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How Do You Read So Much?

Reading pace and how I think about the quantity of what I read.

Reading pace is highly individualized, and each book may deserve a different pace. I can read some books in a single night, and some take me years.

Right now, I’m reading Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene,(1) which explores the historical and current foodways that led to African-American/Southern cuisine. The book isn’t a light read as Twitty traces Southern food back to the realities of chattel slavery and uses his family history as a guiding light. The chapters are dense. Some of the chapters depict the worst horrors humans inflicted on other humans.

I find myself reading it slowly. I find myself pausing. I find myself rereading passages. When Twitty lists out ethnic groups, ancestors’ names, geographic places (present or historical), or foods, and I find myself glazing over, I stop and go back. Because the people who were enslaved deserve that respect, unlike the fictional kings of Westeros, whose fictional names and places I will skim or skip.(2)

Again, The Cooking Gene is a good book. It’s just not an “easy” read for me. Nor should it be, and it’s okay that I’m not reading it at my “usual” pace.

The start of rethinking my reading

As an English major in college, my ability to knuckle down and get through a book came in handy. I always read the assigned readings in college.(3) My reading was seasoned in the fire of reading Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and James Joyce’s Ulysses (and the book explaining Ulysses) for two different literature courses in the same semester.

But in my free time, I found myself unable to read books. Despite its excellent quality and entertainment, I spent six months working through Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Fanfiction and comic books kept me reading outside of college. Writing fanfic taught me the work of writing.

After graduation, I dated a speed reader specifically interested in reading the “100 best books” in canon.(4) Yes, I was skeptical and envious of his reading speed. Even then, I had a longer to-be-read list than I thought I could read in my lifetime.

At some point — it may have been after that relationship exploded — I realized reading so quickly wasn't enjoyable. While far from a “speed reader,” I wasn't retaining what I read; I wasn't appreciating the prose, and my eye was too uncritical of what I read. I assumed the book was quality based on how highly it was recommended or lauded. I often missed flaws or felt odd or uncultured for not finding the book good.

I also realized I was reading books where people like me (and frankly, the vast majority of people in this world) were omitted. I wasn't on the page. That fucking sucks.

I reevaluated what I wanted to read. I considered what I wanted to purchase, spend my time with, and the ideas I wanted to internalize. I revisited my consumption pace.

I also went back to my inner child. I jump-started reading non-comic books again by reading aloud to and being read to by a partner, specifically YA books like The Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia, and His Dark Materials. We could tackle reading together while I struggled with adult working life and him with graduate school.

So how did I read 16 books in January 2023?

1. Reading is my main hobby. (My other two are writing and houseplants/gardening.) It’s been a primary hobby my entire life, and I’ve shifted hours to reading. I’ve never been a gamer, and when everyone upped their gaming and TV/film hours in 2020, mine tanked.

2. Reading before bedtime is a lifelong habit. When I was 8 or 9, I convinced my mother to let me stay up reading from 8-8:30 pm. I stretched that as far as I could. I’d sneak over to my nightlight to “destroy my eyes” (as my mother put it) but continue reading. Despite not being a reader herself then, my mother read books to my brothers and me before we could read. My grandma did as well, and she taught and encouraged me to read.

Unless I’m dead tired, I cannot fall asleep without reading and spending time away from a screen. If I’m reading a great book, I will stay up even later to continue, or maybe I’ll structure my night to “go to bed early,” aka get in bed early but stay up until my regular bedtime or later to read. A little reading every night adds up!

3. I read different genres and formats, such as comics and audio. I do not limit myself to physical paper books. (Though they are my favorite form of reading.) Some genres and formats will be quicker to read than others.

You cannot go back as quickly with an audiobook, but you cannot go faster than the narrator can talk (or your app can speed up). The more of a genre you read, like mysteries, the more easily you'll understand the tropes and other writing conventions employed, and it may fly by. If you’re reading the 11th book in a fantasy series, you already know the world and many characters and understand the writer’s writing style and patterns.

4. On a pure numbers game, most books I read are under 300 pages. If you’re reading longer books, you just simply aren’t going to read as many books. I don’t read books under 300 pages to inflate my reading numbers. It’s simply that my most-read genres — like romance books — and formats — like graphic novels — are typically under 300 pages per guidelines from publishers. Traditional publishers don’t want your romance book that’s over 90,000 words unless you’re Nora Roberts; but even then, Nora Roberts’ readers may not want books outside of the 60,000-90,000 word range.

5. Adding to the numbers, I started several of the 16 books pre-January. Xenocultivars and Tentacles & Triathlons were started in the second half of December. I began two of the Wonder Woman graphic novels in March 2022, which I put down for a long while. But Banish Your Inner Critic: Reignite Your Creative Spark by Denise R. Jacobs takes the cake; I started it in 2019.

6. I’m a mood reader who can juggle multiple books at once. This means I don’t get “stuck” on one I’m trying to desperately finish, and I’m gentle with myself if the book is not for that moment.

I sat down James Baldwin’s Another Country for several years after reading the first part, where a character commits suicide, and it brought back all the feelings about a beloved friend who committed suicide. The book was still there when I was ready to finish it.

7. I can get out of reading slumps. I do think this is individualized, and it’s related to #6. If I feel like I’m not enjoying reading or that everything I’m reading is dragging on and on, I grab a short graphic novel and spend an hour or so reading it from start to finish. It’s like a magic resetting wand.

8. Buddy reading can encourage me to focus. My buddy read in January was Uprooted by Naomi Novak, and my friend Dina encouraged me to keep reading with her update posts and gave me her much deeper than mine insights about what we were reading.

9. It’s wintertime. The number of books I read in January will be higher than in spring and summer months. Right now, my houseplants don’t need as much care (many are dormant or semi-dormant), and my garden is quiet. I read 8 books last July as I traveled for three weddings, socialized, and gardened.

10. I put my phone out of my grasp. The #1 thing that interrupts my reading is me picking up my phone. Why am I reading the worst book ever written — aka any social media feed — when I can read a book!

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you read one or 16 books in a month. Avid readers like myself cheer on more readers.

In the last two years, my mother started reading for pleasure for the first time in her life. She’s in her mid-60s. Her favorite reads are mysteries by Lee Child, J.D. Robb, and James Patterson.

While not my picks, the reader community is generous to new readers. We realize that many people struggle with reading in complex ways, and perhaps previously, readers were shut down or out. I have close friends and family whose love of books was squashed by shitty high school teachers. I also know readers who prefer audiobooks due to dyslexia or other disabilities.

Your reading pace isn’t about a number — though goals can help some people. It’s ultimately about the reading experience you want to craft for yourself and the books you enjoy.

1. The Cooking Gene is under a Harper-Collins imprint. The HC Union is currently on strike. The Union has asked that we withhold full reviews, but we can give a thumbs up, it’s good, on reading those published by marginalized authors. So thumbs up, it’s good on The Cooking Gene.

2. I just won’t read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire because it’s full of gratuitous sexual violence that doesn’t need to be in fiction. The TV show was plenty. I want those hours back.

3. A whole problem on its own which is a complex mix of class politics and white supremacist training on deference to authority figures. Basically, shit I’ve been unlearning in the last 10+ years.

4. Another spot of white supremacy and what we naively thought we should read and what was drilled into us as important, even without direct guidance from the academy.

Bookworm corner 📚

Banish Your Inner Critic: Reignite Your Creative Spark by Denise R. Jacobs ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: non-fiction self-help

Disclaimer: In a previous job, I hired Jacobs to present at a conference I ran, and her top-notch speaking contributed to me purchasing and reading Banish Your Inner Critic.

Some of the exercises in reframing how you think I found helpful. Especially asking yourself deep down why this is happening or what these fears really are. With creativity, so many fears are shame or other things we shouldn't be worried about.

That said, this took me forever to read. It felt like "everything and the kitchen sink" (even if it's clear that Jacobs has more thoughts and ideas), and at times, it was overwhelming, and I'd put it aside for a while.

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.

Blackwater by Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: YA horror comic

While cutesy horror, many parts of the story suffered from being underwritten. The best parts were the conflicts between friends and parents. The werewolves only add twists and metaphors to those teen years when teens express their separate identities from their families and perhaps how they don't really want to be parted from said family but feel forced.

Arroyo and Graham packed a lot into the story, and as much as comics as a medium expands storytelling with art, the development felt hindered by the limited prose. Though I did enjoy the art style, especially the different expressions on people's faces.

Tony and Eli were ultimately cute together and felt like teens who made a handful of bad mistakes. While I understood the point of Biff's character, he could've been pulled out of the story with a few changes, and we still could've experienced Tony's journey.

While I'm sure one of the reasons I picked this up was that Eli is a trans teen boy, I'd forgotten, so that was a lovely little surprise partway through my read.

Overall, this was fun and cute. I'd read more books by the creative team, but Blackwater came up a little short.

A Dash of Salt and Pepper by Kosoko Jackson ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: m/m contemporary romance

A Dash of Salt and Pepper is all over the place. When it's focused, the passages are lovely, and the connections between the characters are all you want in a romance. But then there are the opening and the parts in between those moments.

I'm tolerant of pop culture references in books, but these opening chapters were too much from our MC and POV character Xavier. Easily half of them could've been cut out, and it would've been a lot still. It was telling that the places with the least pop culture references are when the characters have profound bonding moments or action scenes.

The timeline was a mess. It's a linear story, but don't try to do the math based on what we're told about the passage of time, likewise with the seasons.

For example, in the chapter where they have on-page sex, we're told it's chilly and then hot enough for popsicles, and Xavier and Logan get sweaty before we get to the action. In the same scene, we're told they've been together for three months, but this is the first time they've had penetrative sex. Which okay, but it's clear it's not the first time they've touched each other below the belt. I'm not sure why this wasn't sorted out in editing.

I hated the epilogue because it should've been about Xavier and Logan's relationship, and it was taken up by Anne (Logan's daughter) reenacting a scene from The Devil Wears Prada. We already knew that Anne liked her dad dating Xavier and liked Xavier as a person, so this was unnecessary except to make another pop culture reference to the long-running TDWP jokes in the entire book.

Xavier's parents felt dropped altogether halfway through the book. Similarly, many other emotional developments, even between our couple, happen between the time jumps.

A Dash of Salt and Pepper did have elements I enjoyed. Jackson has moments of brilliant connections, and he fleshes out characters instantly; they pop off the page and feel relatable. I recognized the feelings of growing up queer in a small town but also being from a place where you understand and know the people who live there. (Xavier's just lucky that place is Stars Hollow.)

I am glad I read this, even if my star rating isn't high, and I'll pick up Jackson's future books.

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.

The Dragon's Bride (A Deal With a Demon #1) by Katee Robert ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: m/f monster romance

I read this in one sitting.

To escape her abusive husband, Briar signs a deal with a bargaining demon Azazel. He'll kill her husband in exchange for 7 years of service in his realm (with clauses around the contract being void at abuse, including lack of consent). Azazel then sells Briar (but not her contract) to Sol, a giant marshmallow of a dragon king trying to renew magical energy forces by having kids with a human woman. His contract with Azazel states that Sol cannot force Briar to do anything against her will, but he can attempt to seduce her. (There are a bunch of magical safeguards to soothe readers (like myself) for whom non-con or even dub-con may be a DNF.)

The novella does a lot for the romance between Briar and Sol and to set up this world and the characters in the other stories. Sol isn't the only demon ruler who gets a match that night. There are also side characters that make this world wider; and, friends, there are nonbinary characters (including Sol's dragon ex-partner) and aro-ace characters too. In the same vein, there are certain body size differences between Sol and Briar, but it's not bio-essentialist; it is only presented as "well, he's over 7 ft tall, so of course, all parts of his body are bigger."

Briar does fall into the list of monster romance characters who are like, "who needs therapy when you can fuck a monster." Robert does a pretty good job at addressing the quicker romance (or, the quicker jumping to sex), how careful Sol is around Briar not to scare her, and how he pieces together her past, but there are only so many pages in a novella. Sol isn't immediately gone for the heroine, but he clearly has a soft spot for her, and he must earn her trust.

The Dragon's Bride is infamous for Sol having 2 cocks and his tail getting in on the action. There is a breeding kink, and there are several plot points around how birth control and reproductive freedom are a huge part of consent and healthy relationships. The sex scenes themselves were fine but left me a little cold, and I'm trying to figure out exactly why. I have the second book (which I love Kraken), so more to ummm explore.

Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: superhero sci-fi comics

Far Sector cover features Jo in her Green Lantern uniformDespite being a superhero comic book reader, this is my first real Green Lantern comic and N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell knocked it out of the park. As a creative team, I had high expectations for them, so I'm thrilled they met and exceeded them.

Far Sector smartly takes Jo away from the structures of Earth and other Lanterns. She was someone with military and police training before becoming a Lantern. This training and what made her doubt it prepared her for a solo assignment on a Dyson sphere with billions of people comprised of three different alien species. For these aliens to thrive together, they've had their emotions removed, and Jo is our only character with feelings. Or is she?

Each of the alien cultures is developed brilliantly in both prose and art. I particularly loved the carnivorous plant people. While I'd guessed the "who done it" part of the murder mystery turned conspiracy, the ending unraveled in a pleasing and well-done manner.

Jemisin isn't afraid to make Jo and all the other characters here complex. They aren't one thing. Jemisin's writing often delves into characters with state-granted authority (cops, wealthy people, politicians, etc.) and/or powers that could give them dominion over others. Then it shows them deconstructing that and the systems built to support that corrupted power or impulse to subjugate others under it. Far Sector plays with all these themes that Jemisin revisits time and time again.

It's weird to say that Jo felt like a really well-rounded character, but so many times with superheroes, characters get leaned into too much as these paragons of something more. Jo has trauma. She misses coffee and finally finds some food she likes in this place, but she doesn't want to know what it's made out of. Jo is unapologetically bisexual and wants something magical to happen in her life, despite knowing how flawed everyone around her and the universe is.

Far Sector is a great sci-fi and detective story, even if superheroes aren't your jam.
Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod and Jess Taylor ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: superhero sci-fi comics

The art is incredible. The colors are lush, and all the characters are incredibly expressive. The designs were just brilliant for building this world out.

Galaxy's journey is touching, relatable, and sad. She has moments of trans joy and pain under barely an allegory.

But there were, unfortunately, some jumpy story transitions from chapters or scenes and some undercooked relationships that were key to the story.

As always, I'm thrilled young people have stories like this one.
Heartstopper book cover for vol 1, features two white teen boys holding handsHeartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/m YA romance comics

They are just so incredibly precious and sweet. Oseman knows how to capture that first queer relationship when you're young.

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: memoir

Book cover for How We Fight for Our Lives, red and orange abstract imageA wonderfully written and succinct memoir about Jones' relationship with his queerness and with his mother. Even though we're different people on the surface, so much of this resonated with me and was so powerful.

I could hear his voice coming off the page, and I'd bet the audiobook is lovely. (I listen to his podcast Vibe Check.) I admire an author who can write about the tough relationship bumps with family members, but you never doubt how fiercely he loves his mother and other family members.

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: contemporary f/f romance

** spoiler alert ** The sex was so hot in this book. Like for those looking for "how to make sapphic sex hot" should read this book.

The rest was either boring or annoying. I did not care about Erin's rich white divorcee problems. Nor did Cassie's seem that high of stakes. And the conflict of Parker finding out that one of her besties was dating/sleeping with her mom fizzled out.

I haven't seen others say this, but Acacia came across as the magical Black friend who solved the conflict between her two white lady besties by the end.

Erin and Cassie never considered their power difference or seemed concerned about it. It could be because I've been in actual age-gap relationships when I was Cassie's age, and now I'm Erin's age, but all the age conversations focused on Parker, not the dynamics between Erin and Cassie. We don't know how either feels about the age gap, only the best friend's mom thing.

Parker is pretty immature until the plot needs her not to be. And Erin and Cassie are likewise immature.

I cannot get over Erin buying Cassie that motorcycle. No one has ever spent that much money on me in one go. And they don't talk about it.
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny (Loose Ends #1) by Rebekah Weatherspoon ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/f romance

Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny book cover, white man with tattoos and ginger hair and a big beardEveryone who recommended Rebekah Weatherspoon was correct. I cannot wait to read more books by her, including the second book in this series.

A book with this ridiculous title has no right to be this good. I loved how Sloan and Rafe led their lives with integrity and values and how all their decisions stemmed from there. Even if we all wanted Rafe to beat Drew's ass.

The sex was hot, and Weatherspoon did an excellent job balancing that NRE with the fact that two small children in the household wouldn't sleep through the entire night.

My tiny nitpick on Weatherspoon's writing is that she needs to employ "X said" more often in dialog when there are groups of 4+ people talking. I found a few of those scenes confusing in an otherwise delightfully breezy read. The children's dialog was at least child-like, so I could always tell when it was just Sloan, Rafe, and the kids, but don't ask me to distinguish which kiddo was which.

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.
Something is Killing the Children Vol 4 by James Tynion IV, Werther Dell'Edera, and Miquel Muerto ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: contemporary horror comic

Book cover for something is killing the children vol 4Terrific storytelling. Volume 4 brings us back to Erica's origin story and what happened after she slaughters the monster that killed her family.

The confusion of an outsider and a kid helps build the exposition about the Order of St. George instead of doing one information dump. It also establishes characters, including some we've met before.

We continue to see the horror and violent realities of the monster hunting work. Plenty of people, including our trained hunters, cry and express trauma and regret.

Going in, we know that Erica will survive her initiation, but I have to wonder what if we readers didn't know that.

The art remains fabulous. Dell'Edera gets to show off a range of facial expressions and body types, and because most of this story takes place during the daytime, we see their pain clearly.

Tentacles & Triathlons (Leviathan Fitness #2) by Ashley Bennett ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: m/m monster romance

This is better than Muscles & Monsters, but it didn't go as deep into the characterization of Cyrus and Reece or their connection as I'd hoped.

I appreciated that there was more to Reece's fear of monsters than only bigotry. But for the complete change here, there just needed to be more.

The sex was steamy, but even there, I wanted more on the characterization. For example, Reece likes to wear lacey underwear, and beyond a positive response from Cyrus about that, it's immediately okay. This small moment illustrated where the story could've gone deeper and remained a cozy fluffy romance.

+1 to Bennett changing Reece's job to working for the parks department instead of his initial cop job mentioned in Muscles & Monsters as acab and books published in 2022 need to stop having cops as heroes.

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: fairy tale fantasy

** spoiler alert ** Uprooted was both what I expected and didn't expect based on fantasy tropes. Agnieszka is the annoying clumsy, naive heroine who goes on a classic coming-of-age tale. Until about halfway through, I was teetering between a 2 or 3-star.

However, unlike other fantasies I've read, Novik maintains the fairy tale energy. When reviewers complained about the magic system, they forgot they were reading a fairy tale.

I needed more of Kasia and Alosha.

Novak understands the difference between action and violence, and I appreciated how we got both. The battle scenes were appropriately horrifying. Even though our characters had to fight or chose to fight, Novak didn't glorify it. The scene where Agnieszka comes to the capital in "glory" was an A+ commentary on this.

In the romance, I found myself compensating for the magical connection. Novak only played with doing magic together to see a person differently, and I found myself adding to what was not in the text.

I also found myself having queer readings of Agnieszka and Kasia (they reminded me of high school crushes) and Solya and Marek (Solya's motivations and they're both in pjs lounging in Solya's bedroom in the castle). But none of this is explicitly stated in the text.

I knew the solution couldn't just be murder and that the humans caused the Woods somehow. Novak rolled it all out with enough surprises and turns that I found it ultimately satisfying.

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night (Immortals After Dark #3) by Kresley Cole ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: paranormal m/f romance

Definitely the best and my favorite in the IAD series so far. Whereas in No Rest for the Wicked, Sebastian and Kaderin's story and characterization felt short-changed for the world-building, Cole hit the balance here just right.

I loved getting to know the other characters and Lore types and seeing them interact. The community around Mariketa was as crucial to her story as her own heroine's journey and the power she finds inside of herself. I assume Mariketa being so powerful means she'll be back in future stories, especially as the Ascension comes forth. (I'm excited to learn more about Rydstrom.)

Additionally, after two stories of our characters hating each other (often in bigotry rooted in murdered family), Mariketa didn't harbor these prejudices, and she quickly made friends and allies. Notably, she was also the youngest character we've met, and she was the one calling out that old werewolf Bowen on his bigotry.

Paranormal authors often get the bulk of the shit about writing colossal age gaps — Mari is 23, and Bowen is 1,200 — but in the last month, I've read two age-gap contemporary romances. This silly paranormal book talked more honestly and matter-of-factly about actual age-gap issues. We also know where their power imbalance started and where it ended. Bowen recognized Mari fully as he became her familiar, which I loved as a show of the alpha heroine.

Even if throwing her vibrator into a river, trying to remove her birth control patch, and calling her by a dead woman's name during sex were entirely unforgivable. But I guess Mari did destroy half of his body.

If the last book was the Amazing Race immortal-style, then this one was Romancing the Stone immortal-style. Mari's beyond-silly clothing was over-the-top, even if we knew Bowen picked it out for his own pleasure. I loved her testing her powers by sending little annoyances to Bowen in the jungle. He deserved it.

The ultimate battle with Häxa seemed a little silly. Or at least how I imagined it as she turned into a snake, and I kept seeing Mari as a Powerpuff Girl with mirrored fingerless gloves. But we have our second heroine coming into her own by facing her big bad down by herself. This was perhaps less emotional than Emma's since Mari had no personal connection to Häxa, and Bowen's was only part of a trick. (I did not see that twist as I, too, missed Nix's warning. More Nix!)

Ensure you check content warnings for these books are 15 years old, and there were two places where the consent to initiate sex wasn't given. Though part of the play between Mari and Bowen was will-they-or-won't-they-fuck with many false starts. These two eyebrow-raisers felt more intentional than Lachlain and Emma in the shower in A Hunger Like No Other.

Cole did miss the opportunity to further distinguish her leads by having Bowen use females/males as nouns and Mari use women/men as nouns instead of both of them sounding like Ferengi all the time.

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds by Michael W. Conrad, Becky Cloonan, Travis Moore, Andy MacDonald, Jill Thompson, Emanuela Lupacchino, Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Pat Brosseau ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: superhero comics

I appreciate the ambition of this story, particularly the tone and art changes as Diana, Siggy, and Ratatoskr explore the different worlds on the hunt for Janus' future half. However, it didn't all come together, and in some parts, this long story dragged or leaned so heavily into the mythology that you were expected to fill in the background.

Hanging a lampshade on Earth-11's binary gender swaps didn't do it for me. I really wish cis feminist writers would leave these stories in the past.

Diana's voice and viewpoint weren't quite there. I liked what the writers did about discussions of wisdom and how we need both our past and future.

I did enjoy Siggy as her hunky himbo, and yay for Diana having sex and it being just normal.

Overall, it was a middle-of-the-road Wonder Woman story.

Wonder Woman: Black & Gold by various creators ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: superhero comics

An excellent anthology to celebrate Wonder Woman's 80th anniversary featuring a bunch of stand-alone shorts. All these stories dive into different aspects of Diana's character and her world. This is a great book for new Wonder Woman fans and has plenty of easter eggs for long-time fans. All the art is black and white, with gold as a highlight color.

Looking at the creator list, there is a ton of incredible talent. Only some people delivered what I'd considered their best stories, but most were solid efforts.

My favorites included:

  • "Without Love" by Mariko Tamaki & Jamie McKelvie
  • "Homecoming" by Tillie Walden & Jordie Bellaire
  • "The Acquaintance" by Rachel Smythe
  • "Prayer" by Andrew Constant, Nicola Scott, & Annette Kwok (made me cry!)
  • "Feet of Clay" by Josie Campbell & Carlos D'Anda

📽️ Watch my review on TikTok.

Xeni (Loose Ends #2) by Rebekah Weatherspoon ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/f romance

A perfect romance when you want the HEA, but also maybe you need a break from instalove.

When Xeni's favorite aunt dies, she discovers much more to the story, including inheriting millions. The only catch is that she must marry Mason, a big soft Scottish man her aunt believed was destined to be Xeni's love match.

Xeni and Mason have ongoing family trauma and significant life changes that they deal with while finding solace in each other. Luckily for them, they both find sex as a stress reliever and find each other attractive. They develop a caring relationship before their romantic love blooms.

While both characters have similar life philosophies, Weatherspoon does a great job of showing how very different their lives are. The resolutions with their respective parents are a good example of this, same with how Xeni and Mason are both bisexual, but their sexuality plays out differently with their families.

The sex was hot. There's pegging, which made me happy, and he fists her, which I was not expecting.

-1 star for a gender reveal cake in the epilogue. Extra disappointing as the cake was for Xeni's relative (Xeni and Mason are on the no-babies plan), and this book is about two queer characters.

Weatherspoon has become a must-read romance author for me.

Xenocultivars: Stories of Queer Growth, edited by Isabela Oliveira and Jed Sabin ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: plant-themed sci-fi and fantasy short stories

Xenocultivars book cover featurese a bunch of plants and a garden outside of a window in rainbow colorsXenocultivars is a highly-curated and incredible plant-filled queer collection of short stories. Every story here shined in some way. The collection features a wide variety of types of queer people, and most stories lean into some kind of sci-fi or fantasy element to bring the plant theme together. Queer growth is undoubtedly a strong underlying message of each story as well.

They're all great. Though the one that hit me the most personally was "How to Make a Spell Jar" by EA Crawley, as I've never felt a part of my childhood so specifically represented along with my identity.

Disclaimer: I backed this book on Kickstarter.

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[BLACK HISTORY MONTH] Blaqueer[Blacker]Stories by Robert Jones — “It is also wild how people who endeavor to make other people’s humanity debatable imagine that they don’t forfeit their own by doing so.”

[DISABILITY] How I’m Navigating Play Parties as a Disabled, Immunocompromised Kinkster by Jade T. Perry — The very grim nature of what happens as everyone’s “over” COVID-19 while the the virus is not “over” us.

[POLITICS] This Fox News Segment Perfectly Illustrates How Off-The-Rails The Right-Wing Anti-Trans Attacks Have Become by Parker Molloy — An illustration of the brain rot it takes to continue to provoke nonsense “culture wars” instead of actually address what people need to have a functioning civilization.

[PUBLISHING] Self Published Book Launch A-Z by Travis Baldree — Baldree extremely transparently shares the work and numbers behind his launch of his self-published book Legends and Lattes.

[RELATIONSHIPS] You Need Help: You Fat-Shamed Your Beautiful Girlfriend by Heather Hogan — What it means to truly be there for our partners as we grow, change, and age.

[WORK] Layoff Brain by Anne Helen Petersen — How layoffs change how workers relate to companies.

Take care!


Erica McGillivray

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