ARC Review | Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Pumpkin

by Julie Murphy

YA Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon, so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape accidentally getting shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . .


*Thanks to the publisher for sending me an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!*

Hello everyone! Today I am going to be sharing all my thoughts on the upcoming Julie Murphy novel, Pumpkin. I have to admit, I haven’t read any of her other books but I knew as soon as I read the blurb for this book I needed it in my life.

Pumpkin follows the story of Waylon Brewer, a fat, openly gay boy who has to go on a journey of discovery when he sends an audition tape to a show in the vein of Rupaul’s Drag Race and it’s unwittingly shared with his entire school. And when he gets nominated for Prom Queen, he decides to run instead of cowering behind the joke and Waylon is going to need all the courage he can grasp.

This was so wholesome! I really enjoyed it – I thought Waylon was a fantastic main character. He had such a strong voice throughout that I was constantly rooting for him the whole way. I think this is what makes a good main character – when you make them feel so real that the reader has no choice but to get totally invested. I liked how he had his high and low moments, it really made for a balanced storyline – it also helped that he was a funny and relatable narrator!

I also really enjoyed all the side characters, I think they added some great dimensions to this book. I’m pretty sure they are characters from both Dumplin’ and Puddin’, so I’ll definitely have to get around to check those out. I thought the plot was fabulous and loved all the drag references. It felt like a mash-up of Glee and Rupaul’s Drag Race, which just so happen to be two of my very favourite shows.

Pumpkin is out in May, and I encourage you all to go check this out when it’s published – if you’re looking for a heartwarming but also tearjerking story of resilience in the face of confronting who you are and who you were born to be, then Pumpkin is the joyous novel for you!

Writing Goals for 2021!

Hey guys!

Today’s Blogmas post is a little different than the usual book-related content, because I’m going to share some of my aspirations and goals for my own writing for the upcoming year. Honestly the transition period between the end of one year and the start of a new one is one of my favourite times of the year! There’s so much potential and ambition and goals and it’s always so inspiring for me!


Ivywood

I have spent the majority of the year working hard on this novel, and after finishing the second draft for Nanowrimo, I’ve jumped straight back and am roughly about 15k into the third draft. I had originally planned to try finish it before January, but with everything going on this month, it’s quite busy so I know now that’s not very achievable. I’ve decided to just take my time with this one and when I feel like it’s done to its best standard, I’m going to begin querying it – hopefully this will be early next year!


New WIP

When I’m super satisfied with Ivywood and whilst I anxiously wait for agents to get back to me about it, I’ve decided to dive into a completely new idea that has been simmering in the back of my mind for SO LONG. And let me tell you, I’m so excited to sit down and write it. It’s a gay Romeo and Juliet retelling set in the 80s with a huge feud between two Madonna and Prince fan clubs… i’m doing it for the girls and the gays. I’m REALLY excited for it, and it’s definitely going to be so much fun (but also really sad) to write. I’m excited just to write an insta-love with no needed explanation and then break everyone’s hearts by the end – including my own!


The Quest Book 3

Another project I have on the side is one I’ve literally been working on ever since I was 12! I’m sure I’ve talked about the Quest series on this blog before, but it follows a group of 4 cousins who embark on a quest to find 7 rings that are scattered throughout time and space. I started writing the third book in the series in 2019 I think but for some reason I hit a massive wall at about 20k and moved onto something different, which at the time I think was my Lorde novella so I think I’m not too annoyed, haha! But hopefully when I finish my new WIP I can get back to this wonderful world and characters I know so well!


All in all, I have some ambitious and exciting plans for my writing career and I can’t wait to see where 2021 takes it!

Review | The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji

by Akwaeke Emezi

Adult Fiction, LGBTQ

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One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.


I have to start this off simply by saying I am in such an obnoxious book hangover after this book and I hate how I much I absolutely adored it. Just kidding – I’m so bloody glad that I had the honour of reading this, because that’s what it genuinely felt like.

The Death of Vivek Oji is the equally gorgeous and heartbreaking story of the title character and the aftermath fo what happens when his dead body is left on his family’s doorstep. It is told through different perspectives and also different points in the history of the characters, and Emezi does an absolute effortless job of weaving them all together without getting lost or confused.

After reading Pet earlier this year and not loving it as much as everyone else, I really wanted this novel to be the redemption for Akwaeke Emezi – and my God, it absolutely was. The characterisation in this novel was absolutely sublime. It has genuinely been so long since I’ve cared so much for characters like Vivek and Osita and indeed, Kavita too. Emezi is also an absolute master of the slow-building pace, every word seems so deliberate and perfect on the page. I also adored the poignancy and emotion of this story, it was so tender and honest. It felt like reading a story I shouldn’t have been allowed to, almost as if the characters themselves existed in real life and I was spying on a private conversation. That’s how genuine this book felt to me.

It definitely deals with taboo topics and ones I usually wouldn’t think I’d like, but Emezi tackles it so beautifully and effortlessly that I couldn’t help but be in awe. I also loved the exploration of sexuality and gender, this was such a timely read and such an important one too.

If you haven’t read this yet, I really couldn’t recommend this enough. I’d say this is for fans of The Song of Achilles, with beautiful prose and sublime storytelling. I am certain I am going to remember this book for the rest of my life.


Review | Boy Queen by George Lester

Boy Queen

by George Lester

YA Contemporary, LGBTQ

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Life’s a drag until you try . . .

Robin Cooper’s life is falling apart.

While his friends prepare to head off to university, Robin is looking at a pile of rejection letters from drama schools up and down the country, and facing a future without the people he loves the most. Everything seems like it’s ending, and Robin is scrabbling to find his feet.

Unsure about what to do next and whether he has the talent to follow his dreams, he and his best friends go and drown their sorrows at a local drag show, where Robin realises there might be a different, more sequinned path for him . . .

With a mother who won’t stop talking, a boyfriend who won’t acknowledge him and a best friend who is dying to cover him in glitter make up, there’s only one thing for Robin to do: bring it to the runway.

Boy Queen by George Lester is a sparkling debut full of big hair, big heels and even bigger hearts.


Oh my God, it’s sort of criminal the way it took me so long to get around to this book! And I’m so mad at myself for waiting so long too – because from the gorgeous cover alone, I should’ve known that I would be willing to lay my life down for this book.

Boy Queen is the hilarious story of Robin Cooper who, after getting rejected from all his dream colleges, discovers the art of drag and the impact that it can have on his life. With fears of having to watch his own friends go off on their own university experiences and hiding a secret boyfriend, things are threatening to spill over for Robin, but once he discovers the magic of drag, his life takes a turn for the better, involving some fabulous lip-synching, wigs and stiletto heels.

It had such great characters, oh my days! From Robin to Natalie to Greg and even Kaye Bye, this was such a warm and hilarious cast of characters. I definitely found these to be the book’s strength and the dynamics between them were literally a joy to read. As with all good books, there were some ups and downs for our protagonist and I really enjoyed being a part of his journey from start to finish. I found myself really connecting to Robin and his humour and personality really resonated well with me.

For any fans of Drag Race or just drag in general, this is definitely the book for you. Lester also does a great job of showing you more than just the surface level drag you see on a show like RuPaul’s – because quite frankly there is so much more out there, and it’s better than you can even imagine. This was written so well and so beautifully and I found myself rooting for Robin the whole way through. I cannot wait to see what Lester does next!


Review | The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

The Falling in Love Montage

by Ciara Smyth

YA Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.

But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.


Guys, this BOOK. This book. I’m honestly going to be raving about this for the rest of the review because I loved it so much, so if that’s not your thing, you should probably leave now.

The Falling in Love Montage follows the hilarious Saoirse, a teenager from Ireland who’s just finished exams and wants a summer of fun to take away from her problems. Enter Ruby. Together, they plan a summer of the typical scenes you would see in a “falling in love” montage in many rom-coms, with no ties to each other once the summer is over. But as I’m sure you can expect, they don’t realise just how head over heels they end up falling for each other.

This book was AMAZING. Geniunely. I loved the premise, I thought Smyth weaved it through the story in such clever and fun ways, but she also made the book super emotive that I found myself completely attached to many of the characters throughout. I thought Saoirse was so hilarious and authentic and she is definitely one of the best main characters I’ve ever read. I also loved her dad, Ruby and especially Oliver, he was the perfect ingredient to tie the book all together.

Not only was the voice of the novel equally heart-tugging and hilarious, I also thought the pace of the book was perfect. There was never a point where I found myself bored, I was constantly engrossed in the story and how Ruby and Saoirse’s romance would unfold. Also, as an Irish reader I loved this even more because there were so many nods and mentions that I picked up on and I loved seeing that in a book, rather than it being set in the standard UK or US.

I just loved this so much and my only issue with it is that I didn’t pick it up sooner! A wonderfully enchanting romance that will absolutely make your heart swoon! If you haven’t read this one yet, please do!


Review | Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella is Dead

by Kalynn Bayron

YA Romance, Fantasy, LGBTQ

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It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew. . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.


Doesn’t this book just sound absolutely glorious from the blurb? Well, spoiler alert: it is. I loved this book so much and it was certainly one of the strongest debuts I’ve read in a long time!

Cinderella is Dead is a clever subversive take on the fairytale we all know so well. Set 200 years after the original tale, it follows Sophia who no longer wants to be moulded into the kind of woman society is making her into. She doesn’t want to marry some random man who chooses her at the ceremony because she loves girls and she’ll go to great lengths to break the chain.

This had such a great main character. I loved the equal parts fierce and vulnerable we got to see from Sophia’s character. It made her all that easier to relate to because she had more then just one side. The side characters in this novel were all really well-crafted – flawed but three dimensional.

Bayron weaves the tension and an atmosphere of uncertainty into this novel too really well. The whole time I was reading I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next and that’s what I loved most about this book. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, constantly turning the page to see what was going to happen. Really brilliant storytelling from Bayron and I can’t wait see what she does next!


Review | You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

YSSMIAC

You Should See Me in a Crown

by Leah Johnson

YA Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ

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Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?


This book has been on my radar for a while, so it was only right that I finally got around to it! Now… let’s see if it lived up to my expectations!

You Should See Me in a Crown follows the story of the lovable Liz Lighty and her quest to become prom queen. She desperately wants to win so she can get a scholarship to her dream college so enlists her best friends to help her run a campaign like no other. But when she starts falling for the new girl at their school, AKA her competition, that’s when she begins to run into some problems.

I absolutely loved this book!!! All the hype about it is true. It put such a smile on my face as I read it, and I flew through it too. I feel like that alone is such a good sign. The pace was perfect and the plot had such a gripping concept before I even began that I was bound to love that too. Johnson’s characters are fantastic as well – truly three-dimensional and they all felt so real. They all had flaws and they all made mistakes and I liked seeing that. There’s nothing worse in YA books that characters who seem to be absolutely perfect and God’s gift on earth, because, spoiler alert, nobody is.

So diverse and written by a Black, queer woman, this is definitely not a book to miss! And to think if this is only Leah Johnson’s debut—captivating, enjoyable, mixed together with all the right ingredients for a YA contemporary—then I’m surely going to love whatever comes next.


5 star

Review | Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

felix ever after

Felix Ever After

by Kacen Callender

YA Contemporary, Romance

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From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

 


 

This book has got so much hype and I’d seen it recommended so much that I was actually almost put off picking it up for a while – but thank goodness I did.

Phwoar. What. A. Book.

Felix Ever After follows the story of Felix, who feels like he’s one marginalization too many – Black, queer and trans. And when someone posts old pictures of him and shares his deadname with the school, he’s furious and horrified. With the help of his friends, he has to find out who it is, all while confronting his own identity as well as getting tangled in quite the messy romance.

I absolutely loved this book!! Callender’s writing was so inviting and beautiful – I was so impressed by its beauty and heartfelt prose. This book for me is the pure example of why I read – to escape into someone else’s story and step into their shoes for 300/400 pages. I will never know the experience or hardships of being trans or Black, but this book allows me to educate myself and look outside my own experiences into those belonging to others. It fet like such a marvelous privilege.

Also the story took me by surprise. I have to admit I made myself go into this story not knowing much more than it had a transgender main character, so it definitely took me in a route that I wasn’t expecting but one I pleasantly enjoyed. Thoroughly recommend!


5 star

Review | Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

pet

Pet

by Akwaeke Emezi

YA Fantasy, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.


This was a very strange book. I expected a lot from the hype that this got, so I was excited to see if it would deliver. I actually heard so many good things about this that I picked it up for #LGBTQMonth, despite it not being on my TBR…but unfortunately I didn’t love it as much as I thought it would.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a good book. I enjoyed it – but it didn’t absolutely blow me away, you know? PET follows the story of Jam, who when she runs into a creature called Pet who claims there are still monsters in Lucille, she has to question everything she already thought she knew.

This kind of started slow so for a while I struggled to completely settle into the story. It was about halfway through when I finally got proper hooked into the novel. It’s very short, by the way, I think only 200 or so pages! The writing was absolutely gorgeous, I can’t fault that. Emezi has a special way with words & they are able to use them to provoke such vivid emotions and important thoughts.

It really does a great job of raising important questions of morality, but I think my biggest issue with this is that it read more like a children’s/MG book to me than it did a YA. I felt like the voice of our narrator was very young, despite the age she actually she was.

But maybe that’s just me. Have you read Pet? I’d love to know your thoughts below!


4 star

Review | Wilder Girls by Rory Power

wilder girls

Wilder Girls

by Rory Power

YA Horror, Mystery

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


So Wilder Girls was one of my final choices for #LGBTQMonth and I also read it as part of an impromptu buddy read with the lovely blue-haired faerie Gabbie. I saw so many good things about this book and the cover is literally to die for, so I wanted to see for myself if it lived up to the hype.

Wilder Girls was definitely a timely read. Set on an island in a girl’s boarding school, a virus called the Tox starts to overwhelm their world so these girls are forced to quarantine in their school so they don’t spread it to anyone else. But when our main character, Hetty’s, best friend goes missing, she’s willing to do anything to find her, including breaking quarantine. And when she does, she finds out a lot more secrets than she could ever expect.

This was a fantastic, thrilling horror. I don’t read a lot of horror in YA so it was so lovely to dip into this book because it felt like something new. The way Power writes is magical, it’s like she conjures this eerie, gory atmosphere in the pages of the book and keeps it there for the whole way through. Her description was so good and gross at times that I found myself with goosebumps. This was definitely an immersive novel, I really felt like the setting and the description were the strength of the novel. I also loved how the whole way through I felt like I didn’t know who to trust. From the get go, we know someone is lying, so you have to sort of be suspicious of everyone. I’m not sure if that was intentional or it was just me, but I really loved that aspect of the novel.

As for the characters – Hetty, Byatt and Reese – they were some gripping characters. I loved the relationship between Hetty and Reese, the way it grow slowly but I do wish we got to see a bit more of Byatt than the parts we did. But obviously for plot purposes, I won’t say anymore.

And then the ending came along and I felt like it swept the rug out from underneath my feet. I do like a good ambiguous ending but I just felt like this was way too ambiguous. I didn’t get any sense of closure or resolution to the story and the characters’s actions didn’t reflect their own mantras throughout the novel. However, despite the ending, I did really enjoy this and I can’t wait for Power’s newest book, Burn Our Bodies Down.


4 star