30 Days of Pride: Queer romcoms

Hi everyone,

Romcoms are a genre I haven’t read much of, but have found very comforting in the past few months. They make you feel warm and cosy and wrapped in a hug which I think is something all of us need right now. I’m sure some of these probably aren’t technically ‘romcoms’ as defined by strict definitions, but these are queer books which made me laugh and have happy love endings so that’s the definition I’m going with.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

Only Mostly Devastated is one of the very first book launches I’ve attended, because I finally found an author who lives in the same city as me! I love this book, and not just because the cupcakes at the launch were spectacular (although they were). This is the gay Grease retelling you’ve always dreamed of. Ollie, the main character, is so hilarious. He’s so sarcastic and self-deprecating, and has very correct opinions on which Skittles are best. There’s also a fabulous bi side character called Lara who is brilliant, she’s so mean and fiesty and still coming to terms with her sexuality so very vulnerable too. This romcom is not be missed! Check out my full review here.

Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

Another Aussie writer on this list! I actually read a non-queer romcom recently as well by an Aussie, and I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone here can just write hilariously because the three of these are some of my favourites. Amelia Westlake is a feminist, rebellious fight against the strict, misogynistic standards at Australian private schools. Two girls, the school “bad girl”, and the star Prefect, join forces to take down their school, and in the meantime fall in love. This book is just absolute bliss! It’s funny, it’s current, the relationship development is really sweet, I absolutely love it!

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Another sapphic romcom, this one features a budding film director and an A-grade cheerleader who must work together to create a film, even though they absolutely despise each other. Or do they….? (That’s a definite no). I really loved that although the romance is the main plotline, there was so much going on around them. We spend a lot of time following Rachel and Sana in their individual lives as well as with their growing relationship, which I feel like isn’t often seen in this genre (at least that I’ve read anyway). It really helped you grow closer to both the characters because you know so much more about who they are and what they want. And in this case, they definitely do not want each other, no sir, not at all, not one bit…

How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters

How to Be Remy Cameron was I think my first “approved” ARC request on NetGalley (not a Read Now one), so it holds a very special place in my heart for that alone! It is a very heartwarming coming-of-age story, about the pressure of labels and identity, with adopted, Black, gay lead, Remy, who wants to be known as someone outside of those labels. This book is full of pop culture references that are actually done well, it has a sweet love interest who appears just as Remy signs off men for good, and really lovely, supportive parents which we really need more of in YA. Also Remy’s wardrobe is killer and I really wish I had it. Check out my full review here.

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

The first of two royal queer romcoms on this list, this is a genre I would read again and again and again. This fun sapphic romance is set at a Scottish boarding school, where an American teen falls in love with a Scottish princess. This features: rivals to lovers, the Scottish highlands, grumpy Scottish groundskeepers, a rebellious, dramatic Scottish princess and a cute romance. Its lighthearted and wholesome which is exactly what I want to read right now! You can read my full review here.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

And here’s the second of the queer royal romcoms, this time between the son of the President of the US, Alex, and Prince Henry of England. This is one of my absolute favourites. Alex is one of the biggest bisexual icons of all books. I love that we see him gradually fall in love with Henry, realise he isn’t quite as straight as he thought, his mum’s bisexual powerpoint presentation, I love it all!! Although this book deals with some dark topics, including politics, ethics, immigration and hate speech, it is also set in a world which feels just a little bit better than ours, in a world where a woman of colour was elected in 2016, so everything is just that little bit more hopeful. This is a really hilarious, queer as fuck royal romcom and I love it. You can read my full review here.

This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender

Please note Kacen changed their name since the publication of This is Kind of An Epic Love Story so the author name on the cover is no longer correct. I am in awe of Kacen and their ability to write in any genre they choose. This book takes the childhood best friends to lovers trope to a whole new level! Nathan has sworn off happy endings, since his dad died and his mum was destroyed by grief. But then his childhood best friend moves back to town, and now Nathan might get the chance to tell him about his feelings once and for all.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

This book just realised in May, a mere few weeks ago. This is also Berkley’s first sapphic romance and whilst that’s so bad that it’s 2020 and they’re only on their first, SUPPORT IT SO THEY PUBLISH MORE!! Something to Talk About is all about the world of Hollywood and the dreaded gossip mag and ridiculous rumour mill that is the paparazzi. A powerhouse Hollywood showrunner Jo is pictured making her assisstant, Emma, laugh on the red carpet, so obviously they are madly in love and in a secret relationship, right?! But the rumour has come at the worst time, affecting the release of Jo’s latest film and any chance of a promotion for Emma. But as they are hounded by the paparazzi and forced to spend more and more time together, they begin to think their might be some truth to the rumours after all. For an extra slow burn (which I looooove) and sweet romance, check this one out.

How to be a Normal Person by T.J Klune

I’ve only discovered T.J Klune in the past year, but so far, I’ve loved absolutely everything I’ve read. He has a way of writing that leaves you laughing on one page, and sobbing the next, which is pretty much my favourite way to read a book. How to be a Normal Person is the story of Gustavo, a decidedly Not Normal man from Oregon who knows and accepts this and just wants to be left alone. When Casey, an asexual hipster enters Gus’s life, suddenly someone thinks the world of Gus. But Gus things Casey deserves someone normal and decides he wants to be that person so embarks on a journey to become the most normal person ever. This is also own voices asexual rep which is so fantastic to see!

You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson

So I haven’t read this one yet (though I have started the audiobook!) but that’s because it only released a few weeks ago on June 2. I can’t wait to finish this one, because it’s amazing! This is a story about queer Black teen Liz who decides to run for prom queen in order to win a scholarship, but then falls in love for smart and funny new girl Mack, who also just happens to be her competition. Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

Boy Meets Boy David Leviathon

It brings me much joy to know I now work for the Aussie publisher of David Levithan’s work. Boy Meets Boy is a quick (under 200 pages) romcom set at a high school that’s just a little bit different to every high school you’ve read about before. In this high school, cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen is a trans woman who’s also the star quarterback, and the GSA was created to help the straight kids learn how to dance. Sounds a hell of a lot better than my high school. Paul thinks he found the love of his life, but then he messes it up and now the school bookie has him at 12 to 1 odds to ever get him back (I have no understanding of odds and gambling so I’m going to assume this is bad). Paul plans to prove them wrong. A super fun, accepting and utopic high school society romance.

That’s it for my list of romcoms. It isn’t a genre I read much of, but I really would love to read more of them because we need happy and joyful books right now! Let me know your favourite queer romcoms in the comments!

30 Days of Pride: Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Title: Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publication date: 18 February 2020

Genre: Adult | Literary fiction

Page extent: 336 pages


Goodreads blurb: Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more.

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

I find it horrendously difficult to review literary fiction because you want to live up to the intense delight and specificity of the prose and I can just never manage to do so. It can also be so difficult to talk about a book in which very little happens, that is so reflective and contemplative as Real Life. But I’ll try! I really enjoyed Real Life. Outside of my more frequent genres of reading, it is such an expressive and contemplative journey of a queer Black man questioning his existence.

Real Life follows Wallace, a gay, Black, Southern man from Alabama, who’s at graduate school at a very white Midwestern university studying biochemistry. After an unexpected encounter with a friend he thought was straight, Wallace is forced to confront his life, his misery, his past trauma, and his very existence in a world he feels so on the edge of.

Real Life isn’t a book with a huge ton of action or drama. Instead, we follow Wallace from the inside. It’s a highly contemplative novel, and one that evokes pain not dissimilar to being brutally punched in the chest several times. Many times throughout reading, I paused and sat there with that feeling of a hole in my chest, taught with anger and the unfairness at how Wallace is treated, and the way he is living life so devoid of happiness. We see the way a hugely traumatizing event as a child has impacted on every relationship in his life, how his parents reactions have forced him into a man who struggles to centre himself and his feelings and hurt in the world, thinking them so worthless to others. He works so hard to please others, at the expense of his own feelings. It was particularly difficult and confronting to read the passages where Wallace considers the racism and microaggressions he is faced with for being Black, both at his University and in his friendship group. To see the stark effect of these constant attacks on Wallace. To see him so without hope, without happiness, so empty. To see himself ostracised even within a group of friends, because of the silence of those supposed to care about him.

Taylor’s prose is an easy, flowing read for literary fiction (which I so often find overwrought and pretentious). But this wasn’t. It felt very tenderly crafted, each word chosen so carefully to pull the reader into Wallace’s emotional state, almost hurting to the point of numbness at times, as Wallace was. It is beautifully and evocatively written. We spend most of the novel in Wallace’s head, as this story is highly reflective as Wallace considers his place in his friendship group and in this new relationship. As a lot of literary fiction tends to be, there is no hugely satisfactory AHA moment, when the villains get what they deserve. Much like life, this story isn’t happy. As much as I longed for there to be a moment for Wallace’s friends to be taken down a peg, for them to suffer for how they’ve made Wallace suffer, part of the most painful and powerful moments of this book is in the realisation at the end that sometimes you don’t get that moment. And that this story could so easily be not a story, but someone’s life. That moment is painful, in the recognition that this is life for a lot of people, but powerful because in knowing and recognising that, we can fight within ourselves and in those around us to change.

Real Life definitely deserves the praise and acclaim it has been receiving. Very inwardly focused and reflective, it’s a very evocative book, one that will have you crying alonngisde Wallace as be contemplates his life.

30 Days of Pride: Historical fiction

Hi everyone,

History was gay, we all know it, and I have the books to prove it. Historical fiction is a genre I have found myself absolutely LOVING the past year or so. I haven’t read huge amounts of historical fiction previously, so there are lots of new favourites here today and books I’m sure will be favourites as soon as I get a chance to read them. There’s quite a mix of genres here within the “historical fiction” purview, from fun YA fantasy, to literary fiction that will make you sob, to romance, to more traditional gothic suspense. Some of my favourite reads in the past year are on this list so I hope you find something you can enjoy. Because for me? Nothing can beat Revolution era French fashion than making it queer!

Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn

After mentioning French Revolution era fashion in my intro, what other book could I start with than Kat Dunn’s Dangerous Remedy? This book released in eBook during May and the hardback is coming this Summer. It’s an absolute chaotic adventure full of disaster queers who really bring new meaning to the name, a bi love triangle, and the Battalion de Mortes, a team of young outcasts who are saving people from the guillotine. It’s absolutely hilarious, so much fun and you should definitely read this one! Check out my full review here.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

This book has been on my TBR for so long and I should be seriously shamed for not having read it yet. Everyone I know who has read it a) loved it and b) sobbed uncontrollably. Under the Udala Trees is inspired by Nigerian folktales and war. In the wake of civil war, a young girl, Ijeoma, is sent away to safety, and meets another displaced child, with whom she falls in love. But they’re both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma discovers she will always need to hide away this part of her self. The book follows Ijeoma as she comes of age and moves into adulthood in the wake of a civil war and with a secret she must always hide.

Blood Countess by Lana Popović

There’s not much that attracts me more to a book than “dark and sapphic” and this book has that in absolute spades! Blood Countess is a wonderfully dark and beautiful retelling of the infamous Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who’s considered the most prolific female serial killer who ever lived. And then Popović made it gay. *sobs in sapphic* This book is a lush and dangerous tale about Anna, a scullery maid in Elizabeth’s household who catches her eye. The development of Anna and Elizabeth’s relationship is bewitchingly good, and Blood Countess is full of discussions and questions about who we are and where evil comes from. Check out my full review here.

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The covers in today’s list are just gorgeous, but this one is particularly stunning! All the Bad Apples is a story told part in the past, part in the present. It follows Deena as she follows her family’s history whilst hunting for her sister. Her sister leaves her mysterious letters which tell their family story, and of the curse which marks their family. Thus we get both the dark past of women in Ireland explaining the curse and how it was formed through their family tree, and the not very distant future with Deena, who is seen as a bad apple by the rest of her family due to her sexuality. It is a book full of very true and very awful horrors of Ireland’s past, with a fabulistic edge and atmospheric writing.

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

This is probably up there as one of my favourite books of the year so far, it pretty much rejuvinated by adoration of gothic literature and filled me with the desire to reread all my favourite gothic classics and rewatch all my dark gothic films. It is 1939, and Hetty has been sent with the Natural History Museum’s mammal collection to Lockwood Manor, where she will stay for the duration of the war and look after the collection. At the manor, she meets the rude and irascible Lord Lockwood, along with his mysterious and haunted daughter, Lucy. And then the mammals start disappearing. Hetty isn’t sure if she’s going mad, if there’s a thief, or perhaps something even darker at work. This book is full of all your favourite gothic tropes: haunted manors, women lounging over everything, misty gardens, and of course a beautiful sapphic relationship which really should be the heart of all gothic novels in future. Check out my full review here.

The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis

A book I am hugely looking forward to reading this month, The Gods of Tango is one I’ve been meaning to read for several years now, but I finally bought a copy! Set in 1913, this book follows the early beginnings of tango music. It’s a book full of exploration of gender and sexuality, and follows Leda, who moves from Italy to Argentina to be married in 1913. But when they arrive, their husband is dead. They long to learn the violin but know they won’t be able to perform as a woman. So Leda takes their husband’s name, Dante, and cuts off their hair to join a tango troupe. But the lines between Leda and Dante begin to blur as they explore their gender and sexuality.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Possibly the most talked about sapphic romance on my Twitter feed, I finally read this book last month and loved it! This follows female astronomer, Lucy, and her patron, Catherine, as they work to translate a well regarded astronomy text into English. Of course all the men scientists dislike a woman being involved and so try to scuper their plans and discredit Lucy along the way. It is such a sweet and tender romance, with a really interesting plot outside of the romance and brilliant discussions about the importance of both art and science for the advancement of society. (And I should also shout the next book in this series which releases in July called The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows and is all about midcentury beekeeping!!!)

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

This is one of my absolute favourite books, and also one of my absolute favourite covers in the world. It’s just stunning (and even more so in person!) This is a beautiful bittersweet and heartbreaking story about friendship, family, love and fear. Like a Love Story is set in the late 1980s during the AIDS crisis and follows Reza, an Iranian boy who has just moved to New York and is terrified someone will realise he’s gay; Judy, an aspiring fashion designer who worships her Uncle Stephen, a man living with AIDS; and Art, Judy’s best friend, openly gay boy who documents the AIDS crisis with photographs. It is a intensely powerful book full of activism and courage and finding the strength to be open about who you are.

Music From Another World by Robin Talley

Robin Talley is well known for her historical queer books, and Music From Another World is her most recent book, released earlier this year. It’s about a closeted lesbian surrounded by super religious, antigay family members whose only way of expressing herself is through writing letters to gay activist Harvey Milk. But then she gets matched with a penpal who changes everything. They bond over punk music and shared secrets and and rely on their friendship to get them through the antigay fervour sweeping through the US.

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy might not feel like a historical novel to millenials but the 1990s are officially historical! In Patsy, we meet the titular character in 1998 in Jamaica. Longing to be reuinted with the woman she loves, and best friend Cicely who lives in New York, Patsy leaves behind her young daughter Tru and emigrates to America. The book follows Patsy and Tru and the impact of Patsy’s decision to leave. This is another one that will have you sobbing.

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

Another new release, this one is on my TBR this month! Set in 1980s Poland, this debut literary fiction Swimming in the Dark follows two young men, Ludwik and Janusz who meet at an agricultural camp and have an affair. It follows them as one goes into politics in a country where communism is on the out, and the other follows a life of protest, their political differences slowly tearing them apart.

Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon

This is a hugely difficult and emotional read so do take note of the content warnings for this one. Set in 1973, it’s a time where being gay is still considered a mental illness. Jonathan is a sixteen year old anxious teen who’s undergoing therapy to change him, he wants nothing more than to be “normal”. But then Web stumbles into his life before his treatment is over. And he’s drawn to Web more than he’s been drawn to anyone. Web is the first person who has ever thought Jonathan is perfect, just the way he is, and who might help him accept himself for the first time.

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Good Luck Girls isn’t historical fiction in the traditional manner, instead this is a historical fantasy set in Western inspired world. It’s described as Westworld meets Handmaid’s Tale which should tell you how amazing this is. The Good Luck Girls follows a group of five girls who are sold into ‘welcome houses’ to act as maids or prostitutes. When one of the five accidentally kills a man, they escape and go on the run to find a woman who can remove their brandings so they can live freely.

I have really been loving all the historical novels I’ve read recently, but it hasn’t been a genre I’ve read much of in the past so I really want to expand my knowledge of this genre! What are some of your favourite queer historical fiction books? Let me know in the comments.

30 Days of Pride: Trans, nonbinary and gender diverse books

Hi everyone,

It has certainly been A Week for the trans, nonbinary and gender diverse communities. There’s been a lot of hate and vile directed at these communities, some thanks to authors we had looked up to and who provided a lot of comfort to us. But in the wake of that hate, just remember you are so fucking valid. So let’s get rid of all that hatred from awful authors and instead celebrate some of the brilliant trans, nonbinary and gender diverse books and authors out here!

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Anna-Marie McLemore is an absolute legend in YA which makes it so terrible that I’ve only read one of their books, their newest release, Dark and Deepest Red. This is a retelling of both the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Red Shoes and a documented dancing plague from Strasbourg is the 1500s. The book is told in alternating POVs from the past and present, and follows four teens as they encounter prejudice and racism, with McLemore’s goregous, poetic writing style to pull you through.

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Fantasy retelling of Hamlet with a trans lead character? Hell fucking yes. Especailly when it comes with incredible gods. This book is told in two POVs, Eolo, a warrier helping Prince Mawat reclaim his city, and a God, The Strength and Patience of the Hill, who is, essentially, a rock. Yes you read that correctly. Both POVs are told from this God’s perspective, with Eolo’s POV told in second person POV. I loved the POV of The Strength and Patience of the Hill, who tells you of the worlds origin and how Eolo’s present came to be. It’s a wonderfully interesting book full of magic and gods and wars.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet is a quick and brilliant read about a young trans girl of colour hunting for monsters. Jam has grown up in Lucille, a town which claims there are no monsters anymore. Jam has lived her whole life believing this. So when Pet, a creature from one of her mother’s paintings, comes to life and climbs out of his frame, claiming to be on the hunt for a monster, Jam isn’t sure she believes him. Especially when he tells her the monster in in her best friend Redemption’s house. This is a story of the monsters who hide in plain sight, of what to do when adults don’t believe you. It is so poignant and relevant and I honestly had chills reading this book, the language and writing style is just beautiful, every sentence is full of meaning and impact. Don’t miss this one!

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

I Wish You All the Best is one of my favourite books, it is a beautiful, vulnerable debut from Deaver who has become one of my Must Read authors after this book. I Wish You All the Best is about Ben, a nonbinary teen who comes out to their parents and is kicked out of home. They go to live with their sister, who enrols them in the local school where they meet Nathan, who notices Ben when they don’t want to be seen and are struggling most. It is both a love story and a story of hope, one that shows there is light and hope to be found even at life’s darkest.

Nevada by Imogen Binnie

A bit more literary now to give a bit of variety, this own voices trans story not only has a beautiful cover but a beautiful story. Nevada is about trans woman Maria, a punky woman trying to stay true to her punk values whilst working in soul destroying retail. When she gets fired and her girlfriend lies to her, she embarks on a road trip and meets James, a man who reminds her very much of herself in her early 20s. It’s a book filled with personal discussions of gender and sexuality and I really think it should have way more ratings on Goodreads for a book that’s been out since 2013! So go read it!

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Bell

Sherlock Holmes reimagining with a pansexual female Holmes and trans Watson? Hell fucking yes. Set in a weird and wonderful fantasy world, Captain John Wyndham takes up lodging at 221b Martyrs Walk, where he lives with Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a difficult sorceress with a dark reputation. Miss Haas is hired to solve a blackmail case against an ex-lover, and Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into the mystery. He embarks on an investigation that will have him encounter all manner of creatures, including vampires, pirates (I actually wrote that down as vampirates first, and WOULDN’T THAT BE AMAZING?!), mad gods and sharks, in a reality bending universe of mayhem.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

This is one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it was everything I hoped it would be. It also has quite possibly my favourite cover of the year (or at least one of the top few!) Felix Ever After is about a queer, Black, trans teen (Felix) who catfishes his transphobic bully for revenge and somehow ends up in a quasi-love triangle. But he goes on a journey of discovery to redefine how he feels about himself and his identity. A hugely important and personal story, I think Felix Ever After is going to be one of my favourite books of the year.

The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean

I don’t read a huge amount of middle grade, but this is one I’m going to make an exception for. I think it’s going to be one of those books that just absolutely breaks you apart. Rowan knows who he is and what he likes – but his schoolmates say they don’t want to hang out with him anymore because he’s not the right kind of girl, or the right kind of boy. His mum ignores him, and dad abuses him in the worst possible ways. He finds a way to share his secrets by writing them on paper and tying them to a balloon, watching them float away. But then he befriends a classmate who understand him and loves him for who he is. It’s a book about trauma, survival and the bravery it takes to stand up for yourself.

Dreadnought by April Daniels

I think it’s time to talk about trans superheros!!! In Dreadnought, Danny has been trying to hide the fact she’s transgender. But then the city’s most powerful superhero, Dreadnought, dies in front of her and transfers his powers to her. And also changes her body to what she’s always thought it should be. But she’s faced with awful transphobia from her father trying to “cure” her, her best friend who thinks he’s now entitled to date her, and on top of all that, she’s pulled into the hunt for the Dreadnought’s murderer before they destroy the city. This is the first in a duology full of superheros, supertech and supervillains!

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Genderqueer zombies? Another hell yes from me! When Z wakes up after a car crash that killed their family, they have to adjust to life as a zombie. A witch whilst alive, now they can barely access magic and are…decaying. They have to figure out a way to fix the magical seal holding their body together, with the help of secret werewolf classmate Aysel. When a person is killed in a werewolf attack, Salem becomes even more hostile to magical beings and Aysel and Z have to work hard to survive in a town that doesn’t want them. Full of body horror and sarcasm and friendship!

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

And let’s finish with another of most anticipated books of the year (and probably second favourite cover of 2020 behind Felix Ever After). The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea follows pirate Flora, who takes the identity Florian to earn the respect and protection of the crew. But then they fall in love with a noble the pirates have kidnapped to sell into slavery. This book promises to me one of my favourite fantasies of the year: there’s a genderfluid pirate, a witch, critique on colonialism, and mermaids!

I hope you found some books to add to your TBRs on this list! What’s your favourite book with trans or nonbinary rep? Let me know in the comments.

30 Days of Pride: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication date: 26 February 2019

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Page extent: 848 pages


Goodreads blurb: A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

I still can’t quite believe I managed to finish Priory! This book has been sitting on my shelf for over a year, with me promising every month that this will be the month. Well I finally did it! And this book was just as huge and epic as everyone promised it was. It’s a fantasy that feels pretty much entirely the opposite of male gaze fantasies like Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Priory is a sprawling, majestic fantasy of such scale and imagination I don’t think my review is ever going to live up to it!

Priory is told through four main voices, and I’m going to attempt to describe the hugely complex and massive scope of this book through these four characters. We have:


In the West of the Kingdom is the land of Inys. Ead is a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Queen Sabran of Inys. She’s a secret mage and secret protector of Sabran. Sabran has had several cutthroats sent to kill her, and Ead is trying to hunt down the mastermind behind the cutthroats. She also wants to further her standing in Queen Sabran’s court, having been sent from a secret society to keep her alive.

Ead and Sabran were probably my favourite characters, although Sabran doesn’t have a POV. I just really loved the way their relationship developed and how Ead’s journey changed so dramatically thanks to Sabran. Also Ead is just so badass with both her magic and her swords and her bow and just everything, I love her!!


Far to the East is Tané. Tané is a young woman training to be a Dragon rider in the Eastern kingdom of Seikii, long enemies of Inys who despise their dragon worshipping. She has just helped an outsider into her town, against laws barring outsiders from the nation thanks to the red sickness, because she feared it would halt the trials of her class to become the first dragonriders in 50 years.

I really enjoyed Tané’s POV. She has such a fun and action heavy journey, full of dragon battles. She spends the book beating herself up over the mistake she made in the first few chapters, and wants nothing more than to be punished for her error. Instead, she becomes central to the fight against the Nameless One. As usual, I adored her dragon Nayimathun, I always love sentient creatures in fantasy, and these dragons were no different! I loved exploring the differences between the Western dragons and the Eastern dragons and how these influenced the religion of each nation.


Niclays is a man who was banished from the West after insulting Queen Sabran. He has spent 7 years in Orisma, a small island in Seikii. Orisma is the only place where outsiders are allowed in Seikii, and they can never leave. Niclays is an alchemist, and is trying to create the elixir of life. His journey to create this, leads him to Tané and her dragon, past pirates and into the centre of the war against the Nameless One.

Niclays was such a terrible person. He kind of represented to me all other traditional male fantasy: the least interesting character, kind of awful and yet still somehow manages to win at everything despite how much you hate him and don’t want him to. And I have full faith that Shannon intended him to represent that because it’s honestly ridiculous how much he survives despite his complete ineptitude. He’s so full of anger and vindictiveness at his circumstances, taking no responsibility for his own actions which led to his exile.


And finally we have Lord Arteloth Beck, best friend to Queen Sabran. He has just been exiled to Yscalin, a nation who gave up the Virtudom religion of Inys to pray to the Nameless One, a dangerous dragon thought to be kept away by continuation of Sabran’s line. He was exiled by one of Sabran’s advisors due to his closeness to Sabran and the fear it was keeping her from marrying.

Loth is sweet and lighthearted and full of goodness (perhaps too full as it makes him unable to recognise who’s an enemy and who isn’t, always thinking the good of people). His journey is really the one that ties everyone’s stories together, though it doesn’t seem like it at the start.

These four very different paths and stories weave their way across a huge world. When I started, it was difficult to see how everything would come together – this world is so large I couldn’t imagine these four stories passing even vaguely close to each other. And yet, they do! These four provide the structure to this huge book, and despite my initial disbelief, Shannon manages to weave an intricate and detailed tale which takes these four all across the world, their paths crossing and crisscrossing over each other, as the book introduces the Nameless One and the fight of all worlds to destroy him.

The scope and scale of Priory reminds me of what George RR Martin did in 7 books. Except Samantha Shannon managed it in just one, without any rape, and with a so throughly female gaze that you are constantly confronted about your own biases. I had thought I was pretty good at not assuming things in fantasy, given that I pretty much only read diverse fantasy. But yet, I found myself constantly shocked and surprised when characters turned out to be women!! I was horrified at myself. I love how Shannon takes hold of all your unconscious biases and just throws them out the window. The world Shannon imagines is one without the gender, sexual and racial prejudices and trauma so familiar in so many other of the “big” fantasies. It is full of different nations and religions, creatures, magic, history and politics that Shannon has clearly invested so much time and research in, to create an entirely new world free of these biases, that feels so incredibly real.

A particular highlight in the worldbuilding was the religions. I always love books that heavily explore fantasy religion, because they’re always so unique in every single book, and this was no exception. I particularly loved the way Ead’s history and faith connected with Sabran’s faith. I’m not going to say much to avoid spoilers, but suffice to say, the way these two religions connect and contrast each other is so great! I also really loved the way Sabran’s religion, and the religion her entire nation is founded on, is so embedded in who she is as it’s related to her bloodline. Journeys questioning faith are always very interesting, and Sabran’s journey in this is particularly interesting given her faith is so embedded in who she is as a person, given she is the descendant of the individual who started her religion.

I really loved this book! It is just as huge and expansive a world as you would imagine from a book of this size, but it takes traditional fantasy and completely twists it on its head to create a world where the female gaze is central and with such remarkable worldbuilding, I’m just in awe of its creation. Highly recommend!

30 Days of Pride: Let’s get personal…

Hi everyone,

It’s time to get personal! We’re halfway through Pride month and so I thought I’d celebrate by writing pretty much the most difficult post I’ve ever written (and also the longest….by like a lot). Today’s post is going to be very different to anything I’ve written on my blog before. It’s a lot more personal, about my own queer identity and journey, the importance of queer books to my exploration, and some of the books that have helped me! There’s also a bit (bit might be an understatement) of a rant at certain transphobic billionaires who have caused so much harm to those most at risk. And oh look the rant’s already starting… But do be warned that I will be discussing That Author and the hate and disgust I feel and how that has affected my queer identity.

Before I start, I thought I’d introduce myself a little for those unaware of how I identify: I’m pansexual (although I do also use the term bisexual, and throughout this post I will refer to biphobia and bisexuality as that is how I identified as a teen). I also have what I like to call “gender feels” i.e. I really don’t know what the fuck gender I am, but I’m currently using the term genderfluid as that feels most me – I like the way it highlights change and fluidity and movement. That’s a very new part of my identity (this year kinda new) and given this post is talking about my journey, I will be talking a lot more about my sexuality rather than gender.

So I wanted to start with talking about why queer books are so important. I grew up in a strict Christian household. I wasn’t allowed to watch witches on TV kinda strict (though why the fuck I was allowed to read Harry Potter, I’ll never understand). So growing up, I really didn’t have much opportunity to learn about LGBTQIA+ identities as even an option for me. But after reading some of my favourite series as a teen, I wanted more of those universes. I wanted to see more of those characters. And thus I ended up in fanfiction.

Fanfiction was the place I first really saw queer identities. I read fanfiction as a way to spend more time with my favourite worlds and characters, and discovered a whole new world of possibility. Suddenly, queer identities were everywhere! I could read and write queer stories, see queer joy, and explore who I was in this community. I ended up meeting my then girlfriend through the fanfiction community. So by the time I went to university, I knew I was bi.

But as soon as I knew that queer identity, I started a relationship with my current partner (cishet male), and never really had an opportunity to explore my queer identity during the university years where the time for exploration happens. Because we all know about the awful biphobia queer people in cishet appearing relationships face. So even though I knew I was bi, I still didn’t really feel like part of the queer community. I was in what looks to everyone like a cishet relationship. So how could I be part of the queer community? And so during my five years at uni, the only real time I felt I could explore my queer identity, was through my fanfic reading. Other than it, I looked like any other cishet woman.

It was only after I left uni, moved to Australia and really got into the online book sphere that I really faced the question of who I was again. And that’s because I came back to literature, after a pretty big break during uni, to all these amazing queer books. I no longer had to hide on the internet, there were books front and centre in every bookshop, everyone was talking about them. I missed the period of time when queer books became more mainstrain. But most importantly, when I began to read these books, some of them featured characters who went through things I went through, who questioned themselves how I question myself. So it began to feel like maybe I was queer after all? And now, I feel like reading these books, and writing my own books, is my way of exploring my queer identity. It helps me feel part of the community in a way I don’t experience in the real world. Even in just the past few years, having more faith in my identity as a queer person and being able to accept that yes, I am queer too, even if that’s a different queer than you are, has given me so much more confidence and happiness.

And that’s why it’s so completely fucked up when transphobic asshats ruin the worlds that saved you.

Enter the rant part of this essay.

I was the stereotypical Harry Potter teen. I grew up with the books, alongside Harry. I had all the books the second they released. I had all the merch. I went to the midnight showings. I did the Harry Potter film marathon. I got the Deathly Hallows tattoo. I sobbed at the last film premiere at the words “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. And those books saved me. Because Hogwarts was my home. It was where I felt saved and loved and hopeful. I poured so much of my energy and lifeblood into these books and the world. I immersed myself in hundreds and hundreds of fanfics, across so many years. I spent years reading almost nothing but Harry Potter fanfic, spending so much time obsessing over queer ships, because although the books themselves weren’t explicitly diverse, they also were’t explicitly not. There was a world where it seemed like you could explore your identity, where the characters became more than what was written. I owe my queer identity to the Harry Potter world and the fanfic that showed me who could I be.

And then JKR decided to destroy that. She threw away her disguise, and what do you know, turns out it was Umbridge underneath all along. I am sickened by what she has done. Disgusted everytime I look down at my skin and see the tattoo there. She had a world which gave all of us who needed hope the most, and decided to take that away. Hogwarts is no longer a safe place. I hate that I didn’t see it sooner, that as a teen, I didn’t see the racism, the ableism, the homophobia in the books. I hate that it took looking back as an adult to see the truth of these books. I hate that she destroyed what was a safe place for so many of us with her outright hate. It makes me want to scream. You cannot separate the art from the artist: the morality of the artist informs what they write. We cannot say that Harry Potter is ours, because it isn’t. It’s hers and her hate informed her writing of it. And I know my hurt doesn’t even come close to the hurt of the trans people among us who looked up to this series as I did and have been even more personally hurt by her. The disappointment I have, the shame I have, the guilt I feel for ever having liked this…it’s a lot. I’m devastated that we’ve lost a community and a place of nostalgic safety. I’m so upset that I owe my queer identity to an evil, transphobic person. I hate that I didn’t see the universe for what it was before. I hate that I owe it so much. It hurts so much to see this place of safety gone. Where do we go now?

I’M GLAD YOU ASKED. Because let’s get positive! Now is not the 00s! We have such an incredible range of books that can help us explore who we are, so much more than I had as a teen when I needed them. But I can still use them as an adult, I can still use these books to inform who I am and provide a safe place for me now. So I just wanted to talk about a few of the books that have very personally helped me figure out a little bit more about myself, or have really helped to validate that I’m queer too. I still feel like a fraud. I won’t lie. I still don’t like talking about my queer identity in queer circles because of what they might say. I still haven’t been to a Pride parade, because I’m too scared of the bi/panphobia I could receive, from the community that’s supposed to welcome me. That’s what hurts the most, much like with Harry Potter: the place that is supposed to be safe and welcoming, isn’t. I’ve barely even discussed beginning to question my gender, because I don’t even know where to start with unpacking how much more of a fraud I feel for doing that. Am I fraud for not knowing? Am I just a woman pretending to be queer? How do you even know if you’re nonbinary? Am I just being stupid for even questioning?

But I’m doing better than I was a few years ago. I no longer feel scared to call myself queer openly online. I’m beginning to feel like I’m valid member of the queer community (even if I’m not quite at the stage that I could stand up for myself and say it! At least I’m thinking it right?) So here’s some of the books that have really helped validate my identity these past few years, and have provided a safe place for me to question who I am.

Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Deposing Nathan is quite possibly the book teen Rachel can most relate to and most needed. This book expertly and so, so personally discusses faith and queerness, the validity of bisexuality, and the complicated emotions of first love. It’s such an incredible book and has a brilliant voice, and I want to give this book to any queer teen who’s struggling to resolve their faith with their identity.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

There’s just a few more months until the release of Darius the Great Deservers Better, the sequel to Darius the Great is Not Okay and highly likely to be one of my favourite books of 2020, just as the first was one of my favourites of 2019. Darius the Great is Not Okay is described as ‘pre coming out’, so whilst it isn’t explicitly queer…. it’s still so obviously queer. But what I found most special about Darius, was the spectacular depression rep. Both Darius and his father suffer from depression, they’re both on antidepressants, there’s huge struggles in their relationship because of this. To avoid getting even more personal, all I’ll say is that I felt so seen in Darius, he’s one of my absolute favourite characters because of this and just, I please need everybody to read this book and pre-order the sequel.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

I only read this book last week, and yes it’s on this list. If you read my review of this book posted yesterday, you’ll already know what I’m going to say so sorry in advance! I went into Felix expecting amazing trans rep (which I got). But I wasn’t expecting the deep questioning and exploration of his identity that Felix is going through. Even though he’s transitioned, he still feels a niggling feeling that he isn’t always a boy, and so he struggles through what it means to be trans, how much he feels like a fraud, and comes to terms with his new identity as a demiboy. I cannot put into words how special this was to me. The uncertainty, Felix’s questioning journey, the fear Felix had of the queer community calling him a fraud and kicking him out, it was so similar to my own experiences, my own uncertainties about gender and not knowing who you can talk to about it because of this fear of not being queer enough. This book is just an absolute gift to the world and I hope it reaches all the young trans teens who need it.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

I don’t think it’s a secret that The Fever King is my favourite book. I still can’t believe this was a DEBUT. This book is pretty much the fantasy book of my dreams as a teen. Fantasy has always been my favourite genre, because it provides such an escape from the real world which I really needed in my teen years. And so when I read this incredible, literally-everyone-is-queer fantasy novel, it was everything I wanted as a teen. I still haven’t read a book that impacted me as emotionally as this one did since I read it early 2019, and I think it will be a while until I find another that does so.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.K Larkwood

The Library of the Unwritten is on this list because it is THE FIRST (and only…) book I’ve ever read which has on page, like actually using the fucking word, pansexual rep. And it’s the main character. This was just mindblowing. Pan rep is so underrepresented so to see this incredible, fun, snarky fantasy actually use the word is just so empowering and validating. I wish I was even half as cool a pansexual as Hell’s Librarian Claire.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Another of my favourite reads of 2019, Like a Love Story is a historical fiction novel set during the 1980s AIDS crisis. As I wasn’t even born in the 1980s, you might be wondering why on earth I felt this book of all queer books was particularly important to me? And I can tell you in three words: MESSY. COMPLICATED. RELATIONSHIPS. The relationships in this book showcase the full messiness of love that cishet books have had for years, with Reza terrified of being gay and dating a straight girl to try hide it. It showcases the really complicated and messy relationship some of us have with our own identity: not everyone is out and proud. And Reza’s shame and fear and the complete fucking mess and hurt he causes because of this is so brilliant. I really appreciated seeing a more complex queer coming of age story.

The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin

I credit this book as being the one that got me back into reading as an adult. I came to this book after reading mostly fanfic for several years, and this book just blew me away with it’s open and honest queer relationships, something I’d never even imagined seeing so openly in fantasy. I spent so long internalising this idea that I was only ever going to find queer rep in fanfic, and this book just said to hell with that! This series is one of my favourite series of all time, N.K Jemisin is an absolute god.

These books have really helped me on my queer journey. It’s definitely a journey nowhere near it’s conclusion. I still have no idea about my gender. I still don’t feel safe and welcomed in queer spaces. I feel like a fraud, a lot of the time. But in the past few years, books have been able to help me grow into someone less afraid of calling themselves queer, who was happy and proud to write 30 blog posts to celebrate Pride this year, to someone who was able to actually write this very personal post about my journey (however much I put it off until literally the last moment to do so). This is why we need these books, why it’s so important for everyone in publishing to be pushing for more and more diversity in their lists. These books provide so much comfort, validation and empowerment to those most at risk. It’s why I work in publishing, why I want to write my own books: I want to give someone what these books have given me.

And finally, if you, like me, are feeling so hurt and ashamed of even liking Harry Potter in the wake of JKR’s transphobic hate, then whilst I don’t know how to make these feelings go away, all I can say is you aren’t alone in feeling like this. If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here.

30 Days of Pride: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Title: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication date: 5 May 2020

Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary

Page extent: 368 pages


Goodreads blurb: From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

How do you describe a book which just completely floored you in all ways imaginable? A book that tells you you’re valid, even when your whole body says you aren’t, when society says you aren’t, when your own family says you aren’t. This book is amazing. It’s fun, the story is so engaging (I read it in less than 24 hours, I can’t remember the last time I read a book so fast), the voice is excellent, I can say with complete confidence that this book is going to be one of my favourites of the year!

Felix Ever After follows Felix Love, a 17 year old Black, trans, queer boy at art school. When someone puts up a gallery of his old photos before his transition, along with his deadname, Felix decides to catfish his bully to try get revenge. Instead, he somehow ends up in a quasi-love triangle, even though Felix has never even been in love himself.

First and foremost, this book has one of the most incredible YA characters of all time. Felix was written so realistically and so honestly. He makes terrible decisions, he’s impulsive, he doesn’t think before speaking and I loved how flawed he was. He just felt so much like an actual teen. But most importantly, there were so many moments when I had to just pause for a second because I was tearing up seeing how much I related to him. Felix is a character going through a journey of questioning who he is, he’s terrified he’s a fraud at being trans now that he as a niggling feeling that sometimes he doesn’t feel like a boy (though he knows he doesn’t feel like a girl then either). It’s always so heartening and validating to see characters in books going through the same journey you are, especially as someone who has always felt like a fraud in the queer community because I’m in a cishet appearing relationship. More than anything, I feel like I’m Felix at the start of his journey. I’m not yet at the stage of being happy and proud of who I am, I haven’t reached the end Felix yet. But seeing that it is possible is so hopeful (and also terrifying) and one of my favourite things about reading queer books like Felix Ever After.

This book is very clearly written for trans teens, and that’s what I love most about it. It’s so open and honest about the struggles teens feel when trying to work out who they are, and what they want to do in their future. It also shows the complicated relationship queer people often have with their families, and I liked the way Felix, and characters around him, struggled to resolve their feelings with family. In Felix’s case we see both the absent parent and the one who’s there, who clearly loves him, but who constantly causes pain and hurt by deadnaming him. We see the complicated relationship this results in: Felix knows his Dad loves him, after all he helped him get on T and have his surgery, but his Dad forgets or doesn’t seem to try at other things. We see this relationship contrasted again with Ezra’s parents, the rich absent parents who seem to care only for their son when he’s on show, and then again with Declan, whose parents don’t want him. We see so many of the difficulties queer people have in their families, I feel almost all of us will find a family we can relate to in Felix Ever After.

This book does have lots of transphobic comments (it’s literally about a guy trying to get revenge on his transphobic bully) so do be prepared for that going in. I really appreciated that Felix Ever After also addressed trauma and pain coming from inside the queer community. It’s something we don’t often talk about, but which occurs so readily for some of us. And when it comes from inside our community, where we’re meant to feel safe, it hurts so much worse than if it had come from somewhere else. We see how this furthers Felix’s fears that he’s a fraud, even down to the way he’s terrified he’ll be asked to leave Callen-Lorde (a queer only pharmacy and clinic) because he isn’t queer enough. It’s just so fucking relatable it hurts, and I loved that Kacen Callender confronted this trauma head on because fuck me, is it something that needs to change. The constant transphobia, biphobia, acephobia from members of the queer community is so unacceptable. Felix Ever After is set during Pride month, this month where we’re supposed to celebrate who we are, where we’ve come from and be proud. I’ve never been to Pride because I’m terrified of the hate I’ll receive from the queer community. And as much as I hate that others also receive this hate, I’m glad that Callender openly wrote and addressed this in Felix Ever After.

All in all, I think it’s very clear I adored this book. Despite the dark discussions it has, it’s also really fun and hopeful and Felix is pretty much my favourite character in YA now. This book is so important for anyone who’s ever felt left out, who’s felt like a fraud, or who’s questioning their identity. It’s just phenomenal!

30 Days of Pride: Gay Books

Hi everyone,

Happy Saturday! Following on from yesterday’s lesbian bonanza, today I’m here with some of my favourite books with gay characters. I don’t think I read nearly as much m/m as I do sapphic books, but there’s still several brilliant books to add to your TBR here! I hope you enjoy!

Reverie by Ryan La Sala

If you’re looking for a joyful, gay book with magic rainbows and a drag queen sorceress, then this is the book for you!! This is pure, gay chaos in book form. Reveries are these dream worlds pulled into reality by the subconscious of a person, where they then act out as the “hero” of the reverie. Kane has recently woken from an accident with no recollection of what happened. When the police are interrogating him, a mysterious individual called Posey also interogates him. Posey promises to keep the police away from Kane if he finds out how his accident happened. As Kane investigates, he falls into his first reverie and a world of magic and drag queen sorceresses as he tries to find out what’s going on. Reverie is full of action and imagination, and with rainbow magic is pretty much the queerest book ever. Check out my full review here.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This is one of the books I’m most excited to read this month! It has received heaps of praise in the last year, and with Vuong’s experience as a poet, it will likely prove to be a beautiful read. On Earth We’re Briefly Goregous is a letter from Little Dog to his mother who cannot read, about his life growing up in the US as Vietnamese-American. The book discusses war, intergenerational trauma, race, masculinity and how to survive when you’re caught between different worlds.

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

I’m not a huge reader of thrillers, especially not YA thrillers, but this one definitely wants to make me change that and read more. Keep This To Yourself is absolutely full of twists and turns, and that ending. The book is set a year after a series of murders in a small, coastal town (which is pretty much my favourite setting for thrillers and mysteries!) Mac is trying to put the four murders behind him, which is difficult when his best friend Connor was the last victim. When Mac finds a cryptic note from Connor he realises that the killer might not have been the drifter everyone assumed it was, but someone much closer to home.

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell

Back to the literary fiction with the highly provocative and unique Cleanness. Garth Greenwell won heaps of acclaim with his first novel, What Belongs To Us. This novel follows the same character, although you do not need to have read What Belongs To Us to understand Cleanness. And moreso, I found Cleanness even better than his novel. Cleanness is structured in 9 short stories, with a very interesting thematic mirroring across the book. It’s a book discussing relationships, sex and the power in these for a gay man living in Bulgaria.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Black Flamingo is a very unique YA novel told in verse by poet Dean Atta. It is a coming-of-age story where a boy, Michael, struggles to come to terms with his identity as a mixed-race, gay teen. When he gets to university, he begins to discover himself as a drag artist. A phenomenal and outstanding story told through poetry about accepting yourself and your uniqueness.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

I ordered this book with my library, got a notification saying it was waiting for me, AND THEN THE LIBRARIES CLOSED. I was devastated. But then, a Pride miracle, the libraries reopened on June 1 so I was able to pick this up to read this month. Real Life is about Wallace, a gay black man from Alabama who is working for his degree at a predominantly white Midwestern university, who has to face up to the violence and intimacy in his friendship group. All I can say is I have heard nothing but exceptional things about this book and I can’t wait to read it.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

Sex positive and funny, Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) does what not many other YA books have done: talk about sex openly and honestly. This book follows Jack, a teen who starts an online sex advice column. But after he starts it, mysterious love letters he’d been receiving turn creepy and stalker-like, demanding that Jack stop flaunting his unashamedly queer lifestyle. This book sounds very much like a book version of Sex Ed (the Netflix show, which I adore), and I’ve had this sitting on my Kindle for SO LONG, I really need to read it asap.

Alex in Wonderland by Simon James Green

A wonderfully fun and sweet summer YA romance! Alex is painfully shy (what a mood) and has been abandoned by his two best friends for the Summer. He lands a part-time job at Wonderland, an amusement arcade on the beach, and the group of employees there begin to bring Alex out of his shell. He even starts to fall for his co-worker, Ben. Who has a girlfriend. Oh dear. This isn’t a gay coming of age story – Alex is already openly out and gay, happy with who he is. Instead, it’s both a fun, happy romance and a story about friendship as Alex, Ben and the rest of the Wonderland crew have to work together to save the arcade from being shut down by debtors.

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

Zombies + queerness = pretty damn epic. Wranglestone is set in a town at the centre of a lake, a lake which keeps the dead from the town. But when Winter sets in, the dead can cross the ice. Peter puts everyone in the town in danger when he lets a stranger came onto the island and so he is made to help out Cooper, a rancher who herds the dead away from the shores. Peter and Cooper make a discovery that reveals the dark, secret past to the town. And obviously, they also fall in love.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels

And lets end on a book that will break your heart and have you sobbing! Along with Real Life, this book is on so many most anticipated queer books of the year lists, which means it’s going to be pretty fucking great. At 18, Brian moved to New York City, like many young, gay men. But 6 years, his lover and friends are dead, and the city is in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. So Brian returns home to Appalachia, a place he never wanted to go back to. This is a book about home and family, and how fear and shame can change what that means. Highly anticipated, highly emotional, and hugely important to revisit and familiarise ourselves with the history of those who came before us.

I think today’s list is possibly one of the most contrasting so far: you have either highly emotional literary fiction, or really fun YA, apparently I have no inbetween. Let me know what your favourite book with gay rep is in the comments below!

30 Days of Pride: Lesbian books

Hi everyone,

Today we’re moving onto books with lesbian characters and relationships! When I was going through all my books to write these posts, I noticed a pretty terrible trend in sapphic books: lets never dare mention whether a character is lesbian, bisexual, pan…. It was much more common in f/f books than it is in m/m which is quite annoying and made it rather difficult to try and celebrate books in lists like this. But! I hope I’ve managed to get together a list of ten marvellous books with lesbian characters for you to enjoy.

Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir

A book that’s not afraid to actually use the word lesbian on the blurb! Gideon the Ninth was probably one of the most hyped books of 2019, and with good reason – it brought lesbian necromancers into the mainstream. It’s a very very different book, combining very technical and complicated science with the fantasy magic of necromancy. Alongside that is a murder mystery, a complex relationship between a necromancer and her cavalier and a huge number of other characters (tip for reading this: make good use of the character guide at the start, it is hugely helpful). I found it very difficult to get into this book, but I’m glad I pushed through because I really loved the ending! Check out my full review here.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

From lesbian necromancers to a lesbian witch! These Witches Don’t Burn follows lesbian witch Hannah, who has the power to control the four elements. If a non-witch ever sees her use magic, Hannah could lose her magic for good. Thus, she spends most of her time living a fairly normal live, avoiding her ex-girlfriend (another witch). But a blood magic ritual disrupts an end of school event, and then signs of dark magic appear all over Salem so Hannah must team up with her ex-girlfriend to try find them. These Witches Don’t Burn also now has a sequel, This Coven Won’t Break.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

K. Ancrum is one of the authors I will always read, no matter what she writes! The Weight of the Stars is her second novel, a lesbian love story about space (kind of). Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a space exploration mission to the edge of the solar system. She stays up every night to try and catch a message from her on her radio. After a horrific accident breaks Alexandria’s arm, Ryann helps her listen to the radio and two grow closer. This is a very soft and quiet contemporary YA with an edge of science fiction, about found family and love that binds you across a solar system.

The Afterward by E.K Johnston

The Afterward is a quiet fantasy about what happens after the quest is over and the heroes have to go back to normality. Two of these heroes grew close over the quest, Kalanthe, lesbian knight, and Olsa, bi thief. But now they are back to their everyday lives. Kalanthe must betray her heart and find a husband who can pay off her debt to knight school and Olsa must find a way to esacpe thievery now that she’s famous. Switching between Before (what happened during the quest) and After (how the heroes get back to life), The Afterward is a wonderful, calming and lighthearted fantasy with a beautiful sapphic relationship as its focus. Check out my full review here!

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Varela describes this as “lesbian slow burn enemies to lovers fantasy” and it is definitely that, I love all of these words!! This is a brilliant, well loved YA fantasy that features all your favourite tropes (including two of my favourites, enemies to lovers and ‘there’s only one bed’). Years ago, in the War of Kinds, Automae, made to be the playthings of human nobles, rose up against their human owners and took over. Now, humans are the servants and playthings of the Automae. Crier was Made to be her father’s heir, inherit the the land and rule in his place. But that was before she met Ayla, a human servant in the castle.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

This is a very dark and difficult read, so please research content warnings for this one before reading. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali is about a lesbian, Muslim girl whose parents take her to Bangladesh to be married after they discover she’s gay when they catch her with her girlfriend. This books deals with lots of very difficult issues, including racism and homophobia, but ends hopefully. It was interesting to read about how Rukhsana felt dealing with all the different pulls of culture on her, from her Bengali heritage to her American upbringing. You can read my full review here.

In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard

This is a dark lesbian x bisexual retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where both are women, with an all Vietnamese cast, a blend of science and fantasy, and *drum roll* where the Beast is a motherfucking dragon. (Yes you read that correctly). Add this to the list of queer novellas which are just killing SFF right now. Dark sapphic Beauty and the Beast is the retelling we all needed.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is a YA contemporary full of gorgeous, lyrical prose. It’s about Audre, a Trinidadian girl who is sent to America after her very religious mother catches her with her girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. In Minneapolis, she meets Mabel, a chronically ill girl who helps her navigate an American high school, and the two fall in love. It’s promises to be an absolutely gorgeous, so beautiful, tender sapphic love story.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Lesbian pirates and sea monsters, oh my! I don’t think I can describe this book any better than that?! This is an action packed fantasy about Chinese-American Cas who has spend her whole life raising sea monsters to fight pirates, who then gets kidnapped by a pirate and forced to raise one of the sea monsters for the pirates. And then she falls in love with one of the pirates which really just complicates everything even more. The monster pups are just adorable (but still killing machines!), there is a fiersome (and totally sexy) pirate Queen and lots of fun, morally questionable activities!

Pulp by Robin Talley

Robin Talley is a legend in the land of queer historical fiction and Pulp is no different. This is a book told in two timelines, in 1955, where we follow Janet who explores her sexuality through books about women falling in love with other women. 62 years later, Abby is completing her senior project on classic lesbian pulp fiction, and feels strongly connected to one of the authors who wrote under the pseudonym Marian Love. Pulp is the story about the connection these two girls share even though they live completely different lives in completely different times.

That’s it for today’s glorious lesbian characters – do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments below, I always need more lesbian books in my life.

30 Days of Pride: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Title: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Publisher: Avon Impulse

Publication date: 25 June 2019

Genre: Adult | Romance | Historical

Page extent: 336 pages


Goodreads blurb: As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?

Romance is a genre I really haven’t read that much of. Entirely due to my usual state of mind loving books that stab me in the heart and never let me recover. But after reading and loving the joyful The House in the Cerulean Sea, I immediately knew I had to finally read The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics because I need books with happiness and joy right now. And what a delight this book was!! I’m so happy this was my first adult romance read, because not only was it a really sweet and tender romance, but it also was so interesting outside of the romance, with lovely discussions about science and art and the importance of female contribution to these areas.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics follows Lucy, a budding young astronomer who wants to have a career and not be married off as her brother so desires, and Catherine, a rich and widowed Countess, who offers funding to Lucy to publish a translation of a well regarded French astronomy text.

First of all, what a sweet and tender, passionate and sensual romance! I must say, as a usual reader of slowburn, large fantasy novels, the fact these two were kissing within 100 pages was rather unexpected. I could have done with a bit more yearning but that’s probably because I’m used to a very different genre of romance! What I did love was Catherine’s hesitancy and shyness now that she’s found someone she truly loves, compared to the horror of her relationship with her husband. This is her first relationship with a woman, and I liked the way her slow discovery that Lucy could be a lover was handled. Celestial Mechanics also showed that whilst society might not allow two women to marry, there are ways of showing commitment and love to your significant other, thus addressing both the state of society at the time but without any unnecessary homophobia. (Thank God).

I really loved the astronomy focus of the book. It made for a very interesting read outside of the romance, because I wanted to know more about these female scientists that Lucy was finding and following. A big focus of the book is Lucy and her contribution to science, and the fact she’s often blocked and excluded because she’s a woman so can’t possibly have an understanding of science. But Lucy showed such determination and ferocity in the face of these challenges, she refuses to let them get the best of her and never even considers giving up when others try to bring her down.

I also really enjoyed the focus on art as well as science as being worthwhile lifetime pursuits. I don’t think I’ve ever read so much about embroidery before, and now, I really want to start doing it myself?! It was such a cool addition, to focus on not just truth and science but also art and what constitutes an artist. Like Catherine’s slow hesitancy over Lucy, I also loved her soft, unsure portrayal as an artist. She’s constantly had been told embroidery isn’t art and then she gets to slowly discover her greatness and artistry and embraces it. This book is just full of women realising their worth and I fucking love it.

I particularly loved the ending of this book. It rounded everything off so well, gives a brilliant fuck you to all the men who doubted, and there is a beautiful scene with Catherine and Lucy talking about their future. It was a really warm and happy ending, and I left feeling so overjoyed and thankful that this book was written.

All in all, I thought this was a wonderful romance and I’m so glad it was my first one. I really loved the focus on astronomy and art and can’t wait to read the next book in this series which is all about BEEKEEPING!!