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Review: Ice Massacre, by Tiana Warner

This book had been on my TBR for years – I believe since I was on tumblr and it was in one of those “read more queer books” rec lists. So… at least 4-5 years. I’d never gotten around to it, and I can’t even remember when/how I got it since it’s pretty hard to get indie books in paper here normally… But I made it part of my “read mermaid books for Mermay” self challenge. Granted, I read like 3 mermaid books and I finished 2 in June instead, so the experiment itself was a failure, but I still made a dent in my pile so… no complaints.

The Synopsis

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

The Review

TWs for the book (and this review to some extent): child abuse, child death, gore

Someone said horror mermaids? I gotta say it’s a concept I enjoyed since I read Into the Deep by Mira Grant, and so mermaids+horror themes+queer stuff attracts me like bees to honey. This one is more on the YA side but Warner didn’t shy away from depicting some gruesome scenes anyways. It’s a massacre, after all.

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ARC review: Siren Queen, by Nghi Vo

I’ve enjoyed every Nghi Vo story I’ve read so far, so I was very excited for this novel! Thank you to Tor Dot Com and Netgalley for giving me this free eARC in exchange for a fair review!

The Synopsis

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

The Review

So far what I’d read from Vo were her two Asia-inspired novellas, which were a lot like fairy tales, so I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I’d say Siren Queen is more of a cross between The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Last Night at the Telegraph Club, with added magical realism.

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Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo

Finally got around to reading Last Night at the Telegraph Club, after months of wanting to! 1950s historical novels aren’t my main interest, but I do like queer romances, especially historical ones (though I veer closer to the 1800s) so I was intrigued. It’s kinda hard to get around here, but the library is well-stocked so I took advantage!

The Synopsis

A story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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Book review: The Wife in the Attic, by Rose Lerner

I’d had this book recommended to me a few times as a great historical sapphic romance. I had been keeping an eye on it, and by total chance I won the author’s Halloween giveaway. Given a choice of ebook or audio, I of course took the audiobook – and binged it over one weekend! So thank you Rose Lerner for the amazing audiobook! I read it very quickly in November but sadly got behind on writing the review…

The Story

Goldengrove’s towers and twisted chimneys rose at the very edge of the peaceful Weald, a stone’s throw from the poisonous marshes and merciless waters of Rye Bay. Young Tabby Palethorp had been running wild there, ever since her mother grew too ill to leave her room.

I was the perfect choice to give Tabby a good English education: thoroughly respectable and far too plain to tempt her lonely father, Sir Kit, to indiscretion.

I knew better than to trust my new employer with the truth about my past. But knowing better couldn’t stop me from yearning for impossible things: to be Tabby’s mother, Sir Kit’s companion, Goldengrove’s new mistress.

All that belonged to poor Lady Palethorp. Most of all, I burned to finally catch a glimpse of her.

Surely she could tell me who had viciously defaced the exquisite guitar in the music room, why all the doors in the house were locked after dark, and whose footsteps I heard in the night…

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Review: Seven Devils, by Elizabeth May and Laura Lam

I know I promised a review of this in my last wrap up, I did mean to post it quickly but time got away from me this week. Anyways… This was one of my favourite reads this year. I rarely do “one more chapter and then…” at 2am like I did when I was 12, because I have a job in the morning and I’m always tired, but this was one of THOSE books that I had to force myself to put down.

I keep seeing the other cover but I actually prefer this one! I think it’s the UK hardback? Who knows… It’s shiny!

The Story

This first book in a feminist space opera duology follows seven resistance fighters who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire — or die trying.

When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.

Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was devastating, and I loved it. I had to ask a friend if any of the good ones died, before I could make myself finish it. That’s how terrified I was. (Spoilers: there are no dead gays in this book. go ahead and enjoy it!)

The universe this is set in is absolutely awful, with a tyrant at the head of the galaxy, and everyone being mind controlled or brainwashed into thinking everything is ok. Those characters have… a lot of trauma.

And at the same time, it was a joyous read, a comfort read almost. To see, as they call it, a space Mad Max: Fury Road, where a bunch of women of different backgrounds and with different (all traumatic) pasts (and one man) fight for something better. It gives hope, in a way.

The authors made me care for all the characters so, so much. They’re relatable, they’re deeply wounded, and I wanted to give them all a hug. Every single one of them. It’s very hard to pick a favourite. They’re just all so, so well written, flaws and all. And I do love a book with mainly women.

I found especially on point the way their guilt at their actions still affected them, even though they had no choice (or very little choice) in the matter. There would be a lot more to say about war, and trauma, and tyranny, and I don’t think I’m capable of saying it in a coherent way, but the book certainly makes its point come across clearly. Just… *waves hands* go read it? you won’t regret it.

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | Portal Bookshop | Kenny’s

Review: The Unbroken, by C.L. Clark

This is one of my highly anticipated books of the year, mainly because of all the talk about how queer it is (which it really is!) but what I did not expect was how dense and action packed it would be, so it took me an age and a half to finish it. Still, I found it super satisfying throughout!

My copy of the book has seen better days already…

The Story

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You know second hand embarrassment? These characters gave me that same sensation, but in terms of “nooooo why are you doing that you feckin eejit!” instead of, like, embarrassment. The truth is, they’re both trying to do their best, but they do the maths wrong a lot of the time, and could things just happen right for them just once?

As you can see, I had a lot of feelings about this book, and these characters. Everyone was very excited about the book, and I bought it knowing it was queer and awesome (and hearing a lot about Touraine’s arms, which, fair!) but I think this is the first time I truly understand the meaning of “fast paced”. You don’t have time to breathe with this book (in the best of ways). I found myself having to take long breaks because of all the twists and turns in the story, and when I thought the characters (Touraine especially) were going to finally catch a break, something new and world-changing happened.

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