Top 10 Books I Read in 2018

These are in no particular order, haha. Just 10 books I read this year that I really, REALLY liked. (LGBT Titles are marked because y’all know I’m tryinna sell those the most).

Love From the Barricade by Ashley Jean Granillo

This book was incredible. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I was there I couldn’t put it down. I’ve become very close with Ashley Jean after purchasing and reading Love From the Barricade and I am excited to say she has more in store for next year!

Genre: Romance, Slice of Life

Bravo. This book made me laugh, cry, and just THINK about the kind of life I’ve lead. There are so many quotable moments from this book like Aijae’s words have stuck with me. She’s an incredible character and I’m so glad I’ve had the privilege of knowing her. 

from my official review of Love From the Barricade

The Last Fire Mage by C.M. Lanning

**This title is not available for purchase ATM. I beta’d the release for Lanning prior to it being under contract. It is now under contract with (currently unknown) and will be available in 2020**

Genre: Paranormal, Urban fantasy

Lanning is an excellent storyteller, his writing style, while sometimes a bit crude provides a no-holds-barred look into the lives of Fay and Connor Rosa after the disappearance of their mother. 

from my official review of The Last Fire Mage

Lovely, Dark, & Deep by Justina Chen

This one came as a surprise to me. However, considering I met the author and the woman the book is based on at a panel in Pleasanton, CA I basically fell in love with this book immediately. Justina Chen is a treasure.

Genre: Slice of Life, YA

The way Viola fought her illness, in the beginning, was so real for me. How she didn’t want her life to change, but it just kept changing. It kept getting worse until she fell into letting other people choose things for her, something she was deathly afraid of when her story started.

from my official review of Lovely, Dark, and Deep

Impostors by Scott Westerfeld

Anyone who knows me is not surprised to see this book make my list. Considering I have read everything this man has ever written and he’s the reason I became an author in the first place.

Genre: Science Fiction, YA

On page one, I was apprehensive. Then I realized, without even noticing I’d somehow read 50 pages. Then another 50. And another 50 until it was suddenly 5am and I forgot to sleep. 

I was so interested in Rafi and Frey and their story and their sisterhood that I literally forgot to sleep. I’m a grown adult. I have a JOB. I had family in town from 3,000 miles away. But I literally couldn’t put this book down. 

from my official review of Impostors

Deadline by Stephanie Ahn

THIS IS AN LGBT F/F TITLE. One of my absolute favorites, tbh. Stephanie Ahn is an Urban Fantasy genius. She’s incredible and a force to be reckoned with. It takes a lot for me to be reduced to a rabid fangirl after one read, but Ahn really does it for me.

Genre: Urban fantasy, Paranormal

This book is so impossibly good. I love Harry and Luce and Miri and AUGH THIS IS SO GOOD. I’m so glad I found this. I’m so sorry I’m not being super eloquent but oh my god this book was so exciting. I loved the demons and everything. I just have so many feelings about how great this book is. Thank you for writing it.

my official review of Deadline

A Closed and Common Orbit Becky Chambers

THIS IS AN LGBT TRANS/GENDER QUEER TITLE. Oh man, this one took me by surprise. I loved the first book in the series, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It was an incredible LGBT Read with an f/f and poly romance.

The second one continues with the LGBT representation. It is a truly incredible book.

Genre: Science fiction, slice of life

I absolutely adored the first book in this series and the second was also incredible. The story it tells about Lovey’s journey to accept herself and what it was like for Pepper to grow up as a discarded clone was heartbreaking and incredible. 

from my review of A Closed and Common Orbit

Soul Echo: Discovery by Lisa Stapleton

Lisa Stapleton is an incredible author and one of my best friends. Soul Echo: Discovery is a FANTASTIC read. It even features LGBT elements, but I wouldn’t call it a full-blown LGBT novel.

Genre: Science fiction, romance

I just wanted to sing my praises for Bonnie and Camilla. Even though I didn’t really like Camilla that much, or well, I should say I couldn’t relate to her.

However, I feel like Bonnie and Cam could DEF relate to each other. And I ship them now.

from my official review of Soul Echo: Discovery

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

THIS IS AN LGBT F/F TITLE! It wouldn’t be a top 10 list from me without Malinda Lo on it. Other than Scott Westerfeld, she has to be my favorite traditionally published author. And she is definitely my favorite traditional LGBT author.

Genre: Thriller, YA

Malinda Lo does an excellent job of capturing what its like to be a creative teen. She is also incredible at writing thrillers. Every step of the way, her story has dark and unexpected twists and turns. I would definitely recommend this book! And I have. I absolutely love all of Lo’s work. She’s an incredible LGBT writer.

My official review of A Line in the Dark

Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak

THIS IS AN LGBT M/M TITLE! I suggest this book to any of my friends who even slightly like m/m as well as great Urban Fantasy. A really great read, truly.

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

This is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year. I recommend it to every single person I know who even vaguely likes M/M. This was actually a huge inspiration for my Marjorie Diaz series and holy cow this book is incredible.

The prose and characterization are insanely good. The story kept me guessing and kept me entertained from the beginning to the end. Incredible novel. Truely incredible.

My official review of Wonders of the Invisible World

Axiom: The Last Hope by Rachel Marie Pearcy

THIS IS AN LGBT F/F TITLE. Tbh this is how I want all of my science fiction books to be from now on. This book was fantastic.

Genre: Science fiction, Romance

It’s been awhile since I read a story so compelling I didn’t want to put it down.

Pearcy creates a dystopian world full of fear. A world where biological warfare and a war-ravaged Earth forced everyone to flee to the moon under a tyrannical regime.

from my review of Axiom: The Last Hope

Book Review: Distant Memories by J.L. Keathley

At first glance, Distant Memories seems a little strange. It isn’t your typical impeccably edited novel, but instead J.L Keathley chooses to work outside of the novel standard and write a book with mistakes. This, is a style choice and an incredible one at that.

The story follows Jade, a teenager who lives in Texarkana, Arkansas. She’s your typical, All-American teen who lives with her friendly and wonderful grandmother and has the best of best friends. The book is told from her point of view and very much reads like a teenager’s diary. 

In the beginning, the book is slow, but once it comes time for Jade’s 16th birthday, everything changes very quickly. Jade undergoes an incredible transformation from her human self into something so much more. Her world becomes bigger and brighter and a lot more confusing.

She loses people, she finds people, and she becomes an adult in such a short amount of time. That’s where things get even weirder. J.L Keathley writes this story wonderfully, every single part of it written like a diary entry from Jade’s point of view as she slowly discovers who she really is and what her place is in the world. 

The numerous twists and turns and big reveals had me reeling for the entire book. There is still so much to learn and know about Jade and her new shadow realm family. 

This book is incredible and always left me guessing. The big reveal at the end ALONE was enough to make me shout “WHAT THE HECK!!” angrily at the sky. 

Well done, J.L I cannot wait for the second book, Impossible Decisions, when it is released in 2019. 

You can purchase Distant Memories on Amazon.

Why Gay Representation is Important

Anyways, here’s what I’ve been up to the past few days. I made some incredible strides with Nighthawks, the sequel to Bloom. I also did an interview with @Unm4sk3dPodc4st  because they’re amazing. And I’ve been reading a bunch of great books. 

I’ve also started on my new, new, NEW story that I’m doing in a CINDERELLA ANTHOLOGY!! It’s called “Call me Eli” and it’s my LGBT take on Cinderella with a trans MC. (Though no Cinderella will ever be as good as the one with Brandy in it. FOR REAL).

image

The point is, I write a lot of gay stuff. And man, growing up being gay was hard. I’m a child of the 90s. I didn’t have much representation. 

Which was incredibly difficult, considering my family was very religious. I grew up with this family who was homophobic and racist and abusive and it took me a long time to break out of this sort of box they’d shoved me into. 

The first time I ever came out, I didn’t actually even come out. My brother found out from some asshole at my high school that I was dating a girl and I considered myself gay or bisexual or something. Then he told my abusive mother. I never even got to come out on my own. 

image

After she called me all sorts of bad names and asked me if I was fucking all of my female friends. She forced me to quit my job because freedom “made me gay”. Then she made me break up with my girlfriend. THEN she forced me out and I lived with my brother for a little bit. 

And trust me, my eldest brother was no picnic either. He constantly called me a loser and told me I needed to be medicated. He also called me lazy and unmotivated and a piece of shit. So. YEP. Everyone in my family is REALLY this delightful.

I kept talking to my girlfriend. Even though my mother was trying her damndest to take everything away from me. She cancelled my phone, cut off the internet, wouldn’t let me take my computer to my brother’s. It was a nightmare. 

Eventually, I went right back into the closet and pretended to be straight. I legitimately did break up with my girlfriend and my mom let me move back in. And let me tell you, my life has been one gigantic circus of trying to win this woman’s approval. 

But now, sitting here at my computer writing this post to tell you guys my story and why gay representation is SO fucking important, her approval means less than shit to me. 

She’s told me “I’m proud of you” more times than I can count. Because I got out and she wanted to bring me back in. I’m on the other side of what were the worst years of my life. I moved 3,000 miles across the country. I have a wonderful partner. I have everything. 

Now that I’m sitting here, alive, and well, and beginning to heal. I want to give back. I want this new generation of young ones to have the representation they so desperately need. 

So that’s it. That’s why I do it. That’s why I write gay literature, that’s why I write female characters (ESPECIALLY FEMALES IN STEM CAREERS), and that’s why I write POC and trans characters. No one should EVER have to feel as alone as I did. 

image

And no more of these tragic gays. There is already too much suicide and self-harm and mental illness and homelessness among the gay community. What we need now is hope, acceptance, love, and even curiosity. 

In other words, if you’re homophobic, transphobic, acephobic, Anti-LGBTQIA+ in ANY way. Don’t read my books. I don’t want to hear about your bullshit. I don’t want my characters, who are seriously like my children, to be bullied by people who didn’t even try to understand them. 

And I don’t want ANYONE in the LGBTQIA+ community to ever feel like suicide or self-harm is the answer. I feel very strongly about this and I will continue to write literature that normalizes the LGBT community. So, like, buy my books, I guess :P. http://desdemonawren.com 

Book Reviews: Stupid Small Things by Agatha Zaza

Agatha Zaza captures the essence of what it’s like to slowly fall out of love with someone. Zaza’s prose is incredible and it kept my eyes glued to the page as I read.

Olivia absolutely thought she would spend the rest of her life with Elias, but there is so much that can change over the period of a life. Olivia’s story is powerful and interesting from start to finish. There were all of these small ways in which Olivia and Elias began to differ and as they slowly grew apart. Olivia’s struggles with Elias and with her cultural upbringing, as well as sexism and racism living and working in Singapore, were incredibly poignant.

The way Olivia referred to herself as an “other” among all of these people who belonged there in Singapore really resonated with me. This story is incredible. The writing is so well done and every word belongs to the page.

More Information on Agatha Zaza and Stupid Small Things Here.

Teaser: Bloom – A Monster Love Novella

Holly Juniper never knew she would fall in love with a monster.

Every winter a mysterious portal appears in her family’s barn. Nothing has ever come out of it, and she barely pays it any mind. Until a woodland nymph named Nia steps through it and into her life. 

Holly is vehemently opposed to her sticking around, not wanting her family play host to a monster, but eventually Nia grows on her in a way she never expected. 

Over the course of three months, the two fall in love. Despite them both knowing, come spring, Nia will have to return to her world through the portal, and she can never return.

Book One in the Monster Love Novella series.

GET IT HERE, ONLY ON AMAZON.

YOU CAN ALSO READ IT FOR FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED.

Now that I’m in the writing industry, THIS is my biggest pet peeve

I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends now that I’ve broken into the writing industry, but there’s one thing that bothers me.

I’ve been doing author takeovers and that’s when you promote your book and do giveaways on someone else’s book release or whatever. Anyways, I won 29 books in the past few days. I love book freebies. I just do. I spend more of my meager paycheck on books as it is. If I can get them for free I will eventually read them.

However, most of these books are romance. Which is fine, I like romance, especially gay romance or romantic comedy. Did I receive any of these in my freebies? No.

Out of the 24 authors that signed up to do this author takeover, I was the one one who wrote gay lit.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: Out of the 24 authors that signed up to do this author takeover, I was the one one who wrote gay lit.

This upsets me because I became a writer to provide representation for the LGBT community without all that nasty fetish bullshit. Now that I’m here there are almost no LGBT authors I know personally who don’t write fetish.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to find a wlw book that’s well-written and isn’t thinly guised erotica to pleasure men.

When I wrote Bloom: A Monster Love Novella, the plan was to write a book where I had well thought out female characters with real personalities and wants and needs. Now I’m losing out and being crushed by erotica. Straight erotica.

There’s sex in Bloom: A Monster Love Novella if that’s what you want. It isn’t the kind of sex erotica has. It’s awkward and sweet and they talk about it before they have sex because that’s what sex is. Awkward.

Recently, Malinda Lo posted a twitter thread about how hard it is to write for a marginalized audience. Malinda Lo writes books for lesbians and I absolutely adore most of her titles. I own every book she’s ever written and she is a huge influence for me. I wish there were more people like her.

I’m going to keep trying and keep pushing despite this. I don’t want to live in a world where there aren’t books to represent people who deserve representation.

That’s why I write books with:

  • POC characters (despite a lot of my white friends thinking it’s weird that, despite being white myself, I crave diversity in TV shows and books)
  • Lesbians
  • Transgenderwomen
  • Transgender men
  • Women in general (There are not enough women in books and that is a shame. And the women that are in books seem to only want to serve their male love interest. WHY?)
  • Gay men
  • Asexual men and women
  • People with mental illness
  • Agendered people
  • Bisexual and pansexual people
  • Demisexual people
  • Intersex people
  • Gays who aren’t tragic
  • Books where LGBTQIA+ is normalized and no one bats an eye about people being trans or gay or bi or anything.
  • Stories where my characters aren’t defined by their genitals or who they decide to fall in love with (or not fall in love with), but are instead defined my their actions.

I could go on guys. I really could.

And I’m not going to stop writing books like this. I won’t do it. Not for all the money in the world. Representation is important and I will fight for that until my dying breath.

It is a shame more people aren’t on my side.

Book Review: Now or Never by Lucy Smoke

**This Review Contains Spoilers For Now or Never Book One and Study Break**

This book was easier to get into than Smoke’s previous book, Daimon. I’m not a fan of Reverse Harem, but I am a fan of supporting authors. While a lot of the description in this book weighed heavily on the purple prose side, I gave Smoke the benefit of the doubt and continued reading. 

The book itself is evenly paced. Though It didn’t sit well with me how often one of the boys joined the main character in her bed. Harlow in and of herself is a trope of every female I’ve ever read in romance with one key difference. She does seem to genuinely care about helping other people. 

The main mystery in the book, if you can call it that, sort of left me wanting. The “job” they did seemed to go by far too quickly. We didn’t get to see Harlow shine and show off some of her intelligence. Despite the book playing up her intellect from the very beginning. 

The guys are very similar in stature and description and that left me confused a lot because I often didn’t know which man she was referring to. I know there’s diversity among them with Bellamy being Native American, but men are much more diverse than skin color. I would liked to have seen some differences in their personalities and outward appearance. Not all men are tall and lean with endless muscles. 

At this point I’ve read several of Lucy Smoke’s books because she shows promise as a writer. I have noticed in many of her Reverse Harem titles that the boys are strikingly similar and not just among the books they’re in, but also across series as well. In her novella “Study Break” Dexter Jones, who bears an extreme likeness to Knix in Now or Never, tells the main female character, Jamie, that he will “spank her” if she doesn’t stop saying bad things about herself. Knix also tells Harlow he will “spank her” if she doesn’t stop saying negative things about herself. 

Smoke seems to zero in one one man in the series to be their main character’s “focal point” despite there being three+ other men there that the character needs to pay attention to. In Now or Never this man is Knix. He is so obviously well-suited for Harlow and Smoke intentionally writes him this way. However, despite this, Harlow continues to pine over the other guys and worries about this hurting their feelings. 

This didn’t make sense to me. Harlow has never considered a poly lifestyle for herself and based on this evidence instead of her wondering if this is okay for her to kiss all these guys who are already in a well-established friendship, shouldn’t she be agonizing over which one she should choose? 

A lot of other reviewers have been praising Smoke up and down for writing Harlow as a “strong female character”, when there’s no such thing. There are only well-written female characters and poorly-written female characters. In reality, Smoke seems to write her female characters through the “male-gaze”. She uses tropes like “She doesn’t know she’s beautiful” and “these men have to save her”, not to mention, Now or Never wouldn’t even pass a simple Bechdel Test. 

Harlow is a girl who randomly starts following a bunch of older men around because they claimed to be from an organization they couldn’t tell her anything about and they immediately started paying for her bills. Why? Harlow never questions this in any real way. Not to mention her only female friend exists to talk to Harlow about “the boys” or just relationships or men in general. That’s not a healthy relationship with another female.

Harlow also doesn’t once talk to “the boys” about the reality of the situation they’re in. She leaves so much unsaid, yet still decides to join their group, “Iris”, despite ¾ of them kissing her and she never once brings that up. I know Harlow is new to being Poly, but communication is key. This could potentially come back to blow up in her face and ruin the dynamic of the group. This is something she should have considered prior to joining. Instead, she negated to even bring it up.

Despite all of this, Lucy Smoke has a lot of potential. I look forward to seeing new works from her and seeing her grow as a writer. Well done, Lucy :). 

Art: Holly Juniper from Bloom: A Monster Love Novella

Here’s some art I did of Holly from Bloom.

Holly Juniper never knew she would fall in love with a monster.

Every winter a mysterious portal appears in her family’s barn. Nothing has ever come out of it, and she barely pays it any mind. Until a woodland nymph named Nia steps through it and into her life. 

Holly is vehemently opposed to her sticking around, not wanting her family play host to a monster, but eventually Nia grows on her in a way she never expected. 

Over the course of three months, the two fall in love. Despite them both knowing, come spring, Nia will have to return to her world through the portal, and she can never return.

Book One in the Monster Love Novella series.

GET IT HERE, ONLY ON AMAZON.

YOU CAN ALSO READ IT FOR FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED.

Teaser: Bloom – A Monster Love Novella

Holly Juniper never knew she would fall in love with a monster.

Every winter a mysterious portal appears in her family’s barn. Nothing has ever come out of it, and she barely pays it any mind. Until a woodland nymph named Nia steps through it and into her life. 

Holly is vehemently opposed to her sticking around, not wanting her family play host to a monster, but eventually Nia grows on her in a way she never expected. 

Over the course of three months, the two fall in love. Despite them both knowing, come spring, Nia will have to return to her world through the portal, and she can never return.

Book One in the Monster Love Novella series.

GET IT HERE, ONLY ON AMAZON.

YOU CAN ALSO READ IT FOR FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED.

Playlists: Bloom – A Monster Love Novella

I’m not the best at playlists, but these are the eight songs I listened to on repeat while writing Bloom: A Monster Love Novella. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame – The Script
How We Love – Ingrid Michealson
Rewrite the Stars – Zac Efron & Zendaya
Never Enough – Loren Allred
I Don’t Wanna Grow Up – Bebe Rexa
Oh, It is Love – Hellogoodbye
Drowning – DWNTWN
Green Light – Lorde

BLOOM: A MONSTER LOVE NOVELLA

Holly Juniper never knew she would fall in love with a monster.

Every winter a mysterious portal appears in her family’s barn. Nothing has ever come out of it, and she barely pays it any mind. Until a woodland nymph named Nia steps through it and into her life. 

Holly is vehemently opposed to her sticking around, not wanting her family play host to a monster, but eventually Nia grows on her in a way she never expected. 

Over the course of three months, the two fall in love. Despite them both knowing, come spring, Nia will have to return to her world through the portal, and she can never return.

Book One in the Monster Love Novella series.

GET IT HERE, ONLY ON AMAZON.

YOU CAN ALSO READ IT FOR FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED.