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.]

Thematic Recs: Short Stories & Novellas

The end of the year is coming up quickly now, and I’m sure that many people – like me – are seriously behind on their overambitious Goodreads reading challenges. But fear not! I’m here to help, with some recommendations for really short, but still fantastic books for you to read! 😉 Obviously, not finishing your Goodreads (or equivalent) challenge isn’t the worst thing that could happen in a year (and I know I won’t finish mine, even if I read nothing but short stories from now until New Year), but seeing that shiny “COMPLETED” label always gives me a small sense of achievement. 😀

Yuri Herrera//Signs Preceding the End of the World1) Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera. This most recent novella that I read is a thought-provoking story about a young woman crossing the border illegally from Mexico to the US in order to find her brother, an illegal immigrant, and pass on a message from their mother. Despite its length, this is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a while, and because I picked it up as part of the Library Scavenger Hunt, I’ve also posted a review – you can find it here. 🙂

Brandon Sanderson//Perfect State2) Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson. The tale of a man who has become the God-Emperor of his people, but is forced by the mysterious Wode to choose a partner and procreate. The woman he ends up choosing is at the very bottom of his compatibility list – a women’s rights activist – and the personality clash when they meet makes for a fascinating read. Additionally, this is another story that I’ve reviewed, as I read it during Booktubeathon this summer.

Rainbow Rowell//Kindred Spirits3) Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell. A World Book Day 2016 story about a small group of strangers waiting in the overnight queue to see Star Wars on its release day. It’s simultaneously adorable and hilarious, and I only wish there was some way that I could read more about these characters. 😀

Ursula K. Le Guin//A Fisherman of the Inland Sea4) Another Story OR A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Rather on the longer side for a short story, this tale blends science, mythology and emotional drama in a way that pulled at all my heartstrings, and tells the story of a young man leaving for university on a planet far away from his own, and the difficulties he faces in keeping in touch over such long distances. I don’t think that this book is available on its own, but it can be found in both Le Guin’s A Fisherman of the Inland Sea anthology, as well as the massive time-travel compilation, The Time-Traveller’s Almanac (volume 1, for the curious). It’s also part of the Hainish Cycle, but it can be read individually.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince5) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Last but by no means least is The Little Prince, a novella that I’m sure you’ve all at least heard of about a pilot who crash lands in the desert, and there meets a little boy who claims to have come from an asteroid. Beautiful, poignant and touching, this story is known as a classic for a very good reason, and I only appreciate it more every time I re-read it. As a side-note, I watched the film adaptation of this recently, and it’s also fantastic; you should definitely check it out if you have access to a Netflix account.

The Skyrim Book Tag

Guess who finally decided to play Skyrim? If your answer was me, then you’d be right! 😀 It certainly took me long enough, with pretty much everyone I know going on and on about how much they thought I’d love it. And guess what else; I am absolutely loving it. XD This tag was created by The Quirky Book Nerd, and I wasn’t tagged by anyone, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway – it looks super-fun! 🙂

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Illuminae1) Fus Ro Dah – A book that blew you away.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff! I read this last year, and it made me feel so many things! I laughed, I cried, I nagged all my friends to read it incessantly… 😛 It also really got me into sci-fi, a genre I’d previously been rather leery of (and which I now really enjoy). I can’t wait for the sequel!

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone2) Dovahkiin – Favorite “chosen one” story.

This is probably an overused answer, but as far as Chosen Ones go, nothing beats the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. 😉

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Cursed Child3) Thu’um – A book that got a verbal reaction out of you (good or bad).

I tend to stay pretty quiet when I’m reading, but there was a point near the end of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child (during that scene between Harry and Dumbledore’s portrait) where I realised that the strange whining noise I could hear was coming from me. 😳

Sarah J. Maas//Queen of Shadows4) Arrow to the Knee – A book or series that started out well but ended up being disappointing.

Will I incite a lynch-mob if I say Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas? (Probably, but I’m saying it anyway.) The whole Throne of Glass series just seemed to be getting better and better as it went on, and Heir of Fire was close to perfection, but all the character-development decisions that Maas decided to make in the most recent book were a huge disappointment to me. 😦

Patrick Ness//The Knife of Never Letting Go5) Shadowmere – Favorite literary/fictional animal or pet.

I really, really love Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – he’s the ultimate doggy friend. 😀 I like Angharrad (a horse who appears later on in the same series) a lot, too, but Manchee still wins.

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Fellowship of the Ring6) Alduin – Most frightening literary/fictional animal.

Hands down, it has to be Shelob from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I deal badly enough with normal-sized spiders…

Sarah J. Maas//Heir of Fire7) Companions Guild – Best literary friendship.

I don’t know if this strictly counts, since it did eventually become a romance (much to my annoyance), but one of my favourite things about Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas was the slow-burn friendship between Celaena and Rowan…

Susan Hill//I'm the King of the Castle8) Dark Brotherhood – The darkest story you’ve ever read.

Probably I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill, a chilling story about bullying that you can’t escape from, and authority figures too blind to notice it. Everything I’ve read of Susan Hill’s has been dark, but this one was pitch black.

Scott Lynch//Lies of Locke Lamora9) Thieves Guild – Favorite morally ambiguous character.

Locke Lamora! From the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. He’s a conman, and does some pretty extremely questionable things over the course of the first book (the only one I’ve read so far), but I couldn’t help but love him anyway! ❤

Rainbow Rowell//Kindred Spirits10) Wuld Nah Kest (whirlwind sprint) – Your fastest read.

I couldn’t say for sure (I’ve read a lot of very short books, very quickly), but probably something like Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell – an adorable World Book Day novella that I read in less than an hour.

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with Dragons11) Tiid Klo Ul (slow time) – Your slowest read.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin took me forever to read, mostly because it mainly featured all my least-favourite characters from the A Song of Ice & Fire series… I spent months carrying this book everywhere with me in hopes that I’d crack it open, with very little success. 😦

Tamora Pierce//The Magic in the Weaving12) Tamriel – Favorite fictional world.

Both of Tamora Pierce’s fantasy worlds are ones that I love to get lost in, but since most of my favourite books of hers are part of the Circle universe, I’ll go with Emelan, where the Circle of MagicThe Circle Opens, and The Circle Reforged series are all set. The magic system is wonderful, the world is richly imagined, and it’s full of some of my favourite stories and characters… I really hope I get to read more from this universe soon! XD

Bonus Question:

+1) “Sworn to Carry Your Burdens” – The heaviest book you own.

A Dance with Dragons, which I own as a massive hardcover. All that carrying it around that I mentioned? My shoulders were punishing me for it long after I finally finished the book. 😳

T5W: Books I wish had sequels

Apparently once every three months or so is my limit for how often I can do Top 5 Wednesday posts – which is a shame, because I really enjoy putting them together… And this month in particular there were several interesting themes that I would’ve liked to have done a post for, if only my blogging schedule hadn’t been packed already. 😦 But anyway! Today’s theme is books you wish had sequels, or series that you wish weren’t over, which is a very common wish on my part! 😛

Victoria Hanley//The Seer & the Sword5) The Seer & the Sword by Victoria Hanley

This book is one of my oldest favourites, but somehow I’ve never mentioned it on this blog before. It follows a young princess called Torina who – when her father returns from the war with the neighbouring country of Bellandra – is given two gifts: A crystal ball that shows her visions, and Bellandra’s prince, Landen, as a slave. The former of these she keeps, the latter she frees, and what follows is a beautiful and heart-breaking love story, with a compelling plot and plenty of interesting fantasy-world-politics. There are actually two more books in this series (which I haven’t read yet) but unfortunately they’re companions rather than true sequels… 😦

Philip Pullman//Northern Lights4) The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is a beautiful series, and in truth I wouldn’t want to change a single word of it; not even then ending, which broke my heart, and which I’ve been griping about endlessly to all my friends for the last fifteen years or so… ^^’ The ending in question was incredibly bittersweet, with Will and Lyra struggling to come up with solution after solution, only to realise that there’s no magical fix-it to be found. So, yeah, it’d be nice to have a sequel, even if it’s just in short story-form, to provide some kind of closure beyond a garden bench. 😥

Rainbow Rowell//Eleanor & Park3) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is an interesting one, because I did really like the way Rowell decided to wrap-up the story, but at the same time, I really wanted something more. Like, maybe a reunion? “Will there be a sequel?” seems to be a question that Rowell gets asked a lot (it’s even in the FAQ section on her website), so I know I’m not alone in wanting one, but the answer still seems rather up-in-the-air. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Another Rainbow Rowell book, I know! ^^’ I usually prefer not to put authors on these lists more than once, but I couldn’t help it; Carry On and Eleanor & Park were the first things that popped into my head when I saw this theme, and I want them both to have sequels so badly. With Carry On, my wishes are a little more outrageous, however: Yes, I want a sequel (Simon & Baz after Watford!), but I also want prequels (Lucy & the Mage, anyone? And, of course, Simon’s first seven years at Watford), and maybe even a next-generation spin-off stage show? 😉 In short, I want it to be the Harry Potter-like phenomenon that was described in Fangirl – even though it’s never going to happen. 😦

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & South1) North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

And lastly, a classic! I love this book so much (and you should read my review if you haven’t already *hinthint*), but the ending was so abrupt! Some interesting trivia regarding that, however: North & South was initially published as a serial, and due to lagging sales (partially because the book was in direct competition with Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, which had a similar subject matter and was being serialised at the same time), Gaskell was “compelled” to finish the story in 20 chapters instead of the 22 that she’d planned. Maybe those two extra chapters would’ve contained the ending I – and so many North & South fans – so desperately want! (Curse you, Charles Dickens! 😡 )

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

The Harry Potter Tag

harry potter tagToday I will be doing the Harry Potter Tag, which I’ve been seeing around quite a bit recently, looking absolutely fabulous (with help from that lovely artwork 😉 )! The tag (and aforementioned art) was created by Lashaan & Trang from Bookidote, and I was tagged by Poppy from Poppy’s Best of Books, whose blog you should check out for more bookish awesomeness. 😀 There’s only one rule for this tag: No picking Harry Potter for any of the answers! 😮flagrateHolly Bourne//Soulmates1) A book with a theme you found interesting, but would like to be re-written.

Soulmates by Holly Bourne was a book that I picked up because its premise – that meeting your soulmate isn’t always a good thing – sounded really interesting, but this book was terrible. And I don’t say that lightly. 😡alohomoraTamora Pierce//First Test2) The first book in a series that really hooked you.

There have been so many, but going way back, I’d like to mention First Test by Tamora Pierce, which not only got me into the Protector of the Small series, but the whole Tortall universe, and later on, her other books as well.accioDavid Gaider//Dragon Age: Library Edition3) A book you wish you could have right now.

I really want to get my hands on the Dragon Age: Library Edition by David Gaider and various different illustrators, which is a bind-up of the three comic books that have been released for the series so far – but I’m not letting myself buy any more books until there’s some space on my TBR shelf. 😦 One day, however, it shall be mine!avada kedavraGeorge R.R. Martin//A Storm of Swords4) A killer book. In both senses.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This is my favourite book in the A Song of Ice & Fire series – there were so many excited twists and turns! It’s also probably the bloodiest of the books so far.confundoBeate Grimsrud//A Fool, Free5) A book you found really confusing.

A Fool, Free by Beate Grimsrud was quite confusing in places, because Eli was such an unreliable narrator. It was mostly confusing in a good way though, & I did enjoy it – you can read my review here.expecto patronumRainbow Rowell//Carry On6) Your spirit animal book.

I’m not entirely sure how to interpret this one, but I figure it means a book that spoke to you in some way? 😕 So I’m going to go with Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, every word of which just made me ridiculously happy (as is something of a theme with Rainbow Rowell’s writing). XDsectumsempraSally Green//Half Bad7) A dark and twisted book.

The whole Half Life trilogy by Sally Green, which is surprisingly dark and gritty for a YA series – it starts off with a child being tortured, and goes on from there… o_OapareciumE. Lockhart//The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks8) A book that was more than it seemed, and surprised you in a good way.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart was a book that I expected to be a quirky boarding school romance story. Instead, it turned out to be about prank wars and upsetting the status quo, and was full of brilliant social commentary, which was way better – and it’s now one of my favourite books! 😀nomineesLast up, I nominate:

Thematic Recs: Interesting Magic Systems

In most fantasy novels that I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a lot of them), performing magic is a matter of waving a wand and saying some words, or concentrating very hard on your desired outcome; consistent actions, and (mostly) consistent results. Which is great – all magic is awesome magic! 😀 Every now and then, though, I come across a book with a really interesting, inventive magic system, unlike anything I’ve seen before. And exploring these kinds of magic – learning their uses and limitations, and seeing how the characters put them into practice – is one of my favourite things to do. 🙂 The magic systems in these books/series are some of my recent favourites, so I hope you like them, too!

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Though heavily influenced by Harry Potter and its fandom, the magic is one thing in Carry On that’s entirely unique, and was one of the best things about this (already fantastic) novel. Spells in this world are popular phrases, and are given power by how well-known they are. So, for example, “some like it hot” can be used as a warming spell, but if people stopped using the phrase, then the spell would become less and less effective. It’s mentioned a few times that song lyrics don’t make very good spells (with a few exceptions) for this very reason; they enter and leave popular culture too quickly. Nursery rhymes, on the other hand, apparently make great ones, as people are never really able to forget them… There’s a really epic scene near the middle of the book, where Baz uses “Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home” on a dragon. 😛

Brandon Sanderson//The Final Empire2) The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The magic in this book is called Allomancy, and those who use it are Allomancers, their powers drawn from different kinds of metals, and their alloys (hence the name). Iron and steel push and pull (respectively) on nearby metal objects; tin and pewter enhance the users’ senses or physical abilities; brass can be used to calm emotions, while zinc enflames them; and bronze is used to locate nearby Allomancy, while copper hides it. Allomancers can generally only use one type of metal, but there are a few select people, called the Mistborn, who are able to use them all. Each power seems quite limited in potential, but the way that Sanderson incorporates them into the story is pure genius, and he writes some of the best magical action scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Peter V. Brett//The Painted Man3) The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett. I have a love-hate relationship with this series, because it’s really great, but horrible things keep happening to all my favourite characters… 😥 The magic system, though, is based on wards – runic images painted onto any surface available, which do things like create barriers, or turn a demon’s fire into wind – and only have an effect on demons (which is convenient, since the Thesa is beset by them). Runic magic in itself isn’t all that unusual in fantasy, but what sets The Demon Cycle apart is this interesting detail: The wards are all powered by the demons themselves; the more the demons fight against them, the more power the wards will be able to draw on, and the stronger their magic will become.

Garth Nix//Sabriel4) The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. This series uses another runic system called Charter magic, but there are actually several different schools of magic in The Old Kingdom series. When I first read it, I was particularly enamoured of the Clayr, a group of sorceresses who can see into the future, but the kind of magic that’s most important to the series is that of the Abhorsen – a hereditary title belonging to Sabriel’s family, which marks them as necromancers. Main characters who are necromancers are incredibly hard to come by, in my experience, but the way that Sabriel uses her powers is a little different from most portrayals of necromancy – she uses a selection of bells, each with a different purpose (one to call the dead, one to banish them, one to bind them, etc.). In the second book, another character is introduced who’s also able to channel her power through a mirror, which is just as unusual as the bells.

Genevieve Cogman//The Invisible Library5) The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. This last series is one of my most recent discoveries: I’ve only read the first book so far, but I think I’ve just about got a handle on the magic that Irene uses (which, again, is not the only form of magic in the book, just the most interesting). It’s called the Language, and can only be used by Librarians of the mysterious Invisible Library, of which Irene – our heroine – is one. Instead of casting standardised spells, Irene is able to use the Language to instruct the world around her to alter itself (for instance by telling a lock to open), and – so long as she’s worded her order correctly – the world will obey her. It’s incredibly open to interpretation (she has to choose her words very carefully), and constantly evolving, and she receives new updates on the Language whenever she returns to the Library from a mission. Interestingly, she also tells us a few times that the Language doesn’t work so well when ordering objects to do things that are against their nature. For example, she very easily manages to tell a collection of enchanted gargoyles to stop moving, since stone is naturally still; it would have been much harder for her to make them move in the first place (had they not been enchanted), and the spell would have worn off much more quickly.

March Haul

Self-control continues! It seems I’m on a roll. 😀 All but one of these I bought second-hand, too, which is something that my wallet is surely relieved about. 😉 But now, on to the books:

March 2016 haul

1) Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell. A short story published for World Book Day this year, about a girl who really, really loves Star Wars, and decides to queue for several days outside her local cinema in preparation for the new film. I’ve already read this one, and it was adorable. ❤

2) The Moon in the CloudThe Shadow on the SunThe Bright & Morning Star by Rosemary Harris. The whole of the Ancient Egypt trilogy, which I really know nothing about… I stumbled across the third book at work, and thought it looked interesting, and then spotted the first as well. The second book I bought on Amazon Marketplace, so I wasn’t able to find a copy that was in quite as good condition as the other two, but the words are still there, so all is well. (And, to be fair, it’s still in pretty good condition; the other two books just look almost new.) Hopefully I’ll be able to read these soon, especially since they’re all quite short.

3) Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta by Doris Lessing. Buying this was another spontaneous decision, made mostly because a) it was cheap, b) it’s by Doris Lessing, and c) Doris Lessing writes sci-fi?! Who knew?! Reviews that I’ve seen for this book have been pretty mixed, but the concept (of case files about an Earth that has been colonised by aliens) is fascinating, so I hope that I’ll be on the “loved it” side of things.