Monday, October 27, 2014


THIS BOOK IS GAY by James Dawson
Pages: 271
Date: 07/09/2014
Grade: 5+
Details: Non-Fiction
            Received from Hot Key Books
            Through Nudge

The blurb:

Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it's like to grow up as LGBT*. Including testimonials from people 'across the spectrum', this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know - from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell's hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-read.

My thoughts:

“LGBT people are strong. Because we have to be.”

The author’s note says:

“This book is Gay is a collection of facts, my ideas and my stories but also the testimonies of more than three hundred amazing LGBT people who shared their stories in July 2013. I conducted an international survey from which many of the quotes are taken, and also carried out more in-depth interviews with some selected participants.”

“Whether you think you might be LGBT or think you’re straight but have questions or you’re anywhere in between, this book is for you.”

Sometimes you read a book and find yourself wondering why it took so long before someone wrote it. Occasionally you come across a book and you’re grateful to have the opportunity to not only read it but also to be in a position where you can tell others about it. ‘This Book is Gay’ is such a book.  

This book was written for young people who may find themselves questioning their sexuality or afraid of what the conclusions they’ve come to are going to mean for them. And as such I think it is brilliant. The author tackles every aspects of the LGBT spectrum, doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable truths but doesn’t turn this into a sob story or a scary tale.

In fact, what I liked most about this book was the fact that while the message was serious, the tone in which it was shared was light-hearted and comforting. The message was loud and clear; while your life may become more complicated when you come out it will result in you being true to yourself, and ultimately, that is the one thing all of us want.

The drawings in this book, combined with the author’s voice keep the tone light and the message loud and clear. The personal testimonies shared throughout give this book an intimate feeling while showing that there are no one-size-fits-all answers or solutions. What is true or works for one person may not be the best solution for another, and that too is fine.

This book should have pride of place in every (school) library, should be given to all kids once they reach the age where sex and sexuality come into play. In fact, I would advocate putting this book on the curriculum of secondary schools. After all, as it says in this book, while kids are given all sorts of information about heterosexual relationships, other options are rarely mentioned. Imagine how it must feel if you are a teenager who is not attracted to the opposite sex, or a teenager who is not sure about their gender identity. I’ll go one further and say this book would probably make things a lot clearer for the average adult too.  

I would like to think ‘This Book is Gay’ could be another step towards that world in which sexuality and gender stop being an issue and all of us can be free to be who and what we are, without fear and discomfort. It is in that spirit that I applaud this author on a job very well done, and thank him for writing a well conceived and brilliantly executed book.

I don't usually show the same cover twice in one review but today I will, just to show how many quotable passages I came across. In the end I had to limit myself to the quotes I started and ended this review with. For all the other good bits (and really, this book is one huge good bit) you'll have to read the book.

Who do you want to be? There’s only one rule; always be true to yourself.”



Pages: 156
Date:  27/10/2014
Grade: 4-
Details: Reading Group Read

The blurb:

“My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.”

In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2013
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013
Winner of Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2012

My thoughts:

Gosh, I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. It contains rather sad and depressing, although insightful and sharp, snapshots of the lives of inhabitants of a small village in the west of Ireland. The area has gone from riches to rags after the fraudulent local builder who provided the jobs and prosperity, goes broke and flees the country. These people suffer in similar yet very individual ways through the recession following the building boom.

The character’s stories are bleak. There is no real hope, nothing to look forward to and no solution in sight. On top of and compounded by the economic doom are the personal issues these characters deal with; guilt, depression, confusion, desperation, lack of love, loneliness, the list goes on and on and not a single characters appears to be happy.

Of course this town is a microcosm of Ireland. The stories show how individual actions affect a whole community in sometimes surprising and unexpected ways. They also point how even in the midst of a group of people we have known all our lives we can be completely alone and isolated. As such it is very clever and very well written; all these characters have their own voice and their own issues, even if they all stem from the same source. I admire how the author managed to tell several tales through the eyes and mouths of twenty characters all of whom only have one (shortish) chapter dedicated to them. I’m impressed that twenty different voices managed to result in one coherent story. Unfortunately my admiration for Donal Ryan’s skill doesn’t result in affection for the book he’s written.

I prefer my stories character driven rather than event driven. The glimpses of lives I got were not enough to satisfy my curiosity. Not that I felt I wasn’t given all the information I needed to follow the story; I think it was all there. What I needed in this book and didn’t get was just one happy section; for one character whose life wasn’t filled with pain or despair. They say ‘bad news sells’ and this book feels as if it’s trying to prove that rule. For me though bad news only leaves an impression if it’s contrasted by good news. Only blackness renders me almost blind to what I’m reading and the messages I’m supposed to find in the words.

I can’t help feeling the author took every issue known to men and decided to put them all in one, 156 pages long, book. While it gives us some beautiful scenes and touching quotes, it also leaves us overwhelmed by the misery of it all.

“You’re some fool, she said with her eyes. I know I am, my red cheeks said back.”
“She saw more in me than I knew there was.” - Bobby about his wife Triona

“I don’t care, though, if he can never feel the same pride in me that I know he used to. I just want him to remember how he loved me. I want him to know I’m still his little girl.” Mags, after she’s come out to her parents.

To summarize: this book is well written with the numerous individual voices clear and distinct. It is also very clever in that it tells a full story from an almost endless amount of angles in such a way the reader isn’t really aware how it all connects until they are nearing the end of the book. However, none of that mitigates the fact this is a very depressing tale.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


IN THE FIRE by Eileen Griffin & Nikka Michaels

Seize: 93K words / 433KB
Date: 23/10/2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 In the Kitchen
            Received from Carina Press
            Through NetGalley

The blurb:

Because the way to a man's heart…

Eight years ago, the world was their oyster. Until, that is, competing chefs Ethan Martin and James Lassiter's hot and heavy relationship fizzled after Jamie left for an internship in Paris. Even though Jamie's career has taken off since his return to the States, with his own television show and a lot of fame, his feelings for Ethan have never quite gone away.

Ethan's culinary career has developed more slowly, but he's almost saved enough to buy the restaurant where he works and re-open it as his dream spot, Bistro 30. If only he could get the sexy chef who loved him and left him out of his mind.

But when someone starts sabotaging the restaurant and a fire threatens to take away everything Ethan holds dear, his only option is to rely on Jamie for help. Back in close quarters, the two men will have to find a way to work through their past if they hope to save the restaurant and their future.

My thoughts:

What a difference eight years make. When ‘In the Raw’ the first book in the ‘In the Kitchen’ trilogy ended we left our two boys deeply in love. Sure, Jamie was on his way to Paris to further his cooking career, but they would only be separated for six months. Surely the deep connection and love between them would survive the relatively short separation?

Apparently not. When ‘In the Fire’ starts Ethan and Jamie have been living separate lives for eight years. Over the course of Jamie’s six months in Paris they drifted apart for reasons neither is completely sure about. When Jamie returned to America he moved to New York rather than back to Seattle and the rest, as they say is history. Jamie has become a famous television chef over the years while Ethan is tantalizingly close to buying the restaurant he’s been dreaming about for so long. When circumstances force Ethan and Jamie to meet again it soon becomes clear that eight years were not enough to kill the feelings they have for each other. They may not trust each other completely and may be filled with doubts about the wisdom of their actions, the heat and love burning between them won’t be denied.

Still, it takes the thread of Ethan almost losing his dream for the two of them to turn back into the solid and immovable unit they once were.

I have fallen more than a little bit in love with Ethan and Jamie over the course of ‘In the Raw’ and ‘In the Fire’. They both have their own distinct voice in these books and are fully fleshed out characters, easy to recognise and even easier to fall for. When I first saw there was an eight year gap in the story-line between books one and two I had my doubts about how well that might work. I should have known better. I think giving Ethan and Jamie those years to grow from boys into grown men was nothing less than a stroke of genius. ‘In the Fire’ tells us enough about what happened during those eight years to make the reader understand how they turned into the men they are now, without us having to be present for every single minute. When we reconnect with our two heroes one of them is on the brink of realizing his dream while the other has discovered that what appeared to be a dream has turned into a chore; a wonderful time for both of them to re-evaluate their lives.

Griffin and Michaels have a wonderful writing style. They create characters with real personalities and make them shine. Their descriptions are vivid (don’t read these books while hungry) and their dialogue sparkle and occasionally leads to laugh out loud moments. The easy flow of the narrative combined with two characters who are extremely hot together, ensures a wonderful and captivating reading experience.

If I have an issue with this book it is that it took almost 70% of the story before Jamie and Ethan spend some real time together. What I love most about these books is the interaction between them and with them being apart I did miss those sparks. But, I understand why the separation was necessary in the story and I’m convinced my impatience with prolonged angst had a lot to do with my reaction. Since I’m well aware my issues with angst are a-typical for readers of this genre, I’m convinced others may love those parts I wished had been a bit shorter.

Where ‘In the Raw’ ended a bit ambiguously, ‘In the Fire’ has no such issues. In fact the ending in this book is such that I have absolutely no idea where Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels might be taking us with book three. If I didn’t know for a fact they were already writing it I might doubt it was to come at all. To say I’m curious and looking forward to that third book would be a serious understatement. These two authors have once again confirmed their status among my must read writers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

WEATHERBOY by Theo Fenraven; A Release Day Review

WEATHERBOY by Theo Fenraven

Pages: 154
Date: 13/10/2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: Young Adult

The blurb:

After fifteen-year-old Tuck finds a Maya artifact while on vacation in Guatemala, his whole life changes. To his surprise, he discovers he can make it rain and snow. A local weatherman happens to be around when Tuck creates a waterspout near his home in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and the next thing he knows, someone from the Department of Homeland Security is picking him up at school and taking him to their offices in Orlando. From there, things only get weirder and more dangerous when he’s escorted to Washington, D.C.

With help from friends and family, Tuck tries to outwit government agents while staying one step ahead of the mysterious Rafe Castillo, the man assigned to ride herd on him. Tuck has an amazing opportunity to reverse the effects of climate change… but only if he stays alive long enough to do it.

My thoughts:

People following my reviews may have noticed I’m a fan of Theo Fenraven. He hasn’t written a book yet that didn’t take my breath away. And, as a quick glance at those reviews will show, he is a versatile writer; unlikely to approach the same subject or exact same genre twice in a row. Up until now this author’s books were firmly aimed at an adult audience. As of today teenagers have the opportunity to enjoy his gift for storytelling and masterful way with words too. Having said that, this book is by no means a teenage exclusive; adults will enjoy ‘Weatherboy’ as much as their younger peers.

To say ‘Weatherboy’ throws you straight into the action would be an understatement. This is a fast paced story without a single boring paragraph. Tuck literally finds his whole world has turned upside down over the course of twenty four hours and it doesn’t take much longer for him to be torn away from everything he knows and loves and thrown into a world in which he’s nothing more than a pawn in the hands of those in power.

Theo Fenraven does not paint a kind picture of those who are in charge of running our world. Unfortunately it is an all too accurate one. We might like to think our governments want to do what is best for us, but when we really think about it we know that’s rarely if ever the case. Tuck and the reader are on a journey into adulthood and it is not always an easy ride. There are two sides to this coin. Tuck may have to face the realities of power-politics; he also discovers the beauty of friendship and loyalty, even where he isn’t sure he will find it.

Weatherboy’ tells a good and gripping story. We’re given fascinating characters, a recognisable world, some fantastical powers and high tension suspense. But there is more. This book also brings the subject of climate change and the way the world (doesn’t) deal with this issue to the forefront. Teenagers these days are often more aware of what exactly is going on around them than their elders are. ‘Weatherboy’ gives them an opportunity to better understand what all of us are up against when it comes to the future of our planet. The librarian and book-club organiser in me would love to read and discuss this story with a group of teenagers; I suspect it would be a lively and enlightening experience.

If I’m perfectly honest I have to admit I was mildly disappointed ‘Weatherboy’ wasn’t longer. I would have liked to spend more time with Tuck, his family and Rafe. Taking into account the way this book ends I think it is not unlikely my wish for more will come true in the future. While this book tells a full story and ends without leaving the reader guessing, there is room for more and I really hope we’ll be allowed to find out what’s next for Tuck.

Buy links: