Review | Proud of Me and Q+A with Sarah Hagger-Holt

Proud of Me

by Sarah Hagger-Holt

MG Contemporary, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


Becky and Josh are almost-twins, with two mums and the same anonymous donor dad.

Josh can’t wait until he’s eighteen, the legal age when he can finally contact his father, and he’ll do anything to find out more ­­­- even if it involves lying.

Becky can’t stop thinking about her new friend, Carli. Could her feelings for Carli be a sign of something more?

Becky and Josh both want their parents to be proud of them…but right now, they’re struggling to even accept themselves.


Thanks to the publisher and author for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I feel like every time I read or review a MG book, I always end up saying the same thing – I don’t read MG that often. But when I heard about this, I absolutely couldn’t turn down the chance to review a book that sounded so lovely and wholesome. And disappointed I was not, because Proud of Me really knocked it out of the park and really delivered a book that makes myself proud that the children of this generation will be able to read a book like this – so important, comforting and rich.

Proud of Me is the heartwarming story of “almost” twins Becky and Josh – who share the same biological dad but have different mums. But of course that doesn’t make them any less of a family. But in their family, they are keeping secrets. Becky is beginning to have feelings for her new friend Carli, and Josh is getting more and more impatient to find out more about their anonymous donor dad. But as well as know, secrets can only stay secrets for so long…

I really enjoyed this book! I thought that Hagger-Holt did an excellent job of the dialogue, it perfectly captured both of our main characters and made each of their voices so distinct! The story was so nice to follow and the pace was great – I kept on reading because I was really invested in both of their stories, and despite their little flaws, they were both such likeable main characters!

I think this book will be the starter of some really important conversations regarding parenthood and what biological relations actually mean. Because at the end of the day, family to you is whomever you choose and blood doesn’t mean anything. It was so amazing to see an unconventional family at the centre of this story, and for all the younger readers who are going to pick up this book, it’s going to do them and their imagination a world of good.

Proud of Me is heartwarming and wholesome, but be prepared for it to tug on your heartstrings. A moving, emotional read, I really loved this book!


Hi Sarah!

Congratulations on your newest publication – Proud of Me! I can already see the good this book is going to do in the world and how many people are going to adore it!

As a writer myself and aspiring author, I thought it would be fun to ask you some questions more so on the writing side of your career! So, onto the questions!

Q) This is your second novel for children. What draws you to writing for kids rather than teens or adults?

A combination of things. First of all, remembering how important books were to me when I was a child has made me want to try to create the same magic for someone else.

Secondly, the character that sparked off Nothing Ever Happens Here – Izzy – just happened to be twelve, so I wrote for pre-teens because it seemed most likely that children of a similar age would be interested in her story.

And finally, I have two children, aged 10 and 12, and I read a lot of the same books as they do. These books have shown me how much you do within a middle grade novel – there’s scope to write just as interesting characters and complex situations as there would be if I wrote for teens or adults.

Q) What is your ideal writing day like?

My ideal writing day would start with a swim or a walk by myself. This helps me sift through ideas and try out dialogue in my head. It’s also a great way to work through any problem with the writing – better than staring at a blank screen! Then, all I need to be set for the day is a large cup of coffee, some cake that my daughter has made, an empty house, and a laptop on the table overlooking the garden.

Q) If you could make a character from Proud of Me meet a character from Nothing Ever Happens Here, who would these characters be?

Whoah, I love this question, even if it blows my mind a little bit. I think Archie from Proud of Me and Grace from Nothing Ever Happens Here would be an amazing combination, bringing sunshine into everyone’s lives. I’d also love it if Izzy and Sam from Nothing Ever Happens Here could join the school Pride group in Proud of Me – I think they’d find it so helpful to get to know other kids with LGBTQ+ families.

Q) What’s the biggest joy of writing for you?

I love writing dialogue. It’s such fun when the characters find their own voices. It’s also immensely satisfying when you find a neat way to resolve something which isn’t working or a part of the plot that isn’t making sense. That’s true inspiration – and sometimes you have to wait a long time for it to come.

Q) You do a lot of research for your books – in what way do you think this is important and rewarding for both you as a writer and for the story itself?

It’s not like I do all the research and then I start writing. The two processes go hand in hand. Research for me usually means finding people with similar lived experiences to my characters and talking with them about it. There are plenty of videos and articles to turn to online to fill in any gaps. I think doing the research pays off because, hopefully, it reduces the risk of writing stereotypical characters and gives the story an extra layer of authenticity.

Q) Do you listen to music when you write? If so what sounds inspired this novel?

Never, I just can’t do it. It totally distracts me. Also, I like to stop and read aloud bits that I’m writing as I go along, or even talk to myself about what I’m going to do next, which doesn’t really work with a musical background.

Q) Who was one of your favourite characters to write?

Aaargh, I love them all. But if I had to choose… Proud of Me has two narrators – Becky and Josh – and the chapters alternate between their narrative voices. It was great to have the chance to get right inside the heads and motivations of two different characters as they experienced many of the same events. The challenge was to keep their voices distinct, but still sounding like they came from the same family. The editing process really helped me go back and work through this.

Q) And finally, what piece/pieces of advice do you have for those reading who are aspiring authors themselves?

Read lots – everyone says it, but it’s true.

Also, when you write, write in your own voice, don’t try and copy anyone else. I don’t think there will ever be too many stories. We need stories from a diverse range of voices, experiences and interests. That includes your stories in your voice. It amazes me how distinct different writers’ voices turn out to be. We need them all.

And finally, just get the words down. They don’t have to be perfect first time, in fact, they definitely won’t be. But getting them out of your head and on to page is the first step.

Good luck!


Thank you so much Sarah for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful blog tour and answering my questions! Proud of Me is out now and I can’t recommend it enough!

ARC Review | Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins

Here the Whole Time

by Vitor Martins

YA Contemporary, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe gets it — he’s fat. Not chubby. Not big-boned. Fat. And he doesn’t need anyone to remind him, which is, of course, what everyone does. That’s why he’s been waiting for this moment ever since the school year began: school break. Finally, he’ll be able to spend some time far away from school and the classmates who tease him incessantly. His plans include catching up on his favorite TV shows, finishing his to-be-read pile, and watching YouTube tutorials on skills he’ll never actually put into practice.

But things get a little out of hand when Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Suddenly, the days ahead of him that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) end up bringing a whirlwind of feelings, forcing Felipe to dive head-first into every unresolved issue he has had with himself — but maybe, just maybe, he’ll manage to win over Caio, too.


Thank you to the publisher for sending me an early copy in exchange for an honest review, and for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour!

Here the Whole Time was a short, quick read – but the length did not take away from the importance of this story and just how lovely it really was! This novel follows the story of Felipe, a fat, gay kid who’s been waiting relentlessly to be able to relax over the winter break away from the bullies in his school – but he’s left super disappointed when it turns out his neighbour/ex-friend Caio who he sort of has a crush on will be staying with him and his mom for 15 days. *Cue a lot of pining and angst*

This was incredibly wholesome, and super romantic. I’m loving recently how they are even more diverse LGBTQ reads with representation that’s going to be so important for so many people. It was amazing to see fat rep tackled so well in this book, and it’s definitely going to be a conversation-starter that a lot of people need, or the wake-up call that society demands. It was great to have such a mix of characters in this, I really loved the main two boys, but my personal favourite was Becky – an openly sapphic and body positive icon. I also loved Felipe’s mom, and I honestly think she deserves an entire book for herself.

There was a lot of humour that translated really well from the page, but beneath that humour if you’re willing to look for it enough, there’s quite a lot of vulnerability and sensitivity in this novel. What I also loved about Here the Whole Time was that it was really refreshing to read a book set somewhere that isn’t the UK or US, because this is set in Brazil. After reading this and immersing myself in a culture I’m not too familiar with, i definitely want to make it my own personal mission to expand my reading even more and start reading books set in countries I want to learn more about.

Overall this was a joyous read and I definitely think it’s perfect for fans of the likes of Heartstopper and any David Levithan books!


Blog Tour: Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Hi everyone!

Today I have a super exciting post! I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Helen Corcoran’s debut, Queen of Coin and Whispers! If I haven’t shouted about this book enough yet, then hopefully now is another chance to do exactly that. I thoroughly enjoyed this political intrigue fantasy tale with a gorgeous f/f romance at the heart of it!

You can find my full review here!

BLOG TOUR

Thank you especially to Tríona at O’Brien Press for asking me to be apart of this and to Helen of course for writing such a fantastic book! If you want to purchase Queen of Coin and Whispers, then you can do so at obrien.ie or from Book Depository.

You can find Helen at @hcor on Twitter or through her website, helencorcoran.com!


ABOUT QUEEN OF COIN AND WHISPERS

QoCaW

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …


Now, onto the extract!

Xania

The carpet muted my footsteps, giving me a few more moments of stealth. ‘How long?’
Matthias whirled. His face tumbled through shock, surprise, guilt, then settled on anger. ‘Xania.’
‘Miss Bayonn.’ He’d lost the privilege of my name. ‘How long have you been working for her?’ What secrets have you told her?
‘It’s not –’
I whipped the dagger up.
He went still.
‘How long?’
He flicked his gaze from the dagger to me. ‘I’ve known her since childhood.’ He hesitated. ‘However you’re imagining I betrayed you, I didn’t.’
Careful phrasing. Typical Matthias.
The doors burst open, and the new Queen stood in the doorway.
Fear rolled in my gut.

‘Drop the dagger.’ This close, layers of powder couldn’t quite hide the grief or exhaustion on her pale skin. But her gaze still pinned me. ‘Drop it now.’
She spoke as if she’d never been disobeyed in her life, which was probably true. Refusing her meant courting death.
I let the dagger slip from my fngers.
Matthias nudged it towards the Queen with his boot. She scooped it up and held it at her side.
‘Your Majesty,’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘may I present Miss Xania Bayonn, daughter of the late Baron Bayonn and Lady Harynne.’
‘If this is a joke,’ the Queen told him, ‘it’s in poor taste.’
‘It isn’t. I don’t appreciate having the business end of daggers pointed at me.’
My legs tensed, though running was futile. The Queen knew my name now.
She narrowed her eyes. ‘How did you convince the guards to let you through?’ She looked between Matthias and me, then at the walls. So she had told him about the passages – and he shouldn’t have told me.
Matthias grimaced.
At the sound of an approaching patrol, the Queen gestured at him and stepped back into the room. He pulled me inside before I could protest. The Queen shut the doors. The guards’ footsteps faded around a corner.

‘Release her,’ the Queen said, and nodded towards the chairs at her desk.
I sat, keeping my head down. Mama had drilled etiquette into me for years as my most effective shield.
The Queen placed my dagger on the windowsill behind her. I waited for her to speak first. Only the ticking clock broke the silence, until Matthias took an incensed breath through his nose.
‘I’m aware this isn’t the meeting you intended, but here we are,’ the Queen snapped. ‘So instead of acting like a spoiled child, Baron Farhallow, I suggest you salvage it.’
Meeting?
I looked up. ‘I… I beg your pardon, Your Majesty…’
‘It’s a bit late for politeness now.’
Matthias snorted.
‘Would you prefer I leave you both alone with the dagger?’
‘No, Your Majesty,’ he said. ‘I would not.’
‘Good. Start explaining.’

 

From Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran, published by The O’Brien Press.


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