My Favourite Books Shelf!

Hey pals,

I’ve been going on an organising and purging spree recently now that we are all FORCED to be inside. I’ve cleansed my bookshelves and given my favourite books their own shelf, I just wanted to talk through it with you and give you a peek into who I am as a human. Check out my organising videos here.

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This is the shelf! It is one of the minimal shelves designated to books in my bedroom, most of my book reside in the spare room where I have enough shelf space to call it a small library. This shelf also has my Uni Society Award (middle), a graduation plaque present (right) and a cool thrifted glass/crystal holder where I keep some pens I really like. On the far left of the books are my own work! X Marks The Spot is the first anthology I was published in that I was paid for. A personal essay and a poem live in there written by moi! Then the little blue leaflet sized ones were the third year uni open mic booklet with a small snippet of my Grenfell Tower Fire piece that I performed at my last uni open mic before I graduated.

Moving onto the books, We have a selection of mental health focused books that I fell in love with. First, Carrie Fisher’s Postcards From The Edge, I had no idea how iconic Carrie Fisher was until after her death unfortunately but this book was a very interesting dual POV book that also changed in how it was written with each section. It was mildly challenging just because of the experimental the writing style, but it is heavily derived from her real life experience of drug abuse and rehab and working in the industry. Then is the iconic The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, basically autobiographical. An interesting look into mental health care during a different period of time, similar to Girl, Interrupted, I love the film a lot so it was only a stretch that lead me to actually reading the memoir, this one was particularly interesting for me as I have the same diagnosis as Susanna Kaysen, who seemed to recover and even though the memoir is quite dark it did give me hope when I was in the midst of suffering from BPD. Then a book I have never heard anyone talk about online, Lovesick by Coburn. This is about a man who is hired to keep tabs on a rich man’s daughter at college who has an eating disorder. He was meant to get a full scholarship but had a car crash and injured himself before he started and was lost, so this man offered to pay his tuition etc. to go to uni with his daughter and make sure she wasn’t going to hurt herself, etc. He falls in love with her but I think it ends quite sadly and she finds out he was hired by her father. This is based off a real event, I think this was put together by a reporter. Last in this list is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. About two friends who have eating disorders and live pretty recklessly, it’s been a while since I’ve read it so I can’t remember everything exactly but one of them dies, and the protagonist has some kind if psychosis where she keeps seeing and hearing her and keeps getting sicker. This is a very triggering book with lots of explicit details to do with self harm and eating disorder behaviour so I do not recommend this to anyone easily triggered.

The next section are my queer books! Starting with Wranglestone by Darren Charlton, this is a zombie apocalypse adventure story with some mystery elements and our main character is gay. This is the first book I’ve read that isn’t about being gay, it has plot outside of that and it was a great read, you should check out my more detailed review here. Next is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, this may have been my first queer book read. Multi-POV book showing us a selection of different queer boys and narrated by the gay men of previous generations who had died and did not get to live their full life because of AIDs and the laws we had in place in the Western World. It’s a lovely book with a sad overtone because of the narration but something I really enjoyed and have re-read a few times. I’ll roll these next two into one point, Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda and Leah on the Off Beat. Love Simon was quite an iconic turning point for gay film media production, it felt like one of the first fluffy rom-coms we got to have that didn’t end or involve any tragedy or death. The book is very similar but has quite a different plot so I do recommend reading it if you enjoyed the film. Then Leah on the off Beat is the wlw, bisexual icon version of Love, Simon. Leah felt she couldn’t come out to friends about her bisexuality and then falls in love with a girl who is also bisexual, the representation in this book is impeccable and made my younger self feel seen (even though I read this at age 24). Watch my video talking about Love Simon the book vs. the Film. Next, Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills is the first book I’ve read with a trans main character. His name is Gabe and he wants to be a radio DJ and works on a community radio in the dead of night. I do feel like it’s sad and unfortunate that we know Gabe’s dead name in this (because we all know this leads to people dead naming the character rather than forcing them to use the correct name) and there is transphobic related violence later in the book, besides that I enjoyed the book a lot. The last stop on the train is the first female lead queer book I read (but also one of the first queer books I ever read) Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz. Our Bi icon Etta is a badass ballet dancer whose whole friendship group are lesbian women who constantly invalidate Etta’s sexuality, a side of the coin that isn’t often talked about. She also has an eating disorder and is in recovery and trying to find herself and what she wants, she makes new friends who love her for her and not what they think she is. She has a romance with a boy through the book but has visibly had relationships and sex with a mixture of genders and the book does not end with a happily ever after which I appreciated a lot.

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We are in the last section now which is mostly to do with book height! We have the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman, a beautiful graphic novel about Charlie and Nick falling in love and having that fluffy rom-com episodic story. See my other posts about these books here and here and my two videos here and here. Then Melanie Murphy’s first book, Fully Functioning Human (Almost), I relate to a lot of the struggles Melanie has gone through and been open about online: bisexuality, eating disorders, health, anxiety and depression, toxic relationships, etc. This book gave me the strength to break it off with my last relationship I was in and I have to put that book on this shelf for that alone. And finally, Hungry by Crystal Renn is another memoir about having an eating disorder as a model and throwing it round and becoming a plus size model instead. Check out my Non-fic recs video where I talk about some of these. 

A lot of these books entered my life during a time I needed them. They helped me feel like I wasn’t doing this or going through this alone, and that it’s possible to come out the other end (minus a few that ended quite terribly) and generally I have come out the other end. Now I’m just looking for a book about a young person going through a chronic illness and battling all these other things too.

I hope you enjoyed this post and having a little look into who I am and why these books matter to me. Let me know some of your favourite books!

~ Artie

Watch my recent book unhaul on youtube and keep an eye on my depop as I may sell some books there.

Book Review: WRANGLESTONE by Darren Charlton

wranglestone zombie book YA

Hey pals,

I got the chance to read this amazing book before Christmas and I get to be part of the blog tour! It was described as a Zombie Apocalypse adventure book for

Wranglestone CoverYA with some elements of mystery and… A GAY PROTAGONIST!

I honestly had no idea I wanted or needed this book until I read the description. The writing is focused on the plot, not the character’s queerness, doing well to fill in the gaps in dystopian YA. The cover is so gorgeous as well and really fits the brief.

Here’s a short snippet from the novel:

A canoe hung on the dark water as silently as a wolf in the woods. Peter stumbled back. “Dad!”

“Aw hell,” came a voice. “I didn’t mean to startle ya.” A forest of tangled blond hair swished forward followed by a bloodied face.

Peter let out a deep sigh. “Cooper?”

Cooper tucked a strand of hair back behind his ears and shrugged. “I was just checking you was doin’ OK is all.” 

“Were,” said Peter.

Cooper cocked his head to one side like a confused dog. “Huh?”

“Were OK. Was is the wrong grammatical construction.”

Cooper looked away and seemed to rummage around in his head for the right thing to say. And it should’ve felt good watching him struggle for a change. After all, it wasn’t often that a chipmunk could outsmart a bobcat. Except it didn’t feel good at all. It would’ve been easier to live with the fact that the only other boy around Peter’s age happened to be the best Zee-wrangler the lake had ever seen if he was as mean as a westerly wind. But he wasn’t. From the little Peter knew from watching Cooper out on the lake all these years, patrolling it or ferrying people back home late at night when they’d had too much to drink over at one of the neighbour’s, he was more than useful. He was well liked.

It also didn’t help that he had the bluest eyes either. Even now, with his face half caked in dried blood and dirt, like he’d just crawled out of some stinking geyser, they still blazed like the blue of a flame. Peter pulled down on his sweater and looked away. All he had were his dumb words. Cooper had everything.

“I should’ve come and found you to say thank you,” said Peter at last. “Sorry.”

Cooper scratched under his armpit and shrugged. “I din’t come to chase you for no thank yous.”

“Well, I should’ve.”

There was another awkward silence so Peter filled it. “Did you bury the old man and that thing?”

“Yeah. Good and proper, out in the woods.”

Peter turned to leave. “Well, that must’ve been hard work, so thank you.”

“You going to First Fall soon?”

“I s’pose.”

Cooper leaned forward and for some reason looked hopeful. “Me too.”

“OK. Well, maybe see you there.”

Wanna lift?”

“What? No. I’m going with my dad.”

“Oh, I know. But if you wanted to hitch a ride or

somethin?”

“No, it’s OK.”

Cooper dipped his paddle in the water and brought the canoe a little closer to the shore. “It’s just that I sluiced out a bunch a deer guts from earlier and laid down a new hide on the seats and everything, so she’s good to go if you wanted. If you wanted to travel with me, I mean.”

Peter looked at Cooper’s shirt. It was so bloodied you couldn’t even make out the black and red plaid beneath it any more. Cooper must’ve noticed his hesitation and quickly glanced down to check himself.

“Oh,” he said, wiping his muddy palms across his thighs. “I honk. Do I honk? I’ve not washed the guts off yet, but I got a clean tee back home. Well, kinda clean.”

Peter narrowed his eyes. “I can make it across the lake without being killed most of the time, you know.”

“Course. I din’t mean that. I just wondered if you wanted to come with me is all. But it don’t matter.”

Doesn’t matter, thought Peter. “Besides, I don’t even know if I’m going to go yet.”

Cooper furrowed his brow. “How come?”

“Well, your dad’s gonna make sure Henry gets me out on the mainland for one thing.”

Cooper looked out toward those dark places where only the pine trees dared stand still.

“They’ll get off your back just as soon as you’ve killed one of the Dead,” he said. “I can show you how things work. If you wanted, I mean. Besides, it ain’t so bad out there.”

“I don’t see how it can be anything but.”

“Well, I ain’t saying it’s not crazier than a dog chasing its own tail, but you can’t see nothin’ all cooped up on these islands.”

“I can see plenty.”

“No,” said Cooper, “you can’t. The view from where you’re standing ain’t wilderness, it’s scenery.”

Peter followed Cooper’s line of sight, but he could only make out the black tips of the pines against the starry night. “Why, what can you see?”

Cooper struck the paddle down in the water like a post and rested his chin on the tip. “Oh, everythin’. The mountains, meadows, rivers roarin’. The way the stars aren’t like a flat ceiling overhead at all, but a universe that wraps all the way around us deep beneath the planet.”

Peter gazed up at the flat roof of stars you could see above the trees around the lake. He didn’t even know what Cooper was talking about.

“There’s something about open places that makes a man consider himself,” said Cooper, as if his soul somehow belonged out there.

Peter watched Cooper’s Adam’s apple rise and fall in his throat when he couldn’t even see his own in the mirror and marvelled at the ease he had in considering himself a man.

“Open places make you consider yourself?”

“Yeah,” said Cooper. “Like the plains.”

“And the stars?”

“Uh-huh. And the sea and the desert too, Pa says. But I dunno why that is.”

Peter shrugged. “Perhaps it’s because they make us feel small.”

“No. They make me feel bigger, Peter.”

Cooper sliced the paddle through the water and turned the canoe to leave.

“Well,” he sighed, “as long as you’s doing OK. I guess I’ll see you around.”

Peter felt a sudden tug in his stomach he didn’t recognize. He took a step forward and went to delay him. But he stopped himself and a moment later the canoe slipped inside the darkness and Cooper was gone. Peter ran his fingers across his throat to feel for his Adam’s apple and gazed up at the starry night. The tree house door creaked open behind him and light struck the shore.

“He carried you all the way up the steps to Darlene’s from the canoe,” called his dad. “Wouldn’t a hurt you to say yes.”

Peter felt the sharp tug in his tummy again. “Say yes to what?”

“Come on, Pete. Come inside, it’s getting cold.”

Peter held back, scanning the darkness for the canoe. But after a moment or two, the sound of the paddle cutting through the water had all but gone so he headed back toward the tree house. 

 

It’s amazing, I read the whole thing in one day which I haven’t done in ages! I couldn’t put it down. The queer rep is great, Peter and his dad have a moment near the beginning where it was made clear his dad knew and accepted him.

The world building and description was wonderful, it reminded me of the game Firewatch (I’ve never been anywhere near a real American nature reserve so that’s the best I got!) and the map at the beginning does help in placing where everything happens. The idea of living in a tree house over a lake sounds clever, I’ve never read or watched a zombie piece where they actually lived on a lake or in tree houses. It gave me some Walking Dead video game aesthetics as the lake froze over.

I think Darren Charlton approached the more sexual content well and perfectly hinted at it without writing an entire sex scene. I always applaud a writer who does this well as I don’t think it should be entirely omitted in YA but should be handled with care.

I love that there was a little bit of disability rep too! Often people with disabilities in a zombie book/film/show die because of it, so that gave a nice change too. I’d like to see more media that approached disabilities and chronic illness in dystopian futures. Disabled people are creative, ask anyone!

I cried several times, my heart was broken then sewed back together, and the number of TWISTS? Astonishing. Honestly hadn’t a clue who was behind it all until it was unveiled. Such a great mystery plot and not very traditional zombie world either.

As an adult reading this YA novel, I can say it suits the audience well but is written in such an enjoyable way that I got lost in it as well, so the age-range is much broader.

This is a great adventure book that ‘just so happens’ to centre a gay character. I could go on but I won’t coz it’ll just become spoilers and I’d rather let everyone have a chance to read themselves! It’s a great book for anyone who loves zombies.

Comes out 6th Feb

Check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Goodreads // Bookshop

~Artie

My other posts on this book: instagram / Goodreads / 2019 Reading Wrap Up

I also mention it in this post.

Also in LGBTQ+ book recs video here

My 2019 Reading Wrap Up (I read 10 books)

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Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi

This one is a big trigger warning to those with eating disorders. There’s talk of numbers and self harm behaviours.

This book really made my younger self feel seen. I grew up wanting to be an actor, bi and with an eating disorder that I didn’t get help for. It was really interesting to read about a woman I only vaguely knew about and connect with her on a deep level I often can’t. She talks a lot about the inner workings of Hollywood, which is always so morbidly interesting to me, and about her interpersonal relationships failing within this awful period in her life and then how they began to thrive as she chose recovery. This had a wonderful happy ending (which, most of us know) and could be a good read for someone struggling to see through the fog of mental illness.

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Queer Intentions:  a (personal) journey through LGBT+ culture by Amelia Abraham

This is a great book for an introduction to Queer history and culture around the world! I am a white British queer who does not know much of what it is like to be queer around the world, and we can’t understand what it’s like being a different gender or sexuality. This book bridges the gaps in the white western viewpoint. It’s also much easier to read than you’d think, more like a selection of essays you could read in a queer magazine. I’m trying to say, this is an accessible book for people of all knowledge and education levels and may spark a love and need to know more.

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Heartstopper vol. 1 & 2 by Alice Oseman

The perfect mixture of manga style drawings and story telling, with a cast of very British people. Wonderful selection of characters who portray all kinds of different people of our real world. Wonderful bisexual representation with our main boy Nick. A light and fluffy story, even the angsty bits aren’t too angsty and you’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside. I’m also very excited for volume three to come out in early February!

IMG_7267the witch doesn’t burn in this one by Amanda Lovelace

I’d call this the political book of insta poetry. This has similar formatting to Rupi Kaur, which makes it accessible and easy to get through, and leaves an echo of each poem’s final line in your mind. It’s also very inclusive feminist art, I’ve not read anything that includes all women in their art and says it so out right. I love the links to witches and magic, it really hit the nail on the head with metaphors and analogies. This book made me feel angry and powerful all at once and fed me motivation to change things. If you’re looking for revolution, this is your poetry book.

IMG_0504To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I watched the film first guys, I know, it’s an unwritten rule. But I don’t care! It was actually really enjoyable to read this after watching the film because I could slowly pick out the bits they did and didn’t keep in, which is a really fun game for me really! I love this book, it was so fun and silly, some bits still shocked me and I think I’ll continue reading the series because there was a pretty anticlimactic ending to the book. At least the film, you could pretend that was the only one (even though there is definitely a second one coming soon) but you can’t do that with the book unless you want to perpetually never know what happens! It’s a great book to show teenage readers that you will love many people in your life, not all of them will love you back or end happily like most YA shows.

IMG_0506Leah on The Off Beat by Becky Albertalli

This was teenage me in a book. One line literally a couple of pages in got me. The book for fat, bi, slytherin girls with a single mother. You might think ‘there aren’t many of those’, but you’d be surprised. This book not only has one bi female character, but a few (!!!) and is a really nice follow on from Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda where you still see the others milling around in the background but you get more of Leah’s story and what she’s hiding. She, like Simon, hasn’t come out either. I saw a lot of this story coming from watching Love, Simon and then reading the book, which I think is really great story telling, giving us some subtle foreshadowing. If you have an idea what I’m talking about, you’re probably right. Now officially an Own Voices book! Sadly Becky was forced into coming out before she was ready, but she is now out as a bi woman. Check out these articles here, here and here.

IMG_0508Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: a dangerous trans girl’s confabulous memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

This book was an interesting one. I won it in a giveaway and I’m glad that happened, because I’m not sure I would have picked it up myself. It’s easy to read and has a wonderful twist on the typical memoir with beautiful fantasy comparisons and descriptions. I am definitely keeping this book for reference when I want to try something different, or am writing something with fantasy elements. There were a few sections I wasn’t huge on, but I feel they would have resonated more with a trans woman reader, such as the three pages of poetry about her hair. The ending was a surprise and made me quite sad, but I would totally recommend people read it!

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Prozac Nation: young and depressed in America, a memoir by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Trigger Warnings: Talk of mental illness, suicide (ideation and attempts), sexual assault, abuse. 

I’m sad to say I struggled through this book. It’s very up my alley and there were parts I did really enjoy. But I felt like some parts went over my head and I would read long paragraphs where I had no idea what was happening or what was being said. Particularly as I got towards the end of the book. I pushed on, only because I wanted to know what happened, there wasn’t a hugely satisfying ending, and then it was followed by an epilogue which felt more like an academic essay and a follow up essay after the book had its first round of publishing. It felt a bit long to me, a lot could have been cut if I’m being honest. It’s a shame because I did really enjoy some parts but these other sections really ruined it for me.

IMG_0498Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

I Honestly had no idea I wanted or needed this book until I read the description. It was amazing, I read the whole thing in one day which I haven’t done in ages! Couldn’t put it down. The queer rep is great, I think the more sexual content was perfectly hinted at without writing a sex scene… (which is a hot debate subject) I love that there was a little bit of disability rep too! Often people with disabilities in a zombie book/film/show die because of it etc. This is a great adventure book that ‘just so happens’ to centre a gay character. I could go on but I won’t coz it’ll just become spoilers and I’d rather let everyone have a chance to read themselves! (Comes out Feb 6th!)

I don’t read nearly as much as other book bloggers and YouTubers, but I wasn’t far off a book a month in 2019 so that’s my 2020 goal. One book a month (on average…) so 12 books with a few extras incase I really need to DNF something or have some spare reading time.

~ Artie