Book review · contemporary · Fantasy

Reviews: Queer Graphic Novels

Hi! I’m back with two short reviews of graphic novels today, one of which I just finished and one of which I’ve read in May but somehow forgot to post the review until now. [Seriously, you don’t know how many reviews I’ve written but still have to post here. Anyway.]


Spinning is a memoir in graphic format about growing up and falling out of love with something that has been an integral part of your life. This is the story of how the author grew up with figure skating, but realized it was never really for her too late to disentangle herself from it easily. It talks about the weight of expectations, self-imposed and not; about the very present weights of homophobia and sexism and how they take a toll on young lesbians; there are some parts that are subtly about how sexism is entrenched in figure skating.

Throughout this book, there is a tired, lost atmosphere, and you can feel the exhaustion seeping through the pages – the repetitive nature of Tillie’s life, the cold, the loneliness even when surrounded by people, the feeling of being forced to wake up early every morning. This is strengthened by the art style, with its vague and dreamlike nature, which I think works better for introspective contemporaries like this one than for a sci-fi like On a Sunbeam (which I didn’t love). Despite all of this and its length, it’s a really quick read; it took me less than a hour to get through.

Reading memoirs about real lgbtq+ people’s experiences is always interesting to me because I can compare it to fictional portrayals, and see what is missing in them; specifically, I’m surprised that these things – which are all present in Spinning – aren’t common in YA contemporary: stories about kids with absent parents that actually explore what it means to grow up ignored, especially when you’re struggling with mental health; how most homophobic reactions to coming out are actually dismissive or awkward more than threatening; the confusion of growing up queer and not knowing whether you like or want to be like certain girls or want to be near them; unusual forms of self-harm.

And, unlike most fiction and like most of real life, it’s a really open-ended, fragmented story; it has no answers or big, important, dramatic moments, but it feels real in a way fiction can never really be, and I appreciated it a lot for that.

My rating: ★★★★

I also want to point out that this needs content warnings for sexual assault from a teacher, homophobia from various people including siblings, bullying, and car accidents.


The best surprise Pride month gave me was definitely Monstress Vol. 4 being translated in my country without any notice, and it being full of Gay Villainess content!

Rereading all the previous installments before getting to this was the best choice I could have done, and I ended up enjoying The Chosen immensely; I think it might even be my favorite so far. I mean, this series is somehow managing to get gayer with every volume, so I’m not surprised.

It’s still difficult to follow, but after a few rereads I think I can more or less see the outline of what is going on right now, even though I’m still confused about certain details; and while the scope of all of this + the beauty of the art are so overwhelming that I tend to miss the subtler things, like character development, they are there! I really appreciate seeing how Maika’s priorities are shifting as she understands more about the ancient gods, and how Kippa is finding her own footing amidst all of this. This is turning more explicitly into a series about the senselessness of war and cyclical nature of harm, and I’m interested in seeing where the authors will bring these themes to.

My priorities haven’t shifted, by which I mean I’m mostly here for the art (as usual) and the gay villainess aesthetic of it all. And this volume gave me a horrible F/F arranged marriage with backstabbing and a blood pact! (I’ve been looking for this kind of thing since The Stars Are Legion‘s Jayd/Rasida storyline… I can’t believe how much this is reminding me of it.)
Also, my favorite eldricht-god-possessed villainess – yes there’s more than one and I’m living for it – kissed Maika with ulterior motives! This series is a gem.

Do I know where this series is going? Honestly, no, but I have some theories and can’t wait to find out what Tuya is really up to. I also hope to see more of the Dracul.

My rating: ★★★★★


Have you read any of these? What are your favorite queer graphic novels?

Book review · Fantasy · Nonfiction

Mini Reviews: Recently-Read Queer Books

Today, I’m posting the reviews of three queer books I’ve read between the end of May and now, mostly very short or in genres I’m not familiar with; these reviews are shorter than my usual, which may be a good thing.


All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is a memoir aimed at a young adult audience that talks about growing up as Black and queer in America. It’s a powerful book and accessible for those who need it most, including teens who aren’t used to reading nonfiction, while dealing with difficult topics. It’s the kind of book that makes me glad I finally decided to start reading nonfiction in my free time this year.

It’s a necessary reminder that we can’t sort people into boxes and we should push back against the societal tendency to do so; a reminder that we can’t talk about different kinds of marginalization without considering the way they influence each other.

What more can I say? I flew through this while highlighting every chapter in multiple places. I know I was wary of nonfiction as a teen, but there are certain things that fiction doesn’t get, at least not right now, like how coming out can be like outside of the two extremes fictional coming out stories keep pushing at queer people, and so many other things.
Highly recommended to pretty much everyone.

[I’m not really comfortable with rating memoirs but I did give it 5 stars on goodreads.]


Queer portal fantasy, but make it Ikea AU!

As many others, I was first drawn to Finna because of its premise; after all, why not use the liminal space potential of retail stores to literally blur the boundaries between worlds? In that, Finna did deliver, and not without driving home certain points (love how the horror aspect comes from a world in which employees are all basically clones that exist to support the corporation aka “the Mother” because the workplace is your family!, and “shoppers” pay in blood.) After all, there are stories suited to subtlety, and this one never was.

Still, I don’t think this will stay with me for long. While I really liked the beginning, I just didn’t find the time the two main characters spent in the parallel worlds to be that interesting to read. For obvious reasons, every world is very underdeveloped, and we never get a setting that feels… real in any way after we leave the real world? I don’t mean “realistic”, I don’t particularly care about realism in a weird portal fantasy, I mean that everything felt very cheesy.

As far as the main characters go, I really liked reading about them, and wish I could have seen more of their relationship before the break-up instead of being told about it. I liked the way Finna talked about how mental illnesses can impact relationships, and I liked seeing the now-exes go on an adventure together and grow closer again, but it wasn’t enough for me to truly get attached to them.

Something I’m more likely to remember about Finna is the answer it gives to the miserable and wearing conditions (especially for who is visibly marginalized like the LI, Jules, who is Black and non-binary) retail workers are in. It’s a hopeful story in the end.

My rating: ★★★¼


Murder husbands and Dragon Kingdom politics!
Of Dragon, Feasts and Murder is a novella set in the Dominion of the Fallen universe that can be read as a standalone, but I especially recommend it to fans of the series who want to have a more detailed understanding of the Dragon Kingdom. It was my favorite setting in the series, and as all places in this universe, it’s far from free of its own brand of rot (literally and not).

One of the things I appreciated the most about this novella was how it refused to fall into a simplistic portrayal of any side. There are people who are firmly in the wrong, but the core reason beneath the murderous political machinations is the fact that necessary change isn’t happening.

At the same time, I’m surprised by how long it took me to read this? Maybe because most of this is made up of talking, and while I did really like said talking – I live for Thuan and Asmodeus’ thorny relationship dynamic – I didn’t feel much tension or urgency, which is unusual for a murder mystery.

Anyway this would have been worth reading even only for how it referred to Asmodeus as “sweet, murderous delight”. (No seriously the Empress Dowager’s scenes!!)

My rating: ★★★½


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Adult · Book review · Nonfiction

Review: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

42188604._sy475_If there’s one book I’d recommend all sapphic women to at least consider, it’s this one. Especially if one’s interaction with the rest of the queer community mostly happen online and one doesn’t have the chance to hear about these stories in real life. In the Dream House is a memoir about domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, and it talks about how homophobia, sexism and the all-around toxic ideas we have about romantic relationships make it difficult for us to even talk about it.

We see domestic abuse as something gendered. And it’s not that it isn’t – it’s not a case that most dynamics do include an abusive man and an abused woman, and that it’s easier for heterosexual men, especially if wealthy and white, to abuse; as this book says, it takes less effort. But in an online culture where this discussion mostly stops to the concept that men are trash (at the same time an accusation and an excuse, we always make excuses for men – they’re trash! it’s their nature! they can’t help but abuse!), it’s difficult for us to conceptualize that no, relationships in absence of men won’t mean there won’t be abuse. If anything, the way queer people are statistically more estranged from traditional support networks (like their own family) makes them vulnerable.

There’s a part of this that hit me more than the others – which is saying a lot, because after the first fifty pages, I was more or less annotating every other page – the author chose to relegate to a footnote. She says that, if in many cases heterosexual abuse is basically misogyny and enabled by misogyny (a concept I was already familiar from Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That, which while dated and very gender essentialist, was a worthwhile read), queer abuse is homophobia and enabled by homophobia. It’s about control, and it uses the same means society tries to use to control queer people.

Another part I highlighted almost entirely was the one about queer villainy. This is a topic that is really important to me: like this book, I strongly believe that one of the most vital parts of being recognized as human is being recognized as someone who is capable of evil like everyone else. Queer villains written by queer authors are some of the most important characters to me, and yet I get why so many of us are afraid of those portrayals. But it’s not like trying to paint ourselves in the image of saints will do anything to stop the people who hate us.

And yet, In the Dream House is all but a traditional memoir: Carmen Maria Machado looks at her own experiences through archetypes. We’re used to see abuse as gendered, if we ever talk about it; we’re not used to talk about queer people and society isn’t invested in us understanding ourselves (erasure is a form of violence); we’re used to see the house as safety and women as hysterical and lesbians as Schrödinger’s women, only true women when it’s convenient to the person speaking. Archetypes can blind us, and the author uses them to start these conversations; she uses fairytale tropes to explore what happened to her, she uses a choose-your-own-adventure structure to talk about the helpless cycle the domestic abuse victim is caught in (featuring pages in which she tells you you’re cheating and couldn’t possibly have gotten to that page). Every chapter is short, between one and five pages, and plays with different genre tropes and expectations. It’s one of the most ingenious things I’ve ever read.

There would be so much more to say, but if I tried to dissect everything and mention every part I felt the need to highlight and annotate, this review would be as long as the book and completely incoherent, so I’m just going to end this. Read it.

My rating: ★★★★★