post educational blog posts and whatnot. It’s not worth the stress (especially since there was basically no benefit to it to begin with).

I will still be offering certain educational resources. I won’t be taking the educational posts down from my Patreon. I’ll also still be open for sensitivity reads and other editorial help.

Basically, if you want me to teach you, pay me. Otherwise, I’ll be working on other things.

3. Patreon

I mentioned before my hiatus that I would be looking for an alternative to Patreon. Since they decided not to institute their fee changes, I feel less inclined to find a complete Patreon substitute, but I have still decided to initiate some helpful changes to make my Patreon content more accessible.

I’m eliminating tiers. You can still pledge as much as you’d like (and I’ll obviously appreciate all pledges), but I’ll be making all content available to all patrons. I want the content to be as accessible as possible, so it’ll be open to anyone who pledges $1+. I’ll also be adding a tip jar to the end of each post so if you only feel comfortable pledging $1 a month but find one post to be particularly interesting, you can leave a tip.

I’ll also be posting stories for free once a month on my website and starting up a newsletter magazine that will feature short stories, art, updates, character interviews, etc. The digital magazine will be free, and there will also be the option to purchase a print copy. I’ll post an update with the newsletter is officially available.

Instead of writing a short story a week as I’d been doing, 2018 is going to be the year of novelettes and novellas. I’ll be working mostly on longer works that I’ll release serially via Patreon with occasional short stories. These will make it easier for me to have posts ready ahead of time and therefore make my Patreon lower maintenance.

I’ll also be posting all sorts of miscellaneous content in between stories: art, updates, behind the scenes features, etc. And I may still post the occasional educational post for my trusted patrons.

4. Cons/Art

I’m going to be putting more time and focus into my art and conventions in 2018. I already have a few confirmed conventions (info available here) and I’m working on finalizing a couple more. If you’re in the area, please come by and see me at cons. I love meeting people in person!

As I mentioned at HolMat in December, I’m removing most of 2017’s styles from my future inventory. If you’d like to see which prints are being discontinued, you can check here. They’re all currently on sale for 75% off on my site. I’ll also be hosting a giveaway (open internationally) of an assortment of art. I’m really just looking to clear out some space for everything I want to display in 2018.

5. Projects

The last thing I want to talk about are my 2018 plans. I’ve got a lot of projects going on surrounding Circa Adult Fiction, art, Multifarous Press, etc. I’ve updated my works page to give you all an idea of what I’ll be working on. I’ve got novels, short story collections, and a graphic novel all in the works right now so I hope you’re all excited to see these in print. I’ll continue to post updates as release dates get closer, and you can see exclusive looks and bonus content regarding these by pledging to my patreon.

“27 Hours” Book Review

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

 

I have to preface this review by saying that I’ve spoken to the author on multiple occasions, and I don’t think she intended any harm by her words. However, regardless of what harm she intended, I think it’s important to acknowledge the shortcomings of this book. This review is not a critique of the author nor does it reflect my personal feelings toward her.

CW: colonization, genocide, aromisia, racism, ableism

Rating: ⭐️⭐

Short Review: 27 Hours is a sci-fi novel with a diverse cast of characters that was almost a great read. While it had its ups and downs between world building, character development, and other major plot elements, it ultimately fell short in the ways that mattered most.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

The Good

If you’re looking for fun, allo queer rep (without any regard for intesectionality), then this book is a good place to start. We’ve got a nice array of gay, bi, and trans characters all given their time in the limelight.

The strongest part about this story were the interpersonal relationships. Between friends/family/found families/and romance, we’ve got a hoard of interesting, emotional relationships to carry you through the story.

The Bad

The POV situation was a mess. We had so many main characters (most of whom got some sort of voice), but they pretty much all sounded the same except for Nyx because her entire character only existed to mope over how she was in love with her best friend. They’re all apparently diverse, but I couldn’t keep any of it straight. The issue is that the only way I could even remember who each character was was by associating them with whoever they were connected to (Jude’s brother, Dahlia’s ex, etc.)

The story is overwritten… like a lot. There are so many unnecessary tangents that drift off into the world of unnecessity that I found myself skimming more than reading anything that wasn’t dialogue. We also have an excessive reliance on pronouns to the point that a character’s name could be mentioned on one page, and five paragraphs later, the story would still be alluding to this same character using pronouns alone despite there being several other characters who use the same pronouns in the same scene.

The world building was sloppy at best. So we have a world where humans colonized the moon and are now at war with the natives, known as “chimera” or “gargoyles”, the latter being deemed offensive. Apparently “gargoyle” is offensive despite the term referring to statues built to fight off evil spirits but “chimera” (which is still not the term that this species uses for itself because we never address that issue) is okay despite referring to a Greek mythological monster. Cool. We’re also supposed to believe that everyone lost their culture upon moving to the moon, yet the language spoken is English and everyone acts American because apparently if everyone moved to the moon, only American culture would be strong enough to survive. Despite all this though, we have Nyx referring to her grandmother as “abuela” which really makes no sense if Spanish isn’t spoken anymore and really cheapens the whole “latinx” culture thing going on, but I’ll discuss this more later.

The Problematic

My number one pet peeve surrounding this book is how people keep describing it as amazing queer rep. Let me be clear: while there is plenty of queer rep in this book, it does absolutely no favors whatsoever to the aro/ace community. Our only ace character (Braedon) can’t seem to figure out if he’s supposed to be aro or ace. His aceness is cheap and continuously conflated with not wanting relationships or not getting people who are romantically attracted to others, which is an aro attribute, not ace. He also says the line “that’s the wonderful thing about me being ace. I will never have The Sex. Like…ever” (63), which completely erases the fact that being ace has NOTHING to do with whether or not you have sex and plenty of aces STILL HAVE SEX.

 

The characters’ marginalizations (esp. race) feel poorly researched and thrown in simply for brownie points. The culture created in this story is one where race and culture are irrelevant (because everyone follows a very Western, USian culture), yet race is constantly tossed up as if it matters. We’ve got mentions of brown skin and families being from X country, but race plays literally no part in how these characters live or think so it’s just a cheap add on. That being said, there were plenty of racial issues that I felt were handled poorly.

 

  1. Where were the biracial characters? It seems like we have one out of the ENTIRE cast. All of these people have been up on the moon for generations, and yet no one had kids with anyone who wasn’t part of their race, which they supposedly don’t care about anymore?
  2. I hated the way Nyx’s being Cuban was handled. First of all, the story talks about her being brown as if that’s just a result of being Cuban. Cuban isn’t a race, and considering that they’ve been on this moon for generations, I find it very hard to believe that whatever melanin was in her ancient ancestors skin just kept getting passed down “because she was Cuban”. Sure, she could be brown, but in that case, she should have some other heritage besides just this distant Cubanism unless we’re supposed to believe, again, that people only married within their own cultures despite culture being irrelevant.
  3. I HATE this idea of culture being irrelevant. Yes, I totally get that living away from your culture for generations will change things, but this digs so deep in all the wrong ways. First of all, the implication here is that diaspora are less of their culture than those born in their countries. Not only is this inherently WRONG, but it basically insists that if you or your parents aren’t from a country, you would just drop that culture entirely, which is gross. Second of all, I know that white cultures may be fragile, but you must not know anything about certain countries if you expect me to believe that they would let their culture die. Japan??? Cuba??? For real? I also think it’s ignorant to think that a common culture would eliminate racism. Black people have been in the U.S. for centuries and people are still racist so no.
  4. Why was the only person challenging colonization white? Why was a white boy lecturing a person of color on racism? Why was this heralded as being educational and right? Why was this another white savior story on two fronts: in that the natives needed humans to save them from “the bad ones” AND that the people of color needed to learn to accept the foreign species from white people who are for some reason more educated on this issue?
  5. TOUCHING A BLACK GIRL’S HAIR WITHOUT PERMISSION ISN’T ROMANTIC. This may have been one of the smallest elements of the story but it pissed me off the most. Just because something is “cute” and “romantic” to a white girl doesn’t mean it works that way for people of color, and that’s something you owe your readers to acknowledge before you start writing. How can you think you’re ready to write black people when you don’t even know that touching a black girl’s hair is heresy? Google “touching a black girl’s hair” and every result will tell you that it’s fucked up. Touching a black girl’s hair is an unfair display of power. It takes away her agency. And it’s FUCKING ANNOYING because black hair can be EXTREMELY difficult to style and then white people go sticking their hands all up in it and ruining everything! DON’T TOUCH A BLACK GIRL’S HAIR.

 

Finally, (because this is already too long and I need to close it off), I just want to address the colonization. It was bad. First of all, we don’t get a POV from any of the natives. A lot of people have spoken on this already, so I just want to say that if you’re going to write a colonization narrative, the least you can do is let the natives speak for themselves and not have white people be “their voices”. I also didn’t appreciate the “let’s hear both sides” rhetoric going on here. The chimera had their home invaded, their people murdered, and their identity stripped from them, yet everyone is acting like the colonist have an equal right to be upset at the chimera for everything that’s happened. The chimera defended themselves, and yet they’re still being seen as the bad guys, or at least, just as guilty as the colonists, and this is completely unfair. Last (but certainly not least) is the issue that the chimera are only seen as deserving basic rights and life after pointing out that they “were intelligent creatures with language and reason. And wasn’t that the basest and easiest way to sum up humanity?” So these creatures who’ve had their home invaded and destroyed only deserve to not be slaughtered by their oppressors because they can be compared to humans. This is like when white, abled, cis, etc. people only care about the marginalized because they’re “the same” as them. It doesn’t matter if people (or chimera) are different than you. They’re living creatures who deserve respect.

Conclusion

Anyway, Yikes. I was excited for this book, but yeah. Not great. I wouldn’t recommend it.

The Weight of Feathers Book Review

For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

CW: child abuse, domestic violence, fatmisia, g*psy slur, racism, rape mention, miscarriage

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Review: The Weight of Feathers is a magical realism story about love and self-discovery. I want to emphasize here magical realism, and I don’t mean the sort that publishing has been pushing (i.e. The Raven Cycle), but real, true cultural magical realism. If you’ve never read a magical realism story before, you’re in for a ride, and I’d highly recommend this read to you, but keep in mind that it won’t be what you’re used to.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

Continue reading “The Weight of Feathers Book Review”

They Both Die at the End Book Review

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

CW: ableism, suicidal ideation, descriptions of death

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Short Review: This book was spawned from Satan’s armpit. Honestly, though, it’s a wild ride of a book with great character development, an awesome theme, and as many light-hearted moments as tragic moments. I’d recommend this book to anyone.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

Continue reading “They Both Die at the End Book Review”

Starfish Book Review (and blog tour!)

A special thank you to Rich in Variety for providing me with an ARC of Starfish.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kikoprefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves

CW: ableism, aromisia, mental illness, child abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault, suicide

After much consideration, I dropped my original rating to 1 star. This book is extremely dangerous, and the ratings it’s receiving are uncritical and harmful. Readers need to be aware of how dangerous this book is before they read it. 

Rating: ⭐️

Short Review: Starfish is a tale rife with culture, self-exploration, and cute romance. Despite the excellent character development, beautiful writing and formatting, and excellent messages on racism, the story also paints a very ableist image that boosts one experience at another’s expense.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

Continue reading “Starfish Book Review (and blog tour!)”

“Shadowhouse Fall” Book Review

Sequel to Shadowshaper Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds… or risk losing them all.

CW: ableism, panic attacks, police brutality, Baker Acting

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Review: Older had a vision for this book, and he made it happen. The writing is deliberate in the way that it continues to develop the world of the Shadowshapers while also tackling modern, real world struggles. He fleshes out his characters, envelops the reader in a world of magic, and still makes time for some serious, much-needed activism.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

The Good

This 👏🏽 Story 👏🏽 Is 👏🏽 Woke. Given that this is a story about a bunch of black (and Afro-Latinx) kids running around the streets of New York, Older had a lot to work with, but he absolutely made the most of it. The story conquers the world of police brutality, the struggles of racism, calls out white complacency, and even gives a shout out to black figures like Trayvon Martin. This story speaks VOLUMES, and if you’re looking for something that is both incredibly entertaining and also incredibly powerful, this is the book for you.

The writing in this novel was world’s beyond Shadowhsaper. Older brought his A-game in terms of description, action, and pacing. He takes this book as a chance to fully flesh out some characters who were left a little dry in book one and really tug on some heartstrings.

This is that urban fantasy book that has you laughing while you shiver. The magic is enthralling, and the dialogue is hilarious. You’ll find yourself engrossed as you flip from one emotional extreme to another.

The Bad

I was not feeling the love triangle. At all. The relationship between Robbie and Sierra felt a little forced to me in book one, but I was looking forward to seeing how it would smooth out in book two. Eesh. Not even a little.

On top of the rocky, and kind of awkwardly unnecessary Robbie drama was the newly introduced love triangle with Juan’s friend Anthony. I just couldn’t get into it. Nothing about the relationship felt organic or well-drawn out to me, and while Anthony was a mostly likeable character, his relationship with Sierra felt about as convincing as his panic attacks (next section).

The Problematic

The story struggles with a good amount of ableism. While there are some issues regarding mental hospitals and patients that seemed to be handled relatively well, the story was still rife with casual ableism and ableist slurs like “maniac”.

Other issues came in the form of Anthony’s panic attacks. When he entrusts this information to Sierra, the two discuss it in a way that I thought was very mental health inclusive. However, this sensitivity is the last you’ll see through to the end of the novel. We’ve got plenty of issues like Sierra “not telling anyone about his panic attacks” while being super obvious and talking about his “condition”. We have her failing to respond to the fact that he’s having a panic attack after promising to be there only to show up and for the whole scene to devolve into “sexy times”.

More than anything, though, Anthony’s anxiety seemed to be a tool to make his relationship with Sierra more convincing. His entrusting this information to her (even though he barely knows her and has only told like four people) is basically the only glue keeping their relationship together, and several times throughout the novel, this knowledge is used to either entice or berate Sierra and draw more attention to an otherwise lackluster couple.

Conclusion

Overall, Shadowhouse Fall was one of my favorite reads of the year. Despite a couple of hiccups in terms of mental health and romance, the story is colorful, powerful, and a surefire sign that Older’s writing just gets better with age (buh dum tsss).

I read an ARC of this book. It releases September 12, 2017.