Book Reviews

Queer Lit Readathon 2021 Roundup #bookreviews #QueerLitRead

I found this readathon on Instagram in September 2021 and joined them for the #QueerWeekend with the stand-alone novel and memoir, and again for a week of reading in early December with the two series and the second memoir. I really enjoyed tackling my TBR with a reading community.

About the Book

From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“He’s hot.”

“I don’t know. Somehow, when someone is a jerk, their hotness level drop by at least fifty percent”

Love that!

There’s a lot to like about this book: Felix discovering where he belongs, being oblivious to all the good in his life and then seeing it and appreciating it, the rollercoaster love story, the empowerment he finds within community and within himself, the happy endings to so many things that have hurt him unnecessarily, and the art!

But… The constant swearing and use of the Lord’s name in vain was really irritating and absolutely unnecessary. Minus a star for that. Usually I would have DNFed the book based on that alone – luckily the book was recommended to me by someone whose reading tastes I trust.

What bothered me, though, was that every villain in Felix’s life was white or with white ancestry: Declan (Irish father, red in hair), Austin (blue eyes and blonde hair), the mean girls, etc. The only good white person he knows is Leah. Which is a sad statement. Though it’s an important issue to look at (the privilege of white gay men versus those more marginalised), it isn’t examined and instead used to create villains in Felix’s world. Looking at all of Felix’s identities – transgender, gay and black – would’ve made a more rounded story instead of just focusing on the first two and using the last to fill out the villains.

A good story. About halfway through, I thought: Boys are so oblivious! Which reminded me of being a teenager. The story transports you into the world of teenagers, makes you root for Felix as much as you want to shake sense into him, makes you feel the highs and lows, and doesn’t let you go until the very end.

3.5 stars

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about a life shaped by music in this candid, heartfelt, and intimate story.

Brandi Carlile was born into a musically gifted, impoverished family on the outskirts of Seattle and grew up in a constant state of change, moving from house to house, trailer to trailer, 14 times in as many years. Though imperfect in every way, her dysfunctional childhood was as beautiful as it was strange, and as nurturing as it was difficult. At the age of five, Brandi contracted bacterial meningitis, which almost took her life, leaving an indelible mark on her formative years and altering her journey into young adulthood.

As an openly gay teenager, Brandi grappled with the tension between her sexuality and her faith when her pastor publicly refused to baptize her on the day of the ceremony. Shockingly, her small town rallied around Brandi in support and set her on a path to salvation where the rest of the misfits and rejects find it: through twisted, joyful, weird, and wonderful music.

In Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile takes listeners through the events of her life that shaped her very raw art – from her start at a local singing competition where she performed Elton John’s “Honky Cat” in a bedazzled white polyester suit, to her first break opening for Dave Matthews Band, to many sleepless tours over 15 years and six studio albums, all while raising two children with her wife, Catherine Shepherd. This hard-won success led her to collaborations with personal heroes like Elton John, Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, Pearl Jam, Tanya Tucker, and Joni Mitchell, as well as her peers in the supergroup The Highwomen, and ultimately to the Grammy stage, where she converted millions of viewers into instant fans.

Evocative and piercingly honest, Broken Horses is at once an examination of faith through the eyes of a person rejected by the church’s basic tenets and a meditation on the moments and lyrics that have shaped the life of a creative mind, a brilliant artist, and a genuine empath on a mission to give back.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“Sometimes with the kindness in their eyes they fool you into thinking they’re somehow dependent on you… that you are their person. This is a gift and a lie. They are so much more mystical than that. A horse can kill you. Especially a broken one. Every moment you spend with him is a moment he’s simply deciding to let you live.

I had two broken horses… and they were the most unbroken creatures I’ve met here on earth.”

This absolutely resonated with me. I have two who allow me to live.

So, I’ve been following Brandi on Instagram since just before Covid hit. Much of the end of the book, the real Brandi, is who I got to know via Instagram. Reading about her childhood was like reading about a character in a Holly Black novel… equal parts terrifying and charming.

I appreciated her honesty throughout the book, her ups and downs, her crushes, her addictions, her failures, her triumphs, her hurts.

I loved the powerful moment between her and Dolly Parton. No words necessary.

Of course, I picked up this book because of its title: it spoke to me. And the parts pertaining to the horses she had in her life – and how Sovereign was the one who taught her responsibility and perseverance – was profound.

I enjoyed watching her find herself, figure out her identity, find her place in the LGBTQ community, and learning to love and accept herself. (Even if three weddings sound a little expensive to get to that point…)

An interesting memoir – and having Elton John in it made it perfect.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Series

I first read The Case of the Puppy Academy and was immediately hooked on this series.

About the Book

Even hellhounds need training. 

When Samantha Rain takes her hellhound to school, she hoped to be surrounded by adorable magical puppies. Instead, she finds herself at the heart of a mystery and she’s forced to investigate a jewellery thief. With all the important people at the Puppy Academy, she can’t afford to step on any toes… or paws.

See it on Goodreads.

My Review

I love Shadow! She’s such a sweet puppy. I enjoyed the concept of the puppy academy and the different types of hellhounds.

The relationship between Sam and Lilith has loads of potential.

I liked the mystery of stolen jewellery and that it used Sam’s skillset – and Shadow! – to solve it. And I liked the twist of who the thieves were.

I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

When Detective Samantha Rain accidentally becomes involved in the hidden world of Nocturnals, she meets Lilith, the right-hand woman of the Will-O-Wisp Clan.

Following a trail of flickering lights, Samantha is pulled deeper into a world of magic with plenty of mysteries and more questions than answers. She’s given two choices. Solve a murder in enemy territory or become a murder victim herself. 

With her life on the line, Samantha has no choice but to dive deeper into a world that’s all too eager to keep her and when she looks at Lilith, she might be tempted to stay.

See it on Goodreads.

My Review

Sam is a former detective, surprised with divorce papers from her wife, who is chosen by a hellhound puppy to enter the supernatural world teeming beneath the city she thought she knew well.

An interesting premise – and a puppy!

There’s lots of emotion as Sam deals with her divorce, her new puppy, and her new job as a PI for a supernatural clan. An though the world of the Nox (supernaturals) is interesting, their various clans like the mob, and the little hellhound adorable, there’s just something missing in the solve-the-mystery area. The mystery wasn’t well-defined (no reason given to find the people she was supposed to except pain of death) and once she did her job, there was no real aha! moment of satisfaction.

The flirting between Sam and Lilith was cute. I also liked Lilith’s magic.

There are some editing glitches: missing words, repeated words, word choice errors, Sam going from needing a shower to having coffee and directly going out, etc. Not too many issues, but enough to be noticed and to pull me out of the story.

Otherwise an entertaining read.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

After becoming a Warden for Lilith’s Will-O-Wisp clan, former Detective Samantha Rain’s next assignment brings her to the outskirts of town where a glitter-covered body is attracting the attention of unsuspecting humans.

At the same time, a clan of Pixies is threatening to move into the city, blatantly ignoring Nox Law. Coincidence? Samantha thinks not.

See it on Goodreads.

My Review

Not a bad story. Sam and Lilith’s relationship progresses. Shadow is still a cute puppy. The Nox world is interesting (if underdeveloped).

But: the language use had changed and now Samantha and Lilith swear a lot, sometimes the story is in first person (it’s written in limited third), Sam is sometimes referred to as Samantha and then Sam in the same paragraph, there are words that don’t belong (e.g. “he dove poured”), sometimes scenes are skipped around in, and some things – like what the pixie wanted from Sam – are not explained.

2 unicorn star rating

About the Book

During renovations of The Drunken Turnip, Samantha and Lilith find a mysterious coin that sends them on a treasure hunt. A special upcoming Nox holiday drives Samantha crazy and the shift in their relationship brings both women in new territory. There’s plenty to figure out but will they like what they find?

See it on Goodreads.

My Review

So I stopped reading at 20%. I can’t take Sam (Samantha? Really, pick one variation of the name and stick to it.) being so emotionally stupid at her age. Telling Lilith that it’s just casual after they’ve just slept together is beyond stupid and she can’t figure out why Lilith left. I can’t take it anymore. Especially when the old coin (the puzzle piece they’re going to follow) turns into a map fragment. And then Lilith becomes excited about pirate treasure where it had been Sam a chapter or two earlier. After suffering through inconsistencies, typos and story mehness the last two books, I’m not doing that to myself again. Not even Shadow’s cuteness can make me read more.

DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

This book was recommended to me on BookBub.

From the former editor-in-chief of Nylon comes a provocative and intimate collection of personal and cultural essays featuring eye-opening explorations of hot button topics for modern women, including internet feminism, impossible beauty standards in social media, shifting ideals about sexuality, and much more.

Gabrielle Korn starts her professional life with all the right credentials. Prestigious college degree? Check. A loving, accepting family? Check. Instagram-worthy offices and a tight-knit group of friends? Check, check. Gabrielle’s life seems to reach the crescendo of perfect when she gets named the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of one of fashion’s most influential publication. Suddenly she’s invited to the world’s most epic parties, comped beautiful clothes and shoes from trendy designers, and asked to weigh in on everything from gay rights to lip gloss on one of the most influential digital platforms.

But behind the scenes, things are far from perfect. In fact, just a few months before landing her dream job, Gabrielle’s health and wellbeing are on the line, and her promotion to editor-in-chief becomes the ultimate test of strength. In this collection of inspirational and searing essays, Gabrielle reveals exactly what it’s truly like in the fashion world, trying to find love as a young lesbian in New York City, battling with anorexia, and trying not to lose herself in a mirage of women’s empowerment and Instagram perfection.

Through deeply personal essays, Gabrielle recounts her struggles to reconcile her long-held insecurities about her body while coming out in the era of The L Word, where swoon-worthy lesbians are portrayed as skinny, fashion-perfect, and power-hungry. She takes us with her everywhere from New York Fashion Week to the doctor’s office, revealing that the forces that try to keep women small are more pervasive than anyone wants to admit, especially in a world that’s been newly branded as woke.

From #MeToo to commercialized body positivity, Korn’s biting, darkly funny analysis turns feminist commentary on its head. Both an in-your-face take on impossible beauty standards and entrenched media ideals and an inspiring call for personal authenticity, this powerful collection is ideal for fans of Roxane Gay and Rebecca Solnit.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I had a problem with the assertion that all women with short hair are gay (the same with asymmetrical cuts, no make-up, and vivid coloured hair). I know plenty of women who aren’t gay who prefer having short hair – and asymmetrical cuts. I’d compare this to the author’s outrage that people assumed she was straight when first meeting.

The rest of the book is good: she’s open and honest about what she went through, her relationship with food, her discovery of her gender identity, how she confused thinness with being attractive to others, the feminist movement and how things have changed in the fashion industry, and her various (sometimes toxic) relationships.

I enjoyed being on this journey. I liked that she adopts rescue dogs. I especially liked how she started to see how the views of others about food and size were affecting her and how it could affect a workplace – and how she learned to take care of herself. The last chapter about burnout and learning to take time for things you love – that was a powerful way to end the book.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Series

This one was recommended to me on Bookbub. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and I’ve DNFed the entire series.

About the Book

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The premise sounded awesome.

The execution, though, was highly disappointing. First, the second person narrative irritated me. Second, the prologue was more confusing than enlightening. Third, despite the rave reviews trying to explain it all, I was hopelessly lost. Fourth, I didn’t care. And that’s a biggie. DNF 8% in.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

I got this book for free as I’m part of the author’s mailing list (Arizona Tape). Despite the earlier disappointments with the Samantha Rain Mysteries, I decided to give this one a chance as it’s by two authors.

The only way to leave the ring, is to forfeit the right to win.

Holly’s never had a true home, or a family, unless she counts the boxing ring at Dragon Soul. But she’s been in one place for too long, and it’s time to move on.

Until her…

When Holly finds herself faced with a brand new opponent, there’s more than just rivalry brewing in the ring.

Dragon Outcast is an f/f romance set in the Twin Souls Universe. Previous title: Torn Soul.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The blurb sounded interesting and a little outside my usual reading, which is always a good place to find new books and tropes to enjoy. But… 19% in there is still not enough to bond with the main character (not even sure what her name is) and all she wants to do is box and feel pain (without context to why, it’s just creepy). I really liked the idea of dragon shifters – too bad it was merely mentioned that they all were instead of shown. And the typos… Grr. DNF

1 unicorn star rating

Have you read these books? Have you read any books by these authors? Do you like books with a f/f or m/m romance? Do you read LGBTQ books? What do you think of readathons?

*FYI, my reviews are my honest opinion and if something bothers me, I tell it straight. How else will anything change? My opinions are based on being a voracious reader and book buyer, not an attack on the author.*

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3 thoughts on “Queer Lit Readathon 2021 Roundup #bookreviews #QueerLitRead”

  1. I’ve not read any of these books, but some of them sound like my cup of tea. I like books with f/f or m/m romance but I haven’t read that many of them. I tend to read mostly fantasy and sci-fi. LGBTQ+ characters still seem underrepresented in those genres compared to contemporary romance. The last queer romance I read was They Both Die at the End, which I really enjoyed as it had a dystopian setting.

  2. I had no idea about those readathons. This year, one of my personal challenges is to read a lot more LGBTQIA+ reads. One of them on my TBR list is Felix Ever After. 🙂

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