Megan Casey reviews Death Wore a Diadem by Iona McGregor

 

deathworeadiadem

Christabel MacKenzie is a 17-year-old student attending the Scottish Institute for the Education of the Daughters of Gentlefolk in Edinburgh. Like most of the students there, Christabel’s  family is well to do. In fact, her aunt is a friend of the Empress Eugenie of France. It is when the Empress decides to visit Edinburgh—and the Institute—that bad things start to happen. First, a replica of the Empress’ jeweled diadem goes missing, then a servant girl is pushed down a flight of stairs after a tryst with her paramour.

Christabel, concerned about both the theft and the murder, begins to ask questions. She is helped by Eleanor Stewart, her botany tutor at the Institute. But they are more than just student and tutor. Christabel has a terrific crush on Eleanor—only a year her senior—that is fully reciprocated. So when Christabel deliberately makes bad scores on her science tests, Eleanor is given permission to give her private lessons at Christabel’s home.  This comes in handy because it gives the two young women not only time alone together, but the freedom to investigate both inside and outside the school.

This is a rather delicious book that deserves way more attention and more reviews than it has garnered thus far. Its publication date—1989—shows it to be far ahead of its tune. The relationship between Christabel and Eleanor is very believable and touching. Although their intimacies are limited to quick kisses and phrases like “They put their arms around each other and one thing led to another,” we do believe in their love for each other and are rooting for them all the way.

In the process of the novel, the author goes into some detail about the Institute, which was one of the first to provide more than a cursory, parlor education for girls. We learn that not only was this unusual, but it was mostly frowned upon. Senior instructors had to have college degrees, which most women didn’t have at the time so that only men taught the higher levers of study. And Eleanor’s passion to become a full-fledged doctor is treated with derision by the male doctors she comes in contact with. The intricacies of the Institute are well set up, as are the plot and the resolution of the mystery. I especially liked the author’s rendering of Scottish dialect.

This is the first Young Adult lesbian mystery I have come across. In fact, it may be the only YA lesbian mystery, although I would very much like to read others.

Give it a thumb’s up with every hand you have. In an interview, the author states that she began a sequel, but never finished it. Pity.

For other reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries

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Link Round Up: July 6 -12

summerwegotfreeI’m excited about this question, because magic realism is so fun to read.  Also, this is a challenging question for a few reasons: a) there seems to be more queer magic realism in the YA category than others, for some reason and b) defining what is magic realism and what is not is kind of tricky.

So what is magic realism exactly, and how is it different from fantasy and other speculative fiction?

– Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian posted Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian # 8: LGBTQ Magic Realism.

Casey’s “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” series is probably my favourite thing happening in the queer bookternet right now, and every post introduces me to books I’ve never heard of! Magical realism is a genre I’ve always been intrigued by, so this is right up my alley.

supercakesAnonymous asked: Hi!! I was wondering if you know of any comics/graphic novels with queer ladies? I’ve been having a hard time finding any. Thanks!!

HECK YES ANON.

– queer book club‘s recommendations for queer women comics and graphic novels

In case I haven’t already convinced you to follow the queer book club tumblr, here’s another post that demonstrates how RJ is doing everything right over there. Queer comics! What could be better?

theGroundBeneath   audrelordestransnationallegacies   lumberjanes   inheriam   MakingComeback

Autostraddle posted Lez Liberty Lit #76: Sideways Stories.

Lambda Literary posted New in July: Big Freedia, Carolina De Robertis, Lidia Yuknavitch, Jane Ward, and Linda Rosenkrantz.

The Queer Between the Covers book fair is happening August 15th in Montreal!

“Pow! Gay Comic Book Characters Zap Stereotypes” was posted at The New York Times.

“The Evolution of the Great Gay Novel” was posted at Literary Hub.

TheDarkLight   nogoodreason   Ruby-Fruit-Jungle   nightatthefiestas   tenderbuttons

The Dark Light by Julia Bell was reviewed at Afterwritten.

No Good Reason by Cari Hunter was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

T-Minus Two by KG MacGregor was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Song in My Heart by Tracey Richardson was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

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

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Audrey reviews Femme by Mette Bach

femme

Femme is a nice little YA coming-out novel. It’s told by Sofie, who eventually identifies as a femme (I’m not giving anything away by saying this, seriously), and involves Clea, who fits, as Sofie’s boyfriend Paul says, “the classic jock lesbo stereotype.”

Femme is safe to add to school collections (the publisher recommends it for ages 13-18) and is definitely a good public library addition. It is not a book you’ll remember on your deathbed, but it has some excellent qualities. Let’s point them up right now: This is a high-interest, low-level novel (it’s written on a third-grade level). It’s short. You can give it to a reluctant reader and know that reader has a good chance of finishing it. It has a passable cover immediately identifiable as part of Lorimer’s “edgy” issues-laden SideStreets series (U.S. readers, think Orca’s high interest-low level books).

Femme also features a strong, positive, mixed-race love interest (Clea’s mom is white, and her dad is black–they’re still together, by the way, and successful, and very supportive of their daughter), and, eventually, a happy, healthy, interracial same-sex relationship. This is worth emphasizing in a YA lit world where “interracial relationship” is often a signifier for “tragic/bittersweet ending.”

Sofie is a senior, dating the BMOC. She’s not in honors classes, and she’s not headed for a prestigious (Canadian–Femme takes place in Canada) university. No one has ever believed in her before. Sofie assists her (single) mom with the family business, Sunny Side Cleaning. Sofie loves to cook, and she’s been part of her school’s interfaith group and knitting club. Until Paul, anyway. Now Paul takes up most of her time.

And now her English teacher has paired her for the year with Clea. Clea’s brilliant, and athletically talented and also, she’s the school’s only out lesbian.

Paul is a stereotypically oafish senior pretty boy. It’s not that he’s mean; he just doesn’t think. The others in his crowd are broadly drawn too. His mean ex is complemented by other mean girls; he wants more than Sofie is comfortable giving; he derides her interests. And Sofie’s a little confused. Why does he think their making out sessions are so intense? She’s not all that engaged.

SPOILERS: (Really, are these spoilers? Do we seriously not know what’s going to happen?) The storyline is predictable, which is not at all a criticism. It includes a growing awareness, a breakup with the boyfriend, a shy beginning with the girlfriend, the inevitable backlash at school, dealing with Mom, and finally–a sweet resolution with the tang of new hope. END SPOILERS!

This is a fine title to hand to a young person who doesn’t think they like reading, but who might be looking for a book like this to identify with. Or who just wants a nice short romance. My one caveat is that Sofie is very naive and might not appeal as a narrator to more worldly kids. On the whole, this is a sweet little story (with some requisite homophobic ugliness that gets resolved).

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Amanda Clay reviews About a Girl by Sarah McCarry

aboutagirl

There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy.

Tally is a girl who knows a lot about heaven. She knows a lot about a lot of things and she doesn’t care who knows it. She has her future mapped out: a degree in physics, then a career in astronomy, observing the heavens through a telescope’s lens.  Her adoptive family and her best friend Shane are behind her all the way, but the summer after graduation her life takes on a life of its own.  A night of unexpected passion with Shane is followed by excruciating silence. Disappointed and embarrassed, Tally seizes on the sudden opportunity to leave New York for Washington state in pursuit of a reclusive singer who may or may not be her father. She meets the man, but he offers no answers. Nor can anyone explain the peculiarities of the island: the crows that follow Tally around, the mysteriously hypnotic singers in the local bar, the way that Tally can’t keep ahold of her memories, why she’s even thenre. More importantly, she meets beautiful, mysterious Maddy, and before too long the two of them are wrapped up in each other as time slips away. But Maddy, like everyone on the island, like the island itself, isn’t what she seems. Learning the truth about her sets off a chain of revelations about who Tally is and where she comes from.

This book was an interesting experience, though I feel the need to preface this paragraph with a major spoilers alert. Consider yourself warned!  When I learned about this book I was eager to read it and dove into my copy, gobbling it up in just a few days.  What I did NOT know is that it was the third book in a trilogy, a trilogy called the Metamorphosis Trilogy, which when I learned that, cleared up a lot of my questions.  The story is very good—gorgeously written and full of rich, round characters. Tally is smart and funny and flawed, very relatable and easy to root for. Maddie is brooding and sexy and their whirlwind romance is both sweet and hot.  HOWEVER, I was entirely unprepared for the sudden, radical, incredibly supernatural turn the story took after Tally arrived in Washington.  As they mystery built, the little magical things didn’t seem out of place. Her forgetfulness and the chummy crow just seemed like texture for Tally’s journey. When we progressed to the hypnotic song of the bar-band sirens I frowned a bit at the overkill, so by the time Tally walks across the moon-path to visit her mom in Hades I was full on ‘What the hell is going on in this book?!” This is my fault for not doing my research on the author, but I also think that picking up an interesting title without knowing of another context is not that unusual (my copy had nothing on the cover to inform me otherwise). While I still recommend the book wholeheartedly, my opinion improved only after learning of the rest of the trilogy.

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Elinor reviews Best Lesbian Romance of the Year: Volume One edited by Radclyffe

Best-Lesboan-Romance-of-the-Year-volume-11

I am so happy I read this anthology. The introduction starts with an Audre Lorde quote, which is the right way to kick off a book. The stories ran the gamut from meeting cute to the culmination of decades of longing. Every story ended happily, those happy endings felt genuine and deserved, and drama and angst never overwhelmed any of the love stories. Romance can be hard to condense into a short story, but editor Radclyffe curated a solid collection of 18 tales. This book includes stories from established writers like Sacchi Green, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Giselle Renarde, among many others.

There’s plenty of sex in this anthology, a lot of which rivals some erotica anthologies in terms of heat. I was delighted by this. The sex scenes seemed largely organic to the relationships in these stories and were an extension of the romance. Not every story included sex, and some of my favorite stories involved little more than kissing, a testament to the great writing in this book.

I was glad that this collection had so many stories of long-term couples. This included a couple of more than a decade trying to beat the heat by getting out of their old and AC-less house (and having hot sex) in “Cooling Down, Heating Up.” In “Little Bit of Ivory,” a couple reconnects after one woman has been traveling for work. “A Royal Engagement” offered up a lesbian member of the British royalty and gave her a charming engagement story, while “Going to the Chapel” features a couple bringing out the best in each other, even in absurd circumstances, on the way to their own wedding. “Gargoyle Lovers” rounds out the wedding theme with a sexy Parisian honeymoon. “Wiggle-Wiggle-Womp” comes with a cute twist. “Beautiful” features a kinky narrator and her partner returning to their local BDSM scene after a battle with cancer has transformed the narrator’s body. I loved the way “Beautiful” showcased the tenderness and freedom submission can bring, all while rejecting normative ideals about bodies and beauty. My absolute favorite story in this collection was Rebekah Weatherspoon’s “Forever Yours, Eileen,” about Eileen and June, lifelong friends over the age of sixty who are finally exploring the relationship they’ve both wanted, and waited for, for years. June and Eileen were friends as children in the South, separated when June’s family moved north in fear of 1950s racial violence. Their love bloomed in letters and brief visits even as they married men, raised children, and built typical-looking lives. Now both single, Eileen is meeting June in New York. This one made me cry in a good way.

There were also plenty of couples starting new relationships, too. Radclyffe’s lovely story “Bad Girls and Sweet Kisses” reminded me of being eighteen and in love for the first time. A stuck light bulb sparks new feelings about a helpful friend in “Light.” Camping sounds a lot more fun in “Waterfall” (even though there’s a concussion in this story). You get to indulge your barista-crush in “Red Velvet Cake.” An out-of-character nude modeling gig leads to self-discovery and romance in “Some Nudity Required.” Grumpy teenagers find love with some help from a hippie in “Love Dance.” An ex shows growth in “Dance Fever,” and an assistant gets to see a softer side of her sexy, ice queen boss in “Unexpected Bliss.” “Long Drive” is unique and charming because it focuses on a couple who have been conducting their relationship via phones and Internet after meeting online, and are meeting in person for the first time. Though a few of these new couple love stories seemed to progress their relationships quite fast, it didn’t seem all that unrealistic.

The only story I didn’t really like was “Like a Breath of Ocean Blue,” about a woman crushing on her coworker by the sea. It was just too overwritten for me and the love interest didn’t read like an authentic person. One lackluster story in a collection of eighteen is not bad though.

I was very happy that there was some diversity in gender presentation in this book, and people of different sizes and ages. I wanted more racial diversity, though. With a few exceptions, like “Going to the Chapel” and “Forever Yours, Eileen,” there were a lot of white people in this book. This might just be me, but I also wished Best Lesbian Romance of the Year: Volume One had included a story about lesbians raising kids or on the road to parenthood.

Quibbles aside, this is an excellent anthology of lesbian romance. If you’re at all interested in the genre, you should read this. Highly recommended.

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Kalyanii reviews Slow Burn by Marlene Leach

 

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If truth be told, very little offends me. After all, I spent several years reviewing erotica back in the 1990’s, before the genre assumed any sense of responsibility with regard to consent, transparency or human dignity. However, in spite of all that fell short within Slow Burn, author Marlene Leach succeeded in utterly sickening me with scenes in which women with traumatic histories were either taken while in a dissociated state and physically incapacitated or used for the reclamation of one’s own fractured sexuality. That being said, what put me over the top was one particular scene in which continued sexual manipulation was condoned for its ability to heal the victim. I am floored that any author, especially one writing for the LGBT community, would dare promote sexual practices that perpetuate trauma as a means to a happy ending.

But, I get ahead of myself…

The year is 2048. The country is on the verge of collapse as corporations have taken over virtually every aspect of society, from governmental functions to the school and transportation systems as well as access to information and technology. The air is unfit to breathe, and domes are established within cities — until the money runs out. Testing determines one’s future, while those who exhibit dissenting tendencies are promptly medicated and monitored.

A year to the day that her lover, Leah, a renowned social critic and political activist, is captured by government agents and presumed dead, Lydia is prepared to end her own life; yet, a rap on the door late in the night interrupts her plans. When Lydia frees the latch, she discovers a young woman of eighteen, named Kay, who informs her that Leah is still alive and that she is willing to help Lydia find her. Kay explains that she was introduced to Leah’s writings by her history teacher, later deemed to be a Dissenter, and had found that her words and ideas helped her to feel less alone in the world. Leah was her idol, a brilliant and influential woman with whom she had hoped to one day study.

After a series of unlikely events which facilitate their journey from Maine to California, Lydia and Kay rescue Leah from Pennington Labor Camp. Leah is emaciated, reeks of her own waste, is missing teeth and suffers from oozing open wounds. Though Leah is unable to walk, the three women are able to find shelter in the woods, where Kay assists in her recovery. Rather than contribute to the restoration of Leah’s health, Lydia, absorbed in her need for closeness, performs oral sex on her partner while Kay is away on a supply run. The way the scene is written, wherein Lydia determines that Leah deserves the pleasure of her lover’s “eating her out” while Leah is yet unable to ambulate or take food, proved simply gruesome. Call me conventional, but this is simply not something I would expect of a loving and committed partner.

At varying points in the novel, both Lydia and Leah express their attraction to Kay, who has endured more than her fair share of pain and is described as being emotionally stunted. Whereas Lydia cuddles her in a manner that comes across as downright creepy but supposedly nurturing, Leah takes full advantage of Kay’s trust and admiration in order to touch upon her own lost ability to access desire. Rather than stopping the behavior upon realizing the gravity of her destructive behavior, Leah continues to seduce Kay so as to assist in her healing.

The novel overall is clumsily executed and wholly unbelievable, from the introduction of the characters right down to its victorious conclusion. Yet, it is the condoning of sexual manipulation and exploitation that continues to stick in my craw. Bring on the edginess and the challenges to sexual mores; but, once a traumatized adolescent is used for the pleasure of the middle-aged woman who she upholds as a teacher and mentor, I’m no longer on board.

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Link Round Up: June 29 – July 5

loveinthegildedageAs in previous years, this list was the most difficult to compile and is unfortunately much shorter than the other two lists. Many books that feature queer disabled people don’t make it clear in their cover blurb or promotional materials. I rely heavily on detailed book reviews – and occasionally random happenstance – to find books for this list. If you know any books that fit the theme, please do share them with me so I may add them! Remember, only book about disabled queer people, and only works published in 2014.

Here’s everything I found, arranged by genre.

– queer book club posted diversify your queer reads: 2014 books featuring disabled queer people.

Autostraddle posted Hidden Gems of Queer Lit: Chrystos and ‘In Her I Am’ and Drawn to Comics: Check Out This Fresh Romance #2 Sneak Preview for all Your Supernatural Lesbian Romance Needs!

Women and Words posted Hot off the Press, July 2015 and Coming Attractions, August 2015.

farfromyou   underthelights   lettheloverbe   toolateiloveyou   wovenmythsasliceofquietude

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler was reviewed at Leeanna.me.

Too Late… I Love You by Kiki Archer was reviewed at A Modern Girl’s Bookshelf.

A Slice of Quietude by Sharon Cho was reviewed at The Rainbow Hub.

Let the Lover Be by Sheree L. Greer was reviewed at AfterEllen.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe was reviewed at Disability in Kidlit.

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

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