SPONSORED REVIEW: Comet’s First Christmas: The North Pole Chronicles by Delilah Night

Comet's First Christmas by Delilah Night

As we enter into the end of 2020, if you’re someone who celebrates Christmas, you’re probably having some strong emotions about it right now. Maybe you want to forget the whole holiday, because we probably can’t celebrate it the way we usually do. Or maybe you, like me, are filling your Netflix queue with holiday romances and stocking up on eggnog, because we deserve a tiny sliver of hope and happiness this year! If you are looking to dive headfirst into Christmas, Comet’s First Christmas is a great way to kick it off.

This is about Claudia, a reindeer who has just been brought in to act as Comet this Christmas season. Yes, this is about reindeer shifters. And yes, all nine of Santa’s reindeer are lesbians. As you might expect, this is a book overflowing with Christmas cheer. Everything is themed: Claudia drinks candy cane coffee, her assistant is an elf, and her phone comes equipped with a Naughty-Or-Nice app.

This overwhelming festivity reminded me more of a classic kids’ holiday movie, initially: it is an unapologetic celebration of Christmas that can verge on the tooth-achingly sweet, but is perfect for if you want to be completely immersed in the holiday. I’d love to see this series get cartoon covers in the style of Shira Glassman’s Mangoverse series, Clare Lydon’s holiday books, or even Talia Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series, because I think that would better match the mood of the this story.

The conflict is that someone is going around convincing people to not believe anymore. Claudia has to try to stop this nefarious villain before they lose any more Christmas magic! Although it sounds like a kids’ movie, this is a romance novel, which means we see 25-year-old Claudia earnestly asking other adults why they’ve stopped believing in Santa. It was a little jarring, but in this world, adults who believe do get gifts from Santa every year, so it makes sense in this context.

Did I mention that this is a romance? Of course, you’re coming to the Lesbrary not just for generic holiday cheer, so you’ll be happy to know that this includes a very sweet romance. It definitely falls into the instalove category, but it works for this very cute book. Claudia crushes on Jillian hard when they meet. Jillian is technically her assistant, but because the role of Comet changes and Jillian’s job stays the same, it didn’t feel like a power difference to me: they both seemed like equals. They made for an adorable romance, starting with clueless lesbian flirting (she’s obviously hitting on you, Claudia!) and including lots of healthy communication.

Although this is a sweet book with a pretty straightforward plot, there are a lot of details to enjoy as well. I loved seeing Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy get a shout-out (I’ve got the sequel on my bedside table right now!), and there’s a Star Trek-loving reindeer who swears in Klingon. Claudia is visiting New York for the first time, and she revels in getting the classic Christmas in New York experience, including going to Macy’s, Times Square, seeing The Nutcracker, and more. Claudia also has anxiety, which is own voices representation. She manages it with breathing exercises and other techniques, which it was nice to see included.

This is the first book in the series, so it’s not surprising that everything isn’t tied up completely, but it did feel a bit anticlimactic in terms of the overarching plot, though Claudia’s story concludes nicely. I feel like I guessed the mystery really early in the book, but I’m not sure yet if I’m right. I look forward to the next book in the series, which seems to be about Prancer–will every reindeer get their own story?

In the afterword, Delilah Night says she wrote this because “after how bruising 2020 has been, can anyone blame us for wanting something a little sweet?” This definitely fits the criteria for sweet, but be prepared: only pick this up if you’re ready for a heavy dose of Christmas cheer!

Sapphic Summer Reads: 21 Bi & Lesbian Books Perfect for the Beach!

Sapphic Summer Reads: 21 Bi & Lesbian Books Perfect for the Beach!

Everyone seems to have a slightly different perspective of what a beach read or summer read is. To me, it’s a book that is absorbing, but not too emotionally or intellectually demanding. It’s something that will suck you in when you pick it up, but you can also put it down to run into the waves and not be lost when you come back to it. The definitions for “summer read” and “beach read” vary a lot, though, and there don’t seem to be a lot of resources for bi and lesbian summer reads, so I’m making one myself!

Of course, despite all the debates about what makes a bi or lesbian beach read, a book that is actually set during the summer is a bonus! Here are some of the books that I’ve read that I think are perfect for beach reading:

YA and Middle Grade:

This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca BarrowThis is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

This is less fluffy than most of this list, but, honestly, the cover alone of this one makes me happy. Dia, Jules, and Hanna used to be inseparable, and they played in a band together. Meanwhile, Dia’s boyfriend, who she was just starting to get close with, was killed in a car accident. Weeks after the funeral, Dia finds out she’s pregnant and decides to keep the baby. Hanna and Dia walk away from each other, and Jules sides with Dia. Now, their city is holding a music competition that includes a $15,000 prize, and they just might have a chance to win it–but it means getting the band back together.

As you could guess from that description, there is definitely seriousness here, but it’s also about friendship, and a budding adorable F/F relationship. Also, there’s an adorable toddler who is a fan of a dog named Waffles, so what more could you want? Despite their hardships, this is an optimistic and beautiful book.

Check out my full review here.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow coverDrum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

This is a middle grade book that takes place at summer camp, so it makes for a perfect summer read. It’s about music and friendship and divorce and growing up and crushes, but mostly it’s just about Melly finding herself and being true to herself.

I loved reading about this tiny clueless bisexual’s first foray into crushing on a girl. She gets butterflies in her stomach, and then: “I looked at her hard, trying to understand. But I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, so how was I supposed to recognize it when I saw it?”

Check out my full review here.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer DuganHot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

The cover, title, and blurb of this makes it seem like it will be pure fluff, but be warned that it does come with a fair share of angst. It’s so summer-y, though, that I couldn’t leave it off this lsit!

Lou is gearing up for The Best Summer Ever, and even being cast as the hot dog at her summer carnival job doesn’t break her stride. Sure, her crush is literally dating the Princess of the park, but she’s got a plan to snag this diving pirate for herself. And as for the apparent closing of the park, which has been one of the few constants in her life, she is determined to find a way to save it. When she ropes her best friend, Seeley, into fake dating her, Lou is surprised to find that her various schemes aren’t going exactly to plan…

This turns into a fake dating love pentagon with a slowburn F/F friends-to-lovers romance. Hot Dog Girl is a queer YA romcom that makes for a perfect summer read.

Check out my full review here.

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David LevithanYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

You Know Me Well takes place during Pride! Mark and Kate both go to the same high school and are both gay, but they don’t know anything about each other until they meet by chance at a bar during Pride. After their chance meeting, they become the other’s main source of support and guidance during a pivotal point in their lives.

I love this story of friendship and change. Probably my favourite thing to read about is queer community, so this one made me feel warm & fuzzy.

Check out my full review here.

Going Off Script by Jen WildeGoing Off Script by Jen Wilde

Jen Wilde’s books are my go-to for queer, escapist, fluffy, fun reads. Going Off Script is about a teenager who gets an internship at her favourite TV show. Her boss is a jerk, and when she writes a script to try to prove her worth, he takes it as his own, and straight-washes the lesbian character.

This is a real celebration of queer fandom, and it ends up being a very fluffy, geek revenge fantasy, as the queer actors and fandom team up to take down the homophobic showrunner. There’s a huge queer community in this book, which makes any homophobia not sting as much. If you’re a queer geek, definitely pick this one up.

Check out my full (video) review here.

Romance:

My Lady's Choosing by Kitty CurranMy Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Imagine reading a M/F romance novel: you’re plodding along, all the love interests have been introduced, and your friend (with whom you clearly have more chemistry than with the dudes) throws out that, hey, if you want, you can travel to Egypt with her instead. You reach that point in the book and sigh. Image if she had taken her up on that! Imagine if instead of heading to the drafty castle or trading quips with the asshole rich guy, you just skipped town and went on an Egyptian adventure instead! Only this time, you can!

Most of the storylines you can choose from in this interactive romance novel are tongue-in-cheek takes on classic romances, including a Gothic Jane Eyre-esque plot line, or more of a Pride and Prejudice angle, but the F/F storyline is totally original: search for an artifact stolen from an Egyptian museum, and encounter your lady love interest’s angry ex-girlfriend! Maybe end up in a lesbian pirate gang! (Yes, you can do that. Definitely try to get to that point.) As an added bonus, I enjoyed this so much that I even went back and read the M/F plots. That’s how good this is.

Check out my full review here.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Shira Glassman’s books are a paragon of queer joy. This is a cute, mostly fluffy story that has a wide appeal: Jewish readers, queer ladies (including bi women), and artists will all find aspects that have special interest to them. It was also nice to read about a fat love interest. This definitely felt like a “slice of life” story. It’s realistic, and as if you’re just being dropped into a short period of these people’s lives, but the characters seem to live outside the words on the page, as well.

This isn’t entirely a traditional romance novella: there is a romance, but it’s just as much about Clara and Danielle’s art, or their relationships with their siblings, or their shared love of fandom. If you’re looking for a quick, light, but satisfying read, pick this one up!

Check out my full review here.

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra KhawBearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

I was sold immediately when I heard “Bisexual werebear novella.” The book opens with Zelda irritated that her transformation into a bear is continually destroying her wardrobe. She works for a fashion magazine, so she doesn’t take this lightly.

This is such a fun, light read. It’s quippy and snarky and smart, and because it’s only just over 100 pages, it moves quickly. The romances are mostly M/F, but the most significant relationship is F/F. Bisexual werebear novella!

Check out my full review here.

Roller Girl by Vanessa NorthRoller Girl by Vanessa North

Roller Girl follows Tina, a trans woman who has recently divorced as well as retiring as a professional athlete. She’s adrift. So when she gets invited to play on the local roller derby team, she jumps at the opportunity. And it doesn’t hurt that the coach is a swoonworthy butch woman. They are drawn to each other, but Joe doesn’t want to endanger the team by admitting to dating a teammate, and Tina doesn’t want to stay a secret forever.

This is a quick, fun read with steamy sex scenes!

Check out my full review here.

Comics:

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol 1Space Battle Lunchtime Volumes 1 & 2 by Natalie Riess

This comic is an all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show… in space. What could be better?? Peony agrees to be in a competitive cooking show, only to be transported onto the spaceship it’s being filmed on. That’s when she realizes that this isn’t space-themed, it’s literally in outer space. But she takes the existence of aliens in stride, and concentrates on the competition. And, okay, maybe one of the cute alien contestants.

I highly, highly recommend reading volume 1 & 2 back to back, because they really are one complete story. This is such a joyful book!

Check out my full review here.

Lumberjanes Vol 1Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters

This one gets bonus summer points for following a group of girls at summer camp! Where they get into fantastical adventures. The strongest part of the series is the dynamic between the 5 main characters. They all have different personalities, strengths, fears, priorities, etc, but they are a tightly-knit group. They support each other. And we get to see each one spotlighted at some point.

This is also a diverse cast, including multiple trans characters, and two of the girls start dating. This is a fun series to read as an adult, but I’m especially glad it exists for kids and teens. The main characters are different ages and also a little ambiguous, so this really works as a recommendation for 9 and up, I’d say. And it’s still going!

Check out my full review here.

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko KodamaI Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko Kodama

This short, standalone manga is about a fake marriage: Morimoto is sick of being constantly set up by her parents. Her friend Hana suggests that they get married to shut them up.

Unsurprisingly, Hana and Morimoto’s relationship changes as they live together. Morimoto also finds new confidence in herself: she is inspired by Hana, by her dedication to her passion (art) and her defiance in being unapologetically out. It was gratifying to see an out character, one who even uses the word “lesbian,” in the pages of a yuri manga. This has all of the appeal that yuri manga usually has for me: it’s a quick, absorbing, and adorable read. But it adds more depth and realism than I expect from this genre. It had me absolutely grinning as I read it.

Check out my full review here.

Girl Friends Vol 1Girl Friends: The Complete Collection by Milk Morinaga

This seems to the quintessential yuri series:  It’s school girls, and a lot of blushing, and the typical “girls don’t do this” heteronormativity. I read this in the omnibus, and talk about a slow burn! This is almost 500 pages, and mostly just about Mariko making a new friend, falling in love with her, and then (much later) realizing that she’s fallen in love with her.

Girl Friends is super cute, but with the melodrama of agonizing over a crush on a girl. This is a fun, quick, addictive read.

Check out my review of volume 1 and volume 2.

Bonus:

A bonus recommendation for a book that I love that has summer in the title, but is definitely darker than most of this list:

The Summer We Got Free by Mia MckenzieThe Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie

This is a beautiful, haunting book about family, and when the history you’ve been running from finally catches up with you. When we meet Ava, she is closed off and practical. Through flashbacks, we meet her vibrant, unrestrainable childhood self–what happened to take her from that to this is the central question of the story. Everything comes to a head when Ava finds herself kissing a woman she doesn’t know on the front porch (while her husband, unknowing, waits inside).

Read this at your kitchen table on a hot summer’s night, as the humidity envelops you, and you feel the crackle in the air of a thunderstorm just about to happen.

Check out my full review here.

For even more fluffy sapphic books, check out 25+ Happy Sapphic Books to Make You Feel Warm & Fuzzy.

Summer Reads On My TBR:

So those are some of my recommendations, but it’s far from a complete list! Here are a few books on my TBR that looks like perfect summer reads, with the publisher’s blurbs.

The Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael AllenThe Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael Allen

Four girls. One summer. And a pact to do the impossible.

Skyler, Ellie, Scarlett, and Amelia Grace are forced to spend the summer at the lake house where their moms became best friends.
One can’t wait.
One would rather gnaw off her own arm than hang out with a bunch of strangers just so their moms can drink too much wine and sing Journey at two o’clock in the morning.
Two are sisters.
Three are currently feuding with their mothers.
One is hiding how bad her joint pain has gotten.
All of them are hiding something.
One falls in love with a boy she thought she despised.
One almost sets her crush on fire with a flaming marshmallow.
One has a crush that could change everything.
None of them are the same at the end of the summer.

Kings Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya BotejuKings Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race in this funny, feel-good debut novel about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

From debut author Tanya Boteju comes a poignant, laugh-out-loud tale of acceptance, self-expression, and the colorful worlds that await when we’re brave enough to look.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah JohnsonYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

I'll Be the One by Lyla LeeI’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin StevensonWhen You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

Follow cousins on a road trip to Pride as they dive into family secrets and friendships in this contemporary YA novel — perfect for fans of David Levithan and Becky Albertalli.

As kids, Mark and his cousin Talia spent many happy summers together at the family cottage in Ontario, but a fight between their parents put an end to the annual event. Living on opposite coasts — Mark in Halifax and Talia in Victoria — they haven’t seen each other in years. When their grandfather dies unexpectedly, Mark and Talia find themselves reunited at the cottage once again, cleaning it out while the family decides what to do with it.

Mark and Talia are both queer, but they soon realize that’s about all they have in common, other than the fact that they’d both prefer to be in Toronto. Talia is desperate to see her high school sweetheart Erin, who’s barely been in touch since leaving to spend the summer working at a coffee shop in the Gay Village. Mark, on the other hand, is just looking for some fun, and Toronto Pride seems like the perfect place to find it.

When a series of complications throws everything up in the air, Mark and Talia — with Mark’s little sister Paige in tow — decide to hit the road for Toronto. With a bit of luck, and some help from a series of unexpected new friends, they might just make it to the big city and find what they’re looking for. That is, if they can figure out how to start seeing things through each other’s eyes.

[May 4, 2021]

This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae SafiThis Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi

Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi’s This Is All Your Fault is a smart and voice-driven YA novel that follows three young women determined to save their indie bookstore.

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.

And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

[October 13, 2020]

The Summer of Jordi PerezThe Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosse playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is.

Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?

Honor Girl by Maggie ThrashHonor Girl by Maggie Thrash

All-girl camp. First love. First heartbreak. At once romantic and devastating, brutally honest and full of humor, this graphic-novel memoir is a debut of the rarest sort.

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

Let me know in the comments what your favourite bi and lesbian summer reads are! You might also want to check out Autostraddle’s 8 Summer Affair Books featuring Lesbian and Bisexual Women and on the Lesbrary, Kathryn Hoss Recommends Lesbian Beach Reads.

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

25+ Happy Sapphic Books to Make You Feel Warm & Fuzzy

25+ Happy Sapphic Books

The first Pride was a riot. A riot against police.

This Pride, support Black Americans protesting for their rights. When you’re building your Pride TBR, support Black LGBTQ authors and Black-owned bookstores.

Sometimes you need a break from queer tragedy, and need to curl with a story that will make you smile. When it comes to queer books, I’ll happily pick up a tragic doorstopper, but when I’m not immersed in stories like Fingersmith, I need some cotton candy reads to remind me of queer joy. Coffee shop AU-style, fluffy, conflict-free treats.

Of course, you can’t really have a story without any conflict at all, to my deep disappointment. We can get pretty close, though! I’ll start by sharing my favourites that are as close as you can get to pure fluff, and then share some others that have a little more conflict, but still make me really happy to read.

Starting with the fluffiest stuff I can find, which is often middle grade or YA.

Star-Crossed by Barbara DeeStar-Crossed by Barbara Dee

The first middle grade book with a bisexual girl main character! This is a very sweet story that balances Shakespeare references with the dizzying experience of middle school crushes. There is only one instance of homophobia, and it is immediately shut down.

This story revolves around the 8th grade production of Romeo and Juliet, and there is lots of discussion about the play and Shakespeare. Each chapter starts with a related quotation from the play. I was impressed with the discussion that takes place with the material–the play is not only explained, but also critiqued and complimented by the kids performing it.

Check out my full review here.

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit RosewaterKenzie Kickstarts a Team (The Derby Daredevils #1) by Kit Rosewater, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse

Another middle grade story, this time about a junior roller derby team, with an own voices queer main character! Now, if you’re like me, you’ve already clicked away to order a copy or request it from your library.

This is aimed at about 8-12, and it’s highly illustrated. I loved seeing the diverse group of kids come together–diverse in terms of race and personality. Kenzie’s dad is trans, and I think this is the first book I’ve come across where that is casually mentioned. This is an adorable read, and I’m excited for the next volume!

Check out my full review here.

Her Royal Highness by Rachel HawkinsHer Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

If you’re looking for a fun f/f YA romcom, this is the perfect fit. Millie has been obsessed with Scotland since she first saw Brave. When she applied to stay in a fancy boarding school there, she didn’t expect to actually get in, never mind get a full scholarship that made it a real possibility. But heartbreak gives her an excuse to take the leap, where she immediately clashes with her roommate–who happens to be a Scottish princess.

A classic hate-to-love story, I was at first skeptical of ever liking Flora, but predictably, I was rooting for their relationship by the end.

Check out my full review here.

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David LevithanYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

This book is a romp. Ever since I read Boy Meets Boy, I’ve been looking for a queer women’s equivalent: a cotton candy book that, despite any issues it addresses, fills you with a sense of hope, warmth, and happiness. This book seems to do the trick quite nicely, and it’s no surprise that it’s co-written by David Levithan himself (though I now have to seek out Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads To You, because if it’s anything like this, it’s a must-read.)

You Know Me Well is told in alternating chapters. Mark is head-over-heels for his best friend, but despite the fact that they’ve been fooling around for years, he still can’t seem to get them in the “relationship” category. Meanwhile, Kate has fallen in love with a girl she’s never met, and is terrified at the chance of actually meeting this mystical, circus traveler, dream girl. They’re both in a topsy-turvy point in their lives when they bump into each other in a bar during Pride. They’ve seen each other at school before, but after this chance meeting, they become the other’s main source of support and guidance for this pivotal point in their lives.

Check out my full review here.

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell coverAll Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell

One of the challenges of finding a queer community is not only connecting with your people, but also unearthing your history. Queer people have always existed, but our existence has been covered up and buried. It can feel like we have no history, which is alienating. All Out is a much-needed book, because it locates queer people (teens in particular) through time. It is also optimistic historical fiction. It imagines not only queer teens in the past, but how they might have found happiness there. It rejects the idea that queer people don’t have a history–or that if they do, it is fundamentally tragic.

Check out my full review here.

Going Off Script by Jen WildeGoing Off Script by Jen Wilde

Jen Wilde’s books are my go-to for queer, escapist, fluffy, fun reads. Going Off Script is about a teenager who gets an internship at her favourite TV show. Her boss is a jerk, and when she writes a script to try to prove her worth, he takes it as his own, and straight-washes the lesbian character.

This is a real celebration of queer fandom, and it ends up being a very fluffy, geek revenge fantasy, as the queer actors and fandom team up to take down the homophobic showrunner. There’s a huge queer community in this book, which makes any homophobia not sting as much. If you’re a queer geek, definitely pick this one up.

Check out my full (video) review here.

Queens of Geek by Jen WildeQueens of Geek by Jen Wilde

This is the book that really set the bar for fluffy sapphic YA for me. Queens of Geek follows two point of view characters, Charlie and Taylor, as well as their friend Jamie. All three are going to Supacon, a big fandom convention. Charlie is a Chinese-Australian actress who is at Supacon both for the fun of it and to promote her movie. She’s also bisexual! Unfortunately, she is still living in the shadows of her ex-boyfriend and co-star, whom the fans would love if she got back together with (even though he’s a real jerk). Taylor is fat, geeky, anxious, and has Asperger’s. She’s excited to experience the fandom that she loves in real life, but she’s also overwhelmed by all of the elements of the con that can increase her anxiety.

Another celebration of fandom from Jen Wilde! I loved reading a whole book set a convention, and the f/f romance here is amazing (and between two women of colour). I was completely absorbed in this story, reading it all in one day. Besides all of the diverse elements (did I mention that it actually uses the word “bisexual”?) and geeky fun, there’s also a well-paced plot, compelling romances, and memorable and fully-realized characters. This was such a fun, heartwarming read. Just lovely.

Check out my full review here.

Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel coverHocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel by A. W. Jantha

I am still shocked that this exists! A Disney book, a sequel to a beloved movie, that has a lesbian main character. The first half of the book is a novelization of the original movie, which you can skip. But all sequel is just what you’d expect from a Hocus Pocus sequel, but with added adorable lesbian crushes. I really don’t know how else to describe this except as a Hocus Pocus sequel with a lesbian main character. If that doesn’t sell you on it, what will? I dearly hope that is made into a movie (though I doubt it will be), because my childhood self would be so happy to see it.

The Second Mango by Shira GlassmanThe Second Mango by Shira Glassman

This is a bit of a stand in for the whole Mangoverse series by Shira Glassman, a queer Jewish fantasy series. This is a quick, fun, fluffy read–with a dragon!

The series only gets better from here, and Shira even recommends jumping in mid-series. If you love classic fantasy novels, but want one that isn’t so painfully white, hetero, etc, this is the series you’ve been looking for.

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra KhawBearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

I was sold immediately when I heard “Bisexual werebear novella.” The book opens with Zelda irritated that her transformation into a bear is continually destroying her wardrobe. She works for a fashion magazine, so she doesn’t take this lightly.

This is such a fun, light read. It’s quippy and snarky and smart, and because it’s only just over 100 pages, it moves quickly. The romances are mostly M/F, but the most significant relationship is F/F. Bisexual werebear novella!

Check out my full review here.

My Lady's Choosing by Kitty CurranMy Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Imagine reading a M/F romance novel: you’re plodding along, all the love interests have been introduced, and your friend (with whom you clearly have more chemistry than with the dudes) throws out that, hey, if you want, you can travel to Egypt with her instead. You reach that point in the book and sigh. Image if she had taken her up on that! Imagine if instead of heading to the drafty castle or trading quips with the asshole rich guy, you just skipped town and went on an Egyptian adventure instead! Only this time, you can!

Most of the storylines you can choose from in this interactive romance novel are tongue-in-cheek takes on classic romances, including a Gothic Jane Eyre-esque plot line, or more of a Pride and Prejudice angle, but the F/F storyline is totally original: search for an artifact stolen from an Egyptian museum, and encounter your lady love interest’s angry ex-girlfriend! Maybe end up in a lesbian pirate gang! (Yes, you can do that. Definitely try to get to that point.) As an added bonus, I enjoyed this so much that I even went back and read the M/F plots. That’s how good this is.

Check out my full review here.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Shira Glassman on this list again! She’s a paragon of queer joy in her books. This is a cute, mostly fluffy story that has a wide appeal: Jewish readers, queer ladies (including bi women), and artists will all find aspects that have special interest to them. It was also nice to read about a fat love interest. This definitely felt like a “slice of life” story. It’s realistic, and as if you’re just being dropped into a short period of these people’s lives, but the characters seem to live outside the words on the page, as well.

This isn’t entirely a traditional romance novella: there is a romance, but it’s just as much about Clara and Danielle’s art, or their relationships with their siblings, or their shared love of fandom. If you’re looking for a quick, light, but satisfying read, pick this one up!

Check out my full review here.

Roller Girl by Vanessa NorthRoller Girl by Vanessa North

Roller Girl follows Tina, a trans woman who has recently divorced as well as retiring as a professional athlete. She’s adrift. So when she gets invited to play on the local roller derby team, she jumps at the opportunity. And it doesn’t hurt that the coach is a swoonworthy butch woman. They are drawn to each other, but Joe doesn’t want to endanger the team by admitting to dating a teammate, and Tina doesn’t want to stay a secret forever.

This is a quick, fun read with steamy sex scenes!

Check out my full review here.

The rest of this list is comics, because that’s the easiest place for me to find fluffy queer reads!

The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part OneThe Legend of Korra: Turf Wars by Michael Dante DiMartino

This one requires a bit of homework, because you only get that burst of joy if you’ve watched The Legend of Korra first. If you have, then you know the bittersweet ending, and how it was both more than we expected and less than we deserved.

Turf Wars: Part One picks up exactly where the last episode leaves off, and it was everything I could have hoped for. It gives Korra and Asami their happy ending, where they basically go on a honeymoon in the spirit world. They kiss and hold hands. They are unambiguously a romantic couple. And honestly, that’s all I wanted! I haven’t been as impressed by the following graphic novels, but I think that’s because the first part of Turf Wars gave me everything I wanted from the story.

Darlin’ It’s Betta Down Where It’s Wetta by Megan Rose GedrisDarlin’ It’s Betta Down Where It’s Wetta by Megan Rose Gedris

Megan Rose Gedris is one of my favourite artists (they did the Lesbrary banner!)

Down Where It’s Wetta is a lesbian mermaid porn made up of short arcs, all featuring the same characters. This is light on plot, but there is enough variety in setting to keep it interesting. The art is beautiful, and I also really enjoyed the humour!

Check out my full review here.

Kim Reaper Vol. 1: Grim Beginnings coverKim Reaper series by Sarah Graley

Becka is an art school student who is crushing hard on Kim, a gothic girl in her class. Little does she know, Kim is a part-time Grim Reaper, and instead of heading off to the pub after class with a cute girl, Becka ends up being pulled into some dangerous undead shenanigans.

This is so much fun to read. The plot is silly (they fight a bodybuilder and his army of cats!) and the art is super cute. I think Becka is the cutest character I’ve ever seen in my life.

Check out my full review here.

Goldie Vance Volume 1Goldie Vance series by Hope Larson (Author) and Brittney Williams (illustrator)

Goldie Vance is a Black queer teen detective! I really love the art in this volume. The colours are vibrant, and the character designs are distinctive and engaging, and the cast is diverse.

Originally, I had though that Goldie Vance was a preteen, but she’s a teenager, and the mystery is slightly more political and intense than I thought it would be! Unsurprisingly, my favourite part of this first volume was Goldie falling for Diane, who we first see rocking a James Dean-ish look.

Check out my full review here.

Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant coverSugar Town by Hazel Newlevant

This is a queer, polyamorous, BDSM fluffy love story. Hazel is in an open relationship with her boyfriend, and she bumps into Argent, a confident and kind domme, at a party. They click instantly, and Argent helps Hazel learn more about negotiating polyamorous relationships.

Sugar Town is a sweet, soft story. Everyone in it treats each other with respect and caring. They check in. They talk about their feelings. Hazel is still figuring out jealousy and other aspects of polyamory, but that’s okay. They’re not simmering underneath, they’re freely discussed.

I also loved the art style, which reinforces that warm and welcoming feel. I want to crawl inside the pages and curl up there. This is definitely one of my rare 5 star ratings: I loved every panel, and I know I will return to it when I need something hopeful to dive into for a little while. What a treat.

Check out my full review here.

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol 1Space Battle Lunchtime Volumes 1 & 2 by Natalie Riess

This comic is an all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show… in space. What could be better?? Peony agrees to be in a competitive cooking show, only to be transported onto the spaceship it’s being filmed on. That’s when she realizes that this isn’t space-themed, it’s literally in outer space. But she takes the existence of aliens in stride, and concentrates on the competition. And, okay, maybe one of the cute alien contestants.

I highly, highly recommend reading volume 1 & 2 back to back, because they really are one complete story. This is such a joyful book!

Check out my full review here.

Lumberjanes Vol 1Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters

I feel like recommending Lumberjanes as a queer all-ages comic should go without saying, but I will say it all the same!

This is a comic that follows a group of girls at summer camp, where they get into fantastical adventures. The strongest part of the series is the dynamic between the 5 main characters. They all have different personalities, strengths, fears, priorities, etc, but they are a tightly-knit group. They support each other. And we get to see each one spotlighted at some point.

This is also a diverse cast, including multiple trans characters, and two of the girls start dating. This is a fun series to read as an adult, but I’m especially glad it exists for kids and teens. The main characters are different ages and also a little ambiguous, so this really works as a recommendation for 9 and up, I’d say. And it’s still going!

Check out my full review here.

Jem and the HologramsJem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson and Sophia Campbell

I love Sophia Campbell’s art style here: colourful and vibrant, with characters of all different shapes and sizes. It is unbelievably cute.

You don’t have to be familiar with the original Jem and the Holograms to pick this up: it’s a re-imagining of the original concept. 4 sisters start a band together, but their lead singer, Jerrica, has debilitating stage fright. Luckily, they get access to hologram technology, so Jerrica can perform disguised as the confident and larger than life Jem.

Also, one of the sisters gets a crush on a member of rival band The Misfits! So much fun!

So those are my recommendations for the fluffiest, lightest, most cotton candy queer lady books I can find! But a book doesn’t have to be pure fluff to make you happy, so I wanted to include a few bonus books that include some conflict and darkness, but are still books that made me happy, and that I think are overall joyful.

This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca BarrowThis is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

Honestly, the cover alone of this one makes me happy. Dia, Jules, and Hanna used to be inseparable, and they played in a band together. Meanwhile, Dia’s boyfriend, who she was just starting to get close with, was killed in a car accident. Weeks after the funeral, Dia finds out she’s pregnant and decides to keep the baby. Hanna and Dia walk away from each other, and Jules sides with Dia. Now, their city is holding a music competition that includes a $15,000 prize, and they just might have a chance to win it–but it means getting the band back together.

As you could guess from that description, there is definitely seriousness here, but it’s also about friendship, and a budding adorable F/F relationship. Also, there’s an adorable toddler who is a fan of a dog named Waffles, so what more could you want? Despite their hardships, this is an optimistic and beautiful book.

Check out my full review here.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer DuganHot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

The cover, title, and blurb of this makes it seem like it will be pure fluff, but it’s a little angstier than I expected, which is why it ended up on this list.

Lou is gearing up for The Best Summer Ever, and even being cast as the hot dog at her summer carnival job doesn’t break her stride. Sure, her crush is literally dating the Princess of the park, but she’s got a plan to snag this diving pirate for herself. And as for the apparent closing of the park, which has been one of the few constants in her life, she is determined to find a way to save it. When she ropes her best friend, Seeley, into fake dating her, Lou is surprised to find that her various schemes aren’t going exactly to plan…

This turns into a fake dating love pentagon with a slowburn F/F friends-to-lovers romance. Hot Dog Girl is a queer YA romcom that makes for a perfect summer read.

Check out my full review here.

Full Disclosure by Camryn GarrettFull Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Simone has enough to deal with directing the school play when she starts getting blackmailed about revealing her HIV-positive status. Despite being about the stigma of HIV and AIDS, there is a lightheartedness to this book as a whole, along with the the serious underpinnings. It’s an M/F romance, but even aside from Simone being bi, there is queer rep aplenty: she has two dads, one of her best friends in an asexual lesbian, and the other best friend is also bisexual. An undercurrent of the story is Simone coming to terms with her sexuality, and realizing that she can claim that identity.

On the whole, I found it a fun, absorbing read. Simone is passionate about musical theatre, and she is excited and intimidated to be acting as director. She is swooning over a cute guy (also involved in the production), and their romance is adorable. Simone’s friends are great–even if they have some communication issues–and so is her family. She is surrounded by support, and there is a lot of humour sprinkled throughout.

Check out my full review here.

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde coverThe Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

Emmy is the drummer in the immensely popular teen band The Brightsiders, alongside non-binary hearthrob Alfie, who she’s suddenly fallen for. Like Wilde’s other queer YA, The Brightsiders is packed full of queer characters and queer joy. There is a focus on found family, especially because Emmy’s parents are abusive. Her entire life they have never stopped drinking and partying, ignoring her, insulting her, and gaslighting her in turn. Her girlfriend is also gaslighting and toxic. When Emmy’s partying lands her in the hospital, she worries that she is heading down the same path as her parents.

Although there is definitely an element of the rock star lifestyle here, there’s a lot of emotional work happening beneath the surface. Emmy is learning to accept and love who she is, and protect herself from the toxic people in her life. There is also such warmth from the queer community that she surrounds herself with: both her friends and her fans show what support, love, and family really is.

Check out my full review here.

OF Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars and Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst

Here’s the premise: a YA fantasy book where two princesses fall in love. I mean, there’s a lot more to it. There’s court politics and betrayal and suppressed magic and warring religious factions, but that’s the hook that got to me. Although this is a (grudging-friendship-grows-into-something-more) love story, it’s just as much about the two of them trying to find out the truth about the deadly conflict in their kingdom. The second book is even stronger than the first, in my opinion.

This warmed my heart. It’s not that this is fluffy or doesn’t have conflict, but it makes me unspeakably happy to know this story is out there for queer girls, and especially one that’s published by one of the big publishing companies, which hopefully means it will be on the shelves of enough bookstore to be discoverable.

Check out my full review of the first book here and of the sequel here.

Falling in Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson coverFalling In Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

Admittedly, only the novella in this collection has queer women in it, and it’s not particularly light, but this book makes me so happy. I was hooked from the first sentence: I didn’t used to like people much. After I finished this book, I just wanted to hug it to my chest and sigh contentedly. Hopkinson introduces each of her stories and gives a little explanation, and those not only add to the experience of those stories, they also show her personality so much that she’s been added to my list of dream authors to have at a dinner party.

If you have any interest at all in fantastical or fabulist short stories, if you like sharp humor or flawed and compelling characters, definitely pick this one up.

Check out my full review here.

Stage Dreams by Melanie GillmanStage Dreams by Melanie Gillman

In Stage Dreams, Grace is in a stage coach, on the run. The coach is being driven through an area that’s being haunted by the Ghost Hawk, a supernatural giant hawk that swoops down on carriages and robs them! When Grace’s coach is targeted, she discovers that the Ghost Hawk is, in fact, Flor: a Latina woman who robs coaches, with her (regular-sized) pet hawk–not the story stagecoach drivers like to tell about the experience!

When the stagecoach fails to produce any worthwhile goods, Flor takes Grace instead, in the hopes of getting some ransom money from her family. Her plan falls apart when she finds out that Grace is trans and is running away from her family. Instead, the two end up hatching a plan together to pull of another heist–one that could set them both up for life.

Although I would have liked for this to be a little longer, I really enjoyed the art, characters, and historical context (the end notes are packed with info). Westerns are not usually my genre, but I was sucked into this story. Definitely pick it up for a quick, engaging read with a diversity of characters not often seen in this setting.

Check out my review here.

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko KodamaI Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko Kodama

This short, standalone manga is about a fake marriage: Morimoto is sick of being constantly set up by her parents. Her friend Hana suggests that they get married to shut them up.

Unsurprisingly, Hana and Morimoto’s relationship changes as they live together. Morimoto also finds new confidence in herself: she is inspired by Hana, by her dedication to her passion (art) and her defiance in being unapologetically out. It was gratifying to see an out character, one who even uses the word “lesbian,” in the pages of a yuri manga. This has all of the appeal that yuri manga usually has for me: it’s a quick, absorbing, and adorable read. But it adds more depth and realism than I expect from this genre. It had me absolutely grinning as I read it.

Check out my full review here.

Girl Friends Vol 1Girl Friends: The Complete Collection by Milk Morinaga

This seems to the quintessential yuri series:  It’s school girls, and a lot of blushing, and the typical “girls don’t do this” heteronormativity. I read this in the omnibus, and talk about a slow burn! This is almost 500 pages, and mostly just about Mariko making a new friend, falling in love with her, and then (much later) realizing that she’s fallen in love with her.

Girl Friends is super cute, but with the melodrama of agonizing over a crush on a girl. This is a fun, quick, addictive read.

Check out my review of volume 1 and volume 2.

Please let me know in the comments what your favourite happy, fluffy sapphic reads are! I’m always looking for more, especially by authors of colour.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $5 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year on top of the giveaways!

Maggie reviews The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin

The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin cover

Obviously, there has been a lot going on recently. In light of the new stresses in my, and everyone else’s, lives, what I wanted to read was some light romance as an escape. I turned to The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin, because it had been recommended to me a while ago as a very cute fantasy f/f romance. I liked it immensely. The twin influences of fantasy and romance combined for some highly enjoyable, wish-fulfilling world-building, bulldozing all potential problems to create a fantasy realm where queer romance can reign and the problems are mostly fantasy-plot related.

Princess Esofi of Rhodia has journeyed for months to get to the kingdom of Ieflaria and marry her long-time betrothed, Prince Albion. Although the betrothal was born out of political necessity – Ieflaria needs the battlemages that Rhodia trains in order to fend off escalating dragon attacks – she believes her union with Albion will be a good one based upon the long series of letters they’ve exchanged. However, upon arrival she finds out that Albion is dead. Esofi is left to marry another in the line of succession to keep her and her resources in Ieflaria. Albion’s sister, the Princess Adale, is the logical choice, but Adale never thought she would rule and rejects the violent upheaval of her life. Esofi and Adale have to build their relationship in the midst of dragon attacks, culture shock, rival heirs, and Adale’s own personal crisis.

What I enjoyed about this book was that there was a lot of traditional fantasy elements – magic, dragons, elaborate regency setups – but a strong romance sensibility made it all very soft. Princess Adale has strong feelings about being forced into the position of Crown Princess, a common enough fantasy element, but she starts to reconsider when she becomes enamored of how nice and soft Princess Esofi looks, a common romance element. Watching her become tongue-tied over her feelings is a delight. Court politics and arranged marriages are standard fare in both fantasy and romance, but this book wanted them to be a backdrop, not a real obstacle. Princess Esofi is both incredibly politically savvy and sensible about her position and also more than willing to have an emotional relationship. It was just so nice to take a break from everything happening in real life and watch a disaster princess trip and fall head over heels for a soft but extremely capable princess while also reading about dragons and magic.

What was also very nice about this book was that it was set squarely on Queer Romance and no problem was too real life to get explained away. How can they expect Princess Esofia to switch from marrying a guy to marrying a girl? Obviously Everyone is Pansexual. What about the line of succession? There’s some magic for that. A 400 page fantasy novel would explain and justify all of these things, but this is a romance first and foremost, so you don’t have to worry about it. Neither do the characters – it’s all built into their society from the ground up so they can immediately get to the romancing and the magic. A queer reader can sit back, read some inept wooing and dragon fighting, and feel warm and fuzzy for a while without any of the conflict having anything to do with queerness, which is always an experience I don’t realize I’m missing until I get into a story like this.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Queen of Ieflaria. It’s just the sort of fast-paced but incredibly soft romance I was looking for right now. If you’re at all into fantasy elements, this is a fun and feel-good read, and I’m excited to continue on to the rest of the series.

Jen Wilde’s Books are the Feel-Good Sapphic YA You’ve Been Searching For

Did you know I (Danika) have a booktube channel? Along with the Lesbrary, the Bi & Lesbian Literature tumblr, and Book Riot, I talk about books there, too! Apparently I can’t say enough about them. Most of my content is about queer women books, and I even have a playlist of just my sapphic book videos. Consider this video my review of Going Off Script by Jen Wilde (suffice to say, I loved it).

For exclusive videos and to be entered in monthly queer book giveaways, support the Lesbrary and this channel on Patreon! 

Books mentioned:

More links worth knowing:

Cara reviews Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Under the Lights is a great light lesbian romance that’s about growing up and finding friends in unlikely places. There’s no deep trauma or life-or-death stakes here, and while there’s some light angst and the characters have real problems, the narrative never dwells on them too long or loses sight of the truth that the characters are pretty fortunate.

The story is told from the point of view of two coprotagonists, Josh Chester and Vanessa Park, both of whom are teenaged actors and minor celebrities in Hollywood. While they have a lot more money than most teenagers and some problems only celebrities do, the core conflicts are all about them figuring out what they want, notwithstanding what their parents want for them. It’s definitely YA and the sequel to a previous book of Adler’s, Daylight Falls, that features many of the same characters but different protagonists. You don’t need to have read it to read Under the Lights. (I still haven’t.)

The biggest reason I can see someone might not like this book is Josh Chester, so I’ll address him first. Josh is kind of a jerk. He intends to offend, for instance referring to Vanessa as “K-drama” for most of the book, insults everyone, and acts callous as hell. He tries to be unlikable, and I can see how some readers might find his voice to be such a turnoff that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy Vanessa’s. He’s funny, though, and his jerkiness more superficial than heartfelt. He doesn’t hurt people, and the girls he has no-strings-attached one-night stands with are every bit as interested in no-strings-attached sex with Josh Chester as he is in sex with them. I’m willing to forgive rudeness when it’s not coupled with malice, so Josh and his arc work for me.

Beyond that, I read enough lesbian romance that I’m tired of the formulas, and what I found refreshing about this novel is that it doesn’t follow them. How many lesbian romances have a het male coprotagonist who shares equal time with his female counterpart? The whole story is a beautifully-executed bait-and-switch playing on the structure of romance and YA romance in particular. In another book, Josh and Vanessa’s early relationship would be belligerent sexual tension. Because I’m reviewing this book for the Lesbrary, I’ve spoiled that part for you already: Josh and Vanessa do not end up together. You’d know the same if you read the blurb and know that “feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship” means “gay.” None of the relationships in the book end up coming out the way the characters expect them to. I want more books like this.

Vanessa’s coming to terms with falling for a girl felt real to me. When she angsts, it’s less because of internalized homophobia and more because she loves acting and worries that being a double-minority in Hollywood will cost her her career and that it will give her parents another reason to dislike her. I’m long past the drama of coming out myself, but sadly I can still relate to feeling like a perpetual disappointment to one’s parents. Vanessa and her future girlfriend hurt each other some times with the all-too-accurate clumsiness of teenagers working out how relationships go.

The dialogue’s good enough to have made me laugh out loud several times when I was writing this review. I’d quote it here but outside of the context and the characters, it would lose its punch. The plot and development of the characters are well-structured and have interesting symmetry with some depth I didn’t notice on my first reading. Under the Lights is romance done well.

Danika reviews Kim Reaper: Grim Beginnings by Sarah Graley

Part-time Grim Reaper. Full-time cutie.

WELL. If this isn’t one of the cutest things I’ve ever read. Becka is an art school student who is crushing hard on Kim, a gothic girl in her class. Little does she know, Kim is a part-time Grim Reaper, and instead of heading off to the pub after class with a cute girl, Becka ends up being pulled into some dangerous undead shenanigans.

This is so much fun to read. The plot is silly (they fight a bodybuilder and his army of cats!) and the art is super cute. I also found the interaction between Becka and Kim really interesting. At first, Becka is pursuing Kim, fully convinced that she, too, is Goth As Hell and that they would be perfect together. Kim at first pushes her away, but they are stuck together on this adventure, and she soon warms up. In the meantime, as Becka gets to know Kim, she is frustrated by her recklessness–the only reason she even ended up here is because Kim opened a portal in the middle of the hallway!

Kim has to grapple with the fact that her attempts to impress Becka have just put them both in danger, and that not everyone finds running from death (figuratively and literally) a fun way to spend the afternoon. Becka walks away when she feels that their relationship isn’t a healthy one for her, and Kim has to figure out whether she wants to keep going on this path. That’s mostly in the background, though, and it never gets too dramatic. It just adds a layer to this mostly fluffy and fun read!

Also, I have to mention: Becka is the most adorable main character I’ve ever seen. The hair buns! Her cute little tummy!! Honestly, I couldn’t believe how much I appreciated that there is an outline of Becka’s tummy. And I actually learned that “visible belly outline” (or VBO) is a thing! That there’s a term for! So this book made me happy not only because a) the illustrations are adorable, b) the plot is silly and fun, c) Becka and Kim are cuties together, but also d) seeing Becka–a character whose silhouette does not look entirely dissimilar to my own–depicted as cute, confident, and desirable makes me feel happier in my own clothes.

If you need a boost of cuteness in your reading life, I can’t really recommend Kim Reaper highly enough. This was one of my few 5 star ratings this year!


Danika reviews Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.

I feel a little bit silly reviewing Knit One, Girl Two, because what can I say that hasn’t been said before? Especially considering that this is a novella! So consider this less of a review, and more of a reminder that this sweet little novella exists (and that you can get it for about $2!)

This is a cute, mostly fluffy story that has a wide appeal: Jewish readers, queer ladies (including bi women), and artists will all find aspects that have special interest to them. It was also nice to read about a fat love interest. This definitely felt like a “slice of life” story. It’s realistic, and as if you’re just being dropped into a short period of these people’s lives, but the characters seem to live outside the words on the page, as well.

Both the main characters are cisgender, but there is a scene that shows the queer community that they are in, and it has lots of trans minor characters. They only get a handful of lines, but it was still nice to see that.

As always in Shira Glassman books, the Florida setting is significant. Danielle is a painter, and she is inspired by Florida landscapes. Clara dyes yarn, and she collaborates with Danielle to use the colors in her paintings to design the blends in her yarn.

This isn’t entirely a traditional romance novella: there is a romance, but it’s just as much about Clara and Danielle’s art, or their relationships with their siblings, or their shared love of fandom. If you’re looking for a quick, light, but satisfying read, pick this one up!


Danika reviews Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant

I knew I would like Sugar Town from the cover alone, and from the first page, it didn’t disappoint.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbJEhH9hSCX/

This is a queer, polyamorous, BDSM fluffy love story. Hazel is in an open relationship with her boyfriend, and she bumps into Argent, a confident and kind domme, at a party. They click instantly, and Argent helps Hazel learn more about negotiating polyamorous relationships. All of the relationships are so caring and gentle.

My favourite scene was probably the BDSM scene (which is pretty tame and mostly off-panel, if it concerns you). Argent is using a whip on Hazel when Hazel says “Hang on,” and Argent immediately stops, checks in, and finds out that Hazel pulled something in her back, though she was thoroughly enjoying the scene. They cuddle and watch cooking shows instead. It’s BDSM as a completely consensual, mutual, and even kind activity for partners to enjoy together. That’s something I very rarely see.

Do I keep using the word “kind”? I can’t help it. Sugar Town is a sweet, soft story. Everyone in it treats each other with respect and caring. They check in. They talk about their feelings. Hazel is still figuring out jealousy and other aspects of polyamory, but that’s okay. They’re not simmering underneath, they’re freely discussed. They’re not perfect–Argent mentions experiencing suicidal thoughts, Hazel is self-conscious and doubts herself–but they  are supportive of each other and the rest of the people in their lives, whether they’re friends or partners.

I also loved the art style, which reinforces that warm and welcoming feel. I want to crawl inside the pages and curl up there. This is definitely one of my rare 5 star ratings: I loved every panel, and I know I will return to it when I need something hopeful to dive into for a little while. What a treat.

Danika reviews You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

you know me well

This book is a romp. Ever since I read Boy Meets Boy, I’ve been looking for a queer women’s equivalent: a cotton candy book that, despite any issues it addresses, fills you with a sense of hope, warmth, and happiness. This book seems to do the trick quite nicely, and it’s no surprise that it’s cowritten by David Levithan himself (though I now have to seek out Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads To You, because if it’s anything like this, it’s a must-read.)

You Know Me Well is told in alternating chapters. Mark is head-over-heels for his best friend, but despite the fact that they’ve been fooling around for years, he still can’t seem to get them in the “relationship” category. Meanwhile, Kate has fallen in love with a girl she’s never met, and is terrified at the chance of actually meeting this mystical, circus traveler, dream girl. They’re both in a topsy-turvy point in their lives when they bump into each other in a bar during Pride. They’ve seen each other at school before, but after this chance meeting, they become the other’s main source of support and guidance for this pivot point in their lives.

The book unfolds in only a week or so, but it’s a week that causes them both to reconsider their lives’ trajectory. They are finding themselves, deciding their priorities, considering whether they want to be whole new people. Having someone new–someone who understands and is also not invested in them staying the same–is hugely affirming for both of them. This is a story celebrating queer friendship, and that’s what is at the heart of it. That’s what makes me want to hug this book. In addition to the main characters, there are many queer minor characters (though, sadly they are [almost?] all white, and there’s not a lot of trans representation).

If you’ve been craving a fluffy read, this one will definitely hit the spot. I think it would be perfect to give to a teenager just coming out as gay or lesbian, because it so hopeful, and it celebrates the queer community. I’m really glad that this book is out there, and I hope that it finds its way into the hands of the people who could use it most.