Tag Archives: Realistic Fiction

Recommended Reads for Pride Month

With how big my yearly reading goals on Goodreads, I will occasionally do particular theme or topic for an entire month.  For instance, in March, most of the books I might read may involve Ireland in some way, since St. Patrick’s Day is on the seventeenth.  Or for May, a number of the books I read could involve mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month or I’ll read Star Wars novels because May is essentially Star Wars Month.  Not all books in a month will fit into a theme, nor will I do a theme every month of the year.  It’s just a way for me to find new books that I will enjoy and/or learn from.

This year, for the month of June, I have decided to read books with LGBTQ+ related in honor of Pride Month.  I’ve read a few books over the years with LGBTQ+ characters over the years, whether they be main or side characters, and I have a few I plan for this month, which I may do a recommendation blog at the end of the month.  Today, however, I thought I would discuss some books that I have read in case you are looking for something to read this month.

Apologies now if it seems like my recommendations mostly involve lesbian/bi women.  It was purely unintentional since I picked these up because they either sounded interesting or were part of a series I was reading (and enjoying).  My current reads and what I plan to read this month will be a bit more diversified.  

The Avatar Kyoshi Duology by F.C. Yee

Avatar the Last Airbender is one of my favorite animated series.  I’m not the only one to say that, I am sure, but it is a good series.  The themes, animation, story, and characters are all things that made it such a beloved show.  Characters like Zuko, Iroh, Toph, Azula, Aang, and Katara are just some of the characters that people have grown to love.  It got a sequel in the Legend of Korra and several comic tie ins.  The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are two books that are also included and focuses on one of the most popular Avatars, Kyoshi. 

Kyoshi became a pretty popular Avatar most likely for her stark contrast to Aang, the titular Avatar.  Aang was traditionally shown as being nonviolent and diplomatic (as much as any twelve year old in his potion can be) with a moral compass that could make certain decisions, like killing Ozai, difficult.  Kyoshi, meanwhile, had a moral compass and some level of diplomacy, but was willing to do what needed to be done.  With Chin the Conqueror, for example, she didn’t care if he died the day she separated Kyoshi island from the mainland.  It wasn’t really her intent, but she wasn’t opposed to it either since it got rid of a corrupt ruler.  

The Kyoshi duology by F.C. Yee goes over Kyoshi’s early years and finding out what it means to be the Avatar.  When her friend gets confused to be the next Avatar after the unexpected and sudden death of Kuruk, the revelation that it was actually Kyoshi is a secret and unexpected one.  During the books she will go through a series of trials and tribulations while trying to escape the people chasing her.  She even joins a gang that her airbending mother used to be affiliated with, who would be the beginning for Ba Sing Se’s, Dai Li.  This is also explains why Kyoshi used the two fans.  

As she makes allies and enemies, one person who stays by her, Rengi, a firebender who’s mother gets caught up in the conflict and eventual love interest for Kyoshi.  Meanwhile, her friend, who had gotten confused for her, becomes more of a threat than Kyoshi would have hoped for.

The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are books I would recommend if you like fantasy, are a fan of Avatar the Last Airbender, and/or are looking for a good YA book.  They build on an Avatar who viewers knew a bit about through her appearances.  And while a tough protagonist, these books humanize Kyoshi and let her have moments of reflection and emotion.  There is also a forward by Avatar co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino.

F.C. Yee did a great job bringing Kyoshi to life and has a novel on Yangchen, the Airbending Avatar before Aang, coming out in July of 2022.

Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger

I’ve read a few of these YA what if styled graphic novels.  The one I really enjoyed include Lost Carnival, a Dick Grayson story taking place during his circus days, Shadow of the Batgirl, a Cassandra Cain (Batgirl/Shadow Bat/Orphan) story, Oracle Code, a Barbara Gordon story taking place after she was paralyzed by the Joker, and this one. 

There are some good ones out there, like Shadow of the Batgirl, and some bad, like Gotham High.

I would say that Poison Ivy Thorns is one of the better of these YA what if comics, if not average depending on who you ask.  And similar to the other YA graphic novels in this line, this does take place with the cast being teenagers.  Which isn’t a problem per say, merely a common theme with these graphic novels regardless of it’s about an established character like Ivy or a new character like Tai Pham from the Green Lantern: Legacy story.  Regardless, Poison Ivy: Thorns is an interesting retelling of Pamela Isley’s story with a eerie mystery that hits close to home for our protagonist.

Pamela is a social outcast at school, who enjoys working with plants in the school’s greenhouse and is an avid environmentalist.  Her mother has been sick for as long as Pamela can remember, but for those who don’t know, it would seem as though her mother is out of the picture.  When she’s not at school, dealing with the day to day life of a teen, she’s at home with her father who performs a series of tests and experiments on Pamela.  She has a hard time trusting people, men especially, so she usually keeps to herself.

After an incident at the park, she meets Alice Oh, who she starts to open up to.  And as the two grow closer platonically and eventually romantically, the truth about Pamela’s mother starts coming to light.  And while Pamela is hesitant for change, she realizing how problematic her father’s treatment of her and the situation with her mother.  As Pamela’s life seems to be changing around her, there is more to Pamela than she may have even realized. 

 If you like Poison Ivy, you might like this.  I know I did as someone who enjoys Ivy from time to time.  The art is really neat to.  It has a neat almost sketchy line-art and though the color palate may appear simple, it really suits the style they were going for.  The art also kind of reminds me of something Tim Burton-esque with maybe a pinch of anime and/or art from Greek mythos.

The Witches of Thistle Grove Series by Lana Harper

The second book of this trilogy, From Bad to Cursed, came out on the 17th of May of this year.  Meanwhile, the third book, Back in a Spell, is expected to be released in January of 2023.  I’m currently making my way through it now (I own both books) and thought now would be as good of a time as any to recommend the series.  That way, if any of you wanted to give it a try, you could get started before the third book is released.

So far, each book will focus on a different witch from Thistle Grove.  In Payback is a Witch, our lead, Emmy Harlow returns to Thistle Grove after several years of self-exile.  While her magic isn’t as strong as it used to be due to her time away, Emmy finds herself pulled into a competition against her ex, Gareth.  Teaming up with her friend Linden and the dark magic expert Talia, both of who were involved with Gareth around the dame time and want some good old fashion revenge, the trio works together to come out on top.  Along the way, Emmy finds herself drawn to Talia, and not just in a magical sort of way.  The two end up spending time together and developing feelings for each other.

While both Emmy and Talia could be considered bisexual, since they dated Gareth before getting together, I’ve noticed a number of reviewers on Goodreads have this tagged under the Lesbian sub-tag in the LGBT shelf/tag.  Of course, I’m not trying to imply that the characters aren’t lesbians, who maybe dated a guy before realizing they preferred women, just that they could be interpreted as bisexual to some people.  Personally, I interpret them as lesbians, and I am assuming that was Lana Harper’s intent.

Payback is a Witch is a spellcasting romance that is charming and enjoyable.  The only critique I would have is how some of the dialogue comes off.  The deliver of some the more sassy/cursing phrases seemed a little weird.  Not always, because in some instances I enjoyed it, but other times, it felt a little weird.  Either way, it doesn’t hinder the overall enjoyment I had with the book.  Also note, this is an adult romance.  And while not happening every chapter, there are at least three “spicier” scenes in it.

I just started on From Bad to Cursed recently, so my thoughts on it aren’t set in stone yet.  That said, I think I will enjoy this installment.  When it starts off with such a fun opener about how you have to think outside of the box sometimes when summoning demons, I think that says something about what to expect.

From Bad to Cursed will focus on Isidora Avramov, a thrill chasing demon summoner.  She dreams of one day leaving Thistle Grove to pursue an indie fashion designing career.  However, when trouble brews the Beltane festival, resulting in the injuring of one of the Thorn family members, the Avarmov’s rival family.

Fun Fact: The Beltane Festival is a Gaelic/Celtic celebration 

Because the Avramov family and Thorn family are rivals, suspicions fall on Isidora’s family.  To save her family’s name, Isidora works alongside Rowan Thorn to get to the bottom of it.  Along the way, Isidora will realize just how little she knows about Rowan, and a relationship will start to grow more with each day.  

That’s how this book can be summarized.  Or at least my summarization of the synopsis provided.  Since I am only starting the book, I can’t exactly say what their relationship will be like.  And from what I’ve seen on Goodreads, there are a few people who have tagged the book with the LGBT sub-tag.  And given how Emmy and Talia from the first book were apart of the LGBTQ+, I’m assuming that Isidora and Rowan’s relationship will fall under the LGBTQ+ as well.  And since I’m just starting and don’t know what Isidora will learn about him, what Rowan’s sexuality is has yet to be seen.  While I can’t confirm, I am speculating that Rowan might be a trans man.  I can’t confirm yet, but given how this series does have LGBTQ+ mains in the first and third book, I don’t think it’s a stretch to make that speculation.  Whatever is revealed, this is looking to be as fun of a book as Payback is a Witch, and I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Readers may have to wait until 2023 for the third and final book, Back in a Spell, but I think it’ll be worth it.  What do know about it, outside of it’s title is that the lead will be a woman named Nineve “Nina” Blackmoore, who was left at the alter by her fiancée.  Once back on the dating market, she meets with Morty Gutierrez, a nonbinary individual who owns a business called The Shamrock Cauldron.  They get off to an awkward start that turns rocky when Morty (He/Him according to the synopsis), but finds out Nina’s last name.  Nina’s family, it turns out, is trying to acquire Morty’s company.  Then one day, Morty starts exhibiting magical powers alongside Nina, and it’s up to Nina to figure out what’s going on, how to help herself and Morty as well as navigating their growing romance. 

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

One series I have found myself enjoying is Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sister series.  It is about six sisters adopted from all over the world.  Each one is named after one star in the Seven Sisters constellation, hence the series’ name.  When Pa Salt dies, he leaves each daughter with a letter, a name, and a set of coordinates to where he found them.  As well as the eventual location of the seventh sister that they never found.  The reason for this was to give each sister a chance to find out where they came from, if they were interested.  The Pearl Sister is the fourth book and focuses on CeCe (Celaeno).

In it, CeCe has left Star (Asterope), who was searching into her own heritage, in order to find out more about her own.  Her investigation brings her to Australia, where she finds out more about Kitty McBride, the person Pa Salt had left for her to learn about.  Part of the story, which is a common style with this  series, does focus on Kitty’s story from Kitty’s perspective.  As CeCe learns more about Kitty and her Aboriginal roots, she finds her creativity returning and meets new people.  This includes Chrissie, an Australian who helps her in her journey.  Though officially confirmed in a later book, CeCe and Chrissie do end up together.  CeCe was curious about her sexuality with Chrissie being who she thinks she might have feelings for.

With that in mind, she would be questioning at first and a lesbian when she does end up with Chrissie.  It’s been a while since I read The Pearl Sister, so I don’t recall CeCe having relationships with anyone other than Chrissie, so I can’t say she is bisexual.

The Pearl Sister might not be one of my favorites in the series (my favorites being The Seven Sisters and Moon Sister), but it is a good read in my opinion. You don’t have to read the entire story to understand this book, since each story focuses on one sister and the only times the others are referenced are sparsely used and you don’t need to read every book to know that Pa Salt died.  However, reading the rest won’t hurt either, and if you are interested, I would say go for it. 

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Let me just start of that the LGBTQ+ context is more so implied.  This book was written in 1967 by a gay man, who I believe was closeted at the time.  Fun Fact: Thomas Savage may have had a relationship with Tomie dePaola, a children’s author who wrote books like Strega Nora and The Art Lesson.  The Power of the Dog is listed as a western, which isn’t my usual genre, but after seeing the Netflix adaptation, I checked it out and really enjoyed it.  

Going into this book, the only disclaimer I feel is necessary is that Phil Burbank is a bit of a sexist and racist towards Native Americans.  As well as terms used that may be considered problematic today.  This book does take place in the 1920’s, so while I won’t say there isn’t problematic elements, it’s a timepiece where that kind of thing was normalized more.  Phili is also the character that is implied as being gay given how he talks about his friend Bronco Henry and how he grows to like Peter Gordon, his sixteen year old step-nephew.  People like to speculate if Peter Gordon was gay and/or ace, and that he might have had autism, but it’s never fully stated.  

 

I would consider this a western where details and their implications/nuances are well written and interesting.  That might be why I enjoy it when compared to other westerns.  The movie has a similar air, but with more ambiance/quiet moments.  It’s also a book on how people are not always what they seem.  This is especially true with Phil and Peter.

The story itself is pretty straight forward.  After the death (suicide) of Rose Gordon’s husband, she remarries George Burbank, one of two brothers who owns a ranch.  She and her son, Peter, are tormented by Phil, George’s brother.  The torment is mostly directed to Rose, but Peter does make snide remarks towards Peter.  Peter Gordon is a quiet, sickly young man who’s dream is to become a doctor one day.

After returning to the ranch for the summer, Peter is living in the guest bedroom.  And after several less then stellar run ins with Phil, something seems to change.  Phil offers to teach Peter how to ride a horse and show him how 

to tie a rope, the one Phil is working on Phil plans to finish before Peter goes back to school.  

Initially this could be seen as Phil trying to isolate Rose, much like she had with Phil when she married George.  However, that seems to be less of the case as readers get closer to the end.  Readers also find out that Peter will do whatever it takes to keep his mother safe, especially with how his father died.  Even if he doesn’t seem physically imposing.

Though the LGBTQ+ context is more subtextual in nature, it is something that can be inferred upon.  Of course, since this was written in the 60’s, Thomas Savage probably couldn’t have been as forward with that message as much as he might have liked.   With that in mind, the author was a gay man.  So even if it doesn’t have a straightforward gay character, it was written by a gay author.

As someone who doesn’t like westerns, I would recommend this book and it’s Netflix movie adaptation.

Conclusion

These are a few books I would recommend if you are looking for LGBTQ+ centered reads.  I should have a few more at the end of the month when I do a blog on LGBTQ+ books I’ve read this June.  Books that I might have forgotten had LGBTQ+ aspects didn’t make it onto the list since… well I couldn’t remember which books those were.  I also didn’t include the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  While it does have a one or two gay background/minor characters, I honestly prefer the other series in that universe, Alpha and Omega, from a story perspective.  

Regardless, I hope I was able to help find a book for you to check out.  And if you have any suggestions for me and/or would like to mention an LGBTQ+ book that you enjoyed, feel free to include it in the comments below. 


Storm Sister: A Review

Since I have reviewed the first book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series, I thought it was time I jumped into reviewing the second book, Storm Sister. This one is one that was in the middle for me. I enjoyed it, but there were elements I was critical of.

The Notion of Finding (Blood) Relatives being Problematic

I know I have already brought up this point in my review for Seven Sisters, but in the event you have not read it (in which I will have this in each review going forward), I will reiterate this here. That being a criticism that some readers may find. Essentially, it has to do with the fact that it has these adopted sisters, who spent their entire lives together, going out and looking into their blood family. It may come off as unnecessary as well as it may seem disingenuous for adopted siblings, and by extent adopted families, in general to do so. While I do see where that critique comes from, and wouldn’t dismiss it, I doubt that was the author’s intent. Having read all but the last book (which as of this post is unreleased), I personally never got that feeling. I could be wrong, which I am willing to accept, but I just didn’t read into it that way.

The Review

In this story, we get to learn more about Ally (Alcyone), the second eldest sister. After losing her fiancé, Theo, in a storm while sailing and the death of Pa Salt, to say she was in a bad place emotionally sounds accurate. She was also the only sister to see Pa Salt’s ship when he was buried at sea.

Ally’s story brings her to Norway in an attempt to learn more about Anna Landvik, a renowned singer. As she does, Ally learns more about her self and her family, and wonders about the missing seventh sister. She also discovers that, despite being dead, Theo left her with one last gift. Along the way she will encounter Tom and Felix, who she may or may not have a connection with (I’m not spoiling).

Positives

I would say that Ally’s story was a nice one to read. Getting to know Ally and how she’s different from Maia is great, as well as helping to make each sister feel different. I thought it was also neat to learn that Ally was nearby when Pa Salt was being buried at sea. Since it was something she and Pa Salt bonded over, it does give her some background into the relationship they had. And though maybe not as developed as it could have been, the connection she and her captain turned fiancé was built well enough despite her fiancé’s short time in the story

Anna’s story was pretty good as well. Having a character who had an affinity for music was a neat step away from the art studies that Izabelle went for.

Negatives

My main grip is with an element in Anna’s story. To me, Anna’s story felt kind of similar to Izabelle’s. Not in the sense of the set up (1st person for the present day character and 3rd for the person in the past), but because of Anna’s love life. While I do love the musical approach with Anna’s story, how she approached her love and marriage felt oddly similar to Izabelle’s in execution, where she had an affair with another man. It might not be that big of a deal for some readers, but it was what I had issue with.

Conclusion

I would give this story a seven point five out of ten. I thought it was a well written story with main characters that were well explored, and the Norwegian setting was a nice touch. However, the slight familiarity in Izabelle and Anna’s love life is what I feel made it suffer a little a bit. Regardless, I would certainly recommend this book whether you’ve read any of the others or not.

Seven Sisters: A Review

As the old saying goes, Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover. Covers have a way of drawing people in, and while that may not always mean the book is good, it was what got me into Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series.

Working at a library, I get to see what comes through on a pretty regular basis. A few years ago, someone had returned the large type copy of Moon Sister, the fifth book in the series. I picked it up, not knowing it was the fifth book at the time and was curious. So when I found out that Moon Sister was the fifth book in the series, I decided to give the whole series a try. While some people may argue that you can read them separately (in theory) since each story is about a different sister, I do feel it’s best enjoyed reading it in order. Plus, one book may reference back to a previous one, so reading the entire series certainly doesn’t hurt.

And that’s what I did. I mostly stuck with the large type versions when I could. Because while my sight doesn’t need larger print, I had a preference for reading it in Large Type. The only acceptations were with Shadow Sister (Book 3) since my library did not have a large type copy, Sun Sister (Book 6) since I checked it out when it first came out, and The Missing Sister (Book 7), which I purchased around it’s release date.

Series Synopsis

After the sudden death of Pa Salt, six sisters are reunited. All of them were adopted and each sister is named after a part of the Seven Sisters constellation, with the seventh remaining unfound. Each sister is given some information into their past, including a name and a location.

The Notion of Finding (Blood) Relatives being Problematic

Before I hop into the review, I would like to address. That criticism is one that I have seen with this series as a whole. Essentially, it has to do with the fact that it has these adopted sisters, who spent their entire lives together, going out and looking into their blood family. It may come off as unnecessary as well as it may seem disingenuous for adopted siblings, and by extent adopted families, in general to do so. While I do see where that critique comes from, and wouldn’t dismiss it, I doubt that was the author’s intent. Having read all but the last book (which as of this post is unreleased), I personally never got that feeling. I could be wrong, which I am willing to accept, but I just didn’t read into it that way.

Personally, I saw it as each character looking into where they came from while still being very close to the adopted family they grew up and bonded with. They already knew they were all adopted, with each sister comes from a different race and ethnicity, and loved their family through and through. I read it as each character looking into their family, based on the individual (who for the most part is deceased with living relatives) that Pa Salt wrote down for each sister.

The Review

In The Seven Sisters, our focus is on Maia, the eldest. She is a known translator and is the closest with Aly (Alycone). Her search brings her to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which leads her to finding an elderly lady living in the home Pa Salt gave Maia coordinates to. Along the way, Maia meets up Floriano, a man she has been translating a book for, and they both try to find out more about Izabela. During this time, Maia finds out more about her heritage, family, and love.

Positives

Overall, I feel like this book was a great way to set up what we would expect from the series going forward. It introduces the revelation of Pa Salt’s death, introduces the siblings, and sets up the journey each will be going on when they decide to look into their family history. It also introduces the set up of getting a look into the lives of the person each sister is looking into.

With how it’s split, I do feel like the change in point of view (first for the sister and third for the person they’re researching) is a good set up. While it might always not have to do that when dealing with this kind of set up, it doesn’t hurt the book. I think it is a creative way to separate the two characters.

Out of all the sisters, Maia is certainly one of my favorites. She didn’t seem overly spoiled and was curious. She also seemed to have a close bond with Pa Salt, which given that she is the eldest, it would make sense that she felt particularly closer to him than some of the others.

Izabela’s story was also a pretty interesting read. I enjoyed how she wanted to find love and learn. However, due to her family’s social status, she found it hard to find love that didn’t feel arranged. I also like how her story tied to the house and the elderly lady that lived in it.

Negatives

One critique I do see with these stories is how the dialogue doesn’t always feel good or how the sisters interact with each other. While I personally see where they are coming from, I would say that it was less of an issue for me when reading it. That’s not to say it couldn’t use work, just that other things bothered me more.

While I do get why the elderly lady doesn’t want to be bothered with Maia’s inquiry, I do feel like she was a little harsh/stubborn. It does work itself out eventually, but this was a character who wasn’t that likeable initially when I first read it.

And I can kind of agree with the critique with how Izabela treats the man she married. Because while I know she loved the gentleman who was working on Christ the Redeemer, but I do feel like they could have handled the husband and the constructor situation a little differently. Because, again, while I get the reason for it, it does feel a bit unfair for Izabela’s husband, who genuinely loved her.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give The Seven Sisters an eight out of ten. I enjoyed the concept and some of the characters, but there were areas that I feel it could have done better. This book is one of my favorites, with the Moon Sister being the other. So if you’re looking to check out something a little different, I would recommend giving it a try.