Hello fellow book lovers and welcome to my first review round-up for this year. Spring is nearly here and I’m so ready for the new season to start flirting outrageously with us (sunshine, flowers and fewer layers does a lot for me). There’s some really great new release reads out at the moment so I’m thrilled to share these fabulous new book reviews for spring 2018 with you. If you’re off on a new adventure this spring, I’d definitely recommend adding these four titles to your devices (or, you know, buy actual physical copies of). Enjoy!
The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara
It’s 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city’s glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ballroom scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own.
Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world and has a yearning to help create a family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the ballroom circuit.
Into the house come Venus, a whip-smart trans girl who dreams of finding a rich man to take care of her; Juanito, a quiet boy who loves fabrics and design; and Daniel, a butch queen who accidentally saves Venus’ life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate work, addiction and persistent abuse, leaning on each other as bulwarks against a world that resists them. All are ambitious, resilient and determined to control their own fates, even as they hurtle toward devastating consequences.
I studied film theory at university, primarily focussing on queer and gender studies, so suffice to say I saw Paris Is Burning many, many times. If you haven’t seen this ground-breaking (and quite controversial) documentary from the early 90s (it captured New York’s ball scene in the 80s scene, which Madonna s̶t̶o̶l̶e̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ paid homage to with Vogue) then you definitely should watch it first.
This novel is loosely based on one of the most iconic drag “houses” from the scene: the House of Xtravaganza. Virgin and Angie (called Angel in the book) are two of the most iconic people to appear in the documentary and it’s interesting to imagine their lives against the backdrop of 70s and 80s New York. The ball scene barely features in the novel but it hums in the background of their lives. Sadly, even if you haven’t seen the documentary it’s not hard to predict how the story ends – but I was still in tears throughout the last couple of chapters (I don’t think anyone under 45 can even begin to imagine what it was like to live through the first decade of AIDS). I found the structure of the book made it a little hard to get into the story at times (it’s no surprise that it started out as a short story) but I think it’s still an interesting read for fans of queer history.
A spot-on, wildly funny and sometimes heart-breaking book about growing up, growing older and navigating all kinds of love along the way.
When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown-up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has not only seen it all and tried it all but written about it too.
In her intimate memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out.
It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough.
This is a witty and tender read that makes it easy to inhale in a sitting or two. I usually nod off with a book every night after 20 minutes but I was sitting up to all hours, chortling with awkward amusement at how familiar some of these stories felt to me. As I’ve never been a Sunday Times reader, I hadn’t heard of the author before (apparently she used to be their dating columnist) but seeing as Alderton worked on the E4 TV series Fresh Meat for a bit, she’s alright in my books.
Taking a wander through her life, the Alderton recounts all the hilarious mistakes she’s made (and some of the not-so-funny problems she’s struggled with) in order to impart her charming bits of wisdom upon us. It sounds pretty condescending to call her a younger/posher version of Caitlin Moran, but I ADORE Moran so to be even placed in the same sentence as her is pretty impressive by my standards. It’s one of those books you want to buy for all your friends as soon as you’ve read it; hence why it is selling like HOTCAKES! They can’t print new copies of it fast enough for bookstores in Central London right now. Get your hands on a copy too as this is a fabulous travel read for this spring.
We all say there is no justice in this world. But what if there really was? What if the souls of murdered children were able to return briefly to this world, inhabit adult bodies and wreak ultimate revenge on the monsters who had killed them, stolen their lives?
Such is the unfathomable mystery confronting ex-NYPD detective Willow Wylde, fresh out of rehab and finally able to find a job running a Cold Case squad in suburban Detroit. Mystical, harrowing and ultimately tremendously moving, this is a truly original psychological thriller for fans of Shirley Jackson.
The name grabs you, right? Well, this book would make a great film and I’ve been wondering since I read this book months ago whether the producers would keep its strong name (I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see). Welcome to the world of Willow Wylde, a former homicide detective who is haunted – not by the gruesome cases he once investigated but by the other-worldly instincts that made him so great but also destroyed him. As Wylde slowly discovers what these ‘abilities’ are he realises that true justice does exist: murdered children can return to the world of the living temporarily in order to destroy their killers. It’s Wylde’s job to guide them, in an AA-style support group, on their mission but these are some very young souls and they need an awful lot of guidance. This is a refreshingly dark fantasy novel about karma that makes you wish were true.
From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all.
It’s a dirty business getting clean.
Apparently, this is a children’s book? Well, Young Adult, which these days means shooting up, shitting the bed and calling everyone the c-word apparently. Oh, I sound very old writing that. I, of course, would have bloody loved this book when I was a teen and I still enjoyed it now. I’ve been wanting to read some of Dawson’s other novels for a while now so I jumped at the opportunity to download this one when it arrived on Netgalley.
It’s actually quite impressive how Dawson manages to write about the vapid and insanely privileged world of millennial rich kids while also making us like the protagonist. I mean, I don’t really sympathise with her (it’s kinda hard to) but I do enjoy hanging out with her for 400-or-so pages. For a novel about addiction, it’s not too judgy and has a pretty interesting message about our modern lives. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
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