biography of x

Read Biography of X by Catherine Lacey

From one of our fiercest stylists, a roaring epic chronicling the life, times, and secrets of a n…

Who knew reading the biography of a dull and supremely unlikeable person, who doesn’t even exist, would be so gripping. I was definitely more taken with the world-building than I was with the characters. I don’t mind a boring narrator, I even think this one was pretty cool in how she was boring – it’s…

Big Swiss

Read Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. The house, built in 1737, is unrenovated, uninsulated, and full of bees. Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss, since she’s tall, stoic, and originally from Switzerland. Greta is fascinated by Big Swiss’s refreshing attitude toward trauma. They both have dark histories, but Big Swiss chooses to remain unattached to her suffering while Greta continues to be tortured by her past.

One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice at the dog park. In a panic, she introduces herself with a fake name and they quickly become enmeshed. Although Big Swiss is unaware of Greta’s true identity, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship…

Big Swiss is the unlikeable story of an unlikeable woman who commits identity fraud to sleep with another unlikeable woman, and then other bad things happen. It’s good, but in a repulsive way. I found myself muttering « urgh » to myself every few pages, and yet going to the next page to know what was going…

the bee sting

Read The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie is up to his armpits in debt and increasingly preoccupied with preparing for an apocalypse that may or may not be just around the corner. His wife, Imelda, has become invisible to everyone except Big Mike, a man with unsavory local connections and a long-running feud with her husband. Their teenage daughter, Cass, always at the top of her class, has started drinking and staying out late, though nobody seems to have noticed. And twelve-year-old PJ is spending more and more time online, talking to a really funny, friendly kid called Darryl who never has his camera on and wants PJ to run away from home.

I could not put this book down. If you asked me what made it so great, the only answer I could give you would be a confused shrug – I have no idea. Choral cast novels have always been a soft spot of mine, so maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s how incredibly well-defined each of…

bellies

Read Bellies by Nicola Dinan

It begins as your typical boy meets boy. While out with friends at a university drag night, Tom buys Ming a drink. Confident and witty, a charming young playwright, Ming is the perfect antidote to Tom’s awkward energy, and their connection is instant. Tom finds himself deeply and desperately drawn into Ming’s orbit, and on the cusp of graduation, he’s already mapped out their future together. But, shortly after they move to London to start their next chapter, Ming announces her intention to transition.

From London to Kuala Lumpur, New York to Cologne, we follow Tom and Ming as they face shifts in their relationship in the wake of Ming’s transition. Through a spiral of unforeseen crises – some personal, some professional, some life-altering – Tom and Ming are forced to confront the vastly different shapes their lives have taken since graduating, and each must answer the essential question: is it worth losing a part of yourself to become who you are?

This novel is told in two points of views, Tom and Ming’s. The narrator isn’t always clearly identified from the start, so it sometimes took me a paragraph or two to realize that a new person was talking. I liked the way that the same thing was shown from two very, very different points of…

yours for the taking

Read Yours for the Taking by Gabrielle Korn

The year is 2050. Ava and her girlfriend live in what’s left of Brooklyn, and though they love each other, it’s hard to find happiness while the effects of climate change rapidly eclipse their world. Soon, it won’t be safe outside at all. The only people guaranteed survival are the ones whose applications are accepted to The Inside Project, a series of weather-safe, city-sized structures around the world.

Jacqueline Millender is a reclusive billionaire/women’s rights advocate, and thanks to a generous donation, she’s just become the director of the Inside being built on the bones of Manhattan. Her ideas are unorthodox, yet alluring—she’s built a whole brand around rethinking the very concept of empowerment.

Shelby, a business major from a working-class family, is drawn to Jacqueline’s promises of power and impact. When she lands her dream job as Jacqueline’s personal assistant, she’s instantly swept up into the glamourous world of corporatized feminism. Also drawn into Jacqueline’s orbit is Olympia, who is finishing up medical school when Jacqueline recruits her to run the health department Inside. The more Olympia learns about the project, though, the more she realizes there’s something much larger at play. As Ava, Olympia, and Shelby start to notice the cracks in Jacqueline’s system, Jacqueline tightens her grip, becoming increasingly unhinged and dangerous in what she is willing to do—and who she is willing to sacrifice—to keep her dream alive.

I find too many dystopias boring because of their focus on very normal people. This one doesn’t really fit the general model, if only because everyone’s extremely queer. Even though the premise is extremely basic, and the plot twists are overdone, there are a couple of very interesting characters who breathe just enough life into…

all night pharmacy

Read All Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky

On the night of her high school graduation, a young woman follows her older sister Debbie to Salvation, a Los Angeles bar patronized by energy healers, aspiring actors, and all-around misfits. After the two share a bag of unidentified pills, the evening turns into a haze of sensual and risky interactions—nothing unusual for two sisters bound in an incredibly toxic relationship. Our unnamed narrator has always been under the spell of the alluring and rebellious Debbie and, despite her own hesitations, she has always said yes to nights like these. That is, until Debbie disappears.

Falling deeper into the life she cultivated with her sister, our narrator gets a job as an emergency room secretary where she steals pills to sell on the side. Cue Sasha, a Jewish refugee from the former Soviet Union who arrives at the hospital claiming to be a psychic tasked with acting as the narrator’s spiritual guide. The nature of this relationship evolves and blurs, a kaleidoscope of friendship, sex, mysticism, and ambiguous power dynamics.

This book was not what I wanted to read and it took me a while to get into it. But once I had, oh boy! New Year’s came and went with all the fanfare of a menstrual cycle. This novel was a wild ride. I don’t know what it is with me reading about toxic…

Small Miracles

Read Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater

A little bit of sin is good for the soul.Gadriel, the fallen angel of petty temptations, has a bi…

This was Tracy’s recommendationfor an uplifting read, and she nailed it. An adorable tale of petty sin, chocolate, and all the different kinds of love there are, all this with big Good Omens vibes (which are openly acknowledged at the end of the book). Nothing that will change the world of literature, but exactly the…

8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster

Read 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster by Mirinae Lee

SLAVE. ESCAPE-ARTIST. MURDERER. TERRORIST. SPY. LOVER. MOTHER. TRICKSTER.At the Golden Sunset ret…

This novel follows the 8 lives, supposed or real, of a woman who was a « comfort woman » during several wars or who interacted with them; who murdered a few men; who was a spy for North Korea in the South; who was a loving wife to a man who thought she was someone else. It’s…

Modern Albania

Read Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe by Fred C. Abrahams

Modern Albania offers a vivid history of the Albanian Communist regime’s fall and the trials and tribulations that led the country to become the state it is today. The book provides an in-depth look at the Communists’ last Politburo meetings and the first student revolts, the fall of the Stalinist regime, the outflows of refugees, the crash of the massive pyramid-loan schemes, the war in neighboring Kosovo, and Albania’s relationship with the United States. Fred Abrahams weaves together personal experience from more than twenty years of work in Albania, interviews with key Albanians and foreigners who played a role in the country’s politics since 1990–including former Politburo members, opposition leaders, intelligence agents, diplomats, and founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army–and a close examination of hundreds of previously secret government records from Albania and the United States.

Honestly not sure how I feel about this book. It was a great, instructive and well-written story… but it’s a story in which the US do no harm, written by an American, and I tend to be very very suspicious of cold war / immediately post cold war stories that don’t mention a US-backed anti-communist…

how the one-armed sister sweeps her house

Read How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister. It’s a cautionary tale, about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and go into the Baxter’s Tunnels. When she’s grown, Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven into the Tunnels by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom – and their lives.

A haunting, terrible tale. Lala has a husband. He’s not a good man. In fact, he killed a man, whose wife had a husband and doesn’t anymore. Lala has a child, for a week. Then she doesn’t, and her husband blames her and she knows he’ll kill her if she doesn’t leave. Lala doesn’t leave.…