Jen’s Book Club

About a month ago I went on the hunt for some queer YA novels. I’d love to see more LGBTQ elements in the genre, and I wanted to know what I may not have come across in my normal book browsing. I think I probably exhausted Google, but I complied a list of a titles and thank goodness for Christmas giftcards, because they’re now sitting on the tip of my TO READ pile.  I’m totally addicted to the first one that showed up at my door, Emma Trevayne’s Coda.



Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will.

Coda is everything I like to see in fiction. Bright, complex characters, a world built on something strong and beating, and enough internal and external conflict to keep me up at night.

What titles have you excited right now? Is there anything you’d like to see more of in YA?

Jen’s Book Club

Last Thursday I had the opportunity (aka time off work) to go listen to Andrea Gibson spin poems at the University of Virginia. Let me tell you that it was in the most archaic church I’ve ever seen, all stained glass and heavy dark wood and busts of important religious folk who were probably judging all the queers stuffed into the pews.

University of Virginia has bells that chime every hour. Loudly and with feeling. So, during the performance Gibson paused to let the bells chime. They never did, though, and it was almost a poem when she looked at us and said, “They turned off the bells for the gays.”

One of Andrea’s books, The Madness Vase, is all about the irony of turning off church bells, among other pretty and hazardous things.


“The poems’ topics range from hate crimes to playgrounds, from international conflict to hometowns, from falling in love to the desperation of loneliness.  Gibson’s work seizes us by the collar and hauls us inside some of her darkest moments, then releases out the other side.  Moments later, we find ourselves inhaling words that fill us with light.   Her luminous imagery is a buoy that allows us to resurface from her world clutching new possibilities of our own.   Throughout her career, Gibson’s poems have always been a call to social justice.  But this collection goes beyond awareness. Her images linger in our psyches and entreat us to action.  They challenge us to grow into our own skin.  The journey may be raw at times but we are continuously left inspired, held, and certain we are not alone.”

This book is small in stature but big in meaning, and it’s more than just gay literature. It’s church and state. It’s falling and getting back up with bloody knees and a good laugh. It’s that pinpoint of light in the darkness. It’s raw like silk can be raw, but also raw like nerves exposed. It’s loss and fear and hate, and love in spite of all of it.

“Future” by Paramore Inspires Jen


In my eighteen years of life, I’ve learned that most of it is about getting in. Everybody wants to be on the inside. In high school it’s about popularity, and who gets to hold hands and other things with the cutest jock or doe eyed knock-off ten-seconds-to-knocked-up-barbie. I got out of there without getting a disease or a child.

College is all about getting in. Whether it’s Ivy League or someone’s pants. I shot for the former and landed in a respectable school that wasn’t necessarily Ivy League, but there were a lot of ivy covered buildings, so I figured that had to count for something. I was there to find something elusive and highly regarded. Something you didn’t find in anyone’s pants. They called it a future. And somehow they told me I’d find it in rooms full of kids making decisions bigger than eighteen years on Earth. Heavy decisions, ones that sounded like things grown ups would do. They told us we were grown ups. They lied.

I was not grown the nights I spilled my guts to a girl with eyes that changed color like dusk and realized I was never going to be one for jocks or barbies. She was trimmed in ink lines and her voice was like waves on waves on waves, full of lulling clarity. She hummed notes of songs I knew when I was little, and they sounded like promises falling from her perfect smile. I’d never wanted harmonies, but I wanted them with her. Her lips tasted like sugar and rain and we twined together for five weeks before her eyes turned dark.

She pressed a key into my palm and whispered my name, “Shy.”

“Yes?” My lips were at her ear, and she shivered in the dark.

“What do you want?”

“I want the future,” I told her.

“Sure,” she said, “then you’ll have it.”

She raised the key to her lips and pressed it to them. It glowed for a moment, all embers.

She curled my fingers around it and she was gone in an instant, fast as a summer storm. My skin burned where her eyes had held it, but I still held that key hot and heavy in my hand.

It works on every single lock.


Stay tuned for extra content this week from Julie. Check out Anne’s answer to this prompt next Monday.

Jen’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

If you know me as a writer, you know I’m a fan of all things shape shifters, intense relationships, and conflict, conflict, conflict. My first book club recommendation has all of these things at large, which is probably why I finished it in three hours when I should have been cleaning my apartment. Who needs clean laundry when you can have Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz?

Rudy is the main character in this novel, published just this year. Rudy is forced to move to a shadowy, remote island after his little brother is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The island has healing properties, and by properties I mean fish. Magic fish. The cystic fibrosis, cancer, depression curing kind. Fisherman bring them in by the hundreds, but only when merman Teeth can’t free them first. Part boy, part fish, part tortured soul, Teeth and Rudy forge a bond through desperation, and Teeth forces Rudy to choose between his brother’s life and loving a boy with fins.

Moskowitz’s Teeth paints a picture of mermaids not commonly seen in the YA genre. They’re not jewel toned, long haired beauties who sit on rocks and comb their hair with forks. Moskowitz’s merman as a character is jagged in appearance and mind, hateful, and complex. It takes all of Rudy’s heart to unearth the humanity in Teeth, and in doing so he discovers more about himself than he imagined.

The characterization in this read is unmatched in depth. Her deft mix of sarcasm, flip, and intensity had me hooked (pun intended) from the start. The relationships sink deep and stuck with me long after I read the last word. Teeth is the perfect mix of heartbreaking, beautiful, gritty, and dark to make you yearn for more time with the boys and their fish.

“Crystallize” by Lindsey Stirling Inspires Jen

Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling


The sun is aggressive, beating down into the street.  Sweat sticks my t-shirt to my lower back and I imagine icicles and snowy hills of winter instead of the blistering city in the dead of summer.

I hate July. 

I’m going to have to run to catch the shuttle at Cheverly. The metro lines are down again as if the trains are protesting the sticky putrid underground air. It seems like they always are lately, but maybe it’s my mind playing tricks.

My feet slap the pavement and I have an arm up to ask the driver to wait, though I know the cause is pretty much lost.

That’s when he catches me.

Eyes green like apples but blue like the water when I was on Caribbean cruise before my family hated me. Eyes that are crystalline, light, and not paying attention.

A cab runs the red, and I know he’s going to die.

My runner’s legs tense, and I know before I turn in his direction that I’ll be too late.

A car horn screams, the sound too light and high for the pounding in my chest.

Somebody yells, “Hey!” but that won’t stop the cab or move the beautiful boy.

The cab clips his left hip, he scorpion falls to the pavement, limbs flailing, smacking his head with a crack like lightning. Beach glass eyes close as he rolls to a stop.


Someone screams.

continue reading …