tippingthevelvet

I’m ashamed to say that Tipping the Velvet is my first Sarah Waters read, but pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint.

Taking place in Victorian England, Tipping the Velvet is a mix of the coming-of-age and coming-out genres; its themes (if I am to reduce a twist-filled tale to such banalities) include leaving home, self-acceptance, and not giving time to people who can’t accept you (and themselves).

What is most memorable, though, is Sarah Waters’s writing. You can always tell a good writer by her food descriptions. Nan starts off as an oyster girl, and wonderful paragraphs are devoted to the texture of their shells, the dirt they leave beneath Nan’s fingernails when she cracks them, and, of course, their taste. I, personally, don’t like oysters, but when Waters describes Nan’s luxurious enjoyment of them, it leaves me craving her version of oysters. Likewise, the first time Nan sees the performer Miss Kitty Butler on stage, the scene is electric. I could literally feel Miss Kitty’s magnetism, and felt just as compelled as Nan to learn more about her.

The book, particularly around the third quarter, becomes much darker than Nan’s initial, sheltered life as an oyster girl. Sex work is discussed openly, and it’s nothing less than depressing. In fact, at times Nan’s situation becomes so dire that I doubted the book’s ability to redeem itself. [spoilers follow] I expected a sad ending; I was pleasantly surprised.

While Nan’s life sinks very, very low, the resolution would not be so satisfying if it didn’t. And, ignoring her darkest hour, this novel is full of scrumptious, sensual depictions of food, fame, clothes, and the stage.

the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-cover-final   GossamerAxe   Lo_Adaptation_HC_600x900

AfterEllen posted Exposed: The real reason for censoring “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”.

Golden Crown Literary Society is taking hotel reservations and registration for the 2015 GCLS conference  in New Orleans, July 22-26, 2015.

Lesbian Reading Room posted LESBIAN FOCAL BOOK LIST: FANTASY (pdf).

Outer Alliance posted Outer Alliance Podcast #44.

Malinda Lo posted Diversity Programming at Book Events and Conferences.

Sarah Waters discusses her new book, The Paying Guests.

oliveoilandwhitebread   ontherocks   takenbystorm

To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader by Etel Adnan was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Taken by Storm by Kim Baldwin was reviewed at Frivolous Views.

Olive Oil and White Bread by Georgia Beers was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

Small Town Trouble (The Kim Claypoole Mysteries) by Jean Erhardt was reviewed at Planet of the Books.

On the Rocks: A Willa Cather and Edith Lewis Mystery by Sue Hallgarth was reviewed at Piercing Fiction.

skinfolk   theletterq   ifthisbesin

Walking the Labyrinth by Lois C. Hart was reviewed at Piercing Fiction.

Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson was reviewed by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian.

Anyone But You by KG MacGregor was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon was reviewed at Bisexual Books.

If This Be Sin by Hazel Newlevant was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

SpitandPassion   safegirltolove   payingguests

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters was reviewed at Sense and Sensibility and Stories.

A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett was reviewed by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian.

About Face by VK Powell was reviewed at Frivolous Views.

Spit And Passion by Cristy C. Road was reviewed at Bisexual Books.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was reviewed at The GuardianLeeds Reeds, and The List.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitter pageWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and tumblr.

santaolivia

Santa Olivia is one of those books that’s really hard to describe. You’ve got a dystopian 10 minutes into the future United States, a daughter of one of the genetically-modified “Wolf Boys,” and boxing. But Carey weaves all of those disparate parts into a ridiculously good story.

Loup Garron is born in Outpost 12, a militarized border outpost between Mexico and the US that started as the Texan town Santa Oliva. The citizens of Outpost are trapped behind walls and the US army, cut off from communications, technology, and news. Loup’s father was one of a group of escaped super-soldiers, genetically engineered to be stronger, faster, tougher than a regular human, and quite literally fearless. He vanishes shortly before Loup’s birth, leaving her to inherit those traits and a warning of the dangers of feeling no fear. The book follows Loup from her birth to young adulthood as she loses her family and finds a passion – boxing – that just might be her ticket out of Outpost 12.

Although she never labels her sexuality, Loup develops a lasting relationship with Pilar, a beautiful girl who grows up with her at the church-run orphanage. Pilar is definitely flawed, but I ultimately enjoyed watching her grow up into a better, more mature person.

The art of boxing plays a fairly heavy role in the story after a certain point; Carey’s descriptions are visceral, which may be overwhelming for some readers. I found the explanations fascinating, and it definitely felt like she did her research.

If you’re familiar with Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, expect a very different authorial voice in Santa Olivia. Though it definitely has complex themes, Santa Olivia is primarily a coming of age story. The book gets dark at times, but Loup’s inability to feel fear and the tight third person perspective helps to cushion the blow. The story focuses on character development and Loup’s powers are a liability most of the time, rather than a boon.

Overall, I love Santa Olivia. I’ve reread quite a few times, and it’s probably my favorite of Carey’s books. Loup’s relationship with Pilar is sweet and sexy, although it generally fades to black. If you enjoy the first one, there’s also a sequel – Saints Astray – that winds up being a much lighter book

onefootontotheice

[This review contains some spoilers. -ed.]

Kiki Archer’s lesbian romantic comedy, One Foot Onto the Ice, and its sequel When You Know, are the fun tale of Susan and Jenna. Susan is an uptight teacher at the British boarding school she attended just under a decade ago.  Jenna is her free-spirited former classmate, now a ski instructor in the Alps, who spends most of her off hours hooking up with every woman in her path. One Foot Onto the Ice begins when Susan leads her school’s week-long class ski trip, Jenna turns out to be the ski instructor.  Jenna charms Susan, Susan fascinates Jenna, and it isn’t long before the two are sleeping together and falling in love.  However, Susan’s repulsive coworker, Marcus, believes he and Susan are heading toward a relationship and that Jenna has conned Susan into sex. Marcus sets out to wake Susan up to Jenna’s supposed lesbian trickery.  Jenna’s recent fling, Amber, would like to be more and stirs up plenty of trouble for the couple as well.  The students, ages eleven through eighteen, provide some entertaining and interesting subplots.

When You Know is what happens in the months that follow that whirlwind fling, with Jenna and Susan attempting to build a relationship despite being in different countries, having dramatically different social lives, and being pretty new at the whole serious girlfriend thing.  Their efforts adjusting to the relationship, and the resolution the sequel provides around secondary characters like Marcus, ties up the loose ends of the first book nicely.  This book also deals with social media use and the problems it can cause.  By the end, When You Know finally gets our heroines living in the same place, with compatible lives, and both characters are a bit more mature.  Reading the sequel resolved most of the few concerns I had about its predecessor, which is one of the best things a sequel can do.

These books are campy, full of slapstick, and made me laugh.  They are mostly light, and easy and fast reads.  I enjoyed them a lot.  Archer manages to show Jenna and Susan’s chemistry through delightful banter.  While it indulged in some clichés, Archer made these forgivable.  Yes, Jenna and Susan are in love and in a “committed” relationship after less than a week, with Jenna making some major life changes because of it.  Yes, Jenna goes from having sex half the women on the mountain to dedicating herself to monogamy with Susan at breakneck speed. But they’re also twenty-six, both inexperienced in relationships, and caught up in powerful feelings and an exciting connection.  They also both have flaws in their judgment, with Susan incorrectly convinced in both books—despite all evidence—that Marcus is harmless, and Jenna oblivious to the possibility that her instant-romance with Susan might tick Amber off or, in the sequel, that going out drinking until 5 a.m. on her first night away from her brand new girlfriend could stir up Susan’s insecurities.  These hints at naivety make it more realistic that they could jump into a “serious” relationship after a couple of days.  Susan voices some reasonable doubts in the second book, which helps too.  I’m not sold on their relationship being an easy one in the future, but I was thoroughly convinced that people might behave like they did and feel the way they felt.

I was less convinced of Susan’s innate sexual prowess and quick adjustment to her new lesbian identity.  Susan had very little sexual experience, none with women, and was not even aware of her attraction to women until Jenna entered the picture.  She goes from considering Marcus as her best romantic option to being comfortable as Jenna’s girlfriend exceptionally quickly, with no exploration of whether she’d ever had feelings for women before or whether she’d ever been attracted to men either.  She and Jenna have mind-blowing sex almost as soon as they attempt it (though this is preceded by an endearingly awkward scene of Susan trying to rid herself of pubic hair as soon as she sees Jenna naked, with disastrous consequences). The sex scenes are pretty hot but sometimes a little over the top.

It is a romance though, and a very entertaining one at that, so I’ll grant it leeway. I recommend these books to anyone interested in lesbian romance.  The books are best together, and as a pair they make one of the most fun lesbian romantic comedies I’ve read.

MommyMamaandMe-298x300   Nevada   whatmakesababy

AfterEllen posted The AfterEllen.com Book Club: “Annie on My Mind” and The AfterEllen.com Book Club: August Rewind.

Autostraddle posted

Curve posted The Best of British Reads.

GayYA posted Announcing GayYA’s August 2014 Book of the Month, and Other Updates! and We Are Not Just a Diversity Checkbox Part 1.

outofthisworld   hild   springfever

Lambda Literary posted New in August: Richard House, Walter Frank, Penny Mickelbury, and Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The Lesbian Reading Room posted Goldies 2014 – the Winners.

Queer Between the Covers, Montreal’s annual queer book fair, is on Saturday, August 16!

UK Lesfic posted A Storming L Fest 2014.

Women and Words posted

otherbound   the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-cover-final   zazen

emily m. danforth was interviewed on Delaware 105.9 about the censorship of The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

Corinne Duyvis was interviewed at The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Malinda Lo was interviewed at the Biblio Fiend.

Rachel Spangler posted GCLS Portland.

“10 Books by Queer Women That Will Change How You See the World” was posted at Cosmo(!)

“Very Specific Book Recs: Historical Queer Ladies” was posted at Sheroes Central.

loveinthetimeofglobalwarming   secondmangocover   PayingGuests

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block reviewed at Gay YA.

Kiss the Girl by Melissa Brayden reviewed at Frivolous Views.

Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America by Miriam Frank was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman was reviewed at Eye of the Goat.

Best Bi Short Stories: Bisexual Fiction edited by Sheela Lambert was reviewed at Bisexual Books.

All In by Nell Stark was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

When I Was Straight by Julie Marie Wade was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality by Suzanna Danuta Walters was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was reviewed at Kirku Reviews and Publishers Weekly.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitter pageWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and tumblr.

girlsiverunawaywith

Rhiannon Argo’s Girls I’ve Run Away With has been on my “To Read” list since Autostraddle mentioned it in their “Read a F*cking Book” column last October. After diving into the world of sixteen-year-old skater girl Lo, I can easily see why it was recommended so highly.

Argo’s novel was a stark contrast to some of my most recent reads about femme-y young lesbians growing up in relatively accepting social circles. Lo’s world is not kind to queer people (an unfortunate reality for so many LGBTQ teenagers), and sometimes reminded me of Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

I will try to refrain from spoilers, but suffice it to say that this book’s title could never contain all of the adventures (good and bad) that occur when Lo decides to run away with her high school sort-of girlfriend, Savvy. One of Lo’s best qualities is that she has guts, but not without restraint, which makes the reader trust her even when she is in a crazy situation. Lo’s rebellious nature is a method of survival, and even if she makes a questionable decision, you have to admire her for the types of risks she takes.

Some of my favorite parts of the novel are when Lo grapples with whether to follow Savvy, the reckless dreamer, or to face the harsh reality of her family situation. Argo excels at capturing Lo’s adoration of Savvy, allowing her to be totally enamored with the girl without forgetting her rough-around-the-edges, fierce core. Lo is a fighter first, but is also vulnerable as a young lesbian in love, and that combination is what makes her so compelling as a character.

Argo also does a good job of showing how class intersects with sexuality, and how it can complicate a teenager’s decision to leave a bad situation. Financial security repeatedly competes with Lo’s need to run away, both with Savvy and in general. When she eventually gets to her breaking point and vows to leave a hostile place, Lo is forced to choose between two evils – living with people who don’t accept her or having no home at all.

Girls I’ve Run Away With confronts these realities head-on, as she details the rollercoaster of Lo’s search for stability. I found myself emotionally tired after reading about one of Lo’s hardships, only to be comforted a few chapters later by her renewed sense of hope. Though the heaviness can be hard to swallow, it is balanced by moments of happiness and joy, and overall, is definitely worth sticking with. I’m excited to hear that Argo is already working on a sequel and look forward to seeing where Lo runs to next.

WOmenFloat

The names may be different, the locales may boast an unfamiliar topography and the events may have a turn all their own; but, once in a very great while, a work emerges that is capable of providing the seldom-uttered assurance that this story is your story. It is akin to the caress of the author’s hand upon your cheek or the splaying of fingers through your hair, accompanied by a whisper that encourages you to find healing within the pain that resides at the core of her character’s own heart. You realize that, by embracing her abandonment, you are able to let go of your own. By hearing her lies, you are able to discover the truth within your own tales.

At twenty-nine, Win finds herself amid her Saturn return, trying to make what sense she can of nearly three decades that have known more than their share of loss, rejection, fear and disappointment. Surrounded by well-meaning friends with a penchant for new age modalities, her process is facilitated by everything from a water blessing ceremony to a Make Your Own Shrine Kit. Determined to release her fear, Win vows to return to the water. Though her mother, Janie, who left her at the age of nine, may have been something of a mermaid, Win has always feared the water and has never learned to swim… until now, twenty years after Janie went away.

Indeed, the first chapter of Maureen Foley’s Women Float serves as one of the most touching openings in recent memory. A recounting of Win’s ninth birthday, the last birthday in which she had her mother, the chapter introduces complexities, contradictions and metaphors that weave their way throughout the remainder of the work, ultimately juxtaposing her last encounter with the water during childhood with her first encounter in adulthood.

The insights gleaned into Win’s relationship with Janie are palpably heartbreaking, from the baking of her own birthday cake to the terror that her mother would be angry that she went out too far in the water; yet, even as the story unfolds, Janie cannot be fully understood. She’s simply too elusive, for the reader as well as Win herself; and, we continue to come back to the one question that begs answering — What compelled Janie to deny her daughter access to the freedom and power that resides in the unshakable knowledge that she can float?

Yet, this unbidden soul quest is about much more than making peace with the past. Take, for example, the love she holds for her best friend Mia, which is destined never to be reciprocated. Or the lies Win tells that not only convey an altered reality but the denial of her personal truth. Or the mysterious postcards, which only exacerbate her longing. At what point do the visions within her mind’s eye manifest themselves in conscious and mindful action? What does it take for one to liberate herself by letting go of that which does not serve her and to embrace her personal power?

Remarkably, enhancing the genuine sense of presence with which Foley pens Win’s heart is the undulating quality of the writing itself, reflected within imagery that lends a sensuous cadence to the work as a whole. There is very little of a linear narrative in the telling of Win’s story; and, the more we understand her experience, the looser becomes our own grasp on reality. Distinctions blur between the actual and the imagined, surrender and indifference, courage and fear… until Win begins to trust herself to let go… and we choose to do the same.

kissingkate

I have had this book on my shelf for so many years that I actually couldn’t say with any certainty whether I read it or not. I felt like I had, but I couldn’t remember anything about it. So, since I was going to see Lauren Myracle at Leakycon in a couple weeks, I decided to pick it back up and determine that for certain. Kissing Kate is definitely a quick read, under 200 pages, but I feel like it does have quite a bit to offer. I was intrigued by the first page, which seems to drop us in the middle of the typical lesbian teen book plot: Lissa has recently kissed her best friend, Kate, and now they aren’t talking anymore. But Myracle skips all of the build-up to that point and takes us straight into the aftermath, which I appreciated. It feels much more to the point this way, and not like we’re actually missing out on anything, with just enough being revealed through flashbacks.

This isn’t an action-packed novel; it is mostly about Lissa struggling to find herself. And it’s not just coming out. Kate and Lissa have been “Kate-and-Lissa” for so long that she flounders without her best friend. Throughout the book, Lissa begins to open herself up to finding new friends and new things to be excited about, while still dealing with the tension with Kate. It’s not a love story, either, but more of a snapshot of a pivotal moment in Lissa’s life. I loved the added details that made the characters seem more three-dimensional, like the main character’s unconventional family, formed of her uncle, sister, and herself. They don’t fit together perfectly, and Lissa still feels the absence of her parents (who died when she was eight), but they obviously care deeply about each other and make it work. Lissa’s new friends and her employer all have distinct personalities and voices, and they nudge her towards expanding her view on the world. There’s also a whole subplot on lucid dreams that actually was the point when I remembered reading this as a teenager: I found the concept and details so fascinating that I attempted to use what was described in the books to lucid dream myself, so it was obviously a memorable detail.

Kissing Kate maybe isn’t a life-shattering book, but it is a strong book in the lesbian teen genre. I liked that it wasn’t just about coming out, but also about not being so dependent on one other person for your sense of self. And it’s also not a love story, which is different from a lot of lesbian YA. Plus, it gets bonus points for mentioning the possibility that Lissa may be bi. I think this would be a great book to read as a newly out teenager, or just as a quick, satisfying read for anyone.

ladyknight

Anyone looking for a good lesbian love story that takes place in the medieval period should definitely try Lady Knight by L-J Baker. It has a perfect blend of romance, battles, and intriguing characters.

The story opens with Riannon, an open female knight who is rejected by almost everyone who learns her true identity. She is honorable and chivalrous, but people only see her as a misfit. She is saved from a mortal wounding by her cousin, the queen’s sister Aveline, and is now under her services. Aveline is plotting a holy war, and selfishly tries to become a leader of the highest religious order.

Eleanor is a beautiful and wealthy widow, who catches the eye of many a man. But she has had enough of arranged marriages and wants to keep her freedom. When she first meets Riannon, the two have an immediate attraction to each other, and finally they become lovers. But can two medieval women really end up together?

The story is set in a fantasy world with magical healing abilities and charmed swords. Other than that, Baker paints a very real medieval world. The cultures and countries, though made up, strongly resonate with our world. The dialogue between the characters is interesting, as they speak the way a medieval person might have. The customs and the religion are invented so well they are almost real; what with the prayers they utter, and the offerings they make to their gods and goddesses.

I loved the way Riannon and Eleanor’s love for each other was portrayed. They clearly respected each other, and both did a lot of soul searching about their love for each other and what it meant for them. The love scenes were sweet and tender, and their love was so palpable it radiated right out of the book.

Besides the romance, there are some action sequences: battles and duels which Riannon must overcome. There are other hurdles as well, such as Aveline and her sister each using the two women for their own selfish purposes, misogynist men, an impending war, and the ghosts of Riannon and Eleanor’s own pasts.

I love how I came to know both Riannon and Eleanor. All throughout the book, bits and pieces of their backgrounds come to light, and by the end the pieces are woven into a history about each woman. This added more to their already well fleshed out personalities. It also made the book richer in detail.

Lady Knight is a gripping read, as well as heart-warming in places. I’ve read this book five or six times and have never gotten tired of it. For a lesbian/medieval romance, it was everything I had hoped for. Though it may not appeal to some, for others this gem of a novel will make great reading.

[Also check out Anna and Spencer's reviews of this book!]

childofdoors

This book was a wild read from start to finish. It has been a while since I read some truly weird speculative fiction like this. That’s about as specific as I can be about the genre of this book. It was part horror, part paranormal, part science fiction, part fantasy, and possibly meant to be somewhat allegorical. It reminded me a lot of Philip K. Dick, or Cordwainer Smith: the kind of science fiction that is infuriatingly philosophical in a way that is impossible to reason out a real meaning and actually learn anything from it. That is because, of course, these are the types of stories that are meant to draw out feelings and not thoughts. Despite how confusing the narrative was, it did draw me into an emotional connection with the characters. One of those emotions was fear. As I mentioned, there are some elements of horror in this book. There is plenty of gore and death and body horror, so if you don’t like those, you might want to skip this book. If you grew up on creepypasta, X-Files, and horror manga (like I did), Child of Doors may be right up your alley.

The events are told from the point of view of Arc Litchfield, a lesbian who is described as having dark skin and is at one point ambiguously described as “exotic” by another character, leading me to believe she is a woman of color. Aside from that, Arc’s appearance is never elaborated upon, except to say that she is out of shape. So the hero of the story (and she is a hero, in a very traditional sense of the word. It becomes quite clear early on that there is something very special about Arc that no one else in her world seems to have.) a fat lesbian of color, provides representation for demographics who do not often see themselves in this sort of traditional spec fic setting. Every other character is a woman as well, with the exception that proves the rule being the bad guy.

The antagonist, for lack of a better word, is a tall man in a suit, faceless, but with its head cocked to one side as if scrutinizing its potential victims. This is a creature of the type so common in ghost stories and horror media that it is instantly familiar and yet, at least in my opinion, still very scary. This book got me wondering what it is about faceless monsters that drills so deep into our subconscious and makes us so uneasy? I didn’t come up with an answer, but I certainly appreciate the stylistic choice the author made to use the “faceless man” monster in Child of Doors to such good effect.

The problem I run into reviewing this kind of story is that any criticisms I have might just be a case of me “not getting it.” For example, the pacing is uneven and jarring. This might be the author’s method of getting the reader into the mindset of the main character, who experiences blackouts and lost time repeatedly throughout the narrative. I certainly felt myself feeling the effects of confusion and desperation as her terrifying circumstances wore on Arc throughout the story. The narrative was hard to follow, and was left with so many questions and loose ends that I wished were explained better. Perhaps this too was on purpose, for it emphasizes the uncertainty of life and the complexity of the world and of our own minds. It seemed like Arc understood more about what was happening to her than the reader could be expected to glean from the narrative. Maybe her deepest thoughts and feelings of acceptance for her fate and role were her own private business, and the reader, an outsider, can only accept the character’s decisions based on their respect for her agency as a survivor and a hero.

In summary, this book is everything I have been looking for in speculative fiction! A book in my favorite genre with a protagonist who is not a white, straight male? Yes please. It’s definitely the kind of book you have to read at least twice to understand it. I plan to pick it up again soon just so I can enjoy it again, and maybe the second time around I will gain more insight into what exactly happened. Even then, if it’s still unclear, what really matters to me is the beautiful story, the words, the interections, the brief vignettes of normalcy that end up ripped apart by terror and chaos. It’s these elements that make the story resonate in an impressionistic way and feed your mind and your heart. That’s what I love about speculative fiction, and it’s why I fell instantly in love with this shining example of the genre.

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