Adrift in Starlight (Mindi Briar)

Adrift in Starlight is the first novel in the Halcyon Universe series by Mindi Briar.
Finished on: 18.6.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give away.]

Content Note: (for this review) misgendering, acemisia, eugenics; for the novel you can find CNs in the book.

Plot:
Tai is a courtesan, and they are very good at their job. That’s why they get hired by actor Xander Bose. Only he doesn’t want to hire them for himself, but for his fiancé Aisha who he feels needs a bit of loosening up. With the money Xander offers, Tai just can’t afford to say no. But they soon realize that Aisha – a career-focused historian with a touch aversion – may not be easily seduced. When Tai comes to the museum opening of the exhibition on insectoid aliens that Aisha curated, things take a very unexpected turn for both of them, though.

I really enjoyed Adrift in Starlight. It’s a quick, sweet queer romance in space that gives us a nice ending for Aisha and Tai, while hinting that there is more to come in this world. Absolutely lovely.

The book cover showing a femme blond person reaching for a Black woman in front of a pink planet.
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Restrained Desires (Katherine McIntyre)

Restrained Desires is the third novel in the Rehoboth Pact series by Katherine McIntyre.
Finished on: 17.4.2022
[I won this book in thr LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, fatmisia

Plot:
After years of her mother chipping away at her self-esteem, Kyle is convinced that she will never find the woman who is right for her, who will find her attractive. Even despite her best friend Aubrey’s attempt to be her wing-person. The only person Aubrey would never try to set her up with? Her little sister Chelsea, straight, freshly divorced and out to have a good time, now that she’s free again. But that doesn’t keep Kyle from finding her gorgeous. When Kyle confides in Chelsea that she has announced to her family that she will bring home a girlfriend, Chelsea offers to accompany her. And when Chelsea mentions that she would like to explore her kinky side, Kyle is there to go to the BDSM club with her. As the two start to spend more and more time together, they become closer. But could they actually work as a couple?

Restrained Desires is a sweet romance that reads quickly. I expected it to be a bit more sex-driven and kinky than it is, but I can’t say I minded that it concentrated on the fake dating trope, definitely a personal favorite. In short, I really enjoyed it.

The book cover showing a woman hugging another from behind, both smiling.
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The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

The Song of Achilles is the first novel by Madeline Miller. It’s a retelling of Homer‘s Iliad.
Finished on: 8.4.2022

Content Note: ableism, rape

Plot:
Patroclus is nothing like his father King Menoetius hoped, and after he accidentally kills a boy, he is exiled to Phthia, to the court of King Peleus. Peleus’ son Achilles is the star there, admired by everyone. Patroclus, on the other hand, quickly finds himself an outsider there as well. But when he catches Achilles’ attention, it’s the beginning of a love that will last a lifetime, and longer.

The Song of Achilles is a beautifully written book that finally gives Achilles and Patroclus their queer due. I absolutely enjoyed reading it.

The book cover showing a bow and arrow arranged in the shape of a heart.
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A Prisoner to Spring (Brigid Collins)

A Prisoner to Spring is the first book in the Winter’s Consort series by Brigid Collins.
Finished on: 15.3.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Plot:
After Chelsea got left at the altar, she swore that she would never put on a wedding dress ever again. But when her best friend Jennifer gets married and asks Chelsea to wear a wedding dress the night before – an old family tradition meant to confuse fairies who might be looking to steal the bride – Chelsea agrees to it. What could be the harm after all? Well, much to Chelsea’s surprise an actually fairy does show up and whisks her away to the Winter Queen’s court to get married. The Winter Queen is the most gorgeous person Chelsea has ever seen, but Chelsea still doesn’t want to get married. But dealing with a fairy is tricky business and Chelsea has to be very careful how to proceed.

A Prisoner to Spring is a nice, queer fairy tale (in the literal sense). It’s got a nice premise that it executes well. While I wouldn’t go so far to say that it is sensational, I really enjoyed it and I definitely want more queer/sapphic fairies in my life.

The book cover showing a woman with flowing black hair among ice-covered twigs and flowers.
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Real Life (Brandon Taylor)

Real Life is the first novel by Brandon Taylor.
Finished on: 13.3.2022

Content Note: child sexual abuse, sexualized violence, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Wallace works on his doctorate in Chemistry at a small Midwestern university. His life is spent mostly in the lab, with occasional meet-ups with his friends, most of whom are also pre-docs in Chemistry. Wallace, being the only Black person in the lab, coming from a poor background and being one of the few queer people at university, doesn’t feel like he belongs, but so far he has muddled through. But over the course of one weekend, the balance he has found in his life shifts considerably, though.

I expected Real Life to not be a happy book, but I didn’t quite anticipate just how heavy it would be (content notes in the book would have been nice). That being said, it is a sign of how well-structured and well-written it is to make you feel this weight. And it is certainly worth subjecting yourself to it.

The book cover showing black boxes on a red background, vaguely reminiscent of lab results. On top of one of the boxes is a sparrow.
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No Filter and Other Lies (Crystal Maldonado)

No Filter and Other Lies is the second novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 4.3.2022

Plot:
Kat loves photography, and she has carefully curated her instagram to show the best of her photos. Nevertheless, her follower count remains low – much lower than her best friends’, Hari, Marcus and Luis. She suspects this might have to do with the fact that she is fat and Brown. After a fight with Hari, with whom she has been making out despite the naggling suspicion that he likes her more than she him, Kat makes a bad decision: she takes the photos of her friend Becca who is blond, thin, beautiful and not on social media and creates a fake account with them. Kat starts regretting it pretty immediately but when the account keeps raking in likes and this really cute girl, Elena, starts messaging the fake profile, Kat can’t quite give it up.

No Filter and Other Lies is cute and has a queer, fat Latina as the protagonist which is something I am completely here for. And yet, it didn’t quite make me happy.

The book cover showing a drawing of a fat Latina with a camera. Behind her a snapshots of a fat girl with pink hair, a blond girl, and a Brown guy.
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Sanguen Daemonis (Anna Zabini)

Sanguen Daemonis is the first novel by Anna Zabini. [There is no English translation, afaik.]
Finished on: 2.2.2022

Content Note: the book contains extensive content notes for each chapter, so let me just point out that this is not a happy book and loads of warnings apply

Plot:
Sivan and Shanna are twins. They are very close, but also very different. While Shanna follows in their parents political footsteps and is about to become head of the Chosen in Vienna, the people possessed by but in control of a demon, Sivan is the black sheep of the family and has enough to do with his mental health than to be particularly ambitious. Right around the same time, both of them meet people they didn’t expect. Sivan meets Nikola, an Untouchable (who can’t be possessed but draw demons in) from Bratislava recruited to Vienna rather against his will. And Shanna meets Nesrin, a Mortal (meaning she can be possessed by a demon, but would succumb to its control) independent journalist. The fates of all four of them become intertwined with the politics of the Chosen and the resistance who grapple for control.

Sanguen Daemonis was a really good read that I devoured in only a few days. While there were a few moments here and there that reminded me of the fact that it is a debut novel, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the world-building is innovative, the characters are awesome and the story is dark, but not hopeless. In short, I really liked it.

The book cover showing a person with eyes that glow golden holding up an umbrella in the rain. There are tentacles under the umbrella.
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Pumpkin (Julie Murphy)

Pumpkin is a novel by Julie Murphy. It’s a companion to Dumplin’ and Puddin’.
Finished on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Waylon Brewer is a gay, fat boy stuck in a small town. He is desperately waiting for High School to be over, so he and his twin sister Clementine can get out of there and he can actually start to be as flamboyant as he wants to be. Not that he is able to hide that he is gay, even if he wanted to. But there is “being femme” and then there is “being a sparkling queen”, and Waylon isn’t ready to be the latter in Clover City. That doesn’t keep him from creating Miss Pumpkin Patch and making an audition video for his favorite drag reality TV show though. When that video gets out and is circulated in school, it leads to him being nominated for prom queen, and Clem’s girlfriend Hannah is nominated for prom king. Waylon has a choice to make: turn himself down as much as he can, or finally go full Waylon, even if that means spending a lot of time with gorgeous, but infuriating prom king nominee Tucker.

Pumpkin is a wonderfully sweet, funny read that gives you just the right amount of fluff and romance, with a nice dose of life advice we can all take to heart a little more.

The pink book cover showing the graphic of a ginger fat boy wearing a suit, a rainbow kummerbund and red high-heels.
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Signal Boost (Alyssa Cole)

Signal Boost is the second novel in the Off the Grid trilogy by Alyssa Cole.
Finished on: 31.10.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel in the series.]

Content Note: suicidal thoughts, mention of rape and assault

Plot:
After electricity cut off everywhere, and with it all kind of communication systems, John and his best friend Arden made their way to his parents’ cabin. Now they have settled into a more or less comfortable routine with John’s parents and his siblings. Well, as comfortable as the end of the world can probably get. Until one night, John surprises a guy as he tries to steal their tomatoes. Mykhail wasn’t as lucky in the apocalypse as them, but as an astrophycisist he brings information of what might have happened – and a plan of how he may be able to help. For that, he needs to trek to his old university. John, who felt nothing but useless recently and who finds Mykhail very attractive indeed, is determined to go along and see if he can’t help either.

Signal Boost is a quick read that draws you in and makes you root for the characters. The plot itself is a little uneven, but as it takes a backseat to the characters and their relationship, I didn’t mind that too much.

The book cover shwoing an Asian man in front of a starry night sky.
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Queer*Welten 05/2021

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 5 contains three short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 5.10.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

I’m really happy with my Queer*Welten subscription. Each magazine is different in tone and style, and there’s always something to discover. There’s really nothing more you could hope for.

The magazine cover showing a painting of a futuristic greenhouse with a cupola, a pool and pillars with plants winding around them.
Read more about each of the stories