Rainbow Reading: May 1 — Almost, Almost

Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.

Between May 8th and 14th, I read:

The Touchstone by MC Lee (2019)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay
Thoughts: I was disappointed by this one. I had been pleasantly surprised by Lee’s contemporary fiction Not Today, so when I saw she had a new superhero/fantasy novel out, I was intrigued… but I ended up thinking it fell rather flat. I think part of that is the plot seemed too much a “standard superhero novel” plot – teens with powers fleeing a mysterious government entity and finding a group of other gifted teens led by a mysterious mentor. The twists were fairly predictable and most of the supporting cast were one-dimensional; I didn’t get drawn into the story and I didn’t get invested in the characters, either. It was OK but not more than that.

Butch Is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman (2010)
Genre: essays
Audience: adult
Queer rep: Focuses on trans, genderqueer, and lesbian experiences
Thoughts: This is the third book of essays I’ve read by Bergman, and they are all fascinating. This was the first book written – although I read a lightly-revised second edition with a new introduction – and as such it’s not quite as polished as the other collections. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; especially in highly personal essays, as these largely are, a bit of rawness doesn’t hurt. I think of the three collections, I personally liked Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter the best, but all of them are definitely worth reading if you’re at all interested in LGBTQ or gender studies.

Love & Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford (2019)
Genre: fantasy/magical realism
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC and several secondary characters are gay; a secondary character is a trans guy
Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this. I liked the premise about a family curse and I really liked Sam’s family and “the Grands” (his grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother). Ford does a great job at mixing the realities of life in a small town for a boy with secrets with the more fantastical elements (the curse, prophetic dreams, potions and spells). There is unfortunately a “but” coming, which is how the trans character was portrayed… and also how Sam treated that character. At first Sam seems very accepting and understanding, but as he develops a crush on Tom and is rebuffed – Tom is straight – Sam lashes out in very nasty ways that include outing Tom. That really undercut my sympathy for Sam, even though he ends up regretting it. I did like the overall story arc though.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (2019)
Genre: fiction/romance/novella
Audience: adult
Queer rep: One MC is bi and I think the other is lesbian
Thoughts: I have heard so many good things about this novella, but I ended up not being into it. (The cover is awesome, though). It’s part of a series, and I haven’t read the other books; I thought this was a standalone, and it did pretty much work as a standalone, but the character development is a little light, as if we’re expected to already be familiar with them. The gist of it is, our two MCs met through a dating app and had a brief but intense fling that ended abruptly. Then, eight months later, Likotsi is back in NYC and runs into Fabiola, who cajoles her into a lunch date; Likotsi agrees in hopes of finding out why Fabiola cut off contact so she can find some closure; feelings rekindle. I liked the way the story moved between the present day and the first meeting, but I ultimately wasn’t that invested in the characters. Also, they’re both very fashionable and I kept running into clothing terms I didn’t understand. (What is a “sweetheart sweater”?)

The Backstagers, Vol. 3 by James Tynion IV, Sam Johns, Rian Sygh, et al. (2019)
Genre: fantasy/graphic novel
Audience: all ages
Queer rep: Most of the main cast is gay, one is trans
Thoughts: This volume is basically a bonus/specials/shorts volume, with lots of guest illustrators. The first and longest story centers around Valentine’s Day, and is followed by several Valentine’s shorts, and then we get a main Halloween story and several Halloween shorts. I liked the stories and it was nice to see different art styles in the shorts, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first two volumes, which have one cohesive storyline.

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