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July Wrap Up

Ahhh July, I want to thank you because for me you’ve been a good reading month. You’ll notice there was no June wrap up, that’s because I didn’t read a single book in June. But thankfully I came back strong in July. To be fair, even reading one book would’ve been an improvement but let’s not dwell on the negative.

I read some fantastic books in July. I found a new favourite. I read diversely, I read to learn and all in all it was a great reading month. I also returned to work after lockdown ended here in the UK, so I was definitely looking for an escape.

So let’s talk about the books shall we?

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. This should be required reading. I can’t explain how much I loved this book. As a member of the queer community this book made me feel seen. Please read this book if you haven’t. It’s out now.

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune. I really enjoyed this one. More than I thought I would. I did find it a little tedious at the beginning but I grew to love it. And the characters. There’s a sequel which I can’t wait to read so that’s always a good sign. This one is out.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. This one was good, but there was something missing from it that would’ve made it great. I don’t know if it was the plot or the pacing. Or maybe the romance. But it was good and definitely worth a read. It’s out in the Uk August 14th.

Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like this. It was so immersive and brutal. It’s truly a unique novel. I can honestly say I’ll never forget this book. It’s also just been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It’s out in September.

The Black Kids by Christine Hammonds Reed. Damn this book was good. This one of those books that you get wrapped up in and learn something from. So good. So important. I loved it. It’s out in August.

Girl in the Walls by A.J. Gnuse. Oh this was so good. At times terrifying and heartbreaking, it really was a captivating novel. I couldn’t turn the last few pages fast enough. It’s not out till March 2021 but definitely keep an eye out for this one.

That’s it for this month. I definitely didn’t read as many books as I usually do, but it was nice to be reading again. And so many of the books were excellent. Truly excellent. It’s was quality over quantity this month and I’m ok with that.

I hope you had a good reading month.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore

Title: The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle

Author: Neil Blackmore

Length: 320 pages

Publisher: Penguin

Synopsis: When Benjamin and Edgar Bowen embark on a Grand Tour of Europe, they are ready to meet people of Quality. They have trunks full of powdered silver wigs and matching wigs, a hunger to experience the architectural wonders of Ancient Rome, and an ability to quote Voltaire (at length). They will make connections and establish themselves in high society, just as their mother had planned. But it soon becomes apparent that their suits are not quite the right shade of grey, their smiles are to ready, their appreciation of the arts ridiculous. Class, they learn, is not something that can be studied. Benjamin‘s real education become when he meets Horace Lavelle. Beautiful, charismatic, seductive, Lavelle delights in skewering the pretensions and prejudices of their milieu. He consumes Benjamin’s every thought. Love can transform a person. Can it save them?

In ‘The Intoxicating Mr Levelle’ we follow twin brothers Edgar and Benjamin as the begin their Grand Tour of Europe ready to meet the elite and begin the rest of their lives.

My expectations for this book were high, and ultimately it failed to live up to them. For a while I thought it was going to meet them, I thought it might be the queer historical fiction novel I’ve been waiting a long time for. But unfortunately it wasn’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong I did enjoy the book, it was good. There was much to enjoy. It had some fantastic characters (not all), i loved the Grand Tour aspect, I loved the relationship between the brothers.

I loved the period of history it was set in. Loved it, I’ve been waiting for a queer book in this setting for a long time. I loved all the details, they added some much to this novel. The clothing, the places I really did enjoy this aspect.

Now the romance, it kind of feels like the whole novel depends on it to work and for me it just didn’t work. I absolutely loved fun element to the romance, and the sex scenes were good. I think it’s always a good thing when queer love is done well in book but probably of the actual romance was just a bit off because Lavelle treated Benjamin like shit and somehow Benjamin was besotted with him. I know Lavelle showed him a new side to himself and a different way to live but he didn’t have to be a dick while doing.

I absolutely hate Lavelle. Hated him. I get what author was tiring to do, but it didn’t work for me. I couldn’t have put up with him for two seconds. I think he needed to be likeable for it to work and he wasn’t. I liked the message that Lavelle brings to the book, just not the character. I couldn’t understand why Benjamin would be in love with him.

I would recommend this book. It was a bit of fun, and I’m sure some of you would even like Lavelle. It was a quick read too. But when I remember this book, I just remember being annoyed by it. So make of that what you will.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for a copy of this book in exchange for a honest, unbiased review. It’s out August 13th. Out in EBook now.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Title: The Extraordinaries

Author: TJ Klune

Length: 400 pages

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Synopsis: In Nova City, there are extraordinary people, capable of feats that defy the imagination. Shadow Star protects the city and manipulates darkness and Pyro Storm is determined to bring the city to its knees using his power of fire. And then there’s Nick, who… well, being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right? Instead of fighting crime, Nick must contend with a new year at school, a father who doesn’t trust him, and a best friend named Seth, who may or may not be the love of Nicks short, uneventful life. It should be enough. But after a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do with or without Seth’s reluctant help.

The plot was super interesting, even if I did have a few problems with the pacing. I loved the whole superhero aspect to it. I hadn’t read a book like this before and I enjoyed it. Also gay superheros FINALLY. I also loved the relationship between Nick and his dad, it was dealt with beautifully.

My favourite thing about this book was the friendship between the main four characters Nick, Seth, Gibbi and Jas. I absolutely adored it. They all had such great chemistry. I loved the dynamics between them all. All the characters had such strong personalities, but they blended so well together. I had a real soft spot for Gibbi. She made me laugh out loud.

I loved the romances. Nick and Seth were absolutely adorable and total end goals, would I have liked them to get together sooner as it was so obvious, yes, but it was worth it when they did. I also loved Gibbi and Jas’s relationship. They had a real solidity to their relationship that you don’t see often in YA.

There was definitely some things I wasn’t to keen on about the book, I definitely found it to be a bit tedious at times, mainly about the 25% mark. It just needed to move on quicker. I guess I had a little problem with the pacing. And it was also a tiny bit predictable, it took it further than I thought it would, but it made me struggle to pick it up at times.

I loved TJ’s writing. It was witty, it had me laughing out loud but it was also really heartfelt and honest. He managed to combine the two perfectly. This is the first book I’ve read by him and I look forward to reading another of his. So many people have recommended The House on the Crulean Sea, so I’m going to check that one out.

I really would recommend this book. Look all I know is I had to ask people if there was going to be another book in this series because I want to got back to this world. So keep a look out for that one, I will be.

Thank you to Hooder & Stoughton and Netgalley for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. This one is out now.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: All Of My Friends Are Rich by Michael Sarais

Title: All Of My Friends Are Rich

Author: Michael Sarais

Length: 293 pages

Synopsis: Orphan Leo Cotton has finally built a family, but the advent of bipolar and depression wakes him from this dream life to reveal dark truths about the man he’d married. One year later, Leo is lost. Embarrassed by a dead-end job that barely pays the bills, he can’t help but notice that those around him are all enjoying success. When his closet friend, Sara, asks him to be her best man, Leo reaches the last straw: how can he possibly afford these lavish festivities on his wages? A Grindr chance encounter reveals that a shortcut to riches does not exist… but in the end, this reckless route may cost him loved-ones he aims to impress and welcome terrible danger..

What a book!!

This is one of those books that just captured my heart with its great characters, it’s intriguing story and important message. All of my Friends Are Rich by Michael Sarais is a must read.

The main character is called Leo and I loved him. He’s was such a great character to follow. He was funny, honest and relatable. This is down to Michael, as he’s crafted a great character that has sincerity, especially when you find out the stories conclusion. I think a lot of people will be able to see themselves in Leo, for many reasons.

I love the friendship between Leo and his best friend Sara. They have the kind of friendship we all crave. It’s funny, real and has a real depth of sincerity to it. There’s this really sweet, powerful scene towards the end of the book and it made me cry. It was just profound honesty.

There was a romance in this book that I just adored. Oh boy, I was rooting for them to be together. I won’t spoil the ending and tell you if they do.

This book was very sexually graphic, which isn’t normally my kind of thing, but there was definitely reasoning behind it and it wasn’t in the book unnecessarily. And I’m not gonna lie, the sex scenes were hot! It all led to something more meaningful which I really liked, I explain a bit more about that in the paragraph below.

Here’s what I really liked about this book, is what it says about Mental Health. When I realised that Leo was actually having an episode, it brought the whole story together. It made everything he did make sense, it gave it context and a deeper meaning and I loved it. It shocked me a little that I missed it, but it really made the novel for me to be honest. It’s the perfect reminder how important it is to get help.

This is Michaels debut novel and it really packs a punch. Its full of heart, friendship. Michael has written a beautiful story, which perfectly showcases his talent as a writer. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

I definitely recommend this novel. It’s fun, sexy and it’s got something to say. I loved it. Make sure you definitely pick a copy of this book.

I was lucky to given a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now. Don’t miss this one.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: Queen of Coin and Whispers’ by Helen Corcoran

Title: Queen of Coin and Whispers

Author: Helen Corcoran

Length: 464 pages

Publisher: O’Brien Press

Synopsis: When Lia, an idealistic Queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster – who took the job to avenge her murdered father – they realise all isn’t fair in love and treason. Lia won’t mourn her uncle: he’s left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She’s swarm to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the court at its own games. For years, Xania’s been determined to uncover her fathers murderer. She finally gets the chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner’s axe. It’s an easy decision. When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

This book was so enjoyable. For so many reasons. Full of romance, intrigue and fantastic characters. I needed a good YA book in my life and this one was it.

We follow Lia, who is a newly crowned Queen, with big ideas to return her kingdom to glory. We also follow Xania, who is hired as the queen’s spymaster.

There’s so many things I loved about this book. I don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll start with the intricacy and the detail. I loved how it allowed you to really loose yourself in the story. When a story is as detailed as this, it sets such a solid foundation for the rest of the story and it’s works beautifully in this book.

The romance! Oh the romance. It was F/F and it was heaven. It was a lovely slow burn romance (you know I love those) and it was so well done. I loved that it wasn’t the main plot, but was still so beautifully done. It always great so see LGBTQ+ representation in books, especially when it’s so well done like it is in ‘Queen of Coin and Whispers’. There’s some beautiful, tender scenes between the two. I also loved how the relationship dealt with the political side of things.

Queen of Coin and Whispers read to me at times like a political thriller. Full of the inner workings of a queen and her government, it has some great characters and I didn’t know who to trust, it was wonderful. It really kept me intrigued as a reader. With the assassination attempts in queens life and the spymaster trying to solve it, it gave the story and the characters a great dynamic. It all made for a thrilling read.

Can I say how much I loved the characterisation in this book. It didn’t focus on either characters looks, of course they were described, but it was refreshing to read about to two strong, fierce, flawed, intelligent women. Especially in young adult. It’s so desperately needed and Helen Corcoran delivers.

This is Helens debut novel and I can firmly say she has made a fan! To create such a well rounded, intriguing story with fantastic characters, I was hooked from start to finish. I’ll look forward to seeing what she does next. I couldn’t recommend this book more. Don’t miss this one. The perfect read for Pride Month.

Thank you to O’Brien press for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out June 1st.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: Camp by L. C. Rosen

Title: Camp

Author: L. C. Rosen

Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Penguin

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only in straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists. This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him. But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself, how much is he willing to change for love? And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?

I absolutely loved this book. I just think it’s brilliant. And more than that it’s important. For me, it was the perfect YA. Can we have more books like this one please? Especially own voices, like this one.

I loved the premise and the setting for this book. I don’t know if this kind of place is real (I’m old) but it’s fantastic. It great place for the story to take place. It was so inclusive. It also gives the story a great foundation and it really takes off from there.

‘Camp’ has such amazing characters. I love Del, he was sweet. I loved that he was so multifaceted. Even though he’s changed himself to be loved, he accepted that this part of himself was also real. But he also knows who is and loves himself for it. Ugh, I love him. His two best friends George and Addy were amazing. They made me laugh out loud. I even liked Hudson, even though he had the most problematic views, he was never unlikable. L C Rosen really has created fantastic characters. They were also beautiful written. All complex and real.

I love the romance. I just loved it. It was so well done. Even though a lot of it’s circumstances were fake because of both boys lying. There connection felt real. I was rooting for them. It was also very sex positive. Which is important for young adults, especially queers one to read.

This book is loveable and fun, but it definitely shouldn’t be underestimated because it is so important. This is a book where queer kids shine. In every way. They aren’t the sidekick, or the one being bullied. They are all the stars and it’s fantastic to read. This book isn’t another of those stories of the straight acting guys who just happened to be gay, these are femme gay guys who love themselves.

L C Rosen is out here giving a voice to so many people that have often been overlooked in every way. I can’t think of another author that is doing it, especially not this well. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

I hope every young adult (even adults) reads this book. Queer teens we see themselves represented in this book, many for the first time. Representation is so important. We see so many different kinds of queer representation in this book. I know I keep going on about it really is important. I think this book will give so many people hope. It’s the kind of book I wish I had around when I was younger.

I can’t recommend enough, in case you couldn’t tells tell. I loved every second of this book. I already know this is going to be on all my books of the year lists. It’s that good.

Thank you to Penguin for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

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Pride Month YA recommendations.

Pride Month is upon us. It’s a very exciting time. Last month, I spent the whole entirety of June nothing but queer books and it made my heart very happy. Very happy indeed. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do that this month, so I thought I’d share my recommendations.

These book are all YA. I truly think YA books have some fantastic options for us to read with some fantastic representation. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Representation Matters. I’m trying to keep all these books as Own Voice options, but at the bottom of the blog, I’ll put a little section that aren’t own voices.

These books will help young queer people to find themselves, find others like them and I can’t tell you how important that is. It’s all about acceptance. I remember being a young queer boy and desperately trying to find the courage to be able to buy a queer book in my local bookstore. Now, there’s only a little hesitation when I buy them.

I’ll be doing another post for some adult literature queer books, a bit later.

So let’s get started shall we.

‘History Is All You Left Me’ by Adam Silvera. This book is so beautiful, heartbreaking and emotional. It was the first queer book I read, so it owns a very special place in my heart. It deals with so much, and there’s some beautiful queer representation at its heart. This was the book I had to pluck up the courage to buy and I’m so glad I did. In the photo above are some more of Adams books if you’d like to check them out. But History really is the most beautiful for me.

‘Camp’ by L.C.Rosen. Boy oh boy, do I love this book. It took queer to another level. It put femme characters centre stage and it’s brilliant. It’s not something I’ve seen before, and I hope more books follow. It’s a beautiful story of self acceptance, queer love, and being proud to be you. It’s just so celebratory. Rosens other book ‘Jack of Hearts’ also very good. I really can’t recommend this one enough. It’s out May 28th. Just in time for Pride Month.

Felix Ever After by Kacen …. Now, I am going to be honest and say I haven’t actually read this one, but I’m going to recommend because it’s got Trans POC representation, which is so underrepresented. The story revolves around Felix, who learns to love himself. And I can’t think of a more positive message than that. Also, let’s just look at the cover. STUNNING.

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey. This is a queer thriller and it’s fantastic. While this one had a love story that will make you heart soar, it’s also going to break it. It’s filled with mystery and romance. It’s a little darker than some of the others on this list, but just as beautiful. This one is also out on the 28th. Just in time for Pride.

Boy Queen by George Lester. Another book I’ve read recently and loved. Again, we have another femme character at the centre and I love it. This book is delightful. It’s full of drag queens, romance, self pride and love. This is definitely one to add to your queer collection. It’s out August 6th.

Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. Again, I have to confess I haven’t read this book. I’m mentioning one I haven’t read just to bring them to your attention and maybe you’ll like the sound of them. This one is set in the 1980s and centred around the Aids crisis, a moment in queer history we can never forget. But it’s from teenagers perspective. I can’t tell you how badly I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Again, this is another one I haven’t read but want to highlight. This has got an abundance of different representations. Queer, Mental Health and POC. And this book is getting a sequel so it can’t be bad right? A friend recommended this to me and I trust their opinion highly. I am incredibly excited to read it.

‘Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe’ by Benjamin Alice Sáenz. Well this book reads just like a love song. It’s stunning. Quiet and impactful and it will have you weeping at the end. Beautiful. Just beautiful. And highly underrated.

There are so many more books out there, like ‘ I Wish You All The Best’ by Mason Deaver, ‘The Gravity of Us’ by Phil Stamper, ‘ziggy, stardust & me’ by James Branderson. ‘Alex in Wonderland’ by Simon James Green, ‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta and ‘Wranglestone’ by Darren Charlton. I encourage you to look all these Own Voice books up.

Now for some of those books that aren’t own voice. ‘Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ by Becky Albertalli. ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston, ‘Only Mostly Devastated’ by Sophie Gonzales, ‘Carry On’ by Rainbow Rowell and ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ by Jandy Nelson.

I also really need to add some F/F books. I did recently read ‘Queen of Coin and Whispers’ by Helen Corcoran which was fantastic. And waiting for ‘The Henna Wars’ by Adiba Jaigirdar to arrive, which I can’t wait to read.

So there we have, some fantastic books that celebrate inclusivity, queer love, queer pride and self acceptance. They all teach such valuable lessons.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Let me know if there’s any I’m missing, or if you’ve read some of these and you love them, or if they’ve helped you.

Until the next review

JTH