Wednesday, 18 May 2022

REVIEW: Gay Club! by Simon James Green

Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre:  Contemporary
Release Date: May 5th 2022
Buy the Book: Bear Hunt Books

Barney's a shoo-in for his school's LGBTQ+ Society President at the club's next election. But when the vote is opened up to the entire student body, the whole school starts paying attention. How low will the candidates go to win? Buckle up for some serious shade, scandals and sleazy shenanigans. It isn't long before it's National Coming Out Day - for everyone's secrets!

But when the group faces an expected threat - and a big opportunity - can the club members put politics aside and stand united?

Simon James Green is the award-winning author of a number of beloved LGBTQ+ YA novels, including NOAH CAN'T EVEN, HEARTBREAK BOYS and YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT. Perfect for fans of GLEE, HEARTSTOPPER, and BOYFRIEND MATERIAL
Me, here to yell about how much I love the latest Simon James Green novel? Shocking, I know. As someone who is always screaming from the rooftops about how much I adore Simon’s novels, it’s a surprise to absolutely no one that Gay Club! was one of my most anticipated stories of the year. I immediately dropped everything once my copy popped through the letterbox. 

The concept of having a race for the president of an LGBTQ+ society was something that drew me in as soon as I read the blurb, especially since I’m constantly searching for stories that openly discuss the wide range of sexuality and gender labels. Gay Club! gave me everything I was looking for and more.

Our main character, Barney, is the definition of a cinnamon roll. I admired his determination to make everyone feel part of something, and his speeches throughout the story completely warmed my heart. The back and forth between Barney’s competitor, Bronte, and one of his best friends, Maya, provided the lovers-to-enemies-to-reluctantly-working-together trope that I needed. Bronte and Barney’s race for president lead the humour-filled drama in the first half of the story.

Danny Orlando was a particular favourite character of mine. As the popular footballer in the school, I adored his more complicated journey throughout the story and felt so proud of him by the final chapter. He’s a perfect example of how confusing it is to figure out who you are and what you stand for.

  • TWISTS AND TURNS. When I say I couldn’t predict a single thing in this story, I mean it! I genuinely had no idea what wild and hilarious event would occur next.
  • CHARACTERS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH. These characters are going to stay with me for a long time. It’s impossible not to love their friendship group. Where’s my squad who cooks food for each other during weekly movie nights?
  • IMPORTANT MOMENTS. Whilst Gay Club! is filled with the comedy writing we’ve come to expect from Simon, there are scenes that provide a harsh reminder of how far we still have go when it comes to acceptance. There’s a particular scene during a game of football that broke my heart because it’s all too real for so many young queer people.

I can’t stress enough how important stories like this one are in helping young people to feel like they belong. My expectations were high, and yet it still managed to go above and beyond! With such a fun cast of characters and packed full of inspiring messages, Gay Club! is easily my favourite read of the year so far.

Royal Rating:


Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Painting a Heartstopper Window Graphic

How are we all holding up after Heartstopper? Personally, I gave myself a headache from crying on the morning it first aired and I've already done a complete rewatch. I don't have words to describe how important this story is to so many people, and how I wish I'd had it when I was a teenager. If you're interested in my full thoughts, then my discussion video is over on my Booktube Channel

So whilst I was busy sobbing my heart out over how perfect the adaptation was, I got an incredible opportunity from my favourite bookshop, Bear Hunt Books. Last year, I painted the cover for the first Heartstopper graphic novel onto one of my denim jackets and I got an overwhelming amount of love for it on social media. I've since painted a few Heartstopper related things! When the shop reached out to me about painting a window graphic, I was so excited to give it a try.

I could use to help me get the sizing right. I had a huge, paper Nick and Charlie lying on my floor for a week, scaring the life out of unsuspecting family members.

I worked on the window with chunky Posca pens. Although I usually use Posca for detailing on my fabric paint projects, using them on glass was a completely different experience and I definitely panicked that I wouldn't be able to pull it off. But here's the finished result!

I used my templates by sticking them outside and drawing the lines from the inside. I didn't take into account how the thickness of the glass would change the way I'd have to draw, so I winged it a little but I'm super happy with how it looks! 

sitting proudly outside my first window graphic

I absolutely loved getting the opportunity to challenge myself and share some Heartstopper wholesomeness, so a huge thank you to Bear Hunt Books for letting me give it a try. If you happen to be in the area, please pop down and check the place out - be sure to show me any pics! 

Bear Hunt Books is also hosting the Wirral Kids Book Fest on June 5th, with some fantastic author events including a limited workshop with YA writer Cynthia Murphy, so grab yourself a ticket if you can, and I'll see you there!

Thursday, 17 February 2022

REVIEW: If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich

Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hodder Children's
Genre:  Contemporary
Release Date: January 6th 2022
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

Over the past few years, I have fallen down the rabbit hole that is boyband books. I never used to enjoy them very much, but ever since I discovered KPOP, I’ve been interested in reading books that focus on musical artists and fandom, both the good and ugly side of the industry. So it’s a surprise to absolutely no one that from the second I read the blurb for If This Gets Out, I was desperate to read it.

The book is a split POV between two members of the band Saturday, Ruben and Zack. Ruben is out to his family and friends, but management for the band won’t allow him to be out publicly. He’s dealing with that decision in his own way until his friendship with Zack develops into an unexpected romance, and the two of them are forced to think about their futures as public figures, and how it affects their personal lives.

My favourite character in this book switched every few chapters. I JUST LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH. I appreciated the contrast in each member’s personality and experiences. Ruben has known he’s gay for a long time and is confident in his sexuality. But Zack has always believed himself to be straight, so his story revolved more around him coming to terms with the fact that he’s attracted to Ruben and might label himself bisexual.

Our other and members, Angel and Jon, are just as loveable in their different ways. Getting to know more about Angel’s troubles and feeling increasingly worried for him was one of the more heartbreaking aspects of the story that had me dreading yet eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

  • FICTIONAL BOY BAND. Need I say more?
  • Discussions about the industry. Saturday is a fictional band, but there are plenty of harsh truths to be found within the pages of this book. The entertainment industry still has a lot of changes to make when it comes to diversity and allowing artists to be true to themselves.
  • Fandom positivity. I’ve read plenty of stories about bands, and a lot of them tend to focus on the negative side of fans. Whilst it’s obviously important to discuss the toxic mindset that can exist amongst a fanbase, it was refreshing to see that the fans within this story weren’t painted in a completely bad light.

This book was such an enjoyable and wholesome read, and I loved getting to know the characters. It also gave us a darker look into the industry and common problems that artists in the public eye must face. I was swept away by Saturday and I loved every second of it!

Royal Rating:

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Worry Tree from Queer Up by Alexis Caught

Hello, my fellow bookworms! Today is my stop of the blog tour for Queer Up by Alexis Caught, a guide for LGBTQ+ and questioning people, as well as those who are curious and want to learn more. I’m so happy to be able to take part in the tour for this wonderful book because it’s packed with stuff that is close to my heart. 

In this empowering and uplifting book, award-winning podcaster Alexis Caught sets out to help queer and curious teenagers explore their LGBTQ+ identity and understanding. Alongside the author's personal experiences are first-hand stories from notable LGBTQ+ figures, providing a inclusive account of what it means to grow up queer. With chapters on questioning, coming out, friends and family, love, sex, shame, pride and allyship, this is insightful, thoughtful and reassuring book is essential reading for any questioning teen and their allies looking to support them. 

The aspect of this book I’m going to be discussing today is an exercise named The Worry Tree, a perfect tool for those of us who find ourselves overthinking and worrying more than what is typical. 

It’s something I talk about frequently on my blog and social media, but I’ve suffered with mental health issues throughout my teens and adulthood. It was something that I didn’t even begin to understand until I saw discussions on social media and realised that the things I was feeling had labels and reasons. I would definitely say that my confusion over sexuality contributed to that in some way. Growing up, I felt like I was the odd one out because I wasn’t following the same sort of paths as my peers. The older I got and the more I learned, I was able to answer some of the questions I’ve always had about my sexuality. Not all of them just yet, but that’s okay. 

The Worry Tree is a tool to help us break our worries up into smaller, more controllable chunks. It’s similar to tasks I was given during my time in CBT, and those tasks helped calm me and feel like I could handle things a bit more. 

I’m so glad I was able to take part in this tour and have the opportunity to read Queer Up. It’s a book that I desperately wish I’d had when I was younger and needed to feel like I belonged. 

Be sure to check out the other wonderful blogs taking part in the tour:

Friday, 15 October 2021

My New Favourite Bookshop: The Opening of Bear Hunt Books

There’s nothing I love more than an indie bookshop. My options for browsing them in store are usually pretty limited unless I’m visiting a major city because there just aren’t enough of them around the country. So I was absolutely thrilled to find out Bear Hunt Books was opening in Bebington, just a twenty-minute walk away from where I live! 

Bear Hunt Books is a Children’s and YA bookshop with a fantastic range of diverse books. As someone who has always been passionate about bringing the best reads to young people, this shop is literally perfect for me! I just had to visit on the opening day last week, which happened to fall on National Bookshop Day. I was blown away by the incredible selection of books available! 

The LGBT shelves are still growing but there’s already so many fantastic stories! I was thrilled to spot some of my faves, like Simon James Green and Alice Oseman books, and was able to discover some exciting new reads as well. 

I’ve been seeking out more graphic novels lately, so I was thrilled that the shop had a shelf dedicated to them. I immediately found one that I knew would be coming home with me. From the YA shelf, I found a book that I’ve had on my TBR list for a while because I’ve seen it in a few Pan Rep recommendation posts, so I’m excited to get started on it! 

we all had a giggle when we realised the sign had come to the shop as gothic novels rather than graphic novels, but it suits spooky season perfectly! 

Also visiting the store on opening day was author Sally Nicholls, who’s book An Island of Our Own was one of my favourites in 2015. Sally kindly signed my beloved ARC copy of the book and I was given some amazing swag for Things a Bright Girl Can Do, which I’m so excited to read!

Even though my area of expertise is always the YA market, I was hugely impressed by the wide range of inclusive books for children of all ages. It’s absolutely the type of shop that young people need – I know I would have loved to have a place like this when I was in school. 

I’m definitely going to be popping in whenever I can. I have a feeling a lot of my future books are going to come from here! If you’re in the area, you absolutely need to drop in and take a look. 

the books and graphic novel that came home with me!

i also got these adorable Heartstopper postcards

Special shoutout to owner Michelle, who was super lovely and welcoming! Thank you for allowing me to photograph your beautiful store.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

BLOG TOUR: Writing in Verse | Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan

Today I'm honoured to be closing the blog tour for Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan, who is sharing her thoughts about writing in verse!

Hello! My name is Meg Grehan and my new book Baby Teeth has just been released. It’s about a vampire named Immy who has lived countless lives but has never loved as deeply as she does in this life. It’s about love, desire and identity and is written in verse. Thank you so much to Queen of Teen Fiction for sharing my post about writing in verse! 

I’ve always loved writing, as a kid it was my absolute favourite thing to do. I’d sit at the little writing desk my dad built for me and write all day. I wrote a lot about fairies and mermaids as a kid and as a teenager I wrote about love and mysteries. Then I stopped writing. I was busy with college and work and my new life as an adult and I didn’t make time for writing, no matter how much I missed it. Then I discovered verse, and fell head over heels for this new way of writing and expressing myself. When I first decided to try writing in verse I was nervous, what if I just wasn’t good at it? What if I just couldn’t do it? But it all just came naturally to me. Writing in verse may seem daunting, but it’s all about trusting your instincts and writing what feels right to you. I would encourage anyone to give it a try, it’s a very liberating way to write! 

I’m a very visual writer, I love finding images that inspire me and am constantly on pinterest or journaling about my ideas and I think that that’s really helpful when writing verse. You have so few words to work with that it’s important to choose the right ones. I find journaling and finding pictures help me really distill my ideas and narrow down exactly what it is I want to say or express. I think rhythm and pace are also so important when you’re writing verse so sometimes I find it helpful to think of it as music, to let myself fall into a rhythm and just let the words flow. Writing in verse is all about trusting yourself and just letting the words come as they please. It’s such a fun way to write and using so few words means even what you choose not to say is important! 

I think anyone who is interested in writing should try writing verse at least once, just to see what it's like, you might love it!

Huge thank you to Meg for the fabulous post! be sure to check out the other stops from the tour:

Monday, 26 July 2021

What Carry On Means To Me

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Usually, I don’t choose favourites because I love far too many books to even narrow it down to a list of ten, but I do know that Carry On is one of the books that has had the biggest impact on my reading, and whenever someone does ask me for my favourite book, it’s this one that always comes to mind. With Any Way the Wind Blows bringing the conclusion to Simon and Baz’s story, I wanted to take a moment to talk about why I love this story so much. 

my Carry On shelf so far (i have more editions i want to add and i won't rest until i get them)

I’ve been a fan of Rainbow ever since I read the blurb for Fangirl because I just knew that Cath was going to speak to me on a spiritual level, and I was absolutely correct. Fangirl resonated with me in a way no other YA contemporary has done before. As a socially anxious, fandom loving, fic consuming, classic 2012 Tumblr Girl, Fangirl spoke to my soul. It was also the first time I’d ever seen my own anxiety accurately represented on a page. Previous books I’d read that dealt with anxiety just didn’t feel like what I was personally going through, but Fangirl did, and that has always been so important to me. 

the Carry On theme bookmark i painted!
the Carry On themed bookmark i painted!

Even though I adored Fangirl with my whole heart, I didn’t expect to utterly fall in love with Carry On as much as I did when it dropped through my letterbox in October 2015. I was excited, of course, but I had no idea that this book was about to become 90% of my personality

I enjoyed the first part of the book, but when Baz dramatically walked through the Watford doors and we discovered that he’d been in love with his roommate and nemesis for years, that was when I realised just how much I needed a book like this. It dragged me in like no other book had done before

my Watford shirt and the poster that still provides the background to my booktube videos 

After reading Carry On, I realised why I’d been in a reading slump for a while. I was tired of the same stories and the same tropes told the same way. YA fantasy was overrun with heterosexual heroes having to save the world whilst torn between two heterosexual love interests, and Carry On showed me just how much I needed to break away from those stories. I wanted characters of all identities, I wanted characters who question their ‘chosen one’ status, and stories that challenge happily ever after. 

I specifically went searching for fantasy stories with queer characters because Carry On made me realise just how much I needed them. The online fan community gave me recommendations based on Carry On, and that led me to discover a lot of the series I now adore. I ended up delving into Six of Crows and completely fell in love with it. A year later, I was able to see Rainbow and Leigh on tour together, which is one of the happiest book-related memories I have! 

the Worlds Collide tour in 2016!

When it came to compiling a list of the books that I felt had defined the decade the most for me at the end of 2019, I placed Carry On in the top spot. Despite all of the amazing and eye-opening stories I’ve read throughout the years, I know that this book is the one that changed my tastes and shaped my reading future the most

I’m so utterly grateful to Rainbow for sharing these stories with us, and for making me question what I want to be looking for in the books that I read. Simon and Baz will always have such a special place in my heart.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Painting a Carry On Jacket

Can you believe we have finally reached the end of the Simon Snow trilogy? I’M EMOTIONAL. Carry On is easily one of my favourite stories of all time, something I’ve been shouting about from the rooftops since I first read the book in 2015. My love for Simon and Baz knows no boundaries. With the trilogy coming to an end this summer, I wanted to do something special. So I decided to paint my own Carry On themed jacket! 

During our first lockdown in 2020, I delved into the world of fabric painting. It was something I’d always wanted to try, so I picked up a cheap paint set and got to work on a few denim jackets I had lying around. I spent a year practicing by painting various KPOP logos that were simple enough for me to sketch out on the fabric. 

As some of you may already know, I lost my wonderful Dad to cancer right before Christmas, and it turned my world upside down. I lost my motivation for the things I loved for a while. But art was always a passion we shared, and he was constantly cheering me on. So I became determined to improve because I knew he wouldn’t want me to abandon my love for art. That was when I decided I wanted to try something more challenging in my fabric painting, and the idea for a Carry On jacket was hatched

I decided to go with Kevin Wada’s gorgeous cover art for the first book because I’ve always been completely in love with it. But I’d never attempted a project so complicated before, and I was so convinced it was going to go horribly wrong that I decided to work on a very worn denim jacket of mine, just in case I wanted to scrap the whole thing. 

Getting the sizing right was difficult since I’d only worked on smaller pieces before, so I printed out the refence picture to the size I wanted it on the jacket in order to mark out how tall Simon and Baz would need to be. Originally, I didn’t plan on including the dragon in the background because I had zero confidence in myself, but once I had Simon and Baz in place, I was able to pop the dragon behind them as well. 

The smarter thing to do would have been to paint in the background first, but for some reason I started painting Simon and Baz, which I 100% regretted when I realised I had to paint a dragon and a dark sky neatly behind them. I’m notoriously bad at staying within lines, so there was a lot of going back to remix the colours of the boys’ clothes in order to neaten things up. It was a long and messy process. 

Over the course of five days, I was able to get everything fully painted, and used a fabric market to neaten up some of the harsh edges. All that was left to add was their faces and the stars

I’m so happy with how the jacket has turned out and I love that I have something to wear that shows how much I adore this series. I’ve been wearing it out on my trips to bookshops since they reopened! It might have caused several emotional breakdowns, during which I ended up dropping some paint all over the floor, but I’m proud to be able to promote Simon and Baz out in the world.

To anyone who wants to give fabric painting a try: go for it! There are plenty of affordable paint options you can find online to get started with. If you're intimidated by what to paint, or feel like you're no good at sketching, you can always print out some shapes or something you like, cut around it and use it as a template!

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