Release by Patrick Ness #BookReview #LGBT #YA

releaseTitle: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: n/a
Format: Hardback, 287 pages
Publication Details: 
May 4th 2017 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, my copy came with a ticket to the book launch – I was under no obligation to post a review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.


Review

You should all know by now that I love Patrick Ness, so I was of course very excited about his new release, Release, especially considering my friend Dora and I got tickets to the premiere of the book tour.

I posted about the whole shebang here. It was such a great night with insightful and inspiring discussions that my already high expectation bar was pushed through the roof…and I can’t help feeling a little deflated by the whole thing now that I’ve finished the book. SAD PANDA.

Adam Thorn is a gay 17 year old with a bad-boy magnet best friend called Angela, a strict preacher father, and a couple of ex-boyfriends who have treated him pretty terribly. What could go wrong, I hear you say!?

I loved everything Patrick Ness said when discussing this book – the need for diversity in books to reflect the world we live in, the need for YA books with gay protagonists to not shy away from sex scenes, all of it, but it just felt a bit forced here and I think the story suffered because of that.

Release is actually quite a subtle book, and whereas I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just wasn’t expecting that from all the passionate discussion points in the book launch. I’m not sure this is quite the book Patrick Ness thought he had written. It does spotlight some important issues, but I felt like it needed more drama to really pack a punch. In trying to make it tender, I think a lot of its potential was quashed.

Running alongside Adam’s story is a strange, morbid fairy-tale allegory about a faun and a queen who is actually the ghost of a recently deceased fellow student of Adam’s, and this just did not work for me at all. It came across as a bit pretentious to be honest and I ended up skipping nearly all of these sequences after about a third of the way through. VERY SAD PANDA.

It’s actually quite painful to slag off one of your favourite authors, but I’d be a pretty rubbish book blogger if I couldn’t be honest with myself about how I feel about a book. It has some lovely moments, and is of course written beautifully. And I love everything Patrick was wanting to say with Release, but I think maybe he tried a bit too hard and didn’t quite manage to pull it off.

unicorn rating 3

 

Patrick Ness Release Premiere @ Curzon Soho – Be more LA, YA! #BookLaunch

Last Wednesday was the premiere launch event for Patrick Ness’ new release, Release, and I was there (not to rub it in or anything), but yayyyy!

For any of you who don’t know, Patrick is the author of several (amazing) YA books including The Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and A Monster Calls which was adapted for the screen recently. He also penned the BBC series Class which has ties to the world of Doctor Who.

The night consisted of an on-stage interview with Patrick, a Q&A with the audience, and a signing. We also got pretty amazing goodie bags (see bottom of post) not to mention the new book a week before its release. *Happy Dance*

ReleasePrem2
© Alex Dimopoulos for Walker Books

 

ReleasePrem3
© Alex Dimopoulos for Walker Books

 

Before I get into some of the topics discussed, let me just say that it’s all paraphrased by me as I didn’t take notes, and my memory is pretty terrible at the best of times, never mind after a tipple or two 😉

Firstly, Patrick discussed  the new book, Release, which is a day in the life of Adam Thorn, ‘the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything.’ 

Patrick talked about being sick of reading gay YA books where the climax of the relationship is two boys holding hands under a tree. It’s not real. Real teenagers have sex. Yes, even gay ones. A great discussion about sex in literature ensued, with Patrick saying that he needed a book like this as a teenager; where gay sex is portrayed in a tender, sweet, and honest way. For books to omit loving, gay sex is damaging. Teenagers think there’s something wrong with it (them), and they turn to other things to explore like porn and Grindr.

He talked about hating the phrase ‘coming to terms with your sexuality’, explaining that he doesn’t think it’s something you have to come to terms with because it’s just who you are. It’s the world’s problem if they can’t handle that. Feel the fear, but do it anyway.

 

 

The discussion about how LGBTQ teens are represented in literature then turned to a broader look at diversity, and Patrick talked about his (many!) nephews and nieces, many of whom are mixed race and multi-cultured. And that’s what the world looks like, if that isn’t represented in books, then it’s not realistic.

Diversity shouldn’t be a tick list, but if that’s what it takes to make sure all people are represented then so be it. He talked passionately about the importance of stories being a mirror. I can’t remember who he said the quote came from but it was that in all good stories, the protagonists are like mirrors – all readers should be able to see themselves in the character – but I whole-heartedly agree with him when he said that it’s only people who are always represented who think everyone can see parts of themselves in characters. And that’s why he didn’t hold back in this book, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Recognising yourself in a story is magic… and the world is screaming out for more diverse stories, just look at Angie Thomas’ current success with THUG.

He urges everyone to write their story. If you are not mirrored in the books you read, write that story. Don’t ask permission. Write anyway. Writers don’t just write. They write anyway.

We were then led to the age old YA Vs Adult fiction debate. His definition for the genres was so perfect it made me jaw-drop:

 

YA tends to be about exploring boundaries. Adult tends to be about being trapped by those boundaries.”

 

The book snobbery surrounding YA was mentioned and I loved Patrick’s response. He believes it shouldn’t be a battle. YA shouldn’t be fighting against Adult Lit. There is good stuff everywhere. If you can’t admit that there’s good stuff in other genres you sound like a cult leader (LOL!). His analogy to LA always being slagged off by New Yorkers cracked me up too. Does LA give a shit what NY thinks? Nope. LA says ‘no worries man, come on over and have a good time anyway. Maybe you’ll leave with a different attitude.

Be more LA, YA. Be more LA.

While I agree with him completely, I do get exasperated having to explain the Young Adult genre to people. I work in a prison library and I’m constantly trying get prisoners to engage with reading. I think YA would be perfect for them, but they look at me like I’m mad. But why would you/I read that? It’s for children. Sigh. But no more, I’m going to be more LA, too!

There was lots more discussion, but those were my favourite parts. I’ve also been left with the need to read Mrs Dalloway, and Forever by Judy Blume -both of which inspired Release, and both of which have passed me by.

After the talk and Q&A, my friend Dora and I (and the other 200 -that’s a guess- people) queued to get our books signed. And this is where I feel the need to apologise. The queue was long. I had plenty of time to come up with something great to say to Patrick Ness as he signed my book…

ReleasePrem4
© Alex Dimopoulos for Walker Books

I could have told him what I’ve just told you about being more LA at work. But no.

I could have told him I loved The Rest of Us Just Live Here so much because it reminded me of a Buffy spin-off show concentrating on the minor characters at the school who aren’t in the know about Buffy and the Hellmouth. They witness all the weird shit, but aren’t let in on the big secret. But no.

I could have asked him how he could possibly enjoy redrafting more than getting the story down initially. About how I splurge out all these stories but find it impossible to transform them into a not-hot-mess. But no.

What did I say,  Readers?

I said *dons voice of stupidity* are you bored yet? I mean really. What a Knobular. I can only apologise. Patrick was of course extremely sweet regardless.


Thanks to Walker Books, Waterstones and Curzon, (not to mention the wonderful Patrick Ness himself), for putting on such a great night!

Photographs my own unless otherwise credited.

 

 

 

Horror October: Poppy Z Brite Spotlight & Review #HorrorIcons #HorrorOctober

horroroctofficial2016

I’ve long held a fascination with Poppy Z Brite. As an emerging teen goth in late 90s, her (as she was known then) books were like the holy grail. They were extremely violent and gruesome, they were deviantly sexual and on the surface seemed to completely humanise and romanticise serial killers and cannibalism. Plus, they were riddled with hot gay men. Some of them innocent wayward boys, some of them diabolical killers. Poppy Brite was my hero.

All of that was the angsty, blood-thirsty teenager in me. I read them because I thought it was cool; because I knew that I shouldn’t. Because I was too young to read them. A small act of rebellion. 

 

But as I’ve grown up, I’ve returned to Brite (now known as Billy Martin after transitioning to a man), on numerous occasions – his books never made it to the charity shop – and I can now appreciate them on another level. They are not just made-to-shock  throwaway novels. They’re important novels that act almost as a social commentary of New Orleans, focusing on the issues of  feeling different, alienated; on diversity. Brite writes with such a morbid passion. She can describe gutting someone as poetically as falling in love.

If you’ve never read any of Brite’s books, I highly recommend starting with Lost Souls. It’s set in New Orleans, like most of his stories, and centres around three wannabe rock star, bisexual vampires, one of which impregnates a human girl and the child, known as Nothing grows up wondering why he feels so alienated, until eventually meeting up with his blood-thirsty father.

In the past, Brite has been attacked for lacking morals, and writing gratuitous gore and casual sex, and to an extent I guess that’s true, but there’s more to her stories than that, and I can’t think of another writer who creates such evocative atmospheres, and bitter-sweet nostalgia for youth and days gone by. 

 

For Horror October, I decided to read Self-Made Man, a book of short fiction by Brite that I’d never got round to buying. My friend Dora found it in a charity shop and lent it to me. I was dubious after not really loving Love in Vein, another story collection. Short stories just don’t seem to be my thing, even by authors that I love. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised by Self-Made Man. It begins with a very short story written from the perspective of a maggot in a slaughter-house which is basically a showcase for Brite’s ability to make disgusting, putrid things sensual.

Arise, is a story about Cobb, a reclusive ex-pop star who faked his own death, who hears that his old band-mate has died. He then gets a mysterious letter saying that he has left his secluded house to him. Did he know all along that Cobb was alive? And why would he leave his house to him? I really liked this story. It had twists and turns and lots of intrigue. 

The titular story, Self-Made Man was a hit too. It’s very much in the same breath of novel, Exquisite Corpse, based on cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s not for the faint-hearted. As was Vine of the Soul which reunites us with two characters from Drawing Blood. 

The rest of the stories I could take or leave, but my favourite part of this book was the author’s notes on each story. Fascinating, as ever.

horroctrating-4

Lazy Saturday Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller #MiniBookReview #GreekMyths

icon7

I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

songofTitle: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publication Details:  April 12th 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Historical Fiction/Mythology
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from the library.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny.

Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Review

I have to cover this book in a ‘Lazy Saturday Review‘ because I loved it so much I don’t think I could produce an actual, balanced review. I just want to gush about it. 

After only a few chapters in I was annoyed with myself for not reading this when it first came out! I’ve always loved mythological stories but despite owning a copy of The Iliad for about 10 years I’ve never read it. Like most people though, I thought I knew the story of Achilles, the kind but brutal warrior, but Miller’s version was both familiar yet surprising, and I loved every second of it.

The Song of Achilles is a beautifully written story of war, love, betrayal, and tragedy, written from the perspective of Patroclus best friend and lover of Achilles, making this version of the legend more human than it is God-like. I loved seeing Achilles through Patroclus’ eyes. With all of his faults, Patroclus’ love for the half-God warrior never wavered and he was the true hero of the story. 

Miller effortlessly incorporates the Greek Gods into this very human story making the likes of The Iliad seem much less of a challenge. I really will pick it up now! I also can’t believe this is her debut novel – it reads as if she’s been honing her skills for years – that being said, I did read somewhere that it took her ten years (or so) to write. I for one, am eternally grateful that she persevered.

The Song of Achilles excited me, made me swoon, made me angry, and made me cry. It’s a book I now need to buy so I can read it again. ALL THE UNICORNS. 

unicorn rating 

 

When Everything Feels Like the Movies #BookReview #YA #LGBTReads

summer16.2Title: When Everything Feels Like the Movies
Author: Raziel Reid
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 176 pages
Publication Details: August 4th 2016 by Atom
Genre(s): Contemporary YA; LGBT
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Everyone wanted to break me. But stars aren’t broken, they explode. And I was the ultimate supernova.

My name was Jude. They called me Judy. I was beautiful either way.

School was basically a movie set. We were all just playing our parts. The Crew, the Extras, the Movie Stars. No one was ever real . . . especially me. I didn’t fit any category.

All the girls watched me – I could walk so much better than them in heels, and my make-up was always flawless.

All the boys wanted to, well, you know . . . even if they didn’t admit it.

They loved me, they hated me, but they could never ignore me.

I only had eyes for Luke. A red carpet rolled out from my heart towards him and this year, on Valentine’s Day, I was going to walk that carpet and find my mark next to him. It would be like a dream.

But my dream was going to turn into a nightmare.

This is my story.

Review

*spoilers ahead*

 

Contemporary YA is always quite hit and miss for me. Usually I either completely fall in love, or end up despising them – it’s definitely a Marmite genre for me. When Everything Feels Like the Movies was an exception to the rule – I’m still torn. 

Jude, (who is mockingly called Judy by his schoolmates – a nickname he chooses to embrace) thinks of his life as a movie, and he is the star. The haters at school are the bit-part actors and he lets their insults wash over him like confetti at an awards show. The more they talk about him, the more famous he gets. 

Jude is hopelessly in love with Jock-type Luke and dreams of going to the Prom with him. No amount of rebuttals (or the fact that Luke appears to be very straight) will deter him from asking him to the dance, but little does he realise that this one question will be his ultimate downfall. 

I don’t think it’s  a huge spoiler to tell you that Jude is killed by the end of this book because that’s one of the things I didn’t like about it – the reader is told quite early on that Jude does not live to tell the tale and I really wish it was kept as a surprise. However, I think it’s so important for books like this to exist. It was heartbreaking and sadly plausible, and for me that’s what gives it the impact. 

I really didn’t enjoy the beginning of this book. I found it overly vulgar and cheap, and it takes a lot for me to think of something as vulgar – I’m not easily shocked and I think I’m about as open minded as they come – but it took me a while to understand the tone of this book. Once I did, it was more enjoyable though.

The more I read, the more I understood Jude’s character, and I did end up loving him and his I-give-no-shits attitude. However, I found the endless movie analogies a little bit clichéd and irritating, but saying that, it did ring true to who Jude is. 

#WEFLTM is a short novel, and a really quick read in terms of pace too. If I had to rate it at the 25% mark it wouldn’t have been as favourable but I’m glad I gave it a chance. maybe you should too…

unicorn rating 3

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan #OutSoon #YABookReview

 

youknowuk
Title:
 You Know Me Well
Author: Nina LaCour & David Levithan
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 256 pages
Publication Details: June 2nd 2016 by Macmillan Children’s Books
Genre(s): Contemporary YA; LGBT;
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

Review

You Know Me Well is a story of unexpected friendship, unrequited love and putting yourself out there set amongst the glittering backdrop of San Francisco’s Pride week.

Mark is secretly in love with his best friend Ryan. They fool around now and again but never discuss their feelings. The main problem is that Ryan hasn’t decided who he is yet and is definitely not ready to come out, but even if he was ready, would Mark be the one for him?

Katie is changing. She wants to be called Kate but her friends can’t get used to it. She’s not sure if she even likes her friends any more. Kate’s obsessed with a girl that she’s never met but is about to be set up with. The main problem here is that when things get difficult, Kate’s anxieties kick in and she runs away, literally. Can she get over her fears and stick around for long enough to meet her soul mate?

On one crazy night out Mark and Kate meet, and they understand each other perfectly. Their bond is instant and powerful. And they come to help each other realise their dreams, and get through their first, scary venture into love. 

I really enjoyed this book. It was a super-fast read that captures the excitement and turmoil of first love and unbreakable friendships perfectly. 

Like in Nick & Norah and Dash & Lily, David Levithan faultlessly embodies the ugly-beauty of being a teenager in love. He does it so well, and all of his previous collaboration books have worked for me. Nina LaCour is new to me, but her chapters marry with Levithan’s seamlessly. 

I was initially worried about the ‘instafriendship’ element of this story, but it didn’t bother me at all. Kate and Mark just worked, and I think that’s actually what makes it realistic. For me, making friends was never as easy as it was during my teenage years, so it gave the book a real nostalgic feel. Levithan’s books always manage to do that for me!

You Know Me Well was a fun yet poignant read with realistic LGBTQ characters; a wonderful celebration of diversity and friendship. 

unicorn rating 4

You Know me Well is available to pre-order now. 

Lazy Saturday Review: Cruel Summer By James Dawson

cruelsummer
Title: Cruel Summer
Author: James Dawson
Series: N/A
Edition: Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Publication Details: August 1st 2013 by Orion
Genre(s): YA; Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads // Purchase

A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Janey was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…

Review

It took me so long to pick up a James Dawson book, and I won’t be leaving it so long the next time, promise! I liked Cruel Summer a lot!

In one respect it was exactly what I was expecting – a YA murder mystery with a few LGBTQ characters, but I wasn’t expecting it to remind me so much of 90’s gems like teen slasher movie I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the of likes the Point Horror books. I could tell that that was Dawson’s inspiration even before reading his acknowledgements.

It was a quick read that was so perfect for the beach, I can’t even tell you! I was disappointed with a few things though. Such as not really clicking with any of the characters – they all seemed a bit shallow and self-involved and the whole ‘life is a TV show’ did fit with Ryan’s personality, but I found it a bit annoying after a while.

That being said, I was pretty hooked and the pages seemed to turn themselves. I look forward to reading his other offerings.

On a side note, congratulations America – FINALLY! #EqualMarriage #LoveWins

unicorn rating 4