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Alex Brown

SFF Reading Recommendations for the Characters of Heartstopper

It’s time for some more reader’s advisory! This time I’m recommending books for the Heartstopper crew, those adorable queer Gen Zers. Lots of young adult fiction in here, for obvious reasons, but I snuck some adult in here as well. Maybe Isaac can convince the others to use their school library as an actual library for once and check some books out.

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“God! What is your childhood trauma?!”: Damned If You Do by Alex Brown

Listen, I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, warts and terrible men and all. I was only a few years younger than the character when the show premiered in 1997. Nearly the entirety of my teen years was dedicated to prime time WB dramas, and much of my love of fantasy is rooted in Buffy and its spinoff Angel.

So when I saw Damned If You Do by Alex Brown (no, not me, a different one) comped as that plus Filipino folklore plus high school theater, I was immediately obsessed. Had. To. Have. It. Or, in the immortal words of Miss Buffy Anne Summers: “Now gimme, gimme, gimme.”

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Backlist Bonanza: 5 Underrated Books to Read This Month

New releases get the bulk of the attention on most book sites, for obvious reasons. But what about the books that don’t get hyped up upon release? Or the ones that we all put on our TBRs but forgot to get around to reading? Or the ones that everyone thought would be a shoo-in for awards season but for whatever reason didn’t crack the list?

Well, that’s where this new column comes in. Every month I’ll highlight five books, both adult and YA, that have come out in the last decade (not counting the current year) that deserve a little extra love. Some of these books were marketed as science fiction, fantasy, or horror, and some fall elsewhere on the genre spectrum, but all have at least some speculative elements. If you have suggestions for titles, drop them in the comments!

Now let’s kick things off with some of my favorite underrated titles…

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SFF Reading Recommendations for the Characters of Good Omens

Well, I had such a grand time figuring out what the characters on Ted Lasso would read that I decided to put together another reader’s advisory list This time we’re looking at books for the characters on season two of Good Omens. I’ve read the original novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett several times, and mostly enjoyed the first season. That season two finale had me reeling and if we don’t get a season three I will be smashing everything in my general vicinity. Consider this my way of processing my feels.

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Nightmare Spring Break: A Guide to the Dark by Meriam Metoui

In Meriam Metoui’s debut young adult horror novel A Guide to the Dark, Mira and Layla are on the road trip of a lifetime. It’s spring break and they’re visiting colleges across the East Coast and Midwest. Both have their hearts set on schools in Chicago, but jump at the chance to spend some alone time together away from the pressures of their parents who immigrated from Tunisia and Egypt. Layla desperately wants to go to art school to study photography, but her parents strongly disapprove. They’d be even more disappointed if they ever figured out she’s queer and secretly in love with Mira. Mira, meanwhile, is out as bisexual to her family, but they have bigger issues to deal with. The year before, her younger brother drowned during a family vacation, and Mira blames herself. Both girls need a break, but all they find is a nightmare.

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Must Read Short Speculative Fiction: June 2023

It may be summer, but I’m bringing you ten short stories that will leave you chilled, or at the very least a bit weirded out. These science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories have looked ahead to the end of the world or deep inside the human mind and found darkness. Sometimes they come out the other side with hope, and sometimes they wallow in bittersweet resignation.

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Must Read Short Speculative Fiction: May 2023

This month is a nice mix of authors I’ve read many times before and new-to-me authors. My ten favorite short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories that I read in May cover stories of finding hope in what feels like the ruins of your life, stories of terror and brutality, and stories that twist and turn like a deer trail in the misty woods.

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Six Favorite Authors Writing in New or Unexpected Genres

You get used to certain content from certain authors. Sometimes that’s because the author usually writes in one genre, or maybe you’ve only read one particular genre from an author’s oeuvre. But to me, one of the exciting parts of being an avid reader is trying something fresh and unexpected from an author. Like when C.L. Polk, known for their queer Edwardian-esque fantasy romance novels, wrote the 1940s-set hardboiled detective novella Even Though I Knew the End, or when Rebecca Roanhorse, known for Indigenous fantasy, came up with the murder mystery Weird West noir Tread of Angels.

This year, there are six authors whose new and very different books I’m all a flutter for. Who is doing something different this year that you’re excited about?

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A Lavish, Crunchy Fantasy: Witch King by Martha Wells

I’ve been a fan of Martha Wells since the first Murderbot Diaries book, All Systems Red. So of course I was so excited when I heard about Witch King. I know she’s written a lot of fantasy before, but this would be my first venture into that side of her work. Without knowing what to expect, I dived in. Thrilled to report that I was not disappointed.

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“This is the story Anequs told”: To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose

Anequs’ people, the Masquisit, have lived on their island long enough to have known the world before the Anglish arrived, survived the diseases and theft and massacres the colonizers brought with them, and the industrialization that now creeps at the edges of what’s left of their lands. Ostensibly, they are under Anglish rule, but unlike their neighbors on nearby islands, they’ve so far been left mostly to their own devices. That all ends when Anequs encounters a dragon egg left behind by a forlorn Nampeshiwe. When the egg hatches and Kasaqua is born, Anequs bonds with her and becomes Nampeshiweisit. And with that, her entire life changes in an instant.

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New Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy for May & June 2023

I hope you like fantasy, because that’s the overwhelming majority of what you’re getting this summer in the realm of young adult speculative fiction. A few horror and science fiction/dystopian novels have squeezed through, but otherwise this is a season of magic, gods, and other paranormal beasties. Here are some of the YA speculative books coming out in May and June that have peaked my interest.

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SFF Reading Recommendations for the Characters of Ted Lasso

I never thought I’d get so obsessed with a show about a middle-aged cishet white man doing sports stuff, but Ted Lasso has become one of my all-time favorite shows. The current and presumably final season in particular has struck a chord with me in terms of how it has leaned in hard on Blackness with Sam and queerness with Keeley, Colin, and Trent…and don’t even get me started on headcanons and fanfic with Jamie x Roy x Keeley. One of the creators, Jason Sudeikis, has talked a lot about how heavily the show is influenced by Star Wars—everything from the Hero’s Journey to Nate’s Empire-inspired office decor—and as a huge Star Wars nerd and hella queer Black person, it’s no wonder I love this show so much.

Another thing I love? Reader’s advisory. So, in the spirit of book recommendations, here is a list of adult and young adult science fiction and fantasy books I’d give to each of the characters if they came into my library.

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