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Currently reading: Simon VS the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey [Review]

Written by: William Hussey.
Published by: Usborne.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 28th May 2020.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought? But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown. Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved."


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Hideous Beauty was the first book I read in 2020. I've waited this long to actually put all my thoughts together for a few reasons. 1) I don't like to review books too early before publication. And 2) Because this book held my heart so tightly I didn't even really know what to say. It has taken me a while to really collect my thoughts and to just take a deep breath and say how I feel. I love this book. 

I've followed William's career for a while now. I remember reading his debut trilogy, Witchfinder, way back when they were published and I remember enjoying them. There are reviews somewhere in the depths of this blog, and I've enjoyed everything he has published since. But with this book, there's something about it that just calls to me. I remember having a chat with Will over Twitter once saying that I thought that UKYA was seriously lacking some good gay stories. I'm not talking characters shoe-horned in to tick a quota. I'm taking full on gay stories that are proud to be there. I remember saying that I wished we had our own version of Simon VS. the Homosapien Agenda. Something that felt quintessentially British. Something that reflected, at least in parts, the British gay experience. And I feel like Hideous Beauty is a perfect example of this. 

Will's writing is so engaging and had me turning the pages so quick. I felt so drawn into the world of Dylan and Ellis that I just could not stop reading. Even when terrible, terrible things were happening I just couldn't put it down. It was so addictive it should come with a warning!

The characters are an absolute mixed bag. We have lovable characters, characters you love to hate, characters that you literally want to gag when they come up on the page because you know someone exactly like them in real life and you cannot stand them. I loved this. No one felt like they had been shoe-horned in. It all felt so real and natural. The typical popular girl at school who is a bit of a bitch. The dumb brother who just can't help but say stupid things. The best friend who is always there, even when they have their own stuff going on. William did such a good job of giving everyone the right amount of page time and fleshing them out. But enough of the back up dancers, let's get to the boys themselves!

Dylan is gay, but he isn't ready to tell the world yet. He's met El, and things are going great, better than great, until he's outed and forced to reveal something that should have been on his own terms, when he was ready. When tragedy strikes, and Dylan's life is changed forever, the book transforms into a mystery thriller that will have you desperate to find out just what the hell is going on! I saw a lot of myself in Dylan. Timid, always the one to hide in the back or in the library just letting everyone else get on with their lives while I have my head stuck in a book. Scared of what people might think about me, trying to draw as little attention to myself as possible.

El. Oh God. Wonderful, charismatic, loud and proud El. I, much like Dylan, fell for this boy from the very beginning. There is just something about him, maybe his air of mystery, that just makes you gravitate towards him. Like no matter what happens, when you're with him, you're safe.

Page 93. That's all I need to say. Page 93. If you know, you know. This particular page had me sobbing and I remember messaging Will when I read it and thanking him. Thanking him for showing me that someone else understood something that I had felt myself. Just, when you read, you'll know. 

As the book progresses it becomes more and more heart in your mouth, gut-wrenchingly good. And that last chapter. I mean, I cried quite a few times reading this book and I'm not ashamed to admit it. One thing I really appreciated was the darkness in the book. I don't mean to sound like I'm insane, but what I mean is sometimes YA can be too fluffy and I'm so glad that Hideous Beauty has this grittiness to it. It deals with some pretty dark themes that I felt just made it all the more real. No ferris wheels here, boys and girls!

Personally, I really struggled with coming to terms with my sexuality, both in my teen years and right up until I came out at 21. Sometimes I still do. This book made me feel so many emotions, made me think about so many different scenarios in my own life where I could have done things differently, where I could maybe have been a little braver, just like Dylan. Just like El. That is the beauty of a good book. Yes, it takes you away from your own life and takes you into a world that isn't your own, but it also makes you think about your own life, how you see the world. It's a magical experience and one I am so glad to have had with reading this book. Thank you Will! Books like this would have made all the difference to my fourteen year old self and I really hope that it helps some kids today in ways they might never have had otherwise.

I know this review has been a little but of a ramble, but I have so many thoughts and feelings that I could literally sit here all day and just gush about this wonderful book. I cannot recommend it enough and I cannot thank Will enough for such a wonderful, wonderful read. It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it and I cannot wait for others to share on this amazing journey and I cannot wait to reread it and live it all again, even the tears. 

Hideous Beauty is out now!

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Viper's Daugher by Michelle Paver [Review]

Written by: Michelle Paver.
Published by: Head of Zeus.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 2nd April 2020.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "For two summers Torak and Renn have been living in the Forest with their faithful pack-brother, Wolf. But their happiness is shattered when Renn realizes Torak is in danger - and she's the threat. When she mysteriously disappears, Torak and Wolf brave the Far North to find her. At the mercy of the Sea Mother and haunted by ravenous ice bears, their quest leads them to the Edge of the World. There they must face an enemy more evil than any they've encountered. Viper's Daughter plunges you back into the Stone-Age world of Torak, Renn and Wolf: a world of demons, Hidden People and exhilarating adventure which has entranced millions of readers."


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Anyone that knows me at all knows that I am a Michelle Paver stan. That's right. Not a fan. A stan. If she released her shopping lists, bound together with a cover, I'd buy it and read it again, and again. Since 2004 when I first read Wolf Brother, the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, I haven't looked back and haven't missed a single book that has been released... She's my fave, basically...

So you can imagine the excitement I felt when last year, Michelle announced that there wouldn't be just one, but three, yes THREE, brand new books in the series, taking the total from six, to nine. It had long been teased, and Michelle had said time and time again that she would never say never and that if the ideas came to her then she would of course love to revisit the world of the Forest, and go on adventures again with the lovable Torak, Renn, Wolf and the whole ensemble. And by God I'm glad she had the right ideas because reading this was like stepping back in time (well, obviously it is set 6,000 years ago...) to being that kid again so in awe. 

Reading it felt like coming home. You see, I had a rough patch when I read the series the first time. Most of us do. Adolescence... Ugh... But the books were a constant for me. Somewhere I could escape and feel free, and it didn't matter what was going on in the outside world. I was with Torak, Renn and Wolf, and we, together, fought the Soul-Eater's and the demons of the Forest. Then, when my mum passed away in 2016, I reread the series three times and each time I felt more and more like the me I had been before. 

The moment I picked this book up, I took a deep breath, and I won't lie, I was scared... I had been waiting for this moment for ten years (since the last book, Ghost Hunter was published...). What if it wasn't good. What if it, like a lot of series revisits, just soured what was originally there? I needn't have worried because from the first page I was there. It was back, and oh my, it was magical! I felt like I was home and it was an emotional moment for me!

Despite the fact that she has been away from the world for the best part of a decade, the characters feel as rich as they ever did. Torak is still as head strong as he was in Ghost Hunter, Renn is still as stubborn and Wolf is as lovable as he has ever been in the series. It was so nice to see the characters that we fell in love with in the first place, plus a whole array of new characters, both human and otherwise... We meet clans that we haven't met previously and getting to see their different views and way of living was very interesting. The mixture of cultures within the series was always something I really loved.

And the twist... There is a twist. Who doesn't love a twist? I didn't see it coming and when it hit me I gasped and actually had to put the book down and take a breather for a moment of two before continuing on. The climatic scenes were exhilarating and took the book towards a very satisfying end that leaves you desperate for more, and thank the Guardian's there are still two more to come, so thankfully we get more!

As magical and exciting as ever, her writing more crisp and exciting than ever, Michelle has breathed new life into her own series ready for a new generation of avid readers to fall in love the exact same way that I did. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us in Book 8, Skintaker, and Book 9!

My thanks to the lovely people at Zephyr for my copy, and to Michelle for signing it. There's a reason your my favourite because as well as being a great writer, you're a lovely person too!

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Wranglestone blog tour!



I am so happy and honoured today to be hosting a stop on the Wranglestone blog tour to celebrate the release of the book of the same name by Darren Charlton! It’s been one of my most anticipated books for a while now and a review is on the way, but today it’s all about Darren and a letter to his younger self! Take it away, Darren!

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Dear Darren, 

Now, you won’t know this whilst you’re busy bumbling around school being the subplot, the sidekick or the GBF (before such a thing even existed), to all your friends. You won’t know that whilst they’re experiencing their first loves and get to see the rest of the whole wide world mirror their own experiences back to them in books, (Heathcliff and Cathy) TV (Charlene and Scott) and film (Han and Leia), that your time will come. Not only will you go on to experience all those things for yourself, but you’ll go on to write about them too, and have them turned into a book.

More than that, this book, with its two loved-up boys living in a crazy world of dangerous monsters and even more dangerous grown-ups, will also find its way into some schools and some children’s lives. I know. This is unimaginable, right? Because where you are right now, such books not only don’t even exist yet but would be illegal even if they did. 

So, hold on. You will lose all that weight. You will go on to university despite failing your A levels twice because you fought for a place down the telephone, and you will go on with that ‘useless’ 2:1 English Literature and Theatre studies degree to have a creative life. And maybe the best kind, too.

You’re going to be a storyteller giving teenagers like you, something you’ll never have, a book that might just have helped you on your way. A story with two boys who love each other very much. 

But you will go bald! By 24. (sorry

Love, 
darren x 

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It’s so nice to think about the advice we’d give our younger selves now knowing what we know. My advice to my younger self would be don’t be such a push over and stop being so scared all the time. What would your advice to your younger self be?

Wranglestone is out right now and you’d be doing yourself a real injustice if you didn’t go out and get yourself a copy!