Lead Me Not: A Book Review

Beliefs are formative for not only our thoughts, but the actions we carry out daily, as well. In the case of Isaac Morris, in Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher, he is entrenched in the mindset of homophobic rhetoric, alongside the majority of his fundamental Christian church and family. One could wonder, what would it take for him to be educated on the world outside of the groupthink he has been forced to drown in?

For a while now, I’ve been in search of a book that not only tackles the subject matter that this one does, but which also sets up a realistic depiction of both sides in this contemporary argument. Though I disliked reading the homophobic bits, and detested certain characters throughout the novel, what sold it for me was Isaac and his transformation, as well as the in depth look at not only the mindset of people like him, but also the scripture in the Bible as seen through each other’s eyes.

With that being said, was Isaac a good or likable character for the majority of the book? I suppose that depends upon each reader. As for me, as a character, I loved him. Certain choices he made though, were reason enough for a person to dislike him, if he were a real person. His background does play a large part though on how he reacts or interacts with certain revelations, because hatred buried that deep in someone is not changed overnight. However, eventually, the pay out that comes later is worth his less than likable tendencies, thoughts, and actions.

As for the other characters, I enjoyed each one, honestly. The love interest, Colton Roberts, a stark contrast to everything that Isaac believed previously, was also well written, and a great choice to be set opposite of him. I enjoyed reading his chapters as much, if not more, than Isaac’s, to be honest. As for the antagonists, though they made me want to scream or toss my Kindle, were realistic. The siblings outside of the ones who were cast in with the rest of the antagonists were decent, as was the older pastor who had taken care of Colton from a young age. He ground the story in ways that made me grateful that he was included.

The setting, which is Seattle, Washington, as well as the different places that are visited throughout the course of the novel, compound the message that the narrative is seeking to show overall – we all have our own struggles, but it costs nothing to hear each other out and be kind to our fellow humans. I enjoyed watching Isaac interact with his choice of occupation – a gay bar, of all things. Likewise, how his opinion of Colton’s church changed over time after various visits, was interesting as well.

My one bone to pick with this book, honestly, is the way that the older sister who has been distanced from the family, reacts to the news of the whole project, which is the driving force of the plot for much of the book. Being that she is removed from it emotionally, outside of worrying about Isaac, I felt she should have also asked how it was fair to treat someone the way that her brother and sister were, for a manipulative venture. Addressing that better on page would have been most welcomed, honestly, and is ultimately what led me to knock down a star from my final rating.

Overall, I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian and LGBTQIA+ romance melded together. The subject matter is tough, but it is still a good story, and one that does deliver a powerful look at what can happen when we all put aside our pride, or toxic beliefs, and just listen.

I rated this book a 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

In Inspiration I Trust

Last week, according to my spreadsheet, was in fact the worst writing week that I have had to date since starting it. There are multiple empty spaces that remind me I did not write a single word on my works in progress. Those blanks will haunt me for the rest of the month.

This is not to say, however, that I was not still working on anything, because I was. However, it was not the traditional work that one expects to do when planning for writing a book. Regardless, it gave me more inspiration, which has propelled me forward to finish out this last week strong.

Below I will leave the aesthetics, which I created for the characters from my current WIP. Let it not be said that I have nothing to show for my work. (All images are free stock photos. I lay no claim to any single one.)

Morgan, the main character – Pronouns: They/Them
Annabelle
Will
Adrián
Julia
Aurelia

I Wish You All The Best: A Book Review

What a time to be alive, where fiction about Nonbinary people, has gone mainstream! In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined it, to be honest. Here we are though, just a day shy of the whole first release week of I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver having taken place, and it has taken the internet by storm for all of the right reasons.

From the get go, it is made apparent that this book will be delving into subjects with emotional depth, as the story begins with the main character, Benjamin De Decker, being kicked out of their home for outing themself to their parents. From there, it becomes a narrative of healing for them, as they try to piece back together a life in shambles.

If you are looking for light-hearted, then I suggest searching elsewhere, because though there are humor laden exchanges and a romance between the MC and another character, which builds gradually throughout, this book is first and foremost about trauma and healing from it. With that being said, this was a harder read for me, but I am so grateful that this book exists. Years ago, as a Nonbinary teen, I would have benefited greatly from it, had it been available at that time.

As for the mechanics of the story, the character driven plot was done well. There was nuance and growth throughout, especially from Ben. Though their healing takes center-stage, Ben’s sister also transcends her original starting point, as does the love interest. Their motivations and facets are fleshed out to where I can see them being actual people. These three are the characters we see the most, so I feel it’s important to highlight those above the others. However, each person in the cast of characters was unique, and believable, which added layers to the story that would not have previously been there otherwise.

Overall, though a difficult read for anyone who can remotely relate to Ben on certain issues, this book is one of the best to come out of this release year. I am grateful to have read it, and I can only hope that the author will continue writing, as I look forward to their next work.

I rated this book on Goodreads 5/5 stars.

Shadows You Left: A Book Review

There is something to be said for laid back novels, such as Shadows You Left by Jude Sierra and Taylor Brooke, which offers up an intriguing plot and the potential for great character development, then delivers. It is the sort of book that can keep a reader up at night with anticipation, urging them to continue until the end. A whirlwind romance with teeth and truth, this book is a stunner.

With that being said, this story revolves around two main characters – Erik and River – whose points of view alternate throughout. Erik is a cage fighter and mediocre bartender, while River is a talented tattoo artist. Right from the start, their lives converge, and the story begins. Even from the opening though, it becomes apparent that while this is a romance, each character has his own separate life to sort out, and live too. While it does indeed focus on their nascent relationship, importance is also placed on who they are outside of each other, including their friends or family.

Furthermore, well-executed prose and beautiful imagery populate this slice of life and love novel, which only engendered me to this narrative further. Those aspects, coupled with a well-constructed combination of fleshed out characters, and sub-plots that had believable resolutions at the end, made this easily one of my favorite books of the year.

If the premise of two imperfect people navigating their separate worlds alongside their budding romance draws you, then the following love story might be for you. It is not cotton candy, by any means, as it deals with darker topics, such as addiction and substance abuse. However, it is a novel that adds depth to the New Adult category and romance genre in its execution.

I rated this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I was given a free ARC of this by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.




Gender Queer: A Memoir – A Book Review

I cannot express how elated I was to discover this graphic novel memoir on NetGalley. Reading the title felt like a beacon hailing me to shore, after a long, weary journey adrift at sea. Filled with equal amounts of excitement and apprehension, I downloaded it, hoping that it would live up to the expectations that roiled through me as I did.

Gender Queer: A Memoir is written and illustrated by a Nonbinary artist named Maia Kobabe, colored by Phoebe Kobabe. It follows eir journey through childhood up to present day where Kobabe has become confident in eir gender identity and expression. In accompaniment to the words, there are beautiful drawings that illustrate the peaks and pitfalls of being who e is.

As an AFAB, or Assigned Female At Birth, Nonbinary person myself, I deeply felt certain emotions that leapt off of each page in this book. Likewise, I believe that e exhibited all of the experiences well, so that even those who have not endured them, will understand. I will note though that I am not Asexual, nor do I use the same pronouns as the author. However, I did learn more about each aspect through this novel, so that in and of itself was an added bonus to picking it up.

I can say that without a doubt, I do recommend this work to everyone. If you’re questioning, or searching for Nonbinary or Genderqueer rep, then this is a wonderful one to choose. Likewise, if you’re wishing to be informed as an ally or learn of an experience outside of your own, then this novel can also be for you.

Overall, Gender Queer: A Memoir is a moving and well-illustrated graphic novel that I can see myself purchasing in the future to give to family members and friends. I feel this medium is the ideal one to tell the story that was presented. If any of this sounds up your alley in any way, then definitely consider buying a copy when it comes out on May 28th, 2019!

I rate this title 5/5 stars.

Disclaimer: I was given a free ARC of this title by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Unbroken: A Book Review

Given the trigger warnings and the fact that it is Erotica, I will be honest and say that I did not expect to enjoy Unbroken by Brooklyn Ray as much as the previous novel of this series. However, raw and real, this book is the sequel to Port Lewis Witches, Volume One that we all deserve.

Unbroken follows the story of Michael Gates, a travel blogger who is transplanted to Port Lewis by his parents’ collective insistence that he do something with his life. Tucking tail and escaping Arizona, he follows his sister Janice to Port Lewis, Washington where they find themselves renting a house with two other roommates; one human and one demon. That is not even the half of the strangeness that begins to infiltrate itself into their lives after arriving in Port Lewis.

Outside of Michael Gates, there is Victor Llewellyn, Michael’s sister Janice, and their roommate Corey, as well as the occasional appearance of other Port Lewis regulars introduced in book one. Those I felt were tastefully done, and did not feel shoe-horned in whatsoever. Regarding the new characters, I felt that each were well-written, with not a single one feeling hollow or incomplete.

Furthermore, I adored each of the characters that are added to this world with the addition of this book to the series, including the main character. Michael is by no means perfect, but his character arc of learning to accept himself and the love he deserves is poignant and harsh, but relatable. I connected with him in ways I was not sure I would upon first glance of the novel.

As for the world building in this book, given the genre, it did take a back seat. However, it was still woven in so that those who read the first book will learn more about the magic system and world that Ray has created. I did not feel like it was lacking in the slightest.

Overall, for those who enjoyed Unbroken’s predecessor, and can handle darker subject matter, I recommend this book. Though it may be heavier material, I believe it is tastefully done, and well worth the read.

I rate this book 5/5.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this by NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

Interview With The Editor Of The Upcoming Nonbinary Anthology ‘X Marks The Spot’

‘X Marks The Spot’ is an anthology being put together by fellow enby, India Kiely. The collection will include various works, such as art, personal essays, and poetry, all from Nonbinary content creators. Each creation will be focused on what the individual creator’s experience with gender means to them. The deadline to monetarily support this project is March 3rd.

Though they are busy with this project and more, India was gracious enough to give me the time of day, as well as the interview below.

Question #1. What sparked the initial idea that led to the creation of this upcoming anthology?

I’ve always been very passionate about representation in the media, and through my own coming out as nonbinary it became very apparent that there is almost none for us. I started my YouTube in part because that was the only place I had ever seen anyone like me – but in the mainstream media, it’s almost nonexistent. So I knew I wanted to do something to change that. And then one night at about 3 am I had the sudden realisation that ‘X Marks The Spot’ would make an excellent pun title for a nonbinary anthology. Everything that’s happened since has come from that one random brainwave.

Question #2. So far, what has the process been like for you as you’ve worked to put this title together?

It’s been an incredible process. At times a little overwhelming – like when my tweet asking for essay submissions went semi-viral and I ended up with over 400 pitches in 48 hours. But overwhelming in the best way possible. When I first started, the submission deadline was a month earlier and I only ended up getting two responses. At that point, I thought maybe the project wouldn’t happen after all and I was prepared for disappointment. That tweet was kind of a last-ditch attempt to save it – I could only dream of getting this kind of response and yet it happened. The best part by far is the number of people who have told me how needed this anthology is, how much it means to them. That alone makes all the work going into it more than worth it.

Question #3. As you looked through the submissions, how did you end up narrowing it down to the ones that will be incorporated into ‘X Marks The Spot’?

Narrowing down the submissions was by far the hardest thing. Every story sent to me was so incredibly personal and moving and I would have included so many more if I could have. Ultimately though, it was so important to me that I be able to pay everyone fairly for their work so I knew I had to get it down to around 30. I cut them down in rounds and in the final round, I made a rough plan of the topics I want to include in the anthology and how each of the essays I had left covered those topics. When some of them covered very similar things, I was left with the really tough choice of trying to pick one of them. At times preference was given to more diverse voices – if we had five coming out stories and only one of them was about coming out in a non-Western cultural background, then I would make sure to include that one and one of the other five, rather than two Western narratives for example.

Question #4. For those Nonbinary content creators who did miss the cutoff, given the overwhelmingly positive reaction you’ve received so far, would you consider creating a Volume 2 in the future so that more may be involved?

I would love to be able to do something like that. I think I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, particularly with managing the Kickstarter and it would be great to have the chance to try again and to be able to learn from those mistakes. Or perhaps when I’ve finished my Creative Writing degree, I could pursue traditional publishing and see if I could put together another anthology with the backing of a publisher to get us an even wider audience. That would be the dream!

Question #5. Is there anything you’d like to say for those considering picking up this title?

If you’ve ever been curious about nonbinary people but don’t want to Google it in case you get the wrong info and don’t want to ask in case you say something rude – this is the book for you. You can get all the information right from us, in a way that we are happy to share it. And if you think maybe you or someone you love is somewhere outside the binary – I hope this will help. There’s an amazing community of us and you’re more than welcome to be a part of it.

Question #6. At this point in time, the goal has been exceeded with the help of 326 donors on Kickstarter, as well as the countless number of those who reblogged on social media. For those who already have, or for those still wishing to help this project gain traction and renown, is there anything you’d like to say to them?

I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for helping us to hit that goal. It means so much to me and to all the voices included in the anthology and to all the nonbinary people who have been sitting watching this happen. To have our stories respected and wanted in this way is incredible. I cannot put into words how much it means and I hope it lives up to the expectation.

Question #7. What do you hope readers across the board, no matter who they are, take away from this book?

That it’s okay to be different. That we don’t have to be frightened of something just because we haven’t heard of it before. And that it’s best to listen, to learn and to love with an open heart. Because I promise you we’re not so different. We just have a different experience of gender than you. We still laugh at the same jokes, enjoy the same foods, say aww at a cute dog. We’re your friends and your family and your colleagues. I think this book will show our differences and our similarities, both inside and outside the community. There’s no one way to be human.