Crystal’s House of Queers by Brooke Skipstone


Crystal’s House of Queers is a contemporary young adult novel about a group of friends who create a safe-haven for outcasts and gay teenagers within the home of Crystal, a high school senior with a crush on her classmate Haley. Crystal lives with her grandparents, but her grandfather comes down Covid-19 and Crystal is left to take care of the house and herself when her grandfather and her grandmother are both checked into the hospital. Payton, a new girl in school who is out and proud as a lesbian, meets Crystal in her art class they hit it off, bonding over their love of drawing and painting. Payton has custody of her younger sister and the two girls are traveling in a motorhome to get away from a rocky home life. With her grandparents in the hospital and the house now empty, Crystal invites them to stay with her. And so begins the formation of a house full of runaways, outcasts, and pride.

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Wild Sky by Zaya Feli

Summary (Spoiler-Free)

Wild Sky is an epic fantasy adventure set in a world where wild dragons roam the skies. The story begins with Tauran Darrica, a wounded veteran of dragon combat (we know something awful happened to him in the battle, we just don’t know exactly what), who is just barely scraping by after leaving the Sky Guard. Tauran returns to the city of Valreus, a place full of bittersweet memories of his time as a dragon rider in the Sky Guard. There he meets Kalai, an idealistic young foreigner who came to Valreus looking for adventure. Kalai happens to be in the right place at the right time and is given a job working for the Sky Guard as their archivist, translating old scrolls full of Dragon Advice from his native language into something the guard can use. Tauran and Kalai quickly bond over their shared enthusiasm for parenting: dragon parenting, that is. They work together to hatch a very large dragon egg that may or may not (no spoilers!) contain a very adorable, very feisty baby dragon.

Everything seems to be going pretty well, until wild dragons start attacking the city of Valreus. Tauran and Kalai, both dragon experts in their own ways, will need to figure out why the dragons are attacking and who exactly the enemy is.

Queer Content

While this book is primarily an adventure/mystery story, the representation of LGBTQ+ characters is top notch. Tauran and Kalai’s slow burn romance is the heart of the story, and their devotion to one another is sweet and endearing. The content is not explicit at all (no steamy scenes here) but there is lots of affection, touches, kisses, words of endearment. This is the way I like my romances, personally: emotional first and physical second.

In addition to our main pairing (one of whom is bi), we have trans rep with Catria, who is a wonderful side character that I adored: curly-haired girl who loves her dad is my jam.


On its face this book is a very light-hearted romantic adventure story, but for fans of angst and heartbreak there is actually a goldmine here too. This book is so impressive because of how subtly and beautifully the characters’ pain and trauma is explored. The genius comes in with Zaya Feli’s light touch; the writing never feels melodramatic, but results in some really beautiful moments of emotional catharsis. The characters are given the time and space to explore the ghosts of their past in a really satisfying way. Angst is often best when it’s interwoven gently into the narrative so that you can almost wonder if the author did it on purpose or if you’re reading something into it, and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. The emotional peaks in this story are all deeply integrated with the characters’ pain, trauma, guilt, and fear. Fans of fluff will be able to enjoy this book because it’s not in-your-face with dark tropes and suffering, but for those of us that like to see characters grappling with difficult situations, there is much to be found here as well.


I’m giving Wild Sky a 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5. There are so many things to love about it: the creativity, the depth of character development and world-building, the amazing message about finding acceptance and love.

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Wyldingwode by J Tullos Hennig

This post contains spoilers for all the books of the Wode Series, including Summerwode and Wyldingwode.

Wyldingwode is what happens when fate rips the Ceugant apart again, but this time our characters are a little bit older and a lot more mature. At the end of Summerwode we saw our three main characters separated by fate: Robyn pulled into Barrow Mere, Gamelyn under the yoke of the Templars, and Marion left to manage hearth and home at Tickhill with new baby Aderyn. At the outset of this tale, we’ve moved forward a few years in time, but not much else has changed. Robyn is still missing, Gamelyn is still being drawn away by his Templar masters, Marion is still occupied defending Tickhill and her status as a peasant and a woman among the lords of the land.

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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Here’s a perfect example of a pretty cover hiding a book that absolutely did not deserve it.

There were some good things about Autonomous. Let’s see…

  • The bisexual representation was nice to see.
  • The futuristic world was fun and dystopian at the same time: they have fuzzy foam furniture and plants can grow out of people’s’ heads. But also… slaves. I enjoyed the dichotomy. Not everything is perfect or amazing.
  • The friendship between Med and Threezed. They were, beyond a doubt, my favorite characters in the book. I loved the way their upbringings flipped the societal expectations for robot and human “childhood” experiences.
  • Some of the politics of ownership and open-license was interesting and felt like a very plausible extension of current the copyright/open-source situation.

While I liked those things and enjoyed much of this book, I actually ended up kind of resenting it because of one very significant plot thread:

*Spoilers ahead*

Paladin and Eliasz. Other reviewers have touched on this and done a very good job of tackling why this is a disturbing plot. I’ve read some defenses of the book say something along the lines of “having a homophobic character doesn’t reflect the author’s views”. That’s true, of course, but it’s also perfectly valid to say that I didn’t like this book because it contained homophobia that wasn’t condemned in any way, and was actually rewarded in the end. Eliasz gets to have exactly what he wants: a view of Paladin as female and a robot that he can be sexually attracted to without confronting his homophobic bigotry at all. Reading this, it felt like it was supposed to be a happy, ride-off-into-the-sunset type of ending. It seemed like the author wanted us to cheer on Paladin and Eliasz and root for them as a couple. Not every book has to have a happy ending or advance a progressive agenda, but I also don’t have to like books that show homophobia and bigotry and act like those are ok opinions that nice people have.

Proxy by Alex London

Awww, kid-me would have absolutely LOVED Proxy! Kid-me would have been so into this. She would have fallen for Syd and identified too much with Marie and totally shipped Syd/Knox. She would never have asked questions like “why the hell are proxies even a thing, that makes no sense” or wondered about the likelihood of that many young children putting themselves into crippling debt to voluntarily go to school. She definitely wouldn’t have cussed out that old man for sending a bunch of kids into the desert alone and then somehow beating them to their destination totally unscathed like Glinda in Oz. Yeah, kid-me would not have cared about that stuff because she would have been busy enjoying the sad, tragic lives of these pretty, too-good-for-this-cruel-world teens.

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Summerwode by J. Tullos Hennig

I have feelings. So many feelings.

Summerwode is the fourth book (out of an anticipated five) in the Wode series by J. Tullos Hennig. This story is (I believe) loosely based on The Tale of Gamelyn, which is a Canterbury Tale as well as actual English history from this time period, including a recorded siege of Nottingham Castle in 1194. Richard the Lionheart had been ransomed from Henry VI and is returning to English shores. Our band of outlaws had made some progress toward legitimacy in Winterwode, and now a royal pardon is within their grasp. Meanwhile, old enemies are plotting revenge and the leaders of the Templar Knights have their own agenda and seem to want to seize control of the magic of the Wode.

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Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

What do you get when you take a pretty, but otherwise average, easy-going, modern American woman and suddenly embroil her in a world of vampires, demons, and other secret supernatural threats that lurk in the shadows of our everyday world, introducing her along the way to a brooding, menacing, snarky, but ultimately good vampire who happens to be the hottest man she’s ever seen? Well, if you’re lucky you get Buffy! If you’re not so lucky, you might end up with Night Pleasures.

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Magic or Die by J.P. Jackson

There are probably people out there who would love this book, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite right for me.

The only expectations I went in to Magic or Die with came from the summary that I read on Goodreads, and it really made it sound like it sound like the kind of story I would be into: characters with traumatic pasts and emotional depth, high stakes involving the commodification and trafficking of magically gifted people, and a queer romance subplot. All things that I love and look for in my stories. However, Magic or Die didn’t really deliver on much of that. The seriousness and the drama of the situation were watered down by a strange mess of world-building that didn’t really make sense, hackneyed villains (at one point there was a non-ironic use of the word henchmen), and a very awkward romance between the main character and one of his students.

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