Danika reviews Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia HibbertThis is an F/M romance with a bisexual main character.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t read a lot of M/F romance. Truthfully, I don’t even read a lot of F/F romance–which is often surprising to people who think queer books are all romance novels. I am, however, much more likely to read an M/F romance with a bi woman main character, and when I saw that this audiobook was available through my library, I though I’d give it a shot. And I’m very glad I did, because this ended up being one of my favourite romance novels of all time. (With a male love interest! I know! It’s shocking! That’s just how good it is.)

Part of what I loved about this book was the main character. Dani Brown knows what she’s about: she is devoted to her job (teaching and researching lit), to the point that she may forget to do things like sleep or eat. She has no time for romance, and doesn’t think she’s the kind of person who does well in relationships. She doesn’t remember anniversaries. She is embarrassed by romantic gestures. What she does enjoy is sex, and she’s determined to find a fun, casual, purely sexual relationship.

Zafir is the (grouchy) security guard in the building she works at, and they chat every day. When Dani injures herself in a safety drill, Zafir sweeps her up and carries her outside. The moment goes viral, and Zafir asks Dani if they can fake date to promote his rugby charity for children. (Where he teaches about toxic masculinity and expressing your emotions and dealing with mental health issues!) Dani agrees, hoping that this can turn into a no-strings-attached arrangement–but it turns out that Zafir is a romantic, which makes things more complicated.

Here’s the thing about Dani: her full name is Danika. Which is my name. Have you ever listened to a romance audiobook with a main character who shares your name? I’m not ashamed to say I was blushing, but it is a bit of ego soothing to hear a narrator extol the brilliance and beauty of Danika. Dani is a fascinating main character, though. She and her sisters are witches, which isn’t something I’ve seen a lot in books. She’s also a compelling mix of self-confident and insecure. She thinks highly of herself, but she doesn’t believe that others would approve of her, especially in a romantic relationship. I also loved that she’s unapologetically sexual, especially as a fat woman. I was surprised how affecting it was to hear a round stomach described positively.

I didn’t plan to review this on the Lesbrary when I first started listening, but I ended up loving it so much that I had to share. I even liked Zafir! I appreciated that he’s a grouch, but also sensitive, romantic, and committed. They’re both complicated, with their own backstories–Zafir had a family tragedy and mental health crisis in his past, and has had to rebuild since. Dani has her own reasons for being insecure in relationships. They both feel like real, complex people, which makes their relationship all the more interesting.

[Spoiler, highlight to read:] I also loved that Danika doesn’t have to change to be in a relationship. She just needs someone who loves her for who she is. [end spoiler]

As for queer content, Dani states her bisexuality several times, and we do see her female ex, but it’s not a huge part of the plot. If you’re willing to take a risk on an M/F romance, though, make it this one.

Sinclair reviews The Solstice Gift by Avery Cassell 

The Solstice Gift by Avery Cassell

The Solstice Gift by Avery Cassell is a queer love story in the best sense of the words. It doesn’t follow the traditional, heterosexual tropes of how the two characters meet and following them through their courtship, but comes in with the love story well under way, and continues with new and radical sexcapades that bring the couple closer together, exploring identity, gender, sex, kink, and love in the process.

The couple, Behruz and Lucky (who you might already know from Cassell’s full-length novel Behruz Gets Lucky, reviewed on the Lesbrary by Anna), are older, both butch, very much in to all kinds of kinky fuckery, and come up with a new way to celebrate winter solstice: with a threesome. What starts as a one-off lark becomes an annual tradition, and becomes elaborate in its ritual and execution.

As a queer, kinky person myself, I loved Cassell’s descriptions of the negotiations, both from a non monogamous and a kink perspective. Cassell clearly knows about the genders, sexualities, open relationship philosophies, and kinks in this book. I love the elaborate references to queer and literary culture — many of which I didn’t understand, but I still like how that adds richness to the prose and feels like a conversational with queer and literary history. 

I love reading a queer book with characters who are older, and with a couple who are both butches. Despite more and more representation, graphic sexuality for folks who are over 40 is still rare, and butch/butch desire is not nearly as common as many other gender combinations. I also appreciate how easefully they navigate the openness of their relationship. The book doesn’t go into the envy, jealousy, or insecurities that can come up for open relationships, but I didn’t really miss that content. It just felt like it was more of a queer kinky fairy tale than a real-life depiction of what navigating threesomes is like (I don’t know about you, but in my experience, they are often sexually frustrating, feel incomplete, and end up with someone feeling left out). And sometimes, frankly, I just want the fairy tale version — I want everyone excited to be there, getting off, communicating with exquisite precision, and generally having a gay ol’ time. 

It’s a quick read, just over 100 pages, which makes it light enough to zoom through but still full of content and characters that have stayed with me. When I picked up the book again to make notes for this review, I caught myself just turning the pages, jumping in to yet another year’s solstice gift story, since it was so easy to pick it up again from any point and be hooked into the story. 

The Solstice Gift was the winner of the 2020 Pauline Reage Novel Award from the National Leather Association International.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 8, Leroy King and the Triple Daddies  (2017): 

Picking the Solstice Gift for 2017 turned out to be easy-peasy. That was the year that our ancient Subaru Forester, Ruby Tuesday, finally shuddered to a halt and nearly went into the Subaru graveyard in the sky, but we decided to put in a last-ditch effort to get it repaired. The owners of the shop we’d been going to, Gay’s Gearhead NoHo Car Repair, had retired, so we asked around for a new mechanic. The consensus was that King’s Automobile Services was the cat’s meow. King’s Automobile Services’ slogan was “King’s: Where queens are kings, kings are queens, and service reigns!”, and they were known for a series of peppy commercials that featured the owner, a dapper stud named Leroy King. Leroy looked to be in her mid-50s, had greying dreadlocks, a fondness for wearing a forest green bandanna as a neckerchief, ironed grey mechanic’s overalls with “King’s” embroidered in curly red script across her chest, deep-set dark eyes behind retro black eyeglasses, and a sparkling gold labrys inlaid in one of her front teeth.

Of course, we had other contenders, but Lucky and I were totally crushed out on Leroy and the others faded into the background like distant stars to Leroy, a luminous full moon. Yeah, we had it bad and this is how it went down.

Read the rest of the excerpt over on Avery Cassell’s site here.

Maybe it’s a little early to start thinking about your own solstice gifts, but if you know some queers who like books, kinky sex, ethical non-monogamy, and queer literary references, this will be a great treat. 

Buy it directly from Avery Cassell at their Etsy store (and pick up an embroidered bandana while you’re there, too).

Zoe reviews Beyond II: The Queer Post-Apocalyptic & Urban Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfé R. Monster and Taneka Stotts

Beyond II: The Queer Post-Apocalyptic and Urban Fantasy Comic Anthology

Beyond II: The Queer Post-Apocalyptic & Urban Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfe R. Monster and Taneka Stotts is the second of its series, following Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, both of which were highly successful Kickstarter projects. The preface, which never fails to make me tear up, reads “These stories are for you. You’re not alone. We’re so glad you’re with us. We’re so glad you’re here.” It sets the tone for the rest of the anthology.

The anthology includes 25 stories by 36 contributors, which range from cryptids in the sewers to strangers waiting out the acid rain in a post-apocalyptic world to a fairy on a quest to make her human lover dinner. Each story features a new artist and writer, so the styles vary significantly and there is never any sense of repeat. Each comic has a completely new take on the genre. One interprets urban fantasy as an ancient Greek Olympics with mythological creatures like minotaurs, and another represents the genre with a story about a satyr and a dryad babysitting the seven werewolf kids in the apartment below them.

What I found most valuable within this anthology is how it interrogates the apocalypse from a queer lens. We’re used to the apocalypse in our media as being a place of fear and despair, whether it be caused by zombies, nuclear explosions, or mysterious diseases. The main character’s objective is typically to survive rather than thrive. Beyond II asks, among all this wreckage and loss, where can we find the good? How do we reclaim spaces that have been denied to us? One of my favorites from the anthology, “Pilot Light” by Steve Foxe and Paul Reinwand, has a post-apocalyptic wandering hero sworn to destroy the monsters roaming the land finding her true purpose in found family at a queer-owned outpost.

The sheer diversity and ingenuity in each comic honestly made me interested in urban fantasy and post-apocalyptic stories again, where before I had tended to write them off as overdone or ineffective.

Within Sarah Stern’s story “Cuchulainn,” humans hide behind walls from ‘Bodachs,’ predatory robots. The plot revolves around a boy named Jestin who figures out how to tame one. It’s a story about sacrifice and redemption, and it ends on a bittersweet note. Though Jestin exists in a broken world, he still has room to hope and try to make it better.  Another story, “Time Will Tell” by Samantha Cox and Ria Martinez, follows a male/male couple who explore the overgrown remains of our world, and in the process rescue a baby monster. The world is undeniably wounded, possibly even dying, but the focus is on the love between the two main characters. Beyond II is the kind of book where you didn’t know how much you were missing until you read it. If you can’t tell from this review, I’m kind of obsessed with it.

Something I truly appreciate about the anthology is the casual nature of representation. The stories are undeniably queer, but they aren’t about queer struggle. It doesn’t shy away from conflict, but that conflict is never based in homophobia or transphobia. In fact, the redeeming aspects of terrible situations is queer love. It also isn’t entirely about romantic love either. The book makes a statement about the importance of queer community in both happy and tragic circumstances. It declares that queer love is something that will save us all, even when everything is going wrong, and I, for one, agree. Beyond II is one of those books that makes you feel less alone. It gives you a sense of hope as well as entertainment, especially in these times where it seems as if everything is falling apart. It’s a celebratory anthology that revitalizes two genres that have often shunned queer people.

81 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

Bi & Lesbian Books Out in September!

Would you believe that more than 80 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.

Usually, I’d put the publisher’s descriptions, but with the amount of books coming out, it’s just too much! So I’ve highlighted a few of the books I’m most interested in, but click through to see the other titles’ blurbs!

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!

Young Adult Contemporary

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemoreMiss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore

A gorgeous and magical collaboration between two critically acclaimed, powerhouse YA authors offers a richly imagined underdog story perfect for fans of Dumplin’ and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history.

But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands.

So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.

[Pansexual main character]

Who I Was with Her by Nita TyndallWho I Was with Her by Nita Tyndall

There are two things that Corinne Parker knows to be true: that she is in love with Maggie Bailey, the captain of the rival high school’s cross-country team and her secret girlfriend of a year, and that she isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s bisexual.

But then Maggie dies, and Corinne quickly learns that the only thing worse than losing Maggie is being left heartbroken over a relationship no one knows existed. And to make things even more complicated, the only person she can turn to is Elissa — Maggie’s ex, and the single person who understands how Corinne is feeling.

As Corinne struggles to make sense of her grief and what she truly wants out of life, she begins to have feelings for the last person she should fall for. But to move forward after losing Maggie, Corinne will have to learn to be honest with the people in her life… starting with herself.

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh    Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour  Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos  Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos

YA Sci Fi and Fantasy

Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. ParkerVampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite edited by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker (YA Anthology)

Eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices!

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out—and going out for their first kill—and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.

Welcome to the evolution of the vampire—and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.

[includes sapphic stories]

The Art of Saving the World by Corinne DuyvisThe Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis (YA Sci Fi)

One girl and her doppelgangers try to stop the end of the world in this YA sci-fi adventure

When Hazel Stanczak was born, an interdimensional rift tore open near her family’s home, which prompted immediate government attention. They soon learned that if Hazel strayed too far, the rift would become volatile and fling things from other dimensions onto their front lawn—or it could swallow up their whole town. As a result, Hazel has never left her small Pennsylvania town, and the government agents garrisoned on her lawn make sure it stays that way. On her sixteenth birthday, though, the rift spins completely out of control. Hazel comes face-to-face with a surprise: a second Hazel. Then another. And another. Three other Hazels from three different dimensions! Now, for the first time, Hazel has to step into the world to learn about her connection to the rift—and how to close it. But is Hazel—even more than one of her—really capable of saving the world?

[Asexual lesbian mc]

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke  Night Shine by Tessa Gratton  Iron Heart by Nina Varela  Forget This Ever Happened by Cassandra Rose Clarke   Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Middle Grade & Children’s

Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonaldPepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald (Middle Grade)

Nancy Drew meets Harriet the Spy in this action-packed and heartfelt debut middle grade following an overzealous amateur sleuth as she investigates a shocking family secret—and unravels the mystery of her developing feelings for girls.

Rule One: Your loyalty is to the case.

Amateur detective Pepper Blouse has always held true to this rule, even if it meant pushing people away. But when the results of Pepper’s latest case cost her any hope of the girl she likes returning her feelings, she decides that maybe she should lay low for a while.

That is, until her Great Aunt Florence passes away under mysterious circumstances. And even though her dad insists there’s nothing to investigate, Pepper can’t just ignore rule fourteen: Trust your gut.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that could’ve prepared her for the family secrets her investigation uncovers.

Maybe it’s time to stop playing by the rules.

Jo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen GrosJo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen Gros (Middle Grade Graphic Novel)

A modern-day graphic novel adaptation of Little Women that explores identity, friendships, and new experiences through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Jo March. A must-read for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

With the start of eighth grade, Jo March decides it’s time to get serious about her writing and joins the school newspaper. But even with her new friend Freddie cheering her on, becoming a hard-hitting journalist is a lot harder than Jo imagined.

That’s not all that’s tough. Jo and her sisters—Meg, Beth, and Amy—are getting used to a new normal at home, with their dad deployed overseas and their mom, a nurse, working overtime.

And while it helps to hang out with Laurie, the boy who just moved next door, things get complicated when he tells Jo he has feelings for her. Feelings that Jo doesn’t have for him…or for any boy. Feelings she’s never shared with anyone before. Feelings that Jo might have for Freddie.

What does it take to figure out who you are? Jo March is about to find out.

The Legend of Korra Ruins of the Empire (Library Edition)  My Family, Your Family! by Kathryn Cole, illustrated by Cornelia Li 

Fiction

Bestiary by K-Ming ChangBestiary by K-Ming Chang

Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.

One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterward, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.

With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family’s history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.

A World Between by Emily HashimotoA World Between by Emily Hashimoto (Fiction/Romance)

A college fling between two women turns into a lifelong connection—and spells out a new kind of love story for a millennial, immigrant America.

“A sweetly poignant look at the transformative power of young love.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

In 2004, college students Eleanor Suzuki and Leena Shah meet in an elevator. Both girls are on the brink of adulthood, each full of possibility and big ideas, and they fall into a whirlwind romance. Years later, Eleanor and Leena collide on the streets of San Francisco. Although grown and changed and each separately partnered, the two find themselves, once again, irresistibly pulled back together.

Emily Hashimoto’s debut novel perfectly captures the wonder and confusion of growing up and growing closer. Narrated in sparkling prose, A World Between follows two strikingly different but interconnected women as they navigate family, female friendship, and their own fraught history.

Polar Vortex by Shani MootooPolar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

A novel reminiscent of the works of Herman Koch and Rachel Cusk, in which a lesbian couple attempts to escape the secrets of their pasts.

Polar Vortex is a seductive and tension-filled novel about Priya and Alex, a lesbian couple who left the big city to relocate to a bucolic countryside community. It seemed like a good way to leave their past behind and cement their newish, later-in-life relationship. But there’s leaving the past behind–and then there’s running away from awkward histories.

Priya has a secret–a long-standing, on-again, off-again relationship with a man, Prakash. In Priya’s mind Prakash is little more than an old friend, but in reality things are a bit complicated. Why has she never told Alex about him? Prakash has tracked Priya down in her new life, and before she realizes what she’s doing, she invites him to visit.

Alex is not pleased, and soon the existing cracks in their relationship widen, revealing secrets Alex herself would have preferred to keep. Into the fissure walks Prakash, whose own agenda forces all three to face the inevitable consequences of their choices.

Maiden Leap by C.M. Harris  https://amzn.to/2DHTjRd    Like a Bird by Fariha Róisín  Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain

The Testimony of Alys Twist by Suzannah Dunn   Barbed Wire by Erin Wade

Mystery & Thriller

Romance

Lovers Rock (Friends & Lovers 3) by Ava FreemanLovers Rock (Friends & Lovers 3) by Ava Freeman

Your favorite trio return for one last shot at winning it all in the game of love …

Alexis and Sera are finally on the other side of issues that would have broken a weaker relationship. Yet their bond has remained strong and their love for each other has seen them through it all. Now that they are settled, they want to take the next step: parenthood. Alexis thinks they’ve been through it all but this one might be the hardest yet.

Stevie has come to understand who she is and what she can offer in a relationship as well as what she needs in return. Now she just has to convince Chloe that she’s changed. When another woman enters the picture, she discovers what might be the missing link to making it all work.

As the end of her European tour fast approaches, Victoria is ready to hit the ground running. Seemingly overnight she’s become one of the most in demand photographers in the entertainment industry. Despite her success, she just wants to fill the void in her heart left by the one who got away, Savannah. Not ready to give up , she makes a last ditch effort to save what has the potential to be the greatest love she’s ever known.

The Holiday Detour by Jane KolvenThe Holiday Detour by Jane Kolven

Sometimes it takes everything going wrong to make you see how right things are.

Dana Gottfried is a stressed-out Jewish lesbian who’s just quit her job and wants to get home to see her grandmother. When her car breaks down in Indiana on Christmas Eve, Dana is stranded―until she’s rescued by Charlie, a pig farmer who doesn’t identify as male or female. Although they come from different worlds, Dana is intrigued by Charlie’s sense of humor and kindness. Despite her better judgment, Dana says yes when Charlie offers a ride.

But the journey home is paved with detours. From car accidents to scheming exgirlfriends to a snowy and deserted Chicago Loop, everything that could go wrong on their road trip does, but it leads Dana on a path of self-discovery that just might end in love.

[un]common Ground by Erica Abbott  Too Hot to Ride by Andrews & Austin  Just One Taste by CJ Birch  Passion's Sweet Surrender by Ronica Black  It's in Her Kiss (Midnight in Manhattan, #2) by Rachel Lacey

The Wrong Date by Sienna Waters  Last Resort by Angie Williams 

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Stone and Steel by Eboni DunbarStone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar (Fantasy)

In Stone and Steel, when General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.

Stone and Steel is a sharp and sexy story of love, loyalty and magic. Eboni has given us a world where Black Queerness reigns supreme, and our world is better for it.” — Danny Lore, co-author of Queen of Bad Dreams

This queer, elementally themed world should appeal to fans of Laurie J. Marks’ Elemental Logic series.” — Booklist

This will be an easy pick for anyone looking for queer, Black speculative fiction—and for fantasy fans more broadly.” — Publishers Weekly

Master of Poisons by Andrea HairstonMaster of Poisons by Andrea Hairston (Fantasy)

“This is a prayer hymn, a battle cry, a lovesong, a legendary call and response bonfire talisman tale. This is medicine for a broken world.” —Daniel José Older

Award-winning author Andrea Hairston weaves together African folktales and postcolonial literature into unforgettable fantasy in Master of Poisons

The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.

Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.

Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.

Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will bleed your mind with its turns of phrase and leave you aching for the world it burns into being.

[Bisexual characters]

Burning Roses by S.L HuangBurning Roses by S.L Huang (Fantasy)

From Hugo Award Winner S. L. Huang

“S. L. Huang is amazing.”―Patrick Rothfuss

Burning Roses is a gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, for fans of Zen Cho and JY Yang.

Rosa, also known as Red Riding Hood, is done with wolves and woods.

Hou Yi the Archer is tired, and knows she’s past her prime.

They would both rather just be retired, but that’s not what the world has ready for them.

When deadly sunbirds begin to ravage the countryside, threatening everything they’ve both grown to love, the two must join forces. Now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, they begin a quest that’s a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.

[lesbian main characters]

Architects of Memory by Karen OsborneArchitects of Memory by Karen Osborne (Science Fiction)

Millions died after the first contact. An alien weapon holds the key to redemption―or annihilation. Experience Karen Osborne’s unforgettable science fiction debut, Architects of Memory.

SyFY Wire SFF Reads to pick up in September

Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure. When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.

[Bisexual main character, f/f romance]

Hench by Natalie Zina WalschotsHench by Natalie Zina Walschots (Superheros)

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.

Glitter + Ashes cover  Broken Reign (The Odium Trilogy #2) by Sam Ledel   Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling   Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart  Lady of Stone by Barbara Ann Wright

Comics & Manga

The Contradictions by Sophie YanowThe Contradictions by Sophie Yanow (Comics)

The Eisner Award–winning story about a student figuring out radical politics in a messy world

Sophie is young and queer and into feminist theory. She decides to study abroad, choosing Paris for no firm reason beyond liking French comics. Feeling a bit lonely and out of place, she’s desperate for community and a sense of belonging. She stumbles into what/who she’s looking for when she meets Zena. An anarchist student-activist committed to veganism and shoplifting, Zena offers Sophie a whole new political ideology that feels electric. Enamored―of Zena, of the idea of living more righteously―Sophie finds herself swept up in a whirlwind friendship that blows her even further from her rural California roots as they embark on a disastrous hitchhiking trip to Amsterdam and Berlin, full of couch surfing, drug tripping, and radical book fairs.

Capturing that time in your life where you’re meeting new people and learning about the world―when everything feels vital and urgent―The Contradictions is Sophie Yanow’s fictionalized coming-of-age story. Sophie’s attempts at ideological purity are challenged time and again, putting into question the plausibility of a life of dogma in a world filled with contradictions. Keenly observed, frank, and very funny, The Contradictions speaks to a specific reality while also being incredibly relatable, reminding us that we are all imperfect people in an imperfect world.

Éclair Rouge A Girls’ Love Anthology That Resonates in Your HeartÉclair Rouge: A Girls’ Love Anthology That Resonates in Your Heart (Manga)

The emotions of girls burn bright, but love can be especially intense…Éclair is back in this fourth installment with an exciting new collection of impassioned romances. With chapters from returning artists like Canno (Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl) and Kabocha (Kemono Friends à la Carte), plus fresh additions like Akiko Morishima (The Conditions of Paradise), this volume is sure to thrill.

 

 

Devil Within by Stephanie Phillips, Maan House, Dee Cunniffe  Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out, So I Teamed Up With a Mythical Sorceress! Vol. 2 by Ameko Kaeruda, illustrated by Kazutomo Miya, translated by Molly Lee  If I Could Reach You, Volume 5 by tMnR

Poetry

The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia by Aditi Angiras and Akhil KatyalThe World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia by Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal (Poetry)

This first-of-its-kind anthology brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas.The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host of new poets. The themes range from desire and loneliness, sexual intimacy and struggles, caste and language, activism both on the streets and in the homes, the role of family both given and chosen, and heartbreaks and heartjoins. Writing from Bangalore, Baroda, Benares, Boston, Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Delhi, Dublin, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lahore, London, New York City, and writing in languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Manipuri, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and, of course, English, the result is an urgent, imaginative and beautiful testament to the diversity, politics, aesthetics and ethics of queer life in South Asia today.

Semiotics: Poems by Chekwube Danladi 

Nonfiction

If These Ovaries Could Talk by Jaimie Kelton and Robin HopkinsIf These Ovaries Could Talk: The Things We’ve Learned About Making An LGBTQ Family by Jaimie Kelton and Robin Hopkins (Nonfiction)

JAIMIE KELTON and ROBIN HOPKINS, the creators and hosts of the popular podcast If These Ovaries Could Talk, realized the world needed to know there was more than one way to make an LGBTQ family. Each of their families came about in different ways, so how many other stories were out there? Turns out, lots. Inspired, the two friends launched their podcast asking LGTBQ families every question imaginable about their journeys to parenthood.

Now the two hosts have written a book based on dozens of interviews to help address recurring questions that came up during their podcast. Is it important to have a child with your genetics? How does one pick a sperm donor? How will you talk to your children about where they came from? And just how does one pay for a baby because rumor has it, it costs a lot? With insights and stories from guests such as StaceyAnn Chin, Judy Gold, and State Senator Zach Wahls, Jaimie and Robin go humorously in-depth and guide you on a journey that is equal parts funny, serious, happy, sad, celebratory, cautionary, and powerful. You can read this book cover-to-cover or skip around like your very own LGBTQ choose your own baby adventure book. You’ll learn a lot and laugh even more along the way! Who knew making a baby could be this much fun?

A Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey by Bett WilliamsA Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey by Bett Williams (Nonfiction)

The Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey is the lyrical, unforgettable memoir of Bett Williams’s relationship with psilocybin mushrooms, otherwise known as magic mushrooms. In pursuit of self-healing, she begins experimenting with mushrooms in solitary ceremonies by the fire. Word soon gets out about her New Mexican desert mushroom farm, though, and people arrive in droves. Not long after, the police read her her Miranda Rights, her relationships fall out of whack, and her dog Rosie just might be CIA.

On a quest to find help through the psychedelic community, Bett is led to Cleveland to meet Kai Wingo, an African American leader within a high-dose psilocybin community, and to Huautla de Jiménez, home of well-known, well-respected curandera María Sabina. Back home, Bett begins a solid ritual practice with the help of her partner and friends, bearing in mind the medicine’s indigenous roots and power to transform one’s life.

Amidst the mainstream flood of New Age practices and products, The Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey is a dreamlike reminder that psilocybin mushrooms are a medicine of the people, not to be neatly packaged, marketed, or appropriated.

[Lesbian author: she also wrote and article called “The Inherent Queerness of Psychedelics”]

Self-Evident Truths: 10,000 Portraits of Queer America by iO Tillet WrightSelf-Evident Truths: 10,000 Portraits of Queer America by iO Tillet Wright (Nonfiction)

In the spirit of Richard Avedon, this book contains striking photographic portraits of 10,000 people from across the US, bringing readers face to face with LGBTQ America.

The Declaration of Independence states that it is self-evident that we are all created equal. Millions of people in the US, however, are deprived of basic rights merely because they aren’t heteronormative. Believing that it’s impossible to deny the humanity of anyone once you look into their eyes, iO Tillett Wright embarked on an ambitious project to photograph the faces of people across the country who identify as anything other than 100% straight or cisgender. This enormous undertaking–10,000 people from all fifty states, shot over a nearly ten-year period–is presented in its entirety in this aweinspiring book. In these pages readers will encounter faces of every complexion, lined with age or punctuated with piercings, smiling broadly or deadly serious. While some faces are famous, most are familiar. They may look like your grandmother, your neighbor, your mail carrier, or your doctor. Each of these images tells a personal story. And each of these stories has the power to transform stereotypes into complex views of a multifaceted group of people. Self Evident Truths asks fundamental questions about identity and freedom while proving that the concepts of sexuality and gender are not black and white. They are 10,000 beautiful, bold, and unapologetic shades of queer.

  For Now by Eileen Myles  Serpent in the Garden: Amish Sexuality in a Changing World by James A. Cates  Queer Representations in Chinese-Language Film and the Cultural Landscape by Shi-Yan Chao   A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers by Jen Jack Gieseking

Female Identities in Lesbian Web Series by Julia Obermayr   Prismatic Performances: Queer South Africa and the Fragmentation of the Rainbow Nation by April Sizemore-Barber   Coming Out, Moving Forward Wisconsin's Recent Gay History by R. Richard Wagner  New Queer Photography

Check out more LGBTQ new releases at:

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

Emily reviews The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree is an epic fantasy standalone that features characters across the world struggling with the re-emergence of a thousand-year-old threat. At the beginning of the story, Ead is a lady in waiting in the court of Sabran the Ninth, hiding forbidden magic and a secret mission to keep the Queen safe. Loth, the Queen’s best friend, has been sent on a deadly mission by the Queen’s spymaster. On the other side of the world, Tané is in training to become a dragon rider, but her life is altered by a chance encounter with a foreigner on a beach. Niclays is living his life in exile, but Tané’s decision will pull him out of obscurity. From there, Shannon weaves a truly fantastic plot, taking the reader on a wonderful journey before bringing the threads from all over her world together for the conclusion.

There is a lot to love in this book. Any book with pirates, magic and dragons is something I will love, but this one included so much more. Shannon roots her world in real world history, as well as a number of myths and legends, which gives the book a really solid grounding and makes the whole thing seem real. Having characters from different parts of the world really adds to this realism, because we get to see different cultures in detail, as well as how they overlap. The characters all have different viewpoints on the world, but they are all engaging and interesting to read about. I particularly loved Ead and Tané’s journeys. I will say that I found different viewpoints less interesting than others at certain points in the story, but that’s a problem I have with most books that balance so many perspectives.

Ead’s plotline involves a slow burning sapphic romance and it was absolutely delightful! It developed slowly, but in a way that left it feeling inevitable, and I rooted for the characters to be together so much. I also really appreciated that the barriers to lgbtq+ characters being together in this book were rooted in class, duty and circumstance, rather than in homophobia.

The pacing was a little off in places: the first half of this book was quite slow, with Shannon taking her time to build up the intrigue in Sabran’s court and to introduce you to the world. I had no problem with the pace picking up as the book went on, but it sped up so much that it felt like there wasn’t quite enough time to do justice to the big finale at the end. It perhaps suffered slightly from trying to balance so many characters and such an epic plot in a single book. That said, the conclusion was still very satisfying, and the work felt complete as a standalone.

This wasn’t a particularly new or inventive fantasy–if you’ve read much of the genre, you’ll probably find this book feels familiar to you. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing! I’ve never seen this kind of story with a sapphic relationship taking centre stage before, and I absolutely loved it. It was so nice to see myself represented in the kind of fantasy story I loved growing up. Overall, this was a really enjoyable and accessible fantasy, and I’d really recommend it!

Rachel reviews Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

A lesbian fantasy with intrigue, murder, spymasters, and royal obligations? I’m in from the word go.

Helen Corcoran’s Irish fantasy novel, Queen of Coin and Whispers was published in June of 2020 by The Obrien Press after a short delay related to the COVID-19 crisis. But it was sincerely worth the wait. I think fantasy as a genre lends itself well to queerness in all its forms. Worlds that don’t necessarily answer to our own societal prejudices or pressures can be extremely freeing if done correctly. I’m thinking particularly here of something like The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) by Samantha Shannon, which Corcoran’s novel follows nicely in the same vein.

Queen of Coin and Whispers follows Lia and Xania in a dual POV narrative. Lia is a princess who rather abruptly inherits the throne from her uncle, a ruler who remained distant from his duty and his people, content to let others make decisions for him as long as his goblet remained full. With his death, the kingdom teeters on upheaval, and Lia is determined to wrest power back from the conniving forces than commanded it under the nose of her uncle and to make real change as a ruler. Xania, the eldest daughter of a lower caste family whose mother has married up in order to secure financial safety for Xania and her sister, lives each day dreaming of finding the suspected murderer of her father and exacting vengeance. When she stumbles—literally—upon the queen and her council, a series of events ensue that lead Lia to hire Xania as her Master of Whispers. Now the queen’s eyes and ears everywhere, Xania attempts to protect her majesty while also searching for her father’s killer. However, an already complicated network of power is further entangled when issues of power, duty, and love intersect for both young women in this excellent fantasy.

This book was so, so fun. I found myself deeply intrigued by both the characters and the world around them from the opening of the novel. I found this fantasy to be very character-driven, differing from the usual world-driven novels I often encounter in this genre. Lia and Xania’s personalities and the choices they make are what drive this novel forward, and their distinct character traits really shine through. Lia’s introspective and powerful voice despite her young age are indicative of a queen’s commanding presence, something that Corcoran subtly includes. By contrast, Xania’s fierce and unparalleled passion for her family, her job, and Lia is thrilling to read.

While this novel may focus on character, in my opinion, the plot is not lacking. The intrigue and drama of a royal court provides an excellent backdrop for the violence, espionage, and trickery that constitutes some of the most exciting twists and turns in this novel. Corcoran pulls no punches and hedges no bets—anyone and everyone could be holding a knife to your favourite character’s back at any moment.

There are a number of social, political, and moral quandaries in this court that contribute to Corcoran’s world building. What is not an issue on its face, however, is queerness—it’s lovely to read a fantasy novel where not only are queer people accepted for who they are, but they’re also everywhere in this text, containing the various and rich elements of character that we might expect from any other fantasy novel.

Overall, I loved this book. My only issue would be that the pacing—especially toward the end of the novel—felt a bit off, and that the text could have slowed down just a but in order to convey the urgency of the last few pages at the same time that the world beyond the court could have been explored a bit more. Nevertheless, this was phenomenal, and if you’re looking for a fun and delightfully well-written lesbian fantasy novel, Queen of Coin and Whispers is entirely the perfect choice.

Please visit Helen Corcoran on Twitter or on her Website, and put Queen of Coin and Whispers on your TBR on Goodreads.

Content Warnings: Physical and psychological torture.

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

You can find Rachel on Twitter @MsBookishBeauty or on Goodreads @Rachel Friars.

Danika reviews Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos

Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos

This book was a real rollercoaster of a read: I was intrigued by the beginning, felt the middle dragged, and then I was completely on board again by the end. It’s about Caroline, whose best friend, Madison, has just gone missing. Caroline hasn’t been having a great time even before this. Her mother sent her to a conversion camp (where Caroline then set the place on fire and escaped). Her father doesn’t believe in anxiety or depression, and would try to swap out her medication for a juice cleanse if her knew about it. The only light in her life was Willa, her girlfriend, who she’d see by driving across the border into West Virginia and hanging out at a seedy bar with a fake ID. But Willa broke up with her and moved away. And now her best friend has disappeared. Caroline has reasons to not trust the police, so she’s determined to find Madison herself.

This is, unsurprisingly, a dark book. It begins with the lines “Everything started with the body at the edge of the lake. I know that now.” On top of Caroline’s abusive family, there’s another unnamed narrator who has gone through her own horrors: she’s living in poverty, and has seen two of her mother’s boyfriends overdose. (Unlike Caroline, who goes to a prestigious private school.)

I recommended this book on All the Books, where I have recently become a cohost. I read a few reviews in preparation, and I found out that a lot of readers didn’t like the main character. They felt she was mean, and “unlikable.” Personally, when I hear someone say a book has an “unlikable” female main character, I head straight for it. Usually, it just means they’re flawed. In Caroline’s case, I think it’s because she’s angry, and rightfully so. Do I agree with all her decisions? No, but I understand them, and I can even respect them. She is a survivor. She hasn’t had a safe environment to grow up in. So she’s always got an exit plan, and she’s not afraid of using it, even if it’s “mean.” The one who tempers this is Willa. She was clearly Caroline’s anchor: she describes her as “Willa was quiet strength, endless optimism, the girl everyone told their secrets to because they knew they’d be safe with her.” She is unmoored without her, and prior to Madison’s disappearance, her entire focus was getting through the days until graduation and then her 18th birthday, when she could finally escape for good.

There are a few other characters here: two friends who help Caroline in her search for Madison. Both are possible love interests, putting this in the bisexual character with a male and female love interest category–sort of. Because Caroline has very little space to consider either of them as romantic interests, and is still very much in love with Willa. Also: what is with the bi love triangles where the guy is just a total asshole (and the girl is very sweet and on every possible level a better choice)? I couldn’t stand Jake, who says that some people are “puddles” (and Caroline, of course, is the ocean), and is judgmental of anyone who isn’t rich, and who asks Caroline, “Why do you like girls?”

As I said, I had an up and down experience reading this. I found it difficult to get into the writing style: things seemed to keep happening abruptly, and I felt like I had missed a paragraph or a page. It’s also weird that men being framed for rape/statutory rape is an ongoing motif. Considering how much this book has to do with misogyny and which women are considered victims (and worth seeking justice for), I found that a very strange choice. I should also note that because it’s a very dark book, there are trigger warnings for murder and violence, and there’s also smoking and drug use by the teen characters. For me, the ending made me glad I stuck with it, though I can also understand why it lost some people. If you’re interested in reading about an angry, flawed character who finds herself discovering a system that considers poor and racialized victims “throwaway girls,” check this one out. If you’ve already read it, or don’t care about spoilers, here’s what I think about the ending.

It was interesting, at this point in time, to read a thriller that is so skeptical of the justice system and the police. (Caroline was “rescued” by the police while running from conversion camp, who then delivered her back to her abusive mother.) [Spoilers, highlight to read] Because of that, the murderer made perfect sense. And although it’s an exaggeration, the idea of men with power weaponizing it against women, especially poor and racialized women, is not. Caroline, already angry at the world, is consumed with rage to learn that Willa has died–and that she was trying to reach out to her. She had the opportunity to save her, and didn’t realize it, didn’t put it together. It’s sickening, but it’s an interesting story choice. She is overly harsh with Madison, of course, but Madison’s choices did lead to her girlfriend’s brutal murder, so I think that’s understandable. The moment that really turned the book around for me, though, is that she shot him herself. Many stories take that moment, where the hero has a gun pointing at the villain, and have them walk away. That’s a valid choice in some stories, but not in this one. Caroline doesn’t trust the justice system. She is facing the man who killed the love of her life, and many other women. There is no reason she wouldn’t pull the trigger. But I was impressed with this YA novel following through on it. And honestly, I cheered for her attending his funeral just to spit on his grave. She may not be “nice,” but her choices made sense, and I didn’t blame her for them. I think they made for a better story, and I wish we had more stories about women’s anger. [end spoilers]

Thais reviews The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

I hadn’t been super into romance before I had Olivia Waite’s Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics. I sought sapphic representation when I chose books, but I was mostly a reader of literary fiction, so understandably a lot of what I was read didn’t have a happy ending. I didn’t even realize that was something I craved, and I was so giddy when I cracked open this historical romance and found myself enthralled.

I was very eager to read the sequel, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, another regency sapphic tale. I was intrigued by Agatha in Lady’s Guide and definitely detected queer vibes coming from her, so it was no surprise when she turned out to be one of the protagonists of this book. A no-nonsense small business owner who always seemed to entangled with artists, scientists, and subversives of all kinds, Agatha was intriguing when she was introduced as a side character, but she is delightful here—grumpy and direct, but also caring and cautious when it comes to her own romantic feelings.

I also loved Penelope from her very first moments on the page, which is something I appreciate about Waite’s books. I always struggle to stick with a lesfic romance when I dislike one of the main characters. Waite always write heroines who are quirky and not necessarily traditionally likable, but they hook me completely exactly because they jump off the page as whole human beings, with flaws and unique perspectives. I loved Lucy and Catherine when I read Lady’s Guide, but I think now I love Agatha and Penelope more.

A beekeeper, Penelope comes to Agatha’s aid when the printer finds a beehive nesting inside her warehouse. After Penelope manages to carefully remove the bees and suggests placing their new home just outside Agatha’s business building, the two start corresponding.

As Agatha and Penelope started exchanging letters, I found myself nearly racing to finish the book, because I just wanted these two to be happy already. I had to read it again to appreciate some of the story beats and I’m sure I will read it one more time to swoon over the beautiful prose Waite writes, but the first time had me breathless with anticipation, and even the promise of a happy ending that comes with a romance couldn’t make me relax and slow down.

I don’t usually enjoy characters who pine for each for very long. One of the reasons I loved Lady’s Guide was that there was little wait before the main characters got together and the focus was on their burgeoning relationship and past wounds. I wasn’t sure if I would be the audience for a book that withholds the payoff for so long, since I tend to resent when there are too many misunderstandings and obstacles and people just won’t talk to each other. This book is unabashed about the pining and the silly misunderstandings. But it’s so well-done, with Penelope’s hesitation to come out and Agatha’s resentment of Penelope’s marriage and assumptions about what that means, that I was captivated.

I did miss the diversity from the first book, however. Lady’s Guide has more than one character of color and really came alive for me for painting a portrait of what Regency Britain might really have been like. Waspish Widows has several queer characters instead, which is nice, especially as Agatha and Penelope spend a lot of time supporting and conspiring with the other queers, but I still craved more diversity from the book, probably because I know Waite can deliver it and do it well. I assume Mr. Biswas is Indian, but can’t remember him being that big of a presence in the book, and that’s a pity.

I also really appreciated the side story with Queen Caroline and the real danger it brought to the characters that we cared about. I just wish the plot had been wrapped up a bit better. I felt like we heard way too much about this historical context in the beginning and then interest seemed to wane and narrow on the fictional plots that sprouted from it, but that too is sort of set aside at the end, and we only get an assurance that it was resolved by a certain character moving away. I was a bit disappointed.

The middle of the book has amazing tension due to Waite weaving so many threads exceptionally well and creating explosive confrontations. The writing is well-paced, so it propels you forward, making you want to know how it will all come to a head. So I felt a bit cheated that main antagonist in the story disappears off-page and the political tensions are resolved by people just losing interest.

Nevertheless, none of that ruined my enjoyment of the book. It’s a testament to Waite’s brilliant storytelling that even when my brain is picking on tiny things and I’m frustrated with bits and pieces, the whole narrative is still impactful and satisfying. Her character work in particular shines. All these people she creates stay in your imagination. Those characters live outside the page, leave a mark on the reader. When Catherine appeared briefly for a cameo in this book, I nearly shouted in excitement. When Mr. Frampton was mentioned, I felt nostalgic and sad that we hadn’t seen him in this book yet. And I would pay any amount of money for a book focusing on Joana Molesey and Aunt Kelmarsh, because there are so few sapphic romances between older women, and after reading Waspish Widows, I would love more.

I certainly can’t wait to go back to this mini world and see them once again, and while I know that Waite has only planned one more book for this series, I can’t help but hope she will pen many more historical sapphic books. I would certainly read them.

Thais is a Brazilian WOC queer. Her degree in Media Studies has slowly grown useless, even though she literary Majored in how to be good at social media (but can’t understand it better than twelve-year-olds) and she currently lives with her parents. She is an Editor and has too many opinions on books she should be reading for fun.

You can find her on Goodreads or Twitter (@ThaisAfonso).

Kayla Bell reviews The Tea Machine by Gill McKnight

 The Tea Machine by Gill McKnight
I think I would have liked The Tea Machine a lot more if I had read it back in 2015, when it came out. That was the height of the Doctor Who craze (and the height of my love for the show), which clearly influenced the story of this book. However, where Doctor Who keeps its stories somewhat episodic and grounded in the real world, The Tea Machine goes off the rails and takes big swings at establishing alternate timelines.

Here’s the story: a steampunk lady in Victorian London named Millicent messes around with her inventor brother’s time machine. She ends up in an alternate timeline where the Roman Empire never fell and is instead a futuristic society. There, she meets RJ Sangfroid, a female centurion who Millicent falls for quickly. Unfortunately, RJ sacrifices her life for Millicent’s. The rest of the book is Millicent messing around with the timeline in order to get her lover back.

Overall, it’s a pretty fun story and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Like Doctor Who, it takes a very lighthearted and often absurdist tone. For the most part, that worked well for me. It would have taken me out of the story if the characters were taking the tentacle monster fighting completely seriously. Unfortunately, most of the jokes didn’t really work for me. There was an ongoing bit where Millicent’s sister-in-law Sophia continually misgenders RJ and that went on way too long, in my opinion. And in general, the jokes were just kind of based on the characters being stereotypes: Sophia and Millicent as the prim and proper Victorian ladies thrust into brutal Roman society, and RJ as the masculine, aggressive centurion. More importantly, though, the lack of depth made the love story fall flat for me. I just didn’t really connect with either Millicent or RJ. I wish that the connection between the two women had been taken more seriously and developed more. That being said, though, I really did like how the two of them ended the novel.

One thing I loved about The Tea Machine was alternate Rome. What a cool idea! It was very interesting to see how the author blended aspects of Roman culture and mythology with future technology. This would be a cool world to read more stories in, and it got me thinking of other sorts of fun alternate histories. It also didn’t shy away from highlighting the negative aspects of Roman culture, especially for the women. This kept me reading even when the structure was confusing and I lost interest in the characters.

If you’re looking for a fun, quick, romp through alternate history, The Tea Machine might be for you. It lacks depth and the characters aren’t the most developed, but it does have an interesting world. This book was honestly not my cup of tea (pun intended), I thought it was a little too superficial for my tastes. I read for character, so I found myself losing interest a lot. However, this book did feel like a fun read.

Kayla Bell is the pen name of an author, reviewer, and lover of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You can catch up with her on Instagram @Kreadseverything for more book reviews and on Twitter @Kreadsitall for more about her writing.

Danika reviews Be Gay, Do Comics!: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from the Nib

Be Gay, Do ComicsBe Gay, Do Comics is an anthology with more than 30 contributors, all discussing some aspect of queer life. This was a refreshingly diverse and thought-provoking collection. Most anthologies in this vein that I’ve read have played it pretty safe: they’ve usually been very white, and mostly focused on gay cis men, with the overarching message being one of acceptance. Be Gay, Do Comics covers a wide range of topics from a lot of different voices, including many artists of color and trans artists, and includes comics about queer liberation and resisting assimilation.

There is a mix of one-page comics and longer pieces, with some being fairly simple one-off jokes or observations and others looking at queer history. I was especially interested in the comics that looked at queer history and culture that is lesser known, including looking at gay characters in Puerto Rican TV shows, comparing that to the history and present state of LGBTQ rights in Puerto Rico. Another explores how LGBTQ people have been treated in the Philippines, pre-colonialism up to the present. There is also a comic including interviews from queer parents raising kids in Malaysia.

Some comics are biographies of queer people in history I wasn’t aware of, including Gad Beck, a gay Jewish spy, and Baron von Steuben, an openly gay military leader in the American Revolution. Some of these figures at larger than life, others are everyday. Others look at events, such as Hazel Newlevant’s comic about queer uprisings that preceded Stonewall, or an explanation of the Lavender Scare, or the history of the rainbow flag.

Of course, there are also a lot of personal stories included. Some talk about exploring their gender, or coming out. One is about being non-binary while taking folk dancing lessons. Another talks coming out in their late 30s, and the pride and embarrassment and mourning of that–mourning for their younger out queer self who never was. While I’m used to LGBT anthologies being mostly cis gay men, there were lots of trans comics in this one, and even an intersex contribution. There was also a variety both in identities and politics, including a comic about gay Republicans, comics about gatekeeping in the queer community, and one about gay liberation.

It’s hard to speak about an anthology like this in a cohesive way, because they are all so different: in art style, tone, topic, and identity. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Although as always there were some comics I liked more than others, there weren’t any that I felt were weak. It’s a great opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different artists as well. This is one I would happily recommend. It’s not focused specifically on lesbians and bi women, but there is definitely sapphic representation. I’m happy to see that queer anthologies are expanding to be a little more challenging and diverse than they were just a handful of years ago.