Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: four star review

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Fallen Angel blog tour. This is the first Chris Brookmyre novel I’ve ever read, but as soon as Caolinn invited me to take part I knew I had to say yes – she described Fallen Angel in […]

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

“I’m not just happy, Eff, I’m Happy Girl Lucky. People have always said that’s what I am, but I’ve never really understood the expression before… because why can’t boys be it too? But now it truly capsules me perfectly.” Happy Girl Lucky introduces us to […]

Review: Proud anthology

Review: Proud anthology

I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to tell you that this collection of LGBTQ+ stories was just as delightful as I’d expected it to be.

I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the individual stories, as that’s how I’ve worked out my overall rating for the collection, so if you’d rather pick up your copy of Proud without knowing too much about the stories included I’d suggest looking away now!

Dive Bar by Caroline Bird:

Dive Bar – the first inclusion in the collection – is a poem that I just really didn’t understand? I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry though, so I’m probably missing some aspect of it that would make it make more sense to me… But as it stands currently I don’t have strong feelings about it either way. 3/5

Penguins by Simon James Green:

Absolutely glorious. Accompanied by art by Alice Oseman, Penguins is one of my favourite stories in the collection. I haven’t read any of Simon James Green’s other novels yet, but I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points as Cameron’s attempts to come out were constantly thwarted by the gay penguins at the zoo. 5/5

On The Run by Kay Staples:

Kay Staples spoke at the Stripes event, so I’d already heard her read the first page or so of On The Run, but it still made me chuckle when Nicky shared the story of how they ended up running away from home… to a Travelodge. Glamorous! 4/5

The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So:

Another story I was already slightly familiar with was The Phoenix’s Fault, the concept of which grabbed me when Cynthia So introduced her story at the Stripes event. This is a world in which the phoenix and the dragon are the marriage symbol, and Jingzhi is expected to audition to marry the prince – searching for a wife based off of whether their phoenix responds to his dragon. I had an idea in my head of how this story was going to go, so I was pleasantly surprised when it went a completely different direction! I’m hoping that So will revisit the world she creates in this short story, because there is so much more potential here. 5/5

As The Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… by David Levithan:

Not a fan of this one. I can see what David Levithan was trying to do – each characters innermost thoughts are justified slightly different on the page, so you can read the piece as a whole or read each character individually – but it just seems a bit too artsy, taking away from the impact of the message that he’s conveying. 1/5

Almost Certain by Tanya Byrne:

Another brilliant story. Orla is painfully cool – obsessed with music, constantly hanging out at her local record store and getting personal recommendations from the owner – but she’s also plagued with anxiety. When Mal introduces her to the music of Reeba Shah, she knows she has to get past her apprehensions and go to the gig, but although she gets to meet Reeba she still doesn’t get to see her perform. Almost Certain is a great reminder that having an LGBTQ+ identity is just one facet of a character and doesn’t have to be their whole story. 5/5

The Other Team by Michael Lee Richardson:

When a team are told that they can’t play in a league match because of their transgender teammate, they decide to play anyway – even if it they won’t get any points and it won’t exactly ‘count’, it’s the principle. A funny cast of characters from a new voice who’s certain to have a bright future ahead of him. 4/5

I Hate Darcy Pemberley by Karen Lawler:

A lesbian Pride & Prejudice retelling? Yes please! I really enjoyed the over-dramatic high school scenes and how brilliantly they mirrored the high society drama of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m glad that Karen Lawler decided to take the prompt of what pride meant to her so literally. However, if a reader hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice yet it might go right over their heads, as the supporting cast of characters aren’t thoroughly introduced.4/5

The Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell:

I’m sad to say that The Courage of Dragons was my second least favourite story in the collection. I absolutely loved The Last Leaves Falling and have been looking forward to reading more of Fox Benwell’s writing, but this story just didn’t appeal to me. I loved the concept – a non-binary kid and their group of friends overthrowing the school’s gender-conforming bathrooms and legislation – but the Dungeons and Dragons aspect of it just didn’t translate well (and I love D&D, so I can’t believe I’m saying that!). However, it was accompanied by the most beautiful piece of art in the entire book, so that was a redeeming feature. 2/5

The Instructor by Jess Vallance:

The Instructor is a predictable story, but it’s so very cute. A girl’s father is a plumber, and he gives one of his clients a reduced fee in exchange for his daughter getting free driving lessons from the instructor. 4/5

Love Poems to the City by Moira Fowley-Doyle:

My favourite story in the collection, and I would give this 10/5 if I could. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s language is beautiful and poetic, and the story that she tells – of two girls who aren’t necessarily in love, both with separated parents, campaigning for the right to marry – is passionately told. I cannot recommend this one enough. 5/5

How to Come Out as Gay by Dean Atta:

Another poem to round out the collection. How to Come Out as Gay is far more straightforward than Dive Bar and I enjoyed it a lot more. 4/5

So there you have it! Overall, Proud gets a rating of 3.8 (but I round my ratings up, so that makes it a four star read!).

I’d like to say another huge thank you to Stripes, for allowing me to read an early copy of Proud in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the second anthology they’ve curated (the first, A Change is Gonna Come, being just as successful) and I’m looking forward to finding out which gap in the market they’re going to be tackling next. Keep up the good work!

Alyce

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Blog tour: Trapped by Nick Louth

Blog tour: Trapped by Nick Louth

Hi there! Last week I took part in the blog blitz for Vivian Conroy’s A Testament to Murder and I told you that I had another exciting Canelo blog tour coming up, and today’s the day. As always, I’m going to give you a bit […]

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

A school ski trip turns deadly when a storm springs up out of nowhere, cutting the town where the group are staying off from the rest of the world. The ski lifts are out of action, the townsfolk seem to have evacuated and the teachers […]

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Mossbelly MacFearsome is a dwarf warrior on a mission. His nemesis, Leatherhead Barnstorm, has stolen the Doomstone Sword and is planning to use it to bring about the end of the human race.

It’s up to Moss and his recently elected Destroyer, Roger – an ordinary boy who meets Moss on his way to get beaten up by a bully, impressing the dwarf with his ‘bravery’ in facing someone tougher than he – to save the day (and hopefully avoid getting grounded in the process…)

As this is the first book in a new series for children (the second book, Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Goblin Army, slated for release at the beginning of September) I wasn’t surprised that some aspects of the story were rather clunky. Establishing the lore of the world (introducing Moss and the dwarves, the Witchwatchers and Warlockwatchers, and goblins, ogres and dragons, too) causes the pace to suffer, the amount of exposition making it hard to keep track of the plot at times.

However, that’s both a negative and a positive thing. Although it makes the book feel a bit too long, it also proves Alex Gardiner has done a lot of world-building and has crafted this with potential for expansion in mind. The attention to detail shows Gardiner is invested in the story and the characters, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are quite a few installments in the Mossbelly MacFearsome series to come.

There’s even a bonus chapter at the end of the book featuring a fairy tale which is referenced regularly throughout the story, making you feel even more involved in the world.

I read Mossbelly MacFearsome out loud to my partner and daughter, and had much joy trying to embody the various members of the gang. This book is a perfect bedtime story, as there are lots of made up words that will get children giggling, but it also features a few difficult terms that will help expand your child’s vocabulary.

If you’re looking for a series for your child which will be fun for you and them, give Mossbelly MacFearsome a try.

Alyce

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Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

‘Is this what marriage is like? she wonders. A constant balancing act between infatuation and impatience.’ At first glance, it appears as though The Flower Girls is going to be a pretty cut and dry thriller. A girl disappears from a hotel on New Year’s Eve, and when a terrible storms starts raging outside it’s a race against time to try […]

Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Courtney Aloysius Cooper IV is in love with his best friend, Jupiter, but there’s not likely to be a Jupe-and-Coop romance anytime soon, because Jupiter is gay. He’s always struggled to accept this fact, but his girlfriends have found their closeness even harder to accept, […]

Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Rosie Loves Jack begins with a newspaper article detailing the story of a teenager with Down’s syndrome who has gone missing after running away from home to be reunited with her boyfriend.

When we join Rose, it’s before she embarks on her cross-country adventure to Jack, who gets taken away after throwing a chair at school. Jack’s brain was hurt when he was born, but Rose trusts that he won’t hurt her, no matter how much her dad worries for her safety. In fact, the only reason Rose leaves is because she finds postcards from Jack in her dad’s office which he’s hidden from her. Rose thought that Jack didn’t love her anymore, and in the postcards Jack expresses the same worry, so Rose decides to strike out on her own.

She’s not Rose without Jack, and Jack isn’t Jack without Rose.

Mel Darbon has written an astounding debut. When I realised that this was a book about a girl with Down’s syndrome written by someone who hasn’t directly experienced living with Down’s, I’ll admit it – I was apprehensive. There are a lot of stereotypes regarding Down’s syndrome laced throughout pop culture, and I was worried that this novel was going to regurgitate all of them, but Darbon directly contradicts the most common preconceptions regarding the syndrome.

Just think about the title: Rosie Loves Jack. So often, people with Down’s syndrome are represented as sexless beings who don’t think about things like love or relationships, but Rosie Loves Jack tears down this notion. Rose reminisces on times when her and Jack have kissed, romantic memories laced throughout the ongoing story making you root for a couple that barely spend any time together on the page.

Darbon includes background characters who scoff at Rose when she talks about Jack, and although this infuriated and upset me in equal measure it felt true to life. I was glad that she made Rose aware of – but not too hurt by – their comments, and I hope that anyone who reads this book learns to think twice before reacting in case people get hurt.

It’s easy to get emotional when reading this novel, because it’s much darker than it first seems. A man finds Rose in the park and helps her, but when she gets to his house she realises that he has girls there who are forced to do sex things with men. Rose makes friends with one of the girls and they attempt to escape together, but things go wrong and they’re taken back there. There isn’t a neat resolution to that aspect of the plot – another way that Darbon makes this book highly realistic: there’s no happy reunion at the end where all of the people who help Rose along the way are brought together to celebrate her bravery and the journey she takes. It would be highly cinematic and extremely pleasing to be reintroduced to some of the characters who help her, so that we could see where they ended up, but it just wouldn’t be genuine.

Rose states at multiple times throughout the story that she isn’t Down’s syndrome, she is Rose, and I think it’s important to keep this in mind when approaching any character – or, indeed, anybody – who has something that makes them different. It’s easy, when you have a friend who is dealing with something, to focus solely on that aspect of their life, but Rosie Loves Jack treats each character as a layered and nuanced individual. This is a cast fully of vibrant and lively characters, and it’s a pleasure to read.

The only reason I’ve marked down a star is because there were aspects of the book which didn’t translate well on my library eBook copy. I’m not sure whether these aspects work better if you read a physical copy of the book, but I enjoyed this so much that I’m planning on getting my own copy. When I manage to find the time to reread this book, I’ll probably end up bumping it up to five stars.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Rosie Loves Jack, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 6: Review: The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Blogtober Day 6: Review: The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Continuing the events from The Call, you might expect The Invasion to be brighter than it’s predecessor, but that is not the case. While it seemed that things were looking up for Anto and Nessa, they’re torn away from each other and plunged back into the world of […]