[755]: Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram

First time author, Adib Khorram takes his readers to the sights, sounds, and people of Iran. A country, in my own opinion that has had a reputation as a dangerous territory. 

After reading this book however, I was left awestruck by its wild beauty, rich culture, historic and picturesque architecture. 

In this book, we meet Darius, a product of a mixed-race marriage who can’t seem to find his purchase in the world in which he grew up. His dad might be as White as they come, but his features are pure Persian. He’s an awkward, quiet teenager who finds himself a target among his peers. So when his parents announced that his family was headed to Iran for three weeks, he welcomed the opportunity to find refuge from his life in America. 

In Iran, he’d hoped to garner some closeness to his grandparents, especially his grandfather whose illness had taken for the worse. He also wanted to learn about his mom’s Motherland, her people, their relatives, and soak up traditions and culture. In the hopes that he’d learn to understand why he’s never felt comfortable in his own person and why he’ll always feel like the outsider no matter where he is. 

He finds more than he bargained for in Iran. He, too, was taken in by the beauty of the country; the warmth and acceptance of his people, and most of all, a step towards understanding the only thing he seemed to have in common with his father: depression. Both take medications in precise synchronicity. Darius, for the most part, gets along with his dad. They have the same affinity for Star Trek. And yet, they seemed miles apart when it matters. 

Darius has never been able to get along with his peers. So finding friendship in the least likely places confounded him the most. 

The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.


This book is about belonging. It’s about finding your place in the world no matter where you are. It’s being comfortable in your true self, and understanding that you’ll only be happy once you accept that you can never be what people tell you who you should be. 

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Shelf Envy: Santino Hassell

I’m so excited to share Santino’s shelves and his passion for books. I love getting an author’s insight with regards to what influenced their craft as writers so reading about his inspiration is such a delight. We all have that one novel or that one author that blew our minds at one point in our lives so it’s great to see how far those favorites have influenced Santino. This guest post is chockful of great recommendations if you want to celebrate Pride month in all its queer glory so keep reading and discover some fantastic LGBTQ reads.

Thank you, Santino for letting me pick your brain a little bit. I adore these recommendations and I can’t wait to read your series!

 

Who are your favorite authors?

Big question, but if I narrow it down to paranormal and southern gothic horror, I’d say Jordan Castillo Price, Christopher Rice, LJ Smith, Sergei Lukyanenko, Poppy Z Brite, Charlaine Harris, and JR Ward. Of them all, I’d say I always find myself going back to Price’s psychic cop series—Psycop—and her series about a vampire hunter who falls for a swaggering bloodsucker—Channeling Morpheus. And I’m always excited when Rice releases a new book, whether it’s paranormal erotica or horror.

When I started editing and revising Insight, the first book in The Community trilogy, I was really inspired by both Rice and Price. Some of Rice’s books have this southern gothic atmosphere that I’m absolutely addicted to, and the entire idea of this huge psychic community running parallel to the rest of the world but remaining secret was inspired by Psycop, where the knowledge of psychics led to them being experimented on and used in various ways.

What was the last book you purchased?

The last book I purchased was The Mistress Files by Tiffany Reisz. I’m drafting a F/F novella, and this anthology just called my name. Her writing is so intense.

Where do you usually read?


What is the most controversial book on your shelves?

Probably Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite. It’s a southern gothic horror with queer vampires, queer grunge kids, and all kinds of blood lust and danger. It’s a book I adored as a young person because it was the first book I read with SO MANY queer characters, and I was always addicted to that kind of drippy romantic atmosphere (which I tried to reach that level in both Insight and Stygian, my paranormal southern gothic romance), but I reread as an adult and realized the treatment of the women in the book is intensely problematic.

What is the one book you would recommend to everyone you know?

Channeling Morpheus by Jordan Castillo Price, which contains the first several novellas in that series. There’s just something really special about Michael and Bill’s story. Michael starts out with a vendetta against all vampires to get revenge for his slain friend, but then he meets Bill… the vampire he falls for. There is a lot of sex in the first couple of novellas, but after the connection between them is made and solid, their relationship evolves until they’re constantly questioning who they are and what they want from this quest of Michael’s. Is Michael, a vampire hunter, actually the bad guy since he sometimes makes bad choices? Does he actually hate vampires or… does he want to become one?

It’s those kinds of questions, the hard questions that really make you think about these characters and their actions, that I wanted for Insight and now for Oversight. The main characters in The Community are up against this organization that they were always told was put in place to protect them from non-psychics, but now they have to come to grips with the reality that they’ve been living a lie. And that they can trust no one but each other.


Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Connect with Santino: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB Group | FB | GR | Tumblr


 

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[674]: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

19542841 More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Soho Teen | June 2nd, 2015
Source: Bought
Young Adult | LGBTQIA
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?


Oh, but this book hurts. It hurts in the most profound, most beautiful way. The growing pains of being a teen is hard enough. Even more so when you put a troubled, abusive father into the mix and the constant fear of hostility and violence that comes from being gay in today’s society.  Aaron Soto just couldn’t catch a break. He went from one upheaval to the next further leaving the readers breathless merely from imagining the kind of struggles this boy went through. But even though the reader is put through the wringer that was this book, More Happy Than Not is a gorgeous, remarkable novel that offers an insight to the fragility of one’s mind. Memories created cannot be manipulated no matter how much we’d like to forget about the bad stuff. But above all, it’s also about finding the best in the worst situations and forging on even if taking a step forward feels like you’re dragging the whole world behind you.

As in the case of many LGBTQIA YA books we’ve read, this book tackles self-acceptance. Something that unfortunately does not only affect the lives of many gay and lesbian teens but most of the teens in general. Heck, even I, a forty-year-old woman still struggle with this. At the beginning of the novel, we see Aaron as a mostly laid back teen who only cared about being a good son and a good boyfriend. But his seemingly ordinary life will change as soon as he meets Thomas.

This book also has a bit of Science Fiction mixed in (if you can believe it). On the surface, the technology is based on the idea that memories can be suppressed by going through a memory-bending procedure. And as Aaron goes through his heartbreak, he will consider going through with it if only to help him deal with the pain. As always, messing with the natural order of things is never a good thing. There are consequences – both good and bad. But in Aaron’s case, it’s probably the worst case scenario he’s been warned about.

More Happy Than Not teaches us to appreciate the hardships life throws our way. Because only then can we truly value the small bits of happiness that come from living. At the same time, this book makes me want to live in fear and denial that other kids can’t be this cruel to other kids. It’s a reality check I never want to deal with.

 

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