Queer Reading List

I have just added a new page to this website, called Queer Reading List. This is an on-going list of sci-fi and fantasy books that I’ve read and enjoyed that feature queer characters in a significant way. I’m using the umbrella term ‘queer’ because so far these books include characters who are agender, intersex, bisexual, gay, asexual, demi-sexual and more. I hope to include more aspects of the LGBT+ identities as time goes on.

I’m only including books on this list if I’ve read and enjoyed them, but I’m always open to recommendations. If you’ve read (or written) a book that you think deserves a place on this list, leave a comment or contact me with that book recommendation. I can’t promise how quickly I’ll get to it, because my to be read pile is constantly growing, but if I enjoy it, I will add it to the list.

Check back periodically because I do intend for this list to grow over time.

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day coverEvery Day by David Levithan (US link, UK link) is the story of A, who lives each day in a different life. Each morning they wake up with a new body, a new name, and a whole new life. They must bluff their way through the day and then, the next morning, start all over again. They have no control over whose body the inhabit and no way to stop the transfer happening. Normally, they try to leave the people they inhabit exactly the same after the experience, but sometimes they make exceptions to the rule, such as when they spent the day in the body of a girl contemplating suicide.

When A meets Rhiannon, one day is enough to fall in love. A doesn’t want to leave her behind when they move into another body and so they start taking stupid risks for the chance to see her again. And now one of their hosts knows he was possessed and is desperate to find out what happened.

This was an enjoyable book and it was fun to see the different lives A briefly experiences. It gives a real variety of family situations, from an undocumented underage worker to the rich and bitchy queen of a high school. The book is really good for the diversity of people included, with A jumping between bodies of different races, different genders, and different sexualities. I loved that it showed the depressed sufferer as having serious problems with her brain chemistry that impacted A as well, rather than being dismissed as a “bad mood”. A themselves describes themselves as not really having a gender. Because they jump around each day, they don’t really feel either male or female but a bit of both.

Plot wise, most of the book is about A trying to stay with Rhiannon, but there is the threat of Nathan poking around, trying to uncover the truth. It’s more of a romance than an adventure.

I enjoyed this book. There were a couple of things that irritated me, including an event that happens near the end, so I won’t spoil it for anyone, but on the whole it was entertaining and enjoyable and kept me guessing. Four stars.

Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Viral Nation coverViral Nation is a post-apocalyptic book with many of the standard hallmarks of a YA dystopian story. The world was ravaged by a deadly plague and now the few survivors have come together into a small number of cities. They are all reliant on a drug that keeps the virus suppressed. Without regular doses, the virus will return. In the cities, law is kept because a time portal lets the authorities know what crimes will be committed so that they can stop them before they happen.

Clover is an autistic girl who depends on her support dog Mango to help her through loud and crowded situations which are incredibly stressful to her. She is extremely intelligent and is accepted into the prestigious Academy, only to be told that Mango can’t stay with her. When she refuses to be parted from her dog, she is sent instead to be a time mariner – to travel through the portal to bring back information from the future. In her new job, she learns that the system may not be as perfect as she’s been told.

The story is told largely from the perspectives of Clover and her brother West, with occasional sections from their father’s viewpoint. Clover’s character is a real strength for this book. Her experiences and thought processes are clearly described and made understandable to non-autistic readers. The way she behaves feels completely genuine and there is a real emotional connection. That feeling of reality is also reflected in the way she is sometimes treated by other characters in the book because of her autism. There were times when I felt fury and indignation on Clover’s behalf about the unfairness of how she is treated and I wished I could leap into the pages and yell at the other characters.

On the other hand, I didn’t think the plot did justice to the strength of the main character. There were a number of plot elements that seemed really convenient. I don’t want to give spoilers, but in particular the way the time travel is handled seems to lack consistent logic and there are details that are revealed that make no sense and seem to be there only because it furthered the plot.

The book also suffered a bit for being obviously the first one in a series. There are a lot of significant plot points that go unexplained which is frustrating, but I know I do this in my own series, so I can accept this. I trust that these mysteries will be resolved in the second book of this two-part series. The second book is already out, so at least I won’t have to wait to get the answers.

This isn’t going to make it on to my favourites shelf, but it’s an enjoyable read if you like dystopias and especially if you like well-written representations of autistic characters. Three and a half stars.

October giveaway

A Rational Arrangement coverI’ve talked about my diverse book giveaways in previous posts. October’s giveaway is A Rational Arrangement by L Rowyn. I’ve written a review of this book in an earlier post.

I picked this book because it ticks a lot of diversity boxes. One of the main characters is an autistic woman, the other two are bisexual men. One thing I especially liked about this story is the way it handles mental illness. Nik has the magical ability to heal mental illness, and the way the book handles the subject is very respectful, it also differentiates between the illnesses Nik treats and a condition like autism. At one point, Nik is asked if he plans to heal Wisteria of her autism and Nik’s response is that her condition is part of who she is and not a sickness to be cured with the line, “Personality is not a disease.”

If you want a chance to win this book, head over to Tumblr and reblog the giveaway post.

September’s diverse book giveaway

Every Heart a Doorway coverEvery month in 2016 I’m giving away a different science fiction or fantasy book that highlights some form of diversity (preferably more than one). September’s book is the charming Every Heart a Doorway which I have reviewed in a previous blog post.

I chose this book for its LGBTQ representation. The protagonist is asexual, and actually uses this word to describe herself which is astonishingly rare. Another major character in the book is trans. There is an incident of transphobic language from one of the other characters but this is clearly addressed by the narrative and the other characters as being unacceptable behaviour.

If you want a chance to win this book, head over to Tumblr and reblog the giveaway post before the end of September.

August’s Diverse Book Giveaway

Fourth World coverI’m continuing my series of giveaways on Tumblr with Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari. I chose this book because as well as having a racially diverse mix of characters, it has a protagonist who is demi-sexual – and who actually uses this term to describe himself. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. The other protagonist appears to be asexual but this isn’t explicitly stated in the text (mostly because she would have no context for the term).

If you want a chance to win this book, go over to Tumblr and reblog the giveaway post.

July’s Diverse Book Giveaway

The Defectives coverOver on Tumblr, I’m continuing my series of giveaways of books that showcase diversity. For July, I’m giving away The Defectives which I’ve reviewed in a previous post. This book has a disabled protagonist, multiple disabled and neurodivergent characters, as well as racially diverse characters.

If you want a chance to win this book, head over to Tumblr and reblog the giveaway post.

I’m still looking for suggestions of other books to include in this campaign, so if you’ve read a great SF&F book that features diverse characters, let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.

June’s Diverse Book Giveaway

In a previous post, I talked about the Diverse Book Giveaway that I’ve been running over on Tumblr. Every month through 2016 I am giving away a science ficiton or fantasy book I’ve enjoyed reading that showcases diversity in some form, ideally in multiple ways.

On the Edge of Gone coverIn previous months, I’ve given away Rivers of London, Adaptation, Shadows on the Moon, and other great books. June’s book is the fantastic On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis, which I’ve reviewed in an earlier blog post. I have also interviewed the book’s author.

If you have a Tumblr account, you can enter the giveaway simply by reblogging the giveaway post. The winner will be chosen on 1st July.

I’m still looking for suggestions of other books to include in the giveaway series so please leave me a comment telling me about diverse SF&F books you’ve read that you think should be a part of this project.

Representation as a Mirror

There are a number of reasons I care about diversity in fiction. One reason is that having diverse characters leads to more interesting stories because there’s more variety. Another reason is because fiction can act as a window, letting us seeing other countries and cultures, letting us experience the struggles others face, letting us look through the eyes of people who are different from ourselves. If people read books from different perspectives and see people from other cultures or in other situations as diverse and interesting and as human as they are, that’s got to be a good thing.

But for me, the biggest reason I support diverse fiction is that books (and other media) can act as a mirror. People can see themselves reflected in the characters of a story. They can see that people like themselves can be heroes, can get a happy ending, can play an important role. In some cases, they see that someone like themselves exists.

I had a conversation a few days ago with some people at work. Somehow, the subject got onto sex education and one of my co-workers talked about how sex education lessons should include discussions about different sexualities. I said that they should include mentions of asexuality because there are a lot of people who don’t even know that asexuality exists. Naturally, another co-worker asked what it was because she’d never heard of it before. I gave a very short definition and her reaction was, “Oh my god! I think that’s me!”

She was thrilled and excited because suddenly she had a label for things she’d felt (or not felt). This wasn’t the first time I’d had a conversation like this. A month or so ago, I was talking to a woman about sexual attraction and her comment to me was, “I always just assumed I was broken.”

This was a woman in her fifties, who’d spent decades believing she was broken, because she’d never come across the concept of asexuality.

But books can help. People can find themselves between the pages and understand something about themselves that had always been a mystery. I read an autobiography by an autistic woman who was undiagnosed until well into adulthood. The first time she realised she was autistic was because of a book. She and her husband were reading a book with an autistic protagonist and they both recognised some of her thought and behaviour patterns in that character. Because she saw herself reflected in a character, she understood what she was.

This is why representation is important, because books can help us understand ourselves. I think representation is especially important in children’s and young adult fiction, because no one should spend decades believing that they’re broken.

Diverse book giveaway

Over on Tumblr, I’m running a series of giveaways through 2016. Every month, I’m picking a different book that showcases some form of diversity (or preferably multiple forms of diversity) and giving it away to a lucky winner.

So far, I’ve given away:

  • January – Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
  • February – Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  • March – Adaptation by Malinda Lo
  • April – Planetfall by Emma Newman

May’s giveaway book is The Way Out Is Through by E M Holloway.

Part fantasy adventure, part detective story, The Way Out Is Through follows Puck Schneider as he helps the mysterious Conner Henley figure out what happened to his murdered sister. Puck get caught in a world of werewolves, hunters and magic, and has to deal with the trauma of all he finds.

Diversity showcased: representation of PTSD, gay and lesbian characters, trans character, Hispanic characters.

If you have a Tumblr account, head over to the giveaway post for a chance to win this great book.

I have some great books lined up for future months, but I’m still taking suggestions for diverse books to include in this project.