Book Series: The Russel Middlebrook Series – Brent Hartinger

This ones a guilty pleasure of mine, while the Russel Middlebrook series has been over for quite some time, with the author’s reboot of the Russel Middlebrook Series: The Futon Years, I feel it’s time to write about this.

The Russel Middlebrook series is a classic gay coming of age series, filled with classic teen angst, and classic over dramatisation and I still loved this series. I think in part because Russel Middlebrook while burdened so verily with first world problems, is so very relatable. He’s not great with people, he’s not great with the future, he’s not great at much and it’s in this mediocrity that we find a little piece of ourselves.

Russel’s journey to find himself and love is trite and contrived but it’s still cute and worth reading, I wish there had been more books like this when I was a teenager. With the newer books released in this series we get to follow Russel as he grows up, having finished high school and trying to make his way in the real world as a young adult.

While the earlier books have a less sexual focus and lean more towards romantic fiction aimed at tweens, the newer novels start to explore a much more graphic level of Russel’s sexuality.

The books aren’t a page turner, I find myself reading the series in between my other series, but it’s good for a light read and I do hope Brent Hartinger continues to write this series as it’s like catching up with a good acquaintance.

All in all, if I were a teenager again or if I ever find myself single I know that especially during those times in my life this series would be crucial to my mental wellbeing, reminding me that it gets better and that true love can happen to us all.

Book: The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett

The final book in the Discworld series. It was with great trepidation I read this, Terry Pratchett’s final book released after his death. It’s with even greater hesitation that I write about it because who am I to judge a man’s dying work, let alone that of Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, but this was a fantastic book as are all of his works and with that in mind I feel less like my writing here is judgement and more so a memorial.

The whole book was about endings, but it was also about beginnings, about how life goes on and how stories continue even when unobserved. Terry Pratchett knew he was dying when he wrote this book, but this isn’t the story of a dying man. This is the story of a woman coming into her own, of a people coming together and of a people mourning and honoring the dead each in their own way.

The Discworld has never feared Death, many occupants having encountered the anthropomorphic personification of The Reaper just goes to enforce the idea that death isn’t a finality, it’s a part of a process, the greatest journey ever taken, the greatest story never told.

Despite the bleak subject matter, and the author’s terminal illness, this is not a bleak depressing story. This is still a Discworld novel, filled with laughs (and the Nac Mac Feegles), I was wondering as I began this book, how can all the story lines be neatly tied together in one book, and the answer is they can’t; and if this book taught me anything it was that all stories come to an end and you might not be there to witness all those ends and that’s alright.

I’ve been reading the Discworld series since before I was a teenager, I first read The Truth (the 25th Discworld novel) and I didn’t understand it all, because some of it was far too adult for me at the time, but that didn’t stop me from reading the books, it means i reread them, all of them, every year, and with each reread I understood more because it reflected my life’s experiences.

With all of those rereadings, I became closer with some of the characters, everyone loves Nanny Ogg’s inappropriate suggestive remarks, everyone respects the man Sir Samuel Vimes has become (a Sir now!) and how could you not love Nobby Nobbs. With this story we lose a major character, it’s not the first time we’ve lost a character but I guess as the final book it will be last time and with that finality it made this loss even greater; but with this loss we saw one of our characters come into the person we knew they would be, and our hearts swelled with pride.

While Terry Pratchett didn’t specifically write about LGBTQIA inclusion he wrote about an equality and inclusion for all, regardless of sex, gender, or species. His world was one of fantasy and he reflected in it the same politics and prejudices from the real world, and with that he told stories. Stories of a world that could become a better place.

Like all the greats Terry Pratchett was taken from the world far too soon, but in his short time here he changed lives, and the world, for the better. With his final book like all other Discworld Novels, anyone can pick it up, read and enjoy it, and I hope it inspires them to read the other 40 magnificent works.

He will be sorely missed.

Book Series: The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher

This series was not at the top of my list, I only just found out about it this year, I love Laurell K Hamilton’s books which led me to Richard Kadrey’s works which eventually led me to here. The first book was slow and very average, but it does it’s job of setting the scene and the rest of the series is amazing.

The series centres on Chicago’s only “Professional Wizard”, in this world vampires, faeries and spirits are all real, and while not mainstream they are something that Harry Dresden PI (the main character), has to deal with on a day to day basis.

Before I go any further I want to stress how much I love this series, it fills that fantasy niche that crosses with the real world, it has a male lead (which I find helps me empathise slightly), and the lead is in my age range.

In saying that this series does has its flaws. The lead is a misogynistic chauvinist who is prone to verbalising mild homophobia. This could be just a character flaw, and while I never condone Homophobia, especially not careless flippant homophobia, I overlooked it in light of the story line which at the time was not concluded.

The way women are portrayed as damsels in the series could be interpreted as insulting and demeaning, but again the story is told from a first person point of view so maybe its just a character flaw?

It’s the first book series I’ve ever been this conflicted about, great writing is supposed to inspire thought though and that’s definitely what this series did. If you’re a young adult and a guy who’s into the whole supernatural thing (and I am), then this series is for you.

Note: The image for this post is from the comic book series which is also a great read, the benefits of the comic books are that the artist was heaps nicer about what Harry Dresden looks like than my imagination was.

Book: Why Not Me – Mindy Kaling

This is Mindy Kaling’s second book. I loved her first book, but then I loved her as Kelly Kapoor in The Office and I love her show the Mindy Project. She’s a successful comedy writer as well as actress so it’s no surprise that this book is hilarious, what is surprising is that this book is also touching, sincere and humanising.

It’s easy to look at Hollywood stars and think how wonderful their lives are and how easy it must all be. While this book is not a story of how difficult Mindy Kaling’s life is it does serve the purpose of educating the public on the hard work that goes into being both an actress and writer.

While the book is mainly targeted at women, Mindy makes reference to the few other people that she assumes will get a hold of her book and makes us feel included and welcome as well.

As a white male born in a first world country my experiences are wildly different to those of Mindy’s and yet instead of alienating the wider audience she seems to strike a chord with almost everyone, giving voice to all those little voices you thought you were alone in hearing.

 

Book: I’m Special; And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves – Ryan O’Connell

I’ve never been one much for Non-Fiction, but as I age I find myself seeking better role models and I find this style of book a fantastic source of inspiration and encouragement.

They had me sold when I read it was about a gay guy in his late twenties telling his tales of trials and tribulations as a gay man with Cerebral Palsy. Who doesn’t want to read about the sex life of people like us but different?

The book is the autobiography of a blogger born with Cerebral Palsy and then later in life being hit by a car. I was trepidatious as I started reading the book wondering if it would be all about how much this guy has suffered and how much I should appreciate life but I quickly understood that Ryan O’Connell was not that kind of man.

Ryan’s success is being the same as every other person, he writes that he’s not disabled enough to fit in with the disabled and not normal enough to fit in with the norms, not hot enough to be hot and not ugly enough to be grotesque. I think this feeling of mediocrity is almost universal, especially amongst his target audience(the millennials).

This book was actually really good, I went in with such low expectations and was surprised at how many laugh out loud moments I had, how many emotional moments touched me and how many truths struck home hard.

The only downside about this book was how short it was, I’m sure I’m not alone as I eagerly await the author’s next book.

Book: The Magicians – Lev Grossman

When I was growing up as the Harry Potter books were being released Harry was always a year older or younger than me. Harry, Ron and Hermione (who I pronounced Hermoyne for the longest time) were as much a part of my group of friends as my real friends were.

Now as a twenty something lover of fantasy it’s a lot harder to empathise with the main characters, I constantly feel like the YA fiction is full of whiny teen angst. This book/series is not, this series seems to have been written specifically for me and people like me, the twenty something’s who don’t know what they’re doing with their lives.

It’s a slow start but once you get into it this book is amazing, I opened with a Harry Potter reference because the first book at least is similar to being Based around Hogwarts if Hogwarts were college instead of High School.

When I started reading this series I had no idea whether it mentioned or had any gay characters in it, but Lev Grossman surprised me casting one of his main characters as gay, and veering away from the stereotype wonderfully. Any stereotypical traits seem more like coincidental character flaws allowing the character to have a depth often missed in the portrayal of LGBT characters.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough, if you liked Harry Potter, if you like Epic Sagas in the style of David Eddings, if you like the Dresden Files then this series is for you.

Final Note this Book is being made into a TV series by Syfy, which is fantastic because then my husband (who doesn’t read) can get into it as much as I am, the trailer is cringeworthy (see below) but I’ll definitely give it a go, and so should you.