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Author: JennyTrout

The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp chapter thirteen

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Need to catch up? (I don’t know why the links highlighted and went wonky. It’s WordPress. It acts in mysterious ways.


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Fablemere season two begins today on Vella, Ream, and Patreon! If you’re already subscribed to the Fablemere tier or higher on Patreon, you don’t have to do anything extra. You’ll continue to get the posts in your Patron feed. If you’re reading on Vella, the chapters of season two will post in The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride serial. If you’re a Ream reader, you may need to follow the story to get updates, but no other changes to your tier or subscription need to be made. I’m trying to keep this as easy as possible!

Season two is going to be a total trip. Read on for the blurb!

A city is missing. So is her best friend.

Tabitha was having a normal day at work, until she found out her slacker boss is the legendary wizard, Merlin. Now, she’s in a fairytale land, on a mission to bring her best friend back to the real world. A mission that’s complicated by the disappearance of an entire city and a millennia of accidental time travel.

The only way to survive… is to die.

Out of medication and options, Vanessa knows it’s just a matter of time until she must become a vampire or die the kind of death that doesn’t involve a cool cape. But she can’t stop thinking about the ogre she left behind and the daring escape she promised him she would make. All she needs now is for Baron Scylas to make her one of his undead concubines—and he’s certainly taking his time.

He’s used to being alone. He’ll need help to rescue his true love.

Droguk won’t stop fighting for Vanessa until the day he dies. That day will come sooner if he doesn’t rely on a mage and his assistant, who claim to know Vanessa from her world and want to take her back there. Working together could mean rescuing his mate from the Baron’s clutches only to lose her… forever.

STATE OF THE TROUT: The sea is awful, I was very brave, and other news

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Hey there, friends! Have you heard of this thing called the ocean? Well, I have. And it is awful.

Last week, I did a big, scary thing. I traveled on a plane, all by myself, to South Carolina to spend a whole week in the Sea Pines neighborhood of Hilton Head Island with a friend and a group of seven other strangers who would not, my friend assured me, be mean to me.

I was so afraid someone would be mean to me. I am pleased to report that they did not.

I am also pleased to report that, although this opportunity presented itself on my connecting flight, I did not rush in and start flipping switches hither and thither, despite the nearly overwhelming temptation to do so:

A view from the first row of a plane showing the aisle and the open cockpit door. Inside the cockpit are just like, so many buttons to push.

There are switches on the ceiling. ON THE CEILING. I knew I could reach those bastards before the pilot could even stand up. I had this vivid image of smashing my hand on those buttons and just pressing everything frantically as they dragged me off the plane.

Since I controlled myself and did not get air marshalled straight to federal prison, I got to see the sun come up while I was in the sky:

The sky underneath looks like a frozen pond with cracks in it, but the cracks are clouds. The sky up above is really clear and blue, and the horizon is like, this bright orange line ripping between the two.

Can I just interrupt this previously scheduled post to rant for just a second about people on airplanes? Not, you know, the fact that I forgot my mask on my return flight and ended up next to someone who sneezed constantly, loudly, and with alarming force and therefore I am now ill, myself? I need to address the jaded flyers out there. I know some of you are reading this thinking, “I fly all the time for work, so yes, I’m a jaded flyer.” You’re who I’m talking to, okay? With love, I’m talking to you.

YOU ARE IN THE GOD DAMNED SKY. I get that it happens a lot. Maybe you’re a pilot or a flight attendant and it’s all in a day’s work. But you’re in THE GOD DAMNED SKY. It’s a miracle! Imagine explaining this to your caveman ancestors. Or walking up to a medieval knight and being like, “Yeah, I was IN THE GOD DAMNED SKY FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS, but no big deal.”

It’s a big deal. Don’t let routine destroy the wonder and joy that you experience. YOU GO IN THE SKY.

I was pretty tired on my way down, owing to the fact that just hours before my flight, I got bit by my dog. It was an accident, she felt horrible, she would never bite me on purpose, but boy howdy, she’s an enormous pit bull/great dane mix and she got me BAD. I will spare you a photo, but suffice to say that after an ER visit, a shit ton of painful wound cleaning, and a prescription for enough antibiotics to permanently destroy my vaginal biome, I had just enough time to stop by the house for my luggage before leaving for the airport with a gauze-and-pressure-bandage wrapped hand. By the time I arrived in South Carolina, I’d been awake for thirty consecutive hours (with a light nap in the Charlotte airport). And by the time we went out for dinner that night, I was coming up on hour thirty-seven.

The food was worth staying awake for:

However, I do believe they were a bit stingy with their grits. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but the sauce-to-grits ratio was definitely off.

At the end of the day, I returned to this lovely little room. The picture over the headboard factors into the story later:

A nice little finished attic room with a bed that has a lovely wicker headboard and and two bedside tables. All of my luggage is on everything. Above the bed is a photo of a boardwalk leading down to the beach.

The next morning, refreshed from a brief, exhaustion-induced coma, I decided that I would venture to the ocean.

“There are paths to beach that run between the houses,” my friend Stella, who booked the trip and had experience staying in Sea Pines before, told me. There was a path behind our house, so that’s what I assumed she meant. I left the house with a little bowl of raspberries to munch on and followed the path.

It lead me right onto someone’s pool area.

Those were not the paths she was talking about. Later in the week, I noted that these little paths behind the houses were actually so landscapers and such could move about without being too visible. You know. Like how you want servants to be invisible when you live in a place where the five bedroom, five bathroom, over 3,000 square foot house we were staying in is a shack in comparison to everything else.

Yeah. This:

A gorgeous brick patio with a plunge pool, surrounded by palm trees. There's like, a tenth of a ridiculous, three story, big ass house visible through the trees, and a little bit of the aforementioned path.

…is what passes for a modest home in Sea Pines. This gorgeous, heated pool and lushly landscaped patio area. You can see the path behind one of those chairs. Also, a giant ass house that I mistook for a hotel when we first arrived. Some of these places have legit hotel-sized mechanical systems outside for like, their A/C and such.

The actual beach access path was somewhere else, and I did not find it until later that day. When I did, I found this:

I’ve been to the ocean before, but never in South Carolina. I was a little shocked to learn that it looks about the same as it does in New England. I thought it would be, I don’t know, slightly different looking? Like how in some places it’s like this but in other places it looks blue or green? But it was like something out of Moby-Dick about 99% of the time I was there.

It’s also incredibly spooky, as each day that I visited, the ocean had picked something new to murder. The first day, the beach was covered in dying sand dollars. After that it was like, scallops, another day was horseshoe crabs just bashed to fucking pieces all over the place, and on one day, the whole thing was a jellyfish graveyard.

A dead cannonball jellyfish on the sand like a gross blob of goo.

I learned that the sea is full of murder and gross stuff and I don’t feel like I need to interact with it further. Disgusting.

I got a lot of work done on this trip, lest you think I was just fooling around and writing negative reviews of the ocean. I came home with a little bit under 20,000 words written across three projects, and a whole bunch of knowledge from my new friends, who are all indie authors. We shared our tips and tricks (and I don’t have a lot of them) for sales and promotion and having successful signings, which made this not just a good trip for writing, but for network and branding and such.

And nobody was mean to me! I came home with new author friends, and we’re already planning to do it again next year.

Now that I’m back and not exactly rested, since my mask mistake resulted in creeping sickness (yes, I’ll test for Covid), I have good news!

The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp is coming back from hiatus! You have until Friday to refresh your memories, because that’s when the next installment posts. Also, if you’ve been following Fablemere, season two, The Vampire’s Willing Captive, begins on Vella, Ream, and the $3 (USD) Patreon tier TOMORROW! On Vella, season two will be attached to The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride, so you don’t have to go looking for a different link.

The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride will be available in ebook and paperback on February 29th. You can pre-order the ebook now on Amazon, but printing issues with the paperback has pushed that pre-order back on other platforms. Hey, if a book release of mine ever ran smoothly, I would probably pass out from shock.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print right now. Stay tuned to find out what disease I got from going maskless on a plane.

SURPRISE! The Princes of Pleasure and Torment releases THIS WEEK.

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Remember when I was like, here is a handy graphic that says The Princes of Pleasure and Torment (Fablemere Fae #1) will be on Radish in February? Yeah, funny thing about that… I found out last week that it will actually be out on FRIDAY. As in THIS FRIDAY.

Here’s a blurb that I cobbled together in a panic upon learning that the book is being published a month earlier than I expected:

Shattered by the murder of her mother, Cenere knows that she cannot rest until the killer is brought to bloody, terrible justice. When a faery from her mother’s past offers his help, Cenere knows she must accept. But the fae give nothing freely, and the price Luthian of Mithrax asks is nothing short of the total surrender of her body and spirit.

Exiled from the Court of Pleasure and Torment, Luthian seeks to return to the life of hedonism on offer there. Cenere will be his most seductive weapon in a court ruled by depravity and indulgence, and the sadistic King Arcus won’t be able to resist her.

But Luthian has secrets, and when his true motivations are revealed, they will change the course of Cenere’s life forever…

I don’t have a cover or a link to share with you, that’s how fast this is suddenly happening. They’re releasing it much sooner, I think, than either I or Radish expected. I found out on the 19th and I stumbled around in a bit of a daze like, how do I even promo this thing, right?

Well, I’m gonna do it in the most honest way possible. Here is a bulleted list of stuff that is in the book and you can choose whether or not to read it or you can recommend it to someone who likes freaky stuff. Because this book is dark, and way different than anything else I’ve written as Abigail Barnette. This is very much a “Dead Dove, Do Not Eat” situation.

Read this book if stuff on this list interests you. Don’t read this book if it doesn’t interest you. Definitely do not eat the dead dove if you don’t like the taste of dead dove. I cannot deliver a clearer warning that this book is dark romance and not like The Boss or The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride.

  • rape, dubious consent, consensual non-consent
  • violence, gore, murder
  • needle/piercing play
  • exhibitionism/voyeurism
  • group sex
  • orgasm torture, orgasm denial
  • lesbian mermaid group sex
  • minotaur sex
  • humiliation
  • literally any combination of genitals in various quantities getting together
  • foot torture
  • fluid play (including a bathtub full of cum)
  • ritual sexual torture
  • sentient plant sex
  • morally dark-gray characters
  • borderline necrophilia, honestly
  • flying sex
  • 24/7 unconditional submission

I feel like that’s it? I honestly don’t remember. Look, I went full on feral writing this one. Just anything I could throw in there, I did. And if that’s your jam, well, good news. On Friday, you can read the entire serial on Radish. They’re foregoing a chapter-at-a-time release with this one.

Meanwhile, I’m going to breathe heavily into a paper bag and not freak out about having a surprise new release come as a surprise to me.

The Week In Video!

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I don’t know where the week went, I will tell you that for free. It was eaten by book formatting, that’s where it went.

However, I’ve struggled so hard with technology of all kinds this week. I’m pretty sure a witch did it. As a result, I don’t have Bridgerton for you all this week, and the Patreon-only uncut Buff The Vampire Slayer react is delayed due to captioning problems. We’ll get back on track next week, just in time for me to take a flippin’ hiatus for a writing trip like two weeks after that.

But we do have two new videos!

The Week In Video!

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I’ve been doing a lot more over on my YouTube channel these days! If you’re not there for the Buffy Watch-Along, my react video to my first time ever watching Bridgerton, or Jealous Haters AV Club (We’re reading E.L. James’s The Missus), you’ve got catching up to do!

Here are the most recent installments of those series. You’ll have to be signed in to watch most of the Bridgerton reacts, due to age restriction (for reasons that are obvious if you are a Bridgerton watcher). Some of The Missus are also 18+, just a warning.

2024 Book Releases and ARC Opportunities

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Hello, friends! Abigail Barnette has a busy 2024 ahead! Here’s the release schedule. It’s a doozy.


  • The Princes of Pleasure and Torment (Fablemere Fae #1), exclusively on Radish (premiere date TBD)
  • The Vampire’s Willing Captive (Fablemere #2) Kindle Vella, Ream, Patreon (premieres Feb. 13)
  • The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride (Fablemere #1), ebook and paperback (Feb. 29)


  • The Mage’s Reluctant Assistant (Fablemere #3) Kindle Vella, Ream, Patreon (premieres June 11)


  • The Vampire’s Willing Captive (Fablemere #2) ebook and paperback (July 9)
  • Rise Of The Alpha God (Taken By The Alpha King #2), ebook and paperback (July 16)


  • Alpha Queen Ascending (Taken By The Alpha King #3), ebook and paperback (Oct. 7)
  • Fablemere #4 (Title TBD), Kindle Vella, Ream, Patreon (premieres Oct. 10)


  • The Mage’s Reluctant Assistant (Fablemere #3) ebook and paperback (Nov. 11)


  • Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend (Her Billionaire #1), ebook and paperback (Dec. 6)

Release Date TBD:

  • The Princes of Pleasure and Torment (Fablemere Fae #1), ebook and paperback

As you see… I’m going to be drowning in book and serial releases. As my publishing schedule increases, so too does my need to streamline the heck out of my promotions. That’s why instead of putting out ARC calls for individual books, I’m establishing an ARC team. If you review books, especially if you review my books, please consider submitting for a position on the team. You’ll receive an email reminder and get the books ahead of time (four to six weeks before the release date) in your preferred format, and there’s never an expectation of a positive review or a pre-release review. Someone will check periodically and make sure reviews are being posted, but that person isn’t me, as I don’t read them. Plus, you’ll have a chance to opt out of receiving the ARCs if your schedule is too hectic or you’re just plain not interested in the book.

To sign up, fill out this form. At the moment, I’ve only got room for thirty on my team, so I’ll be selecting people who have an established pattern of reviewing books (anybody’s, not just mine). The first ARCs will go out February 1st, and the first title will be The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride.

Thanks everybody for continuing to support my passion of providing quality, fun smut to the world!

A Court of Jealousy and Haters: ACOTAR chapter 4 or “The Defendant Will Be Remanded Into NONSENSE.”

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It has come to my attention that I never reposted chapter four of the ACOTAR recaps here. While this is EXTREMELY on brand for me and my attention to detail, I simply cannot let you all miss the wonder and glory that is… ELK HORNS. Happy New Year, and may Sarah J. Maas never darken our door again in the decades to come.

2023: The Year of Hard Things

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From about December 1st on, I’ve been wondering what I could possibly write about in a year-end post. Without reflection on the past year, things feel unfinished. But I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t think of one accomplishment or achievement for the entire year.

And then I was like, ah. That is mental illness trying to trick me.

I actually did a lot of things in 2023. And they were hard things. And they were hard things that were stacked up and up, stretching into the metaphorical sky, beyond the limits of what I thought I was capable of (and above what I ever could have been capable of just three years ago).

Yes, I’m being dramatic, but let me break it down month-by-month.


  • I turned in the second 30k words of the second season of Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend for the Yonder app.
  • While also rehearsing to play Bea in Something Rotten!.
  • Just two months after a car accident that left me without a functioning right arm.
  • And I survived the one year deathiversary of my best friend.


  • I turned in the third 30k words of the second season of Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend for the Yonder app.
  • I played Bea in Something Rotten!
  • And weathered a snowstorm that ruined our opening night.
  • I went ice skating for the first time in almost twenty-five years. It was like riding a bicycle.
  • I took my youngest kid to her first hockey game.


  • I had a super painful surgery to repair my non-functioning arm.
  • 48 hours later, I refused all pain relief except ibuprofen and ice packs so that I could get back to work.
  • Yeah, I was back to work two days after my surgery that needed a year to heal, because I am stubborn.
  • I turned in season four of Taken By The Alpha King to Radish.


  • I decided to make the most of my recovery and start reacting to Bridgerton episodes on YouTube (and discovered my love of video as a format for creation)
  • I began gruelling physical therapy for my still-shitty arm.
  • I was hired to direct a production of my late best friend’s favorite musical, The Music Man.
  • I turned in the first 30k words of the final season of Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend on the Yonder app.
  • Our family decided that we would move to Kalamazoo.


  • The Music Man went into production, casting, and rehearsals.
  • I went on my first audition post-surgery, for Big Fish (and didn’t get cast).
  • I turned in the second 30k words of the final season of Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend on the Yonder app.
  • I turned in season five of Taken By The Alpha King on Radish.
  • Taken By The Alpha King seasons 1-3 released in paperback and e-book.
  • After fifty years of living in the family lakehouse, Baba decided it was time to move into senior housing.
  • More physical therapy.


  • I turned in the conclusion to Her Brother’s Billionaire Best Friend.
  • Rehearsals continued for The Music Man.
  • I rode a float in the Kalamazoo Doo-Dah! parade to publicize The Music Man.
  • I had the honor of taking one of my cast members to their first ever Pride celebration.
  • I roller skated (AMA) for the first time since my surgery.
  • While it was desperately painful to do so, I missed my annual writing retreat for the first time in eleven years.
  • We started an apartment search.
  • We found (and secured) the perfect townhouse and began packing for our August move.
  • I started recapping The Missus on YouTube.
  • Hey, guess who was still in physical therapy!


  • Baba moved and we said goodbye to the lake house, the central magnet for family celebrations, with a final, subdued July 4th.
  • While having a quiet, reflective moment in the peaceful lake, I scraped my foot on a rock. Fuck you, too, lake.
  • I swallowed my hatred of participation and rode the float in another parade.
  • The Music Man, despite being a beautiful production praised by audiences, absolutely fucking flopped. The theater broke even, but my heart was broken. Still, it was a great tribute to Jill, and she would have loved it.
  • We continued to pack for our August move.
  • And I was still in physical therapy, which was beginning to wear me down.


  • I started writing The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride and developing the world of Fablemere.
  • Our move was delayed until September.
  • That scrape I got in July? Caused cellulitis that I was too busy to get checked out in July. Fuck you, too, lake.
  • I was hired as an accessibility and inclusion coordinator for a production of Matilda, Jr..
  • Grey’s Anatomy came into my life at the best possible time, because things were about to get shitty for me.
  • Guess who was still in physical therapy!


  • Our move was delayed twice, before being pushed back to October.
  • I began to lose my hair due to stress.
  • After hearing about my Fablemere project, Radish contracted me for a dark romantasy serial set within the world before The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride was even finished.
  • I started a rewatch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my YouTube channel, since the multiple Hollywood strikes temporarily paused my Bridgerton reacts.
  • Physical therapy ended and I began to grapple emotionally with the reality that my arm will never be the same as it was before the accident.
  • The Something Rotten! cast reunited to perform “A Musical” at the Theater Kalamazoo party in Bronson Park. I was one of the very few cast members who wasn’t in that number, so I had to learn it.
  • Then the event was rained out in the most impressive flash-flood way possible, cementing Something Rotten! as the most cursed show in existence.
  • The cellulitis finally went away, but the yeast infection caused by an endless parade of antibiotics lived on for two interminable weeks.


  • After living off paper plates for two months, and with all of our stuff packed up (some of it in a storage facility), Edward Rose & Sons canceled our move entirely after they changed their minds about allowing our previously approved emotional support animals. We received this news on move-in day as we pulled into the driveway with the truck.
  • We decided that moving was not in the cards for us, as we were all too exhausted from the stress to try again.
  • I was so destroyed by the entire moving debacle that I resigned from my position on Matilda, Jr..
  • I had to start wearing a wig or wide headbands to cover up my bald spots.
  • The Ogre’s Fairytale Bride began posting on Ream, Vella, and Patreon.
  • I started the impossible task of unpacking my entire house after all that was left to do was clean out and dispose of large items.


  • I auditioned for (and wasn’t cast in) The Lion in Winter.
  • I scored tickets to Patti LuPone at the Gilmore Piano Festival. Front row, so I’ll have to be on my best behavior.
  • I committed to a February writing retreat on a whim, based solely on the fact that I know like, one person who’s going to be there.
  • It’s on Hilton Head Island, so I began researching how to be bitten by a shark, a bucket list item of mine.
  • We were still unpacking.
  • My youngest child turned fifteen.
  • I suffered a moderate mental health setback after a real rectal prolapse of a person confronted me publicly with a written statement about how I don’t smile enough (read: mask my emotions to appear neurotypical enough).


  • I turned in The Princes of Pleasure and Torment, a Fablemere Faeries story, to Radish.
  • In a manic state, I wrote 60k words in ten days on various projects.
  • I should have used that manic state to unpack, because I still haven’t finished.
  • We managed to decorate for Christmas. We just decorated around the boxes.
  • I recovered from my episode and came back stronger than ever.
  • I was nominated for two BroadwayWorld Regional Awards, one for acting and one for directing, and The Music Man was nominated for Best Musical.
  • I went roller skating at the rink for the first time since my surgery, and only the second time since I got in my accident on the way home from the roller rink.
  • And yesterday, my eldest child turned twenty-one. He celebrated with donuts.

The TL;DR of it was that I had a supporting lead in a musical, directed a musical, weathered a major surgery and a canceled move, a major change in my family, faced numerous mental and physical setbacks, yet still wrote six full-length novels while producing online content.

I wrote earlier this year about “the grind,” and my perception of myself as lazy and worthless. Since then, I’ve adopted a new attitude: I can do and achieve big things. Hard things. I can spend months turning grief into collaborative art, and have the people who worked with me walk away having had a positive experience. I am a writer, even if I take a day off. And while I honestly could work harder at marketing and building my audience and rebranding and staying fresh…

I like where I am. I like what I do. I like writing what I want, when I want. I like making fun of bad books (or being pleasantly surprised by decent ones, like Modelland). I like making YouTube videos and being silly on TikTok and Bluesky. I’m happy with this. I’m happy with the me I was in 2023 and what I achieved. I don’t need to strive for greatness. To me, greatness very much looks like creating things I enjoy, for readers I enjoy, and half-watching Grey’s Anatomy while playing Fall Guys in my bed.

Will I get a massive traditional publishing deal with heavy marketing and become the next genre fiction darling by being comfortable with myself? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I’m lazy. I’ve given myself permission to no longer want something that has burned me out countless times in the past, in an industry devoid of ethics, where the worst of the worst make big wins. Letting go of that dream that writers dream by default freed me to truly enjoy my work again. To see it as an escape, rather than something I want to escape from. I no longer fantasize about being a grocery store cashier.

And you know what? I don’t feel like a failure when I walk into a bookstore anymore. Bookstores are fun again, rather than some symbol of my inability to make it in traditional publishing. That’s probably why I’ve done so much reading this year, too.

That was the lesson I learned in 2023: I granted myself permission to not want. And in 2024, I’m giving myself permission to just be enough.

Best and Worst books of 2023

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I did more reading in 2023 than I’ve done in years. It astonishes me how much I’ve been reading. I hope this trend continues, because it was a bummer when I only had the brain capacity to force myself through the absolute garbage that I read for sporking purposes. I read more fantasy and romance than any other genre, but there was non-fiction and horror sprinkled in, as well. Here are the top five and the bottom five, presented with rationale and content warnings. If you’ve read these books and think of content warnings I missed, please add them in the comments.


1. The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin When I finished this book, I immediately recommended it to a friend as “The new Dune.” It’s that deep, rich, and complex in its worldbuilding. The writing thrusts you directly into the story and trusts you to learn the new settings and societies without spoon-feeding you. The story follows three women: a bereaved mother searching for her surviving child, an officer of a magical bureaucracy whose simple mission uncovers horrific secrets, and a young girl in training at a harsh and violent boarding school. It’s the first in a trilogy that I can’t wait to finish, with a third act twist that made me pull my car over while listening to the audiobook. The cast of characters also features diverse racial, sexual, and gender representation. If you haven’t read it yet, read it. CW: violence, multiple child deaths, child abuse, CSA (implied, not depicted), domestic abuse, forced breeding, corrective rape

2. Gideon The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir I put off reading this book for way too long, discouraged by comparisons in tone to Ready, Player One and its reputation as “a Tumblr book.” It’s so much more. While the book’s cover quote describes it as being about lesbian necromancers in space, that take is so simplified that future printings should absolutely scrub it. This is not, as I expected it to be, a book trying to hit every trope on the trendy book checklist. It’s its own thing, in the most David S. Pumpkins way possible. Gideon, a stubborn, chaotic warrior, is enlisted to protect Harrowhark, a callously violent necromancer, as she embarks on what can only be described as a scientific magic murder mystery tournament for political gain. If you like your fantasy novels to have a heavy dose of science fiction, inventive insults, and a creepier version of Catholicism, this is for sure a book you’ll enjoy. CW: gore, violence

3. Redacted due to the St. Martin’s Press boycott It breaks my heart that I can’t talk about this book, because I truly loved it. However, St. Martins Press has yet to provide sufficient apology for their employee’s racist statements on social media, and has not addressed the possibility that this employee, whose position includes granting ARC access to influencers, has discriminated against reviewers when distributing those ARCs. As such, I cannot in good conscience recommend or review any of their books at this time.

4. Vampires of El Norte, Isabel Cañas The plot is simple: boy and girl grow up together. Girl is attacked by a creature and dies. Boy lives a bleak, tortured existence, while a supernatural mystery unravels against the backdrop of a family’s fight to protect their land and way of life from violent colonization by the United States. I’m so afraid to give any delicious morsel of this book away, because I want you to read it, but I want you to go in with as blank a slate as possible, like I did, because it will put your brain in a chokehold. CW: gore, violence, war, colonization

5. The Woman In Me, Britney Spears If you watched the Jealous Patrons AV Club special report I did on this book, you already know my feelings. Despite the conversational tone of the prose, this is a devastatingly difficult read, and one that needs to be added to the canon of feminist literature. Do not pick this up expecting juicy celebrity gossip (although there is plenty to be found) and unrelatable anecdotes about the shallow inconveniences of superstardom. Spears walks us through her tumultuous childhood with an alcoholic father and a driven stage mom, the relentless sexualization of her teen years, a lifetime of manipulation by men, and her eventual imprisonment through medical malpractice and legal maneuvering. She points out in excruciating detail how little has changed for women since the days of lobotomies and institutionalization, even for the most famous and wealthy. CW: abortion, drug abuse, alcoholism, emotional abuse, exploitation, misogyny… this entire book is its own content warning.


1. The Haunted Forest Tour, James A. Moore and Jeff Strand This was my second-fastest DNF of 2023, coming in at a meager 17%. “But Jenny,” you may ask, “how can you say a book is bad if you only read 17%?” I went into this book hoping for a really fun monster horror. After a forest suddenly sprouts up in New Mexico—and by “suddenly,” I mean fast enough for trees to impale the citizens of the town it consumes—, it quickly becomes a tourist attraction owing to the inexplicable abominations living within it. The prologue hyped me up with its Stephen King-esque tone, but the story quickly became crowded with new character after new character piled onto the tour bus, complete with their individual backstories. Maybe the pace could have been forgiven, but not the wildly offensive fat hate that was apparently integral to the story. It was the character of Neal Whistler that made me DNF and add both authors to my NEVER AGAIN list. We first meet Neal on page forty-two, as he is tantalized by a half-snake woman and her great breasts outside the window of the tram. It’s important to the authors to point out that he is thirty-four and a virgin, owing to the “ugly truth” of his “fifty-four inch waistline.” In order to truly grasp the essence of the character, we must hear, within paragraphs of his first appearance, about how he was humiliated and rejected by a girl in high school, the time his fat ass blew out the seat of his pants at work, and how he planned to “become a better man” through dieting. Neal survives until page fifty-eight, when he stubbornly refuses to sit down in the face of an impending collision and his “obese” body and “immense weight” cause him to human cannonball through the bus, cracking seats and injuring other passengers until he is finally pronounced dead by someone checking the pulse in his “flabby” wrist on page sixty-four. Both of these gaping, infected anal fistulas masquerading as authors can get in an incinerator and turn it the fuck on. CW: Gore, misogyny, and the authors have a real fucking problem with fat people that they need to write about in their journals and not published fiction.

2. Choosing Theo, Victoria Aveline It’s possible I was set up for disappointment by the constant recommendation of this book as “Like Ice Planet Barbarians, but better!” I loved Ice Planet Barbarians (read my original review here), so I was expecting to be blown away. What I got was a reverse-The Handmaid’s Tale about a human woman stranded on a disappointingly Earth-like planet (but with futuristic gizmos and a supposedly feminist society, so you know it’s space) where men are forced into a breeding program. This book fails on every level that Ice Planet Barbarians succeeds. It is not “Like Ice Planet Barbarians, but better!” It’s “Like Ice Planet Barbarians, but without consent!” The narrative tries hard to portray a society where women have their pick of sexy men who are forced to have sex with them and shower them in luxury as somehow empowering, but my queer self remains unconvinced. There is no room for queer or transgender people in the world Aveline created, and the utter lack of consent and agency given to the men of the planet isn’t more acceptable just because it’s not happening to women. CW: rampant heteronormativity, sexualization of rape culture

3. Pucking Around, Emily Rath Emily Rath has gotten a lot of undeserved heat for what went down between BookTok and the Seattle Kraken, but that didn’t get a chance to influence my view of the book, as I read it before the controversy erupted. This book holds the distinction of not only being my fastest DNF of 2023 (at the author’s note), but also the only book I DNFed twice. The first DNF was because I was in a bad mood, and seeing an author’s note about how I should read a prequel novella before starting the supposedly “stand alone” novel made me furious. When I gave it another chance, I learned I should have followed my instinct. The sluttiness of “puck bunnies” (women who want to have sex with hockey players) is pointed out at every available opportunity, which is surprisingly frequent considering that the heroine is the only female character I remember existing at all in the story. Does our heroine want to sleep with hockey players? Yes, but that doesn’t make her a “puck bunny” because she’s not like other girls. She’s a doctor. Does it matter that the multiple hockey players she fucks are her patients? No, of course not. Medical ethics don’t apply to quirky heroines in “funny” situations. And yeah, maybe one of her partners isn’t into the whole polyamory thing, but it’s totally cool to coerce someone into that situation if you really, really can’t choose between the hot hockey players you’re having sex with (and who are also your patients and also you’re not like those other sluts who have sex with multiple hockey players). CW: insulting polyamory rep, misogyny, internalized misogyny, a dash of homophobia, some big consent issues regarding polyamory

4. The Necromancer’s Bride, Brianna Hale I really enjoyed this one, actually. Until I got to the end and found an excerpt for the author’s dark romance featuring an ex-Nazi hero, which completely killed the vibe and made me hate the book I just read by default. Get in the trash, Brianna. You belong there. CW: Author thinks it’s hot to fuck Nazis.

Honorable Mentions I Highly Suggest Because They Were Super Fun And Interesting

1. Hi, Honey, I’m Homo, Matt Baume If you watch Baume’s highly entertaining YouTube video essays about the queer history of American sitcoms, chances are you’ll recognize a lot of this material. But Baume has more room to expound on those topics in book form, and his writing style matches the tone of his YouTube videos, making this a fun and informative read that will change the way you watch television classics. CW: real world and fictional homophobia and transphobia, including examinations of storylines involving the deaths of queer characters.

2. The Fae’s Two Alphas, Jem Zero If you like Kimberly Lemming’s books, you’ll love Zero’s polyam romance about a half-fae trans man working with his childhood wolf-shifter friend and a surly shifter mage to regain entry to the fae realm—and the magic that he used to transition. This is cozy and fun, despite the dysphoric element, with hot sex scenes and believable, tropey romance. Plus, it’s set in Michigan, which makes it an extra winner. CW: dysphoria, forced detransition

There you have it. My bests and worsts of 2023. I think it’s a great sign that I only outright loathed only four books. What did you read in 2023? Leave your recommendations and warnings in the comments!