A brilliant book and such a worthy winner of the Booker Prize 2020! But also such a dark, depressing and brutal read. It reminded me a lot of A Little Life, and just like that book it left devastated and uneasy after reading it. I know it’s a book that will stay with me and that I will never forget, even though I almost wish for it. Shuggie Bain is a raw storytelling that is both heartbreaking and deeply moving, beautiful and brutal, compassionate and encouraging as well as painful and frustrating at the same time.
The story follows the sweet, lonely, gay boy Shuggie Bain growing up in the economic and social stagnation of 1980s Glasgow, Scotland, together with his alcoholic mother. Abandoned by his father and older siblings, he struggles to take on the responsibility and care for his mother, while also struggling to become the normal boy he desperately longs to be instead of the “no right” boy with a secret that all but him can see. It’s a portrait of a struggling city and post-industrial working-class community, a mother that is shunned by the other women and preyed upon by the men and of a young boy being outcast for who he is and navigating the harsh reality the best he can.
I actually think that “Agnes Bain” would have been a better title though, since the main focus and the center for the story and all the other characters is Shuggie’s mother and her struggle with the addiction and misery.
I have to admit that there were so many times I got frustrated with Agnes and the poor decisions she kept making and the way she was abusive to Shuggie and her elder children. But mostly I pitied her, and felt deeply sorry for Shuggie. It was impossible to not see how deep his love for his mother was, and to see the sweet, fun and glorious parts of Agnes’s personality through Shuggie’s eyes. So for most of the time, Shuggie made me feel compassion for Agnes too.
This book is brilliant, clearly written from the heart and with a wonderful flow. It’s agonizing and heart-wrenching, tragic and so depressing, but -luckily- with a few glimmers of hope. It such a worthy Booker Prize winner, but for me it was a bit on the long side and just too dark and devastating. It made me feel uneasy, frustrated, heartbroken and just too sad to fully appreciate it. Therefore, I can only give it a four star rating, even though I recognize that it is an amazing book and future classics.
I do encourage everyone to read it though, just be aware of the trigger warnings and be prepared for your heart and mind to be scrambled.
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I totally loved this witty, charming, opposites-attract, banter-making-sparks-fly romcom! It really took me by surprise how fun and sweet and wonderful it was but still also with more depth than expected! I read it in one sitting, completely hooked.
The story follows science journalist Megan (think Amy in The Big Bang Theory) who moves in as a roommate to Josh, another science nerd. Josh is the perfect roommate - and also possible love interest - smart, fun, cute, sweet and into science just like Megan. But how come Brandon, Josh’s jock football player for a brother keeps invading Megan’s mind? Brandon is the total opposite of anything she cares about, and also a reminder of a high school trauma that she’s still not quite over. But the heart wants what the heart wants. Which is true also for Josh who’s got a lot more to deal with than Megan knows…
I really loved the hilarious banter between Megan and Brandon! The opposites-attract romance was so well done in the way their teasing and arguing made sparks fly. Even though Megan’s comments were honest to an extent boarding to mean, Brandon soon found himself having internal dialogues with Megan and learning science facts to come back to her with killer punch lines, and starting to appreciate not being constantly smiled to and treated as a celebrity, but as a real person. I also loved the way they both had insecurities to deal with, and how Brandon was not portraited as the jock stereotype, but in addition to being completely buff and charming also was sweet and insecure, feeling unintelligent and how protective he was about his brother. And for Megan, how she had her own trauma to deal with, as well as feeling completely out of her comfort zone being compared to the other WAGs… And the science references were so well done! This hilarious romcom didn’t just make me root for the characters, it even got me interested in things like bioluminescence (animals able to emit their own light).
I also really appreciated the parts involving Josh and his significant other and how one person’s decision to stay closeted effects the other person in the relationship too. Where do you draw the line when the love you feel for someone forces you to hide yourself to the world? When is the denial too much to justify the love?
All in all, this was such a pleasant surprise! Hilarious, addictive, with funny dialogues and amazing chemistry, and with characters that completely stole my heart! Highly recommend!
Thank you NetGalley and Xpresso Book Tours for the opportunity to read this romcom gem! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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This was the fourth (and final, I believe?) book in Beth Bolden’s adorable, sweet and heartwarming Food Truck Warriors series, and it was yet another adorable m/m foodie romance. If it was the last book, it really wrapped the series up in a sweet and perfect conclusion. If it was not, I couldn’t be happier to keep reading about my favorite group of gay food truck owners!
Just like the previous books in this series, Full Speed Ahead can be read as a standalone. Even though the characters from the other books make their appearances, this book focus on the new character Lennox and the burgeoning romance between him and the food truck owner Ash.
When Lennox was first introduced in On A Roll (the third book in this series), I didn’t like him at all. But now I’m glad to say that he has completely won we over by sharing his backstory and the reason for being such a closed off person. Lennox is a security professional who’s been coming around the Food Truck Warriors for months, ordering salad from Ash’s truck even though he doesn’t even like salad… He’s something of a mystery; repressed, sad and lonely, and no one even knows if Lennox is his first or last name. But Ash is fascinated by him and slowly Ash’s charm seems to be working, tearing down the walls Lennox has built around him. When a stalker appears and start to threaten the food truck lot and especially targeting Ash, Lennox is hired for protection. And finally, the electricity between Lennox and Ash is surfacing and let out into the open.
Ash was such a sweetheart that stole my heart from the very first start. And Lennox slowly worked his magic on me. The more he revealed about his past and his losses and reasons for not trusting other people or daring to love and be openly gay, the more I warmed up to him and in the end I completely rooted for him as well.
The story in this book is a bit different from the others in the series as it had more of a thriller plot with the added element of mystery and search for the stalker. Personally, I prefer the other three books in the series a bit more as this book lost some of the charm and sweetness from the others with this kind of plot. And the stupid and reckless way Ash behaved at one point didn’t feel authentic, it felt forced for the sake of the drama.
But all in all, this was an adorable and heartwarming story about second chances, being brave to share your deepest secrets and the empowering love of found families. If it was the final book in the series, I’m completely content with the way it wrapped everything up. If not, I can’t wait to follow more of my favorite food truck people…
Thank you to Gay Book Promotions for the ARC and blog tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published twenty-three novels and seven novellas.
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Today is my stop on Pride Book Tours’s tour for this completely unique, gripping and empowering read! I’ve never read a book with so many complex and special characters, and the queer and disability representation was so honest and positive. There was also some amazing artwork included in it that added to the very special feeling. Some parts were perhaps a bit too unrealistic for this book to be fully as gripping as it could have been, but it was overall a very entertaining and emotional read.
The story follows 18-year-old Crystal, who lives in rural Alaska with her grandparents and brother after having been abandoned by her drug-addicted parents at a young age. Both Crystal and her brother JD were affected by their mother’s drinking and drug use during pregnancy and have special needs. But Crystal isn’t just struggling with her disability, she’s also secretly in love with her best friend Haley, and suffering from the small town’s toxic masculinity with bullying and constant harassment and on top of that, her grandparents are hospitalized with Covid. Haley is repeatedly abused by her boyfriend, and when Crystal gets enough one day and reports him, she triggers a chain of events that will change her life and both bring back her past and help her create a new future for herself and her loved ones.
I loved the queer representation and the complex characters. I’ve never read a book with main characters dealing with special needs, where the disability was described in such an honest yet positive way. Both Crystal and JD struggle in school and with being bullied, and Brooke Skipstone never tried to shy away from their challenges, but she also did a brilliant job showing how gifted and talented they were in other ways and how brave, strong, kind and artistic Crystal was. The artwork included in the book that Crystal draw was so beautiful and added so much to the narrative.
Some things were a bit unrealistic and the dialogues were at times sassy and brilliant, but at other times the writing style lacked in flow and felt a little bit too much tell rather than show. There was also so much going on that the story felt slightly overloaded. The story took place during a week, showing all things happening after Crystal saves Haley from the abuse, but there were enough things and drama happening that easily could have lasted a month, or even a year.
But overall, Crystal’s House of Queers was a heart-wrenching and unique queer coming of age story full of friendship, love, acceptance and forgiveness, sexual discovery and the creation of a queer safe haven for others suffering from abuse and harassments. I loved the positive undertone even though there were so many difficult topics (abuse, addiction, disability, teenage pregnancy, homophobia and more) and how strong and able all female characters were portrayed, which in the end really made it such an empowering story!
Thank you to Pride Book Tours and Skipstone Publishing for the blog tour invitation for this wonderful book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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This was such a fun and addictive m/m romance with a burning chemistry between the two main characters. It was so fast-paced that I read it all in just a few hours!
This or That is about the rising DJ and bartender Troy Hunter and former business lawyer and fashion designer Michael Clayton, who get into a fight in a Parisian bar, when a drunk Mike steals a sloppy kiss from Troy’s bartender colleague. To teach him a lesson, Troy gives him a taste of his own medicine, but that kiss sets something in motion in a way a blow to the head wouldn’t have. When the two of them meet up again at a cruise ship, the fight between them turns on a burning desire they both try their best to deny. Especially Mike who’s never doubted being straight.
I loved the enemies-to-lovers trope, and the hot banter between Troy and Mike! It was such a fun and addictive story. I do wish that the enemies-part could have lasted a bit longer though. Now it went by a little too fast, almost turning into instalove. I also have some issues with the way Mike initially behaved, it could have been made clearer by the author that that kind of behavior is never okay.
But all in all, it was a great and entertaining read! I really enjoyed the writing style with the banter between Troy and Mike, the sweet romance, Mike’s supportive mother and friends and the message to stay true to who you are. Even if that turned out to be something you never expected… I also really appreciated the vulnerability and the slow way in which Mike was allowed to explore his sexuality without Troy putting any pressure on him. It might not be a story that will stay on your mind for long, but it certainly gives you good entertainment for the moment. So much that I promise that you will not be able to put it down until you’ve read it all!
Thank you so much to Gay Book Promotions for the ARC! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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After reading the fun, witty and addictive American Royals and the way it ended, I was sure I’d love the direction the next book would take the story and characters in. But I’m sorry to say that I struggled with Majesty this in ways that I hadn’t expected.
American Royals was a surprisingly feisty and entertaining soap opera and I was sure that Majesty would keep the highly enjoyable drama up. But where the drama in the first book was intriguing in a way similar to Gossip Girl, it was just over the top in this one. And where the romances were heartfelt and engaging in the first one, they were, with one exception, just illogical and unengaging in this book. The way, and how fast, the romantic feelings changed made them too shallow for me to really care for any of the relationships. I also felt like the characters changed from the first book. It’s hard to explain, but it was like they were all suddenly different persons somehow. I loved Nina in the first book, but here she was just so plain and all we got to know about her life was when she was swooning over a boy, which didn’t seem to fit her character from the first book at all. The same also goes for the way Beatrice kept focusing on her feelings for Teddy all the time, instead of the inner struggle between her desires and everyone’s expectations to always put America’s best before her own, that made her so relatable in the first book. And Jefferson, who I thought was kind of plain in the first book was now so plain that he was like a clean sheet of paper. Daphne on the other hand was even more of her horrible herself now, but sadly that only made me despise her so much that I had problems reading her chapters. I kept waiting for her evil behavior and scheming to come back to haunt her and for her to get a taste of her own medicine, but sadly the author (kind of) let her get away with it all, which felt quite upsetting.
What I really did enjoy though, was the character development that Beatrice and Sam went through though, and the way Beatrice wanted to form her role as a queen herself. I appreciated the discussions on gender inequality and sexism within monarchies and the way Beatrice wanted to prove to the world (and especially Lord Chamberlain) that a woman doesn’t need a man by her side to be able to rule. Some of my favorite parts of the book involved Beatrice telling the chamberlain off when he was a patronizing jerk. I also absolutely loved the new addition to the cast, Marshall. He was such a sweetheart and such a fun and relatable character that he made up for much of the other characters’ blandness. And the romance involving him was the one relationship I actually cared about in this book. Because of that, Majesty ended up being quite an okay read after all, but still very much a disappointment as to what I had hoped for.
2.5 stars rounding up to 3
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alwyn Hamilton Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.G. Drews Chris Bedell C.L. Beaumont Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Grace Williams Gwen Martin Heather Truett Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han John Green Julianne Donaldson Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Williamson Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Mackenzi Lee Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally M. Tasia Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve River Braun Roan Parrish Roseanne A. Brown Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Saundra Mitchell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Teagan Hunter T.J. Klune Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard