Book Review: The Black Flamingo - Dean Atta

Book Review: The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

*I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.*

This book is definitely a coming of age novel with a twist. I, personally, have never read a book about how someone becomes a drag queen. Personally, I think it is an amazing creative art form and the make up skills? Damn.

A few people I know have pushed back from reading this because it’s written in verse, which I understand. When I read my first novel in verse as a teenager I didn’t get it BUT now I see it as a really creative way of telling a story. If you’re new to novels in verse this is a great place to start because it flows so well and it’s easy to just read it and forget because you’re so absorbed in the story.

This is a story about finding who you are, about balancing expectations and family with your own truth. It looks at the LGBTQ community and drag but I think this could speak to anyone who has struggled with working out who they are and who they want to be. I could relate because I also started to work myself out at university and found confidence I didn’t know I had.

The story also follows Michael’s realisation that he is gay and what this meant for him as well as his crushes, relationships and the like. I’m pretty sure all of us can relate to teenage crushes.

The poetry within the pages were absolutely beautiful! Also the flow from around the middle to the second half seemed effortless, even though I know it must have taken a long time to put together.

This was a 4 star read for me, incredibly interesting, well written and, for me at least, very original in both the way it was written and the story it told. I will say that towards the beginning I struggled a little bit, particularly with Michael’s younger years but found as he got to university I could relate.

Book Review: The Gravity Of Us - Phil Stamper

Book Review: The Gravity Of Us – Phil Stamper

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

I requested this on NetGalley because I was SO excited about it. I’m lucky enough to have met Phil when we were both studying at Kingston University and we’ve stayed in touch a little. To see this all over the internet (mostly in the USA at this point) is amazing and there’s a reason there is such a buzz behind it.

Combining the idea of a new space project, young love and family tensions The Gravity of Us was an interesting concept. I’ll admit that I’ve never had that fascination with space like a lot of kids did. I think it’s cool and I’m down to read Sci-Fi and have a Star Wars marathon but it’s never been a big thing for me. The good thing is any worries I didn’t need to be!

This book is about astronauts and space missions but not in such a way that I felt like I was dumb or didn’t understand. In fact, after reading I really wanted to find out more about NASA and the work that they do.

I was really impressed by how social media is used within the book too, it’s really central to the plot and Cal as a person. While Cal is a kind of YouTuber type personality it was really refreshing to see this as a step to reach a bigger goal of being a journalist.

Also can we talk about the crushing and the romance? GUYS it put me in such a good mood and I loved the fact that the fact there were gay characters wasn’t used as a plot point at all. There was no shocking revelation that they were gay or big coming out moment. We need more of this in books.

I gave this book 4.5 stars, I really enjoyed the plot, the romance and Cal himself. This is clearly a book that has had a lot of heart put into it but also a great deal of research to back up the space element. This book deserves all of the hype it gets and of course I recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and Phil for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Over The Top – Jonathan Van Ness

Who gave Jonathan Van Ness permission to be the radiant human he is today? No one, honey. The truth is, it hasn’t always been gorgeous for this beacon of positivity and joy.

Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. 

Whew! This book! If you read my ‘Top Books of 2019’ post then you will know that Jonathan was on that list and my favourite non-fiction book of the entire year. So, you can bet this is going to be a glowing review.

I didn’t know that much about Jonathan apart from the few episodes of Queer Eye that I watched where I absolutely adored him. Who was this guy with fabulous hair and who I wanted to have as a friend? Then I started seeing him on interviews everywhere and the stories he told to presenters made it so that I needed to know more, so I got the audiobook.

The only way to listen to this book is with Jonathan narrating it and it was absolute perfection, I couldn’t have asked for more. Looking at Jonathan’s roller coaster life makes the book so fast that I found myself wanting more, even though we get his whole life story. From a child who was different to a young adult struggling with himself and addiction and the long journey to become the fun loving guy we see on TV.

What I appreciated most about this book is that Jonathan is incredibly real. He has a positive attitude but is completely honest about his darker times, that he wasn’t a person we’d want to know at times. About the fact that his issues are something he has to work through every day as well as living with a HIV positive diagnosis.

You probably will have seen Jonathan campaigning for HIV awareness and for support for the community so that they can get the right treatment no matter what. I learnt so much about HIV from what Jonathan had written and looked into it further so I could understand and that’s going to have a legacy of its own.

I think you’d probably guess that this was a 5 star read for me, I absolutely adored this book and Jonathan because it was so raw and honest without being all doom and gloom. That said, the appropriate attention is given to the seriousness of certain topics. I loved it and I’ve been recommending it to EVERYONE. What are you waiting for honey? Go add it to that to read list!

Book Review: The Other Mother – Jen Brister

When Jen falls in love with Chloe they have a great life and eventually decide that having a small person was something they wanted to do. As her wife goes through the process of IVF and pregnancy Jen finds herself as ‘The Other Mother’. There’s also the small matter that Chloe became pregnant with twins, it’s a lot for anyone to handle.

I have to say, I’m not a parent to an actual human child, I currently only have fur babies in my life so I can’t be the judge on how realistic this is but I found it to be a book that shares a lot. Jen is completely honest about her experiences, about how tough she found it at times and how boring looking after kids can be.

I found myself laughing so much while reading this book and now I’m desperate to see Jen perform as a comedian. It just feels incredibly real but also she’s not afraid to laugh at herself, her thoughts and her actions. This isn’t a book telling you how to raise a child or being the perfect parent.

Jen is also respectful of the privacy of her children. Her sons are referred to throughout the book as Twin 1 and Twin 2 and while she shares stories about her life with Chloe raising them, we don’t know their names. It’s clear that Jen wants to protect the identity of her boys and who can blame her? This book is about her experience of being ‘The Other Mother’ it’s not a biography of her children. I respect that.

Also, I can highly recommend the audiobook which is how I absorbed it and I really couldn’t stop listening. Although a note to anyone who does get the audiobook, be ready to laugh out loud at various points and look a bit nuts.

I gave this book 5 stars and have been recommending it to a lot of people recently. It’s funny but also gives a real look at what it’s like to be a non-biological parent in 2019.

Book Review: Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

I’ve been on a bit of a royalty kick this year with my reads starting with Rachel Hawkins first novel in this series Royals (now known as Prince Charming) and one of my favourites of the year Red White and Royal Blue. So I pre-ordered this as soon as I heard it was coming out and get ready to fall in love with this royal family all over again.

A female female hate to love romance about a princess and a boarding school, umm where have you been! I was just a little bit hyped up about reading this one and it definitely lived up to it.

While we first met Flora in Prince Charming as the spoilt sister of the future King of Scotland this is where we really get to know her but she’s not our main girl. Millie is an american in Scotland learning the ropes and trying to deal with the Princess, who does not want to be there.

This is absolutely adorable and it was good to see more depth to characters from the previous book, although you will understand this novel if you haven’t read Prince Charming. Hawkins has a talent for making her characters very real and complex.

Also it’s great to see some more bisexuality rep where the plot is not coming out as bisexual – more of this please! I’m hoping this is something we start seeing more in all fiction, not just YA.

Also, no spoilers but the ending – THE ENDING. My heart couldn’t cope.

I adored this book and gave it 5 stars – this is a binge read and I cannot recommend it enough. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Rachel Hawkins and checking out some of her other books.

Book Review – Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

Are you ready for one of your favourite books of the year? You might have seen this book all over social media and rightfully so. I heard about this earlier in the year and so I pre-ordered it and then it went to sold out on the day of release, my local bookshop was also meant to have it on order (I covered my bases) and it had run into issues with the publisher. I waited 2 agonising weeks before I finally got it in my hands. It was SO worth it.

Our protagonist is Alex, the first son of the United States after his mother becomes president he meets all kinds of people along with his sister June and their best friend Nora. One of those is Prince Henry of Wales and the two instantly hate each other. So when they both cause a scandal at a royal wedding it’s time for damage control, but no one intends for it to become more.

To me, and a lot of other people on the internet, this book is perfection and as it’s a debut I can’t believe how well written it is. I fell in love with Alex and Henry equally as an enemies to friends to lovers situation unfolds. They really came alive to me as did the other characters. I adored all of the other characters too June and Nora were amazing and the book has so much representation I could write a whole post on just that.

It’s also told in a mix of Alex’s perspective and emails between the two which I absolutely loved and adds to the humor and romance of the two. These are two guys trying to work out their feelings and falling in love. They make mistakes, they try and navigate whether they can make it work with such public lives – all in all they just feel like real people.

It is worth noting that this is very much a New Adult novel meaning, yes, there are sex scenes and they are excellent. The author doesn’t shy away from the fact that two young people in love will have sex *shocker*. But it’s definitely done in a natural way, there’s no scandal about sex and it happens when it happens. It was quite refreshing to read about characters having a sex life not just ‘and then we went to the bedroom..’ because sex actually happens.

What makes this book so worthy of all the praise it is getting is that this is a genuine love story that many of us would love to see in the world. The sons of two of the most powerful families in the world falling in love? I’d love to see that and maybe one day we will see more LGBT representation in powerful positions. My heart melted for these characters and I loved getting to know their lives, their friends and you can bet I carried on thinking about this book long after I finished it.

Is there any other rating I could have given this book other than 5 stars? I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I think would enjoy it. It’s a truly wonderful novel and definitely a contender for my favourite book of the year.

Book Review_ Heartstopper Vol 1 - Alice Oseman

Book Review: Heartstopper Volume 1 – Alice Oseman

Are you ready for the cutest story you’re going to read this year? I’m pretty sure this will be it. Alice Oseman has knocked it out of the park with this graphic novel. I read it in less than an hour and then immediately ordered the second volume… I think you can guess this will be a good review.

This follows Charlie, openly gay and prone to over thinking and the only out guy at school. While he’s doing better than he was and has a sort-of boyfriend his world is going to be turned upside down when he meets Nick. As the two boys develop a friendship, Charlie begins to fall for Nick – can he find love or is he looking in the wrong place?

While reading I couldn’t help but feel that this was so wholesome. There isn’t scandal or anything of the sort, it is simply the story of a friendship, kindness and love. That in itself is why I loved it so much, there is complexity in how Charlie feels but it has an overwhelming simplicity. It is about love, and not just one kind of love, both friendship and a romantic love are present.

It is incredible that this started as a Kickstarter project before being published. The thought that this story could have not been published (it was previously posted online by Oseman herself). Now we’re going to be getting volumes 2, 3 and 4 and I am LIVING for it.

You might have guessed that I gave this 5 stars. I absolutely loved it and if you need something to give you a lift, this is most certainly it. I can also recommend Oseman’s novel Radio Silence, a brilliant YA novel that has been gaining fame in the US recently. I still need to read her other books too but Alice Oseman is definitely one to watch.