Queerly Not Straight: Our Favorite Books of 2018

In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx/WOC community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.

2018 was a year full of change, chances, and revolutions. No where is it better reflected than in the books we were graced with. From Robin Talley’s “Pulp” to “Feminasty” by Erin Gibson, women are cranking out LGBT stories and collections of essays that flip the patriarchy the bird. Retelling’s like “A Blade So Black” by L.L. McKinney and “Blanca & Roja” by Anna-Marie McLemore place a different & more relatable protagonist at the forefront. And adventures like Brian Michael Bendis’ “Scarlet” and Joshua Williamson’s “Deathbed” but women in captivating, insane, and explosive paths.

So while you’re looking forward 2019 and all the amazing reads just around the corner, give these a chance. Add them to your Goodreads, check them out at your local library. But most importantly, give these men & women a chance to take you on an adventure like you’ve never experienced before.

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

One Sentence Synopsis: A generations old spell brings out the best & the worst in two sisters who love each other but also want to survive the enchantment to befall one of them.

Why You Should Be Reading: McLemore does a great job at building Blanca & Roja as sisters, friends, and individuals. This leads to a rich story that binds you to both sisters and the woes that they are going through in the midst of all this upset over the spell. The stakes are there, they are real, and it sucks that it’s tied to their bond as family, but it is what it is and they have to play the game. Throwing two local boys into the mix pulls them away from each other and gives the del Cisne sisters a glimpse of a life free from each other, the spell, and everything that comes with their family. Your bond with the sisters is also tested as well. There’s no doubt that we want both of them to make it out of this free of the curse that befalls their family. But if you had to choose, could you? Could they?

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Retellings, LGBT, Latina, POC Lead

Other Books By Anna-Marie McLemore: When the Moon Was Ours, Toil & Trouble, Wild Beauty

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Blanca & Roja HERE.

Add Blanca & Roja to your Goodreads HERE.

Pulp by Robin Talley

One Sentence Synopsis: First heartbreaks, resilience, and change told from two young women, generations apart.

Why You Should Be Reading: Talley’s “Pulp” is a fun, yet serious take on being a queer youth during varying and unforgiving times. Through two perspectives you gain an understanding of how things have changed for us (the LGBTQ+ community) for the better, and how things still remain the same, no matter how much time has passed. At the heart of this story is also a tale of love, danger, and desire. You want Janet Jones and Abby Zimet to end up happy and to get past the woes in their lives because they love women in a world/time/place where that is still frowned upon in various levels. But you understand that the two young women connected through words and time might fail, experience loss, and come to seperate conclusions about what love is and what it’s worth.

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBT

Other Books by Robin Talley: A Tyranny of Petticoats, As I Descended, Our Own Private Universe

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Pulp HERE.

Add Pulp to your Goodreads HERE.

Jook Joint by Tee Franklin

One Sentence Synopsis: Keep your hands to yourself, men of 1950’s New Orleans.

Why You Should Be Reading: Jook Joint feels like the dark horror cousin that Bingo Love never asked for but got anyway, and I love itttt! Mahalia, the lead, is not just a strong female. She’s a strongly WRITTEN female lead who exacts justice on those who abuse, harm, or put their hands on women. She lives a life of fulfilling desires and helping those who seek out vengeance. And she loves it, knows who she is, and will not apologize for it. On a very important sidenote, Jook Joint does have some triggering elements that you should be aware of. The book contains topics covering domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, etc. So take your time, take a step back, and regroup if you need to before sitting down and reading this book.

Genres: Graphic Novels, Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, POC Lead

Other Books by Tee Franklin: Bingo Love, Love is Love

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Jook Joint HERE.

Add Jook Joint to your Goodreads HERE.

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

One Sentence Synopsis: The retelling my Alice in Wonderland and Buffy the Vampire Slayer loving heart deserves and needs more of.

Why You Should Be Reading: First of all and most importantly, why isn’t this a movie already? It’s got a badass black woman who fights creatures in a dark realm while trying to juggle her family and a slipping GPA. Alice feels real. You could be Alice. I could be Alice. He, she, we can be Alice. Her woes as a woman/daughter/student are just as important as the ones that go bump in the night in the form of monstrous creatures known as Nightmares. And it’s not just Alice who feels real and memorable. The characters that surround her are just as important and well developed, leading to a rich tapestry of storytelling that makes you HELLA INVESTED in A Blade So Black. P.S. McKinney is already working on Book 2 so you have time to read the 1st one!

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings, Urban Fantasy, POC Lead

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy A Blade So Black HERE.

Add A Blade So Black HERE.

Twice Dead by Caitlin Seal

One Sentence Synopsis: Necromancers, secret missions, and the realization that EVERYTHING is not what it seems.

Why You Should Be Reading: You get the opportunity to watch Naya, the daughter of a sea captain, grow, push past her prejudices, and come into herself after her death and resurrection. The fact that she’s not perfect, that she stumbles, and that she puts her foot in her mouth every once in a while, makes her feel honest and relatable. Oh, and I didn’t mention the love story yet. The connection that she has with a certain young man (No names cuz those are spoilers. But trust me, you’ll know who he is) is grounded in love and loss. And the more time they spend together, learning about the other, the more they understand how this second chance at life isn’t something they should squander. Take all this and mix it in with a looming war, lies, and the real reason why Naya died and you’ve got the makings of a great book!

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, POC Lead

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Twice Dead HERE.

Add Twice Dead to your Goodreads HERE.

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

One Sentence Synopsis: Monsters, mourning, and quarreling siblings out on the sea.

Why You Should Be Reading: Monsters, I’m down for. Family dynamics, bring it on. Trying to figure out what you want in life while being pulled left and right by duty, yes, please. Salt won me with these three things. The plot could use a bit of fine tuning, especially anyone besides the siblings. And the ending seemed to come on me too fast. But I enjoyed Salt and would recommend it to readers looking for an interesting and fast-paced world full of sibling bonds, intrigue, adventure, and sea monsters.

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Other Books by Hannah Moskowitz: Gone, Gone, Gone, Teeth, Break

Buy Salt HERE.

Add Salt to your Goodreads HERE.

Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova

One Sentence Synopsis: Sequel flips the script and puts Lula Mortiz, the healer, is dangerous and impossible situations when she tries to defy Death.

Why You Should Be Reading: The sequel to Labyrinth Lost switches perspective and gives Lula Mortiz the stage. After returning from “hell” and finding out about her sisters Encantrix powers, she feels suffocated. She’s not at home in herself, her room, her house, and in the relationships with the people around her. Her one respite from all this meets an end that challenges how far Lulu and her sister, the one who sent her to “hell”, are willing to do to fix things/put them right. The messed up part is that it’ll never be alright. And part of the journey of this book is Lulu and the reader understanding this. Life is unpredictable and it’s what we make out of the lemons we’re handed that makes the difference. Cordova understands that and I think that’s why she went with Lula’s perspective for this. Hell, I think she’s been waiting for it since Labyrinth Lost came out. And that makes it even better because it shows that she’s been planning and building this world for a long and with plenty of stories to come.

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Witches, Urban Fantasy, Latina, POC Lead

Other Books by Zoraida Cordova: Labyrinth Lost, Luck on the LIne, The Vicious Deep

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Bruja Born HERE.

Add Bruja Born to your Goodreads HERE.

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

One Sentence Synopsis: Space, boarding schools, and a breathtaking romance brought to life by it’s extremely impressive art.

Why You Should Be Reading: On a Sunbeam feels like a twist on what we know about traditional interstellar stories. There is the bleak desolation that comes with a world outside of Earth. Oh and the found family aspect that always comes with books/storylines/plots such as these. Both present throughout On a Sunbeam. But part of it (at least for me) doesn’t matter or register to me because of how remarkable Walden’s world is and how much you’re in love with the romance between Mia and Grace. We don’t get to see LGBT stories too often, especially ones with a background in sci-fi. But Walden does it and succeeds. She took a risk and is now reaping the benefits of her masterful work of a space opera. And frankly, this is the kind of stuff I wouldn’t mind seeing more of on my TV screen. Not so subtle hint, TV studios and execs!

Genres: Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Comics, LGBT

Other Books by Tillie Walden: A City Inside, I Love This Part, Spinning

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy On a Sunbeam HERE.

Add On a Sunbeam to your Goodreads HERE.

How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson

One Sentence Synopsis: Comedy meets philosophy in feminist book for the woman trying to date but finding it hella difficult because the patriarchy sucks ass.

Why You Should Be Reading: Roberson’s “How to Date Men When You Hate Men” holds your hand while assuring you that, “Yes, we like men but they are a pain in the ass.” And like “Feminasty” by Erin Gibson, which is listed down below, you end up laughing and getting some perspective on what we go through day in and day out while trying to understand the male mystique. This book also throws shade at Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail” as we all should. He’s the true villain of that movie and I’m not accepting anything else from that tragedy that befell Meg Ryan’s character when she “fell in love” with Hanks character. Be gone, demon spawn of misogyny, the patriarchy, and movie studios who think Tom Hanks is romantic comedy bae material.

Genres: Feminism, Humor, Essays

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy the book HERE.

Add How to Date Men When You Hate Men to your Goodreads HERE.

Scarlet Book One by Brian Michael Bendis

One Sentence Synopsis: Striking political revenge story about a woman who is done.

Why You Should Be Reading: Let me just clarify the level of done that this woman is in right now. She’s the spark, the beginning of the next American revolution, and she’s got nothing to lose because it’s all been taken away. That means that the risks she takes are bigger, the targets she’s after are grander, and that the effect of her efforts will be felt far and wide. I personally love how gritty Scarlet is in this book. Women are often never portrayed like this. Bendis is taking that risk and going for something we want to see more of in the female characters we consume in comics.

Genres: Graphic Novels, Comics, Crime, Revolution, Feminism

Other Books by Brian Michael Bendis: Avengers: Heroes Welcome #1, Powers Vol. 1, House of M

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Scarlet Book One HERE.

Add Scarlet Book One to your Goodreads HERE.

Feminasty by Erin Gibson

One Sentence Synopsis: Feminist comedian is sick and tired of sexism and goes off in hilarious essays as a means of systematically shutting down rules, restrictions, or hurdles women STILL face.

Why You Should Be Reading: Being a woman is hella tough. And this book, this gloriously funny book with a witt sharp enough to cut down any misogynist, is the kind of goodness and glory that saves you from sitting down and just crying over all this shit we go through as women. This book goes for perspective in its essays, with a TRUCK LOAD of truth tea, meant to crush the patriarchy! And it workssss! You leave reading this book with a lighter heart, a clearer purpose, and an understanding that thought things might be shit for us women, we’ve got each others backs. We ain’t going nowhere and the patriarchy better prepare itself!

Genres: Feminism, Humor, Essays, Memoir

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Feminasty HERE.

Add Feminasty to your Goodreads HERE.

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

One Sentence Synopsis: Girl with two hearts tries to survive 1850’s Manhattan and the people who want her for her unique anatomy.

Why You Should Be Reading: Kang creates a vividly detailed world with so much atmosphere and intricate pieces, that you find yourself feeling like YOU ARE in 1950’s Manhattan. Our heroine is fighting for her life, that’s a constant in this book, but it’s not the only thing that she spends her time worrying over. There’s a bit of romance, loads of history, and a splash of fantasy that transforms this book into an impossibly great read. Not gonna lie, there are moments that will make you sit back, take pause, and wonder what you just read, but sometimes that leads to some of the more interesting reads.

Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal, POC Lead

Other Books by Lydia Kang: A Beautiful Poison, The November Girl, Control

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy The Impossible Girl HERE.

Add The Impossible Girl to your Goodreads HERE.

Lovely Seeds by R. H. Swaney

One Sentence Synopsis: Poetry that holds your hand and encourages you to keep going while covering issues of mental health, self care, and personal growth.

Why You Should Be Reading: Swaney helps you examine life and the inherent flaws/problems that come with it from a place of love. He understands that this might be hard for you, that you might be stuck in the worst rut of your life, but he gives you perspective that allows you to move forward. We are constantly evolving beings and this collection of poems makes sure that you don’t forget that, page after page. Combine all of this with Swaney’s gentle but powerful presence and you’ve got a book that can be read over and over, whenever you need a reminder of how fantastic and ever evolving you are.

Genres: Poetry, Mental Health, Healing

Other Books by R. H. Swaney: Quiet Remnants, [Dis]Connected: Poems and Stories of Connection and Otherwise

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Lovely Seeds HERE.

Add Lovely Seeds to your Goodreads HERE.

Deathbed by Joshua Williamson

One Sentence Synopsis: Eccentric man returns after 20 years missing with a hell of a story.

Why You Should Be Reading: What starts out as a somewhat simple assignment turns into a psychedelic and supernatural adventure of a lifetime. The combination of art and insane twists & turns leaves you with this vivid picture of what Valentine Richards is going through as she tries to figure out if this old man is pulling her leg. Maybe he’s telling the truth, maybe he’s lying out of his ass, but the story he told made it so I burned through this in one setting. Afterwards I was left staring off into space trying to piece together what I read. If that isn’t enough reason for you to be reading this then I don’t know what is.

Genres: Graphic Novels, Comics, Urban Fantasy, Zombies

Other Books by Joshua Williamson: Nailbiter, Ghosted, Birthright Vol. 1

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy Deathbed HERE.

Add Deathbed to your Goodreads HERE.

What were your favorite books of 2018? Let us know in the comments section below!

Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)

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