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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Blog Tour Review - Straight Expectations by Calum McSwiggan

 Blog Tour Review - Straight Expectations by Calum McSwiggan

Seventeen-year-old Max has always been out, proud and just a little spoiled. Frustrated by the lack of romantic options in his small-town high school, during an argument with his lifelong best friend Dean, Max lashes out and says he wishes he had never been born gay.

Max gets more than he bargained for when he wakes up to find his wish has come true - not only have his feelings for boys vanished, but so has Dean.

With his school life turned upside down and his relationship with his family in tatters, Max sets out on a journey of rediscovery to find a way back to the life he took for granted, and the romance he thought he'd never have.

We have another blog tour review today, with a The Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour for Straight Expectations. 

I absolutely loved Straight Expectations! Firstly, I have to say, what an awesome title. Love a good pun, and this is a really fun one. 

And for the story, it's a familiar trope, the Freaky Friday/Big thing where you're suddenly in someone else's life, and you have to navigate it without causing too much concern or damage, while figuring out how to reverse it. What we have here, though is a refreshing new take on that trope. Max goes to sleep gay and wakes up straight. It's not just him though, the world has changed around him, from his wardrobe to his family and friends. 

I was really impressed with how well this change was presented. Max is still absolutely Max, the character we grow to love over the first part of the book is still very much there. The changes largely come in how he perceives the world, his focus changes. Specifically his focus sort of changes from the boys to the girls, but he notices different details. It's like a change of filter, and is a really effective way to show us the same person seeing the world anew.

One of the things I wasn't expecting was how much Max's world has changed with him being straight. It's not just that he now sees things differently. In his new reality, Max has been straight his whole life, and the ripple effects of that are extraordinary. We don't always realise how big an impact we have on the people around us. I'd say we rarely realise it. And it's remarkable to see, but it all feels so right, not forced. 

One thing I loved is how out and proud Max is. This isn't a story about someone struggling with their sexuality, or the discrimination they face. There are plenty of books like that. This is a joyful story about someone who is openly and confidently gay. But even then, he's finding it makes his life harder, because he has a crush on one of the only other gay boys in school, is struggling to approach him and is bemoaning his fate. It's a typical high school crush/romance, but made worse for him because of his sexuality. 

The supporting cast are simply wonderful. I absolutely, and completely love Dean! He's just so incredible and confident and downright awesome. I'd love to see a whole book about Dean. And I love that, as perfect as he seems, he isn't perfect. There are flaws, he has his worries and his anxieties and these play out so well. Alicia is also wonderful, and I really liked seeing how different she was in Straight Max's world. Throw in a cute crush who actually has a really decent personality too, some very supportive parents and guardians, and a couple of very contrasting teachers and you've got a really solid cast of characters. The "sets" are fab too, and the school plays and ball alone have me promising to buy copies for two of my friends who both love Little Shop of Horrors and one is planning a Halloween ball and I think this would be ideal inspiration. 

Straight Expectations has some serious matters at its heart. It has an emotional core there about teen love and lust, friendships and romances. It also looks at how we decide what we want to do with our lives and how we impact the people around us, both positively and negatively. But beyond all of that, Straight Expectations is a joyous book. It is funny, sweet, romantic and absolutely full of joy. I love it!


Straight Expectations by Calum McSwiggan is out now, published by Penguin. 

I was given a review copy in exchange for this honest review and participation in this The Write Reads blog tour.


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