Friday, 29 June 2018

Review | The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

by Gail Carson Levine

My Rating: 

When plague strikes Bamarre, Princess Addie must fulfill an ancient prophecy.

Brave and adventurous, Princess Meryl dreams of fighting dragons and protecting the kingdom of Bamarre. Shy and fearful, Princess Addie is content to stay within the safety of the castle walls. The one thing that the sisters share is their unwavering love for each other.

The tables are turned, however, when the Gray Death leaves Meryl fatally ill. To save her sister, meek Princess Addie must find the courage to set out on a dangerous quest filled with dragons, unknown magic, and death itself. Time is running out, and the sisters' lives—and the future of the kingdom of Bamarre—hang in the balance.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre is one of those books I've seen so many people rave about as a childhood favourite, but it's one I never came across as a child. My earliest taste of Gail Carson Levine's work was in my last year of primary school when I came across a copy of Ella Enchanted in the library, but even though I liked it I never sought out any of her other books. Recently I was in the mood to dive back into Middle Grade, so I figured it was about time I picked up a copy of this one.

Had I read this when I was little I would have absolutely loved it and I'm pretty sure I'd still be looking back on it fondly now as a must-read fantasy novel for younger readers. As an adult reader, though, I didn't love this one as much as I was hoping. Obviously I'm not the target audience for this book but I do believe that a good Middle Grade novel should be able to be enjoyed by children and adults because children deserve books that don't talk down to them.

That's not to say I didn't like this book, because I did, but so I can end this review on a high I'm going to talk about what I didn't like first. One of my biggest issues with the novel was that it seemed to drag on for a long time for a novel that's really quite short, and I think this is a case where the blurb contributed to that feeling for me. We know from the blurb that Meryl is brave and Addie is not, but that ultimately it's Addie who's going to have to go on an adventure to save Meryl and all of Bamarre when Meryl falls sick, and I felt like quite a large amount of the book had passed before Addie had even come to the realisation that this task was going to be hers. I appreciated that we weren't thrown immediately into the action and we had a chance to learn about the sisters and their kingdom, but when Meryl fell sick the plot seemed to stagnate for me before Addie finally set off on her quest.

A lot of that probably also has to do with the part of the novel that most surprised me, and that's that Meryl and Addie don't remain children. We're introduced to them as children, but if I remember correctly it's not until Addie turns 16 and the Gray Death has already killed a lot of people in Bamarre that she leaves home. I love well-written child narrators, either in MG or adult fiction, and because this is a novel aimed at younger readers all about being brave and how being brave isn't the same as not being scared, I thought it was a shame they were given a 16 year old heroine rather than a heroine closer to their own age. Particularly because Addie and Meryl continued to sound a lot younger than 16 to me.

I can understand the logic behind Addie being a little older so that it's feasible that she would be allowed to go on her quest alone, except it makes no sense to me that a kingdom with one heir to the kingdom on her deathbed would allow their only other heir, who has no experience outside of the castle walls, to go on such a dangerous quest alone. I know it's a fantasy novel and we have to suspend our disbelief, but for me there's a difference between suspending disbelief and disregarding belief altogether. What baffles me is that Addie gets permission from her father to leave - I honestly don't understand how that man is still king, he's useless - when I would have found the whole scenario far more believable if she'd just snuck out instead.

All that aside, there's so much more I liked about this book. Firstly, any book that focuses on the love between sisters is a winner in my eyes, and I loved that even though she's a princess and heir to Bamarre Meryl starts out as more of a 'Prince Charming' in training with her love for knights, heroism and violence, but she's ultimately the princess confined to her bed while her cowardly sister is forced into that 'Prince Charming' role to save her.

Coward seems like such a cruel word, but it's the best way to describe Addie and that's no bad thing. Addie is terrified of everything, especially of not having Meryl around anymore to help her feel safe, so it's far more satisfying to see her face her fears as it would have been to watch Meryl. Addie has to learn to be Addie, and not just Meryl's sister. I personally loved that Addie was genuinely cowardly so, when she was brave, it was a very different kind of bravery to what Meryl's would be. Her friends give her various magical objects before she leaves so that she has some kind of assistance when facing all of the dangerous creatures that roam the wilds of Bamarre, all of which were so fun and imaginative, and I loved how Addie used them to both help herself and to fight and outwit her enemies.

Her greatest enemy in the book is a dragon who takes her captive, and while Meryl probably would have slain it at first sight (or tried to) Addie learns its weaknesses and eventually escapes the creature with her brains rather than her fists. There's a whole pantheon of dragons in fantasy literature, but this one is probably one of the most sinister ones I've come across and definitely one I'll remember!

I think what I enjoyed most about this book, though, was the ending. There's very little I can say without spoiling it completely but I think it would have been easy for Levine to give us a perfect, sunshine and daisies ending even though this is a story about a kingdom that has been suffering at the hands of a dreadful disease for years. Instead I thought she made some very brave choices and I really admire her for making them, and it's because of the ending that I understand why this MG novel is a favourite of so many people, particularly people who read it during their childhood.

Did I love it? No. Would I recommend it? Definitely.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

This Week in Books | 27/06/18

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

Now: As always I haven't done as much reading so far this month as I'd hoped, but I've started a few books that I'd like to finish soon and to be honest part of the reason I haven't been reading much is because I've been writing my own stuff a lot more which has been so much fun. I feel like I've rediscovered my love for storytelling. Right now I'm making my way through The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie which has pirates, sea monsters and an LGBT+ romance so I'm here for it. I'm enjoying it so far, look out for my review once I finish it!

Then: The last book I completed is still Crooked Kingdom which is also probably why I haven't finished anything else yet; I loved that duology so much that I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could pick anything else up and not try and compare it to how much I loved Six of Crows.

Next: I'm not sure! If I really enjoy the rest of The Abyss Surrounds Us then I might jump straight into the sequel, The Edge of the Abyss - especially as I'm definitely into duologies right now! But at this moment in time I'd really like to read Children of Blood and Bone, The Burning Chambers and Red Sister so I might end up picking one of those next, or I might continue with The Grace of Kings which I also started this month and am enjoying so far. Which one would you recommend?

What have you been reading recently?

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | Series I'd like to finish

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Series I’ve Given Up On/Don’t Plan to Finish', but I feel like I've talked about this fairly recently or at least recently enough that my answers won't be any different, so I decided to talk about the series I'd like to finish instead!

I'm a terrible finisher, but since devouring the Six of Crows duology earlier this year I've rediscovered my love for reading whole series so I'd like to finish some more series this year if I can.

The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin: I read and really enjoyed The Fifth Season and started reading The Obelisk Gate and then just got distracted by other things. I'd really like to return to this series, though, because it's one of the most original fantasy stories I've come across and I love the way it straddles fantasy and science fiction.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan: I tried reading A Natural History of Dragons a few years ago and couldn't get into it, but earlier this year I ended up listening to the audiobook during my commute to work and enjoyed it. I'm not desperate to continue this series, but I'd definitely like to try the other books via audiobook at some point.

The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger: So far I've read Soulless, Changeless and Blameless and this series is one I turn to when I'm in the mood for something quick and fun - I'm hoping to finish this series this year!

The Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal: Another series that's light, fun and easy to read. I've only read the first two books so far but I've liked them enough to want to finish the rest of the series.

The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin: This series is unusual in that it never got to end properly because the author sadly passed away after completing only four books, and I've seen from reviews that the fourth book actually ends with a cliffhanger. I don't actually love this series, but like the above series I find it really easy to read and I like the characters enough to want to know what happens to them. I've read three books so far so, even though I know it doesn't have an ending, I'd like get to the fourth book at some point.

The His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers: I really enjoyed Grave Mercy and I loved Dark Triumph, and yet for some reason I still haven't read Mortal Heart. LaFevers is bringing out some more books following these characters next year, though, so I definitely need to get to it soon.

The Fruits Basket series by Natsuki Takaya: Fruits Basket is one of my favourite animes and I started reading the manga but still haven't finished reading the series - I'd like to, though!

The Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant: Feed is one of my favourite novels of all time and I loved Deadine, too, but I'm ashamed to say I still haven't read Blackout. Oops.

The Girl From Everywhere duology by Heidi Heilig: I thought The Girl From Everywhere was so fun with such a unique take on time travel, so I'd like to try and get to The Ship Beyond Time this summer.

The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix: I adored The Old Kingdom series when I was younger, Sabriel remains one of my favourite books from my childhood/early teens, but I haven't read Clariel or Goldenhand yet and, to be honest, I think I might have to re-read the earlier books before I do.

Which books made your list this week?

Monday, 25 June 2018

Review | Gaslight by Eloise Williams

by Eloise Williams

My Rating: 

1899. All Nansi knows is that her mother disappeared on the day she was fished out of Cardiff docks. She can't remember anything else. Now, with no other family to turn to, she works for Sid at the Empire Theatre, sometimes legally, sometimes thieving, trying to earn enough money to hire a detective to find her mother.

Everything changes when Constance and Violet join the theatre, both with their own dark secrets. Nansi is forced to be part of Violet's crooked psychic act. But it's when Constance recognises her, and realises who her mother must be, that Nansi's world is turned upside down forever. She is soon on the run for her life and she will have to risk everything if she's going to find the truth. 

In Eloise Williams' wild, desperate world, with its unforgettable cast of characters, Nansi is a brave, complex heroine who will break your heart and make you cheer.

It's been the longest time since I read any Middle Grade and Gaslight has been on my radar for a while now after I kept seeing it everywhere last year. Firefly Press is a Cardiff-based publisher of MG and YA fiction, set up by a lovely lady I worked with during my first job in publishing, so I'm really pleased I finally picked up one of the Press's books and Gaslight has definitely reawakened my love for MG and made me want to pick up more from Firefly Press in future.

As you all know I love my historical fiction and, when it comes to MG historical fiction, the Victorian era is such a wonderful introduction to historical fiction and to history - especially as, in the UK at least, the Victorian era is usually touched upon in primary school. What I particularly enjoyed about Gaslight, though, is that it's set in Victorian Cardiff rather than London or even Edinburgh, which are both cities far more commonly explored in Victorian era novels. I lived in Wales for a few years and worked in Cardiff for two of those years, so I found it really immersive to be pulled into a story that mentioned landmarks I'm familiar with in a more personal way than the typical mentions of Big Ben or Buckingham Palace.

Our heroine Nansi lives and works for Sid in Cardiff's Empire Theatre, unable to remember anything about her early childhood or what happened to her beloved mother before she was pulled out of Cardiff docks. She's not the only one who's found herself working for Sid with nowhere else to go; Sid is something of a Fagin-esque character, but personally I find Fagin far more likeable. Nansi is a lot of fun to follow around, her character really jumps off the page, and Gaslight feels like a tip of the hat to Dickensian novels such as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.

But because we have a leading lady rather than a young boy, there were elements of Gaslight that reminded me of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, particularly as Nansi is privy to the darker underbelly of Victorian society. Sid isn't always sinister, there are times when he seems like something of a pantomime villain, but Eloise Williams isn't afraid to go to some dark places and there was one scene in particular where Sid was genuinely frightening and he felt like a real threat. His relationship with Nansi was written really well, too; she read like a young girl who'd grown up learning how to handle him depending on his various moods, meaning Nansi is a survivor in every sense of the word.

What I was most pleasantly surprised by was that Nansi's search for her missing mother didn't irritate me. That makes me sound like a stone-hearted trout, I know, but often when a character really wants something, particularly in fiction aimed at younger readers, we hear about that desire and nothing else and the story soon grows boring and repetitive. I thought Williams balanced Nansi's search for her mother really well with the rest of the novel, so it kept moving forward and I felt as though we learned something new every time Nansi mentioned her mother.

That being said, it was the pacing in the end that prevented me from giving Gaslight more than three stars. That's not a bad rating - I liked this novel a lot and whether you're a child or an older reader who enjoys MG I'd definitely recommend this novel (as long as, if you're a younger reader, you're comfortable with the darker elements) - but it definitely could have been higher if I hadn't felt as though the second half of the novel was a lot more rushed than the first half. Everything was solved a little too easily for my liking, and considering the risks Williams took earlier in the novel the ending lacked the same grit that the beginning had. And considering everything he does, I don't think Sid really got his comeuppance in the end.

If you're in the mood for some MG then Gaslight is definitely one I'd recommend, especially if you'd like to try some UK-based MG that isn't set in England!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | My 2018 Summer TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This year I've been letting myself get back into reading for the pure, unadulterated fun of it, and after reading and absolutely adoring Six of Crows earlier this year my love for fantasy is back with a vengeance and I'm craving it like mad. As well as high fantasy, lately I've really been in the mood to blast through some urban fantasy reads, the warm weather and my love of The Song of Achilles last year has put me in the mood for Ancient Greece, and I've been craving non-fiction, too, after barely reading any in 2017.

Essentially my summer TBR is brimming with fantasy and non-fiction, and I'm excited for all of it! So without further ado, here are the ten sixteen books I've got my eye on this summer:

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire: I've seen Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies sing this series' praises for so long and it's a series I've been meaning to get to for the longest time. Seanan McGuire also writes under Mira Grant, and is therefore the author of my beloved Newsflesh trilogy, and I'm looking forward to reading her take on faeries - especially as someone who isn't usually drawn to faerie books.

How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back by Diana Rowland: I powered through the first three books in this series a few years ago and had a great time, but haven't read any more of them despite owning books four and five. It's about time I rectified that!

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: This is another urban fantasy series I've heard great things about and I've had a copy of Moon Called on my kindle for almost three years so it's about time I read it.

Djinn City by Saad Z. Hossain: This one is giving me Haroun and the Sea of Stories vibes and, when it comes to mythology/folklore, genies aren't a creature I come across very frequently so I'd like to try something a little different this summer.

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston: I can't believe I still haven't read this one even though I own a copy of the gorgeous UK hardback, thanks to the lovely Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf, so I think it's about time I crossed it off my TBR. Plus when I think of The Arabian Nights, I can't help but think of the summer, warm weather and desert nights.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: Another retelling from the same author who brought us Uprooted which, to be honest, I didn't love, but as this is a retelling of my favourite fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin, I have to pick it up when it's released this July.

Circe by Madeline Miller: I finally read and adored The Song of Achilles last year, so I can't wait to get to Miller's second novel this year.

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig: I read and really enjoyed The Girl From Everywhere a couple of years ago and still haven't read the sequel. I don't tend to read many books set on ships, but when I do it's usually during the summer; there's something so summery about the sea.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: I've heard nothing but great things about this African-inspired high fantasy so far, so I need to get to it this year.

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy: This is another one I've had on my TBR for the longest time and, as I'm in the mood for non-fiction this year, I'd like to get around to it this summer if I can.

The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson: In the past year or so I've become really interested in Islam. Unfortunately it's a religion that, in the UK at least, has been tainted by its association with terrorism and often the media wants us to believe that Islam = evil because it helps them sell newspapers. If Islam is going to be talked about so much then I want to learn more about it so I'm not another ignorant butthole leaving ignorant comments on the internet, and I'm fascinated by what it was that encouraged G. Willow Wilson to convert to the faith. If you're wondering where you recognise her name from, she's the author of the Ms. Marvel graphic novels!

On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back by Stacey Dooley: I've been a big fan of Stacey Dooley's work for almost ten years now, her documentaries are always excellent, so I'm looking forward to reading her very first book.

Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault: One of my friends adores Alexander the Great and has been recommending Mary Renault's fiction to me for a few years now, so when I saw this beautiful new Virago Modern Classics edition I couldn't resist it. I know very little about Alexander the Great apart from that he died very young and yet accomplished so much in those few years, so I'm looking forward to learning more about him through Renault's fiction.

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon: I read Lyon's Imagining Ancient Women a couple of years ago in which she talked about her research for this novel, so I thought it'd be fun to read this one. I know very little about this one other than it's about Aristotle's daughter after the death of Aristotle and Alexander the Great (there he is again) and the tumultuous turn her life takes.

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes: We've all heard of the Oedipus complex, but I know very little about the Oedipus myth other than that Oedipus was a prince who was raised by the enemy kingdom and, when he defeated the man he didn't know was his birth father, ended up taking his birth mother as his wife. Here classicist Natalie Haynes has chosen to retell the story from the point of his mother, Jocasta, and I've heard brilliant things about it so far.

Troy by Adèle Geras: I've owned this one for a while now and I was very lucky to meet Adèle Geras at an event at Litfest several years ago now and she was wonderfully eccentric. As much as I adored The Song of Achilles last year I do feel like the Trojan War has been rather overdone in the realm of Ancient Greek books and movies, but I like the sound of this one because it's the story of two Trojan sisters trying to survive amidst the war rather than following the well-known names such as Achilles, Hector or Paris.

Which books made your list this week?

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Seven series to start this summer!

Series were something I fell out of love with for a little while. When I was younger I adored series! I loved spending a long time with the same set of characters, watching them grow and change and waiting to see if all of the characters I loved would still be there when the adventure eventually came to an end. I don't think I'm being melodramatic when I say my teen years were defined by the release of the next Harry Potter book and film; the books I adored, but the films went from fun Christmas treats at the cinema to, from the fourth film onwards, the summer blockbusters my friends and I looked forward to when school came to an end for the year.

Then, thanks to the Twilight franchise, publishers started to take YA publishing seriously and YA series became the new thing. Unfortunately, while I think YA publishing has done far, far more good than bad, it's actually YA I have to thank for my falling out of love with series. When YA first started out there were trends (there still are, but I don't think they have quite as much of an impact on the kind of stories that get published as they used to) from vampires to dystopian fiction that turned every YA trilogy into exactly the same story. There were the same tropes, the same love interests, the same basic story arc to the point where I could guess what was going to happen in a sequel before it even came out, and it turned series into something I loved to immerse myself in to something I was bored of.

This wasn't entirely a bad thing. Over the past few years I've developed such a love and appreciation for well-told standalone novels and, nine times out of ten, I'd much rather read a standalone to a series now. This year, though, thanks to the fantastic Six of Crows duology, I've rediscovered my love for a truly good series.

It's something of a running joke with me that my entire reading life is defined by series I either haven't started or haven't finished, but that's something I'd like to get better at, so today I thought I'd talk about seven series I'd like to start this summer! Some are long, some are short, some are new, some are old, and they're all books I'm excited to read.

This is one I've already mentioned this month and one I'm hoping to get to very soon! The first half of a duology, The Abyss Surrounds Us features pirates and sea monsters and a sapphic romance which I am so here for. Frankly I'm surprised we don't have more LGBT+ pirate stories, particularly stories featuring women, considering Mary Read and Anne Bonny were rumoured to be lovers.

I keep seeing Children of Blood and Bone everywhere - not that I'm surprised; that cover is gorgeous - and friends of mine who've read it have nothing but brilliant things to say about it. I've mentioned several times this year that I've rediscovered my love for high fantasy and I'm keen to read more African and Asian-inspired high fantasy. Not only is this fantasy world African-inspired, but it also includes one of my favourite fantasy tropes: magic banned by those in power. I can't wait for this one.

I had no real intention of getting this one when it came out; I've tried reading Kate Mosse's Labyrinth before and ended up DNFing it because it was so long and nothing happened for what felt like an eternity. The Burning Chambers is another beast, but it's historical fiction set during one of my favourite periods of history - the 1500s - featuring the religious turmoil at this time that I have always found fascinating. More than anything this story sounds like an adventure and I'm hoping to get lost in it this summer.

Robin Hobb has been on my TBR for far too long, so it's about time I read Assassin's Apprentice. I've heard so many wonderful things about this series and this world and, if I fall in love with it like I'm hoping to, there are so many more books for me to enjoy!

Fun fact: Set a story in a nunnery and I'm 100000000% more likely to read it. Turn the nuns who inhabit (get it?) that nunnery into assassins and I am THERE. Still haven't started this series, though. Oops. I actually tried reading Red Sister when it first came out after receiving a copy through NetGalley but I couldn't get into it despite seeing so many rave reviews, so I decided to put it down and I recently bought myself my own copy to give it another try.

I'm going to be completely honest and say I had no desire to read this until very recently. I remember it coming out and not paying much attention to it, but I recently received a bookmark promoting the sequel in a FairyLoot box and decided to look into Flame in the Mist again and realised that, actually, it sounds like something I'd really enjoy. I'm trying to read more books set in Asia, I feel like it's a continent that's been neglected in my reading, and another of my favourite tropes is girls posing as boys so I am ready to dive into this one.

Seanan McGuire is one of my faves - I'm still not over Feed and never will be, so thanks for that Seanan - and I've been meaning to read her October Daye series for years. Urban fantasy isn't something I read often but, when I do, I devour it in humungous gulps until I'm stuffed on it. I'm also not a big fan of faerie books, not sure why, but I'm looking forward to seeing McGuire's take on the fae in Rosemary and Rue and, if I enjoy it, devouring the rest of the enormous series. I know Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies loves this series so I'm hoping I will, too.

Do you read a lot of series, or are you more of a standalone reader? What are some of your favourite series? And are there any series you're planning to start or finish this summer?

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | Pride Month Reading Recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Books I Decided to DNF (did not finish) too Quickly', but as someone who's a big fan of DNFing books that just aren't working for me, I decided to talk about my LGBT+ recommendations for Pride instead - Happy Pride Month!

(I'm also hoping to read at least one LGBT+ novel this month - you can take a look at my TBR here, if you like.)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: We're starting off with a strange recommendation because I didn't actually enjoy this one very much; I liked the concept far more than its execution, but this is the only book I've come across (so far) in which the protagonist identifies as asexual, and describes herself as such, and we need far more asexual representation in fiction.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Set in America in 1959 when black students were first admitted to previously all-white high schools, this powerful debut follows two teenage girls, Sarah and Linda, as they battle racism, both outwardly and inwardly, and their growing feelings for each other.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Another fantastic voice in the world of YA, Becky Albertalli's debut follows Simon as he tries to find the courage to tell his friends and family that he's gay, only to be blackmailed by a fellow student who wants his help winning the affection of a girl at school. This is fun, funny and heart-warming, and has some brilliant things to say about the process of coming out.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: A spoiled, wealthy, bisexual boy from an aristocratic family is given the opportunity to take a tour of Europe before he must resolve himself to the family business in this incredibly fun novel. Add to the mix the best friend he's fallen in love with, a sister with no intention of going to finishing school and a theft that sees them being pursued across Europe and you have a wild ride of a novel.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: Quite possibly the twistiest, turniest book I've ever read, Fingersmith is considered Sarah Waters' masterpiece and reads like a Dickensian thriller - only this time, the women have agency. Because of the Victorian setting this one is a great book to read in the autumn, but if you're looking for something to sink your teeth into for Pride this month I'd definitely recommend this one.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: This is one of my favourite science fiction novels. While its focus is far more on character than plot, the universe Chambers has created is such a beautiful, hopeful vision of the future. She explores sexuality, gender, family units, war, peace and what it means to be human, and if you haven't read this one yet then I can't recommend it enough.

A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan: The stories in this collection, inspired by Scottish folklore, are told to an unborn child by its mothers, who are eagerly awaiting its birth. It's a lovely, melancholic collection and definitely one to read for anyone interested in folklore and fairy tales.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: One of my favourite novels of all time, this stunning novel tells the story of Patroclus and Achilles, from their childhood together up to their roles in the Trojan War, and their relationship as it grows from friendship, to companionship to love. Definitely one to read if you haven't already!

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Given that this is a Victorian novella I can't imagine Le Fanu would have described this as a lesbian story but, like most early vampire stories, Carmilla is awash with homoeroticism. This novella was released about 25 years before Dracula and, in my opinion, is the far better work. One to read if you'd like something short this month!

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg: This beautiful graphic novel has stories within stories as two women in love tell tales to a friend of the husband of one of the women who has made a bet that he can seduce her while her husband is away. Inspired by The Arabian Nights, it features stories about and for women in a fantasy world where women are second-class citizens.

Which books made your list this week?

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Pride Month Reading Challenge | TBR

Happy Pride Month!

This month Simon @ Savidge Reads and George at @ The George Lester are hosting a reading challenge to celebrate Pride, and as someone who doesn't identify with any kind of label but definitely doesn't consider herself 'straight', I couldn't resist joining in.

They're hosting some fun challenges on Instagram that you can take part in, so today I thought I'd share my very tentative TBR for the month. Now as many of you know already I don't do well with TBRs, but it's my goal to read at least one LGBT+ book this month and there are several I can choose from, so today I thought I'd share them with you!

The Night Watch is the only one of Sarah Waters' novels I've yet to read. I've actually started it a couple of times and haven't been able to get into it, but as she's one of my favourite authors I'd really like to have all of her novels under my belt until she releases her next one, whenever that may be. The Night Watch is set during the Second World War and is told backwards, following a group of characters in London during The Blitz. As with all but one of her novels, The Night Watch is a book with at least one queer protagonist - although her non-queer novel, The Little Stranger, has a side character who it's fairly heavily implied is not heterosexual - and I'm looking forward to reading another novel from one of my favourite storytellers.

Yet another favourite author of mine, I've adored both Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, who is now my go-to author for YA contemporary fiction. Now her latest novel, Leah On the Offbeat, follows one of the side characters from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda who just so happens to be bisexual. It's very rare to come across bisexuality in fiction, especially a bisexual main character, so I can't wait to read this one.

One of my friends is a big Alexander the Great fan and she's been recommending Mary Renault's novels to me for a while now, so really it's about time I picked up a copy of Fire From Heaven and I now have a copy of this gorgeous new Virago 40th anniversary edition. It's so warm in the UK right now that I've been craving some fiction set in Ancient Greece and this novel is the perfect opportunity for me to merge that desire with Pride!

All I know about Emily Skrutskie's The Abyss Surrounds Us is that it's the first book in a duology, something I'm very into right now, and it's a book about lesbians, pirates and sea monsters. What more could a girl want? If I enjoy this one it'd be nice to to read the whole duology this month but we'll see how my reading goes as I recently started Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings, which is quite a beast.

Gail Carriger has become one of those authors I turn to when I'm in the mood for something comforting and fun, but whether or not I read her two novellas, Romancing the Inventor and Romancing the Werewolf, depends entirely on whether or not I finish her Parasol Protectorate series this month. To be honest I might just read Romancing the Inventor as I'm fairly sure Romancing the Werewolf is set over Christmas, so it'd be nice to save it for December, but if I feel like I need some gay werewolves in my life this June - and when don't I, let's be honest - I'll be picking this one up too.

Have you got any reading plans this Pride Month?