Unpacking (Game Review)

Unpacking, dev. Witchbeam, available on Nintendo Switch, macOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5

A game about a life told through the act of unpacking it — and about queer joy.

When you play Unpacking, the game is telling you its story without words — well, except for the caption jotted into the photo album at the end of each chapter. Aside from that, the story is told entirely through the player’s actions and… sound. The rustling of the moving boxes and the packing paper, the satisfying clunk of an object being set down on a surface.

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SOMETHING LIKE LOVE — Christina C. Jones

“Well… I think we should resume our ‘mutually beneficial exchange of energy…’ on an exclusive basis.”

— Astrid, Something Like Love

From my Pride Reads list 2022, here’s Something Like Love by Christina C. Jones, #6 in the Serendipitous Love series! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Sean Crisden and Wesleigh Siobhan, which was a great experience.

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DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE — Ashley Herring Blake

From my Pride Reads list 2022, here’s Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake, #1 in the Bright Falls series! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Kristen DiMercurio, which I very much enjoyed.

In this sapphic rom-com featuring a lesbian and a bi woman as MCs and a medium-sized cast of other queer characters as well as a few token straights who are on thin ice (shoutout to Grant for bein’ a solid dude), complicated family histories take centre stage as Delilah Green returns, unwillingly, to her hometown of Bright Falls. (This, by the way, delighted me as I’d only recently completed playing a video game expansion that connects Control to the Bright-Falls-set Alan Wake games. But thankfully there’s no intrusive, horrible Darkness to be found in this story — if you’re not counting bad memories.) Delilah carries a lot of baggage from her childhood — and it’s only now, at her step-sister’s wedding, that she realises she’s not the only one.

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FOXHUNT — Rem Wigmore

That was the thing about good people. They did the right thing just because it was.

— Orfeus, Foxhunt

Orfeus the musician is searching for hope in the heart of danger…

In a lush solarpunk future, plants have stripped most of the poison from the air and bounty hunters keep resource hoarders in check. Orfeus only wants to be a travelling singer, famed and adored. She has her share of secrets, but she’s no energy criminal, so why does a bounty hunter want her dead? Not just any bounty hunter but the Wolf, most fearsome of all the Order of the Vengeful Wild. Orfeus will call in every favor she has to find out, seeking answers while clinging to her pride and fending off the hunters of the Wild. But she isn’t the only one at risk: every misstep endangers the enemies she turns into allies, and the allies she brings into danger. There are worse monsters than the Wolf hiding in this new green world.

Quick review: Foxhunt is an incredibly enjoyable, fast-paced romp at the same time as it is a story that delves deep into the heart of its protagonist. That heart yearns even as it steels itself, and the yearning slow burn of the romance is delicious. It’s a bright look at the future, with smart worldbuilding; for me a wonderful introduction to the genre of solarpunk.

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TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN — Talia Hibbert

Feeling is always worth it.

— Danika Brown; Take A Hint, Dani Brown

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits… When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues her from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zafir are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae — and Zaf is begging Dani to play along.

Quick review: If you love diverse, incredibly sexy romance, if you love bisexual protagonists, if you love friends-to-lovers stories with lots of pining even as they are together, then this is a novel for you. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll probably make you cry, and you will not regret picking it up. I cannot recommend it enough, and I’ll keep yelling about it.

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SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT — Meryl Wilsner

A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.

— Meryl Wilsner, Something To Talk About

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time – threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie. As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.

Don’t go into Something To Talk About expecting any fake dating or there was only one bed tropes. STTA is, at its core, slow burn, with all that that entails: miscommunication (or outright failure to communicate) and misunderstandings, 10 Reasons Why We Cannot Be Together, and pining. So much pining.

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PERFECT ON PAPER — Sophie Gonzales

“Self-Analysis: Darcy Phillips
Is not set in stone.”

— Sophie Gonzales, Perfect on Paper

This is the (mostly) spoiler-free review of this novel. If you’re also interested in a transcript of my reading journal discussing internalised biphobia and bi erasure, you can find it on my Patreon.

Darcy Phillips has a secret. It’s not that she’s smart, kind, stubborn, generous, impulsive, or occasionally jealous.

Her secret… is Locker 89.

A prestigious private school’s favourite agony aunt, scholarship student and teacher’s daughter Darcy has her work cut out for her. She’s the genius behind the infamous dating and relationship service dispensed through a layer of secrecy and anonymity that’s becoming increasingly thin when none other than the annoyingly handsome Alexander Brougham discovers her identity. It sets in motion a cascade of events that will shake up St. Deodetus’s foundations. Or, at the very least, the lives of a bunch of lovable youngsters trying to find their place in the world.

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GIRL, SERPENT, THORN — Melissa Bashardoust

“Even if she’s upset with you now, if you do right by her, she will forgive you.”

— Melissa Bashardoust, Girl, Serpent, Thorn

This is the spoiler-free review of this novel. If you’d like to read my full reading journal, you can check it over on my Ko-fi.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a magic, fantastic story about legends and the way they are told: we are, and we aren’t, and what we do with out gifts/curses is up to us. Those who loves us will seek to protect us, and sometimes our choices will lead us astray. But if we do right by each other, love and forgiveness are our reward.

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Reading Journal 001: Nina LaCour’s WATCH OVER ME

Warning: reading journal entries contain plot spoilers!

After I started reading Watch Over Me and talked about it to my girlfriend, I was in the middle of talking about it when I suddenly realised: I have not read the blurb. (It’s Nina LaCour, so… insta-buy for me.)

If I had, I’d have known going in that this was a literal ghost story — I’m sort of glad that I didn’t. It came as a delicious, unsettling surprise; both for the protagonist, Mila, and for me. Well. Far more delicious for me than for her, to be fair. (I’m just going to assume that the lot of you are more diligent about readin’ your blurbs, so I won’t consider this spoilers yet.) I wonder at the terrible secret in Mila’s past, the horrible thing she did; the fire. Was that her fault, her doing? Or was it Blake? Is it true that they were living in the burnt-out husk of a house? Even knowing that LaCour likes to peel back these layers slowly and all in good time, and that she will, eventually, make the facts plan; I am impatient. I want to know. That’s a good start.

I’ve finished the novel at the point of this writing, so this is more retrospective than my other reading journal entries.

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JULIET TAKES A BREATH — Gabby Rivera

“I wanted her to change my world.”
“Mi amor, only you can change your world.”

— Gabby Rivera, JULIET TAKES A BREATH

An excellent story about a young queer woman from the Bronx who goes to Portland for the summer to find a new love, White Feminism, and the joy of community. Rivera’s grasp on setting the scene and bringing environments to life is masterful.

The Coming Out

Juliet Takes A Breath begins with tears. During her goodbye dinner, Juliet comes out to her family, and it ends as one might expect. Her father says nothing, her mother locks herself in her room, crying, and makes it all about her “shame.” Throughout the novel, Juliet’s mom is a well of all the things straight people say: ‘it’s just a phase,’ ‘you just haven’t met the right boy,’ ‘you don’t know what love is yet.’ It’s frustrating as hell, especially as Juliet struggles and needs her mother to be there for her. Juliet’s mom says she loves her, but that Juliet has to forgive her for not being able to accept ‘what she told her’ — and that’s a nice euphemism for ‘who her daughter is in her heart.’

The Arrival

Juliet arrives in Portland, OR, still heartbroken and heartsick, too: her girlfriend, Laney, is also doing a summer internship, in D.C., and Juliet hasn’t heard from her since before her flight. No calls, not even a damn text.

And then, we meet Harlowe. Oh my God, Harlowe.
I didn’t touch the audiobook for a couple days after the first chapter with her, because I could not stop rolling my eyes after everything she said. This could have become a Did Not Finish, but I had too much affection for Juliet and too much curiosity about the story to leave it there.

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