A Rivals to Lovers Soccer Romance: You Don’t Have a Shot by Racquel Marie

the cover of You Don't Have a Shot

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Racquel Marie’s You Don’t Have a Shot is a YA romance that centers around Valentina Castillo-Green, a high school soccer star whose life revolves around the sport. After an abrupt end to her junior year soccer season, Vale ends up at soccer camp, co-captaining a team with her longtime rival, Leticia. As they take their team from a bunch of rookies with little more than enthusiasm and a whole lot of untapped potential to a tight group of friends with the skills to win, Vale and Leticia learn to not only trust each other but also to care about each other, more than either of them could ever have expected.

I read Marie’s 2024 release This is Me Trying a couple months ago and loved it, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to love this one as well, especially considering I’ve been in such a sports romance mood lately, but man is it fun when a book still manages to exceed those expectations. It gave me exactly what I want from sports romance: a romance I can root for, a deep feeling of camaraderie among the team, and a love for the sport so deep it makes me forget I actually hate sports in real life. More than once while reading this, I caught myself thinking, wow, this sounds fun—this despite the fact that my own very brief soccer career was limited to me, age six, wandering around the field picking flowers and ignoring whatever gameplay was happening elsewhere.

The thing about this book is there is so much compassion here. Vale had a lot of growth she needed to do at the beginning. She was selfish, judgmental, even a little mean. She took everything so seriously, to the point where Leticia notes that Vale doesn’t even look like she’s having fun when she plays. For all her flaws, though, I loved her. I always find it refreshing, especially in YA, when an author isn’t afraid to let their characters be in the wrong, and Vale certainly was that, but watching her learn to listen to Leticia and the rest of her team brought me just as much joy as the romance did. And by the end, I was so proud of her.

As for the romance, as I said, it brought me quite a lot of joy. The banter was funny, and the transition from rivals to friends to something else felt natural in a way that can be difficult to manage. Without saying too much, though, the background was believable, and it was so much fun to watch them learn to rely on each other and see Vale kind of fight against the realization that she is starting to—gasp!—like Leticia as a person. Vale’s other relationships had a similar realism. Every conversation she had with her father made my heart clench—Leticia and I had a similarly unfavorable assessment of the man. But by far, my favorite secondary relationship was the tentative alliance between Vale and her writer brother, Jorge, as they each grapple with their father’s unfair expectations of them.

I truly loved this book. With its strong romance, its complicated friendships and familial relationships, and a compelling protagonist with room to grow, this book had a lot going for it, and in my opinion, it nailed every aspect.  Racquel Marie has yet to let me down, and I very much look forward to reading more from her.

Meet Your New Favorite Sapphic Sci-Fi Book: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson 

The Space Between Worlds cover

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The Space Between Worlds is one of the best stories I have ever read, and I’m not even exaggerating. This novel follows Cara, a poor girl from Ashtown who is trying to make it in rich Wiley City long enough to become a permanent citizen. Her job? To traverse through different worlds like her own, snagging information that the higher ups at Eldridge need to anticipate the disasters that happened on those worlds before they can happen on Earth 0. Cara is one of a select few who is able to traverse these different realities—because she is dead on most of them. Out of all the worlds open to traversing, Cara is only alive on eight, and if you’re alive on a world you jump to, you usually die because the world cannot handle it. Being alive on only eight worlds makes her a great asset. 

This is revealed pretty soon into the novel, so I’ll just say it: the Cara who narrates the novel is not actually the Cara that came from Earth 0. Caramenta, the original Cara, landed on a world where she thought she had died only for Caralee, that Earth’s Cara, to still be alive: close to dead, but not actually dead. Caralee took the chance when she saw Caramenta’s mangled corpse and assumed Caramenta’s identity, and she’s been the one traversing ever since. 

Johnson does a great job with the pacing of this novel. Every new bit of information came at the right time and with just the right amount of foreshadowing. Even when I knew what was coming next, Johnson still surprised me, because it happened so much faster than I expected it to. Reading this book was like getting punched in the gut over and over and over again in such a good way. There was never a moment or a plot point that I thought should have been cut or changed. Johnson never shied away from a surprise twist; instead, she went full throttle into it and simply expected the reader to catch up. The novel kept its pace until it ended, and I had to sit there for a moment after I was done and just figure out how to breathe again. 

As someone who loves stories with alternate timelines and dimensions, this is such a unique and refreshing way to read it. On Caralee’s Earth, she knew Emperor Nik Nik, and she was his plaything to do with as he pleased. She has seen the Emperor across different worlds, and he is the same on all of them…except for Earth 175, the newest Earth Caralee is tasked with traversing. Johnson did such a good job showing how different this Nik Nik is from the rest of them. Cara’s trauma follows her, and she assumes that this Nik Nik is the same as all the others, only for him to be likeable, and funny, and kind. Going with Caralee through that emotional minefield kept the pages turning, and I cared so deeply about Cara’s relationship with that Nik Nik that I wound up crying when he added her picture to a necklace that held pictures of his dead loved ones. He’s so different from the Nik Nik that Caralee remembers, and I don’t know that I’ve read a story that skips around timelines before this one that lets a character be that different from the other versions of himself. Earth 175 Nik Nik helps heal Caralee’s trauma, and it was so cathartic to read as she started to believe he really could be that much better than the one she left behind. The world of the story is also so large and detailed. Ashtown and Wiley City come to life on the page, no matter what timeline or Earth we are on. 

I’m not usually a slow burn kind of person, but Johnson might have changed my tune. The romance between Cara and Dell, the coworker who sends her to the other Earths, was a delightful mix of yearning and miscommunication that I found myself enjoying! Cara is head over heels for Dell from the start of the book, and she flirts with her every moment she can because she thinks Dell will never like her back. When the details of their relationship that Carelee has been missing finally come out, it hits like a train, and every interaction at the beginning of the book makes that much more sense. Cara never shies away from her feelings for Dell. Even when she spends time with Earth 175 Nik Nik, she always makes sure to separate her feelings for Nik Nik from her feelings for Dell. Nik Nik is her ex, but Dell is the love of her life. 

I am also a big fan of stories that explore relationships between siblings, and Johnson also did a great job with that. Caralee cares so much about Caramenta’s little sister Esther and about the other members of a family Caralee never got to have, and it is one of the best relationships in the entire novel. The relationship between Nik Nik and a brother who died in most worlds is also something Johnson explores more than once, and I found myself caring about them all so, so much. Johnson’s characters are so rich, no matter what Earth they are on, and I can see myself rereading this book soon just to get a glimpse of them again. 

Trigger warnings for: death, gore, domestic abuse, traumatic experiences/memories, and violence. 

A Brutal and Brilliant Space Opera: Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

the cover of Some Desperate Glory

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I thought about reviewing Emily Tesh’s Some Desperate Glory on here last month, right after I finished reading it, but I decided against it because I couldn’t figure out how to talk about in any sort of coherent way. My initial Goodreads review was mostly swearing and enthusiastic nonsense, because that is what this book did to my brain. But I thought about it more, and I decided that since I try to use my Lesbrary reviews to highlight sapphic books I love, it felt almost wrong not to talk about this one.

So what is this book about? To put it simply, it is a space opera that follows a teenage soldier who has spent her entire life training to avenge planet Earth’s destruction. After she is assigned not to fight but to instead spend her life bearing children, she ventures off the station she was raised on and discovers there is much more to the universe than she ever knew. This book is not simple at all, though—not even a little bit. This story almost never went where I expected it to go. I was hooked right from the beginning, but by the halfway point, I could not have put it down for anything. The best word I can think of to describe my experience is wild.

For all its wildness, however, nothing in this book felt random, or like it was only meant to shock the reader. Tightly plotted and visceral as hell, this book had me screaming because it went exactly where it needed to go, even if I never could have predicted it myself.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this very impressive book, more than the world-building or the tight plot, is the protagonist’s journey. At the risk of saying too much, Emily Tesh managed to take Kyr from a head I could not stand being in, full of instilled prejudices and an utter unwillingness to believe she was wrong, to someone I was genuinely proud of in only 400 pages.

I’m leaving this review shorter and vaguer than I normally would because while I don’t think this is a book that can be ruined by talking about it too much, I do think the best way to experience it is knowing as little as possible going in (while being safe: this is a heavy one, and I highly recommend looking at trigger warnings beforehand).  Simply put, Emily Tesh’s Some Desperate Glory is a masterpiece, and one that, for all its brutality, I know I will be reading again.

A Celebration of Sapphic Love & Loss: Something, Not Nothing by Sarah Leavitt

Something, Not Nothing by Sarah Leavitt cover

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Something, Not Nothing (September 24, 2024) is a stunning graphic memoir by cartoonist and educator Sarah Leavitt (she/her). In April 2020, Leavitt’s partner of twenty-two years, Donimo, died with medical assistance after years battling chronic pain. After Donimo’s death, Leavitt turned her immense grief and loss into incredible art.

Through impressionistic imagery and poetic prose, Leavitt takes readers through her deeply personal and painful experience of Donimo’s suffering and death. In bleak black and white panels, she explains how Donimo came to make the “terrible and courageous decision” to end her life. As I read, I could feel Leavitt wrangling with the reality of Donimo’s “grievous and irremediable medical condition”—Canada’s criteria for someone to be eligible for medical assistance in dying. I could see her struggling to witness the love of her life in pain, but also terrified to let her go. My heart ached as I imagined her standing alongside the rushing river where Donimo took her last breaths and wondering how she could possibly go on.

But Leavitt’s story did not end there. 

Something, Not Nothing traverses the unpredictable terrain of Leavitt’s profound grief after Donimo’s death, but also her tremendous resilience. Leavitt’s transformative journey is palpable, brought to life by her brilliant use of color and vignettes, which give readers a glimpse into her and Donimo’s beautiful relationship. Her memoir demonstrates that grief is non-linear. In one frame, she is reminiscing about the night she and Donimo first met. In the next, she is angry at Donimo for letting her fall in love with her and then leaving her.  It is raw and devastating, heart-wrenching and hopeful, all at the same time.

This memoir is a treasure worth your time and your tears.  I am no art aficionada, but Leavitt’s work made me feel something. I was blown away by her generosity of spirit in sharing the tenderest parts of her life and her love with the world. Something, Not Nothing is truly a gift.

Leavitt lives in Vancouver, BC. She is an assistant professor in the School of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where she has developed and taught undergraduate and graduate comics classes since 2012. While you wait for Something, Not Nothing to come out this fall, check out her other graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me. You can also find Leavitt on Instagram at @sarah_leav.

Trigger warnings for chronic pain, medically assisted death, loss of a loved one, and grief.

Raquel R. Rivera (she/her/ella) is a Latina lawyer and lady lover from New Jersey.  She is in a lifelong love affair with books and earned countless free personal pan pizzas from the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program as a kid to prove it.

A Sweet and Steamy Polyamorous Romance: Triple Sec by T.J. Alexander

Triple Sec cover

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Before this book had even come out (happy release day, Triple Sec!), I’d already been recommending it nonstop on Our Queerest Shelves. Ever since I finished it, I haven’t been able to stop talking about. It’s definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, and in my top five favourite romance novels I’ve ever read.

This is about Mel, who is a bartender who’s jaded about love ever since her divorce. But then Bebe walks into the bar, and they have undeniable chemistry. Bebe is interested in dating Mel — she’s also married and polyamorous. Mel has never tried an open relationship, but it seems like a good way to tiptoe back into dating. This will be totally light and casual, right? They mutually agree: no falling in love. And Bebe’s nonbinary wife Kade is so intimidating that Mel can’t imagine actually being a part of their lives. But obviously, feelings don’t obey even the most clearly written out agreements.

I’ve long thought that reality TV shows are missing out by not casting all bisexuals. (Other than that season of Are You the One?) Think of the drama potential! The opportunity for different pairings increases exponentially. Since reading Triple Sec, I feel the same way about romance novels and polyamorous main characters. You can have two falling-in-love scenes in the same romance! Twice the first kisses! Two — or more — completely different relationship (and sexual) dynamics! I feel like I’ve been spoiled and will have trouble going back to two-person romances.

I know romance novels are so specific to each reader, but I loved the relationship dynamics and especially the dialogue. When Mel shows Bebe her tattoo of Pompeii and Bebe replies, “I love a good disaster myself” — look, I also would have fallen in love right then and there. I also liked the friendship between Mel and her roommate, who both agree to follow the good word of Saint Channing Tatum.

It’s also very steamy. I’m not going to get into it, but wow.

I enjoyed the ongoing rewriting of Bebe and Mel’s relationship agreement as they renegotiate things like pet names, catching feelings, and the dynamics between Kade, Mel, and Bebe.

While the central plot is the relationships between Mel, Bebe, and Kade, there’s also a subplot about a cocktail competition. I don’t drink, but I still found it fascinating to read about Mel’s different creations and how she keeps reworking her creations leading up the competition. Winning would mean she could buy her own bar, a dream of hers.

I also liked reading about Mel’s job: Terror & Virtue is a high-end cocktail lounge, and Mel is very skilled and passionate about her work — but it’s also customer service. It means dealing with drunk, rude customers and worrying about your next paycheck. In fact, the only criticism I had with Triple Sec is that I feel like the class difference between Mel and Bebe/Kade wasn’t really explored, other than Mel admiring their apartment and feeling a little out of place. Bebe and Kade are wealthy — Kade is a successful artist and Bebe is a lawyer defending workers’ rights.

That’s a very small complaint, though, especially since the ending didn’t go where I thought it would. If you want a fun, queer, polyamorous romance with lots of kind people learning how to best support each other, I highly recommend Triple Sec.

An Emotional Demon Hunter Romance: The Fall That Saved Us by Tamara Jerée

The Fall That Saved Us cover

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Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us centers around Cassiel, a former demon hunter who has left her abusive family behind in favor of a quiet life in a little bookshop she now runs. When a succubus named Avitue shows up one day, the two fall into a dangerous albeit passionate love affair that threatens both of their places in the world.

Despite such high stakes, this is a deeply personal book. In fact, when I think about this book, the word that jumps to mind is affectionate. This book had so much affection for its characters and their journeys, and it made it so easy for me to share that affection. While this book felt really heavy at the beginning, due to all of the religious trauma Cassiel was working through (and boy does this book do religious trauma really well!), by the end I was left feeling lighter. The relationships certainly helped with that, but even more so was the book’s emphasis on being kind, both to yourself and to others.

As for the relationships, I don’t only mean the romantic relationship between Cassiel and Avitue, though of course that is the main one. Cassiel’s friendship with her neighbor Ana, a witch who runs a nearby cafe and who gently but firmly encourages Cassiel to open up about her past when she’s ready, was a particular light. Likewise, the more complicated relationship with Zuriel, the sister who stayed behind, will likely resonate with many readers who come from difficult family situations.

Something I really appreciated with Cassiel and Avitue’s romance was the honesty. With a setup like this one, I find I expect a lot of secrecy and drama of the “how can I trust you!” variety. To my delight, however, Avitue was clear almost from the beginning about who she was, why she was here, and what each of them was risking by being together. This allowed the focus to remain on the actual building of a relationship, and it also made room for much more interesting conversations about how people deserve to be treated and what kind of future there is for a mostly-mortal and an immortal demon.

The only criticism I had was the pacing felt a bit off at the beginning, almost like things were being skipped over or time was moving weirdly or something I could never quite put my finger on. However, I didn’t notice that as an issue in the second half. While some might say the final conflict wrapped up rather quickly, that’s a feature for me rather than a bug, and honestly, I do think that choice ultimately served the book better as a whole. This is very much a character-driven book, and a drawn-out battle would almost feel like a detraction from a story that should center on Cassiel’s internal journey.

I am certainly planning on checking out Tamara Jerée’s next book, and if they ever wrote another book in this world (maybe about Zuriel and/or Ana), I would read it without hesitation. Though I would suggest  taking care if one struggles with religious themes, I heartily recommend Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us.

A Blossoming, Neurodiverse Love: Late Bloomer by Mazey Eddings

Late Bloomer cover

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After winning the lottery, Opal Devlin puts all her money in a failing flower farm, only to find an angry (albeit gorgeous) Pepper Boden already living there. Though she’s unable to find her grandmother’s will, Pepper claims she’s the rightful owner of Thistle and Bloom Farms. While they agree to cohabitate, Opal and Pepper clash at every turn. Can something softer blossom between these polar opposites, allowing a new dream to take root and grow?

Oh. My. (Sappho.) Goddess. You may think you know Mazey Eddings’ writing style, but I assure you, you do not. Many of us read The Plus One and/or Tily in Technicolor last year, but Eddings has far exceeded herself with this one. As a neurodivergent author, Eddings’ stories often have some element of neurodiversity/mental health, shining a light on the different ways people’s brains work while embracing those differences through beautiful, realistic characters. Opal and Pepper are no different, both on the spectrum yet unique in their behaviors and view of the world. These women are not predictable, pre-programmed components of a story; they are ever-blooming, learning how to plant roots alongside one another, share sunlight, and rise despite being different species. Both plants, growing and adapting to different elements, yet very much the same. While Opal and Pepper have always struggled to fit in with the world around them, they manage to cultivate a safe, healthy garden for one another.

This is one of those overwhelming, layered, awe-inspiring sapphic stories that will tug at your heartstrings long after you read it. Eddings’ language leaps off the page, making it a little reminiscent of One Last Stop (be still, my little sapphic heart). I’ve beyond annotated Late Bloomer, when I’m usually selective about choosing quotes. You don’t just see love blossom between these two women; you feel it. It made me smile, laugh, get all messy and misty-eyed. As I said, neither woman is predictable. Opal feels directionless at the story’s start, allowing her (fake) best friend and (on/off) ex to step all over her. I expected her to be the wallflower, especially with the BITE we see from Pepper (pun unintended) in her first chapter, but the two balance each other out. When Pepper feels uncertain or anxious, Opal steps forward, bold and unwavering. When Opal begins to crumble, Pepper holds her up. They support each other, never allowing the other to wilt.

Unfortunately, this book relies heavily on miscommunication. Both women are eager to hide their real feelings at the risk of scaring the other. That lack of communication continues until almost the last chapter.

Recommended for fans of One Last Stop and Imogen, Obviously. Side note: please, please read the author’s note. Good goddess.

✨ The Vibes ✨

❀ Neurodivergency/Autism Spectrum
❀ Sapphic Romance
❀ Grief/Healing
❀ Forced Proximity
❀ Spicy/First Time
❀ Cottagecore Vibes
❀ One Bed
❀ Touch Her and You Die
❀ Dual POV
❀ Miscommunication
❀ Flower Competition
❀ Grumpy/Sunshine

 Quotes

❝Slowly, she leans toward me, and my heart pounds so violently in my chest that my head swims. Is she . . . It almost seems like she’s going to press that smile to my mouth. Teach me how it tastes.❞

❝Ah. There’s the you I missed.❞

❝I used to stress over finding a label that fit me. Lesbian. Bisexual. Pan. Demi . . . I’ve filtered through them all many times over, none ever feeling quite right. Just say queer and move on with your life, Diksha finally told me late one night after what was probably my sixth sexual identity crisis of my early twenties. But what does that mean? I’d wailed, draining more boxed wine into my plastic cup. My brain loves order and labels and concise frameworks to understand things, and not knowing where I fit feels unbearable. It means you’re you, and only you get to decide who you like and when you like them, Tal had said from their chair in the corner. The name of your feelings isn’t anyone’s business but yours.❞

❝But instead, she reaches out to me—opening her hand like a flower unfurling its petals to the sun. I stare at it. The ink stains and calluses and chipped nails and bitten cuticles. For a moment, that hand looks like a second chance.❞

❝Her poems spoke softly—as intimately as confessions between lovers—about the terrible, wonderful ache of being in love.❞

A Sapphic, Victorian Parent Trap: Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend by Emma R. Alban

Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend cover

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Pretty much as soon as I discovered Emma R. Alban’s Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend, I was excited to read it. From the frothy cover to the Taylor Swift lyric title (admittedly I don’t actually know Taylor Swift’s music well enough to recognize that on my own, but I generally love the vibe of song lyric titles) to the actual book description, it seemed incredibly up my alley. A hijinks-filled sapphic historic romance? Sign me up! To my absolute delight, the actual contents of the book completely delivered on the promises its outside made.

Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend takes the familiar premise of a reluctant young debutante, Beth, who must find a wealthy husband for the sake of her family and adds a dazzling lesbian, Gwen, with an idea—their parents have clear chemistry and a history, and it would really solve all of their problems if Beth and Gwen set their parents up instead. Over the course of the season, the two come up with a variety of schemes, and as their parents grow closer, so do Beth and Gwen.

I had so much fun reading this book! It was exactly the kind of sweet, banter-and-shenanigans-filled romance I hoped it would be. I read most of the book at work, and it still had me smiling and giggling throughout. I loved both Beth and Gwen, and I believed their romance from the beginning, as well as their friendship. I understood immediately why they liked each other, which I think is particularly important in a friends-to-lovers romance like this. They constantly made each other laugh, as well as myself, but there were also plenty of those delightfully agonizing finger brushes one expects to find in a historical romance.

Beth and Gwen’s relationship was not the only important one in this book, of course. Considering the setup of this book hinges on a parent-trap plot, it’s particularly important to manage the balance between making me care about and believe the parents’ romance as well without them taking the spotlight away from the romance I actually came here for. Admittedly, I was a little worried this book wouldn’t manage it, but I actually thought it did a fantastic job of that. It even made me care about an entirely separate background romance, and the epilogue provided a wonderful preview of the next book’s romance, which I am very much looking forward to. I really loved the characters here.

I will note readers looking for historical accuracy may find themselves frustrated. The language in particular tends a bit more casual than I would have expected. However, I personally did not find myself bothered by it at all. As casual as the language was, the many detailed clothing descriptions and the subplot centered around the social politics of the Matrimonial Causes Act made it clear that this was a deliberate choice. And besides, a strong sense of verisimilitude was not my main concern when I picked up a parent-trap-inspired sapphic romcom with a Taylor Swift lyric in the title. I came here simply to be delighted, and I got more than my money’s worth of that.  If that is what you too are looking for, I heartily recommend Emma R. Alban’s Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend.

A Muffin Baking- and Hijinx-Filled Romantic Comedy: Vengeance Planning for Amateurs by Lee Winter

Vengeance Planning for Amateurs cover

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Vengeance Planning for Amateurs by Lee Winter was published February 2024 and is Lee’s first intentional romantic comedy. The book follows muffin baker Olivia Roberts, her beloved stuffed penguin Trip, and her band of book club misfits that meet at the local crime bookstore. When one of her exes steals Trip, Olivia sees red and has decided enough is enough. She has had a terrible string of relationships with people who have been varying levels of awful, and she decides it’s time to take her life back in the form of revenge against every ex that has hurt her. She posts an ad for a henchperson at the bookstore, and she is truly shocked when the person who sits across from her is none other than the owner of said bookstore: Margaret Blackwood. Margaret keeps to herself and is rarely seen. Olivia’s only real interaction with Margaret has been Margaret’s commentary from her office during Olivia’s book club. When the stoic and beautiful Margaret signs up to be her henchperson, Oliva isn’t sure why this brilliant, mysterious, woman would want to help her. However, Olivia’s other candidates are less than stellar, so Margaret gets the job. What ensues is an absolutely beautiful, chaotic, and laugh-out-loud story about two people that offer the other a chance to start over. 

I am a huge fan of Lee Winter. I have read every book she has written, some multiple times. I was excited to see how she would handle a romantic comedy, a different flavor from her usual books (though almost every one of her others also made me laugh out loud at times). I was not disappointed. Nor was I surprised that even though it had that romantic comedy feel throughout, it still packed an emotional punch. There is a cleverness that is always present in Lee’s books, and this book was no different. While the baking puns are plentiful (and I enjoyed every one), there is also not a wasted word or character. Every plot point is well thought out, every person has a purpose. A romantic comedy follows a certain formulaic path, but even so there needs to be something new, and Olivia hiring a henchperson certainly adds something fresh. Every visit upon one of Olivia’s exes provides not only an opportunity for hijinks, but a moment for Olivia and Margaret to learn more about each other and grow as individuals.

As I said, there is an emotional component to this story that I felt was incredibly well written. While I won’t give spoilers, Lee handled Margaret’s backstory in a beautiful way that was written with immense care. The way she chose to give us insight into Margaret, through diary entries, offers an intimate look at her thoughts and emotions. Without those entries, I think it would have been difficult to understand someone that keeps her cards so incredibly close to her chest. But it allows you to see who Margaret truly is, and it provides context to her other actions throughout the book. (Some of those entries made me cry, but we are going to forgive Lee for that.) In a scene towards the end, I Lee captures an emotion in the best way I have seen in a novel dealing with this particular topic. It is a sentiment I will be thinking about for a long time. 

Margaret and Olivia are two very different people, but I loved them together. In any pairing, there needs to be a balance, and as a reader you want to be able to understand why these people are drawn to each other. Margaret and Olivia each offer the other something that has been missing in their lives. Olivia has only ever been treated as expendable, as someone people use to get what they want and leave when they don’t find her useful any more. She has never been put first and has been with some truly terrible people. She has rarely experienced loyalty or someone asking: what do you want? What can I do for you? Other than her sister, she has never had someone who had her best interest in mind. With Margaret, she has found someone loyal and who not only has her best interest in mind, but that actively goes out of her comfort zone to help her. Margaret’s life in many ways has been closed off and has been dark for many years. Olivia is the opposite of that, and offers Margaret light in a way she has been desperately needing. Even more, despite all the things that have been thrown at her, Olivia continues to shine that light, and I do think that is part of why Margaret is so drawn to her. I loved these two together. I loved how they each showed through actions how they felt about the other, even before any words of that nature had been uttered. 

I will also always go a little feral for a character that goes into protective mode, and this story has that in spades. I think Lee is one of the best at writing that dynamic, and I adored those scenes. I also happen to think that she is the best at writing two oblivious people who clearly like each other, but are so lesbian that the thought never occurs to them that the other might like them back. That scenario is top tier in this novel, and I loved every moment. 

If you’re in the mood for a romance with unhinged chaos, laugh out loud moments, character growth, a cast of hilarious side characters, and beautiful moments of communication and vulnerability, this is your book. I can’t recommend it enough.

A New Classic of Queer Memoir: Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H

the cover of Hijab Butch Blues

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I have had Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H on my list since it came out, and I am so glad my library hold on it finally came in. Lamya narrates a series of essays tying together her queer coming of age and her reconciliation of that with being a devout Muslim woman in a very satisfying way, providing deep insight into her personal journey and growth in both her faith and herself. Whether you are looking for a queer memoir to dive into, or a new perspective, or simply to hear the thoughts of someone who boldly references Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, this book will take you on a journey and leave you thinking by the end. 

Lamya starts off with recollections of her childhood, when she started questioning what the Quran was saying, or not saying, about gender and how it lined up with her own feelings. When the adults in her life were unwilling to entertain her lines of questioning, Lamya started a habit of deep inner reflection and questioning that is apparent in every section. Arrayed in mostly linear fashion, the essays cover her realization that she was queer, her move to America in college, and her struggle to find either queer or Muslim community where she didn’t feel like the other half of her was being excluded. They link to specific sections of the Quran as she meditates on what they mean to her on a personal level. Lamya is painfully ready to dig into her own inner thought processes and reflections, including her own internalized biases and homophobia she had to recognize and overcome before she could move forward. Her struggles and her sincerity shine from every page, drawing you in and inviting you along with her through the process. 

I love reading queer memoirs because a queer coming of age is a journey that can be so personal and yet so relatable to anyone else that has done it themselves. On paper, I do not have much oin common with Lamya beyond us both being queer. And yet, when she spoke of her friend questioning why she didn’t transition if she was going to keep becoming more butch—and her sound rejection of the idea—I felt such empathy and connection, because that was a thought process I had also gone through. The idea that we could be so different and yet so similar is heartwarming to me. Simultaneously, I gained new perspective and appreciation for Lamya’s circumstances and choices. This is a memoir that invites both learning and empathy. It also rewards personal reflection, since it is more than just a recounting of her life events. If you don’t normally read memoirs, Hijab Butch Blues is a book that will make you appreciate the genre more. 

I believe that Hijab Butch Blues is going to go down as seminal work in queer narrative canon, and certainly as an eminently readable, unflinching memoir about reconciling faith, life circumstances, and an “authentically queer experience.” I cannot recommend it highly enough.