Queer Women Books Out In May!

Riptide Summer by Lisa Freeman (YA)

The year is 1973, and Nani is firmly established as one of the top girls in the State Beach lineup. She’s looking forward to a long, relaxing summer of days spent in the sun with her surfer boyfriend, and to secret nights with Rox, the lineup’s queen supreme.

But when surf god Nigel breaks her heart, and Rox reveals a secret that tears their friendship—and the lineup—apart, Nani is left to pick up the pieces. If she can’t recruit new Honey Girls to the lineup, the friends will lose their reputation as the beach’s top babes.

With the summer spiraling out of control, Nani starts to question everything she’s always believed about how to rule the beach. Maybe it’s time to leave the rules behind, starting with the most important one:

Girls don’t surf.

What the Mouth Wants: A Memoir of Food, Love and Belonging by Monica Meneghetti (Memoir)

The redefinition of family values as seen from the eyes of a polyamorous, queer Italian Canadian obsessed with food. This mouthwatering, intimate, and sensual memoir traces Monica Meneghetti’s unique life journey through her relationship with food, family and love. As the youngest child of a traditional Italian-Catholic immigrant family, Monica learns the intimacy of the dinner table and the ritual of meals, along with the requirements of conformity both at the table and in life. Monica is thirteen when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy. When her mother dies three years later, Monica considers the existence of her own breasts and her emerging sexuality in the context of grief and the disintegration of her sense of family. As Monica becomes an adult, she discovers a part of her self that rebels against the rigours of her traditional upbringing. And as the layers of her sexuality are revealed she begins to understand that like herbs infusing a sauce with flavour; her differences add a delicious complexity to her life. But in coming to terms with her place in the margins of the margins, Monica must also face the challenge of coming out while living in a small town, years before same-sex marriage and amendments to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms created safer spaces for queers. Through risk, courage and heartbreak, she ultimately redefines and recreates family and identity according to her own alternative vision.

The Gift by Barbara Browning (Literary Fiction)

In the midst of Occupy, Barbara Andersen begins spamming people indiscriminately with ukulele covers of sentimental songs. A series of inappropriate intimacies ensues, including an erotically charged correspondence and then collaboration with an extraordinarily gifted and troubled musician living in Germany.

Large Animals: Stories by Jess Arndt (Short Stories)

JESS ARNDT’s striking debut collection confronts what it means to have a body. Boldly straddling the line between the imagined and the real, the masculine and the feminine, the knowable and the impossible, these twelve stories are an exhilarating and profoundly original expression of voice. In “Jeff,” Lily Tomlin confuses Jess for Jeff, instigating a dark and hilarious identity crisis. In “Together,” a couple battles a mysterious STD that slowly undoes their relationship, while outside a ferocious weed colonizes their urban garden. And in “Contrails,” a character on the precipice of a seismic change goes on a tour of past lovers, confronting their own reluctance to move on.

Arndt’s subjects are canny observers even while they remain dangerously blind to their own truest impulses. Often unnamed, these narrators challenge the limits of language―collectively, their voices create a transgressive new formal space that makes room for the queer, the nonconforming, the undefined. And yet, while they crave connection, love, and understanding, they are constantly at risk of destroying themselves. Large Animals pitches toward the heart, pushing at all our most tender parts―our sex organs, our geography, our words, and the tendons and nerves of our culture.

Tremontaine (Tremontaine Season One) created by Ellen Kushner (Fantasy)

Welcome to Tremontaine, the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside series that began with Swordspoint! A Duchess whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; her husband’s dangerous affair with a handsome scholar; a foreigner in a playground of swordplay and secrets; and a mathematical genius on the brink of revolution—when long-buried lies threaten to come to light, betrayal and treachery know no bounds with stakes this high. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling wit and political intrigue.

Originally presented serially in 13 episodes by Serial Box, this omnibus collects all installments of Tremontaine Season One into one edition.

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country: And Other Stories by Chavisa Woods (Short Stories)

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country paints a vivid image of the bizarre characters that live on the fringes in America’s heartland. They don’t do what you expect them to do. These aren’t typical stories of triumph over adversity, but something completely other. It’s “Murakami meets the meth heads” says National Book Foundation award winner Samantha Hunt. “Reader, you have never before seen anything like this.”

The eight stories in this literary collection present a brilliantly surreal and sardonic landscape and language, and offer a periscope into the heart of the rural poor. Among the singular characters, you’ll meet: a “zombie” who secretly resides in a local cemetery; a queer teen goth who is facing ostracism from her small town evangelical church; a woman who leaves New York City once a year to visit her little brothers in the backwoods Midwest, only to discover they’ve been having trouble with some meth dealers and UFOs that trouble the area. In the backdrop of all the stories are the endless American wars and occupations, overshadowed, for these characters, by the many early deaths of their friends and family, that occur regularly for a whole host of reasons.

Pride & Joy: LGBTQ Artists, Icons and Everyday Heroes by Kathleen Archambeau (Nonfiction)

Stories of success, happiness and hope from the LGBT community

Stories that comprise the best of LGBT historyPride and Joy: LGBTQ Artists, Icons and Everyday Heroes tells the stories of queer citizens of the world living OUT and proud happy, fulfilling, successful lives. Diverse and global. Famous and unsung. There is a story here for everyone in the LGBT community who has ever questioned their sexual orientation or gender identity, or discovered it.
Award-winning writer and longtime LGBTQ activist Kathleen Archambeau tells the untold stories from diverse LGBT community voices around the corner or around the world. Not like the depressing, sinister, shadowy stories of the past, this book highlights queer people living open, happy, fulfilling and successful lives.

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julie Ember (Fantasy YA)

Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.
Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

[Warning for Seafarer’s Kiss: the villain (the God of Lies) is nonbinary and is the only nonbinary representation in the book.]

How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (YA)

    Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.
One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again.
How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.

Nico & Tucker by Rachel Gold (Fiction, NA)

The decision can’t be put off any longer.

A medical crisis turns Nico’s body into a battleground, crushing Nico under conflicting family pressures. Having lived genderqueer for years, Nico is used to getting strong reactions (and uninvited opinions!) from everyone, but it is Tucker’s reaction that hurts the most.

Jess Tucker didn’t mean to hurt Nico, but she panicked.

And after the worst year of her life, she’s hanging on by a thread. Forget recovery time and therapy, she needs to put the past behind her and be normal again. But when her relationship with Nico becomes more than she can handle, she cuts and runs.

In this riveting sequel to Just Girls, comes a love story about bodies, healing, and knowing who you really are.

Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms: Erotic Lesbian Fairy Tales edited by Sacchi Green (Erotica)

In this sexy anthology of fantastical short stories, women are no longer just damsels in distress. Instead, strong, passionate females race to the rescue of their female lovers in this new collection of erotic fantasy.

The stories within Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms are masterfully crafted to lead your mind down unexpected paths to your favorite fantasy adventure, from the classic fairy-tales of Little Red Riding Hood to Rapunzel to the modern marvel of Game of Thrones. They will wash over you in an epic sea of words meant to entice and embolden your inner princess, heroine, or both.

Enter a time where you may be abducted by bandits or seduced by witches one second and find your heart spellbound by a dryad the next. But be warned, gentle traveler! With this new, provocative collection edited by Sacchi Green, the stories may begin with “Once upon a time”, but they will leave you coming back, time and time again.

Rough Patch by Nicole Markotic (YA)

When fifteen-year-old Keira starts high school, she almost wishes she could write “Hi, my name is Keira, and I’m bisexual!” on her nametag. Needless to say, she’s actually terrified to announce—let alone fully explore—her sexuality. Quirky but shy, loyal yet a bit zany, Keira navigates her growing interest in kissing both girls and boys while not alienating her BFF, boy-crazy Sita. As the two acclimate to their new high school, they manage to find lunch tablemates and make lists of the school’s cutest boys. But Keira is caught “in between”—unable to fully participate, yet too scared to come clean.

She’s also feeling the pressure of family: parents who married too young and have differing parenting styles; a younger sister in a wheelchair from whom adults expect either too little or too much; and her popular older brother who takes pleasure in taunting Keira. She finds solace in preparing for the regional finals of figure skating, a hobby she knows is geeky and “het girl” yet instills her with confidence. But when she meets a girl named Jayne who seems perfect for her, she isn’t so confident she can pull off her charade any longer.

Rough Patch is an honest, heart-wrenching novel about finding your place in the world, and about how to pick yourself up after taking a spill.

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (Fiction)

Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and major countercultural figure.

Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes a rich kid turned criminal and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover, as well as a bored, mischievous overachiever and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend.

Illustrating a process of liberation from the strictures of gender through radical self-inquiry, Notes of a Crocodile is a poignant masterpiece of social defiance by a singular voice in contemporary Chinese literature.

Birdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe (YA)

Birdy Flynn carries secrets. There is the secret of Birdy’s dead grandmother’s cat. How the boys tortured it and Birdy had to drown it in the river to stop it from suffer-ing. There’s the secret of Mrs. Cope, the teacher who touched Birdy. The secret of the gypsy girl at school who Birdy likes. But she can’t tell anyone about any of these secrets. Because Birdy’s other secret is that while she fights as good as the boys, she is a girl, and she doesn’t always feel like a girl is supposed to. So Birdy holds on to her secrets and tries to become what others want, even it if means losing herself. BIRDY FLYNN is a beautifully nuanced and deeply felt portrayal of a girl growing up amid an imperfect family, and an imperfect world, to become the person she was meant to be.

Not One Day by Anne Garréta (Fiction)

Not One Day begins with a maxim: “Not one day without a woman.” What follows is an intimate, erotic, and sometimes bitter recounting of loves and lovers past, breathtakingly written, exploring the interplay between memory, fantasy, and desire.

“For life is too short to submit to reading poorly written books and sleeping with women one does not love.”

Anne Garréta, author of the groundbreaking novel Sphinx (Deep Vellum, 2015), is a member of the renowned Oulipo literary group. Not One Day won the Prix Médicis in 2002, recognizing Garréta as an author “whose fame does not yet match their talent.”

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (Romance) (only $1.99!)

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida.

Queer Women Books Out This Month!

See more lesbian and bi women new releases at Women in Words, or more queer new releases at Lambda Literary.

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Queer Women Books New In April!

Get It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough (YA)

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won’t stop guilt-tripping her? Or her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn’t do something? But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski (YA)

Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.

But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny―and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . . .

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski is a fun friendship story about two quirky teens who must learn to get out of their comfort zones and take risks―even if that means joining the drama club, making new friends, and learning how to stand on your own.

The Edge of the Abyss (Sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us) by Emily Skrutskie (YA Fantasy)

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific? The exciting sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us.

Lumberjanes Vol. 6: Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters, Kate Leyh, and Carey Pietsch (Comics)

A crazy storm is coming and the Lumberjanes have to help their counselor Seafarin’ Karen get her boat back from some renegade selkies.

Knot On Your Life!

Camp is about more than just crafts and acquiring badges when you’re a Lumberjane. When April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley all decide to learn more about the mysterious Seafarin’ Karen, things take a turn for the strange. Shapeshifters, strange portals, and friendship to the max make for one summer camp that never gets boring!

This New York Times bestseller and multiple Eisner Award-winning series is a story of friendship, hardcore lady-types and kicking a lot of butt. Don’t miss out on these brand-new adventures written by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh (Super Cakes) and illustrated by Carey Pietsch (Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift).

Huntsmen (Sequel to The Better to Kiss You With) by Michell Osgood (Paranormal)

Months after saving Jamie and Deanna from crywolf, Kiara and her brother Cole have moved into the city. While clubbing one night, Kiara is stunned to see her ex, Taryn, on stage. But before she can react, Jamie notices a distinctive tattoo in the crowd: an axe rumored to be the mark of the Huntsmen, a group of werewolf-tracking humans. The girls need to leave immediately and since Taryn is also a werewolf, they need to take her with them.

The Huntsmen are more than a myth, and they’re scouring the city for lone wolves just like Taryn. Until the General North American Assembly of Werewolves lends a plan of action, Kiara’s small pack is on lockdown in a friend’s apartment, where she and Taryn must face the differences that drove them apart. Furthermore, the longer the group waits, the more it seems the Huntsmen haven’t been acting entirely on their own.

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (Dystopian)

The bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children offers a vision of our near-extinction and a heroine—a reimagined Joan of Arc—poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed, and forever change history, in this provocative new novel.

In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.

A riveting tale of destruction and love found in the direst of places—even at the extreme end of post-human experience—Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as a means for survival.

On a Larp by Stefani Deoul (YA)

On a LARP introduces readers to teen coder, Sid Rubin, a smartass—and super-smart—high school kid with a strong conscience and a knack for solving problems. This high concept, frenetic ride dives into the fascinating world of interactive role-playing when Sid recognizes the photo of a murder victim during an AP field trip to a police station. What starts out as an Aha! moment soon finds Sid and her unlikely posse of friends chasing a dark web killer through the middle of a live action role playing game. Sid and the gang work to unravel a deeply encrypted mystery while simultaneously enduring pop quizzes, endless Ted Talks, teenage heartbreak, suspicious parents, cosplay, and the irresistible lure of the NYC Public Library.

Breaking Norms by Mita Balani (Fiction)

What if you fall in love and your family thinks you are crazy? Sonia too gets in a similar situation. Sonia, a submissive and people-pleasing girl falls in love with the chirpy girl Esha. Their common passion for painting brings them closer. Sonia realizes that no one in her family will accept her relationship with Esha. But her heart and emotional state are beyond the control of her own mind. At first, they keep their relationship on the hush. Unfortunately, their secret comes out in an ugly way and havoc breaks loose. Will Sonia stand up for herself and withstand the pressure of not following the cultural norms? Are they destined to meet? Can Sonia and Esha live happily ever after? Breaking Norms is a captivating and engrossing tale of love, agony and tolerance.

Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic (Fiction)

An electrifying debut novel of obsessive love, family secrets, and the dangers of living our lives online

At twenty-three, Alice Hare leaves England for New York. She becomes fixated on Mizuko Himura, a Japanese writer living in New York, whose life story has strange parallels to her own and who she believes is her “Internet twin.” What seems to Mizuko like a chance encounter with Alice is anything but—after all, in the age of connectivity, nothing is coincidence. Their subsequent relationship is doomed from the outset, exposing a tangle of lies and sexual encounters as three families across the globe collide, and the most ancient of questions—where do we come from?—is answered just by searching online.   In its heady evocation of everything from Haruki Murakami to Patricia Highsmith to Edith Wharton, Sympathy is utterly original—a thrilling tale of obsession, doubling, blood ties, and our tormented efforts to connect in the digital age.

Strawberry Summer by Melissa Brayden (Romance)

Just because you’re through with your past, doesn’t mean it’s through with you.

Margaret Beringer didn’t have an easy adolescence. She hated her name, was less than popular in school, and was always cast aside as a “farm kid.” However, with the arrival of Courtney Carrington, Margaret’s youth sparked into color. Courtney was smart, beautiful, and put together—everything Margaret wasn’t. Who would have imagined that they’d fit together so perfectly?

But first loves can scar.

Margaret hasn’t seen Courtney in years and that’s for the best. But when Courtney loses her father and returns to Tanner Peak to take control of the family store, Margaret comes face-to-face with her past and the woman she’s tried desperately to forget. The fact that Courtney has grown up more beautiful than ever certainly doesn’t help matters.

The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif (Re-release) (Historical Fiction)

In 1950’s South Africa, a free-spirited café owner falls for a young wife and mother. Their unexpected attraction pushes them to question the cruel rules of a world that divides white from black and women from men, but a world that might just allow an unexpected love to survive.

Ordinary Cruelty by Amber Flame (Poetry)

In her debut poetry collection, Ordinary Cruelty, Amber Flame spells out rituals in everyday decisions to hold on or let go. While questioning the role of elder, mentor, mother in the face of losing those figures, Flame details the unrelenting nature of parenthood through the cycles of grief. Her poems exuberantly rejoice in the brown skin of the female body, while soberly acknowledging the societal dangers of claiming such skin as home. Flame takes the reader through a visceral examination of the body’s processes of both dying and continuing to live and the joy to be found while we do.

I Love the Computer Because My Friends Live In It: Stories From an Online Life by Jess Kimball Leslie (Nonfiction)

I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live in It is tech analyst Jess Kimball Leslie’s hilarious, frank homage to the technology that contributed so significantly to the person she is today. From accounts of the lawless chat rooms of early AOL to the perpetual high school reunions that are modern-day Facebook and Instagram, her essays paint a clear picture: That all of us have a much more twisted, meaningful, emotional relationship with the online world than we realize or let on.

Coming of age in suburban Connecticut in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Jess looked to the nascent Internet to find the tribes she couldn’t find IRL: fellow Bette Midler fans; women who seemed impossibly sure of their sexuality; people who worked with computers every day as part of their actual jobs without being ridiculed as nerds. It’s in large part because of her embrace of an online life that Jess is where she is now, happily married, with a wife, son, and dog, and making a living of analyzing Internet trends and forecasting the future of tech. She bets most people would credit technology for many of their successes, too, if they could only shed the notion that it’s as a mind-numbing drug on which we’re all overdosing.

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski (Memoirs)

In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father’s espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers.

Making My Pitch: A Women’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders, Jean Hastings Ardell, and Mike Veeck (Sports)

Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.

Killing Off the Lesbians: A Symbolic Annihilation on Film and Television by Liz Millward (Media Studies)

So, the lesbian character dies. It seems to happen frequently in films and television shows. But does it really? And if so, is it something new? Surveying the fates of numerous characters over decades, this wide-ranging study shows that killing off the lesbian is not a new trend. It is a form of symbolic annihilation and it has had an impact in real life: lesbian actors are more likely to come out and serve as role models. When more women are working behind the scenes, what appears on-screen also becomes more diverse–yet unhappily the story lines don’t necessarily change. Thus from the Xenaverse to GLAAD to the Lexa Pledge, fans have demanded better from the entertainment industry. As fan fiction migrates from the computer screen to the printed page, authors reanimate the dead and insist on happy endings.

Queer Women Books Out This Month!

See more: New Releases @ Women in Words.

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Guest Post by Shira Glassman: Books with Two-Mom Families!

Here’s a list of some books centering on two moms raising children together as a couple! Happy Mother’s Day to all the two-mom families out there and best of luck to those trying to become two moms. Links are to my more detailed reviews.

Dates An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction   double pregnant   keiles chance   fierce family   the cage dellamonica

Fierce Family – a collection of wonderfully curated fifteen science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal short stories centering on the theme of ‘queer family.’ Many of the stories feature families with two moms, either as the heroines of the story or as the main character’s mothers, in settings as varied as postapocalyptic Australia and a space colony.

Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family – a nonfiction but very entertaining and interesting diary of a lesbian couple in Canada as they look for a sperm donor and eventually both have babies

Dates! An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction – short stories told mostly in graphic novel form, set in any point in history (pre-1960’s) all over the world, and all guaranteed to veer away from tragic queer tropes. One of my favorite pieces in the collection was about a pair of Black women in a rural early 20th century community who bring their families together when their husbands die, and eventually fall in love themselves.

Keile’s Chance – Black lesbian contemporary romance; one day a workaholic computer programmer is in the park when she finds a lost toddler—who turns out to have a really cute mom.

The Cage – free short fiction; lesbians looking after an orphaned werewolf baby in a city where anti-werewolf sentiment puts him in danger

hypnotizing chickens   chameleon moon   safegirltolove   girl goddess 9   Fried-Green-Tomatoes-skillet-background3-380x540

Hypnotizing Chickens – when the protagonist’s partner leaves her for another woman, she goes home to Kentucky to take care of her ailing granny and eventually falls for granny’s physical therapist, who has a daughter

Chameleon Moon – dystopian sci-fi revolution adventure about the government trapping all superpowered people in a crumbling city with an underground fire. The female lead is a trans woman who’s part of a lesbian triad, who have a young son. All three moms have powers—the leading lady over sound, one of the cis moms over plants, and the other over machinery.

A Safe Girl to Love – collection of transfeminine short fiction by a trans author. One of the stories, “Winning”, is about a trans girl whose mom is also trans. Since she had two moms at one point (but the marriage broke up) I’m counting it for this list but be aware at the point the story takes place I’m pretty sure the mom is single. The daughter, by the way, is a straight trans girl.

Girl Goddess #9: In the short story “Dragons in Manhattan”  – hard to mention without spoiling but the protagonist is trying to get some answers about her life, and her moms are a couple. Goodreads link, since I don’t have a review (I actually read the story ten years ago so it’s not fresh in my mind.)

Some of my fiction has moms who love other women, too! In Fearless, a newly-out-of-the-closet lesbian band mom falls for a music teacher while snowed in at All-State, and in A Harvest of Ripe Figs (followed by The Olive Conspiracy, coming July 2016), a lesbian queen solves mysteries as part of her royal duties while raising the baby princess with her partner. I hope you’ll be tempted to join their adventures!

P.S. Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, the book, has woman couple raising a son together. Don’t be fooled by the extra little straightwashing details in the movie; the book is definitely worth checking out. It’s been eons since I’ve read it, though, so I don’t have a post about it.

secondmangocover   ClimbingtheDatePalm-200x300   fearless   harvest of ripe figs   olive conspiracy

Shira Glassman is a bi Jewish violinist living in Florida with a labor activist and a badly behaved calico. Her books have made the finals of the Golden Crown Awards and Bi Book Awards, but she should clean her car more often. Look for her next book in July, when Queen Shulamit & friends must save their country from economic sabotage.

Why We Need Queer Escapist Lit

When asking a reader why they spend so much time reading, the most common response seem to be some version of “to escape”: to entertain themselves, to distract themselves, and to immerse themselves in a life that isn’t their own. And although that’s not the primary reason that I would give for reading, it seems to be the most popular one, which got me to thinking… If most people read to escape, why do queer readers so desperately seek queer books?

After all, escapism should just require reading about a life that’s unlike your own, so shouldn’t queer people be able to escape into straight/cis literature? Are these queer readers not reading for escapism? That seems unlikely, given the demand for more queer sci fi and fantasy, the genres most identifies with the “escapist” label.

Or is it that escapism requires a protagonist that is relatable? Do we need to be able to mentally trade places with the main character in order to escape fully? I think there is something to that, but I think it goes even deeper than that, and it’s something I’ve heard mentioned before about people of colour representation in speculative fiction. If you’re reading a book that doesn’t include queer characters, it implies that queer people don’t belong in the story. And this is true of any marginalized group: if a story doesn’t include people of colour, people with disabilities, queer people, trans people, a irrepressible question emerges–what happened to them? (Really, if you’re imagining a future without marginalized people, the implication is genocide–how else would you end up with all cis/straight/white/neurotypical/abled people?)

That’s the thing about “diversity”: it’s reality. Shonda Rhimes at The Human Rights Campaign Gala recently spoke about how she dislikes the term “diversity” and instead says that she is “normalizing” TV.

I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal WAY more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look NORMAL.

I am NORMALIZING television.

You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe. And your tribe can be any kind of person, any one you identify with, anyone who feels like you, who feels like home, who feels like truth. You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe, see your people, someone like you out there, existing. So that you know on your darkest day that when you run (metaphorically or physically RUN), there is somewhere, someone, to run TO. Your tribe is waiting for you.

You are not alone.

And the same is true of books. I think that queer readers have trouble escaping into a world that doesn’t include queer characters, because we know that we wouldn’t be welcome there. In fact, SFF that create worlds without queer characters seem to suggest that we wouldn’t even be able to exist there: our existence is not conceivable in the context we are given. When we read a story that doesn’t include queer people, a world that doesn’t include queer characters, it comes with the nagging implication You don’t belong here.

Whether it’s a horrific dystopia or a silly space romp, that implication makes it difficult to “escape”, because the truth is, we’re already all too familiar with that sentiment.

Top 20 Lesbian Mystery Novels

Did you know that there are over 1000 lesbian mystery titles? Or that there are over 250 authors of lesbian mysteries, more than 95 percent of whom are still alive and writing? It’s true, but many readers—probably most readers—have never read a single book in the lesbian mystery genre. That’s a shame, because some of them are wonderfully written, exciting, educational, sexy, emotionally satisfying, and yes, important.

Let’s go ahead and define a lesbian mystery. First, of course, the main character must be a lesbian or bisexual woman in a same-sex relationship. Second, the main character must investigate a crime or solve a mystery or puzzle that is central to the story line. That’s just about it, although the best of these offer a glimpse into some interesting aspect of the lesbian lifestyle. Protagonists can be private investigators, law enforcement officers, or amateur detectives of any profession as long as they are not werewolves, vampires, or other superhumans.

For those of you who don’t want to wade through the thousand plus titles, the following list is an introductory guide to some of the best books in the genre. The list is in alphabetical order—there is no first, second, or third. They range from the highly literary to the pure and simple whodunit. And remember that the books on this list are my personal favorites—someone else’s list might be quite different. (Titles are linked to full reviews, covers are linked to Amazon pages.)

beverlymalibu   caseofthenotsonicenurse   deathtakes

The Beverly Malibu, by Katherine V. Forrest. There are many good novels in Forrest’s Kate Delafield series, but this one, with its motif of  Hollywood persecution during the McCarthy era, is probably the most important. It is also the book in which Kate meets the person she will live with for most of the rest of the series.

The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse, by Mabel Maney. Probably not the most literary read on the list, but certainly one of the most enjoyable, with its parody of the Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew girls’ series books of the mid-20th century. Delightful and fun and more than a little silly.

Death Takes a Hike, by Peta Fox. This is the third and (so far) last book in the Jen Madden series. I list it instead of the first two because it takes some time to get to know Jen and figure out what the author is up to. Take note that the series is so filled with rough sex that it borders on BDSM, but Fox is probably the smartest writer in the bunch. Jen is an absolutely wonderful character with a mindset all her own.

goodbadwoman   gravesilence   houstontown

Good Bad Woman, by Elizabeth Woodcraft. A novel about a British barrister who gets involved with a torch singer. This mystery lands firmly in the literary world and includes a very interesting crash course on British law and the way it is handled. Woodcraft’s only other novel, Babyface, is every bit as noir and every bit as good.

Grave Silence, by Rose Beecham. Set near the desert in Colorado, this one is quite a thrilling adventure with characters that sometimes make Erskine Caldwell’s seem tame. The main character, Jude Devine, is an undercover FBI agent sent to the desert posing as a Sheriff’s detective. She essentially answers to no one.

Houston Town, by Deborah Powell. Powell’s superb use of language—and exciting storylines—make this book and its predecessor, Bayou City Secrets, winners on almost every level. A fairly unusual twist in the lesbian mystery genre, this hard-hitting series is set in 1930s.

ileftmyheart   idahocode   keepingsecrets

I Left My Heart, by Jaye Maiman. An honest look at the emotions behind the death of a loved one—and the resolve to find out the reason she died. Its relatively long length (over 300 pages) gives Maiman the opportunity to fully explore the themes of politics, religion, love, guilt, grief, and passion.

Idaho Code, by Joan Opyr. Bouncy story with a young protagonist, quirky characters, a cool girlfriend, and an odd mystery. Delightful, and its 321-page length gives the author room to move about. Beware of the sequel, however, which is a disappointing rehash.

Keeping Secrets, by Penny Mickelbury. This is the first of the excellent Mimi and Gianna series. Although it is a short novel, it introduces the interracial couple of Gianna and Mimi and provides the background for the rest of the series. It is one of the first series with dual protagonists. All four books are excellent.

lavenderhousemurder   lookingforammu   othersideofsilence

The Lavender House Murder, by Nikki Baker. Superior writing, craft, a winning but argumentative best friend, and deep introspection make this a standout. Virginia Kelly is the first African-American lesbian sleuth in fiction and Baker the first African-American Author. All four books in the series are highly recommended.

Looking for Ammu, by Claire Macquet. Not your typical whodunit, as the protagonist starts out simply looking for a friend. She doesn’t even know what a lesbian is until half the book is over, but what writing! A classic noir thriller that should be at the top of many lists, not just lists about lesbian mysteries. Deep and dark, seamy and satisfying.

The News in Small Towns, by Iza Moreau. A very different setting for this series—a redneck town in North Florida where Sue-Ann McKeown and her girlfriend Gina may be the only lesbians. A story with multiple puzzles, this is one of the most literary books on the list, and one of the most enjoyable series.

The Other Side of Silence, by Joan Drury.  The main draws here include the reclusive protagonist, a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter, and her main interest in life—to expose violence against women wherever and whenever it occurs. It is a powerful feminist mystery with a surprising and unusual ending.

patternedflute   shescoopstoconquer   tellmewhatyoulike

Outside In, by Nansi Barrett D’Arnuk. Compelling, riveting, undercover mystery that takes place mostly within a women’s prison. Honest, real, exciting, and professional. Another mystery where rough sex also has an important part to play.

The Patterned Flute, by Helen Shacklady. Interesting, free-spirited characters, portrayed well in realistic settings and a wild ride that left me on the edge of my seat. I loved the budding romance between the protagonist and her scheming and determined traveling companion.

She Scoops to Conquer, by Robin Brandeis. This is a stand-alone novel about a reporter in Louisville, Kentucky. Its intriguing and educational plot is interspersed with humor as Lane Montgomery and her erstwhile lover and newspaper rival—both serious femmes—duke it out for the story.

Tell Me What You Like, by Kate Allen. Delves into the S/M leather scene in a way that makes you want to know more. Good characters, good puzzle, good everything.

1222   unexpectedsparks   womenwithredhair

1222, by Anne Holt. Exciting, well-drawn, and professionally written and translated from the Norwegian. In this novel, ex-police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is a wheelchair user and is trapped with other passengers—one of them a murderer—in a train station during a horrible snow storm. The previous books in this series may be even better; but this is the only one I have read.

Unexpected Sparks, by Gina L. Dartt. A darling novel set in Nova Scotia featuring two of the best protagonists in lesbian literature: Kate Shannon, a bookstore owner, and Nikki Harris, a police dispatcher. Their courtship makes this novel—and this 2-novel series—special.

Woman with Red Hair, by Sigrid Brunel. This stand-alone novel is set in France and describes—expertly using the unusual third-person-present point of view—the protagonist’s search for her birth mother. Although maybe not as brilliant or groundbreaking as some of the other books on this list, it is certainly not one you can just read and forget.

There are other writers that came close to making this list: Lindy Cameron, Ellen Hart, Vivien Kelly, Val McDermid, Iona McGregor, and Barbara Wilson, but the titles I read, although very enjoyable, fell just short. See my full-length reviews of over 100 lesbian mystery novels—including the ones listed above—at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel

Megan Casey is a small-town librarian whose special interest is reading, studying, and popularizing the lesbian mystery novel. She moderates the Goodreads Lesbian Mystery study group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries 

Literary LesBian Starter Kit: LesBian Teen Edition

Not this field guide.

This guide is not enough.

I’ve always thought that coming out should be received with, at the least, a gift basket. We’re inundated with straight cis norms, culture, history, and media from birth, but finding the queer equivalents takes some searching, and it can be daunting without a field guide. As anyone who has gone searching for lesbian movies  So this gift basket would provide the basics: a couple choice movies (I vote DEBS, I Can’t Think Straight, and Saving Face, personally), a few key books, some business cards to point you to the right websites, brochures for local queer resources, and a handful of fun paraphernalia. Maybe a t-shirt. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there would need to be different variations depending on the person coming out, even just where the books were concerned. Is this a teenage bibliophile who’s newly out, or one that’s not much of a reader? Or are they in their twenties? Forties or up? Each would require a different set of information. But all the books would have to drive home two crucial points:

  1. Being queer isn’t a sentence to misery. No unhappy endings, at least not at the stage of the game. (The Well of Loneliness is off the table.)
  2. LesBian* books can be just as good as straight ones. Just as literary, just as funny, just as romantic, just as enjoyable.

So here’s my vote for the top five books I would give a newly out teenage lesBian. the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-cover-final

1) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth. This is my favourite lesBian teen book, and though arguably it may be darker than point #1 would advise (it begins with Cam’s parents’ deaths, and part of the book is set in a “conversion therapy” aka “pray away the gay” camp), it is also complex, beautiful, and honest. It’s one of my favourite books I’ve ever read, so I had to give it a place here.

Rubyfruit2) Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. This was the book that sent me on my own lesBian literary journey. It was written in the 70s and follows Molly through her adolescence. What I loved about this book was Molly’s strength as a character, her complete unapologetic truth. This is often considered part of the lesBian book “canon,” and it’s nice to have a taste of lesBian literary history.

It has less scandalous covers, too.

3) Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Sarah Waters is my favourite author, and this is her first work. It’s a “lesbo-Victorian romp” which follows the main character, Nan, on a queer and twisting journey. It reveals all sorts of lesBian lives in the Victorian era, and it’s just so much fun to read. Despite Nan going through a lot of difficult things, Tipping the Velvet has such joy in it (which is why I’m recommending it over Fingersmith, which is also excellent). Lo_Adaptation_HC_600x900

4) Adaptation by Malinda Lo. I’ve raved about how much I love this duology plenty of times on the Lesbrary, but I think this is a great addition because it shows that not only can lesBian books be literary and moving, they can also be exciting! Adaptation is a great pick for dystopian fans, and it has a lot of action, but it also has some great progressive ideas that would have been game-changing for me as a teen.

Kissing the Witch   Ash   StartingFromHere   justgirls

5) And to be honest, the fifth book would depend on the person. Really, I’m desperately looking for the lesBian equivalent of Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, because that book is the kind of cotton candy, rosy vision of queer adolescence that can be so comforting when you first come out. But failing that, I would tailor this last one to their interests. Fairy tale fan? Ash by Malinda Lo or Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue. Vampire lover? The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez. Video game fan? Just Girls by Rachel Gold. Zombie enthusiast? Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram. Like a tearjerker? Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow. There are too many options.

What would your top five books be to give to a newly out teen lesBian? I still haven’t found the perfect fifth book to complement the others. I also see that this list is more white than I would like, so I’d especially like suggestions for PoC lesBian books.

*I’m using lesBian to signify lesbian and bi women.

Marthese Recommends Lesbian Witch Books!

1

I am currently reading Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson which so far seems great, but I am only mid-way and the action is just starting. The book only has a secondary queer character – who so far has already flirted with the main character- but I get the queer vibe from many of the other characters. There is something about witches and covens and female-bonds that seems very queer!witchesofechopark

I love witches and fantasy stories but unfortunately am always left searching for ones with queer protagonists and there aren’t a lot but I have managed to find some books. I wanted to create a list that other people can use to read about queer witches. There are more than these but probably these are the most famous or one that I especially like! So here we go.

That Witch! by Zoe Lynne

That Witch! is a book that I have been meaning to read for ages, but unfortunately all physical book copies that I find will probably break my bank account. It follows high school students Cassidy and Brynn. It seems somewhat cliché where one is popular while the other one is a social outcast and also has the trope of ‘the-project-which-they-must-work-on-together’ but it sounds sweet and there are parallels drawn between magic and sexuality.

Kissing the WitchKissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue

This is the first book that I read by Emma Donoghue who I now consider my favourite author. Not only is what she writes important from a queer perspective but how she writes it is just magical. Kissing the Witch is a series of famous fairytales retold with a twist. The witch is an integral part of the stories, which although different there is always an element from the previous story integrated in the following one, which brings the book to a full circle. The short stories will retain your attention, I promise!

The Engelsfors Trilogy (The Circle, Fire, The Key) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Elfgrencircle

The Engelsfors trilogy is about a group of young witches that go to the same school and come from different backgrounds that must unite together to fight evil. In the first book there are hints of a same-sex relationship possibly developing, which it does in the second book. There is also a comic based on the series that is unfortunately not translated into English yet, and this February there was a Swedish film made based on the first book by the same name! The books are quite chunky but if you like witches, you’ll probably devour them like I did. It never happened that I read a 500 page book in a few days while on holiday (in Sweden) to boot!

One Solstice Night by Elora Bishop

onesolsticenightSarah Diemer and her wife Jennifer Diemer are renowned for their retellings. One Solstice Night follows Isabella Fox, who isn’t that good at her magic-making. She moves into Benevolence, where she is the resident witch. There is quite a wintery feel to this story, so better read this one now before the weather changes! (at least in my part of the hemisphere). I love Solstice, both Winter and Summer, and the fact that there is a story based on that time of the year with a clumsy witch and romance with a shapeshifter? Bonus points for a super cute and squee-worthy story. Honourable mention also goes to The Witch Sea by the same author, which is a dark, short story that could be read for free from smashwords. It’s not a story for the faint-hearted though!

Promises, Promises by L.J. Bakerpromisespromises

After reading Adijan and Her Genie, I’ve been meaning to read this one! Like Adijan, it contains a female character that is a troublemaker. This story seems to be not only about yet another not good at magic-making witch but also an adventure with a lot of travelling and a band of diverse companions! What’s not to love?

Honourable mention goes to Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who needs no introduction. She had her own focused one-shots which you can read! Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic #25) is something that I bought in 2008, with a red face hoping the cashier did not know what it was. It contains mainly two stories: “WannaBlessedBe” and “Wilderness” and is something that I reread all over again. Willow and Tara are powerful witches and they prove it in these stories. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow is a one-shot from season 8 while Willow: Wonderland is an amazing Willow-centric comic with beautiful art from Buffy season 9 that yet again proves how powerful and determined she is. The series also has some comics that would focus more on Willow as a character such as “Punish Me With Kisses” from Lover’s Walk which could be read for free from the BBC cult website.

I hope that this list gave you some inspiration on what to read. If you have more queer witchy book suggestions, why not leave them in the comments below?

[Editor’s note: Check out this Goodreads list for more lesbian witch books!)

Danika’s 2014 End of Year Book Survey

I got these questions from Perpetual Page Turner. I’m also going to do a slightly different end of year book survey on my youtube channel, so look out for that soon. Oh, and I’ll be doing a post about my top books of 2014 on my channel and an all-lesbian one at the Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event on the 13th. So this reading year will be thoroughly recapped!

Number Of Books You Read: 123

Number of Re-Reads: 4, I think.

Genre You Read The Most From: Young Adult/Teen.

Best In Books

Lo_Adaptation_HC_600x9001. Best book you read in 2014?

The Adaptation and Inheritance duology by Malinda Lo.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

Probably The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, which is funny, because I did love it, but it was such a painful reading experience and I wasn’t expecting that. It was very good, but I was expecting to enjoy the reading experience more than I did.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

Just Girls by Rachel Gold. I wasn’t blown away by Being Emily, but Just Girls ended up being one of my favourite books of the year.

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2014?

Adaptation by Malinda Lo. I work in the kids’ section of a bookstore, and I’ve been pushing that one on anyone I can. I must be personally responsible for about a dozen copies of that book selling by now.

5. Best series you started in 2014? Best sequel of 2014? Best series ender of 2014?wheniwasstraight

Honest answer, though repetitive: Adaptation, Inheritance, Inheritance.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

Not a lesbian author, but I’ll include it because she does have one lesbian protagonist, Tamora Pierce. I’ve read 26 of her books this year.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I enjoyed When I Was Straight by Julie Marie Wade, particularly the first half.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Honestly? Adaptation.

 zombiesvsunicorns9. Book you read in 2014 that you are most likely to re-read next year?

There’s not really any that I’m planning to re-read quite that soon.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

I’m partial to Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black (one lesbian short story included), which has that zombie illustration printed on the entire cover of the book, with the black part as the dust cover.

11. Most memorable character of 2014?

Many of Tamora Pierce’s characters, but only one is a lesbian: [spoiler]       Daja.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

Not a lesbian book, but I loved the tone of The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, especially as an audio book. I’m going to go with The Story of Ruth and Eliza by Kristen Stone. Honourable mention to Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, which has a very effective motif (the lies we tell ourselves, of course) throughout.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2014?payingguests

Most thought-provoking was definitely House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, but that’s not a lesbian book. Lizzy & Annie by Casey Plett, which inspired a rant about realism.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

Tamora Pierce books! I’ve heard how amazing they are for years, but only got around to it in 2014.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2014?

“They embraced, their two hearts thudding like fists on the opposite sides of a bolted door.” The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Lizzy & Annie by Casey Plett. Longest: House of Leaves. Longest lesbian book read: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

17. Book that shocked you the most

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. That story did not go where I was expecting.

lizzyandannie18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Flo and Nan in Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (a reread).

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year

The four main characters of the Circle of Magic series.

20. Favorite book you read in 2014 from an author you’ve read previously

Would you believe… Adaptation by Malinda Lo? I liked Ash and Huntress, but not nearly as much as I loved these ones.

21. Best book you read in 2014 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure

House of Leaves. All the Tamora Pierce books.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014? willoftheempress

 Daja    from the Circle of Magic series.

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

All the Tamora Pierce books, though I do find Emelan and Tortall almost interchangeable except the magic elements.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, my favourite book of all time, which I reread for the first time this year and loved it just as much. It’s a delight.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2014?

Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, which like I said in my review, was like having my heart slowly torn out while reading it.

heroworship27. Hidden gem of the year?

Hero Worship by Rebekah Matthews, another painful but incredibly realistic read about the desperate, stifled desire for love and attention.

28. Book that crushed your soul?

Both The Paying Guests and Hero Worship.

29. Most unique book you read in 2014?

Lizzy & Annie by Casey Plett.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Polymorph by Scott Westerfeld, which had such a promising premise and beginning, and then failed to follow through on the queer foundations of the story, which was disappointing.

Bloggish/Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014?   justgirls

Probably We Need Diverse Books.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014? 

I don’t usually actually reread reviews after writing them, because I get really self-conscious. I do think that my review of Just Girls was thorough, though, and I liked that I was able to incorporate links and references to recent events in.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?  

I haven’t had a lot of non-review posts, other than the link round ups, which is something I want to work on in 2015 (hence this survey!), but I do always enjoy doing readathon posts.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?  

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?  

Probably getting to meet Malinda Lo at Leakycon!

wellofloneliness7. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My review of The Well of Loneliness that I wrote in 2010, for some reason?

8. Post you wished got a little more love?  

I’d love to see the Link Round Ups get commented on.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

We Need Diverse Books!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I aimed to read 100 books this year, which I exceeded, and I also wanted to read 1 book by all the authors whose work I was at all interested in that was attending Leakycon, which I also did. Oh, and I wanted to keep up with Mark’s Tamora Pierce reviews, which I have been doing.

Looking Forward

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2014 but will be your number 1 priority in 2015?TheColorPurple

A book I’ve been meaning to read for ages that will be the first book I pick in 2015 is The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2015 (non-debut)?,3. 2015 debut you are most anticipating?    4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2015?, 6. A 2015 release you’ve already read & recommend to everyone

I don’t usually read a lot of new releases, so there’s nothing I’m anticipating for 2015, except maybe the next Veronica Mars book, which is not lesbian and I won’t actually be reading it in 2015 because I’m reading all authors of color this year.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2015?  

I have a couple.On is to read all authors of color in 2015, and I also want to post more original content at the Lesbrary that isn’t just reviews and links–more discussions.

And that’s the whole survey! Thank you for reading! What were your best, worst, and most surprising books you read in 2014? Are you planning anything in particular in your reading life for 2015?

Isabelle interviews author Clare Ashton

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I had never heard about Clare Ashton until I read the following review of her novel After Mrs Hamilton at C-Spot Reviews. I added the book to my Amazon wishlist and downloaded it to my iPad a few weeks later. I was hooked right from the beginning and couldn’t put it down. After Mrs Hamilton has also been nominated for a Goldie award!

Because I had really enjoyed it, I thought I’d contact Clare Ashton about an interview for my blog. She accepted immediately and emailed her answers back within a couple of days. She was also most patient with me when I asked further questions. I hope you will enjoy the interview and that it will encourage you to read her books.

Clare Ashton, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m a UK writer who writes stories with suspense, romance, intrigue and humour and an awful lot of lesbians. I also add (not always intentionally) a dash of something darker that can make readers feel uncomfortable. I grew up in mid-Wales where sheep outnumber humans, so a significant countryside setting is never far away in my writing.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

I read very widely as a kid from The Hobbit and Lord of RingsDune and other sci-fi to (later in my teens) Jane Austen classics and Anna Karenina. I think I had a higher standard of reading back then than I do now! Nothing better than curling up with a good trashy romance these days. I also stole books from my parents’ bookshelves by Tennessee Williams (The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone) and Françoise Sagan (Bonjour Tristesse) – wonderfully different tales of love that have stayed with me over the years.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

As an adult, I think the books that made their greatest impression were The Secret History (Donna Tartt), Fingersmith (Sarah Waters), The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) and the Tales of the City series (Armistead Maupin) – all books with a great twisting story and that has definitely influenced the kind of story I like to write.

I always seem to add a surprise or two and sometimes have a little bit of an edge and darkness too. On the other hand I still re-read Jane Austen. A review of After Mrs Hamilton has some very un-Austen like elements), I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

Sarah Waters must come top. I usually find books that revel in their descriptive passages a bore, but she just does it sublimely and her writing makes me drool. She also has real, vivid and compelling characters and my favourite novels of hers have a brilliant twisting tale too. It’s wonderful that someone of her calibre writes lesbian novels.

I’m a sucker for a good romance too. And of the books I’ve read recently Chris Paynter’s Survived by Her Longtime Companion definitely had that kick to the gut, choke-you-up element in the Eleanor and Daphne storyline. I also love Diana Simmonds’ light romances written in her expert and witty style. She makes writing look like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Is After Mrs Hamilton your first novel?

It’s the first novel for which I completed a first draft. It’s a complex tale and that draft had several problems with it that I didn’t know how to fix back then.

I moved on to a shorter tale (Pennance) to improve my writing skills. Pennance has a much simpler plot although still with a twist and turn. It’s more dominated by the atmosphere of its wintery setting in Cornwall and it’s been described as a modern gothic romance.

After I’d published Pennance I went back to rewrite After Mrs Hamilton. I was also very lucky to work with an editor (Diana Simmonds) and that was crucial for me sorting out that early draft and making it the story that I always wanted it to be.

What inspired you to write your first book?

After Mrs Hamilton was the kind of book that I wanted to read: a page-tuner, with twists and turns, fascinating lesbian characters and a great dollop of romance and sex. All tastefully done of course!

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

After Mrs Hamilton is unapologetically a lesbian book, just by the sheer number of lesbian characters in there. Pennance I think is more a mainstream book, set in a remote rural setting with a broad range of heterosexual as well as lesbian characters.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this sort of novels?

No, I didn’t. It’s only been recently that someone told me that I was writing intrigue-romances. I only set out to write an interesting story.

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

I love the fantastic differences in regional flavour that you get between continents and indeed between regions in a country. One thing I think UK writers are particularly good at is literary works which appeal to the mainstream and have lesbian main characters (novels by Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson, Charlotte Mendelson, etc.).

It’s a pity that there is less lesbian genre publishing in the UK though. Most lesbian writers that I know of tend to be published by US publishers, and although I love their work (Cari Hunter’s excellent and gripping – Snowbound for example), I wonder if there would be more esoteric works available if there were more lesbian publishers here. It’s great to see other indie writers doing well in the UK, such as Kiki Archer and Rachel Dax, and I hope that indie writers extend the range of work available.

(I edit the uklesfic blog with Cari Hunter and you can find a list of all current UK lesbian authors here)

How did you conceive the plot forAfter Mrs Hamilton?

It started with a character, Clo, who works as a highly paid and sympathetic escort for older women. She was a character who had been kicking around my head for a while, and I’m very fond of her, and I wanted to give her the greatest romance and love.

She had an interesting background, but then I weaved in her best friend Laura’s background too. Laura was adopted and doesn’t know who her parents are and she is also on the cusp of a life-changing relationship. Combining those really made the story very interesting. It evolved from there over several weeks of outlining and living through scenes in my imagination – my favourite part of writing (daydreaming I suppose!)

Did you draw your inspiration for the main characters (i.e.Clo, Fran, Susan) from real life? Or did you totally invent them?

Clo was initially based on a couple of people I know very well, but as with all characters, the more I outlined and wrote the more she changed into a distinct character with her own voice, mannerisms and personality, so much so that I hope the original inspirations do not recognise her.

Fran, a fantasy older love interest, was based on gorgeous French actresses like Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant with a bit of Kristin Scott-Thomas thrown in. But again, to me, she is unrecognisable now and is just Fran

Do you have a favourite character in this novel? Which one?

One of Clo or Fran. They are both real, damaged, attractive and fascinating. I love those two and they have the most deeply romantic history and relationship (albeit a little unconventional).

How has the novel been welcomed so far?

People have really liked the twisting tale, and like me, have found the complex characters of Clo and Fran intriguing. Some loved Fran, as an attractive but real older (mid-fifties) heroine, others liked the damaged, quirky and loving Clo.

Readers have also found the tale of Laura very thought-provoking and made them react very emotionally to her and Susan. After Mrs Hamilton is a very charged tale. It’s a collision of several people who didn’t know they were previously connected and the outcome is emotionally explosive and dramatic.

Most importantly someone said it was just “a bloody good read”. So I’m pretty pleased with that!

I noticed that food is mentioned in both novels and plays an important role in the bonding process between the characters. Is this how you see food?

Yes, I do see food, its preparation and eating together as important for bonding in various social situations. In the books I meant it to reflect the low emotional state of the characters when they eat poorly and then to show the support and love that is introduced into their lives by the character preparing the more nourishing food. Clo in After Mrs Hamilton is a giving and loving character and her expertise with patisserie and other cuisine reflects this. Her ability to choose perfect food for people reflects her versatility as an escort – she satisfies people’s very basic needs in a rich way.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

When I was writing After Mrs Hamilton, I kept having ideas for short stories, which was very distracting. There are a couple of those ideas that are still demanding to be written. No doubt I’ll start having ideas for novels as soon as I try to write them!

Thank you Clare for your availability and your time.

NB: Both novels have Kindle editions

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