I wanted to recommend a few books and realised that we didn't seem to have a reading recommendation thread! Well, now we do.
It'll probably overlap with Mini-Reviews in at least some ways, but this is more specifically for works that can be read, and for recommendations. Meaning that we can include some reviewing to entice others to read that thing we like while avoiding spoilers. We can also recommend without any comments. "Just read this. Trust me. When have I ever misled you.
Educated by Tara Westover. Educated is the memoir of a woman who was raised by Mormon survivalists preparing for doomsday in the mountains of Idaho. Her family stayed clear of mainstream healthcare and anything linked to the government. The children were homeschooled when not busy working. Tara Westover then went to college, taught herself to think and read critically, educated herself almost from scratch, studied history that she'd never heard of before, earned scholarships, went to Harvard and Cambridge. Her relationship with her family changed a lot over that time. Her story and her path are incredible, she's an amazing person, and I think this is a very important book. Content warnings
physical, psychological and religious abuse, denial of medical care, car crash, electrocution, burns, animal death... probably more
The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf. A graphic memoir of four books so far, with at least two more to come. The author tells his childhood with his French mother and his Sunni Syrian father, as they live in Libya, Syria and France in the 70s and 80s. Cultures, political climates, various regimes, news of war, the father's political views and mental health are all depicted through the candid gaze of a child, with fittingly minimalistic art. Bichromatic colour schemes specific to each location add an emotional background to the recollections. I particularly appreciate that the memories are simply laid down and the readers are left to form their own interpretations and opinions. A stack of content warnings
bigotry, sexism, antisemitism, propaganda, bullying, animal abuse, lack of sanitation etc.
The Bellybuttons, comic by Maryse Dubuc, a guilty pleasure I've been reading since middle school. (I... don't know if you can actually buy it in English >_> but I'm pretty sure it's been translated.) Jenny and Vicky, two high school queen bees and frenemies, try hard to be attractive and popular. Karine is their kind, sensible, insecure gangly foil and victim. Or the protagonist, depending how you see things. The first three volumes are mostly plotless gags, dark comedy - so much dark comedy - sometimes crass and ableist, but it was real and relatable to me because I went to school with those girls. It's mean and offensive, and I wouldn't bother to mention it except that from volume 4, it gets loads better. A third, worse bully pushes Karine further, so low that her character transforms radically and evolves. And this seemingly shallow comic, while keeping its gags, gradually delves into the long-term effects of bullying, manipulation, depression. Jenny and Vicky are also given development as their backgrounds are revealed. (Mild spoilers)
Vicky is held to high standards by her aggressive, competitive mother and sister who pressure and fat-shame her. A storm is brewing there and this arc will continue in the next volume. Jenny is a chronic shoplifter who lives in poverty with a neglectful mother and younger siblings. Jenny falls in love with a boy who is sweet and genuinely loves her but - gasp- chubby. She tries to date him in secret, but get this, he refuses, because he knows he's worth better than that. Favourite character right there.
Volume 8 has just come out. (In French.) I'm pleased with the progression and how the arcs are being handled and hopeful for the next resolutions. Too many content warnings.
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Book one of the Imperial Radch trilogy, and my favourite book of all time. On a backwater planet, a soldier called Breq continues her quest for revenge. Revenge for what, you may ask? Breq was one just one of the many bodies controlled by a massive warship called Justice of Toren...but something happened, and now she's alone. The series explores Breq's personality, nature and interpersonal relationships in a really powerful, indirect fashion. I picked up the book initially because of the AI-ish protagonist, ace-ish protagonist, and the fact that it's set in a society without any concept of gender ('she' is used for every character, unless they're interacting with people from other cultures in another language.) I always find it really hard to sell people on this book, as so much of what I love about it is a spoiler. You just need to trust me on this one! And then cry with me over the fact we'll never own the beautiful limited edition cover, with Breq and Seivarden being wonderful sob.
The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. The first book in a series of four novellas (and an upcoming novel!) Next to Breq, Murderbot may be my fave protagonist of all time. It's a 'construct' (part machine, part cloned human material) which just wants to be left alone to watch soap operas...but then the humans it's contracted to protect get into danger and UGH. It has to do its job properly! Full of feelz, explosions, intrigue, absolutely amazing characters, and just...general AWESOMENESS, this series ranks very highly on my List of Faves. Lots of LGBTA+ content too! Murderbot itself is totally uninterested in all that stuff ("even if I had the parts for it, I don't think I would be interested"- very ace robbiitt, I love it), and other characters cover the first four letters.
I will add more later for sure! But these two series are ones I Very Much A++ Love, so they sprang to mind first.
You know the story- there's a school for wizards, and a Chosen One who must save all of wizardkind! Only...Simon Snow isn't very good at being the Chosen One. He has trouble controlling his magic- when it even works- and he's constantly fighting with his most-probably-definitely-a-vampire roommate, Basil. Thankfully Simon's best friend Penny and his girlfriend Agatha are always there to encourage and support him! This book has a few cool twists (and a few predictable ones), but overall it was a mega enjoyable read, and possibly my fave YA book ever. I fully intend on flinging my copy at my younger sister when I actually purchase it (I'm waiting until I can buy this and the sequel at the same time.)
One character is gay and the book briefly goes into the tension this causes with his father, and later in the book another character starts to explore the possibility that he may be bi, so there's even a nice tiny bit of LGBT representation here. =) And the sequel comes out in just a few months- Wayward Son. But don't look up the cover for that one just yet, tharr be spoilers! xP
Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw (Urban fantasy, humour, mystery, LGBT+ rep in sequels.)
Just a genuinely delightful read! Dr. Greta Helsing is a doctor for the undead. From her practice in London she addresses health problems in a variety of supernatural beings such as ghouls, vampires, mummies and...whatever her father's old friend Fass is (Greta's never been quite sure.)
There's a gay character and an ace character. Neither is very apparent in the first book, but the former is clearer in the second and when I met the author she said the latter will be made explicit in the third. In the second book there's also a wlw couple.
The third book comes out soon and the cover for that one is SO LOVELY, I'm excited.
I'm also waiting on a couple cool books in the mail which I have high hopes for, and hopefully can recommend those as well!
As soon as I heard about this novel, I was super excited for it. An almost all-lady adventuring party, with a romance between a beautiful noble knight and a scruffy thief? It just sounded so wonderful, and it didn't disappoint.
In terms of technical brilliance (language choice, writing style, plot, flow, etc), this book is good, but not excellent. What made me love it was the little details of the characters, the magic system, and just seeing myself in a cool medieval fantasy almost for the first time. I hadn't realised before but mostly when I read books in this vein, there's a lady in the main crowd, maybe two. In this book all but two of the major characters are women, and the random background characters- guards, magistrates, farmers, etc- are almost always ladies as well. I hadn't realised before but they're usually guys in other books I read, so this was a cool moment as well! It felt like a nice medieval fantasy for Me, that I could imagine myself in if I wanted, and that was lovely.