Sunday, 23 April 2017

Diverse Recs: Books with Trans Characters

Goodreads | Book Depository

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

We follow the story of Amanda, a transgender girl who goes to live with her father. She falls in love, makes new friends and learns to love the body she should have been born with. The novel switches between present day and flashbacks all the way through Amanda's childhood to her attempted suicide and finally, her transition. This is a YA contemporary with all our much-loved themes but having it told by a transgender woman makes the story so much more relevant.

Goodreads | Book Depository

Dreadnought by April Daniels

Dreadnought is the first book in the Nemesis series by April Daniels. We follow the story of Danielle, a superhero who just happens to be transgender. This is a world where superheroes are a part of everyday life and when Danny is confronted by a dying Dreadnought, one of the world's best superheroes, it isn't long until her life is completely changed when with his dying breath, he gives her his powers and changes her from the boy she was born into the girl she has always been. Faced with her new appearance and blossoming superpowers, Danielle is drawn into the world of heroes and villains alongside her fellow class-member/masked vigilante, Sarah/Calamity as they work together to stop Utopia, a super-villain hell bent on controlling the world. 

Goodreads | Amazon

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

This beautiful magic-realism story follows the story of a lost girl who has roses growing from her wrists and Sam, a transgender boy with a Pakistani heritage whose culture is explored through his paintings. Sam and his mother have always followed the practice of Bacha posh, the cultural practice in Afghanistan and Pakistan of families without sons picking one of their daughters to live and behave as a boy, in order to accept his identity. Although this book is heavily metaphorical and magical, it still manages to deal with many intense issues - such as gender and race. Overall, this is the story of the friendship between Sam and Miel.

Goodreads | Amazon

George by Alex Gino

A middle-grade novel incorporating what it means to be transgender and how it is manifested in children. When people look at George, they see a boy but inside, she knows she's not. Despite the heavy issues, this book being narrated by 10 year old George allows it to remain a lighthearted and heartwarming, especially George's blossoming friendship with Kelly who accepts her without question. Female pronouns are used throughout the entire book and during one scene, George renames herself as Melissa and from that point on, that is her name. I think it's so important to have a middle-grade novel that focuses on the positivity of a trans character and the acceptance that should always be in their lives.

Goodreads | Amazon

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Beautiful cover? Check. Beautiful story? Check. Own Voices? Check. Diversity? Double check. Just checks everywhere for this amazing retelling of Peter Pan. Despite (unfortunately) being quite short, this story definitely packs a punch as we follow the story of Pan who returns to Neverland after resigning to live his life as Wendy Darling. However, growing up has only fuelled his true identity as a boy. Coming back to the Lost Boys who have now become men and his old rival, Captain Hook isn't what Pan expected. What is extra unexpected is the attraction he now feels towards Hook leaving a new question, who the real villain is. This book is cute and fun and Pan and Hook could have been SO toxic but Austin nailed it. Definitely pick up this adorable retelling!

Goodreads | Book Depository

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This young-adult fantasy novella is packed full of diversity despite being so small. Our main character is asexual (whose identity is confirmed and discussed), there is a trans boy whose identity is discussed in a wonderful and fascinating way and there are also secondary characters, one of Japanese descent and the other is Latino. This story takes place in a home for 'wayward children' and all is seemingly normal, except for the disappearing children who end up in magical lands. Heartbreakingly beautiful, reminiscent of Narnia and yet jam-packed with diversity. Despite the trans character being a secondary character, his identity is still treated with respect so we thought it was worthy to mention in this list. Also, the sequel Down Among the Sticks and Bones is out in June!

Goodreads | Book Depository

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Upon delving into the world of book Twitter, you will probably come across this novel almost immediately. A superhero story packed with diverse characters including a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese main character, a lesbian love interest and a trans boy called Bells whose identity is only confirmed when he is casually asked about his binder. The best news? The sequel, Not Your Villain, gives us Bells as our main character! This series is set in a world where superpowers are the norm but who is to say that they are more powerful than their sidekicks? This book is fun, full of the good kind of tropes but most of all, full of diversity. Also, who wouldn't want that cover on their shelves?

Lots of love,
Angharad @

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Laini Taylor Event at Waterstones Liverpool

Hi everyone!

So we've gone a bit quiet again recently, partly due to the opening of our store, Two Candle Thieves, and also as Angharad's away at the moment and I'm just finishing up with my degree. Hopefully once the last of my assignments are submitted and Angharad's finished gallivanting about in the south of England, we'll be posting more frequently again!

Today's post is a bit different from anything we've done before (partly because we've never attended book signings before - unless you count the Jacqueline Wilson event I went to when I was 12...) but anyway - I thought I'd share a bit about the Laini Taylor event I went to in Liverpool a few days ago!

As soon as I saw that Laini was touring the UK, I knew I had to be at one of her events - I've absolutely loved her writing ever since I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone around five years ago, and I had been waiting to read Strange the Dreamer ever since I heard that she was writing a new novel. Unfortunately, Laini wasn't visiting Manchester on this tour, so after considering the three nearest event stops to me, I decided to attend the event at Waterstones in Liverpool - I've been to Liverpool many times for photography work, and as I was anxious enough about going to a bookish event for the first time (and on my own) I wanted to be in a city that I was fairly familiar with! 

Luckily, I ended up not having to go to the event alone, and met up with Amy (, Lauren (, and Beth (, three fellow Manchester-based book bloggers. I'm usually an awkward mess when meeting new people, but these three are so lovely and it was so great to meet some book lovers who live close to me! So after travelling to Liverpool and grabbing some food, we got to Waterstones, and I couldn't have been more excited. 

There was a little talk and Q&A - Laini spoke about how Strange the Dreamer was originally Sarai's story, called the Muse of Nightmares, but Lazlo just kept coming back to her, and so the first book in the series became his story. I'm so glad she chose to write the book this way, as I have to admit, Lazlo is definitely my current bookish crush. I feel as though I should have taken notes during the talk (as a few other people there were) so I could remember it all better, but I was just so awestruck that I didn't even think to do so!

One interesting link between Strange the Dreamer and Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the mention of being impaled on spikes - this is at the very beginning of Strange the Dreamer (so no spoilers here, don't worry!) and mentioned briefly in Daughter of Smoke and Bone (about Czech nationalists attempting a rebellion against the Nazis, and subsequently being impaled on a gate surrounding the building that had become Karou's art school). Laini hadn't actually noticed this link until it was brought up but assured us all that she doesn't have a phobia of being impaled on a gate.

After the talk, we queued up for the signing - the four of us were panicking a bit about getting the train back, but the lovely Waterstones staff moved us closer to the front of the queue (with the help of a very kind man who let us cut in front of him - if you're somehow reading this, big thanks to you!!). It got to my turn to speak to Laini, and I was honestly so nervous! I got up and handed her my books and mumbled some rubbish about how it was my first book signing, I was sorry that I'd brought so many books with me to be signed, and some other nonsense. Laini was such a lovely person though! I also gave her one of our Welcome to Weep candles and got a photo with her (below). We were all given two Strange the Dreamer moth temporary tattoos, which are so pretty that I can't bring myself to actually use them and have stuck them on my bookcase instead!

I do feel as though I was such a puddle of awkwardness, but hopefully next time I'll be less nervous now that I know what to expect from author signings and events a bit more. I'm really hoping to somehow be able to attend YALC this year, and if I do I'll get to meet Laini again which would be amazing!

love Becky @

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Beauty and the Beast has never been my favourite story, but when I saw that this BATB retelling was set in medieval Russia and incorporated aspects of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf, it went straight onto my TBR list!

Hunted follows Yeva (nicknamed Beauty by her family), a young girl who's a skilled hunter after training for years beside her father in the woods close to their village. Yeva has a comfortable life with her father and two sisters, spending most of her days accompanying the baronessa of the village with a group of other women. However, she grows tired of living up to the standards of high society, and longs to live in the woods and carry on hunting - and also to meet someone who will understand her unconventional ways and treat her as an equal with admirable skills, rather than a submissive woman. 

When Yeva's father loses his fortune, her family is forced to move back to his small hunting cabin deep in the woods. This may seem like a blessing in disguise for Yeva, who is finally able to escape the confines of high society, until the day that her father goes missing after becoming convinced that there is a beast living in the forest chasing away his prey. Yeva is then forced to go deep into the woods to search for him. What follows becomes a merging of Beauty and the Beast alongside Ivan and the Firebird, mixed with multiple other Russian folktales that I've come to love over the years.

I generally have three problems with Beauty and the Beast, and thankfully, Hunted eradicates all of them. First off, the stockholm syndrome. Yeva gets to know the Beast and forms a bond with him before knowing that he is the one who imprisoned her, and once she finds out, she struggles with her fondness for her mysterious friend Ivan, and the beast who chained her up and who she believes hurt her father. There is also a conversation between Yeva and a friend of hers about abusive relationships - something which I've definitely never seen in a Beauty and the Beast retelling before, and which improved the story as a whole so much. Issues like this need to be addressed in these sort of stories, and I was so thankful that Meagan Spooner took the time to add this conversation into the book. 

Second, I've never really liked Belle/Beauty in these stories. Thankfully, Yeva was a much more interesting character - she's a strong female character (and we can never have too many of those, in my opinion), she had depth, she was incredibly selfless and always put others before her (even those who hurt her), she was determined and she knew exactly what she wanted, and I really came to relate to her story. The author's note at the back of Hunted points out that this is very much a coming of age story that the author herself feels relates to her own life, and I could also relate to so much of it, so Yeva really grew on me. 

Third, the sisters. I don't think I've ever read or seen a version of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty's sisters aren't awful to her, but Yeva's sisters, Lena and Asenka, are both wonderful characters in their own right and are always looking out for their younger sister. I really enjoyed both of their individual stories and would definitely read more about them. 

Fourth (I think) the Gaston character. We've all seen this guy be the typical douche (lets take Tamlin in ACOTAR, for example) but Yeva's suitor, Solmir, is actually such a nice person and admires Yeva's talent for hunting and tracking - he doesn't treat her like she's below him or expect her to be the typical wife figure, and constantly reassures her that he'd never impose any expectations on her if they were to marry. When she's unsure about being with him, he doesn't push her at all and promises to protect her family when she leaves the cabin to search for their father. There was honestly a small part of me that was shipping him with Yeva, he was just that lovely!

And finally, the 'fall in love to break the spell' trope. Without spoiling anything, I'm so happy to say that the Beast isn't constantly trying to force Yeva to fall in love with him in order to break his curse. He believes that his curse has to be broken in other ways that require Yeva's help - but I won't say anything else on this as it'll spoil too much of the plot! 

I have to say that the incorporation of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf worked so perfectly with this story, and the second half of this book is definitely more of a retelling of this folktale than of Beauty and the Beast. It was done in such a clever way, and I'm still in awe at the way that the author managed to weave the two together and set the result in medieval Russia so perfectly. I'm always on the lookout for new books inspired by Russian folklore, and I'm so glad that I came across Hunted.

love Becky @