Book Review: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa – A Vulnerable and Warmly Funny Story about First Love, Coming Out, and Loving Oneself

Blurb:

A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.

Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.

Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.

Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.

Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

I was provided an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Somewhere, sometime, a queer teen will read Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, hold this story close to their chest, the story finding a home in their heart. What an illuminating and poignant book Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is; a book that deftly balances the softness and joy of first love and steadfast friendship but also the sharp and painful edges of heteronormativity and anti-gay prejudice. Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is soft, beautiful, triumphant, painful, heart-aching, and bittersweet – and I suppose it’s a little like life, isn’t it?

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Our Friend is Here! Pride Month Edition – An Interview with Aiden Thomas, Author of Cemetery Boys; On Writing A Love Letter to Their Community and Writing an Unapologetic Latinx, Gay, and Trans Story

Our Friend is Here! Pride Month Edition.  Author Interview with Aiden Thomas  On Writing A Love Letter to Their Community and Writing an Unapologetic Latinx, Gay, and Trans Story. An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl, with her arms spread out wide like she is showing off someone, with  Aiden as a golden retriever wearing a red snapback, an Adidas t-shirt, and a silver pendant.

An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl, waving her hand and winking at you while holding up a flag with the inclusive Pride flag - horizontal stripes of black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.

One of the joys of being a reader is getting the opportunity to read so many stories that are different and unique from one another. In particular, reading queer books, by and about queer authors, is often a validating experience to me – because the more queer stories I read, the more it reifies the fact that there is no singular queer experience and that what ‘being queer means’ looks different for everyone.Read More »

Book Review: Underdog edited by Tobias Madden – A Powerful and Relatable Collection of Stories About Australian Teens

Underdog, #LoveOzYa Short Stories. [Authors:] Sophie L Macdonald, Tobias Madden, Felicity Martin, Stacey Malacari, Sofia Casanova, Cassi Dorian, Kaneana May, KM Stamer-Squair, Sarah Taviani, Vivian Wei, Michael Earp, Jes Layton
Blurb:

Short tales from the Australian writers of tomorrow.

#LoveOzYA celebrates the best of new Australian writing for teenage readers. It has grown from a humble hashtag into a movement, reflecting the important role young-adult fiction plays in shaping our current generation of readers. This anthology collects, for the first time, some of the tremendous work from the #LoveOzYA community.

Featuring a foreword by award-winning Australian novelist Fleur Ferris (Risk, Wreck, Black and Found), Underdog celebrates the diverse, dynamic and ever-changing nature of our nation’s culture. From queer teen romance to dystopian comedy, from hard-hitting realism to gritty allegory, this brilliant, engrossing and inspiring collection of short stories will resonate with any teen reader, proving, yet again, why there is just so much to love about #LoveOzYA.

My review:

I am floored, friends. When I was given the opportunity to read Underdog, an YA anthology of debut Australian writers, I was excited. But now, having read all the stories and being immersed in such incredible narratives, inspired visions, and powerful voices, I am ecstatic to tell you all about this anthology and its brilliant stories. From dystopia to comedy to explorations of grief and love, Underdog promises something for everyone – and you will definitely find a new favourite short story within this anthology.

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Book Review: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – The 2020 Presidency We All Need

Text: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Image: on the left, a man with light-brown skin with brown hair, wearing a white shirt and blue slacks crossing his arms and leaning to his right; on the right, a white man with light brown hair, wearing a red and royal military uniform, and black slacks, crossing his arms and leaning to the left.
Blurb:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

Joce’s Review:

RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE takes place in a United States, where, following Obama’s presidency, Ellen Claremont, a Democrat and a woman, has been elected to be president and is running for a second term in 2020. The First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is forced to spend time with Prince Henry of England for reparations’ sake after a very public disaster of epic proportions worth $75,000 in cake and frosting, and a romance blossoms.

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Book Review: Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu – Skating, Strong Soft Boys, and Social Media

“Come quick, the Pond has frozen over!” cried Cuddle, waving her friends over enthusiastically. The Pond’s inhabitants quickly scampered, slithered, and strode over to the area where Cuddle had set up two hockey nets on opposite ends and gathered sticks and a puck. They divided into two teams: Cuddle and Amina versus Xiaolong and Varian, with Gen as referee and scorekeeper. Tweet! The game began.

Cuddle the Otter, wearing her pajama cap, holding a hockey stick and wearing magical ice skates.“This kinda reminds me of that scene in Frozen when Anna and Elsa are little kids. They’re skating around and Elsa makes Olaf. He likes warm hugs!” exclaimed Xiaolong, after the game had ended. They sat together in a circle at the side of the pond, sharing a plate of cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

“You know,” said Cuddle, “there’s a book I read recently that’s got all the things we’ve done today. It’s about a boy named Eric Bittle who goes off to college and gets recruited to play on their hockey team. He even makes cookies and pies. It’s soft and lovely and reminds me of a warm hug!” Varian, Xiaolong, Gen, and Amina gather around her as she continues to tell them more…

Text: Check Please, Book 1: #Hockey. Ngozi Ukazu. Image is a illustration of a boy with short blonde hair, smiling, wearing red ice hockey gear and holding a pie. Behind him are other boys in red hockey gear.

Blurb:

Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jackhis very attractive but moody captain.

Joce’s Review:

Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu has been on my graphic novel TBR for awhile. I first heard about it when I was reading Fence by C.S. Pacat, which is another sports-centered graphic novel series featuring an M/M relationship, with a mostly male cast of characters.

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