I remember the first time I heard about The Wicked Cometh on Twitter: “lesbian victorian detectives” someone said, and I was sold! It’s not a very thorough or entirely accurate description of this novel by Laura Carlin, but it’s not far wrong.
In London, 1831, Hester White is desperate to escape the slums by any means available to her. She is thrown into the world of the Brock family, and is drawn to the mysterious Rebekah Brock.
This is a dark and atmospheric thriller that takes the reader on a journey through the unravelling of secrets in a plot twist heavy narrative. I loved the descriptions of London and how brilliantly Laura Carlin is at establishing a strong sense of place and its impact on the characters. It is a slow-paced start and speeds through quickly to its conclusion, but the journey there is lusciously written and will definitely be loved by fans of gothic mysteries.
The paperback has just been released and you can buy it now.
Every week in 2019 I’m going to recommend an LGBTQ book to get off your shelves, or off the book shop/library shelves. It’s not just newly published books that deserve love, so I’m going to share my favourites not published in the last 12 months, and if you haven’t yet read them you should check them out.
This 2017 novel follows the story of Sri Lankan-American Lucky and her husband Krishna. The truth of their marriage is a secret only they know: both Lucky and Krishna are gay.
Lucky is forced to return home when her grandmother has a fall and while there she reconnects with her first lover, Nisha. All the old romantic feelings are rekindled but Nisha is about to marry a man. This impending marriage causes confusion for Lucky; she wants to stop Nisha from a marriage based on lies, but Nisha wants to have the comfort and support of her family, something she doesn’t feel she’ll get without the marriage.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies is a moving portrait of family ties, truth, and love. It is a deep exploration of what it means to live truthfully, and the reality many people face of being excluded from their families and communities if they are open about their sexuality. Sindu writes with depth and clarity, never shying away from uncomfortable moments, but instead embracing them with compassion and honesty.
I decided to look back on 2018 and write about all the great LGBTQ books I read this year, except I found a bit of a problem with this. I read so many many that the resulting blog post would be longer than anyone wants to read!
This means I’ve had to do the painful task of trying to whittle it down to a top 10 – this was painful, but after weeks of agonising I’ve finally managed it.
If you got some book vouchers for Christmas and don’t know what to spend them on, have a look at the books below, you can’t go far wrong with these. I’ll also be posting my preview of books to look out for in 2019, so if you’ve already read all the books in this post, come back soon for another round of suggestions.
Top 10 (in no particular order)
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) L. C. Rosen
Yes, I’m definitely cheating by including this one, as the paperback is still due for release in the UK, but you can buy the US hardback, and get hold of the ebook easily, and you definitely should.
Full of positive representations of gay sex, explorations of the desexualisation of LGBTQ people in order to make them acceptable to a straight cis audience, and a smattering of stalker drama, this YA contemporary novel is perfect to get you thinking, laughing, and being shocked (if you get shocked by descriptions of threesomes). My full review is here. You can preorder the paperback now.
The Wicked Cometh Laura Carlin
This gothic historical novel is out in paperback very soon, so I’ll be reviewing it in full in the new year to coincide with that. A story set in London in 1832 about women pushing themselves out of their confined roles, investigating crimes, and loving each other.
Heart-warming, heart-breaking, brilliantly realistic and honest. Skylarks deals sensitively with poverty, class, and social injustice whilst giving us a slow-burn romance between two teenage girls.
And what’s not to love about a romance that blossoms while working in a library? I honestly couldn’t put this down and was gripped from the first page. Available to buy now.
The Absolutist John Boyne
A novel of the First World War, set in the immediate years after but travelling back to the trenches to tell the story of 20-year-old Tristan and his life, love, and the trauma of war.
It is predictably depressing, as so many historical novels about gay men are, but the realities are handled sensitively and with compassion. Available to buy now.
Noah Could Never Simon James Green
If you’re looking for a break from all the misery of the historical novels I’ve recommended so far, you can’t do better than Simon James Green’s absolutely hilarious novels.
If you’ve not yet read it, get hold of the first book Noah Can’t Even, before moving on to the second instalment in the life of poor Noah Grimes. The YA book is a mystery, an adventure, a romance, and is (of course) full of embarrassing conundrums that Noah will once again fail to deal with very well, it’s available to buy now.
Mussolini’s Island Sarah Day
Now we’re back to the depressing historical novels, sorry. Set in Italy in 1939, this is a fictionalised account of the true story of an island where gay men were imprisoned. A thriller as well as a deeply moving account of the realities of being a gay man in the 1930s. It is well written and impeccably researched, and is available to buy now.
Running With Lions Julian Winters
Let’s move right back to the more cheerful contemporary novels, but with no less an important point to make. This YA novel, set in a US soccer summer camp, is a brilliant exploration of the role sports can play in bridging differences, celebrating diversity, and providing the space for a queer summer romance. I can’t wait to read Julian’s next novel, because this debut is outstanding – you can buy it now.
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea Shyam Selvadurai
This 2007 novel was recommended to me by the author of the next book in my list (thanks Sophie!) and quickly became a favourite read this year. Set in the monsoon season in Sri Lanka in 1980, this novel is about a young boy trying to find his place in the world, while falling in love with his Canadian cousin, to the backdrop of the school production of Othello.
This is a tale about family, friendship, sexuality, identity, loyalty, and first love. Selvadurai captures the atmosphere of a time and place perfectly and writes with heartbreaking honesty. It’s available to buy now.
Out of the Blue Sophie Cameron
Set in Edinburgh during the festival, when angels are falling from the sky (not figuratively), this book is about grief, love, friendship, obsession, and gives great instructions on how you might go about hiding an angel you who’s fallen to earth. A beautiful novel that I can’t recommend more – buy it now.
The Gloaming Kirsty Logan
My final recommendation has to be included because everything Kirsty Logan does is exquisite. A magical tale of love and grief, full of fairy tales. The novel also explores family relationships and tensions, it gives a haunting portrayal of the ties that bring us home and those that push us away, and it delves deep into grief. A truly magical tale of love available to buy now.
I’ll be posting again in the next few days my anticipated reads of 2019 – they won’t all be new releases because older books deserve some love too, come back soon for more LGBTQ reads.
If you’re looking for a creepy horror book to sink your teeth into this winter, I can highly recommend Under My Skin by Juno Dawson. This book reminded me why I read horror when I was a teenager, except it was infinitely better than anything I read back in the day.
At 17 years old Sally Feathers is just like a lot of young women her age, desperate to make it to the end of school in one piece without any major traumas. Her routine and ordinary life is changed when she encounters a mysterious tattoo parlour in the seedier side of town and is instantly drawn to an image of the beautiful Molly Sue.
Sally images having a secret Molly Sue tattoo on her back will inspire her with the confidence to get a part in the school musical, and perhaps talk to that hot guy who’s dating one of the cool girls. What she didn’t bargain on is Molly Sue having other ideas.
This is an exquisite YA book exploring deeply disturbing ideas of power, loneliness, confidence, identity – all through the medium of carefully crafted and interesting characters in their high school setting. I loved this book and how the strong voices and personalities of the characters shone through the fast moving plot.
Atmospheric and dark, but full of personality and courage, this book is the perfect read for a warm night inside on these dark nights.
I managed to write a post of what I read in July…and then forgot to make it live! So here’s a bumper issue of LGBTQ+ books you can get stuck into as we enter autumn and all stop melting into a sweaty puddle! If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.
I finally got hold of the much anticipated THE MADONNA OF BOLTON, a crowdfunded novel from Unbound that became the fastest funded in their history. It tells the story of Charlie, whose life changes when he gets his first Madonna record on his 9th birthday. The novel follows Charlie’s life from childhood in the 1980s to the present day, with Madonna’s music the ever present back-drop guiding him through life’s difficult moments. A poignant, funny, and ultimately heart-warming of a boy growing up gay in Britain from the 1970s to now.
I also read:I Am Nobody’s N***** by Dean Atta, a collection of poems that I can’t stop thinking about weeks after reading. My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton, yet another brilliant novel from the ever marvellous Keris, funny, uplifting, full of hope and sex – I adored this book a lot. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera– I don’t know why I continue ready Adam’s books when all I do is end up an emotional wreck – this book destroyed me in it’s subject matter and how brilliantly Adam dealt with memory, grief, and coming to terms with your sexuality.
So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released this summer? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.
Set in Edinburgh during the festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tells the story of Jaya, whose father has, since the death of her mother, become obsessed with angels. His obsession started when angels started falling from the sky. But when an angel falls right in front of Jaya, she must decide how she’s going to keep this secret and protect the angel from the people who would harm the being. This was a completely unexpected story that took me to places I wasn’t prepared for. It is a beautiful story that explores grief and how it’s possible to move on and still find happiness.
Everyone kept telling me to read this book, and they weren’t wrong. STARRING KITTY is the story of 14-year-old Kitty who falls in love with Dylan, a 15-year old girl who lives next door to her gran. Kitty is not coping well with her mum’s illness, and hasn’t yet told her friends that she likes girls. This absolutely adorably cute novel is just perfect, it explores first love and friendship, taking us on a journey as Kitty struggles to bring together all the parts of her life, let Dylan into her world, and open up to her friends about her relationship.
I’m looking forward to getting started on volume 2 of this adorable, funny, beautifully illustrated graphic novel.
When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the only ones who don’t treat him like a new kid, the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Not only does he gain great, lifetime friends, Jory is also introduced to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain. With the unpredictable twists and turns of the underground world, the Backstagers venture into the unknown, determined to put together the best play their high school has ever seen.
I’ve bought some books recently that have been added to the top of my to-read pile, and I’m really looking forward to getting around to reading them:
Recently nominated for the Polari Prize, this novel is based on the true story of the arrest and interment of gay men in Sicily 1939.
Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. As Francesco is herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone must have handed a list of names to the fascist police. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.
A story about coming of age in rural America, family, love, mystery, and magic. I can’t wait to read this very soon.
Seventeen-year-old Aidan Lockwood lives in the sleepy farming community of Temperance, Ohio?known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in five years, moves back to town and opens Aidan’s eyes in startling ways: to Aidan’s ability to see the spirit world; to the red-bearded specter of Death; to a family curse that has claimed the lives of the Lockwood men one by one . . . and to the new feelings he has developed for Jarrod.
I’m taking a trip to Gay’s The Word next week to purchase more great LGBTQ+ books, so if you have any recommendations let me know. Below are the books I’m looking forward to getting hold of in the next month of so:
Okay, so it’s not out until next year, but get Proud added to your to-read pile (and your Goodreads, and your pre-orders) now. This illustrated anthology from Stripes will be hitting shelves in March, and I know I’m not the only one excited to read all the stories.
It’s nearly July, so it’s about time I did a round-up of what LGBTQ+ books I read in June, what I’m looking forward to, and other recommendations. If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.
June was a great month for books, and here are some of the best ones that were released recently:
Noah and Harry are now officially boyfriends, but is Noah ready to go all the way? It’s no help that a group of cosmopolitan French exchange students have descended on Little Fobbing – including sexy Pierre Victoire, who seems to have his eye on Harry! Meanwhile, Noah’s paired up with a girl … who, most outrageously, is not even French. But that’s not all: the police are monitoring Noah, and he can’t tell if it’s because his dad and secret half-brother, Eric, have made off with his gran’s fake diamonds; because his PE teacher is receiving mysterious cash infusions from Russia; or because drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah’s house in the midst of a knock-down, bare-knuckled drag feud. Will Noah ever catch a break?
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realises the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
And More:Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano (YA, Contemporary) – a funny and adorably cute story of 14 year old Dylan’s summer holiday love-hate relationship with a caravan park’s hamster mascot.
So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released yesterday? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.
Keep your head down and don’t borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it’s seen her family through some tough times. It’s not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad’s bad back, or the threat of losing their house.
So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni’s pretty sure they’re destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged – the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy.
But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver …
Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met. As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life?
I’ve read some fantastic books in the last month, many of which I’ve recommended in this post already. But there are loads more and here are a selection of my top recommendations.
James is 34 and fed up. His six-year relationship with Adam has imploded, he hates his job making up celebrity gossip, and his best friend Bella has just announced she’s moving to Russia. Adrift and single in loved-up London, James needs to break out of his lonely, drunken comfort zone. Encouraged by Bella, he throws himself headlong into online dating, blogging each encounter anonymously as the mysterious Romeo
After meeting a succession of hot/weird/gross men, James has fans and the validation he’s always craved. But when his wild night with a closeted Olympian goes viral and sends his Twitter-fame through the roof, James realises maybe, in the search for happy-ever-after, some things are better left un-shared. Seriously, wherefore art thou Romeo
And More: More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-fi/Dystopia) – As beautifully written, moving, and confusing as you’d expect from a Ness novel; The Third Reel by S.J. Naude (Fiction, Historical) – a wander through 80s London, East and West Germany, and an exploration of film history, love, sex, and obsession.
Coming out next month is the brilliant Floored, a collaborative novel by seven YA authors (Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood). It features a bisexual main character who is just one of 6 main characters, and is out on 10th July and can be pre-ordered now.
I loved this book and the different views the story is being told from. It’s full of friendship, love, compassion and so much heart.
F, M or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary
This anthology of writing about gender is technically already available as it was recently funded on Kickstarter – but I’m adding it to coming soon because I can’t yet see it online for sale, but it should be very soon. Keep an eye on the publisher’s website for more information.
I’m gonna be honest with you, full disclosure, I only started to read Running With Lions because I’d been told it was super queer. I’m not a soccer fan, am dubious about most team sports in fact, and wasn’t sure it would be my kinda thing at all. But I read it because I’m always here for the LGBTQ books, and I figured if it was good I could recommend it to others who might like it.
Predictable plot twist: I think this is one of the best LGBTQ YA novels I’ve read this year.
This book is getting a lot of love online, all of it deserved. I think one reason people are so passionate about it is that it speaks to its readers on so many levels. For those who read wanting to see themselves in a book, there is an outstanding range of people represented (sexuality, gender, religion, race, ethnicity – all are dealt with sensitively and effortlessly). For those who read wanting to be taken into a world that isn’t theirs, I guarantee you’ll finish the book wanting to play Soccer (admittedly very briefly, my consideration of team sports lasted a whole hour, but for that hour I was deeply passionate about my new love).
It’s one of those brilliantly written YA novels that is so subtle at drawing you in and getting you inside the minds of characters whose voices are so strong they seem like friends you’ve always known. I did love main character Sebastian and found him rather charming, but I totally fell in love with Emir.
This fantastic novel is the summer soccer camp romance between a bisexual American goalie and his gay British Pakistani former-best-friend-now-enemy YA novel that you’ve been waiting for. This is a funny, uplifting, sexy, romantic, and bloody excellent novel! I can’t wait to read what Julian Winters writes next.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but I’ll be buying my own copy very soon and you should too – you won’t regret it!
Last year Noah Can’t Even made us all fall in love with the chaotic and mostly hapless Noah Grimes (sorry Noah, we love you, but how do you get yourself into these situations?). This year, be prepared to launch yourself back into Noah’s whirlwind of drama and angst, with the brilliant follow-up Noah Could Never.
Now that Noah and best friend Harry are boyfriends, how is this going to change their friendship? What if Harry decides he’s actually not that interested in weedy Noah but would prefer the much sexier French exchange student Pierre? What disasters will befall Noah when his gran’s diamonds are stolen and he finds himself in the middle of an epic drag queen feud?
I adored Noah Can’t Even and had high expectations going into Book 2. I was worried it might not be as funny, I was worried that it might just be more of the same high-jinks chaos. I didn’t need to worry. Yes, it’s just as funny. Yes, it’s the same chaos you’d expect from Noah Grimes. However, there is so much heart to Noah Could Never. Noah’s life isn’t just a series of chaotic mistakes, they’re believable episodes in the life of someone unsure of themselves and trying to find their way.
I loved that characters we saw briefly in Book 1 (e.g. Bambi Sugapops) are fully realised and developed. I loved that Harry, who we know a bit from Book 1, is explored in greater depths as a person, not just in his relation to Noah. I love that there’s more Gran and I identify with her sassiness in so many ways.
Noah Could Never is the perfect follow-up to the first book. It’s full of emotion, drama, humour, and love. Plus, it made me cry lots, in a good way.
Book 3? I would very much love a book written from Harry’s perspective because I adore him so much, but anything featuring more of the adventures of Noah would be very welcome. Another Book 3 suggestion – Bambi Sugapops, the Novel – you know it makes sense Simon!
Genres: YA, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Funny
Published:7th June 2018 Available to buy now
With his debut novel Simon James Green has written one of the funniest books I have ever read. I wouldn’t recommend reading whilst eating (I nearly choked) or whilst drinking (I nearly spat my tea all over the pages and ruined them) or whilst…sitting (I nearly fell off my chair laughing). I may be being too cautious, but the danger is real!
Noah Grimes is painfully awkward, socially uncomfortable, and has an amazing knack for getting himself (or talking himself) into the most ridiculous situations.
Noah’s life is already difficult enough, trying to stop everyone finding out his mum does a Beyonce tribute act, and trying to get Sophie to like him, but his world is turned upside down when his best friend Harry kisses him at a party. What follows is a turbulent journey through Noah’s path of self-discovery.
Noah is an incredibly likable character and is written with a distinctive voice unlike anything I’ve read recently. Funny, charming, emotional, and an outstanding exploration of a young man trying to understand his sexuality whilst also trying to just be as normal as everyone else. I love this book so much, and I really hope we get to read more of Noah’s adventures in future.
Genres: LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Young Adult
Published: May 4th 2017 I bought my copy of Noah Can’t Even from Wordery
It’s hard to know what else you can possibly add to a book that already has all the glowing reviews in the world. There is a reason some books are hyped, and everyone says “you need to read this”, because sometimes it’s true.
What Belongs To You tells the story of an American teacher living in Bulgaria who first meets Mitko in a public bathroom, where he pays him for sex. Throughout the subsequent years Mitko’s continued involvement in his life gives us a view into a relationship that is hard to define.
This is an intimate story detailing every minute aspect of a mans life as he tries to navigate his way between the deep sensual attachment he has to Mitko, and the undercurrent of violence and anger always present. Theirs is a relationship of obsession, lust, love, and dependence.
Garth Greenwell’s writing is effortlessly exquisite, building beautiful sentences that call out to be re-read and re-read time and again.
I love books that detail the small connections between two people and What Belongs To You is one of the most honest and human portrayals of that intimacy that I have read in a long time.