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Circe — Madeline Miller
This book reminded me how much I remember of Greek myth and tragedy. I loved it. Circe is such an excellent protagonist, at the edges of society, ousted from gods and man alike. If you’ve read the Odyssey, this is a must read.
Red Clocks — Leni Zumas
A bit too close to our dystopian reality for my liking, but this was well-written, and full of strong and interesting women. I read this as I was leaving Oregon, and so a lot of it was a little bittersweet. This reads as a more realistic (sadly) handmaid’s tale.
Sympathy — Olivia Sudjic *
Wow, I loved this book. A story centered around sadness, obsession, and longing—for a family, for a lover, for a place. This was very well-written, and compelling, especially for a first effort. Some of the same Instagram ground is covered in this as is in Ingrid Goes West, but this felt more real. It’s also deeply, darkly hilarious, from the description of the awful tech boyfriend, to just how bad families can be for folks.
Invasions — Calvin Gimpelevich
My review. TL;DR it was great. Buy it.
Love & Estrogen — Samantha Allen
I don’t usually read trans memoir—and I have a forthcoming piece that challenges and lampoons it to a degree—but Samantha is a friend and her story is close to my heart because of that. I had the chance to chat with her a lot through the course of part of this love and transition story, and I enjoyed the way she told it. This memoir definitely touched on some of the tropes of the genre, but by also being a wonderful love story, it manages to eschew many more.
The Tea Master & the Detective — Aliette de Bodard **
This was a fun detective tale with a mysterious Sherlock and a spaceship Watson. The setup never quite paid off with its mystery, but I look forward to reading more books in the series.
State Tectonics – Malka Older
A fantastic conclusion to the Centenal Cycle Trilogy. I wish I could read a few more books from this universe, which I always figure is a great sign with any speculative fiction series. I keep recommending this trilogy to friends, both as an interesting political system, and as a gripping techno-political thriller with some truly rad female characters. I didn’t love every PoV character from State Tectonics as much as I did the previous two books, but that makes sense, as this book was about new beginnings, to a degree.
Convenience Store Woman — Sayaka Murata **
Wow. This book was a lot more bizarre than I expected based on the recommendations I’d read—more Abe than H. Murakami. I loved the narrator, and the rich descriptions of convenience store life. This book was hilarious and wild. One of my favorites this year.
Would You Rather — Katie Heaney
A touching memoir of coming-out and learning that past dating disinterest was just latent sapphism, lol. There’s a lot to love about this book, and also quite a bit of cringe. It’s a coming-of-age in a way, and overall I’d recommend it to young dykes and old, or anyone wondering if their sexuality is “real”.
Worth the Wait — Karelia Stetz-Waters *
This was a corny AF lesbian romance. Lots of random sex, and a main plot of “the cute femme can’t come out bc reasons”. Nothing groundbreaking, but it was an easy read.
Record of a Spaceborn Few — Becky Chambers
This was a much slower-paced book than the previous two, and was largely a slice of life about Exodans—the humans who left Earth to take their chances in the universe after Earth became uninhabitable. I enjoyed the various characters, the queer relationships, and the color added to this way of life. Sometimes it’s nice to have a space scifi book that isn’t full of lasers and danger.
Fingersmith — Sarah Waters *
In an odd turn of fate, I’d seen the Handmaiden before I read this book, so the English setting was strange compared to the eerie world of Korean director Park Chan-Wook. I knew most of the twists because of the film, but Waters has a deft way with descriptions, and Maud and Sue came alive on the page. It felt like I was reading this for weeks, but that’s likely because I devoted little time to reading. I’m glad I finished this, and recommend it if you love multi-layered, deftly-woven stories.
Empire Ascendant — Kameron Hurley
A wild second installment in the Mirror Empire trilogy that is so chock-full of characters and their (spoiler alert) doubles, that I got a bit confused. There’s a glossary and character list in the back, but dang, this is some GoT stuff. I enjoyed the descent into chaos in this book, and I’m eagerly anticipating the conclusion(?) in the third. Also one of the only books I know that has a character using ze/hir pronouns, but it also unhelpfully talks about sex as different from and perhaps less malleable than gender, so I wouldn’t call this a “dope representation of trans folks,” so much as “well there’s some genderqueerness I guess”.
Adventure Zone: There Be Gerblins
A masterful adaptation of the podcast D&D romp into a graphic novel. I absolutely loved this. I’m not sure if this would be as fun if you hadn’t listened to the podcast, but if you haven’t, get on it… it’s free and it’s delightful.
La Bastarda — Trifonia Melibea Obono *
A lesbian novel from Equatorial Guinea that tells a short story of a woman abandoned by her father, and orphaned by her mother who finds herself falling for another woman. The first half was full of build-up and world-building, but the back half felt like a very rushed piece, as though Trifonia was hoping to get it all out in a final effort. I enjoyed this book, but the bits that were glossed over about Okomo’s journeys, her grandfather’s death, and other scenes could’ve been fleshed-out.
Blackfish City — Sam J. Miller **
This book ruled, and I was super surprised at how much I loved it. Absolutely riveting, and a blast. The individual characters felt very distict, and were easy to follow, and the world felt really interesting.
Infidel — Kameron Hurley
Really loving this series about a tough AF bounty hunter lady named Nyx. The world-building is pretty interesting, and the story moves forward at a pretty good clip. All-told, this is a fun sci-fi action novel.
Paprika — Yasutaka Tsutsui
A fantasticly bizarre story of science, dreams, desire, and the smallness of men. I’d seen the anime adapted from this book years ago, so I had some predisposition towards envisioning characters a certain way, but this book goes to way different places than I remember the movie going. I liked this quite a bit, save for the weird shit with sexual assault. Like many books written by a guy, it shows.
Little Fish — Casey Plett
Outstanding and devastating. This is a book full of people I’ve known, slept with, and smiled at across the room. Family is a tenuous thing, and Little Fish finds space for it throughout. I’m not sure what I would’ve made with this years ago, but now, it’s a sad and good ache. I hope Casey keeps writing, and sharing her work with us for years to come. I read this in one go, and it was a wild ride that had me laughing and crying.
Swearing Off Stars — Danielle Wong *
Started off alright, but quickly telegraphed to an all-to-common “I can’t really be with you until it’s too late” lesbian novel. I also kept thinking an editor had asked her to just add tons of adjectives, willy-nilly. It was an odd read, and the time-jumps didn’t help. If you can write a lesbian romance in 2017, why would you lean so hard on tropes of one woman dying? Super annoying. It was a pretty quick read at least. Read for a lesbian book club.
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach — Kelly Robson **
A cool scifi short novel where the future is barren, but at least there’s time-travel. I wanted more world-building, and probably a couple more books in this story, but that also means I liked this book quite a bit. The back half of the book felt much faster than the lead-up, and much of the action was compacted, but it was a fun adventure. This is a solid addition to the burgeoning eco-scifi genre.
Gold, Fame, Citris — Claire Vaye Watkins
Interesting book about a post-apocolyptic wasteland America and the ideas of survival and family. I enjoyed this.
Space Opera — Catherynne M. Valente **
Uproriously fun, and silly throughout. Take Douglas Adams, add in some queerness, and an obsession with Eurovision. Loved this from start to finish. I devoured the backhalf of this book in one sitting at a cafe in Copenhagen, and found myself crying in the afterword/credits.
Caszandra — Andrea Höst
Ugh, I wanted to enjoy the rest of this story, but this book was so exceedingly dull. I loathe that the main character was setup to not only get married, but have kids at ~19 years old. Fuck that. This series started off well, but ended up being even worse than Twilight. Read the first book, and skip the rest.
Lab Rat One — Andrea Höst
Ok, this series is exceedingly straight, and that’s a bummer. I wish there was a lot less pining after the sad boy, but the magic and tech continues to be interesting. The pacing is a little lax, and I’ve gotten slightly sick of the cycles of “power then injury” that Cass goes through, but I’m going to finish this out.
Stray — Andrea Höst
This was recommended to me by my buddy Nick, and I’d avoided it for unknown reasons. Maybe the cover was too low-budget? But, this book is really fun. I think this series kinda qualifies as YA, but the journal nature, as well as the mystery of scifi tech/magic systems got me deep into the world. A really nice vacation read.
All Systems Red — Martha Wells
Pretty fun book about a “murderbot” who would rather be watching tv dramas than shooting anything. I’m looking forward to the next few books.
Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country — Chavisa Woods **
A truly excellent short-story collection that pairs well with some of the stories in Her Body and Other Stories. This book reminded me of growing up southern baptist in Texas, after September 11th. Really beautiflly written, and quite melancholy.
A Wrinkle in Time — Madeline L’lengle**
This was a re-read, but I loved diving through it again.
The End of My Career — Martha Grover
Hilarious, sad, and real; the End of My Career is a very intimate look at life in Portland as a chronically ill woman with history and a sense of humor. I loved this. I wish it were gayer, but I wish everything were gayer, so. As a more recent Portlander, the pain, and amusement she talks about watching her city change is similar to how I felt about my home of Austin.
Soulless — Gail Corrigan **
Wow, I hated this. I started reading it with a wry grin, but couldn’t ever decide if it meant to be as insipid as it was. I never want to read about how hot a wereman is again. I never want to read about umbrellas, or petticoats.
Acceptance — Jeff Vandermeer
The final book in the Southern Reach trilogy ties everything together, and provides a lot of backstory and history. There’s so much that’s desperately sad in this book, and I love it.
Authority — Jeff Vandermeer
I loved this second book both times I read it, because so much of it is a slow creep of bueracracy and questions. Why isn’t anyone giving Control a straight answer? What’s with Ghost Bird? Ugh, this series is fantastic.
Annihilation — Jeff Vandermeer
This is a re-read, because right after seeing the movie based on this book, I wanted to dive back into Area X. To me, this series still captures all the best parts of Vandermeer’s wierdness in a cohesive way. If Borne was oddly funny, this book is just odd, and City of Saints & Madmen is, perhaps, homicidal. I’m still not sure if there are many hidden things in this book, but I also haven’t looked too deep, bc City of Saints & Madmen sucked me in in a way I found frightenting.
Goodbye, Things — Fumio Sasaki
What an odd book full of short, declarative sentences. Some bits of this were great, but a lot of it was about what you’d expect from a Medium article. The bit about the owl statues was golden.
The Language of Power — Rosemary Kirstein
A great fourth book in a series I’ve really loved. This book furthers the “what the fuck are the wizards, and what’re they doing” plotline. A lot of suspicions from the past few books have led me here. There’s some really neat stuff left to figure out, so I hope that in a few years we’ll have book 5 & 6.
Girls on Fire — Robin Wasserman
Fantastic coming-of-age book. I really loved all the grunge, and surrepitious drinking, and peer-pressure.
Binti: Night Masquerade — Nnedi Okafor
The trilogy comes to an ok conclusion. This wasn’t my favorite Binti (the first one has that handily covered). Additionally, the pacing was wacky. There was a lot of time spent building up to a conflict that doesn’t go very far, then an unsatisfying conclusion. The main character ends up having so much thrown at her with little-to-no consequence, that the whole thing gets to a comic level of ridiculousness.
Null States — Malka Older
A nice sequel to Infomocracy that explored some new characters while still letting Mishma and Ken run around a bit. Much of this book was a build-up that never seemed to deliver, but it feels like the story will come to a head a bit more in the potential next book.
Infomocracy — Malka Older
This techno political thriller ruled. This story created the kind of world I want to dig around in for some time to come, so I’m glad there’s at least one more.
Autonomous — Annalee Newitz **
Drug piracy, copyright, and queerness. I really loved this story, save for the happy ending for the cops.
On Such a Full Sea — Chang-Rae Lee
Really enjoyed this futuristic look at America and the fall of our current system. Lots of discussion of class, immigration, and identity. The narrator was a little distracting, but it was an interesting narrative conceit.
Reacquainted with Life — Kokumo
The Kingdom of Gods — NK Jemison
Slice Harvester — Colin Atrophy Hagendorf
The Inheritance Trilogy — NK Jemison
The Remedy — Zena Sherman
Texts from Jane Eyre — Mallory Ortberg
I didn’t understand half of this, because Mallory & I have divergent tastes, but she gave me a European paperback, so I read it finally after it being sold out in a bunch of places. Love her.
Freedom is a Constant Struggle — Angela Davis **
This was a coven book club book. It was lovely, but also super repetitive, because most of the talks/essays were written/given around the same time, so the themes & topics are the same. Important, but I probably didn’t need to read them all.
The Small Backs of Children — Lydia Yuknavitch
Objects in Mirror are Closer… — Kate Carroll deGates *
Magician King — Lev Grossman
Magician’s Land — Lev Grossman
100 Crushes — Elisha Lim
Wet Moon Vol. 1 — Sophie Campbell
The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1 — Kameron Hurley
Fire — Elizabeth Hand
Home — Nnedi Okafor **
A Conjuring of Light — VE Schwab
Women’s Barracks - Tereska Torres *
Theresa + Isabelle — Violette LeDuc *
For Your Own Good — Leah Horlick
Difficult Women — Roxanne Gay
Exit West — Moisin Hamid **
Another book club book. This was a really neat exploration of immigration, family, and place. I super loved this book.
Sex Object — Jessica Valenti
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet — Becky Chambers **
A Herstory of Transmasculine Identities — Michael Eric Brown
Literally Show Me a Healthy Person — Darcie Wilder
Saga Vol. 7 — Fiona Staples
A Closed and Common Orbit — Becky Chambers
The Border of Paradise — Esme Wang **
I’m in Friend Love with You — Yumi Sakugawa
Borne — Jeff Vandemeer
Where the Words End & My Body Begins — Amber Dawn
Because They Wanted to: Stories — Mary Gaitskill
Pony Castle — Sofia Banzhaf
The Slow Fix — Ivan Coyote
x-23 Collection — Marjorie Liu
APOSIMZ 1-4 — Nihei Tsutomu
Murcielago Vol.1 — Yoshinarakana
Moshi Moshi — Banana Yoshimoto
The Wicked & Divine — Kieron Gillen
The Orange Eats Creeps — Grace Krilanovich
Nine Cuts — Audrey Chin
Monstress Vol.2: The Blood — Marjorie Liu
Murcielago Vol.2 — Yoshinarakana
Motor Crush Vol.1 — Babs Tarr
I’m really stoked on this queer lady motorcycle racing comic. Like, damn. I can’t wait for the next one. The art is fantastic, and the story is a little light, but hints at a lot more. The world seems interesting. Why do the motorcycles get addicted?
The Idiot — Elif Batuman
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness — Kabi Nagata
Hard Boiled & Hard Luck — Banana Yoshimoto
A nice slice-of life, that’s sad in a way that is very refreshing in the summer. These books are about losses, and how to cope and move forward. I’m really enjoying rediscovering Banana Yoshimoto’s writing.
Bittersweet — Nevada Barr *
An easy-enough read, but the story was too “femme danger & butch power” for me. The “love” story takes place between a late-20s/early-30s woman and a teenager (gross), and at a certain point they basically agree that if a man tries to marry Sarah, she’ll just go along — bc obviously femme women are just waiting for a man, and butches have to fight those men off bc we have no agency. I dunno. This author is also, AFAIK straight… which is doubly strange. Weird shit happens in this, and maybe it’s worth reading if you’re super into the 19th century “west,” but the adult on teen predatory love and the bullshit masc > femme stuff is really not my bag.
Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra — Kevin Panetta
Cute sailor-moon-style girl team of fighters. Really enjoyed how this was drawn, and the queerness of a few of the characters. If you need something lighthearted, it’s worth a read.
Generation Loss — Elizabeth Hand
I’d only read Fire, a short story collection by Hand, before and wasn’t sure what to expect. It was exciting expecting this to be odd literary fiction, then discovering it’s a moody mystery. Definitely fun, and odd, and great.
Witches, Sluts, Feminists — Kristen J. Sollee **
This was a decent non-fiction exploration of witches & to a degree, sluts & feminists through the ages. It focuses primarily on the Americas, and despite my usual disinterest in non-fiction this was fun and informative enough to carry me through on a camping trip during the eclipse. Time to find some DMT for my flying broom.
God’s War — Kameron Hurley **
Queer bounty hunters, devout magicians, and so much sand intermingled in this fun ride through a Islam-based religion colonized planet where organs are bought and sold, and a war between two countries rages on pointlessly. I wanted to stay in this world for longer, as new wrinkles kept being added. Luckily, there’s a sequel.
The Stone Sky — NK Jemison
Wow, this was a fantastic ending to a delightful trilogy. Loved this story of family, world-rending powers, and ecology. Seriously one of the best things I’ve read in years, in fantasy or literature.
The Merry Spinster — Mallory Ortberg
Notes from a Crocodile — Qiu Miaojin **
This book was such a lovely combination of melancholy feelings, and slightly obsessive lesbian love. I loved all of the Abe references.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe — Fannie Flagg *
This was very much like a long conversation with an old woman in the south, like say, a grandma. I had a great time reading this, but there was a long, slow burn until I was crying, from my intitial “meh, this is ok.”
Paper Girls: Vol. 3 — Brian K Vaughn
I still have no idea where this is going, but so far it’s still a fun ride.
Bitch Planet: Vol. 2 — Kelly Sue DeConnick
Trans women were paid to consult on this volume, and it shows. I’m super curious to see where the women on thr prison planet wind up. The art in this isn’t my favorite, but it seems well-written at least.
Ink & Bone — Rachel Caine
This is the first in a series I’ll probably read the rest of. It was a cute and occasionally brutal story about the flow of information, and what might have occurred if the library of Alexandria had become a world-controlling organization. There’s a YA/Harry Potter vibe to the whole thing.
Ash — Malinda Lo *
Retelling and retooling the Cinderalla tale into a lesbian romance, Ash is a pretty fun read. I blazed through this quickly, and am curious to read more from Lo. Compared to most books we read for Lesbian Book Club, this was a very light, but we-written book, and that’s a nice respite. I’m always here for books where the protagonist falls in love with a huntress.
The Witch’s Daughter — Paula Brackston ***
A fun tale told in the present and past of a witch on the run, and her new apprentice. This book drew me in and kept me awake late so I could find out what happened next. I’m excited to read the second one. A definite improvement over the first book for this club, which I quit part-way through.
The Witches of New York — Ami McKay **
This book was great. I read a lot of witch books this month, but this was by far my favorite. It captured the New York or yore well, and delightfully set up for a few more stories about these women and their tea and sympathy shop. The magic in this book was better fleshed-out than The Witch’s Daughter, and I enjoyed the church being the enemy, though demons vs. witches was an odd choice.
The Little Book of Hygge — Meik Wiking
Broke my rule about reading white guys to read this random book about Hygge. TBH I thought the author was a woman for most of the book. Oh well. This is a book all about candles, coziness, and of course, hygge. Turn the lights down low, light some tallow, and drink some gløgg this winter to make even a Copenhagen/Portland winter happy. I was happy to find that I’m already living a hella hygge life, but got some further tips on hyggeligt.
Rose of No Man’s Land — Michelle Tea
This is a lesser-known Tea book, but also one of her few true fiction books. This was kinda cute, and definitely an intense slice of life of a young maybe lesbian near Boston, complete with mall life, and scoring drugs and alcohol. It’s a short book, but I really liked it.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit — Jeaneatte Winterson
This was a re-read, but dang. I’m excited to read the more real-life version of her story Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal soon. Growing up in a religious home, albeit a fortunately less zealous one as a queer woman this book meant a lot.
Her Body and Other Parties — Carmen Maria Machado
Wow. This short-story collection knocked me back with the depth and power of its often odd stories. The midsection of the book satirically and diabolically explores a popular network crime drama, and reading it I immediately went from “what the hell?” to “omg I love this”. I am thrumming with anticipation of more work from Machado. This is probably the best thing I’ve read this year.
Are You My Mother? — Alison Bechdel
A messy tangle of a book and metabook about a mother and therapy. I liked this, but it’s coming from such a strange distant place I wasn’t able to immediately connect to it in the way I did with Fun Home. I’m going to keep thinking about this one.
Basic Witches — Jaya Saxena & Jess Zimmerman **
A series of spells, and a lot of nice discussion of how to care for oneself with witchcraft, presence of mind, and good friends. I liked this a lot, but it was fairly, well, basic. This would be a great introduction to give to a younger person.
Caraval — Stephanie Garber
Some light-hearted YA to close out the year. This was a well-told, if sometimes upsetting story. A lot of this had me wondering: straight people, are you ok?
* Lesbian Book Club
** Ghost Book Club
*** Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Club