Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters Book Review

Book Description

School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac? 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I first heard of this book and when I first started reading I thought it was going to be a romance book but I was pleasantly surprised. This book is about love but not just about a romantic relationship, it covers romantic love, familial love, and love between friends. There are a few easter eggs in this book from other LGBTQ+ books which I really enjoyed when I stumbled across the ones that were familiar to me.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book was the way that familial relationships were handled throughout this book. I think the author did a great job depicting how difficult change can be, and how hard navigating emotions can be when you don’t share those with others. I liked that a lot of the issues between Isaac and others came down to him learning how to communicate his feelings and asking questions rather than assuming the worst. I really did enjoy that this book included the way that Isaac’s social anxiety was impacting his relationships with others without directly telling you that this is what was going on. I was able to relate to a lot in this book because of how his social anxiety was manifesting itself.

I highly recommend reading this one if you liked Encanto since I got a lot of similar vibes from this book in terms of familial love and relationships. The minute I read the first few pages of this book I said “this is me, this story is just me.” and it is rare that I find a book where I feel the author just gets me.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters and at first I thought it was going to be too many to remember them all but I winded up loving each and every one of them. You get to meet Isaac’s family members and friends, as well as some of Diego’s family members.

I loved getting to meet Diego’s mom, dad, and brother, Ollie. I loved seeing the relationship that Isaac had with each of Diego’s family members and how they served as a support system to him as well. I also really enjoyed the contrast that we get to see between Diego’s parents and Isaac’s parents, and how it isn’t only the reader noticing this but also Isaac pointing it out.

Then we also get to meet several of Isaac’s family members. I liked how Isaac had a different relationship with each of his family members and how that changed throughout the story. I really liked getting to learn more about Isaac’s family and why he has certain images of different people. I liked the moments that we get to see Isaac interact with Iggy and see those two finally opening up to each other. I really liked that we got to see Iggy explain why certain things happened the way they did and realize how he was just trying to protect the family just like Isaac was trying to protect his mom.

Then there are all of Diego’s friends who wind up becoming Isaac’s friends as well and their main friend group. I loved each of those characters and how unique each one of them is. I was so intrigued by them and loved each minute that we got to learn a little more about them. I liked how awkward Isaac was around this friend group yet how accepting they were of him. I really liked that this friend group was the first time that Isaac felt he was being included in conversations and they went out of their way to try and make sure he felt included.

Last but definitely not least, I loved the relationship between Diego and Isaac, both when they were friends and even after. I liked that throughout the whole book we get to see these characters be affectionate with each other as just friends. I feel that we oftentimes don’t see boys show affection towards each other and especially not queer boys of color unless they are in a romantic relationship. I was yelling at both of them to tell each other their feelings throughout this whole book because it was so obvious to the outside parties but not to them. I liked the amount of time it took for them to become a romantic pair though because it allowed this book to be much more than just about them.

Writing Style: This story is told in the first person through the perspective of Isaac. I liked that we get to see this story through his perspective because we get to feel all of his emotions as they are happening. I liked that this book lets each of the characters have feelings and be messy without always needing a solution immediately.

Author Information

Julian Winters is the author of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award-winning Running With Lions; the Junior Library Guild Selections How to Be Remy Cameron and The Summer of Everything; and the forthcoming Right Where I Left You. A self-proclaimed comic book geek, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta, where he can be found reading or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer..

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram Book Review

Book Description

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful bre

akup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.

But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the star of the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble—for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself. 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was so happy to receive an advanced copy of this on Netgalley and then have the publisher send me a physical advanced copy. I took a little bit to actually read if because I had just finished another boy band book and was worried that this would just be like that. I am so glad that I am wrong because I really enjoyed so much of the nuance in this book. This book covers a lot of themes and you would think that it would be overloaded but it isn’t, each theme flows with the other and they each wrap up well. This book touches on friendships, coming out, racism, fame, dating, queerness, and more.

Something I really enjoyed about this book was how Hunter has to navigate being gay and out while being famous. I think it was great to see how he navigates this and how he messes up with his relationships, friends, and more. Hunter spends a lot of time in this story figuring out what it means for him to be Gay vs what it means for the label. I thought this was a good thing that the book addresses in showing what the world’s expectations are of a famous out queer teen and what Hunter wanted.

Something else that I enjoyed that this book points out and Hunter struggles with throughout the book is Hunter is a White Gay male, Kaivan is a person of color and so are several of the band members. Hunter is so focused on him being Gay and how that affects his image and the things he has to do to preserve that image, that he fails to realize the racism that is affecting those around him. I think a lot of the conversations that Kaivan has with Hunter regarding this are so important to include and pause at to take in. I liked that Hunter just doesn’t get it and we know he won’t ever fully understand but I think its important that his friends call him out on this.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Hunter. Something that I really enjoyed about this book was the diversity in the band and in the love interests. I thought that the diversity in race/ethnicities for the band members and Kaivan was something that was done well and a great addition as they interact with Hunter.

I really enjoyed all of the relationships in this story as I think they all showed different sides of Hunter. I liked getting to see his relationship with Kaivan develop even if I first thought that it was a little quick. I liked to see the way that Kaivan explained certain things to Hunter and didn’t let him get away with pitying himself and thinking that he was the only one going through things.

I also really enjoyed the relationship that Hunter has with his friends and most importantly his best friend, Ashton. I really would have liked to see more of their friendship as this seems to be affected every time Hunter gets into a relationship. I also would have liked to see more interactions between Hunter and Aiden since I think this is a huge part of the story.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Hunter which is something that I really enjoyed. I think that the story is much more impactful because we only get to see Hunter’s feelings throughout all of this. We don’t get to see the way the other band members feel about certain things he says and does unless they share that with him. We don’t get to see how Kaivan really feels if he doesn’t share that with Hunter.

Something else that I enjoyed about this book were the snippets of articles online, interviews, and emails from others. I liked that this was included because it adds to the story. There were things that the reader knew that Hunter still hadn’t discovered which made me want to read to see if he would ever find this information out. I thought that was an important piece because of the information that is revealed throughout the story.

Author Information

ADIB KHORRAM is the author of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, which earned the William C. Morris Debut Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor, as well as a multitude of other honors and accolades. His followup, DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER, received three starred reviews, was an Indie Bestseller, and received a Stonewall Honor. His debut picture book, SEVEN SPECIAL SOMETHINGS: A NOWRUZ STORY was released in 2021. When he isn’t writing, you can find him learning to do a Lutz jump, practicing his handstands, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com.

Books to Read while on Vacation

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation because of Covid but today I am on a plane to Walt Disney World. I thought about books to bring with me so that I could read while waiting in line or when I want a break but instead of physical books I decided just to load my kindle book so my luggage would have space. These are a few of the books I suggest taking with you on vacation to either read on the plane, in your hotel, by the pool or while you wait for things.

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram 

A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.

But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the star of the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble—for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. 

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

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

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

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp 

 A story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

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

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

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore Book Review

Book Description

Title: Lakelore

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore 

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: March 8th, 2022 

Pages: 304

Genres: Young Adult fantasy 

Synopsis:

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.

Goodreads ~ Blackwells ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble

Review

Thoughts and Themes: There is so much to love about this book and just from the first few pages I knew that I was going to enjoy this book. I love that in this book we get two Trans main characters and that they are both neurodivergent. Also, I loved that Bastian is a boy and non-binary, I wrote so like me?!!! because I rarely see that in books. I don’t see many non-binary boys anywhere and it’s so nice to see one in something I am reading.

I can’t speak much about the neurodivergent representation since it isn’t the same that I have experience with but I really enjoyed getting a chance to read two characters that have ADHD and are dyslexic. I liked getting a chance to see how their neurodivergence shapes how they interact with others and how they navigate their surroundings.

There are so many sentences in this book that I highlighted because they were just beautifully written or because they spoke to me. I related so much to each of the main characters in different ways and just loved the world under the sea. I really liked getting a chance to see how Bastian resorts to making alebrijes and where that all comes from.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Lore and Bastian. You mainly get to meet some of Bastian’s friends, and both of their families. I loved all of the relationships in this story and really enjoyed getting to see how things change throughout the book.

I loved the relationship between Bastian and Lore and how it goes from friendship to much more but loved that Bastian made it clear that it didn’t have to be more. I thought it was great to have Lore experience that and I liked that they talk about how boys feel entitled to someone but Bastian wasn’t like that. I liked getting a chance to see how they just understand each other on a level that others just don’t get.

I also really loved all of Bastian’s friends and how they all support him but also are there for Lore when they need them. I loved getting a glimpse into each of these characters and seeing what they are like. I also really liked getting a chance to learn about Bastian and Lore’s families and how they shaped them into who they are now.

Writing Style: This book is written in dual POV through the perspectives of Bastian and Lore which I really enjoyed. I liked getting to see the way they both navigated the world and also how they navigated relationships with others. I liked getting a chance to see them both have reasons for holding parts of themselves away from others and see what happens when those parts are revealed to each other.

Author Information

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by their family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. They are the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award; 2017 Stonew

all Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus Best Book of 2017; and BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a reimagining of The Red Shoes based on true medieval events, is forthcoming in January 2020.

Website ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

Anticipated Releases March 2022

So of course some of my anticipated releases are books that I already read because I want to have a finished copy of them but also because I want the world to get a chance to read them. This list is books that I haven’t gotten a chance to read but are some of my most anticipated reads for this month.

My anticipated reads that I have read this month include Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore, Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters, All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown, and Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass. Reviews for each of these books are to come throughout the month of March.

And They Lived . . . by Steven Salvatore 

From the author of Can’t Take That Away comes a sex-positive, fairytale-inspired YA novel that celebrates first love and self-acceptance, perfect for fans of What If It’s Us.

“My heart didn’t stand a chance. I loved it from once upon a time all the way to its joyfully complex ever after.” – New York Times bestselling author Becky Albertalli


Chase Arthur is a budding animator and hopeless romantic obsessed with Disney films and finding his true love, but he’s plagued with the belief that he’s not enough for anyone: he’s recovering from an eating disorder and suffers from body dysmorphia fueled by his father, and can’t quite figure out his gender identity. When Chase starts his freshman year of college, he has to navigate being away from home and missing his sister, finding his squad, and contending with his ex-best friend Leila who is gunning for the same exclusive mentorship. If only he can pull together a short for the freshman animation showcase at the end of the semester.

Then Chase meets Jack Reid, a pragmatic poet who worships words and longs to experience life outside of his sheltered world. But Chase throws everything into question for Jack, who is still discovering his sexual identity, having grown up in close-knit conservative family. Jack internalized a lot of homophobia from his parents and childhood best friend, who unexpectedly visit campus, which threatens to destroy their relationship. Chase will have to learn to love–and be enough for–himself, while discovering what it means to truly live. 

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens 

Carry On meets Arthurian legend in this funny, subversive young adult fantasy about what happens after the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it…and to stay alive.

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along. 

The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta

A stunning YA fantasy inspired by ancient Mesoamerica, this gripping debut introduces us to a lineage of seers defiantly resisting the shifting patriarchal state that would see them destroyed—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir.

Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end—an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.

Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer—she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift—and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.

With a detailed, supernaturally-charged setting and topical themes of patriarchal power and female strength, The Lost Dreamer brings an ancient world to life, mirroring the challenges of our modern one.

For the Record by Monique Polak

A middle-grade novel thoughtfully explores the realities of parents’ divorce

Twelve-year-old Justine’s parents are recently divorced. She and her little sister, Bea, go back and forth between their parents’ homes in Montreal. Their mother, whose anxiety manifests as the need to control, believes that their father and beloved half-sister are a bad influence on Justine and Bea. So, she enlists Justine in collecting evidence that would lead to getting sole custody.

Justine accepts her mother’s view of her father at first and begins writing detailed notes about his behavior: He doesn’t stick to Bea’s strict bedtime. He’s late dropping them off at school. He makes sandwiches with white bread. But when Justine crafts an outright lie for her mother’s court case, she starts to question her mother’s behavior, and her own.

This thoughtful, supportive look at parental alienation and its impact on children tenderly balances this difficult topic with moments of joy, love, and connection. Throughout the book, Justine’s clever, unique voice guides readers as she navigates complicated family dynamics and summons the courage to tell the truth, no matter the consequences.

March 2022 To Be Read

So far I have been doing good with my plan on reading 1 ebook, 1 physical book, and 1 audiobook but I haven’t been reading the 1 recommended by a friend per month. If I want to complete 12 recommended by a friend by the end of the year I’m going to have to read a lot more each month. This month I have already started 3 out of the 4 of these books and am enjoying each of them so far. I have to get Trevor Noah’s book on audio then I’ll be able to get through that as well.

All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown 

What If It’s Us meets Life as We Knew It in this postapocalyptic, queer YA adventure romance from debut author Erik J. Brown. Perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Alex London.

When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie’s house, he’s injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. And if this new world has taught them anything, it’s to be scared of what other desperate people will do . . . so why does it seem so easy for them to trust each other?

After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn’t adding up about Andrew’s story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He’s starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey.

The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram 

A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.

But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the star of the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble—for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself.

The Living Dead by George A. Romero, Daniel Kraus 

It begins with one body. A pair of medical examiners find themselves facing a dead man who won’t stay dead.

It spreads quickly. In a Midwestern trailer park, an African American teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family.

On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic preaches the gospel of a new religion of death.

At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting, not knowing if anyone is watching, while his undead colleagues try to devour him.

In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.

We think we know how this story ends.

We. Are. Wrong.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Romance Recommendations 2022

I don’t read a lot of romance books but I realized that most of the books that I read have some romance in them. I wanted to give you all a few books you can get lost in this valentine’s day weekend in case you don’t have any plans.

Serendipity by Marissa Meyer (Editor)

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. 

The Love Hypothesis (Love Hypothesis #1) 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.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland 

A romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?

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

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

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

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

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

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

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

A story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

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

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

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters

Kacen Callender meets Becky Albertalli in a deliciously geeky best friends-to lovers romance from award-winning author Julian Winters!

School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac?

No Filters and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado Book Review

Book Description

Title: No Filter and Other Lies 

Author: Crystal Maldonado  

Publisher: Holiday House

Publication Date: February 8th, 2022 

Genres: Young Adult contemporary romance 

Synopsis:

You should know, right now, that I’m a liar.

They’re usually little lies. Tiny lies. Baby lies. Not so much lies as lie adjacent.

But they’re still lies.

Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.

Except it’s all fake.

Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the facade.

But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.

But it might already be too late. 

Goodreads ~ Blackwells ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I saw that the author had another book coming out soon I knew that I had to read it since I enjoyed Fat Chance Charlie Vega so much. I loved this book just as much and think that Charlie and Kat would be such good friends.

I thought that this book does a great job of addressing the complications of social media especially for teenagers and what messages are being passed through social media. Kat first creates Max’s account out of spite and anger with Becca, he co-worker who didn’t want to attend a high school party. Kat only wants to get her art out there to more people but her own account isn’t working too well so she thinks that by using Becca’s face, she’ll have more luck. It doesn’t stop there though as Max/Kat starts speaking to Elena and Elena has a crush on Max who doesn’t really exist.

This book touches on not just social media and how so many things are fake on there but it also brings up being a person of color and being fat within the social media space. I thought it was great that we see Kat bring up how she’s pretending to be a white girl in order to gain popularity online. I also enjoyed seeing the interactions between Elena and Kat during their first photoshoot and how Elena points out photo editing certain parts of herself away.

This book takes a bit to get into what we know is going to happen which is Kat posing as Max but it does a good job of building this up. There are things that have to take place for this idea to pop into her head and there are also actions that need to happen for her to reach this point. I liked the build up that leads to this point and then I liked getting to read as this whole thing plays out. I felt bad for Kat as this whole thing plays out but I also felt bad for the people who were involved in this Max situation without their consent, such as Becca and Elena.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Kat. You get to meet the members of her family, mom, dad, brother, and grandparents, her friends, Hari, Luis, and Marcus, her co-worker, Becca, and Elena her online friend.

I really liked all of the characters that you get introduced to in this book and enjoyed Kat’s dynamics with each of them. I thought it was great to see her be a different person depending on who she was interacting with and what each person brought out in her. I liked that Kat has people she can be herself with rather than the person she thinks everyone expects her to be.

Something that this book does a great job with and that I really enjoyed in particular was the friendship between Kat and Hari. There were so many times that it could’ve gone wrong and how it could’ve ended the way I expected it to, with a guy who has feelings for a girl throwing that girl away when she wants no more than friendship. I was so glad that they were able to have a conversation about their feelings and navigate these circumstances in a way that didn’t harm their friendship. I thought this was so important because Hari is Kat’s person and she was having such a hard time not having anyone to go to with her secret regarding Becca.

Something else that I liked about this book was the way that it portrayed Kat’s relationship with different members of her family. Kat has to lie about who she lives with and her relationship with her mom, dad, and brother in order to keep her mom happy so it only makes sense that she would want a little control over her life. I liked getting to see the role that Kat’s grandparents play in her life and how she was raised by them. I liked that this book portrayed family in a different way and made it something that Kat didn’t need to be ashamed of.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through Kat’s perspective. I really liked getting to hear the story through Kat’s perspective because you don’t know how others are feeling. You get to only see what Kat is thinking and get to be in her head about the actions that she is taking.

I love that the only times you get to see how someone else is feeling or their thoughts is when they are interacting with Kat. I love that we get brief glimpses of Elena and her feelings but we never get everything because we only get what she reveals to Kat.

Author Description

Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, is a 2021 New England Book Award winner, a Cosmopolitan Best New Book, and a POPSUGAR Best New YA Novel. Her next novel, No Filter and Other Lies, explores teenage life in the social media age—and the lies we tell to ourselves and others.

By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on her phone, and being extra. Her work has also been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant.

She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. 

Website ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter ~ Instagram 

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The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill Book review

Book Description

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I heard about this one on bookstagram and booktok so when I saw it at the library I immediately picked it up. It took me a while to get into this book because it is a slow story and it doesn’t really pick up at any point throughout. I am glad that I stuck with it though because it is such a beautifully written book and I loved the world that this book takes you to.

I really enjoyed the world-building in this book and how this takes place throughout the book rather than just at the start of the story. The fact that we learn more as we read kept me immersed in this story and made me want to read more. I loved getting to learn more about the Protectorate and how that town came to be as well as the forest as Xan, Luna, Glerk and Fyrian make their way through different parts of this forest.

I loved that this whole story has a lot to do with misunderstandings and lack of communication. I thought it was great that throughout we see the mess that is caused by a lack of communication between people. I was so angry that so much of this was due to something that could’ve easily been solved but that is reality when problems occur due to communication.

Another theme that I really enjoyed in this book is found family. I loved Luna’s family with Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian and how important each one of them was to each other. I liked seeing their relationship strengthen over the course of the book and seeing how Glerk grows to love Luna.

Characters: In this book, there are several characters that you get introduced to as there are a lot of main characters. While this book centers around Xan and Luna, there are other characters that are quite important to the story as well as those who are important in their lives. Glerk and Fyrian are a part of Xan and Luna’s family and you get to know a lot about them throughout this story. You also get to meet Antain, a man who lives in the protectorate and is set on freeing his people from the witch. There is also the “madwoman” who is Luna’s mother and has gone mad with grief after her baby was taken as a sacrifice to the witch. Then there is our villain who I can’t say much about because that would ruin our story.

I loved all of the characters that you get to meet throughout this book and really enjoyed the relationships that they develop with one another. I loved Xan as Luna’s grandmother and how strong their bond with each other is throughout this book. I also really liked Fyrian’s playful nature and his relationship with everyone in the family.

I liked getting to learn about the people of the Protectorate and how they interacted with one another. I liked seeing the relationships they had with one another and why those relationships were important to this town.

Writing Style: This story is told in the third person and it gives you several perspectives. This story follows Xan, Luna, Antain, people of the Protectorate, and at some times Glerk and Fyrian. At first, I was not a fan of this story bouncing around between which characters I was reading about but by the end, I loved getting to see things from so many different viewpoints.

Most times an all-knowing narrator throws me off because I find the story not as interesting but this narrator was good. I liked that the narrator knew everything but didn’t reveal everything to us all at once. The narrator allowed our characters to slowly find things out for themselves and as they encountered new things so did we.

Author Information

Kelly Barnhill is an author and teacher. She won the World Fantasy Award for her novella The Unlicensed Magician, a Parents Choice Gold Award for Iron Hearted Violet, the Charlotte Huck Honor for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the Andre Norton award, and the PEN/USA literary prize. She was also a McKnight Artist’s Fellowship recipient in Children’s Literature. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her three children and husband. You can chat with her on her blog at www.kellybarnhill.com

Dead Wednesday by Jerry Spinelli Book Review

Book Description

Worm Tarnauer has spent most of eighth grade living down to his nickname. He prefers to be out of sight, underground. He walked the world unseen. He’s happy to let his best friend, Eddie, lead the way and rule the day.

And this day–Dead Wednesday–is going to be awesome. The school thinks assigning each eighth grader the name of a teenager who died in the past year and having them don black shirts and become invisible will make them contemplate their own mortality. Yeah, sure. The kids know that being invisible to teachers really means you can get away with anything. It’s a day to go wild!

But Worm didn’t count on Becca Finch (17, car crash). Letting this girl into his head is about to change everything.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I read the description of this book I thought that this was an interesting way to try to teach children the importance of responsibility. I think the idea of dead Wednesday is great but not to instill fear in these students but to teach them why they need to be precautious and think twice about the dangerous things they may engage in while in high school.

Something that I liked about this book was the moment in which Becca shares her story of how she died. I thought Worm’s reaction to that was well-done and the build-up before she dies creates a lot of emotions for the reader. I think Worm getting to spend time with Becca and hear her story beyond what the card he got for Dead Wednesday made a big different in how that event impacted him. I think that this also shows the flaws in Dead Wednesday as the other kids are seeing it as a get away with everything day vs seeing that the “Wrappers” were actual people who had loved ones.

Characters: Throughout this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with the main character, Worm. You get to meet his best friend, several of his classmates, the girl that he is assigned for Dead Wednesday, Becca, and his family.

I really liked reading as the friendship between Becca and Worm develop even as we know that this couldn’t possibly last. I liked that Becca thought that she was there for him but then realizes that she’s there because she needs his help. I think that Becca was there for both of them, they needed each other’s permission to just be.

I also liked the friendship between Worm and his best friend, Eddie, and then when we get to see the contrast of that friendship to Worm and Becca, and even Worn and Monica. I think it was great to see how he considered Eddie his best friend but he was never really himself around him, and was always considering this kid’s interests and not his own.

Writing Style: This story is told with a third person narrator through Worm’s perspective. I liked that the whole story was through Worm’s perspective because of how young and innocent he is. There is a lot that the reader sees and knows before Worm comes to those realizations, and I love that aspect of this book. I love this aspect because it is meant for a younger audience so I think younger children will realize things when Worm does but adults will see further ahead.

Author Information

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author, live in Pennsylvania.