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Revenge

Revenge (City of Kaus Book 1) by [Dani Hoots]

Revenge by Dani Hoots takes readers on a mystical adventure with fascinating characters along an action-packed quest for retribution. The story takes place on a planet filled with beings of various races-some humanlike and others with supernatural traits. There is a mutually understood hierarchy of the races, making life far more difficult and dangerous for those in the ‘lower class’, like our main characters.

This page-turner is written in alternating first-person points of view, allowing us to learn and empathize with all sides of the story. We meet Ellie and Zach, childhood best friends who are now forced to take bounty hunter jobs and live on the run, in order to survive. We learn this is due to a betrayal of their people leading to an attack on their zone and the demise of their race. They believe the culprit may have been their other best friend, and also Ellie’s ex-fiance, Cor. Ellie is determined to seek revenge on the man who not only broke her heart, but betrayed their entire race, leading to the deaths of their friends and family.

If you’re not generally into the science fiction / fantasy genre- this may be the book to change your mind! Hoots has a way of speaking through her characters that leaves you feeling deeply connected to them, despite their fantastical features. The basis of the story itself is a relatable tale as old as time- a heartbroken woman seeks vengeance on the man who deceived her. The clever world that Hoot’s creates complicated twists and turns, featuring revelations of hidden truths and forbidden feelings. Between the LGBTQ-friendly sensual vibe, and nerve-wracking near-death experiences- this one is sure to keep readers entertained.

Revenge is a science fiction adventure story that is fun to follow and is easy to get lost in.

Pages: 259 | ASIN: B09B956J1C

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A Champion For Justice

Al Schnupp
Al Schnupp Author Interview

Goods & Effects follows a woman who sets out to sell her wares on the road and meets several people that change her perspective on life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As a child, I remember, once a month, a woman would stop by our house in her van-store. This woman did not live in the van, but I found it an intriguing way to make a living. Like Hannah, the protagonist in GOODS & EFFECTS, I was raised in a conservative Mennonite family. The novella is a work of fiction, but Hannah and I do share a similar spiritual journey. As I grew, gained an education and studied theatre in New York City, my desire to celebrate diversity and foster an atmosphere of inclusion grew. I wished to portray a woman who became sensitive to those outside her frame of reference and to be a champion for justice.

Your characters go on a deeply emotional and transformative journey in your novel. Is this intentional or incidental to the story you wanted to tell?

When writing the novella, I decided that in every scene/chapter Hannah must make a decision or have a change in attitude. So, I was very intentional in showing the change in Hannah’s religious beliefs, and to portray her unfolding journey where she embraced a humanistic vision.

What were some ideas that were important for you to include in this book?

I attempted to keep my story simple, but hopefully, not simplistic. I believe my strengths as a writer are crafting dialogue and implying subtext. I do not have a vast, complex vocabulary. As a writer, I think I focus more on plot and characterization than embellished, heightened language. I really think the reviewer from Literary Titan understood my style, my objectives, my sensibilities. For this, I am grateful.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

I hope readers realize the world is not black and white, but a vast spectrum of grays. I hope readers identify with and cheer on Hannah. I hope readers see the novella in a sort of cinematic lens – that they can visualize it as a film.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Facebook | Website | Twitter | Instagram

Devastated by the death of her husband and sons, Hannah Mercer sells the family farm and creates a store and living quarters in a delivery truck. As she travels several circuits selling her wares, Hannah becomes the heart of a network of interlinking lives: Nathan owns the motel where Hannah often parks her truck. Darla is a young and talented deaf artist, whose parents let her accompany Hannah on her rounds. Wanda, the sassy receptionist at a hardware distribution center, has larger ambitions. Naomi, wife of the pious Mennonite deacon, entertains fantasies of sexual freedom. Frank, a gentle farmer with a chronically-ill wife, harbors great affection for Hannah, but has troubling biases. LeRoy is a black farmer and talented singer, yet his family is subjected to racial terrorism. Velma owns a woodworking shop. Is she a good match for Vivian, Ronan County’s elegant, lesbian librarian?

Larry… Maddie … Tom… Molly. As time passes and Hannah’s relationships deepen, her faith diminishes but her vision of humanity expands. Hannah Mercer is a clever problem-solver, a shrewd schemer, a spinner of tender lies, an advocate for justice, and a dream weaver.

Goods & Effects

Goods & Effects by Al Schnupp is a heartwarming story about a Mennonite woman in the 60’s named Hannah Mercer who’s trying to find her way in the world after the passing of her family. To help her gain independence and explore the world around her, she opens up a little shop on wheels called Hannah’s Goods & Effects. Along the way, we watch her grow into herself and face backlash from the town deacon because she has decided to march to the beat of her own gigantic drum. This inspiring story left me craving more in the best way possible!

Schnupp is a master at conveying real human emotions. Hannah and the side characters in this story felt realistic and fully-fledged. That comment is typically hard to give for books of this length. We received enough backstory about our protagonist without drowning in useless information. In a matter of 174 pages, our author managed to bring his characters to life and execute it beautifully. Further speaking on the character development, I appreciated Schnupp’s ability to write a female main character without her seeming like a mystical fantasy. That is a rare accomplishment from modern male authors. I also wanted to share my appreciation for diverse representation, especially for the time period the story takes place. We read about characters from different races as well as different abilities. Darla was an absolute treat to read about! This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the stunning writing and language used throughout the novel. It is simple yet carefully crafted. I felt that Schnupp spent a great deal of time choosing how to depict the story through language alone. Despite the simplicity, there was never a dull moment in the story. I was always waiting to see what Hannah would do next! Although parts of the story were sad, it was predominantly heartwarming.

Goods & Effects is a fantastic fall read, and I can’t wait to read it again in the future. If you get the chance, I highly recommend picking this book up, curling up on the couch, and sipping a mug of your favorite warm drink. You will fly through it, and it’s the best way to consume this story.

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B08XW1S1N6

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Callisto 2.0

Callisto 2.0: A novel of the future (Book 1 of the Shambhala Saga LGBTQ+ Science Fiction series) by [Susan English]

If you are a fan of futuristic science fiction, Susan English’s Callisto 2.0 is right up your alley. It follows the life of Callisto, a young female scientist who feels out of place in her own world. The only child of religious parents, she feels like her family doesn’t truly understand her. However, things change when she takes a job at a foundation that not only supports her unique field of study but also provides a community of top-notch female scientists.

As she begins her new life working on the Shambahla space station, her heart is warmed by  the kind and supportive all-female staff. This utopia seems to be all that she has ever wanted and she embraces it whole-heartedly. But like in every good story, Callisto’s has some conflict as well. Her heart is broken, she is betrayed, and faces challenges in her work.

At some point, the continuity of the entire foundation even faces outside opposition. From page to page, it becomes clear that eventually, Callisto will have to fight for this paradise which she has waited her whole life to find.

If there is one thing that makes this story believable, it is all the scientific explanations and dialogue included in it. Everything is so detailed that you could believe that these technological advancements could be made today. Clearly, the author being a physicist has played a big role in bringing this story to life. Also, the author does a good job of developing the characters.

She includes details about each character’s life, personality, and perspective; something that makes them relatable. Moreover, she weaves the characters’ lives together in a beautiful way, showing us how everyone is fairing on simultaneously, at least from the perspective of Callisto. And the writing style is light and upbeat, even when scientific principles are being discussed – something that makes the book easy to read.

While I enjoyed the story I felt that the book was a bit slow and there was a lot of buildup to the main conflict. To some level, it feels like a day-to-day account of Callisto’s life, which for the most part was great. While we do get glimpses of concerning situations after every few chapters, there’s little suspense and by the time we get to the true conflict, we are at the end of the book, which is a draw for readers looking for a sequel. In any case, this is still a stirring and thought-provoking science fiction adventure story that I heartily recommend to fans of detailed and realistic futuristic stories.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B08MWN8YVG

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Express Themselves Without Fear

Brooke Skipstone
Brooke Skipstone Author Interview

Crystal’s House of Queers is an emotionally-charged romance novel that explores real world issues that young people face when discovering and unveiling their sexual identity. Why was this an important book for you to write?

All of my books are centered around important issues affecting girls and women. It has become very clear to me that despite all the progress we have made during the last several decades, we still live in a patriarchal world. According to polls, more than half of our youngest Generation Z do not define themselves as strictly heterosexual. More and more sources of entertainment reflect this change. This generation is more tolerant and accepting of all differences. However, hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are on the rise. Many of the same hate groups (primarily men) that decry the rise of non-white individuals in our country also hate gays. As the younger generation embraces a variety of sexual lifestyles, there will inevitably be more confrontation. I have known too many people who have been persecuted for their differences. We don’t need more hate in the world.

I appreciated the authenticity of your characters. What were some sources that inspired your character development?

I have known many teens like Crystal and JD, who despite their traditional academic challenges, discovered and shared other talents, including in art, music, dance, and athletics. Their needs are no more special than mine or yours. Real people are complex. Most have experienced some level of trauma in their lives. Many have difficulty coping, but most discover some resilience. I want my characters to reflect these truths.

What were some ideas that were important for you to convey in this book?

One common theme in all my books is the need for open, frank discussion of difficult topics. So much pain is caused by secrecy. Too frequently, teens and younger are forced to deal with guilt and fears and desires by themselves because adults won’t create comfortable environments where anything, anything, can be discussed. I have had readers of my latest book complain about two women kissing in front of their teenage girls. Why? Because tradition says sexuality must be private. Which has caused and continues to cause all kinds of problems for both the kids and the parents.

Another big idea in my books is the need for forgiveness, especially between parents and their children. Another is fighting for yourself and others when it is necessary. The girls in this book don’t put up with abuse or threats.

And the biggest idea in this book is the need to provide a safe place for LGBTQ individuals, where they can express themselves without fear.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book is about a teenage girl in 1968 who rebels against the feminine role she is expected to play by her parents, her school, and her society. So many of the problems during this year—The Vietnam War, assassinations, student rebellions, etc—were caused by toxic masculinity. The main character, Tracy, cannot force herself to date boys. At times, she thinks she should have been a boy. She escapes her conservative parents and constant arguments about the war, civil rights, and her brother, Spencer—who wonders if he is gay—disguised as a boy for a two-week period at a wilderness camp just outside Denali Park, Alaska, where she meets other strong women, including Jackie, who chops wood and plays guitar.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Instagram

Crystal Rose woke up at three in the morning today, drenched in sweat and breathless after another sex dream with Haley Carson. Later at school in the tiny town of Clear, Alaska, Crystal saves Haley from an assault by her abusive boyfriend.

The two girls renew a love started years ago that had to stay hidden until now. But with Crystal’s grandparents in the hospital with Covid and the possibility of her drug addict parents returning from a 14-year absence, Crystal needs Haley as much as she needs Crystal.

They connect with Payton Reed, a gun-toting artist who helps them feel proud to be gay and willing to stand up to anyone. Together they struggle to make Crystal’s house safe for those who are hated for their love.

No Hiding or Judgement

McKenzie Stark
McKenzie Stark Author Interview

Divide & Conquer follows a young woman who’s forced to stay at an academy for delinquents and meets someone that will change her life forever. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My inspiration to write this story was strongly built on a number of different reasons. I, myself, am a part of the LGBTQ+ community and the idea to showcase a story that both dives into the world that I feel is not talked about nearly enough, while obtaining and showing challenges that any ordinary person could experience was something I strongly believed in creating.

Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I found that in developing my characters motivations and ideals, that I connected with some part of myself in a way. I wanted to take Freya’s grief and show that sometimes even in your darkest moments, there is always something that can pull you from the realm that lies between grief and recovery. That is where Lexa comes into play. She may have been the hot new roommate, but it’s her straightforwardness and own experience from her past that helped lead Freya back into the light. Of course the rest of the delinquents were a huge impact as well. Sometimes all you need in the world is for someone to take your hand and say, “Everything’s going to be okay,” and so long as they were together, everything was.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One of the main themes is that the story resolve around the LGBTQ + community, and being able to explore apart of myself in such a fun and creative way was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There was no hiding or judgement, but for that of my characters who welcomed each other with open hands.

Another important theme would be guilt and grief, both in which played a huge role in this story, as those two emotions shaped Freya into the woman she later became.

And lastly, the thing that transpired between the pages and flowed from the words whole writing this story was forgiveness. I wanted to show that everyone is worth being forgiven and that everyone is capable of giving forgiveness because it’s not who you use to be, or what you’ve done in the past that defines you. It’s what you do with the experiences you’ve been dealt with that truly shape you as a person.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I just released a new LGBTQ+ novel, titled “Untangled Devotion”, this novel revolved around a woman who ran away from her entire life because of reasons I will leave unsaid as to not spoil it; but, having returned to face those issues head on, including a lost love she left behind. It’s full of unbreakable bonds, comedy, friendship, love, and a twist that will leave you hanging onto your seats.

But that’s not all! I have another LGBTQ + novel that I am hoping to release sometime the beginning of next year. That’s going without saying that I have multiple none LGBTQ + novels planned to release this year, some of which consist of Vikings, vampires, or even demonic beings.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Where does friendship come to a rest and love commence?

At just 18, Freya Sawyer’s life was anything but perfect, with the weight of the world on her shoulders, she ran with the wrong crowd and got pulled into a vicious cycle. That all changed when one night forced her into a court ordered stay at Arkadia Academy for troubled delinquents.

Lexa Forester just so happens to be her new brooding and sexy roommate. Together they dance around their attraction for each other until there is nothing else standing in their way of falling heart first into what could either be the best or the worst thing for them.

Each other.

Together they can conquer the world and change the unraveling past that they both desperately latch onto to survive. Can true love prevail or will they scare away from the only thing that’s ever made them feel alive?

Find out in this steamy and thrill filled lesbian friends to lovers romance.

Crystal’s House of Queers

Crystal's House of Queers by [Brooke Skipstone]

Crystal’s House Of Queers by Brooke Skipstone is a charismatic LGBTQ romance novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Crystal is a young woman who has survived a tragic childhood. She soon discovers that she likes women when she starts having dreams about her close friend Haley. Although the story goes into details about Crystal’s sexual attraction to Haley, the author focuses more on the underlying love that she possesses for her. I love that Crystal values Haley for more than her looks unlike Haley’s former jerk of a boyfriend Dyaln.

Brooke Skipstone shines a light on the many personal struggles that come with finding sexual identity and coming to terms with liking someone of the same sex. Crystal is an authentic, but fictional, representation of real world issues. She struggled with maintaining a friendship with her crush, which I feel is by far the toughest scenario in this story. Telling someone you love them with so much fear in the back of your brain takes a lot of strength. This also includes telling family and friends that you have feelings for others of the same sex. All of this is told in such a compelling and impassioned way that makes your heart ache and soar with all the highs and lows.

What I enjoyed the most about reading this observant novel is witnessing Crystal slowly begin to become more confident in herself. She is a great representation of lesbian love in fiction. I also enjoyed the setting of the plot and the merging of other LGBTQ characters. The intensity of the character’s emotions kept me engaged and wanting to read more. I would recommend Crystal’s House Of Queers to anyone looking for an emotional yet invigorating lesbian romance novel.

Pages: 313 | ASIN: B091MDH28L

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Robinson, IL and Other Flash Fiction Stories

Robinson, IL and Other Flash Fiction Stories by [Dennis Milam Bensie]

Robinson, IL is a collection of very short stories by Dennis Milam Bensie that explore life on the path less traveled. Classified as flash fiction, the stories are only a few pages long, but still manage to imbue enough emotion to be powerful and thought provoking, a fact which speaks of the talent the author possesses. Most of the stories focus on the LGBTQ community and the difficulties that come with it, both externally and internally. The tone of each one varies as much as the subject matter and ranges from somber, to flippant, to absolutely wild, and everything in between. There are even a few that have an almost science fiction feel to them. Overall, the author’s ability to convey so much in so few words is remarkable, as the more serious of his stories really make you feel the self doubt and angst that is a part of growing up and accepting who you are. The less serious ones are no less interesting and will leave you definitely wanting more of the world he’s created. And what would a book be without a touch of humor? There are unexpected laughs sprinkled throughout and when they do happen, they come naturally, again showcasing how easy the author conveys everyday slices of life.

The LGBTQ themes are explored from multiple perspectives in the collection. In one, it’s a son looking for assisted living placement for his gay father. In another, parents are trying to help pay for their child’s gender reassignment surgery. Often, the tales are told in the first person by someone within the community, sometimes happily, sometimes at odds with themselves. The variety of voices and perspectives add depth to the very human emotion and dilemmas that are presented. 

While it’d be easy to say I wish the stories were longer, I really believe that their length is a huge part of their strength. The bite sized portions of humanity move quickly, but stay with you long after their few pages are done and leave you imagining so much about the characters. Robinson, IL is a stirring and well crafted collection of fictional short stories that find strength in their brevity while still delivering thought provoking commentary on life.

Pages: 123 | ASIN: B08ZCZVKSF

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