Category: News

REVIEW: Sometimes, Staring Into the “Abyss” Can Be Fun

Ever thought to yourself: “There really should be more books about found-family dynamics aboard post-apocalyptic pirate ships featuring queer romance”?

On the one hand, you might want to consider casting a wider net in general when it comes to reading choices.

On the other — oh boy, have I got a book for you.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie is set in the (sadly) all-too-possible future, where the seas have risen and swallowed up much of the current coastline. Our protagonist is Cassandra Leung, seventeen years old and just about to graduate her training with the Reckoners: creatures genetically engineered into massive, ocean-dwelling beasts. These Reckoners come in a variety of types, but they’re all bred to swim beside wealthy merchant or pleasure ships and defend both cargo and crew from pirates. As a newly-minted Guardian, Cas must travel with her personal Reckoner and use their bond to fight in tandem with the sea monster.

Except on her inaugural solo voyage, everything goes wrong. The Reckoner dies and Cas is captured by pirates, who offer a terrible trade: her continued life in exchange for the training of a stolen Reckoner pup, to serve as their weapon in any future battles.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a bit like a mash-up of Waterworld and Pacific Rim, with perhaps a sprinkling of Pokémon by way of Lovecraft when it comes to the Reckoner training sequences. But Abyss’s aesthetic errs on the gritty, taking a hard look at the effects of climate change, colonialism, and class structure. Truthfully, this doesn’t always work in the book’s favor, as that’s quite a mouthful to chew over in less than 300 pages of YA-level fiction. This is before we get to the characters and their relationships: Cas and her parents, Cas and her Reckoners, Cas and the pirate queen, the connections between the pirate crew, and of course Cas and Swift.

Swift is the pirate tasked with keeping Cas in line, and heir apparent to the pirate queen.  As the story progresses we discover Swift is a lot less sanguine about her place in the world than Cas first assumes, and their relationship becomes one of slow-growing trust and understanding. Personally I will live and die for a romance as complicated as this one — but again, there’s a serious question as to whether the book does it justice. With so much crammed into the narrative, it can often feel like Abyss is just dipping its toes, instead of taking the really satisfying deep dives these complex issues deserve.

Still, it’s hard to resist the sheer coolness factor of the book’s ideas and ambition. The battle sequences alone feel worth the cover price, as Skrutsie has the knack of describing action not only in exciting but interesting, original ways. (I understand an underlying theme of the book is to question the use of manmade monsters as living weapons. But also: I want one.) And while this reviewer hasn’t read it, there is a sequel that completes the series as a duology, The Edge of the Abyss, which may give Abyss’s more cramped aspects room to expand and breathe. Either way, if you missed The Abyss Surrounds Us the first time around, it’s not too late to pick up the futuristic pirates-vs-kaiju novel of your (incredibly specific) dreams.


Abyss Surrounds Us

New Books For You!

Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia


I Love Myself When I Am Laughing… and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader

Kind of Family

This Is How the Heart Beats: Lgbtq East Africa

What’s Your Pronoun?: Beyond He and She

American People: Volume 2: The Brutality of Fact: A Novel

Homie: Poems

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

And Then I Got Fired: One Transqueer’s Reflections on Grief, Unemployment & Inappropriate Jokes About Death


Best Children’s Books from 2019

We’ve selected our favorite children’s books from 2019. Check out these books that cover a wide variety of LGBTQ+ and feminist topics perfectly suited for young readers. Whether you are raising feminist children or want your little ones to see your family reflected in their books, we have something in store for you!

When Aidan Became a Brother – Lukoff, Kyle

Actual Family

Except When They Don’t – Gehl, Laura

Jacob’s Room to Choose


Feminist Baby! He’s a Feminist Too!

Nightlife of Jacuzzi Gaskett

Honey & Leon Take the High Road

Our 19 Favorite Books From 2019

Our 19 Favorite Books From 2019

(in no particular order)

Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond – Iantaffi, Alex

Lie with Me

Neither Here Nor There

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous


How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities

Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets

Leading Men

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

Mostly Dead Things – Arnett, Kristen

Anger Is a Gift

Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place (a Transgender Memoir)

We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation

Patsy – Dennis-Benn, Nicole

Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History

In the Dream House: A Memoir – Machado, Carmen Maria

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

I Wish You All the Best


Our 9 Favorite LGBTQ Scifi/Fantasy Of 2019

Here at the store we are all huge nerds, and that’s why when we aren’t day dreaming about visiting Pluto, (or writing letters to the International Astronomical Union demanding that Pluto be reinstated as a planet), we spend a lot of time reading Science Fiction & Fantasy. After a lot of conversation, we are excited to share our list of our favorite LGBTQ sci-fi novels from 2019:


Black Veins

Fever King

This Is How You Lose the Time War


Transcendent 4: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction

Empire of Light

Ascent to Godhood

These Witches Don’t Burn


Our 9 Favorite Poetry Books From 2019!

We’ve been told that poetry is what you can get away with; it’s almost like magic but with words. With the new year approaching, let’s take a look at 9 poets who got away with something magical in 2019:

Soft Science – Choi, Franny


Feed – Pico, Tommy

Crossfire: A Litany for Survival – Chin, Staceyann

Aphrodite Made Me Do It

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flow – Skeets, Jake

While They Sleep (Under the Bed Is Anoth – Rivera, Raquel Salas

Losing Miami – Ojeda-Sague, Gabriel

How Poetry Can Change Your Heart – Gibson, Andrea


5 Books to Read For Native American Heritage Month

Every November, we celebrate the rich culture of LGBTQ+ Indigenous people during Native American Heritage Month. We have an assortment of new titles and bestsellers from a diverse variety of Native American authors. Here’s what we’re reading this month!



Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts

Full-Metal Indigiqueer: The Pro(1,0)Zoa

Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder

9 Books for Ace Week 2019

Here at the store we often get asked if we carry any books for or by asexual people. Just in time for Ace Week 2019, here’s a list of nine books we like to recommend:

Ace & Proud: An Asexual Anthology

Asexual Perspectives: 47 Asexual Stories: Love, Life and Sex, Acelebration of Asexual Diversity

Asexuality: A Brief Introduction – Asexuality Archive

Asexual Equation

Asexual Fairy Tales

Understanding Asexuality

Asexual Erotics: Intimate Readings of Compulsory Sexuality

Let’s Talk about Love

A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze