Title: We Can Do Better than This – 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ Rights

Author: Amelia Abraham

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Random House UK

The Blurb

How can we create a better world for LGBTQ+ people? 35 extraordinary voices share their stories and visions for the future.

We talk about achieving ‘LGBTQ+ equality’, but around the world, LGBTQ+ people are still suffering discrimination and extreme violence. How do we solve this urgent problem, allowing queer people everywhere the opportunity to thrive?

In We Can Do Better Than This, 35 voices explore this question. Through deeply moving stories and provocative new arguments on safety and visibility, dating and gender, care and community, they map new global frontiers in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Pabllo Vittar pleads for the end of hate murders, Olly Alexander champions inclusive sex education in schools, and Beth Ditto calls for a revolution in representation. Elsewhere, Mykki Blanco sets out a vision to end HIV stigma, Owen Jones demands improved LGBTQ+ mental health services, and Travis Alabanza imagines a world without gender policing.

Moving from the UK and USA to Russia, Bangladesh and beyond, this is a guide to understanding the crucial issues facing LGBTQ+ people today. But it’s also a passionate call to action and an important manifesto for how – together – we can start to create a better future.

Edited by journalist and author Amelia Abraham, with writing from:

Peppermint – Wolfgang Tillmans – Olly Alexander – Jonathan Anderson – Pabllo Vittar – Naoise Dolan – Amrou Al-Kadhi – Shura – Beth Ditto – Owen Jones – Riyadh Khalaf – Tom Rasmussen – Mykki Blanco – Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – Travis Alabanza – Yasmin Benoit – Mazharul Islam – Kate Bornstein – Adam Eli – Shon Faye – Fox Fisher – Hanne Gaby Odiele – Sasha Kazantseva – Andrew Gurza – Holland – Levi Hord – Juliet Jacques – Leticia Opio – madison moore – Matthew Riemer (@LGBT_History) – Vincent Desmond – Juno Roche – Bobbi Salvör Menuez – Carl Siciliano

The Review

During PRIDE month I read a fair bit of LGBTQIA+ writing. Come to think of it a large portion of my reading does link to the LGBTQIA+ community regardless of month. And much like the other texts that I have read We Can Do Better than This really hot home to me how far things have come but equally how far they still have to go.

With impassioned voices fighting the cause, We Can Do Better than This highlights the issues that are still so relevant and that I, as a cis white female, sometimes take for granted. It isn’t my lived experience. What I can do is be an ally.

We Can Do Better than This is a call to arms to get people to join in this fight for equality. It is essential reading and you should read it now.

We Can Do Better than This by Amelia Abraham is available now.

For more information regarding Amelia Abraham (@MillyAbraham) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhouse.com.

Title: Tall Bones

Author: Anna Bailey

Pages: 344 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.  

Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him. 

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….

The Review

I really struggled to write the review to Tall Bones. Anna Bailey has created a truly chilling story about small town mentality and how bible-belt principles are still present and toxic in society.

In this chilling tale we follow a small town in the wake of the disappearance of a young girl called Abi. No one seems to know where she is. Her disappearance is shocking and drives her community to come together to rid themselves of outsiders who they blame for the young girls disappearance.

Tall Bones is a shocking look at prejudice and how religion – when enforced in certain ways – can have an extreme and detrimental effect on community.

Tall Bones is a fantastic read. It is disturbing and highlights how human nature is often more terrifying than supernatural characters in horror fiction.

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey is available now.

For more information regarding Anna Bailey (@annafbailey) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

Title: To Be A Gay Man

Author: Will Young

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

In To Be a Gay Man, Will Young speaks out about gay shame, revealing the impact it had on his own life, how he learned to deal with it, and how he can now truthfully say he is gay and happy.

We know Will as a multi-platinum recording artist, Olivier-nominee, and the first winner of the Idol franchise. But his story began long before his first audition. Looking back on a world where growing up being called gay was the ultimate insult and coming out after a lifetime of hiding his sexuality, Will explores the long-lasting impact repressing his true self has had.

As Will’s own story demonstrates, internalised shame in childhood increases the risk of developing low self-worth, and even self-disgust, leading to destructive behaviours in adult life. 

Will revisits the darkest extremes he has been to, sharing his vulnerabilities, his regrets, tracing his own navigation through it all and showing the way for others who might have felt alone in the same experience.

Here you will find a friend, champion and mentor, breaking taboos with frank honesty, and offering invaluable practical advice on overcoming the difficult issues too often faced within the LGBTQ+ community.

The Review

I always wonder with celebrities who write books how much of what they say is the truth and what is made up and – more importantly – what it kept back. For the first time they are in control of the narrative of their own story rather than being at the hands of headline grabbing journalists with questionable morals. With Will Young’s To Be A Gay Man I really feel that he has bled his life on to the pages of his book.

To Be A Gay Man shows Will Young at his most vulnerable. He talks about his sexuality, how the shame of this affected his mental health and his descent into needing to seek medical care because he lost control. The terrible thing about all of this is that they things that caused his distress are not things to be ashamed of and speaks volumes about how the society we live in still treats ‘the other’ with disdain that when you identify with this mythical ‘other’ you develop internal hatred. It really is heartbreaking.

Will Young should be congratulated on his candour in To Be A Gay Man. This is the kind of book that will help others.

To Be A Gay Man by Will Young is available now.

For more information regarding Will Young (@willyoung) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

Title: Behind the Sequins – My Life

Author: Shirley Ballas

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

Leave it all on the floor…

Queen of Latin Ballroom, Shirley Ballas has a spectacular dance career spanning over 40 years – she has Cha-Cha’d her way across the world’s dance floors to become a multi-award-winning ballroom champion and one of the most renowned dancers in the world. In 1996, Shirley retired from competitive dancing to become a highly-acclaimed coach and now holds the enviable position of Head Judge on BBC One’s prime time show Strictly Come Dancing.

In Behind the Sequins, she leads us through her dramatic and determined life, from growing up in a rough estate on the Wirral and leaving home at 14 years old, to conquering the high-octane world of ballroom and coping with betrayal, bullying, two broken marriages and a personal tragedy that left Shirley and her family devastated. 

Speaking from the heart, Shirley leaves her dancing shoes at the door to tell you the story of a fiery, strong-willed grafter who could make the brat pack blush.

The Review

When Len Goodman stepped down as head judge on Strictly I was gutted. I loved Len and his old school cockney charm. I wondered who would be able to tale his place. Would whoever it was be able to live up to his standards. I was worried. However, within minutes of Shirley Ballas’ first appearance and her first dance critique I knew I liked her. She would give clear constructive criticism. She wasn’t too nice and she wasn’t too harsh. She really managed to find a good balance straight away. It probably helped that she was a fellow northerner – opposite side of the Mersey but still an honorary Scouser.

Shirley Ballas further won my approval when a family friend – an elderly lady in her 80s – was struggling to climb down some steps at Lime Street Station. Shirley Ballas saw her and helped her, linked her arm and made sure that my friend got to the place she needed to get to safely. So besides being a great judge, dancer, choreographer and teacher she also proved herself to be a pretty decent human being too. It is for this and many other reasons that I will forever be a fan.

In her book Behind the Sequins we get to read a real rags to riches story about a young working class girl growing up on a rough council estate and manages to change her life through dance.

Shirley Ballas’ perseverance and determination saw her get to the top of her field, achieving the pinnacle of awards several times both in the UK and internationally and then use that talent as a dancer to teach others. To unselfishly impart that knowledge to the next generation. Her love of dance and what it can do is palpable and it dances off every page.

Ballas, however, did not have an easy life. Sometimes life has been downright cruel – relationships, other competitors in the world of dance but none so moving as when she discusses the loss of her brother. She really lets her heart bleed on to the page.

I defy anyone to read Behind the Sequins and not be moved by Shirley Ballas’ story and also be in awe of her durability in a world where everything is fast moving and trends come and go. Class – which is what Ballas oozes – lasts forever.

Behind the Sequins is a brilliant read and a must for any fan of Strictly.

Behind the Sequins: My Life by Shirley Ballas is available now.

For more information regarding Shirley Ballas (@ShirleyBallas) please visit her Twitter and Instagram page.

For more information regarding Random House (@penguinrandom) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

Title: Rodham

Author: Curtis Sittenfeld

Pages: 421 Pages

Publisher: Random house

The Blurb

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.

In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.

But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.

Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.

The Review

Rodham imagines a parallel universe in which Hillary Clinton did not marry Bill Clinton. It looks at how her life would have turned out if she hadn’t spent her life one step behind Bill and shadowing his political career. What could have happened if she stayed single, focused on her own career and maybe one day ran for president? Rodham is fantastic.

Obvioously, this is a fictional tale (massively covering my own backside here) but Sittenfeld has taken all the negative qualities of the supporting cast and painted them neon. Bill is a sex pest, Donald Trump supports Hillary but only in so far as he can gain from it, Hillary is a little wooden. It makes the novel really rather salacious.

Rodham is a fascinating look at the world of politics and about social change that has happened and that still needs to happen. It is entertaining because of how we view the world today and the differences that Sittenfeld has used to tell her story. Ironically, it is also the things that have remained the same that also cause us moments to pause and to chuckle. The juxtaposition of both sides of the coin really do make you wonder, along with Sittenfeld, what if?

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is available now.

For more information regarding Curtis Sittenfeld (@csittenfeld) please visit www.curtissittenfeld.com.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.