February Reads

Eternally struggling w/ how to accurately and meaningfully describe romances in these short summaries — I want to help hype up queer books but being like “cis whatever” “trans whatever” etc always just feels vaguely beside the point. You might see that formatting change over the months.

Books

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

adult novel, modern day litfic, disaster polycule (kindof?), complicated trans romance

Ames, who used to live as a trans woman but has begun trying to pass as a cis man again, accidentally impregnates his boss. He doesn't want to be a dad for Gender Reasons but proposes that Katrina (his cis woman boss) and he co-raise the baby with his ex-girlfriend, a trans woman named Reese who's always wanted a baby. The proceedings turn into a whole mess-and-a-half.

So, I think I started this one in January, and it took me absolute ages to finish. It's so smart, and so incisive, and possibly the meanest and most accurate book about gender in American society that I've read in... ages? Maybe ever? And it's very darkly comedic. But I also found it pretty hard to read — there's a lot of misery, in this book. Still, I finished it several weeks ago, and I'm still thinking about it, so that's high praise.

From Unincorporated Territory: [guma'] by Craig Santos Perez

poetry collection

The first in a series that's part personal story, part protest against militarism and colonialism. The author is a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam), and he incorporates more standard poetic forms with found-documents work that deals with migration, culture, and custom. The collection is multi-lingual and takes a bit to work through if you really want to pay it proper attention. Really emotionally affective, and well worth the time.

The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

adult novel, fantasy mystery, f/f romance, bi woman main character

This was so fun and grabbed me immediately. It stars Delly, a poor fire mage who's used to bad luck and scarcity. She just wants to get enough money to help her mom, who's a drug addict, to stay safe and housed. So she takes a job as a body-guard, which quickly escalates into a mystery plot involving creepy necromancy, an undead portentous mouse, and the very drug her mom's hooked on. Delly's voice is SO fun, and there's also a lovely little romance plot that follows along with the mystery, as Delly falls in love with a well-heeled lady who's also a fellow bodyguard.

Worth noting that this book is the second in a series, but can be read totally independently of the first. (I actually picked up the first a few times but never got into it after a few pages, so I've never gotten anywhere with it.)

The Silence of Wilting Skin by Tlotlo Tsamaase

adult novella, surreal fantasy mystery, f/f established relationship

This book is surreal and gorgeous, and refuses to give straight-forward answers. It's about a woman who receives a warning from a “dreamskin,” which seems to be a familial magic-power object that's a bit mythic in this world. She has one, and her grandmother's is the one that warned her of coming darkness and corruption. The narrator's skin and color starts coming off, and she enlists her girlfriend in a journey to stay awake and protect her family. Having read the whole thing, I'm not totally sure I wrapped my head around it — but it was beautifully written and poignant, and worked with a lot of resonant imagery that leaves a lot unspoken. The sort of thing that works perfect in a novella format. I definitely recommend it, with the caveat that you'll want to prepare yourself for a narrative structure that feels more experimental.

The Triple B by S.Y. Tyler

adult novel, modern day romance x like 4

I picked this one up because I really enjoyed the author's Star Wars fanfiction. Don't @ me. Anyway, this is a little book that follows a bunch of romances centered on a bakery run by two brothers. It's from the POV of the brother who gets involved in everyone else's lives to help them out, but never seems to manage to have much luck himself. Overall was a cute quick read, although there were just so many characters and romances to keep track of that I got a little lost.

Audiobooks

Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray

ya novel, scifi with a bit of horror

This was a ton of fun! It stars a Padawan who's just like “please... don't make me have adventures... I just want to sit in the library,” but gets dragged to the Jedi's (probably doomed) new outpost in the Outer Rim. (For context: this new canon series is set ~200 years before the Star Wars films, and everything happening in these books... uh... doesn't exist anymore! So SOMETHING went wrong!)

This book is half-locked-space-station horror feat. Sith artifacts and evil cthonic tree aliens, half political/YA space opera ethic. I enjoyed it a lot!

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

new adult novel, modern day romcom, m/m romance

In short: Son of flaky rock legend starts fake-dating a handsome barrister because of workplace homophobia, and things get a bit too real for both of them. I've poked around at some of Hall's other work, and it seems really excellent. This is his first book released by a larger publisher, that I'm aware of, and it has a lot of the traits of large-market queer romance that just... don't appeal to me? It's very funny and extremely well-written and just overall well-done, and I'd recommend it to basically anyone who reads queer romance. That said, it was not for me. I did enjoy the book enough that I'll probably check out some of his smaller publications; I suspect my lukewarm feelings are more a byproduct of the book's broader audience than the author.

Graphic Novels

Star Wars: Shattered Empire by multiple

adult comics collection, scifi

Look... I read this for one (1) reason, and it was for Shara Bey and the Force tree comic. I literally don't remember anything else about any of the others. Poe Dameron's mom is hot, the Force trees are cool, whatever. Mostly an unremarkable collection, but some really great explosion art.

Star Wars Omnibus: Boba Fett

adult comics collection, scifi

Yes, I have Boba Fett brain-rot right now. This was a collection of no-longer-canon comics centered on Fett. The most interesting ones detail his work with the Empire and his early interactions with Vader (I cannot BELIEVE Vader hired him again after all of that, but then again... the chaos of it all). A long multi-issue arc in the middle is a serious dud, and ugly to boot, but many of the single-issues and smaller collections are pretty brilliant. If you're trying to hunt this one down, I recommend trying to get it from a library or a friend (or just... you know... look around REALLY hard on the internet in definitely legal places) — it was a hassle and a half to source.

Kae Petrin is a data journalist and media educator based in the Pacific Northwest. Find them at @petrinkae on Twitter.