Thursday 30 January 2020

Book Review: The Truth of Things by Tasha L Harrison

The Truth of Things is an incredibly hot romance about Ava, a press photographer whose real passion is her side hustle of shooting weddings, and Levi, an idealistic cop who believes he can change the city he patrols for the better. After meeting under less than ideal circumstances, Levi persuades Ava to go for coffee with him and the pair quickly fall hard for each other - but will his vocation come between them?

After discovering some great romance authors last year, I'm looking for more, and picked this up on Kindle Unlimited when I saw a few people saying really positive things about it on Twitter. I'm glad I read it as it's a sizzling novel with a brilliant central pairing but wow, I felt gut wrenched by one particular event towards the end - I was NOT expecting that at all.

I love the chemistry between Ava and Levi but I appreciate they're both also really strong individual characters - Ava has tons going on in her life, with a messy relationship with her drug-addicted mother, but is great at her two jobs and also passionate about teaching photography to those less fortunate than her. Meanwhile, Levi helps at a Boys and Girls Club and clearly sees policing as a way to try and help out the inhabitants of the city, unlike some of his colleagues.

I really enjoyed that a LOT of the book was focused on a strong, healthy relationship between the pair - despite Ava's initial misgivings they get together fairly quickly and it's awesome to see them getting to know each other by finding out what they care deeply about and spending time with them doing that. I also really liked that Levi fitted in so well with Ava's friends, and the honesty between him, Emil - who has a crush on her - and her ex-boyfriend Marcelo, brother of her best friend.

This is definitely not a predictable read - as mentioned above, there's one scene in particular which left me desolated, and there are several which serve as a reminder that however great your epic romance is, the real world can still bite you on the ass.

I loved the main romantic pairing but there's also lots of other favourite characters for me - particularly Emil, naive and sweet, and Ava's best friend Yves and her boyfriend Oliver, a kinky couple in an open relationship.

There are some very strongly developed themes in the book, of opening up, choosing who to trust, helping the community around you, and finding your voice and speaking up. I think Tasha Harrison really nailed the way she articulated all of them, it's a deeply satisfying read, and the follow-up is high on my TBR pile. 

In conclusion, this is a really great read and I'm excited to be able to start the sequel soon!

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 25 Book Covers I Love For 2020 Releases

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl - huge thanks to her for hosting.

UK releases


Sunny by Jason Reynolds (Knights Of, out now)
Cover design by Marssaié
Cover art by Selom Sunu
3rd of the superb Track series sees Sunny give up running and try to make it as a discus thrower.

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa (Stripes Books, out 6th February)
Illustrated by Daniela Sosa
At her cousin's Mehndi party, Zaiba, her brother and her best friend investigate a disappearance.

Where The World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold (Stripes Books, out 6th February)
Cover design by Sara Mognol
Illustrated by Kate Forrester
Juniper lives in a walled city from which nature has been banished, but wants to escape to find her mother.


Clean Getaway by Nic Stone (Knights Of, out 5th March)

Cover design by Marssaié
Cover art by Camilla Ru 
Young boy taken on a road trip by his grandma, set against backdrop of segregation history of the American South.

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann (Penguin, out 5th March)

Cover art by Manjit Thapp 
Feeling trapped by her father's rules, Amber decides to fight for the rest of her family in this verse novel.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales (Hodder, out 5th March)
Cover art by Jim Tierney 
Modern day queer re-imagining of Grease; do I need to say more?!


Mic Drop by Sharna Jackson (Knights Of, out 2nd April)
Cover design by Marssaié
Cover art by Wumzum 
Sequel to Sharna Jackson's wonderful debut High Rise Mystery sees Nik and Norva investigate another case.

Fig Swims The World by Lou Abercrombie (Stripes, out 2nd April)
Cover design by Sophie Bransby
Fig decides this year, she'll swim around the world. Even though, at the moment, she can't swim...

The Dark Lady by Akala (Hodder, out 16th April)
Cover design and illustration by Kingsley Nebechi
Orphan haunted by dreams of the Dark Lady navigates Shakespearean London.


Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn (Zephyr, out 7th May)
Cover art by Laura B 
Band of outcasts cheat death to rescue a mysterious girl in Revolutionary France. 

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein (Bloomsbury, out 14th May)
Cover design by Jet Purdie
At an airfield in World War II, three young people try to make a difference in the war.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (Bloomsbury, out 14th May)
Illustrated by Patrick Léger 
The sons of two astronauts about to head to Mars fall for each other.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon (Hodder, out 2nd June)
Cover design by Sarah Creech.
SJW Pinky offers to get Samir an internship if he poses as her boyfriend to stop her family complaining about her being single; sparks fly.

The Falling In Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (Andersen, out 4th June)
Cover design by Jenna Stempel-Lobell 
Cover art by Spiros Halaris 
True romantic Ruby challenges cynical Saoirse to a summer romance with the serious parts left out, just like in the movies.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Usborne, out 9th July)
Cover art by Tarajosu
Deka, who bleeds gold, is told she's an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts, and given a choice - fight for the Emperor or be destroyed.


Loveless by Alice Oseman (Harper Collins, out 9th July)
Cover design by Ryan Hammond
Georgia isn't romantically interested in anyone; can she find happines without falling in love?

Lu by Jason Reynolds (Knights Of, out 3rd September)
Cover design by Marssaié
Cover art by Selom Sunu 
Finale of the Track series sees Lu try to cocaptain the team to championship victory.

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James (Walker, out 3rd September)
Cover design by Chloé Tartinville
Newly dead Harriet finds the Afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.)

US releases (as far as I'm aware, nothing here's getting released in the UK, but I would LOVE to be wrong on this! If anyone knows of UK publishers, please drop me a comment here or tweet me.)


We Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding (Amulet, out now)
Cover design by Hana Anouk Nakamura
Cover art by Christine Almeda
Two girls are inseparable at the start of their senior year, but as time goes by, their friendship falls apart. 

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey (Simon Pulse, out 3rd March)
Cover art by Amalia Alvarez 
Six girls who share magic mess up and a boy ends up dead; as they try to fix it things get worse.

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk (Delacorte Press, out 10th March)
Cover design by Angela Carlino.
Cover art by lgions 
Cleo tries to deal with the implosion of her friendship with supposedly BFF Layla.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (Page Street Kids, out 12th May)
Cover art by Nabi H Ali 
Irish-set f/f about two girls with their own henna artist businesses in a school competition.

We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia (Harper Teen, out 14th May)
Cover design by Corina Lupp
Cover art by Patrick Léger 
Nandan, who never thought he was into guys, feels confused after hooking up with his friend Dave.

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith (Harper Teen, out 26th May)
Cover art by Little Corvus
New guy Pony - a trans boy who'd been planning to stay stealth - falls for cheerleader Georgia.

Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner (Feiwel and Friends, out 2nd June) 
Cover art by Noel Kalmus 
Six girls form a team to take on the all-male Mock Trial team at their school, and smash the patriarchy.

BONUS: I, somehow, hadn't worked out until last week that those STUNNING Jason Reynolds covers by Selom Sunu for Knights Of form a full picture - how incredible is this?!

Monday 27 January 2020

Things I've Read And Watched

Beth has the second part of her awesome list of YA book releases you should be looking forward to this year!

She also has a great list of February recommendations.

Library Girl and Book Boy has a fantastic piece on books celebrating the arts.

Awesome blogger Charli wrote an important piece for SCOPE on the cost of being a disabled university student.

The New Yorker has a superb profile of the incredible NK Jemisin.

Rachel Kramer Bussel wrote for Publishers Weekly about the ongoing issues with Dreamspinner.

Lily, one of my very favourite Booktubers, has a great video on her favourite reads of last year.

If you have, like me, raced through Sex Education season 2 then it's well worth watching the Youtube video about the season-long sexual assault story arc.

Jeanette Ng wrote about identity, performing marginalisations and the limitations of OwnVoices.

Malinda Lo's What is 'Good' LGBTQYA is another really thought-provoking read.

Word Wonders hosts a superb post by Patrice Caldwell on the cover design for A Phoenix First Must Burn, the anthology of 16 stories celebrating the Black experience which she's edited. Samira Iravani, the cover designer, and illustrator Ashe Samuels did an AMAZING job on this one and it's fascinating to read more about the creation of the cover.

Patrice also wrote an excellent post for Refinery 29 about why things like the American Dirt problems keep happening.

Alex Shephard wrote more about this - and about Lauren Groff's review of AD - for The New Republic and Esmeralda Bermudez wrote for the LA Times about what happens when Latinos are shut out of the book industry.

David Schmidt adds to the excellent writing surrounding the American Dirt controversy with this piece on the misrepresentations of Mexico the book contains.

Kav Lakshmi's piece on living with depression for Brown Girl magazine is a tough read but if you're in the right head space for it I would highly recommend it.

ALA announced their best fiction of the year; tons of great books here!

Beyond A Bookshelf has an awesome list of Sapphic fiction.

This When Nigel Slater met Nadiya Hussain piece is very interesting.

Alan Rusbridger's Guardian piece on Harry and Meghan and the press is a must-read.

And, as ever, Library Lady has her own superb round-up of news from the world of children's books.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Book Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella is about an orphaned girl, living with her stepmother and stepsisters, who is badly treated by them (what do you mean, you guessed that from the title?). One of the few things she has left in her life which she really finds comfort in is the classic sci-fi series Starfield, which she loved watching with her father. So when teen heartthrob Darien Freeman is cast as lead character Carmindor in the new movie of the show, she's incensed, and doesn't hold back from saying so on her blog. Despite this, after finding her parents' old Starfleet costumes, she becomes desperate to win the cosplay contest at a convention her dad helped found to make her parents proud. Meanwhile, she answers a message Darien sends to her dad's e-mail address without knowing who he is, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship via texts. 

I've seen lots of people talking about this one and bought it a while ago on ebook but somehow hadn't got around to reading it - what a mistake! The central pair here are super cute characters who I adored - shy superfan Elle, desperately trying to deal with an awful family situation and still missing the father she was so close to, is an instantly likeable character, while Darien is impressively well-written as a massive Starfleet fan in his own right who's both nervous about taking over a role from an actor he deeply admires, and sad that he's forced to hide his love for the series because it doesn't fit into the image his father, who manages his career, wants for him. On the one hand, both Darien's father and Elle's stepmother are fairly horrible characters; on the other hand once I reached the end of the book it was clear why they were acting the way they did, with Elle's stepmother getting more of a reason for her behaviour than I've generally seen in many Cinderella retellings I've read. Elle's friend Sage, on the other hand, is a completely delightful character - a green-haired punkish lesbian co-worker of Elle's who reveals herself to be a fashion goddess and steps in, along with her mother, to help Elle get to the con. The Instagram-obsessed stepsisters follow the fairly familiar route in Cinders retellings of one being horrendous and the other one significantly less so, with the latter being a really interesting character.

I loved the themes in this book of found family, of not judging people from what you think you know about them, of friendships new, old, and broken, and most of all of the intense love and support found in fandom. As you'd expect from a retelling of the fairy tale, matters build to a head at a ball, and this, along with the cosplay contest itself, are two wonderful scenes which I really loved. Overall, this is a very strong recommendation, and sequel The Princess And The Fangirl, which focuses on Darien's co-star Jess and a girl she falls for, is probably going to be one of my next reads.

Saturday 25 January 2020

Book Review: Huddle With Me Tonight (New York Sabers #1) by Farrah Rochon

Huddle With Me Tonight is an adult contemporary romance (please note, it's significantly steamier than most books I discuss here, as mentioned recently the blog is no longer really focusing on YA!) about two protagonists who start off on the wrong foot but quickly give in to their attraction while trying to hide it from the city who thinks they're rivals. Paige Turner is a blogger and entertainment columnist becoming well-known for her forthright views, so when she reads a cookbook by NFL player Torrian Smallwood full of cheesy puns as titles for recipes, she doesn't hold back when reviewing it. Torrian is a family man devoted to his sister, who's about to launch their own restaurant. Desperate for success, especially since an eye condition he's barely revealed to anybody means his career on the pitch could be nearly over, he's furious when he sees what he considers to be an unfair review which he thinks could jeopardise everything he and his sister have worked for. A hasty blog comment has things escalating and fascinated New Yorkers picking a side as the couple clash in a series of charity cook-offs. But the heat in the kitchen is nothing compared to that between the pair...

Romance was one of the few areas where my reading actually improved last year - despite my slump overall, I found a bunch of authors I really loved (Emily Larkin, Alisha Rai and Tessa Bailey, to name just three) and I'm definitely trying to read more of the genre this year. I was reminded I'd been meaning to try Farrah Rochon for a while when I saw the fundraiser for a church organ in memory of her sister, who tragically died a few weeks ago, and I realised I had one of her books, the first in her New York Sabres sport series, on my Kindle, so decided to give it a try.

I'm really glad I did - it's a fun read with awesome chemistry between the main pairing, and their flaws feel realistic. (Hey, given how strongly I'm against authors responding to reviewers, if even I can sympathise with Torrian for his actions after reading the review, it's a sure sign he's portrayed as a good guy!) I love the loyalty he has towards his sister and her son, and towards his teammates, particularly Theo, one of the only people who knows his secret. Meanwhile, Paige is a fun heroine who's not afraid to stand her ground, even against one of the city's most popular stars.

I thought the way that the pair of them got over their initial animosity and quickly developed into friendly banter on camera rather than either hating each other or even pretending to hate each other for the sake of TV ratings was an interesting one which paid off really well - it's easy to see why viewers were enjoying the witty repartee between the pair of them, and I loved the way they were both honest with each other about the way they'd each been at fault for the initial conflict. That said, the later conflict in the book was well set-up, but the speed at which it finally happened took me slightly by surprise. However, it brought us to a really sweet HEA, which is definitely what I'm looking for when reading a romance!

One of the standout aspects of the story for me is just how much a part football, and the cameraderie between the hero and his teammates, plays in the book. Even though due to a separate injury, Torrian doesn't get on the field of play much during the novel, it's clear how much he loves his job and how devastating the thought of not being able to do it again is to him, which really fleshed out his character well. Similarly, Paige's drive to succeed and her refusal to back down from posting things she knows her fans will enjoy, however harsh they are, is very believable.

Overall this is a strong recommendation and I'm glad there are so many other Farrah Rochon novels for me to move onto, starting with the next in the Sabres series!

Thursday 23 January 2020

Book Review: The Friendship Matchmaker by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Friendship Matchmaker is about Lara, who's her school's Friendship Matchmaker, dispensing words of wisdom to schoolmates about how to get and keep friends, and pairing them up, while writing what's sure to be a best-selling book on the subject. It's obvious that she's far too busy to have a close friend of her own, and that's fine with her - since an Incident, she wouldn't want one. But then she starts a competition against a new girl who disagrees with Lara's overly-prescriptive ways, and it has results she definitely didn't expect!

I picked this up ages ago on a whim and have never gotten around to reading it. I saw it when I was looking for a quick read a few days ago and decided to give it a try and ended up being really impressed. (It's a retelling of Emma, according to Goodreads, although I confess that my knowledge of Austen is poor enough that I didn't pick up on this when reading it!)

For me, this was a sweet, fun read with an interesting main character. Lara is clearly hiding a great deal of hurt behind her front of not needing a friend, and it's this which keeps her sympathetic even when she's doling out some advice which I'd definitely hope kids reading wouldn't take for themselves! The basic idea of the book, that there's a girl who people almost universally go to for advice on their friendships and that they'll follow her rules and instructions quite so ardently, is an implausible one but for me it worked because if you accept that conceit, everything else (in terms of the way the characters behave towards each other) is totally realistic and well-portrayed. 

It's a short read which feels perhaps a tiny bit rushed towards the end, but Abdel-Fattah's writing style is a pleasure to read - it definitely has me interested in checking out her YA novels - and her characterisation is strong. Overall, it has a great message about being an individual but also standing up for the people around you, even if Lara herself probably wouldn't have felt that way at the start of the book!

A really enjoyable read that I'd recommend to fans of young MG fiction.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Most Recent Additions To My TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl - huge thanks to her for hosting.

I've started reading some books nearly as soon as I get them, in an effort to keep kicking the ass of last year's reading slump, so the first five here are ones I've already read; the next six are ones I'm about to read (hopefully.)

A Throne of Swans by Katharine Corr and Elizabeth Corr - Really awesome political fantasy about a girl who's lost the ability which all nobles have to shapeshift into a bird, putting her in grave danger at the royal court. Full review here.

Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph - Strong debut thriller with an excellent MC and a great hook - girl becomes a YouTube star in order to try and catch the serial killer whose first victim was her mother. Super-tense with plenty of unexpected twists. Full review here.

Max Kowalski Didn't Mean It by Susie Day - Outstanding MG from one of my two favourite authors for that age range (along with Katherine Rundell) which sees Max, whose father disappears and asks him to look after his sisters, decide to save his family by taking them to Wales to search for the hoard of gold he's heard a dragon protects. In turns sweet and tense, with wonderfully portrayed characters, this is brilliant. Full review here.

My Type On Paper by Chloe Seager - Very fun YA contemporary about a girl unexpectedly dumped by her boyfriend, who finds three guys - all perfect for her in different ways - are suddenly interested in her. Lots of laugh out moments, as ever from the hilarious Chloe Seager. Full review coming.

The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin - Brilliant romantic fantasy about a princess who agrees to marry another princess after the prince she was initially engaged to died. The two are incredibly different, with the grieving sister having never taken an interest in the realm as she wasn't expecting to have a chance of inheriting the throne - but they're quickly attracted to each other, and fall hard, while also having to deal with the problem of dragons attacking the country. Full review coming.

Going Off Script by Jen Wilde - TV writer's room intern and her crush have to work together to stop her boss from turning a lesbian character she wrote into a straight girl. Sounds like a very cool take on LGBTQ+ rep in media, while Wilde's Queens of Geek was so awesome that she's an absolute must read author for me.

Internment by Samira Ahmed - Set in the very near future US, this follows Layla Amin as she's forced into an internment camp for Muslim-Americans along with her parents. Layla sets out to fight for freedom and lead a revolution. Strongly recommended by numerous people I'm folowing on Twitter, this was one I meant to get last year but my slump hit so hard I wasn't really getting any books - very pleased to rectify that now.

I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon - Bad boy NFL player Cedric Reeves is dropped by his agent and needs a new one, while struggling sports agent Payton Mosely needs a star, being taken less than seriously in the male-dominated industry. The two could be perfect for each other professionally, but could the sparks that fly between them ruin things? This is the second in Farrah Rochon's New York Sabers series and I LOVED book 1, Huddle With Me Tonight, so I'm super-excited for this one.

Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo - K-Pop's biggest star falls for a tabloid reporter in what sounds like a super-cute rom-com. Again, lots of strong recommendations from various people on Twitter had me excited for this one a while ago but I've only just picked it up. Can't wait to read it though!

Thornbound and Moontangled by Stephanie BurgisI said to my wife yesterday that if I was on a desert island and could take the entire works of two authors, adult crime writer Lawrence Block would be one of them; Stephanie Burgis would be the other. Whether she's writing fabulous MG books with brilliant heroines, like the Kat Stephenson series or The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart, gorgeous short stories, or wonderful novellas, she is always amazing. I've just reread Snowspelled, first in the Harwood Spellbook series, and it's even better second time around - her fabulous world-building stands out here as she creates a world where women are politicians and men are magicians, until one woman defies expectations. I'm so excited for books 2 and 3 - many thanks to Stephanie for sending me both. (Also on a side note those covers are BEAUTIFUL.)

Monday 20 January 2020

Book Review: A Throne of Swans by Katharine Corr and Elizabeth Corr

In a world where the flightless are servants and the flighted rule, when 17-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, it's vital that nobody knows her biggest secret - she hasn't transformed into a swan since watching her mother be torn apart by hawks years ago. But a trip to the royal court brings intrigue, threats, and the need to do whatever it takes to save the land she is sworn to protect.

Oh, WOW. This is a stunning high fantasy with a brilliant narrator, which had me glued to it while reading. (It's now 4:45am, I woke up at around 3:30 and was too desperate to find out how it ended to go back to sleep!) I love fantasy with political intrigue at its heart and this is a superb example of that - early on Aderyn is warned to trust nobody, and it's clear as the novel progresses through many twists and turns that this is sensible advice. I found the characters to be really compelling and layered, with their motivations eventually making sense but a lot of them being VERY well-hidden. There's also a superb world built here, in which the flightless are treated differently by different rulers but are in general far below the flighted, to the point where even the touch of a noble causes them pain. Aderyn is a wonderful heroine who's clearly trying to do what's right for the kingdom, and in particular for the people of Atratys, although she's distracted both by the hunt for her mother's killers and the need to stay alive in what quickly becomes a really dangerous situation.

It's hard to say too much about the characters without giving anything away, but there's a huge amount of well-developed ones here, from Aderyn's cousin Aron - also flightless due to injury, and therefore without a claim to the throne which should have been his to inherit - and his sister Odette, trying to stay out of court intrigue, to Siegfried, Odette's betrothed, Lucien, son of one of Aderyn's family's closest advisers but loyal to the land of Atratys above his Protector, and Letya, Aderyn's lady's maid and closest friend. And then there's the cruel king, who seems to have purposes of his own in mind for Ateryn...

Despite its length, I raced through this one thanks to captivating writing and a well-paced plot which includes some great scenes as the book builds to a stunning climax. I also appreciated that it's a satisfying ending for a novel in its own right, while doing a good job of setting up the sequel which I'm hugely anticipating now.

Massive recommendation to fans of awesome fantasy novels.

Sunday 19 January 2020

Things I've Read This Week

Best thing I’ve read all week HAS to be this Jolene-inspired f/f short story by Suleikha Snyder, Jesse's Girl! Huge thanks Olivia Waite for tweeting about it.

Great post from Reading The End on her 13 favourite reads of 2019.

Kali Wallace’s Your Heart Is A Moving Target is a superb piece on the pressures of the publishing industry for writers.

Anyone unsure about the double standards applied to Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton can see a ton of proof in this great Buzzfeed piece.

I may have shared this before, but definitely worth signal-boosting because it’s an INCREDIBLE list – Jan-Jun 2020 LGBTQIAP YA Preview on LGBTQ Reads.

Another great list – Reads Rainbow has 2020 books with non-cis protagonists and/or love interests. And another! Pop Goes The Reader’s 50 Most-Anticipated MG Novels from Jan – June 2020

Going back to LGBTQ Reads, they have an extract from Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis; Stephanie is one of my absolute favourite authors and I love what I’ve read of the Harwood Spellbook series, which this is part of!

Clarisha Kent’s 45 Black Actresses To Watch Who Fail The Paper Bag Test is another excellent list – I’ll definitely be checking out films starring the people here.

Jennifer Prokop wrote about the RWA fiasco for Kirkus, as did Kelly Faircloth for Jezebel while there’s also a SorryWatch post on it. I love this fabulous PitchWars interview with Kate Dylan, whose Mindwalker sounds AWESOME, and her mentor Kat Dunn, my super-talented friend who wrote the upcoming Dangerous Remedy (which is INCREDIBLE.)

Another fabulous interview – Word Wonders talks to Anna-Marie McLemore about their new release, Dark And Deepest Red.

Also on Word Wonders, excellent Mike Chen piece on the importance of found family for children of immigrants.

Buzzfeed’s 28 YA books they’re looking forward to in 2020 has tons of fab titles on, as does Perpetual Page Turner’s list on the same topic, and also Double A Reads’s.

Tropics of Meta’s review of American Dirt is phenomenal.

Alisha Rai, author of The Right Swipe, has a fab piece on dating apps.

Samantha Puc and Jey Barnes have created a pay-what-you-can digital zine with tips for speaking up against fatphobia.

Firefly announced the acquisition of Asking For A Friend, by Kate Mallinder, which sounds fabulous (and is being published in May this year, so not THAT long to wait!)

Over at Library Lady, Anne Thompson has her second weekly round-up of news from the world of children’s books.

Zoë Hu has a really thought-provoking piece on the new Little Women adaptation here.

Finally, Transworld announced the launch of a volunteer award to honour the memory of their former senior publicity manager, and co-founder of the Flip, Sophie Christopher. I know Sophie is massively missed by all of her many friends in publishing.

The Sophie Christopher Volunteer Award will see Penguin Random House partner with volunteering organisation People & Places to sponsor a two-week programme–open to anyone working in publishing and bookselling–in support of the work of the Treak Community Centre, close to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Further details can be found on

Saturday 18 January 2020

Book Review: Max Kowalski Didn't Mean It by Susie Day

Max Kowalski Didn't Mean It sees a good-hearted but clumsy title character, used to messing things up, have to 'step up' to look after his sisters after his dad disappears. Desperate to hold his family together, and thinking that money will be the only thing which can do so, Max takes the girls to Wales after hearing a legend about a dragon guarding a hoard of gold. Can he find the treasure and take care of the rest of his family?

I grabbed this when I saw it in the library; I'm a huge Susie Day fan - her Pea's Book series is one of my all-time favourites and I love the YA she's written. (Apart from The Twice-Lived Summer Of Bluebell Jones, which is superbly written but which I haven't forgiven for making me cry just before a full day of teaching thanks to a REALLY unexpected ending.)

With any Susie Day book, you're guaranteed a warm, funny, and deeply moving story, and this is definitely no exception. Max is a great central character - struggling ever since the tragic death of his mother in a car accident, which has clearly knocked the entire family for six. "A good, kind, bright young man," as he's described by his teacher early on, but one who's impulsive and can find things overwhelming. There's a really rich supporting cast - Max's sisters are great, while I smiled every time Max's sweet friend Elis Evans appeared on the page. Once they get to Wales, we also get to meet a lovely foster family with two very different dads. The relationships Susie writes are always beautifully portrayed, and the family ones shine through here, both Max's grieving family and Tal and his two foster fathers clearly really love each other, but that definitely doesn't mean they always know the right thing to do where the rest of the family is concerned.

This is a book with very strong themes (another thing you can say about all of Susie's work); it looks at mental health, gender stereotyping, grief, relying on other people, but also accepting that adults aren't always right. It does it all with a touch that I was about to describe as 'surprisingly light', but that's only true for people who've never read Susie's books before - for any who have, there's no surprise at all in the way she weaves all of these into a wonderful story.

What I was quite surprised by, actually, is just how tense it was - it's clear fairly early on that Nice Jackie, Max's dad's boss, is perhaps not exactly what her name suggests, while there's a heartbreaking scene when a pet dies later in the book.

Eventually, though, things build to a realistic climax which deals with some of the problems and gets Max's life on track to improve - while never pretending that it will be easy or that there aren't issues ahead. It's a warm and hopeful read which I'd absolutely recommend to anyone who loves reading wonderful children's novels with bags of heart.

Friday 17 January 2020

Book Review - The Lady's Guide To Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

The Lady's Guide To Celestial Mechanics is a beautiful historical romance which sees Lucy Muchelney - mourning both the death of the father she worked with on astronomy, and the marriage of her long-time best friend and lover to a man - take a job translating a groundbreaking French scientific text for the Countess of Moth. The Countess, recently widowed and really NOT mourning her domineering husband, has never thought of being with a woman before but quickly falls for the vivacious and charming Lucy.

This is one which I've seen lots of love for on my Twitter timeline, and it's easy to see why! The central pairing here are an absolutely gorgeous couple with really strong, clear character arcs and sizzling chemistry between them. In addition to the wonderful romance, though, there's also lots here about the importance of art, and ignoring narrow definitions of what 'qualifies' as art, with the Countess creating breathtaking embroidery but initially being reluctant to even claim the word 'artist' to describe herself. Add in some brilliant parts about the overlooking of women in STEM, and the thefts of their discoveries by male relatives or spouses; this is a strongly feminist book which has a great message of empowering women.

I loved the way that the speed of the initial romance left lots of time to look at other aspects of the relationship - what happens when former lovers or love interests reappear? How do you know how far you're willing to go in bed when the idea of being with someone of the same gender is new to you? When your love affair has to be a well-kept secret from society, are you relieved that you aren't trapped in it, or scared that your lover can leave you so easily? And how CAN you commit to a relationship with someone who society can't acknowledge your love for?

The love scenes between the pair are simultaneously super steamy and really tender, and do a great job of showing us both of their personalities. While the characters, particularly the main pairing, were definitely my favourite thing about the book I also really appreciated the strong historical setting, especially in regards to the erasure of both same-sex relationships and of women in STEM. The book builds to a clever climax which took me by surprise and really works beautifully well.

Definitely a new favourite of mine, and Olivia Waite is firmly on my 'must buy' list after this one!

Thursday 16 January 2020

January Preview - My Most Anticipated Books Of The Month

Yes, I know it's super-late, but I decided I was going to try and do monthly previews so I figured I'd start now rather than waiting for February. Mix of UK and US releases (I'll try to make sure I group them correctly!) from various genres and age ranges, just whatever I think sounds most interesting.

Also I found out about most of these from one or more of the following AMAZING lists.

BookRiot's Queer Girls in YA 2020 and 2020 SFF books.
Bustle's 35 most anticipated books of January.
The Perpetual Page Turner's 2020 most anticipated adult fiction books.
LGBTQ Reads's January - June 2020 YA preview, January - June adult preview, and January preview.

UK releases

A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr (Hot Key Books) - Out Now

I somehow managed to fall super behind with the Witch's Kiss series by the Corr sisters after really enjoying the first book in the trilogy. I definitely want to finish it soon, but I've been distracted by this, my current read - it's a really intriguing fantasy about a girl who inherits the role of Protector of Atratys in a kingdom where nobles can transform into birds. But Aderyn hasn't transformed since her mother's brutal death at the hands of supposedly-extinct hawks, and she's now left at the mercy of her brutal uncle. Great world-building here and intriguing characters have definitely drawn me into this, I can't wait to see what happens.

Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capon (Penguin Books) - Out Now

This Macbeth-inspired revenge fantasy is getting tons of comparisons to lots of my favourite things, amongst them Cruel Intentions, Riverdale and Heathers. It's about four girls who gatecrash a prep school party, only for the main character to be raped. She chooses to transfer to the school her attackers attend, and enact a violent and bloody revenge, manipulating a boy called Mack to help her do so. Everything I've seen about this so far makes it sounds staggeringly over the top, in an awesome way. Many thanks to Penguin for approving me on NetGalley for this; it's going to be one of my next reads.

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen (Simon & Schuster) - Out Now

In a rare moment of actually being ahead of the game, I already reviewed this one! (Many thanks to publishers Simon and Schuster for the proof for review consideration.) It follows aspiring dancer Ever Wong as she's sent to Taipei by her strict family to learn Mandarin, rather than dance in the parade she's been looking forward to taking part in. But once Ever gets to the summer program she's enrolled in, she finds that it's an infamous free-for-all nicknamed Loveboat where for many participants, language learning and calligraphy take a backseat to hook ups and clubbing. Ever sets out to break the Wong Rules, assisted by some new friends including potential love interests.

Click the earlier link for my full review, but in general I found this a really enjoyable read with some great characters and a deeply satisfying climax and resolution.

The Sword of Red by Jackie Marchant (BLKDOG) - Out Now

I was a big fan of Jackie Marchant's Dougal Trump series for younger readers (later repackaged as Dougal Daley, after another D Trump achieved rather more notoriety!), a hilarious series about a boy routinely blamed for a ton of things - none of which are his fault, obviously! The switch to YA fantasy surprised me when I heard about it but Marchant is a talented author and I'm really intrigued to see what she does with this novel, about a rebel girl trying to help the bastard son of the Supreme Lawmaker lose his violent past and accept the peaceful ways of the forest-dwellers she lives amongst.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury Circus) - Out Now

Tons of great reviews for this debut novel about a young Black babysitter accused by a security guard of kidnapping her employer's two-year-old white child. Her employer is horrified by the way Emira's humiliated as somebody films the encounter, and tries to make things right, but it sounds like unexpected consequences ensue. Goodreads summary says "With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason." Themes here sound incredibly interesting and as I mentioned there's a LOT of praise coming from good sources for it.

US releases

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore (Macmillan USA) - Out Now

Anna-Marie McLemore is one of the most popular authors amongst my Twitter followers and having recently read their short story Roja in the anthology All Out: The No Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages, edited by Saundra Mitchell, it's easy to see why. They are an incredibly lyrical writer and I can't believe I haven't got around to reading any of their novels yet. I'm definitely going to change that as soon as I get my hands on this queer retelling of The Red Shoes, about a strange sickness in 1518 Strasbourg making women dance in the streets, and a girl suffering from the same fever 500 years later.

We Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding (Harry N. Abrams) - Out Now 

I've followed Amy Spalding on Twitter for ages and it seems like I've been waiting FOREVER for this one as I loved the sound of it from the first moment I read about it; I'm so glad it's here. It's a story about a friedship breakup between two girls, Kat and James, and it's told in dual timelines - one moving forward in time and the other moving backwards. I love stories told in interesting structures and this sounds like a great example of that, while I definitely feel there should be more books about the painfulness of friendship breakups, which for me can potentially be far worse than the end of a romance. 

Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden (Bloomsbury YA) - Out Now

Savannah Riddle, daughter of an upper class African American family in early 1900s DC, is a well-educated young woman who has her pick of the young men in her set. But she feels suffocated by fancy parties and the shallow people she mixes with, and after meeting someone from the working class, is drawn into suffragist lectures and socialist meetings. She's determined to educate herself, but as she starts to change her views, DC erupts in riots, bombings and lynchings. This sounds like a tough read, but also a really fascinating era and setting to read about.

Throw Like A Girl by Sarah Hennings (Poppy) - Out Now

This is being compared to Morgan Matson, which on its own is generally enough to get me interested, but add a sports setting and I'm SOLD. It's about a softball star who loses everything - including her scholarship - after throwing an ill-advised punch during a game. Transferring to the nearby public school, she has to face the teammates of the girl she punched, and can't even get onto the softball team there - until an injured star quarterback promises her he'll get her into the softball team in spring if she replaces him on the gridiron until he's recovered. Love interest here sounds intriguing and main character Liv seems like an awesome character.

Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood by Anna Burke (Bywater Books) - Out Jan 21st

Robin Hood retellings are totally my jam; books about found family are even more so. So this one about Robyn Hood, on the run from the law after a fateful hunting accident and taking on the Sheriff of Nottingham with the help of her band of merry women and the Sheriff's intriguing daughter Robyn sounds AMAZING.