July 2021 TBR

I actually didn’t get through as many books as I wanted to last month so I’m hoping to get through a lot more this month. I’m away from home which contributes to what I am able to read, I’ve gone through the physical books I brought with me so I’m working on my e-books and audiobooks right now.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass 

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win. 

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson , Nic Stone , Angie Thomas , Ashley Woodfolk , Nicola Yoon 

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.

Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries #2) by T.J. Klune 

Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water #2) by Bethany C. Morrow 

The Hate U Give meets Shadowshaper in Bethany C. Morrow’s A Chorus Rises, a brilliant contemporary fantasy set in the world of A Song Below Water.

Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, privileged, has “the good hair”— and she’s an Eloko, a person who’s gifted with a song that woos anyone who hears it. Everyone loves her — well, until she’s cast as the awful person who exposed Tavia’s secret siren powers.

Now, she’s being dragged by the media. No one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, nor her Eloko community. But Naema knows the truth and is determined to build herself back up — no matter what.

When a new, flourishing segment of Naema’s online supporters start targeting black girls, however, Naema must discover the true purpose of her magical voice.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini 

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds.

Now she’s awakened a nightmare.

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson 

Olivia is an expert at falling in love . . . and at being dumped. But after the fallout from her last breakup has left her an outcast at school and at home, she’s determined to turn over a new leaf. A crush-free weekend at Farmland Music and Arts Festival with her best friend is just what she needs to get her mind off the senior year that awaits her.

Toni is one week away from starting college, and it’s the last place she wants to be. Unsure about who she wants to become and still reeling in the wake of the loss of her musician-turned-roadie father, she’s heading back to the music festival that changed his life in hopes that following in his footsteps will help her find her own way forward.

When the two arrive at Farmland, the last thing they expect is to realize that they’ll need to join forces in order to get what they’re searching for out of the weekend. As they work together, the festival becomes so much more complicated than they bargained for, and Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other, and music, more than they ever could have imagined.

Packed with irresistible romance and irrepressible heart, bestselling author Leah Johnson delivers a stunning and cinematic story about grief, love, and the remarkable power of music to heal and connect us all. 

June Wrap Up 2021

I didn’t really get through a lot of books this month since I spent a lot more of my time watching tv and movies than anything else. I did read a lot of non fiction and books for younger readers this month that I really enjoyed. I also didn’t listen to as many audiobooks as I usually do which is why the amount of books that I got through this month is lower than others.

Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson 

Set in a world on the edge of an apocryphal flood, this heart-stoppingly romantic fantasy debut is perfect for fans of Rachel Hartman and Rae Carson.

In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.

As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

Dino-Gro by Matt Myers 

From the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Battle Bunny comes a laugh-out-loud story of a little sponge dinosaur that keeps growing…and growing…and growing….

Cole is very excited about his new Dino-Gro toy. He can’t wait for it to reach its full size! But when Dino-Gro becomes much larger than intended, Cole goes so far as to put Dino-Gro on a liquid-free diet and an exercise regimen, which don’t seem to make a difference! As Dino-Gro becomes so big that he can’t fit in the house, Cole learns that growing up and getting bigger can have advantages too, even if you’re not a dinosaur.

For fans of Tiny T. Rex and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, this sweet and hilarious read-aloud is fun for kids to learn the importance of growing up big and strong.

Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong

My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!”

Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You by Heather Corinna 

An informative, blisteringly funny, somewhat cranky and always spot-on guide to perimenopause and menopause by the award-winning sex ed/health educator and author of S.E.X.
If you don’t know award-winning sex educator and all-around badass Heather Corinna, let them introduce themselves and their new book:
“I’m going to do what I’ve done for millions of people of all ages with sex and relationships: to simplify and share solid, explicit information, to provide support and be sensitive, and to help make everyone feel less alone and get us all through hard, thorny, touchy stuff so we can make it to the other side. I’m going to do this in a similar way I’ve done it for sex and relationships in my work over the last couple decades for young people and adults alike: by talking out loud, shamelessly and frankly, about what others are afraid or ashamed to, much in the way your favorite loudmouth aunt might have if she made this kind of stuff her life’s work and if your family also didn’t always apparently forget to invite her to everything.”

Corinna has been on the cutting edge of health for more than twenty years, always talking about what people are most afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed of. What Fresh Hell Is This? is no different. It’s a companion for everyone who’s reached this “what to expect when you’re not expected to expect anything” time of life. It’s a health-forward, feminist, no b.s. (and damn funny) perimenopause guide for the generation that time forgot (aka GenXers), offering straightforward descriptions of our bodies, minds, lives and what’s going on with them during this time of hormonal chaos. Heather Corinna tells you what to expect and what to do, all while busting some myths and offering real self-care tips so you can get through this. With practical, clear information that also includes affected populations who have long been left out of the discussion, like those with disabilities, queer, transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people, the working class and other marginalized folks, What Fresh Hell Is This? an accessible and inclusive guide for anyone who is experiencing the hot fire of perimenopause.

Impacted by Benji Carr 

With every trip he makes to the dentist, Wade’s pain only gets worse. His smile has faded. He’s clenching his jaw and grinding his teeth more, not because of bad oral hygiene or any mishaps in orthodontics. Wade’s teeth don’t need straightening out, but the rest of his life could use that kind of adjustment. Wade has fallen in love with handsome Dr. Emmett, and their office visits in the afternoon have become decidedly more personal than professional. And poor Wade is sure his girlfriend Jessa would punch him in the mouth if she found out.

After all, Jessa did just abandon her church and her family to be with him. And she did just have Wade’s baby. So their relationship has already caused enough gossip in the small Georgia town of Waverly.

When Wade tries to end the affair, the breakup takes a brutal turn, leaving Wade in a state of panic. His life is under threat. His secrets could be exposed, and his family may fall apart before he realizes what kind of person he wants to be. 

Zombies for Everyone: A Jenna Sutton Supernatural Cozy Mystery – Book 1 by Kimberly Wylie 

Jenna Sutton is nothing like the iconic vampire slayer of TV fame.

She’s the antithesis of a cheerleader. She’s not peppy. And she sucks at gymnastics. She has nothing in common with the fictional Buffy, other than being blonde and in high school…

Oh, and occasionally she kills vampires for a living as well as other things that go bump in the night

Following an attack on an English teacher at a nearby school, it becomes clear this wasn’t an ordinary coyote bite. The gray-green Lichtenberg-like webbing of streaks making their way up Ms. Pruett’s arm can mean only one thing—zombies.

But this isn’t a normal zombie attack. The victims seem to be hand-picked.

Can Jenna complete her investigation without the school administrators figuring out she’s actually a high school student from another school? Will Jenna be able to find out who’s behind these attacks before a full-scale zombie outbreak overtakes the town? And, perhaps most importantly…

Why did her best friend kiss her after all of these years? 

The Fashion Lover’s Guide to Milan by Rachael Martin 

Milan is the European fashion capital with one of the world’s most unique luxury fashion districts where the leaders of some of the most exclusive fashion houses are still living and working today. It’s the Italian city whose skyline has changed more than any, and whose fashion industry has extended to encompass the worlds of design, restaurants, bars, exhibition spaces, hotels and more. Whether you’re looking for designer labels within the city’s luxury fashion district, prefer to browse the city’s boutiques or pick up some quality vintage at the city’s vintage shops and markets, this is the guide that will tell you where to go.

Split into geographical sections along with relevant maps, cultural highlights and suggestions for where to eat and drink, it places Milan as the city of fashion within the context of Italian fashion history and a city, and brings the stories of its people to life. Why did Milan become Italy’s fashion capital? And what does it offer the fashion lover as a city today? 

Guest Post by The Seasonal Pages “5 Wonderful LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels to Read This Summer”

5 Wonderful LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels To Read This Summer

Hello readers of The Unconventional Quirky Bibliophile! I am Isaly, the owner of the stationery store The Seasonal Pages and I am guest blogging to tell you about a few books that I think you will love for this summer season. June is officially here and you know what means, it is PRIDE month. Pride Month is the perfect time to tell you about wonderful LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels to read this summer time. The books listed below are some of my personal favorites and I think you will enjoy them too!

Title: Bingo Love

Author: Tee Franklin

Genre: Romance

Synopsis: “When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.”

Bingo Love is one of my favorite books to read every couple of years when I am in the mood for romance and a graphic novel. The characters are fun to read and the illustrations captured my art soul so much. You will adore this book with humor and romance. I had to add Bingo Love to this list!

Title: The Prince & The Dressmaker

Author: Jen Wang

Genre: Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!”

This adorable story about a person finding themselves is needed on your next to be read list. Sebastian is a character that you want to learn more about and see what happens at the end, I highly recommend this graphic novel.

Title: You Brought Me The Ocean

Author: Alex Sanchez

Illustrations: Julie Maroh

Genre: Teen & YA Romance Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “Jake Hyde doesn’t swim-not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

Yet there’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future-not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.

But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that low when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive head first into the waves?”

Between the ocean theme, the romance and the illustrations — You Brought Me The Ocean will not disappoint. It is a stunning story of self love, romance, and another world. I think that this graphic novel will leave you wanting more from the author and artist. This book introduced me to the author and the artist I have read before, so I recommend her books as well.

Title: The Banks

Author: Roxanne Gay Genre: LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “For fifty years the women of the Banks family have been the most successful thieves in Chicago by following one simple rule: never get greedy. But when the youngest Banks stumbles upon the heist of a lifetime, the potential windfall may be enough to bring three generations of thieves together for one incredible score and the chance to avenge a loved one taken too soon.”

Roxanne Gay is an author that I try to read more and more after reading some of her writing recently. I love the way she writes and how she tells such detailed plots that leave you on edge. The Banks is one of her newest books and it is a graphic novel that I think will be great for this spring season. The cover draws you in and the green tone makes you feel like you are going to enjoy a book that is fit for spring time.

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Author: Mariko Tamaki Genre: LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But

Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever.

Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.”

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is perfect for a fun read that will lighten your mood. I enjoyed this story for the self reflecting and the teen in love trope. I think this book will be a great read for the summer time!

Since it is the beginning of June, I plan on rereading this 5 books for Pride Month and enjoy even more books with a focus on POC LGBTQ+ characters and/or authors. What do you plan on reading in June? Do you have a book that you really want to read for Pride month? Thank you so much for reading about my 5 chosen LGBTQ+ graphic novels that I think you will love during Pride Month. You can find me at The Seasonal Pages Stationery Shop anytime by visiting my website theseasonalpages.com or my Instagram page: instagram.com/theseasonalpages. Happy Reading!

June 2021 TBR

I had started reading What Fresh Hell Is This in May but didn’t get a chance to finish it so I moved it over to this month. I started listening to the Maidens last night and am loving it so far. I also started Girls at the Edge of the World in May but knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it so I moved it to this month. These are the ones I for sure have to get through since I need to review them but more will be added when library holds come in and if anything else catches my attention.

Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson 

Set in a world on the edge of an apocryphal flood, this heart-stoppingly romantic fantasy debut is perfect for fans of Rachel Hartman and Rae Carson.

In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.

As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.

What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You by Heather Corinna 

If you don’t know award-winning sex educator and all-around badass Heather Corinna, let them introduce themselves and their new book:
“I’m going to do what I’ve done for millions of people of all ages with sex and relationships: to simplify and share solid, explicit information, to provide support and be sensitive, and to help make everyone feel less alone and get us all through hard, thorny, touchy stuff so we can make it to the other side. I’m going to do this in a similar way I’ve done it for sex and relationships in my work over the last couple decades for young people and adults alike: by talking out loud, shamelessly and frankly, about what others are afraid or ashamed to, much in the way your favorite loudmouth aunt might have if she made this kind of stuff her life’s work and if your family also didn’t always apparently forget to invite her to everything.”

Corinna has been on the cutting edge of health for more than twenty years, always talking about what people are most afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed of. What Fresh Hell Is This? is no different. It’s a companion for everyone who’s reached this “what to expect when you’re not expected to expect anything” time of life. It’s a health-forward, feminist, no b.s. (and damn funny) perimenopause guide for the generation that time forgot (aka GenXers), offering straightforward descriptions of our bodies, minds, lives and what’s going on with them during this time of hormonal chaos. Heather Corinna tells you what to expect and what to do, all while busting some myths and offering real self-care tips so you can get through this. With practical, clear information that also includes affected populations who have long been left out of the discussion, like those with disabilities, queer, transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people, the working class and other marginalized folks, What Fresh Hell Is This? an accessible and inclusive guide for anyone who is experiencing the hot fire of perimenopause. 

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life. 

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass 

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone , Angie Thomas , Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.

Impacted: A Novel by Benji Carr 

With every trip he makes to the dentist, Wade’s pain only gets worse. His smile has faded. He’s clenching his jaw and grinding his teeth more, not because of bad oral hygiene or any mishaps in orthodontics. Wade’s teeth don’t need straightening out, but the rest of his life could use that kind of adjustment. Wade has fallen in love with handsome Dr. Emmett, and their office visits in the afternoon have become decidedly more personal than professional. And poor Wade is sure his girlfriend Jessa would punch him in the mouth if she found out.

After all, Jessa did just abandon her church and her family to be with him. And she did just have Wade’s baby. So their relationship has already caused enough gossip in the small Georgia town of Waverly.

When Wade tries to end the affair, the breakup takes a brutal turn, leaving Wade in a state of panic. His life is under threat. His secrets could be exposed, and his family may fall apart before he realizes what kind of person he wants to be.

May 2021 Wrap Up

I waited till the last minute to see if I could finish one last book today as I only have a few hours left to listen to. I’ll give myself until I finish writing this post to see if I could finish listening to the book. I read some pretty great books this month and wanted to share those with you all. Reviews to come for several of these books, the links in the titles will take you to reviews for those books

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver 

When Liam Cooper’s older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people he loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with his two best friends.

Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan’s best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they’re going through, for the better, and the worse.

This book is about grief. But it’s also about why we live. Why we have to keep moving on, and why we should.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders 

Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’—she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic—she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.

But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed. Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachel, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan 

In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore 

An empowering and emotional debut about a genderqueer teen who finds the courage to stand up and speak out for equality when they are discriminated against by their high school administration.

Carey Parker dreams of being a diva, and bringing the house down with song. They can hit every note of all the top pop and Broadway hits. But despite their talent, emotional scars from an incident with a homophobic classmate and their grandmother’s spiraling dementia make it harder and harder for Carey to find their voice.

Then Carey meets Cris, a singer/guitarist who makes Carey feel seen for the first time in their life. With the rush of a promising new romantic relationship, Carey finds the confidence to audition for the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the school musical, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others in the school. It’s up to Carey, Cris, and their friends to defend their rights–and they refuse to be silenced.

Told in alternating chapters with identifying pronouns, debut author Steven Salvatore’s Can’t Take That Away conducts a powerful, uplifting anthem, a swoony romance, and an affirmation of self-identity that will ignite the activist in all of us.

May the Best Man Win by Z.R. Ellor

A trans boy enters a throw-down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer in ZR Ellor’s contemporary YA debut.

Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdate school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?

Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.

When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny. 

The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans #1) by Graci Kim 

Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!

Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong. 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons 

‘A sharply observant and vividly drawn debut. I loved every minute I spent in this story’ – Becky Albertalli

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (Dash & Lily #1) by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan 

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination.

Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.

Just Pretend by Tori Sharp 

A graphic memoir, in which a young girl uses her active imagination to navigate middle school as well as the fallout from her parents’ divorce. 

Tori has never lived in just one world.

Since her parents’ divorce, she’s lived in both her mom’s house and her dad’s new apartment. And in both places, no matter how hard she tries, her family still treats her like a little kid. Then there’s school, where friendships old and new are starting to feel more and more out of her hands.

Thankfully, she has books-and writing. And now the stories she makes up in her head just might save her when everything else around her—friendships, school, family—is falling apart.

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse 

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

May 2021 TBR

I actually finished one of these at the end of April but I thought that I wouldn’t be able to finish it. After making this post I realized that there is a lot more on my May TBR than I had actually accounted for. Library holds came in, physical books arrive, and libro.fm ALCs came into my inbox. We’ll see what I ended up reading at the end of May. All links go to Goodreads.

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver 

When Liam Cooper’s older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people he loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with his two best friends.

Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan’s best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they’re going through, for the better, and the worse.

This book is about grief. But it’s also about why we live. Why we have to keep moving on, and why we should.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan 

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston 

Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination.

Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.

All Kinds of Other by James Sie 

In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts to protect themselves, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.

Two boys are starting at a new school.

Jules is just figuring out what it means to be gay and hasn’t totally decided whether he wants to be out at his new school. His parents and friends have all kinds of opinions, but for his part, Jules just wants to make the basketball team and keep his head down.

Jack is trying to start over after a best friend break-up. He followed his actor father clear across the country to LA, but he’s also totally ready to leave his past behind. Maybe this new school where no one knows him is exactly what he needs.

When the two boys meet, the sparks are undeniable. But then a video surfaces linking Jack to a pair of popular transgender vloggers, and the revelations about Jack’s past thrust both Jack and Jules into the spotlight they’ve been trying to avoid. Suddenly both boys have a choice to make—between lying low where it’s easier or following their hearts.

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone 

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom. 

April 2021 Wrap Up

I waited till the last minute to see if I could finish one last book today as I only have 100 pages of it left. I gave myself until end of my workday today which is 5pm. I read some pretty great books this month and wanted to share those with you all. Reviews to come for several of these books, the links in the titles will take you to reviews for those books

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi 

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.

Bloom into You, Vol. 1 by Nio Nakatani, Jenny McKeon (Translator)

A charming love story about two young women who together discover that their dreams of a heart-pounding romance can indeed come true!

Yuu has always loved shoujo manga and fantasizes about the day that she too will get a love confession that will send her heart a-flutter. Yet when a male classmate confesses his feelings for her … she feels nothing. Disappointed and confused, Yuu enters high school still unsure how to respond. That’s when Yuu sees the beautiful student council president Nanami turn down a suitor with such maturity and finesse that Yuu is inspired to ask her for advice. But when the next person to confess to Yuu is the alluring Nanami herself, has Yuu’s shoujo romance finally begun? 

What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley , Austin Siegemund-Broka

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan. 

Raybearer (Raybearer #1) by Jordan Ifueko 

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Survival of the Thickest: Essays by Michelle Buteau

From the stand-up comedian, actress, and host beloved for her cheeky swagger, unique voice, and unapologetic frankness comes a book of comedic essays for fans of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling and We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union.

If you’ve watched television or movies in the past year, you’ve seen Michelle Buteau. With scene-stealing roles in Always Be My MaybeFirst Wives ClubSomeone GreatRussian Doll, and Tales of the City; a reality TV show and breakthrough stand-up specials, including her headlining show Welcome to Buteaupia on Netflix, and two podcasts (Late Night Whenever and Adulting), Michelle’s star is on the rise. You’d be forgiven for thinking the road to success—or adulthood or financial stability or self-acceptance or marriage or motherhood—has been easy; but you’d be wrong.

Now, in Survival of the Thickest, Michelle reflects on growing up Caribbean, Catholic, and thick in New Jersey, going to college in Miami (where everyone smells like pineapple), her many friendship and dating disasters, working as a newsroom editor during 9/11, getting started in standup opening for male strippers, marrying into her husband’s Dutch family, IVF and surrogacy, motherhood, chosen family, and what it feels like to have a full heart, tight jeans, and stardom finally in her grasp. 

Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice by Yusef Salaam

This inspirational memoir serves as a call to action from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, that will inspire us all to turn our stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.

They didn’t know who they had.

So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one’s life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam’s seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we’re all “born on purpose, with a purpose.” Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being “run over by the spiked wheels of injustice,” Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities.

Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the ’80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life’s experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.

This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation’s inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam’s message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action. 

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur 

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky

Alex feels like he is in the wrong body. His skin feels strange against his bones. And then comes Tracy, who thinks he’s adorably awkward, who wants to kiss him, who makes him feel like a Real Boy. But it is not quite enough. Something is missing.

As Alex grapples with his identity, he finds himself trying on dresses and swiping on lipstick in the quiet of his bedroom. He meets Andre, a gay boy who is beautiful and unafraid to be who he is. Slowly, Alex begins to realize: maybe his name isn’t Alex at all. Maybe it’s Sasha Masha. 

The Half Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith 

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

Two Grooms on a Cake: The Story of America’s First Gay Wedding by Rob Sanders, Robbie Cathro (Illustrations) 

This is the story of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell and their inspiring story becoming the first married gay couple in the US fifty years ago.

Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3) by Talia Hibbert 

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

April 2021 TBR

My reading list this month is a little bit ambitious but some of these I’m already halfway through so hopefully I can complete them this month. I’m also hoping to take a few days off work to read as a break for my birthday, you know before I start school again this fall.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago. 

What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley , Austin Siegemund-Broka 

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko 

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? 

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice by Yusef Salaam 

This inspirational memoir serves as a call to action from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, that will inspire us all to turn our stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.

They didn’t know who they had.

So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one’s life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam’s seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we’re all “born on purpose, with a purpose.” Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being “run over by the spiked wheels of injustice,” Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities.

Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the ’80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life’s experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.

This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation’s inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam’s message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action.

The Half Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith 

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi 

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying. 

March 2021 Wrap Up

I waited till the last minute to see if I could finish one last book yesterday or today and I managed to get 2 in before the end of this month. I read some pretty great books this month and wanted to share those with you all. Reviews to come for several of these books, the links in the titles will take you to reviews for those books.

As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods. 

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland 

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years. 

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley 

Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp 

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home. 

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve 

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson 

Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.

Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

Choices. They come at a price.

A Room Called Earth by Madeleine Ryan 

The debut novel from an autistic writer, an extraordinary story of a fiercely original young woman whose radical self-acceptance illuminates a new way of being in the world, and opens up a whole new realm of understanding and connection

As a full moon rises over Melbourne, Australia, a young autistic woman gets ready for a party. What appears to be the start of an ordinary night out, though, is, through the prism of her mind, extraordinary. As the events of the night unfold, she moves from person to person, weaving a web around the magical, the mundane, and the tragic. She’s charming and witty, with a touch of irreverence; people can’t help but find her magnetic. However, each encounter she has, whether with her ex-boyfriend or a woman who wants to compliment her outfit, reveals the vast discrepancies between what she is thinking, and feeling, and what she is able to say. And there’s so much she’d like to say.

When she meets a man in line for the bathroom, and the possibility of intimacy and genuine connection occurs, it’s nothing short of a miracle. It isn’t until she invites him home, though, and into her remarkable world that we come to appreciate the humanity beneath the labels we cling to, to grasp, through her singular perspective, the visceral joy of what it means to be alive.

From the inimitable mind of Madeleine Ryan, an outspoken advocate for neurodiversity, A Room Called Earth is a magical and miraculous adventure inside the mind of an autistic woman. Humorous and heartwarming, and brimming with joy, this hyper-saturated celebration of acceptance is a testament to moving through life without fear, and to opening ourselves up to a new way of relating to one another. 

March 2021 TBR

I had planned on finishing three of these in the month of February but didn’t get to them so I moved them to this month. I’m quite excited to get to read all of these and can’t wait to finish them. It’s hard to not just try and read everything at the same time.

City of the Uncommon Thief by Lynee Bertrand

“Guilders work. Foundlings scrub the bogs. Needles bind. Swords tear. And men leave. There is nothing uncommon in this city. I hope Errol Thebes is dead. We both know he is safer that way.”

In a walled city of a mile-high iron guild towers, many things are common knowledge: No book in any of the city’s libraries reveals its place on a calendar or a map. No living beasts can be found within the city’s walls. And no good comes to the guilder or foundling who trespasses too far from their labors.

Even on the tower rooftops, where Errol Thebes and the rest of the city’s teenagers pass a few short years under an open sky, no one truly believe anything uncommon is possible within the city walls.

But one guildmaster has broken tradition to protect her child, and as a result the whole city faces an uncommon threat: a pair of black iron spikes that have the power of both sword and needle on the ribcages of men have gone missing, but the mayhem they cause rises everywhere. If the spikes not found and contained, no wall will be high enough to protect the city–or the world beyond it.

And Errol Thebes? He’s not dead and he’s certainly not safe.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anderson

A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamer

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home? 

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.