Shana reviews The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend by Maddy Court

My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend cover

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If you love reading advice columns but wish they were less straight, you may enjoy The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend as much as I did. This is a warm and witty book about queer love and relationships. Each thematically organized chapter offers short, straightforward answers to queries that are both universal, like how to come out, and specific, like what do when you’re a Capricorn working in the restaurant industry and your wealthy girlfriend refuses to use her inheritance to pay the rent for three years. Oh, lesbian drama, I love you so. 

The book primarily draws from the author’s own life experiences, occasionally weaving in wisdom from her panel of queer experts. The answers from Mey Rude, a fat trans Latina writer, were particularly affirming, and humourist Samantha Irby was predictably hilarious.

The questions are fascinating and diverse, and the responses frequently surprised me by pointing out nuances in the questioner’s situation that I’d missed. For example, the answer to a twist on “Why don’t my girlfriend and I have sex anymore,” first asked the questioner to examine why she was pushing her partner for sex, after she’d already said no; later pivoting to prurient interest in the failed threesome the writer had mentioned as an aside.  

Drawing strongly on the author’s personal experiences is both a strength and weakness here. There were a few times when Court’s personal stories felt tangential, and the questions were left barely addressed. For example, I was hoping for an insightful response to a question about how to deal with low self-esteem issues when your body is fatter than your thin, ripped girlfriend. Instead of utilizing resources on body positivity and fat liberation or the perspectives of her fat guest panelists, the book included a long story about Court’s history with hating her body that seemed to miss the point.

Many of the questions reflect common themes in queer women’s lives—falling in love, figuring out your identity, navigating queer society as a marginalized person, having tough conversations with lovers and fam. At it’s best, this book felt like chatting with a friend who cares deeply about you, but also isn’t afraid to call you on your bullshit. 

Since many questions focus on firsts, like trying an open relationship, or learning to date long distance, most of the people featured are in their twenties. Still, every section includes questions from people 30+ as well. As a solidly middle-aged queer, I felt much of the advice was still relevant. Or at a minimum, highly entertaining. 
I picked up this book thinking it would be fun to read aloud on a dyke road trip. Because the tone vacillates from poignant to lightly snarky, it’s not as consistently funny as I expected. But I was struck by how much of the book focuses on kindness, on how we can care for one another, and for ourselves. I recommend The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend for readers looking for a life guidance, or a reminder the joys and absurdities of queer community.

Maggie reviews The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite

The Hellion's Waltz cover

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The Hellion’s Waltz is the third installment of Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series, and where the first two involved astronomy, printing, and beekeeping, this one revolves around music, weaving, and crime. With the re-surfacing of the hit tv show Leverage, I was quite excited to read a crime romance, and this series hadn’t let me down yet.

Maddie Crewe and the local weaver’s guild are planning a con on a businessman whose unsavory practices are taking advantage of the local weavers and pushing them out of business or into dangerous factories. With their ability to legally organize coming down the pipeline, Maddie and her friends need one good score to properly fund their guild and give their future organizing some teeth. Meanwhile, Sophie Roseingrave’s family has just arrived in town after being forced from London when a con artist’s scheme ruined their reputations and forced their family shop to close.  When she accidentally brushes up against the opening stages of Maddie’s con, she’s torn between her instant attraction to the other woman and her instinctive revulsion towards a scam, no matter how well-intentioned.

As usual with this series, the characters are charming to read.  I loved that they were both talented women in their own fields – Maddie as a weaver and Sophie as both a musician and piano tuner. I loved that neither had any sort of queer awakening during this; being attracted to a woman and acting on that desire wasn’t news or a shock to either of them. They’re both quite taken with each other and are willing to act on their attraction. It’s still refreshing to me to read historical romances where both characters are confident and confidently queer, and I adore it.

Also, who doesn’t love a good crime crew when they’re out to take down a heinous rich guy? And crime to fund a union is especially delicious. The con itself is a little complicated and far-fetched to seem entirely plausible, but it’s fun, and its hilarious hijinks are a good contrast to Sophie’s memories of getting taken in by a dastardly con man who but their piano-making business out of order. Maddie and the weavers are not out to harm families, but rather to protect them. The confidence they have to stand up for themselves helps Sophie to face her lingering trauma after her family’s own experiences and take up music again.

In conclusion, The Hellion’s Waltz is a fun little romp through crime, protecting a community of craftspeople, and letting yourself have good things. It’s fun, not especially deep, and the queerness is established rather than a plot point. It was a very diverting and fun read, and I recommend it if you are looking for a nice f/f historical romance that’s on the light side.

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

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If you’re a fan of historical fiction or romance, this week of new releases is for you! Even the literary fiction picks all have a historical element. And if you like romance AND historical fiction, then don’t miss the historical romance section. For more new sapphic releases, also check out 50 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month: June 1st was the big release day this month, so most of those are already out and waiting for you to pick them!

Literary Fiction

The Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey

The Ophelia Girls cover

A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor.

In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with increasingly elaborate tableaus. But by the end of that fateful summer, real tragedy finds them along the banks.

Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to the suffocating, once grand house she grew up in, the mother of young twins and seventeen-year-old Maeve. Joining the family in the country is Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, who is quietly insinuating himself into their lives and gives Maeve the attention she longs for. She is recently in remission, unsure of her place in the world now that she is cancer-free. Her parents just want her to be an ordinary teenage girl. But what teenage girl is ordinary?

Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters, illicit desire, and the perils and power of being a young woman. 

(Lesbian main character)

In the Field by Rachel Pastan

In the Field cover

In 1920, having persuaded her resistant mother to send her to college, Kate Croft falls in love with science. Painfully rebuffed by a girl she longs for, and in flight from her own confusing sexuality, Kate finds refuge in the calm rationality of biology: its vision of a deeply interconnected world, and the promise that the new field of genetics can explain the way people are.

But science, too, turns out to be marred by human weakness. Despite her hard work and extraordinary gifts, Kate struggles, facing discrimination, competition, and scientific theft. At the same time, a love affair is threatened by Kate’s obsession with figuring out the meaning of the puzzling changes she sees in her experiments. The novel explores what it takes to triumph in the ruthless world of mid-20th-century genetics, following Kate as she decides what she is—and is not—willing to sacrifice to succeed.

(Sapphic main character)

Thriller

Quiet Village by Eden Darry (F/F Thriller)

Quiet Village by Eden Darry

When her sister dies, Collie Noonan gets custody of her ten-year-old niece. Hoping for a fresh start, they move to a small village on the outskirts of Suffolk. But in Hyam all is not as it seems. The locals are verging on hostile, and all the local shop seems to stock is meat – a problem for Collie’s vegetarian niece.

Emily Lassiter is also new to the village, and Collie is drawn to the mysterious schoolteacher. Unknown to Collie, Emily is an undercover reporter looking into the disappearance of her brother. He warned her something was wrong in Hyam. Something was watching him. Emily believes the answers lie in the village, and she’ll do whatever it takes to discover the truth.

But something not quite human is stalking Collie and her niece. It’s coming for them all, and they’ll need to work together if any of them want to get out of Hyam alive.

Romance

Shaken or Stirred by Georgia Beers

Shaken or Stirred by Georgia Beers cover

The only girl in a house of boys, Julia Martini worked extra hard to get noticed. That has made her business-minded and driven, and she’s determined to turn her family’s struggling bar around. Simple. All she has to do is remodel, re-staff, and rebrand the place, work insane hours and ignore the sexy blonde who comes in to…she’s flirting, right? ’Cause Julia’s rusty and has zero time for dating, even if their chemistry is off-the-charts steamy.

Savannah McNally’s needs always come last. A caretaker by trade, she also takes care of her widowed dad, her brother, her sister, and everybody else on the planet, it seems. When her dad finally starts dating, Savannah can focus on her own life for once―her career, her house, maybe even that super-hot bartender at Martini’s who has her thinking naughty thoughts.

When family feuds are exposed and a popular blog trashes the bar, the weight of business decisions, family loyalty, and life in general may outweigh their attraction that could lead to more.

Never Be The Same by MA Binfield

Never Be The Same by MA Binfield cover

They say opposites attract. They aren’t kidding.

When Casey meets Olivia—the actress she’s driving around for two weeks—she figures it’s going to be all business. Sure, Olivia’s hot and has women throwing themselves at her feet, but Casey is only interested in making the money she needs before going back to Portland. London is full of painful memories, and anyway, perfectly put together celebrities are not really her thing.

Olivia loves being “Susie,” her TV alter ego. She’s sassy, sexy, and never short of admirers, but living her life in the public eye is taking its toll. When her new driver turns out to be tall, dark, and undeniably handsome, Olivia is intrigued. But Casey seems like she has something to hide, and the last thing Olivia needs is someone she can’t trust.

The Marriage Masquerade by Toni Logan

The Marriage Masquerade by Toni Logan cover

Taylor Braxton needs to get married, then divorced, with no strings attached.

Taylor, a physical trainer, has just inherited her grandfather’s B&B on Maui, but there’s a catch. She can’t have the deed until the day after her one-year wedding anniversary. She’d rather stick a fork in her eye than get hitched, but the B&B is a dream come true. So all she has to do is find a woman who will agree to fake a marriage. How hard can it be?

Jayden Wheaton could use a year in paradise to help her recovery. After a crippling accident, she hires Taylor in the hope of gaining back some mobility. When Taylor casually mentions her dilemma, Jayden jumps at the chance, hoping the warm island temperatures will help with her chronic pain. A marriage masquerade in exchange for a year in Paradise? Yes, please. After all, it’s not like either of them are looking for romance, so there’s zero chance of their feelings complicating the arrangement. Right?

Calumet by Ali Vali

Calumet by Ali Vali cover

Jaxon Lavigne left the small town of Chackbay, Louisiana, to escape disapproving parents and has never looked back. She’s now a popular English lit professor. Life is good. Really. The only problem is the invite in her mailbox. Who in their right mind has a fifteen-year high school reunion?

Iris Long’s days are predictable. She did the safe thing and married the high school quarterback. While her life isn’t a grand love affair, it’s comfortable, and as the secretary at the local high school, she can see her daughter and son throughout the day. Her family is great, but Iris longs for the one person she can’t have.

Jaxon comes back to town amid gossip that started sixteen years earlier and never really died down. After crushing on Iris in high school, seeing her again is a welcome surprise. But it’s Iris’s daughter, Sean, whose dark hair, blue eyes, and brilliant mind are startlingly like Jaxon’s own who exposes scars from small town secrets.

Jaxon has been kept in the dark by those she loves most, including Iris. But when the truth is finally revealed, will she leave for good?

Historical Romance

The Breath Between Waves by Charlotte Anne Hamilton

The Breath Between Waves by Charlotte Anne Hamilton cover

Penelope Fletcher gave up everything to board the RMS Titanic.

Forced to travel to America for her father’s new job, Penelope left her home in Scotland, her beloved grandmother, and even her girlfriend, who promptly got engaged to someone else. Heartbroken, Penelope isn’t looking forward to the weeklong journey. Or that her parents want her to find a husband in America. To make matters worse, she also has to share a cabin with a complete stranger.

Ruby Cole, her spunky Irish roommate, is unlike anyone Penelope ever met. They become fast friends as they bond over crushing family expectations and sneaking into lush parties together. That Ruby likes women, too, comes as a surprise to Penelope, but she knows their affair can only be temporary. Because as soon as the Titanic arrives in New York, Penelope will have to marry someone of her father’s choosing.

Before long, though, they’ll both have to decide what–and who–is really worth fighting for.

​​Her Countess to Cherish by Jane Walsh

​​Her Countess to Cherish by Jane Walsh cover

Miss Beatrice Everson has managed to marry the Earl of Sinclair, solving her family’s disastrous financial problems for good. She should be the happiest woman in London, but a less than satisfactory wedding night has Beatrice fleeing her husband and planning an affair with the dashing Mr. George Smith.

Lady Georgina Smith has a secret she must keep at all costs: she divides her time running a bluestocking salon as Gina, and carousing across London as George. Captivated by Beatrice’s wit and charm, Georgina realizes that her secret is in danger—along with her heart.

When Beatrice discovers that her wedding night has resulted in an unexpected pregnancy, she sees an opportunity to have it all by divorcing Sinclair and marrying George. However, Georgina isn’t sure that a lifetime spent as a man is staying true to herself. Beatrice and Georgina must risk giving up their secrets to finally have their heart’s desire. But is the risk too great to take?

(Bigender main character with a female love interest)

​Historical Fiction

The Fiend in the Fog by Jess Faraday

The Fiend in the Fog cover

1885, East London

Abigail and Gideon are under siege. Noxious fogs have been bringing their clinic waves of indigent patients with inexplicable symptoms, telling wild tales of a demonic presence in the fog. If that’s not enough, someone wants the clinic for themselves, and they’re using the force of law to get it.

On the other side of town, heiress Meg Eisenstadt and her brother Nat live a life of well-intentioned aimless luxury. She dabbles in social justice causes and he pursues alchemy. And in a secret lab in the depths of Whitechapel, disgraced physician Jin Wylie attempts to rebuild his shattered life by performing dubious research for a shadowy cabal.

They live in separate worlds on different trajectories until the mysterious fiend in the fog brings them together.

Abigail and Meg discover a shared passion for social justice, and for one another. But where does that leave her plans with Gideon? And what of the future of the clinic? Gideon has his own monster. Can he keep it in check without Abigail’s constant presence? Does Dr. Wylie’s research hold the solution to Gideon’s problems, or is it the cause of them? And could Nat’s own dabblings be the key to defeating the vicious killer in the fog?

(F/F)

The Fog of War by A. L. Lester

The Fog of War by A. L. Lester cover

The quiet village of Bradfield should offer Dr Sylvia Marks the refuge she seeks when she returns home from her time in a field hospital in France in 1918. However, she is still haunted by the disappearance of her lover, ambulance driver Anna Masters, two years previously. Settling back in as the village doctor alone in her large family house is more difficult than she realised it would be after the excitement of front-line medicine. Then curious events at a local farm, mysterious lights, and a hallucinating patient’s strange illness make her revisit her assessment of Anna’s death on the battlefield.

Lucille Hall-Bridges is at a loose end now her nursing work is finished. Her Mama and Papa are perfectly happy for her to pursue any or no career or social round; but she felt useful as a nurse and now she really doesn’t know what to do with her life. She hopes going to stay with her friend Sylvia for a while will help her find a way forward. And if that involves staying at Bradfield with Sylvia … then that’s fine with her.

But Sylvia is still focused on finding out what happened to her very good friend Anna three years ago; and the unbelievable events at a local farm over the course of the last year don’t seem to have helped her let that go.

Will the arrival of Lucy in Bradfield be the catalyst that allows both women to put their wartime stresses to rest? Can Sylvia move on from her love affair with Anna and find happiness again with Lucy, or is she still too entwined in the unresolved endings of the past?

NOTE: This story contains mention of domestic violence that happens to side characters off-screen.

(F/F)

Fantasy

Windfall by Shawna Barnett

Windfall by Shawna Barnett cover

Captain Liana Foley knows a thing or two about fights. She fights the King’s Navy. She fights to balance power in oppressive Vioria. She fights for respect as a female, bisexual, pirate captain. But she’s losing her biggest fight: to escape her secret past as a lost Princess.

With a mysterious letter and a stranger threatening to expose her, Liana is blackmailed into attending a royal ball and protecting her counterpart, sheltered Princess Rhian. The pretenses are suspicious enough, but Liana takes the risk in hopes to finally unveil the magic plot that killed her parents and forced her into hiding.

When Liana encounters Rhian’s own lightning-wielding powers, the ball erupts in violence. The sheltered princess falls into the care of Liana—and her band of pirates. On the run, the only safe haven for the Windfall crew to hide is the most-dangerous place of all: under the thumb of Liana’s narcissistic, abusive brother-in-law.

In order to protect her crew, her family, and naïve Rhian, Liana must demand sacrifices from herself and the people she loves. Her choices will make powerful enemies; good thing Liana Foley knows a thing or two about fighting those.

(Bisexual main character)

YA Fantasy

The Sisters of Reckoning (The Good Luck Girls #2) by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Sisters of Reckoning by Charlotte Nicole Davis cover

The blockbuster sequel to Charlotte Nicole Davis’s alternate Old West-set fantasy adventure.

The Good Luck Girls are free. Aster’s sister and friends have new lives across the border in Ferron, while Aster remains in Arketta, helping more girls escape. But news of a new welcome house opening fills Aster with a need to do more than just help individual girls. And an unexpected reunion gives her an idea of how to do it. From there, grows a wildly ambitious plan to free all dustbloods, who live as prisoners to Arketta’s landmasters and debt slavery.

When Clementine and the others return from Ferron, they become the heart of a vibrant group of fearless fighters, working to unite the various underclasses and convince them to join in the fight. Along the way, friendships will be forged, lives will be lost, and love will take root even in the harshest of circumstances, between the most unexpected of lovers.

But will Arketta’s dustbloods finally come into power and freedom, or will the resistance just open them up to a new sort of danger?

(Bisexual main character)

Graphic Novels

Work for a Million: The Graphic Novel by Amanda Deiber, Eve Zaremba, and Selena Goulding

Work for a Million cover

Tightly plotted and razor sharp, Work for a Million is hard-boiled detective noir stunningly rendered against a 1970s urban backdrop.

When Helen Keremos, Private Detective, is hired by a beautiful recording artist who has just won a million dollar lottery prize, her plan for a quiet life on the West Coast is quickly diverted. Helen is fiercely loyal, an independent woman whose magnetic personality and storied career make her the city’s premier private eye, suspicious of all stereotypes and not afraid to bend the rules. Rising star Sonia Deerfield has been receiving blackmail threats from an anonymous caller, and though she is surrounded by her keenly invested business team of “friends,” Helen wonders how trustworthy they really are. As the stakes get higher and attempts are made on their lives, the two women are drawn closer together through the twists and turns of the blackmailer’s dangerous pursuit–and their chemistry is no mystery.

In 1978 Eve Zaremba introduced detective Helen Keremos to readers in a pulp fiction series. The 1987 instalment of the series, Work for a Million, featured the first openly lesbian detective in genre fiction. The novel was adapted into a graphic novel in 2019 by television and comic book writer Amanda Deibert, and will be published more than forty years after readers fell in love with Helen Keremos and Eve Zaremba.

Vivid historical research into Toronto of the late-1970s and a dazzling cast of familiars and foes are brought to life on the page by Canadian artist Selena Goulding in a mixture of full colour and black and white illustrations.

Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, illustrated by Val Wise (YA Graphic Novel)

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms cover

A sweet, queer teen romance perfect for fans of Heartstopper and Check, Please!

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications.

Her former friend BeBe is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition.

Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them. 

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Rachel reviews The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

The Animals at Lockwood Manor cover

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If you like dark, historical novels with a brooding mystery at the center, you’ll love Jane Healey’s The Animals at Lockwood Manor. A queer novel set at a remote country estate in England at the beginning of World War II, the twists and turns of this novel—like the hallways at Lockwood Manor—will surprise you.

In 1939, war has just broken out across the world. In London, Hetty Cartwright is helping to evacuate and safeguard the natural history museum’s vast collection of specimens. Her job is to transport and maintain the large collection of mammals to Lockwood Manor, the vast and daunting estate well beyond the blast zone of the blitz. However, once she arrives at Lockwood, Hetty encounters its cavernous hallways and dark corners alongside its unwelcoming and controlling Lord and his intriguing but allegedly frail daughter, Lucy.

Soon, Hetty realizes that keeping the animals at Lockwood safe entails far more than protecting them from bombs—despite the meddling of Lord Lockwood and the servants, strange things begin to happen at Lockwood; animals go missing, museum property is destroyed, and much worse. Something seems to be stalking Lockwood and the animals within it—and maybe even Hetty herself. Hetty’s only consolation is the darkly beautiful Lucy, who is haunted by her own nightmares and demons. Soon, it falls to Hetty to protect Lucy and unravel the mystery of Lockwood Manor—are the grounds cursed and haunted by spirits, or could it possibly be something worse?

I very much enjoyed this book. Historical fiction set during any time period is a favourite genre of mine, but I especially like novels of WWII. Healey did an excellent job of bringing to life one little-known aspect of the war, and her narrow focus on these fictional events underscored the widespread effect of war on these characters. The setting was intriguing and haunting—a rambling, castle-like house on a remote estate filled with the hulking taxidermy forms of animals is the perfect setting for a creepy mystery like Healey’s. I felt fully immersed in the world throughout the novel.

Hetty’s character was an excellent perspective throughout the novel. While there are short, dream-like interjections from Lucy’s perspective, these only add to the mystery. Hetty’s voice is the primary vehicle through which we encounter the strange happenings at Lockwood and her headstrong, industrious personality was refreshing. She was someone who was easy to relate to, despite the historical setting, and it was exciting to unravel the mystery of this novel and its characters alongside her.

Lucy’s character was similarly intriguing. One thing I felt unsatisfied with in this novel, however, was the romance. While Lucy and Hetty’s partnership was enjoyable and relatively convincing, the discovery of their feelings for one another felt a bit stilted and indelicate. The novel seemed to lurch into a lesbian relationship rather than flow into one. While it is difficult to frame lesbian desire in a historical setting, I felt that, in this case, Hetty and Lucy declaring their love for one another was a bit too disjointed at times.

Nevertheless, the end of this novel was a lovely and haunting conclusion. Hetty and Lucy’s partnership was far more grounded at the end of this novel, and overall I felt that the book was an exciting historical mystery with haunting elements that kept me guessing.

Please visit Jane Healey on Twitter and put The Animals at Lockwood Manor on your TBR on Goodreads.

Content Warnings: Trauma, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse. 

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.

Kayla Bell reviews The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann

The Fallen cover

Remember last month, when I said that I love the publisher Angry Robot and the book that made me fall in love with them was Ada Hoffman’s The Outside? Well, manifesting works, because this month, I get to review The Fallen, The Outside’s sequel. This review will include some spoilers for The Outside, so I recommend reading that before reading this review! 

The novel picks up where the last book left off, with Yasira recovering from her trip to the Outside while her girlfriend, Tiv,  takes care of her and leads the rebellion against the Gods. We also see the return of the vengeful AI Gods and their legion of warriors, out for revenge against Yasira. I don’t want to include spoilers for the plot, so I will just say that another space opera adventure ensues. I loved returning to the world of the Chaos Zone because of the truly unique worldbuilding. The combination of spirituality and artificial intelligence is such a fascinating premise. It makes the more technology-focused parts of the novel still interesting to read about. In this novel, we see the angels struggle with balancing their emotions, their roles in the divine system, and their technological nature. We also see the toll taken on the resistance fighters, and their desire to press on despite it all. This story is engaging and fast-paced.

The only part of the novel that I didn’t love as much were the constant time skips. It was interesting to see the characters at different points in the narrative, but, especially combined with all of the new information presented about the world, it did feel overwhelming to me at times. I could still easily follow the story, it just felt a bit all over the place. Despite that, I really liked the interludes between chapters, where we get to see the diary of Yasira’s old mentor Evianna Talirr. These streams of consciousness really underpin the themes of the novel and breaks up the story nicely. 

Once again, just like in The Outside, we see representation of autism and mental illness. As a neurodivergent person myself, I love seeing this experience valued and centered in a science fiction story. Neurodiversity is explored not just in Yasira, but in different cultures throughout the world, which was amazing to see. Moreover, I love that there are emotional consequences to the events that happen in this world. Yasira is truly changed and impacted by the scary, traumatizing things she’s seen and been through, both mentally and physically. Tiv is also impacted by the things she’s seen, and carries the weight of the primary caretaker role in the relationship. This is all while the couple is still in danger, facing the ire of some of the most powerful beings in their universe. In general, I am always impressed by the exploration of mental and emotional health in this series.

Another part of the book I really liked was learning more about what happened to Old Earth, our world, in this series’ universe. There is a scene where Tiv visits a museum detailing everything that happened on Earth, focused mostly on the people’s suffering. This part felt very prescient and also made me truly understand why people in this universe relied so heavily on the Gods despite their destructive, controlling natures. It built upon the worldbuilding of the last book in a detailed way. The Fallen is another adventurous foray into the technotheocratic world that Ada Hoffmann has created. It definitely lives up to its predecessor and represents characters that are usually not included in science fiction, much less space opera. This book was released on July 13th, so you can pick up a copy now. Thank you to Angry Robot for providing this ARC.

August 2021 New Releases: 50 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Month!

Collage of covers listed below with the text "Bi and Lesbian Books Out in July!"

Would you believe that more than 50 sapphic books come out this month? It’s true! Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out which books have queer representation, or what kind of representation they have. So here’s a big list of bi and lesbian books out this month, sorted by genre. I’ve highlighted a few of the books I’m most interested in, 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

Radiant Fugitives cover

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

A dazzling, operatic debut novel following three generations of a Muslim Indian family confronted with a nation on the brink of change.

Working as a consultant for Kamala Harris’s attorney general campaign in Obama-era San Francisco, Seema has constructed a successful life for herself in the West, despite still struggling with her father’s long-ago decision to exile her from the family after she came out as lesbian. Now, nine months pregnant and estranged from the Black father of her unborn son, Seema seeks solace in the company of those she once thought lost to her: her ailing mother, Nafeesa, traveling alone to California from Chennai, and her devoutly religious sister, Tahera, a doctor living in Texas with her husband and children. 

But instead of a joyful reconciliation anticipating the birth of a child, the events of this fateful week unearth years of betrayal, misunderstanding, and complicated layers of love—a tapestry of emotions as riveting and disparate as the era itself.

Told from the point of view of Seema’s child at the moment of his birth, and infused with the poetry of Wordsworth and Keats and verses from the Quran, Radiant Fugitives is a moving tale of a family and a country grappling with acceptance, forgiveness, and enduring love.

The Ophelia Girls cover

The Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey

A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor.

In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with increasingly elaborate tableaus. But by the end of that fateful summer, real tragedy finds them along the banks.

Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to the suffocating, once grand house she grew up in, the mother of young twins and seventeen-year-old Maeve. Joining the family in the country is Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, who is quietly insinuating himself into their lives and gives Maeve the attention she longs for. She is recently in remission, unsure of her place in the world now that she is cancer-free. Her parents just want her to be an ordinary teenage girl. But what teenage girl is ordinary?

Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters, illicit desire, and the perils and power of being a young woman. 

(Lesbian main character)

All Are Welcome cover

All Are Welcome by Liz Parker

A darkly funny novel from a fresh new voice in fiction about brides, lovers, friends, and family, and all the secrets that come with them.

Tiny McAllister never thought she’d get married. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t think girls from Connecticut married other girls. Yet here she is with Caroline, the love of her life, at their destination wedding on the Bermuda coast. In attendance—their respective families and a few choice friends. The conflict-phobic Tiny hopes for a beautiful weekend with her bride-to-be. But as the weekend unfolds, it starts to feel like there’s a skeleton in every closet of the resort.

From Tiny’s family members, who find the world is changing at an uncomfortable speed, to Caroline’s parents, who are engaged in conspiratorial whispers, to their friends, who packed secrets of their own—nobody seems entirely forthcoming. Not to mention the conspicuous no-show and a tempting visit from the past. What the celebration really needs now is a monsoon to help stir up all the long-held secrets, simmering discontent, and hidden agendas.

All Tiny wanted was to get married, but if she can make it through this squall of a wedding, she might just leave with more than a wife.

Fresh by Margot Wood cover

Fresh by Margot Wood (New Adult)

A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experience–and missteps–of a girl’s freshman year of college

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer–from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

(Check out the Lesbrary review of Fresh!)

On Home by Becca Spence Dobias cover
In the Field cover

Historical Fiction

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert cover

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert

A Gentleman in Moscow meets “Moulin Rouge” in this stylish, sexy page-turner set in Paris on the eve of World War II, where Clementine, a queer American ex-pat and notorious thief, is drawn out of retirement and into one last scam when the Nazis invade.

Clementine is a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with a penchant for impeccably tailored suits. Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down in 1930 and opens a shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.

Now it’s 1941 and Clem’s favorite haunt, Madame Boulette’s, is crawling with Nazis, while Clem’s people–the outsiders, the artists, and the hustlers who used to call it home–are disappearing. Clem’s first instinct is to go to ground–it’s a frigid Paris winter and she’s too old to put up a fight. But when the cabaret’s prize songbird, Zoe St. Angel, recruits Clem to steal the recipe book of a now-missing famous Parisian perfumer, she can’t say no. Her mark is Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who wants the book and Clem’s expertise to himself. Hoping to buy the time and trust she needs to pull off her scheme, Clem settles on a novel strategy: Telling Voss the truth about the life and loves she came to Paris to escape. 

Complete with romance, espionage, champagne towers, and haute couture, this full-tilt sensory experience is a dazzling portrait of the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.

The Fiend in the Fog cover
The Fog of War by A. L. Lester cover

Romance

I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander cover

I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander (F/F)

Can an up-and-coming horror actress and the makeup artist for her newest “creature feature” turn on-set chemistry into the romance of a lifetime?

Lilah Silver’s a young actress who dreams of climbing out of B-list stardom. She’s been cast as the lead in what could be her breakout performance…but if she wants to prove herself to everyone who ever doubted her, she’s going to need major help along the way.

Noa Birnbaum may be a brilliant makeup artist and special effects whiz-kid, but cracking into the union is more difficult than she imagined. Keeping everyone happy is a full-time job, and she’s already run ragged. And yet when the beautiful star she’s been secretly crushing on admits to fears of her own, Noa vows to do everything in her power to help Lilah shine like never before.

Long hours? Exhausting work? No problem. Together they can take the world by storm…but can the connection forged over long hours in the makeup chair ever hope to survive the glare of the spotlight?

(Check out the Lesbrary review!)

Shaken or Stirred by Georgia Beers cover
Never Be The Same by MA Binfield cover
The Commitment by Virginia Hale cover
Looking for Trouble by Jess Lea cover
Sips of Her by Karmen Lee cover
The Marriage Masquerade by Toni Logan cover
You'll Be Fine by Jen Michalski cover
Love in the Limelight by Ashley Moore cover
Fake It by Lily Seabrooke cover
Learning Curves Omnibus by Ceillie Simkiss cover
Love Burns by Adrian J. Smith cover
Calumet by Ali Vali cover
Late City Summer by Jeanette Bears cover
The Breath Between Waves by Charlotte Anne Hamilton cover
​​Her Countess to Cherish by Jane Walsh cover

Mystery/Thrillers

The Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis cover

The Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis (Thriller)

“I opened my eyes and the woman wearing my face opened hers at the same time.”

Iris flees New York City, and her abusive wife Claude, for the Catskill Mountains. When she was a child, Iris and her father found solace in the beauty and wilderness of the forest; now, years later, Iris has returned for time and space to clear her head, and to come to terms with the mistakes that have led her here. But what Iris doesn’t expect in her journey of survival and self-discovery is to find herself–literally.

Trapped in a neglected cabin deep in the mountains, Iris is grudgingly forced to come face to face with a seemingly prettier, happier and better version of herself. Other Iris made different choices in life and love. But is she all she seems? Can she be trusted? What is she hiding?

As a storm encroaches, threatening both their lives, time is running out for them to discover why they have been brought together, and what it means for their futures.

An important, searing novel about one woman’s journey in fleeing an abusive relationship and confronting the secrets of her past.

Quiet Village by Eden Darry
Talented Amateur by Maryn Scott

Fantasy

The Thousand Eyes cover

The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates #2) by A. K. Larkwood

The sequel to A. K. Larkwood’s stunning debut fantasy, The Unspoken NameThe Thousand Eyes continues The Serpent Gates series—perfect for fans of Jenn Lyons, Joe Abercrombie, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Two years ago, Csorwe and Shuthmili risked the anger of the wizard Belthandros Sethennai to gain their freedom. Now, they make their living exploring relic worlds of the ancient serpent empire of Echentyr. They think they’re prepared for anything—but when one of their expeditions releases an Echentyri soldier who has slept undisturbed since the fall of her homeland, they are thrown back into a conflict that has lain dormant for thousands of years. Shuthmili will give anything to protect the woman and the life that she loves, but as events spiral out of control, she is torn between clinging to her humanity and embracing her eldritch power.

Meanwhile, Tal Charossa returns to Tlaanthothe to find that Sethennai has gone missing. Tal wants nothing to do with his old boss and former lover, so when a magical catastrophe befalls the city, Tal tries to run rather than face his past—but he soon learns that something even worse may lurk in the future. Throughout the worlds of the Echo Maze, fragments of an undead goddess begin to awaken, and not all confrontations can be put off forever…

Foxhunt by Rem Wigmore cover

Foxhunt by Rem Wigmore (Solarpunk)

In a lush solarpunk future, plants have stripped most of the poison from the air and bounty hunters keep resource hoarders in check.

Orfeus only wants to be a travelling singer, famed and adored. She has her share of secrets, but she’s no energy criminal, so why does a bounty hunter want her dead? Not just any bounty hunter but the Wolf, most fearsome of all the Order of the Vengeful Wild.

Orfeus will call in every favor she has to find out, seeking answers while clinging to her pride and fending off the hunters of the Wild. But she isn’t the only one at risk: every misstep endangers the enemies she turns into allies, and the allies she brings into danger.

There are worse monsters than the Wolf hiding in this new green world.

(Bisexual main character)

Windfall by Shawna Barnett cover
Walk Between Worlds by Samara Breger cover
The Flames of Albiyon by Jean Z. Menzies cover
All That Remains by Sheri Lewis Wohl cover

Science Fiction & Horror

The Second Rebel cover

The Second Rebel (The First Sister #2) by Linden A. Lewis

Astrid has reclaimed her name and her voice, and now seeks to bring down the Sisterhood from within. Throwing herself into the lioness’ den, Astrid must confront and challenge the Aunts who run the Gean religious institution, but she quickly discovers that the business of politics is far deadlier than she ever expected.

Meanwhile, on an outlaw colony station deep in space, Hiro val Akira seeks to bring a dangerous ally into the rebellion. Whispers of a digital woman fuel Hiro’s search, but they are not the only person looking for this link to the mysterious race of Synthetics.

Lito sol Lucious continues to grow into his role as a lead revolutionary and is tasked with rescuing an Aster operative from deep within an Icarii prison. With danger around every corner, Lito, his partner Ofiera, and the newly freed operative must flee in order to keep dangerous secrets out of enemy hands.

Back on Venus, Lito’s sister Lucinia must carry on after her brother’s disappearance and accusation of treason by Icarii authorities. Despite being under the thumb of Souji val Akira, Lucinia manages to keep her nose clean…that is until an Aster revolutionary shows up with news about her brother’s fate, and an opportunity to join the fight.

This captivating, spellbinding second installment to The First Sister series picks up right where The First Sister left off and is a must-read for science fiction fans everywhere.

(F/F relationship)

We're Here cover
The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha cover
Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper cover

Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

Work for a Million: The Graphic Novel cover

Work for a Million: The Graphic Novel by Amanda Deiber, Eve Zaremba, and Selena Goulding (Lesbian Graphic Novel)

Tightly plotted and razor sharp, Work for a Million is hard-boiled detective noir stunningly rendered against a 1970s urban backdrop.

When Helen Keremos, Private Detective, is hired by a beautiful recording artist who has just won a million dollar lottery prize, her plan for a quiet life on the West Coast is quickly diverted. Helen is fiercely loyal, an independent woman whose magnetic personality and storied career make her the city’s premier private eye, suspicious of all stereotypes and not afraid to bend the rules. Rising star Sonia Deerfield has been receiving blackmail threats from an anonymous caller, and though she is surrounded by her keenly invested business team of “friends,” Helen wonders how trustworthy they really are. As the stakes get higher and attempts are made on their lives, the two women are drawn closer together through the twists and turns of the blackmailer’s dangerous pursuit–and their chemistry is no mystery.

In 1978 Eve Zaremba introduced detective Helen Keremos to readers in a pulp fiction series. The 1987 instalment of the series, Work for a Million, featured the first openly lesbian detective in genre fiction. The novel was adapted into a graphic novel in 2019 by television and comic book writer Amanda Deibert, and will be published more than forty years after readers fell in love with Helen Keremos and Eve Zaremba.

Vivid historical research into Toronto of the late-1970s and a dazzling cast of familiars and foes are brought to life on the page by Canadian artist Selena Goulding in a mixture of full colour and black and white illustrations.

Lost on Planet Earth cover

Lost on Planet Earth by Magdalene Visaggio and Claudia Aguirre (F/F Sci Fi Graphic Novel)

It’s 2381, and Basil Miranda, on the verge of graduation, knows exactly what she’s doing with the rest of her life and always has: a primo assignment on the best ship in the fleet alongside her best friend in the world.

She has meticulously prepared herself, and the final Fleet Exam is tomorrow. But what if none of that is what she really wants? And why hasn’t she ever asked herself that before?

Lost on Planet Earth is the latest expectation-defying series from Visaggio, the Eisner-nominated writer of Kim & Kim and Eternity Girl, whose acclaimed comic Vagrant Queen was recently adapted for TV by SYFY. Lost on Planet Earth reunites Visaggio with artist Aguirre. The pair previously collaborated on Kim & Kim and created the acclaimed series Morning in America; they are joined by letterer Zakk Saam and editor Joe Corallo. This is the first release for Visaggio, Aguirre, Saam, and Corallo under the name DEATH RATTLE, a rock band-style moniker for their creative collaborations.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Legacy Edition, Book Five cover with Willow and Tara touching foreheads

Young Adult

YA Contemporary

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin cover

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn―and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town―and within her family―that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls―one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis―the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

Britta Lundin’s sophomore novel will give readers all the feels, and make them stand up and cheer.

Edie In Between cover

Edie in Between by Laura Sibson

It’s been one year since Edie’s mother died. But her ghost has never left.

According to her GG, it’s tradition that the dead of the Mitchell family linger with the living. It’s just as much a part of a Mitchell’s life as brewing healing remedies or talking to plants. But Edie, whose pain over losing her mother is still fresh, has no interest in her family’s legacy as local “witches.”

When her mother’s teenage journal tumbles into her life, her family’s mystical inheritance becomes once and for all too hard to ignore. It takes Edie on a scavenger hunt to find objects that once belonged to her mother, each one imbued with a different memory. Every time she touches one of these talismans, it whisks her to another entry inside the journal–where she watches her teenage mom mourn, love, and hope just as Edie herself is now doing.

But as Edie discovers, there’s a dark secret behind her family’s practice that she’s unwittingly released. She’ll have to embrace–and master–the magic she’s always rejected…before it consumes her.

Tinged with a sweet romance with the spellbinding Rhia, who works at the local occult shop, Edie in Between delivers all the cozy magic a budding young witch finding her way in the world needs.

(F/F relationship)

Tobyn: The It Girl by Ashley Woodfolk
The Misadventures of an Amateur Naturalist by Ceinwen Langley cover

YA Mystery/Thrillers

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould cover

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (YA Thriller)

he Dark has been waiting―and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just come to town.

Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before. But the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more than ghosts plaguing this small town. Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his ghost following her ever since. Although everyone shuns the Ortiz-Woodleys, the mysterious Logan may be the only person who can help Ashley get some answers.

When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who―or what―is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness

(Check out the Lesbrary review of The Dead and the Dark!)

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (YA Thriller)

A dark, twisty thriller about a centuries-old, ivy-covered boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past. The  dangerous romance and atmospheric setting makes it a perfect read for fans of dark academia.

The history of Dalloway School lives in the bones it was built on. Five violent deaths in the first ten years of its existence. Sometimes you can still smell the blood on the air.

It wasn’t until Felicity enrolled that she fell in love with the dark. And now she’s back to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of the five Dalloway students who died there—girls some say were witches.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no.

Dalloway’s occult lore is everywhere, and the new girl won’t let Felicity forget it. But when the past begins to invade on the present, Felicity needs to decide where she stands. The soil under her feet is bloody with Dalloway’s history. But so is the present. Is it Dalloway—or is it her?

YA Fantasy

The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad cover
The Sisters of Reckoning by Charlotte Nicole Davis cover

YA Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms cover

Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, illustrated by Val Wise

A sweet, queer teen romance perfect for fans of Heartstopper and Check, Please!

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications.

Her former friend BeBe is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition.

Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them. 

Children

Middle Grade

The Flyers by Beth Turley cover

The Flyers by Beth Turley

Four strangers meet in the big city and learn to embrace new experiences while keeping the best parts of home with them in this Bold Type­–driven middle grade—from the author of The Last Tree Town and If This Were a Story.

With the arrival of a glossy, cream-colored envelope in the mail, Elena Martinez’s dreams come true: she’s been chosen for the Spread Your Wings Magazine’s Young Flyers program—a week-long summer internship where she’ll get to learn the ins and outs of working for the most popular teen magazine. She heads to New York City, anxious to get away from her best friend, Summer, who is suddenly spending so much time with another girl from school and being so secretive about it.

Once there Elena meets her fellow Young Flyers: Harlow, who can get to the bottom of any story, Whitney, who has spot-on fashion sense, and Cailin, a social media star with thousands of followers and an eye for photography.

As the four new friends explore the city that never sleeps, each girl brings a piece of home, and a few secrets, with them and learns that no one’s life is as glossy as it may appear. But with courage, teamwork, and lots of passion, there’s no stopping a Flyer.

(One of the main characters has a crush on girl)

Once Upon a Crime by Robin Stevens cover

Nonfiction

Memoirs & Essays

All In by Billie Jean King cover

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

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Danika reviews The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould cover

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Logan has lived her life on the road with her two dads, Alejo and Brandon, as they scour the country for locations for the newest episode of their ghost-hunting TV show, ParaSpectors. She and Alejo are close and their relationship is easy, but she’s always felt distanced from Brandon, and sometimes it seems like they outright dislike each other. When Brandon goes to his and Alejo’s hometown of Snakebite, he claims it’s to scout the location for the show, but when he stays for months without explanation, Alejo and Logan follow him. There, Logan faces a small town hostile to her as an out lesbian as well as to her dads. A teenager went missing when Brandon arrived, and the town is sure he’s involved. Then more kids start turning up dead, and Logan’s not sure even she trusts her father…

This is a creepy, atmospheric YA horror/thriller about a force possessing someone in a small town and getting them to kill teenagers. For the first half of this book, I thought I knew exactly where it was going, and wow was I wrong. Most of the story slowly unfolds, only raising more questions as it goes, and then the last chunk of the book is full of revelations and twists.

While I just discussed Logan’s story in the summary, this actually has two point of view characters (plus some asides narrated by The Dark). Ashley has lived her whole life in Snakebite, and she loves it here. Her mother is the backbone of the town, and she’s determined to follow in her footsteps. She has a close-knit group of friends, and her and her boyfriend, Tristan, have an idyllic relationship–or they did, until he disappears. While everyone else seems to either accept that he’s died or they think he just skipped town, Ashley keeps up the search. When Logan arrives, the town turn against her, but Ashley and Logan find an unlikely partnership. They both want to find out what happened to Tristan–Logan, in order to prove her dad innocent, and Ashley, to find Tristan alive.

Soon, as more bodies appear–including Ashley’s friends’–they begin to suspect something supernatural is happening. Ashley gets visions of Tristan and even of past happenings in the town. Brandon and Alejo seem to be keeping secrets about their past here, and Ashley and Logan are left on their own to try to solve this mystery before more people die.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and I thought it worked really well in that format. I liked getting immersed in the unsettling world of Snakebite, and I was happy to let the story unfurl slowly because of that. Ashley and Logan are also really interesting characters. Logan has been out for ages and is very sure of herself and immediately angry at this town for its hostility towards her queer family. She’s unafraid to start fights and has no interest in getting on anyone’s good side. Ashley, on the other hand, has always been the placating kind, trying to be the perfect daughter, girlfriend, and friend. Tristan’s disappearance forces her to assert herself, because she’s the one advocating for keeping up the search. She is confused by Logan and her growing feelings for her. It’s this exploration of compulsory heterosexuality (not named, of course) that I found fascinating.

If you’re looking for a creepy read or listen, I highly recommend this one.

Danika reviews Fresh by Margot Wood

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

I picked up Fresh when I was in a bit of a reading slump, and in the first few pages, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It definitely has a distinct voice. It’s a first person point of view, and it sure sounds like a college freshman telling you a story–which is exactly what this is. It’s Elliot’s first year of university: how she messed it up, and how she tried to rebuild. She’s a little ridiculous, and she has lots of silly asides, including footnotes. It’s a style that will immediately turn some people off and pull others in. Once I bought in, I loved it, and I ended up reading it in two days–so much for that reading slump.

This is loosely inspired by Emma–if Emma was a bisexual girl with ADHD who went to an artsy college but is mainly interested in getting laid. Her family is wealthy, so she’s not too concerned about getting the most out of her education. She likes sex–but not commitment. Her high school relationship ended in heartbreak and humiliation, so she’s strictly casual now. The only assignment she puts any real thought into is an essay for her Sex and Intimacy class (did I mention it’s an artsy school?), where she embarks on a personal quest to sleep with a ton of people to try to find truly Good Sex–and then write about it.

A lot of people (especially on TikTok) are looking for more queer new adult books: books about the beginning years of college and/or just leaving high school, when you’re not quite a fully-fledged adult, but YA no longer reflects your experience. This definitely isn’t my experience with university, which involved still living at home and working to pay for tuition, but it’s certainly somebody’s! It’s got classic sloppy partying scenes and, as mentioned, a lot of casual hookups. Although there is a lot of talk about sex in Fresh, it’s not an erotic or steamy read. Sex is treated very matter of factly, and Elliot doesn’t give it a lot of weight.

I really enjoyed reading about a character who messes up so much. That’s where the Emma comparison comes in: she tries to set up her friend, determined that she knows what’s best for her, without realizing that her own life is very much not together. She’s afraid of intimacy and has no direction. She has no goals for her future, she’s not trying in any of her classes (and also not signing up for serious/useful classes), and she’s also not being a great friend. It doesn’t take long before it all blows up in her face.

I do want to give some clear content warning for both sexual assault and slut shaming. Elliot isn’t treating people well–she’s ghosting her hookups, and they’re not always aware that she only wants something casual–and that gets tangled up in general cultural shaming around women having casual sex (especially bisexual women). It’s clear from context that the slut shaming sentiment is wrong, but it’s not clearly defined. Similarly, while one character treats the attempted sexual assault very seriously (as does Elliot), not every character does, and it also gets mixed up with other things. I don’t think that’s a fault of the writing, necessarily, but I think readers should be aware of that going in.

Despite Elliot’s intimacy issues, there is also a romantic subplot, full of yearning, miscommunication, and a touch of the enemies to painful crush pipeline.

Overall, I thought this was such an absorbing, entertaining read, and I think it’s much-needed for new adult readers. Meanwhile, us older and wiser readers will be shaking our heads fondly at the rollercoaster of college relationships. I definitely never stopped hating the term “tender chicken,” which is used a lot in this book, and really spotlights how not erotic the descriptions of sex are, but I managed to get over that, and I’m grateful for it breaking through my reading slump. If you’re looking for a fun, silly, fast read–or queer new adult about college!–I highly recommend this one.

I’m Done With 3 Star Queer Books

At Book Riot, I write a weekly LGBTQ books newsletter called Our Queerest Shelves! Every week, I round up the most interesting queer bookish links from around the internet plus the newest LGBTQ posts on Book Riot, highlight some of the week’s queer new releases, and talk about whatever queer bookish topics that come to mind.

Our Queerest Shelves sign up form

This week (the post going out today), I talked about why I’m done with reading 3 star queer books. If you’d like to keep up with the latest queer book news and new releases–and you want to help ensure I can keep writing these every week!–sign up for it here.

Danika reviews I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander

I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander cover

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Lilah is a B-movie “scream queen,” semi-famous for her horror roles. Her latest is Scareodactyl, a cheesy dinosaur horror movie with buckets of fake blood. She’s been trained for stardom her whole life, and she’s found success in these movies–but secretly, she’s never even seen a horror movie, and she’d rather be on a historical fiction film set. Noa, on the other hand, is thrilled to be plastering fake wounds on actors. She dropped out of school to pursue union membership as a makeup artist, determined to live her dream of getting to do larger-than-life special effects horror makeup. The stakes are high, though: if she doesn’t get the hours and the recommendation, she’ll have no shot at the union (and future jobs), and she’ll have thrown away her education for nothing.

When Noa arrives at the set the first day, she’s stunned to see Lilah–the same actress who is on a poster in her bedroom. She’s a big fan, and she tries painfully hard to play it cool. Unfortunately, she manages to put her foot in her mouth the moment she sees Lilah, telling her she looks forward to hurting her. (By which she meant applying fake wounds to her.) One of my favourite touches in this is that Lilah is equally starstruck with Noa, because Noa is openly queer. To closeted bisexual Lilah, Noa is the epitome of cool. But as she also tries to keep that under wraps–especially because she mistakenly thinks Noa’s roommate is her girlfriend, she comes across as aloof (and straight).

While the cover makes this look like a Hollywood romance, I far, far prefer this art (which is part of the preorder campaign):

I Kissed a Girl Presents Scareodactyl art, showing Lilah and Noa kissing with a pterodactyl swopping down towards them

I loved the juxtaposition between the sweet romance and the cheesy, gory horror movie–and I wished that I had been played up a little more in the marketing (especially the cover). Far from a glitzy Hollywood romance, Lilah has to tread water in a tank that smells like sour milk and spends a lot of time rinsing various kinds of goo and fake blood from her hair.

I also appreciated that both of the main characters are Jewish, and they find connection with each other in that. There’s also a trans side character, and one of my favourite moments of the book was when Noa’s parents say Chrissy (the roommate) is welcome at Rosh Hashanah even if Noa doesn’t come, but to tell them how many girlfriends she’s bringing, because last time they had to run across the street to borrow chairs from the Glazers. It’s such a sweet, casual moment of acceptance (Chrissy is also queer and polyamorous).

Another aspect I thought was interesting was Lilah’s perception of herself. She has basically been raised to be an actress, so she’s very used to thinking of her body as an object–and one that she has to market successfully. She’s constantly thinking about angles and how she’s being perceived. She has a camera-ready smile and is careful to be an easy person to work with. She’s also self-conscious about her appearance, and she often shuts down when Noa compliments her looks, because she’s used to being reduced to only that.

Noa, on the other hand, has her own flaws. She’s quick to get frustrated with Lilah’s apparent insincerity, but Noa is judgmental and can be clueless about others (while Lilah is hyper aware of others’ feelings). She scoffs at Lilah reading romance novels, for instance, and understandably puts Lilah off with her judginess.

I did have some issues with the pacing. There’s a stalker subplot that felt very drawn out and awkward, and the romance plot seemed to get paused for a while and then pick up where it left off. It feels like it could have been a more tightly-plotted novella, so that there wasn’t a chunk in the middle where we’re just waiting for Noah and Lilah to get together and the stalker to be revealed.

Despite the pacing issues, I did enjoy this one overall, and I especially recommend it for readers looking for F/F Jewish romance who have exhausted the Shira Glassman back catalogue!