Top 5 Wednesday – LGBTQ+ Books (Sans Cis M/M Relationships)

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme is: LGBTQ+ Books That Don’t Feature Cis M/M Relationships.

If this week’s prompt seems rather specific, here’s Sam’s reasoning:

This may seem oddly specific, but in honor of Pride being this month, I wanted to have a topic to celebrate LGBTQ+ books. But, the book community tends to, when given the chance, lift up cis m/m pairings the most. And while those books are still important and valued (we’ve even had topics covering m/m relationships earlier this year, which featured many cis m/m pairings), I wanted to shine the spotlight on some of those lesser known, recognized, and celebrated books.

I love that this gives us a chance to shine a spotlight on some of the other areas of the queer rainbow. Thanks, Sam!

1. Pantomime (Micah Grey 1) by Laura Lam

Pantomime

The first in Lam’s Micah Grey series is a fantasy story set around a travelling circus, which in itself is fun and interesting, but it also stars an intersex protagonist, which I’d never before encountered (in genre fiction or otherwise). Micah is a wonderfully likeable protagonist and his gender struggles are explored in a respectful, heartfelt manner. Plus I kind of liked the (sort-of) love triangle that he ends up in with two of the other circus members, which is a rare occurrence for me.

2. Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Peter Darling
With Peter Darling, Austin Chant creates a brilliantly original retelling of the classic tale. Peter in this story is trans and he finds himself back in Neverland to reclaim the Lost Boys and renew his old feud with Captain Hook. It’s a short but sweet story that touches on gender identity and the enemies-to-lovers trope.

3. The Thousand Names (Shadow Campaigns 1) by Django Wexler

the thousand names

I’ve said it before, but this entire series should be the benchmark for mainstream adult epic fantasy when it comes to LGBTQIAP+ representation. Some authors out there are patting themselves on the back for writing in a single gay character (out of a dozen) who appears in a total of maybe three scenes, and meanwhile Django here has amassed a total of (at least) nine queer side characters, plus one lesbian protagonist, by the end of the book 5. So if you’ve never heard the phrase “flintlock fantasy” before and are now curious to try it, I recommend you start with The Thousand Names. It’s got addictive military action, political intrigue, and interesting character relationships.

4. Borderline (The Arcadia Project 1) by Mishell Baker

Borderline

Borderline is the first in an urban fantasy series that stars a disabled bisexual protagonist with bipolar disorder. In another writer’s hands, this might have been a complete disaster. But Mishell Baker writes Millie Roper with startling complexity–funny, not always easy to like, and fucks up a ton, but always, always trying to move forward. The first book also mashes your typical fae lore with Hollywood and the result is incredibly entertaining.

5. Curved Horizon (The Camellia Clock Cycle 2) by Taylor Brooke

Curved Horizon

This one might be considered cheating because I’m reading through it right now and still have about 15% left to go, but it’s impressing the hell out of me, so I want to take this chance to showcase it. The Camelia Clock Cycle books are set in a world where scientists have discovered a way to calculate the exact moment that you meet your soulmate. Book 2 follows Daisy and Chelsea (former is Asian and demi, the latter is bi), who were secondary characters from the first book, as they navigate through trauma, mental health, and the complexities of love and friendship. Brooke does such an exquisite job exploring these characters and their demons to the fullest; there’s angst and heartbreak, but also moments where the characters just talk and try to figure things out. It combines the messiness of real life with the sweet optimism of romance novels, and I’m loving every bit of it.

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Have you read any of the books on this list? And shower me with your queer book recommendations!

 

 

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: High Fantasy

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme I first found on Aurora Libralis. It’s hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks and the idea is that each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

It’s just such a great way to introduce new diverse books to other readers and to keep challenging yourself to read broadly. I’ll start with general topics and maybe choose more specific ones once I get settled in.

 

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The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns 1) by Django Wexler

Django Wexler’s flintlock series should honestly be the benchmark for modern adult epic fantasy in terms of LGBTQ representation. In the first book, we start out with a single lesbian protagonist. As the series progress, this number grows and grows, and by the fifth and final book, we have not one, not two, not three, but nine major side characters (plus one lesbian protagonist) who are queer. Not only that, it’s chock full of thrilling action, political intrigue, and just plain fun.

A-book-on-my-tbrThe Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura 1) by Martha Wells

This series has been on my TBR forever and I’m determined to get through the first three books this year, at the very least. The books are set in a fantastical, alien society where matriarchy is the rule and bisexuality and polyamory are the norm. It also features one of my favourite tropes: found family. I loved all of Martha Well’s other books so I’m sure this one will be no exception.

a-book-releasing-soonThe Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
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I’ve been hearing very interesting things about this book. A story inspired by Chinese history, it features asian characters and a plot that apparently moves from The Name of the Wind to the abject brutality of Schindler’s List. I can’t wait to check it out.

Releases May 1st, 2018

 

Quotes of the Month: January 2018

Quotes-of-the-Month-image-transparentThis will be the start of a monthly post where I feature my favourite quotes from books I read that month! I literally just thought of this, so please excuse the fact that the design scheme looks like a fruit-salad with an identity crisis.

The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Smoke City by Keith Rosson

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The Infernal Battalion – First Review!

Infernal battalionRating: 8/10

What better book to start off the blog than the finale of The Shadow Campaigns series?

We pick up right where Guns of Empire left off, with Winter in the Mountains and Marcus and Raesinia back in Vordan. Our heroes soon receive word that Janus bet Valnich, who was meant to go into quiet retirement, has instead declared himself Emperor. Marcus and Raesinia scramble to prepare the army to face their former ally, and Winter plans a way to destroy the Beast of Judgment before it reaches Vordan city.

Before I get into any details, I would just like to point out that there are TEN (!!) queer characters featured in this book, and all well-developed with crucial roles in the story. The number is practically unheard of in “mainstream” adult fantasy and I wanted to squeal with joy. This needs to be the norm in the genre, especially with books that feature large casts, and Wexler has taken a huge step in the right direction.

With that said, let’s talk about what worked and what didn’t work in this finale.

We get a bit of everything in this book: large-scale battles, small skirmishes, political machinations, and intimate character moments.

Marcus I still found the most boring of the trio. It didn’t help that he no longer had Janus to bounce off of. My interest did perk up near the end with a surprise reveal that I did not at all anticipate. That brings me me to the biggest gripe I have with the series as a whole: while Marcus and Raesinia form and sustain a close relationship, they rarely interact with Winter beyond the occasional professional dialogue. Moments near the end would have been so much more emotionally-charged had they had a deeper relationship than “You’re my colleague.”

Raesinia’s storyline is a bit more proactive, but she unfortunately decides to embroil herself in economic skullduggery. There are only a couple of fantasy book that has managed to make economics interesting for me (or at least, not so rage-inducing), and this wasn’t one of them. But I’m sure many people will love it. She continues to remind us just why she’s fit to be Queen, as she navigates the politics of Vorsk and Vordan with grit and cunning.

Winter is, really, the star of the story. She journeys from the Mountains to Vordan, and the people she meets along the way are very interesting, as well as the internal crises she faces. She alone has the means to defeat the Beast, but her abilities never feel overpowered, and she requires the help (and sacrifice) of many others to complete her quest. Her character arc is one of my favorites in fantasy–from a girl running from her past to a leader and role model for other young women, it’s been a blast seeing her grow into herself.

Janus is tied with Winter as my favorite character of the series and he’s indisposed for most of the book, which is disappointing but understandable. We are, however, treated to his own POV chapters for the first time and they offer fascinating glimpses into the man. We also delve into Janus’ backstory–his unfortunate childhood and the identity of Mya–and they further reveal his motivations.

The final showdown is exciting and fraught with tension–pretty much everything I wanted –and Jane’s character was handled in a pleasantly surprising way.

All in all, this was a very satisfying ending to a great series. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know these characters over the course of five books, and I’m proud of how far they’ve come. I’m crossing my fingers for another series set in the world, because the ending hints at a few things that might be brewing on the horizon.