Danika reviews The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw

the cover of The All-Consuming World

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Fun fact: the first Cassandra Khaw book I read was a paranormal romance called Bearly a Lady, about a bisexual werebear fatshionista. I really enjoyed it! But I found out later that this is very much not Khaw’s usual genre.  They usually write horror and sci fi, and pretty brutal horror and sci fi at that. Although those aren’t my usual genres, I decided to take a chance on this one.

The All-Consuming World is a little bit heist novel, a little bit noir narration, a hint of Lovecraftian, and a whole lot of gritty sci fi. Maya is a rabid dog of a mercenary clone who is ready to fist fight with god. She is entirely, illogically, wholeheartedly devoted to Rita, a mad scientist type. Rita is cold, withholds affection, and is always pulling the strings in an elaborate scheme. She’s manipulative, even cruel, and always five steps ahead of anyone else.

They both used to be part of the dirty dozen (at least, that was the most polite name for them), a group of criminal women. It’s been 40 years, though, since a job went bad and left two of them dead — permanently. Maya is used to waking up in a vat of goo, newly regenerated from her most recent grisly demise, but there are some deaths you can’t come back from. Now, they’ve got to try to get the band back together for one last job.

The universe is ruled by AIs, and Maya and her fellow clones are the last dregs of what passes for humanity. Rita says that the AIs are ready to wipe the last of them out and start fresh — but who knows if you can trust anything she says.

This is a fairly short book at 275 pages, but it packs a ton in. The narration style is distinct. Maya’s POV chapters — which are most of them — use the word fuck about once a paragraph. Throughout the book, Khaw uses really distinct metaphors and similes — sort of like a noir detective story, but with a bloodthirsty futuristic perspective. For example, “the sound unspooled between neurons like a tendon snagged on the tooth of a Great White.”

Also, either keep a dictionary on hand or just bask in Khaw’s superior vocabulary. I kept rediscovering words I haven’t encountered in years, and then bumping into a good chunk I’ve never seen before.

This is definitely a story that throws you right into the world, trusting you’ll pick it up as you go. There are factions of AIs, each with their own values. AI Minds interconnect in a grand conversation. AI have elaborate rules for communication, sampling lines and voices from all of recorded human history: a laugh from Audrey Hepburn, a line from Leonard Cohen. Ageships are sentient ships of unfathomable size and power, capable of swallowing stars.

It’s also got some… unique visuals. Needless to say, the Butcher of Eight’s appearance is just as intimidating as the name. Also, we get a lot of detail of being awake during eyeball surgery, so definite content warnings for gore.

Most of the book is spent in the “getting the band back together” plot, which is good, because it lets us get slowly introduced to a big cast. They are all queer women and non-binary people, with very different personalities. There’s an ethereal, worshipped pop star that literally glows and has multiple mouths trailing down her neck, and a disembodied woman in code corrupting the conversation from within — just to name a few.

But the relationship between Maya and Rita is at the core of the story: Maya can’t seem to control her loyalty to her, even when Rita hurts her and everyone else in her life. It’s also just fun to be in Maya’s head, because she is so out of control: the only time she feels comfortable is when she’s in a deadly fight.

It’s a story about the defiance and audacity of humans, of never knowing when to give up.

This isn’t one every reader is going to love, because it is very gritty and sometimes stomach-turning, but I really enjoyed it, despite it not being a genre I usually gravitate towards. If you can handle nonstop profanity and gore with your existential heist stories, definitely give this a try.

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

the covers of the books listed and the text Sapphic New Releases: Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Week

January is a pretty slow publishing month, but there are still some great sapphic books coming out this week! I have a copy of The Bone Spindle I can’t wait to crack in to, but now I have to add several more to my TBR! Which of these are going on your To Be Read list?

Fiction

Iron Annie by Luke Cassidy (Bisexual Fiction/Crime Fiction) [US Release]

the cover of Iron Annie

An uncompromising, darkly humorous look at life in the criminal underworld of the Irish border from a major new Irish literary voice.

Dundalk–The Town, to locals–took Aoife in when she left home at eighteen. Now she’s gone from a small-time slinger of hash to a bona fide player in Dundalk’s criminal underworld. Aoife’s smart, savvy, and cool under pressure. Except, that is, when it comes to Annie. Annie is mysterious and compelling, and Aoife is desperate to impress her and keep her close. Unfortunately, not everyone in The Town shares Aoife’s opinion of Annie. So much so that when Aoife’s friend and associate, the Rat King, approaches her about off-loading ten kilos of stolen coke, he specifically tells her to keep Annie out of it. Aoife doesn’t want to do the job without Annie, though, so she lands on an idea. Annie has contacts in the UK, and sure it’d be better to get the coke as far away from Dundalk as possible. At first, everything goes to plan. But when Annie decides she’d like to stay in the UK, Aoife makes a decision that changes everything, and finds her whole world turned upside down.

Gritty yet tender, tragic yet hopeful, Iron Annie crackles with energy, warmth, and heart.

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher (Lesbian Historical Fiction)

the cover of The Paris Bookseller

The dramatic story of how a humble bookseller fought against incredible odds to bring one of the most important books of the 20th century to the world in this new novel from the author of The Girl in White Gloves.
 
When bookish young American Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company on a quiet street in Paris in 1919, she has no idea that she and her new bookstore will change the course of literature itself.
 
Shakespeare and Company is more than a bookstore and lending library: Many of the prominent writers of the Lost Generation, like Ernest Hemingway, consider it a second home. It’s where some of the most important literary friendships of the twentieth century are forged—none more so than the one between Irish writer James Joyce and Sylvia herself. When Joyce’s controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Beach takes a massive risk and publishes it under the auspices of Shakespeare and Company.
 
But the success and notoriety of publishing the most infamous and influential book of the century comes with steep costs. The future of her beloved store itself is threatened when Ulysses‘ success brings other publishers to woo Joyce away. Her most cherished relationships are put to the test as Paris is plunged deeper into the Depression and many expatriate friends return to America. As she faces painful personal and financial crises, Sylvia—a woman who has made it her mission to honor the life-changing impact of books—must decide what Shakespeare and Company truly means to her.

Romance

No Strings by Lucy Bexley (F/F Romance)

the cover of No Strings

Fun is the one thing Elsie Webb takes seriously. Though she’d be having a lot more of it if Haelstrom Media paid her enough to actually get out of debt. She’s determined to hold out on contract negotiations for her kids’ television show Fangley Heights until she gets what she deserves. There’s only one problem, the head of the network just died and left her future more uncertain than ever.

Forty-eight hours and one funeral–that’s all Jones Haelstrom has to get through before she can return to her life in LA that’s as ordered and sparse as an IKEA showroom. When she steps in as CEO of her father’s media company, Elsie Webb is her first problem to deal with. Elsie ends up challenging Jones in ways she never could have predicted, starting with an attraction neither can avoid.

As their attraction teeters on the edge of something more both agree to keep it casual. A no-strings agreement and disclosure to HR should be enough to keep things between Jones and Elsie from getting tangled, right? 

The Wedding Setup by Charlotte Greene (F/F Romance)

the cover of The Wedding Setup

Ryann is thrilled when her friend Stuart asks her to help him plan his last-minute wedding.

He moved across the country over a year ago, and she misses him like crazy. As an executive with event planning experience, Ryann’s the best person to help him fulfill his wildest wedding dreams.

However, things in Colorado are not what she expects, especially Maddie, the maid of honor for the other groom.

Maddie is attractive, and while she’s certainly Ryann’s type, she has some different ideas about the wedding. Also, flirting with her is incredibly distracting, especially when Ryann just wants to keep things professional.

With just two weeks to the big event on Valentine’s Day, can Ryann help Stuart to wedded bliss, and avoid his well-intentioned attempts to set her up with Maddie?

Science Fiction & Fantasy

If I Were a Weapon by Skye Kilaen (F/F Sci Fi)

the cover of If I Were a Weapon

See the future. Set things on fire. Fall in love? A superpowered sci-fi romance.

When dying alien ships materialized across the Earth, their nanite infection knocked Deneve Wilder out cold. She woke up with the ability to see the future. Determined to keep anyone from using her visions for evil, she took to the road. Giving up everything was a small price to pay for freedom.

The ship that hit Jolie Betancourt’s town gave her the power to set things on fire. It was safer to start over in a new city. Then one terrible mistake demonstrated far too clearly that for her, solitude is safer. For everyone.

So when Deneve shows up after a vision of Jolie being kidnapped, Jolie wants little to do with the frustratingly attractive drifter. Deneve’s surprised by how much she wants to thaw the pretty shopkeeper’s chilly attitude, but the idea of staying in one place sets off her alarm bells.

If they can’t evade whoever’s abducting people with powers, however, the growing connection they both feel in spite of themselves might be the least of their problems.

The first installment of a near-future science fiction F/F romance series, which is slow burn to high heat with a guaranteed HEA at series end.

Tropes: superpowers, drifter, ice queen, battle couple, forced proximity.

Detailed content warnings are available in the book’s front matter and on the author’s website.

Young Adult

YA Contemporary

the cover of Hopepunk

Hopepunk by Preston Norton (Queer YA)

Growing up in a conservative Christian household isn’t easy for rock-obsessed Hope Cassidy. She’s spent her whole life being told that the devil speaks through Led Zeppelin, but it’s even worse for her sister, Faith, who feels like she can’t be honest about dating the record shop cashier, Mavis. That is, until their youngest sister hears word of their “sinful” utopia and outs Faith to their parents. Now there’s nowhere for Faith to go but the Change Through Grace conversion center…or running away.

Following Faith’s disappearance, their family is suddenly broken. Hope feels a need to rebel. She gets a tattoo and tries singing through the hurt with her Janis Joplin-style voice. But when her long-time crush Danny comes out and is subsequently kicked out of his house, Hope can’t stand by and let history repeat itself. Now living in Faith’s room, Danny and Hope strike up a friendship…and a band. And their music just might be the answer to dethroning Alt-Rite, Danny’s twin brother’s new hate-fueled band.

With a hilarious voice and an open heart, Hopepunk is a novel about forgiveness, redemption, and finding your home, and about how hope is the ultimate act of rebellion.

the cover of Love Somebody

Love Somebody by Rachel Roasek (Bisexual YA)

A sparkling YA debut rom-com about a popular high-school girl, her ex-boyfriend-turned-best-friend, and the girl they both fall for―perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli or Casey McQuiston.

Sam Dickson is a charismatic actress, ambitious and popular with big plans for her future. Ros Shew is one of the smartest people in school―but she’s a loner, and prefers to keep it that way. Then there’s Christian Powell, the darling of the high school soccer team. He’s not the best with communication, which is why he and Sam broke up after dating for six months; but he makes up for it by being genuine, effusive, and kind, which is why they’re still best friends.

When Christian falls for Ros on first sight, their first interaction is a disaster, so he enlists Sam’s help to get through to her. Sam, with motives of her own, agrees to coach Christian from the sidelines on how to soften Ros’s notorious walls. But as Ros starts to suspect Christian is acting differently, and Sam starts to realize the complexity of her own feelings, their fragile relationships threaten to fall apart.

This fresh romantic comedy from debut author Rachel Roasek is a heartfelt story about falling in love―with a partner, with your friends, or just with yourself―and about how maybe, the bravest thing to do in the face of change is just love somebody.

YA Fantasy

the cover of The Bone Spindle

The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder (F/F YA Fantasy)

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and The Cruel Prince.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi—until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way—not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark.

Comics & Manga

The Girl I Want is So Handsome! – The Complete Manga Collection by Yuama (Yuri Manga)

the cover of The Girl I Want Is So Handsome

A yuri comedy about a hyper first-year student and the hot girl jock she’s crushing on by the creator of The Summer You Were There!

First-year high schooler Hina falls head over heels in love at her first glimpse of Shiki, a gorgeous, cool older girl with mad basketball skills.

But when she tries to confess her feelings, she ends up as the basketball team’s manager instead.

It seems like a huge blunder until she realizes it’s the perfect chance to get to know Shiki better.

Will Hina and Shiki overcome their comical misunderstandings and realize they’re the perfect couple?

Read the whole hilarious story in one omnibus volume!

Nonfiction

Lost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz (Sapphic Memoir)

the cover of Lost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz

Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s beloved father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the stories of those relationships into a brilliant exploration of how all our lives are shaped by loss and discovery—from the maddening disappearance of everyday objects to the sweeping devastations of war, pandemic, and natural disaster; from finding new planets to falling in love.

Three very different American families form the heart of Lost & Found: the one that made Schulz’s father, a charming, brilliant, absentminded Jewish refugee; the one that made her partner, an equally brilliant farmer’s daughter and devout Christian; and the one she herself makes through marriage. But Schulz is also attentive to other, more universal kinds of conjunction: how private happiness can coexist with global catastrophe, how we get irritated with those we adore, how love and loss are themselves unavoidably inseparable. The resulting book is part memoir, part guidebook to living in a world that is simultaneously full of wonder and joy and wretchedness and suffering—a world that always demands both our gratitude and our grief.

A staff writer at The New Yorker and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Kathryn Schulz writes with curiosity, tenderness, erudition, and wit about our finite yet infinitely complicated lives. Crafted with the emotional clarity of C. S. Lewis and the intellectual force of Susan Sontag, Lost & Found is an uncommon book about common experiences.

The Queerness of Home: Gender, Sexuality, and the Politics of Domesticity after World War II by Stephen Vider (Nonfiction)

the cover Queerness of Home

Vider uncovers how LGBTQ people reshaped domestic life in the postwar United States.

From the Stonewall riots to the protests of ACT UP, histories of queer and trans politics have almost exclusively centered on public activism. In The Queerness of Home, Stephen Vider turns the focus inward, showing that the intimacy of domestic space has been equally crucial to the history of postwar LGBTQ life.

Beginning in the 1940s, LGBTQ activists looked increasingly to the home as a site of connection, care, and cultural inclusion. They struggled against the conventions of marriage, challenged the gendered codes of everyday labor, reimagined domestic architecture, and contested the racial and class boundaries of kinship and belonging. Retelling LGBTQ history from the inside out, Vider reveals the surprising ways that the home became, and remains, a charged space in battles for social and economic justice, making it clear that LGBTQ people not only realized new forms of community and culture for themselves—they remade the possibilities of home life for everyone.

If you like what we do here and want to see more of it, support the Lesbrary on Patreon to get queer books in the mail throughout the year!

Rachel reviews The Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey

The Ophelia Girls cover

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From the author of the lesbian novel The Animals of Lockwood Manor (2020) comes a new stunning historical novel about a mother and daughter navigating years-long secrets held at the family estate in the English countryside.

The novel alternates between two timelines. In 1973, Ruth and four of her friends are enamoured by pre-Raphaelite art, particularly John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1852), which depicts the drowning scene of the character of the same name from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603). This shared interest also draws the five women together emotionally, leading to an obsession with each other. Each day of that fateful summer, the girls take turns floating in the lake, pretending to be the drowning Ophelia, staging elaborate and dramatic scenes while the others photograph them. However, as Ruth recollects, soon their playacting turns tragic, and real death finds them at the river.

the painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais

Decades later, Ruth returns to the countryside with her three children, including her teenage daughter, Maeve. Soon, people from Ruth’s past begin to rise up along with the memories of that summer. Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, arrives to stay with the family for the summer, turning his attention to Maeve and dredging up painful memories for Ruth. The past and the present overlap in this dramatic and poignant novel of love between women and fraught family relationships.

I loved this novel and devoured it in only a day! The intense and compelling perspectives of each character kept me reading until the small hours. This novel, with its mystery, drama, and emotion, had me guessing until the very end. The dual timelines with alternating chapters—with the focus on a mother and daughter around the same age in two different sets of circumstances but with similar questions of identity—were very engaging and helped to propel the book and create suspense.

The focus on art and photography and the idea of looking (who’s looking at whom, when, and how) in the context of female/female desire was the perfect device for developing characters and relationships. Also, for fans of nineteenth-century art and literature, this novel has many exciting easter eggs, bringing together the mid-twentieth century, the Victorian period, and the present day all in one.

This novel was an excellent follow up to The Animals of Lockwood Manor and its gorgeous writing and complex relationships. While the lesbian characters/relationship in The Ophelia Girls is much more complicated and repressed, the story is still relatable and powerful in its construction. In the present timeline, however, Maeve’s dangerous encounters with Stuart are sometimes very difficult to read, but they contribute to the unsettled and fraught atmosphere of the book. Ultimately, this novel is about the female characters’ searching for a sense of identity amidst the expectations and limitations in the world that surrounds each woman.

I can’t recommend The Ophelia Girls enough for fans of Healey’s other work and for fans of evocative and intense fiction.

Please visit Jane Healey on Twitter and put The Ophelia Girls on your TBR on Goodreads.

Content Warnings: Trauma, sexual abuse, mental illness, addiction

Rachel Friars is a 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 lesbian 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 @RachelMFriars or on Goodreads @Rachel Friars.

Vic reviews Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Light from Uncommon Stars cover

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Ryka Aoki’s Light from Uncommon Stars is one of the best books I read in 2021, and it is also one of the weirdest. It centers around three women: Shizuka Satomi (a violin teacher who made a deal with a devil and must deliver seven violin prodigies’ souls in order to save her own), Katrina Nguyen (a transgender teenage girl, wildly talented on the violin and deserving of so much more than she has been given), and Lan Tran (a retired interstellar space captain who runs a donut shop with her four children). When Shizuka discovers Katrina in a park, she immediately knows she has found her final soul, but Shizuka’s growing feelings for Lan may change her perspective on everything.

If you think that summary sounds like a roller coaster, wait until you read the book. At times lighthearted and at others absolutely gutting, it ultimately left me feeling better, which is always how I want to feel at the end of a book. It was just so much fun. Aoki has a very playful writing style that made this book delightful down to its very sentences.

The characters and their relationships were equally enjoyable. I loved Shizuka and Lan’s relationship, loved watching it grow, and Katrina had my heart from page one. I wanted so much better for her, and I was so proud of her as her story continued. The secondary characters, too, made me smile (I particularly liked Aunty Floresta and the twins). Some of them did feel a bit underutilized at times, admittedly, but when my biggest complaint is simply that I wanted to see more of the secondary characters too, I cannot call it a bad thing—not when I loved the primary characters as much as I did.

I will give a warning that this book was at times quite a bit heavier than I anticipated. Katrina’s story in particular takes a painfully real look at her experiences as a young transgender woman of color, including homelessness, abuse, sexual assault, dysphoria, misgendering, transphobia, and racism, even from her own family. None of this is gratuitous, but it is very present, so I definitely recommend taking a look at trigger warnings before picking this one up.

In spite of the darkness, though, the love in this book makes it a definite five stars from me—love of self, love of each other, love of music, love of donuts. Ryka Aoki clearly put a lot of care into this book, and it paid off. This book was an Experience with a capital E, and I mean that in the very best way. I cannot think of another book like it.

Trigger warnings: Abuse (domestic and parental), homophobia, transphobia, racism, rape, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, misgendering, gun violence, mentions of war

Danika reviews She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

the cover of She Drives Me Crazy

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If you want a teen romcom in an F/F YA book, this is the read for you!

I’m getting caught up on 2021 reviews, and I listened to this several months ago and don’t remember a lot of details, but what more do I really need to say than that and also showing you that cover?

Scottie is struggling to get over her ex-girlfriend, Tally. They used to be on the basketball team together, but Tally transferred to a wealthier school to get on the better team. Now, she acts like she’s superior to Scottie and barely acknowledges her, even when they’re playing against each other. While Scottie is still mulling over that disastrous game, she backs up into Irene’s car. Irene is a cheerleader who has been Scottie’s nemesis (whether she knows it or not) when Irene called to have Scottie’s car towed at a party, apparently just to be a jerk.

Their moms decide that Scottie will drive Irene to school until her car is back from the shop: a solution neither of them is very happy about. Then Scottie decides that the best way to show up her ex is for Irene to pretend to date her–in return, she’ll empty her savings to pay for the damage on the car.

Yep, it’s enemies to lovers and fake dating! It is very much like a teen romcom movie: the two of them get to know each other over their music choices on the drive. They have miscommunication. They both open up about their insecurities. Scottie realizes that, despite being hung up on her toxic ex, maybe the girl she’s been looking for has been right in front of her this whole time. There’s also the “only one bed” trope. They even discuss teen romcom movies!

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was a quick, fun listening experience! It’s cute, and the ending is cathartic and sweet.

24 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

a collage of the covers of the books listed with the text Bi & Lesbian Books Out in January!

January is still a pretty slow publishing month, but there are a few great books coming out this month, including from one of my favourite publishers: Flamingo Rampant! They publish kids’ books that are inclusive not just in terms of trans and queer characters, but also characters (and authors/illustrators) of color and disabled characters. Most of them are not specifically sapphic, so they’re not on this list, but I recommend checking them out if you want some great queer and diverse kids’ books!

I make these round ups because 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, 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!

Adult

Fiction

the cover of Fiona and Jane

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho (Queer Fiction)

A witty, warm, and irreverent book that traces the lives of two young Taiwanese American women as they navigate friendship, sexuality, identity, and heartbreak over two decades.

Best friends since second grade, Fiona Lin and Jane Shen explore the lonely freeways and seedy bars of Los Angeles together through their teenage years, surviving unfulfilling romantic encounters, and carrying with them the scars of their families’ tumultuous pasts. Fiona was always destined to leave, her effortless beauty burnished by fierce ambition—qualities that Jane admired and feared in equal measure. When Fiona moves to New York and cares for a sick friend through a breakup with an opportunistic boyfriend, Jane remains in California and grieves her estranged father’s sudden death, in the process alienating an overzealous girlfriend. Strained by distance and unintended betrayals, the women float in and out of each other’s lives, their friendship both a beacon of home and a reminder of all they’ve lost.

In stories told in alternating voices, Jean Chen Ho’s debut collection peels back the layers of female friendship—the intensity, resentment, and boundless love—to probe the beating hearts of young women coming to terms with themselves, and each other, in light of the insecurities and shame that holds them back.

Spanning countries and selves, Fiona and Jane is an intimate portrait of a friendship, a deep dive into the universal perplexities of being young and alive, and a bracingly honest account of two Asian women who dare to stake a claim on joy in a changing, contemporary America.

[Jane is queer]

the cover of The Paris Bookseller

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher (Lesbian Historical Fiction)

The dramatic story of how a humble bookseller fought against incredible odds to bring one of the most important books of the 20th century to the world in this new novel from the author of The Girl in White Gloves.
 
When bookish young American Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company on a quiet street in Paris in 1919, she has no idea that she and her new bookstore will change the course of literature itself.
 
Shakespeare and Company is more than a bookstore and lending library: Many of the prominent writers of the Lost Generation, like Ernest Hemingway, consider it a second home. It’s where some of the most important literary friendships of the twentieth century are forged—none more so than the one between Irish writer James Joyce and Sylvia herself. When Joyce’s controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Beach takes a massive risk and publishes it under the auspices of Shakespeare and Company.
 
But the success and notoriety of publishing the most infamous and influential book of the century comes with steep costs. The future of her beloved store itself is threatened when Ulysses‘ success brings other publishers to woo Joyce away. Her most cherished relationships are put to the test as Paris is plunged deeper into the Depression and many expatriate friends return to America. As she faces painful personal and financial crises, Sylvia—a woman who has made it her mission to honor the life-changing impact of books—must decide what Shakespeare and Company truly means to her.

the cover of Getting Clean with Stevie Green
the cover of All of You Every Single One

Romance

the cover of D'Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding

D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia H. Higgins (F/F Romance)

D’Vaughn and Kris have six weeks to plan their dream wedding.

Their whole relationship is fake.

Instant I Do could be Kris Zavala’s big break. She’s right on the cusp of really making it as an influencer, so a stint on reality TV is the perfect chance to elevate her brand. And $100,000 wouldn’t hurt, either.

D’Vaughn Miller is just trying to break out of her shell. She’s sort of neglected to come out to her mom for years, so a big splashy fake wedding is just the excuse she needs.

All they have to do is convince their friends and family they’re getting married in six weeks. If anyone guesses they’re not for real, they’re out. Selling their chemistry on camera is surprisingly easy, and it’s still there when no one else is watching, which is an unexpected bonus. Winning this competition is going to be a piece of wedding cake.

But each week of the competition brings new challenges, and soon the prize money’s not the only thing at stake. A reality show isn’t the best place to create a solid foundation, and their fake wedding might just derail their relationship before it even starts.

the cover of Love and Other Disasters

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly (F/NB Romance)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money. 

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

the cover of No Strings
the cover of The Wedding Setup

Mystery/Thrillers

the cover of Real Easy

Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski (Sapphic Thriller)

It’s 1999 and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to mixing work and friendship―after all, between her jealous boyfriend and his young daughter, she has enough on her plate. But the newest dancer is so clueless that Samantha feels compelled to help her learn the hustle and drama of the club: how to sweet-talk the boss, fit in with the other women, and make good money. One night, when the new girl needs a ride home, Samantha agrees to drive: a simple decision that turns deadly.

Georgia, another dancer drawn into the ensuing murder and missing person investigation, gathers information for Holly, a grieving detective determined to solve the case. Georgia just wants to help, but her involvement makes her a target. As Holly and Georgia round up their suspects, the story’s point of view shifts between dancers, detectives, children, club patrons―and the killer.

Drawing on her experience as a former dancer, Marie Rutkoski immerses us in the captivating world of the club, which comes alive with complicated people trying their best to protect themselves and those they love. Character-driven and masterfully plotted, Real Easy gets to the heart of the timeless question: How do women live their lives knowing that men can hurt them?

the cover of Iron Annie
  • Iron Annie by Luke Cassidy (Bisexual Fiction/Crime Fiction) [US Release]

Science Fiction & Fantasy

the cover if If I Were a Weapon
the cover of Seven Mercies

Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

the cover of The Girl I Want is So Handsome! - The Complete Manga Collection

Young Adult

YA Contemporary

the cover of Hopepunk

Hopepunk by Preston Norton (Queer YA)

Growing up in a conservative Christian household isn’t easy for rock-obsessed Hope Cassidy. She’s spent her whole life being told that the devil speaks through Led Zeppelin, but it’s even worse for her sister, Faith, who feels like she can’t be honest about dating the record shop cashier, Mavis. That is, until their youngest sister hears word of their “sinful” utopia and outs Faith to their parents. Now there’s nowhere for Faith to go but the Change Through Grace conversion center…or running away.

Following Faith’s disappearance, their family is suddenly broken. Hope feels a need to rebel. She gets a tattoo and tries singing through the hurt with her Janis Joplin-style voice. But when her long-time crush Danny comes out and is subsequently kicked out of his house, Hope can’t stand by and let history repeat itself. Now living in Faith’s room, Danny and Hope strike up a friendship…and a band. And their music just might be the answer to dethroning Alt-Rite, Danny’s twin brother’s new hate-fueled band.

With a hilarious voice and an open heart, Hopepunk is a novel about forgiveness, redemption, and finding your home, and about how hope is the ultimate act of rebellion.

the cover of Love Somebody

Love Somebody by Rachel Roasek (Bisexual YA)

A sparkling YA debut rom-com about a popular high-school girl, her ex-boyfriend-turned-best-friend, and the girl they both fall for―perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli or Casey McQuiston.

Sam Dickson is a charismatic actress, ambitious and popular with big plans for her future. Ros Shew is one of the smartest people in school―but she’s a loner, and prefers to keep it that way. Then there’s Christian Powell, the darling of the high school soccer team. He’s not the best with communication, which is why he and Sam broke up after dating for six months; but he makes up for it by being genuine, effusive, and kind, which is why they’re still best friends.

When Christian falls for Ros on first sight, their first interaction is a disaster, so he enlists Sam’s help to get through to her. Sam, with motives of her own, agrees to coach Christian from the sidelines on how to soften Ros’s notorious walls. But as Ros starts to suspect Christian is acting differently, and Sam starts to realize the complexity of her own feelings, their fragile relationships threaten to fall apart.

This fresh romantic comedy from debut author Rachel Roasek is a heartfelt story about falling in love―with a partner, with your friends, or just with yourself―and about how maybe, the bravest thing to do in the face of change is just love somebody.

YA Fantasy

the cover of The Bone Spindle

The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder (F/F)

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and The Cruel Prince.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi—until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way—not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark.

the cover of Into the Midnight Void

YA Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

the cover of Coming Back

Coming Back by Jessi Zabarsky (F/F YA Fantasy Graphic Novel)

A beautiful graphic novel fantasy romance that follows two young women who have to go on their own separate adventures to discover the truth about themselves and about each other.

Preet is magic.

Valissa is not.

Everyone in their village has magic in their bones, and Preet is the strongest of them all. Without any power of her own, how can Valissa ever be worthy of Preet’s love? When their home is attacked, Valissa has a chance to prove herself, but that means leaving Preet behind. On her own for the first time, Preet breaks the village’s most sacred laws and is rejected from the only home she’s ever known and sent into a new world.

Divided by different paths, insecurities, and distance, will Valissa and Preet be able to find their way back to each other?

A beautiful story of two young women who are so focused on proving they’re meant to be together that they end up hurting each other in the process. This gorgeous graphic novel is an LGTBQ+ romance about young love and how it can grow into something strong no matter what obstacles get in the way.

Children

Middle Grade

the cover of The Lock-Eater

The Lock-Eater by Zack Loran Clark (Sapphic Middle Grade Fantasy)

For fans of Nevermoor and Howl’s Moving Castle comes an epic fantasy about a girl with the ability to unlock anything—including the empire’s darkest secrets.

Melanie Gate is a foundling with a peculiar talent for opening the unopenable—any lock releases at the touch of her hand. One night, her orphanage is visited by Traveler, a gearling automaton there on behalf of his magical mistress, who needs an apprentice pronto. When Melanie is selected because of her gift, her life changes in a flash, and in more ways than she knows—because Traveler is not at all what he seems. But then, neither is Melanie Gate.

So begins an epic adventure sparkling with magic, wit, secret identities, stinky cats, fierce orphan girls, impostor boys, and a foundling and gearling hotly pursued by the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the land.

Action-packed yet layered, The Lock-Eater is a mix of lush world-building, high stakes, humor, and emotional heft—a page-turner and so much more. 

the cover of Love, Violet
  • Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild & Charlene Chua (Sapphic Picture Book)

Nonfiction

the cover of Open by Rachel Krantz

Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy by Rachel Krantz (Bisexual Polyamorous Memoir)

Can we have both freedom and love? Comfort and lust? Is a relationship ever equal? And is the pleasure worth the pain?
 
When Rachel Krantz met and fell for Adam, he told her that he was looking for a committed partnership—just one that did not include exclusivity. Intrigued and more than a little nervous, Rachel decided to see whether their love could coexist with the freedom to date other people. Could they strike an exquisite balance between intimacy and independence, and find a way to feel passion for one another once the honeymoon phase ended?
 
For Open, her extraordinary debut memoir, Rachel interviewed scientists, psychologists, and people living and loving outside the mainstream as she searched to understand what non-monogamy would do to her heart, her mind, and her life. From exploring Brooklyn sex parties to the wider swinger and polyamory communities, Rachel and Adam attempt to write a new plot for their love story. But they also run up against miscommunications, ancient power dynamics, and seeming betrayals that threaten their love. In these pages, Rachel casts new light on the unique ways coercion and gaslighting manifest in open relationships, and finds herself wondering what liberation really looks like.
 
With an unflinching eye and page-turning storytelling, Open is groundbreaking in both its documentarian approach and its explicit subject matter. From debilitating anxiety spirals to heart-opening connections with the men and women she dates, Rachel puts her whole self on the line as she attempts to redefine what a relationship is—or could be.

the cover of Lost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz

Lost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz (Sapphic Memoir)

ighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s beloved father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the stories of those relationships into a brilliant exploration of how all our lives are shaped by loss and discovery—from the maddening disappearance of everyday objects to the sweeping devastations of war, pandemic, and natural disaster; from finding new planets to falling in love.

Three very different American families form the heart of Lost & Found: the one that made Schulz’s father, a charming, brilliant, absentminded Jewish refugee; the one that made her partner, an equally brilliant farmer’s daughter and devout Christian; and the one she herself makes through marriage. But Schulz is also attentive to other, more universal kinds of conjunction: how private happiness can coexist with global catastrophe, how we get irritated with those we adore, how love and loss are themselves unavoidably inseparable. The resulting book is part memoir, part guidebook to living in a world that is simultaneously full of wonder and joy and wretchedness and suffering—a world that always demands both our gratitude and our grief.

A staff writer at The New Yorker and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Kathryn Schulz writes with curiosity, tenderness, erudition, and wit about our finite yet infinitely complicated lives. Crafted with the emotional clarity of C. S. Lewis and the intellectual force of Susan Sontag, Lost & Found is an uncommon book about common experiences.

the cover of Queerness of Home

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Danika reviews A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

the cover of A Lesson in Vengeance

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I feel a little “dead dove, do not eat” about this reading experience. I went into it looking for a creepy, unsettling read and then finished feeling unnerved and unhappy about feeling that way. So while I didn’t enjoy this read as a whole, that’s down to my own choices. I also started listening to this in October, when I love reading horror and thrillers, but it expired when I was halfway through and I finished in about a month later. Likely if I hadn’t have had that gap in between, I would have enjoyed it more.

This is a dark academia YA novel about Felicity, who has come back to her exclusive/pretentious boarding school after taking a leave to take care of her mental health. Last year, her girlfriend died in a tragic accident. At the time, she’d been obsessed with Dalloway House’s history, with its murders and rumors of witchcraft. This time, she’s determined to set aside the attraction to witchcraft and concentrate on her studies.

That’s when Ellis shows up: a famous (teen) author who is writing about the Dalloway murders and pulls Felicity in to her research. Soon, she finds herself immersed in a world of magic and murder again, even as Ellis tries to prove the Dalloway “witches” were just ordinary women and that the murders could happen without magic. Felicity has more and more trouble telling reality from fiction, especially as she stops medicating for her psychotic depression (a diagnosis the author shares).

If you’re looking for sapphic dark academia, this definitely fits the brief. Dalloway House is a creepy boarding school, and the students are just the kind of pretentious academics you’d expect from the setting. They recite poetry in rooms lit by candlelight, they write their essays on typewriters and eschew cell phones, and they dress like they’re in a period piece.

Part of the reason I didn’t personally enjoy it was that I have a terrible memory and have a bit of a phobia of it becoming worse, so reading from the perspective of someone who often lost touch with reality was very unsettling. (Again, that’s not a fault of the book, but with what I brought to it.) Ellis and Felicity also have an unhealthy relationship, with Ellis being manipulative and often leading Felicity into dangerous territory for her well being, which was hard to watch, especially as Felicity seems to miss a lot of the red flags.

I don’t want to criticize the depiction of Felicity’s mental illness, because it is own voices, but I will say I was a bit confused comparing the author’s note (and her Goodreads review) with how Felicity is portrayed.

This seems to be a divisive read, but I will say many of the criticisms I’ve read are just of the premise or it being in this subgenre. This is dark academia: of course it has unlikable, pretentious, morally gray (at best) main characters. And no, you should not go to this book expecting a cute F/F romance. That’s not what it’s trying to do.

Despite the fact that I didn’t love it personally, I’d still recommend it to readers looking for a dark academic book. I also recommend reading the Lesbrary reviews from Carolina and Sinclair Sexsmith, who both really enjoyed this one, for some other perspectives!

Larkie reviews How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole

the cover of How to Find a Princess

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Alyssa Cole is a master of over the top, slightly ridiculous romcom writing, which always makes for delightfully fun books that hit all the emotional highs and lows of a perfect romance. How to Find a Princess is the second in her Runaway Royals series, although like most good romance series, the books can stand alone as well. The story follows Makeda Hicks, a New Jersey girl who loves to fix things for other people, whether they want her to or not. She has just lost her job and her girlfriend, despite the fact that she’s bent over backwards for both of them, and moves back in to her grandmother’s B&B where she decides she’s going to start being selfish and stop giving herself away. This is when Beznaria Chetchevaliere, royal knight and junior investigator for the World Federation of Monarchists, comes crashing in, determined to prove that Makeda is actually a princess: the long lost heir to the throne of Iberania. But Makeda doesn’t want to be a princess, and is tired of hearing people insist that she is one—so Bez has to convince her to come home.

One of the things that I enjoy about Cole’s writing is her endless optimism and creativity for what a small monarchy could look like. The countries she writes about are fictional, but they feel grounded in reality, and her books are filled with little details to reflect that. Iberania is a small island in the Mediterranean, with Italian and North African influences—which you can see in the names (and swears) of all the Iberanian characters. But despite being a royal romance, Cole clearly doesn’t glorify all monarchies. In this example, Iberania is functionally a democracy, and the hunt for their lost princess is more of a tourism act than anything else. Additionally, the WFM (and its leader) are portrayed as ridiculous for trying to maintain that they’re better than other people because of some accident of birth and generational wealth. Her books modernize the royal romance in new ways every time, which is what makes me willing to keep reading them.

However, despite the fun writing style and the great world building, this book really fell flat for me. The first several chapters were extremely interesting and fun, but then the plot stagnated. Bez kept insisting that she was going to convince Makeda to return to Iberania, and then did a bunch of side stuff that was more about flirting with her than actually advancing the plot. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind excessive flirting, but it didn’t really go anywhere. They spent forever dancing circles around each other, and had one failed kiss to show for the majority of the book. Even when Bez finally does convince Makeda to go to Iberania and at least participate in the contest, the next third of the book is focused on their voyage over—and even though there’s only one bed, they still don’t kiss! They also meet AK, who provides some moral support for Makeda and they have…a lot more chemistry than I feel between Makeda and Bez. He is clearly going to be the main character in the next book, but it kind of made me wonder why I had spent 250 pages trying to connect to a relationship that is less interesting than this friendship that formed in just 2 or 3. They finally get to the island and there are two short chapters that are packed with action, as all of the various plot threads get tied up, but they really felt rushed and I had a lot of questions. I feel like the pacing was the downfall of this book, and I would have rather spent less time in New Jersey, the same time on the ship, and then more time actually watching the ending play out. There were some good twists in there, and I didn’t dislike the way it ended, but it felt very abrupt after all the time we spent trying to get there.

Overall it wasn’t a terrible book, but I would rather recommend some of Cole’s other work. The good parts about this book shine through in other ones she’s written, and make for more entertaining stories. I liked the premise of this one a lot, but it really didn’t deliver like I was hoping it would.

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING (highlight to read):

I enjoyed (and didn’t predict) the twist that Bez was the real princess after all, although it did open up a lot of new questions. My first one was, so what really happened to Queen Aaza? She lived in Australia, but did she have a son? Where did Makeda get that ring (or I guess, where did the sweet talking man that Grandmore slept with get it)? I guess these didn’t need to be specifically answered, but having the ending be so abrupt made them feel a lot more pressing to me. I also feel like this opened up an issue, specifically what Bez says here: “So you mean, I’m a Chetchevaliere and an al-Hurradassi? I am the product of the two most prestigious families on the island? My belief that I am an above-average human, all of us are, is now backed by evidence?” Like I said earlier, one of the things I like about Cole’s royal books is that she dismantles a lot of royalty tropes. They aren’t any better because they’re royalty, they just have more responsibility. Bez herself hates her employers for thinking that they’re better than her because they have money and think they’re royalty! I know that this was meant as a commentary on how Bez clearly has ADHD and is considered lesser because of it. I related to her concerns of being Too Much a lot, as someone with ADHD myself. But it struck a wrong chord that it was her being royalty that is her ‘evidence’ that she’s above average, not that she was more capable or that she managed to get Makeda to Iberania despite all of the obstacles that the WFM put in her way. She’s saying she isn’t better because she outsmarted the antagonist, she’s better because of her lineage. Again, maybe that wouldn’t have struck me as so weird if we’d had more time to process the events of the last two chapters, rather than getting hit by this revelation and the book ending just a page later. But after a lot of the book spent criticizing and ridiculing people who think so highly of themselves because they’re royalty, this line really got to me.

Danika reviews The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

the cover of The Luminous Dead

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I read this in one sitting during the October 24 hour readathon, and it was exactly what I was looking for. This is about Gyre, who has taken a job to explore a planet’s cave system. She had to lie a bit on her resume, because she doesn’t actually have the experience required for this kind of job, but she needs the money. Soon after she descends, though, she learns a few new things about this solo expedition: her handler, whose voice she hears in her suit, is the only one guiding her. Usually, there would be a whole team, but instead, she has Em. Also, many cavers before her have died in these tunnels.

Em is obsessive about this mission, and she will stop at nothing to get it done, including overriding Gyre’s suit, locking her out or injecting her with chemicals to make her sleep or make her alert. This is, of course, on top of the already existing horror of this situation. It’s a claustrophobic space, and it includes underwater caving, which is deadly in the best of circumstances. Then there’s the tunnellers: giant tunneling monsters who will hunt down any humans they can. Gyre’s suit should protect her from being detected, but she has limited supplies to keep it functional, especially when things quickly begin to go wrong.

If that wasn’t enough, Gyre begins to suspect she’s not alone down here. She thinks she sees evidence of someone without a suit surviving down here, but that’s impossible. And there’s also a non-zero chance she’s hallucinating after stumbling on some mysterious spores…

Of course, this is the Lesbrary, so it’s also queer. Gyre and Em have an… interesting relationship. She’s in the cave system for weeks, dependent on Em’s guidance to keep her safe, while also completely distrusting her. As they spend more and more time together, though, and get to know each other, Gyre finds herself reluctantly becoming attached. This is, to be clear, a toxic relationship, but wow was it compelling. Despite Em’s manipulation, I ended up rooting for the two of them, which just shows how well written their dynamic was. If you like the kind of Killing Eve dynamic in F/F relationships, you’d probably appreciate this one.

This is an engrossing blend of psychological horror and survival story. By the time Gyre realizes how deadly this mission is–all caving comes with risks, but this one has more than she was informed of–she’s unable to back out. She is always on the edge of running out of supplies, especially oxygen. As if being trapped underground wasn’t confining enough, the suit becomes claustrophobic after a while, with her desperately wanting to feel anything against her skin, to breathe air freely, or to eat naturally instead of having nutrients injected into her digestive system.

This ticked every box for me, and reading it in one sitting made me feel immersed in this unsettling story. If you’re looking for a creepy, claustrophobic, psychological horror sapphic read, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

The Lesbrary Recommendations List Has Been Updated!

I keep a list of all the bi and lesbian books I have read and loved, and I’ve just updated it with my latest reads! They are linked to their Amazon pages for the blurbs and my review for each title. New additions are bolded, though some of the review links may not work yet. All those reviews will be up by the end of January.

Classics:

Mystery/Thrillers:

Fiction:

Historical Fiction:

Poetry:

Middle Grade:

Young Adult Contemporary:

YA Romance:

YA Anthologies:

SFF Young Adult:

Sci Fi:

Fantasy:

Horror/Zombies/Vampires:

Romance and Erotica:

Comics/Graphic Novels:

SFF Graphic Novels:

Manga:

Nonfiction Comics & Graphic Memoirs:

Memoirs and Biographies:

Nonfiction:

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