by Elizabeth Bear

3 Stars

Do you happen to like steampunk or historical science-fiction, murder mysteries, lesbians, sapphic relationships, amazing writing, or Jack the Ripper retellings?

Well, if so, I recommend Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. Just to be upfront though, there are some racial slurs in the book and Elizabeth Bear is a white woman and it was published in 2015, so that’s something to be aware of.

Now, a really quick summary of the book: Karen Memory is a prostitute working in the late 19th century and like all prostitutes, she tries to live an uneventful life and stay out of trouble. That all changes when two runaway prostitutes from a rival brothel show up on the door steps of Madame Damnable’s bordello. Things only erupt further when a dead woman shows up in their trash. Soon, it becomes a deadly race to find out who is killing women — before they end up dead too.

As mentioned, I found the writing absolutely stunning. I adore writing set in the earlier centuries that was written in modern times and it helps that Elizabeth Bear is a phenomenal world builder. I also enjoyed the characters: Karen was such a unique and refreshing character to read the perspective of and the other characters were equally as interesting. The plot, however, disappointed me. It was very basic and the ending was rushed and frankly a let-down. The murder wasn’t someone whom I expected but it also wasn’t someone who shocked me that much, so that sucked. Taking all those factors into consideration, I rated this book 3 / 5 stars.

Representation: Lesbian main character, Asian, Indian and Black characters, transgender character.
Make sure to look up the trigger warnings!

Jazleen H.

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by Kelly Yang

5 Stars

Parachutes is a book about opposite worlds. Clarie and Dani, two girls who are so alike but couldn’t have been raised more differently, struggling with trying to figure out who they are while battling wealth, power, friendship, and trauma. They are asked how much they are willing to pay for freedom and how far they will really go for the life that they want. This story is told from the POV of Clarie “parachute” from Shanghai and Dani, the host sister in California. Based on the cover, I was expecting a story about high school drama. While this story is about high school students, it actually addresses themes as they traversed the toxic environments the girls are in: classism, sexism, racism, and xenophobia. This was a really powerful and important YA story.

The book focuses on many issues that are really relevant to high school and college-aged students today. There are warnings at the beginning of the book because two of the topics are sexual harassment and sexual assault. I wouldn’t recommend this book for a young teen. But this book is not graphic, and I think that this book tells two important stories. There is some romance in this book. But it is woven in between the more important issues that the author focuses on. I was invested in both girls’ stories. I was fascinated by Dani and her debating team, and I was really interested in Claires and the fact she was sent to the US on her own to study. It was very interesting to read the author’s note and see how her own experiences mirrored some of what was in the story. This was such a moving and emotional story. I really enjoyed it.

Manaal I.

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by E. Lockhart

1 Star

We Were Liars is a novel by E. Lockhart. I was in the market for an interesting “mystery” type novel, and I had seen this book praised on social media for the longest time. I finally gave in and decided to read the book. I was not impressed.

We Were Liars follows the story of a rich and distinguished family who spends each summer on their private island. The main characters include a group of four teenage friends who call themselves the Liars. The story especially concentrates on one of the teenagers, a girl who develops amnesia following an accident that happened during the summer when she was 15. We follow along as she tries to remember what truly happened during that summer.

Although I was intrigued at first by the storyline, I did not end up enjoying this book at all. I found the characters hard to relate to, probably because of their rich world. I also found the story to be bland. It took the longest time before getting to any “juicy” parts. The author gives small hints about “the accident” here and there, but nothing of importance and nothing to keep the reader really hooked. I almost gave up reading it several times because of how slow the development was. The only interesting part in this book is the ending… but even with that in mind, I wouldn’t recommend it. The time spent on reading the first 190 pages of the book is not worth it, not even with that shocker ending. Lockhart did not meet my expectations with this book. I was disappointed.

Emily O.

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by Jaye Robin Brown

3 Stars

Do you like books featuring lesbians, lesbian relationships, horses, contemporary romance, and has easy to follow writing?

If you answered yes to at least 3 of those, I recommend The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown. Now, in full honesty, I enjoyed Jaye Robin Brown’s other books more than I did this one but I will never NOT recommend Jaye Robin Brown to sapphics (especially lesbians) so without further ado, here is the summary and review.

Piper has just been dumped by her cheating girlfriend, Judith, so, she obviously takes the only option available to her: running away to her grandma to train with a former Olympic horse rider and try to make Judith jealous from afar. Except when Piper arrives, her perfect plan gets wrecked. Not only is her grandma forcing her to learn how to drive but Piper’s driving instructor is also a very, very pretty girl. Straight girl. Or so Piper thinks… Kat has been struggling with her sexuality and who she is so when openly lesbian Piper comes along — as her driving student, no less! — Kat pounces and they strike a bargain. If Kat drives Piper around, Piper will, in turn, help Kat figure out her sexuality. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like they’ll fall for each other… right?

Jaye Robin Brown is a phenomenal queer writer but I think this book was a bit… average. It wasn’t BAD (Jaye is not capable of writing anything bad!) but it just fell a little flat to me. There was no real plot but the writing was engaging enough that I still finished the book in 1 day. I would say this is a fun light read but don’t expect to be mind blown when you’re done.

Jazleen H.

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