Rainbow Reading: March 3

Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.

Between February 24th and March 2nd, I read:

cover images of SASHA MASHA, WITCHES OF ASH AND RUIN, WONDERSTRUCK, THE QUEENS' ENGLISH, GOLDIE VANCE: LARCENY IN LALA LAND, SHATTER THE SKY, THE INFINITE LOOP VOL. 2, and THE BLACK PENGUIN

Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky (2020)
Genre: fiction
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is trans/questioning, multiple queer secondary characters
Thoughts: This is a short book about Alex, who doesn’t feel like he fits – not in his own skin, not in school, not at all. He feels like Pinocchio: trying and failing to be a Real Boy. This is an interesting addition to the growing YA trans canon because it’s not really a coming out novel or about what happens after you come out; it’s all about what happens right before. About how someone might start questioning and exploring their identity and grappling with what they find. Having said that, the writing style did not work at all for me. Everything felt very bland and surface level, leaving me little idea of what Alex was actually thinking or feeling.

Witches of Ash & Ruin by E. Latimer (2020)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: One POV character is bi; two others are sapphic; a secondary w/w couple
Thoughts: Dayna Walsh is having a hard time: her somatic OCD is getting overwhelming, she was recently outed as bisexual to her conservative town (and to her preacher father), and the mother she hasn’t seen in years is returning from a long-term stay in residential treatment. Luckily, Danya has her coven to fall back on, and she’s close to ascending into her full powers. But then another coven comes to town bringing premonitions of death (and Meiner King, the coven leader’s granddaughter, who Danya is fascinated and frustrated by). Then an infamous serial killer resurfaces – and he’s targeting witches. This is a dark fantasy, and while I liked the bones of the story, it suffered from having too many POV characters. I think if it had stuck to three (Danya, Meiner, and Dubh) it would’ve been stronger. It ends with quite a cliffhanger-ish twist but I’m not sure I’d pick up the next book.

Wonderstruck by Allie Therin (2021)
Genre: historical fantasy
Audience: adult
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay, some secondary/minor characters are queer
Thoughts: This is the conclusion to the Magic in Manhattan trilogy, which is set in 1925 New York City and centers around Rory Brodigan, a psychometric – with the paranormal ability to see an object’s past – and Arthur Kenzie, a wealthy politician’s son who is working to keep the everyday world safe from supernatural relics. This is a wonderful series with an engaging cast of characters, a nice focus on friendship in addition to the romantic relationships, and strong worldbuilding. This was a satisfying conclusion, and one that made me want to go back and reread the first two books.

The Queens’ English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases by Chloe O. Davis (2021)
Genre: nonfiction
Audience: adult
Queer rep: across the spectrum
Thoughts: A fun look at LGBTQ community terms from Abigail to Zucchini, this dictionary also includes illustrations and graphics throughout, as well as several multi-page looks at important historical and cultural events like the Harlem Renaissance and Stonewall. There’s a bit of a question about the target audience for this book (those immersed in the LGBTQ community would know the vocab already; those who aren’t shouldn’t be appropriating the slang) but I think slang dictionaries in general are great fun so I’m not going to object to this one! I will note that Elliot Page is deadnamed and misgendered in an example sentence, and I know publishing has a long lead time but I found that really jarring. I hope it was at least corrected in the digital edition.

Goldie Vance: Larceny in La La Land by Jackie Ball, Mollie Rose, Hope Larson (2020)
Genre: fiction/graphic novel
Audience: all ages
Queer rep: The MC is sapphic, f/f relationship
Thoughts: The fourth volume in the Goldie Vance comic series. Even on vacation in Hollywood, Goldie can’t stay away from the detective scene and is soon trying to solve a ring of apparently unconnected thefts and burglaries. Goldie is there on vacation, but her friends are there for internships, so she’s solo most of the time – or with the detective she’s badgered into taking Goldie on as an apprentice. The new detective is an interesting character, and her backstory ties deeply into the mystery (and may even provide the missing connection between burglaries). This is just as fun as the first three volumes and I enjoyed it a lot.

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (2019)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC seems to be bi, f/f relationship, multiple queer secondary and minor characters
Thoughts: In a nutshell, you can’t really go wrong with combining LGBTQ books with dragons! This starts slowly (it took me three tries to get past the third chapter) but once it picks up, it really picks up. The characters all really grew on me, and I like the way everything looks clear cut at the beginning (good vs evil) but quickly takes on a lot of nuance that leaves the characters having to evaluate their beliefs and goals. I have the sequel on hold.

The Infinite Loop, Vol. 2 by Pierrick Colinet (2018)
Genre: sci-fi/graphic novel
Audience: adult
Queer rep: The MC is lesbian, f/f relationship, queer secondary characters
Thoughts: A darker sequel to The Infinite Loop, taking place after Teddy’s attempt to reboot the future failed. While anomalies are no longer executed on sight, they’re still mistreated and kept from integrating into society. Teddy and Ano take different tracks to fight to change things (from the inside as a politician, from the outside as an activist), but improving things means forcing everyone to see the truth that the powerful so carefully keep hidden.

The Black Penguin by Andrew Evans (2017)
Genre: nonfiction/memoir/travelogue
Audience: adult
Queer rep: Evans is gay
Thoughts: Evans grew up in a Mormon family in rural Ohio, taking refuge from bullies in the pages of National Geographic. His lifelong interest eventually leads him to a job with the magazine: chronicling an overland journey from Washington, DC to Antarctica via social media, blog posts, and interviews. This memoir fleshes out his epic, weeks-long bus journey across North and South America, and weaves in his upbringing, his family’s rejection, his ex-communication by the church, his reconciliation with his parents, and his engagement to his fiance.

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