Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well and that February was a good month for you! My February was nothing to write home about – I spent a large chunk of the month crocheting and have completed a cute little monster called Irene, and I have been trying to learn to hula hoop again. That pretty much sums up how my job hunt is still going! But for the rest of the month I did read a good number of books, the majority of which were ARCs (and it looks like March will be the same), and I enjoyed that large majority of them too!
I’m sure that absolutely none of you are surprised to see that the majority of the books I read in February fall under the contemporary and romance genres. However, surprisingly, I have finally found myself aching to pick up fantasy novels recently, which over the past year has been completely unheard of! This month I read a grand total of 18 books covering 3,567 pages! Fourteen of these books were ARCs, three were physical, two were audiobooks and thirteen were e-books. Furthermore, only one of these books did not have a queer main character and half of them were written by authors of colour! My average rating for the month was 3.36/5!
If you remember, back in January I picked up an ARC of the first short story in the Come What May short story collection – Girl With a Pearl Earring. In February, I picked up the other three short stories and was pleasantly surprised! Billions of Beautiful Hearts is a really sweet ya nonbinary romance that takes place over lockdown with two nonbinary teens falling for each other over the internet – one of them is Instagram famous and the other loves art. This was such a sweet, realistic story that I wish I had had growing up and was definitely my favourite of the collection! And Always Coming Back is another short story that takes place during lockdown of two men in a relationship when the loneliness of quarantine starts to take a toll on their relationship. As someone who went through something slightly similar near the start of lockdown I really appreciated this short story and the honesty that it brought to the table, but I found the sex scene at the end to be somewhat gratuitous. I gave this one 3.5 stars, though, and I do recommend checking it out. Finally, I picked up Sunny Pastures which is pitched as a sapphic romance meets Golden Girls! It follows Frankie who, after a bad end to a relationship and losing her job, has to move in with her grandmother in her retirement village until she gets back up on her feet. There she meets Claire, her grandmother’s home health aide, and sparks begin to fly! This was a really funny and sweet sapphic romance with two bi leads but I couldn’t help but wish that it had been a full length story, or even a novella as I just wanted more of the author’s writing! This was definitely a standout short story in the collection and I’ll definitely be checking out more by Lilah Suzanne in the future!
Every month this year I’m challenging myself to read at least one non-fiction book as it is one of my least read genres, and I surprised myself in February by reading three! Right at the start of the month I picked up Love Is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar – a memoir of the author’s life as a proudly fat, queer, Muslim, Arab American told during a cross-country road trip across America. I was really excited for this as I love reading memoirs, but I felt a tad let down by it. It jumps all over the place and doesn’t really have all that much to do with the road trip. There were also a few bits that made me very uncomfortable, such as when the author compares Thumbelina and Tinker Bell to visual representations of clitorises. I do recommend picking this up if you feel that it is something that might resonate with you, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea! Next I read The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend – a compilation of ‘agony aunt’ letters and replies about love, dating and sex as a queer person of a marginalised gender. This was so much fun and a really valuable book for queer people of all ages! There are some absolutely gorgeous illustrations throughout and some guest authors/respondents throughout who add their own perspectives on the matters at hand. This was a really fun and affirming read that I highly recommend! Finally, I picked up Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought – an anthology featuring poetry, essays, memoirs and thought pieces. This was one of my favourite books I read this month and I honestly cannot recommend it enough! Despite being a white lesbian, I found myself so seen by so many of the poems and essays throughout this book, and I continuously sent voice notes of myself reading it to my girlfriend so that she could enjoy it too! I can’t wait for my physical copy to arrive so I can annotate it and we can read it together!
In February I read my first middle grade book of the year – Proud of Me by Sarah Hagger-Holt. This is a really intriguing middle grade novel following ‘almost twins’ Becky and Josh who are raised by lesbian mums and share a sperm donor ‘father’. Throughout the book Josh is determined to hunt down the donor as he feels like he is missing that male influence in his life, and Becky is slowly starting to realise that she has feelings for her new best friend. This book was so sweet and so queer, and had some really lovely Jewish representation too. The strong messages in this are sure to be a source of strength and comfort for children going through a similar time to the main characters and it’s the type of book I wish I had while growing up! A bit later in the month, while crocheting I picked up one of the two audiobooks I read during the month – Bad Habits. I was originally intrigued by this one as its feminist stance reminded me of Juliet Takes a Breath, which I read last year. However, I was sorely disappointed and ended up DNFing the book. The feminism within the book was very much a case of white feminism and a lot of the language used was cissexist. I have a whole review up on Goodreads if you want to know the ins and outs of why I disliked it, but if you were interested in this book, I recommend picking up Juliet Takes a Breath instead! Finally, I picked up Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson. I’ve been wanting to read something by this author for a while, so I was so excited to pick this one up! I loved the themes of self love and family throughout and I absolutely flew through the book as Renée Watson’s writing is just so engaging! This is definitely a book that you should judge by that gorgeous cover, and if you want to know more of my thoughts, I also have a review up on Goodreads!
The first book I read for the Sapphic Stories Bookclub this month was Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. This was a book I’d been highly anticipating and I was pleasantly surprised after the mixed reviews I’d seen! Is this an amazing fully developed fantasy world? No, but it’s a really interesting take on the Cinderella story, with a lovely romance and it was just a whole load of fun! It also, I think, is what has got me back into my fantasy kick! I have a full review up already if you’d like to know more of my thoughts! The first book I finished this month was The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (I also have a review up for this book!). This is a sapphic historical fiction novel set on the isle of Vardø during the 1621 witch trials. This was my first book by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and I was not disappointed! The worldbuilding was absolutely phenomenal and I just didn’t want to put the book down!
As I mentioned, I’ve slowly but surely got back into fantasy this month, and I read some really great books in this genre! Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard was my other favourite book of the month – it’s a sapphic high fantasy novella set in a pre-colonial Vietnamese inspired setting and is compared to Howl’s Moving Castle! I absolutely adored this novella! The worldbuilding was so lush and vivid and the characters were all so well-developed for the novella being only a mere 112 pages! I can’t help but wish that this was a full length novel or that Aliette de Bodard decides to expand on this world in the future, but I do know that I will definitely be checking more of this author’s work out! In February I also picked up Witch, Cat, and Cobb – a sapphic fairytale/cottagcore-esque fantasy with two prominent trans characters! This was a really fun novella that has perfect Halloween vibes if you’re looking for something not too spooky or scary. It wrapped up nicely but I do think it was a tad too insta-lovey for my liking, but nonetheless I highly recommend it! During the month of February, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you will have seen that I’m part of the street team for Magic Mutant Nightmare Girl by Erin Grammar. This is such a fun fantasy/sci-fi debut with a really queer cast and a lovely found family! The main character Holly loves Harajuku fashion and accidentally develops super strength and that juxtaposition was so much fun! I have a full review up for this one so go check it out and get your preorders in! Right at the end of the month I picked up the bookclub’s second book – The Stars and the Blackness Between Them – and I can safely say that this book deserves all the hype it gets! Junauda Petrus’ writing style is so wonderfully lyrical and the magical realism aspects added an extra layer to the story! I’m so glad I finally picked this book up and I’m so excited for the film which was recently announced!
Finally, we’re into the last section of the wrap up! The second audiobook I listened to this month was an advanced copy of Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih. I don’t normally read a lot of literary fiction, but I was really intrigued by the exploration of today’s generation of queer people and their yearning for the community and activism of the past as well as wishing they had the freedoms that today’s queer teens have growing up. Overall I enjoyed the audiobook but it is both very Western-centric and didn’t really add anything new to the discussion that hasn’t already been said. I think the narrators did a fantastic job but overall this book was just okay! The first sapphic romance novel I read this month was Not This Time by M. A. Binfield. I’ve been meaning to get to this for a few months now and I really enjoyed myself reading it! It follows to ex-members of a girl group, Sofia and Madison, who used to be in a relationship but after Sofia decided to go solo, things fizzled out. Now, Madison is working as an interior designer but her latest client turns out to be Sofia and things get a little more complicated. This was your standard adult romance novel but it was a lot of fun. I’m a sucker for romance novels featuring musicians (though I have no idea why!) and I did enjoy the second chance romance. However, the pacing felt a bit off to me and nearer the end of the book I found that it dragged a bit. Nonetheless this was a solid romance that I definitely recommend! The final book I read in February was Masquerade by Anne Shade! I’m not going to talk too much about this one as I have a full review up on Goodreads but it is a historical lesbian romance featuring two Black women falling in love in Harlem in 1925 at a masquerade drag ball and if that doesn’t pique your interest alone, I don’t know what will!
Overall I had a pretty decent reading month in February and I’m really looking forward to the books I’ve got coming up in March! I’d love to hear what your favourite book(s) you read last month were and, as always, stay safe!