Top 5 Friday – LGBTQI+ Books I’ve Read

In the UK, February is LGBTQI+ month. In light of this (and the fact I have been single on Valentine’s day for 25 consecutive years) I wanted my features this month to focus on LGBTQI+ literature. So, here are my top 5 novels that feature LGBTQI+ characters.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Okay, so I know this is a graphic novel rather than a ‘traditional’ novel but I love it so I’m including it! This also is more of a memoir rather than a work of fiction. Not only is the art style fantastic but the way Bechdel depicts her realisation of her own identity is wonderful. This graphic novel has it all, tragedy, here, humour and drama but, ultimately, it is very real and it’s one of the most powerful novels I read at university. As an aside, this has also been adapted into a fabulous musical too!


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

I loved this depiction of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship, especially because it was from Patroclus’ perspective. I especially loved how this novel documented the relationship from the very beginning. We see the boys learn to navigate their relationship and gradually become men fighting a war. Whilst the stories of Achilles often focus on the bravery and brutality of the warrior (which was still present in this novel) but, we also got to see a softer side to him too. Be warned, if you do pick this novel up, make sure you’re got tissues on hand!


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. It tells of Vietnam, of the lasting impact of war, and of his family’s struggle to forge a new future. And it serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog’s life his mother has never known – episodes of bewilderment, fear and passion – all the while moving closer to an unforgettable revelation.

This short novel is a lovely letter a son has written to his mother. I loved how raw and poignant his letter was illustrating what he has been through as a gay man. Although he is writing this letter to his mother, he knows she won’t be able to read it which allows him to be honest in a way that is heart wrenching. Not only does this novella cover the struggles he faced as a gay man, but also the struggles of being an immigrant in America. This is a beautiful and fascinating account which I still think about even months after finishing the book.


The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

This fantasy novel wonderfully explored the intricacies of court politics. Our protagonist finds herself holding the mantle of the Winter Duke after her entire family mysteriously falls ill during an event where her brother was to choose his wife. So, naturally, Ekata decides to choose one of the ladies for herself instead of being forced into the marriage that her father’s counsel wants her to. I really loved the dynamic between Ekata and Inkar, seeing them go from being strangers trying to make the best of a bad situation to becoming a genuine and believable couple (not just one for political gain) as the novel progressed.


The Binding by Bridget Collins

Books are dangerous things in Collins’s alternate universe, a place vaguely reminiscent of 19th-century England. It’s a world in which people visit book binders to rid themselves of painful or treacherous memories.

After having suffered some sort of mental collapse and no longer able to keep up with his farm chores, Emmett Farmer is sent to the workshop of one such binder to live and work as her apprentice. Leaving behind home and family, Emmett slowly regains his health while learning the binding trade. He is forbidden to enter the locked room where books are stored, so he spends many months marbling end pages, tooling leather book covers, and gilding edges. But his curiosity is piqued by the people who come and go from the inner sanctum, and the arrival of the lordly Lucian Darnay, with whom he senses a connection, changes everything. 

I was bought this novel as a gift during a time where I wasn’t reading as much as I usually would, therefore I didn’t actually know anything about this novel going into it. I feel like I can’t talk about this one as much as the others because of spoilers, but just know that I adored the two boys in this story and what happened to them in the past to bring them to their situations in the present. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it.


Whilst I was compiling this list I was surprised, but not shocked, at the lack of novels I’ve read that would be considered ‘own voice’ novels. Yes, there are a couple on this list, but not as many as I would like as I think it’s incredibly important to read LGBTQI+ own voices novels. However, I will be discussing this further in my Thoughtful Thursday feature coming next week!

What are some of your favourite LGBTQI+ novels? Let me know in the comments! 

www.blackwells.co.uk

Monthly Wrap Up – September 2020

I can’t believe it’s time for another monthly wrap up already! This month I managed to complete my GoodReads goal of reading 70 books! This has been the most I have ever read in a single year, even before I had my book burnout, where I was just about managing to read one book a year, I never read more than 50 books. I’m not going to increase my goal as I’m just happy to see how the number ends up at the end of the year, but I’m still very pleased with how I’ve done!

As it was September, my Top Five Friday posts and my Thoughtful Thursday post was very much centred around university, regardless of whether you’re in your first year or last year. It was very nice to take a trip down memory lane, I hope the posts were useful to my student followers too!

This month I have read some amazing books, some of my favourites in the year so I feel very lucky with my book choices this month. 

Books read this month

This month I read a total of 12 books (7 physical books and 5 ebooks)

  1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  2. Jessicaca by Suzy Blackledge (Review Request)
  3. The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon 
  4. Hagen’s Curse by James Emmi (Review Request)
  5. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang 
  6. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (ARC)
  7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  8. The Broken Hearts Honeymoon by Lucy Dickens (ARC)
  9. Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
  10. The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
  11. Crowned a Traitor by Kate Callaghan (ARC) 
  12. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
www.blackwells.co.uk

Favourite books read this month

The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon
This novel probably has one of my favourite friendships in a novel this year. I just completely adored Twig and Flea and could have read an entire series about their adventures. Additionally, this novel had so many unexpected twists and turns that it was a joy to read and I had no idea how it was going to end. 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
You’ve probably seen a lot of people talk about The Poppy War by now and all I can say is that it deserves all of the praise that it has been getting. Kuang’s novel is such an amazing, albeit difficult at times, read and it has me excited to read the rest of the series. 

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
I’m a complete sucker for modern retellings of classic Shakespeare plays and this is easily one of my favourites that I’ve ever come across. Who knew that 1920s Shanghai would lend itself to be a perfect setting for such a classic tragic romance? Regardless of if you love or hate Romeo and Juliet, Gong’s These Violent Delights is definitely a novel you should look out for when it is released on 17 November 2020! 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I thought that Hamnet would win the award for most heartbreaking novel of the month, but then along came The Song of Achilles. I already knew, for the most part, the story of Achilles and Patroclus, but nothing could prepare me for this novel. I loved Miller’s interpretation of one of the best Greek heroes in mythology and offered some brilliant insight into some of the actions of some of the Iliad’s major players.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
This book was such a delightful surprise, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a collection of stories set in a time travelling cafe. I knew I would enjoy it but within a few pages it became a favourite of the month. Each story was so touching for a variety of reasons and I felt myself tearing up multiple times. I’m very excited to read even more of the tales in the second book!

Lastly, on a different note, today is the last day of my current blog theme as over the weekend I will be taking the site offline whilst I update the theme and upgrade to a domain. I feel much more positive with this blog and blogging experience, than I ever did with my previous book blog. I’ve already been testing the changes (which will be fairly minor) on a test site and I’m very happy with the outcome and I’m excited to share the new look with you!

How has your month been? Are you sad Summer is over or excited Autumn is finally here? Let me know in the comments!

www.blackwells.co.uk

Circe by Madeline Miller

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date:
01/04/2019
Length: 333 pages
Genre:
Greek Mythology | Fantasy | Historical Fiction

CW: n/a

Blackwells.co.uk

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. 

GoodReads
Continue reading “Circe by Madeline Miller”

Monthly Wrap Up – July 2020

It’s the end of the month and it’s also nearly the end of my first week back to book blogging; this wrap up might be slightly odd this month as it is the first one. Even in this short space of time the welcome back I’ve from people in the community has been lovely and it has me very excited to continue! It actually makes me regret taking such a long break away from the book blogging sphere, but I’m pleased to be back.

Books read this month

Physical copies of books read this month!

This month I read a total of 9 books (7 physical books and 2 ebooks):

Reviews written this month

So, as I have just been back a week I have only managed to write and post two proper book reviews which are for Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Hope Island by Tim Major. However, I have plenty more on the way so watch this space!

My favourite books this month

I really enjoyed pretty much everything I read this month, however there are three books in particular that stand out as my favourites…

Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m not totally familiar with the story of Circe in Greek mythology despite reading a lot of it when I was younger, however, I really liked Miller’s take on the character. I loved seeing how Miller weaved her into so many other famous Greek tales. I want to write a full review on this book soon as a couple of lines does not do this justice at all.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Unlike the other two on this list, this is one that I have managed to review this week! The way Lee seamlessly writes through four generations of a Korean family is incredible. Not only does she gets the pacing spot on to where literal decades in the book fly by, but she also has a great understanding of the people that she is writing about and brings them to life.

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley
This is actually a novel that I read this morning and it blew me away. A full review will be up in the coming days but the tl;dr is that I urge you to pick this up and read it as it is wonderful. It has even made me very nostalgic for my trips to Japan as it truly captures the spirit of Tokyo.

How did you get on this month? Did you read more or less than you expected/wanted? Did we read any of the same books? I’d love to know!

Book Haul – July 2020

My July 2020 book haul!

Every month since April, I decided to treat myself to a selection of books as I’m getting through my TBR pile relatively quickly this year! So, I don’t feel quite as guilty adding to my bookshelf. After reading Circe by Madeline Miller, you will see there is a bit of a theme amongst some of the books…

I can’t wait to get stuck into these! Keep an eye out on my reviews in the coming weeks. Have you read any of these novels? Let me know what you thought of them!