Fellside by M. R. Carey | 1 Minute Reviews

M. R. Carey is one of those authors that I’m always on the lookout for. He writes such brilliant characters in impressive high concept novels and comic book series (under Mike Carey). My first introduction to him was the fantastic Girl With All the Gifts, a heart tugging thrilling zombie adventure that was recently adapted to a film.

Fellside, his second novel released last year, doesn’t disappoint and will likely appeal to a wider audience.

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Jess Moulson is sent to Fellside maximum security prison after starting a fire while high that killed a small boy. But once she arrives, that same small but very much dead boy starts to talk to her. Is he real or is she just hallucinating? Can she ever recover from the guilt of killing him?

Alongside Jess’ haunting storyline is an excellent corrupt prison narrative – think ALL the darkest bits of Orange is the New Black.

Carey is able to weave full bodied stories thick with grey scale characters and their separate motivations and viewpoints into a heart-wrenching thriller. The last 100 pages sped up in such a wondrous fury I couldn’t stop!

Creepy, eerie, unsettling and riotous, Fellside is a pacy novel that you’ll rip through.

Interested? Get it here.

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Thank you to Orbit for the review copy!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth | 1 Minute Reviews

The Miseducation of Cameron Post has been a book on my radar for several years. Published in 2012 in America, it never made its way over to our shores and not seeing it on the bookshelves meant I never remembered to pick it up, despite my wonderful pal Alice recommending it to me multiple times.

When an email from Penguin dropped into my inbox announcing that it was finally being published in the UK, I replied faster than light and lo and behold, a beautiful finished copy landed on my doorstep. Well, technically it was handed over to me by our postman Steve, but work with me.

When Cameron Post kisses her best friend Irene Klausson around the same time that her parents die in a tragic accident, so begins her journey in reconciling her sexual identity with the guilt that her first thought was relief that she’d never have to tell them what she did.

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Cameron herself is strong willed, athletic, devoted to her grandma, and a movie buff, determined to hide her attraction to girls in small town Miles City, while living under the watchful eye of her aunt Ruth.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows Cameron through her first few relationships and trysts – from childhood best friend Irene, to cool Seattle punk Lyndsey, to the classic lesbian trope of wooing of the straight girl, Coley Taylor. Only this last romance is where it goes wrong, and before Cameron knows it, her aunt has sent her to a Christian camp to straighten out.

The first thing that strikes me about this novel is the pacing and structure. I’ve often heard people refer to young adult fiction as more plot driven, following the high speed of your teenage years as opposed to adult fiction which allows narrative to be more meandering. I really feel that Cameron Post sits more comfortably in the second category, if we are to place the definition there. This is a character’s memoir, a gentle epic, something like the works of Donna Tartt. Cameron’s narration from a point in the future only seeks to reinforce this, though let me be clear, I think this is all a strength but may explain why some people have previously commented on GoodReads that they found it slow. While the plot of the Christian camp is listed in the blurb, do take note that this plot doesn’t start until about 2/3rds of the way into this book – which is why this really feels to me primarily a novel about being a young closeted queer kid in rural America.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an important read for young queer people, especially those of us who have the privilege to live in places where a possible reality of being out is being sent to straightening camps – a great exploration of these other than this book is the film But I’m a Cheerleader, the set of which I had in my mind as the site of the Christian camp.

Danforth’s has created compelling complex grayscale characters – all capable of kindness and cruelty – to populate this stunning coming of age novel. Her writing is sumptuous, and there are some real dagger-in-your-heart moments; even when you know Cameron’s happiness is not going to last, I found myself pleading with the book to have a happy outcome.

I’ve been absolutely blown away by this novel, and I hope that its publication in the UK will help it reach other young people, queer or not, who may need some of Cameron’s strength in their lives.

Interested? Get it here.

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Thank you kindly to Penguin Platform for sharing this copy with me.

False Hearts by Laura Lam | 1 Minute Reviews

When I opened the draft of this post expecting some past wisdom, I found “Cults! Cyber-punks! Drugs”. To be honest with you, I probably don’t need to say much more, except that

I think Laura Lam is my new favourite author

There I said it.

I had a sneaking suspicion once I started the sequel to False Hearts that this was the case, and now after meeting her at YALC and discussing her essay from Nasty Women I’m sure of it.

So, let’s talk about False Hearts. As I said before it does involve cults, cyber punks and drugs, but I can be a little more specific.

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Twins Tila and Taema are living in future utopian San Francisco, after leaving the anti-technology cult of Mana’s Hearth as teenagers. One night, Tila is arrested for murder after being found covered in blood, with the police saying the drug Verve is involved. Taema is offered a deal to prevent Tila’s unfair conviction and a life in stasis by going undercover as Tila to infiltrate and bring down the crime syndicate supplying Verve.

Once connected physically, Taema must now reconnect with Tila by taking on her identity, returning to a past where she once saw her sister’s face in the mirror.

Yeah, right? It’s a lot. And boy is it an exciting novel. The book is told in alternating first person POVs of the twin sisters, with Tila recounting how she got into the situation she is in and revealing piecemeal how and why they escaped Mana’s Hearth. As soon as I finished it, I picked up the sequel Shattered Minds, set in the same universe with some cross over characters.

One of the things that stuck out to me was how much work Laura Lam had clearly done researching the lives of sex workers to represent Tila’s profession. Never did I feel it was used as a shocking device or a way to denigrate Tila, as is so often the case in literature. Bravo Laura! If you want to find out more about sex worker’s rights and why decriminalisation is what sex workers want, please visit SWARM’s website.

While not technically YA due to the age of the characters and some of the sexier scenes, I think that many of the SFF arm of the YA community will really enjoy this book.

False Hearts is smart, pacy, dark and rife with heart-in-your-mouth moments. Lam straddles the boundaries of thriller and SFF with aplomb, creating a glorious novel that questions utopian possibilities and the power of corporations. This is easily one of my favourite books of the year and I implore you to investigate it if you’re even remotely curious.

Get it here.

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All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher | 1 Minute Reviews

Despite being a bit mentally wobbly, I’ve whipped through this emotional book over the last two days. It was just the sort of heartfeels family drama that I needed.

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Lenny’s father is dying of cancer. It’s a truth she’s not quite willing to admit or face, but she knows its true. Her mother is becoming obsessed with wellness and homeopathic remedies, her sister is awol at College and her best friend Julian is coordinating a stage performance ode to Georgia O’Keefe.

The only things holding her together are her endless lists of ways the world can end, her bunker and Dr. Ganesh, the handsome oncologist looking after her dad.

From the moment I opened the page, I loved Lenny’s voice. She feels like a real teenager struggling to cope with huge life changes on her horizon, while teetering on the edge of a breakdown. While not specifically named as obsessive compulsive disorder in the book, it’s nice to see OCD being discussed along the lines of intrusive thoughts and compulsions.

Lenny’s attempted seduction of Dr. Ganesh reminds me of being an awkward teenager trying to win the affections of men far too old for me, and the moments in his office later in the book just ripped my heart out.

This book pulled on my heartstrings, but also its incredibly funny. I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Abby Sher; perhaps she is the American Holly Bourne?

You should get it here.

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Thank you to Hot Key Books for sharing this copy with me.