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.]

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.

The Chocolate Book Tag!

As usual, nobody asked me to do this tag – but I decided to do it anyway, since tomorrow is Easter Day, and everyone knows that the true meaning of Easter is chocolate (right? 😉 ). The Chocolate Book Tag was created by Faye from A Daydreamer’s Ramblings, and you can find the original on youtube (or her blog if you’d prefer a written version).

James Patterson & Lisa Papademitriou//Homeroom Diaries1) Dark chocolate – a book that covers a dark topic

The first one that comes to mind is Homeroom Diaries by James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou, since it touches on a lot of dark topics (abandonment, mental illness, bullying, grief, suicide, amongst others), and I also just finished reading it. It’s not the greatest book, but I thought it dealt with the majority of these subjects quite well.

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) White chocolate – your favourite light-hearted / humourous read

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which is a new favourite of mine – I’m sure that I was grinning like a lunatic the whole time I was reading it! 😀

Renée Ahdieh//The Wrath & the Dawn3) Milk chocolate – a book that has a lot of hype that you’re dying to read

At the moment the book I most want to jump on the bandwagon for is The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. The hype for this book started almost a year ago, but unfortunately it’s still too expensive for me to justify buying… 😦

Emma Mills//First & Then4) Chocolate with a caramel centre – a book that made you feel all gooey in the middle while you were reading it

I pretty much turned to mush when I was reading First & Then by Emma Mills. Such a cute book! ❤

Rainbow Rowell//Kindred Spirits5) Wafer-free Kit-Kat – a book that surprised you lately

The most recent surprise was probably Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell, which I expected to like (since it is, after all, a Rainbow Rowell book), but not to love – I’ve never been much of a short story person, unless I’m already invested in the characters (as in the case of spin-off novellas). The ending of this one was pretty startling as well, in the best possible way.

Peter V. Brett//The Painted Man6) Snickers – a book that you are going nuts about

At the moment I’m really into The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, which I’ve been readalong-ing with my friend Chloë for the last couple of months. It’s a high fantasy series set in a world where demons come up from a place called the Core every night and prey on humans, and (as of book three, The Daylight War, which we just finished) it’s only getting better as it goes on.

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic7) Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows – the book you’d turn to for a comfort read

I feel like (i.e. know) I’ve said this a thousand times already, but my ultimate comfort read is Street Magic by Tamora Pierce. I also tend to listen to the audiobook of it a lot, since it’s really fantastic. 🙂

Rick Riordan//The Lightning Thief8) Box of chocolates – a series with a little something for everyone

Oh, dear; that’s a tall order! And, in fear of unoriginality, I can’t just say Harry Potter… 😉 So instead I’ll pick the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (and its sequel series, Heroes of Olympus!), which I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to dislike. It’s got action, humour, romance (which I personally wasn’t a fan of, but which seems to be popular with most other readers), drama… the list goes on! I have so much love for these books~ ❤

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.

Books to read when life sucks.

A friend of mine recently not-so-recently asked me to recommend a pick-me-up book, since she was feeling a little down about life, the universe and everything, and, after a little thought, I was able to rattle off a whole bunch of suggestions – then she specified that she didn’t want to read any fantasy, which stumped me a little (Doesn’t everyone want to read fantasy? All the time? Okay, so that might just be me. 😛 ). But I eventually managed to come up with a couple of what I thought were good suggestions.

But since I’d already done all that thinking about it, I thought I might as well share some of my suggestions with you guys, since – let’s face it – everyone has off days/weeks/months/years now and then. So, without further ado, here are some books that make the world suck a little bit less!

Stella Gibbons//Cold Comfort Farm1) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A hilarious parody of late eighteenth / early nineteenth century agricultural novels (e.g. books by D.H. Lawrence or Thomas Hardy), in which Flora Poste becomes an orphan at the age of nineteen, and, in order to support herself, descends on her distant relatives in order to begin a career in parasitism. 😉

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Simon Snow, a mage, returns to Watford School of Magicks for his last year of education, and in hopes of saving the world – and manages to fall in love along the way. Especially recommended to anyone who likes to read or write fanfiction, because of its connection to Fangirl (which is also a great pick-me-up read, but if I let myself put multiple books by the same author on these lists, then this one would basically just be a Rainbow Rowell bibliography… 😳 ).

Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark//Backward Compatible3) Backward Compatible by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark. A love story between two gamers, who meet when they end up in competition for the last copy (at the midnight launch) of a game that they both want. Very cute and fluffy. This book (and, again, Fangirl) was my antidote to The Fault in Our Stars, which should tell you quite a bit about how happy it made me. 😀

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman//Good Omens4) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. For those whose tastes run slightly darker, here’s a comedy about the apocalypse, which mainly follows Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon, neither of whom are particularly dedicated to their jobs; and Adam, the Antichrist (who has a pet hellhound called Dog). In my personal opinion, Good Omens is the best thing that either author have ever written (that I’ve read).

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 15) Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita. Last but by no means least is an adorable manga about a man who takes in his grandfather’s illegitimate six-year-old daughter, and how the two of them come together as a family. I’ve only read the first two volumes of this series, but I already love it! XD And Rin (the aforementioned six-year-old) is quite possibly the cutest kid I’ve ever come across in literature.