Light and heartwarming LGBT reading for times in need (and some even for free).

During lockdown and quarantine I’ve realized my brain has unconsciously drifted towards the need of light and not too heavy reading due to my inability to stay focused. Because when there’s so much happening in the world, sometimes your brain can take a rest, right?

So I thought I could share some of the stuff I’ve been reading or have read before but fits into what I’m trying to do here so you can enjoy some nice queer content and forget about the dystopian world we live in for a bit. Most of the options I’m going to give won’t take longer than maybe a day or day and a half to read so they’re a good in-between while deciding what to read next! On top of that, next month is Pride’s month so maybe it’s queer up your TBR a little.

The following recommendations are going to be a mix of books and graphic novels and webcomics (lots of webcomics). All of them are either quite cheap OR FREE TO READ ON THE INTERNET! Because we gay and broke over here. If you do want to buy any books now please remember to try support your local bookshop/comicshop. Hope you enjoy it and please give them a read!

Non-free stuff:

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Published by First Second Books

Sapphic angst.

That’s it, I have nothing else to say.

WELL, ACTUALLY, YES I DO. I read this magnificent graphic novel at the end of last year and haven’t been able to stop thing about it. The emotions, the development and characters are so real it makes you dive right into the psique of the characters. The art is absolutely GORGEOUS using only black, white and pink throughout the whole novel.

Price: less than £15.

Made by Mariko Tamaki (author of This One Summer and some Lumberjanes numbers) and Rosemary Valero-O’Conell (author of Steven Universe: Too Cool For School) this was a winning combination and DANM.

Strip from page 8.

As a quick summary of the plot you could say Freddy (the main character) gets emotionally fucked by Laura Dean (our lesbian antagonist) over and over but she tries hard to get out of this toxic relationship. But it’s so much more than Freddy’s life, her friend Doodle gets a side story, ultimately influenced by Freddy’s distancing of her friends, which will make your heart feel like mashed potatoes.

Despite the heavy topics featured it’s a very quick read even stopping to appreciate the art. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with a variety of LGBT representation. There’s truly no wonder why it has won so many awards. And you know what? I’d probably let Laura Dean fuck my heart up as well.

Red, White and Royal Blue

Published by St. Martin’s Press

There’s very few people now who haven’t heard or read this book by now.

It’s a very quick read because it’s literally… a fanfic made book. It’s a nice read and the thought of it it’s quite appealing. Usual m/m romance WITH THE TWIST of them being THE SON OF THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF USA AND THE PRINCE OF WALES WOW SHOCK.

Price: less than £15.

tw: sex.

Basically, the book follows the romance of Alex, ‘the fist son’ of the US, and Henry, the British prince and their journey FROM ENEMIES TO LOVERS. My favorite ship dynamic, truly delicious. The book contains a lot of diplomacy and side stories which really round up the book and prevents it from being, well, a horny fanfic. I must say there were too many explicit sex scenes for my personal taste, but they spice up the book and certainly will keep a lot of readers WAY more invested. In general a nice m/m book to enjoy as a lighter read with a feel-good ending in case you need that.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Published by a lot of people

This is an absolute oldie BUT GOLDIE. Anyone who knows me has heard me talk about this book for ages because I read it when I was still discovering my true self and opening up to the world and it just shook me in ways no other book had before.

Also, I must say my copy of this book has visited at least four countries and has been read around 20 times by at least 4 different people. It’s truly special.

Price: between £8 and £14.

tw: violence.

For anyone who don’t know it, the book is about the self discovery of Aristotle and Dante, two gay boys confused and unaware of the posibilites the world holds for them. The great thing about this book is the two (of the many) very stereotypical yet accurate ways of coming out: aggressively trying to deny the truth and have it punch you in the face or accept it very naturally since the beginning without really knowing how it’ll backfire. Tag yourself I’m the second one. It’s a very fast paced and quick book to read with really short chapters, you could easily finish it in an afternoon if you want to get that cozy feeling on the inside.

Aristotle, Dante I still fucking love you so much even seven years after reading about you guys YOU HEAR ME?!

Princess Princess Ever After

Published by Oni Press

This one is also pretty well know, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should.

Katie O’Neill is an awarded children graphic novelist but her work can be enjoyed at any age really.

She creates the softest worlds and characters and her queer representation is subtle yet natural, she doesn’t make a big deal out of it and I think that’s the best part of her books.

Price: around £8.

The plot of Princess Princess is very obvious: PRINCESS (Amira) RESCUES PRINCESS (Sadie) AND LIVE A SAPPHIC FANTASY AND ROMANCE YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS FEED US THAT LESBIAN CONTENT WE DESERVE. Extremely cute style and soft colours, irreverent yet soft and lovable characters. Literally an indulgent feel-good read when in need of a spirit lift.

Strip from page 2.

This one used to be a webcomic but sadly it isn’t available for free anymore probably due to how successful it is now, sorry.

and now onto…

Free reads:

These are all webcomics, both finished and on-going. Some of them are published now and others aren’t so I’ll link a way of supporting the artist for this free and wonderful content they give us.

Click on the titles to read!

Tea Dragon Society

Published by Oni Press
Support her Patreon!

Yes, Katie O’Neill again.

This one is my all time favorite graphic novel series it just makes me feel like cotton candy. Soft and fluffy.

This is a webcomic that got published but it’s still available for free! The web is really cute has an almanac of the tea dragons, a character list and even a recommendation list.

It’s become series now so it has a prequel-kinda book called The Tea Dragon Festival and a sequel The Tea Dragon Tapestry!

The story follows Greta, who discovers a lost tea dragon in the market and brings it back to the tea shop. There, she befriends the tea shop owners Hesekiel and Erik (SOFT GAYS) and Minette and she realizes tea dragons are cute as hell so she invests herself in the queerness of it all. Also, tea dragons are tiny dragons which grow tea leaves on their horns and as they usually are linked to a person they hold said person’s memories (ISN’T THIS JUST TO DIE FOR?)

Strip from page 10.

As in Princess Princess, very cute style and characters, BEAUTIFUL settings and a very easy to follow development. The tea dragons are absolutely adorable and it’s worth reading just for them.

Heartstopper

Published by Hodder Children’s Books
Support her Patreon!

(ongoing)

It’s available on Tapas, which is the webcomic lovers’ lord and saviour, it’s kind of the comic equivalent of Wattpad/Archive of your own.

Anyways, these guys, very gay, much angst and romance. The style is like not so perfect on propuse and everything’s black and white. Simple, straightforward, go read.

tw: eating disorders, bullying.

It focuses on Charlie and Nick and their (short) journey from SCHOOL MATES TO ACQUAINTANCES TO FRIENDS TO LOVERS. Charlie is easy to relate to, a bullied gay boy who overthinks his own existence, and he falls in love with the big rugby player who’s actually a softie that cares for him, Nick. Exquisitely soft and heartwarming with the exact pinch of angst to keep you reading. It deals with some heavy stuff in a very light manner like coming out stress, eating disorders or self esteem issues. It also features other LGBT characters which I think it’s always important to shake off the gay-only bias on any LGBT-related content.

Rock and Riot

Published by CreateSpace

THIS ONE IS THE ONE GUYS, THIS IS IT.

I’ll just say this: Grease, but queer.

I found it recently and I’ve already read it three times, it’s funny, lovable, well structured and just a masterpiece in general.

It looks a bit plot-loose at first until Chelsey builds up the story and the characters. It’s very short and you don’t get too much build up time but it doesn’t matter you love them in the second page I’m not joking.

As in Grease, the story revolves around two gangs: The Rollers and The Jaquettes, in this case we need to add The Bandits as well. They’re a very diverse group of characters with the perfect mix of egocentric, shy, jock, nerdy, loud and over-the-top personalities that really make the comic come together and keep you glued to the screen.

The premise is very basic, high school life leading to a prom where they can’t be themselves and with who they want to. A lot of coming out in their way to a very queer ending.

Strip from page 13, chapter 14: Ace of Hearts.

There’re lesbians, bi, gender non-conforming, trans characters and you just have to love them all.

It’s also very cartoony so the style looks very familiar and it’s very very easy to get used to.

Aspera

Support Albin on his Ko-fi

tw: blood.

(ongoing)

I’m a big fan of illustrators and I follow A LOT of them in social media, mostly because I’m jealous of people with artistic talent so I like to wow at their work.

And Aspera is no exception, I started it last year, it went on hiatus and NOW IT’S BACK!! So that’s my main reason to recommend it. You can really see the style evolution before and after which is really cool but altogether all the art is very cozy with autumn color vibes.

The plot focusses on a group of friends studying various types of art in Paris and their own personal stories, for now the main individual focus has been on Dimitriy and Raleigh and I sense Murphy’s story is coming but we’ll have to wait and see!

Basically the comic follow bits of their daily lives and endeavours. All the characters are extremely pretty and easy to love despite the little we know about most of them.

The story has a lot of potential and for now it’s very appealing and well-thought so I really really recommend giving it a chance.

Strip from chapter 2, page 27.

And most importantly, they’re all a very LGBT-diverse group which I personally think is amazing and close to a lot of our realities as me, for example, tend to befriend very few cishet people for some reason.

And that’s it!

I hope you enjoyed it, if you’ve read all of the above please head my way to more recs my brain is an bottomless well of queer content. I left out a lot of stuff out like Not Your Sidekick, Never Satisfied or Mooncakes because of they’re more fantasy and not as fast to read as the above for example. Let me know what you’ve read or if I’ve convinced you of reading any of the above!!!

Thank you!!

Circe and The Penelopiad, two takes on feminist mythology retelling.

*This post contains very mild spoilers of both books and intense spoilers about greek mythology, as much of a spoiler as you can consider myths*

I read Circe by Madeline Miller a while ago and I just got around to finally read The Penelopiad by the iconic Margaret Atwood at the beginning of lockdown – which was two months ago, yes, I know. Having the stories of both books smushed in my head made me realize a couple of things that with time, and the more I thought about them, turned into big monsters that needed to get out and be shared with the world.

Before reading these two books I must say I wasn’t quite aware that feminist retellings were a big thing, even enough to be awarded, and I was happily surprised by it – like if my reading list wasn’t long enough. There’s a whole movement called ‘Feminist revisionist mythology’ – I’m looking forward doing a big research on it – and in which there are a lot of female authors involved, here’s a Wikipedia link because it can actually be useful sometimes, okay?

The Penelopiad is a book that I had been wanting to read since a friend told me about it a couple of years ago and the whole idea of it shocked me. Most people define it as ‘The Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective’, and I was like ‘wow, that sounds amazing get that empowerment Penelope my girl’. Due to several obstacles like being broke or a whole thesis getting in my way, I finally got around to read it now and I was as wowed as when I first heard about the book. Margaret already said that she doesn’t really describe the book as feminist but rather a reclaiming of the female stories our old patriarchal world has stolen from us, and I quite agree with that. I’d say it applies to both books, but we’ll talk about it later on.

The Penelopiad is Penelope’s story, it’s the behind the scenes of the Odyssey, what Homer never told us. Penelope, from the Hades, walks us through her life starting from Sparta and her family relations, to her marriage to Odysseus and mostly focus on the years he was gone and her personality, thoughts and opinions. The book also takes a central look on the twelve maids Telemachus killed to impress his father and just left hanging in the palace, they are argued to be the true protagonists of the story, but I’m not going to get into that.

Margaret’s brain is truly something I wish I could kiss, the book kind of reminds you of an actual Greek drama??? She did that??? And it alternates Penelope narrating the events and the choral commentary of the twelve maids. That final Law & Order scene is just *chef kiss*. Let’s not forget that the book is also supposed to take place in the 21st century so the modern world touches are always flying around. There are a lots of technical and topic analysis of the book by far smarter people so if you’re interested in that please head to Google Academics there are thousands of thesis and articles.

But before reading The Penelopiad, I read Circe and the contrast and similarities of both of them became clear to me.

I must admit that the reason why I read Circe is purely that I had kept hearing how it was so much better than The Song of Achilles. And I have to confess, very controversially, that I didn’t quite love this last one as much as everyone. I found Madeline’s writing tedious and slow, with a lot of swirls in the way she presented the characters just as if she was taking the reader in and out of their conscience constantly and, as a reader with a massive lack of attention spam, you need to keep me focused and on track -which she didn’t. But I kept reading for the gays, anything for them. So, after that disappointment of a book, I decided to give her another chance with Circe as a couple of friends had recommended it as well and my expectations were actually a bit higher because of the idea of reclaiming mythology and all that.

For those of you who don’t know, Circe revolves around the life of the witch Circe, widely known in history for being that one lonely witch who turned Odysseus’s crew into pigs. But in the book Madeline takes it back to the very beginning, to Circe’s childhood and the building up of her character mostly explaining the traumas that will lead her to be the evil and heartless witch exiled to an island, like the constant bullying from her family or the backfires from her ‘good actions’. But most of the story takes place in her adulthood, during her exile and its vicissitudes, like the tricks the Gods play on her, the several visitors she has, taking Odysseus most of the pages, and the few travels she does out of Aeaea. There’re also lots of greek mythology cameos.

So, why do I think these two books aren’t feminist? Because the stories weren’t feminist to start with. Both thrive to, as said before, reclaim the voice of these two female characters that weren’t even given a voice in their original appearances and, as far as that, they make it. But both books have ‘feminist flaws’ which actually make sense in some ways like trying to stay true to the original time and society of the myths, so trying to be historically correct-ish. Some examples are Penelope staying away from her suitors and keeping herself true to her husband or Circe being tricked several times by men and thinking of herself as inferior even if she’s… a literal witch.

Despite this, I believe Margaret does a far better job fighting for a better representation of Penelope in her work. She depicts a Penelope who wasn’t just ‘truthful’ to her husband, she was smart enough not to try mess with the patriarchal society and get punished or loose the power she had over Ithaca with Odysseus gone; a Penelope that has her own thoughts and opinions and who plots her own strategy to take advantage of the suitors situation until a cis straight man comes and ruins it all (play that Crazy Ex-Girldfriend song that’s famous on TikTok ‘Let’s Generalize about Men‘ in the background). So, negative feminist points for Penelope for turning a bit submissive when her husband comes back and just fold up small in the background and for continuously hating on Helen of Troy for being the most beautiful woman to ever exist etc. all along the book when it’s widely know we, women, have to stick together (I take this chance to remember everyone that we SHOULD, out of decency, hate TERFs because we love our trans sisters over close minded individuals thanx).

Meanwhile, Madeline takes… a very different direction. She portrays a Circe that even though she’s quite powerful and the ruler of her own world is consumed by the men around her and even if this is supposed to be a reclaiming act I, as a reader, don’t feel empowered by her actions but rather pity and resent her. Starting off with her daddy issues, lack of confidence and comparing herself to her brother she begins a journey of desperation and constant manipulation from men since what she thought was her first love Glauco to Hermes, Daedalus or Odysseus. In addition to the book being rather slow and, as in The Song of Achilles, tedious at times, you just can’t seem to shake off the thought: ‘damn, girl, exiled to your own private island with nymphs to keep you company and all you want is worry about MEN?’ Weird, isn’t it?

If you read both books you’ll notice the similitudes between, mostly the intentions of the so mention reclaiming female stories, but also the loneliness of two women who had power and got punished because of it, whose lives and stories have revolved (mainly) around the same man. Yet being stories told in entirely different ways one being closer to YA fantasy and the other one being closer to Greek dramas which I think makes the comparison way more interesting.

But, the one thing that shocked me to the core is the different portrays of Penelope. Let me give you context: in Circe’s storyline, while Odysseus was in Aeaea thinking about her wife, but not too much, he gets Circe pregnant with Telegonus who later will accidentally kill Odysseus by mistake when he sailed to meet him; that action will make Telemachus and Penelope seek protection in Aeara. The Penelope Madeline shows is a beaten and resentful widow with a weak character, which I think resonates with the witty and opinionated Penelope Margaret presents us.

Regardless all of the above, I didn’t hate Circe, I didn’t love it either, I was mostly indifferent and left me cold. The author could have taken the chance to create a truly badass character of a witch who self defines like she wants with immense power and a whole island as her domain. In my humble opinion, it disservices the whole idea of making mistreated female figures in mythology justice and shouldn’t be taken as the icon it has grown to be.

And on that note, probably Margaret’s take on Penelope and the twelve maids isn’t perfect either, but the difference is that this thirteen woman get a bit more justice (literally) in their retelling.

Anyways, read both books it’s never going to be a waste of time and they’re very enjoyable!

This is getting kind of long so let me start summarizing the points I never seem to make. The whole idea of reclaiming female stories from history or mythology that have been undervalued or just not told in general is a wonderful idea I really hope thrives in the upcoming years. I just simply ask for the authors to really take the view of the female figure in question and make her story HERS and not of the men around her and how sad and lonely she is. If we’re making feminist literature, let’s make it worth the title.

Hopefully all of this made sense to you, if you’re still reading thank you so so much! If you’ve read both books, what do you think? Do you agree with me or am I just talking trash? Let me know! Also, if you have any comments that could help me improve future posts drop a comment I’m open to critics!

Also, here’s a wonderful video on how Circe is a double edge sword as a ‘feminist’ book. It’s in Spanish but if you understand, it’s worth to watch.

Compulsory introduction post

HI! Welcome to what intends to be my highly successful book blog.

What I intend to do in this space if basically barf my thoughts and opinions out for you to read and hopefully like. I don’t think I’ll focus a lot on reviews as most of the time I’m useless at them as I don’t stop to think further than ‘I liked it’ or ‘I hated it’ unless it gets me really excited or extremely pissed. So my goal is just to bring out my thoughts or maybe discuss things that have been roaming my mind for a while. Another reason why I don’t really want to do reviews is because you need to be up to date with releases and caught up with sagas… and I’m really not so what’s the point of reviewing a three year old book? – which I don’t categorically say I won’t do.

‘So, Selene, what the hell are you going to write about then?’ you may be asking yourself. Well, let me make you a list:

  • Queer stuff and representation.
  • Authors I love and why you should love them too.
  • Feminism.
  • Maybe the ocasional love or hate review of a book, comic or graphic novel.
  • Tips on how to make your Animal Crossing island a book paradise. (Jk I can’t even get 5 stars myself)

All of the above related to books OBVIOUSLY. I hope to feature some friends from time to time just to push them to write and show how my useless opinions aren’t the only ones out there.

Please if you read this and the future posts (wtf thank you for the interest I may cry?????) do feel free to start a debate or hate on me – but not too much I’m soft and will cry. Remember I am no expert in literature whatsoever and all the opinions will be subjective and personal.

On the longer run, I aim and dream about finding a place in the publishing industry but that has been kind of impossible for now so hopefully my natural charm and flamboyant writing will launch me to success.

And that’s about it thank you so much for visiting my blog I really wish for you to enjoy it aaaaaaah.