The Lesbrary is Looking for More Reviewers!

Do you love reading queer women books? Feel like talking about them at least once a month? Want to be buried in an insurmountable pile of free bi & lesbian ebooks? Join the Lesbrary!

We’re looking to add more reviewers to the Lesbrary team! You just have to commit to one review a month of any queer women book and in return you get forwarded all of the sapphic ebooks sent to us for possible review. You also get access to the Lesbrary Edelweiss and Netgalley accounts, where you can request not-yet-released queer titles.

I’m looking particularly for more reviewers of color, disabled reviewers, and trans reviewers, but anyone who regularly reads bi & lesbian books is welcome!

If you’re interested in joining the Lesbrary, send me an email at danikaellis at gmail with a sample of a book review you’ve written. (It doesn’t have to have been published/posted anywhere before.)  Please put “lesbrarian” or “lesbrary” in the subject line so I don’t lose your email!

We’d love to have you on board!

Danika reviews The One You Want to Marry (And Other Identities I’ve Had) by Sophie Santos

The One You Want To Marry cover

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I have to admit, I almost stopped reading this in the first chapter because of the secondhand embarrassment factor. That same impulse that nearly made me put down the book for good also kept me completely enthralled, peeking through my fingers (metaphorically) to read the next page, unable to look away.

The One You Want to Marry is Santos’s memoir about being a self-proclaimed “late bloomer.” Not physically, but in the sense that she, for example, fully believed in Santa and fiercely defended his existence until she was told at 13. More importantly, though, she didn’t come out until her 20s despite having some… pretty big clues early on. When she told her father, he said, “you always had good female friendships.” The book is then divided up into these intense female friendships of her early life, starting with her preschool best friend she would whisper to all nap time and wail when separated from.

It’s written in a casual, intensely readable style that reminds me of reading someone’s diary–complete with an uncensored look into every aspect of their life. In fact, I felt a little voyeuristic at times, like this person probably shouldn’t be telling me about their early adventures in masturbation (in painful detail). Santos does not shy away from sharing everything from her starting a strip limbo game at a childhood sleepover to her early 20s denial of being a lesbian even in the most… compromising situations.

It’s been a while since I read a straight up (if you’ll excuse the pun) coming out memoir, as opposed to a more general memoir with a queer author. This is a equally a coming of age story, but those are intertwined. This is a story about running from yourself, chasing mirages of who you are, and what happens when you’re finally forced to stand still and face yourself. Santos’s coming of age is centred around running away from her lesbianism–beginning with ignorance that later became denial–and then finding her identity as an out lesbian.

Santos grew up in the 90s, as I did, and this provides some nostalgia and also embarrassment looking back at that time period. It seems to be aimed at young queer people, who presumably need things like same sex marriage being illegal explained. The entire framing feels a little bit 90s to me–while we still need queer representation, a lot has changed since then, which isn’t really acknowledged. (Also, all her mom’s closest friends were lesbians. She went to a lesbian commitment ceremony as a kid. She wasn’t without lesbian role models.)

She was an army brat, moving a lot and reinventing herself–always finding new, intense female friendships, of course. She also struggled with undiagnosed, untreated OCD and anxiety. We follow her through many of these reinventions, from a kid who dressed like a Backstreet Boy and kissed her best friend (as often as possible) “just for fun” to a pageant hopeful to sorority sister looking for an “MRS” to an in denial lesbian who paused mid-cunnilingus to say “I’m not gay” to the host of a show called The Lesbian Agenda.

I expected that once the book was through the awkward adolescent stage, we were out of the woods in terms of intense second hand cringiness, but I was wrong. She’s a mess even (or especially) in adulthood, especially when her untreated OCD and anxiety collide with PTSD. I appreciate her honesty, particularly when it comes to mental health as well as coming out. It’s a messy process, and this book embraces that.

I hope that young readers who feel like they’re doing it wrong, who are embarrassed about how long it took them to come out, or who are struggling to find stability in their adult identities find this book. It reassures readers that even when the road is bumpy getting there, you can still find happiness and fulfillment, including a partner who will go to great lengths to assuage your obsessive fears. (I will not spoil this scene, but it’s well worth reading this book just for the #RelationshipGoals moment.)

So if you can relate to being a “late bloomer,” or if you just want to be a voyeur into someone’s life, check this one out.

50 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

Collage of covers listed below and the text "Bi and Lesbian Books Out in October!"

Would you believe that more than 50 sapphic books come out this month? It’s true! Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out which books have queer representation, or what kind of representation they have. So here’s a big list of bi and lesbian books out this month, sorted by genre. I’ve highlighted a few of the books I’m most interested in, but click through to see the other titles’ blurbs! All blurbs are the publishers’.

As always, if you can get these through an indie bookstore, that is ideal, but if you can’t, the titles and covers are linked to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, I’ll get a small percentage. On to the books!

Adult

Fiction

The Balance Tips by Joy Huang-Iris

Wu Goodson is a 25-year-old queer, multiracial woman who documents the identity journeys of other New Yorkers. She finds her videography work meaningful, but more importantly, it distracts her from investigating the challenges of her own life and keeps relationships at a distance.

When the family’s Taiwanese patriarch dies, Fay’s Asian grandmother moves to America; and Fay, her mother, and her aunt learn unsettling truths about their family and each other. They must decide to finally confront themselves, or let their pasts destroy everything each woman has dreamed of and worked for.

An unconventional story of an Asian-American matriarchy, The Balance Tips is a complex and moving literary exploration of Taiwanese-American female roles in family, sexual identity, racism, and the internal struggles fostered by Confucian patriarchy.

Dreaming Of You cover

Dreaming Of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva (Queer Novel in Verse)

A macabre novel in verse of loss, longing, and identity crises following a poet who resurrects pop star Selena from the dead.

Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s Dreaming of You is an absurd yet heartfelt examination of celebrity worship.

A young Latinx poet grappling with loneliness and heartache decides one day to bring Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla back to life. The séance kicks off an uncanny trip narrated by a Greek chorus of gossiping spirits as she journeys through a dead celebrity prom, encounters her shadow self, and performs karaoke in hell.

In visceral poems embodying millennial angst, paragraph-long conversations overheard at her local coffeeshop, and unhinged Twitter rants, Lozada-Oliva reveals an eerie, sometimes gruesome, yet moving love story.

Playfully morbid and profoundly candid, an interrogation of Latinidad, womanhood, obsession, and disillusionment, Dreaming of You grapples with the cost of being seen for your truest self.

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The Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon (Sapphic)

Liselle Belmont is having a dinner party.

It seems a strange occasion—her husband, Winn, has lost his bid for the state legislature—but what better way to thank key supporters than a feast? Liselle was never sure about her husband becoming a politician, never sure about the limelight, never sure about the life of fundraising and stump speeches. Then an FBI agent calls to warn her that Winn might be facing corruption charges. An avalanche of questions tumbles around her: Is it possible he’s guilty? Who are they to each other; who have they become? How much of herself has she lost—and was it worth it? And just this minute, how will she make it through this dinner party?

Across town, Selena Octave is making her way through the same day, the same way she always does—one foot in front of the other, keeping quiet and focused, trying not to see the terrors all around her. Homelessness, starving children, the very living horrors of history that made America possible: these and other thoughts have made it difficult for her to live an easy life. The only time she was ever really happy was with Liselle, back in college. But they’ve lost touch, so much so that when they ran into each other at a drugstore just after Obama was elected president, they barely spoke. But as the day wears on, memories of Liselle begin to shift Selena’s path.

Inspired by Mrs. Dalloway and Sula, as well as Audre Lorde’s Zami, Asali Solomon’s The Days of Afrekete is a deft, expertly layered, naturally funny, and deeply human examination of two women coming back to themselves at midlife. It is a watchful celebration of our choices and where they take us, the people who change us, and how we can reimagine ourselves even when our lives seem set.

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Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman (Sapphic Historical Fiction)

Inspired by real women, this powerful novel tells the story of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I

August 1914. While Europe enters a brutal conflict unlike any waged before, the Duncan household in Baltimore, Maryland, is the setting for a different struggle. Ruth and Elise Duncan long to escape the roles that society, and their controlling father, demand they play. Together, the sisters volunteer for the war effort—Ruth as a nurse, Elise as a driver.

Stationed at a makeshift hospital in Ypres, Belgium, Ruth soon confronts war’s harshest lesson: not everyone can be saved. Rising above the appalling conditions, she seizes an opportunity to realize her dream to practice medicine as a doctor. Elise, an accomplished mechanic, finds purpose and an unexpected kinship within the all-female Ambulance Corps. Through bombings, heartache and loss, Ruth and Elise cherish an independence rarely granted to women, unaware that their greatest challenges are still to come.

Illuminating the critical role women played in the Great War, this is a remarkable story of resilience, sacrifice and the bonds that can never be vanquished.

The Throwback List cover
The Secrets of Willowra cover
Breaking Points cover
Personal Attention Roleplay cover

Romance

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Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell (F/F)

In this sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy, two women juggle romance and career across continents.

Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.

Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…

When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?

Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.

Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.

One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.

The Perks of Loving a Wallflower cover

The Perks of Loving a Wallflower (The Wild Wynchesters Book 2) by Erica Ridley (F/F Historical Romance)

Fans of Bridgerton will love this “delightful” Regency romp (Julia QuinnNew York Times bestselling author​) in which a proper Society miss recruits a very improper lady investigator in a quest for vengeance, only to find love instead.

As a master of disguise, Thomasina Wynchester can be a polite young lady—or a bawdy old man. She’ll do whatever it takes to solve the cases her family takes on. But when Tommy’s beautiful new client turns out to be the highborn lady she’s secretly smitten with, more than her mission is at stake . . .

Bluestocking Miss Philippa York doesn’t believe in love. Her heart didn’t pitter-patter when she was betrothed to a duke, nor did it break when he married someone else. All Philippa desires is to decode a centuries-old manuscript to keep a modern-day villain from claiming credit for work that wasn’t his. She hates that she needs a man’s help to do it—so she’s delighted to discover the clever, charming baron at her side is in fact a woman. But as she and Tommy grow closer and the stakes of their discovery higher, more than just their hearts are at risk.

Just One Wedding cover
Can’t Leave Love cover
Protecting the Lady cover
Love’s Compromise cover
Of Trust & Heart cover

Mystery/Thrillers

What’s the Matter with Mary Jane cover
Free Fall at Angel Creek cover
Veterinary Surgeon cover
Investigating Helen cover
Trial by Fire cover

Horror

Nothing But Blackened Teeth cover

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (Bisexual)

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly turning the classic haunted house story on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions.

The Gold Persimmon cover

The Gold Persimmon by Lindsay Merbaum (Sapphic and Nonbinary Horror)

Clytemnestra is a check-in girl at The Gold Persimmon, a temple-like New York City hotel with gilded furnishings and carefully guarded secrets. Cloistered in her own reality, Cly lives by a strict set of rules until a connection with a troubled hotel guest threatens the world she’s so carefully constructed.

In a parallel reality, an inexplicable fog envelops the city, trapping a young, nonbinary writer named Jaime in a sex hotel with six other people. As the survivors begin to turn on one another, Jaime must navigate a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Haunted by specters of grief and familial shame, Jaime and Cly find themselves trapped in dual narratives in this gripping experimental novel that explores sexuality, surveillance, and the very nature of storytelling.

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Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (Sapphic)

Flowers for the Sea is a dark, dazzling debut novella that reads like Rosemary’s Baby by way of Octavia E. Butler

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek.

Fantasy

Payback’s a Witch cover

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper (Bisexual F/F)

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

A Spindle Splintered cover

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (Sapphic Fantasy)

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story. Featuring Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations for The Sleeping Beauty, fractured and reimagined.

“A vivid, subversive and feminist reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, where implacable destiny is no match for courage, sisterhood, stubbornness and a good working knowledge of fairy tales.” —Katherine Arden

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no-one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Goddess of Limbo cover
Turbulent Waves cover
Blood of the Chosen cover
The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales cover
Not All a Dream cover

Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

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Abbott 1973 by Saladin Ahmed & Sami Kivelä (Bisexual Fantasy Graphic Novel)

Elena Abbott is one of Detroit’s toughest reporters, who must now exhaust all her abilities as a reporter and a supernatural savior to rescue Detroit from dark forces trying to corrupt the city’s most important election—but at what cost to her own life?

A WAR FOR THE SOUL OF DETROIT. Elena Abbott is one of Detroit’s toughest reporters—and after defeating the dark forces that murdered her husband, she’s focused on the most important election in the city’s history. But when someone uses dark magic to sabotage the campaign of the prospective first Black mayor of Detroit, it becomes clear to Abbott that the supernatural conspiracy in her city is even greater than she ever imagined. Now Abbott must exhaust all her abilities as a reporter and a supernatural savior to rescue Detroit—but at what cost to her own life?

Miles Morales: Spider-Man mastermind & Eisner Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and acclaimed Machine Gun Wizards artist Sami Kivelä return to the Hugo Award-nominated world of Abbott, as the eponymous unstoppable reporter tackles a new corruption taking over Detroit in 1973 and the supernatural threat behind it.

Young Adult

YA Fantasy

That Dark Infinity cover

That Dark Infinity by Kate Pentecost (Bisexual)

An immortal monster hunter and a royal handmaiden embark on an epic journey to change their fates in this soul-stirring young adult fantasy novel for fans of The Witcher and The Last Unicorn.

By night, the Ankou is a legendary, permanently young mercenary—the most fearsome sword for hire in all of the Five Lands, and its most abiding mystery. But when the sun rises, a dark magic leaves him no more than bones. Cursed with this cycle of death and resurrection, the Ankou wants only to find the final rest that has been prophesied for him, no matter the cost.

When the kingdom of Kaer-Ise is sacked, Flora, handmaiden to the royal family, is assaulted and left for dead. Wounded, heartbroken, and the sole survivor of the massacre, Flora wants desperately to be reunited with the princess she served and loved. She and the Ankou make a deal: He will help Flora find her princess, and train Flora in combat, in exchange for her aid in breaking his curse. But it isn’t easy to kill an immortal, especially when their bond begins to deepen into something more . . .

Together, they will solve mysteries, battle monsters, and race against time in this fantasy novel about sacrifice, love, and healing by Elysium Girls author Kate Pentecost.

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I am the Ghost in Your House by Maria Romasco-Moore (Bisexual)

Pie is the ghost in your house.
She is not dead, she is invisible.
The way she looks changes depending on what is behind her. A girl of glass. A girl who is a window. If she stands in front of floral wallpaper she is full of roses.
For Pie’s entire life it’s been Pie and her mother. Just the two of them, traveling across America. They have slept in trains, in mattress stores, and on the bare ground. They have probably slept in your house.
But Pie is lonely. And now, at seventeen, her mother’s given her a gift. The choice of the next city they will go to. And Pie knows exactly where she wants to go. Pittsburgh—where she fell in love with a girl who she plans to find once again. And this time she will reveal herself.
Only how can anyone love an invisible girl?
 
A magnificent story of love, and friendship, and learning to see yourself in a world based on appearances, I Am the Ghost in Your House is a brilliant reflection on the importance of how much more there is to our world than what meets the eye.

The Quicksilver Court cover
Tink and Wendy cover

YA Sci Fi

Thronebreakers
City of Shattered Light

YA Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

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Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall & Lisa Sterle (Sapphic YA Fantasy Graphic Novel)

Pretty Little Liars meets Teen Wolf in this sharply funny, and patriarchy-smashing graphic novel from author Maggie Tokuda-Hall and artist Lisa Sterle. When the new girl is invited to join her high school’s most popular clique, she can’t believe her luck—and she can’t believe their secret, either.

When Becca transfers to a high school in an elite San Francisco suburb, she’s worried she’s not going to fit in. To her surprise, she’s immediately adopted by the most popular girls in school. At first glance, Marley, Arianna, and Mandy are perfect. But at a party under a full moon, Becca learns that they also have a big secret.

Becca’s new friends are werewolves. Their prey? Slimy boys who take advantage of unsuspecting girls. Eager to be accepted, Becca allows her friends to turn her into a werewolf, and finally, for the first time in her life, she feels like she truly belongs.

But then things get complicated. As their pack begins to buckle under the pressure, their moral high ground gets muddier and muddier—and Becca realizes that she might have feelings for one of her new best friends.

Lisa Sterle’s stylish illustrations paired with Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s sharp writing make Squad a fierce, haunting, and fast-paced thriller that will resonate with fans of Riverdale, and with readers of This Savage SongLumberjanes, and Paper Girls

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YA Memoirs & Nonfiction

On Top of Glass cover

On Top of Glass: My Stories as a Queer Girl in Figure Skating by Karina Manta (Bisexual YA Memoir)

An insightful memoir from a figure skating champion about her life as a bisexual professional athlete, perfect for readers of Fierce by Aly Raisman and Forward by Abby Wambach.

Karina Manta has had a busy few years: Not only did she capture the hearts of many with her fan-favorite performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she also became the first female figure skater on Team USA to come out as queer. Her Modern Love essay “I Can’t Hate My Body if I Love Hers” was published in the New York Times, and then she joined the circus–Cirque du Soleil’s on-ice show, AXEL.

Karina’s memoir covers these experiences and much more. Attending a high school with 4,000 students, you’d expect to know more than two openly gay students, but Karina didn’t meet an out-lesbian until she was nearly seventeen–let alone any other kind of queer woman. But this isn’t just a story about her queerness. It’s also a story about her struggle with body image in a sport that prizes delicate femininity. It’s a story about panic attacks, and first crushes, and all the crushes that followed, and it’s a story about growing up, feeling different than everybody around her and then realizing that everyone else felt different too.

Children

Middle Grade

This is Our Rainbow cover

This is Our Rainbow edited by Katherine Locke & Nicole Melleby (LGBTQ Middle Grade Anthology)

The first LGBTQA+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Nonfiction

Memoirs & Essays

Greedy cover

Greedy: Notes from a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much by Jen Winston

A hilarious and whip-smart collection of essays, offering an intimate look at bisexuality, gender, and, of course, sex. Perfect for fans of Lindy West, Samantha Irby, and Rebecca Solnit—and anyone who wants, and deserves, to be seen.

If Jen Winston knows one thing for sure, it’s that she’s bisexual. Or wait—maybe she isn’t? Actually, she definitely is. Unless…she’s not?

Jen’s provocative, laugh-out-loud debut takes us inside her journey of self-discovery, leading us through stories of a childhood “girl crush,” an onerous quest to have a threesome, and an enduring fear of being bad at sex. Greedy follows Jen’s attempts to make sense of herself as she explores the role of the male gaze, what it means to be “queer enough,” and how to overcome bi stereotypes when you’re the posterchild for all of them: greedy, slutty, and constantly confused.

With her clever voice and clear-eyed insight, Jen draws on personal experiences with sexism and biphobia to understand how we all can and must do better. She sheds light on the reasons women, queer people, and other marginalized groups tend to make ourselves smaller, provoking the question: What would happen if we suddenly stopped?​​

Greedy shows us that being bisexual is about so much more than who you’re sleeping with—it’s about finding stability in a state of flux and defining yourself on your own terms. This book inspires us to rethink the world as we know it, reminding us that Greedy was a superpower all along.

Any Kind of Luck at All cover
The One You Want to Marry cover
Being Seen cover
Bee Reaved

Other Nonfiction

The Care We Dream Of cover
Ink Earl cover

Check out more LGBTQ new releases by signing up for Our Queerest Shelves, my LGBTQ book newsletter at Book Riot!

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon to get queer books in the mail throughout the year!

Rachel reviews No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

No Gods, No Monsters cover

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Caldwell Turnbull’s No Gods, No Monsters (Blackstone Publishing 2021) is an absolutely unputdownable blend of science fiction and fantasy set in a dark (and queer) world where all manner of creatures live and walk.

The central plot of the novel focuses on Laina, who receives news one morning that her estranged brother has been killed by police in Boston. Although the case seems to be a devastating case of police brutality, there are hints of something more under the surface. As Laina finds out what really happened to her brother, she and the rest of the world realize that there are creatures who share their world that they’ve only heard stories about. Now, these creatures are tired of hiding; they want everyone to know that they’re here, hoping that the world’s knowledge will keep them safe from those who would capture or harm them. However, this transition from invisible to visible is far from smooth, and as the threads of this story come together, the stakes get higher and higher.

No Gods, No Monsters is perhaps one of the best books I’ve read all year. I read this with the frantic pace of a reader desperate to find out what happens. This story has a magical quality, weaving many different threads together over the course of several hundred pages. Therefore, No Gods, No Monsters required careful reading to catch the connective tissue of each section and chapter. This literary detective work, however, was delightful because the mysteries throughout the novel are dark, creepy, and compelling. This book is the perfect read for fall and Halloween.

Turnbull’s representation of queer people is various, nuanced, and refreshing. The novel features a cast of queer characters from various walks of life, and their queerness effects their individual storylines to varying degrees throughout the novel. Because of the story’s winding and twisting structure, the characters are really what hold this narrative together. My investment in their lives and stories was immediate and kept me reading constantly. Turnbull also makes an interesting connection between marginalization, queerness, and otherness. He asks, who in our world risks violence through visibility? How can we protect them? How does our world need to change?

No Gods, No Monsters is a gorgeous book and one that I highly recommend if you’re looking for a spooky, queer read this fall!

Please visit Cadwell Turnbull on Twitter and put No Gods, No Monsters on your TBR on Goodreads.

Content Warnings: Trauma, sexual abuse, drug use, gun violence. 

Rachel Friars is a writer and academic living in Canada, dividing her time between Ontario and New Brunswick. When she’s not writing short fiction, she’s reading every lesbian novel she can find. Rachel holds two degrees in English literature and is currently pursuing a PhD in nineteenth-century lesbian literature and history.

You can find Rachel on Twitter @RachelMFriars or on Goodreads @Rachel Friars

Sponsored Review: Danika reviews A Queer Death at Secret Pearl by J.C. Morgan

I have to admit, “cozy mystery set at a lesbian retirement community” was a tagline I could not resist. A Queer Death at Secret Pearl begins with Judith moving into Secret Pearl and immediately meeting an aggressively welcoming Cynthia, who attempts to take her on a tour, but is so high that she gets them lost until the golf cart battery runs out. The chapters rotate between different point of view characters, most of whom are as eccentric as Cynthia. There’s the “resident slut” whose purpose in retirement is to get all the sex she missed out in her closeted youth, a hypochondriac lamenting her inevitable demise (despite being fit enough to fight off an intruder with a shovel), a grouchy butch who goes by “Wheezer,” and more. Judith is a subdued, bookish retired veterinarian with a collection of abandoned animals she’s taken in–including a vulgar parrot named Hannibird Lector–who is reluctantly pulled into this community’s adventures, and surprises herself by enjoying them.

While there is a mystery element to this, I wouldn’t say it’s the focus. This story is much more about the shenanigans this wacky group gets into, including naked therapy, swimming with manatees, and playing with a ouija board. Oh, and a lot of sex. With the amount of sex talk and sex scenes included, you’d think it would be erotica, but they’re handled in a matter-of-fact way for the most part, not lingered on.

Of course, as the title suggests, there is a death at the beginning of the novella. While a wine and cheese tasting party was underway (which most of the residents found much too fancy and brought beer to instead), Betty was found dead in the bathroom, naked and sitting on a toilet. While this is a retirement community, she was relatively young and healthy, so the women begin to gossip about the possibility of murder, and immediately the taciturn Wheezer is the main suspect–mostly just because she doesn’t get along well with the people accusing her.

I expected this to be a mystery, with Judith investigating, but the death is mostly taken in stride. The coroner’s report is delayed, so no one knows for sure if there is anything suspicious about her death. It’s mostly just a recurring piece of juicy gossip, with people taking stands for or against Wheezer. There are occasional scenes of looking for evidence or puzzling things out, but they aren’t the focus.

This is a short, entertaining read with a lot of humor. It sometimes feels over-the-top in its goofiness (the police especially are cartoonishly incompetent), and there isn’t a lot of space to give most of the characters depth, but it’s light and silly, and I appreciate a story like this because there are so few books about older lesbians, especially ones that embrace sex.

There are two points that grated on me and I think were unnecessary: two characters talk about their “spirit animals,” and another character calls herself a “part time lesbian” and “a little bisexual.” It seems weird to me that the community (especially since it apparently includes hundreds of women, though we just meet a handful) wouldn’t exclude bisexuals or that Brenda wouldn’t just call herself bisexual.

Despite some minor issues I had with it, I really enjoyed reading it, and I’d like to see more stories set at Secret Pearl! I can imagine these characters stumbling into a lot more sticky situations in the future.

This has been a sponsored review. For more information, check out the Lesbrary’s review policy.

Shannon reviews Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake cover

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I’m not someone who watches a lot of TV, so I was super surprised to find myself gravitating toward books centered around reality tv shows. There’s something about these stories that captures my attention in a way the actual shows airing on television never have. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, the first book in Alexis Hall’s Winner Bakes All series, is a gem of a novel I read earlier this year, and something I’m beyond pleased to recommend to anyone looking for a story full of fun, tears, and a healthy dose of self-discovery.

Rosaline Palmer is tired of sacrificing her own dreams to make others happy. She got pregnant young and decided not to go to medical school, choosing instead to devote the bulk of her time and attention to raising her daughter. Her parents, who are classic overachievers, don’t fully understand or approve of Rosaline’s choices, and she’s pretty sure she’s a huge disappointment to them. Still, she knows she has to find a way to live life on her own terms, even if it turns out to be the hardest thing she’ll ever do.

To this end, she decides to harness her love of baking and becomes a participant on a new reality show for bakers. She’s pretty sure she won’t win, but winning isn’t as important to her as building her confidence and gaining some valuable baking experience. However, as things heat up both in and out of the kitchen, Rosaline begins to take her spot on the show much more seriously than she ever thought she would. Suddenly, winning the whole thing seems like a distinct possibility, and it’s a possibility she likes a lot.

One of the best things about this book is Rosaline’s journey toward self-acceptance. She’s bisexual, but has done her best to keep this part of her identity under wraps until now so as not to offend her parents or confuse her young daughter, but now that she’s fully committed to living life the way she wants, she’s unwilling to keep hiding who she is. Rosaline is smart, warm, and incredibly funny, but those aren’t the characteristics that drew me to her. Instead, I fell in love with her vulnerability and I found myself cheering her on from practically the first page of the book.

There’s definitely a romantic arc here, but I can’t say too much about this aspect of the story without spoiling some of the fun. Still, I think it’s important to be aware that this book feels more like women’s fiction than contemporary romance. Love is a big deal for Rosaline, but it takes a back seat to her own inner journey, and I loved the way the author chose to put the focus solely on Rosaline.

This book stirred up so many emotions as I read, some that were light-hearted and pleasant and others that were a little more difficult to sit with. The author packs a lot into the story, but it’s handled in a way that makes it super easy to read even if some of the subject matter is on the heavier side. Hall’s writing hooked me in right away, and I’m really excited to see what he has planned for the rest of the series.

Danika reviews A Dream of a Woman: Stories by Casey Plett

A Dream of a Woman cover

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Casey Plett is the kind of author I love and dread reading, because she so skillfully can break your heart. Her stories are beautiful, bittersweet, and achingly honest about the little ways we support and fail each other. My first experience reading Plett’s work was in chapbook form: Lizzy and Annie (review), which I highly recommend if you can get your hands on it, because it’s accompanied by gorgeous watercolour illustrations. I loved it so much that I immediately bought her next book, A Safe Girl To Love (review), which I honestly still feel like I’m processing.

Her stories generally (always?) have trans women main characters, and they all deal with the daily struggle of surviving in a world that constantly questions their existence and value. In A Safe Girl To Love, one of the characters described it as being like a “light case of mono that never goes away. I don’t want to brave. I want us to be okay.”

A Dream of a Woman also centres trans women and deals with transmisogyny, but it also feels much more about relationships–family, friendship, and romantic ones–than her previous collection. It begins with an absolute gut punch of a story, “Hazel and Christopher,” that left me staring at a wall for a while after reading the ending to try to emotionally process it, and I mean that in the best possible way.

There is a similar melancholic tone to these stories as I got from her previous works, but there also felt like a little more hope in this one, more moments of joy glittering throughout, leaving a bittersweet impression.

I’m in awe of the way Plett paints these characters. They feel so real and multifaceted. They are deeply flawed, but sympathetically drawn. When a character makes a decision I disagree with, when they hurt someone, I felt for both of them. They all feel like they could walk off the page and into your life–maybe especially for me because there are quite a few stories that take place in Canadian cities that aren’t quite my home but feel very familiar.

One story, “Obsolution,” continues throughout the collection. I guess it’s actually a novella, with the chapters interspersed with the other stories. I thought this format worked really well, and I was always interested to return to this character, but each story/chapter feels complete enough that I wasn’t skipping or rushing through the stories in between. (The novella and one of the short stories both have sapphic main characters.)

I highly recommend this collection for anyone who wants to feel bruise-tender about the world.

Content warnings for rape, addiction, and transphobia.

Every now and then you get offered an exit, something you didn’t plan for, something you don’t deserve, and something you don’t believe you can rely on. So you don’t take it. Eventually, I realized: it doesn’t matter. No one deserves anything, really. I was on a plane a year later.

Shana reviews Passion Marked by Ophelia Silk

Passion Marked cover

Passion Marked is a fantasy novel set in a magical world where people’s lives are constrained by whether they have light magic, dark magic, or neither. The worldbuilding inelegantly parallels modern-day racism, and I found it a frustrating read. 

Ellie is an aspiring horse trainer who has been working her whole life towards joining a horse training association. Ellie doesn’t have any magic, but she finds the Diurne, light, golden-haired beings with daytime magic, beautiful and compelling. Unfortunately, Ellie’s career plans are cut short when she stumbles into a black-colored centaur escaping an illegal racetrack. 

Nadine is a Nocturne centaur who hides a sensitive soul behind her bitter, bad girl demeanor. Nocturnes have dark coloring and magic, and Nadine is used to people assuming she’s a demon, and dismissing her. She’s shaken after her rescue from being trafficked, and her easy flirtation with Ellie quickly turns to sex. Nadine thinks this is just another of her many one-night stands. But both women are surprised when their liaison leaves them with a magic bond, called a passion mark, that usually only occurs in an intense relationship between long-bonded mates. The mark requires them to stay physically close to one another, which throws a wrench in Ellie’s career plans since Nocturnes are not allowed near the horses. 

Ellie’s angry at losing her dream job, Nadine feels rejected, and these two have a long road  to learn to trust one another, while trying to find a way for Ellie to work with horses again. Since Ellie’s job is the major conflict between them, I wish there had been more explanation of why she doesn’t have other employment options. However, there is a lot of time spent with horses and stable staff in this book, which I think would appeal to horse-loving queers. 

As a romance fan, I thought the pacing of Nadine and Ellie’s relationship was abrupt and confusing. We don’t learn much about them before they get together, and I felt little emotional connection between them until late in the book.  Ellie and Nadine’s brief first sex scene was insufficiently fabulous to convince me that it would cause a magic passion spell. While the book includes many sex scenes, I found them lackluster at best, and largely focused on Ellie’s pleasure. Only the human parts of Nadine’s  body are involved, which I appreciated, but it added to the lopsidedness. I was left with many questions about the logistics of a romance with a centaur. Horses are big: do these two need a special bed?  How do they spoon?

Much of the plot is woven around the politics of dark and light magic. Passion Marked uses the plight of the socially inferior Nocturnes to offer some very heavy handed social commentary on racism. In this world, most Nocturnes live in ghettos, and most wealthy people are Diurnes; both are assumed by most people to be the result of a meritocracy, despite obvious discrimination against Nocturnes. Dark people are exoticized, and their food and magic is emphasized as different, and lesser. As a Black reader, I was uncomfortable with the way these elements were depicted. First, It felt simplistic and clumsy. For example, Nadine has internalized a sense of extreme inferiority, believing that no one couldn’t possibly want to be in a relationship with her because she’s a Nocturne. Instead of being angry at the prejudice she’s received, she berates herself for her worthlessness. Her insecurity is directly due to her darkness, and since the book implies that its dark people equals People of Color in the real world, I was distracted by how inappropriate it felt to have a marginalized person torturing themselves over not being good enough for a privileged love interest. 

Second, I didn’t appreciate some of the stereotypes woven into the worldbuilding. For example,  Nadine’s loves sex, and was very promiscuous beore meeting Ellie. The way this is described  felt straight out of jezebel stereotypes about Black people. 

I like that Passion Marked tries to use classic dark/light magic fantasy tropes to tell a story about racism, but I didn’t enjoy how the book handled those elements. The world building didn’t always make sense to me, which made it hard for me to invest in the romantic story.

Kayla Bell reviews Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch cover

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Happy Halloween season, readers! For October, I was looking for something sapphic and spooky. Luckily, I was approved for an ARC of Payback’s A Witch by Lana Harper, which meets those two requirements perfectly. I absolutely loved this fun, feminist story and am excited to share it with you all. 

Our story begins with our protagonist, Emmy Harlow, returning after a long time away to her hometown of Thistle Grove. Thistle Grove might seem like your run-of-the-mill Halloween-themed tourist trap, but it secretly is the home of four powerful witch families: the Harlows, the Thorns, the Avramovs, and the Blackmoores. As Emmy returns, it’s time for the families to compete in a magical competition called the Gauntlet, and it’s Emmy’s turn to be the judge. Before the tournament starts, Emmy meets with her best friend Linden and their other classmate, Talia. It turns out that all three of them have had their hearts broken by golden boy Gareth Blackmoore. The three hatch a witchy plan for Talia, the only one of them actually competing, to take Gareth down and seek sweet revenge. 

The plot is surprisingly intricate, so there are also layers I didn’t mention in my short summary. It’s basically John Tucker Must Die meets The Craft, with an extra serving of queer relationships. The book is as fun as it sounds. I loved the short, page-turning chapters and engaging competition between all of our characters. All of the challenges in the Gauntlet were fun to read about and had compelling stakes. The central romance in the book really worked for me, as well. Tension and surprise happened at every turn without the plot becoming too complicated or dour. I also really liked the ending, especially the final setpiece. To avoid spoilers, I will leave my review at that. I encourage you to read this book for yourself and see how you like it. 

All that being said, my favorite aspect of this novel was the setting. Thistle Grove felt like a real place, and Harper’s vivid descriptions brought the Halloween vibes in a big way. That’s probably why I found the book so comforting to read. I especially loved the cozy feel of the Harlows’ witchy bookstore and the town dive bar, the Shamrock Cauldron. The powerful, scary aura of the town’s lake was similarly striking. The book opens with Emmy almost being bowled over by the magic of her hometown, and I felt the same way reading about it. Thistle Grove was definitely a place I would want to spend time in, and that compelled me to keep reading. 

At times, the characters did feel a little flat, especially the extended family members of our four core competitors. However, that didn’t take away from the story at all for me. At the heart of this story was friendship and forgiveness. Forgiving others, yes, but also forgiving yourself for past mistakes. All of this was wrapped up in a bow of Halloween excellence. Payback’s A Witch comes out on October 5th, 2021. Thank you to Berkeley Publishing Group for the Netgalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Meagan Kimberly reviews Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Hunger by Roxane Gay

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I posted a previous version of this review here. Trigger warnings for sexual assault and eating disorders.

Roxane Gay is an author known for her sharp and insightful thoughts on feminism and pop culture, as well as an established novelist and short fiction creator. This memoir added to her repertoire is no different.

With a book of essays dedicated to her personal body struggles, how she came to the relationship she has today with her body and herself, and a critical look at fatphobia, Hunger is brutal yet vulnerable. She makes a point early on to say that this isn’t a before and after story. This isn’t a story of triumph, of becoming overweight and fighting to lose it, and you won’t see a picture of her on the cover suddenly thin and glamorous. But this is a true story, and as I read it, I felt like it is many people’s story.

Since the first book of essays I read by her, Bad Feminist, Gay has been open about the sexual assault she endured as a child. She doesn’t shy away from it now, and in fact, goes into even more heartbreaking detail in this memoir than in Bad Feminist.

She starts her essays in this book with a look at her happy childhood and healthy family relationships, painting a picture of why she should have been a confident and strong girl, self-possessed. At least, that’s how I interpreted it, because I believe so many of us have been there. Like Gay, many of us look back on our lives and think, “Nothing happened that should have derailed my confidence or self-esteem, so why did I think so little of myself?” With simple sentence structures and plain language, Gay puts into words with such frightening honesty what it’s like in someone’s head. She doesn’t have the answers to our questions, nor to her own, but that’s not what she set out to do with Hunger.

As you read, you see her journey influenced by the terrible incidents of her past and how they shaped her relationship with food and her body. In an attempt to control what happened to her body, Gay details how she had to lose control of it in order to feel safe. She continuously explains in various chapters of the book that she ate because if she ate, she’d gain size, and if she gained size, she wouldn’t be so small and weak and easily taken over. Then again, she eats to fill the void, to satisfy the hollow left inside from the hands of callous boys who probably grew up to be abhorrent men, but no matter what she eats, it does not satisfy. It does not satiate. It just keeps leaving her hungry.

What this memoir is about goes beyond hunger of the body, though the body is the vessel we take to journey through her various desires. She hungers for food. She hungers for comfort. She hungers for safety. She hungers for warmth. She hungers to be understood. She hungers for love. In short, she is a person, like all of us. All too often the world forgets that about fat people and acts like we don’t want the same things everyone else does; like we don’t deserve those same things. Hunger is a reminder to Gay herself and to others like her, that shaping the mind is just as important as shaping the body. More importantly, it is a necessity to be kind to ourselves as much as we are kind to others. It’s alright to hunger, but don’t let it consume you.