Monthly TBR – October 2023

A new month means it is time for a new TBR. I’ve continued to split things into a ‘need to read’ pile and a possibility pile for mood reading. I’m sure I’ll probably also read stuff that isn’t listed anywhere in this post, as well, but these are the books I’d definitely like to get to this month.

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First Lines Fridays (81) – September 29, 2023

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!
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ARC Review – Charming Young Man

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Charming Young Man by Eliot Schrefer. I knew nothing about this book before requesting it on NetGalley. One of Schrefer’s previous books, The Darkness Outside Us, was one of my favorite books of 2021. So, I just knew I had to read this one regardless of what it was about.

From New York Times bestselling author Eliot Schrefer comes an exuberant YA historical coming-of-age novel about a rising star French pianist, navigating his way into high society as he explores his sexuality. Perfect for fans of Last Night at the Telegraph Club and The Gentleman’s Gide to Vice and Virtue.

They say Léon Delafosse will be France’s next great pianist. But despite his being the youngest student ever accepted into the prestigious Paris Conservatory, there’s no way an impoverished musician can make his way in 1890s Paris without an outside patron.

Young gossip columnist Marcel Proust takes Léon under his wing, and the boys game their way through an extravagant new world. When the larger-than-life Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac offers his patronage, Léon’s dreams are made real. But the closer he gets to becoming France’s next great thing, the further he strays from his old country life he shared with his family and his best friend Félix . . . a boy he might love.

With each choice Léon makes, he must navigate a fine line between two worlds—or risk losing them both.

***Thank you to Katherine Tegen Books for providing a copy of Charming Young Man via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I expected to love Charming Young Man because I’ve enjoyed Schrefer’s previous work. However, I never expected to adore it quite this much. This was a beautiful, queer coming-of-age story set amidst the backdrop of 1890s France. Unsurprisingly, the writing was beautiful, and I was transported alongside Léon to the glamorous high society scene of Paris with its fabulous salons and glamorous parties.

While Charming Young Man had an interesting plot about Léon’s attempt to secure a place as a renowned pianist, the focus was largely on his struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality and figuring out where he belonged. Léon was awkward, shy, and battling shame about his interest in other men. His journey was an emotional one, and I truly felt like I knew him by the end of the story. I especially loved the scenes of him playing the piano because of how he equated each piece with a memory or a feeling, which allowed the reader to experience the soul of the music and some of Léon’s inner world. The writing of those moments was superb.

Léon had several relationships/situationships in Charming Young Man, but I definitely wouldn’t classify this book as a romance. As he navigated Paris society, he attracted the attention of people who wanted to take advantage of his talent for their own gain, but they also helped him better understand his attraction toward men. For example, his interactions with Marcel Proust and Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac helped him understand that his sexuality was a valid part of his identity rather than just a perverted behavior to be excised at all costs. Their depictions left me super fascinated by these people, and I have already picked up a book written by Proust, which I’m excited to read.

Despite not being a romance per se, Charming Young Man did have a central relationship that I absolutely loved. Léon had such a beautiful thing with his best friend Félix. Their relationship was such an easy one, and I felt the depth of their connection despite them only having a couple of scenes together. The author accomplished this by interspersing letters between the two throughout the text, along with making Félix a staple of Léon’s thoughts about home. The entire time, I wanted them to end up together, even though it seemed like that would only be possible if Léon gave up his dream.

Charming Young Man explored so many different themes. In particular, it examined the intersection of class and sexuality during this time period. Léon’s experience was starkly different from the other men in Paris. The upper classes had the freedom to explore artistic and sexual pursuits that the poor, rural people did not, at least not without risking everything in the process. Léon struggled to maintain a place and often had to do things outside of his comfort zone to ‘make it,’ even though all he wanted was to focus on his music. I also appreciated how the story highlighted individuals who flouted the gender norms of the time. However, they were also largely afforded that privilege due to their class.

Overall, Charming Young Man was another fantastic novel by Eliot Schrefer. If you enjoy historical fiction that centers queer people and their experiences, this is a book you don’t want to miss. I particularly loved that the story was inspired by the author’s reaction to a painting of the real life Léon. I now really hope to see the portrait in person myself one day. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Books I’ve Read This Year with Bi+ Male Characters (2023)

Every year for bi visibility day, I create my list of favorite books with bi+ male characters (2021, 2022). The lists are always comprised of books I’ve read in the preceding year. I’ve decided to continue making this a yearly thing… because why not? Without further ado, here are some of the books I’ve read since last September that included bi+ male rep within the main cast of characters (book covers link to Goodreads and book titles link to my review, if available). Happy bi visibility day to all my bi peeps out there!

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Let’s Talk Bookish – Books That Feel Like Fall

Hello, everyone! Today I’m participating in Let’s Talk Bookish. Let’s Talk Bookish is a bookish meme that was created by Rukky @ Eternity Books where each Friday, bloggers write posts discussing the topic of the week. Since April 2022, Aria @ Book Nook Bits has been the host of LTB, and she posts each month’s topics on her blog! This month’s topic is books that feel like fall, which is fitting as the season is just beginning. 🍂

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Book Blogger Hop: September 15 – 21

The first iteration of the Book Blogger Hop was started in March 2010 by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books and ended on December 31, 2012. On February 15, 2013, Coffee Addicted Writer reintroduced the hop with Jennifer’s approval. The hop begins on the Friday of each week and ends on the Thursday of the following week. Every week, there is a prompt with a book-related query. The aim of the blog hop is to provide bloggers with an opportunity to follow other blogs, discover new books, make friends with other bloggers, and gain new followers for their own sites.

This Week’s Question

How long does it usually take you to finish a book?

This is a really tough question to answer with any accuracy because it varies so much. It depends on the book and the format I’m reading it in. I typically get through a 300-500 page book in about three days. If it is something like a YA contemporary, I could finish it in less than a day. Whereas, a denser adult fantasy/sci fi book might take me three or four days.

For audiobooks, I tend to space my consumption out a bit more. I typically only listen to them right before bed or while I’m doing chores. So, I usually finish one or two of them per week.

Regardless of length or format, I’m probably not enjoying a book if it is taking me longer than a week to read. I have absolutely no patience. So, if I’m motivated to find out what happens in the book, I have a need to read it quickly. The only exception to this is re-reads because I already know what happens in the end. I tend to read slower if it isn’t my first time through a book, and I’ve had some re-reads take me as long as a month.