Serendipity Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed Book Review

Book Description

Love is in the air in this is a collection of stories inspired by romantic tropes and edited by #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer.

The secret admirer.
The fake relationship.
The matchmaker.


From stories of first love, unrequited love, love that surprises, love that’s been there all along, ten of the brightest and award-winning authors writing YA have taken on some of your favorite romantic tropes, embracing them and turning them on their heads. Readers will swoon for this collection of stories that celebrate love at its most humorous, inclusive, heart-expanding, and serendipitous.

Contributors include Elise Bryant, Elizabeth Eulberg, Leah Johnson, Anna-Marie McLemore, Marissa Meyer, Sandhya Menon, Julie Murphy, Caleb Roehrig, Sarah Winifred Searle, and Abigail Hing Wen. 

Review

Overall: I really liked the many narrators that are included throughout this audiobook as there was someone different reading each of the stories. The fact that a different narrator was used made it feel like these were all different stories as well as different characters. This is a great book for those looking for more diversity in romance stories in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. I was so pleased to find that these stories had LGBTQ+ characters in them and their stories were happy stories where they also got to fall in love. I really enjoyed that these stories were not just all about romantic love but we also get to see love through friendships.

Bye Bye, Piper Berry by Julie Murphy

Trope: Fake Dating

I loved that this story gives us a fat protagonist who thinks that he isn’t deserving of love. I loved how his best friend points out how the reason someone wouldn’t be interested has nothing to do with his size but all to do with how he views himself and how he instantly assumes no one would be romantically interested in him. This was a cute story overall.

Anyone Else but You by Leah Johnson

Trope: Stranded Together

I really do love a good enemies-to-lovers story especially one that is set in academia so this one instantly got my attention. I liked that these two characters were so different from each other which caused the constant bickering.

The Idiom Algorithm by Abigail Hing Wen

Trope: Class Warfare

This story had so much in it that it would have done better as a full-length novel. I have read books that address the differences in class when being in a romantic relationship but they always end successfully for both parties. I was surprised to see this go differently and show the reality of classism for some people especially when their family gets involved.

Auld Acquaintance by Caleb Roehrig

Trope: The Best Friend Love Epiphany

This one I wasn’t too sold on and I kind of just had it playing in the background while not paying too much attention to it.

Shooting Stars by Marissa Meyer

Trope: One Bed

This was another one in which I wasn’t too sold on the love story. I love friends to lovers and a one-bed trope but this one passed through too many days for me to follow it. Due to me not being able to follow the story it really made it so that I wasn’t into the romance.

Keagan’s Heaven on Earth by Sarah Winifred Searle

This is told in storybook format and not included in the audiobook.

Zora in the Spotlight  by Elise Bryant

Trope: Grand Romantic Gesture

I really enjoyed this one but couldn’t find where the romance was supposed to be. I just liked that this one has our main character learning to let herself be loved and to love herself.

In a Blink of the Eye by Elizabeth Eulberg

Trope: Trapped in a Confined Space

This one was great because it was about romantic love but also friend love. I liked that we get to see our main character having had feelings for Tyler and get passed up for her best friend so she turns her feelings into hatred. I love seeing how she gets over that and they become friends because of how much Tyler loves his girlfriend and our main character loves her best friend.

Liberty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Trope: The Makeover

This was one of my favorites and not just because of the sapphic relationship but so much because of the main characters. I really enjoyed how this one points out how our main character feels like she doesn’t fit in because of her Latinx characteristics and then we see how Camilla doesn’t feel like she belongs because she is a Lesbian. It was great to see how their relationship develops over a short period of time and how that helps them learn to love themselves.

The Surprise Match by Sandhya Menon

Trope: Matchmaker

This one was just okay for me even if I felt bad for the character playing matchmaker as she puts everyone before her. This kind of tends to be a theme in a lot of these stories in which a friend is included.

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A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi Book Review

Book Description

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

Review

CW: Classism, Poverty, Chronic Illness (Diabetes), absent father, theft

Thoughts and Themes: I picked this one up at the library but it was taking a while for me to get into it so I tried it as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. I like that the audiobook has two distinct voices for each of the girls which makes it easier to tell them apart.

There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this book but my favorite are the scenes in which Sakina and Mimi are teaching each other about their culture. I love how Sakina is hesitant at first to allow Mimi into her world and how Mimi doesn’t understand why Sakina responded to her in a way she deemed rude. I liked when Sakina would ask Mimi things about America and Mimi got to explain what was familiar to her and felt like she belonged somewhere.

I also really enjoyed the moments in which Mimi realized how different Sakina’s life was from her and the different expectations that were put on each of them. I also like that both of the girls are keeping things from their families and they trust each other with this information. It was nice getting to see them talk each other through things that they were struggling with.

Characters: This book centers around our two main characters, Sakina and Mimi, and through them you get to meet several other characters in this book. You get to meet both of their families as well as some other people they interact with while they are both navigating Pakistan.

I really liked getting to know both of our main characters and liked reading as their friendship develops. I thought it was great that at first they both needed something from each other which is why they were speaking to each other but that develops into more. I thought it was great that Mimi felt like she could open up to Sakina and share her feelings with her.

I also do enjoy getting to know each of the girls apart from each other and getting to see them act their age when they are with each other. There are times in which the girls are interacting with adults that you forget that they are still kids because they have been forced to grow up quickly because of the struggles their families are going through. I liked getting to see them react like children though and get to see them allow each other feelings that were messy and complicated.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the dual perspectives of Sakina and Mimi. Sakina is a girl who works for Mimi’s mother’s family in Pakistan and lives in poverty, and Mimi is an American girl who is visiting her rich grandparents in Pakistan. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see this story unfold through both of their perspectives because when you first start reading you think that they are so different from each other and come from two different worlds. It isn’t until you keep reading and get to see them interact that you realize that they have some things in common.

Author Information

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.

What about Will by Ellen Hopkins Book Review

Book Description

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who’s five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at little league. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury–everything changed. Now, sixteen months later, their family is still living under the weight of the incident, that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents’ divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal.

Review

CS: Addiction, Suicide Attempt, Sexist comments

Thoughts and Themes: I don’t recall reading any other books by this author but I am familiar with the books. I picked this one up because of the synopsis and since it is written in prose, I knew it would be a quick read which is what I was looking for. I am really glad that I picked this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.

This book deals with several tough topics such as absentee parents, prison, addiction, rehab, and more. I believe that they do this in a way that is appropriate for the age range that it is intended for.

In this book, we get to see not only how opioid addiction affects Will but also how it affects those around him such as his brother, Trace, and the rest of his family. In this book you get to see how Trace is trying to hold everything together and fix things that are out of his control, you get to see how his brother’s addiction is impacting him and how he feels throughout the progression of this addiction.

This book also shows the importance of having a support system in place for all ages. Through this book, you see the importance of Trace having a support system so that he doesn’t try to carry everything on their own. We get to see how important Will has a support system is and what happens when he pushes that support system away. We also get to see Trace realizing how important it is for his dad and grandfather to not be alone as he and his brother get older. We also see how Trace cares for Mr. Cobb as he realizes how he must feel being alone now, and also how he feels for Cat since she’s new to town and alone.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Trace. You get to meet his dad, his dad’s girlfriend, Lily, his friends, Bram and Cat, his brother, Will, his neighbor, Mr. Cobb, and a few others briefly.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the friendships between Trace, Bram, and Cat. I really appreciate how Cat is able to relate to Trace because her brother went down a difficult path that unfortunately leaves him in prison. I thought that being able to see Cat and Trace have this connect them shows how books that deal with these topics need to exist for younger children because they also deal with tough subjects. I liked how Trace points out the importance of having friends that supported him and never left his side throughout Will’s addiction.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the adults who were a part of Trace’s life especially as his parents were absent. I understood his dad’s need to work and how that affected the amount of time he had for his children. I really liked the role that Mr. Cobb plays in this story and how he is a trusted Adult for Trace. I thought it was great to see how much Trace learns from Mr. Cobb and how much realizations come from this time he spends with him. I also like the way Lily fits into Trace’s life and how she doesn’t force him or Will to embrace her or think of her as a new mother.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and told in first person through the perspective of Will’s younger brother, Trace who is 12 years old. I really enjoy books that are told in prose as you get to see a story be told in a different manner. I also really enjoyed getting this through Trace’s perspective because we get to see how addiction affects a child and what he needed during this time.

Author Information

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of CrankBurnedImpulseGlassIdenticalTricksFalloutPerfectTrianglesTilt, and Collateral. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the “only one who understands me”, and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Like most of you here, books are my life. Reading is a passion, but writing is the biggest part of me. Balance is my greatest challenge, as I love my family, friends, animals and home, but also love traveling to meet my readers. Hope I meet many of you soon!

The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton Book Review

Book Description

Seth is a kitchen boy at the remote Last Chance Hotel. His father has long ago left, leaving him imprisoned until he is old enough to set out on his own. If there’s any hope he has, it’s to be the greatest chef that ever lived… just like his father.

One night, a band of magicians begins to arrive to participate in a secret meeting — a Prospect Selection Procedure to determine the most talented magicians in the world, judged by their leader Dr. Thallonius. Seth has one task: to make Dr. Thallonius the greatest dessert he’s ever tasted. Then, maybe he will help Seth find a way to freedom.

But when the doors to the private meeting open, and Dr. Thallonius lay dead on the floor, the group blames the dessert, which means that it’s Seth who will pay the price. But Seth knows he’s innocent, and only has so much time to eliminate each suspect and prove his innocence.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I saw this at the library and winded up picking it up based on the cover and I’m glad that I did. I really enjoyed the murder mystery in this one with the magic thrown in there as well.

There were moments in which I thought I had it figured out but then something would throw you off the trail that you originally were on. I think that children ages 8+ would really enjoy reading this one and trying to put everything together. I also really enjoyed the way that the magic system was explained in this book as it was easy to follow and I can’t wait to learn more about it.

The ending of the book surprised me, not in who actually committed the murder but more so in the things that we find out about Seth. I had suspected other things about him but not what was revealed. I can’t wait to read more to see what happens to him and what else he discovers about himself and his past.

Characters: In this story, you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Seth as well as with each other. I really enjoyed getting to learn about each of the mysterious characters who were there for the prospect and what “magic” each of them possessed. I also really enjoyed getting to learn more about Seth and loved his relationship with Nighttale, the talking cat.

Something that did throw me off while reading this is I don’t believe we got an age for Seth, is he a kid? Is he an adult? He read like a teenager figuring out things but then there were times that he read like an adult as he talks about leaving the place. I wasn’t so sure about a lot of things with him and the only reason I got an idea of what he looked like was the front cover.

Writing Style: This story is written in the third person through the perspective of Seth which made for a great story. I liked that Seth was very naive about a lot of things and that he really didn’t know much so everyone around him had to teach him things. I liked how Seth was oblivious to so much of the things around him and how patient the others are with him.

Author Information

Nicki is a former bookseller, and still lives in Oxfordshire where she ran a bookshop for more than ten years. She remains passionate about books, bookshops and anything that celebrates reading for pleasure and writes a regular Mystery Journal celebrating all things crime fiction for young people.

Nicki Thornton’s ‘wickedly funny and wildly original haunted whodunit’ The Last Chance Hotel, was selected as Waterstones Book of the Month October 2018 and has gone on to be an international bestseller, being translated into fifteen languages. Nicki Thornton’s debut won the 2019 Ealing Junior Book Award, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2019, was shortlisted for the 2019 CrimeFest Best Crime Novel for Children, the 2019 Oxfordshire Book Award Best Junior Novel, Shortlisted for the Warwickshire 2019 Junior Book Award and longlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards 2018.

The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder Book Review

Book Description

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and All the Stars and Teeth.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark. 

Review

CW: Blood, emotional abuse, gaslighting, PTSD, sexism, violence, misogyny, confinement

Thoughts and Themes: It took me a while to really get into this book and I was ready to put it aside and decide to read it at a later time. I’m really glad that I stuck with it and didn’t just give up though because once you are about 40% into the book then it is hard to put the book down.

While it does take a lot of the book, I did enjoy the world building that we got throughout this story. I liked that this was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but it was more than what I expected. I liked learning about Briar Rose kingdom and the curse that is over it as well as getting the back story of the two main characters.

I cried when I found out Fi’s backstory and recommend you proceed with caution on this one especially if you find emotional abuse triggering. When you find out about Fi’s curse and how that happened to her, you see into her past and see how she was emotionally abused, manipulated, and gaslit.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several different characters through their different interactions with Fi and Shane. You get to meet both of their love interests along with Fi’s ex.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Fi and Shane and the snarky banter between them. I liked how they both have to learn to trust the other but they both are the kind of people who want to accomplish everything on their own.

I liked the love interests that are included in this story for both of our main characters and how those relationships come to be. I liked getting to know more about Briar Rose throughout the whole story and through his interactions with Fi. I liked their interactions with each other and how snarky they are towards each other. I liked the way their romance develops throughout the story and how it wasn’t something that was immediate but took a while for Fi to even consider him as a potential love interest.

I do wish that we got more of a love story for Shane since I feel we didn’t get that relationship as developed as Fi’s relationship was. I do hope that we get to see more of this relationship in the next book and we get more of a romance arc for Shane since she deserves this too.

I was searching for a villain this whole time and I think while there’s some villainous characters, it was more about their adventure. I think that you really don’t get to meet the villains of this story until the last 20% of the book and even then it isn’t all about them.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person dual point of view, alternating between Fi and Shane’s perspectives. You also get a few sections with Briar Rose’s perspective thrown in there as well but those are shorter sections than the other two. I liked getting to see this story from all three of these perspectives as it adds to their adventure. I would have liked to hear more from Briar Rose though to see his story before this all takes place. There are also portions where I would have liked to see Shane’s point of view more too.

Author Information

Leslie Vedder (she/her) is a queer ace author who subsists primarily on coffee and cat snuggles!

She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction, and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two ultra-spoiled house cats.

Her debut YA novel THE BONE SPINDLE is forthcoming in January 2022 from Penguin / Razorbill. Find her online at leslievedder.com.

The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling Book Review

Book Description

Elise Beaumont is cursed. With every touch, she experiences exactly how her loved ones will die. And after her brother’s death—a death she predicted but was unable to prevent—Elise is desperate to get rid of her terrible gift, no matter the cost.

Claire Montgomery also has a unique relationship with death, mostly because she’s already dead. Technically, anyway. Claire is a vampire, and she’s been assigned by the Veil to help Elise master her rare Death Oracle powers.

At first, Elise is reluctant to work with a vampire, but when she predicts a teacher’s imminent murder, she’s determined to stop the violent death, even if it means sacrificing her own future to secure Claire’s help.

The trouble is, Claire and Elise aren’t the only paranormals in town—a killer is stalking the streets, and Claire can’t seem to shake the pull she feels toward Elise, a romance that could upend the Veil’s mission. But as Elise and Claire grow closer, Elise begins to wonder—can she really trust someone tasked with securing her loyalty? Someone who could so easily kill her? Someone who might hold the key to unraveling her brother’s mysterious death?

Review

CW: Death, Murder, Manipulation, Grief, Sibling loss, abandonment

Thoughts and Themes: I heard great things about the other books by this author so I was pleased to get a chance to read this book. I tried reading it on e-book but since it was slow to start, I couldn’t get into it. I winded up getting it on audiobook and followed along by e-book and that was so much better.

I loved getting to learn about the vampires in this story and the layers of different paranormal creatures that are in the story. I liked learning about Elise being the death oracle and what that means for her and also what it means for Claire. I liked learning about the veil and what that is and how it functions alongside our world and what vampires and other paranormal creatures’ roles are in the veil.

A little over halfway in this book there is a moment that just frustrates me, it just doesn’t really fit the rest of the story. I don’t understand why this is included but I can’t really say much about this without ruining the story for you all.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to the main characters, Elise and Claire, as well as several other characters through their interactions with our main characters. You get to meet Elise’s friends, Jordan and Maggie as well as other vampires that Claire works with such as Wyn. You also get to see some interactions between Elise and her parents, and there are mentions of her brother, Nick.

I really enjoyed watching Elise build relationships with people as she learns more about what she is and comes to terms with that. I liked how she allows her friends into her world and how she allows them to support her. I think that the character development with Elise is greatly done as we see her grow while still grieving her brother.

I also really liked watching as Claire grows as a person while she is training Elise and then also interacting with the other vampires. I also like learning about why Claire is trying to distance herself from Elise as well as how she became a vampire.

The villain in this story is also pretty well done even though you don’t really realize who the villain is until a little over halfway through. I really like how the villain has a relationship with both of our main characters and how this villain has power over both of them. I also love how the villain pits the two of our main characters against each other and what that adds to the story.

Writing Style: This story is told in the first person through the dual points of view, Elise and Claire. I thought that it was great to see the story unfold through both of their perspectives. I really liked getting to know the history of the species that are involved in this story and the world-building that is done from Claire’s point of view.

I like that we get the story from both of their perspectives because we get to see what each of them is keeping from the other. I liked that we get to see all of this unfolding behind the scenes before each of our main characters gets to see everything unfold in front of them. I didn’t really put everything together as it was happening until our main characters figure things out which made things so much better for me.

Author Information

Isabel Sterling is a writing coach, LGBTQ advocate, and author of These Witches Don’t Burn, This Coven Won’t Break, and the forthcoming f/f vampire novel The Coldest Touch. When she’s not writing, Isabel can be found crocheting projects she’ll never finish, completing crosswords with her wife, and trying not to destroy her garden. She lives in Central New York, where the winters are frigid, the summers are too hot, and autumn is perfect.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga Book Review

Book Description

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Review

CW: Islamophobia, War, Hate Crime Depiction, Racism

Thoughts and Themes: I had seen this book around but just hadn’t had the time to pick it up yet. I was glad to find it in the library when I was looking for quick reads to get through over the holiday break.

This book covers several different themes, it covers coming of age, family, friendship, belonging, as well as discrimination of immigrants from specific cultures and countries.

I really liked the way that this book covered coming of age for Jude and showed her trying to hold on to her old home, country, and culture but also fit in with her new culture. I thought that it was great that we got to see directly how she felt about both cultures and the way she reacts to others’ reactions to her holding onto her culture and home country.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Jude. You get to meet her uncle, his wife, her cousin Sarah, her friend Layla, her mom, her dad, her brother Issa, and more. I really liked each of the characters that you get to meet in this story and the role that they play in Jude’s life.

I liked getting to see the differences with Jude and her cousin. I thought it was nice for the reader to be able to see the same culture represented in two different ways through both of these characters. I think this also showed the forced assimilation of Jude’s uncle and how much he had to let go of in order to fit into his new culture. We don’t get to see or hear much about why he let go of his culture but you can see when he interacts with his sister that he still holds to his home.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Jude interacting with her new friend Layla as well as the other children in her ESL classroom. I liked how Layla’s family embraced Jude and how Layla pointed out how Jude didn’t really understand what it was like to be Muslim in America. It was sad to see the moment that Jude realized what Layla had been trying to tell her the whole time.

Writing Style: This story is told in verse through the first person point of view of Jude, who had to flee Syria with her mother due to the situation that was stirring in her country. In leaving Syria, Jude had to leave her father, brother, and several friends behind.

Author Information

Jasmine Warga is a writer from Cincinnati, Ohio who currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. She is the internationally bestselling author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now. Her books have been published in over twenty-five countries and optioned for film. Her debut middle grade novel, Other Words For Home, will be published in Spring 2019. Jasmine lives in an apartment filled with books with her husband, two tiny daughters, large dog, and mischievous cat.

Vanilla by Billy Merrell Book Review

Book Description

A bold, groundbreaking novel about coming out, coming into your own, and coming apart.

Hunter and Van become boyfriends before they’re even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises — mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn’t guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities — with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.

In poems that are romantic and poems that are heartbreaking, Vanilla explores all the flavors of the spectrum — and how romance and love aren’t always the same thing.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was pleased when I stumbled across this book several years ago and immediately bought it but it took a while for me to pick up the book. I picked it up last year but forgot that I was reading it and only picked it up again recently.

I am going to warn you that there is a lot of ace phobia in this book from two of the main characters and several of the side characters. Hunter, Vanilla’s boyfriend is constantly trying to coerce him to have sex with him, sends him nudes, gets him naked, after Vanilla has pointed out multiple times that he isn’t ready for it. Vanilla also feels as if he isn’t able to express to Hunter that he isn’t interested in sex without Hunter taking it as Vanilla doesn’t love him or trust him.

I actually did enjoy the ace representation that we got from this book as it felt accurate to being ace at that age. This book reminded me of how when I first even started questioning if I was ace, it was much easier to say anything else than have to explain my asexuality. That being said, It does take a long time for Vanilla to realize that he is ace and come to terms with it. The majority of the book is Hunter trying to convince Vanilla to have sex with him and Vanilla feeling conflicted about it and not understanding why this isn’t something he wants.

Characters: In this book you meet three main characters, Hunter, Vanilla, and Clown/Angel along with several of their friends and family. I really enjoyed getting to know each of these characters even there were several times Hunter and Clown were frustrating me.

Hunter was a character that I really wasn’t too fond of because of his insistence that Vanilla has sex with him to prove he loves and trusts him. The fact that Hunter keeps giving Vanilla ultimatums over this was really off putting. I was also frustrated with Hunter because regardless of Vanilla’s sexuality, he still shouldn’t need a reason to not want sex. I felt that Hunter’s whole personality was centered around sex and thought it was important that Vanilla pointed out that having sex wasn’t the only thing that made them gay.

Writing Style: This story is told in verse and in three point of views, Hunter, Vanilla, and Clown. I liked getting to hear this story from all three points of view but I did find that knowing each of their stories didn’t make me feel sympathy for the ace phobic characters.

I really did enjoy getting to know more about Clown and gender journey throughout the book. I liked seeing how his grandmother supports him and loves him regardless of who he is. I did enjoy how this book shows his grandmother supporting his gender and sexuality but not really understanding any of it and how he finds that to not be enough. I thought that piece was relatable because you want the people who you love not just to accept you but to get you.

I really loved reading Vanilla’s point of view the most and seeing as he is figuring out his sexuality. I liked how he struggles outwardly with what others expect and want of him and what his needs and wants are.

Author Information

Billy Merrell was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a writer of both poetry and prose, coauthoring the New York Times bestselling Spirit Animal series and appearing in several anthologies of poetry. His other works include Talking in the DarkVanilla, the Infinity Ring Secrets series, and The Full Spectrum, which was coedited with David Levithan and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award. Merrell currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband, Nico Medina.

Pussypedia by Zoe Mendelson and María Conejo (Illustrator) Book Review

Book Description

Written by the creators of the popular website, this rigorously fact-checked, accessible, and fully illustrated guide is essential for anyone with a pussy.

If the clitoris and penis are the same size on average, why is the word “small” in the definition of clitoris but strangely missing from the definition of penis? Sex probably doesn’t cause yeast infections? But racism probably does cause BV? Why is masturbating so awesome? How hairy are butt cracks . . . generally? Why is labiaplasty on a global astronomical rise? Does egg freezing really work? Should I stick an egg-shaped rock up there or nah?

There is still a shocking lack of accurate, accessible information about pussies and many esteemed medical sources seem to contradict each other. Pussypedia solves that with extensive reviews of peer-reviewed science that address old myths, confusing inconsistencies, and the influence of gender narratives on scientific research––always in simple, joyful language.  

Through over 30 chapters, Pussypedia not only gives the reader information, but teaches them how to read science, how to consider information in its context, and how to accept what we don’t know rather than search for conclusions. It also weaves in personal anecdotes from the authors and their friends––sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often cringe-worthy, and always extremely personal––to do away with shame and encourage curiosity, exploration, and agency.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When this book first arrived at my doorstep I was a little bit worried about reading it. I decided to put a hold for the audiobook with the library so I could listen to it and follow along with the physical book. I’m really glad that I did this because I think this is a book everyone should read at least once regardless of if you own a Pussy or not.

From the intro of this book I was really pleased with the gender neutral language that they used and how they pointed out understanding that there wasn’t a gender/sex binary. I like how this book addresses Trans and Non-binary people rather than keeping them separate. I thought it was great that they brought up the disparities that Trans people face in the medical world and how they continue to say that there is more information needed regarding this population.

Writing Style: This book is separated into different sections that discuss different aspects of a pussy. In each of these sections there are different art pieces that are included which I think really add a lot to the book. I listened to it on audio and followed along with the physical book so that I could see the images and also see how things were separated within each chapter.

I really liked how the author of the book doesn’t pretend to know everything about each of the topics that are discussed in this book. I liked that the author interviewed other people if it was a topic that she felt someone else would know more than her. I also liked that other books and studies were referenced throughout the book so that facts could be double checked or someone could go to those resources to learn more.

Author Information

Journalist, information designer, content strategist. Her writing has appeared in Fast Company, WIRED, Hyperallergic, Slate, Next City, the LA Times. Her projects have been covered by The New York Times en Espanol, New York Magazine, CityLab, PBS, Univision, and Buzzfeed. Previous projects include official emojis for Mexico City, a data narrative about drones, and a civic-engagement platform for nihilist millennials. Mendelson studied at Barnard College in New York City.

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson Book Review

Book Description

Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world’s perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of…well…everything! Not to mention, he’s never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.
 
Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she’s the one for him? Or maybe she’ll discover true love has been by her side all along…

Review

Thoughts and Themes: After reading The Love Hypothesis all I wanted to do was read more romance book so I was happy to see this was a choice for BOTM. I also decided to put it on hold with audiobook since I know I prefer to read romance books in that format.

Throughout the whole story I didn’t really buy that there was anything between True and Bethany which made the romance portion strange for me. The only reason I knew that feelings were there was because of how often True would point out his feelings and then how Bethany began to question her feelings for him.

The portion of this book where Bethany is chasing after Keanu was a bit hilarious but also at times it was just too much. Her obsession with him felt a lot like reading a teenage girl obsessed with a celebrity and like Bethany just needed to grow up.

Characters: In this book you get to meet Bethany and True along with some side characters that you meet through their interactions with our main characters. I liked getting to know Bethany and found her obsession with Keanu really funny. I thought it was great to see

I really wished we got to know more about True than what we got from him. I wanted more of who he is and his backstory but we didn’t get much about him. I felt that the pieces that we got from him were just him being sexually attracted to Bethany and that was all. I didn’t get the sense that he loved her even if he kept saying that he did.

The problem with this one for me was the I wasn’t really invested in any of the characters. I was listening to both of their point of views but I wasn’t rooting for them. We know what will happen right from the start but at no point did I care for Bethany and True’s relationship. I didn’t really buy Bethany and True’s relationship throughout the book, I didn’t even see them as such close friends. I didn’t buy their friendship at all so it was hard to believe the friends to lovers plot line.

I was a lot more invested in Bethany and Dawn’s relationship than the love story in this book. I loved the parts where these two got together. I loved how supportive they are of each other and I loved how these two pick at each other when it is needed. I thought that their relationship was perfect and was just what they needed from each other.

Writing Style: This book is told in first person with dual point of view from Bethany and True. I loved having both of their perspectives in the story as we got to see how each of them were feeling about each other. I liked that we got to see how they felt about the things that were going on but I do wish that we got more chapters from True’s point of view.

Author Information

USA Today bestselling author and native New Yorker Kwana Jackson aka K.M Jackson spent her formative years on the A train where she had two dreams: (1) to be a fashion designer and (2) to be a writer. After spending more than ten years designing women’s sportswear for various fashion houses, Kwana took a leap of faith and decided to pursue her other dream of being a writer. A longtime advocate of equality and diversity in romance (#WeNeedDiverseRomance), Kwana is the mother of twins and currently lives in a suburb of New York with her husband. When not writing she can be found on Twitter @kwanawrites, on Facebook at facebook.com/KmJacksonAuthor, and on her website at www.kmjackson.com.