Danika reviews Spear by Nicola Griffith

the cover of Spear by Nicola Griffith

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The first book I read by Nicola Griffith was Hild, a 560 page (for the first book in the trilogy) meticulously-researched historical fiction title that left me feeling like I was wandering through a dense fog of unfamiliar names and terms–and yet, it was so engaging that I couldn’t put it down. So although this is a standalone novella, I went in feeling a little bit intimidated.

That instinct wasn’t wrong: I was immediately confronted with Welsh people and place names I’ve never seen before, as well as vocabulary I’m not familiar with. This is a retelling of the Arthur legends, so if you’re more familiar with these stories (or with Welsh words!), you’ll probably be less lost than I was in that first chapter.

Still, I knew that I would be rewarded for hanging with it, and I definitely was. Reading Griffith’s books feels like an intellectual expansion for me: it’s clear how carefully she considers her words and how deeply the setting is researched. While that can feel like a barrier to get into it, it also means that there is so much depth and richness to the story, which more than makes up for me stumbling through the first chapter or so.

This follows an unnamed (at least, at first) main character raised in isolation, closely connected to nature, who disguises herself as a man and sets off to become a knight of King Artos’s court. This is a lofty goal for a girl in scavenged armor riding a bony horse, but she knows it’s her destiny. While she is assumed to be a man by most people she meets and she does sleep with women (who know she’s a woman), at first, this isn’t a major part of the story–but it only gets more queer as it goes.

She’s a fascinating character who has a synergistic relationship with nature: she has reflexes and senses that are beyond what humans are normally capable of because of it, which is what allows her to slowly make her way closer to the possibility of being one of the chosen few knights of Artos.

While I enjoyed the whole book, I thought the section that takes place at King Artos’s court is the most interesting. There, we learn about (spoiler) the Lancelot character’s relationship with both the Guinevere and Arthur characters. (end spoiler) Our main character also begins to question deeply for the first time her destiny, her upbringing, and her instincts. She enters this space feeling confident in herself, but she begins to wonder if she should feel ashamed, if she is somehow “unclean”. (Which not really about homophobia, aside from the metaphor.) There’s also an enthralling love story with a woman intertwined with her destiny.

This is one of the few books I’ve ever read that made me gasp out loud as I read it. I’m not usually an expressive reader, so that was a surprise. This novella is precisely plotted, both building up an expansive world and mythology while moving through a lean story that deserves its own spot among the most renowned Arthur legends. It feels timeless, but also has a depth that makes these people feel real and relatable.

I enjoyed reading the afterword, where the author both lays out her substantial research into the setting while also delighting in being able to create a mishmash of many different Arthur stories–with her own queer twist, of course. She describes how this is the great tradition of Arthur stories: they are all essentially fan fiction, remixing the versions that came before. Though Griffith borrows elements from many other stories, this narrative stands alone, feeling cohesive and layered, even if you (like me) don’t recognize the references or inspirations. (Oh, and I didn’t even mention the handful of gorgeous illustrations throughout!)

This is a small book that packs a big punch, and I was surprised how moved I was by the love story, considering that romance didn’t play much of a role for the first section of the book. I am definitely now on board for anything Griffith writes, and I can’t wait to explore her backlist. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just read her Writer’s Manifesto, and I’ll be off fanning my face for a bit.

Danika review Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

the cover of Burn Down, Rise Up

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I have to say, although I love the illustration of Raquel, I don’t think cover does justice to this being a horror novel. I got sports vibes from it. I didn’t notice the little monster claws/legs in the background on first viewing. But this is definitely horror, with some blood and gore, so be prepared for that going in.

This is a YA horror novel about a nightmare version of the Bronx where people are infected with mold until it consumes them, where fires burn endlessly, and where giant centipedes roam the streets and eat anyone they can catch. It’s bloody and has some serious body horror. But it’s also about the history of the Bronx, the racist policies that led to real-life horrors, and what it takes to try to rebuild when the fires still aren’t completely out.

People keep disappearing from the Bronx, and even the white teenagers who get a full police investigation aren’t found. It’s just background noise in Raquel’s life, until one day her mother goes into a coma after coming in contact with a patient covered in strange mold who then fled. Her crush, Charlize, confides in her that she saw her cousin Cisco before he disappeared, and he was covered in that same mold. If he was the one who infected Raquel’s mother, maybe finding him will be the key to helping her.

Aaron, Raquel’s best friend who also has a crush on Charlize (Awkward.), agrees to help, and the three of them try to research what happened to Cisco. Meanwhile, Raquel has started having disturbing visions and dreams, including one that leaves her with a burn on her skin. After going down some Reddit rabbit holes, they learn about the Echo game, also known as the Subway game. It involves going into the subway tunnels at exactly 3 A.M. and chanting, “We are Echobound.” The rules are strict, and it’s said that if you break them, you will never come back. Forums online are full of people’s stories of this Echo place, a nightmare version of their city.

The Echo game sounds a lot like the sort of creepypasta horror stories that get passed around Reddit and other forums, with just enough specificity to have you questioning whether they’re real or not.

Between a school assignment and the Echo research, Raquel learns about the darkest time in the Bronx’s history, which is taken to the extreme in its Echo. She learns about the racist policies that led to low income houses burning down constantly, killing many residents. She identifies the villain at the centre as the Slumlord who profited off the Bronx’s unsafe living conditions. I did feel like this got a little bit didactic at times, but I think that’s a complaint coming from being a 32-year-old reading a YA novel and not necessarily an issue with the book itself.

Charlize, Aaron, and Raquel gear up to enter the Echo to find Cisco and bring him back, but despite their research, it’s much more than they were prepared for. To find Cisco, first they’ll have to find a way to survive at all.

This is being marketed as Stranger Things meets Jordan Peele, which I think is a fair comparison: it definitely has social thriller elements, and it has the weirdness of Stranger Things, but with a little more gore. If you want an antiracist sapphic YA social thriller and can stomach some body horror, give this one a try.

Content warnings: gore, violence, racism, gun use, police brutality, discussion of cannibalism, fire injuries/burns

New Sapphic Releases: Bi and Lesbian Books Out May 24, 2022

While June always (well, at least in the last few years!) comes with a deluge of queer new releases, there are also plenty coming out in the lead up to Pride this week! We’ve got a selection of bisexual books, including some bi M/F romances. There are also some fascinating nonfiction titles hitting the shelves, including a queer roller derby memoir and a YA nonfic book about queer behaviour in animals!

Since I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading all of these, I’ve used the publishers’ descriptions.

Which queer books coming out this week are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments!

Fiction

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi, translated by Arthur Reiji Morris (Queer Literary Fiction)

the cover of Solo Dance

A powerful novel about the LGBTQ rights movement and gay love in Japan and Taiwan, from the most important queer voice of East Asia’s millennial generation.

Cho Norie, twenty-seven and originally from Taiwan, is working an office job in Tokyo. While her colleagues worry about the economy, life-insurance policies, marriage, and children, she is forced to keep her unconventional life hidden―including her sexuality and the violent attack that prompted her move to Japan. There is also her unusual fascination with death: she knows from personal experience how devastating death can be, but for her it is also creative fuel. Solo Dance depicts the painful coming of age of a gay person in Taiwan and corporate Japan. This striking debut is an intimate and powerful account of a search for hope after trauma.

Romance

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (Bisexual M/F Romance)

the cover of You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the overwhelming desire Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits—his father.

This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love? Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.

Young Adult

Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster by Andrea Mosqueda (Bisexual YA Contemporary)

the cover of Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster

Growing up in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Maggie Gonzalez has always been a little messy, but she’s okay with that. After all, she has a great family, a goofy group of friends, a rocky romantic history, and dreams of being a music photographer. Tasked with picking an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, Maggie has to face the truth: that her feelings about her friends―and her future―aren’t as simple as she’d once believed.

As Maggie’s search for the perfect escort continues, she’s forced to confront new (and old) feelings for three of her friends: Amanda, her best friend and first-ever crush; Matthew, her ex-boyfriend twice-over who refuses to stop flirting with her, and Dani, the new girl who has romantic baggage of her own. On top of this romantic disaster, she can’t stop thinking about the uncertainty of her own plans for the future and what that means for the people she loves.

As the weeks wind down and the boundaries between friendship and love become hazy, Maggie finds herself more and more confused with each photo. When her tried-and-true medium causes more chaos than calm, Maggie needs to figure out how to avoid certain disaster―or be brave enough to dive right into it, in Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster.

Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale (Bisexual M/F YA Contemporary)

the cover of Beauty and the Besharam

Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam.

So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer. [Cue the combative banter.]

Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin (Sapphic YA Horror)

the cover of Primal Animals

Arlee Gold has always lived in the shadow of her successful mom; even after everything Arlee’s been through, her mother still expects nothing but the best. In an effort to get her daughter back on track after a less-than-stellar few school years, she’s enrolled Arlee as a legacy at Camp Rockaway, an elite college prep summer camp deep in the North Carolina wilderness. On her own for the first time and buzzing with anxiety, Arlee is intimidated by the camp’s shiny exterior, suffocated by the relentless, thick summer heat…and tormented by the ceaseless stream of crawling, slimy, flapping bugs that seem to come straight from her nightmares.

In the midst of her brewing dread, Arlee is relieved to find a queer sanctuary in her bunkmates, and is especially drawn to Winnie, the enigmatic girl who sleeps in the bunk above her. Except Arlee starts to notice whispers in her wake, and how so many others recoil from her as if she were as creepy as the insects that terrify her. Struggling in her prep classes and feeling increasingly paranoid, Arlee can no longer suppress her panicked glitches.” Winnie, too, seems to become wary, and Arlee’s worst fear is confirmed: even here, in the place her mother promised was “going to change everything,” she’s been found out as a freak.

Just as she’s facing a summer completely alone, another rising junior slips her a mysterious invitation, and Arlee finds herself caught up in a secret society that expects its sisterhood to protect each other from any and all who would harm them―by any means necessary. Here, finally, Arlee feels like a part of something bigger, something that matters. Guided by their cunning leader, Lisha, a rising senior with a smile sharp enough to cut bone, the sisterhood will stand against any threat, unquestioningly. But when Winnie is put in grave danger, Arlee is forced to confront just how far her sisters will go, and whether they truly protect the girls.

A Cruel and Fated Light (The Hollow Star Saga #2) by Ashley Shuttleworth (Sapphic and M/M YA Fantasy)

the cover of A Cruel and Fated Light

Half-fae Arlo becomes entangled in the courtly intrigue at the Seelie Summer palace as danger for ironborns mounts in this gripping sequel to A Dark and Hollow Star.

After thwarting the man behind the gruesome ironborn murders—and breaking several fae laws to do so—all Arlo wants is a quiet summer. As the deity of luck’s Hollow Star, capable of bringing about endless possibilities, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?

But someone is still trying to summon the mythical Seven Deadly Sins. All signs point to immortal meddling, and if this is the gods’ attempt at returning to the Mortal Realm, it’s Arlo they’re going to use to do it.

When Queen Riadne offers to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, she jumps at the chance. She’ll get to see more of Vehan and Aurelian and perhaps even work out her complicated feelings for the gorgeous ex-Fury, Nausicaä. But no one trusts the infamous Queen of Light, even as Arlo wonders if she’s just been greatly misunderstood.

With the Summer Solstice quickly approaching, everyone expects Riadne to finally challenge the High King for his crown. And as Arlo struggles to get control of her powers and take charge of her destiny, she’ll soon be faced with a choice that won’t only change the fate of the Mortal Realm forever but could condemn it to a cruelty the likes of which the Courts have never known.

Queer Ducks (And Other Animals): The Natural World of Sexuality by Eliot Schrefer (Queer YA Nonfiction)

the cover of Queer Ducks (And Other Animals)

This groundbreaking illustrated YA nonfiction title from two-time National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Eliot Schrefer is a well-researched and teen-friendly exploration of the gamut of queer behaviors observed in animals.

A quiet revolution has been underway in recent years, with study after study revealing substantial same-sex sexual behavior in animals. Join celebrated author Eliot Schrefer on an exploration of queer behavior in the animal world—from albatrosses to bonobos to clownfish to doodlebugs.

In sharp and witty prose—aided by humorous comics from artist Jules Zuckerberg—Schrefer uses science, history, anthropology, and sociology to illustrate the diversity of sexual behavior in the animal world. Interviews with researchers in the field offer additional insights for readers and aspiring scientists.

Queer behavior in animals is as diverse and complex—and as natural—as it is in our own species. It doesn’t set us apart from animals—it bonds us even closer to our animal selves.

Middle Grade

Fight + Flight by Jules Machias (Sapphic Middle Grade Contemporary)

the cover of Fight and Flight

Avery Hart lives for the thrill and speed of her dirt bike and the pounding thump of her drum kit. But after she’s diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a disease that affects her joints, Avery splits her time between endless physical therapy and worrying that her fun and independence are over for good.

Sarah Bell is familiar with worry, too. For months, she’s been having intense panic attacks. No matter how much she pours her anxiety into making art, she can’t seem to get a grip on it, and she’s starting to wonder if she’ll be this way forever.

Just as both girls are reaching peak fear about what their futures hold, their present takes a terrifying turn when their school is seemingly attacked by gunmen. Though they later learn it was an active shooter drill, the traumatic experience bonds the girls together in a friendship that will change the way they view their perceived weaknesses—and help them find strength, and more, in each other.

Nonfiction

Brace for Impact: A Memoir by Gabe Montesanti (Queer Memoir)

the cover of Brace for Impact

Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. When she enters graduate school in St. Louis, she is determined to put the baggage of her childhood behind her. With no prior experience, she joins Arch Rival, one of the top-ranked roller derby leagues in the world. Gabe instantly falls in love with the sport’s roughness, intensity, and open embrace of people who are literally and figuratively scarred. She soon finds community and a sense of belonging, reveling in the tattoos, glitter, and campiness. 

But when Gabe suffers a catastrophic injury, she can no longer ignore the parallels between the physicality of roller derby and the unresolved trauma of her upbringing. Rendered inactive, forced to be still, Gabe realizes she needs to heal her emotional wounds as much as her physical ones; she must confront her fear and self-diminishment in order to feel truly alive.

Told with unflinching honesty and a giant dose of wonder, Brace for Impact is a tender, inspiring memoir about the everyday heroism of pursuing a life less ordinary, and the deeply human need to be at peace with who you are.

Don’t You Dare: Uncovering Lost Love by Gayla Turner (Sapphic Biography)

the cover of Don't You Dare

Don’t You Dare is a compelling story that weaves together a current-day journey of discovery and a true-life love story between two women that took place over a hundred years ago. Newspaper headlines and stories back then didn’t mention LGBTQ people. The LGBTQ community loved and lived in the background of society because it was too dangerous to do otherwise. All were hidden, just like the wedding photos belonging to author Gayla Turner’s grandmother – Ruby. This unforgettable book begins with the discovery of these hidden wedding photos dated June 8, 1915. As these photos unveiled an awe-inspiring secret, Gayla Turner embarked on a seven-year journey to find out more about her grandmother and the woman standing next to her dressed as the groom.

Curiosity led to extensive research that uncovered a love story between Ruby and the mystery woman in the photos. The author also uncovered a secret lesbian social club that was formed in the early 1900s by a local businesswoman. Women from as far away as Chicago traveled by train to the little farm town of Amherst, Wisconsin, to attend her exclusive parties. The local town people thought Cora held private tea and card parties so single young ladies could talk about how to find a husband. Little did they know, finding a man was not a subject of their conversations.

Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement by Wendy L. Rouse (Queer Nonfiction)

the cover of Public Faces, Secret Lives by Wendy L Rouse

Restores queer suffragists to their rightful place in the history of the struggle for women’s right to vote

The women’s suffrage movement, much like many other civil rights movements, has an important and often unrecognized queer history. In Public Faces, Secret Lives Wendy L. Rouse reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the suffrage movement included a variety of individuals who represented a range of genders and sexualities. However, owing to the constant pressure to present a “respectable” public image, suffrage leaders publicly conformed to gendered views of ideal womanhood in order to make women’s suffrage more palatable to the public.

Rouse argues that queer suffragists did take meaningful action to assert their identities and legacies by challenging traditional concepts of domesticity, family, space, and death in both subtly subversive and radically transformative ways. Queer suffragists also built lasting alliances and developed innovative strategies in order to protect their most intimate relationships, ones that were ultimately crucial to the success of the suffrage movement. Public Faces, Secret Lives is the first work to truly recenter queer figures in the women’s suffrage movement, highlighting their immense contributions as well as their numerous sacrifices.

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

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Danika reviews I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

the cover of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

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Chloe Green and Shara Wheeler have been academic rivals since Chloe arrived in this Christian small town high school with its suffocating rules and homophobic culture. But at prom, as the fight for valedictorian is almost at a close, Shara kisses Chloe and disappears. She soon realizes Shara kissed two others that night: her boyfriend, Smith, and the broody boy next boy, Rory. She’s also left a series of clues for them on how to find her.

If this sounds like the plot of a 2000s-2010s YA novel to you, Chloe agrees, who says Shara has cast herself in a John Green novel. Chloe resents Shara: she’s the golden girl of Willowgrove Christian Academy. She’s pretty and blonde and has a quarterback boyfriend, straight As, and lights up every room she walks in. She’s the principal’s daughter. She can do no wrong.

Chloe feels like the opposite, like an outcast. The only thing they have in common is their GPA. She is out as bisexual in a school where no one else is out as queer. In fact, one of her moms was the first person to come out at Willowgrove when she went there, and it hasn’t seemed to have changed much. Chloe hates this town, this school, and her classmates who seem to thrive there. Her friends are the other rejects: closeted queer kids and theater nerds.

She’s not going to let Shara swan out so easily, not when she’s so close to showing her up. She wants to prove to everyone that she is better. So she wrangles together Rory and Smith to find her. They were once best friends and now can barely speak to each other, especially now that Shara kissed both of them.

Each chapter counts down how many days since Shara left and how many days until graduation, giving the chase the tension of a clock ticking down. Also, who can resist a scavenger hunt? Chloe becomes obsessed with these letters and clues: how they reveal that Shara wasn’t the angel everyone thought she was, just as Chloe always suspected. How Chloe is cracking the code and proving herself smart enough to find Shara. In fact, she’s so obsessed that she stops paying attention to her friends, who she hasn’t told about the clues, and even her schoolwork.

When discussing sapphic characters online, there are some common labels of “disaster bisexuals” and “useless lesbians.” Somehow, the sapphic main characters in this book manage to both be useless disasters. Shara and Chloe are obsessed with each other, and anyone reading will know — even if this wasn’t a romance novel — that they’re in love with each other. But they’re so wrapped up in their rivalry and the lies they’re telling themselves that they can’t see it.

While Chloe and Shara seem to be in their own world, there’s a whole other story unravelling outside of these two characters. This story has a lot of say about growing up queer in a Christian conservative small town. Chloe can’t wait to escape (just like her mom did before her, though she came back), but others find value in this town and want to fight to make it better. Chloe also slowly starts to realize that her view of Willowgrove is limited, and it’s not as straight and cis as she assumed, even if students aren’t out.

I was intrigued by the premise of this one, with the scavenger hunt and mystery element, but it began to drag for me in the middle. I love a flawed main character, but both Chloe and Shara are sometimes insufferable, with extreme tunnel vision. Then the story changed gear, and the ending chunk pulled me back in with the emerging storylines from other characters. It was also fun to see Chloe and Shara bounce off of each other: they are both so stubborn and opinionated that their collision is intense — that is, until they realize they might want the same thing after all.

You probably don’t need my recommendation to read this: it is Casey McQuiston after all, but you have it anyway. If you want a rivals to lovers F/F scavenger hunt YA romance that steadily gets more queer as you go along, pick this one up.

54 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

a collage of the sapphic book covers listed below with the text Bi and Lesbian Books Out In May!

Would you believe that more than 54 sapphic books come out this month? It’s true! Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out which books have queer representation, or what kind of representation they have. So here’s a big list of bi and lesbian books out this month, sorted by genre. I’ve highlighted a few of the books I’m most interested in, using publishers’ descriptions, but click through to see the other titles’ blurbs!

This month has so many exciting books coming out in a range of genres and age groups, including some cute two mom picture books, sapphic middle grade contemporary novels, F/F YA romances, thought-provoking queer lit, and lots more.

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

Adult

Fiction

the cover of Queerly Beloved

Queerly Beloved by Susie Dumond (Sapphic Fiction)

“A delightful debut, perfect for any person who’s ever created their own place to belong.”—Casey McQuiston, bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue and One Last Stop

Amy, a semicloseted queer baker and bartender in mid-2010s Oklahoma, has spent a lifetime putting other people’s needs before her own. Until, that is, she hits it off with Charley, a brilliant, attractive engineer who’s just moved to Tulsa. Suddenly, Amy’s found something—someone—she actually wants. Her tight-knit group of chosen family is thrilled she’s finally moving on from her ex. Mostly, though, they want Amy to find a way to show up for love—and life—as her authentic self.

But when a one-off gig subbing in for a bridesmaid turns into a full-time business—thanks to Amy’s baking talents, crafting skills, and years watching rom-coms and Say Yes to the Dress—her deep desire to please kicks into overdrive, at her own expense. It’s not until Amy’s precarious balancing act strains her relationships to the breaking point that she must decide what it looks like to be true to herself—and if she has the courage to try.

the cover of What We Do in the Dark

What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart (Sapphic Fiction)

A novel about a young woman’s life-altering affair with a much older, married woman.

Mallory is a freshman in college when she meets the woman. She sees her for the first time at the university’s gym, immediately entranced by this elegant, older person, whom she later learns is married and works at the school. Before long, they begin a clandestine affair. Self-possessed, successful, brilliant, and aloof, the woman absolutely consumes Mallory, who is still reeling from her mother’s death a few months earlier. Mallory retreats from the rest of the world and into a relationship with this melancholy, elusive woman she admires so much yet who can never be fully hers, solidifying a sense of solitude that has both haunted and soothed her as long as she can remember.
 
Years after the affair has ended, Mallory must decide whether to stay safely in this isolation, this constructed loneliness, or to step fully into the world and confront what the woman meant to her, for better or worse. This simmering, unsettling debut novel reveals the consequences of desire and influence, portraying two women whose lives have been transformed by love, loss, and secrecy.

the cover of Solo Dance

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi, translated by Arthur Reiji Morris (Queer Literary Fiction)

A powerful novel about the LGBTQ rights movement and gay love in Japan and Taiwan, from the most important queer voice of East Asia’s millennial generation.

Cho Norie, twenty-seven and originally from Taiwan, is working an office job in Tokyo. While her colleagues worry about the economy, life-insurance policies, marriage, and children, she is forced to keep her unconventional life hidden―including her sexuality and the violent attack that prompted her move to Japan. There is also her unusual fascination with death: she knows from personal experience how devastating death can be, but for her it is also creative fuel. Solo Dance depicts the painful coming of age of a gay person in Taiwan and corporate Japan. This striking debut is an intimate and powerful account of a search for hope after trauma.

the cover of Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour (Sapphic Fiction)

The debut adult novel by the bestselling and award-winning YA author Nina LaCour, following two women on a star-crossed journey toward each other

When Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen, she leaves behind the girl she once was, capable of trust and intimacy. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her brilliant cocktails as for the mystery that clings to her. Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern, yearning for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena and embarks on an affair with the married owner.

The morning Emilie and Sara first meet at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But the damage both women carry, and the choices they have made, pulls them apart again and again. When Sara’s old life catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted just as Emilie has finally gained her own sense of purpose, they must decide if their love is more powerful than their pasts.

At once exquisite and expansive, astonishing in its humanity and heart, Yerba Buena is a love story for our time and a propulsive journey through the lives of two women trying to find somewhere, or someone, to call home.

the cover of Acts of Service
the cover of The Golden Season
the cover of Little Rabbit
the cover of Rainbow Rainbow
the cover of The Dance Tree
  • Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman (Queer Fiction)
  • The Golden Season by Madelina Kay Sneed (Lesbian Fiction)
  • Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej (Queer Fiction)
  • Rainbow Rainbow by Lydia Conklin (Queer and Trans Short Stories)
  • The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Lesbian Historical Fiction) [tragic]
  • That Green Eyed Girl by Julie Owen Moylan (Sapphic Historical Fiction)

Mystery/Thrillers

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp (Bisexual Cozy Mystery)

Daisy Ellery’s pies have a secret ingredient: The magical ability to avenge women done wrong by men. But Daisy finds herself on the receiving end in Misha Popp’s cozy series debut, a sweet-as-buttercream treat for fans of Ellery Adams and Mary Maxwell.

The first time Daisy Ellery killed a man with a pie, it was an accident. Now, it’s her calling. Daisy bakes sweet vengeance into her pastries, which she and her dog Zoe deliver to the men who’ve done dirty deeds to the town’s women. But if she can’t solve the one crime that’s not of her own baking, she’ll be out of the pie pan and into the oven.
 
Parking her Pies Before Guys mobile bakery van outside the local diner, Daisy is informed by Frank, the crusty diner owner, that someone’s been prowling around the van—and not just to inhale the delectable aroma. Already on thin icing with Frank, she finds a letter on her door, threatening to reveal her unsavory secret sideline of pie a la murder.
 
Blackmail? But who whipped up this half-baked plot to cut a slice out of Daisy’s business? Purple-haired campus do-gooder Melly? Noel, the tender—if flaky—farm boy? Or one of the abusive men who prefer their pie without a deadly scoop of payback?
 
The upcoming statewide pie contest could be Daisy’s big chance to help wronged women everywhere…if she doesn’t meet a sticky end first. Because Daisy knows the blackmailer won’t stop until her business is in crumbles.

Romance

the cover of Chef's Kiss by TJ Alexander

Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander (F/NB Romance)

A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.

To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.

Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).

the cover of You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty
the cover of The Wicked and the Willing

Fantasy and Sci Fi

the cover of When Women Were Dragons

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill (Lesbian Fantasy)

A rollicking feminist tale set in 1950s America where thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons, exploding notions of a woman’s place in the world and expanding minds about accepting others for who they really are. The first adult novel by the Newbery award-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours, except for its most seminal event: the Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales, and talons; left a trail of fiery destruction in their path; and took to the skies. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex’s beloved aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn’t know. It’s taboo to speak of.
 
Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of this astonishing event: a mother more protective than ever; an absentee father; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and watching her beloved cousin Bea become dangerously obsessed with the forbidden.

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, award-winning author Kelly Barnhill boldly explores rage, memory, and the tyranny of forced limitations. When Women Were Dragons exposes a world that wants to keep women small—their lives and their prospects—and examines what happens when they rise en masse and take up the space they deserve.

[Alex is a lesbian.]

the cover of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson (Sapphic Fantasy)

If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.

At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.

Juno Dawson explores gender and the corrupting nature of power in a delightful and provocative story of magic and matriarchy, friendship and feminism. Dealing with all the aspects of contemporary womanhood, as well as being phenomenally powerful witches, Niamh, Helena, Leonie and Elle may have grown apart but they will always be bound by the sisterhood of  the coven.

the cover of Siren Queen

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo (Sapphic Fantasy)

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill―but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes―even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

the cover of Misrule
the cover of Darknesses
the cover of The Book of Queer Saints
the cover of Someone In Time
the cover of Under Fortunate Stars

Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

the cover of Heathen: The Complete Series Omnibus Edition

Heathen: The Complete Series Omnibus Edition by Natasha Alterici,  Ashley A. Woods, Rachel Deering, and Morgan Martinez (Sapphic Fantasy Graphic Novel)

SMASHING THE PATRIARCHY – Viking Style!

WOMAN. WARRIOR. VIKING. HEATHEN. OUTCAST. 

THE GODS MUST PAY…

Born into a time of warfare, suffering, and subjugation of women, and exiled from her village for kissing another woman, the lesbian Viking warrior, Aydis, sets out to destroy the god-king Odin and end his oppressive reign. She is a friend to many as she is joined by mermaids, immortals, Valkyries, and the talking horse, Saga. But she is also a fearsome enemy to the demons and fantastic monsters that populate the land. 

the cover of Mizuno and Chayama

Young Adult

YA Contemporary

the cover of Melt With You

Melt With You by Jennifer Dugan (F/F YA Contemporary)

From the author of Some Girls Do and Hot Dog Girl comes a sweet and salty queer YA rom-com about two girls on a summer road trip in an ice cream truck.

Fallon and Chloe used to be best friends. But last summer, the girls hooked up right before Chloe left for college, and after a series of misunderstandings, they aren’t even speaking to one another. Now, a year later, Chloe’s back home from school, and Fallon is doing everything in her power to avoid her. Which is especially difficult because their moms own a business together—a gourmet ice cream truck where both girls work.

But when their moms have the opportunity to make a presentation to some venture capitalists in Texas—something that could seriously expand their business and solve all their money problems to boot—it’s up to Fallon to work a series of food truck festivals across the country. But she can’t do it alone, and Chloe is the only one available to help. As tensions heat up again between the two girls, will Fallon be able to keep her cool?

the cover of Flip the Script

Flip the Script by Lyla Lee (Bisexual F/F YA Romance)

The first rule of watching K-dramas: Never fall in love with the second lead.

As an avid watcher of K-dramas, Hana knows all the tropes to avoid when she finally lands a starring role in a buzzy new drama. And she can totally handle her fake co-star boyfriend, heartthrob Bryan Yoon, who might be falling in love with her. After all, she promised the TV producers a contract romance, and that’s all they’re going to get from her.

But when showrunners bring on a new lead actress to challenge Hana’s role as main love interest—and worse, it’s someone Hana knows all too well—can Hana fight for her position on the show, while falling for her on-screen rival in real life?

the cover of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (Bisexual F/F YA Contemporary)

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue comes a romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need…

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and the puritanical administration of Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair and square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe―probably not, but maybe―more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

the cover of Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster

Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster by Andrea Mosqueda (YA Contemporary)

Growing up in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Maggie Gonzalez has always been a little messy, but she’s okay with that. After all, she has a great family, a goofy group of friends, a rocky romantic history, and dreams of being a music photographer. Tasked with picking an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, Maggie has to face the truth: that her feelings about her friends―and her future―aren’t as simple as she’d once believed.

As Maggie’s search for the perfect escort continues, she’s forced to confront new (and old) feelings for three of her friends: Amanda, her best friend and first-ever crush; Matthew, her ex-boyfriend twice-over who refuses to stop flirting with her, and Dani, the new girl who has romantic baggage of her own. On top of this romantic disaster, she can’t stop thinking about the uncertainty of her own plans for the future and what that means for the people she loves.

As the weeks wind down and the boundaries between friendship and love become hazy, Maggie finds herself more and more confused with each photo. When her tried-and-true medium causes more chaos than calm, Maggie needs to figure out how to avoid certain disaster―or be brave enough to dive right into it, in Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster.

the cover of The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (YA Contemporary)

Sixteen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers to be known for her killer eyeliner, not for being one of the only Mexican kids at her new, mostly white, very rich Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. 

After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend before transferring to Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: keep her brother out of trouble, make her mom proud, and, most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami. 

The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And smart. And talented. And cute. So cute. Either way, Yami isn’t going to make the same mistake again. If word got back to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection. So she’ll have to start asking, WWSGD: What would a straight girl do? 

Told in a captivating voice that is by turns hilarious, vulnerable, and searingly honest, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School explores the joys and heartaches of living your full truth out loud.

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the cover of Beauty and the Besharam

YA Mystery/Thrillers

the cover of Dead End Girls

Dead End Girls by Wendy Heard (Sapphic YA Thriller)

Two girls fake their deaths only to face mortal danger in this YA thriller perfect for fans of The Twin and None Shall Sleep.

In one week, Maude will be dead. At least, that’s what she wants everyone to think. After years of research, Maude has decided to fake her own death. She’s figured out the how, the when, the where, and who will help her unsuspectingly. The why is complex: revenge, partly. Her terrible parents deserve this. But there’s also l’appel du vide, the call of the void, that beckons her toward a new life where she will be tied to no one, free and adrift. Then Frankie, a step-cousin she barely knows, figures out what she’s plotting, and the plan seems like it’s ruined. Except Frankie doesn’t want to rat her out. Frankie wants in.

The girls vault into the unknown, risking everything for a new and limitless life. But there are some things you can never run away from. What if the poison is not in the soil, but in the roots? This pulse-pounding thriller offers a nuanced exploration of identity, freedom, and falling in love while your world falls apart.

the cover of Summer's Edge

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele (Bisexual and Lesbian YA Paranormal Thriller)

I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Haunting of Hill House in this atmospheric, eerie teen thriller following an estranged group of friends being haunted by their friend who died last summer.

Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.

A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.

As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.

YA Horror

the cover of Primal Animals

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin (Sapphic YA Horror)

Arlee Gold has always lived in the shadow of her successful mom; even after everything Arlee’s been through, her mother still expects nothing but the best. In an effort to get her daughter back on track after a less-than-stellar few school years, she’s enrolled Arlee as a legacy at Camp Rockaway, an elite college prep summer camp deep in the North Carolina wilderness. On her own for the first time and buzzing with anxiety, Arlee is intimidated by the camp’s shiny exterior, suffocated by the relentless, thick summer heat…and tormented by the ceaseless stream of crawling, slimy, flapping bugs that seem to come straight from her nightmares.

In the midst of her brewing dread, Arlee is relieved to find a queer sanctuary in her bunkmates, and is especially drawn to Winnie, the enigmatic girl who sleeps in the bunk above her. Except Arlee starts to notice whispers in her wake, and how so many others recoil from her as if she were as creepy as the insects that terrify her. Struggling in her prep classes and feeling increasingly paranoid, Arlee can no longer suppress her panicked glitches.” Winnie, too, seems to become wary, and Arlee’s worst fear is confirmed: even here, in the place her mother promised was “going to change everything,” she’s been found out as a freak.

Just as she’s facing a summer completely alone, another rising junior slips her a mysterious invitation, and Arlee finds herself caught up in a secret society that expects its sisterhood to protect each other from any and all who would harm them―by any means necessary. Here, finally, Arlee feels like a part of something bigger, something that matters. Guided by their cunning leader, Lisha, a rising senior with a smile sharp enough to cut bone, the sisterhood will stand against any threat, unquestioningly. But when Winnie is put in grave danger, Arlee is forced to confront just how far her sisters will go, and whether they truly protect the girls.

the cover of Burn Down, Rise Up

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado (Sapphic YA Horror)

Mysterious disappearances. An urban legend rumored to be responsible. And one group of friends determined to save their city at any cost. Stranger Things meets Jordan Peele in this utterly original debut from an incredible new voice.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention―especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart―or die trying.

YA Fantasy

the cover of Deep in Providence

Deep in Providence by Riss M. Neilson (Lesbian YA Fantasy)

For best friends Miliani, Inez, Natalie and Jasmine, Providence, Rhode Island has a magic of its own. From the bodegas and late-night food trucks on Broad Street to The Hill that watches over the city, every corner of Providence glows with memories of them practicing spells, mixing up potions and doing séances with the help of the magic Miliani’s Filipino grandfather taught her.

But when Jasmine is killed by a drunk driver, the world they have always known is left haunted by grief…and Jasmine’s lingering spirit. Determined to bring her back, the surviving friends band together, testing the limits of their magic and everything they know about life, death, and each other.

And as their plan to resurrect Jasmine grows darker and more demanding than they imagined, their separate lives begin to splinter the bonds they depend on, revealing buried secrets that threaten the people they care about most. Miliani, Inez and Natalie will have to rely on more than just their mystical abilities to find the light.

Thrilling and absorbing, Deep in Providence is a story of profound yearning, and what happens when three teen girls are finally given the power to go after what they want.

the cover of Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches

Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa (F/F YA Fantasy)

Seventeen-year-old Eleanor is the last person in Salem to believe in witchcraft—or think that her life could be transformed by mysterious forces. After losing her best friend and first love, Chloe, Eleanor has spent the past year in a haze, vowing to stay away from anything resembling romance.

But when a handwritten guide to tarot arrives in the mail at the witchy souvenir store where Eleanor works, it seems to bring with it the message that magic is about to enter her life. Cynical Eleanor is quick to dismiss this promise, until real-life witch Pix shows up with an unusual invitation. Inspired by the magic and mystery of the tarot, Eleanor decides to open herself up to Pix and her coven of witches, and even to the possibility of a new romance.

But Eleanor’s complicated history continues to haunt her. She will have to reckon with the old ghosts that threaten to destroy everything, even her chance at new love.

Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches is a romantic coming-of-age about learning to make peace with the past in order to accept the beauty of the present.

the cover of Uncommon Charm

Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver (Sapphic 1920s Fantasy)

Three days after I was expelled from the Marable School for Girls, our poor Simon arrived.

In the 1920s gothic comedy Uncommon Charm, bright young socialite Julia and shy Jewish magician Simon decide they aren’t beholden to their families’ unhappy history. Together they confront such horrors as murdered ghosts, alive children, magic philosophy, a milieu that slides far too easily into surrealist metaphor, and, worst of all, serious adult conversation.

the cover of A Cruel and Fated Light

YA Nonfiction

the cover of Here and Queer

Here and Queer: A Queer Girl’s Guide to Life by Rowan Ellis (Queer Girl Nonfiction)

Here and Queer is a helpful, friendly guide full of support and advice about living your best queer life, written for girls.

This vibrant, inclusive guide, designed for all kinds of girls, is designed to help you be the strongest, proudest, happiest version of yourself! A celebration of the gift of queerness, it’s packed full of heartfelt advice, comforting stories, and stylish illustrations, and will give you the tools you need to explore your own identity, on your own terms.

Author and YouTuber Rowan Ellis uses her personal experience to take you through queer life, from coming out and dealing with tough stuff, right through to finding friendships and celebrating Pride. There are also brilliant guest essays from contributors across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

The book opens with guidance on understanding how you feel as a queer girl. From choosing your pronouns to navigating different labels and identities, Ellis helps girls understand that they are in control of their own identity, and that it’s ok to not be sure straight away.

Moving onto a glossary of queer terms, Here and Queer helps introduce girls to the rainbow of definitions and terms which help queer people understand who they are and how they feel. The book then moves onto advice on coming out, for many one of the hardest steps to take on their journey to truly living their best lives.

Following are chapters on sex and romance, including helpful advice about your first time, as well as guides on consent and knowing how to make sure you build a healthy and supportive relationship with your partner.

There are also sections on dealing with bullies and stigma, finding your community, and looking after your mental health, including advice on how to help you find extra support if you need it. The book also has more information on queer ladies in history, and on the fight for equality undertaken by brave activists throughout history and today.

Stylishly designed with cool illustrations, this helpful, friendly guide will help all queer girls navigate the challenges of discovering and embracing their identities and flourishing in their own skins!

Children’s Books

Middle Grade

the cover of The Real Riley Mayes

The Real Riley Mayes by Rachel Elliott (Queer Middle Grade)

Funny and full of heart, this debut graphic novel is a story about friendship, identity, and embracing all the parts of yourself that make you special.  

Fifth grade is just not Riley’s vibe. Everyone else is squaded up—except Riley. Her best friend moved away. All she wants to do is draw, and her grades show it.

One thing that makes her happy is her favorite comedian, Joy Powers. Riley loves to watch her old shows and has memorized her best jokes. So when the class is assigned to write letters to people they admire, of course Riley’s picking Joy Powers!

Things start to look up when a classmate, Cate, offers to help Riley with the letter, and a new kid, Aaron, actually seems to get her weird sense of humor. But when mean girl Whitney spreads a rumor about her, things begin to click into place for Riley. Her curiosity about Aaron’s two dads and her celebrity crush on Joy Powers suddenly make more sense.

Readers will respond to Riley’s journey of self-discovery and will recognize themselves in this character who is less than perfect but trying her best. And creative kids will recognize themselves in her love of art and drawing.

While often funny and light, Riley’s exploration of what it feels to be an outsider and how hard it can be to make a friend break your heart in the best way. And with all of Riley’s hijinks and missteps, this story is laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish.

the cover of Fight and Flight

Fight + Flight by Jules Machias (Sapphic Middle Grade Contemporary)

Avery Hart lives for the thrill and speed of her dirt bike and the pounding thump of her drum kit. But after she’s diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a disease that affects her joints, Avery splits her time between endless physical therapy and worrying that her fun and independence are over for good.

Sarah Bell is familiar with worry, too. For months, she’s been having intense panic attacks. No matter how much she pours her anxiety into making art, she can’t seem to get a grip on it, and she’s starting to wonder if she’ll be this way forever.

Just as both girls are reaching peak fear about what their futures hold, their present takes a terrifying turn when their school is seemingly attacked by gunmen. Though they later learn it was an active shooter drill, the traumatic experience bonds the girls together in a friendship that will change the way they view their perceived weaknesses—and help them find strength, and more, in each other.

the cover of The Science of Being Angry

The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby (Sapphic Middle Grade)

Eleven-year-old Joey is angry. All the time. And she doesn’t understand why. She has two loving moms, a supportive older half brother, and, as a triplet, she’s never without company. Her life is good. But sometimes she loses her temper and lashes out, like the time she threw a soccer ball—hard—at a boy in gym class and bruised his collarbone. Or when jealousy made her push her (former) best friend (and crush), Layla, a little bit too roughly.

After a meltdown at Joey’s apartment building leads to her family’s eviction, Joey is desperate to figure out why she’s so mad. A new unit in science class makes her wonder if the reason is genetics. Does she lose control because of something she inherited from the donor her mothers chose?

The Science of Being Angry is a heartwarming story about what makes a family and what makes us who we are from an author whose works are highly praised for their presentation of and insights into the emotional lives of tweens.

the cover of Our Sister, Again

Our Sister, Again by Sophie Cameron (Sapphic Middle Grade Sci Fi) (UK Release)

On a small island off the Scottish coast, Isla and her family are grieving the loss of her older sister Flora, who died three years ago. Then they’re offered the chance to be part of a top-secret trial, which revives loved ones as fully lifelike AI robots using their digital footprint.

Isla has her doubts about Second Chances, but they evaporate the moment the ‘new’ Flora arrives. This girl is not some uncanny close likeness; she is Flora – a perfect replica. But not everyone on their island feels the same. And as the threats to Flora mount, she grows distant and more secretive. Will Isla be able to protect the new Flora and bring the community back together?

the cover of The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights

Picture Books

the cover of ‘Twas the Night Before Pride

‘Twas the Night Before Pride by Joanna McClintick and Juana Medina (Picture Book)

A glittering celebration of queer families puts Pride gently in perspective—honoring those in the LGBTQ+ community who fought against injustice and inequality.

Pride’s . . . a day that means “Together, we are strong!”

This joyful picture-book homage to a day of community and inclusion—and to the joys of anticipation—is also a comprehensive history. With bright, buoyant illustrations and lyrical, age-appropriate rhyme modeled on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” it tackles difficult content such as the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS marches. On the night before Pride, families everywhere are preparing to partake. As one family packs snacks and makes signs, an older sibling shares the importance of the march with the newest member of the family. Reflecting on the day, the siblings agree that the best thing about Pride is getting to be yourself. Debut author Joanna McClintick and Pura Belpré Award–winning author-illustrator Juana Medina create a new classic that pays homage to the beauty of families of all compositions—and of all-inclusive love.

the cover of The Rainbow Parade by Emily Neilson

The Rainbow Parade by Emily Neilson (Two Moms Pride Picture Book)

A sweet and celebratory story of a family’s first time at Pride

One day in June, Mommy, Mama, and Emily take the train into the city to watch the Rainbow Parade. The three of them love how all the people in the street are so loud, proud, and colorful, but when Mama suggests they join the parade, Emily feels nervous. Standing on the sidewalkis one thing, but walking in the parade? Surely that takes something special.
 
This joyful and affirming picture book about a family’s first Pride parade, reminds all readers that sometimes pride takes practice and there’s no “one way” to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Nonfiction

the cover of Brace for Impact

Brace for Impact: A Memoir by Gabe Montesanti (Queer Memoir)

Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. When she enters graduate school in St. Louis, she is determined to put the baggage of her childhood behind her. With no prior experience, she joins Arch Rival, one of the top-ranked roller derby leagues in the world. Gabe instantly falls in love with the sport’s roughness, intensity, and open embrace of people who are literally and figuratively scarred. She soon finds community and a sense of belonging, reveling in the tattoos, glitter, and campiness. 

But when Gabe suffers a catastrophic injury, she can no longer ignore the parallels between the physicality of roller derby and the unresolved trauma of her upbringing. Rendered inactive, forced to be still, Gabe realizes she needs to heal her emotional wounds as much as her physical ones; she must confront her fear and self-diminishment in order to feel truly alive.

Told with unflinching honesty and a giant dose of wonder, Brace for Impact is a tender, inspiring memoir about the everyday heroism of pursuing a life less ordinary, and the deeply human need to be at peace with who you are.

the cover of Ma and Me

Ma and Me: A Memoir by Putsata Reang (Lesbian Memoir)

“This openhearted memoir . . . opens the door to include queer descendants of war survivors into the growing American library of love.” ―Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show

When Putsata Reang was eleven months old, her family fled war-torn Cambodia, spending twenty-three days on an overcrowded navy vessel before finding sanctuary at an American naval base in the Philippines. Holding what appeared to be a lifeless baby in her arms, Ma resisted the captain’s orders to throw her bundle overboard. Instead, on landing, Ma rushed her baby into the arms of American military nurses and doctors, who saved the child’s life. “I had hope, just a little, you were still alive,” Ma would tell Put in an oft-repeated story that became family legend.

Over the years, Put lived to please Ma and make her proud, hustling to repay her life debt by becoming the consummate good Cambodian daughter, working steadfastly by Ma’s side in the berry fields each summer and eventually building a successful career as an award-winning journalist. But Put’s adoration and efforts are no match for Ma’s expectations. When she comes out to Ma in her twenties, it’s just a phase. When she fails to bring home a Khmer boyfriend, it’s because she’s not trying hard enough. When, at the age of forty, Put tells Ma she is finally getting married―to a woman―it breaks their bond in two.

In her startling memoir, Reang explores the long legacy of inherited trauma and the crushing weight of cultural and filial duty. With rare clarity and lyric wisdom, Ma and Me is a stunning, deeply moving memoir about love, debt, and duty.

the cover of The Women's House of Detention

The Women’s House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison by Hugh Ryan (Queer Nonfiction)

This singular history of a prison, and the queer women and trans people held there, is a window into the policing of queerness and radical politics in the twentieth century.

The Women’s House of Detention, a landmark that ushered in the modern era of women’s imprisonment, is now largely forgotten. But when it stood in New York City’s Greenwich Village, from 1929 to 1974, it was a nexus for the tens of thousands of women, transgender men, and gender-nonconforming people who inhabited its crowded cells. Some of these inmates—Angela Davis, Andrea Dworkin, Afeni Shakur—were famous, but the vast majority were incarcerated for the crimes of being poor and improperly feminine. Today, approximately 40 percent of the people in women’s prisons identify as queer; in earlier decades, that percentage was almost certainly higher.

Historian Hugh Ryan explores the roots of this crisis and reconstructs the little-known lives of incarcerated New Yorkers, making a uniquely queer case for prison abolition—and demonstrating that by queering the Village, the House of D helped defined queerness for the rest of America. From the lesbian communities forged through the Women’s House of Detention to the turbulent prison riots that presaged Stonewall, this is the story of one building and much more: the people it caged, the neighborhood it changed, and the resistance it inspired.

the cover of Queer Ducks (And Other Animals)

Queer Ducks (And Other Animals): The Natural World of Sexuality by Eliot Schrefer (Nonfiction)

This groundbreaking illustrated YA nonfiction title from two-time National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Eliot Schrefer is a well-researched and teen-friendly exploration of the gamut of queer behaviors observed in animals.

A quiet revolution has been underway in recent years, with study after study revealing substantial same-sex sexual behavior in animals. Join celebrated author Eliot Schrefer on an exploration of queer behavior in the animal world—from albatrosses to bonobos to clownfish to doodlebugs.

In sharp and witty prose—aided by humorous comics from artist Jules Zuckerberg—Schrefer uses science, history, anthropology, and sociology to illustrate the diversity of sexual behavior in the animal world. Interviews with researchers in the field offer additional insights for readers and aspiring scientists.

Queer behavior in animals is as diverse and complex—and as natural—as it is in our own species. It doesn’t set us apart from animals—it bonds us even closer to our animal selves.

the cover of Don't You Dare
the cover of By Your Side
the cover of You Still Look the Same

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Danika reviews She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

the cover of She Gets the Girl

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Do you want to read a fun and absorbing new adult F/F romance written by a wife/wife author team? Of course you do. So you can probably stop reading the review now. Go ahead and grab it.

This follows two point of view characters: Alex and Molly. Alex is a flirt who doesn’t take anything too seriously, which is why her on-again off-again girlfriend, Natalie, doesn’t trust her while she’s touring. Alex has promised to make platonic friends and stop flirting with every queer girl she sees, it will be an uphill battle to convince Natalie.

Meanwhile, Molly has had a crush on Cora since they were in high school together. Now, they’re starting at the same university, but she still can’t seem to get up the courage to ask her out. Or talk to her at all. That’s where Alex comes in, who promises to teach Molly how to get the girl. At least, she will if Molly promises to serve as a platonic friend reference at the end of this.

They quickly rub each other the wrong way, especially when Cora swoons over Alex. They have diametrically opposed personalities and are constantly bickering over the best course of action.

This has aspects of a Cyrano story: Alex is trying to get Molly together with Cora, but their relationship keeps deepening. They begin to confide in each other, perhaps because this odd arrangement allows them to be more vulnerable. Alex talks about financially supporting her alcoholic mother and how she’s worried that she won’t be able to keep her safe now that she’s not living at home.

Meanwhile, Molly’s relationship with her mom has also changed: they used to be each other’s best friends, but Molly is trying to find some independence and resents her mother for not letting her go. Molly’s mom is also a Korean adoptee who internalized a lot of racism in her upbringing, which is hard for Molly to deal with as a mixed race person.

I actually wish we had a little bit more time with both of these subplots, because there are big, thorny topics that don’t have a lot of space to be explored in this story. We only get a handful of lines devoted to either Molly’s or Alex’s moms, and the wrap-up of those plotlines feels a little abrupt.

But of course, this is a romance, and that’s where our attention is. I felt so much while reading this like I was watching a teen romantic comedy movie, including all the banter. (And yes, we get the cute rollerskating date promised by the front cover.)

This was compulsively readable. I would pick it up meaning to just read a chapter and resurface several chapters later. It’s a cute love story with some charmingly oblivious main characters who somehow don’t notice that they’re falling for each other. This is being marketed as YA, but it follows Alex and Molly as they start college

My only other complaint about this one is that I felt like it ended early. I wanted just a little bit more time with this couple. (Semi-spoiler, but not really because this is a romance: it ends immediately after they get together). I mean, they’re teenagers, so I’m not expecting to see their wedding, but I would have liked a glimpse into their more established relationship.

If you like sapphic romcoms, I definitely recommend this one.

This review was adapted from my review on the April 5th episode of All the Books.

New Sapphic Releases: Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Week!

The last Tuesday of the month is always a bit slower of a release day, so the collection today is small but mighty! It’s a release day for YA and middle grade fans (I’m especially interested in the middle grade book out today).

The descriptions included are the publishers’. Let me know if any of these are on your TBR!

Fiction

Like a House on Fire by Lauren McBrayer (F/F Fiction)

the cover of Like a House on Fire

What would you do if you found the spark that made you feel whole again?

After twelve years of marriage and two kids, Merit has begun to feel like a stranger in her own life. She loves her husband and sons, but she desperately needs something more than sippy cups and monthly sex. So, she returns to her career at Jager + Brandt, where a brilliant and beautiful Danish architect named Jane decides to overlook the “break” in Merit’s résumé and give her a shot.
 
Jane is a supernova—witty and dazzling and unapologetically herself—and as the two work closely together, their relationship becomes a true friendship. In Jane, Merit sees the possibility of what a woman could be. And Jane sees Merit exactly for who she is. Not the wife and mother dutifully performing the roles expected of her, but a whole person.
 
Their relationship quickly becomes a cornerstone in Merit’s life. And as Merit starts to open her mind to the idea of more—more of a partner, more of a match, more out of love—she begins to question: What if the love of her life isn’t the man she married. What if it’s Jane?

Young Adult

Arden Grey by Ray Stoeve (Sapphic YA Contemporary)

the cover of Arden Grey

An insightful, raw YA novel about a young photographer navigating toxic relationships and how they influence her identity

Sixteen-year-old Arden Grey is struggling. Her mother has left their family, her father and her younger brother won’t talk about it, and a classmate, Tanner, keeps harassing her about her sexuality—which isn’t even public. (She knows she likes girls romantically, but she thinks she might be asexual.) At least she’s got her love of film photography and her best and only friend, Jamie, to help her cope. Then Jamie, who is trans, starts dating Caroline, and suddenly he isn’t so reliable. Arden’s insecurity about their friendship grows. She starts to wonder if she’s jealous or if Jamie’s relationship with Caroline is somehow unhealthy—and it makes her reconsider how much of her relationship with her absent mom wasn’t okay, too. Filled with big emotions, first loves, and characters navigating toxic relationships, Ray Stoeve’s honest and nuanced novel is about finding your place in the world and seeking out the love and community that you deserve.

Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil (Sapphic YA Thriller)

the cover of Dig Two Graves

One of Us is Lying meets Hitchcock in this novel from celebrated author of the #MurderTrending series, Gretchen McNeil.

I did my part, BFF. Now it’s your turn.

Seventeen-year-old film noir fan Neve Lanier is a girl who just wants to be seen, but doesn’t really fit in anywhere. When Neve is betrayed by her best friend, Yasmin, at the end of the school year, she heads off to a girl’s empowerment camp feeling like no one will ever love her again. So when she grabs the attention of the beautiful, charismatic Diane, she falls right under her spell, and may accidentally promise to murder Diane’s predatory step-brother, Javier, in exchange for Diane murdering Yasmin. But that was just a joke…right?

Wrong. When Yasmin turns up dead, Diane comes calling, attempting to blackmail Neve into murdering Javier. Stalling for time, Neve pretends to go along with Diane’s plan until she can find a way out that doesn’t involve homicide. But as she gets to know Javier – and falls for him – she realizes that everything Diane told her is a lie. Even worse, she discovers that Yasmin probably wasn’t Diane’s first victim. And unless Neve can stop her, she won’t be the last.

In this twisted game of cat and mouse, the reader never quite knows who’s telling the truth, who’s playing games, and who is going to end up dead.

Harley Quinn: Reckoning by Rachael Allen (Sapphic YA Fantasy)

the cover of Harley Quinn: Reckoning

In this new launch of a trilogy within the DC Icons universe, experience the origin story of a Super-Villain. This is the Harley Quinn backstory fans have been waiting for.
 

When Harleen Quinzel scores an internship in a psych lab at Gotham University, she’s more than ecstatic; she’s desperate to make a Big Scientific Discovery that will land her a full-ride college scholarship and get her away from her abusive father. But when Harleen witnesses the way women are treated across STEM departments–and experiences harassment herself–she decides that revenge and justice are more important than her own dreams. 

Harleen finds her place in an intoxicating vigilante girl gang called the Reckoning, who creates chaos to inspire change. And when Harleen falls for another girl in the gang, it finally seems like she’s found her true passions. But what starts off as pranks and mischief quickly turns deadly as one of the gang members is found murdered–and a terrifying conspiracy is uncovered that puts the life Harleen has worked so hard for at stake. Will she choose her future–or will she choose revenge?

In this refreshingly feminist spin on the story of our favorite villainess, Harley Quinn: Reckoning traces Harleen’s journey from precocious, revenge-obsessed teenage girl to a hardcore justice-seeker on her way to becoming the most captivating Super Villain of all time. This is one story that you won’t be able to put down.

Children’s Books

In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington (F/F Middle Grade Contemporary)

the cover of In the Key of Us

From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again.

Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi’s blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like she used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy, even though she secretly has a dancer’s heart.

At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hopes for the future. And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other.

In the Key of Us is a lyrical ode to music camp, the rush of first love, and the power of one life-changing summer.

Nonfiction

Reclaiming Two-Spirits Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America by Gregory D. Smithers (Two-Spirits Nonfiction)

the cover of Reclaiming Two-Spirits

A sweeping history of Indigenous traditions of gender, sexuality, and resistance that reveals how, despite centuries of colonialism, Two-Spirit people are reclaiming their place in Native nations.

Reclaiming Two-Spirits decolonizes the history of gender and sexuality in Native North America. It honors the generations of Indigenous people who had the foresight to take essential aspects of their cultural life and spiritual beliefs underground in order to save them.

Before 1492, hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both. They went by aakíí’skassimiatiokitcitakwe,or one of hundreds of other tribally specific identities. After European colonizers invaded Indian Country, centuries of violence and systematic persecution followed, imperiling the existence of people who today call themselves Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person.

Drawing on written sources, archaeological evidence, art, and oral storytelling, Reclaiming Two-Spirits spans the centuries from Spanish invasion to the present, tracing massacres and inquisitions and revealing how the authors of colonialism’s written archives used language to both denigrate and erase Two-Spirit people from history. But as Gregory Smithers shows, the colonizers failed—and Indigenous resistance is core to this story. Reclaiming Two-Spirits amplifies their voices, reconnecting their history to Native nations in the 21st century.

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

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

New Sapphic Releases: Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Week!

a graphic showing a book and the text Sapphic New Releases: Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Week

My laptop broke (I’m currently borrowing my roommate’s), so I didn’t get this the April new releases out in time, unfortunately. Last week had a ton of amazing releases, though, including She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick (F/F YA Romance), Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk (F/F YA Contemporary), Burning Butch by R/B Mertz (Nonbinary Butch Memoir), Beast at Every Threshold by Natalie Wee (Queer Poetry), and Burning My Roti: Breaking Barriers as a Queer Indian Woman by Sharan Dhaliwal (Memoir), so don’t miss those either!

While last week had one of the biggest publishing days of the year, this week is a little more relaxed, but still has some sapphic releases you should have on your radar. Let me know what you’re excited to read this week!

Fiction

Violets by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Anton Hur (Sapphic Fiction)

the cover of Violets

By Man Asian Literary Prize winner Kyung-Sook Shin, “a moving delve into a lonely psyche” that follows a neglected young woman’s search for human connection in contemporary Seoul (YZ Chin).

San is twenty-two and alone when she happens upon a job at a flower shop in Seoul’s bustling city center. Haunted by childhood rejection, she stumbles through life—painfully vulnerable, stifled, and unsure. She barely registers to others, especially by the ruthless standards of 1990s South Korea.

Over the course of one hazy, volatile summer, San meets a curious cast of characters: the nonspeaking shop owner, a brash coworker, quiet farmers, and aggressive customers. Fueled by a quiet desperation to jump-start her life, she plunges headfirst into obsession with a passing magazine photographer.

In Violets, best-selling author Kyung-Sook Shin explores misogyny, erasure, and repressed desire, as San desperately searches for both autonomy and attachment in the unforgiving reality of contemporary Korean society.

Romance

No Rings Attached by Rachel Lacey (F/F Romance)

the cover of No Rings Attached

Lia Harris is tired of being the odd one out. She’s never quite fit in with her uptight family, and now that her roommates have all found love, she’s starting to feel like a third wheel in her own apartment. Fed up with her mother’s constant meddling in her love life, Lia drops hints about a girlfriend she doesn’t have. But with her brother’s London nuptials approaching, she needs to find a date to save face. Lia turns to her best friend, Rosie, for help, and Rosie delivers―with the fun, gorgeous Grace Poston.

Grace loves to have a good time, hiding her insecurities behind a sunny smile. Her recent move to London has provided her with a much-needed fresh start. Grace isn’t looking for love, and she hates weddings, having weathered more than her fair share of heartache. Friendships are different, though, so for Rosie’s sake, she reluctantly agrees to pose as Lia’s adoring girlfriend for the wedding festivities.

Both Grace and Lia are prepared for an awkward weekend, complete with prying family members and a guest room with only one bed. As it turns out, they get along well―spectacularly, in fact. Before they know it, the chemistry they’re faking feels all too real. But is their wedding weekend a fleeting performance or the rehearsal for a love that’s meant to last?

Restrained Desires by Katherine McIntyre (Lesbian and Bi F/F Fake Dating Romance)

the cover of Restrained Desires

One rule: don’t fall for your best friend’s straight sister. Especially not when she’s pretending to be your fake girlfriend.

Chelsea Moore is officially divorced from her asshole husband, and after wasting her early twenties putting up with his shit, she’s burning to get out there and play the field—especially a certain kinkier side he made her feel like garbage about.

Kyle Walker’s terrified to put herself out there. According to her mother, she doesn’t have the looks to hook anyone, but what makes it worse is that her dating history falls in line. However, when her family tries to claim she’s not really a lesbian, she tells them she’s bringing her girlfriend to Christmas. Only problem? She doesn’t have one.

In comes sexy, newly divorced, and straight Chelsea Moore to the rescue—her best friend Aubrey’s little sister. She’s doing Kyle a favor—like any friend would—except Kyle’s half in love with her from the moment they start hanging out. All too soon those lines begin to blur—lingering touches, flirting, kissing…. And when they connect on kink and begin hooking up, that’s when Kyle knows she’s screwed.

Chelsea might have Aubrey to protect her heart, but Kyle could lose both her best friend and the only woman who’s made her feel like she’s worth more.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

The Language of Roses by Heather Rose Jones (Queer Beauty and the Beast Retelling)

the cover of The Language of Roses

A Beauty. A Beast. A Curse. This is not the story you know.

Join author Heather Rose Jones on a new and magical journey into the heart of a familiar fairytale. Meet Alys, eldest daughter of a merchant, a merchant who foolishly plucks a rose from a briar as he flees from the home of a terrifying fay Beast and his seemingly icy sister. Now Alys must pay the price to save his life and allow the Beast, the once handsome Philippe, to pay court to her.

But Alys has never fallen in love with anyone; how can she love a Beast? The fairy Peronelle, waiting in the woods to see the culmination of her curse, is sure that she will fail. Yet, if she does, Philippe’s sister Grace and her beloved Eglantine, trapped in an enchanted briar in the garden, will pay a terrible price. Unless Alys can find another way…

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Danika reviews Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman

the cover of Acts of Service

I think that first I have to get the thing I want, and maybe then I can figure out why I wanted it, or whether it’s good.

This was a frustrating reading experience.

The main problem I had was that the questions it raised were ones I’m invested in, and conversations I want to see more of in literature. But while there were glimmers of insight and memorable lines, ultimately it felt like these ideas meandered around in circles, eventually petering out without making any real statement.

At first, I was enthralled by this story. Eve is a messy, deeply flawed character, and we spend a lot of time inside her head as she processes. She had a girlfriend, but she feels unfulfilled. What she really wants, underneath any noble façade, is to be fucked. Preferably by a lot of people. She wants her body, which she knows meets beauty standards, to be admired. So she posts naked photos of herself on the internet, which leads to her having a tumultuous, confusing relationship with Nathan and Olivia.

She originally meets Olivia, and she’s who Eve is interested in—but then Olivia insists she needs to meet Nathan. Olivia adores Nathan, who is also her boss. Despite Eve’s reservations, she is pulled under his spell, and finds herself validated by how he treats her, how they both value sex in the same way. Even as she worries for Olivia, she can’t help but compete with her for Nathan’s attention (yes, while she keeps this from her girlfriend).

This is a deeply introspective novel, with Eve constantly questioning what she’s doing and how it fits into her supposed values—but she never seems to get much below the surface or come to any conclusions.

Most men seemed hardly to exist for me, except nebulously, as acquaintances or obstacles. And then, occasionally, in the presence of a man who exuded power, I would feel a kind of weightlessness; I could feel myself growing soft and dimpling amiably under even a light touch of his attention. This was a truth so inadmissible in my life that I insisted even to myself that it was not the case.

Early on in the novel, there were moments that felt uncomfortably as if it’s peeled part of me away as a reader, exposing a thought or feeling I’d rather not admit to, even if, oddly, I related more to Eve’s girlfriend Romi than her.

I enjoy reading about complicated, flawed female main characters, so I enjoyed this insight into Eve. She feels like she’s trying to hold back her true nature, the parts of her that are vain and petty and selfish, resulting in these thousand tiny sacrifices for some indistinct noble cause. She puts Romi on a pedestal, who “so often wanted exactly what it seemed she was supposed to want and then enjoyed it once she got it.” She values their relationship because she wants to be deserving of that or to aspire to being the kind of person Romi is—without really recognizing Romi as a complete, flawed human being in herself.

Queerness rose in my life like a faith: When I came to New York I found there were shared beliefs, shared systems, not among all queer people but among a set to whom queerness meant a specific type of ethical awareness. Here was how I would know what was good to want.

Eve spends a lot of time thinking about sexuality, and specifically the difference between being with a man and being with a woman, and honestly… I found a lot of it perplexing. For one thing, she seems to think being with only one gender is boring or means you’re not truly living, but because she’s so flawed, I’m not expecting to agree with her on a lot. But there are a few ideas that this novel returns to over and over that got under my skin.

One is the assertion that being with women is both natural—that’s who Eve is usually attracted to—and awkward. That women who date are always circling each other, waiting for someone else to make the first move. That it’s exhausting, that you’re always “wondering who will make the first move, what it means to make the first move, what it means to want something as a woman, let alone to want another girl.”

It’s a common sapphic joke that we have trouble making the first move, of course. But the idea that when dating another woman you are left wondering “what it means to want something as a woman” is puzzling to me. I admittedly haven’t dated many men, but I found it much easier and more intuitive to navigate dating women and non-binary people, personally. But this idea that it’s somehow tiring to date women is returned to several times in the book, including being echoed by Romi.

So I’m supposed to think I can’t damage myself, that things don’t hurt me, if I choose them, if I see them clearly?

Ultimately, I lost interest in this story about halfway through as it just rehashed the Olivia/Nathan/Eve dynamic, which didn’t change much throughout. Eve enjoys being dominated and then feels guilty about it, but keeps coming back to it.

I wanted more depth to the conversations about power dynamics in sex, but they never really went anywhere. While what all three of them are participating in is BDSM, Nathan is disdainful of BDSM practices like negotiations or safe words. He seems to think they ruin the fun and mystery, and that he’s above all that.

There’s also something embarrassing about watching these two women obsess over what felt like a boring character. Nathan is just a rich, arrogant white guy. He doesn’t really seem to have any other personality traits. Both Eve and Olivia seem to treat what he’s offering them as something precious and rare, but power play is not unusual. There are many, many people who will fulfill sexual desires for humiliation, domination, and power play, but with bonuses like aftercare! Conversation! Respect for you as a multifaceted human being!

The more the story went on, the more frustrated I was at these rich people acting as if their awkward sex life was somehow novel or profound or… well, not boring. Yes, it’s easy to replicate gender norms, and it can even feel natural, because you’ve been trained into it from birth. That’s not particularly insightful or interesting.

It’s not just that Nathan is an asshole, of course: they’re all meant to be messy, deeply flawed people. It’s that I don’t see the appeal in any way. The things he says are so transparent that I don’t understand why Eve—who does occasionally challenge him and does ask questions about other details—doesn’t see through them.

For example, Nathan tells Eve, “I’ve always respected what you wanted—not just respected it but intuited it, discovered it, given it to you, in fact. Isn’t that true?” But “intuiting” is not above “respecting,” it’s below it. “Intuiting” is guessing what people want and doing that. You might be right. But you could be wrong. And just because you’ve successfully guessed before doesn’t mean your intuition of someone else’s desires should be valued above what they’re stating about what they want.

I found this book so frustrating because I was invested. I was interested in what it was doing. I just felt let down by where it ended up. It had moments of insight, but those didn’t feel worth reading a whole novel about two women idolizing this insufferable guy.

This is one of those books that leaves me feeling like I must be missing something. It feels like this is a novel that has something to say about sex and gender and queerness, but I could not tell you what it is. That sexual desire doesn’t always align with politics? Well, sure. That gender norms are easy to fall into? Can’t argue with that. That we can find pleasure even in unhealthy relationships? Yep.

I just wanted something more, and I kept waiting for it to end in a way that brought meaning to the experience, but it felt more like it fizzled out. I fully accept that I may just be missing the point entirely, and if you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Follow the Lesbrary on TikTok!

Did you know the Lesbrary (or at least, Danika, the Head Lesbrarian) has a TikTok? I’m still getting the hang of it, but you can check out my lesbian pulp fiction collection in the latest one!

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My lesbian pulp collection! Let me know if you’d like to see any of these a little more in depth, or if you want to see my lesbian pulp magnets, painting, etc. #sapphicbooks #lesbianpulpfiction

♬ Boyfriend – Dove Cameron

Let me know your favourite sapphic BookTok accounts to follow! I’m always looking for more. I’ve also been toying with the idea of doing a weekly-ish round up of some of my favorite sapphic BookToks that I’ve seen lately–would you be interested in that? Let me know in the comments!