Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between January 1st and 7th, I read:
Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor (2019)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: One of the POV characters is lesbian, one is aro-ace, and the third is either lesbian or bi
Thoughts: Set on a partially-terraformed planet where the Commissioner bans all tech, Anna is kept alive by an illegal clockwork heart and lives in a tech-using community outside the law and constantly under threat. Nathaniel also has a clockwork heart, but he’s never had to be afraid of it – his father is the Commissioner and he’s above the law. The two of them end up entangled, with Nathaniel wanting to capture Anna to win his father’s approval, but their cat-and-mouse game takes a turn when Eliza, a spy and assassin, arrives from orbit, where the rest of the settlers are awaiting the end of terraforming. I’d say the major themes are political intrigue and rebellion, but there are several other threads that all tie together nicely. The aro-ace rep is also really well done. This was a quick, entertaining read.
Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan (2019)
Audience: middle grade/young adult borderline
Queer rep: The MC is lesbian; a budding f/f romance
Thoughts: Bluehaven is a remote island with a labyrinthine Manor that connects the island to many other worlds. But the Manor doors haven’t opened for 14 years – not since John Doe stumbled out of it with the infant Jane Doe in his arms. The islanders hate and mistrust the Does, blaming them for the closing of the Manor and the earthquakes that have shaken Bluehaven ever since. Then, in a night of fires and quakes, the Manor doors open once more and John, who hasn’t spoken in 14 years, disappears into the labyrinth. Jane goes after him, and her search for her father may end up uncovering a lot more than she bargained for…like the end of the world. This is fast-paced and Jane has an entertaining sarcastic streak. The beginning was a little rough for me because it seemed over-the-top, but once the Manor opens I got sucked into the story. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Storm Season by Pene Henson (2017)
Queer rep: One MC is bi and the other is lesbian; secondary characters include a trans man and multiple gay, bi, lesbian characters
Thoughts: Lien Hong is a fashion and music journalist who reluctantly agrees to go camping with her friends on the way to a music festival. She ends up falling into a ravine and being rescued by the park ranger, Claudie Sokolov; a severe storm keeps them trapped in Claudie’s cabin on the opposite side of the ravine from Lien’s friends, and they start to form a cautious connection during their isolation. But Lien has places to be – the festival, then back to Sydney – and Claudie has no interest in leaving her wilderness refuge. What will happen after the storm? I really loved Henson’s previous novel, Into the Blue, so I went into this one with very high expectations and it didn’t quite meet them. This was still good, but not as good as I wanted it to be. I think part of what threw me is that the title and the back copy are so focused on the storm, and in reality most of the book takes place after it. I had it in my head that the whole book was going to take place in the cabin in the storm and really most of it takes place in Sydney.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (2017)
Queer rep: One of the ensemble main cast is lesbian; f/f relationship
Thoughts: This is a wildly entertaining spoof of or homage to Scooby Doo. It’s 1990 and the teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club have grown up and parted ways – but none of them can quite shake their final case. The 1977 Lake Monster mystery split the group up and has kept all of them away from Blyton ever since. Sure, they caught the man in the mask… but it seems like he wasn’t the real culprit. They head back to Blyton only to find that this time, the monsters are real – and they might just be bringing about the apocalypse. I’ve mentioned before that I am a scaredy-cat and generally avoid horror like the plague; this definitely has horror/creepy elements but the writing is done in such an entertaining way that even when nightmares are coming to life it’s still somehow fun rather than scary. I liked this a lot.
Zenith Dream by F.T. Lukens (2018)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is bi, the LI is gay
Thoughts: The conclusion of the Broken Moon trilogy. I read the first two about 18 months ago and I finally got around to the third! I’d forgotten a lot of the details, but I remembered enough and it didn’t take long for me to get drawn back into the story. I think this series got better book by book; I was kind of disappointed in the first one, but I’m glad I stuck with it because it really turned into something great. I’m not going to touch on the plot really because of spoilers, but I thought everything wrapped up in a nicely satisfactory way, without being too neat and tidy.
Spellbound by Allie Therin (2019)
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay, some secondary/minor characters are queer
Thoughts: In 1925 New York City, Rory is a psychometric – someone who can see an object’s past – but he’s afraid of losing himself in the past, losing his sanity, or bringing harm on Mrs. Brodigan, who runs the antique shop where Rory works. Arthur Kenzie is a well-connected politician’s son, who needs Rory’s help with a very dangerous supernatural relic that’s on its way to NYC. But to get that help, he’s first going to need to earn Rory’s trust. This was a captivating story. I liked the world-building a lot and the entire cast of characters was great – not just Rory and Arthur; all the supporting characters were fleshed out. I’m looking forward to the next book!
We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra (2019)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay
Thoughts: I think my entire reaction to this can be summed up as: ow, my emotions. This was painful to read, but in the best possible way. Jonathan and Adam start writing letters to each other as an English class assignment: one letter a week for the entire semester. But what starts out as a chore evolves into much more as the two slowly start to open up and become friends. The entire novel is told in their letters and it gives such an intense window into their lives; their thoughts and feelings are front and center, and what they choose to tell each other and how they choose to tell it really makes an impact.