The Take A Chance Anthology is a collection of gay romance tales with young men standing at a crossroad, faced with a choice that will alter the course of their future. The stories range from different places, cultures and reality and deal with topics such as the fear of coming out, the struggle for survival and the courage to take a chance on love.
A thing I love with anthologies is that you get a chance to discover new authors. Like in this case, I’m so happy to have found Dee Aditya, who wrote “A Boy Named Khwahish”, and Elinor Gray, who wrote “The Rights Words”. Both these stories were so lovely and sweet. Kwahish was set in India, at a boarding school, and The Right Words in England during WWII, but both about the first love and daring to show your feelings and vulnerability. I was also really pleased to get a chance to read more of Jamie Deacon. Her contribution “Another Story” was as always a sweet and heart-warming read, in this case about a university student preparing to confront his big high school crush who betrayed him.
I also liked the story “Far From Texas” by Eric Gober, but many of the others were unfortunately not my cup of tea. As the blurb said, the stories range from “sweet to erotic, contemporary to historical, paranormal to gritty realistic”, and for me there where a bit too much explicit erotica and weird demon sex to truly enjoy this collection. So a three star rating for the anthology as such, but with five star ratings to Dee Aditya’s, Jamie Deacon’s and Elinor Gray’s stories.
Find out more about the book and the authors here: Take A Chance
The Night Watch was my first foray into Sarah Waters and I really enjoyed getting to know this world-famous lesbian author. Almost all of Sarah Waters’s novels have a clear lesbian agenda, and often from parts of history that are regarded as quite heterosexual (taking place before or during the first part of the 20th century). The Night Watch is no exception; the novel tells the stories of a man and four women (three of which has been or are in a relationship with each other) during and after the second world war.
What’s special about The Night Watch though is that it is told backwards. The story begins in London in 1947 and works backwards to the end in 1941. The storyline follows the fragmented lives and the strange interconnections between Kay, Helen and Julia, three lesbians; Viv, a straight woman; and Duncan, her brother, whose sexuality is ambiguous. The connections between them all their relationships are slowly unraveled through the backward storytelling. The war serves as a horrifying context, especially in the last part of the book from 1941, giving the atmosphere and relationships more gravitas and a sense of urgency. I especially loved learning about Kay’s ambulance job during the war and rooted so much for her. She was my favorite characters of all, the one that felt most true and honorable.
The book is quite slow, and despite the wartime settings, not an awful lot happens. But Sarah Waters’s writing is outstanding with a rich and detailed prose. Sometimes her writing is a bit too excessive for my taste, but it worked well overall. The ending was very unsatisfying though. Since the story worked backwards, there wasn’t really a proper ending to where the main characters were left off and I would have wished for an epilogue or something to tie up the many loose ends. Or maybe a sequel? But all in all, I’m glad to have found this interesting author and will certainly read more of her books.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Sarah Waters
This was my first Colleen Hoover book, but certainly not my last! Maybe Someday is a cute and beautiful, but also frustrating, love story. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted so much for any main characters at the same time as I’ve been so angry with them.
Collen Hoover’s writing is astonishing in how she can create characters that feel so real, with flaws and shortcomings. And like they could be friends of mine. The story is about Sydney who tragically finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her with her best friend for a long time, and Ridge, a member of a popular band who happens to be the witness of Sydney’s failed relationship. When they start to write music together, a heartbreaking love story unfolds with more obstacles than you could ever imagine.
This book took my breath away, it was so intense! And with so many layers, unique characters and questions about loyalty, what is right and wrong when it comes to love. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that shows so clearly how much a heart can love and in how many different ways and that there isn’t just one true love for a person. Just because you feeling for someone else does not mean your love for the first person is over.
And extra kudos to Colleen Hoover for the perfect epilogue! I can’t wait to discover more of her books now.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Colleen Hoover
I loved, loved, loved The Raven Cycle to pieces and had such high expectations for this book. There were parts in it that I really enjoyed, like the glimpses we got from Gansy’s and Blue’s lives and the parts were Ronan were with Adam, but sadly those parts were way too few. Instead, this book introduced many new characters, which I didn’t connect to at all. And for a majority of the book, they are siloed, and it’s unclear what role they have in the story and how they connect to the plot.
What I did love about this book though, was that we got to see more of the Lynch brothers. Matthew is completely adorable, and I appreciated to get to know more of Declan. In The Raven Cycle he was a bit diffuse and one-dimensional, but here he really comes to life. Ronan however didn’t shine as much as he did in The Raven Cycle. There was such a remarkable character development for him throughout the series, especially in the last book where he opens up and truly allows himself to love Adam. But here he felt a bit subdued somehow.
I think the main problem is that this book suffers from the ‘first book’-syndrome, which is such a shame as it really didn’t have to, considering that it’s a spin-off from The Raven Cycle. I love Ronan and his dreamworld, but I missed the rest of the old crew and their chemistry a lot.
Luckily, the story got better in the end though, and I will definitely continue reading this series even though this first book was not exactly what I had hoped for.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Maggie Stiefvater
Some books open up a new world to you. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one of those books. It’s pure book magic in its combination of the beautiful, poetic language, the way nature plays such an important role in the story (Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist and you can really feel her love and respect for nature in the book from the way she describes the marsh and its flora and fauna) and the fascinating, multi-dimensional characters that you immediately root for. This book left me both speechless and breathless, and full of every emotion from overwhelming joy to a broken heart. It’s a book that I will never forget.
I’ve had this book since it was selected for Reese’s Book Club in 2018, but for some reason, I’ve delayed reading it. Perhaps I was afraid that it would be overhyped, having received such amazing reviews and being so talked-about, but let me tell you it’s not! I’m kicking myself for not reading this one sooner! It’s worth every praise, every love, every mention it has received. It was love at first page for this book. I read it feverishly in one sitting, not able to put it down for a second, until I’ve finished it all.
Where the Crawdads Sing is a mix of a coming-of-age story of an abandoned child–a Tow Sawyer in the marshlands–a murder history keeping you in suspense, a beautiful and tragic romance and a celebration of nature. Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl, has survived for years alone in the marsh after being abandoned by her mother and siblings, and tormented by her sadistic father. From the age of ten, she’s taught herself cooking foods, motoring boats, striking deals with tradesmen to fill her stomach, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Seen as an outcast and being loathed by the dwellers in the nearby town, she’s learned to avoid almost all human contacts. Thinking she knew what loneliness meant and how to handle it, she was proved wrong when Tate, a boy from town, entered into her life, teaching her to read and write and treating her with respect and love, only to leave her grief-stricken when abandoned her for his better future. Experiencing a new painful loneliness, Kya vowed herself not to allow anyone else in her life anymore. But fate had other plans and her life took an upside-down turn with the entrance of handsome and famous Chase Andrews, followed by his suspicious death, for which Kya is accused.
I can’t even try to express how much I love this book! Actually, ‘I love this book’ is such an understatement. This story has absolutely blown me away. Delia Owens has managed to paint a beautiful picture and story unlike any others. The writing is so beautiful and poetic. The characters are so fascinating, authentic, original and loveable. The descriptions, the world-building and the wild setting of the marsh teaching us that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps is absolutely amazing. Simply put, this book is pure magic and I cannot recommend it enough!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Delia Owens
I was immediately intrigued by The Gravity of Us the moment I saw the gorgeous cover. Then, learning that it was a queer romance by a new author, and on top of that the quote on the cover by Becky Albertalli about it being the “first love, first launch, astronaut story I didn’t know I needed”, this book became my most anticipated reads of 2020. I’m so glad that it didn’t disappoint!
The book does not take place in space as I initially thought, but is a well-grounded, contemporary, YA story following social media-savvy teenager Cal as his life gets turned upside-down. When Cal’s father is unexpectedly chosen for a NASA mission, the whole family suddenly finds themselves moving to a compound for astronauts and getting sucked into a reality show that becomes their lives. At the compund, Cal meets and quickly falls for another astronaut’s son, Leon, at the same time as he struggles with the disappointment of not being able to follow his carefully planned career path, and discovers some ugly truths behind the program that’s brought his family to Houston.
The book started off in a wonderful way in New York, where we got to see Cal’s life with his best friend Deb and his work with the video account and his passion for fact-based journalism. After the move to Texas, I had some issues with Cal and how he acted, especially towards Deb. I really missed her and would have loved for her to get a bigger part of the story, and didn’t like the way Cal ignored her problem after she’d always supported him. The way Cal treated Deb made him come across as self-centered, shallow and less likable, unfortunately. But luckily that, and the selfish way Cal’s dad moved his family across the country only to fulfil his dream, are about all my objections to this book. All in all, it was a really cute and great book, with a fluffy, light-hearted romance at the same time as it managed to deal with some heavy topics like mental health issues such as Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety.
I really enjoyed Cal’s relationship with Leon, although it did seem a little fast and like they ended up falling for each other simply because they were the only teenagers around (except Leon’s sister, who I absolutely adored, by the way!). Leon’s depression was described in such an honest and sensitive way and I really liked that Leon set boundaries and that Cal respected them. It felt very authentic the way Leon couldn’t just be “fixed”. There is no simple solution, and not even love will suddenly make a person “cured” and all happy again. I also liked that Cal questioned his sexuality and how the author provided a bit of backstory on how Cal and Deb used to date, before becoming friends.
There were two parts of the book that I loved absolutely most. The first was the wonderfully geeky NASA stuff, and how the scientists were given a chance to talk about their work and their passion for science. And the second was the humor that made this such a wonderful and light read, despite the heavy topics. Like in this quote by Cal about Leon:
“I also slipped in a Hogwarts House quiz, because when I told him I was Slytherin, he said, and I quote, “That’s the bad one, right?”
It made me laugh out loud (which I very seldom do…)
Overall, this was a truly entertaining and cute read with a new and original story. I loved the idea of combining science with a reality show, first love, complicated family relationships and all the 1960s references and the cassette hunting. I can’t wait to read more books from Phil Stamper!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Phil Stamper
Hero at the Fall is the third and final book in Alwyn Hamilton’s magical Rebel of the Sands-series following orphan tomboy Amani. Known as the ‘Blue-Eyed Bandit’, she has always been “more gunpowder than girl”. Little did she know, when she eventually managed to escape her dead-end town, that she would come to lead a revolution. But fate leaves her no choice. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.
I won’t go into the plot to not risk give any spoilers away, but this sure was a satisfying and bittersweet conclusion to a wonderful series. Just like the previous two books it was an action-packed joyride, with magical creatures, epic battles, friendship and romance. Amani is such a headstrong, badass gunslinger girl and perfect main character. Alwyn Hamilton does not treat her characters kind though. She just kept throwing new challenges at them all, making them face impossible decisions and sorrows. I also would have loved to get a little bit more of Jin and Amani together, even if the pieces we did get were very satisfying. It’s very refreshing with their low key romance that is always in the background of the story, but not the kind of overwhelming love story most YA books have.
All in all, this was a great finale where all loose ends were wrapped up in a marvelous way.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Alwyn Hamilton