Secret Lives – Diane Chamberlain – 2010 – Contemporary fiction

Secret Lives: Chamberlain, Diane: 8601200583113: Books

Goodreads Summary:

From the author of Lovers and Strangers, a powerful, compelling Southern novel about family secrets. An Oscar-winning actress returns to her native Virginia to script the story of the famous mother she barely knew, but she gets more than she bargained for when her uncle presents her with her mother’s private journals.

My Thoughts:

The novel mainly follows Eden’s storyline although we also get her mother’s story through the diary entries in the journal Eden’s uncle gives her.

Eden’s mother, Kate, was my favourite character in the novel. My favourite parts in Diane Chamberlain’s books are (almost) always those taking place in earlier time periods and I loved reading Kate’s journal. I didn’t want to leave Kate behind when I finished the story which is something I don’t personally often feel in books.

I loved reading about Kate and Kyle’s relationship in Kate’s diary. Although I could tell quite early where it would end up (I think because I know Chamberlain’s style so well!) I loved reading about the bittersweet journey they went on together, trying to become more independent yet also being totally dependent on each other for their emotional survival.

On the other hand, I found Eden quite a passive character. Although Kate suffers from agoraphobia she tries to take control when she can, whereas I felt like Eden just let things happen to her. Aside from finding out things from her mother’s past, I don’t think Eden really has much development between the first chapter and the last.

I really enjoyed reading Ben’s storyline – as we meet him he is being ostracised by friends after being in prison, and we learn about the crime he supposedly committed – I do think it was quite a heavy subject to have as a sideline story, so I wish there’d been a bit more time spent on it (or even a separate book!)

The time period of this book is quite interesting – although the majority portion takes place in the 90s, Kate’s journal begins in the 40s and that’s a vital part of why the story works because of her mental health struggles and the relationships she has around her. Had Kate’s story taken place in modern times, I don’t think her life would have gone the direction it does.

I gave this book 4/5 stars. I’m a big fan of Diane Chamberlain’s so I loved this book but it’s one of her earlier stories and you can tell her writing hadn’t reached its full potential here so I’d recommend her newer books if you’re not familiar with her.

LGBT Book Recommendations

Today I wanted to do some recommendations of books featuring LGBTQ+ themes – after all what is a queer book blog without queer book recommendations?

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli – 2015

Rep: Gay

Simon Spier is a closeted, gay, 16-year-old student in his junior year of high school with a fondness for musical theater who lives in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Unbeknownst to his family and friends, Simon has been sending e-mails to a person going by the name of “Blue”, Simon himself using the pseudonym “Jacques”. As the two become closer, however, Simon’s secret suddenly falls under siege; the e-mails sent between him and Blue are threatened to be released if he doesn’t play wingman for Martin, the class clown, and coerce his friend Abby into falling in love with him. Now, his sexual orientation and the privacy of him and his enigmatic digital confidant could possibly be compromised. Simon must find a way to step out of his comfort zone, before he is pushed out, and before he loses Blue, who only grows more flirtatious by the day, and who Simon, whether by choice or not, is on the cusp of encountering in person. (Wikipedia)

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Review: Heartstopper – Alice Oseman – LGBT Webcomic


Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

My Thoughts:

I love Alice Oseman for creating this webcomic! In a world of very little bi rep, I want to see more Nicks with loving partners regardless of their gender.

The comic is told between both Nick and Charlie’s point of view, and especially in the first few chapters we see moments of them both together, as well as on their own to examine how their background may influence the romance. Charlie is an out gay boy who was previously bullied after being outed, while Nick is a rugby player who is just coming to realise his sexual orientation.

My favourite storyline is that of Nick – especially in the second and third chapters. Alice does such a great job of showing the confusion that many bi people go through when they have that first crush on someone of the same sex, and I love that Charlie is accepting and willing to help Nick understand the feelings he’s experiencing. There is a part where Nick is googling about feelings for both genders and honestly, which bisexual hasn’t done this when trying to figure out what’s going on.

Credits: Alice Oseman

My favourite scene from the comic is Nick and Charlie’s first kiss (such a sweet moment!) The comic doesn’t have a focus on homophobia (besides a few background subplots) but this first kiss tells you everything about how homophobia (even incidental) has shaped these two characters. At the same time though, the style of the comic softens these issues and you’re just reading about two people falling in love.

We’re currently well into chapter 5 as I write this review, a chapter which includes a story around Charlie and his eating disorder. While this could be triggering to some readers, Alice is really clear at the start of each post if there’s material that could potentially trigger a reader. I love how over the comic we have flipped from Charlie helping Nick with his sexuality and how we see Nick struggle to know how to help Charlie with his ED. This feels so realistic to anyone who’s been there as a loved one copes with mental health issues, feeling helpless but wanting them to know that they are there for them.

I also really like reading about Charlie’s group of friends, including lesbian couple Tara and Darcy, and my personal favourite Elle, a trans student who previously went to Charlie’s school – her budding romance with Tao is so sweet.

If you’re looking for a soft romance story between two adorable boys and their group of awesome friends, definitely check out Heartstopper – it will lighten your lockdown mood!

You can read Heartstopper free here on Tapas or buy a hardcopy of volumes 1, 2, or 3 from Waterstones, Amazon and Book Depository.

My favourite LGBT+ Youtubers

Whether you watch Youtube for entertainment purposes or because you want to educate yourself more on a topic, there are some brilliant LGBT+ Youtubers that deserve to be celebrated. Some of these channels have taught me a lot about issues I was previously ignorant about, while others are just fun to watch. I’d love to hear about your favourite queer youtubers.

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Recommendations: LGBT short films

Short films are something I don’t normally think to watch until they come up on my Youtube recommended, but there are some truly beautiful films out there to be enjoyed. I wanted to highlight five of my favourites today – if you have any recommendations, I’d love to see them in the comments below!

In a Heartbeat – Beth David and Esteban Bravo

This video has been watched over 42 million times since it was released in 2017 so if you haven’t seen it already, where have you been?! The thing I love about this movie is that there are no words, so it can be enjoyed by people of any language.

The Real Thing – Brandon Kelley

A beautiful film about a father/soldier coming home from duty to find that his daughter has started her transition. Again, this tells a powerful story in only two words which is incredible. If you don’t cry, you’re a stronger person than me!

Son of a Preacher Man – Tom Goss

Basically a music video for Tom Goss singing the classic “Son of a Preacher Man, with a boy who falls in love with the son of the local preacher, despite the preacher’s homophobic attitudes.

Standing up for your Best Friend – Peccadillo Pictures

How could I not have a Peccadillo Pictures short on this list? I love a lot of their films, and their Youtube channel has a playlist dedicated to their shorts. This one follows a guy who finds out his best friend is gay and has to decide if he’s going to stick by his friend and risk receiving homophobia himself, or turn his back to keep his “reputation.”

Prom Night – Jenna Larson

A sweet film about a closeted girl who has to make a decision at prom – go along with the heteronormative prom queen image or be out and proud with her girlfriend.

The bi book tag

So, I was searching for pride book tags and came across The Bi Book Tag on Books with Leo’s booktube. I think this is the first tag I’ve seen focused on the bi+ community, so I knew straight away I wanted to do it! To any bi readers and allies, I’d love to see your answer to these questions.

Confusion: a lot of people think bisexuals are just confused (spoiler alert: we’re not) but sometimes sexuality can be a confusing thing when you are just figuring it out. Name a book character who is also going through a journey of figuring things out.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

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Eleanor Oliphant is one of the most relatable characters I’ve read in fiction. Her journey with mental health, loneliness and friendship is beautiful and I loved this book.

First crush: the first queer crush. Name a book with a character in it that totally made you swoon.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Wikipedia

The first book character I remember having a crush on was Remus Lupin – it’s like a safe version of those embarrassing teacher crushes. Remus is still one of my favourite characters from the series.

Coming out: that moment when you’re ready to acknowledge your sexuality. Name a book that made you want to scream and gush on the top of your lungs about to everyone you know!

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith


This is one of my favourite cosy mystery books and definitely my favourite out of this series so far. I know a lot of people guessed the reveal of this book, but I loved how it all fit together.

Recognition: unfortunately, bi erasure is still a thing. Name a book that made you feel seen and valued, understood.

Rainbow Boys – Alex Sanchez

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Rainbow Boys was the first book I remember reading with a bisexual character. Looking back it’s not such a great book (bi-erasure, not the best writing…) but it helped to read about a character who felt the way I did. I still don’t think there’s much good bi rep in fiction unfortunately so let me know if you have any recommendations.

50/50: sexuality is fluid and so is bisexuality- almost no one is fifty fifty. Name a book about which you’re unsure whether you love or hate it- your own not fifty fifty opinion wise.

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

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I think I built this thriller up too much in my head – by the time I read it, I just thought it was OK despite the fact that everyone else seems to love it. I’d like to read it again with a fresh perspective to see if my thoughts have changed, but I think it has the sort of ending that would make that impossible.

Community: finding your place in a community can be hard- sometimes I feel like I’m too gay for the straight people and too straight for the gay people- but in the end it’s all about finding the right people in life that love you- sexuality doesn’t define you. Name a book with an amazing group of friends/community.

It – Stephen King

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Something I didn’t know about Stephen King until I started reading his books is that he writes amazing characters (even if some of them are really unlikeable!) The Losers’ Club from It are one example of a group of friends I’d really love to be part of (apart from the whole killer-clown thing…) and King does a great job of writing a flawed set of characters you come to love over this mega-story.

Celebrating pride during lockdown

Wow, it’s been a while since I wrote a blog post – to be honest, I think I fell out of love with blogging for a little while. But given the situation the world is in, and that one of my favourite events of the summer has been cancelled, I wanted to set myself a challenge. So every day this month I’m going to write a blog post with an LGBT theme to celebrate pride month.

Bisexual pride flag - Wikipedia

Today, I’m starting off with a few ways to celebrate pride, without actually being at a pride event. Let me know in the comments how you’re celebrating this month.

Continue reading “Celebrating pride during lockdown”

On the front line with the women who fight back

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I thought the stories in this book were fascinating – Stacey really highlights some incredible women here, as well as in her documentaries and I learned a lot about issues going on that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

Although I enjoyed all of the book, the most interesting chapter to me was about the issue of femicide in Honduras. It is horrifying to me that this is going on in the 21st century, and it is something that doesn’t get talked about in UK media – almost like the British media either don’t care or don’t want to look culturally insensitive by questioning machismo. I’m so glad Stacey highlights issues like this.

I also like that Stacey gives her opinions on these subjects, but also doesn’t claim to be an expert. She has a view based on the people she’s met and her research around the issues, but the book has enough information that you can make your own opinion about how you feel.

Stacey comes across as a genuine and honest person in this book – I think that part of what people love about her is that she feels like someone who could live on your street or could be a colleague, she’s so down to earth.

I went to see Stacey talking about this book at the Sage Gateshead and I think it really added to my enjoyment. Hearing her talk about her experiences in more depth made me really excited to read the book, and I love that she always comes across in the same way whether in her book, documentaries or live.

If I had to pick a flaw with the book I’d say the chapter on Trans prostitution didn’t feel as comfortable as the other chapters – some of the women were referred to as looking masculine, or else that having intercourse with a trans woman was not as straight as having sex with a cisgender women – I don’t think the chapter was necessarily transphobic, but it didn’t feel as well-written as the rest of the book.

I gave the book 5/5. I love Stacey Dooley and hearing her experiences, both at her talk and in this book really highlighted a lot of issues women are still going through in 2020.

Winter Wonderland Book Tag

Winter is well and truly here – I’ve drank more hot chocolate than anything else these last few weeks, and I’m already dying for Summer! Today I am doing the Winter Wonderland book tag – I’m not sure who the original creator was as their video has been removed from youtube, but these are some cute winter questions to get me excited about reading!

1. What book is so happy and sweet that it warms your heart?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Eleanor is such a sweet character and I love her story of finding friendship, it’s uplifting while dealing with difficult topics.

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2. What is your favourite book with a white cover?

Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King

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3. You’re sitting in a nice comfy chair, wearing a onesie, with a lovely warm hot chocolate but what MONSTER read are you reading?

It by Stephen King: Two SKs in one tag! But this is a monster book in several meanings and it’s taking a long while to work my way through – hot chocolate would definitely help with the creepy parts.


4. It started snowing so you decided to have a snowball fight! What fictional character would you love to have the snowball fight with?

Fred and George Weasley: Who wouldn’t want a snowball fight with the twins? They’d be so fun!

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5. Sadly, your fire is beginning to go out. So what book would you tear the last few chapters out to throw into the fire?

This is a hard question! Probably P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. This was such a strong book, but the ending just fell flat for me. I wanted it to go in a particular direction, and Holly’s position at the end of the book just felt a bit anti-climactic.

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6. What book is so close to your heart that you would gift to someone this Christmas who hasn’t read before but wants to get into reading?

I never get to buy books as presents because none of my family like reading much, so if I were to buy them a book it would either be something non-fiction or with beautiful pictures.