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:
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
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.
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).
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).
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome Kellie Doherty, author of the recently released romantic fantasy Curling Vines and Crimson Trades! She’s here to talk abut the importance of writing (and reading) fantasy during a pandemic! Which, you know, just happens to be what we’ve got going on in the world right now.
Take it away, Kellie!
You know that little meme of the dog drinking tea and sitting in a burning room while saying “everything is fine”—yeah, we’re all that little dog. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our lives and stress levels through the roof, it really does seem like everything is on fire, and quite frankly, everything hasn’t been fine. Shifting to telework, closing our bubbles, kids homeschooling, isolation, jobs lost, lives lost, constant worry…this year has been hellish, and the whole world will be overjoyed to see 2020 get yeeted on New Year’s Eve. Thankfully a vaccine is finally on the horizon but even then, it’ll take time for things to get back to “normal.” Suffice it to say, it’s been…a year.
But you know what kept me going throughout this historic and horrifying time?
Yup, that’s right.
When the world was (and in most cases, still is) falling apart at the seams, fantasy was a great escape for me. Writing about glowing eyes and rust-orange swords became the thing I gravitated toward when the COVID cases hit too close to home or when the news shouted about limited hospital beds. Reading about dragons and journeys and the friends found along the way became the blanket I tucked myself under when the world was too scary, too stressful, too…everything this year.
To put it simply, fantasy became my Important Thing. While other people were baking sourdough bread to relieve stress, I was frantically working on my fantasy book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades, joining my character as one single moment changed her whole life and set her on an adventure filled with magic, mayhem, and mythological beasts. A journey that would alter her irrevocably. While my friends were playing games about island adventures with animal villagers or committing spaceship murder rampages (both still speculative escapism, by the way), I dove deep into reading Priory of the Orange and found myself tugged along with the characters and tugged out of the real world for a while.
Because that’s what fantasy does. It helps us escape. That’s why it’s so important. While I’m mostly talking about writing and reading fantasy here, there’s also a whole horde of other fantasy-type “escapes” like television, movies, podcasts, games, and other artistic expressions that falls into this category as well. Fantasy has permeated our society in the best way and for me, it’s become the perfect way to disconnect from the horror of the year. Why? Because it ticks literally all the boxes of what we can’t do right now during the pandemic.
We can’t travel. We can’t see our friends the way we want to. We can’t frequent our usual coffee shop haunts. We can’t live our lives the way we’ve become accustomed to.
But because I read fantasy stories and I write fantasy novels, I can! Kind of, anyway.
I can go on long journeys and see new things—cities, wonders of nature, ancient ruins. I can experience adventure and come across magical creatures, meeting new people and cultures along the way. I can sit in a tavern with some favorite characters. I can create swords infused with moonlight magic or make healers who can cure the sick with a single touch. I can live a normal (to their world) life with the characters of the story. And I really appreciate that.
Fantasy stories also have an “adventure thrust upon the characters” kind of feel where the characters lives are turned upside down, and they must navigate rough waters. The characters are broken and bruised and might’ve even lost friends or family along the way, and they’ve been transformed by their adventures. But they survived. I appreciate that too, now more than ever.
What I really enjoy, is that no matter if the real world is sunshine and daisies or if it’s falling to pieces, no matter where I am in my own headspace, fantasy takes me someplace else every single time. And don’t even get me started on the nostalgia factor of reading childhood favorites! Writing fantasy is also my way of analyzing what’s happening in the real world and pinning down what really matters in the end—family and friends. (Annnnd it’s also a lot of fun for me, too!)
So wherever you are, pick up a fantastical novel you’ve been wanting to read or try your hand at penning that flash fiction piece niggling your mind. Step into another world for a while to decompress from ours. I know you’ll enjoy the adventure!
About the Book
Rare goods trader Orenda Silverstone leads a happy life with her wife and friends. She’s an Elu—a race whose crafting is centered on protection—but her power is broken. Now, her sword is her strength. When her wife gets kidnapped and Orenda has to use her trading skills to complete some nearly impossible tasks to get her back, a good sword arm won’t be enough. Orenda’s time is rapidly coming to a close. She needs help.
But she’s been forced into silence. Two sun goddess worshippers, twins Lan and Lyra, decide to join Orenda’s quest in order to guard one of the rarer items to its destination. Orenda’s not sure she can turn her back on either one, but with no other options, she competes against the sunrises to complete her tasks before her wife is killed.
Then, the unthinkable happens. Orenda’s best friend, Jax, tries to kill her.
Between racing against the coming dawns and battles at every turn, Orenda’s list now seems insurmountable. No longer certain of who is friend or foe, she must come up with a plan to save them all before the sun rises on her wife’s final day.
Kellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. When she noticed that there wasn’t much positive queer representation in the science fiction and fantasy realms, she decided to create her own! Kellie’s work has been published in Image OutWrite 2019, Astral Waters Review, Life (as it) Happens, and Impact, among others. Her adult sci-fi debut novel—Finding Hekate—came out in April 2016 from Desert Palm Press and the sequel—Losing Hold—came out in April 2017. She’s currently working on a five-book adult fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties released in March 2019 from Desert Palm Press and won a 2019 Rainbow Award. The second book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades is launching later this year! An excerpt from Curling Vines won first place in an Alaska Writers Guild Fiction contest in 2020.
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.
It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret – a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.
Andre Cobb hopes his luck is finally turning around. After being sick for as long as he can remember, he’s finally gotten the liver transplant he desperately needed. Now his life can finally begin. But weeks after the operation, he feels shaky and ill, passes out, and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…the past.
Somehow, he’s slipped through time to the 1960s version of his neighborhood in Boston. While there he meets Michael, who he is instantly connected to. Michael is everything Andre is not. He’s free-spirited, artistic, and open to all of life’s possibilities.
But just as suddenly as he arrived, Andre slips back to present-day Boston. As he tries to figure out what happened, the family of his donor reaches out to let him know his new liver may have side effects… of the time travel variety. They task their youngest son, Blake, with the job of helping Andre figure out the ins and outs of his new ability.
As Andre trains with Blake, he can’t help but feel attracted to him. Blake understands Andre in a way no one else ever has. But every time Andre journeys to the past, he’s drawn back into to Michael’s world.
Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs and more importantly who he wants to be before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and changes his fate for good.
Emil and Brighton Rey defied the odds. They beat the Blood Casters and escaped with their lives–or so they thought. When Brighton drank the Reaper’s Blood, he believed it would make him invincible, but instead the potion is killing him.
In Emil’s race to find an antidote that will not only save his brother but also rid him of his own unwanted phoenix powers, he will have to dig deep into the very past lives he’s trying to outrun. Though he needs the help of the Spell Walkers now more than ever, their ranks are fracturing, with Maribelle’s thirst for revenge sending her down a dangerous path.
Meanwhile, Ness is being abused by Senator Iron for political gain, his rare shifting ability making him a dangerous weapon. As much as Ness longs to send Emil a signal, he knows the best way to keep Emil safe from his corrupt father is to keep him at a distance.
The battle for peace is playing out like an intricate game of chess, and as the pieces on the board move into place, Emil starts to realize that he may have been competing against the wrong enemy all along.
For seven long years, while she was imprisoned on a debtor’s ship, Amaya Chandra had one plan: to survive. But now, survival is not enough. She has people counting on her; counting on her for protection, for leadership, for vengeance. And after escaping Moray by the skin of her teeth, she’s determined to track down the man who betrayed her and her friends.
Cayo Mercado has lost everything: his money, his father, his reputation. Everything except his beloved sister. But he’s well on his way to losing her, too, with no way to afford the treatment for her deadly illness. In a foreign empire also being consumed by ash fever, Cayo has no choice but to join Amaya in uncovering the mystery of the counterfeit currency, the fever, and how his father was involved in their creation. But Cayo still hasn’t forgiven Amaya for her earlier deception, and their complicated feelings for each other are getting harder and harder to ignore.
Through glittering galas, dazzling trickery, and thrilling heists, Cayo and Amaya will learn that the corruption in Moray goes far deeper than they know, and in the end the only people they can trust are each other.
When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season…
Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.
To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache deep in her heart.
So when chance and circumstances bring her to a roller derby bout, Daya is hooked. Yes, the rules are confusing and the sport seems to require the kind of teamwork and human interaction Daya generally avoids. But the opportunities to bruise are countless, and Daya realizes that if she’s going to keep her emotional pain at bay, she’ll need all the opportunities she can get.
The deeper Daya immerses herself into the world of roller derby, though, the more she realizes it’s not the simple physical pain-fest she was hoping for. Her rough-and-tumble teammates and their fans push her limits in ways she never imagined, bringing Daya to big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.
Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant Zara Hossain has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.
But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
When Humaira “Hani” Khan comes out to her friends as bisexual, they immediately doubt her. Apparently, she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Cornered into proving her sexuality, she tells them she’s dating someone—Ishita “Ishu” Dey, the straight A student who seems more concerned with studying than relationships.
When Hani approaches her about fake dating, she agrees on one condition–that Hani help her become more popular so she can win the school’s head girl election. It’s the perfect plan to help them achieve their goals, until Hani’s friends become jealous that she’s spending more time with Ishu. They’ll do everything they can to drive a wedge between them and ruin Ishu’s chances of becoming head girl.
Now, Hani has a decision to make: does she break off her relationship with Ishu for the sake of her friends? Or does she tell Ishu how she really feels and turn their “fake” relationship into something real?
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother, and a David Beckham in training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of isolation and bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.
At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boys’ soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans–he’s passing. So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the “F” on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even though it would mean coming out to everyone– including the guy he’s falling for.
When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.
Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.
As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?
When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.
That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.
Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.
In a home where social conservatism, machismo, and masculine identity run deep, Corpus Christi, Texas high school senior Julián Luna is forced to keep his gay identity a secret. Jules’ only focus is laying low the next ten months and enjoying every moment he has left with his friends before college takes them on separate paths.
Until Jules wakes up hungover and discovers he came out on Twitter in between tequila shots. In an instant, his entire life is thrown—literally—out the closet.
Helping him navigate the life that is openly gay Jules is Mat, a Twitter mutual from Los Angeles who slides into Jules’ DMs. He’s friendly, supportive, funny, and so attractive. He’s the first person Jules says the words “I’m gay” to. And, if he weren’t three states away, could definitely be Jules’ first boyfriend.
But a cute boy living halfway across the country can’t fix all Jules’ problems. There’s one thing he’ll have to face on his own: coming out to his homophobic father.
Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.
Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.
The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer―as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…
Three days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival.
Toni is grieving the loss of her roadie father and needing to figure out where her life will go from here — and she’s desperate to get back to loving music. Olivia is a hopeless romantic whose heart has just taken a beating (again) and is beginning to feel like she’ll always be a square peg in a round hole — but the Farmland Music and Arts Festival is a chance to find a place where she fits.
The two collide and it feels like something like kismet when a bond begins to form. But when something goes wrong and the festival is sent into a panic, Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other (and music) more than they ever imagined.
Today on the site I’m excited to be revealing the newest of longtime queer YA author Hannah Moskowitz! The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe is a contemporary f/f YA romance releasing from Entangled Teen on June 1, 2021, and you can learn more about it here:
Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.
She’s my best friend.
She’s the center of attention.
She is, without fail, the hottest girl in the room. Anytime. Anyplace.
She has freckles and dimples and bright green eyes, and with someone else’s energy she’d be adorable. But there is nothing cute about Ivy. She is ice and hot metal and electricity.
She is the girl who every lesbian wants, but she has never been with the same person twice. She’s one-of-a-kind but also predictable, so I will always be Andie, her best friend, never Andie, her girlfriend.
Then she meets Dot, and Ivy does something even I would have never guessed—she sees Dot another day. And another. And another.
Now my world is slowly going up in smoke, and no matter what I do, the flames grow higher. She lit that match without knowing who or what it would burn.
Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.
But falling in love wasn’t supposed to be one of them…unless it was with me.
But wait, there’s more! We’ve got an excerpt, so you can get your first glimpse of the girls!
I leave with Ivy and Dot, spilling out of the club and toward the lot two blocks away where I left my car. We’re up on College Hill, and the street’s covered with Brown and RISD kids standing in line for cheap pizza or stumbling back to their dorms. Dot’s a little slow in her high heels, and she lags behind Ivy, who snarks to me, “Do you really think I didn’t make sure she wanted to come?”
“Can’t be too careful.”
“I can rescue my own damsels, thanks. Or is this interrogation thing a new role you provide?”
“What, you mean along with my taxi service? And only if they look like they were born during the Obama administration.”
Ivy glares at me and slows down to take Dot’s hand.
They get in the backseat together and are all over each other before I’ve even started the car. Christ. I roll my eyes and adjust the rearview mirror so I don’t have to look at them. “Yeah, you’re welcome for the ride,” I mumble to myself, wondering, like I always do, why the hell I always agree to do this shit. God, I don’t even agree. I volunteer.
I weave us around the college kids, down the hill into the lights of the city, and south to good old Elmwood, the neighborhood where Ivy and I have lived since we were little kids, making pillow forts and mixing nail polish colors and teaching each other how to kiss. Or I guess she taught me.
I don’t really wonder why I volunteer for this shit. I just wish I did.
Elmwood’s one of the shittier parts of the city, and part of me expects Dot to try to back out when she sees where we’re headed; she wouldn’t be the first prospective girl of Ivy’s to do it, and she doesn’t exactly look streetwise. But she doesn’t care, or maybe just doesn’t notice, with her face and hands otherwise occupied, feeling up my best friend in my backseat, and there’s no protest as I turn onto Ivy’s block. And then immediately stop, because her street is crowded with police cars, firefighters, and a bunch of people gathered on the sidewalk.
“Ivy,” I say.
“Mmm,” she says, her hands on Dot’s waist, their lips together.
She pulls away and shoots daggers at me in the rearview mirror. “What?”
“Your house is on fire.”
There’s a second where none of us move, and then all three of us scramble out, leaving the cars open and beeping in protest as we run down the rest of the block, weaving through the crowd until we’re on the sidewalk. The shit hole formerly known as Ivy’s house is smoking pathetically, one wall completely gone and the others not much better, bits of charred roof and furniture strewn into the front lawn. The firefighters are packing up their equipment, ready to go.
Oh my God. Holy shit.
Somehow what comes out of my mouth is, “How many fucking times did your landlord say he was going to fix the wiring.”
“Oh my God,” Dot says. “Was anyone in there?”
I shake my head. “Her mom’s in Costa Rica. Fuck, Ives. You could have been in there.”
Ivy’s staring at the house, her eyes slightly narrowed like she’s trying to figure it out.
“Holy shit,” Dot says. She puts her hand on Ivy’s arm. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“She’s not okay,” I snap, because who the fuck is Dot to be here, to be part of this, to act like it really matters to her world whether this person she’s known for half an hour burned alive or not? “She could have died. If this had happened last night she would have been in there.”
“But I wasn’t,” Ivy says flatly.
“Still… God, all your shit. All your school stuff. Your clothes.” All the crafts we made when we were little, her half of the construction paper heart that says BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, though fuck if I’m about to say that in front of Dot. I take her hand. “Ivy…”
Ivy is still looking at her house like she’s making a decision, and I think about Dot’s face at the club when she was looking up at her. Two natural disasters in one night.
Ivy’s so fucking beautiful, in the streetlight and the smoke.
Her mouth quirks up into a smile. “Good,” she says quietly. “Good. Burn it all down.”
Hannah Moskowitz is the author of more than a dozen works for children and young adults, including Break, A History of Glitter and Blood, the 2013 Stonewall Honor Book Gone, Gone, Gone, and Sick Kids in Love. After a stint in New York, she’s happily back in Maryland.
December 1st was World AIDS Day, and there’s a lot familiar in the horrible handling and terrible ignorance of it for anyone who was around during the AIDS crisis. Whether that’s a history that’s familiar to you or not, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a YA novel that handles it more poignantly than Abdi Nazemian’s Stonewall Honor sophomore YA, Like a Love Story, which follows three teens each experiencing the effects of the disease in different ways. Check it out:
It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.
Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.
Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.
Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.
As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.
I’m so excited to welcome A Curse of Roses author Diana Pinguicha back to the site today to celebrate the release of her debut, and to discuss the delicious food in it! The f/f YA fantasy just released yesterday from Entangled Teen, and if you click on the title above, you can check out the first two chapters right here on LGBTQReads. Already read and loved them? Then read on to learn about its culinary delights!
Disclaimer: I love food. I’ve always loved cooking, and baking, and some of my best memories are with my grandma Nini, who was an out-of-this-world cook. I still think she had some sort of magic in her, because every dish she touched came out delicious. She was also notoriously bad about writing down her recipes, because, well… she didn’t follow any, not really. Portuguese people don’t do measuring cups, or instructions when cooking—we just throw stuff in with confidence and whatever happens, happens.
And, in true grandmother fashion, she’d feed me until I dropped. Much to my mom’s chagrin, since I was obese as a child, and whenever I went to my nana’s I’d come back much heavier than when she dropped me off. I believe Nana’s overfeeding came from the fact that she, much like the rest of my family, starved during the dictatorship, and once she had access to food, she saw no reason not to overindulge. There would be times when I’d cry because I wasn’t supposed to be eating so much. But my nana always made me feel at ease about my weight and appetite. She said, “Fat isn’t ugly, and you’re always so happy when you eat. So eat!”
That was another aspect of her that I thought was magical. She cared only for my happiness. She was the only one who never judged me for being “a difficult kid” and would always be kind to me, even when I wasn’t kind to myself. She was also the only person who would let me just be. If I wanted to be left alone in a corner to read, or play video games, she’d let me. If I wanted to hijack the kitchen to make desserts (which she did not like to make) she’d let me. Really, I don’t have enough words to express how much I love her and miss her, and how utterly good she was.
Now that my nana has passed, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to replicate what she’d serve me. The taste is still vivid in my memories, and if I close my eyes, I can remember what her chickpea stew tasted like, her ensopado, her migas. More than anything, I wanted to honor the memories of the food she made me, and because A CURSE OF ROSES takes place in Alentejo, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight the gastronomy of my home region. I’ve mentioned above that people from my family largely starved during the dictatorship, and it’s true for a lot of Alentejo and other interior regions. The way Alentejanos had of making their food last was to add the stale bread they had lying around, and for that reason, a lot of our dishes include it. And since Isabel of Aragon’s miracle involved turning bread into roses—which was another great excuse to go all-in on Alentejo cuisine.
During my research, I also found that many Alentejo dishes have their origin with the Moors. The chickpea stew my nana made? A variation of what is now the Moroccan Harira. The broas? They’re a variation of the Arabic ghoribas. The Encharcada? It’s a variant of Qalb El Louz. The Almendrados? They’re remarkably like the Mlouwza. Which, at a time when people are trying to erase our Moor past, seemed very important for me to include.
So, the gastronomy in ACOR? It’s everything I grew up eating.
There’s açorda (which I stylized as assorda, since medieval serigraphy didn’t have the ç), which is an inexpensive dish that fed my family many a times, and that we make together every Christmas Eve at 3 am. All you need for it is garlic, cilantro, olive oil, stale bread, eggs, and boiling water. Eggs aren’t really mandatory, though. And, if you’re feeling fancy, you can add some fish such as cod.
The chickpea stew (Cozido de Grão), which is made with chickpeas, and a lot of other vegetables, such as kale, carrots, and so on. It’s also usually cooked with meat, and my grandma did it with pork. When I was younger and had textural issues with all the different veggies, she’d also pass it through an immersion blender so I could eat it, and whenever my parents told her not to, she’d just give them a smile and say, “It’s two minutes of my time, and if this helps her eat better, I’m doing it.”
Pork is another big player in Alentejo gastronomy. I mention the slaughter season in ACOR, and it’s another thing I’ve lived with. Every February, my grandparents would slaughter a pig, and the neighbors would help them with several cuts, sausages, and so on. No part of the pig went to waste—not even the blood, which is used in some dishes and sausages. The things we made with a single pork would last us almost an entire year, and in older times, the chouriço, and the toucinho, and all that, would be used as something to trade for. It was also not uncommon to have a pig the entire neighborhood took care of, and then divided come slaughter. I do not miss that part of the year, and I haven’t eaten pork in over a decade—but it plays a huge part in our gastronomy, and so, I included it.
Then there is Migas, which is literally bread you throw into a pan, and then water until it breaks up. Some people will also add the fat that’s leftover from cooking the pork—but again, I don’t eat pork, so I actually use regular water and fry it in a bit of olive oil and garlic.
Conventual sweets also make an appearance. There’s Rala Bread (Pão de Rala), which is essentially, flour, sugar, and eggs. There are also Gadanhas, native to my hometown of Estremoz, and they’re based on eggs and almonds.
There’s another aspect I had to consider, and that was what kind of food would be available to you depending on social class. Commoners would be mostly vegetarian, save for the aforementioned pork days and the occasional chicken, or some animal they hunted, as commoners were allowed to hunt in their Lords’ lands in times where food was scarce. Hunting was also another way my family had to feed themselves during the dictatorship (and they kept ferrets solely for the purpose of hunting rabbits!) Meanwhile, the nobility would be gorging on everything, from wine and meats. Sweetwater fish are also part of Alentejo gastronomy, like the boga and the bordalo—fish that are slowly disappearing because of the pollution in our rivers.
There were other dishes I wanted to include, but couldn’t due to the fact that the ingredients were not native to Europe, and could not be realistically delivered. The Tomato Soup (Sopas de Tomate) was one, as were the pumpkin Dreams (Sonhos), and the Ensopado (because it requires potatoes), and the tomatada (that’s when you cook in a delicious tomato sauce—my nana learned to make that especially for me). I also could not include cod-based dishes, which was a shame, but alas. Hopefully there will be other books set in more modern times, where I can highlight those as well.
And I hope this blog post has piqued your curiosity in our humble Alentejo food! I promise it’s as delicious as it sounds!
Check out an excerpt and/or buy A Curse of Roseshere!
Born in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana grew up in Estremoz, and now lives in Lisbon with two extremely fluffy cats and one amazing bearded dragon. A Computer Engineer graduate from Instituto Superior Técnico, she has worked in award-winning educational video games, but writing is where her heart always belonged. When she’s not working on her books, she can be found painting, immersed in books or video games, or walking around with her dragon.
Raised in isolation at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s trailer-dealership-turned-survival compound, Ami Miles knows that she was lucky to be born into a place of safety after the old world ended and the chaos began. But when her grandfather brings home a cold-eyed stranger, she realizes that her “destiny” as one of the few females capable of still bearing children isn’t something she’s ready to face.
With the help of one of her aunts, she flees the only life she’s ever known and sets off on a quest to find her long-lost mother (and hopefully a mate of her own choosing). But as she journeys, Ami discovers many new things about the world… and about herself.
A butch lesbian parolee. The pretty pansexual nurse who got away. Is this their second chance at a happily ever after?
Finn is finally out of prison, which is great. Having no job, no car, and no place to sleep except her cousin’s couch? Not so great. Plus, her felony theft conviction isn’t doing wonders for her employment prospects, so she can’t afford her migraine meds without the public clinic.
The last thing she ever expected was for the gal who stole her heart to come walking down that clinic’s hallway: Vivi, the manicure-loving nurse who spent two years fighting the prison system to get proper medical care for her patients, including Finn.
Finn could never believe she imagined the attraction and affection between them. But acting on that in prison, especially as nurse and patient, had been a serious No Way. She’s had eight months to get over Vivi, who abruptly left her job without saying goodbye. Finn is over it. Honest! It’s totally and completely fine.
Except Vivi, here and now, doesn’t seem fine. And Finn couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t try to help.
Is fate offering Finn a second chance? Or is finding love as likely as finding a job with health insurance?
With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.
There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.
If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.
Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.
As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?
With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.
She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.
At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.
A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born. As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.
Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late. Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.
Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything. Lead actor need a breath mint? She’s on it. Understudy bust a seam? Mel’s sewing kit is at the ready. Not only is her Plan A foolproof, she’s got a Plan B, and a Plan C, because actors can be total fools.
What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.
Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.
Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.
As the “undisputed ambassador” of the energetic, New Orleans-based Bounce movement, Big Freedia isn’t afraid to twerk, wiggle, and shake her way to self-confidence, and is encouraging her fans to do the same. In her engrossing memoir, Big Freedia tells the inside story of her path to fame, the peaks and valleys of her personal life, and the liberation that Bounce music brings to herself and every one of her fans who is searching for freedom.
Big Freedia immediately pulls us into the relationship between her personal life and her career as an artist; being a “twerking sissy” is not just a job, she says, but a salvation. A place to find solace. To escape from the battles she faced growing up in the worst neighborhood in New Orleans. To deal with losing loved ones to the violence on the streets, drug overdoses, and jail. To survive hurricane Katrina by living on her roof for two days with three adults and a child. To grapple with the difficulties and celebrate the joys of living.
In this eye-opening memoir that bursts with energy, you’ll learn the history of the Bounce movement and meet all of the colorful characters that pepper its music scene. With her own unique voice and unabashed enthusiasm, Big Freedia tells how she arrived at this defining moment in music, and how Bounce ultimately has allowed her to become her own version of diva, one booty-pop at a time.
This is a standalone sequel to The Empress of Salt and Fortune
The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.
Set in a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods leading to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ into labor camps.
In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After he loses his livelihood as a drag queen and the love of his life, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer, who helps them plan an uprising at a major televised international event.
Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.
But with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.
Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life crumble fast, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.
Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?
When Auggie Lopez returns to Wroxall College, he’s determined that his second year will be different from the chaos he faced as a freshman. He’s living in the Sigma Sigma house, he’s got a good group of friends, and his social media presence is growing. Meeting a hot older guy on move-in day is just the cherry on top. All he has to do now is avoid getting dragged into another murder.
That last part, though, turns out to be easier said than done, especially when Auggie’s ex-roommate, Orlando, asks for help. Orlando’s brother Cal has gone missing, and Orlando wants Auggie to find him.
Auggie knows he’ll need help, but recruiting his friend—and crush—Theo is not as straightforward as he expects. While Auggie was gone for the summer, Theo has started dating someone, and neither Theo nor Auggie knows how to handle the shift in their relationship.
Finding Orlando’s brother dead only makes their situation more complicated. Although the police are quick to write off the homicide as a drug deal gone wrong, Auggie and Theo aren’t so sure, and Orlando begs them to keep investigating. To learn the truth, Auggie and Theo will have to untangle a web of lies while keeping each other safe from a killer who is determined to stop them.
As Auggie and Theo dig deeper, they realize that Cal was a stranger even to the people who thought they knew him. And Auggie and Theo both begin to fear that they are also strangers to each other.
“Archie loves Zack!”
“Zack loves Archie!”
Everyone said it was so.
But Archie hasn’t told Zack yet. And Zack hasn’t told Archie. They spend just about every minute together: walking to and from school, doing science and art projects, practicing for marching band, learning to ride bikes, and so much more.
Over the course of a few months, Archie tries to write a letter to Zack to tell him how he feels: “From A to Z.” None of his drafts sound quite right, so he hides them all away. One by one, Archie’s friends (Zelda, Zinnia, and Zuzella) find the letters . . . but they know exactly whom they’re meant for.
This new picture book from Vincent X. Kirsch celebrates young, queer love in a whimsical, kid-friendly way.