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.]

Advertisements

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

Holiday Reads

This week I’m heading off to the Isle of Skye with my parents and my sister (and my friend Chloë this year! 😀 ), which is something we try to do every summer, if we’re all available. Last time I was there (which was two years ago, as this time last year I was still living in China), I somehow managed to marathon basically the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin – which is crazy; I have no idea how I managed it – as well as The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

So since Skye seems to be a good place to read epic fantasy, I thought I’d try to stick with that theme this year as well. The other books I’m taking are all summery contemporaries, since the weather’s been so lovely recently, and it’s really put me in the mood for them… Without further ado, I present my Skye TBR:Skye TBR

1) The Boy who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. I hope to have finished reading The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by the time I leave, so I’ll definitely be packing the sequel…

2) The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness. This will be a nice bit of continuity, since I also read The Knife of Never Letting Go in Skye (or, rather, on the way back). 😛

3) A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve been super-excited about this book for a seriously long time, so I’m really looking forward to finally reading it!

4) How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. One of the new contemporaries that I bought in June. I’m hoping to read this while the weather holds out.

5) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I’ve heard that this is on the heavy side for a summer contemporary, but I’m looking forward to reading it anyway. I’ve also had it on my shelf for a while, so it’ll be good to finally get it read.

6) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Sarah Dessen’s books are usually my first choice when I feel like reading something summery – they’re all so good! 😀 – so I’m really excited about this latest release. Though I’m also a little nervous about it, as I didn’t like her last book (The Moon & More) nearly as much as I liked the ones that came before it…

The other two books that I might take with me are Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, but I’ll have to wait and see if there’ll be enough room in my suitcase… And of course, I’ll also be bringing my kindle along, just in case these books simply aren’t enough~ 😉

June Haul

June haulSo, I managed not to buy any books at all in May, which was a promising start to my ban – but halfway through June I was given a gift card for one of my local bookshops, and I got a bit carried away… 😳 The good news is, I’ve read quite a few of these already, and I’m absolutely certain that I’ll read a good number of the rest soon, as I’ve decided to take them on holiday with me… The bad news is that I bought more books than I read in June, so my TBR has grown a bit… :/

1) To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix. A collection of short stories, including one from the Old Kingdom series, which I love~ ❤

2) Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer. I found this by chance in the charity shop where I work, in perfect condition, & since it’s the prequel/companion novel to the booksplosion book of the month for June (Off the Page) I decided to pick it up. 🙂

3) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Her newest book, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while, though I have no idea what it’s about. 😳

4) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett. An illustrated Discworld story about Cohen the Barbarian…

5) Me & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. A contemporary novel about a boy who’s forced by his parents to befriend a girl who’s been diagnosed with cancer. There’s a film of this coming out soon, which looks incredible, but I really wanted to read the book before seeing it, so I decided to buy this with a gift card that I was given…

6) A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas. The first book in her new series, which is a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but set in a presumably awesome fantasy world, with presumably amazing characters. As you can see, I’m assuming a lot, but I loved the Throne of Glass books so much that I don’t think I’m setting my expectations too high. 😀

7) How to be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. A road-trip novel, though I don’t know all that much else about it… I really love what I’ve read of Lauren Myracle & E. Lockhart’s work so far, though, so I’m looking forward to this (& summer is a great season for contemporaries, so I’ll probably read it soon).

8) Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton. Another fantasy novel, this time about a girl who is training to become a Seeker, but who finds out that the job’s not quite what she thought it would be… I’m really excited for this book, too – I’ve really been in the mood for fantasy lately. 😀

9) The Boy with the Porcelain Blade & The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. A fantasy series (companion novels, I think) that’s been pitched as The Lies of Locke Lamora meets Gormenghast… Which sounds brilliant, so of course I had to pick them both up! 😛 I’m about halfway through The Boy with the Porcelain Blade at the moment, and it’s definitely caught my interest!

10) Umbral Book 1: Out of the Shadows & Book 2: The Dark Path by Antony Johnston. A fantasy graphic novel series about an orphaned street thief (& doesn’t that sound familiar!). I’ve already read these, and my feelings were pretty mixed – you can read my thoughts on the series in my June wrap-up. 🙂

11) Princess Ugg Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh. A graphic novel about a Viking-style princess in a fantasy world, who’s sent off to a school for princesses in order to learn about “things like diplomacy”… 😛

12) Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book 2 by Bill Willingham. I’ve been borrowing this series from my local library so far, but I decided to buy this one, since the library’s copy of volume 3 (which covers the same issues as book 2 of the deluxe editions) seems to have gone missing… :/ I actually bought this in May, but since I had to order it from the US in order to get a reasonable price, it didn’t arrive until the beginning of June…