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In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity. "That girl's got more wrong notions than a barn owl's got mean looks." Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself away in the Librarian's book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her--a m In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity. "That girl's got more wrong notions than a barn owl's got mean looks." Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself away in the Librarian's book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her--a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.


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In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity. "That girl's got more wrong notions than a barn owl's got mean looks." Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself away in the Librarian's book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her--a m In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity. "That girl's got more wrong notions than a barn owl's got mean looks." Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself away in the Librarian's book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her--a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

30 review for Upright Women Wanted

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    When Esther Augustus witnesses the public hanging of her lover, Beatriz, for "deviance" and "the possession of unapproved materials”, the fire in her is smothered, and something else inside her stumbles to the edge of a precipice, falls off. Esther wonders, not for the first time, what reason it is to cling so stubbornly to her defiance when the current is pulling so hard in the other direction. Esther then decides to run away to join the Librarians in the hope that the company of such “chaste, When Esther Augustus witnesses the public hanging of her lover, Beatriz, for "deviance" and "the possession of unapproved materials”, the fire in her is smothered, and something else inside her stumbles to the edge of a precipice, falls off. Esther wonders, not for the first time, what reason it is to cling so stubbornly to her defiance when the current is pulling so hard in the other direction. Esther then decides to run away to join the Librarians in the hope that the company of such “chaste, morally upright women” would rid her of the wrongness inside her. But Esther soon discovers how absurdly, ridiculously naïve she has been. Her mind had been empty of understanding of the world, but in the company of queer gunslinger librarians who rejected the choices, the limits the world gave them and who looked at the laws and rules as though they were sticks of chewing gum that had long lost their taste and needed to be spat out—it begins to fill in, layer by layer. The fire in Esther wasn’t smothered after all, only banked, and it would burn. Keep fighting. It will be hard, and it will be awful, and it will be worth it. Don’t give up, even when it feels like dying. Don’t give up. This is only the beginning. “Upright Women Wanted” takes place somewhere vaguely in the realm of the near-future, in a fictional America that deteriorated into the Old West. To live in this world of poverty, toil and human terror was to spare only enough attention for your fellow man to hate him for a few precious seconds before you got back to ignoring him. Revolutions ignited like a chain of firecrackers, all this instability was like blood in the water, and the craftily rendered characters of Gailey’s novel swam in it. The plot is simple, but sturdily so. And for such a short book, it’s packed with characters who step wholly into the page page, and doggedly follow you off of it once the story is over. Watching Esther’s character development was like watching a new lamb struggle to their feet. With her father’s authority weighing on her like a pillow on the face her whole life, Esther had believed that girls like her do not fling themselves against the crushing weight of fate. It was hope that had Beatriz always so far ahead of her, but Esther had parted company with hope long ago. But as Esther spends the pages’ precipitous drop into darkness alongside Bet and Leda, the Librarians whose wagon she sneaked into and who were a lesbian couple, and Cye who prefers to go by the pronoun they and whom Esther is developing a crush on, she begins to feel herself bigger and brighter in their reflections of her. These people, as familiar to her as her own palm, had built her a bridge to a possible future. And Esther just had to cross it. “Everywhere,” Esther whispered to herself. “There are people like us everywhere.” Upright Women Wanted” tugged on some mysterious thread inside me, and reading it felt like reaching toward your reflection in a mirror and finding warm flesh under your fingertips—that magical, fearful symmetry. It is a unique, hearty, thought-provoking romp that for all its luxuriating in the gritty, hardscrabble texture of the Old West is bracingly progressive. Fascism, patriarchy, queerphobia are incisively observed, and in every wind-blown crag and hard-edged crevice of this story, people find ways to live and survive or die on their own terms. This is ultimately a novel that is keenly attuned to the deeper music in the speeches and hand-painted signs of protest. It’s a celebration of the people who scurry along the margins of the world, looking for ways out, unwilling to slice at themselves from different angles, jigsawing the pieces however they can, caulking in the odd bits, to fit themselves into the narrow confines of conventional society. If there is a flaw to be found is that, while the novel wraps up just enough plot threads to make the book feel like a complete story, I had wanted just a little bit more from its conclusion, and I was left craving an unnameable something that felt missing from the short novella. But I think that owes more to my reluctance to let it go, and my desire to stay a little bit longer in this world. That said, a much-needed, powerful and thoughtful overhaul of the age-old Western tale, “Upright Women Wanted” belongs on every shelf. If you liked this review please consider leaving me a tip on Ko-fi ! ☆ ko-fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily (emilykatereads)

    Dec 2019: “be gay, do crimes, circulate books” is tor pandering to me April 2020: This is a short story that packs a punch. Gailey introduces us into this western world that is in a near-future America. The librarians operate to bring Approved Materials to different outposts, but they have other goals. This story follows the subversive, queer, antifascists librarians as they pick up a "package" to drop off elsewhere. Esther stows away in the librarians' cart with the hope of becoming a librarian. S Dec 2019: “be gay, do crimes, circulate books” is tor pandering to me April 2020: This is a short story that packs a punch. Gailey introduces us into this western world that is in a near-future America. The librarians operate to bring Approved Materials to different outposts, but they have other goals. This story follows the subversive, queer, antifascists librarians as they pick up a "package" to drop off elsewhere. Esther stows away in the librarians' cart with the hope of becoming a librarian. She had run away from an arranged marriage, after her lover had been hanged for possession of Unapproved Materials. She finds out the librarians are queer, like her, and that there's many more people across the country that are like them. I would've loved to dive more into the story and these characters, but Gailey does a great job at giving us enough to get us hooked into the story. There's so much more that could be done with this amazing premise and I want it to keep going pls. (Additional enjoyment of this book came from the fact that I'm currently a librarian-in-training as I'm doing my MLIS, so yeah, I'm feelin pretty badass about my career choice) *ARC received through NetGalley for honest review*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    “When there’s people around who we don’t trust, we let them think we’re the kinds of people who are allowed to exist.” Upright Women Wanted follows lead character Esther Augustus, daughter of a major ruler, as she runs away to join traveling librarians Bet, Leda, and Cye. In a post-apocalyptic Western society, people who don’t fit are a class all to themselves: some are hanged, like Esther’s old lover Beatriz. Some become librarians. This novella is an excellent exploration of the pol “When there’s people around who we don’t trust, we let them think we’re the kinds of people who are allowed to exist.” Upright Women Wanted follows lead character Esther Augustus, daughter of a major ruler, as she runs away to join traveling librarians Bet, Leda, and Cye. In a post-apocalyptic Western society, people who don’t fit are a class all to themselves: some are hanged, like Esther’s old lover Beatriz. Some become librarians. This novella is an excellent exploration of the politics of otherness: of the ways in which those who do not “belong” learn to live at the margin of society, to make their own rules. This becomes specifically relevant with Bet and Leda, a lesbian couple, and Cye, who is nonbinary. The idea of queerness as a marginalized identity is wonderful. Oh, and the tension between Cye and Esther is excellent. There’s this sense of push and pull between them: the conflict between Esther’s newfound rebellion and her intense feeling that any feelings she has not for a man are wrong makes watching her pine after Cye satisfying and interesting. Gailey conveys the world mostly via dialogue and occasional hints, creating a seamless transition between your brain and the space of the novel: it feels as if you have always been a part of this world. I at once wanted to see more and was happy with the ambiguity; the novella focuses on character, and doesn't get bogged down by intense worldbuilding. I don’t know if I’m going to remember this forever; it was mostly just really, really fun. But I loved my reading experience and would definitely read this again. Basically, I second Tor's blurb: What Sarah Gailey's upcoming novella lacks in hippos, it makes up for with queer librarian spies on horseback. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube | About |

  4. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    This was a popular ARC in my office at the library, for obvious reasons! I really wanted to love the book (queer! subversive! librarians!) but it just didn't click for me. I think it's mainly that I, a humble ace, could not understand how the protagonist could go from mourning her best friend/lover (who was JUST executed) to eyeballing the hot enby trainee librarian in the space of a single day. Perhaps this seems perfectly normal to allosexuals and wouldn't bother other readers at all, but to m This was a popular ARC in my office at the library, for obvious reasons! I really wanted to love the book (queer! subversive! librarians!) but it just didn't click for me. I think it's mainly that I, a humble ace, could not understand how the protagonist could go from mourning her best friend/lover (who was JUST executed) to eyeballing the hot enby trainee librarian in the space of a single day. Perhaps this seems perfectly normal to allosexuals and wouldn't bother other readers at all, but to me it was gross as hell, and I couldn't get back into the protagonist's POV. Your girlfriend JUST DIED, what do you care if a stranger is cute! That aside, the worldbuilding is fun, and probably even more so to people who like Wild West stories. I think the story left off in the right place for a novella -- it leaves the protagonist's future journey wide open.

  5. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    Fight the State. Be a Librarian. I was immediately intrigued when I saw this on the back cover of Sarah Gailey’s lovely little novella, Upright Women Wanted, particularly as I myself work in a library. A quick glance told me that not only was this about librarians, but gay librarians fighting fascism in a western-setting dystopia. YUP, sign me up. Gailey surely knows their target market, which truly makes this book so blissfully fun and empowering. On the surface this is a quick dystopian romp ful Fight the State. Be a Librarian. I was immediately intrigued when I saw this on the back cover of Sarah Gailey’s lovely little novella, Upright Women Wanted, particularly as I myself work in a library. A quick glance told me that not only was this about librarians, but gay librarians fighting fascism in a western-setting dystopia. YUP, sign me up. Gailey surely knows their target market, which truly makes this book so blissfully fun and empowering. On the surface this is a quick dystopian romp full of gunfights, badass women made doubly badass by being librarians secretly distributing unapproved materials, but beneath the stylized fun is a really moving and painful account of coming to terms with who you are in a world where your very existence is outlawed. We follow Esther as she internally struggles ‘to like the person who she was instead of fighting it,’ and personally this representation meant a lot. What? You may ask. Confession time: I’m not straight and I’ve come to prefer the term pansexual. So when Esther makes the realization ‘there are people like us everywhere,’ you are damn right that hit me right in the fucking feels. Because we are, and it’s okay, and it should be okay and sometimes it just takes knowing that you aren’t alone to make yourself okay with just being who you are. Something I found really charming about this book is the way Esther comes at everything almost surprisingly naive about it all. She has just seen the woman she loves hung for loose charges of having unapproved material and has run off to join the librarians because she hopes they can make her an upright woman in good standing with society. She knows she has to hide that part of herself and just wants so badly to be “good”. This is something that felt very true and familiar, especially for those who grew up in religious conservative communities. Many friends of mine went to religious colleges in hopes that maybe they were going through a phase, or just to put on the front they believed society demanded and this leads to a lot of internalized shame. Personally I started to realize all this in a very easy sphere of college age but then moved to a very religious conservative area and found myself working in a factory where joking about killing gays was frighteningly normalized. Suddenly all my “hey, gender is actually really fluid and I’m beginning to accept that my attraction isn’t dependent on gender” turtled back up and I pushed it all aside to not feel weird about it for a few years (but believe me, I sure did). Then I found my community of friends. When Esther begins to talk with the librarians, there is sort of a comical irony that she is so hoping this is the pure path while they themselves are openly lesbian, ferrying LGBT members to safe-zones and distributing illegal materials. In the sort of bumbling, slow-burn attraction between Cye and Esther there is a lot of Cye becoming bewildered by how much rhetoric Esther has internalized. They frequently remind Esther to not trust everything she reads and reminds her that approved materials are only those deemed acceptable State--a vague but clearly nationalist State where ‘traditional’ values reign supreme at punishment of death and ‘the country was at war, seemed always to have been at war.’ (This will resonate with those who grew up in the post-9/11 era and probes at that uncomfortable existence of feeling against war but also wanting to support your classmates who are being shipped off to war and returning in a box under a flag. Not a fun tone to any coming-of-age years). The term propaganda isn’t used but its screaming from within the context and the State is grooming folks to believe only their way is the correct way and using literature as a way to normalize only what they deem desirable. At an extreme it harkens back to how the CIA funded MFA programs for this purpose but also is a general commentary on how media and culture influence each other. Esther has only ever heard stories about how LGBT people deserve bad ends, and has thereby internalized it. When the librarians pick up three women to smuggle to a safe-zone, it all starts to empower Esther. She sees the young women laughing and in love, also the long-term comfortable relationship between head librarians Bet and Leda, ‘that kind of joy shouldn’t have been an option for women like these ones,’ and begins to hope that there is room in this world for people like them, people like herself. Then there is Cye, who explains pronouns and goes by they/them (Gailey also uses they/them pronouns, as do I, so shoutout to my fellow enbys) but insists in town Esther refer to her as she. When there's people around that we don't trust, we let them think we're the kinds of people who are allowed to exist.’ The notion that one would have to hide who they are in ‘normal’ society is something a lot of people have experienced, and while the novel plays into empowering the subversive aspects of identity, it reminds you how sad it is that this has to occur at all. In this western dystopia we see the current world reflected back. Sure, in safe communities it is acceptable to be open about your sexuality but it can also be very dangerous as well. This is why every year we read heartbreaking stories of kids desperately scrubbing rainbow flags off their cheeks on the way home from Pride festivals, or how trans folx are murdered at such a high rate it was declared an epidemic. This is still a world where we have to fight for the right to our own identity, and this book was a deliciously fun way to think about that instead of the usual doom and gloom or kill-your-gays that happens in novels. Sure, this book is sort of corny. But that’s half the fun. In-universe lines that draw on cowboy rhetoric such a person being described as freezing like a possum in a search light are a bit much, but then characters use curses like ‘whisky shits’ and, screw it, this is fun. Let’s be honest, you don’t pick up gay librarian sci-fi gunfighter novellas because you thought itd be a heady realism, let loose and enjoy yourself. I sure did. But it also doesn’t allow itself to glorify violence, which was so self-aware and amazing. ‘Just because he needed killing doesn't mean I can sleep easy,’ the librarian says, and there is much room given to the uneasy feelings that come with taking a life. Death isn’t blithely passed over and given the weight of seriousness it deserves. When an assassin comes into play it is commented that the ease of killing comes from a sad place to be pitied, not glorified. Upright Women Wanted is such a fun ride of gunfights, subversion and glorious LGBTQ+ empowerment. One thing that really worked for me is the quick world-building sketches of detail. You get a general sense, but not much space is wasted on really worrying why things are the way they are. It just is, you accept it and engage with it, and honestly, I love that. This could easily be a standalone or it would be fun to see a series of dimestore pulp westerns in this world, maybe not even by a single author. Either way, it doesn’t feel lacking as the political landscape isn’t the point and keeps the focus on Esther’s acceptance of herself. This is a fun trip and it pleases me that this exists. Thank you, Sarah Gailey. 3.75/5

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This was cute and a few of the characters were great, but the story was really thin. I felt like the author just wanted to showcase these particular characters, not to tell a story really. The setting of the American West in a near future where gasoline was not readily available could have been rich, but we don’t really see enough of that society. Overall 2.5⭐️

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nataliya

    On the surface this seemed to be a perfect idea. How can you not love a story of subversive Librarians fighting injustice and the State with gunslinging and Unapproved Materials distribution? I mean, a story about badass librarians is a sure must-read for me, a book-loving nerd. To quote Jo Walton, “Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of On the surface this seemed to be a perfect idea. How can you not love a story of subversive Librarians fighting injustice and the State with gunslinging and Unapproved Materials distribution? I mean, a story about badass librarians is a sure must-read for me, a book-loving nerd. To quote Jo Walton, “Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.” And yet this is the story that sounds good in theory but falls apart due to slipshod execution. The worldbuilding is very thin, more of a sketch really. We know is vaguely Wild West-like, with horses and revolvers and sheriffs and 19th century worldview, but set in the near future dystopian world, with passing mentions of diesel and drones and such — but we don’t actually see anything besides latex gloves in the end. There’s the State and the Resistance, and unidentified resources-consuming war, and the country divided in quadrants and a “Central Corridor” — but don’t ask me what any of that means or how it happened because I have no clue, it was barely mentioned and left alone — but 170 pages should be enough length to give me at least *some* idea. The world felt like a set dressing that is about to collapse of you lean on it too hard. The characters were poorly developed and flat, and a few of them pretty interchangeable — something I can overlook if the setting is well-done instead or if the plot is fascinating, but here everything seemed just barely sketched out. And things make little sense. In this undeveloped setting we also have to suffer the painful wide-eyed naïveté of our heroine, and Esther’s jarringly cringeworthy insta-lust for Cye - out of nowhere, moments after meeting, literally *days* after Esther’s lover and best friend was executed by Esther’s own father, no less (a sexy love interest heals all wounds and fixes all half-baked tragic backstories, after all!), all of which combine to ring false. “She had seen a man decide that she deserved to die, and she had killed him for it.” There were interesting seeds of moral ambiguity with the revelation of a certain character’s identity as an assassin for the Resistance, a woman that is both inspiring and terrifying in her clear view of herself as superior to the more expendable ones, but that idea - and it could have been very powerful to explore - just fizzled out. There was potential for conflict with sending basically untrained person into the field in the end — a choice that, besides feeling narratively satisfying, can also endanger those relying on the Librarians service - but that was passed over in favor of a neatly concluded arc that everyone knew was coming. Instead we got a sexy crush story and a bit of coming-of-age vibe. And its message of equality was stifled in a very simplistically didactic presentation with little depth to it. Usually I want a novella to go on longer. With this one, I was patiently waiting for to end, mostly bored and indifferent, hoping for my Kindle percentage points to move faster. Disappointed. Barely 2 stars. ————— Now, I think reading my GR friend (who liked this book) s.penkevich’s heartfelt review is a better use of your time than the book itself. The review is wonderful and does what the book set out to do, but skillfully and briefly.

  8. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    This was absolutely just as amazing as I expected it to be. RTC ♥

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Wanted and acquired! This is a fun, rooting, tooting cowgirl extravaganza in the New West. The future isn't bright in this post-apocalyptic world in which some states in the former USA have gone back in time to days of the cowboys. Most men and some women know how to shoot and how to ride. Men are large and in charge though with harsh punishment, like hanging for crimes like reading the wrong pamphlet and loving someone of the same sex. Our heroine, Esther, is a dumb kid who believes everything Wanted and acquired! This is a fun, rooting, tooting cowgirl extravaganza in the New West. The future isn't bright in this post-apocalyptic world in which some states in the former USA have gone back in time to days of the cowboys. Most men and some women know how to shoot and how to ride. Men are large and in charge though with harsh punishment, like hanging for crimes like reading the wrong pamphlet and loving someone of the same sex. Our heroine, Esther, is a dumb kid who believes everything her authoritarian father tells her, and accepts it until her lover and best friend is killed. She hides in the wagon of the Librarians, upright women who decimate approved reading for the towns on their route. Chaos ensues, with a couple of top-notch shootouts and a lot of growing up for Esther. See above title for my review. I wrote it in the wrong box. And seven more words are required for this.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    "The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing. " OH WOW CATCH ME CRYING FRIENDS "The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing. " OH WOW CATCH ME CRYING FRIENDS

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lala BooksandLala

    Read and discussed in this vlog https://youtu.be/iUN1Zx2N86M where I used a paid book recommendation service to choose what I read. Read and discussed in this vlog https://youtu.be/iUN1Zx2N86M where I used a paid book recommendation service to choose what I read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    This is a different sort of book that doesn't fit neatly into any genre. It's a western set in a dystopian-future, an LGBQT+ romance, and an action adventure story complete with bandits, sheriffs, and old-fashioned shoot-em-up scenes. Sounds like a lot but lacks much of a plot. 5 stars for effort but overall, it fell far short of those 5 stars. A few chuckles and some kick-ass lesbian Librarians don't necessarily add up to an incredible story.  2.5 stars rounded up. This is a different sort of book that doesn't fit neatly into any genre. It's a western set in a dystopian-future, an LGBQT+ romance, and an action adventure story complete with bandits, sheriffs, and old-fashioned shoot-em-up scenes. Sounds like a lot but lacks much of a plot. 5 stars for effort but overall, it fell far short of those 5 stars. A few chuckles and some kick-ass lesbian Librarians don't necessarily add up to an incredible story.  2.5 stars rounded up.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Hutchinson

    Now I want to be a librarian.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    After watching her best friend/secret love of her life hang for possessing "unapproved materials" (resistance propaganda), Esther learns her high-ranking government official father has arranged for her to marry the man who was engaged to her dead lover. It's time for Esther to make an escape and she does so by hiding in a librarian's book wagon.  She's spent her entire life pretending to be someone else in order to survive in a fascist society.  Continuing the role as a librarian --- an upright w After watching her best friend/secret love of her life hang for possessing "unapproved materials" (resistance propaganda), Esther learns her high-ranking government official father has arranged for her to marry the man who was engaged to her dead lover. It's time for Esther to make an escape and she does so by hiding in a librarian's book wagon.  She's spent her entire life pretending to be someone else in order to survive in a fascist society.  Continuing the role as a librarian --- an upright woman distributing appropriate materials to promote the patriarchy --- doesn't seem completely awful since she'll have a freedom she's never known on the road. Esther is shocked to discover the librarians distribute their law-abiding materials in towns across the Southwest while also doing their part to promote the resistance by smuggling illegal packages.   When Esther realizes there's nothing wrong with who she is and that people can make a difference, it's time she asks herself: Are you a coward or are you a librarian? Anything Sarah Gailey writes, I'm ready to read! When Tor announced Upright Women Wanted with the description "queer librarian spies on horseback", I pre-ordered without hesitation.  It's a pulp Western set in a near-future dystopian society with diverse character representation and an important message:  be who you are, find your people, and fight for your rights. I loved this story and my only complaint is that I wanted more!  More world-building and details because I loved these characters and their mission!  Maybe we'll get lucky and Gailey will write a continuation for all of us curious about what happens next. I recommend Upright Women Wanted to readers who love speculative fiction, dystopia, Westerns, and diverse characters. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    This was a super fun, very queer alternative future western novella. Esther is escaping her territory in grief over her BFF/GF being hung and being forced to get engaged to a terrible dude by her authoritarian father. She stows away in the Librarian's wagon. Their official story is they deliver "Approved Materials" but they are really radical queer spies on horseback who aren't afraid to use their rifles. Esther learns the ropes of life on the road and falls for the librarian's nonbinary apprent This was a super fun, very queer alternative future western novella. Esther is escaping her territory in grief over her BFF/GF being hung and being forced to get engaged to a terrible dude by her authoritarian father. She stows away in the Librarian's wagon. Their official story is they deliver "Approved Materials" but they are really radical queer spies on horseback who aren't afraid to use their rifles. Esther learns the ropes of life on the road and falls for the librarian's nonbinary apprentice. (Btw, this is a great example of a main character using they pronouns in a book, if you're looking for that). I wished they had done more librarian stuff, like smuggling unapproved materials, and I wanted a bit more character and world development, but overall I loved this! I think if the marketing on the cover ("Are you a coward or a librarian?" and "Fight the state. Be a librarian.") had been less focused on librarianship I wouldn't have expected as much. Also it's obviously a bias since I am a librarian. But it would be nice to see that librarians being badass includes not just shooting evil men but also giving people the "unapproved" materials they need--this is just as radical! This was my first Sarah Gailey book, and I really loved their writing on the sentence level--some great similes! It won't be my last book by them for sure. Also there is a beautiful heartfelt full page acknowledgement to the queer community at the very end of the book that made me cry. 😭🏳️‍🌈

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    Books have gotten a lot more diverse in the past ten years, or even just the past five years, and I love it. I’ve read more books with LGBT leads in the past year than I think I did in the combined 24 years before that. But only a few of those books have made me feel seen in the way that Upright Women Wanted made me feel seen. I’m sure most of you know what I mean, when you read something in a book that resonates with you so deeply because it’s exactly how you feel and you’ve never seen it writt Books have gotten a lot more diverse in the past ten years, or even just the past five years, and I love it. I’ve read more books with LGBT leads in the past year than I think I did in the combined 24 years before that. But only a few of those books have made me feel seen in the way that Upright Women Wanted made me feel seen. I’m sure most of you know what I mean, when you read something in a book that resonates with you so deeply because it’s exactly how you feel and you’ve never seen it written out like that before. It was like that. Easily the best part of this book was the world building. I’ve found that a unique premise and good world building is the key to a novella for me, and this book had both. One thing that I always appreciate in dystopian fiction is not being given too much detail about the setting so I can fill in the blanks for myself, and Sarah Gailey did that just right here. She gave just enough information to draw me in to the world and the story but I still walked away with lots to think about and plenty of questions. And of course, a good dystopia has to draw inspiration from real-world problems, which Gailey did with several of the themes in this book. The world of Upright Women Wanted is dominated by traditional values, and the themes of navigating a world of stifling traditionalism, strict gender roles, and rampant homophobia were very familiar to me, as someone who was raised in a religious tradition that doesn’t have a lot of room for feminism or the LGBT community. In Gailey’s vision of the United States, the country is waging a nonspecific unending war, and citizens have to make do with scraps while the military gets advanced technology, weaponry, and stockpiles of fuel. It’s a startling magnification of America’s ongoing forever war in the Middle East and massive military budget. And of course there were the classic dystopian themes of fascism and censorship. I see a lot of people mentioning in the reviews of this book and other novellas I’ve read and enjoyed that there isn’t much in the way of plot, which is true, but I don’t expect a strong plot in under 200 pages. Like I’ve already mentioned, world building matters way more to me; I come to novellas to explore a cool concept with some fun characters and have a good time. If you like plot-driven books, novellas in general probably won’t be your thing. The lack of a strong, compelling plot didn’t matter to me here. What did matter, though, was the sloppy relationship building and emotional development. I went into this book expecting adult fiction, but to me it read more young adult. Esther wasn’t overly immature to the point where she annoyed me, but she wasn’t mature enough to be the protagonist of an adult fiction novel. And the themes of her character development – accepting her identity and proving her worth – were very YA. Her attraction to Cye was very sudden and too soon after Beatriz’s death for me to fully appreciate their relationship, and Esther’s emotional journey from the obedient daughter of a high-ranking official to a proud resistance lesbian was too fast and involved too much telling and not enough showing. I really want to give this book four stars, because it gave me a warm feeling in my chest while reading and because of the way it made me feel seen and heard and represented, but I don’t think it’d be fair. I’m not a big YA fan, and it’s one thing to go into a book knowing it’s YA and it’s another to go into a book expecting adult fiction and get YA instead. It was a disappointment in that regard, so I’m going to have to go with three stars for now, but I would still recommend this book if you’re looking for something heartwarming and different.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    3.5 stars- This is a high concept SF that mostly delivers on its premise and is, even more importantly, fun. Picture it: ye dystopia future in The West. We've got a plucky band of Librarians who are ostensibly a part of the State's institutional arm meant to reinforce a regressive social order, but we quickly learn (along with our point of view character) that this band is more than it seems. I loved the thematic content of this, and much prefer this version of those themes over its predecessor, 3.5 stars- This is a high concept SF that mostly delivers on its premise and is, even more importantly, fun. Picture it: ye dystopia future in The West. We've got a plucky band of Librarians who are ostensibly a part of the State's institutional arm meant to reinforce a regressive social order, but we quickly learn (along with our point of view character) that this band is more than it seems. I loved the thematic content of this, and much prefer this version of those themes over its predecessor, The Handmaid's Tale. However, I think the brevity of the book kept it from being fully fleshed out so it wasn't 100% successful for me. That said, more than anything, this is a fun version of SF Western and I really enjoyed the romance that budded over the course of the story. Would read more in this world for sure

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claude's Bookzone

    CW: (view spoiler)[Domestic violence, homophobia, gun violence, death (hide spoiler)] Well this just wasn't for me. It felt like a slice of life story that lacked character development and any depth. The writing was good and I loved the rep, it just didn't hold my interest. CW: (view spoiler)[Domestic violence, homophobia, gun violence, death (hide spoiler)] Well this just wasn't for me. It felt like a slice of life story that lacked character development and any depth. The writing was good and I loved the rep, it just didn't hold my interest.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mel (Epic Reading)

    Wonderful novella! Action-packed western starring women and non-binary characters. Men need not apply; well... unless for the role of typical bad guy (lol). While there is a lot that is cliche western in Sarah Gailey's Upright Women Wanted; for every cliche there is an idea that I guarantee you've never read in a western story (novella in this case, 176 pages) before. Unless you're a Firefly fan, in which case read this immediately because you'll feel nostalgic for Mal and crew! Characters These Wonderful novella! Action-packed western starring women and non-binary characters. Men need not apply; well... unless for the role of typical bad guy (lol). While there is a lot that is cliche western in Sarah Gailey's Upright Women Wanted; for every cliche there is an idea that I guarantee you've never read in a western story (novella in this case, 176 pages) before. Unless you're a Firefly fan, in which case read this immediately because you'll feel nostalgic for Mal and crew! Characters These are no Annie Oakley ladies. While they carry firearms and are transporting 'items' between towns; these ladies are also sharing intimate moments together, kissing and more. Something I can't imagine Oakley engaging with. Each character in our crew of five primary travelers holds a piece of the John Wayne/Clint Eastwood archetype for a western fighter; yet they are also so much more. The gem here though is really Cye. A non-binary character to fall in love with. They/Them I adored Cye sooo much. Gailey does a fabulous job from the first moment we meet Cye; it's clear that no he/him or she/her gender specificity applies. The narrative always uses they/them and it really quickly stuck in my head and felt so natural. Unlike other characters I've read in the past, Cye doesn't swap between male and female identity. Instead they exist outside of these gender norms and (for me) it's a breath of fresh air. Gailey describes Cye and their actions so well that I didn't even try to place Cye as 'more' feminine or masculine. They just are themselves. Now, I hope I didn't use any wrong words here or misrepresent; please feel free to correct me in the comments if I did. Constantly Learning It may seem weird for a member of the LGBTQ+ community, like myself (bisexual) to not fully understand all the different options in sexuality, gender, etc. that we now know exist. But when I was a teen I only understand the concepts of: heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual (and trans but they were put into homosexual category at the time). And so pan sexuality is still something I'm learning about. Cye is one of the first characters I've read where I clearly adore them and would definitively change my own description to pansexual if that means Cye and I can get together. This is a pretty big deal to me. To date I've told my husband and others that I can't drop the moniker of bisexual because I've never met a non-binary person and don't know how I would react. Assuming Cye is a good representation of non-binary then I'm happy to say that, for me, gender doesn't make a difference; be it male, female or non-binary! This is a really cool realization to have and not at all something I expected to get from Upright Women Wanted. Overall If you're thinking to yourself 'um Mel this is supposed to be a book review and not about you' right now; all I can respond with is that for me this book was refreshing, fun, and uplifting. It shows that people will find ways to be themselves no matter what constraints are placed on them. We may think the 'typical' western doesn't have room for anyone other than a cis-male but Gailey makes it clear in Upright Women Wanted that this is not true. I highly recommend this book to pretty much everyone. There is a lot of action and fun packed into 176 pages; but also a lot of social commentary and learning to be had here. You're perhaps unlikely to have an epiphany, like I did, but (I believe) you'll likely enjoy your time in this world. I'm really hoping Gailey plans to revisit these characters and their adventures in the near future. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carey

    I wanted to like this so much more than I did. I'm a librarian. I'm queer. I'm subversive. Shit. This just didn't do it for me. It felt like a first draft of something bigger and better. There were only vague hints of worldbuilding. Every character felt only half finished and many of them interchangeable. Any conflict came from a shapeless, nameless concept of generic oppression. Props for the idea, but this was little more than that. I wanted to like this so much more than I did. I'm a librarian. I'm queer. I'm subversive. Shit. This just didn't do it for me. It felt like a first draft of something bigger and better. There were only vague hints of worldbuilding. Every character felt only half finished and many of them interchangeable. Any conflict came from a shapeless, nameless concept of generic oppression. Props for the idea, but this was little more than that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Boston

    4.5 stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I loved the author's books about hippo cowboys even though I didn't enjoy their fantasy novel.  So I was excited that their newest novella was once again set in the American West and deals with queer librarian spies on horseback.  I mean how can ye not get excited about that?  I got even more excited when Matey Tammy @ books,bones,andbuffy sent me a surprise copy of the novella.  She be awesome (seriously)!  Arrrr! I really, really enjoyed this one.  Only a few small issues Ahoy there me mateys!  I loved the author's books about hippo cowboys even though I didn't enjoy their fantasy novel.  So I was excited that their newest novella was once again set in the American West and deals with queer librarian spies on horseback.  I mean how can ye not get excited about that?  I got even more excited when Matey Tammy @ books,bones,andbuffy sent me a surprise copy of the novella.  She be awesome (seriously)!  Arrrr! I really, really enjoyed this one.  Only a few small issues that really are because I wanted more of certain things.  The basic premise is that a young girl, Esther, runs away from home, hides in the Librarian's wagon, and hijinks ensue. The positive: The Librarians - Of course!  I thought it was hysterical that these women are supposed to be morally virtuous and distribute the "Appropriate Materials" sanctioned by the government.  Ha.  Their official title is "Librarians of the Southwest Territory, the Honorable Brigade of Morally Upright Women."  Of course the librarians are spies delivering the truth! Diversity - Ye have a group of lesbians and non-binary kickass women as all the main characters.  Arrr! Genre-Mashup - This is an alternative history western dystopian.  SO fun. Functional Relationships - It is so wonderful to see couples who are in loving and caring partnerships.  I particularly loved how Bet and Leda deal with each other and their disagreements.  Each have rough pasts and mental health issues and yet make it work. The Romance - The romance in this starts out in insta-lust on the part of Esther and then evolves into a slow-burn relationship.  I liked how the ending was more about future hopeful possibilities between them and not just happily ever after. Found Families - I just frickin' love when people find where they belong.  This book captures that so nicely. Amity - Such a dang good character!  Fierce, kinda insane, and so very enjoyable.  Her entire arc was just amazing.  I loved how she dealt with Esther.  She kept surprising me.  I seriously want a whole story about her.  Her past, present, future.  I'll take it all. The (not quite) Negatives - Character Names - One of the characters is Bet and the other is Beatriz.  I though Bet was a nickname for Beatriz at first and it lead to massive confusion at the beginning of the novella.  Silly me. The Romance - I was a little annoyed at how quickly Esther lusted over someone else after her girlfriend just DIED.  I did believe that she was traumatized by the death but wanted more exploration into how she dealt with it.  There was a bit of a nebulous time jump and the issue was just kinda glossed over.  It should have been dealt with more.  Beatriz deserved better.  This is where a longer book could have helped. The World-Building - I absolutely loved the world the author created but because this was a novella, there weren't many answers.  How does the government work?  How did the world end up this way?  How do the Librarians not get caught?  I loved the sketches and the world felt real but I want more! So all in all this be an excellent novella that I am glad to have and would certainly reread.  More set in this world please.  Arrrr!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Are you a coward, or are you a librarian? Queer librarian Western is the genre you didn't know you needed, from the same author who came up with alternate hippo history. I honestly just wish it were longer as I feel like the characters have interesting stories to tell. Are you a coward, or are you a librarian? Queer librarian Western is the genre you didn't know you needed, from the same author who came up with alternate hippo history. I honestly just wish it were longer as I feel like the characters have interesting stories to tell.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    **Macmillan has now reversed its position on the embargo mentioned below: https://bookriot.com/2020/03/17/macmi... I was really looking forward to this. I absolutely loved River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, and the alt-history with a Western feel that Gailey captured so well there. In Upright Women Wanted we have near future with a Western feel, but unfortunately I didn't feel Gailey pulled it off quite so successfully. The main problem I think for me was that the world building was just not fles **Macmillan has now reversed its position on the embargo mentioned below: https://bookriot.com/2020/03/17/macmi... I was really looking forward to this. I absolutely loved River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, and the alt-history with a Western feel that Gailey captured so well there. In Upright Women Wanted we have near future with a Western feel, but unfortunately I didn't feel Gailey pulled it off quite so successfully. The main problem I think for me was that the world building was just not fleshed out at all. I know it is somehow post-present because of the references to fossil fuel cars ("that everyone used to have") and tanks, and apparently there is a war on, and queerness is not permitted, but that is literally the extent of what we know about what the world is like, let alone how it got that way. Even the actual setting the story moves through minute by minute wasn't all that clear. The reasons for things like why they have only glass bottles, and who is responsible for the "restricted materials" that limits what everyone can read was just not at all obvious to me. The story is about gender and sexuality oppression in this future world, and how the librarians are apparently fighting back, but because of the lack of substance in the setting and general world building I felt seriously ungrounded in the story. Also not helping in my particular case was that I started by listening to the audiobook, and I did not care for the narrator at all. She had an interminably chipper storytelling style that seemed at odds with the limited sense of setting I actually got, which I believe was intended to be quite gritty. Her voice did not portray in the characters what the words of the story were saying. For example, a character would be described as saying something flatly with a cold smile, but then the narrator would use a really upbeat and lighthearted voice, which resulted in a bit of cognitive dissonance on my part. A little over half way through I switched from audio to print, and yes, that improved things for me. So, if you have a choice, I would recommend print over audio for this one. Unfortunately this book is from an imprint which is part of the publishing industry's anti-library agenda, which includes a policy of permitting libraries to purchase only a single digital ebook copy for the first 3 months after release if it is a book the publisher feels will be popular. The irony that Upright Women Wanted is about librarians trying to rebel against state control is definitely not lost on me here! The embargo doesn't apply to audiobooks (yet), so it may be that your decision is made based on how you are able to access this title. What I can say is that for me, switching from audio to print increased my initial rating from 2.5 to 3 stars. Regardless, this was just ok for me. Not bad, but certainly nowhere near as good as I had hoped for. Keep fighting. It will be hard, and it will be awful, and it will be worth it. Don't give up, even when it feels like dying. Don't give up. This is only the beginning.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    I wanted to love this, but ended up only liking this. I liked the idea of librarians travelling around an old West-like future, disseminating acceptable materials. The world is violent, difficult, with towns protected by Sheriffs, people needing papers attesting to their identities, tightly controlled information and lack of tolerance for difference. What I had a hard time grasping was what the world was like. Something had happened in our future to render the world to the state it's in at the st I wanted to love this, but ended up only liking this. I liked the idea of librarians travelling around an old West-like future, disseminating acceptable materials. The world is violent, difficult, with towns protected by Sheriffs, people needing papers attesting to their identities, tightly controlled information and lack of tolerance for difference. What I had a hard time grasping was what the world was like. Something had happened in our future to render the world to the state it's in at the story's open. There are mentions of technology, but what you see the characters use would not have seemed out of place in the 1800s. So I was confused. But I liked the characters a lot, and the tough librarians, so, I'm giving this 3.5 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Brinkman

    It's time to circulate "crime" across the country. Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself in the librarians book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her - a marriage she doesn't want. A marriage to a man who who was engaged to the person she was in love with. A person who was just executed for being found with resistance propaganda. When Esther gets discovered, she's about to find out she's not joined up with the people she thought. But what if they're the on It's time to circulate "crime" across the country. Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself in the librarians book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her - a marriage she doesn't want. A marriage to a man who who was engaged to the person she was in love with. A person who was just executed for being found with resistance propaganda. When Esther gets discovered, she's about to find out she's not joined up with the people she thought. But what if they're the ones she's always needed? A story of dust, deviance, and doing the right thing. A story of revolvers, rebels, and resistance. Trigger warnings for death, grief, physical abuse, gun violence, sexism, homophobia, and executions. Timid, grieving Esther was desperate to escape the hushed up horrors her home held. With a lot of dedication and determination, we alongside the slightly melodramatic girl went from sheltered to sharp with new knowledge of the futuristic West. The observant soul really grew on me, and my heart ached for her, especially for her reason for joining the Librarians. Librarians are lovely. Librarians may put lead in the law. Traversing the trails with these tough but tender characters was a fun but sobering trip. Platonic, romantic, and more, the loyal, LGBTQ+ cast had such a safe and surprising dynamic. All of them hold a special place in my heart, but especially Cye and Amity, d*man. Each character needs their own book. We only just cracked the spines of these Librarians' stories. Are you a coward or are you a librarian? And with this tagline my heart was sold. Mirroring some of the scarier aspects of present day, Upright Woman Wanted bent the classic Western in a wonderful gay way. While it could have used a tad bit more world-building, Sarah Gailey's novela charmed me in every way. Spoilin' to fight for what's right? Good. Get get ready to ride/fly through pages of book bringing bada**, bandits, and reminders of safe spaces. Gritty gunfights of good vs evil gave way to great social commentary, realizations that certain internal "bads" are actually society's bad for demonizing them, and self acceptance. Grim but hopeful, I'm eager to read more of this world. I want everyone to read this ASAP.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    4 stars Resistance Librarians in a future Wild West. When one girl escapes her good-for-nothing town to find a place where she can be free to love who she wants, she's taken on the desert adventure of a lifetime. Concept: ★★★★★ Pacing: ★★★ Characters: ★★★★ This is a short novel, so I'll make my review short and sweet. Upright Women Wanted is great. It had a fantastic title, so I picked it up. I read the blurb "fight the State, be a Librarian" and I got excited. Then I opened it up, and I read it in o 4 stars Resistance Librarians in a future Wild West. When one girl escapes her good-for-nothing town to find a place where she can be free to love who she wants, she's taken on the desert adventure of a lifetime. Concept: ★★★★★ Pacing: ★★★ Characters: ★★★★ This is a short novel, so I'll make my review short and sweet. Upright Women Wanted is great. It had a fantastic title, so I picked it up. I read the blurb "fight the State, be a Librarian" and I got excited. Then I opened it up, and I read it in one sitting. A girl watches her forbidden love get hanged for her indiscretions, and instead of accepting her pioneer-read-domineered lifestyle, she decides to hide in a visiting Librarian's wagon. The Librarians bring "Approved Materials" to the different border towns in the desolate landscape. It's semi-dystopian, semi-apocalyptic, semi-Wild West, and wholeheartedly a love letter to LGBTQIA+ community. Guns, horses, lesbians, and covert smuggling—oh MY! The only reason it's 4 stars instead of 5 stars is that I can't help but admit that because it was so short, I felt like we missed a lot of opportunities for world building. I could feel that the author had the entire world mapped out, but we didn't really uncover the larger world at all. This could have easily been an entire novel. Maybe someday it will be. *COUGH COUGH* Please?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meagan ✊🏼 Blacklivesmatter ✊🏼Blacktranslivesmatter

    Popsugar 2020 Reading Challenge Read a Western (This isn't a true western but I'm counting it *shrugs*) This was an interesting world. It's a futuristic western. Something happened in this world (a large scale war I believe) that caused them to revert back to living life as the people depicted in "westerns" lived (wagons, six shooters, sheriffs and their posse, travel on the dusty open road by horseback). Cars, diesel fuel, electricity and other modern things exist but they are scarce. The governme Popsugar 2020 Reading Challenge Read a Western (This isn't a true western but I'm counting it *shrugs*) This was an interesting world. It's a futuristic western. Something happened in this world (a large scale war I believe) that caused them to revert back to living life as the people depicted in "westerns" lived (wagons, six shooters, sheriffs and their posse, travel on the dusty open road by horseback). Cars, diesel fuel, electricity and other modern things exist but they are scarce. The government censors all media consumed by the citizens and controls all aspects of their lives. This is where the librarians come in. They distribute the government Approved Materials. Our MC is a naive young woman just learning that there is a world beyond the one the government propaganda depicts. I liked her but I was really in love with Amity, who just gave zero fucks. The ending seems to be setting up for future stories in this world and I am so here for that. In the middle I thought that this was a solid 3 stars but I really liked how the ending wrapped everything up. And after thinking about the message/themes, I had to rate this higher. This was my first Sarah Gailey read and I def have to check out her other work!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beige

    A little gem that I breezed through, not something I've been able to do often this year! It's a bit of a genre mashup, set in dysoptian future with a distinctly western feel. There are darker events, but the tone never gets too heavy, you could even say it's hopepunk-ish. I most enjoyed: the southwestern imagery in the prose, that the story seemed personal to Gailey and had a positive message relevant for 2020. If Gailey ever decides to turn this into a series, I'd love to see it set a few years A little gem that I breezed through, not something I've been able to do often this year! It's a bit of a genre mashup, set in dysoptian future with a distinctly western feel. There are darker events, but the tone never gets too heavy, you could even say it's hopepunk-ish. I most enjoyed: the southwestern imagery in the prose, that the story seemed personal to Gailey and had a positive message relevant for 2020. If Gailey ever decides to turn this into a series, I'd love to see it set a few years down the road, when the MC has matured further. I wouldn't classify this as YA, but there was a bit of angst and naivete in the first half, which some readers may have less patience for.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    2.5 “I guess this was fine but I won’t remember a word of it in six months” Stars. I loved Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo books, so I keep picking up her other work and expecting better than what I end up getting. While this is a far better book than Magic for Liars in terms of narrative quality, it suffers from the same problem of being far, far better in concept than in execution. Parts of this are cute and charming, but mostly the whole thing feels flat. Add in a protagonist who melodramatical 2.5 “I guess this was fine but I won’t remember a word of it in six months” Stars. I loved Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo books, so I keep picking up her other work and expecting better than what I end up getting. While this is a far better book than Magic for Liars in terms of narrative quality, it suffers from the same problem of being far, far better in concept than in execution. Parts of this are cute and charming, but mostly the whole thing feels flat. Add in a protagonist who melodramatically wallows in “Everything is my fault, I am a pox on all houses!” at nearly every turn, and a potentially interesting story turns into a slow slog of eye roll inducing angst. I don’t require my female protagonists to be flawlessly hard or lacking in any self doubt to consider them tough and worthy, but Esther was woefully uninspiring, much like those two dolts at the center of Magic for Liars. Where have the likes of the admirably tough but imperfect ladies of the American Hippo series gone? I know Gailey has them in her repertoire. I just wish she would dust them off and put them to good use in her next offering. *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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