Fave Five: YA Sci-Fi with Queer Female MCs

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Adaptation and Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Sound by Alexandra Duncan

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Bonus: Coming in 2017, 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

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New Releases: September 6, 2016

Today is a huuuuge day in LGBTQ YA releases, so get your wallets and library cards ready and check out what’s now out in the world! (And congrats to all the authors!)

As I Descended by Robin Talley

28218948Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Indiebound

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

28217802All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Indiebound

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

29904219Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

27969081Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Books of Wonder

It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt

24755394A new state, a new city, a new high school. Mike’s father has already found a new evangelical church for the family to attend, even if Mike and his plainspoken little sister, Toby, don’t want to go. Dad wants Mike to ditch art for sports, to toughen up, but there’s something uneasy behind his demands.

Then Mike meets Sean, the new kid, and “hey” becomes games of basketball, partnering on a French project, hanging out after school. A night at the beach. The fierce colors of sunrise. But Mike’s father is always watching. And so is Victor from school, cell phone in hand.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Indiebound

And yesterday marked the release of yet another YA and an m/m Romance!

Assassins: Discord by Erica Cameron

29618746Kindra’s moral compass has never pointed north, but that’s what happens when you’re raised as an assassin and a thief. At sixteen, she’s fantastic with a blade, an expert at slipping through the world unnoticed, and trapped in a life she didn’t chose. But nothing in her training prepares her for what happens when her father misses a target.

In the week-long aftermath, Kindra breaks rank for the first time in her life. She steals documents, starts questioning who their client is and why the target needs to die, botches a second hit on her father’s target, and is nearly killed. And that’s before she’s kidnapped by a green-eyed stranger connected to a part of her childhood she’d almost forgotten.

Kindra has to decide who to trust and which side of the battle to fight for. She has to do it fast and she has to be right, because the wrong choice will kill her just when she’s finally found something worth living for.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Riptide

Shatterproof by Xen Sanders

30306399Grey Jean-Marcelin wants to die. He thought painting his passion—vivid portrayals of Haitian life and vodou faith—would be enough to anchor him to this world. But it isn’t. And when the mysterious man known only as Saint saves Grey from a suicide attempt, it’s more curse than blessing—until Grey discovers that Saint isn’t just an EMT. He’s a banished fae, and can only survive by draining the lives of those he loves.

All Saint needed was a simple bargain: one life willingly given for another. But as Saint’s feelings for Grey grow deeper, centuries of guilt leave him desperate to save a man who doesn’t want salvation, even if Grey’s life means Saint’s death.

When Grey’s depression consumes him, only he can decide if living is worth the struggle. Yet his choice may come too late to save his life . . . or Saint’s soul. And whatever choice he makes, it may shatter them both.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Riptide

Fave Five: Adult Romances with Trans Male MCs

A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde (Contemporary m/m)

What it Looks Like by Matthew J. Metzger (Contemporary m/m)

Bad Boy by Elliot Wake (Contemporary m/f)

The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz (Contemporary m/m)

A Matter of Disagreement by E.E. Ottoman (Steampunk m/m)

Bonus: The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper, coming October 31, 2016

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Backlist Book of the Month: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Since this month contains Bisexual Awareness Week, I had to choose one of my (and pretty much everyone’s) first and favorite bi books, Far From You by Tess Sharpe! Sharpe’s debut nails so much: addiction, recovery, chronic pain, grieving, and, of course, attraction not being limited to a single gender, no matter how unfriendly local circumstances are.

18296034Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

Buy it: Amazon I IndieBound I Powell’s I Book DepositoryBarnes & Noble (US)
Waterstones I WHSmith I Book Depository I Amazon (UK)
Amazon (Germany)

New Release Spotlight: Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time (An LGBT and Two-Spirit Sci-Fi Anthology)

As soon as this anthology was brought to my attention (h/t Lex Leone!) I reached out to the editor, Hope Nicholson, and asked if the authors would be open to contributing a little information about their stories. So, please check out the book itself below (only $5.00!) and then see what the authors have to say about their contributions to this cool-as-hell antho.

31560094Love Beyond, Body, Space, and Time is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.

This collection features prose stories by:
Cherie Dimaline “The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy,” “Red Rooms”
Gwen Benaway “Ceremonies for the Dead”
David Robertson “Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story,” Tales From Big Spirit series
Richard Van Camp “The Lesser Blessed,” “Three Feathers”
Mari Kurisato “Celia’s Song,” “Bent Box”
Nathan Adler “Wrist”
Daniel Heath Justice “The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles”
Darcie Little Badger “Nkásht íí, The Sea Under Texas”
Cleo Keahna
And an introduction by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair “Manitowapow,” with a foreword by Grace Dillon “Walking the Clouds”.
Edited by Hope Nicholson “Moonshot,” “The Secret Loves of Geek Girls”

Buy it: Kindle * Paperback
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Gwen Benaway

I wrote “Transition” because I wanted to see a 1st person narrative of an Indigenous transwoman in the world. I can’t remember ever reading a narrative with an Indigenous transwoman as the main voice, so it felt important to centre us as active subjects in literature. Another part of my desire was to also challenge Western models of becoming “female.” The transgender specific narratives I encounter are often about the medical process of transitioning like surgeries or hormones, but I am interested in exploring what transitioning means in an Indigenous context. We know there was Indigenous transwoman before contact in most Indigenous nations. I often wish I could call up those transgender aunties and ask them “what was it like for you?”. For them, transitioning must have been very different. Being female would have meant something different. They certainly were not going on hormones, removing body hair, or having surgeries, but they were also very clearly perceived and lived as women in our societies.

It is empowering for me to imagine a process of transitioning which is not about morphing our biological bodies, but about reclaiming our souls. Being transgender for Indigenous transwomen is spiritual. Our teachings say it comes from our relationship to the earth and the world around us. It’s intrinsically who we are and we demonstrate our femininity through our actions and responsibilities, not our appearance. In the context of this story, I wanted to place ceremony and Western science side by side and have a main character who works through her gender via both. I cheat a little and fall strongly on the side of her gender coming through her ancestors, but the idea of her female ancestors reaching out to her to guide her into womanhood is a really beautiful and loving image for me. She’s not “changing” her gender. She is reconnecting to who she has always been: an Indigenous woman interwoven into a web of powerful Indigenous women which stretches across time and space.

David Robertson

You don’t always get the opportunity to write a story that involves an LGBT couple, has one character that is Indigenous, and, oh yeah, is sci-fi. Needless to say, it was an amazing and challenging experience to write “Perfectly You.” I wanted to write a love story that felt real in an unreal setting, that didn’t fall into cliche or stereotype, and that was surprising in its narrative, rather than in the sexual orientation or cultural background of its protagonist. In the end, for me, “Perfectly You” really is saying that love is love, and love is timeless.

Richard Van Camp

“Aliens” was a fun piece to write. I believe that this is my third piece of writing as a woman and I’m proud to have placed this story in Fort Smith, my home town. I’ve always had a “what if?” story about aliens, as in, “What if they just showed up and stayed? What would we do?” I didn’t want this story to be about the Sky People as beings. I wanted this to be about the Sky People as a symbol of never being able to go back to the way humanity was before: I also wanted there to be hope with the gentle bubbling of the oceans. I pray that, in this story, the Sky People are coming to help and teach us what we need to get along and heal our planet together. I also wanted this to be a love story. I love it when friendships break down and people start making out. Mah! 🙂

When you listen to the hunters and trappers, so many of them have stories of seeing UFO’s and I believe them. This was a joy to write and I’m grateful to Hope Nicholson for asking me to create something for “Love Beyond Body, Space and Time.” Mahsi cho!

You’ll notice that I dedicated this story to Carla Ulrich. Carla is a director, producer, writer and actor from the North who has adapted three of my books and turned them into movies: “Hickey Gone Wrong”, “Three Feathers” and “The Blue Raven.” I’m so grateful for her and her vision in all that she does. The least I could do is dedicate a story to her.

“Aliens” is now the first story in my new short story collection manuscript “Moccasin Square Gardens” because it has such a playful spirit.

Mahsi.

Mari Kurisato

Imposter Syndrome is the short story of Aanji, a noncitizen artificial life-form who is desperate to escape a grim fate, using her human ancestors’ memories. Set several (hundred?) years after the events of Escape Light, it details one person’s attempt to reclaim her soul. It’s also very autobiographical in some spots, which is why I’m nervous and pleased as punch that the wonderful Hope L. Nicholson is publishing it, alongside amazing Indigenous authors like Doctor Darcie Little Badger, Daniel Heath Justice, Nathan Adler, Gwen Benaway, and Cherie Dimaline.

Nathan Adler

“Valediction at The Star View Motel” is about relationships, and death, and meteor-showers, and messages from beyond the grave, it’s about one of the strongest and lightest materials in the world, spider’s-silk, and love, and connection across time and space. The story started with the two characters—Edie and Mushkeg—and I knew they had this back-story forming, waiting to be told, so when Hope approached me about contributing to this Anthology, I thought this story would be a good fit, and that maybe it was time to write the story of how Edie and Mushkeg met.

Daniel Heath Justice

Hummingbirds fascinate me. They possess a kind of wild, fierce beauty you don’t see in other creatures; they’re brave, bold, temperamental, and dramatic. In so many ways, they embody a courageous certainty of self, and I wanted to capture some of this spirit in a story for those on the margins (especially queer and two-spirit Indigenous folks) who are coming to an understanding of their own special beauty but see too few examples to help inspire their struggle. This world isn’t kind to those who are different; we know this too well. But that’s only because of human prejudices—the rest of the world is teeming with strange beauty.

I drew a bit of inspiration from the Cherokee story about Hummingbird and how sacred tobacco came to heal the People through the skill and cleverness of a medicine man. He put on a feathered cloak and became a hummingbird to steal the plant from an island of selfish, murderous giants. But there are many different kinds of healing, and there are many different kinds of medicine. To me this is a story of love and self-acceptance, and the beauty that inhabits so many of us but is so often denied.

Darcie Little Badger

At its core, Né łe is a lighthearted story about lesbians and puppies in space. Perhaps counterintuitively, I – a horror fanatic – enjoy writing sweet comedies. That said, Né łe contains sad themes that are familiar to my tribe and many others, particularly dispossession. Her longing for a stolen home drives the Apache protagonist of Né łe to Mars.

As a final note, the Watson to my Holmes is a Navajo veterinarian; their guidance enabled me to write the sci-fi veterinary scenes in Né łe. I’m extremely grateful!

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Hope Nicholson is the publisher of Bedside Press and comics historian. Her latest book is a collection of indigenous science fiction and fantasy stories starring queer and two-spirit characters. She also works in reprinted work bringing attention to lost comics.

Ten Gay YAs Under Seven Bucks

Obviously one of the toughest things with regard to LGBTQIAP+ YA is accessibility, which manifests in a whole bunch of different ways. It’s tough to afford, it’s tough to find, it’s tough sometimes to know what’s queer, it’s tough to buy or borrow the stuff that is queer when you aren’t in a safe environment… it’s a lot.

To help with the “What is queer?” part, especially books you can safely buy/borrow without anyone being the wiser, make sure you check out the Under the Gaydar feature.

To help find some stuff that’s more affordable than your average $10+ book, check out the below (all links go to Amazon Affiliates link):

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(Please note that half these titles link to paperbacks, not ebooks)

Superior by Jessica Lack ($1.99)

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford ($1.99)

The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren by Cody Wagner

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis ($3.99)

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli ($4.51)

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg ($5.99)

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ($6.45)

Hero by Perry Moore ($6.48)

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera ($6.70)

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson ($6.70)

Guest Post: Recommendations for Polyamory in Fiction, by Shira Glassman

For those unfamiliar with Shira Glassman, she’s not only an author of some of the queerest fantasy around, but also my super go-to person when it comes to tough-to-find queer rep. (Her encyclopedic brain for indie queer lit is unmatched. Seriously.) So when I was getting requests for poly fic, I knew who to beg for a guest post of recs, and as always, Shira delivered!

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I don’t seek out poly specifically for its own sake, but I have nothing against it, so when it pops up in my LGBT reading searches I’ll read anything that suits my plot, demographics, and setting preferences just as I would with a two-person romance. For those unfamiliar with me in general, my preferences tend toward f/f, fiction with trans people, older men, cultural diversity (especially Jewish stuff), “found family”, costume drama, high fantasy, science fiction, and anything having to do with Central Europe or Florida. As such, here are the top recs from my poly shelf on Goodreads, at least two of which were finalists in the most recent Bi Book Awards:

She Whom I Love by Tess Bowery. Configuration: f/f/m triad; all parties involved with each other, although one of the women is pretty explicitly described, in period-appropriate equivalent terms, as homoromantic bisexual and is in love with the other woman whereas she’s only sexually interested in the man. The setting is Regency England and the book is unusual for a Regency romance not only in its poly triad but in the fact that all three characters are members of the working class: you have a corset maker, a lady’s maid, and an actress (which back then was not treated like royalty the way it is today.) Two women who have been friends since girlhood realize they’re in love with each other just about the same time they start a flirtation with a certain man. When they realize it’s the same man, they play a trick on him for revenge and then the next thing he knows he’s got two girlfriends. This is that story you want if you’re that person who gets frustrated at love triangles and says “why can’t they just ALL DATE?” The book’s main conflict comes from everyone trying to figure out how to make sure they’re being treated with as much respect as they deserve as human beings despite living in a class system that denigrates actresses or people born of sex workers, rather than bullshit manufactured conflict and misunderstandings. I was also impressed by the fact that it had actual adventure and action in the plot instead of just the romance. (Buy it here.)

Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher. Configuration: m/m/f triad where all parties are involved with each other. I initially assumed a book with a title this outrageous would be unabashedly silly, but no, far from it — this is actually a fully fleshed out complicated triad romance novel, complete with all the realistic turbulence and angst that any throuple (I’m sorry, I know that’s an awful word but I can’t help myself) would go through while navigating their beginning stages. This is a President/First Lady/Secret Service Former Boyfriend When They Were Navy SEALs Together setup. I was really impressed by how well rounded the book was in terms of character interaction besides the sex, of which, predictably, there is lots. I didn’t get bored by the extra sex scenes, either, since each one introduces a new angle (either within the D/s setup, or a new configuration of how all three of them will interact, since the wife initially starts out just watching, etc.) (Buy it here.)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. Configuration: f/f/f triad including trans woman; all parties involved with each other. Chameleon Moon is temporarily unavailable due to the publisher closing down, but the author will be reissuing it in a new self-published format to be quickly followed by several short stories and a Book Two. The male lead is a lizard man named Regan who will be on-the-page ace in the second edition as the author originally wanted. The female lead, a trans woman lounge-singer-turned-superhero named Evelyn, is involved in a f/f/f triad of all superhero women. They even have a child together of which she is one of the biological parents. The book is a “hopeful dystopian” (the author calls it a dys-hope-ian) taking place in an American city that was quarantined by force when everyone there began developing mutant superpowers in response to an overpresecribed wonderdrug. Evelyn and her superpowered girlfriends and the rest of the characters are fighting to bring happiness and justice to the inhabitants of the city. This isn’t a book with sex scenes; the poly representation is focused on love and family. Warning for deadnaming (which Evelyn defeats like a champ) but it’s possible that may not reappear in the second edition. (Buy it here.)

Midnight at the Orpheus by Alyssa Linn Palmer. Configuration: poly V, a bisexual woman with a girlfriend and a boyfriend. This is 1920’s Chicago gangster noir, and that means it comes with a lot of genre conventions: plenty of violence and death, and an ending that’s happy but highly unstable since her girlfriend and boyfriend are not involved with each other and are both violent people. The setting is very bi-normative in the sense that in this particular underworld culture it’s just accepted that some of the women are dating each other and never assumes that a woman who likes women is uninterested in men. There is also a gay cop antihero who is not part of the triad, so all in all a very queer take on a well-established genre. Warning for Irish and Italian slurs. (Buy it here.)

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi. Configuration: Multiple interlinked poly V’s as part of a found family. This is a book about queer disabled women fighting Big Pharma in space, with strong themes of found family, and the link between bodily autonomy and tough medical decisions. The main character is shown coming to terms with the idea of polyamory as she starts a relationship with a woman who is already involved with someone else, who is also involved with someone else. Warning for loss of family members and also a graphic mutilation flashback. (Buy it here.)

One final note: the Fierce Family anthology is a wonderful collection of sci-fi and fantasy shorts written on the theme of “positive depictions of queer families.” It has plenty of nonbinary representation and families with two moms, and cis m/m isn’t the majority of the stories. I’m mentioning it here because of the story about the space pirates–both the pirates and the ship being attacked have a crew of a bi, poly family. That was just so remarkable that I think it deserves special recognition. The whole anthology is worth it, though. (Buy it here.)

I don’t really have anything of substance of my own to offer as far as poly representation goes, except for a tiny piece of erotica about three Chanukah fairies (Eitan’s Chord.”) Also, I’m told my witch/tavern owner Eshvat (Climbing the Date Palm) is “solopoly” because she’s aromantic and doesn’t form romantic connections with her casual sexual partners. But maybe some day! (Buy Shira’s books here!)

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romanescoShira Glassman is a violinist living in Florida with a very good human and a very bad cat. She is best known for writing fluffy queer fantasy that draws inspiration from her tropical upbringing, Jewish heritage and present life, and French and German operas. She believes that we need infinite princess, dragon, and superhero stories for all the demographics who never got to play those roles when she was little; some of the ones she’s written have made it to the finals of the Bi Book Awards and Golden Crown Literary Society awards. Her latest is The Olive Conspiracy, about a queen and her found-family saving their country’s agriculture from a foreign plot.

Ten F/F YAs Under Five Bucks

Obviously one of the toughest things with regard to LGBTQIAP+ YA is accessibility, which manifests in a whole bunch of different ways. It’s tough to afford, it’s tough to find, it’s tough sometimes to know what’s queer, it’s tough to buy or borrow the stuff that is queer when you aren’t in a safe environment… it’s a lot.

To help with the “What is queer?” part, especially books you can safely buy/borrow without anyone being the wiser, make sure you check out the Under the Gaydar feature.

To help find some stuff that’s more affordable than your average $10+ book, check out the below (all links go to Amazon Affiliates link):

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Complementary and Acute by Ella Lyons ($0.99)

Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley ($2.99)

Taking Flight by Siera Maley ($2.99)

Colorblind by Siera Maley ($2.99)

Style by Chelsea M. Cameron ($3.99)

Forgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters ($3.99)

Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas ($3.99)

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler ($4.49)

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley ($4.74)

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton ($4.99)

Fave Five: Gay Christian MCs in YA

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown 

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis 

Coming Out Catholic by Alex Dunkin

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen 

The God Box by Alex Sanchez

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Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!