An engaging anthology of queer fiction filled with monsters, mysteries, and menace.

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All in Fear

A collection of horror tales from six romance writers highlights queer characters in fearful circumstances.

The introduction nicely sums up the anthology’s goal: to present “the top names in queer romance” writing horror, featuring monsters, killers, and sci-fi terrors. In Roan Parrish’s (Where We Left Off, 2016, etc.) “Company,” a teen facing his old cohorts’ homophobia befriends a vampire—or an imaginary comrade—whose attentions turn threatening. In Kris Ripper’s (Ring in the True, 2016, etc.) “Love Me True,” a man’s life seems to be going great, with a new boyfriend into the same kink—as long as the city’s mysterious killer doesn’t target them. KJ Charles’ (Rag and Bone, 2016, etc.) “The Price of Meat” is an alternative Sweeney Todd tale, with a strong heroine investigating a lawless section of London. Steve Berman (The Letter That Doomed Nosferatu, 2016, etc.) contributes “His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl,” about a pledge with problems with his fraternity brothers and a magical (or cursed) flask. Avon Gale’s (Power Play, 2016, etc.) “Legion: A Love Story” takes the format of a soldier’s journal and emails as he’s tasked with guarding an enigmatic prisoner, who may or may not be a demon with plans and feelings of his own. And the final story, “Beauties” by J.A. Rock (Slave Hunt, 2016, etc.), explores a researcher of Artificial Beings (human-shaped creations) trying to rehabilitate a troubled android with a shadowy past. As with many collections, each story here hits different tones or focuses: “Love Me True” offers more graphic erotica than the other tales, while “Company” might be read as a metaphor of internalized homophobia, with the main character’s conflicted feelings being concretized into a jealous vampire lover. “Beauties” circles around the issue of consent and trauma. Each of the stories in the anthology, edited by Peterson, has something to recommend it: “Legion” may not terrify the reader, but most will nod along with the narrator’s actions (and Google searches); “Chernobyl” engagingly examines a young person’s struggle to find himself; and “Meat” delivers the fun pace of an alternative history thriller.

An engaging anthology of queer fiction filled with monsters, mysteries, and menace.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Open Ink Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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