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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Classics

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Classics

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Published by Custom Publishing on December 1st 2010 (first published 1982)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 262
ISBN: 9781407230924
Goodreads
five-stars

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture.

Continuing with short reviews for LGBT+ books I read in 2016 for Pretty Deadly ReviewsLGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, it’s now time for the classics!

I’ve repeated it multiple times now, but this is one of my highlights for 2016. The Color Purple had been on my want-to-read list for a while now, and I finally found the book in London last December. When Our Shared Shelf picked it as the book club read for February it was clearly time to read it!

Heart-breaking, breath-taking, beautiful, sad, funny, perfect. Every aspect of this book was amazing, from the style to the characters to every little detail in the storyline. An absolute must-read for everyone.

After the book I also took time to watch the movie. Mehhh. The first half was alright, and then it just went down the drain. Everything I loved about the book disappeared from the movie. So whatever you do, do not watch the movie instead of reading the book..! (as if you would do that..!)

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsOranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Published by Vintage on 1991 (first published 1985)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Classic
Pages: 171
ISBN: 9780099935704
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues--"unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale.

Technically I could’ve reviewed this book as a young adult book, but then the numbers would be too uneven 😉

I love Jeanette Winterson’s style, even though it is not always the easiest to read. I read Oranges after The Passion so I was expecting something very lyrical and quirky. However, Oranges is very accessible while still retaining the quirk. Not everything was easy to follow if you didn’t grow up in the UK though. Still, a very interesting coming-of-age novel not just for young adults. I think this is considered a classic by right!

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsMr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Arrow on January 8th, 1987 (first published 1935)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 236
ISBN: 9780413422507
Goodreads
five-stars

On a train to Berlin in late 1930, William Bradshaw locks eyes with Arthur Norris, an irresistibly comical fellow Englishman wearing a rather obvious wig and nervous about producing his passport at the frontier. So begins a friendship conducted in the seedier quarters of the city.

I read this book as a culturally appropriate preparation for my trip to Berlin. Isherwood had been on my TBR for such a long time, so why not read him now? I really regret not doing so sooner! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Mr Norris Changes Trains was wonderful. I read it in as little time as possible.

The characters, based on people Isherwood actually met during his time in Berlin, were fantastic. I had absolutely no problem imagining them, based on the descriptions. They are so vibrant and really make the characters come to life! Definitely one of Isherwood’s strengths. The characters are loveable and awkward, and by the end of the book you don’t really want to leave them.

So it’s no surprise that directly after finishing, I continued with…

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsGoodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Panther on 1977 (first published 1939)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780586047958
Goodreads
four-half-stars

First published in 1939, Goodbye to Berlin is a brilliant evocation of the decadence and repression, glamour and sleaze of Berlin society in the 1930's - the time when Hitler slowly starts his move to power. It is inhabited by a wealth of characters: the unforgettable and “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles; plump Fräulein Schroeder, Peter and Otto, a gay couple struggling to come to terms with their relationship; and the distinguished and doomed Jewish family, the Landauers.

…more Isherwood! Goodbye to Berlin was more of a memoir (although quite strictly not) than Mr Norris Changes Trains. Isherwood’s style is very straightforward and he’s great at descriptions without it ever getting tiresome. I really felt myself transported to Berlin in the 1930s, eager to learn more about the city at that time. (And so I did – I went on Brendan Nash’s Isherwood tour around Nollendorfplatz!)

Goodbye to Berlin is much more fragmented than Mr Norris, with many characters being introduced, floating in and out of “Issyvoo”‘s life. But that is precisely what makes this novel such a slice-of-life kind of ‘memoir’. I loved it, and will definitely be seeking out more Isherwood (especially his post-WWII work, as I’m now quite curious how he has developed!).

Goodbye to Berlin was actually the basis for Cabaret (the 1972 movie), which I really should rewatch..!

On another note, if you’re not a fan of these rather uhm ‘classic’ covers, Penguin’s Vintage Classics has released a beautiful set of new covers.

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novels

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novels

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsTell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Published by Pan Publishing on February 14th 2013 (first published 2012)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 355
ISBN: 9781447202141
Goodreads
four-half-stars

1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life--someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

I enthusiastically participated in Pretty Deadly ReviewsLGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, but haven’t written all the reviews I’ve been meaning to write. So to catch up, here’s a collection of short reviews for the YA bunch!

Firstly there was Tell The Wolves I’m Home. Let me start with the positives: This was a beautiful and moving book and I really thoroughly enjoyed it. The author did a great job at describing emotions – loss, doubt, jealousy – and life as a teenager. The characters were interesting and for the most part likeable, even if they did unlikeable things. Also, like a proper YA novel, the pacing of the book was excellent.

At the same time I also have strong mixed feelings about the book. It’s told from June’s perspective, and in the grander scheme of things I get why. But she did not feel like the most important person in the book, the person deserving the attention. That, in my opinion, was Toby. I wish we had gotten more from him, about him, from his point of view. I wanted to get to know Toby, to feel his pain. June has lost the most important person in her life, but so did Toby.

All in all, I do recommend this book. Gorgeous, oh and do grab the tissues!

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsFalling From The Sky (Bear Creek #1) by Nikki Godwin
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on February 21st 2014
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 288
Goodreads
two-stars

All stability in sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy’s life crashed and burned in the plane crash that killed his dad. This summer-long basketball camp is his chance to improve his skills and escape his problems back home. But his summer plans take a turn in an unexpected direction when he meets Micah Youngblood, the guy who runs the carousel at the local mall and has a reputation for devouring straight boys’ heterosexuality for breakfast, alongside his chocolate chip pancakes.

Confession time: I only read this book because I was on the other side of the world, in the middle of nowhere, with a Kindle that had just broken down, and this was one of the few e-books on my phone that was semi readable.

I actually won this book back in 2014, but never got around to it before. To be frank, this book made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Slightly too romantic, almost voyeuristic. And I was going to say: with a target audience that is probably not me, but that wouldn’t be fair. I have liked books like this before, it can be done well. And the book wasn’t all bad. It just definitely, definitely wasn’t for me.

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on June 2nd, 2016
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781509823932
four-stars

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.

This was a spur-of-the-moment, I-want-to-read-something-recently-published buy. And I have no regrets! Although the synopsis sounds a bit ‘whatever’, the book itself is pretty cool. The book takes place during Pride celebrations in San Francisco, and while it started out just alright – the focus is very heavily on friendship and (potential) relationships – it soon turned into this fun YA/Pride explosion. And that’s mostly the appeal of this book, I think. I feel like I was missing out as a teenager!

Recommended!

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsThe Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on May 12th, 2011
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 264
ISBN: 9781461179931
Goodreads
one-star

Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth. Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice. Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny. But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.

I practically want to throw a tantrum over this book. I really, really wanted to like it. Lesbian retelling of Greek mythology? Yes please!

But nope, I ended up hating it. It started out alright, and I had high hopes for it. But frankly, it just went downhill and became a steady two-star read. And that’s when I just should’ve stopped reading, about three quarters in. But I was stubborn, and so many people had liked it, so I decided to finish it.

BAM, 1 star. I hate it when that happens.

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

[Review] Twinkle Twinkle, by Kaori Ekuni

[Review] Twinkle Twinkle, by Kaori Ekuni

[Review] Twinkle Twinkle, by Kaori EkuniTwinkle Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni
Published by Vertical on May 2003 (first published January 1991)
Genres: Contemporary, Japanese literature, LGBT+
Pages: 170
ISBN: 9781932234015
Goodreads
four-half-stars

They got married ten days ago. They haven't had sex yet and they don't intend to.

I discovered this book through my quest to find as many LGBT+ themed Japanese literature books as possible (hint: there are very few in translation). If you’re interested in finding out more titles, I created a Listopia list on Goodreads that others have contributed to as well: here

This book is one of those typical titles in Japanese literature that don’t seem to get much love on Goodreads, with an average of only 3.62 stars. And I genuinely think it deserves better. The book portrays the marriage between Shoko, who suffers from emotional instability, and Mutsuki, who is gay. The marriage is a sham to keep both sets of parents happy – and as the parents only know about the ‘undesirability’ of their own child, and not that of the partner, they are happy with the match.

Sounds like a plot that could turn ugly quite easily, and I was a bit worried before I started reading. But Ekuni has created two absolutely lovable and loving characters, and shows great respect to them. I fell in love with both Shoko and Mutsuki from the start. Their relationship is not portrayed as something negative (although, as you can imagine, the odds of it lasting are slim).

I must admit that the plot isn’t very elaborate, and the ending of the book felt a little hurried. However, Ekuni managed to end the book in more or less the way I was hoping, and I felt so warm and fuzzy that I still gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I loved it!

Sadly sham marriages where one or both of the partners are LGBT+ aren’t that unusual in Japan. I highly recommend Ellen Page’s and Ian’s Gaycation episode about Japan for more on the topic. It can be watched for free here, it’s an excellent episode!

On another note: the dustcover on this book is HIDEOUS but look at the much cuter cover that’s hiding underneath!

Twinkle Twinkle

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

[Review] The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall

[Review] The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall

[Review] The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe HallThe Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
Published by Wordsworth Editions on January 7th 2014 (first published January 1928)
Genres: Classic, LGBT+
Pages: 414
ISBN: 9781840224559
Goodreads
five-stars

‘As a man loved a woman, that was how I loved…It was good, good, good…’
Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents – a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions.

I picked up this book nearly a year ago for the first time, but never read beyond the first few chapters (although I liked it back then). I picked it up again because it’s a perfect read for both the LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge and the Women’s Classic Literature Event.

This is not a classic that is universally loved. Scanning through some of the reviews before I started reading, I was fully prepared to not like it much either. Hall was apparently not such a nice person, and this book is a ‘thinly disguised story of her own life’. But much to my surprise, I loved it.

The Well of Loneliness tells the life story of Stephen, an ‘invert’ (the word used for ‘lesbian’ – although we could argue about Stephen’s sexuality and gender identity). The book is really just that, a life story. Considering the time period, I was expecting a really dramatic and sad story. Instead, it was often full of hope. Stephen has to endure hardship and social stigma, but also has good people in her life who support her, and Stephen herself is not afraid to fight for her existence. It’s a realistic life story, not exclusively happy but not so sad either. Although I have to confess, the ending… 🙁

What surprised me furthermore was how completely unapologetic this book is. It’s absolutely no surprise that it was banned upon publication in 1928 (considering the time period). There is no explicit sex, but the book is also not hiding anything, everything is said outright and there is very little subtlety. And although Stephen occasionally struggles with her place in society, she is never sorry for what she is. Even in the final chapter, which was heart-wrenching, I believe she made the decision for a reason other than her being ashamed of herself. It was refreshing to say the least – I’ve read modern LGBT+ books that weren’t this unapologetic.

Finally, I have to mention Hall’s writing. It’s absolutely gorgeous, just the right level of lyrical without getting tiresome. The book on the whole was a relatively easy read. The end of my edition (a Wordsworth classic) had endnotes which were helpful, although many of them weren’t necessary.

Women's Classic Literature Event LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

Reading Challenges & Resolutions for 2016

Reading Challenges & Resolutions for 2016

Hello 2016! I can’t quite get used to the idea that a new year has begun. Usually I feel the new year brings a fresh new start, but this year (understandably) my mind is just not ready yet.

Anyway, I finally got around to looking at reading challenges for 2016. And inspired by my fellow bloggers I also decided to write down a few resolutions!

Resolutions

  • Get my TBR down to 250 books.
    Ah, that eternal blasted TBR! In 2015, I purged many of my books during KonMari. I have since bought more books than I care to admit (but I swear they all spark joy!). My TBR is now at 287. In order to get it down to 250 I have to read plenty of books from my shelves, and not buy too many new ones… We’ll see what happens.
  • Bring my blog back to life.
    My poor neglected blog. During the last few months I posted no more than a monthly wrap-up, it seems. I want to write more reviews and other book-related posts.
  • Be a social blogger once more.
    I really miss hanging out with fellow bloggers. I have a ton of marked blog posts in Feedly that I still want to comment on, and I want to be active in challenges again. For those who don’t follow me on Twitter yet, I’m @brilliantreads. And if you’ve stumbled upon my blog, do leave a comment and I’ll come check out your blog! <3

I also have a few minor unofficial reading challenges I’m setting for myself:

  • Read 3 graphic novels.
  • Read at least 15 science fiction novels.
  • Read more women than men.
  • Read at least 3 books in Japanese.
  • Read at least 1 book in German.

Challenges

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Carola has
read 0 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Of course there’s the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Like every year, my goal will be 52 books.


LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

As every year, I will be participating in another LGBTQIA challenge, this time hosted over at Pretty Deadly Reviews. I am going for level yellow, meaning I’ll try to read and review 13-20 LGBTQIA themed books.


Women's Classic Literature Event

Women’s Classic Literature Event

For the past few years it’s been my aim to read more women. I am also (still) participating in the Classics Club Challenge, so I simply couldn’t resist this particular challenge! I have quite a few classics written by women on my Classics Club Challenge TBR. These are some potential reads for 2016 (but who knows what’ll happen in reality):

  • Alcott, Louisa May – Little Women
  • Bronte, Charlotte – Jane Eyre
  • Bronte, Anne – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  • Bronte, Emily – Wuthering Heights
  • Haasse, Hella S. – De Heren van de Thee (The Tea Lords)
  • Hall, Radclyffe – The Well of Loneliness
  • Jackson, Shirley – The Haunting of Hill House
  • Le Guin, Ursula K. – The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Mitchell, Margaret – Gone with the Wind
  • Walker, Alice – The Color Purple
  • Woolf, Virginia – Mrs. Dalloway

If you know of more challenges I might be interested in, let me know! 🙂