I keep a list of all my favourite sapphic books I’ve read over the years, and I’ve just updated it!
My master list of bi & lesbian recommendations has been updated with my latest favourites! Reviews are linked for more information.
Did you know there is a master list of all my (Danika’s) queer women book recommendations? It’s just been updated! In this post, the newest additions are bolded. Most will have my review linked, though some have reviews in the works, and others were before I started reviewing or are titles that slipped through the cracks. These are not all the bi & lesbian books I’ve read–it’s only the ones I would freely recommend! (These were all 4-5 star reads for me.) Check out the updated list!
As we start in on a new year, I always like looking back on some of the books that really made an impression last year. I made a video of my top 18 books of 2018, but I thought I would highlight the Lesbrary-related books specifically in a post. (Don’t worry, most of those other books in the video are still queer, just not with a sapphic main character.) Most of these books have already been reviewed at the Lesbrary, so I’ve included links to the original reviews if you want more info! These are mostly excerpts from those reviews. They happen to be mostly YA and middle grade books, which isn’t a knock against any other genres, just that they were the kind of books I read the most last year. Without further ado:
Melanie Gillman is one of my favourite artists. I am floored by the the intense detail and time put into every page, done completely in coloured pencils. This story follows Charlie, a queer brown kid feeling very out of place at a white feminist spiritual backpacking trip. Luckily, she finds connection with Sydney, who is trans, and feels that she would not be welcome on this trip if she weren’t closeted. Honestly, my only problem with this is that it’s only volume one, and it stop somewhat abruptly. I can’t wait for the next volume to come out for I can get back to this story! Check out the Lesbrary review for some excerpts of panels from the story.
Melly is 13, and the day before she was dropped off at Camp Rockaway, her parents told her they were getting divorced. She’s had no time to process this before she’s tossed into this new environment for 2 weeks, and even her best friend being there doesn’t seem to help, especially when Olivia is too busy hanging out with her crush to remember her. Melly may be a drum player, but she has trouble finding her own voice. One way or another, these two weeks will change that.
Olivia may not have been there for Melly as much as she wanted, but Melly wasn’t communicating with Olivia. Her parents may not have been fair to her to tell her just before she left, but maybe she wasn’t being fair to them, either. Melly needs to find herself and get in touch with her own emotions, but that doesn’t mean abandoning her empathy. Relationships–of all kinds–are complicated. Communication is difficult. And Drum Roll, Please doesn’t try to simplify it. We can be sympathetic from one angle and cruel from another. There aren’t easy answers.
I somehow forgot to do a Lesbrary review of this one, which is a shame, because I really liked it! This isn’t entirely a queer collection, but there are about 5 stories with sapphic main characters. I loved the different takes on witches, from fairy tale-ish witches to more modern witches, and I liked how the women in the stories drew power from the cultural conception of witches, which have been used against women in history. Here are my pitches for the sapphic stories:
“Starsong” by Tehlor Kay Mejia: Luna’s mother is afraid that she’l follow the same path her tia Jasmin did, but Luna has found peace and power in the magic that the stars provide for her. When someone tries to start a debate with her on Instagram about science vs magic, she isn’t going to give them the time of day… until she realizes the commentor is a cute girl.
“The Heart In Her Hands” by Tess Sharpe: A common trope of tumblr stories is the soulmate mark: the first words you hear from your soulmate appear on your skin beforehand, so you know when you’ve met them. “The Heart In Her Hands” turns this romantic idea on its head with a protagonist who resents being told her fate, especially when she’s already found the love of her life.
“The Legend of Stone Mary” by Robin Talley: When a witch was killed in the woods by an angry mob, she cast a curse. That curse has continued in the town for many generations, temporarily placated by a statue in her honor. Wendy finds herself helplessly drawn to her ancestor’s statue on a stormy Halloween night, with no idea what will happen when she faces it.
“The Gherin Girls” by Emery Lord: Three sisters (one bi, one gay, one straight), all with different abilities (sensing emotions through touch, magic with plants, and magic with cooking). Deals with the aftermath of an emotionally abusive (M/F) relationship.
“Why They Watch Us Burn” by Elizabeth May: 13 girls are sentenced to a work camp for being accused of witches. They are meant to starve, disappear, or break in the woods. Instead, they might just find the power they’ve been accused of. Trigger warning for rape and victim-blaming.
This is about a YA novel about Mara, who has always been very close to her twin, Owen. So when Mara’s best friend, Hannah, accuses Owen of rape, Mara is horrified. She seems to split, believing both of their conflicting stories simultaneously. And as she tries to sort through it, her own unaddressed trauma bubbles to the surface.
This is a premise that I would not trust most authors with, but I knew that Ashley Herring Blake could carry it. Girl Made of Stars faces rape culture head on. It had my stomach in knots, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I finished it one day–partly because Blake’s writing is captivating, partly because I was so invested in these characters that I wanted to know what happened to them, and partly to be able to walk away from this sickening situation. This was another 5 star read for me, and I will definitely be picking up anything Ashley Herring Blake writes in the future.
All Out is a much-needed book, because it locates queer people (teens in particular) through time. It is optimistic historical fiction: It imagines not only queer teens in the past, but how they might have found happiness there. It rejects the idea that queer people don’t have a history–or that if they do, it is fundamentally tragic.
There are a lot of different time periods (~1200s-1999) and cultures involved, although I would have liked to see more stories set outside of North America and Europe. The story that really stood out to me was Malinda Lo’s, and luckily for me, it’s being made into a novel! Although that’s my favourite, I really enjoyed all of them–I didn’t feel like there were any really weak stories in this collection.
This book deftly deals with grief and unhealthy/abusive family dynamics. Grace’s father died when she was young, and since then, her mother hasn’t acted much like a mom. Grace feels like it is her responsibility to watch after Maggie. Again, this is a novel that has such nuanced, complex relationships. Grace’s best friend, Luca, and his mom have just taken in Eva (Grace’s love interest), who has recently lost her mother.
Maggie takes Eva under her wing, causing Grace to agonize over whether she should tell Eva the whole truth about Maggie. I thought it was masterfully handled, and I was completely invested in Grace and Eva–individually and as a couple. But overall, the treatment of abuse and grief layered with a bisexual (yes, using the word bisexual) love story and accompanied with a thoughtful examination of race and art (Eva is a black ballet dancer) all came together into a five star read for me
All-ages queer lady-type comics are probably my favourite thing to read. My favourite thing to watch is reality baking shows. This comic is an all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show… in space. What could be better?? When I finished volume 1, I thought “Sure, it seems pretty obvious it’s queer, but is it technically subtext?” Which would be okay! I still would have liked it! But volume 2 instantly makes it very clear that it’s queer. This is so cute and fun. The romance is sweet, the plot is full of hijinks and over-the-top action (“Cannibal Coliseum, where chefs compete to cook… each other.”) I mean, really, if “all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show in space” doesn’t convince you, what else can I say?
Evelyn Hugo is an aging Hollywood starlet who has chosen a relatively unknown journalist to write her life story. Evelyn is such a fascinating character. She’s someone that I imagine people would describe as “unlikable.” Personally, I loved her. She is such a flawed, complex character. She’s also bisexual–she’s very deliberate that Monique gets this label right–and the great love of her life is not one of her seven husbands. She has a tumultuous, heartbreaking love affair with another actress. I felt so much for Evelyn, and it made me really think about what it was like for queer women in the 1950s. Evelyn was privileged in many ways: rich, famous, white-passing–but she was also trapped. She couldn’t publicly acknowledge the love of her life without losing everything else she had built. The most authentic part of her was the one she felt she had to keep hidden. This a beautifully written and fascinating story about one of my favourite characters I’ve encountered in a long time.
Those are my favourite sapphic books I read in 2018! Below is my video with my full top 18 books, if you’re curious. I think only one of them in neither by nor about queer people. Let me know what your favourite reads of 2018 are, and I’ll add them to my TBR mountain!
- Under a Falling Star by Jae (#1 vote!)
- Season’s Meetings by Amy Dunne
- All I Want For Christmas by Clare Lydon
- Mistletoe by Lyn Gardner
- Chasing a Brighter Blue by Gerri Hill
- Yule Love Her by Jodi Hutchins
- Carolyn for Christmas by Lucy Carey
- Snow Globe by Georgia Beers
- Unwrap These Presents edited by Astrid Ohletz
- It Had To Be You by Clare Lydon (Free!)
- Christmas Crush by Kate McLachlan
- Do You Feel What I Feel: A Holiday Anthology by Jae
- Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson
- Ruth Gogoll’s Christmas Carol by Ruth M. Gogoll
- The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
- Mistletoe Mishap by Siri Caldwell
Find lots more (80+) lesbian and bi Christmas books on the Goodreads list!
Note: this is just a round up of the most promising sapphic Christmas books I have come across–I haven’t read them all myself. I can personally recommend Mistletoe Mishap by Siri Caldwell and Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson. The Winterson title doesn’t have a lot of sapphic content (only one story talks about her and her wife), but it’s my favourite Christmas book: the stories feel like timeless Christmas fables.
For more bi & lesbian lit lists, check out The Lesbrary Goodreads Project!
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post full of links to f/f fantasy books I personally recommend, populated with buy links other than Amazon for any of you who don’t want to stop there or at least looking at cutting back on spending money there. I’d like to do another post like that, this time with some of my f/f science fiction recommendations. If you don’t see your favorite book on here, it might be that I haven’t personally read it, but it might also mean I couldn’t find a non-Amazon link for it. And happy endings only, of course. This is, after all, a Shira Glassman recs post!
First of all, you have to have anticipated that a post like this would start with a recommendation for Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee. This YA starring a bi Chinese/Vietnamese-American girl, written by same, kicks off a fun romp of a trilogy starring qpoc teen superheroes. The main character’s parents are superheroes, as is her older sister, but her powers haven’t kicked in yet. What if they never come? So in a fit of teenage pique she decides to start interning for the villain. Turns out things are a little more upside down than she anticipated. This is a good series for people who have been binging superhero fanfiction and people who want big happy queer friend groups instead of just romance.
Next, a wonderful, sweet piece about an outmoded android and a repair tech: The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz. The android woman still carries with her vast grief from missing her original human, and the path given to her by the plot is a metaphor for healing and vulnerability that really resonated with me.
You can read this one for free: “Né łe!” by Darcie Little Badger. Originally printed in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time, a LGBTQ+ Native anthology, this is a romance between two Native women 1. in space 2. surrounded by 41 puppies. If that isn’t a heck of a selling point, I’m just going to go back to bed.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is about disabled queer women in space fighting Big Pharma. The sci-fi plot takes you everywhere from space opera to multiverse theory, and the romantic plot resolves in several layers of overlapping polyamory. TW for some fridged family members, and for the description of how one of the women lost a limb.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver takes us to Parole, a city the US government trapped under quarantine to control the population’s mutant powers. Evelyn Calliope is a trans woman with sonic powers, in a f/f/f triad with a woman with plant powers and a woman with mech powers (they also have a son, and, if I remember correctly, a robot dog?) Together with Anxious Lizard Man Regan and some other characters they try to find hope, water, and other resources in the dystopian mess. RoAnna’s writing is full of positivity and cheerleading.
What is a connection? What is trust? In Medic to the Hivemind, Kayla Bashe plays with some classic questions of both the romance and science fiction genres. A woman stranded in space is comforted by another woman over the Space Internet, without knowing much about her. Hard to describe without spoilers. Also, Jewish lead/author.
Amazingly, “f/f romance set in an arts school in outer space” is becoming its own subgenre somehow! First, I’ll recommend Sparks Fly by Llinos Cathryn Thomas, set in a dance school on a space colony, involving a kind of dancing that uses zero-gravity and floating pods. One of the heroines has been working at the school for years and thought she’d have the headmistress spot to herself eventually, but it turns out she has to share the top spot with an injured dance star taking some time to recover. It’s sort of rivals to friends to lovers, but more awkward than really rivals. Secondly, Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky, starring a biracial Japanese girl written by same, takes place at fashion design college on the moon. A new student meets a cute girl who’s sort of sexually adventurous (she often goes out in public without underwear, for example.) This one has a very ‘New Adult’ feel as well as many details of the main character’s fashion career.
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie is a futuristic dystopian adventure story in which a group of pirates, led by a vicious yet appealing woman captain, want control over a sea monster. The f/f is between a girl who’s been with the pirates for a while to support her family and the main character, who winds up with them initially against her will as part of their sea monster acquisition scheme. If teenage lesbians and a gigantic turtle are your jam, this is your book. TW for one of the pirate boys dying in a horrifying way. There’s a sequel I haven’t read yet. Side notes that this book is more likely to be in your local library without you having to request it than most of these others, and it also won’t out you to your parents or coworkers.
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is a mostly feel-good, episodic series of related adventures with one of those “the spaceship’s crew is like a family” setups. The f/f romance is only one of the side plots but does involve the main character. This is a book that has a lot of wonderfully neat alien species including polyamorous reptilians that have giant cuddle parties. Warning that you may want to read some reviews because there’s a disability related side plot unrelated to the f/f that some people found hurtful (I actually prefer the sequel, but it doesn’t have any romance and is more of a spinoff involving two minor side characters in Long Way.)
Those are my offerings today! If you want to check out my own writing, the closest I’ve gotten to science fiction are either the short story “Aviva and the Aliens” in Tales from Perach, about how the queen’s girlfriend outsmarts the aliens who kidnap her in hopes that her cooking will be better than their spaceship’s replicator, or my brand-new superhero romance Cinnamon Blade: Knife in Shining Armor, in which an ex-thief who’s now the hero’s sidekick decides to finally ask out the damsel in distress she’s rescued several times. Can they ever have a normal date or are there too many monsters of the week?
Here’s another one of my recent booktube videos, this time discussing the sapphic novels and short story collections that I’ve rated 5 stars!
- The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie (review)
- Hero Worship by Rebekah Matthews (review)
- Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
- Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker (review)
- Lizzy & Annie by Casey Plett (review)
- Missed Her by Ivan Coyote (review)
- Falling In Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (review)
- Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
Elle Spencer is finally living her dream job as a romance novelist. She is the author of the best-selling, Goldie-nominated Casting Lacey. Her next release is Unforgettable (Nov 2018) – a collection of two novellas that each start with one-night stands. Elle and her wife love to travel and split their time between Utah and California. When I caught up with Elle she was enjoying some quality time with her in-laws.
Q: What is something people would never guess about you?
I don’t swear nearly as much as my characters do. According to my sister, I’m not as funny as my characters are either. But she talks with her mouth full, and we all know you can’t trust someone who talks with her mouth full.
Q: You often post hilarious outtakes from your life on twitter. What is the funniest thing to happen to you recently?
When my wife puts her clothes on inside out. It happens more often than you would think, and it absolutely makes my day. One day, I’ll get a picture of it and post it on twitter.
Q: What was the last thing you watched on TV/What TV shows are you into?
We’re finally caught up on The 100 and Handmaid’s Tale, and we just started watching The Americans.
My writing is influenced by every book I read and every movie I watch. Did it stir my emotions? Did it keep me spellbound? Great storytelling is what influences me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, song, book or someone’s grandma. If it’s 1 a.m. and I fall asleep mid-story, is it the first thing I think of when I wake up? I love stories that stay with me, and I want to give other people that experience too.
Q: Your characters always have really cool jobs: high end art dealer, cancer researcher, actresses (who play nurses and lawyers). What kind of research goes into making these characters feel so authentic?
Sometimes I know people who have some knowledge of the world I’m writing about. I had some help on the details around Casting Lacey’s TV shoots and the way actresses think about things. Mostly, though, Google is a wonderful thing. I choose something that interests me and then research it as much as I can and hope I get it right.
Q: Casting Lacey is about to be republished by Bold Stokes Books (August 2018) after you self-published it earlier this year to rave reviews. How has the experience been moving from self-publishing to one of the biggest publishing houses in lesfic?
It’s been an amazing experience. I went to the 2018 GCLS conference as a BSB author and the welcome I received from other BSB authors was incredible. It’s a very supportive group of people, all rooting for each other’s success.
Q: What is your biggest challenge in writing your next book?
Q: What is your favorite romance trope?
Well, I do love the fake girlfriend trope, which is why I wrote Casting Lacey. I’m also a sucker for second chance romances, which is what my next book is about. I can’t think of a trope I don’t enjoy. As long as there’s a compelling story, interesting characters and a bit of happily ever after, I’m happy.
Q: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
It’s so important that we LGBTQ people tell our stories, because for so long, no one did. If you have a story inside of you, write it, because odds are someone out there will want to read it. Maybe it will give them a few hours of entertainment or maybe, it will change their lives forever. Don’t assume your words don’t have power. The only time they’re powerless is when you don’t use them.
Q: What is something you enjoy doing other than writing?
One thing? Ha!
I love travelling. Eating great food. Listening to music. Building things. Also, I’m learning about baseball because my wife loves it so much. In fact, I often write about beautiful women while watching baseball players do gross stuff like spit and adjust themselves. It just reinforces my gayness.
Q: What is something sweet or funny or both you have heard from your readers/fans?
I have the best fans in the world. It’s such a huge compliment when a reader takes the time to write a review or send an email or a tweet expressing their appreciation. I recently got a review for Casting Lacey where the woman said she felt like “a wrung out dish rag.” I loved that because to me it meant she was highly invested, and that’s everything.
Q: If you could replicate one meal or dining experience from your past, what would it be?
We went to New York for my birthday a few years ago, and my wife (she wasn’t my wife at the time) took me to this very fancy restaurant called Le Bernardin. The whole experience was special from start to finish. The food was incredible. The service was outstanding. And the company… well, I ended up marrying the company 16 months later, so it must have been pretty good!
Did you know that in addition to the Lesbrary and the Bi and Lesbian Literature tumblr, I (Danika) also have a booktube channel? It’s not 100% queer women books, but unsurprisingly, most of it is. I’ve decided to try to post of those videos here, when they’re Lesbrary-related, so that everything is in one place. This video is me discussing all the books I read in July, which happened to be all queer.
Most of these I’ve already reviewed at the Lesbrary, so I’ve linked the full reviews, in case this piques your interest.
Trigger warning for discussion of rape culture in the discussion of Girl made of Stars.
- P. S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (review)
- When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (review)
- Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (review)
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (review)
- The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Yesterday, I received a very exciting email from the Library of Congress. It begins:
The United States Library of Congress has selected your website for inclusion in the historic collection of Internet materials related to the LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. We consider your website to be an important part of this collection and the historical record.
The Library of Congress preserves the Nation’s cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them. The Library’s traditional functions, acquiring, cataloging, preserving and serving collection materials of historical importance to the Congress and the American people to foster education and scholarship, extend to digital materials, including websites.
The following URL has been selected for archiving:
I am so honored to have this site be included in the Library of Congress archives! I wanted to thank all of you for reading and supporting the site, both on Patreon and through your views, comments, and shares. When I started the Lesbrary eight years ago, I had no idea how it would grow and evolve, and I’m so happy that it’s only become a bigger part of my life over time. The feedback and support I’ve gotten has been incredible, and I wanted to share this massive milestone with you! I couldn’t have done it without you, and without all the reviewers who put out amazing reviews every month. I can’t believe the book blog I started in college has become something the Library of Congress considers an important cultural artifact! Which means that it will be preserved for future researchers. It’s unreal! Thank you all so much for your support and for coming along on this journey with me!