blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Other Parents – Sarah Stovell

In a small town like West Burntridge, it should be impossible to keep a secret.

Rachel Saunders knows gossip is the price you pay for a rural lifestyle and outstanding schools. The latest town scandal is her divorce – and the fact that her new girlfriend has moved into the family home.

Laura Spence lives in a poky bedsit on the wrong side of town. She and her son Max don’t really belong, and his violent tantrums are threatening to expose the very thing she’s trying to hide.

When the local school introduces a new inclusive curriculum, Rachel and Laura find themselves on opposite sides of a fearsome debate.

But the problem with having your nose in everyone else’s business is that you often miss what is happening in your own home.

My thoughts: what at first felt like it was going to be a gossipy PTA, school drama, evolved into something much more thought provoking and complex story, pulling in family make up, depression, sexual assault, divorce, sex work, child abuse and neglect, bigotry and organising a school fete. All the big important stuff, and some of the less so.

Rachel and Erin are dealing with Rachel’s children’s backlash to their relationship and their parents’ divorce – son Reuben seems unbothered, but his sisters, Maia and Tess both seem to be furious. While Tess acts out by being rude, teenage Maia goes off the rails. But Rachel has taken her eye off the ball and Maia ends up hurt.

Meanwhile Laura is struggling with raising her son as a single parent without much in the way of support or money. When Max’s dad reappears, she starts to reassess all the things she’s had to do to just survive.

Jo is the new Head of the primary school and headed for a clash with Kate, head of the PTA, over her petition against the school teaching LGBTQ+ relationships as part of the curriculum. A clash that drags Rachel, Erin and Laura in and as things start to go tragically wrong in their personal lives, does anyone really care about the Christmas fete?

Funny, sad, moving and ultimately redemptive, this a fascinating read about how we don’t see what’s going on behind the facade at the school gate.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books

Books of the year 2021

Here’s my round up of 5 of my absolute favourite reads this year. There’s no particular order, just 5 books I really enjoyed.

This book I adored – and you can read my thoughts on it here.

This made me cry, in a good way. It was so lovely and I just totally loved it.

This was lots of fun and a bit weird and huge – honestly it might be the chunkiest book I read all year but it was totally worth it.

Illumicrate sent me some cracking titles in this year’s boxes, it was hard to choose which ones I liked the most but this is definitely up there. Brand new series, amazing adventure, clever magic system and excellent characters.

Inspired by Chinese history, this is cracking. There’s so much going on and it has one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve read.

Overall I read a lot this year, what with not really being able to go anywhere I had plenty of time on my hands and a tbr that seems to grow whenever I’m not looking directly at it. There were lots of super massive chunky books, lots of excellent new series’ kicking off and a few coming to a close. I’m really excited to see what 2022 has in store for us readers.

My 5 books are all super queer, and diverse, something I definitely want to read more of – diverse books equal diverse stories and I want new and interesting ideas, not reruns of the same old. So I will be stocking up on sequels and new titles from as wide a range of authors as I can.

What did you read this year? What did you love? Have you read any of this little list, if so, what did you think? Let me know.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Marvellous Light – Freya Marske

Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he’s actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world.

Cursed by mysterious attackers and plagued by visions, Robin becomes determined to drag answers from his missing predecessor – but he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his hostile magical-society counterpart. Unwillingly thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.

The Binding meets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light.

My thoughts: does anyone else get crushes on books? I have a crush on this book.

Magic exists and a department at the Home Office keeps an eye on it, it’s undercover in some ways, those with abilities keep them quiet and the general populace hasn’t a clue. Robin, Sir Robert Blyth if we’re being fancy, ends up in a job he’s not exactly equipped for, gets cursed and ends up on a quest for magical artefacts along with the rather lovely Edwin Courcy.

I’m not sure if magic is a metaphor for homosexuality in some way, both Robin and Edwin are gay, and it’s illegal and they mention Oscar Wilde’s trial. But despite this, and the secrecy needed, they fall in love. The descriptions of the way they observe each other are beautiful, the sex hot and the passion between them moving and tender.

As Edwin draws Robin further into the world of magic and they almost get murdered by a hedge, searching for magical artefacts, to keep them from the wrong hands, he realises that the arrogant toff he thought he’d need to get rid of swiftly is actually a kind, noble and brave person, who’d happily sacrifice himself for those he cares about.

When they discover their enemy and Edwin faces up to betrayal, it’s the bond they’ve slowly built that sustains him, the fact that Robin is by his side that convinces him to fight on and stop the rest of the Contract from falling into the wrong hands. I can’t wait for book two.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Under the Rainbow – Celia Laskey

When a group of social activists arrives in a small town, the lives and beliefs of residents and outsiders alike are upended, in this wry, embracing novel.

Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone, and everyone shares the same values—or keeps their opinions to themselves. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr “the most homophobic town in the US” and sends in a task force of queer volunteers as an experiment—they’ll live and work in the community for two years in an attempt to broaden hearts and minds—no one is truly prepared for what will ensue.

Furious at being uprooted from her life in Los Angeles and desperate to fit in at her new high school, Avery fears that it’s only a matter of time before her “gay crusader” mom outs her. Still grieving the death of her son, Linda welcomes the arrivals, who know mercifully little about her past. And for Christine, the newcomers are not only a threat to the comforting rhythms of Big Burr life, but a call to action. As tensions roil the town, cratering relationships and forcing closely guarded secrets into the light, everyone must consider what it really means to belong. Told with warmth and wit, Under the Rainbow is a poignant, hopeful articulation of our complicated humanity that reminds us we are more alike than we’d like to admit.

My thoughts: each chapter is a glimpse into the life of a different resident of Big Burr, from the newcomers trying to change prevailing attitudes to the lifelong residents who want things to either stay the same or who long for change.

This was a really interesting way to tell the story of a small town, everyone has a different perspective on things and some events you only learn about second or third hand, the way you might in real life. On the whole the LGBTQ+ activists are left alone, apart from a few really obnoxious individuals (who kidnaps a cat like that?). Big Burr might have been seen as the most homophobic town but underneath the surface, things are not quite so clear cut.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Under the Whispering Door – TJ Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

My thoughts: TJ Klune writes books that make me cry, The House in the Cerulean Sea had me in tears and now Under the Whispering Door. Beautiful, moving queer love stories set against odds that seem to be insurmountable. Here Wallace is a ghost, he and Hugo can’t even touch. But they fall in love slowly and surely anyway.

The teashop is something rather magical, something special, and not just because there’s a door to the afterlife in it. The people that live there, even the dead ones, have a wonderful bond and kindness abounds, which helps break Wallace’s walla down. He never really had a family or friends and here at the end of his life he finds both and doesn’t want to leave them. Simply beautiful. Have some tissues handy.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Two Truths and a Guy – Jeannine Henvey

High school is hard enough. Imagine having to keep a secret that can change your twin’s life.

Sixteen-year-old twins, Stella and Peter, move cross-country with their parents to start fresh and leave their former life behind. Will the past determine their future, or will they finally get their happy ending?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Peter and Stella may be twins, but individually their struggles are one of a kind. Peter wasn’t always Peter. And Stella misses who he used to be –her sister Petra. From the outside, they seem like two kids just trying to find their way at a new school, but behind closed doors they deal with the emotional baggage from the past they’ve yet to unpack. Beauty queen Mom counts Stella’s every calorie rather than deal with Peter’s transition. And even though Dad supports Peter’s true self, he’s blind to seeing Stella for who she really is. She just wants to be a teenage girl known for anything other than her sibling. Meanwhile, with a skin-tight binder around his chest, and desperation to be one of the guys, Peter feels like he’s suffocating. All this, just to have his outside match his inside–and simply be. If anyone learns their secret, the family’s sacrifice of moving to California will have been for nothing.

Brimming with a rollercoaster of emotion and unwavering hope, Two Truths and a Guy is a heartfelt coming of age story that touches us with the power of loyalty, the need for acceptance, and the importance of living our truth.

My thoughts: this was a really good read, discussing serious issues around gender and sexuality but with enough lightness and general teen drama to stop it feeling heavy and “issues” ridden, which can be off-putting and feel more like a lecture.

Stella and Peter have allowed themselves to drift apart, from being super close to struggling to talk, both have been dealing with a lot, mostly around Peter’s transition and all that ensued back in Pennsylvania. Moving to California didn’t change that, you take your problems with you if you don’t deal with them. Their lack of communication leaves them without the other’s support when they need it most. Luckily they’re able to finally talk, and write, and build a new start.

The people around them, the genuine friends they’ve made, help them through all of this struggle and I really liked the way even Peter’s basketball coach had his back, it was great to see adults being supportive too.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Master of Djinn – P. Djèli Clark

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, Al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world fifty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be Al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems . . .

P. Djèlí Clark is the winner of the Nebula, Locus, and Alex Awards and has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award.

My thoughts: do not stop, do not pass Go, do not collect £200. Just buy this book. It is brilliant. It really is. There’s djinn, magic, delicious food, kickass hijabis, swords, women in killer suits (ok, just one), love, cats, crime, a lunatic trying to take over the world, the German kaiser, a princess, myths come to life, and just so much good stuff.

It’s smart, funny, intelligent fantasy that honestly I enjoyed a ridiculous amount. It made me want to know more about Arabic mythology (must finish reading Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange), steampunk Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century is such a fantastic idea that I just want more.

I loved Fatma and her friends, I loved her smart brain and her defiant spirit, her love for Siti, her burgeoning friendship with the equally cool Hadia – solving magical crime and making time to pray while looking stylish in her hijab at the same time.

I can’t wait for book two and I really want to know more about the case with the terrifying rogue angel and the Clock of Worlds…

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Clinch – Nicole Disney

TheClinch FIX

Welcome to the blog tour for The Clinch by Nicole Disney. Read on for more info and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

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The Clinch

Publication Date: January 12, 2021

Genre: LGTBQ+ Romance/ Women

TWO WOMEN COMPETE IN A MEN’S WORLD FOR RECOGNITION & LOVE

Eden Bauer grew up in a rough part of New York with an unsafe home life and took refuge in the neighborhood Taekwondo dojang. When the master of the dojang offered to train Eden as a live-in student, he started her on a journey that would eventually lead her to become the UFC featherweight champion of the world.

Eden loves competing and coaching the underprivileged kids of her community, but just as she’s getting comfortable with her champion title, a new martial artist from a legendary family comes roaring onto the scene with a dynasty on her shoulders. Brooklyn Shaw is a loud, cocky, aggressive Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu genius who’s also unfortunately pretty dreamy.

Brooklyn and Eden’s rivalry attracts worldwide attention, but as they spend time together, Eden sees past Brooklyn’s showmanship to who she really is. They ought to be perfect for one another, but can either really fall in love with the person standing in the way of her dreams?

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About the Author

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THE CLINCH brings together Nicole’s two lifelong passions: writing and martial arts. She has been a student and teacher of martial arts most of her life. She won the 18th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition for Beneath the Cracks. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

Nicole Disney | Facebook | Instagram

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Book Blitz: Call Me a Woman: On Our Way to Equality and Peace – Laurie Levin

CallmeaWoman

I’m thrilled to share Call Me a Woman: On Our Way to Equality and Peace by Laurie Levin. Read on for book details and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card!

41nPrBkiXqSCall Me a Woman: On Our Way To Equality and Peace

Publication Date: April 30th, 2021

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Gender Studies

It’s time to raise the bar.

When we give women the same respect and opportunities as men, we give the world its best chance for peace, prosperity, and survival.

Angry about sexism and misogyny and what you personally have endured? Afraid the world won’t get its act together in time to save itself?

Call Me A Woman combines Levin’s personal story, years of research, global studies, and activism.

Inside youll discover

  • The most important thing parents can do to change the world
  • Our unconscious habits that perpetuate inequality
  • Inspiring stories to shift resentment to empathy, hope, and action
  • The 7 Habits of Equality to speed our way to gender equality and peace
  • Inner peace and freedom as you become the solution

Personal interviews with: Lynn Povich, first woman senior editor Newsweek magazine; Maxine Clark, founder Build-A-Bear Workshop; Gloria Feldt, former CEO and President Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NY Times Best-Selling Author; Mark Levin, biotech industry leader, founder, and CEO; Zaron Burnett III, investigative journalist and writer.

If you are ready to become part of the solution, it is time to read

Call Me A Woman: On Our Way to Equality and Peace.

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About the Author

Laurie Levin Headshot

Laurie Levin has been a human rights advocate her entire adult life. Early in her 20’s, she headed the reproductive rights efforts for NOW-St. Louis. She was the Missouri Coordinator for a Department of Peace working alongside Marianne Williamson. She was the Missouri co-chair of Room To Read—a global non-profit that focuses on girls’ education and children’s literacy in Asia and Africa. She was co-chair of the Missouri Executive Women for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

Laurie refers to herself as a Transformation Coach as she helps others transform and master their own wellbeing. She specializes in optimal nutrition, healthy weight loss, and the leading HeartMath® stress reduction techniques. She has been a featured speaker on each of these topics at corporations, wellness events and retreats, schools and universities, hospitals, ex-convict re-entry programs, and cancer support organizations.

She has an MBA, is a Certified Coach, and HeartMath® Certified Coach, supporting clients globally to achieve their health and well-being goals.

Laurie spent 25 years in corporate America, leaving as a Vice President of one of the largest U.S. national research companies. She went on to start her own business in the health field in 200l.

Call Me a Woman | Twitter | FacebookInstagram

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Book Review: The Jasmine Throne – Tasha Suri

One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne.
The other is a priestess searching for her family.
Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of powerful magic – but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one of several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to attend Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, as long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides. But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled . . .

My thoughts:

This was so, so good. All of the women in this book are heroes in different ways; Priya, Malini and Bhumika all want to stop the emperor and save their people, but even the servants like Sima or the rebels like Kritika have their roles to play. All of them want to be strong, to survive in a world where they’ve been held back by tradition and rules.

Priya has to remember her past, and use it to find the sacred living waters hidden inside the Hirana, the temple where she was raised, to access her gifts. Malini has to become something more than the emperor’s hated sister, drugged into delirium and abandoned to her fate. They learn to trust one another and together begin to unite all those who oppose Chandra’s cruelty and liberate themselves.

The plot crackles as it carries you along, slowly developing the characters so you find yourself cheering them on, willing them to succeed, to stay alive, to fight. And the bond between them grows, like the plants of the forest. I really enjoyed the author’s previous books and I can’t wait for the next one in this series – as they come into their power and grow stronger, begin the fight back.

**I was sent an arc of this book by the publisher and a finished copy was in my May Illumicrate box, but all opinions are my own.**