Top Ten In No Order – You Can’t Make Me:
I have a few vague memories from my childhood of encountering characters, who inhabited various places along the lgbtq spectrum, and thinking, ‘huh, that’s something new to me, and I wonder where I can get more of this?’. Of course, the thoughts were more in the typical form of what a 10, 12, or maybe 16-year old voice I would have used at the time. 😉
I had no idea where to go or how to get more books with more characters like this, even while growing up in a near east suburb of Cleveland, a not exactly starved for diversity kind of place.
So I continued on my merry life and reading ways, meeting all kinds of people that would influence my life, just as those characters surely did.
Now, my memory is horrible when it comes to remembering names of anything, including titles of books, so I’m unable to recall what some of those books were. Man, in this kind of case, I wish we had some way of double clicking on a folder of where we think a memory might have been stored and go about searching for it. It would be wonderful to be able to go back and find and read those books again.
But I digress.
My point of this is that I had early in life exposure to all kinds of people and places in books that I had yet to experience in my own life in my wee bitty corner of the world, so a few years ago when I stumbled across a novel (again, I suck at remembering the title) with a gay couple as one of the central relationships in the story, I felt a beautiful mix of at first surprise but then distant familiarity. Here you are! I’ve been looking for you for a really long time! Even if I didn’t realize it. 😉 Thankfully, I now keep track of the books I read and can therefore give you the titles of those stories and my feelings about them that have not faded and probably never will.
These are in no order whatsoever because that would be like ranking my top ten albums of all time, and there’s just no way I can do that, with music or books. So there.
KING MAI by Edmond Manning – I can still play in my mind so many of the scenes, and therefore experience the feelings again, from this story. Mai, my lawdy, he made me cry. Vin, he made me want to hug him forever and MAKE this world infuse his every cell with the happiness he deserves and wants. This is book two in release order of the Lost and Founds series and should be read in that order. What does that mean? You should read King Perry First. (Heh, I’m sneaking in an 11th pick, heh.) Manning has something I’m still unable to define but, whatever it is, it ultimately means he’s supposed to be telling these stories. Like, he was born to tell these stories, for this to be one of the things he’s destined to do during his time on this rock of ours. King Mai and Manning’s storytelling are unlike anything else out there in the literary universe, and I hold no immunity to the things they both make me feel. I’m grateful for that.
COLD by Brandon Shire – I have to admit, I basically tossed a virtual dart at the board representing Shire’s books I’ve read (which is a good many) and it landed on this one. It could have just as easily been Afflicted I (of 2), or Listening to Dust, and I would have included it. However, “Cold” is unlike any other story you’ll read. A love story set in prison but not in any of the ways you are expecting. By the end, I was holding onto so much hope for Lem and Anderson, I felt like I just might burst. Lem. Lem! I first read this back in 2013 and I think it’s one of the first reviews I ever posted on Goodreads. I like that. I like knowing that it affected me so much that I had to share some of my feelings and thoughts about it, which landed me on GR, which then led to ‘and the rest is history’, but with much more future to come.
WHAT BINDS US by Larry Benjamin – This book. My gosh. I listened to the audio and was spellbound, tethered to it with no ability, nor desire, to ever become separated. The variety of characters, the depth to which each one is explored, permitted to change, or not, over time, they all carved their initials into my heart with such… quiet command. They knew they were supposed to be there. I knew it too. And I never want them to leave. Ever. It was magical, even in the saddest moments, the ones that felt like they’d never end. Dondi and Thomas-Edward, what you did and still do to me…
BODIES IN SPACE by Shukyou – This is a free story online, found both on ‘livejournal’ and ‘an archive of our own’ (under ladysisyphus). I only tell you that so you’ll seek it out. I would pay for this story. Now. Right now. Even having read such an honest, sweet, bittersweet, and ultimately hopeful story already, I would plunk down my hard earned greenbacks to have these words, these characters, this story in my life. This is another one from which I can replay scenes in my mind. I’m doing it RIGHT. NOW. Omigosh, this story. Her writing and storytelling feel natural, unforced, realistic. I can’t get enough. Lucky for us, she has quite a catalog.
ONCE UPON A HAUNTED MOOR by Harper Fox – Little did I know. Little did I KNOW what I was getting into when I chose to read this book. I’d read a few other of Fox’s stories and had mostly very good experiences. But this? Book one in what has become a now six-book long series (so far!) called Tyack & Frayne pulled me into a world that I love with characters I love so, so, so much. Gideon and Lee comprise one of the most well portrayed adult relationships in literature I’ve ever encountered. Mix that up with a wide array of just as unique supporting characters, Cornish magic (it is SO a thing, believe me), creature features, paranormal abilities, and people who love each other and do their best, mostly, to make sure and express it, and you’ve got one of my favorites series evereverever by someone who is one of my favorite authors evereverever.
THEN THE STARS FALL by Brandon Witt – I must. I must include this book. I know it’s technically my choice but, really, I have none. I must include this story, and these characters, and this setting, and the multitude of emotions, and the age range from which we receive parts of this story. I mean, up until this book, for the most part, I didn’t care for children being in what I read, not in any major way. (There was one exception and that was Kaje Harper’s Life Lessons series, Harper being another one who can write kids and make them real, and important to the story. I know! I snuck another bonus one in.) Well, with young Mason, Witt changed all of that. I went back to my review to get my exact words: “I wanted to hold him in my lap while I read this entire book.” And I did. I do. I still do. I want to know how he’s doing. I want to know how all (well, most) of the people in this book are doing these days. How magical and wonderfully unusual is that? To have something, a story, have such an impact that I wonder about what these folks are up to a year and a half after having read this book. MAGICAL.
UNHINGE THE UNIVERSE by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt– A love story set during WW II, in France, between a German officer and an Allied Captain. I can’t say I was all that skeptical given the authors and having read a number of their stories before this, but there’s that what is probably a natural hesitation for most anyone with even a scant knowledge and understanding of the general history of the War to read a story with this setting and these characters. ‘Whatever’ is all I have to say that. If you are partial to historically set books, this is one for you. Man. Just thinking about it, I want to read it again. It’s not an easy read at all in some parts. History is not shied away from but rightly included as an integral part of the story. There’s nothing glossed over, and it’s all worth it.
INTO THIS RIVER I DROWN by TJ Klune – I read this back in 2013, before my mom passed away in early 2014. I don’t think I could read it now. I don’t think I could put myself through the emotion that would come from experiencing this story with that added layer of… understanding. This is one of those that, for me, I read and was so grateful I’d never have to worry about trying to remember. No need for that double click ability. It’s right there with me. Always.
TIGERS AND DEVILS by Sean Kennedy – It’s been three years since I first read this book and it’s another one from which I can recall scenes and emotions at the flip of a page. The rather different points of view and life experiences from which the two main characters arrive at the beginning of his story is just as important as anything else that happens within it. That, and the first meeting between Simon (oh, Simon! You’re still a man after my own funny bone) and Declan sets the tone for a series of discoveries on both their parts, about themselves and each other, that remained throughout my reading of the building of this relationship. Course, the cast of characters had several hands in it, too. Love this book, love this series.
LONG TIME GONE (HELL OR HIGH WATER 2) by SE Jakes – It’s a guarantee that this book changed my life. Nope, it’s not the most literary thing out there. What it did do was introduce me to some people who are now permanently part of my family. We’re a family. And this book, these characters, everything they share and survive and cherish and discover, they brought us together and I cannot adequately quantify what that means to me, to us. So that’s what this book represents for me on this list: a story that impacted my real everyday life in countless ways for which I am thankful and forever will be.
In closing, this list could have been 50 books long and it wouldn’t have been sufficient or close to representing so many of the stories and authors that have added to and changed my life. I think this means we should get to do these kinds of lists on a semi-regular basis… ya think? 😉
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