Spooky Reads for October 2021

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass 

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

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

Dead Boy by Laurel Gale 

A darkly funny and literary debut novel about a dead boy named Crow who has a chance at friendship – and a chance at getting his life back

Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a life.

Crow Darlingson isn’t like other kids. He stinks. He’s got maggots. His body parts fall off at inopportune moments. (His mom always sews them back on, though.) And he hasn’t been able to sleep in years. Not since waking up from death.

But worse than the maggots is how lonely Crow feels. When Melody Plympton moves in next door, Crow can’t resist the chance to finally make a friend. With Melody around he may even have a shot at getting his life back from the mysterious wish-granting creature living in the park. But first there are tests to pass. And it will mean risking the only friend he’s had in years. 

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky 

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.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland 

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

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

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

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

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas 

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

September Wrap-Up

I winded up reading a lot of books throughout the beginning of September but things slowed down once school picked up for me. Sorry that I’m bringing this to you all a bit late but I thought better late than never. I also didn’t wind up providing a review for a lot of these on here because they were so short.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell , Faith Erin Hicks (Illustrator)

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon is a magical realist graphic novel about a young girl who befriends her town’s witch and discovers the strange magic within herself.

Snap’s town had a witch.

At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a Crocs-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.

Snap needs a favor from this old woman, though, so she begins helping Jacks with her strange work. Snap gets to know her and realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and an unlikely connection to Snap’s family’s past.

Love Is Love: A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of the Orlando Pulse Shooting by Marc Andreyko (Contributor), Gabriel Bautista (Illustrator), Teddy Tenenbaum, Mike Huddleston (Illustrator), Judd Winick, Jeff Jensen, David López (Illustrator), ETC.

The comic industry comes together in honor of those killed in Orlando. Co-published by two of the premiere publishers in comics—DC and IDW, this oversize comic contains moving and heartfelt material from some of the greatest talent in comics, mourning the victims, supporting the survivors, celebrating the LGBTQ community, and examining love in today’s world. All material has been kindly donated by the writers, artists, and editors with all proceeds going to victims, survivors, and their families. Be a part of an historic comics event! It doesn’t matter who you love. All that matters is you love. 

The Infinite Noise (The Bright Sessions #1) by Lauren Shippen 

Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit. 

Fence, Vol. 1 (Fence #1-4) by C.S. Pacat , Johanna the Mad (Illustrator), Joana LaFuente (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer)

Combines Issues #1-4.

Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half-brother, but the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama…

Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges. From acclaimed writer C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad.

Fence, Vol. 2 (Fence #5-8) by C.S. Pacat 

Nicholas Cox is determined to prove himself in the world of competitive fencing, and earn his place on the Kings Row fencing team, alongside sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama, to win the right to go up against his golden-boy half-brother.

Tryouts are well underway at King’s Row for a spot on the prodigious fencing team, and scrappy fencer Nicholas isn’t sure he’s going to make the grade in the face of surly upperclassmen, nearly impossibly odds, and his seemingly unstoppable roommate, the surly, sullen Seiji Katayama. It’ll take more than sheer determination to overcome a challenge this big!

From the superstar team of C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad comes the second volume of this acclaimed, dynamic series.

Fence, Vol. 3 (Fence #9-12) by C.S. Pacat , Johanna the Mad (Illustrator), Joana LaFuente (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer) 

Combines Issues #9-12.

Scrappy fencer Nicholas Cox comes to the end of his path to prove himself worthy of a father he never knew in the face of surly upperclassmen, nearly impossible odds, and the talent of his rival, sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama.

Sparks fly white-hot on the pitch as Nicholas and Seiji finally face off once again in the halls of King’s Row. It’s a match that will change King’s Row (and both of them!) forever, and set the stage as the team journeys to face their bitter rivals and prove themselves once and for all. 

The third volume of the breakneck series from writer C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad comes at you as fast as a parry and hits as hard as a strike. 

Rick and Morty, Vol. 1 (Rick and Morty (Collected Editions) #1) by Zac Gorman, C.J. Cannon (Contributor), Marc Ellerby (Contributor)

The hit comic book series based on Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s hilarious [adult swim] animated show Rick & Morty is now available in its first collection! Join the excitement as depraved genius Rick Sanchez embarks on insane adventures with his awkward grandson Morty across the universe and across time. Caught in the crossfire are his teenage granddaughter Summer, his veterinary surgeon daughter Beth, and his hapless son-in-law Jerry.

This collection features the first five issues of the comic book series, including “The Wubba Lubba Dub Dub of Wall Street,” “Mort-Balls!” and more, along with hilarious mini-comics showcasing the whole family.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed 

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez 

An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to “make it,” for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.

When We Make It is a love letter to anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez’ debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.

You and Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne

This is no ordinary apocalypse…

Hannah Ashton wakes up to silence. The entire city around her is empty, except for one other person: Leo Sterling. Leo might be hottest boy ever (and not just because he’s the only one left), but he’s also too charming, too selfish, and too devastating for his own good, let alone Hannah’s.

Stuck with only each other, they explore a world with no parents, no friends, and no school and realize that they can be themselves instead of playing the parts everyone expects of them. Hannah doesn’t have to be just an overachieving, music-box-perfect ballerina, and Leo can be more than a slacker, 80s-glam-metal-obsessed guitarist. Leo is a burst of honesty and fun that draws Hannah out, and Hannah’s got Leo thinking about someone other than himself for the first time.

Together, they search for answers amid crushing isolation, but while their empty world may appear harmless . . . it’s not. Because nothing is quite as it seems, and if Hannah and Leo don’t figure out what’s going on, they might just be torn apart forever.

The Plain Janes (Janes #1-2 + Janes Attack Back) by Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg 

Meet the Plain Janes–artist activists on a mission to wake up their sleepy suburban town. This cult classic graphic novel is perfect for fans of The LumberJanes and Awkward.

When artsy misfit Jane Beckles is forced to leave her beloved city life behind for the boring suburb of Kent Waters, she thinks her life is over. But then she finds where she belongs: at the reject table in the cafeteria, along with fellow misfits Brain Jayne, Theater Jane, and sporty Polly Jane. United by only two things-a shared name and frustration with the adults around them–the girls form a secret club dedicated to fighting suburban apathy with guerrilla works of art scattered around their small town.

But for Main Jane, the group is more than simple teenaged rebellion; it’s an act of survival. She’s determined not to let fear rule her life like it does her parents’ and neighbors’ lives. Armed with her sketchbook and a mission of resistance, the PLAIN Janes are out to prove that passion, bravery, and a group of great friends can save anyone from the hell that is high school.

With each installment printed in its own distinct color, this volume includes the original two stories–The Plain Janes and Janes in Love–plus a never-before-seen third story, Janes Attack Back. The Janes are back, and better than ever.

Coo by Kaela Noel 

One young girl’s determination to save the flock she calls family creates a lasting impact on her community and in her heart.

Ten years ago, an impossible thing happened: a flock of pigeons picked up a human baby who had been abandoned in an empty lot and carried her, bundled in blankets, to their roof. Coo has lived her entire life on the rooftop with the pigeons who saved her. It’s the only home she’s ever known. But then a hungry hawk nearly kills Burr, the pigeon she loves most, and leaves him gravely hurt.

Coo must make a perilous trip to the ground for the first time to find Tully, a retired postal worker who occasionally feeds Coo’s flock, and who can heal injured birds. Tully mends Burr’s broken wing and coaxes Coo from her isolated life. Living with Tully, Coo experiences warmth, safety, and human relationships for the first time. But just as Coo is beginning to blossom, she learns the human world is infinitely more complex – and cruel – than she could have imagined. 

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles 

From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.

 

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez Book Review

Book Description

An unforgettable young adult debut novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to make it, touching on themes of mental illness, sexual assault, food insecurity and gentrification, in the Nuyorican literary tradition of Nicholasa Mohr and the work of contemporary writer Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.

When We Make It is a love letter to girls who were taught to believe they would not make it at all. The verse is evocative and insightful, and readers are sure to be swept into Sarai’s world and rooting for her long after they close the book.

Review

Thank You to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this book as well as the finished copy so that I am able to review.

Thoughts and Themes: I really enjoy reading books in verse because of how different the stories go and how much emotion can be packed in. I like how Sarai is questioning so many of the things around her in this book and her place amongst everything and everyone.

I really liked how this story took you around the places Sarai was living in but also introduced you to her culture. I liked getting introduced to her culture through each verse and learning more about her and her family.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Sarai. You get to meet her mother, sister, and some of the other adults who briefly are in her life. While each character is introduced to you briefly, I think you get a good image of the role that everyone plays in Sarai’s life.

I really liked getting to know Sarai through the whole book and how she thinks of the world and of others. I also liked getting to see the relationship that Sarai has with her sister throughout this book. I thought it was great to see how she doesn’t want to be anything like her sister but she also really respects her sister. I liked that we get to see both Sarai and her sister’s relationship with their mother but also how far away their mother is from them emotionally.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and I really liked that choice. I liked how none of the pieces were long and it gave you the sense of how Sarai was always going from one place to the next physically or emotionally. There were so many pieces that I really enjoyed in this book and it was just great to be able to explore Sarai’s world through poetry.

Author Information

ELISABET VELASQUEZ is a Brooklyn Born Boricua.

She is a mother of two.

Her poems are an exploration of her life. 

Velasquez has performed at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, Pregones Theatre, Bushwick Starr Theatre, The Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Museum, Museum Of Natural History, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Rutgers University, Williams College, Adelphi University, Pace University, Princeton University, James Madison University, Harvard University and The Amber Rose Slut Walk 2017. 

Her work has been featured on  TIDALNBC, Now This, Huffington Post, Latina Magazine, Vibe Magazine, Muzzle MagazineCentro Voces. She is a VONA Alum, 2017 Poets House Fellow. She is the winner of Button Poetry’s 2017 Poetry Video Contest. She is a 2019 Frost Place Fellow. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology : WHAT SAVES US Poems of Empathy and Outrage In The Age Of Trump edited by Martin Espada.

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles Blog Tour Post

Book Description

Title: Things We Couldn’t Say 

Author: Jay Coles 

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: September 21st, 2021

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary 

Synopsis:

From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be. 

Book links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound ~ Indigo

Review

Thank You to Colored Pages Tours for having me on this blog tour for the book Things we Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles. Check our the tour schedule here.

Thoughts and Themes: There was so much that I really enjoyed about this story. There is not enough stories about bisexual boys and I loved that in this story both the main character and David are bisexual. This story handles a lot of different things, from Gio figuring out his sexuality to him dealing with his feelings about his mother abandoning him when he was younger.

I also really liked the different mental health issues that are brought up through this story. There was a lot going on for both Gio and his brother, Theo when it comes to their mental health and I liked how that was a part of the story. We got to see them have real emotions and I loved that everyone around them took those emotions seriously. I liked that Gio was given permission by those around him to be vulnerable with them and how important that vulnerability was for him to be able to cope with what was happening in his life.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Gio. You get to meet Gio’s younger brother, Theo, his best friends, Ayesha and Olly, the love interest, David, and Gio’s step mother, dad, and birth mom.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Gio and his younger brother and how protective he is of him. I also liked how Theo develops throughout this story and how essential he is to the development of Gio. I like how they discuss their feelings with each other and help each other navigate their mom trying to come back into their lives after abandoning them.

I really liked the friendship that Gio has with Ayesha and Olly, and then eventually develops with David. I like how they all keep things real with each other an dhow Gio feels like he can trust his friends with his feelings. I like how we get to see a friendship develop between Gio and David before a romance plot is even explored.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person through Gio’s perspective which was something that I enjoyed. I liked that the story allowed you to be inside of Gio’s head at every moment. This perspective allowed you to feel for Gio and also understand why he was acting certain ways with different people.

Author Information

JAY COLES is the author of critically acclaimed TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, a composer with ASCAP, and a professional musician residing in Muncie, Indiana. He is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University and holds degrees in English and Liberal Arts. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, serving with The Revolution church, and composing music for various music publishers. Jay’s forthcoming novel THINGS WE COULDN’T SAY is set to be released 9.21.21 with Scholastic! His novels can be purchased at Barnes and Noble or at Amazon. 

Author Links

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ GoodReads ~ Tumblr

Fence Volume 1-3 by by C.S. Pacat (Author), Johanna the Mad (Illustrator), Joana LaFuente (Colorist), and Jim Campbell (Letterer) Book Review

Book Description

Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half-brother, but the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama…

Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges. From acclaimed writer C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad. 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I had been putting off reading this book because it is always a hit or miss with books that revolve around sports. I figured I should finally read it though since I was going through all of the graphic novels really quickly. I’m glad that I decided to pick this one up as it was one that I couldn’t put down. I’m really sad that the library doesn’t have volume 4 since I need more of all these boys.

The books are a quick and easy read which made it a lot of fun to read in between my homework assignments. I loved that it really doesn’t matter if you know anything about fencing, I liked that they walk you through a lot of the fencing rules and the matches. I also really liked the shenanigans the boys get into when they aren’t fencing.

Characters: I loved all of these characters and how different they all are. I loved each of their distinct personalities and the friendships that they have with each other. I liked the rivalry between Seiji and Nicholas that is included in all three books and how that develops. I also love the friendship between the previous team members and Bobby and Nicholas.

I also really enjoyed the diversity in this book, you get a range of sexualities even if they aren’t explicitly stated. I also really liked the racial diversity in the characters as well as the diversity in economic status. I liked that we got to see both rich kids and then scholarship kids, and everyone else in the middle. I thought that was a great addition to be able to see that Nicholas was still a great fencer regardless of where and how he got his training.

Writing and Art Style: I loved the art style in this book, it is really cute but there is also some intense moments that you can clearly see from the looks of the boys’ faces. I love that you can see the feelings right on their faces without there having to be words and how the story tells itself through the images often times. Sometimes when I read graphic novels I can’t distinguish the characters from each other so I love how in this one they are all very different from one another. I like that they all have distinct looks.

Author Information

C.S. Pacat is the USA-Today best-selling author of Dark Rise, the Captive Prince trilogy, and the GLAAD-nominated graphic novels Fence.

Born in Australia and educated at the University of Melbourne, C.S. Pacat has lived in a number of cities, including Tokyo and Perugia, and currently resides and writes in Melbourne.

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh Book Review

Book Description

Snap’s town had a witch.

At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a Crocs-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.

Snap needs a favor from this old woman, though, so she begins helping Jacks with her strange work. Snap gets to know her and realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and an unlikely connection to Snap’s family’s past.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels recently and have been enjoying them quite a bit. My only thing with them is sometimes they are too short and I’m left wanting more of the characters and their world. This one was different though because while I loved it so much, I felt that it was just the right length and everything was covered in the few pages it had.

There was so much to love about this book and most of it was in the characters and the diversity within those characters. I also really enjoyed the world that you get to explore in this book and how it gets introduced to you.

Characters: I really enjoyed all the characters that you get to meet in this book and loved the diversity that is included throughout. I loved that the majority of the characters in this book are LGBTQ+ or people of color. I thought that was great to see and to have magic exist for both of these communities when often times I don’t see magic with LGBTQ+ characters or people of color.

I really like how Snap and Jacks are both shown to outcasts with the people their age as well as the rest of the neighborhood. I think this adds to what draws them together and why their relationship gradually develops. I liked how Jacks

I really liked Snaps and Lu’s friendship and how that begins and unfolds. I liked how Lu was a part of what seemed to be the popular crowd but how Snap and her became friends because Snap didn’t question or judge Lu for being a Trans girl.

I really liked how the mystery of the demon that has been following Snap’s family unravels and how we figure out things about that. I thought that was a great addition to the book and liked how that character played out.

Writing and Art Style: I actually wouldn’t have normally picked this up just based on the cover because of the darker colors but I am glad that I did. I loved the art style in this one and how each character looked different. I loved how the colors added to the mystery of the story and added to the story telling. I also liked how we got to go back and forth between Snap and Jacks time together as well as Snap and LuLus time together.

Author Information

Kat Leyh is a Chicago based writer and artist. She’s best known as the current co-writer and cover artist for the series Lumberjanes, and for her queer superhero webcomic Supercakes. She’s also worked as a cover artist, and back-up writer/artist for several BOOM! Studios series.

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen Book Review

Book Description

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: Thank you to Tor Teen for sending me a copy of this book so that I could provide a review for it.

I decided to listen to this book on audio since I really enjoyed listening to A Neon Darkness and this was just as great. This book reminds me a lot of The Extraordinaries which was another one that I loved which was why I decided to read this one. I’ve been listening to The Bright Sessions podcast which this book is based on and that made this book so much better. I highly recommend listening to that podcast while reading or even after reading this book.

I really love how Caleb and Adam’s friendship develops and how this relationship allows for each of them to be vulnerable with each other. I don’t want to speak up too much about this because this really unravels at the end of the book. I just thought it was great to see how each of them reacts and how Caleb is trying to understand Adam’s reaction to him revealing certain things.

I also really enjoyed how this book includes mental health in it and how Caleb’s feelings are addressed in therapy. We also get to see that Adam is dealing with depression and some anxiety and we see how those feelings affect Caleb. I also liked how these feelings affect their friendship and even more so as they learn more about each other.

Characters: In this story you get to meet Caleb and Adam who are the main characters and then a few others through their interactions with them. You get to meet some of their families as well which I really loved.

I liked Caleb and Adam’s relationship with each other and watching how they navigate each other’s oddities. I liked seeing how they learn about each other, and how they react to finding out new information about each other.

Writing Style: This book is written in first person and goes back and forth between Caleb and Adam’s point of view. I liked getting the chance to be in both of their heads and not just see things through Caleb’s point of view. I liked that we got some of Adam’s feelings because of Caleb’s enhanced abilities, I thought it was best that we saw the truth of how Adam felt from him.

Author Information

Lauren Shippen is a writer most known for her work in fiction podcasts. She was the creator and sole writer of the popular audio drama The Bright Sessions, which ran from 2015 to 2018. She went on to executive produce The AM Archives and co-produce Passenger List before founding Atypical Artists, a company dedicated to audio storytelling. Most recently, she wrote MARVELS, an audio adaptation of the popular comic, set for release later this year by Marvel and Stitcher.

Lauren was named one of Forbes 2018 30 Under 30 in Media and one of MovieMaker Magazine and Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch. Her first novel, The Infinite Noise, will be released through Tor Teen in September 2019. Shippen grew up in New York, where she spent most of her youth reading and going to Panic! at the Disco shows. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she does the same thing.

The Deep and Dark Blue by Niki Smith Book Review

Book Description

After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am so glad that I picked this book up randomly at the library when I saw it. I really enjoyed so much about this book and am glad I took the chance with it. I really didn’t expect a middle-grade novel to be this emotional and hard-hitting.

I really enjoyed the way this book covers Grayce’s exploration of her gender. I thought that this was done in a good manner and I liked how supportive everyone was of her exploration.

I liked the magic elements that are include din this story but I wanted more of the world-building. I wanted more of why the Communion of Blue exists and the different types of girls that are in there. This is a short book so I understand that it couldn’t cover everything, so I hope that we get to see more of these characters and this world.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to a few different characters through their interactions with the main characters, Grayce and Hawke. I liked each of the characters that you meet in the Communion of Blue and how they worked with Grayce and Hawke to avenge their family.

Writing and Art Style: I really enjoyed the colors that were included in this story and how distinct it was when they were in the Communion of Blue vs being in other settings. I loved how vibrant the different shades of Blue were and how using only a few shades of colors, really catches your eye.

Author Information

Artist, writer, lover of fine comics (and some pretty trashy ones too). Niki Smith grew up in Kansas and now calls Germany home, and is dedicated to filling the world with queer and diverse stories.

Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas Book Review

Book Description

There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, D.C. and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls.

And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality.

Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity.

People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things–like who you are and who you love–are not up for debate.

Review

Thank you to Penguin Random House for the advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Thoughts and Themes: I had to pause several times while reading this book just to give it a hug and I don’t hug books too often. There was just too much to love about this book and so many relatable moments.

I enjoyed the debate aspect of this book a lot and how Finch tries to see both sides in each of the debates that he is in. I really liked how we get to see Finch attempt to debate both for and against Transgender rights. I liked the way this book goes about discussing this topic because you get to see how this makes Finch feel and how these types of conversations and this rhetoric really affects Trans people.

I liked getting to see each of the character’s feelings about multiple things on the page. You get to see them angry, sad, torn, heartbroken, and more, and each of those feelings was unique to each person but very realistic.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to Finch and several other characters through their interactions with Finch. You get to meet Finch’s sister, Roo, his best friend, Lucy, his debate partner, Jonah, his parents, his competition, and some other people at his school.

I loved each of the characters that you got to meet in this book and I loved the different relationship that Finch has with each of them. I loved the interactions that Finch has with his sister and how important Roo is to him. I love watching as Finch tries to protect his sister, and seeing him in this light.

I also enjoy watching as Finch and Jonah’s relationship develops and changes throughout the book. I liked seeing how much each of them care for the other and how Jonah knows how to calm Finch down.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through Finch’s perspective. I loved that this story is told through Finch’s perspective because we get to see his feelings about everything going on in his life. We get to see his inner turmoil regarding his sexuality, his feelings about his home life, and his feelings about debate and the topic that was chosen for that year.

Pre-Order Now

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo ~ Indiebound ~ Bookshop

Author Information

PEYTON THOMAS is a freelance journalist with bylines in PitchforkBillboard, and Vanity Fair. He was a 2016 Lambda Literary Fellow, studying under Benjamin Alire Sáenz. He lives in Toronto. Both Sides Now is his debut novel.

Cazadora by Romina Garber/Romina Russell Book Review

Book Description

In Cazadora, Romina Garber weaves together Argentine folklore and what it means to be illegal in a timely, intimate, and emotionally powerful narrative.

Werewolves. Witches. Romance. Resistance.

Enter a world straight out of Argentine folklore…

Following the events of Lobizona, Manu and her friends cross the mystical border into Kerana–a cursed realm in Argentina–searching for allies and a hiding place. As they chase down leads about the Coven–a mythical resistance manada that might not even exist–the Cazadores chase down leads about Manu, setting up traps to capture and arrest her.

Just as it seems the Cazadores have Manu and her friends cornered, the Coven answers their call for help. As Manu catches her breath among these non-conforming Septimus, she discovers they need a revolution as much as she does.

But is she the right one to lead them? After all, hybrids aren’t just outlawed. They’re feared and reviled. What happens when the Coven learns of Manu’s dual heritage? Will they still protect her? Or will they betray her?

And after running this far, for this long–how much farther can Manu go before her feet get tired, and she stops to take a stand?

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Thoughts and Themes: This is book two in the Wolves of No World series, with book one being Lobizona. Before reading my review, go and read Lobizona so you don’t get any spoilers for that book.

Just like the first book, it took me a while to get into this one but I push through because I know how much I loved the first book. I knew that I would not be able to put this book down once I got past the more dense parts of it. I have a hard time with fantasy books because of the non-action moments but I do like those parts as that is where we learn about the world we are going to be immersed in through the story.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book was how much the world-building was expanded upon. The first book briefly introduced us to this magical world that Manu was now a part of but this one deep dived into that world. This book gives you so much information about this world and not just the magic involve din it but the politics as well.

I really liked that while this book is a fantasy book it still covers some important topics. The book goes over homophobia, colorism, and anti-immigrant sentiments. I like how the characters in this story point out how these things still exist in their world just like they do on Earth. I thought that was an important aspect of this story because it wasn’t as if Manu and her friends got this dream escape from Earth as they still faced some of the same struggles they would have on Earth.

Characters: In this book we continue reading about the characters that we grew to love in the first book and are introduced to a few more people. Mentioning the characters we are introduced to adds some spoilers so I won’t go into too much detail about those new people.

I loved the romance that happens between Manu and Tiago in this book and how that develops. I love how they quote books to each other to talk about their feelings and how so much of their relationship is just for them to understand.

I also really enjoyed how we get to see the friendships that Manu has developed in this world in which she can be herself. I loved how each of her friends accepts her regardless of if they understand her actions. I also really liked getting to see how her friends respond to some of the things that she does and how clear their emotions are.

Something great about this book is the way that each character’s emotions are captured. I love how the same emotion looks so different on each of these characters and how you can feel what they are feeling as you are reading. I like how you can feel the love that each of these characters have for Manu and the love that Manu eventually allows herself to feel for others.

This one is interesting because I found myself even liking the villains in this story, while still wanting them to lose. I liked learning about the bad guys and seeing how those parts of the story played out. I thought it was interesting to see who the bad guys were and how they played into Manu’s story and who was a bad guy and when.

Writing Style: This story is told through Manu’s perspective and this is probably the best part of this book along with so many other things. I liked how you fear for Manu as you are reading and this puts you in her shoes at times and at other times you are in her friend’s shoes. I loved that we get to know others through Manu’s eyes and we get closer to them depending on how she feels about each of them.

Author Information

Romina Garber is a NYT/International Bestselling YA author who also writes under pen name Romina Russell. Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Miami, Romina currently resides in Los Angeles but would much rather be at Hogwarts. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—“College She Wrote,” a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core. For more information about her books, follow her on Twitter/Instagram: @rominagarber.