Hello, I’m Rogan and I’m back! I’ve been gone for various reasons, but I think I should be getting back to it. No promises as always though. Let’s get right into my wrap up of June books! This month, I read ten books and seven of them were for the Queer Lit Readathon in the first full week of June. I’ll go through those first, then the other three books I read. Spoiler alert, they were all queer.
The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors by Elizabeth Beier. This is a graphic memoir of Elizabeth figuring out life after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend and exploring dating and being with women for the first time. She explores self-image as she relearns what she’s attracted to, what she attracts to herself, and the complexity of life and sexuality. — I enjoyed this quick read, it’s humorous at times and shows the wide variety of people out there to explore with. Not much I can say beyond that description, but it was good!
Spellhacker by MK England. Diz and her three best friends live in Kyrkarta, where magic, or maz as they call it, was once everywhere and easily accessible. Until a big earthquake hit, and unleashed a pocket of magical plague that killed thousands. Immediately, a corporation stepped in to give aid and seize control of maz, making it very expensive. Diz and her friends can’t afford it, don’t like corporate power, and need money, so they run a very illegal gig siphoning maz from this company which pays off very well. Until one day, they discover a new strain while on their last heist and this could mean the worst or the best as they discover a conspiracy and work to unravel it. — I immensely enjoyed this VERY queer book. The main character is queer, mainly sapphic, and has a nonbinary love interest. There’s a bi secondary character, lesbian bakery owner, and elderly science husbands. From first glance, the description may make it seem like a fantasy, and it is but it also has quite a bit of science and tech thrown into the mix. I really enjoyed the magic system in this, the fact that not everyone is able to use it, but there’s no resentment or obvious hate towards others who are able to. There’s some who have a natural innate ability to pull maz from the air and not need any assistance to manipulate it, and there’s some called techwitches who can manipulate the maz with some help from tech built into their bodies. Also, the fact that maz comes in various strains, such as terraz, magnaz, firaz, and others. You have to pull the right strain to do what you’re aiming to do, and you can weave various strains together to do more complex things. That’s the other thing, you don’t just grab maz and things happen. You have to essentially weave the maz into a shape to accomplish what you want. It’s not like anything I’ve seen before, and I really enjoyed that aspect. The crew in this were all wonderful, I loved each one of them. I have to admit, Diz got on my nerves the most but that’s likely because she’s the first perspective person telling this story and we saw her innermost thoughts. I was very frustrated with her inability to just *tell* her friends that she was afraid of losing them once they went off to school. I get it, it’s not an easy thing to say, but if these are your best friends, you should be able to have those kinds of conversations without fear of repercussions. In fact, a large part of this story hinges on that simple thing, her not telling her friends she wants them to stay together. It builds stakes, I know that, but it bothered me a little more than I’d like. However! I did really enjoy this book despite those things, I read it very quickly and would read it again.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. Jam grew up in the city of Lucille, where children are told all monsters are gone, destroyed by the angels. She believed it… Until she met Pet, all feathers, horned, with sharp claws, climbing out of her mother’s painting with a drop of Jam’s blood. Pet tells her that they’re here only to hunt monsters, and needs Jam’s help. Pet’s mere presence forces Jam to take another look at her reality and start questioning what she’s been told by the adults. She must decide if she’ll continue thinking there’s no monsters, or help Pet uncover the truth. — Akwaeke Emezi does it again! I was blown away by how rich this little book is, they have an incredible skill for packing a lot of story into a short space. I want to add a couple things that I didn’t say in the synopsis. Jam is a Black trans girl, and this world is one where it was immediately accepted without question. Her best friend is a boy, and there’s no weird pressure for them to be dating or even have romantic interest in each other. Jam also uses sign language, because she is selectively non-vocal and doesn’t always use her voice. I love how all of the people in this story were just very accepting of Jam’s not speaking and didn’t treat her any differently for it. This is amazing, but once Pet shows up, it has an intense undercurrent to everything. Pet is not a gentle creature, they’re a coiled spring of violence ready to destroy any monsters they find. It’s never explicitly said, but it does allude to child abuse, and there is a pretty gruesome scene near the end, so be aware of that. I absolutely enjoyed this book, and will always read Emezi’s work! I know there’s a prequel of sorts to this, Bitter, which follows Jam’s mother when she’s a teen. I will be picking that up when I can!
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. This is a world very similar to our own, except for some significant differences. Myths, legends, monsters, magic. All of these, Indigenous and not, have shaped how people live in the US. Some are very simple and everyday, like being able to create a small orb of light, or travel across the world through fungi rings. Others… not so much. There are vampires, werewolves, and more gruesome horrors hidden behind a perfect facade. Elatsoe has the ability to raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill that comes from her Lipan Apache family, and she always has Kirby, her ghost dog, with her. Her cousin died, and the circumstances around the death make her suspicious. She decides to investigate, along with her friend Jay, who has fey ancestry. During their investigation into the town of Willowbee, they start finding things that suggest at a very dark history, and a very dangerous man. — There were a few minor pacing issues, but I LOVED this. Elatsoe is 17, and I definitely would say this reads more middle grade than YA, but I enjoyed it very much regardless. I loved how Badger wove in the slight differences that would come of having various legends and myths be real. Like how rings of fungi become a standard form of transport, rigorously controlled of course. How school had various classes on magic, creatures of myth, and so on. It did feel a little thrown in there at times to speed up world building, but it was minor for me. Elatsoe herself is Lipan Apache like I said earlier, and she’s also asexual. These are identities that the author also has, which is very cool. I would have loved to see more story about Elatsoe’s abilities, and her family lore. There was some tangent with Jay’s sister which didn’t really feel necessary for this story. But overall, I really enjoyed this and rated it very high.
(Including this because my blog posts act as a transcript as well.) Hey there! I’m trying something new for longer videos, a mid-video ad break of sorts? I’m just going to use this to say hey, if you want to support this channel with money, I have a few ways you can do that. First, since y’all are likely watching this on YouTube, here’s a tip. I know ads are annoying, but they do help a little bit. If you let them play all the way through, I get paid more than if you skip it immediately. But I completely understand if you aren’t feeling it or if the ad is one of those ridiculous five-, ten-minute ones. It’s much appreciated! Another option is Patreon, which is monthly, and you can choose how much you want to spend. You get access to different things, depending on what tier you sign up at. If you don’t want to or aren’t able to commit to monthly payments, I also have ko-fi which is the equivalent to a tip jar or buying me a small coffee. This is a bit newer, I have a small online store where you can buy some of my art as prints or stickers. I will be adding to it over time, but if you ever see any of my art that isn’t available as a print or sticker yet, let me know and I can make that happen! Links to everything will be below, of course. If you aren’t able to contribute financially at all, that’s alright! Even just sharing my content with your friends or retweeting helps. Alright, back to the video!
Water/Tongue by mai c. doan. A writing project by doan shortly after her grandmother’s suicide, she tries to give voice to her loss and remember memories with and from her family. It’s a book of poetry that explores Vietnamese history and culture, while also grappling with gendered and cultural violence, racism, and colonialism. — The synopsis on GoodReads is very long, and I don’t know if I see all of that in this book. But again, I struggle to connect with poetry. It’s just not something that’s my thing, and that’s fine. I did like parts of this book, and gave it a good rating. I don’t know if I understood enough of this to give a recommendation or not, so I won’t. If poetry is your thing, I’d say go read the reviews and decide from there, don’t ask me anything!
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. Ersel is a nineteen-year-old mermaid who lives underneath an ice shelf with her clan. She’s always wondered what’s beyond the shelf, but doesn’t dare venture too far in fear of their cruel and brutal king. One day she rescues Ragna, a shield-maiden who got shipwrecked and is stranded on the glacier. They’re wary of each other at first, but as they learn more, they slowly become friends. But then Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he’s angry and forces her to make a choice: say goodbye to Ragna forever this instant or be pulled before the king for his brutal justice. Ersel won’t just accept her fate, so she decides to seek help from Loki, the god of tricksters. They strike a deal, but things don’t go how Ersel wanted. She gets exiled from her home, the only one she’s ever known. Loki taunts her because they did do what Ersel asked, just not in the way she wanted. To survive and hopefully be reunited with Ragna, Ersel must try and outsmart Loki. — I really loved this Little Mermaid retelling, because it took the story in a direction that I wasn’t expecting but pleasantly surprised by. It also weaves in Norse mythology by using Loki, which I love and makes complete sense. The original tale is vague on where it’s set, but it’s likely to be in the Scandinavia region, because that’s where the author is from. Ersel is already an outcast of sorts, then she gets exiled because of her wants being at odds of what’s expected from all the merpeople. This is a very familiar feeling to queer people, people who don’t quite fit in the mainstream, people who dream beyond the expected. I enjoyed all of the little details of what life would look like under an ice shelf, in the deep ocean, and the structure of the merpeople. There’s a lot of information in this, but I loved it all.
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler. The title says it all. This is historical nonfiction about the largest mass murder of queer people up until the Pulse shooting happened. A fire happened in a New Orleans bar frequented by queer people, and this bar had very limited exits, a lot of factors combined to make this a very tragic and horrible event in queer history. This book goes into what the community was like before this fire happened, the vibrant and thriving life of queer people, despite the oppression at the time. It also goes into detail on how the city handled the fire, the response to it afterward from both straight and queer people, how it rallied some people to fight for their rights and how it made some people want to go back to the shadows and stay comfortable there. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I think this is truly an incredible book, and deserves to be read. It is very heavy though, and it does get a little graphic at times with the descriptions during the fire, but I think it’s very worth it if you are able to read this.
That’s all of the books I read for the Queer Lit Readathon! I sadly didn’t hit a blackout bingo board this round, because Ana on the Edge didn’t come in time which was going to cover the queer sports square, and I ran out of time to read something else. But it was still a good round, so I’ll take it! Now for the rest of the books I read this month.
Boys Come First by Aaron Foley. Three Black queer men grew up in Detroit and each have their own relationship with the city. Dominick left for lucrative advertising work in NYC, but after a sudden layoff from the start up he invested so much in and a bad breakup with his cheating ex, he moves back to figure out his next step. He does *not* want to still be single and unmarried by 35, but that’s quickly approaching. Troy, Dom’s best friend, has never left Michigan because he loves teaching the kids there, and he may be a little idealistic, really believing his school will always do what’s best for the kids. He’s struggling to hold onto his boyfriend who has his own struggles, has conflict with his dad who’s never happy with him and what he’s done. Then there’s Remy, a good friend who is a real estate agent who had a meteoric rise from nothing to rich and well-known. Remy is trying to decide between trying to make it work with a long-distance lover who’s constantly traveling, or a local man who’s not quite Mr. Right. He also has a high-stakes deal that could cause serious problems in his friendship with Troy. The three men are navigating friendship, love, while also dealing with life as Black queer men in a city that’s rapidly changing. — I just love how unapologetically Black this story is, and it allows the characters to be imperfect while not putting them down. It also touches on the different experiences Black people can have, from extremely successful as a real estate agent, to moderately as a teacher but with limited ability. And even how their experiences of being queer is different. Remy mostly keeps his queerness very separate from being an agent, because it’ll impact his ability to make contracts and deals. From what I recall, Troy mostly keeps it separate from his teaching because schools can be not so great about teachers being openly queer. Dom isn’t loud about it, but he’s not hush-hush about it either. I enjoyed the dynamics between the three of them, and seeing them work through things together. A couple of minor things that I didn’t particularly like. This book’s chapters are broken up into the perspectives of the three men. Dom and Troy are written in third, and Remy is written in first, which was an interesting choice, and a little unusual for me. It sometimes took me out briefly, but that’s a very minor thing. There are some sections where it feels a little dragging on, but it doesn’t last long so it wasn’t too much of an issue for me. The three men can sometimes seem very similar and it can sometimes take a second to figure out who’s speaking between Dom and Troy. This isn’t a problem for me, but it might be for others. But honestly, the book was really well-written for the most part, and all of that was enough for me to ignore the minor issues. I really enjoyed reading this.
The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain. Albert has worked for the Royal Mail for decades, and he loves his job. Delivering mail to the same people every day, getting small glimpses into their lives, while being able to keep himself at a distance from everyone. His whole routine is shaken one day when he’s told that he’ll be forced into retirement once he turns 65, due to company policy. Albert starts thinking about what’s next, what he’ll have to do once he isn’t delivering mail all day. This leads to him reminiscing about his past, and the one who got away when he was a teen. It’s been decades, but he starts thinking about a plan to find the boy he lost and see if there’s any chance at a reunion and rekindling the old flames. Albert goes on a journey through the queer community, learning about how things have changed since he was a teen and how to be out and proud. — I really enjoyed this! It’s rare we have queer stories that center an older main character, especially one in their sixties. It was wonderful to see this old gay man rediscovering the queer community, and having his mind opened to how different lives are for queer people nowadays compared to his childhood. Back then, it was more or less a death sentence or exile from everything they knew. It’s also about a man who’s realizing that if he opened up just a little bit, he’d find people who really do care about him and want nothing but the best for him. His neighbors that he saw on his route, his co-workers, even random strangers that he just met. It’s very heartwarming and heart-wrenching at the same time. It is predictable, and can drag on a little in some parts, but I would absolutely recommend this book.
Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller. Bad not as in badass and sexy, but Bad as in dastardly criminals and villains. This is part revisionist history, part historical biography. The big question of this book is what can we learn from the queer villains in our past that influenced history in big ways and how they helped and/or hurt the queer community. The book talks about the following people: Hadrian, Pietro Aretino, James VI and I, Frederick the Great, Jack Saul, Roger Casement, Lawrence of Arabia, the Bad Gays of Weimar Berlin, Margaret Mead, J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn, Yukio Mishima, Philip Johnson, Ronnie Kray, and Tim Fortuyn. There are military leaders, mob bosses, sex workers, politicians, architects, and others from many walks of life. This book shows that queerness has been around for a long time, and only became more defined in the nineteenth century, that interpretation being a big part of historical conflict. Queer villains get the center stage! — I knew this book was about criminals and bad people, but wow. Some of these people were truly horrible. I still enjoyed reading this very much, and if you love learning more about history and the more hidden parts of it, this is definitely a fantastic read. There’s not much else I can say, other than more about the people in this book, but I would really recommend reading this. This is also based on a podcast by the same name, so if podcasts are your thing, you can listen to it instead!
And that’s all of the ten books I read in June! What are your thoughts on these books? What’s your current read? Let me know!
If you want to support my content financially, I would really appreciate it if you joined my Patreon or made a one-time donation to my Ko-fi tip jar. Subscribe to my channel. Follow me on my socials – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Thanks for reading, see you next time.