Indie Review – Team Phison

Genre: contemporary romance
Rep: gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans
Content Warnings: strong language, alcohol, family issues, NSFW scenes

A free copy of this publication was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Official blurb:

For 55-year-old Phil Hutton, finding a new boyfriend is tough, especially since he’s still hurting from his ex leaving him for a younger man. Online dating has been a soul-crushing experience for the restaurant owner. Too many meat-haters interested in microbreweries or something called geocaching. His matches in the multiplayer for his favorite video game have been equally sucky too.

One night, he encounters a newbie who is so helpless, Phil can’t help showing him the ropes. It doesn’t take long for Phil to become interested in his enthusiastic teammate. 28-year-old Tyson Falls from Georgia loves working as a server in a rinky pizza joint and sees the best in everything. As Phil’s online dating matches get worse and his in-game matches with Tyson get better, he finds himself wanting to pursue the easygoing chatterbox with a thick, sexy drawl.

But Phil can’t get past the fear that Tyson couldn’t possibly want a fossil like him. If his brain doesn’t stop being so damn insecure, it might be game over for his heart.

My thoughts:

I’m going to be super honest here: an age-gap m/m romance isn’t something I would have picked up on my own. That said, after reading Team Phison I’m really glad I requested an ARC because it was wonderful. This charming novella had me hooked, thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and reaching for it during snatched, quiet moments throughout the day so I could keep reading. It’s been a while since a book has captured my attention like that!

What works well:

Chace’s writing is the kind I just love to sink into; her prose was as enjoyable as the story itself. Phil is so well rounded that I felt like a fly on the wall of his life. There’s a ton of great LGBT+ representation throughout the story and the overall concept was unique and well-executed.

What doesn’t work well:

Honestly? I don’t think I have a single criticism for this one! I enjoyed it, I thought it was well-written, and I might just read it again!

Purchase this title on:

Amazon
Gumroad
Smashwords
Kobo

Indie Review – The Golden Rule

Genre: Children’s book
Rep: Multi-faith
Content Warnings: None

A free copy of this publication was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Official blurb:

The “Golden Rule” is for everyone. When a young girl starts to learn about the different ways to say it, she finds that every culture and faith has their own way to express the “Golden Rule.” Celebrate a love of diversity and acceptance in this beautifully illustrated tale.

My thoughts:

I will preface this review by stating that I do not have children of my own. I do however, have a young niece, and when it comes to gift-giving I prefer to focus on building her a library full of diverse and empowering stories. While the storytelling in Jessica Marie Baumgartner’s The Golden Rule felt a bit contrived and disjointed to me, there’s no denying that the overall message of one belief shared by many faiths (the idea what we should treat others the way we’d like to be treated) is important for everyone, especially young minds.

What works well:

The “golden rule” is an important lesson that most children are taught quite young. Using it as the means of showing kids that, regardless of faith, we all share a pretty core conviction is a smart way to show children that, no matter how different we may seem, most people generally have something pretty important in common. This book is also a great introduction to different systems of faith (the narrator’s family is Pagan) and kinds of families. Laura Winship-Fanaei’s art was also lovely and really fit the theme.

What doesn’t work well:

As I was going through this book I imagined myself reading it out loud to my niece once she gets a little older. As important as the message is, the story didn’t feel especially engaging. Instead, the narrative came across as a bit forced with more focus on teaching than telling a story. Don’t get me wrong: I think the content is incredibly valuable, but I can’t help but feel as though this story would have a hard time keeping the attention of a young child. As such, it might be better suited for a young reader who is on the cusp of graduating to chapter books than as bedtime or story circle reading.

Purchase this title on Amazon


Ko-Fi May

Review – But Not Up Here: Poems About Remembering In Neon

Genre: Poetry
Rep: Queer Own Voices author
Content Warnings: Reflections on loss, grief, and PTSD containing language that some may find triggering.

A free ARC of this publication was provided to me in exchange for an honest review

Official blurb

Words about love, loss, grief, PTSD, recovery, and jokes with no punchline.

Steps toward finding yourself and singing down the stars.

You’ll like this book if…

You’re a fan of emotional poetry written in beautiful and compelling language.

My thoughts

Poetry – especially free-verse – can be a tricky thing to review. That said, I know what I like, and RoAnna Sylver’s But Not Up Here is definitely the kind of poetry I like to sink myself into. This collection is dripping in raw emotion and beautiful language that has an almost lyrical quality to it. Sylver reaches deeper and takes their exploration of the craft further than some of their contemporaries which, at least for me, is a breath of fresh air. This was a privilege to read.

What worked well

These poems are beautifully written. Sylver takes advantage of the “anything goes” format of free-verse and plays with words, lines, and prose in ways that engage the reader, taking us by the hand and leading us through the ravages of each letter-like piece and the heartbreak that comes with them. It’s impossible not to feel the raw and deep emotions that inspired these poems as you read. It’s a captivating experience.

What didn’t work well

I hesitate to say this knowing the collections were born of negative emotions and experiences but I only wish there was more to it. The collection is powerful but brief and I felt myself aching for more when I reached the last page.

Purchase this title on Amazon


Ko-Fi May

Review – My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

Genre: Manga, older teens (16+)
Rep: lesbian, mental illness
Content Warnings: disordered eating, self harm, suicidal thoughts

Official blurb

The heart-rending autobiographical manga that’s taken the internet by storm!

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an honest and heartfelt look at one young woman’s exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. Told using expressive artwork that invokes both laughter and tears, this moving and highly entertaining single volume depicts not only the artist’s burgeoning sexuality, but many other personal aspects of her life that will resonate with readers.

You’ll like this book if…

You’re looking for an honest depiction of life with mental illness, coming to terms with queerness as an adult, and the struggles of growing up when your chosen path veers from the status quo.

My thoughts

Normally I wouldn’t review something that’s been professionally published, but MLEWL took me by such surprise and was full of so much relatable and important rep that I couldn’t NOT write something about it!

I, like so many others, first discovered MLEWL thanks to a set of translated pages posted to Twitter and Tumblr. The very concept of a woman in her late twenties hiring a lesbian escort so she can finally be with another woman was incredibly intriguing to me. As a bisexual woman who came out later in life, I can appreciate the ache and uncertainty that comes with trying to figure out how to live as your truest self.

There are plenty of wlw who haven’t experienced a romantic/sexual relationship with another woman for one reason or another – and may never get the chance  – so it was really interesting to see a true account of someone taking a less conventional route to experience their own budding sexuality.

All of this said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is so much more to this story than the author simply meeting with an escort. This isn’t some kinky, lustful lesbian erotica – it’s a story of a young woman taking her life into her own hands and exploring her sexuality as a single step toward overcoming her struggles with depression, anxiety, and extreme feelings of inadequacy.

What worked well

MLEWL is incredibly raw and honest; at times painfully so. Nagata doesn’t hold back when describing her struggles with depression and anxiety, nor her desperate need to please her parents and the gradual discovery of her sexuality. She goes to great lengths to explain her experiences with self-harm and suicidal thoughts to the reader, thus lifting the veil of shame, avoiding classic tropes, and making her feelings easier to understand. In fact, the open way she addresses pretty much all of her trials and victories makes even her most awkward and uncomfortable moments feel familiar. Despite our journeys being so different, I saw so much of myself in Nagata. It was an eye-opening and refreshing read.

While the actual lesbian escort encounter is briefer than I expected, it’s treated with dignity and respect; it’s raw and real and as awkward as one might imagine a virgin with a sex worker might be (I also want to say that Nagata’s depiction of Japanese escort services does a really good job of casting a kinder light on the sex work industry). If you’re going into this looking for smut, you’ll probably be disappointed.

The artwork is charming. I loved Nagata’s flow between a cute, simplified style and more refined, shojou-esque scenes.

What didn’t work well

There are a lot of cultural nuances that may be lost on readers who lack familiarity with Japanese culture and customs. Some concepts don’t translate well into English, which can make some of the storytelling confusing or difficult to relate to. This isn’t a shortcoming by any means (I’ll always commend publishers who don’t try to Westernize manga stories just to make them more palatable to North American audiences).

Occasionally the narrative is a bit convoluted or difficult to follow. Take it slow and savour the experience!

Purchase this title on Amazon

The Indie Writer’s Support Network: Review Edition

Indie writers have it tough.

From the writing to the promotion of our books and stories, we’re responsible for every step of the publishing process. Even those of us who sign with indie and boutique publishers have to do significantly more legwork than those who get in with the big houses.

There’s no shame in being indie, but we can definitely use all the help we can get. Word of mouth goes a long way in helping our work gain traction, and being part of a strong community helps. Goodness knows any success I’ve seen so far has been because of the people who have helped raise me up.

Now it’s time to help pay it forward.

I’ve never aspired to be a book blogger. But I know how crucial reviews are to a book’s overall success – indie or not – which is why I’ve decided to start reviewing books as part of my blogging routine.

Here’s the catch though: I’m only going to be accepting ARCs and review copies from indie and self-published authors. After all, we don’t have big marketing machines behind us – we’ve got to have each other’s backs!

If you need a sense of just how desperately needed indie reviewers are, I floated this idea on Twitter yesterday afternoon and was instantly swarmed by fellow writers looking for reviews. Where is the love??

The response was so overwhelming that I’ve already had to close submissions for the time being. But I’ll be opening my inbox to new submissions soon! When I do, here are here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Indie or self-published books and stories only, please! (Web novels/serials count too.)
  • My audience is primarily interested in LGBT+ focused fantasy, sci-fi, and NA/YA stories and poems. I like supporting #OwnVoices works.
  • I reserve the right to turn a review down if I don’t think it’ll be a good fit for my audience or if I don’t have the time to take it on.
  • I will post an honest review here on my blog but will also cross-post to Amazon and/or Good Reads.
  • If your story hasn’t been published yet, please let me know the release date and how close to it you’d ideally like the review to go live.
  • I send a monthly newsletter. If you would like to stage a giveaway campaign within this newsletter, please contact me so we can discuss the details.

Keep an eye on my reviews page or on Twitter to find out when my submissions open up again!


Like my work? Want to help support this indie author? Consider buying me a coffee!
Ko-Fi May