The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

I don’t actually think I have enough words to explain how much I adore this book.  I love everything about it.

From the cast of main characters, each of them wonderfully unique and strong enough that you can always tell who is talking. And each of the characters has motive (no really, how many books have you read where all the characters seem to revolve around Mainy and every secret they have is actually about that one character?) and secrets, relationships and backgrounds that make them jump off the page.

Linked to that is the diversity. Oh my god, no sci-fi or fantasy can ever say that their worlds cant be diverse… or whatever excuse it is they use.  There are so many different beings in this book. Every alien species has a different language, set of myths, way of living, and you know the even nicer thing? No one is hated because of it. It’s a far less judgemental place than our own world seems to be.

There are aliens that upset the gender binary – finally, theres an author who says that, you know what, just because we use ‘female’ and ‘male’ doesnt mean every other planet would. (also, not every character is straight. YAY)

Its not just the aliens though; despite the fact that there are human characters in the cast, some were born and raised in spaceships, others on Mars, others around Earth, and each of them is vastly different too.

Seriously everything about this book was perfect.

I don’t often read sci-fi. I find that many books are all the same; spaceship, evil aliens, fighting. (Don’t get me wrong, I do like that some times, Star Trek is one of my favourite film franchises after all) so this is an amazing breath of fresh air in the genre. Because its not all about fighting and war (though there are a few conflicts within) its more about the day to day life of a long voyage through space, and a mismatch of characters that count each other as family.

It’s honestly brilliant, and I cannot wait to read the authors other book A Close and Common Orbit.

five stars

Noah Can’t Even, Simon James Green

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Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos

This book is hilarious.

And before I write a review, I want to convince you to read it in two pictures:

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and

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And if that didn’t make you cackle and cringe, there’s plenty more (of both) in this book that will make you.

It’s awkward. Oh my god, this book is full of awkward teenagers and even more awkward moments that honestly makes me feel like my own teenage years were almost normal.

I mean, the book is ridiculous. It jumps from one ridiculous thing to another, but the best thing is that the main character and his wonderful mess of a life makes it believable. From his panicking talking to anyone else to his attempts to be cool to the numerous plot twists that make everything worse, this book is a masterpiece of bumbling through the awkwardness of teenage years and sexuality and school and embarrassing mothers.

I was laughing (out loud) so much through sections of this book that my colleague ended up grabbing a copy off the shelf and reading it too – half an hour later she bought it.

This book is just a wonderful friesh of breath air. It’s funny and clever and over the top, but it’s also light hearted and good… and an lgbt book where all the lgbt characters survive (wow the fact that my bar is so low for gay characters says a lot). And its also a book with more than one gay character – I’m sure you all know what I mean. In 90% of  books there is just the one lgbt character… which is so not true to real life.

Basically, you should go out now and buy this book and you will not be disappointed. I would talk about this book for ages but I don’t want to spoil anything for people, so please, please, go and read it.

five stars

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

This book is so cute? Like I rarely read YA books where romance/sexuality is the main theme, but after various awful fantasy books, I decided to finally pick this one up (It’s been on my shelves since it first came out.That’s almost two years.) and I am so glad that I did. It was exactly what I needed to read.

It was clearly written for teens- I know it’s YA but there are sometimes books that are written so well and beautifully you forget. But this one was full of references, some that were good and others that missed slightly (eg ‘the Tumblr’ Like I get they are talking about a specific blog on tumblr but there is no ‘the’ in front of it. And even if it was, teens are lazy. We are all lazy. its easier just to say tumblr on its own)

But the awkwardness of some of the wording didn’t make a difference of how warm and fuzzy it was- from the start all the way to the end. It was funny at times, sometimes heartbreaking- when Simon was talking to another character about his choice being taken away from him, it did break my heart- but it was happy. And in a world where most media draw you in with an LGBT+ character only to have them end up broken or ruined or in most cases, dead, happy is honestly the best thing ever.

Despite the happiness, there were parts of it that struck- sadly- true. Blackmail from someone that knows- even if the other person doesnt even get that its blackmail, there is nothing like the weight of a sword above your head, ready to let it drop and announce to the world something you are not ready to say. Being outed online in vicious ways and the gentle, strange terrified feeling when you try to- or do- tell people. And the bullying afterwards. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many people you have around you supporting you, that one person that makes fun is the memory that sticks in your head.

But each part of it was done so well in this. While Simon isn’t my favourite character I’ve ever read about, he was one I understood well.

Away from the romance of the book, there was a lot more I liked about it. Supportive parents! (Oh my god so many YA books have shitty parents like why) supportive friends! Amazing teachers who take no shit! (again, theme in YA seems to be that teachers never believe if someones being bullied?) The awkwardness of teenage years and school.

however….as always, there were a few things I didn’t like.

  1. There seems to be no female friendships in this book? Like the two main girls hate each other because they both like the same guy? Maybe my school was just weird but the very few crushes I did have at school, if anyone else liked them, we shrugged and ended up talking to each other and kinda becoming friends from it.
  2. Simon makes a comment early on that ‘lesbians and bi girls have it easier coming out because guys think they are hot’ which is frankly disgusting. Not only is that basically saying that its fine to be fetishized by men but it also invalidates what those girls go through.
  3. There was also like a ‘dress up as the opposite gender’ day at their school which just made me completely cringe because really really do I need to explain how horrendous that is?

So yeah, this book isn’t all perfect. But its cute and funny and fluffy and sometimes, that is the kind of book you need to read.

*It turns out the author has actually apologized on Twitter for the comment about lesbians, saying its not something she agrees with and that she should have made it be questioned in the book.

four stars

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good retelling. And that I love anything to do with myths and legends. So of course, in that respect, I love this book already.

The thing about retellings is…you already know the story. Yet each retelling is different. And what I love about this book is that, despite the fact I knew what was happening, and what was going to happen, it still managed to surprise me, still managed to have me up in the early hours in the morning wondering what had happened to my life to make me cry over the story and wondering if I would ever get over it (the answer is no. I first read it over a year ago when I was given it for my birthday. Since then I have wanted to reread it on countless occasions, but didn’t, and also since then, I have found myself thinking about the characters a lot. I finally reread it this week, so I’m sure the same will be happening in the future year)

I love every aspect of this book.

Patroclus’ narration is wonderful- it’s simple but powerful, and he is a character we can relate to. He is, in essence, the ‘least interesting’ character in the story- he is not favoured by gods, he is not half-god, like Achilles, is is not a good fighter, in fact, he’s pretty much useless on the battlefield. He’s an outcast, exiled and seemingly unwanted by everyone apart from Achilles. In a cast of kings and princes, Patroclus stands out, because he is so human and by being human, he brings out the ordinary in everyone else. I don’t think the story would have worked from any other PoV, or from third person, because… this is not a story about war and Troy. It’s a love story,  a boy and a half-god in love while they try to survive war and gods and the anger both brings.

But it’s not just Patroclus- all the characters are wonderful. And through Patroclus, you cannot help but fall a bit for Achilles. From the musical prince to the warrior, he changes so much, but you still cant help but love him. He is different to how we have read and seen him before- through Patroclus he is not full of wrath. Through Patroclus we see Achilles care for more than his fame and glory- most of the time. Of course, Achilles is still arrogant, still prideful (and oh god, dont you want to shake him when he is) but Patroclus makes him seem….more mortal.

And then…there is the end. I adore the last 50 pages, despite how much they destroy me. Its so beautifully written, every emotion so strong, as if you are not reading off a page but stood next to them all, watching and seeing it all play out.

Miller is an extraordinary writer, the words so lyrical and beautiful they draw you in completely.

five stars

You know me well, Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?
Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

This book was cute. 

I dont know, really, what else to say about it, but coming from me about a contemporary book, cute is rather high praise.

And have some higher praise- a book full of LBGTQ+ characters, and guess what? Everyone lives!

This is a slow book. I’m so used to reading action-packed fantasies that picking up this one was refreshing, but also strange.

Its a book about friendship. And I love that friendship- one that springs up from nowhere and helps you through thick, thin and the laughter and struggles. The whole premise is that the book is set over a week, starting with both characters running away from the people who could- or may not- have their hearts and ending up at a party. Because of that small action, the rest of the week starts to fall in to place.
Kate and her best friend argue, Kate meets the girl who she thinks is the love of her life (and keeps running away from her), and she gets her art up in a gallery. Everything seems to just get (mostly) better for her- but Mark’s week is getting worse. His best friend doesn’t love him back and it is breaking his heart. Though through the weeks ups and downs, both teenagers are there or each other.

It’s a book full of longing and learning and love and friendship and everything  in between.

I liked that its about two teenagers who are already openly gay- I’ve read so many books where the storyline is about them coming out that its nice to see a book where they are out well before the start.

It’s a fun read, and I would recommend it to so many people, but really, the only way I can actually sum it up is that it is just, completely cute.

Characters I want to See More of in Books

There has been a lot of drive for diversity in books over the last few years. There has been a huge rise in LBGT+ books, but there is still a long way to go.

One of the things I want more of is Asexual and Aromantic characters. I’ve only ever read a few books with ‘confirmed’ ace and aro characters, and even then, its slightly implied, and some of them have even been books where the ace-ness of a character has been ‘cured’.

The reason I want more representation is because the terms Asexual and Aromantic are ones that are still relatively unknown. Most people who ‘come out’ as ace and aro often go through a period of thinking they are broken- because we live in a society where to not want to have sex or to not feel anything romantically is apparently wrong.

Books are an amazing way to show that this isn’t true- and its also something that people could have fun writing about. Books are also a good way of educating people on what the words actually mean.

So, in light of that, here is a list of ace and aro characters I would love to see in books:

  • An ‘end of the world’/zombie/dystopian book where an ace character is with two non-ace characters who end up getting together and making out at really inappropriate moments, and the ace character just has epic rants about ‘really? Now? Out of every moment to choose, you pick now? WE ARE ABOUT TO DIE.’
  • An aro who hires themselves out for pirates and adventures having to go near Mermaid and Siren waters. As they get nearer, the aro watches as the rest of the crew fall under the spell and they sigh, rolling their eyes and locking everyone away as they sail the ship safely past.
  • Ace characters who are happily in relationships. Ace characters who are scared of even flirting because even if they want a relationship they are scared of being judged or laughed at, or told they are ‘wrong’. Ace characters who don’t really care either way. Ace characters with really dirty minds who spill out filthy jokes but don’t actually care about sex. Ace characters who are completely revolted by sex and thats fine for them.
  • Aro characters who sleep with a different person every night and doesn’t care what people call them. Aro characters who have sex with one person and thats it. Aro characters who have friends constantly setting them up with people and those people somehow become close friends because they do have a lot in common- but thats all they become. Friends.
  • Ace characters whose story does not revolve around them being outcasts and having sex just to try and fit in- its just a part of them.
  • Aro characters who hire themselves out to people who are suspicious  that their other halves are cheating on them.
  • Ace characters being taken on adventures and somehow save everyone multiple times because they are ace. They get stuck on the Island of Lust and the ace character drags their friends out, ect
  • Aro characters who are on an adventure and get tricked into taking a love potion but it doesnt work, and they find that its happened to people before so they go to rescue other victims.
  • Ace and aro characters who are accepted as ace and aro and it doesnt change a thing.