Category Archives: Backlist Book of the Month

Backlist Book of the Month: Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht

I freaking love books that are helmed by female spies, and this brilliant historical about a queer woman working as one during the Cold War was everything I’d wanted it to be when I read it in one sitting on a flight. Who is Vera Kelly? is fun and surprising and clever and a good glimpse into a fraught era from both a political and queer perspective, so do yourself a favor and check it out!

New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She’s working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.

Next thing she knows she’s in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns the Cold War makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she’s forced to take extreme measures to save herself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Tin House

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Backlist Book of the Month: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

My favorite thing about this feature is that I’m totally allowed to be tardy to the party, and yep, you better believe this one flew all the way under my radar until it won the Pulitzer. Even then, despite buying it, I didn’t read it until my book club made it the pick for our June meeting, but I finally get there, and I loved it! It’s got self-deprecating humor, unpredictable romance, a fun mix of settings (the main character is traveling the world), an older protagonist than we usually get to see (he’s on the verge of his 50th birthday), and best of all (for me personally), the author is a hugely relatable midlist author. So, if you, like me, are so late to jump on the train that even the Pulitzer committee beat you to it, hopefully this well convince you to get on board!

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.

Amazon | B & N | IndieBound

Backlist Book of the Month: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Confession: I’ve never read an adult sci-fi novel in my life, but I’m asked for recommendations for them with a decent amount of frequency, which means I spend a lot of time looking into the good ones. When I find one that’s purported to be engaging, brilliant, nuanced, and full of good rep, I know it needs more eyes. So check out An Unkindness of Ghosts and find yourself a new fave!

Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Backlist Book of the Month: Over You by Amy Reed

YA has so many great friendship books, but sometimes what you need is a really great friendship breakup book, and there’s none I’ve ever loved as much as Over You by Amy Reed. This was the first book to make me feel like a friendship ending can actually be the best way to discover yourself and who you are outside it in a way that makes clear moving on is the best thing for you, your mental health, and your life at large. It was a message I happened to need as I was reading it, and I hope it’s one that other people who need it find here as well. (It was also one of my first books with an on-page bisexual main character, whom I’ll mention as a content warning is outed.) As a bonus, Reed is a great author to know, as she has a number of queer books out (including Beautiful and The Nowhere Girls) and another one, The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World, out in July!

Max would follow Sadie anywhere, so when Sadie decides to ditch her problems and escape to Nebraska for the summer, it’s only natural for Max to go along. She is Sadie’s confidante, her protector, and her best friend. This summer will be all about them. This summer will be perfect.

But that’s before they meet Dylan.

Dylan is dangerous and intoxicating, and he awakens something in Max that she never knew existed. No matter how much she wants to, she can’t back away.

But Sadie has her own intensity, and has never allowed Max to become close with anyone else. And Max doesn’t know who she is without Sadie.

There are some problems you just can’t escape.

Buy it: Books-a-Million • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Simon & Schuster

Backlist Book of the Month: P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Last year was a banner year for Middle Grade starring queer girls, and Jen Petro-Roy’s debut was a truly special one and beautiful one, about a girl who becomes unmoored when her pregnant sister is sent away by her Catholic parents, just when Evie needs her most.

29735642In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | IndieBound 

Backlist Book of the Month: Ascension by Jacqueline Konayagi

I know, I know, I’m terrible about putting SFF titles in this space, especially ones that aren’t YA, because the truth is, it’s just out of my genre reading zone. But, it’s obviously in many readers’, so I’m just gonna go ahead and put this one out there since A) I see it recommended all the time by people I trust, B) I constantly end up recommending it to people asking for polyam rep, and C) it’s really hard to argue with the greatness of a Black lesbian MC in space who also happens to have a chronic illness and is a sky surgeon. Tick your reading boxes? Then check out Ascension by Jacqueline Konayagi!

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything–even destroying planets–to get their hands on her.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Backlist Book of the Month: Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge

Finding queer New Adult fiction that’s contemporary but isn’t a Romance is like hunting for a needle in a nopestack, so Erin Judge’s Vow of Celibacy is a wildly exciting find, centered around a plus-size bisexual fashion producer-turning-model who’s currently taking a vow of celibacy as she reflects on her past relationships and everything that went wrong in them. It’s complicated, reflective, sexy, funny, and definitely under-read, so come check it out!

Natalie has made a promise: a vow of celibacy, signed and witnessed by her best friend. After a string of sexual conquests, she is determined to figure out why the intense romantic connections she’s spent her life chasing have left her emotionally high and dry. As Natalie sifts through her past and her present, she confronts her complicated feelings about her plus-sized figure, her bisexuality, and her thwarted career in fashion design.

Piecing together toxic relationship patterns from her past, Natalie finds herself strutting down fashion runways and rekindling her passion for clothing design in the present. All the while, her best friend, Anastaze, struggles with her own secret—whether or not to reveal her true identity to the thousands of fans of her popular blog and her potential first sexual partner.

Buy it!

Backlist Book of the Month: Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown

It’s Thanksgiving month in America, so for November’s backlist book (but actually novella) of the month, I had to go with a personal favorite that revolves all around the holiday…and a woman who hires a fake date to accompany her home for it and pretend to be her girlfriend. As all great fauxmances do, this one turns into a whole lot more, and…le happy sigh. Enjoy Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown this Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving arrives in one week and one day. Feeling hemmed in by parental expectations? Are they disappointed by your sapphic proclivities? I can help! The only pay I want is the holiday meal!

I didn’t know what I was looking for until I saw her Craigslist ad.

I love my family. I’m lucky to have them — well, most of them. But my aunt? I’m so tired of her giving my mom crap because I happen to be a lesbian. So one pink-haired tattoo artist pretending to be my girlfriend will annoy my Christian fundamentalist aunt right back and make my Thanksgiving perfect.

Only . . . Brooke turns out to be cuter and more complicated than I expected. And before you can say “yorkiepoo,” we kiss . . . and abduct a dog together. I want to keep them both — but Brooke isn’t the kind to be kept. Lucky for me, I’m the kind to chase what I want.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Backlist Book of the Month: Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

It’s October, which means it’s time for some queer Horror! I’m prepared to fully admit that I’m a big wimp and so I haven’t yet dipped into Lost Souls, the bloody, highly sexual, totally horrific vampire novel by the author formerly known as Poppy Z. Brite, but I do know that if you’re into queer Horror, it’s gotta be your first stop.

Lost Souls

At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not. Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds – Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself…

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * iBooks

Backlist Book of the Month: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

One request I get with some frequency is for great queer books that also have great mental health rep, and to that, when appropriate, Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is one I always recommend. This isn’t a book where sexuality takes center stage, or even second stage, really, but the MC, Solomon, is gay all the same. However, it’s his agoraphobia that’s really defined his life of late, and this story is about making human connections, however flawed, until you find your place in the world that’s overwhelmed you. It’s a personal favorite, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, I hope you love it as much as I did!

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Book Depository