Finding Myself Through Writing Queer Romance, a Guest Post by Wench Author Maxine Kaplan

Fun fact: one of the last things I did before the pandemic hit was have lunch with this author, so you can say I’ve been looking forward to this book for a loooong time. Maxine Kaplan’s Wench releases today from Amulet/Abrams, and here’s the story:

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

And here’s Maxine, with a guest post that’s very close to my heart about finding herself through writing Wench and its bi main character!

I started writing Wench with a clear and deeply-held agenda: There would be no romance.

It’s not something I talked about a lot. When I talked about the book, I talked about my simultaneous love for and frustration with classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy; I talked about how I wanted to flesh out fantasy archetypes with humor and humanity; and I mostly talked about my titular tavern wench, Tanya, and how I’d never seen that ubiquitous non-playable background character get to have her own adventure, or even a name most of the time. What I didn’t say was that I was determined to get Tanya through one (1) whole entire epic quest without the interference or influence of a love interest.

I thought of it as a secret mission. I knew how much readers, and especially readers of YA fantasy, expected at least a glimmer of romantic or sexual tension, and I didn’t want to turn them off before they even cracked the spine. But it was that very expectation of romance that bothered me. I hated the expectation that a girl couldn’t have an epic adventure without falling in love along the way. I cringed at the idea of Tanya achieving self-discovery and actualization through the medium of who she wanted to kiss. It felt wrong to me—even anti-feminist. I loathed the idea that something I wrote could reinforce the message that young people receive every day that says: You are nothing and no one until somebody wants to make out with you.

Tanya was going on a quest to win back her tavern. The world I had devised and the story engine I had built didn’t need any romance to make it go. And I was determined that I wouldn’t shoe-horn in a romance (and especially not a love triangle) just to fit the market—because Tanya deserved better, damn it!

And then Tanya taught me that I was wrong. Because, despite my clear intentions to the contrary, two characters showed up who would just not stop having chemistry with Tanya. One was a boy and he was very much within my own crush wheelhouse historically speaking: smart, funny, and angry. I think I just liked writing him and, slowly, he and Tanya fell into chemistry, like real people do. It was quiet, but it was on the page. I couldn’t deny it.

The other was a girl and nothing in my own writing has ever surprised me more.

This girl was always part of the story, for sure. She had been in my outline from go. I knew she was a happy-go-lucky rogue; a thief who loved violence and smiled a lot. So that’s how I wrote her and, without my even having to try, she and hyper-competent, independent, snarky Tanya smacked into each other with the electricity of a lightning storm. Writing good sexual tension—satisfying, believable tension–is hard to do. I know it is, because I’ve tried to do it. But with these two, I didn’t have to try. I didn’t even think about it, not once. It just was.

It got to the point that my strict avoidance of any mention of romance was rendering the story legitimately confusing for any reader. That’s how clear the chemistry between these two was—the completely unplanned, unlooked for, and even unwanted chemistry. But however inadvertent the romance between the two girls was, I eventually had to own up to a simple fact: I wrote it, so I was invested in it.

I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s as a cis female. It was a time when calling oneself bisexual had a lot of cultural connotations that I was frankly uncomfortable with. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I had a lot of internalized biphobia. I remember being “scared” that I might be attracted to girls—because, sometimes, I was. But I was also attracted to guys. I had no confusion on that score, so I quietly filed all the moments of attraction to girls away in a mental folder labeled “anomalies” and got on with my life as a straight woman.

That was a mistake. That was short-sighted. I wish that, when I was Tanya’s age, I had paid better attention to who and what I actually was: queer. And the thing is? I think that if I had been Tanya’s age today, in 2021, I wouldn’t have had that problem. Because I would have had books like the ones LGBTQReads writes about every day.

And that’s how I came around on romance in my YA. Wench is a book, at its heart, about found families and finding community, which in and of itself, is a process hardwired to identity. You can’t find where you belong without knowing who you are. And you can’t find out who you are by shutting down, or shutting out, the voices in your head telling you who you want. A good book romance isn’t about finding a partner; it’s about a character learning more about themselves, and, sometimes, a romance—whether it’s successful, disastrous, or unrequited— can help with that process. It can be a means to an end as much as it can be its own happily ever after.

The romance I found in Wench helped me remember who I was. It reminded me to honor what has always been true about me. And there’s nothing anti-feminist about that.

***

Maxine Kaplan is a private investigator and writer. Her books are The Accidental Bad Girl and Wench. She lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY, where she caters to the whims of her dim, but soulful cat. Follow her on Twitter @maxinegkaplan.

2021 Paperback Redesigns

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis (January 5)

New cover by Chung-Yun Yoo

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls—they know their luck is anything but.

Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings.

Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally kills a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton (January 5)

Art by Sebastian Giacobino

Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost.

Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy.

Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire.

These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.

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Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (January 12)

Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song.

In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he’s come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student’s confession recalls his own first love, a stranger’s seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with another foreigner opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.

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Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (January 19)

Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with the lesson that the city is safe for everyone. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature who some might call monstrous but, in reality, is anything but, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a true monster–and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. No one has encountered monsters in years, though, and Jam’s quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth is met with doubt and disbelief.

This award-winning novel from a rising-star author asks: What really makes a monster, and how do you save the world from something if no one will admit it exists?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (February 16)

New design by Kristin Boyle
Once a year, a road appears in the forest. And at the end of it, the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons. Lucy’s game isn’t for the faint of heart. If you win, you escape with your life. But if you lose….Sara’s sister disappeared one year ago–and only Sara knows where she is. Becca went to find the ghost of Lucy Gallows and is trapped on the road that leads to her. In the sleepy town of Briar Glen, Lucy’s road is nothing more than local lore. But Sara knows it’s real, and she’s going to find it.When Sara and her skeptical friends meet in the forest to search for Becca, the mysterious road unfurls before them. All they have to do is walk down it. But the path to Lucy is not of this world, and it has its own rules. Every mistake summons new horrors. Vengeful spirits and broken, angry creatures are waiting for them to slip, and no one is guaranteed safe passage. The only certainty is this: the road has a toll and it will be paid.Sara knows that if she steps onto the road, she might not come back. But Becca needs her.And Lucy is waiting.

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They Never Learn by Layne Fargo (April 21)

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, Dr. Clark searches for the worst man at Gorman University–professor, student, or otherwise–and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself…but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Dr. Clark insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident–everything Carly wishes she could be–and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay…and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

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Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman (May 11)

On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski (May 11)

New art by Ruben Ireland

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down, and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away, who whispers rumors that the High Kith possess magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

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You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan (June 1)

This is a special edition with bonus material from the authors.

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, author of Watch Over Me, We Are Okay, Hold Still, and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green).

Buy it: Bookshop | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles

We’re honored to have Jay Coles on the site today, revealing the cover of his sophomore novel, Things We Couldn’t Say, which releases from Scholastic on September 21st, 2021! (Preorder links down below!) Here’s the story:

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her … and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure … especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love – whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Baily Crawford and accompanied by a few words from the author!

I’m so very, very excited for the world to see the cover for Things We Couldn’t Say and for the world to eventually read what’s inside it! I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin and how he writes about the unique intersections and complexities of Blackness and queerness, racism and homophobia. I’ve always wanted to write a book attempting to explore that, too. I was and (continue to be) inspired by Mr. Baldwin. In fact, two of the main characters in Things We Couldn’t Say are named after the two main characters in Mr. Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.

During the process of writing this book, I faced trials of many kinds: crippling anxiety, depression, family conflicts. Together, we faced horrific racial injustices and a global pandemic, among other things. Throughout all of this, I felt burnt out, broken, beaten down, defeated, and thought I’d lost my way, my voice. I thought I couldn’t write anymore. But I kept thinking about what this book might mean to a Black kid and QPOC all over the world. This story sort of demanded that I write it. And I’m so, so thrilled that I did. This book saved me in so many ways. It helped me fight. It helped me process the things I couldn’t say. It made me brave. At the very least, I hope this book inspires you to be brave to talk about all the things you couldn’t say before!

–Jay Coles

Preorder Things We Couldn’t Say: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

(c) Victoria Ruth Photography

24-year-old Jay Coles is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, teaching middle school students, and composing for various music publishers. His acclaimed debut novel Tyler Johnson Was Here is based on true events in his life and inspired by police brutality in America. He resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Unofficial Ranking of Top Queer Villains: a Guest Post by Be Dazzled Author Ryan La Sala

I am delighted to welcome Reverie author Ryan La Sala to the site today to celebrate the publication of his dazzling new contemporary YA romance, Be Dazzled, which just released from Sourcebooks Fire yesterday! Before we get to Ryan’s absolutely hilarious and marvelously on-point post, here’s a little more about the book:

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

***

And here’s Ryan’s post, an unofficial ranking of queer villains! Take it away, Ryan!

***

As persistent as the fatiguingly masculine stalwart hero is the trope of their devious counterbalance—the bad guy who is effeminate, dramatic, and sassy. Wickedly fashionable. Prone to monologues. And, of course, queer-coded to hell. That’s right! Today, we’re talking about the Queer Villain.

A lot, and I mean a LOT, has been written about queer villainy. Its toxic recurrence as lazy storytelling shorthand in narrative arts, its destructive repercussions on the psyche of queer youth, and so on. That’s all good and well and important, but I’d like to take a brief break from the discourse to approach the subject from a different point of view—one of glorious appreciation.

You see, I love queer villains. I practically am one myself, what with all the velvet capes and cackling behind large paper fans. Growing up, I saw these characters not as destructive stereotypes but as answers to the question society kept asking little gay me: How will you survive a society that won’t accept you? What does an intolerant world deserve?

Queer villains answer this in their every action and inevitable yet fabulous failure, and I often root for them. When you understand a villain as queer, a lot of what they do to undermine the status quo starts to make a lot more sense. And so here I go with my unofficial ranking of my top queer villains.

1. HIM (The Powerpuff Girls) — The undeniably BEST queer villain is, of course, HIM. Flamboyant, powerful, and constantly high-kicking in thigh-high spiked heels, HIM is an aspiration in red, a demonic Santa Claus in satanic satin. My personal hero, and the tippity top of my queer, villainous Christmas tree.

2. Ursula (The Little Mermaid) — This is a no-brainer. Ursula is quite literally based on Divine the drag queen. Because of her, for years, I begged my dad to buy me a birdbath (which is what I thought Ursula’s cauldron looked like) so I, too, could trick pretty girls into depending on me for bad boy advice and potions. And never have I forgotten the importance of body language, ha!

3. The Grinch (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) — I think the Grinch is queer. I really do. Disagree? Well then, riddle me this: Have you ever seen a straight person stitch together an entire costume just to center themselves at a holiday party? That’s what I thought. Oh, and let’s not forget the emblematic image of the Grinch plucking bobbles from a Christmas tree using those long, furry fingers. That wrist looks preeetty limp to my little gay eye.

4. Mystique (X-Men) — Mystique is canonically queer, but who needs the canon when you are quite literally the icon of shapeshifting disguises, gender fluidity, and a swept-back hairdo dyed lesbian crisis red? Plus, she has the one power every little gay boy is drawn to: absurd flexibility and a fighting style that incorporates senseless gymnastics.

5. Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender) — Reading Azula as queer was a personal choice right up until she decided to give herself asymmetrical bangs. Then it was canon.

6. Bugs Bunny — Stylish, annoying, and cross-dressing for theatrical antics, Bugs was an early model for the infinite ways we, as queer people, may outsmart and belittle those who invade our spaces in the name of the hunt. Was Bugs petty? Yes. Iconically so. And that’s why they’re on this list.

7. Team Rocket — Messy, dramatic, and constantly in costume, Team Rocket is the queer found family we all make fun of but are actually a part of. I mean, Jessie’s mullet defies gravity, and James never misses a chance to get into drag. And the gayest thing of all? They take orders from their cat.

8. Rita Repulsa — Is Rita queer? I have no idea. Do I unflinchingly embrace the daydream in which she’s my lesbian aunt who brings her roommate over for holiday meals and buys me Sailor Moon action figures even though my parents insist I’ll grow out of my “doll phase” soon? Absolutely.

9. Jafar (Aladdin) — Jafar is adored, yet I still believe he’s deserving of more credit for all he’s done for queer villainy. We need to talk about the wingtip eyeliner. And the perplexingly eccentric choice to imprison Jasmine in a kitschy hourglass. And the fact that the moment he got ultimate power, he gave himself a beefy chest and black acrylic nails. I would make all those choices too.

10. The Trunchbull (Matilda) — Olympian, educator, chocolate lover. The range of this butch icon goes on and on, much like the children she catapults into the sky. Somehow, that feels a little gay too. I’m still not sure why.

11. Yzma & Kronk (The Emperor’s New Groove) — This duo is everything a queer duo should be. Fashionably costumed, theatrically incompetent, and rife with miscommunications that get people turned into llamas.

12. Lady Deathstrike (X-Men) — If you were in the theater with me when I saw Lady Deathstrike bare her indestructible nails, you watched my life change. Sure, she probably is not queer herself, but there is nothing gayer than using your adamantium manicure to skewer Hugh Jackman. Quote me on that.

13. Cheryl Blossom (Riverdale) — I knew Cheryl was queer from episode one. I’ve never known a straight person to combine ambition, charisma, and tartan skirts so well. And, spoiler alert: Cheryl has since been treated to a lesbian love story on Riverdale, and I’m happy for her.

14. Gaston — Bi. Bi as hell. If Gaston isn’t bisexual, explain the brandishing pectorals furred in hair. Explain the flourish of pride when he sings “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” Explain how he instantly knew how to use that gay little hand mirror to telephone our hound-face hottie, the Beast? I have talked to Gaston on Grindr, and he is not nice. But he is queer.

15. Shego (Kim Possible) — I don’t know if you know this, but Shego, the very cool and very bored nemesis of Kim Possible, received her powers when she was exposed to…a rainbow-hued comet. So. There you have it.

16. Barbara Covett (Notes on a Scandal) — Okay, here we have a literal queer villain. I won’t say much because you need to hear it all from Barbara yourself. Her acidic wit, her shrewd fixation on Cate Blanchett, and the fact that she is unrelentingly writing to you through a diary should be all you need to know to seek out the movie Notes on a Scandal or the book it’s based on by Zoë Heller. I highly recommend both.

17. SpongeBob SquarePants (SpongeBob SquarePants) — Don’t laugh. Don’t you dare laugh. It is absolutely undeniable that SpongeBob is chaotic evil. He ruins everything, compulsively. And anyone who pretends their nose is a piccolo in their theme song? And lives in a pineapple? SpongeBob may just be the scariest person on this list.

18. Scar (The Lion King) — Big goth kitty with a smoky eye and a large following kept in line by witty retorts they have no hope of understanding? And the affected accent? We never see Scar with a love interest, but I have more than enough evidence to fortify my head canon in which Scar summers in Andalucía with another male lion named Marc.

19. Skeletor (Masters of the Universe) — Look no further than Skeletor’s fashion if you’re wondering why he’s on this list. A harness…with a hood? A loin cloth….over briefs? Knee-high boots…with a sensible heel? This sort of describes everyone in the Masters of the Universe universe, which is all the more reason for me to keep on believing Skeletor is my eventual final form.

20. Jareth (The Labyrinth) — What can be said about Jareth that hasn’t already been said by David Bowie’s prominent pelvis presented to a crowd of puppets? It’s offensive to even ask me to explain Jareth’s inclusion.

21. Dr. Frank-N-Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) — I’m shivering with antici…patory fear that adding Dr. Frank-N-Furter to this list is going to get me in trouble. But I must! There’s a lot to overlook, yes, but if it means I get to appreciate a sissy in STEM who pulls off a lab coat and pearls, it will have all been worth it.

22. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) — There is a STRONG case for Maleficent’s queerness. Firstly, her best friend is a bird. Second, I’ve never seen a straight person successfully pull off purple and neon green. And lastly, I truly cannot think of anything gayer than showing up to a straight baby shower bearing the gift of curses and then the curse itself is along the lines of “I’m going to give your child a fascination with old-timey sewing machines.”

23. Every other Disney villain — I have a hard time thinking of a single Disney villain that isn’t, in my gay little head, super queer.

24. Every villain from Sailor Moon — That’s right. All of them. Even the weekly monsters. I can’t quite explain why, but there’s something SO self-explanatorily queer about a monstrous, sexy vacuum lady. And the sexy pegasus carousel man. And the fact that every person in Sailor Moon, except for the sailor scouts themselves, gets to use dark magic while wearing couture.

25. Sinister (X-Men) — Often overlooked but absolutely deserving of a spot on this list is Sinister, a baddie who wears a cape made out of ribbons and hasn’t quite found the right foundation to match their icy undertones. And if you want to know Sinister’s power, they themselves will tell you that it’s “overthrowing tyrants and being absolutely fabulous.”

26. Xerxes (300) – When I first saw Xerxes, I had no idea what to think other than “this movie is about the wrong person.” I like the whole hero journey, but if given the choice between a buff guy with airbrushed abs versus a person who shows up to war wearing every accessory they own? I’m going with the warlord who just pillaged Claire’s. Sorry.

27. Snow Miser (The Year Without Santa Claus) — Anyone who makes you watch a whole dance number before agreeing to help you is, by definition, a queer hero, but technically, Snow Miser is kinda bad. I guess. But the little hat! The gleeful pride in being “too much!” We should be encouraging this.

Ryan La Sala writes about surreal things happening to queer people. He is the author behind the riotously imaginative Reverie, and the brilliantly constructed Be Dazzled, both of which made the Kids’ Indie Next List. He has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Tor.com, and one time Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race called him cute! Ryan is also the co-host the Celebrity Book Club Podcast, and a frequent speaker at events/conferences. When not writing, Ryan does arts and crafts and, if he’s lucky, he sometimes remembers to film his escapades for his long-suffering YouTube channel subscribers.

New Releases: January 2021

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (5th)

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

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Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (5th)

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

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Outlawed by Anna North (5th)

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

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Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

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Persephone Station by Stina Leicht (5th)

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

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This is Not the End by Sidney Bell (11th)

Zacary Trevor is the love of Anya Alexander’s life. Their sometimes tumultuous marriage has survived ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. With successful careers, a lovely home, and a beautiful child, domestic bliss is a hard-earned reality for two people whose hedonistic days are in the not-so-distant past. They’re happy. Enter Zac’s best friend, the deeply reserved Cal Keller.

Zac’s friendship with Cal is the foundation of his career and—until Anya and their son came along—the most important relationship of his life. Cal’s a cipher, someone Anya can’t help but gravitate to, even if they don’t always get along. Even more, she’s drawn to the Zac she sees when he’s with Cal—a careful, cautious version of her husband, someone with hidden thoughts and desires kept secret even from her. Inviting Cal into their home, deeper into their life, is a risk.

Zac should say no. He knows he should. But he doesn’t. From the first, the hint at the life the three of them could have together is exhilarating. And finding a new definition for family just might be worth the risk to every bond that exists between them.

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Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (12th)

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

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The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner (12th)

Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.

Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

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Pedro’s Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonzales (12th)

41z2obk-enl._sx331_bo1204203200_There are many Pedros. One goes to a school where they take away his language, replace it with another. At home, he is afraid to find the words to explain the things they call him. Another crosses the desert, leaving behind a backpack. It contains no clues as to whether he successfully made it across the border and into a new life. A Cousin Pedro comes to visit, awakening feelings that others are afraid to make plain. One goes missing so completely it’s as if he was never there to go missing at all. Another watches his father from afar, unable to ever find ways to close the gap. A Pedro keeps his distance from the other Pedros, in hopes the Meghans and the Johns will think he is one of them instead. One returns to a place he’s never been, to the place his father left, hoping to find him there. Many Pedros journey to many Promised Lands only to learn they may not be promising after all.

Pedro’s Theory is an exploration of these many Pedros, several of them are the author himself, others are the men he might have been in other circumstances. It is a tender exploration of the gap between who the world sees in the author and who he sees in himself, and a unified theory of how racism operates in small town America and shapes so many lives.

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Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner (19th)

Life’s tough when you didn’t expect to be living it. But now that Journey has a future, she apparently also has to figure out what that future’s supposed to look like.

Some days the pain feels as fresh as that day: the day she attempted suicide. Her parents don’t know how to speak to her. Her best friend cracks all the wrong jokes. Her bipolar II disorder feels like it swallows her completely.

But other days—they feel like revelations. Like meeting the dazzling Etta, a city college student who is a world unto herself. Or walking into the office of the volunteer hotline, and discovering a community as simultaneously strong and broken as she is.

Or uncovering the light within herself that she didn’t know existed.

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Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (19th)

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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Wench by Maxine Kaplan (19th)

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

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Get a Clue by Tiffany Schmidt (19th)

The game’s afoot in the next book of the Bookish Boyfriends series—this time starring Huck and Winston! After Ms. Gregoire assigns the works of Sherlock Holmes in English class, a mystery deepens at Reginald R. Hero High. Huck and Win—Curtis’s younger brother—team up to solve the case . . . and while the sleuths gather clues, another swoon-worthy romance blooms in the school halls.

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A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson (19th)

When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.

Boy is he wrong.

Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.

However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.

Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.

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Patience & Esther: an Edwardian Romance by SW Searle (26th)

Patience is a kindhearted country girl, eking out a living in Edwardian England as tremors of social change rock the world around her. When she starts her employment in formal service on the grounds of an opulent country manor, she has no idea that her own personal revolution is about to begin.

Selfless, dutiful, and just a touch naive, she takes to both her place as a parlor maid and to her new roommate, the bookish and progressive lady’s maid, Esther. In another time, the two women would have kept one another’s company forever in their little attic bedroom, living out their days in the employ of a Lord. But it’s now the dawn of a new age. The expanding empire has brought with it not only plundered wealth, but worldliness and new ideas. Suffragists agitate in the street, idle-rich bohemians challenge sexual mores, and Patience and Esther slowly come to realize the world is wider and full of more adventure and opportunity than they ever imagined . . . so long as they find the will to seize it.

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The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (26th)

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage . . .

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When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi (26th)

Nineteen-year-old Tara Muvvala didn’t mean to lead a double life. But her bone-deep aversion to math + a soul-deep desire to please her mother = her failing math grade + exploding food vlog ‘this masala life’.

Enter her mother’s research intern and resident math genius Farah Ahmed. Tara makes a deal with Farah – help her pass the math course and she’ll welcome Farah into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society.

Grumpy girl gets life lessons…

After losing her mom to a heart attack, dumping her small-minded boyfriend (she’s bisexual, not confused) and reluctantly moving to the US to be near her dad – all in the span of eighteen months, twenty-three-year-old Farah has hit the full quota on LIFE. Two things keep her going – her internship with a brilliant statistics professor and the possibility of meeting her dancing idol through the Bollywood Drama & Dance Society. That is, if her new hot-mess housemate will let her.

Soon Tara and Farah are bonding over chicken biryani, dancing to Bollywood Beats at midnight and kissing… against all the odds. And maybe beginning to realize that while life’s even more complicated than math, love is the one variable that changes everything!

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The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover (January 26th)

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

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A Dowry of Blood by Saint Gibson (31st)

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Buy it: Amazon

Most Anticipated LGBTQ Middle Grade Fiction: January-June 2021

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Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (January 5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (January 5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Middletown by Sarah Moon (April 6th)

Thirteen-year-old Eli likes baggy clothes, baseball caps, and one girl in particular. Her seventeen-year-old sister Anna is more traditionally feminine; she loves boys and staying out late. They are sisters, and they are also the only family each can count on. Their dad has long been out of the picture, and their mom lives at the mercy of her next drink. When their mom lands herself in enforced rehab, Anna and Eli are left to fend for themselves. With no legal guardian to keep them out of foster care, they take matters into their own hands: Anna masquerades as Aunt Lisa, and together she and Eli hoard whatever money they can find. But their plans begin to unravel as quickly as they were made, and they are always way too close to getting caught.

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Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (May 11th)

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .

But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

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Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake (May 25th)

Hazel Bly used to live in the perfect house with the perfect family in sunny California. But when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong, Mum is suddenly gone forever and Hazel is left with crippling anxiety and a jagged scar on her face. After Mum’s death, Hazel, her other mother, Mama, and her little sister, Peach, needed a fresh start. So for the last two years, the Bly girls have lived all over the country, never settling anywhere for more than a few months.

When the family arrives in Rose Harbor, Maine, there’s a wildness to the small town that feels like magic. But when Mama runs into an old childhood friend—Claire—suddenly Hazel’s tight-knit world is infiltrated. To make it worse, she has a daughter Hazel’s age, Lemon, who can’t stop rambling on and on about the Rose Maid, a local 150-year-old mermaid myth.

Soon, Hazel finds herself just as obsessed with the Rose Maid as Lemon is—because what if magic were real? What if grief really could change you so much, you weren’t even yourself anymore? And what if instead you emerged from the darkness stronger than before?

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How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby (May 25th)

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

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Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow (June 8th)

Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding–meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Both Can Be True by Jules Machias (June 8th)

Ash is no stranger to feeling like an outcast. For someone who cycles through genders, it’s a daily struggle to feel in control of how people perceive you. Some days Ash is undoubtedly girl, but other times, 100 percent guy. Daniel lacks control too—of his emotions. He’s been told he’s overly sensitive more times than he can count. He can’t help the way he is, and he sure wishes someone would accept him for it.

So when Daniel’s big heart leads him to rescue a dog that’s about to be euthanized, he’s relieved to find Ash willing to help. The two bond over their four-legged secret. When they start catching feelings for each other, however, things go from cute to complicated. Daniel thinks Ash is all girl . . . what happens when he finds out there’s more to Ash’s story?

With so much on the line—truth, identity, acceptance, and the life of an adorable pup named Chewbarka—will Ash and Daniel forever feel at war with themselves because they don’t fit into the world’s binaries? Or will their friendship help them embrace the beauty of living in between?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Thank You, and Good Riddance 2020

As we all bid Good Riddance to 2020, a quick thank-you post from me to close out this true disaster of a year:

Huge thank you to all of the LGBTQReads donors and Patrons who keep this place running and give me some necessary justification for all the time I spend on it <3

One of the things that money goes to is the assistants who help with the tremendous amount of formatting and linking that goes into a site like this, and who make the lovely cover collages I absolutely cannot – huge thank-you to them: Rachel Strolle, Shauna Morgan, Angie, and Mark O’Brien seriously helped carry this site through the year.

Massive thanks to all those who promoted the site and helped it find a larger audience. This year the most special thanks in that regard goes to @spideysunflower, who mentioned it in a reply to Rick Riordan, including some screenshots, and literally gained the Twitter account thousands of followers overnight.

Also very grateful to the booktubers, bloggers (especially at Book Riot and the Lesbrary) who direct people here, and the authors who put shoutouts to the site on their own websites.

And while we’re on authors who are tremendous friends of the site, I want to take a minute to talk about what was, for me personally, the absolute worst part of 2020: losing Corey Alexander/Xan West. As most people reading this probably know, Corey’s work was incredibly special, and I don’t just mean their books; I mean the way they worked to make literature a safe space where marginalized people could find themselves, the way they covered things no one else was, the way they made people excited to write books that Corey might like; I know that was definitely on my mind as I worked on the Chanukah rom-com I hope to self-pub next year. They were a literal inspiration – someone who made you want to write and want to do better and want to write the kind of work that would make them happy; there’s really no overstating how rare and special that is.

I feel very privileged to have gotten to feature some of Corey’s work on the site, and if you haven’t already checked it out, there’s never a better time:

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West!

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Nine of Swords, Reversed by Corey Alexander

Not much more to say after that, but hoping for much happier, healthier times in 2021! I myself have two books coming (That Way Madness Lies/Flatiron Books, March 16 and Cool for the Summer/Wednesday Books, May 11), so look for me to find a billion ways to talk about them, and of course, I’ll be doing more preview posts both here and on Buzzfeed. (Keep an eye on the latter for my upcoming Winter LGBTQ+ YA preview, which has 25 titles!)

Also coming in 2021? The fifth anniversary of LGBTQReads, which I hope to be turning into a fun fundraiser with the help of wonderful authors etc. so more info to come on that! (If you’re someone who’d like to help, please feel free to drop me a line at LGBTQReads@gmail.com!)

Aaaand that’s a wrap on 2020 – stay safe and healthy, and keep on reading under the rainbow <3

xoxo,
Dahlia

 

7 New December eBooks for Under $5!

The Longest Night by E.E. Ottoman (Contemporary m/m Trans Romance, free)

Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine (Contemporary m/m Romance, $1.99)

Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (Contemporary f/f Romance, $2.99)

Secret Santa by Eli Wray (Contemporary non-binary Romance, $2.99)

Yet a Stranger by Gregory Ashe (Contemporary m/m Romance, $2.99)

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (Non-binary Fantasy, $3.99)

Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde (Contemporary f/f Romance, $4.99)

All links are Amazon affiliate. A percentage of each purchase goes back into the site.

December 2020 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Rachel Lacey‘s READ BETWEEN THE LINES, pitched as an #OwnVoices sapphic retelling of You’ve Got Mail, featuring a bisexual bookstore owner and a property developing corporate executive with more than one secret, to Lauren Plude at Montlake, in an exclusive submission, in a two-book deal, by Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency (world).

Katharine Schellman‘s LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTINGALE, an #OwnVoices queer murder mystery set in 1920s New York, where a seamstress escapes drudgery at a speakeasy, but when she discovers a body behind the club, she finds herself caught between the dangers of New York’s underground and the world of the city’s wealthy and careless, where money can hide any sin and the lives of the poor are considered disposable—including her own, to Nettie Finn at Minotaur, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Whitney Ross at Irene Goodman Agency (NA).

2020 National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree and author of BESTIARY K-Ming Chang‘s RESIDENT ALIENS, a short story collection that evokes the splendor and peculiar nature of families, the grotesque and wondrous parts of the body, and the wild and poignant battles of queer love, to Nicole Counts at One World, by Julia Kardon at HG Literary.

Ally Wilkes‘s ALL THE WHITE SPACES, set in the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, in which a trans man narrates the fate of an expedition as something unnamed and terrible picks off his shipmates one by one, against the backdrop of the pitch-black polar night, to Lara Jones at Emily Bestler Books, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Oliver Munson at A.M. Heath (NA).

Helena Greer‘s MY FIRST NOELLE, pitched as a queer and Jewish Hallmark-style holiday rom-com about a free-spirited bisexual artist who’s forced to return home when she inherits her family’s Christmas tree farm, and has an unexpected romance with the farm’s grumpy butch manager, to Amy Pierpont and Sam Brody at Forever, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2022, by Rebecca Podos at Rees Literary Agency (world).

Winner of the 60th Gunzo New Writer’s Award for Excellence in 2017 Li Kotomi‘s SOLO DANCE, depicting the painful coming-of-age of a gay woman in Taiwan and the salaryman’s world in Japan; an account of a person’s search for hope after trauma and depression, to Judith Uyterlinde at World Editions (Netherlands), in a nice deal, in a pre-empt, for publication in fall 2022, by Li Kangqin at New River Literary (world English).

Three-time Pushcart prize winner and Stegner fellow Lydia Conklin’s RAINBOW RAINBOW, a collection of stories exploring the complex inner lives of queer, trans, and nonbinary characters, pitched as appealing to fans of Garth Greenwell, Jenny Zhang, and Katherine Dunn, to Leigh Newman at Catapult, for publication in June 2022, by Samantha Shea at Georges Borchardt.

Center for Fiction First Novel Prize nominee Celia Laskey’s THE BRIDESMAID, exploring contemporary female friendship, platonic queer-straight dynamics, and the absurdity of the wedding industrial complex; and UNDER THE RAINBOW, her debut novel, to Cicely Aspinall at HQ, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Jennifer Helinek at Trident Media Group, on behalf of Alexa Stark.

Children’s Fiction

Hazel Newlevant‘s QUEER AND HOW WE GOT HERE, in which the author blends their personal story of coming out with explorations of important moments from queer history to draw a parallel between the growth of a community and the growth of the author’s personal identity, to Andrea Colvin at Little, Brown Children’s, in an exclusive submission, for publication in early 2024, by Tanya McKinnon at McKinnon Literary (world).

Will Taylor‘s THE LANGUAGE OF SEABIRDS, in which a 12-year-old boy confined to two weeks at a beach house with his freshly divorced father meets a local boy and his world is flipped as he struggles find some way to share the truths flooding his heart—things he’s never spoken to anyone, not even himself, to David Levithan at Scholastic, for publication in summer 2022, by Brent Taylor at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world).

Detroit-based illustrator and designer Oli Franey’s MONSTER CRUSH, pitched as BEETLE AND THE HOLLOWBONES meets Teen Wolf, in which a 16-year-old closes herself off from the world after her parents split, until she meets a girl; as the two of them fight off school bullies, the girl accidentally reveals her ability to transform into a monstrous beast, and reveals the world of monsters, to Brett Israel at Dark Horse, for publication in 2023, by Claire Draper at The Bent Agency (world English).

Young Adult Fiction

Epic Reads founder Margot Wood‘s FRESH, a queer coming-of-age story that follows a freshman at Emerson College as she navigates the highs and lows of her first year away from home, to Maggie Lehrman at Abrams Children’s, at auction, for publication in fall 2021, by Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English).

Author of THE DEAD AND THE DARK Courtney Gould’s ECHO SUNSET, following two sisters who, after their mother dies, learn about her mysterious ties to an isolated Arizona town; when they decide to investigate, nothing and no one is who they seem, including the daughter of the town’s enigmatic leader, to Jennie Conway at Wednesday Books, for publication in 2022, by Claire Friedman and Jessica Mileo at Inkwell Management (NA).

Illustrator and comic artist on Tapas The Kao’s MAGICAL BOY, in which a trans man just trying to get through high school as his true self has his life turned upside down when he discovers that he is descended from a long line of magical girls tasked with defending humanity from a dark, ancient evil; with a sassy feline sidekick and loyal group of friends by his side, he must take on his destiny, save the world, and become the first magical boy, to Michael Moccio at Scholastic, for publication in fall 2021, by Liz Parker at Verve Talent & Literary (world).

Author of the #murdertrending series and GET EVEN Gretchen McNeil‘s DIG TWO GRAVES, pitched as a YA Strangers on a Train with a queer twist in which a school pariah meets her new best friend at summer camp where they jokingly fantasize about killing each other’s bullies, until those fantasies become disturbing realities and she finds herself blackmailed into committing murder, to Kieran Viola at Disney-Hyperion, in a two-book deal, by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown (world).

Author of ACE OF SHADES Amanda Foody and author of THE DEVOURING GRAY Christine Lynn Herman‘s ALL OF US VILLAINS, set in a blood-soaked city, where seven families compete every generation in a tournament to the death for control of high magic; one powerful, villainous family has won nearly every tournament, but this year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, each of the other families has the means to win, to Melissa Frain at Tor Teen, with Ali Fisher editing, in a major deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021 and 2022, by Whitney Ross at Irene Goodman Agency for Foody, and by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary Agency for Herman (world English).

Naz Kutub‘s THE LOOPHOLE, pitched as a speculative SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA with a focus on identity, found family, and friendship, following a queer Indian Muslim boy traveling the world for a second chance at love after a possibly magical heiress grants him three wishes, to Claire Stetzer at Bloomsbury Children’s, in a very nice deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Literary Agency (world).

Cayla Keenan’s RAVENSONG, the first in a contemporary fantasy duology with Northeastern Gothic vibes, in which a 17-year-old girl is one third of a war goddess triad, sworn to slay demons with her sisters and guard the gate to hell in their coastal town, yet is stuck in high school, counting down the days until her 18th birthday, when her powers fully unlock—until she meets a girl with secrets of her own who’ll force her to choose between duty and love, to Amanda Ramirez at Simon & Schuster Children’s, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2023, by Patrice Caldwell at New Leaf Literary & Media (NA).

Dahlia Adler ed.’s AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, a collection of classic fairy tales reimagined by authors Melissa Albert, Tracy Deonn, Hafsah Faizal, Brigid Kemmerer, Stacey Lee, Darcie Little Badger, Malinda Lo, Alex London, Anna-Marie McLemore, Rebecca Podos, Rory Power, Meredith Russo, Justin Reynolds, and Randy Ribay, to Sarah Barley at Flatiron Books, for publication in fall 2022, by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world).

Andrea Mosqueda’s debut JUST YOUR LOCAL BISEXUAL DISASTER, following a self-described romantic disaster, a bisexual Chicana living in the Rio Grande Valley, as she tries to figure out whom she wants to ask to be her escort at her little sister’s upcoming quinceanera: her charming ex-boyfriend twice over, her first crush and gorgeous best friend, or the mysterious new girl with the romantic baggage?, to Kat Brzozowski at Feiwel and Friends, for publication in 2022, by Lauren Macleod at The Strothman Agency (world English).

Saundra Mitchell’s OUT THERE, the future-set third and final anthology in a series that began with the historical ALL OUT and contemporary OUT NOW; its contributors include Kayla Ancrum, Kalynn Bayron, Z Brewer, Mason Deaver, Alechia Dow, ZR Ellor, Leah Johnson, Naomi Kanakia, Claire Kann, Alex London, Jim McCarthy, Abdi Nazemian, Emma K. Ohland, AJ Sass, Nita Tyndall, and two slots to be filled through an open call, to Natashya Wilson at Inkyard Press, for publication in spring 2022, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Non-Fiction

Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year finalist for his poetry collection TONGUES OF FIRE Sean Hewitt‘s ALL DOWN DARKNESS WIDE, an excavation of the year following his partner’s suicide attempt, a confrontation with the specters of shame, and a love letter to queer literature that illuminates a path ahead, to Caroline Sydney at Penguin Press, in a pre-empt, by Adam Eaglin at The Cheney Agency on behalf of Matthew Marland at Rogers, Coleridge & White (NA).

Cultural historian, performer, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in English at the University of Cambridge, and BBC New Generation Thinker Diarmuid Hester’s NOTHING EVER JUST DISAPPEARS: A NEW HISTORY OF QUEER CULTURE THROUGH ITS SPACES, a history of queer identity from the late 1800s to the present, following seven artists and writers whose lives and work are inextricable from a sense of place, including E.M. Forster, Josephine Baker, Claude Cahun, James Baldwin, and Derek Jarman; interweaving their stories with the author’s own experiences as a queer person, arguing for the centrality of place in the formation of identity, culture, and politics, while showing all that is lost when queer spaces are forgotten, to Maria Bedford at Allen Lane, at auction, for publication in November 2022, by Matthew Marland at Rogers, Coleridge & White (world English).

Sibling duo, journalist, and archivist Alison Nastasi and PJ Nastasi’s QUEER ICONS AND THEIR CATS, a celebration of LGBTQ+ icons past and present, and their furry feline friends, to Bridget Watson Payne at Chronicle, with Natalie Butterfield editing, for publication in May 2021 (world).

Most Anticipated Adult LGBTQIAP Fiction: January-June 2021

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (January 5th)

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

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Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters (January 7th)

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

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The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner (January 12th)

Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.

Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

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When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi (January 26th)

Nineteen-year-old Tara Muvvala didn’t mean to lead a double life. But her bone-deep aversion to math + a soul-deep desire to please her mother = her failing math grade + exploding food vlog ‘this masala life’.

Enter her mother’s research intern and resident math genius Farah Ahmed. Tara makes a deal with Farah – help her pass the math course and she’ll welcome Farah into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society.

Grumpy girl gets life lessons…

After losing her mom to a heart attack, dumping her small-minded boyfriend (she’s bisexual, not confused) and reluctantly moving to the US to be near her dad – all in the span of eighteen months, twenty-three-year-old Farah has hit the full quota on LIFE. Two things keep her going – her internship with a brilliant statistics professor and the possibility of meeting her dancing idol through the Bollywood Drama & Dance Society. That is, if her new hot-mess housemate will let her.

Soon Tara and Farah are bonding over chicken biryani, dancing to Bollywood Beats at midnight and kissing… against all the odds. And maybe beginning to realize that while life’s even more complicated than math, love is the one variable that changes everything!

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The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover (January 26th)

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

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The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney (February 1st)

When Jenn Berney and her wife decided they wanted to have children, they took the next logical step: they went to a fertility clinic. Intrauterine insemination is a simple medical procedure that has been available since the 1950s, but doctors were baffled by Jenn’s situation. With no man factoring into her relationship, she was disparaged by doctors, given an inaccurate diagnosis, and her medical needs were overlooked.

Berney decided to step outside of the system, and, looking into the history of fertility and her own community, she realized queer women have a long history of being disregarded by a patriarchal medical community, and have worked around it to build families on their own terms. In The Other Mothers, Berney reflects on the odds that were stacked against her because of her sexual orientation and envisions a bright future worth fighting for. Writing with clarity, determination, and hope, Berney gives us a wonderful glimpse of what America can be.

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Royal Family by Jenny Frame (February 1st)

For Veronica Clayton, the sudden death of her mother has turned her naturally bright and happy-go-lucky view of the world bleak. As the Police Protection Officer for the Queen’s children, she has purpose, but for the next six months, the Queen’s family is the focus of a documentary on royal life. The last thing Clay wants is a camera pointed in her face.

Katya Kovach, a refugee to Britain, knows all about death and grief. She saw her family shot in front of her and has never recovered from those dark memories. Now trained at London’s most prestigious childcare school, she’s happy as the nanny to Queen Georgina and Queen Bea’s children.

Clay is usually good-natured, but the rule-oriented Katya is not only a pain, but annoyingly beautiful, and they find themselves facing the awkward reality that everyone else is a couple except them while their every move is being filmed. Loss has defined both their lives, but guarding their hearts may prove to be the biggest heartbreak of all.

Buy it: Bold Strokes Books

Lone Stars by Justin Deabler (February 2nd)

Lone Stars follows the arc of four generations of a Texan family in a changing America. Julian Warner, a father at last, wrestles with a question his husband posed: what will you tell our son about the people you came from, now that they’re gone? Finding the answers takes Julian back in time to Eisenhower’s immigration border raids, an epistolary love affair during the Vietnam War, crumbling marriages, queer migrations to Cambridge and New York, up to the disorienting polarization of Obama’s second term. And in these answers lies a hope: that by uncloseting ourselves–as immigrants, smart women, gay people–we find power in empathy.

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100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell (February 2nd)

Transgressive, foulmouthed, and devastatingly funny, Brontez Purnell’s 100 Boyfriends is a revelatory spiral into the imperfect lives of queer men desperately fighting—and often losing—the urge to self-sabotage. His characters solicit sex on their lunch breaks, expose themselves to racist neighbors, sleep with their coworker’s husbands, rub Preparation H on their hungover eyes, and, in an uproarious epilogue, take a punk band on a disastrous tour of Europe. They also travel to claim inheritances, push past personal trauma, and cultivate community while living on the margins of a white supremacist, heteronormative society.

Armed with a deadpan wit that finds humor in even the lowest of nadirs, Brontez Purnell—a widely acclaimed underground writer, filmmaker, musician, and performance artist—writes with the peerless zeal, insight, and horniness of a gay punk messiah. From dirty warehouses and gentrified bars in Oakland to desolate farm towns in Alabama, Purnell indexes desire, desperation, race, and loneliness with a startling blend of levity and vulnerability. Together, the slice-of-life tales that writhe within 100 Boyfriends are a singular and uncompromising vision of an unexposed queer underbelly. Holding them together is the vision of an iconoclastic storyteller, as fearless as he is human.

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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (February 2nd)

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

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Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (2nd)

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

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Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar (2nd)

Randa Jarrar is a fearless voice of dissent who has been called “politically incorrect” (Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times). As an American raised for a time in Egypt, and finding herself captivated by the story of a celebrated Egyptian belly dancer’s journey across the United States in the 1940s, she sets off from her home in California to her parents’ in Connecticut.

Coloring this road trip are journeys abroad and recollections of a life lived with daring. Reclaiming her autonomy after a life of survival—domestic assault as a child, and later, as a wife; threats and doxxing after her viral tweet about Barbara Bush—Jarrar offers a bold look at domestic violence, single motherhood, and sexuality through the lens of the punished-yet-triumphant body. On the way, she schools a rest-stop racist, destroys Confederate flags in the desert, and visits the Chicago neighborhood where her immigrant parents first lived.

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Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard (February 9th)

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?

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Kink, ed. by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (9th)

Kink is a dynamic anthology of literary fiction that opens an imaginative door into the world of desire. The stories within this collection portray love, desire, BDSM, and sexual kinks in all their glory with a bold new vision. The collection includes works by renowned fiction writers such as Callum Angus, Alexander Chee, Vanessa Clark, Melissa Febos, Kim Fu, Roxane Gay, Cara Hoffman, Zeyn Joukhadar, Chris Kraus, Carmen Maria Machado, Peter Mountford, Larissa Pham, and Brandon Taylor, with Garth Greenwell and R.O. Kwon as editors.

The stories within explore bondage, power-play, and submissive-dominant relationships; we are taken to private estates, therapists’ offices, underground sex clubs, and even a Victorian-era sex theater. While there are whips and chains, sure, the true power of these stories lies in their beautiful, moving dispatches from across the sexual spectrum of interest and desires, as portrayed by some of today’s most exciting writers.

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Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne (9th)

This is the sequel to Architects of Memory

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation.

Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans.

Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

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Wonderstruck by Allie Therin (9th)

This is the final book in the Magic in Manhattan series

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie is on a mission: to destroy the powerful supernatural relic that threatens Manhattan—and all the nonmagical minds in the world. So far his search has been fruitless. All it has done is keep him from the man he loves. But he’ll do anything to keep Rory safe and free, even if that means leaving him behind.

Psychometric Rory Brodigan knows his uncontrolled magic is a liability, but he’s determined to gain power over it. He can take care of himself—and maybe even Arthur, too, if Arthur will let him. An auction at the Paris world’s fair offers the perfect opportunity to destroy the relic, if a group of power-hungry supernaturals don’t destroy Rory and Arthur first.

As the magical world converges on Paris, Arthur and Rory have to decide who they can trust. Guessing wrong could spell destruction for their bond—and for the world as they know it.

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Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih (February 16th)

Set in the year between the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling and the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, Let’s Get Back to the Party explores the intertwined lives of two gay men named Sebastian Mote and Oscar Burnham: estranged childhood friends who reconnect as adults in Washington, DC.

Thirty-somethings who came of age after the AIDS crisis but before the current era where they might have had the comfort of an out adolescence, the two have grown into very different men. Sebastian, a straitlaced suburban high school teacher mourning the end of a long-term relationship, finds his orderly lifestyle threatened by the appearance of Arthur Ayer, a gay student so comfortable in his own skin that Sebastian finds himself dangerously obsessed with the teenager. Oscar, furious and defiant in the face of what he sees as the death of queer culture, begins a confusing relationship—is it friendship or something more?—with once-eminent novelist Sean Stokes, known for graphic stories of pre-AIDS hedonism. Alternating chapters from Sebastian and Oscar’s points of view, Let’s Get Back to the Party recounts their mirrored struggles with generational envy, cultural identity, the traumas of history, and, ultimately, each other.

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (February 16th)

This is the fourth book in the Wayfarers series

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

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Soulstar by C.L. Polk (February 16th)

This is the final book in the Kingston Cycle

For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.

Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.

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Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (February 23rd)

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

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A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (March 2nd)

This is the sequel to A Memory Called Empire

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.

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Learned Reactions by Jayce Ellis (March 9th)

This is the second book in the Higher Education companion series

Carlton Monroe is finally getting his groove back. After a year playing dad to his nephew and sending him safely off to college, it’s back to his bachelor ways. But when his teenaged niece shows up on his doorstep looking for a permanent home, his plan comes to a screeching halt. Family is everything, and in the eyes of social services, a couple makes a better adoptive family than an overworked bachelor father. A fake relationship with his closest friend is the best way to keep his family together.

If things between him and Deion are complicated, well, it only needs to last until the end of the semester.

Living with Carlton is a heartbreak waiting to happen, and once the adoption goes through, Deion’s out. He’s waited two decades for Carlton to realize they’re meant for each other, and he’s done. It’s time to make a clean break. But it’s hard to think of moving away when keeping up the act includes some very real perks like kissing, cuddling and sharing a bed.

Even the best charades must come to an end, though. As the holidays and Deion’s departure date loom, the two men must decide whether playing house is enough for them—or if there’s any chance they could be a family for real.

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We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman (March 9th)

Not too long ago, Cass was a promising young playwright in New York, hailed as “a fierce new voice” and “queer, feminist, and ready to spill the tea.” But at the height of all this attention, Cass finds herself at the center of a searing public shaming, and flees to Los Angeles to escape — and reinvent herself. There she meets her next-door neighbor Caroline, a magnetic filmmaker on the rise, as well as the pack of teenage girls who hang around her house. They are the subjects of Caroline’s next semi-documentary movie, which follows the girls’ violent fight club, a real-life feminist re-purposing of the classic.

As Cass is drawn into the film’s orbit, she is awed by Caroline’s ambition and confidence. But over time, she becomes increasingly troubled by how deeply Caroline is manipulating the teens in the name of art. When a girl goes missing, Cass must reckon with her own ambitions and ask herself: in the pursuit of fame, how do you know when you’ve gone too far?

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What a Tangled Web by Melissa Brayden (March 16th)

As winemaker at Tangle Valley Vineyard, Madison LeGrange relies on science and logic to make the best vintage possible. It’s also how she manages her life. But with her career in its prime, her accountant thinks it’s time she diversifies her income. Not a problem because her favorite caf , the Bacon and Biscuit, is up for sale. What she didn’t plan on was the time she’d spend with Clementine, who has her feeling anything but logical.

Clementine Monroe loves her job managing the Bacon and Biscuit Caf. In fact, after escaping a difficult past, it’s all she has. When Clementine is offered the opportunity to step out from behind the counter and buy the place, her longtime dream is about to come true. That is until it’s snatched out from under her by the very same girl she crushed on in high school. Old habits are hard to break, but Clementine has no plans to forgive Madison anytime soon.

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Sweethand by N.G. Peltier (March 30th)

After a public meltdown over her breakup from her cheating musician boyfriend, Cherisse swore off guys in the music industry, and dating in general for a while, preferring to focus on growing her pastry chef business.

When Cherisse’s younger sister reveals she’s getting married in a few months, Cherisse hopes that will distract her mother enough to quit harassing her about finding a guy, settling down and having kids. But her mother’s matchmaking keeps intensifying.

Cherisse tries to humour her mother, hoping if she feigns interest in the eligible bachelors she keeps tossing her way, she’ll be off the hook, but things don’t quite go as planned. Turns out for the first time in ages, she and Keiran King, the most annoying man ever, are on the island at the same time. Avoiding him is impossible, especially when Keiran’s close friend is the one marrying her sister, and he’s the best man to her maid of honour.

Keiran doesn’t know what to make of Cherisse now. They’ve always butted heads. To him she’s always been a stuck-up brat who seeks attention, even while he secretly harbored a crush on her. Now with Cherisse’s sister marrying one of his good friends he can’t escape her as the wedding activities keep throwing them together.

When things turn heated after a rainy night of bedroom fun, they both have to figure out if they can survive the countdown to wedding day, without this turning into a recipe for disaster.

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First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara (April 6th)

Lark spent the first twenty-four years, nine months, and three days of his life training for a righteous quest: to rid the world of monsters. Alongside his partner Kane, he wore the cage and endured the scourge in order to develop his innate magic. He never thought that when Kane left, he’d next see him in the company of FBI agents and a SWAT team. He never dreamed that the leader of the Fellowship of the Anointed would be brought up on charges of abuse and assault.

He never expected the government would tell him that the monsters aren’t real–that there is no magic, and all the pain was for nothing.

Lark isn’t ready to give up. He is determined to fulfill his quest, to defeat the monsters he was promised. Along the way he will grapple with the past, confront love, and discover his long-buried truth.

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Malice by Heather Walter (April 13th)

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

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Defekt by Nino Cipri (April 20th)

This is the sequel to Finna.

Derek is LitenVärld’s most loyal employee. He lives and breathes the job, from the moment he wakes up in a converted shipping container at the edge of the parking lot to the second he clocks out of work 18 hours later. But after taking his first ever sick day, his manager calls that loyalty into question. An excellent employee like Derek, an employee made to work at LitenVärld, shouldn’t need time off.

To test his commitment to the job, Derek is assigned to a special inventory shift, hunting through the store to find defective products. Toy chests with pincers and eye stalks, ambulatory sleeper sofas, killer mutant toilets, that kind of thing. Helping him is the inventory team—four strangers who look and sound almost exactly like him. Are five Dereks better than one?

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Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton (May 11th)

Gala, a young trans woman, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She is obsessed with the Get Happies, the quintessential 1960s Californian band, helmed by its resident genius, B—-. Why did the band stop making music? Why did they never release their rumored album, Summer Fun?

Gala writes letters to B—- that she light not only on the Get Happies, but paint an extraordinary portrait of Gala. The parallel narratives of B—- and Gala form a dialogue about creation–of music, identity, self, culture, and counterculture.

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We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker (May 11th)

Val and Julie just want what’s best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when teenage son David comes home one day asking for a Pilot, a new brain implant to help with school, they reluctantly agree. This is the future, after all.

Soon, Julie feels mounting pressure at work to get a Pilot to keep pace with her colleagues, leaving Val and Sophie part of the shrinking minority of people without the device.

Before long, the implications are clear, for the family and society: get a Pilot or get left behind. With government subsidies and no downside, why would anyone refuse? And how do you stop a technology once it’s everywhere? Those are the questions Sophie and her anti-Pilot movement rise up to answer, even if it puts them up against the Pilot’s powerful manufacturer and pits Sophie against the people she loves most.

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Arcadia by Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam, trans. by Ruth Diver (May 11th)

Farah moves into Liberty House—an arcadia, a community in harmony with nature—at the tender age of six, with her family. The commune’s spiritual leader, Arcady, preaches equality, non-violence, anti-speciesism, free love, and uninhibited desire for all, regardless of gender, age, looks, or ability. On her fifteenth birthday, Farah learns she is intersex, and begins to question the confines of gender, and the hypocritical principles those within and outside the confraternity live by. What, Farah asks, is a man or a woman? What is it to be part of a community? What is the endgame for a utopia that exists alongside refugees seeking shelter by the millions and in a society moving ever farther away from nature and its protections. As Liberty House devolves into a dystopia amidst charges of sexual abuse, it starts to look a lot like the larger world, confused in its fears and selfish hedonism.

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Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall (May 18th)

Fans of Casey McQuiston, Christina Lauren, and Abby Jimenez won’t be able to resist this scrumptiously sweet, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about a single mother competing on a charming British baking show!

 

 

 

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The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis (May 21st)

In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavica, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischer – a widow with secrets of her own.

When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.

After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavica that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.

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The Beekeeper by Bev Prescott (May 21st)

Nora Riendeau is a hard-charging attorney on the cusp of achieving the capstone of her career. When she collapses during a high-profile case, her doctor orders her to take time off. Reluctantly, Nora realizes that this rare opportunity will allow her to reconnect with her aunt Midge, who has turned to beekeeping to save her farm in Maine. While she’s there, Nora becomes friends with a mysterious beekeeper name Avril and reconnects with her old girlfriend, Johanna.

When a powerful storm ravages the community, the four women join forces to help the town rebuild. Despite this newfound energy and sense of belonging, Nora is soon compelled to return to her legal career in Boston. But, it doesn’t take long for her to begin questioning the decision because she can’t seem to shake herself free the bees and their passion for home and life.

Nora knows she needs to make some hard choices―about her career in Boston, about her feelings for Midge, Johanna, and Avril, and about her desire to care for the bees. For Nora, critical thinking is second nature, and so it becomes abundantly clear that the only question that matters is whether her truest passion lies in an adrenaline-filled Boston courtroom, or with the amazing women at Aunt Midge’s apiary.

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Burn it All Down by Nicolas DiDomizio (May 25th)

Eighteen-year-old aspiring comic Joey Rossi just found out his boyfriend has been cheating on him for the past ten months. But what did he expect? Joey was born with an addiction to toxic jerks—something he inherited from his lovably messy, wisecracking, Italian-American spitfire of a mom (and best friend): 34-year-old Gia Rossi.

When Gia’s latest non-relationship goes up in flames only a day later, the pair’s Bayonne, New Jersey apartment can barely contain their rage. In a misguided attempt at revenge, Joey and Gia inadvertently commit a series of crimes and flee the state, running to the only good man either of them has ever known—Gia’s ex, Marco. As they hide out from the law at Marco’s secluded lake house, Joey and Gia must confront all the bad habits and mistakes they’ve made that have led them to this moment—and find a way to take responsibility for what they’ve done.

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How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole (May 25th)

Makeda Hicks has lost her job and her girlfriend in one fell swoop. The last thing she’s in the mood for is to rehash the story of her grandmother’s infamous summer fling with a runaway prince from Ibarania, or the investigator from the World Federation of Monarchies tasked with searching for Ibarania’s missing heir.

Yet when Beznaria Chetchevaliere crashes into her life, the sleek and sexy investigator exudes exactly the kind of chaos that organized and efficient Makeda finds irresistible, even if Bez is determined to drag her into a world of royal duty Makeda wants nothing to do with.

When a threat to her grandmother’s livelihood pushes Makeda to agree to return to Ibarania, Bez takes her on a transatlantic adventure with a crew of lovable weirdos, a fake marriage, and one-bed hijinks on the high seas. When they finally make it to Ibarania, they realize there’s more at stake than just cash and crown, and Makeda must learn what it means to fight for what she desires and not what she feels bound to by duty.

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The Guncle by Steven Rowley (May 25th)

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.

So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting—even if temporary—isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.

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Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia (June 1st)

Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.

Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She”s succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie”s Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan”s hottest speakeasy. Louise”s friends might say she”s running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don”t tell her that.

When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she”s been trying to ignore–several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her.

Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She’ll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process.

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One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (June 1st)

Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that.

But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane.

All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one―namely, displaced in time from the 1970s―she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.

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The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (June 1st)

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

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Future Feeling by Joss Lake (June 1st)

The year is 20__, and Penfield R. Henderson is in a rut. When he’s not walking dogs for cash or responding to booty calls from his B-list celebrity hookup, he’s holed up in his dingy Bushwick apartment obsessing over holograms of Aiden Chase, a fellow trans man and influencer documenting his much smoother transition into picture-perfect masculinity on the Gram. After an IRL encounter with Aiden leaves Pen feeling especially resentful, Pen enlists his roommates, the Witch and the Stoner-Hacker, to put their respective talents to use in hexing Aiden. Together, they gain access to Aiden’s social media account and post a picture of Pen’s aloe plant, Alice, tied to a curse:

Whosoever beholds the aloe will be pushed into the Shadowlands.

When the hex accidentally bypasses Aiden, sending another young trans man named Blithe to the Shadowlands (the dreaded emotional landscape through which every trans person must journey to achieve true self-actualization), the Rhiz (the quasi-benevolent big brother agency overseeing all trans matters) orders Pen and Aiden to team up and retrieve him. The two trace Blithe to a dilapidated motel in California and bring him back to New York, where they try to coax Blithe to stop speaking only in code and awkwardly try to pass on what little trans wisdom they possess. As the trio makes its way in a world that includes pitless avocados and subway cars that change color based on occupants’ collective moods but still casts judgment on anyone not perfectly straight, Pen starts to learn that sometimes a family isn’t just the people who birthed you.

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With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (June 1st)

If she’s being honest, Sammie Lucas is scared of her son. Working from home in the close quarters of their Florida house, she lives with one wary eye peeled on Samson, a sullen, unknowable boy who resists her every attempt to bond with him. Uncertain in her own feelings about motherhood, she tries her best—driving, cleaning, cooking, prodding him to finish projects for school—while growing increasingly resentful of Monika, her confident but absent wife. As Samson grows from feral toddler to surly teenager, Sammie’s life begins to deteriorate into a mess of unruly behavior, and her struggle to create a picture-perfect queer family unravels. When her son’s hostility finally spills over into physical aggression, Sammie must confront her role in the mess—and the possibility that it will never be clean again.

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The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (June 8th)

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

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The Very Nice Box by Yves Gleichman and Laura Blackett (June 8th)

Ava Simon designs storage boxes for STÄDA, a slick Brooklyn-based furniture company. She’s hard-working, obsessive, and heartbroken from a tragedy that killed her girlfriend and upended her life. It’s been years since she’s let anyone in.

But when Ava’s new boss—the young and magnetic Mat Putnam—offers Ava a ride home one afternoon, an unlikely relationship blossoms. Ava remembers how rewarding it can be to open up—and, despite her instincts, she becomes enamored. But Mat isn’t who he claims to be, and the romance takes a sharp turn.

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Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon (June 15th)

Oliver Park, a young recovering addict from Indiana, finally has everything he ever wanted: sobriety and a loving, wealthy partner in Nathan, a prominent DC trauma surgeon. Despite their difference in age and disparate backgrounds, they’ve made a perfect life together. With everything to lose, Oliver shouldn’t be visiting Haus, a gay bathhouse. But through the entrance he goes, and it’s a line crossed. Inside, he follows a man into a private room, and it’s the final line. Whatever happens next, Nathan can never know. But then, everything goes wrong, terribly wrong, and Oliver barely escapes with his life.
He races home in full-blown terror as the hand-shaped bruise grows dark on his neck. The truth will destroy Nathan and everything they have together, so Oliver does the thing he used to do so well: he lies.

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Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (June 22nd)

In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty.One of the breakout literary stars of 2020, Brandon Taylor has been hailed by Roxane Gay as “a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways.” With Filthy Animals he renews and expands on the promise made in Real Life, training his precise and unsentimental gaze on the tensions among friends and family, lovers and others. Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.

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Simply the Best by Karin Kallmaker (June 22nd)

Simply the Best… Giselle Otero needs a win in her life, and being personal assistant to Helene Jolie, the socialite founder of SimplytheBest.com, is finally it. The hours are long, and keeping Helene happy is more than a full-time job. That Helene seems to find Giselle’s company pleasing in ways beyond work is dizzying.

Simply the Worst… An unfortunate lapse in judgment has bumped New York reporter Alice Cabot from Science to Style. Even worse, she’s exiled to New Mexico to complete a series of in-depth and upbeat features on Helene Jolie and her company’s meteoric success. She knows she’s going to hate every last thing about this assignment, starting with the assistant who’ll be her corporate babysitter.

Simply Irresistible… Tasked with keeping the inquisitive reporter in check, Giselle is eager to prove her worth to the demanding, charismatic Helene. Even if that means spending every day arguing with a big mouth, big city know-it-all whose probing questions lead to sleepless nights―and awakened desires.

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Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!