T5W: LGBTQ+

This is a day late, I know, so it’s more like a Top 5 Thursday than a Top 5 Wednesday, but I’ve been meaning to do a post of my favourite LGBTQ+ books for a while, so I wasn’t going to let this excuse pass me by. 😉

5) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

A story about the crew of a spaceship, who’ve signed on to create a wormhole between two distant planets, a task that involves a long journey through deep space, and a lot of time with only each other for company. This book is, naturally, heavily character-driven, and the thing I like most about it is the sheer diversity of it, both in terms of race/species and relationships (and the “plus” part of LGBTQ+ plays a prominent role here). My favourite relationship in the book is between one of the crewmembers and the ship’s A.I., which is incredibly sweet, but the book also does a really great job of portraying same-sex relationships, inter-species relationships, and even polyamory.

4) The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

The gay character (who I won’t name here for the benefit of the one person in the world who hasn’t read this series yet, a.k.a. Chloë) in this series is actually closeted for the majority of it (as well as the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, in which he also plays a fairly prominent role), but his forced coming-out scene in The House of Hades is one of my favourite moments in any of Riordan’s books, ever. So many feelings! 😥 I’m not a huge fan of the eventual pairing that Riordan seemingly picked out of a hat for him (something that I’ve been forced to confront more and more recently, as I’ve just started reading The Trials of Apollo series, which is set not long after Heroes of Olympus), but he himself is a really wonderful, well-rounded character, and I love how the (quite sudden) revelation of his sexuality didn’t change his role in the books in the slightest.

3) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick

The second book in the Erebus Sequence (though the first one reads very much like a prequel, so I think that The Boy Who Wept Blood might actually be a better starting point for this series), which follows a group of Orfani – people who are all remarkably talented and highly educated, but horrifically deformed – in a gothic fantasy setting. The main character in this book (who is also present in The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, but only as a small child) struggles a lot with his sexuality, as his world is about as accepting of homosexuality as our own, over 100 years ago… so, not very much. :/

2) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green

The main pairing in Sally Green’s Half Life trilogy – which follows a young man who’s half-Black Witch and half-White Witch, and persecuted by both societies – took me somewhat by surprise. It was a relationship I was rooting for from their very first meeting, and I was aware of comments that Green had made on social media that they were perfect for each other, but somehow it always seemed like Nathan would be running from his feelings until long after the series’ ending. (And also, he had a girlfriend, which didn’t bode hugely well.) Needless to say, I was overjoyed when it became canon. 😀 These were two amazing characters, and a beautiful, heartbreaking, and incredibly realistic love story, despite their fantastical circumstances.

1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Lastly, one of my favourite books of all time, Carry On, which tells the story of Simon and Baz at Watford School of Magicks, where a mysterious being known as the Insidious Humdrum is threatening magic’s very existence. It’s actually a spin-off of another of Rowell’s books, Fangirl, whose main character writes fanfiction of the mega-successful Simon Snow series (which is the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe). It’s all very meta (and also fantastic)… So pretty much everyone knew from the time the book was announced that Simon and Baz were going to be a couple, and their relationship played a major part in the novel, without eclipsing the main storyline in the slightest. It was just there, slowly and wonderfully developing in the background, while all the drama and mysteries unfolded around it.

You might have noticed that none of the books on this list (except maybe Carry On) advertise themselves as LGBTQ+ stories (i.e. books that deliberately focus on sexuality, and how it influences the lives of their protagonists). This wasn’t exactly a deliberate choice, but although there are plenty of specifically-LGBTQ+ books that I really like (and when you’re writing a book specifically about LGBTQ+ issues, then the only way your readers won’t know about it going in is if they don’t bother to read the blurb), I really appreciate it when authors don’t feel the need to make a big deal out of their characters’ sexuality… and I feel that it goes a long way towards normalising diversity in literature, without trivialising the struggles that LGBTQ+ people face in society.

Also, an honourable mention for Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson, which has a special place in my heart as one of the few books out there (and the only one I’ve read so far) with an openly asexual lead character. It’s also a really good book, of course, just not quite as amazing as most of the books on this list. (It was such a difficult choice!)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

February Haul

Only three books this time! I’m so proud of myself. *Pats self on back* 😉 And I only bought one of them new, which is even better (for my bank balance)! It almost wasn’t worth writing a book haul at all, except that I needed something to post today, and I’m also pretty excited about these books, and have been looking for an excuse to talk about them. 😛
February Haul 2016

1) The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick. The third book in the Erebus Sequence, which is a gothic fantasy following a group of deformed children (though they’re not really children any more, at this point in the series) called Orfani. This was probably my most anticipated new release of winter, and came out at the end of January… though unfortunately, since my local bookshop didn’t have any copies in stock initially, I didn’t manage to get my hands on it until February… 😦 But anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this (very) soon!

2) Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. An old World Book day novella that’s inspired by Norse mythology. I was given this by one of my co-workers, who said he thought I’d enjoy it. 🙂

3) The Book of the New Sun, Volume 1: Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe. A bind-up of the first two books in the Book of the New Sun series, The Shadow of the TorturerThe Claw of the Conciliator – a high fantasy series about a boy called Severian, who is an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers. I’m currently about halfway through The Shadow of the Torturer, and am really enjoying it so far, though it’s pretty confusing in places… ^^’

#UnderHypedReads: TBR!

Tomorrow begins the Under-Hyped Readathon, which I am (ironically) super hyped-up for! 😉 As many brilliant books that hype has driven me to read, there are still loads of books out there that just haven’t got the attention they deserve, and this readathon aims to fix that (kind of). The readathon will run for the whole week (27th February – 4th March), and it’s not super-strict, but the basic guidelines for choosing your books are:

  • Books with less than 2000 ratings on goodreads.
  • OR books that you haven’t heard people talking about.

For more information, be sure to check out the goodreads group, which I’ve linked above. 🙂 But in this post, I thought I’d let you all know which books I’m hoping to pick up over the next few days (though I doubt I’ll get to them all). So, without further ado:UnderHypedReads TBR 2016

Lorali by Laura Dockrill. A mermaid book, I believe. I know absolutely nothing else about this book; it’s just sitting on my shelf, daring me to read it, so I think I will. 😛

A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. A fantasy novel about a woman who’s kidnapped and taken to another world, in order to be a nursemaid to the prince.

The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick. The third book in the Erebus sequence, which I’ve been super-excited for since I read The Boy Who Wept Blood… (It left off on such a tense note!)

And lastly, if I have the time (and also for the sheer appropriateness of picking it for this readathon in particular), The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips, which is an Arthurian-style story about, well, knights who didn’t make the cut for the Round Table.

[This post was actually supposed to contain recommendations, as well, but I got a bit carried away… ^^’ So I’ll be posting those later today. Something to look forward to! (Or not, as the case may be.)]

The New Year’s Resolution Tag

It’s getting a little late in the month for Resolutions, but it’s still January, so what the heck. 😛 And it’s a tag; I like tags, as you’ve all probably figured out by now. 😉 This tag was co-created by Emily at Embuhlee liest and Shivii at Brown Eyed Musings, and I was tagged to do it by Chloë at SSJTimeLord and Her Books – thanks, Chloë! 😀

And now, on with the questions!

bookshelves1) Get in shape: Name a book that doesn’t quite fit on your shelf correctly.

The illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It’s too tall to fit on any of my shelves except my comics shelf (which is already full), so it’s been propped up against my TBR bookcase since I bought it, which doesn’t feel like an appropriate place for it at all! 😦

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & South2) Eat healthily: Name a book you feel was good for you to read.

North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Not only did I really love this book, but it also reminded me that reading classics didn’t have to be a chore – and I do sometimes need to be reminded of that, since they can be quite difficult to get into, even when they’re really good.

3) Read more: Name a book you keep telling yourself to read but haven’t yet.

Maggie Stiefvater//SinnerThere are hundreds of them, but the one that sticks out the most to me is probably Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. I spent ages waiting for the paperback release, so that it would match the rest of the series, and that whole time, I was really, really eager to finally read it. Then I got it, and it’s been sitting on my TBR shelf, unread, ever since. Why? Not a clue. ❓

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic4) Quit smoking: Name a book you kept going back to even though you had finished it.

Street Magic by Tamora Pierce. I’ve read this several times, but it’s the audiobook that I keep going back to over and over again. It’s masterfully done, and I tend to switch it on whenever I feel like listening to something that isn’t music; it never gets old! 😀 Street Magic is also my #1 comfort read.

Patrick Ness//The Rest of Us Just Live Here5) Save more money: Name a book you got for a really good price.

Hmm… Recently, I got the hardback edition of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness for just £5; The Book People has some really great deals… 🙂

6) Be more organised: How do you organize your bookshelf?

By genre, nowadays. I used to organise it alphabetically, but it just wasn’t practical in terms of space (which I kept running out of)… 😦 One day, when I have more bookcases, I hope to arrange them alphabetically again.

Kate Beaton//The Princess & the Pony7) Be punctual: What’s the shortest time and longest time it took you to read a book?

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with DragonsWell, it depends on the book. Books like The Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton, or The Fox & the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith I can read in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, it took me several months to get through A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

8) Go out more: What book made you isolate yourself from the outside world?

George R.R. Martin//A Game of ThronesThe A Song of Ice & Fire series by George R.R. Martin! (Well, most of them.) I read the first four books in this series in rapid succession while I was on holiday in Skye a couple of years ago, and thoroughly (and vocally) resented every moment I was forced to spend away from them. 😳

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On9) Be unique: What was your favourite book of 2015?

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeEither Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, or Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff! I talked a lot about why in my 2015 favourites post. 🙂

10) Be more personal: What book are you waiting for most this year?

Den Patrick//The Girl on the Liar's ThroneAt the moment, most of my excitement is for The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick (which is, thankfully, coming out in just a few days). The last book in the series left off on such a tense note that I’ve been dying to know what happens next since the moment I finished it!

David Mitchell//Cloud Atlas11) Really, resolutions?: What book do you promise to read next this year?

Haha. I’ve written a whole list of them – which you can read here – but of the books on it, the one I most want to read soon is probably Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

Upcoming Releases: Winter 2015-16

Autumn was a pretty hectic (and exciting!) season for new books, but things seemed to have calmed down a little now… That said, there are still a few things coming out in the next few months that I’m really excited for, so without further ado, here are my most anticipated new releases of December, January and Februaury!

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 15/11/2015.]

Den Patrick//The Girl on the Liar's ThroneThe Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick (21st January)

The third book in the Erebus Sequence, a gothic fantasy series that I picked up earlier this year on a whim and was blown away by. The second book left off on a serious cliffhanger, though, so I’m really excited for this one – which, in addition to being the continuation of an incredibly intriguing and dramatic storyline, is also told from the perspective of Anea, one of the most fascinating characters in the first two books.

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days ClubThe Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (21st January)

The first book in a new series by the author of Eon  and Eona (which I haven’t read, but which I’ve heard amazing things about). The Lady Helen series is a fantasy adventure set in Regency England, and featuring a demon-hunting heroine.

Julie Murphy//Dumplin'Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (28th January)

A book I’ve been hearing a lot about in the last couple of months – Dumplin’ has generated a lot of buzz! This is a contemporary novel about the daughter of a former beauty queen, who, despite being overweight, has always been confident and comfortable in her own skin. Until she meets a guy… So in order to prove to herself, and to the world, that she’s beautiful just the way she is, she decides to enter a beauty pageant herself.

Maria V. Snyder//Night StudyNight Study by Maria V. Snyder (25th February)

The next book in the Chronicles of Ixia series, which I’ve been really enjoying lately. I’m not caught up, so I’ll likely not be reading this for a little while, but I thought I’d share it anyway. 🙂 Night Study is the second book in the Soulfinders trilogy (which is the third Chronicles of Ixia trilogy), and follows Yelena on her continuing adventures.

Bookmarks ~ ♥

Like a lot of book lovers, I’m a huge fan of bookmarks, and have been collecting them for several years. I even have an emergency bookmark that I keep tied to my backpack, in case of… unanticipated books? (Okay, so it’s not likely that I’ll ever need it, but I like to carry it anyway.)

Anyway, in my post today I wanted to talk about a bookmark-related habit I have: Matching bookmarks to the books I’m reading. Every time I pick up a new book, I take a look through my pot of bookmarks, and pick out one that matches the book’s themes, or colour scheme, or even just the “feel” of the book. I don’t have a bookmark for every book, of course, but I thought I’d share some of my favourite matches with you all~ 😀

[You can zoom in on the pictures by clicking on them, if you want to get a better look at the pictures. And sorry about the lighting! I wrote this post in the early hours of the morning, and all the lights in my room are rather yellow… 😳 ]

The Handmaid's Tale + bookmark1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Amnesty International bookmark. This is actually the pairing that inspired this post; I’m pretty proud of it~ 🙂 The Handmaid’s Tale is an incredibly bleak dystopian novel about a woman who’s trapped in a role that her oppressive society has chosen for her… “dreams of freedom” seemed like an appropriate slogan! The bookmark itself I received free (and at random) with a book that I ordered from the Amnesty International online shop.

Monsters of Men + bookmark2) Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness / crayon Godzilla (?) bookmark. I mostly just picked this bookmark because it had a monster on it, to be honest (though I still like the match-up a lot). Monsters of Men is about monsters of the human variety, rather than the terrifying-giant-lizard type, but it still works. 😛 This bookmark was another free-with-your-online-order one, but this time from the Book Depository (who, to be fair, have some really excellent bookmarks).

All I Know Now + bookmark3) All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher / owl bookmark. You might have to squint to see the bookmark in this photo, but it’s a little magnetic owl that I  brought back from Hong Kong as a souvenir. All I Know Now is a self-help book, which is full of advice and anecdotes about growing up, and I picked out this bookmark for it because owls are wise. Obviously. 😛 And they’re both yellow, which is an added bonus! (I am very fond of colour-coordination.)

The Boy Who Wept Blood + bookmark4) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick / Wadham College bookmark. The connection in this case is more based on atmosphere than anything substantial, but The Boy Who Wept Blood (and its prequel, The Boy With the Porcelain Blade) are gothic fantasy novels, with a very strict, traditional-feeling setting, and I picked out this bookmark mainly because it looked the part. (And because I don’t own many books that are tall enough to not ruin this super-tall bookmark whenever I put it in my backpack… ^^’ ) The bookmark is made of leather, and was a gift that my parents got for me at a conference in Oxford.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making + bookmark5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente / passport bookmark. This last book I haven’t actually read yet, but this is definitely the bookmark I’ll be using when I finally do! I wanted to include it on the list mainly because this is my newest bookmark, which I was left inside a book that was donated to the second-hand bookshop where I work… You should zoom in on this one, and take a look at the passport stamps – it’s pretty easy to see how they it fits with the book~!

But I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes this kind of thing! If any of you guys have any book/bookmark match-ups that you’re willing to share, then I’d love to see them! ❤

July Wrap Up

Another month gone, another eleven books read (or, rather, seven books, three audiobooks, and a short story). Which isn’t as much as I usually read in a month, but I’m still quite happy with it, considering that I spent a large part of July in a Fire Emblem-induced slump, and I also started a new summer job that’s taken up a lot of my time in the last couple of weeks. But anyhow, I now present to you… everything I read in July!

Den Patrick//The Boy with the Porcelain BladeThe Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick. A gothic fantasy set in a city where a group of deformed children called Orfani are being educated and trained for reasons not explained until quite late in the book. The main character is an Orfano called Lucien, who desperately wants to join House Fontein – the noble house that trains soldiers and swordsmen – despite persecution from some of the high-up members of the House… To be honest, this book dragged a little at the beginning: It switches a lot between past and present timelines, so the action is slowed down a lot, and it took me quite a long time to get to grips with the city’s society. However, I feel like you have to expect to need to be patient when starting a new fantasy series… And once I got about halfway through, my patience was definitely rewarded. The second half of the book was both chilling and action-packed, and brought all the different threads of the story together really nicely.3 starsRoald Dahl//Danny the Champion of the WorldDanny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. The story of the son of a recreational poacher, who begins to learn the sport himself, with incredible results. I listened to this as an audiobook in the car, and it was incredibly enjoyable, though I suspect that my recording may have been edited for sensitive listeners, as there was one part where Danny was caned by his teacher which didn’t seem to have any relevance to the plot whatsoever, and my sister told me that she thinks it was a more prominent part of the book… This is one of Roald Dahl’s more cheerful stories, and the story, characters and narration were all really wonderful.5 stars

Den Patrick//The Boy Who Wept BloodThe Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. The second book in the Erebus Sequence, though, to be honest, it read more like a first book in a series (in that it’s clearly the beginning of a much larger story, whereas – like many prequels – The Boy with the Porcelain Blade can quite easily be read as a standalone)… There’s not much that I can say about the story without giving away major spoilers, but it takes place 10 years after the events of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, is told from the perspective of a different main character, and deals with the aftermath of Lucien’s actions in that book. The mystery elements are less prominent in this book, too, and are instead replaced by politics and court intrigue, which was a welcome change to me (I’m not really a fan of mysteries), and while I liked The Boy with the Porcelain BladeThe Boy Who Wept Blood was a huge step up. A really fantastic read. I am now, of course, faced with the problem of desperately wanting to read the sequel (which isn’t out yet 😦 ) – I want to know what’s going on with Anea!5 starsE. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski//How to Be BadHow to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. A contemporary novel about three teenage girls who decide to go on a road trip together, nominally in order to visit Vicks’ boyfriend, but actually in order to escape from all their various problems at home, and forge a really great friendship on the way… I had actually intended to pick up The Ask & the Answer after The Boy Who Wept Blood, but I really felt that I needed to read something happier – and this book definitely cheered me up! It was a little slow-going at first, and I found both Vicks and particularly Jesse quite difficult to warm up to (probably because I identified most strongly with Mel, who was very much an outsider to them both for much of the story), but they both grew on me a lot, and it was a really enjoyable read overall. 🙂4 starsRoald Dahl//Esio TrotEsio Trot by Roald Dahl. A short story about a man who is trying to woo his neighbour by helping her to encourage her pet tortoise to grow more quickly. I thought the concept of this story was quite sweet, and the narration (by Geoffrey Palmer; I listened to this as an audiobook) was excellent, but I found that Mr. Hoppy’s plan to win Mrs. Silver’s affection really bothered me, so I didn’t actually enjoy the story as much as I’d hoped to…3 starsRoald Dahl//MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl. The story of a young girl with awful parents, but a brilliant mind, who uses her cleverness in order to make – and escape from – all kinds of trouble, and to help out her teacher, Miss Honey, who’s been terrorised all her life by the horrible Miss Trunchbull. This was probably one of my favourite stories when I was little (though I was more familiar with the film than the book), and although it wasn’t quite as good as I remember it being, it was still fantastic, and it’s definitely one of the best of Roald Dahl’s books!4 starsPatrick Ness//The Ask & the AnswerThe Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness. The second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, which follows the ongoing ordeals of Todd and Viola. The Knife of Never Letting Go left off on such a nail-biting cliffhanger that I can hardly believe I waited two whole years to read the sequel, but it was definitely a book worth waiting for! Obviously I can’t say much about the plot, but Patrick Ness really is a master at keeping you guessing – this book made me doubt just about everyone at one point or another. Like it’s predecessor, the tone of the narrative was one of an almost breathless kind of panic, which was one of my favourite things about The Knife of Never Letting Go… I think I can safely say that I won’t be waiting another two years before I pick up Monsters of Men! 😉5 starsNeil Gaiman//Hansel & GretelHansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman. A retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, in which two children are abandoned by their parents in the woods, and then captured by an old woman who’s planning to eat them. This edition also includes the pictures (by Lorenzo Mattotti) that apparently inspired it. I did enjoy the story (and the narrative, as usual with Neil Gaiman’s work, was beautifully haunting), but there was nothing in it that really set it apart from other fairytale retellings, and – unlike The Sleeper & the Spindle – there was no unexpected twist to the storyline. The art was compelling as well, but very dark, which – though it fit the atmosphere of the book – made it difficult to see what it was supposed to depict.3 starsStormy Smith//Bound by DutyBound by Duty by Stormy Smith. A new adult fantasy about a girl with the powers of the Keeper – someone who has been prophesised to bring an end to the reign of the evil queen – but who has grown up secluded from the magical world that her parents belong to. The plot of this story was actually pretty decent. Or it would have been, had it not been completely shoved into the background in favour of ridiculous romantic drama for the majority of the book. Additionally, Amelia was an incredibly annoying lead – constantly “solving” things by throwing temper tantrums and lashing out at people who were trying to help her. Her romantic relationship was insta-love-y in the worst possible way, and her platonic relationships were completely unconvincing. There’s a chance I might pick up the sequel to this book, just to see where the story’s going (and some of the side-characters were interesting – namely, Aiden and Micah), but it’s a very slight one – there are so many much better books out there! I’ll probably write a full review of this sometime soon.2 starsJulia Daniels//Master of Her HeartMaster of Her Heart: A Time-Twisted Tale of North & South by Julia Daniels. A re-telling of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, featuring Margaret as a time-traveller from 2015. I enjoyed the beginning of the story quite a lot, though I felt that Margaret adjusted to being in 1851 a bit too quickly… but the narrative was quick and engaging, and the story concept was certainly unique! 😛 But towards the end of the book, I began to find it rather grating. Several of the threads of the plot are just abandoned without any resolution, and never mentioned again (e.g. Mrs. Hale’s illness, Margaret’s friendship with Bessy & Nicholas, and so on). Frederick is never even mentioned at all. :/ The parts of the story that were set in 2015 were clearly under-researched (the author seems to be under the impression that we use Euros in England), and the twist at the end came out of nowhere – and was never explained… I realise that there’s going to be a sequel to this, which will probably resolve some of the issues I had, but I doubt I’ll be reading it.2 starsMichael Morpurgo//War HorseWar Horse by Michael Morpurgo. The story of a horse who is sold to the British cavalry to fight in the First World War, and his friendship with the boy who raised him from a colt, and who joined the army in hopes that they would be reunited. I picked this up because I was in the mood for a tearjerker, and I’d heard that it was incredibly sad – and it was, in places (it didn’t quite manage to make me cry, but it came pretty close a few times), but it was also quite uplifting, and through the whole book, I was really rooting for Joey and Albert to find each other again, even though Joey met plenty of other wonderful people on his journeys. If I have any complaint, it’s only that I wish the story had been a bit longer, and the pacing a little slower, so that there could have been a bit more of it!4 stars