young adult

LGBT Audiobooks 2016 Listen List

I’m just a tad late in posting all of the glorious audiobooks that I listened to in 2016 (though they did make it into my year-end-stravaganza posting). Compared with 2015, there was an aural explosion! I think this in part because I had more options as far as buying and borrowing audiobooks (Overdrive, OneClick Digital, Audible). I’ve also spent more time perusing audiobook reviews on sites such as AudioFile Magazine and participating in a fantastic Facebook group, Lesbian Audiobooks

Now when I find an interesting book, I ask myself “is there an audiobook version?” Publishers seem to produce more and more audiobook versions these days, as opposed to limiting the production to “big” names and blockbuster series. What a time to be a listener!

My taste in listening varies from one day to the next. Below you’ll find my moods and interests reflected in the covers below. I enjoy literary fiction, modern-day retellings of Shakespeare plays, memoirs, YA, fantasy adventure, contemporary romance, far-flung settings, and historical fiction.

However, if I don’t enjoy the narrator, no matter how good the storytelling, I stop listening. And that’s just me; other listeners might find the narrator is a great fit for their ears. Some new-to-me narrators that I really enjoyed in 2016 include Laural Merlington and Kate Rudd (The Language of Hoofbeats); Amielynn Abellera (As I Descended); Sarah Grace Wright (Fallen Elements); and Bahni Turpin (Here Comes the Sun). These narrators deliver immersive experiences with wonderful pacing, tone, and excellent characterization.

As for 2017? Well, I’ve already listened to a contemporary romance and a fantasy-adventure! My Audible wishlist is long and getting longer. What LGBT+ fiction and/or non-fiction audiobooks did you listen to last year?  

The book covers are linked to either a review I posted or to a related external site (like Overdrive, AudioFile, publishers, etc.).

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully LoadedSaving Montgomery SoleAs I DescendedHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-BennYou Know Me Well by David LevithanThe Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson CooperHit by a Farm by Catherine FriendThe Warrior's Path (When Women Were Warriors, #1)Being Jazz Audiobook2497445115726317327959Image result for if i was your girl audiobook207637391582434313587076937547633163705232513262325817288219421892292974125893681

Categories: audiobooks, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, mystery, nonfiction, paranormal, romance, suspense, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Heart

Image result for secret heart danielle dreger

Secret Heart, Danielle Dreger’s debut novel, strums the angsty heartstrings of its leading ladies: Avery and Madison. On first glance, the two girls could not be more different. Avery is openly queer, a badass rocker, an only child, and far from a star student. Madison is a poster child for perfection: stellar grades, student council President, soccer star, and all-around super nice person. Not that Avery isn’t nice 😉 Casual acquaintances for most of their high school lives, their lives intertwine on the inaugural meeting of their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (Lion Pride).

Senior year can be a crazy time and it’s easy to lose sight of which way points up. The instant chemistry and intense desire surprises both girls. Avery and Madison both face heavy expectations (from bandmates, parents, friends, Lion Pride). They struggle to find a personal balance for their lives after high school and if their burgeoning romance (plus the secrecy that Madison wants) is worth the stress. As I read, I marveled at the elasticity of their hearts. Was the trust worthily bestowed? How much of themselves, of their core being, would they be willing to sacrifice in order to appease others?

Had I never met the most unreal-ly nice person before reading this book, I would have scoffed at a character so kind-hearted, successful, and popular. Madison’s life, however, is far from perfect and she plays her cards close to her chest. My inner cynic was pacified by the complexity embodied by both leads. They challenge stereotypes (Avery’s affinity for Taylor Swift and marathoning Zac Efron films with her best friend, Scott, for example) and some other surprises. By the end of the story, I was more satisfied with the characters’ personal growth than with their romance.

Secret Heart is a fun, angsty roller coaster of love and self-discovery.

“Avery’s Playlist” (condensed)

Dreger curated the perfect playlist for this book. The song selections in themselves reflect the storyline and emotional roller coaster of teenage romance. It makes me want to record a mix tape from vignettes of my own life. For a full set list, turn to pp. 247-248 of Secret Heart.

Secret Heart
Author: Danielle Dreger
Publisher: DDB Press
Released: October 2016
ISBN (print) 978-0-9977659-1-5
ISBN (ebook) 978-0-9977659-0-8

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Don’t forget to check your local library for availability! A part of the proceeds from every book sold goes to support the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

 

Categories: fiction, friendship, lgbt, librarians, romance, young adult | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading Resolutions for 2017

 Oh, reading challenges. I love them, and yet, I fare better with the types of reading challenges that quantify, rather than qualify, my choices. For example, Goodreads only asks how many books I plan on finishing between January and December. That’s pretty straightforward, simple, and, in some ways, not that much of a challenge. I can set the bar at 5 books, if I wanted (I would wither away if I was only able to read five books in a year).

My excuses/reasons for failing to cross the finish line of the 2016 PopSugar challenge are many. I’m like that dog in the Pixar movie “Up”; I get distracted by every book that crosses my path. There are certainly not enough hours in the day for work, commuting, and my myriad of interests. I am also unable to read less than ten trillion books at a time. There is currently one book in my glove compartment of my car; an audiobook in my car’s disc drive and on my smartphone; Analog magazine on my phone for endless lines at the grocery store; eBooks on my Nook; and on and on.

I don’t give myself a hard time for not living up to my own reading standards. It’s supposed to be so many other things above and beyond a mere assignment. I will, however, craft mini challenges for myself that highlight voices and genres I haven’t spent much (if any) time with. And then there is the news… So long 2016!

How about you?

Categories: anthology, audiobooks, erotica, essay, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, history, Holiday, horror, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction, novella, paranormal, poetry, primary sources, retellings, romance, romantic friendships, short stories, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Girl Mans Up – audiobook review

girl-mans-up

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard tells the story of how Pen, a gender non-conforming teen at a private Catholic high school, learns how to stand up for her truth. On the way she struggles with unhealthy friendships, parental disapproval of her and the older brother she adores, and vile fellow students. Not to mention finding someone who seems to understand, support, and find Pen super irresistible.

Her biggest allies in the story are her older brother, Johnny, and Blake, a kickass, rocking bisexual character who Pen finally works up the nerve to talk to while scooping up girls for her odious friend Colby.

Girl Mans Up continues the discussion on gender presentation. Pen strives to figure out how to stay true to herself in the face of difficult friendships and a combative home life. The novel comes together in the end as a beginning and not an ending. Vague as that statement is, it will make sense when you finish the book!

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As soon as I heard “narrated by Emma Galvin” I pressed pause on the audio sample, too excited to listen to the rest. Emma Galvin has a voice perfect for voicing teens. By random chance, I’ve landed on two audiobooks released this year that are narrated by Galvin. Her voice gives her protagonist a rough and emotional, and living between certainty and uncertainty. The rest of the cast is rich with characterization and it shows in the way certain characters inspire deep loathing.

Accents are a challenge for every narrator. Galvin does a serviceable job as Pen’s parents (immigrants from Portugal) and extended family. I felt like Pen’s mother sounded young, but I come from a line of youthful voices, so I can’t entirely discount her performance based on that. Pen struggles to coexist between the cultures of her Portuguese family and Canadian culture. There is a gap in communication between Pen and her parents, for a number of reasons, including her limited Portuguese language skills and gender identity.

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You can learn more about the authors, narrator, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

Girl Mans Up
Author: M-E Girard
Narrator: Emma Galvin
Produced by HarperAudio
Length: 9 hours 32 minutes
Release date: September 2016
ISBN: 9780062642868
ISBN-10: 0062642863
ASIN: B01J21ARTG

Available as an audiobook from Amazon, Audible, iTunes, Audiobooks, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: lgbt, young adult | Tags: , | 4 Comments

As I Descended – audiobook review

as i descended.jpg

 

It’s barely fall, but the early mornings are darker and colder. Every sound in an empty room makes me jump a little. Amielynn Abellera’s narration plays a huge role in bringing out the full richness of the story. The eerie atmosphere, setting, and murky moral territory infiltrate every nook and cranny, like fog. As I Descended by Robin Talley draws some inspiration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Listening to the story with headphones on in a quiet library intensifies the creep factor. 

I don’t believe in Ouija boards, yet I won’t touch one with a twenty foot pole. The story is a deliciously chill, vicarious thrill for those of us who looked under the bed as a kid. It pulls readers into the supernatural and what happens when a trio of friends — Maria, Lily, and Brandon— lay their hands on an antique Ouija board. Be careful what you wish for and never forget to say goodbye.

What better place to invoke the spirits than a private boarding school on a former plantation in Virginia? Ghost stories involving former tenants are dismissed by students, who enjoy being scared, but that’s about it. Maria, on the other hand, has a secret past with spirits and isn’t so quick to dismiss the tales. The story wastes no time in setting the mood with the initial events in the old cafeteria and doesn’t let up. Since the story is told in the third person, you find yourself inside the heads of the primary and secondary characters. The effect shows the increasing doubt, fear, and isolation the students experience as events unravel. The story includes a diverse cast, with no one person being singled out as a “villain” because of their social status, ethnicity, physical abilities, or sexual orientation. Though, that being said, the story shows high school kids at their best and worst…and worst.

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Amielynn Abellera is perfectly cast as the narrator. Her strong characterizations allow the story to come fully alive. The students that she voices converge on Acheron Academy from different regions in the United States, as well as Puerto Rico. Lily has a soft Southern drawl; Mateo speaks with Spanish accented English. Some students sound stoned, serious, or ditsy. The heights of elation and the depths of fear and despair will crawl under your skin. Abellera’s pacing allows the suspense to build and grab you, but never fully allows you to relax. She doesn’t rush the story or exaggerate her voice for a cheap scare, either.

As I Descended is a great companion for the long, dark nights ahead.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Narrator: Amielynn Abellera
Produced by Harper Collins
Length: 9 hours, 9 minutes
Release date: September 2016
Audio CD: ISBN-10: 1441708952, ISBN-13: 987-1441708953
Digital Audio: ISBN 9780062571823, ISBN-10: 0062571826

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, Audiobooks, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: audiobooks, horror, lgbt, paranormal, retellings, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Know Me Well – audiobook review

 

You Know Me Well

 

You Know Me Well, an entertaining collaboration from authors Nina LaCour and David Levithan, follows a pair of teenagers as they navigate turning points in their lives at the end of the school year. The story is told in alternating, intertwined narratives through the eyes of high school students Kate and Mark. Although they have sat next to each other in math class all year, the two first really see each other at a bar during San Francisco’s Pride kick-off festivities. Despite being virtual strangers with a recognizable face, the emotional maelstrom of love and the unknown lead Kate and Mark to become instant friends.  It’s a jubilant story of new beginnings, dashed dreams, and evolving relationships. I highly recommend the audiobook version of this story as a great road trip or seaside companion.

If I didn’t already love David Levithan’s storytelling, I would have picked up this title for the sole reason that Emma Galvin narrates Kate’s sections. Previously, I enjoyed her turn as Tris from Divergent, the dystopian YA trilogy by Veronica Roth. She has the type of voice well-suited for playing strong and conflicted young women. If she reads the dictionary next, I’ll be first in line to listen. As Kate, a high school senior standing on the brink of the planned and the unknown, Emma explores the rocky terrain of desire, anxiety, friendship, and more, through skillful narration. The supporting cast of friends, family, and acquaintances are also wonderfully realized by both narrators.

Matthew Brown characterizes Mark, a high school junior in love with his best friend/secret non-boyfriend, so genuinely that I can’t imagine him as any one but Mark (and the other people he voices). Unlike Kate, Mark clings to what he wants, even when Ryan tells him that he just doesn’t feel the same way. Their relationship is complicated and it takes Kate and her outsider’s point-of-view, to help him through it all. Matthew provides nuanced characterization that aptly reflects the struggle Mark is experiencing. When the world feels like it’s falling down around Mark, the listener can’t help but feel it, too. Every awkward moment and new experience feels real.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

You Know Me Well
Authors: Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Narrators: Emma Galvin, Matthew Brown
Produced by Macmillan Audio
Length: 6 hours, 36 minutes
Release date: June 7, 2016
ISBN: 1427279500

Available as an audiobook from Audible, Audiobook, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, friendship, lgbt, romance, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Books as Comfort Food & Security Blankets

Books have always been my comfort food, my security blankets. When I reach for a well-worn favorite, I don’t have to explain my need. The book is simply there, waiting to wrap its words around me, to weave its pages through my soul. The recent shootings at Pulse in Orlando were (and are) awful *understatement*, but the outpouring of love and support from people around the globe is heartwarming and a sign that all is not hate and darkness.

I have a few lesfic books nestled amongst my pile of comfort reads. The angsty drama is at a minimum because having my emotional guts churned into puree isn’t the kind of story that I want to curl up with alone at night…or during my lunch break at work *no thank you ugly tears*. They share loving affirmations that you can find light even in the dark. If you have any comfort reads featuring queer women, please share them in the comments below! Thank you 🙂

 

Annie on My Mind covers AE

via AfterEllen.com

 

I’ve read and listened to Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, countless times. Annie Kenyon and Liza Winthrop, two 17 year-olds from different New York City neighborhoods, meet by chance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They expand their horizons as they share the city with each other and discover love. Part of the novel’s charm for me lies in the setting and in the time period. Garden (and Lowman, through her narration) characterize all of the joys, uncertainties, and angst teens on the brink of adulthood experience. It was written at a time when young adult novels for lgbt youth were slim pickings. The girls navigate uncharted emotional territory with imagination and heart. Some may find it dated, but I’ll return to it for as long as I need it.

Curious Wine KVF

Every winter I return to the cabin where Diana and Lane first met, in Katherine V. Forrest’s Curious Wine. The women gathered at the cabin seek different things from the excursion. You can read more about this book in-depth via my posting in February. The story radiates warm fuzzies through Forrest’s use of language, setting, and characterizations. Love and possibility pervade this story, even when the going gets rough.

Desert of the Heart book cover

Jane Rule‘s Desert of the Heart (1964) is a more recent addition to my favorites list. I’d watched the 1985 film adaptation (“Desert Hearts“) quite a few times before picking up this slender tale of romance and self-discovery. All I can say is that I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. It contains all of the ingredients that I enjoy in a romance: strong, intelligent women who struggle with themselves and outside odds, but eventually prevail. Mid-century Reno provides a wondrous landscape. Evelyn Hall is an English professor in town to get a divorce. She meets Ann Childs, a cartoonist and change operator at a local casino, while staying at a lodging house. Their burgeoning romance navigates age differences, career paths, and mixed levels of support from family and friends.

 

 

 

 

Categories: fiction, lgbt, romance, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

If I Was Your Girl – audiobook review

If I Was Your Girl

 

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is the powerful and poignant story of Amanda Hardy, a transgender girl completing her senior year of high school in Tennessee. The chapters alternate between Amanda’s past and present as she struggles to chart her future. Hopeful for a fresh start in a new town, Amanda boards a bus to live with a father she hasn’t seen in years. Soon after arrival, she makes friends with Bee, an artsy outsider, and with a group of girls she meets after missing the bus on her first day of school. Despite these friendships and the attentions of a charming boy named Grant, a layer of fear and doubt, built up over years of abuse from her peers and stranger, dog her steps. The relationships Amanda has with her mother and father are like night and day and form an important part of the story. Russo paints a rich emotional landscape as Amanda journeys towards her unassailable truth that she deserves to live and deserves to love and be loved.  

It is important to note that Russo includes an author afterward to address her cisgender and transgender readers/listeners. She explains why she wrote Amanda’s story the way she did and warned against using it as a guide to trans people. Everyone’s story is different and important. Russo, herself a transgender woman, promoted the inclusion of trans people in the publishing and production of the book. She also provides contact numbers for people who are contemplating suicide.

Great narration transports readers into other worlds and into other lives. Poor narration can derail even the best stories, detaching the listener from the experience altogether. As an audiobook, If I Was Your Girl combines engrossing storytelling with a well-cast narrator, Samia Mounts. Her youthful voice is perfectly suited to a teenage girl. She delivers an engaging and emotionally charged performance. Amanda’s fears and doubts, excitement and joy, hopes and dreams. Scenes in which Amanda is afraid or nervous or disappointed vibrate in my headphones: words quiver, tremble, whisper, and soar. When Amanda is out on the town with her friends, Mounts raises her voice in excitement and adds a teasing tone to the dialogue, as well as other layers of expression. The narration for Amanda’s thoughts about and dialogue with her boyfriend Grant, are a complex mixture of doubt and fear, happiness and flirtation.

This audiobook is hard to put down!

If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Narrator:  Samia Mounts

Produced by Macmillan Audio
Length: 7 hours

Audiobook release date: May 2016
ISBN: 9781427272928

Available as an audiobook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Overdrive (check your library), and other booksellers.

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

South of Sunshine

South of Sunshine

 

Sunshine, Tennessee; a small town with farms, a factory, and football on Fridays.  For Kaycee (“Kay-c-double e”) Jean McCoy, life is about fitting in with her classmates long enough to escape (relatively) unscathed to college.  She navigates the angsty, cliquish social scene with the help of her best friends,  Van and Sarabeth.  Van is the stylish student council president; his truths are an open secret in town.  Sarabeth comes from a long line of Sunshine-ians and has a “place for everything and everything in its place” attitude.  The carefully arranged life Kaycee has planned for herself begins to crumble when a magnetic new girl moves to town for their senior year of high school.

South of Sunshine explores how the characters internalize stereotypes, prejudices, and other socialized behaviors.  It’s a bumpy ride, as the reader views the world through Kaycee’s eyes.  Kaycee’s intense fear of being judged and becoming a social pariah, distances her from anyone she thinks might “out” her by association.  She dates guys, allowing herself only furtive glances at the new girl, Bren Dawson.  Kaycee is not above labeling her peers.  She judges Charlotte, a fellow high school senior, labeling her a stereotypical lesbian based on her “business in the front, party in the back” mullet hairstyle and camouflage shirts.

Sunshine is full of overt racism and discrimination, with students and adults using racial slurs to justify ugly behavior and attitudes.  Not everyone in town shares these views.  Those who disagree do so quietly or say nothing at all.  The silence makes those who do nothing complicit in the negatives.  Van’s mother paints a rainbow heart in the window of their video rental business, Hot Flix.  The high school librarian, Mrs. Bellefleur, uses a rainbow coffee mug.  All Kaycee can hear, however, are the loud declarations and actions of the people who fear change and diversity.  It’s a long, awkward, and painful journey towards full self-acceptance, but it’s not without moments of hope, excitement, and freedom.

While the novel is pedantic at times, teaching the reader about how harmful stereotypes and racism are to communities and individuals, it does not break up the storytelling overmuch.  As I read, I had to remind myself that Kaycee was telling the story; it is her experiences and perspective that I see when I look out on her world.  The characters are at different points in their various journeys through life.  Although Kaycee experiences the most growth over the course of the story, Bren is by far my favorite character.  She is confident, charming, stylish, and sporty.  Her well of patience and understanding spring from a loving and supportive home.  If I were to cobble together ingredients for the perfect (first) girlfriend, Bren would be the result.

You might enjoy this young adult novel if you are drawn to novels set in small towns and feature coming out stories (as well as characters who are already comfortable in their identities). 

South of Sunshine
Author: Dana Elmendorf
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Release date: April 1, 2016

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, and other booksellers.  Be sure to check your local library for copies, too.

ISBN-10: 0807575682
ISBN-13: 978-0807575680

***I received a pre-publication copy of this title from Albert Whitman & Company via Netgalley***

 

Categories: fiction, lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transforming the Conversation

beyond-magentafreakboyI am JWanting in ArabicThe days of Anna MadrigalTransparentChaz Bono memoir  <— Click on a book cover to learn more.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of books.  I am always looking for titles, both fiction and nonfiction, that give voice to the wide range of experiences people have as they find out who they are and try to live as their truest selves.

Supplemental Articles, Videos, and Websites

This is only a partial listing of materials available online and offline.  Please feel free to add an article, video, website, or other helpful information related to this post in the comments below.

*Note: The following websites were accessed on February 4, 2015

Author Interviews

Book Excerpts

Book Trailers & Other Related Videos

Search YouTube or other video sites and you’ll find a  mixture of official and fan made trailers related to the books in this post.  If you’re feeling inspired, create a book trailer of your own (and post a link to it in the comments) (:

Goodreads

Discussion Guides

Transgender Resources

Categories: fiction, lgbt, nonfiction, poetry, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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