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Book Review: Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar.

Title: Grace is Gone

Author: Emily Elgar

Length: 342 pages

Publisher: Sphere Books

Synopsis: Meg and her daughter Grace are the most beloved family in Ashford, the lynchpin that holds the community together. So when Meg is found brutally murdered and her daughter missing, the town is rocked by the crime. Not at least because Grace has been sick for years – and may only have days to live. Who would murder a mother who sacrificed everything, and separate a teenager from the medication that could save her life? Everyone is searching for an answer, but sometimes the truth can kill you…

This is going to be a hard book to review because I did like it. Well I liked a part of it. But I definitely didn’t love it. I’ll explain why.

Let’s start with what I liked. It was actually only one thing. But I liked the main mystery. I wanted to know what happened to Meg and where Grace was and who took her. I was genuinely intrigued to see what happened. It kept me reading through the things I didn’t like.

So shall we talk about the things I didn’t like? Yeah, let’s go for it. The story is told from two different perspectives, Cara and Jon, and I didn’t care about either of them. At all. There was a whole subplot of Jon’s marriage breaking down and it was unnecessary in this novel. I really didn’t care at all.

The ending that I was intrigued to know. I guessed what happened and I was right. It didn’t stop me from reading because I wanted it to be confirmed. But once the Meg and Grace ending is revealed, we were left with Jons ending. Not only did I not care, I also found it silly. I was reading it thinking ‘really’?? It felt like the author was just going for suspense and shock.

I just felt like it had all been done before. It felt like once Cara and Jon got a tiny clue, the suddenly solved the whole mystery quickly. The author even tried to put a little twist on the character of Grace in the epilogue and it made me realise I would’ve preferred the story to be told from Graces perspective. It would’ve made this story so much better and more layered and intense.

I don’t know if I’d recommend this one. I probably would, it was quick read and like I said it was intriguing for some of the book. You might love it. If you do let me know.

Thank you to Millie and Sphere books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out September 3rd.

Until the next review

JTH

#fiction, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, gay, lgbt, queer, review, thriller, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

Title: Surrender Your Sons

Author: Adam Sass

Length: 392 pages

Publisher: Fluxbooks

Synopsis: Connor Major’s is turning into a nightmare. His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and sent off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes”. But Connors troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide-from the campers, to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director-and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camps horrible truths for what they are – and taking this place down.

As soon as I heard about Surrender your Sons it’s been on my radar. It’s definitely one of my most anticipated queer books of the year. So many people I know have loved it and that just made me more excited and intrigued. But did it disappoint? Read more to find out.

I won’t keep you in suspense (like this book will) and I’ll tell you that I loved this book. It met all my expectations and surpassed them. It was suspenseful, thrilling, romantic and honest.

This book centres around teenagers at a gay conversion camp. And there were points in this novel when I couldn’t believe any of it was true. But of course it is, I think mainly I don’t want these kind of camps to be true, and I think it’s a testament Adams writing that he captures the horror and brutality of the situation and it just made the whole book believable. He captures the atmosphere perfectly which really makes book stands out. You’ll love the teenagers in this book especially the main character of Connor. I also loved that Adam has given every character depth, even the ones we hate.

There was also something I didn’t expect in this book was the romance. How can a romance blossom in this situation and work? But trust me, it did work. Don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you, but it really does work. Again it’s another showcase of Adams brilliant writing and talent. It gave me everything I want in a romance. It also gave the novel some hope, which was nice as the book is very dark.

The story really goes to places I didn’t expect, which obviously makes it excellent. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for you but when the kids start to fight back against the councillors it just adds so many layers to the story. It became so intense. You could really feel the story building up to its thrilling climax. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough (I was reading it on kindle but you know what I mean). It was full of twists and turns and so many things surprised me. It really was a fantastic ending.

This is Adams debut novel, and it’s such a strong book. He manages to capture all the horror, the darkness, yet he manages to show hope and vulnerability. It takes real talent to blend all these cohesively. It’s so real. Also with this book being about Conversion Camps, it packs a powerful message. Ultimately, I think, it shows you that queerness is a power and we always need more books like this.

I would definitely recommend this book to you, as I’m sure you can tell. Don’t miss this one. I think I might’ve convinced myself to re-read it. I’ll look forward to reading what Adam does next.

Thank you to Netgally and Flux for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out September 15th.

Until the next review

JTH

blog, blogtour, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, thriller, Uncategorised, ya

Book Review: An Inconvenient Woman by Stéphanie Buelens

Title: An Inconvenient Woman

Author: Stéphanie Buelens

Length: 302 pages

Publisher: Quercus

Synopsis: When Claire Fontaine learns that her ex-husband Simon is marrying again, to a woman with a teenage daughter, her blood runs cold. She is sure that years ago Simon molested her own daughter and was responsible for her mysterious death. She can’t let him get away with it a second time. Vandalism, harassment; whatever it takes, Claire will expose him. Simon doesn’t know where Claire got this delusion from; her daughter’s death was ruled a suicide. Why is she lashing out? Wanting to protect his new fiancée, he hires Sloane Wilson, an ex-cop turned ‘sin-eater’, whose job is to handle delicate cases without getting the police Involved. Simon gives her the task of getting Claire off his back. Sloane must navigate the wreckage of Claire and Simon’s marriage to discover the truth. Is she crazy, or is he manipulative? And can Sloane stay clear-headed enough to figure it out.

I’m also so excited to be on this social media blast for this fantastic book. Check out all these other reviews.

I don’t really read thrillers that often because I tend to find them a little disappointing, but I can gladly say I didn’t find this one disappointing at all. This is everything you want in a thriller. It was intense, suspenseful, intriguing, complex and just super enjoyable.

The question of An Inconvenient Woman is whether we believe Claire or her Ex-Husband Simon as to whether he abused his step daughter. This book definitely keeps you guessing as to who was telling the truth. I can say I believed Claire. There was just something about her character that made me. There’s another level to this book as Simon hires a ‘sineater’ to stop Claire trying to contact his future wife to warn her. This also made me feel like I believed Claire even more as Sloane the sineater was just ugh! But I’m not telling you the answer.

The plot goes to places I didn’t expect it to. It had many subplots and characters that all came together in ways I didn’t expect but it really made sense. The chapters were also short so it kept the pacing quick and fresh.

Here’s one of the (many) things I really enjoyed about this novel, it had so much heart. Claire had such a heartfelt, upsetting back story. It gave the novel and the characters another layer and so much depth. It really took this book to another level for me. Can we have more thrillers like this please?

The ending was so good. So, so good. I’m so glad it didn’t disappoint. It all came together in such a clever way and kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat until the end. It’s hard to write a review without giving it away. I’ll guess you’ll just have to read it. The ending felt very cinematic to me. It would make a fantastic mini-series.

I would definitely recommend this. It was engaging from the very first page to the end. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a novel I keep finding myself thinking about. It’s out now.

Thank you to Ella at Quercus for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.

Until the next review

JTH

#fiction, #literature, author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze

Title: Who They Was

Author: Gabriel Krauze

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: 4th Estate

Synopsis: This is a story of London you won’t find in any guide books. This is a story about what it’s like to exist in the moment, about boys to eager to become men, growing up in the hidden war zones of big cities – and the girls trying to make it their own way. This is a story of redemptions made and lost, of violence and vengeance – and never counting the cost. This is a story of concrete towers and blank eyed windows, of endless nights in police custody and prison cells, of brotherhood and betrayal. This is about the boredom, the rush, the despair, the fears and the hopes. This is about what’s left behind.

I’ve never read a book like this. How often do we get to say this as a book blogger? But I can honestly say I never have. It’s one of a kind. You’ll never read another book like this.

It’s totally immersive. It’s set in South London and follows Gabriel as he is a member of gangs and violence. It does take some getting used to in the beginning, but once you do it’s absolutely fantastic. You become accustomed to the slang and the dialogue. This is what makes this book so different.

I will say this book is an uncomfortable, brutal read. And I mean that In the best way. But this definitely isn’t any easy read. And we can’t forget the Gabriel Krauze is writing this book from his own experience or things, which is incredible. It really adds another layer to this story. This book literally opens with the main character violently robbing someone, see I told you it’s brutal. But it doesn’t take anything away from this hard-hitting novel.

As the book progresses, Krauze’s story becomes more of a redemption arc, as he is encouraged to leave the life of violence and gang life behind and focus on this studies. He’s continued to study English Literature at university and the juxtaposition between the separate parts of his life is fascinating.

I just want you to read this unique book. Because it’s so different and immersive, it makes it unforgettable. I know I’ll always remember this book. It’s also just been long listed for the Booker Prize and I’d love it to be shortlisted.

Thank you to Matt at 4th Estate Books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out September 3rd (today).

Until the next review

JTH

book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, gay, lgbt, queer, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

Book Review: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Title: Cinderella is Dead

Author: Kalynn Bayron

Length: 400 pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Synopsis: It’s been 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over. Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows she only has one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball… are forfeit. But Sofia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world…

This book was enjoyable, but I have to be honest and say for me, there was just something missing. Something that would’ve taken the book from good to great.I love the premise. It was really interesting, and I thought it was such a good idea. I was really invested in the first few chapters. I was ready to explore the world, the story, the history but unfortunately I just can’t but think that I wanted the story to go deeper. Maybe there needed to be more world building? I wanted to know more about the grand Balls, and in the palace walls. To truly get the sense of the evils Sophia was fighting against. I wonder if it focused too much on Cinderella. I know that sounds silly to say as it’s literally called Cinderella is Dead.

I loved that this book has a F/F relationship. But again, it needed to be more. It felt a bit flat. I just didn’t feel the connection, I knew there was supposed to be one between the characters but it never happened for me. I loved both of these characters separately, but they didn’t click for me as a romantic pair. They definitely worked as pair trying to change history. But it’s always good to see LGBTQ+ representation in books.

I did however love the characters. Sophia is a great character to follow. She was fierce, brave yet had a vulnerability in her bravery that I absolutely loved. I loved Constance too. She was funny and sharp. I cared about them. Towards the end, when they were in a bit of danger, I was genuinely worried what was going to happen to Sophia. Kalynn Bayron has written some fantastic characters. For me, overall this book did need more. It was still good, it certainly wasn’t a bad read. But I just felt at times the author was telling me what to feel, instead of actually letting me feel it. It was a bit lacklustre. And also i felt the story needed a bit better structure.

Again, this book wasn’t bad. I wanted to see how the author would wrap the story up and I wasn’t disappointed. And there was a twist that I didn’t see coming and it shocked me. That’s always a good thing. It was enjoyable, I just feel like it had the potential to be great. But I know so many people loved this book. Listen to them, not me.

I would recommend this book. I even wonder if I read this again, would I like it more. And I’m excited to see what Kaylnn writes next.

Thanks to Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now in the UK.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: Ashes by Christopher De Vinck.

Title: Ashes

Author: Christopher De Vinck

Length: 325 pages

Publisher: Harper Inspire

Synopsis: Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. But when, in Spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks being bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. In an emotionally charged race for survival, even the most harrowing horrors cannot break their bonds of love and friendship. The two teenage girls will see their innocence fall, against the ugly backdrop of a war dictating that theirs was a friendship that should never have been.

I’m super thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour for Harper Inspire. You can check out all these fantastic blogs for this book here. You can also check my Instagram, Instagram.com/jthbooks and you can have a chance to win a copy of this book.

We follow Simone, who begins a friendship with Hava and as the war begins we see the two girls fight for each other and the bond they have.

I really did enjoy it. Its one of the finest historical fiction books I’ve read recently, it’s evocative and atmospheric. Everything we want from a good book.

I loved the friendship between Hava and Simone. It was the highlight of the novel. I totally believed in it. I could see why they would fight for each. It was heartbreaking when they got separated. Their friendship was the best thing about this novel, it gave it a centre which it desperately needed because some of the other parts felt a little misplaced for me.

I loved learning about the traditions of the Jewish and religion. It’s not something I’ve come across a lot in these types of historical fiction books and I absolutely loved it. It gave the novel real depth in this area. And also it made me believe in family more and their love for each other more.

But I really did like the ending. It was heartbreaking. Made me realise how much I was involved in the friend mashup. It also get the book true for me, but there’s was part of it that was really sweet. I won’t spoil the ending for you. But it doesn’t disappoint.

I would recommend this book. I’m it was a quick read. I wanted to see how it would conclude. It was good.

Thanks to Harper Insider for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out August 20th.

Until the next review

JTH

#fantasy, #fiction, #yafantasy, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: ‘Raybearer’ by Jordan Ifueko

Title: Raybearer

Author: Jordan Ifueko

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Hot Key Ya Books

Release Date: 18th August

Synopsis: Tarisai has always longed for a family. She was raised in isolation buy a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other council members through the Ray, a Bing much deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to being somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn – but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

How do I say this clearly so you all understand? I LOVED THIS BOOK! Did you get that? Do I need to say it again? Because I will…

In Raybearer, we follow the story of Tarisai who has been raised in isolation, only seeing her mother every so often and is then taken to the children’s palace, to try and become one of the princes eleven. But she got a secret mission from her mother.

Before I first started this book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I don’t know why, but that’s how I felt. How glad I was to be wrong. Let me tell you, by page 50 I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I knew it was going to have to disastrously wrong for it not to be a 5 star read. It didn’t. It’s 5 stars.

Just to let you know, I’m going to try and review this book without giving any spoilers. I want you to experience it without it being ruined

There’s so many reasons why this book works. So many. I loved the plot. When Tarisai was given the plot to kill the Prince by her mother, ‘The Lady’, but Tarisai begins to care for the Prince, it’s such a great premise. What I thought would happen at the end of the book, happened in the middle and I knew this book was just going to go beyond my expectations. And it did, it soared. It was full of twists and turns. It was just fantastic. Captivating. Everything it needed to be. I know that was vague but just read the book, okay.

This book is set in a magical land, but it’s foundation, it’s roots are these African and Middle Eastern cultures and it really makes this book come to life. They lept off the page and it elevated this book to a whole new level. I love how much it celebrated these cultures, with a magical twist. The magical land is really wide and expansive without ever being overwhelming or opaque. It’s a testament to Jordan Ifueko’s writing. The magic was excellent as well. Really unique and intricate.

The characters, I loved them. Tarisai is the perfect main protagonist. Jordan has captured her perfectly. You can feel her power, her struggle, her heart. She’s fantastic. You can’t help but as a reader care for her instantly. There’s also fantastic side characters. ‘The Lady’ is a brilliant, you can’t help but see her as villain for a while, but she’s fantastic. I loved the Prince and Khira. All of them. There’s also a slow burn romance (my favourite) which is so good. It’s so good. I felt their connection. It was one of the best YA romances I’ve read in a long time.

Jordan Ifueko has crafted a wonderful Young Adult novel. The writing it lush and rich. The storytelling is out of this world. It’s got everything you could. It’s been a long time since I read a young adult novel this good.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I am so unbelievably glad I read this book. Now I’ve just got to wait for book two. And yes there is a book two coming. Trust me, I’ve checked. I implore you to read this book.

Thank you to Hotkey Books YA for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now. Don’t miss this one.

Until the next review

JTH

book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, gay, lgbt, queer, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: Fin & Rye & Fireflies

Title: Fin&Rye&Fireflies

Author: Harry Cook

Length: 320 pages

Publisher: Inkroad Books

Synopsis: Fin Whittle is sixteen and he likes guys. A fact which seems to be complicating his life. One minute Fins kissing the godlike Jesse; the next he’s been cruelly outed. His family’s response? To up sticks in search of a fresh start. A fresh start won’t change who Fin is. Obviously. But it does introduce to the best squad in town: kick-ass Poppy, her on-off girlfriend June and the super cute, super irresistible Rye. Fin soon has a serious crush. And Rye might just feel the same way. But Fin’s parents aren’t happy. If their son won’t change his ‘lifestyle’, they’ll force him onto the straight and narrow… by way of ‘conversion therapy’. An outrageous plan is needed to face down the haters and to give Fin and Rye (and their fireflies) a chance at the happy-ever-after their story deserves…

This book is told from the perspective of two characters Fin & Rye. I really enjoyed both perspectives. At times at the beginning I did get confused as to which perspective I was reading but that didn’t happen once the story progressed. And of course, I fell In love with both of them.

This was the love story I didn’t know I needed. It was beautiful. It was a nice slow burn that felt really real to me. I got that feeling in my stomach, and that means I totally fell for the romance. I needed them to be together. It was so nice to get lost in their love story. It was just really sweet and sometimes we need sweet gay romances because they simply make the world better.

This book also deals with some really tough issues. And I have to say it deals with them really well. It captures the severity of them, but manages to avoid any triggering words and I really, really liked that. There was transphobia, there was conversion therapy. They still had the impact, but Harry dealt with them in a really classy way.

There were many types of relationships dealt with through out the book. There was obviously the romance which I spoke about above. There was the friendship between the four friends which was so beautifully organic. Rye and his mum relationship was super fun and how all mum/son relationships should be.

The relationship between Fin and his parents is a highlight for throughout the book. It’s not easy to read, as deals with a heavy subject of Conversion Therapy. You can feel the tension between them and I was so hoping for a good outcome. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I wasn’t disappointed. It also felt like a real organic ending.

I would definitely recommend this book. I know many of you are too, as you’ve messaged me saying so. Harry Cook is a new YA LGBTQ+ author that I’ll be watching out for in the future because I need more of his books.

Thanks to Inkroad books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out August 12th.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review and Interview with the Author. Boy Queen by George Lester

Title: Boy Queen

Author: George Lester

Length: 389 pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Synopsis: Robin had it all figured out: a future on broadway, a top secret boyfriend and two ride-or-die best friends. Then all his worst nightmares came true. Now, his life is a hot mess. With nothing left to lose, Robin falls wig-first into the glittering embrace of Drag, and comes face-to-face with the queen he was always meant to be. Robin’s about to lest that sometimes your new self is your true self.

This was absolutely delightful. That was literally my first thought when I finished the book. I put it down and said in my head ‘that was absolutely delightful’. I would even quite like a sequel if I’m honest.

I loved the characters. They are eccentric but so real. Robin is a fantastic character. He was a wonderful protagonist for us to follow on his journey of self discovery. His friends were great. George made us care about these characters and it gives even more meaning to the book.

I love to read this in a book, a femme character taking centre stage. Robin at one point in the novel says ‘I’m camp’ and he wears it like a badge of honour and I love that. It’s representation like this that will help so many young people reading this book. It’s so important. Representation matters and I’m so proud of George for writing a character like this. I love it.

The relationship in the book are so important. I loved the relationship between and his mum. It was beautiful to read. I loved the romance too, but I won’t say anymore on that because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was swoon worthy. And a slow burn and you know I love those. I also love the relationship Robin has with himself, it’s amazing to read how he comes to realise what he deserves and it’s so important for young queer people to read.

Of course the drag is fabulous. I want to go the club, I want to see Robin perform and I want to hang out with him and his wonderful friends. It makes me a little sad that I can’t.

I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s once of those charming, important quick reads (because you won’t be able to put it down, I couldn’t). And like I said, I want a sequel!

Thanks to Amber at panmacillan and MyKindaBook for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.

And now for the interview. Thank you so much George for agreeing to do this. I really appreciate it.

1) What was your main inspiration for the book? This book is very much the combination of a lot of the things I love rolled into one. First of all, I am a theatre kid. I am a performer under a different name ( George Lennan, if you must know) and did dance classes and theatre growing up. I even did an MA in theatre at Mountview. It’s been a massive part of my life and is now one of the many careers I am pursuing. Second of all, I am a huge drag race nerd and on my MA I did a 45 minute solo drag show and created That Gurrrl (my drag persona) who has had such a huge impact on my life. And finally, I am a huge fan of queer romance and YA contemporary fiction, so if you put all those things in a pot, throw in a Lorelai Gilmore/Rory Gilmore mother/son dynamic and some glitter. You probably have Boy Queen. The other thing have that inspired this book heavily was wanting show drag as something more that what is shown on Drag Race. I feel like I’ve written this sentence some many times over the past few weeks, but there is so much more to drag than you see on Drag Race. I love the show, I do, but what you see on the show is just a fraction of the absolute magic and brilliant creativity and imagination that exists on the community. If you are a fan, I urge you to go out and look for it! It will blow your mind!

2) I love the relationships in this book. Can you talk a little more about them? Absolutely! As I mentioned in the previous question, was the Gilmore Girls-esque mother/son dynamic. I am a huge fan of the show and remember tweeting many moons ago that I wanted a YA novel version of it but ( as far as I’m aware) that just never happened. So I decided to write it into Boy Queen. This wasn’t just fun for the mother/son dynamic though, I really enjoyed having that in other characters too. My favourite kind of books and tv shows are the ones where characters have their own language that they speak in, a collection of references that each other just get that implies a history and I hope that came across with Natalie, Greg, Priya and Robin. The snappy dialogue and quips were honestly one of the most joyful parts of the book to write. And then of course comes the drag artist where I really had to sharpen my reading glasses. Where this probably became the most fun was with Seth because he was brand new to Robin, so he had to spend some time establishing exactly how to speak to him. And getting tongue tied because… you know… cute boys.

3) What do you hope young queer people get out of this book when they read it? Above anything else, I hope they get a really fun and joyful read featuring queer characters. Sure, the book has it’s dramatic moments and it’s sadder moments, but above everything else I wanted the book to be joyful and a celebration of queerness and drag. I hope it puts a smile on some faces. That would be wonderful! The other thing would be that not getting into drama school isn’t the end of the world. I know for a fact (having experienced it first hand) that it really can feel like that. When you live and breathe theatre, everything becomes a few clicks more dramatic, so not getting into drama school can feel like your life/career/everything is over. It’s not. Rejection is hard, it really does suck the big one, but it’s a part of life! ( A very big part of life of you’re going into the creative industry! Wow!) So take a deep breathe, reassess, do not give up. Keep working. I didn’t go the drama school when I was 18/19 years old. I got rejected from almost everywhere. I ended up studying for a BA in drama and Creative Writing, following which I went to work in publishing. When I realised just how much I missed acting, I started doing amateur theatre and, when I felt like I was ready, did an evening course at ArtsEd followed by my MA at Mountview. It was all about timing. This was the right time for me. Sometimes the universe just knows better!

4) Did the story change over time? Oh absolutely! Every single draft there was something new going in and something old coming out. We tried a lot of different things as the story went by and I am certain there has to be a good twenty to thirty thousand words on the cutting room floor. (They were replaced by other things in the book, I didn’t write a 110,000 word book! Jesus!) But that is the magic of editing. I don’t know where I would’ve been without my editors. They aren’t as close to the book as you are so they see things that you can’t and help you hone the story in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Priya wasn’t even in the first draft and now I can’t imagine the book without her. There is a scene where Robin and Seth are at Eternity together, and that wasn’t in the original draft either but it is such a fab scene that I can’t imagine it any other way! The only problem with this is when I come to write my next book and I find myself comparing the draft zero to my fully edited, copy edited and proofread draft of Boy Queen. Don’t do that. That way sadness lies.

5) How does it finally feel to have your first book out in the world? It is honestly the most surreal feeling in the world. This has been such a dream for me and has been for so many years that it is just surreal, that’s the best word for it. The team at PanMacmillan are working so hard on this book, and I feel every day something cool gets tweeted or posted and I have to pinch myself because I cannot believe it’s been happening to me. I feel so lucky. I have had a literary agent for about six years, I’ve written four books with him ( this is book five), and there were I wondered if maybe it would just never happen for me. So the fact that this is happening, just at the right time (pandemic aside!) with what turned out to be just the right book (I honestly couldn’t be happier Boy Queen is my debut!) is just wonderful.

George’s new book Boy Queen is out from August 6th 2020, £7.99 and is available from all good Bookshops. You can find him on Instagram @TheGeorgeLester or in drag @ThatGurrrlQueen.

A huge thanks to George for agreeing to do this little Q+A. It was absolutely fantastic and is filled with some brilliant advice.

It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Title: Shuggie Bain

Author: Douglas Stuart

Length: 448 pages

Publisher: Picador

Synopsis: It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from her life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one the must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as not right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.

This book was so immersive. I forgot about the outside world when I was reading it. I can’t really think of a higher compliment for a book than that. It’s a story of addiction, survival, love and heartbreak. It’s bleak but so beautiful.

The central theme for the novel is the relationship between Shug and his mother. It was so endearing but so heartbreaking. His protection of her, his willingness to look after her. Even when she was so cruel sometimes. He captures working class estates perfectly and I of course loved the queer element to this novel. There’s a subtly to it that is unbelievably powerful. There was an intensity to this whole novel and I haven’t read a book like that in a long time.

Shuggie Bain is full of Brilliant, brilliant characters. Anges, her addiction problem was heartbreaking. I was willing her to get better. Shug, everytime someone said to him ‘be like other boys’ it made my heart ached. And leek, who just crumbled under his own hurt. They were just all so complex, and intimate. I just felt so connected to them. They felt so real. I know I won’t forget these characters for a long time. Each of them will break your heart in their own way as the fight for the life they want and they life they are desperate to get away from. They are the shining force in this brilliant novel.

This story was taken to another level with the beautiful, powerful writing from Douglas Stuart. He somehow manages to capture an intimate relationship between mother and son, and capture the feeling of a place and time and blend them all together seamlessly. His writing has such depth. The descriptions of people and place are so good.It’s brilliant writing. It really is.

The ending, I cried. I had to. I don’t want to say to much a ruin it. It was heartbreaking, yet there was this sense of freedom. I don’t even know how to explain it. You’ll just have to read it for yourself and find out.

This book has just been shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 and I’m not surprised at all. It’s a powerful book.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot of this book around. It’s going to be on a lot of people tbr piles and I don’t blame them. It’s just that good. I see a few prizes in the future for this book.

Thanks to Picador for a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out August 6th.

Until the next review

JTH