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.

.

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.

January 2022 To Be Read

I had planned on finishing some of these during the last few days of December but just didn’t get around to it. I am about 80% into The Bone Spindle so I’m hoping to finish that before the end of this weekend. I also started Beasts of Prey a while ago but my library rental ran out so I had to put a hold on it again and it just came in. My reading goals for this year are a little different since I know school will pick up this year. I just hope to get through 1 e-book, 1 physical book, 1 audiobook, and 1 recommended from a friend off the 12 Challenge.

The Bone Spindle

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.

The Last Chance Hotel

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 begin 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.

Beasts of Prey

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home–and discover much more than they bargained for.

The Wicker King

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Books by Trans and Non-Binary Authors Publishing in 2022

The One True Me and You by Remi K. England 

One small fandom convention. One teen beauty pageant.
One meet cute waiting to happen.

Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend:

Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels
Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay
Kiss a girl for the first time

It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan.

Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets:

She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras
She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon
She’s gay af

If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down.

When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?

The Feeling of Falling in Love by Mason Deaver

From the bestselling author of I Wish You All the Best, comes a new kind of love story, about the bad decisions we sometimes make… and the people who help get us back on the right path.

Perfect for fans of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli.

Just days before spring break, Neil Kearney is set to fly across the country with his childhood friend (and current friend-with-benefits) Josh, to attend his brother’s wedding—until Josh tells Neil that he’s in love with him and Neil doesn’t return the sentiment.

With Josh still attending the wedding, Neil needs to find a new date to bring along. And, almost against his will, roommate Wyatt is drafted.

At first, Wyatt (correctly) thinks Neil is acting like a jerk. But when they get to LA, Wyatt sees a little more of where it’s coming from. Slowly, Neil and Wyatt begin to understand one another… and maybe, just maybe, fall in love for the first time… 

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds. 

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore 

In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake – but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.

Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee 

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings risi

Man o’ War by Cory McCarthy

The jellyfish commonly known as a Portuguese man o’ war is neither Portuguese, nor a jellyfish, nor a man, nor even a singular organism. If you can cope with those facts, you can begin to understand River McIntyre, an elite high school swimmer who’s bad at counting laps.

River McIntyre has lived all their life in the shadow of Sea Planet, a now infamous ocean theme park slowly going out of business in the middle of Ohio. As Sea Planet drifts toward its final end, so does River’s high school career and, worse, their time as a competitive swimmer. Or maybe not. When River makes an impulsive dive into Ocean Planet’s shark tank, they unintentionally set off on a wrenching journey of self-discovery, from internalized homophobia and self-loathing through layers of coming out, gender confirmation surgery, and true love. And at the end of this race? Who knows. After all, counting laps has never been River’s strong suit

ng between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly 

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

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.

Dai’s Top 10 Read in 2021

I read a lot of great books this year so it was really hard to select my top 10 and I had a harder time since most of my top books were read at the start of this year. I had to re-visit my goodreads list or I would never remember everything that I managed to get through in the past few months. Here’s my top ten books of the year in no particular order except for The Love Hypothesis being my number one book for 2021. You can click the titles of the books to see my full review for these books.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

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.

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

For fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, this is a riveting and irresistible take on love, life, and identity — both online and off.

CeCe Ross is kind of a big deal. She and her girlfriend, Silvie, are social media influencers with zillions of fans and followers, known for their cute outfits and being #relationshipgoals.

So when Silvie breaks up with her, CeCe is devastated. She’s lost her first love, and now she can’t help but wonder if she’ll lose her followers as well.

Things get even messier when CeCe meets Josh, a new boy in town who is very much Not Online. CeCe isn’t surprised to be falling for a guy; she’s always known she’s bi. And Josh is sweet and smart and has excellent taste in donuts… but he has no idea that CeCe is internet-famous. And CeCe sort of wants to keep it that way.

But when CeCe’s secrets catch up to her, she finds herself in the middle of an online storm, where she’ll have to confront the blurriness of public vs. private life, and figure out what it really means to speak her truth.

Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

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 Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

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!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Modavsky

New York Times –bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

An unforgettable story of trauma and healing, told in achingly beautiful prose with great tenderness and care. —#1 New York Times-bestselling author Karen M. McManus

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 Half-Orphans 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.

The Passing Playbook by Issac 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.

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.