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Sapphic September Launch

Hello and welcome to Sapphic September! I decided to kick things off with my first ever Booktube video, in which I go over my very ambitious TBR for the readathon! 

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My TBR for the month (from top to bottom):
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley⠀
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers⠀
Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden⠀
Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins⠀
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar⠀
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell & Mariko Tamaki⠀
The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth⠀
The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett⠀
The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska⠀
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron⠀
The Music & The Mirror by Lola Keeley⠀
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capette & Cory McCarthy⠀
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust⠀
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson⠀
Not pictured: Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, Iron Heart by Nina Varela ⠀

Also, check out these TBRs that include Sapphic September from some awesome bloggers and Booktubers Will update to include new links as needed 🥰)

I’ve also created a Discord server for the readathon, so feel free to join us there if that’s your jam!

 

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Sapphic September Readathon & Photo Challenge

Introducing #SapphicSeptember, a month long readathon & photo challenge celebrating sapphic representation in books! 

The Sapphic September bingo card includes 16 reading prompts, but to keep things as fun and stress free as possible, I’m adding a bit of a twist – in addition to reading, you can also fulfill a bingo prompt by posting a photo of a sapphic book that fits it! Obviously, the aim of any readathon is to encourage participants to read more books, but 2020 has been an incredibly hectic and stressful year for many people. I’ve included this additional option in hopes it will allow more people to participate however much they want or are able to.

Additionally, I know ten days (can you believe August is almost over already?! I can’t) isn’t much notice to plan for a month-long readathon. With that in mind, I tried to keep the prompts broad and open ended, so that (hopefully) everyone will be able to fulfill at least some of the prompts with books they already have on hand!

Without further ado, the prompts: 

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To help those using screen reader technology: The bingo card is 4 x 4. I’ve listed the prompts below by row, from left to right.

Row 1:
✨ Myth or Fairytale Retelling
✨ Indie or Small Press Author
✨ Adult Book if you usually Read YA, and vice versa (YA if you usually read Adult)
✨ Backlist Title (Published in 2018 or earlier)

Row 2:
✨ Enemies or Rivals to Lovers 
✨ Group Read: Iron Heart by Nina Varela (Out September 8th)
✨ Let a friend choose your read (or post a poll and let your followers choose!)
✨ Contemporary Romance

Row 3:
✨ Format you read the least (ie. audiobooks, ebooks, physical books, etc)
✨ New or New to You Author
✨ Has Been on Your TBR Too Long
✨ By a Sapphic Literary Icon (This is open to interpretation, and I would absolutely accept queer coded classics like Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for this prompt!)

Row 4: 
✨ Quick Reads: Novella or Graphic Novel
✨ Historical Fiction/Romance
✨ Opposites Attract
✨ Sci-fi/Fantasy (or other Speculative Fiction) with an F/F Romantic Subplot

A Note on Inclusivity:
For the purposes of this readathon, sapphic is defined as:
“An adjective for a female-aligned person who feels romantic or sexual attraction to female-aligned people. This applies to female-aligned people who are not only lesbians, but also bisexual, pansexual, etc.”

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’ve been on the internet long enough to know that I do: Do not use this readathon as a vehicle to be a bigot or intolerant asshole. No TERFs allowed. Also, non-binary people and characters can be sapphic if they say they are and I will not tolerate any nonsense claiming otherwise.

Anyway, I might be forgetting some things, so don’t hesitate to contact me via Instagram or Twitter if you have any questions or need recommendations on sapphic books to fit the prompts! I’m super excited to be hosting this readathon, and I’d love it if you’d join us!

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Book Reviews Recommendations

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

“She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.”
★★★★★

Queen of Coin and Whispers is a sapphic YA fantasy novel by Helen Corcoran that focuses on political intrigue instead of magic. Corcoran has described Queen as “a low-fantasy novel with a historical basis,” because elements of the novel are inspired by Elizabethan spycraft, which is basically the coolest thing I’ve ever heard (check out this Twitter thread where she goes into more detail on her research). 

Queen was one of my most anticipated Summer releases, and I was lucky enough to win a physical copy in a giveaway hosted by my friend Manon (aka @themaliciousreader). It took a few weeks to arrive via Book Depository, but once I started reading I devoured it in less than 48 hours and loved every minute of it! 

Queen follows two leads alternating between their perspectives:

  • Lia is the newly ascended queen of a struggling kingdom. The throne she inherited has become mired in corruption, and she vows to right the wrongs of her predecessors and be the ruler her people deserve. 
  • Xania is a member of the lower court who spends her days working in the royal treasury, biding her time until the opportunity arises to avenge her father’s death (which was, Xania suspects, actually a murder). 

The paths of these two girls would normally not cross, but they find themselves working together (and eventually, developing feelings for one another) when their mutual friend, Matthias, recommends that Xania become Lia’s spymaster – a highly important, secretive, and dangerous position known as Master of Whispers. 

I found myself totally immersed and invested in this world and the characters that inhabit it. Corcoran has developed an incredibly well thought out system of government, which I honestly found to be more interesting than many magic systems in high fantasy novels.

And we haven’t even truly discussed the romance yet! I absolutely loved Lia & Xania together, and I found myself squealing like a schoolgirl when Lia made the first move, flirting by loaning Xania a lesbian romance novel. Queen was a relatively slow burn, but not so slow that the characters don’t get together til the very end, which I appreciated. 

My only real gripe is that Queen felt like it should have been a New Adult book. It didn’t click with me how young the two leads were until the scene on Xania’s eighteenth birthday, and it was honestly sort of jarring. I know the point is that Lia and Xania are young women whom people underestimate, but that sentiment would still have remained had they been in the early twenties instead. Especially because it seems like Xania had had her job in the treasury for several years at the start of the book, which would imply she’d started at 15-16? 

Anyway, all in all Queen of Coin and Whispers was an absolute joy to read, and while the ending and epilogue were more than sufficient, I found myself not ready to part with Lia & Xania. Luckily, Helen Corcoran wasn’t ready to part with them either and has released a set of four, free prequel stories which you can find here! I’ve been saving them to use as a special treat, but I have no doubt they’ll be just as enjoyable as the novel!  

Synopsis:
When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each other, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other…

Let’s be friends!
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Queen of Coin and Whispers At A Glance
Genre: YA, Fantasy of Manners (with prominent f/f romance subplot)
Themes/Tropes: Queer Royals, Political Intrigue, Rich Girl/Poor Girl (sort of)
LGBT Rep? Yes! Lesbian MC, with lesbian, bi, & gay side characters
OwnVoices? Yep
Content Warnings (CWs): Murder/Violence, instance of psychological abuse (might be forgetting some, I forgot to jot them down because I was so engrossed in the story, sorry!) 

Queen of Coin and Whispers

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Book Reviews

The Politics of Love by Jen Jensen

“If I am who you want me to be,” Shelley said, “I can’t be who I am. It’s killing me.”
★★★★☆

The Politics of Love is a new, opposites attract lesbian romance novel by Jen Jensen, out today (July 14th) from Bold Strokes Books. It follows two characters – Shelley Whitmore, a closeted lesbian who is sick of hiding who she is for the benefit of her powerful Evangelical Christian Republican family, and Rand Thomas, a therapist and prominent transgender rights activist – who first meet by way of a television appearance wherein they’re placed on opposite sides of a political debate.

The romance between Shelley and Rand seemed at first like it would be fast moving, but then settled into a leisurely slow-ish burn pace for the majority of the novel. At times, the romance felt like an addendum to the larger, overarching themes of the book, but I didn’t mind that at all. I can appreciate when romance novels aim to be something “more”, and The Politics of Love does just that. I found both of the leads likable in their own way, for completely different reasons. There were absolutely a few times when I wanted to take Rand by her shoulders and shake her, but the angst felt logical, rather than unnecessarily inserted by the author to spice up the plot.

To be totally honest, after I was approved for an ARC of The Politics of Love, I began to panic. “Why didn’t I just wait and read this on my own?” I groaned to my friend via Messenger. “Politics are so divisive right now, and this book has the potential to be a PR minefield!”  

“You’re overthinking,” she replied. “Just read the book.” So I did. And I loved it, and now that it’s over, I realized the irony of the entire situation. My anxiety about reading a romance that crosses the political divide in our hyper-polarized society because of our hyper-polarized society is, in fact, peak irony. 

I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that I myself am a Democratic Socialist, but, like Shelley, I was born and raised in the Bible Belt, and have lived here for my entire life. My mother is a Baptist Sunday school teacher. I grew up going to church multiple times per week, hearing myself damned to hell by our fire and brimstone Southern Baptist preacher. I knew I was a lesbian from fourteen on, and cried myself to sleep each night, praying to at least be bisexual instead of a lesbian, so that I’d have a chance of falling in love with a man and making my family happy. 

So, unlike some other reviewers, I went into The Politics of Love fully expecting to identify with Shelley, the closeted gay Republican, at least on a base level, and I was not disappointed. At some points, I related to her inner dialogue so much that I was practically highlighting entire pages. I would be remiss not to mention that The Politics of Love also includes really excellent anxiety representation. In addition to identifying with Shelley’s experiences with compulsive heterosexuality and repressing her sexuality for her family, the way Jensen wrote Shelley’s anxiety really rang true for me, as someone with multiple anxiety disorders.

In the end, I think a lot of my worry about this book was unfounded. After seeing a lot of negative commentary accusing the YA M/M romance The State of Us of trying to humanize the Right without expecting them to humanize the LGBTQ+ community (and that’s not even touching the issues with the racism), I feared The Politics of Love might fall prey to the same mishaps, reworked for an adult audience, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was obvious that Rand and Shelley respected and learned from each other, genuinely finding middle ground on which to build their relationship. 

Final thoughts: The word politics might be in the title, but The Politics of Love was far from a manifesto or evangelism for either side of the aisle. Instead, it was a sweet, slightly angsty romance about finding love and acceptance in unexpected places.  

Synopsis:
Is it possible to love across the political divide?

Shelley Whitmore is a successful attorney, working on behalf of her Evangelical parents’ faith-based organization, championing conservative values of individual liberty and limited government. Everything’s totally fine, except that it really isn’t. Shelley manages depression and crippling anxiety because of the secret she can never reveal: she’s gay.

Rand Thomas is a psychotherapist, transgender rights activist, and political liberal. Widowed and struggling with her wife’s toxic parents, Rand isn’t going to allow herself to love again.

When Shelley and Rand meet in Manhattan, neither one expects to find that the other is exactly who they need.

The Politics of Love At A Glance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Themes/Tropes: Opposites Attract, Age Gap (< 10 years), Coming Out, Slow burn
LGBT Rep? Yes!
OwnVoices? Yep
Content Warnings (CWs): Non-consensual public outing, homophobia, death of family member, grief

ARC Note: Thank you to Bold Strokes Books and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

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Book Reviews

We Had No Rules by Corinne Manning

“Can I exist if I’m only in relation to myself?”
★★★★★

We Had No Rules is the debut short story collection from non-binary author Corinne Manning, and I’m completely obsessed with it.

I could immediately tell We Had No Rules was something special, a collection of stories I’d never want to end. By the end of the third story, I’d already ordered a paperback copy for my collection. By the seventh, I was scared to keep reading, worried I’d binge the rest of the stories in one go. In fact, I intentionally avoided finishing it for weeks because I wasn’t ready for it to be over, but, as I received an advance copy for review, I could only prolong the inevitable for so long. 

There are eleven stories in all, each fully realized and unique and messy and irreverent. Manning forces the reader to reckon with queer people as we really are – flawed, multifaceted human beings – by exploring some of humanity’s darker impulses, filtered through the perspectives of queer characters with varying LGBTQIA+ identities. The results are as unsettling as they are brilliant.

One Goodreads reviewer, Erik, summed things up perfectly: “Each story in We Had No Rules pries apart the tension that lies at the heart of queerness: in being who I am do I become like everyone else or stand out? What is the right answer?”

If I had to choose my favorite story (please don’t make me), I’d be hard pressed to decide between two of the more humorous offerings: Gay Tale and Ninety Days

Gay Tale begins “Oh, fuck it. I’m writing lesbian fiction. I know I’d do better to write gay fiction, or in some academic circles, queer fiction. How many people, I wonder, have stopped reading already?” and made me laugh aloud multiple times. 

Ninety Days is told from the perspective of a queer femme, and (as a femme myself) I found many of the character’s observations and sentiments to be highly relatable: “As someone assigned female at birth who presents as femme I have to make a series of conscious decisions to be visible as queer, and I still have to come out, multiple times a day.” 

I could go on, but I’d rather allow Manning’s prose to speak for itself. I highly recommend checking out We Had No Rules, especially for queer readers. It was refreshing to see the complexities of modern queerness explored so unflinchingly. It’s not an easy read, but it’s an important one.

Synopsis/Description:
“A defiant, beautifully realized story collection about the messy complications of contemporary queer life.

A young teenager runs from her family’s conservative home to her sister’s NY apartment to learn a very different set of rules. A woman grieves the loss of a sister, a “gay divorce,” and the pain of unacknowledged abuse with the help of a lone wallaby on a farm in Washington State. A professor of women’s and gender studies revels in academic and sexual power but risks losing custody of the family dog.

In Corinne Manning’s stunning debut story collection, a cast of queer characters explore the choice of assimilation over rebellion. In this historical moment that’s hyperaware of and desperate to define even the slowest of continental shifts, when commitment succumbs to the logic of capitalism and nobody knows what to call each other or themselves – Gay? Lesbian? Queer? Partners? Dad? – who are we? And if we don’t know who we are, what exactly can we offer each other?

Spanning the years 1992 to 2019, and moving from New York to North Carolina to Seattle, the eleven first-person stories in We Had No Rules feature characters who feel the promise of a radically reimagined world but face complicity instead.”

Let’s be friends!
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We Had No Rules At A Glance:
Genre: Short Story Collection, LGBTQ+ Fiction
LGBTQ+ Rep? Yes! So much queer rep!
OwnVoices? Yes!
Content Warnings (CWs): Unfortunately, I was so engrossed in these stories that I forgot to keep a running list of CWs for this one. It definitely tackles some heavy, potentially triggering subjects, so read with care!

ARC Note: Thank you to Arsenal Pulp Press and Edelweiss for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Book Reviews

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

“How novel,” she said. “This is perhaps the first time two women seen together weren’t labeled gal pals.”
★★★★☆

I knew I was either going to love Something to Talk About or hate it, with no in between. On the one hand, as a lesbian in a long term relationship with an older woman, I’m a sucker for age gap romances. I’ve loved them since I was a teenager printing Miranda/Andy (from The Devil Wears Prada) fanfiction out in my school library and racing to snag it before anyone else could see. On the other hand, I’m too impatient for most slow burns, and extended mutual angst/pining drives me up a wall. Something to Talk About has all of those things, but in the end, everything must have balanced out because I genuinely loved this book!

I binged Something to Talk About within a twenty-four hour period (oops!). To be honest, I think I would have enjoyed this book even if there hadn’t been a romance plotline (though I’m unendingly grateful there was), because I loved Jo and Emma’s dynamic from the start, even when it was still purely professional. Once the two leads began to recognize their feelings for each other, the extended, angst-ridden mutual pining was broken up by scenes with two hilarious supporting characters: Avery (Emma’s snarky but fiercely supportive older sister) and Evelyn (Jo’s pithy lifelong best friend). These scenes also provided a fun contrast between the way our leads behaved around each other vs. how they relaxed when interacting with loved ones. I’m tempted to start a petition for Wilsner to write a spin-off novel where Evelyn and Avery have to plan Jo & Emma’s wedding as the brides’ respective Maids of Honor, because it would be hilarious.

Something to Talk About was already on my radar, but my friend Dom’s Goodreads review is what finally pushed me to read it. Dom did an excellent job of addressing the concern many readers will have about a boss/employee romance novel in the #MeToo era, so rather than trying to reinvent the wheel I’m going to quote that section of their review:

“One thing that stands out to me is how this novel handles power dynamics and consent. […] This novel does deal with a definite mentor/mentee romance, but Wilsner takes great pains to navigate the situation with the imbalance in mind. At no point did I make the human facial equivalent of the unamused emoji at my pages; in fact, it was so comforting to see an interaction style I love handled in such a graceful way. Jo and Emma are both aware of the complications them deepening their relationship could cause.”

Synopsis:
A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time—threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.

As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.

With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?

Final Thoughts: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner was a fun, easy read that’s perfect for Pride or any other month of the year! I would definitely recommend giving it a chance, even if you (like me) aren’t usually a fan of slow burn romances!

Let’s be friends!
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Something to Talk About At a Glance:
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Themes/Tropes: Slow Burn, Mistaken for Dating, Mutual Pining, Age Gap (> 10 years), Mentor/Mentee (with care taken re: power imbalances)
LGBT Rep? Yep! Our two leads are Emma, who is bisexual, and Jo, a closeted older lesbian.
OwnVoices? Yes, OwnVoices queer
Content Warnings (CW): Sexual harassment

Something to Talk About paperback displayed over yellow flowers.

Note: Thank you to Berkley Publishing and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Book Reviews

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

“That’s the key to doing stuff you’re scared of. You gotta run at it.”
★★★★☆

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey is a contemporary YA fantasy with a cast of incredibly diverse, memorable characters that will stay with me for a long time.

This book promised queer witches, a sapphic romance plot, and healthy female friendships. What’s not to love? The cast of characters and their interpersonal relationships were very well developed, and the six witches were complex, fully realized individuals. Gailey also found a solid balance between being plot driven and focusing on character development, which made for a compelling and engaging story that I devoured in a single day. 

Admittedly, I did have a few gripes about this story, but they’re more about my own personal likes and dislikes than a reflection of the author or story. My main issues were with the romance plotline, because I’m not a huge fan of extended mutual pining and I largely prefer Enemies-to-Lovers over Friends-to-Lovers.  Overall, I enjoyed the book enough to order a physical copy for myself after reading the ebook via Scribd, and I still highly recommend checking out When We Were Magic!

 Synopsis:
Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.

Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.

That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.

When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.

Final thoughts: When We Were Magic is the queer witch girl gang novel we want and deserve. 

Let’s be friends!
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When We Were Magic At a Glance:
Genre: Contemporary YA Fantasy
Themes/Tropes: Slow burn, Friends to Lovers, Mutual Pining
LGBT Rep? Yes! This book features multiple queer/sapphic characters of varying identities, and a slow burn f/f romance plotline.
Own Voices? Yes!
Content Warnings (CW): Death/murder (unintentional, but still), body horror 

 

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Book Reviews

The Fate of Stars by SD Simper

“I would rather die a thousand deaths than have never met you.”
★★★★★

I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself regarding this review. I’ve spent weeks hyping up The Fate of Stars almost daily on social media, hosted a giveaway for a special edition copy of it, and even conducted a Zoom interview with the author, SD Simper, to talk about it. After all that, I began to wonder if I could even come up with anything worthwhile to say that I haven’t already said. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. 

The Fate of Stars by SD Simper is the first book in her sapphic mermaid trilogy, Sea & Stars. Let’s start with a refresher on the premise.

Synopsis:
A devout mermaid. A disgraced princess. A feud as ancient as the gods.

Worlds collide when Tallora is kidnapped from her ocean home and forced to be a pet to a tyrannical foreign empire. Her only hope for rescue lies with a sworn enemy—Princess Dauriel, infamous for her stone heart and conflicted past. But when Dauriel’s kingdom comes to the cusp of war, could their uneasy alliance be the key to defeating a common foe? Or will their growing feelings for each other lead them to ruin?

From the world of FALLEN GODS comes a tale of ancient magic and cutthroat politics—and finding redemption through love.”

So, what happens when a bisexual mermaid and stone butch princess whose paths were never supposed to cross meet and fall in love? Read this book and find out! The Fate of Stars is everything I could’ve ever wanted in a f/f fantasy novel. Magic, mermaids, and enemies to lovers? Sign me the fuck up, honestly. I could write an essay length review of the banter alone, but I’ll spare you (for now). 

On a more serious note, I loved this book and story. One thing that really stood out to me was that the author handled the inherent power imbalance in the relationship with such nuance, and even had the characters explicitly discuss it between themselves! I’ve never seen that in a book like this, and it was much appreciated.

The Fate of Stars is available now on Kindle Unlimited! 

The other two books in the Sea & Stars trilogy, Heart of Silver Flame (Book 2) and Death’s Abyss (Book 3) are available for pre-order, and will be out in June & July, respectively.

Let’s be friends!
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The Fate of Stars At a Glance:
Genre: High Fantasy, Lesbian Romance
Themes/Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Swords & Sorcery, Butch/Femme, Taming the Beast/Thawing the Ice Queen
LGBT Rep? Yep! The main character, Tallora, is a bisexual mermaid. Her eventual love interest is a stone butch lesbian.
Own Voices? Yes!
Content Warnings (CW): References to suicide, infertility (and trauma surrounding it), emotionally abusive parents, a few instances of graphic violence, threats of sexual assault (but no actual assault)

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I was a beta reader for the entire Sea & Stars trilogy, but I’d honestly be raving about The Fate of Stars just as much if I hadn’t been. 

Also, how gorgeous is this special edition alternate cover?

fate at lake

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Book Reviews

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado

“Putting language to something for which you have no language is no easy feat.”
★★★★★

In the Dream House is such an excellent, beautifully written book that I don’t feel capable of writing a review that does it justice. 

Machado’s writing is lyrical and complex and layered, and hearing her read it aloud in audiobook form was transformative for me. She recounts the tale of her own same sex intimate partner abuse, seamlessly weaving in references to history, pop culture, and archival works. The entire time I listened I just kept getting the feeling that I was experiencing something groundbreaking and vitally important. Everyone should read In the Dream House, no matter their age, sexual orientation, race, gender, or typical reading preferences.

Synopsis:
“In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

And it’s that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope—the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman—through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.

Machado’s dire narrative is leavened with her characteristic wit, playfulness, and openness to inquiry. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek, and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction. The result is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.”

Final thoughts: In the Dream House is a brilliant piece of literature, but it is also extraordinarily heavy and difficult to read. I highly recommend you check it out, but please read with care. I found it helpful to take my time with this one and limited myself to a few chapters per day.

Let’s be friends!
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Note: I haven’t formally reviewed any non-fiction books yet, but the ‘at a glance’ template I use for fiction didn’t feel right for Dream House, so I’ve adjusted it slightly.

In the Dream House At a Glance:
Genre:
Memoir
LGBT Rep?
Yes. In the Dream House explores Machado’s personal experience of being in an abusive relationship with another woman.
Own Voices?
Yes. Machado is also a WOC (woman of color).
Content Warnings (CWs): Descriptions of intimate partner abuse (both emotional & physical), trauma, gaslighting. Honestly, it’s a very heavy book and it would be impossible to fit all of the CWs into a short list. Read it, but read with care.

2020-05-18 14_32_41.222

 

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Book Reviews

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

“They don’t let you have anything whole, you know. If you don’t follow the pattern. You have to find your happiness in bits and pieces instead. But it can still add up to something beautiful.”
★★★★☆

Like many other reviewers, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m generally not a historical romance reader, but after reading so many glowing recommendations on various platforms, I decided to give The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite a shot. To be fair, I’ll give almost anything with positive sapphic representation a try, but rarely do I fall in love with these shot-in-the-dark novels the way I did with Lady’s Guide

In fact, this novel and the relationship it chronicles was so engaging and well written that I was shocked (and disappointed, because now I have to wait for the second Feminine Pursuits novel to come out instead of binging the rest of Waite’s books) to discover that Lady’s Guide appears to be Waite’s first foray into f/f romance, because the story was devoid of the pitfalls and tropes that many first time f/f authors often fall prey to.

Synopsis:
“As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?”

Final thoughts: As I said, I’m typically not a big fan of historical fiction or straight up romance novels. Lady’s Guide is both, but I was really glad I decided to give it a chance anyway. This is a fairly quick and easy read, perfect for when you’re in the mood for something light hearted and steamy!

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Lady’s Guide At A Glance:
Genre: Historical Fiction/Lesbian Romance
Themes/Tropes: Rich Girl/Poor Girl, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Friends to Lovers, Coming Out, Age Gap (< 10 years)
LGBT Rep? Yes! Both of the romantic leads are WLW, with allusions to other sapphic characters/relationships.
Content Warnings (CW): None that I can think of!

(Note: This was meant to be the first post on my blog, but then the plague happened and everything got all topsy-turvy. Hope you enjoyed the review anyway – this is truly a gem of a book!)