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The Best Queer Reads of Fall 2018

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Welcome to our regular series on the best recent queer book releases! For more queer reading material suggestions, check out the rest of the articles in this monthly series!

While it’s still not quite safe to say that the intense heat of summer is over, with school well underway and Halloween now firmly in the past, we have finally hit that very best of times: Fall!

With this season comes the promise of crisp days meandering through the woods, cozy nights snuggled up in flannel pjs, and lazy weekend afternoons spent lounging by a fire. As the days get shorter and the nights colder, what better way to enjoy the season than by cuddling up with the best of Fall queer releases and reading the day away?

The last few months have given us an abundance of exceptional comics, along with several historical and paranormal romances, queer retellings of well-loved classics, modern-day contemporaries, and so much more. So find a new Fall favorite and dive right in!

Comics

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Open Earth by Sarah Mirk (Author), Eva Cabrera (Illustrator), and Claudia Aguirre (Illustrator)

Sex positivity, polyamory, and honesty are the name of the game in Sarah Mirk’s erotic graphic novel, Open Earth.

Rigo is a young woman who was born on a space station orbiting high above Earth, after her parents and others fled their dying world. She has grown up free from the cultural and societal norms of Earth, learning about love, romance, and sex with the others on board, expanding and honing her ideas of relationships through freely sharing her body and her love with shipmates.

The result is a society unencumbered by outdated ideas around monogamy and marriage. When Rigo begins to develop deeper feelings for one particular person, however, her worldview begins to shift, and questions she never thought possible surface unexpectedly. Erotic and timely, this graphic novel is an introspective look into what makes relationships tick and how romance and love can exist in multiple forms.

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Dream Daddy #2, “Let the Right Dad In” by Lee C.A. (Author), Jack Gross (Illustrator) & Dream Daddy #3, “Dream Ad-y” by Leighton Gray (Author), Vernon Shaw (Author), Jarrett Williams (Illustrator)

Oni Press’ Dream Daddy comics series (based off of the visual novel video game of the same name) is back with two new colorful editions.

The first, “Let the Right Dad In,” features a Bad Boy Dad who has a propensity to skulk about in the shadows, investigate local mysteries, and give his new neighbor decidedly un-neighborly glares. His foil is Vampire Dad, a Twilight-esque character who may or may not be a Vampire. As these two circle each other, each testing the other for weaknesses, readers are given a deeper understanding of what makes Bad Boy Dad tick and how gothic and otherworldly Vampire Dad truly is.

The second, Dream Ad-y, shows the more meaningful side of friendship with a potential for love, as Coffee Shop Dad attempts to salvage his business through harebrained advertising schemes. When a friendly Dad and his daughter provide a better idea, and a coffee-shop patron takes on the mantle of Director in the shop’s first live commercial, Coffee Shop Dad may be in way over his head.

The nuanced interactions between the dads are what truly drive this series. At only 20-ish pages per comic, each new edition packs quite a bit into its scant pages and gives readers a small taste of what the overarching story between the dads could be. The artwork is a true highlight, and readers will find themselves dazzled by the high quality artwork and coloring.

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My Brother’s Husband volume 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

Gengoroh Tagame’s latest is the perfect followup to the tale of grief and acceptance that started with My Brother’s Husband volume 1.

Yaichi and his twin brother, Ryoji, were severely estranged at the time of his death. When Ryoji’s husband, a burly Canadian named Mike, arrives on his doorstep unexpectedly, Yaichi must choose whether to welcome this virtual stranger into his home, interact with him, and ultimately accept that his brother loved him, or blindly turn him away. He chooses the former and sets himself and his daughter down a path toward healing, as Mike slowly interjects himself into all aspects of their lives.

Volume 2 picks up right where Volume 1 ended, allowing readers to dive further inside Yaichi’s world as he struggles to understand his brother holistically and, in turn, understand the man he loved. As Yaichi finally begins to open up and accept who his brother was, Mike announces his intentions to return to Canada, and new feelings of grief surface.

This book is such a beautiful testament to grieving and acceptance, focusing on simple interactions between characters to explain the nuances of devastation, loneliness, and love.

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Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal

When a birth defect decimates the male population, the women of the world must band together, forming new societies and creating order amidst the confusion and chaos. One small group rallies under the flag of “Beyonce’s Thighs” and hopes for a better future than the one that faced them before.

With a tongue-in-cheek humor that is at turns sly and biting, and others laugh-out-loud hilarious, Aminder Dhaliwal has crafted a graphic novel that is both powerful and hopeful, focusing on the daily lives of this small group of women struggling to make a future for themselves without men. The book follows the interplay between the group, focusing on their relationship woes, the difficulties and hardships of group survival, and the sadness of loss—both of men and of the world as it used to be, and the very real hope that this new world they find themselves in will be better than the last.

Full of simple black-and-white artwork with an occasional splash of color, the book is stark in its exploration of identity, femaleness, loss, and hope.

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Check, Please! By Ngozi Ukazu

Compiling the first half of Ngozi Ukazu’s (check out our interview with the author!) immensely popular webcomic of the same name, Check, Please! is a superb coming-of-age story set within the world of college hockey. College freshman Eric Bittle, a.k.a. “Bitty,” is a study in contrasts—he’s a hockey player who is also a former figure skater; a veteran skater who still needs help on the ice; a jock who loves to bake; a vlogger who is at turns shy and introspective, yet also outgoing and silly; and a gay man who is single but looking to jump into the dating world.

As the comic progresses and readers follow Bitty from Freshman through the end of Sophomore year, he matures and discovers nuances of his own personality that help inform his interactions with teammates and potential love interests. This book is littered with easy banter and authentic interactions between the main character and his teammates, some extremely heartwarming self-reflection, and a narrative that is uplifting and smile-inducing at almost every level.

Readers will definitely want more of Bitty’s sunny personality and his teammates’ affable camaraderie, and luckily, two more years’ worth of comics await.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

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On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, a breakout webcomic that was only recently made into a graphic novel, is a superb combination of comics and space opera, featuring a girl searching for her place in the universe.

When Mia joins the crew of an interstellar ship that travels throughout the galaxy repairing broken structures, her past and her present slowly begin to converge. Memories of boarding school and her first love, Grace, crop up with dizzying frequency as Mia and her shipmates travel from one lonely, dilapidated building to the next. As the ship hurtles through deep space, readers learn more about each of the crew, along with Mia, and as they become closer and their lives more entwined, the notions of chosen family and redemptions come into play.

Tillie Walden crafts a nuanced and beautiful world full of broken down monoliths, spaceships shaped like fish, and family when you least expect it.

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Zenith Dream (Broken Moon #3) by F.T. Lukens

Zenith Dream is the third installment in F.T. Lukens fabulous interstellar adventure, which started with The Star Host and followed up with Ghosts & Ashes.

Ren is a star host who can manipulate technology on a grand scale and has struggled to learn the extent of his powers after being taken from his home planet. When the sinister Phoenix Corps leaves him for dead and his lover Asher has disappeared along with them, Ren must choose between fading into anonymity or calling together his ragtag group of comrades on the Star Stream and battling against evil one last time.

This final book in the Broken Moon series is just as action packed and character driven as the first two, and the notion of found family is still just as central. Lukens has the uncanny ability to craft characters who feel real and relatable within an out-of-this-world setting. Readers will love all the sci-fi elements as star host Ren learns the true extent of his powers.

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The Bones Beneath My Skin by TJ Klune

TJ Klune is a master at shifting from one subgenre to another. From Romcom to paranormal to fantasy to science fiction, his prose is engrossing no matter the story, and The Bones Beneath My Skin serves as a testament to his writing prowess.

With his parents dead, his brother refusing to acknowledge him, and his job a distant memory, Nate Cartwright winds up back at his family’s vacation cabin in Oregon to regroup—except waiting for him there are two things he doesn’t expect: a man named Alex and a mysterious young girl in his care, named Artemis Darth Vader. Meeting them kick-starts an adventure that’s part sci-fi road-trip and part love story, forcing Nate to confront his own humanity and come to terms with who he is and what is real.

Klune’s prose is sublime, pulling in readers and making them self-reflect, plus all the Easter eggs linking to Klune’s other books are a delight for hardcore fans.

Romance

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Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

Historical Romance author K.J. Charles is well known for writing novels with high body counts, but about her latest, she claims, “I’m pretty sure this is my first book in which nobody dies, which is impressive considering I’m supposed to write romance.”

While there are no bodies and the level of angst is surprisingly low, Band Sinister is definitely a standout in Historical Romance thanks to Charles’ gorgeous writing, richly detailed world-building, and slow-burn enemies-to-lovers plotline.

Sir Rookwood is a dodgy sort who’s known to run with a group of debauched, free-thinking radicals named The Murder. When he and his comrades install themselves at Rookwood Hall, it’s the perfect opportunity for his neighbor, Amanda Frisby, to get a look at what makes The Murder so scandalous. When she breaks her leg while on his property, Sir Rookwood is forced to house her and her Classics-loving brother, Guy, through her convalescence.

Little does Rookwood know that Guy will prove to be more of a distraction than he could ever have imagined. Whimsical and playfully written, K.J. Charles clearly enjoys the characters of The Murder. They’re intellectually curious and outgoing, a ragtag group of self-proclaimed heathens who are not fit for polite society. Through their extended dinners and countryside jaunts, country mouse Guy begins to understand how enticing that intellectual curiosity truly is, and when his verbal sparring with Sir Rookwood turns to a more intimate form of sparring, the evolution of their relationship from enemies to lovers feels natural and wholly authentic.

Charles is clearly a master at nuanced relationships, and while there’s not a body to be seen, it’s indeed a stunning Romance that relies on solid writing, detailed world-building, intimate conversation between characters, and a boatload of longing to keep the reader thoroughly entertained.

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In This Iron Ground (Natural Magic #1) by Marina Vivancos

Heartbreak and healing are the focal points in this kickoff to Marina Vivancos’ debut Paranormal Romance Natural Magic series. In This Iron Ground is much less a tale of werewolves and magic and more one of the acceptance and love of found family.

After several abusive years in foster care, Damien is finally adopted by a local werewolf pack. Living with their closely guarded secret is far easier to handle than the abuses he suffered from his last foster family. With the pack by his side, Damien is able to confront the demons of his past, flourishing as his knowledge of magic and shifters grows.

He also learns to accept parts of himself that he once had to hide.

His love for his foster brother Hakan slowly evolves over their years together, and when it finally comes to a head, the explosion is incendiary. Told through lush world-building, poignant storytelling, and some truly sexy moments, this is one novel that readers will devour in a single sitting and then relish more thoroughly a second, third, or fourth time. Yes, it’s that good.

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If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker

Jane Austen’s fabulous novel of mischief and matchmaking, Emma, gets an equally fabulous modernization in Tamsen Parker’s If I Loved You Less.

Local Hanalei Bay surfer and surf shop manager Theodosia Sullivan has it all: a loving family, a steady job, good looks, and best of all, charisma. She’s also a matchmaker at heart and enjoys pairing up all whom she comes in contact with. The only person outside of her line of matchmaker fire is Kini ʻŌpūnui, a baker and confidante, who, like the Mr. Knightly of the original Emma, is the only one who can curb her enthusiasm and lend reason to her scheming.

As the story progresses and Theo faces the very real possibility of losing Kini to someone else, her own feelings come to light, and she’s faced with the need for some very real self reflection before claiming her very own happily ever after.

Tamsen Parker does a phenomenal job of lending a modern slant to this timeless classic. Her prose is fresh and quick moving, and fans of the original will absolutely adore the will they/won’t they aspect of Kini and Theo’s relationship that is so reminiscent of Emma and Mr Knightly’s.

(images: respective publishers)

Judith is an avid reader and overly enthusiastic book pusher. In addition to writing for the The Mary Sue, you can also find Judith talking the latest in queer reads on Teen Vogue and HEA USA Today.

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