Troublemaker by John Cho

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Troublemaker

Author: John Cho

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Korean MC and characters, Black side characters

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, historical fiction, LA riots, police brutality, 1990s

Publication Date: March 22, 2022

Genre: MG Historical Fiction

Age Relevance: 10+ (violence, racism, police brutality, gore, religion, vandalism, emotional abuse)

Explanation of Above: As a prelude I want to say that this book is not graphic at all, but I do want to address some of the things that are shown in the book in case parents are restricting what their children are reading. There is a lot of violence mentioned in this book including gun violence. Along with this are police brutality and vandalism, which is also shown in the book. There is one scene where our MC is in a physical fight with his friend and some slight gore is shown with blood. Racism is discussed a bit in the book and there are mentions to religion including prayer and church. There is also a scene where a parent yells at their child that they are the “biggest disappointment” which causes a little bit of emotional damage to the child.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 224

Synopsis: 12-year-old Jordan feels like he can’t live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent’s expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present. 

As tensions escalate, Jordan’s father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aide, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community.

Review: I really loved this book! I’m very excited that more books, especially younger set ones, are discussing police brutality and the issues around racism. The book is set in the 90s during the LA riots and I loved viewing the book through the eyes of a Korean child who is just trying to prove himself to his father. The book is NOT graphic at all and it does an excellent job at showing what happened to Koreatown during the LA riots through the perspective of a child. The book has well developed characters and the world building is also well done. The book is amazingly well detailed and if you were a fan of I’m Not Dying With You Tonight or The Black Kids, you’ll love this book.

The only issue I had with the book is that it’s a bit quick and short. I’d love to see more of the aftermath of what happened and how the community came back together afterward.

Verdict: It’s really well done! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

Troublemaker by John Cho

Genre: Middle Grade Historical

Publishing Date: March 22, 2022

Synopsis:

Troublemaker follows the events of the LA Riots through the eyes of 12-year-old Jordan as he navigates school and family. This book will highlight the unique Korean American perspective.

12-year-old Jordan feels like he can’t live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent’s expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present. 

As tensions escalate, Jordan’s father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aide, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community. 

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58340783-troublemaker

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0759554471/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sin_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641#detailBullets_feature_div

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/troublemaker-john-cho/1139648072?ean=9780759554474

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Troublemaker-John-Cho/9780759554474?ref=grid-view&qid=1642712688024&sr=1-1

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/troublemaker/9780759554474-item.html?ikwid=troublemaker&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=3#algoliaQueryId=9ef4ead5211d7e4bc132b6980583a44e

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780759554474

About the Author:

John Cho is known as Harold from Harold & Kumar, Hikaru Sulu from J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek, or as the star of the highly anticipated live-action Netflix series, Cowboy Bebop, based on the worldwide cult anime phenomenon (news of which “broke the Internet,” to quote Vanity Fair).  John is also a former 7th-grade English teacher who grew up as a Korean immigrant kid in Texas and East L.A. (among many other places). He is also now a proud father, with his Japanese-American wife Kerri, of two beautiful children — a 9-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old boy — who love to read.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.lbyr.com/contributor/john-cho/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johnthecho?lang=en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnthecho/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/640652.John_Cho

Tour Schedule:

When the World Runs Dry by Nancy F. Castaldo

Disclaimer: I received this arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: When the World Runs Dry: Earth’s Water in Crisis

Author: Nancy F. Castaldo

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3.5/5

Recommended For…: non-fiction, environmental

Publication Date: January 18, 2022

Genre: Environmental Non-Fiction

Age Relevance: 15+ (water infrastructure problems, pollution, fracking contamination, supply issues)

Explanation of Above: Pollution, fracking, infrastructure, and supply issues are all heavily discussed in the book.

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 208

Synopsis: What would you do if you turned on the faucet one day and nothing happened? What if you learned the water in your home was harmful to drink? Water is essential for life on this planet, but not every community has the safe, clean water it needs. In When the World Runs Dry, award-winning science writer Nancy Castaldo takes readers from Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, to Iran and Cape Town, South Africa, to explore the various ways in which water around the world is in danger, why we must act now, and why you’re never too young to make a difference.

Review: I feel like this was a highly informative book that I felt discussed the issues in it very well. The book is presented in a factual manner and it pulls from a lot of different issues and experiences to show the current water crisis. The book is a great springboard into other non-fiction books about environmental issues such as fracking, rising sea levels, pollution, etc.

The main thing I didn’t like about the book is that I felt the tone of it was a bit dry and it wasn’t as engaging for my brain as I thought it would be, but I felt it was still engaging. I’m also now terrified, so good job book.

Verdict: It’s good and educational.

 Postcards From Beyond Reality: The Selected Poems of Michael Daniels Spotlight Tour

Bio

“There is no greater joy than to share what you love with those who appreciate it.”—Bernard Jan

Bernard Jan is the pen name of an award-winning novelist and a poet from Croatia, and he has released five books in English.

Readers’ Favorite Honorable Mention Award 2021

Readers’ Favorite Gold Medalist 2020

Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medalist 2019

A World Without Color is a true story of the last three days he spent with his cat, while Look for Me Under the Rainbow in a unique and gentle way sheds light on the plight of harp seal pups in Canada. It warms the heart of all readers concerned about our planet and its treasures. January River is a heartwarming cross-genre novel about five friends, one dog, and one river carrying a secret that will upheave their world. His YA cross-genre novel, Cruel Summer, is a gripping story of an abused teenager from New Manhattan who only wants to skate, but they have other plans for him, and Postcards From Beyond Reality: The Selected Poems of Michael Daniels is a young adult poetry book written in character as the hero from his novel Cruel Summer.

His first two books were written at the beginning of the war in Croatia in 1991 amidst air alerts and illusory attempts when he wanted to believe and think that life is normal, that everything is all right with the world. He has published five novels, two novellas, and one book of poems in Croatian. Four of his books, including the book of poems, were translated into English.

His passion for music and entertainment resulted in his becoming a partner of Tom’s Music Place, which was established in 2009 by his friend Thomas Carley Jr., whose objective was to raise the respect of music.

His desire to help others came to the fore during his years advocating environmental protection and advocacy of animal rights. He did volunteer work for the refugees because suffering does not know any borders. When it comes within your reach in your home, you simply have to do something. As part of his animal advocacy activities, it has been a great honor and pleasure to translate Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust by Charles Patterson into Croatian.

For more information visit his website www.bernardjan.com.

Subscribe to his mailing list.

Social media links and author pages:

Twitter https://twitter.com/BernardJanWorld 

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1028921.Bernard_Jan 

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bernard-Jan/e/B0034P69DU/ 

LinkedIn https://hr.linkedin.com/in/bernard-jan-197a50112 

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/bernard-jan 

AllAuthor https://allauthor.com/author/bernardjan/  

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHByu2NTBJD7Ayy7Nz5qAIw 

booklife https://booklife.com/profile/bernard-jan-20785 

Steemit https://steemit.com/@bernardjan 

Biopage https://www.biopage.com/public/bernardjan 

BookGorilla https://www.bookgorilla.com/author/B0034P69DU/bernard-jan 

Book Description & Blurb

After a short memoir, a novella, and two novels, Bernard Jan presents his new literary form!

Already in his most recent YA cross-genre novel, Cruel Summer, Bernard Jan has set himself a new challenge, testing his abilities and inspiration to write poetry. A year after releasing Cruel Summer and as an extension to his novel, Bernard Jan is self-publishing the poetry book Postcards From Beyond Reality: The Selected Poems of Michael Daniels as the seventeen-year-old protagonist from Cruel Summer

Michael’s life has been a cocktail of melancholy, sorrow, and desire. But when a talented and promising skateboarder dips his pen into poetry, what will his passion create?

After a lifetime of abuse and the tragic loss of his mother, NYC teen Michael Daniels needed an outlet. Despite his cheerful nature, his inner mind was teeming with the stark contrast of darkness and light. So, in this volume full of imagery and symbolism, his underground rhymes reflect days full of extreme sports, failed relationships, and nostalgic memories.

Written by Bernard Jan in character as the hero from his novel Cruel Summer, this channeled view of the world is an extravaganza of extremes. And in its groundbreaking perspectives, you will discover the cries of a heart longing to be understood.

These unusual literary postcards were first published in Croatian in 2003. The lovers of poetry now have an opportunity to read this collection of sixty-one poems in English too.

Previous books by Bernard Jan self-published in English are A World Without Color (2017), Look for Me Under the Rainbow (2018), January River (2020), and Cruel Summer (2021).

Postcards From Beyond Reality: The Selected Poems of Michael Daniels is available on Amazon as an eBook and will be released as a paperback too.

Book cover by Jessica Bell.

Source: https://www.bernardjan.com/postcards-from-beyond-reality-press

Postcards From Beyond Reality on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3HONNan 

Postcards From Beyond Reality on Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3sMJCaP 

Postcards From Beyond Reality on BookBub: https://bit.ly/3sLolye 

Postcards From Beyond Reality sample poems: https://bit.ly/3vMaSIv 

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega

Disclaimer: I received this arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Witchlings

Author: Claribel A. Ortega

Book Series: Standalone for now

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Latine MC and characters, queer characters, one f/f romance mentioned

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, fantasy, magic, witches, Latine/Latinx characters and inspired

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Genre: MG Fantasy

Age Relevance: 10+ (bullying, violence, death, starvation, child abuse, assault, gore, scary monsters)

Explanation of Above: There is some bullying and very slight violence shown. There is also some very slight gore shown. Death is mentioned, never shown. There is starvation mentioned, as well as child abuse mentioned here and there (in very vague context) and an assault via magic shown (very brief, not graphic). There are also scary monsters that might be frightening to younger or sensitive readers.

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Pages: 352

Synopsis: Every year, in the magical town of Ravenskill, Witchlings who participate in the Black Moon Ceremony are placed into covens and come into their powers as full-fledged witches.

And twelve-year-old Seven Salazar can’t wait to be placed in the most powerful coven with her best friend! But on the night of the ceremony, in front of the entire town, Seven isn’t placed in one of the five covens. She’s a Spare!

Spare covens have fewer witches, are less powerful, and are looked down on by everyone. Even worse, when Seven and the other two Spares perform the magic circle to seal their coven and cement themselves as sisters, it doesn’t work! They’re stuck as Witchlings—and will never be able to perform powerful magic.

Seven invokes her only option: the impossible task. The three Spares will be assigned an impossible task: If they work together and succeed at it, their coven will be sealed and they’ll gain their full powers. If they fail… Well, the last coven to make the attempt ended up being turned into toads. Forever.

But maybe friendship can be the most powerful magic of all…

Review: For the most part I really REALLY loved this book. It was so sweet and magical and definitely has that School of Good and Evil / Amari feel to it! I loved the magic system and how well detailed it was. I loved seeing how the world interacted with the characters and I loved seeing the character development as well, not only with our main character but with the side characters as well. The book has an amazing premise and it will keep you hooked from beginning to end. The book is also so magical and I would LOVE to see more from this world. Also, this is a total girl-power book.

The only issue I had with the book is that it is a bit fast paced, which had me a little confused here and there, but it would be perfect for younger fast readers who are craving new magical journies.

Verdict: I highly recommend this one!

Author Interview – B. Morris Allen

1) What is your book about?


Chambers of the Heart is a collection of short stories published in various venues over the last several years. For this collection, I chose mostly stories that tended toward the poignant Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, the stories here are often about love and difficult choices. For example, the woman who reluctantly kills dragons, and lets their tears map misery across her skin; the man on the edge of the solar system with only a simulated dog for company; the couple who tried to escape their pasts in the hinterlands, until a stranger comes to threaten them both with truth; the man who’s cared for someone else’s child who now needs him more than his own family does. These are stories primarily about people and their hearts, not so much the mechanics of technology or magic.


2) What got you interested in the topic?


I’ve found over time that my writing is most effective when it’s about people. I write other things – more action/adventure-oriented, more humor, harder SF – but the stories I think are best are the ones that are quieter and more contemplative. I’ve enjoyed this in other writers – Patricia McKillip, some of Orson Scott Card – but I think it first struck me clearly after reading Clifford D. Simak’s All Flesh is Grass, when I recognized that one of the things I liked about his writing was its quiet, small moments that were nonetheless moving.


3) Why did you choose the sci-fi/fantasy genre?


As a child, I read widely and voraciously; my parents had a lot of books, and I read everything from Dostoevsky to George MacDonald Fraser to Penelope Farmer to Enid Blyton. But one Christmas I got the full set of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books, and it was 90% SFF from then on. I read other things, but SFF just has more scope to explore interesting ideas and let your mind range freely. It can deal with social issues, forms of government, alienation, minority rights, etc. – all in unexpected and intriguing ways. And there are as many great writers in SFF as there are elsewhere. So, great writing, great ideas, new angles – that’s why I read (and write) SFF.


4) What’s something interesting you discovering the process of writing this book?


I think the process of selecting the stories helped me to realize not only that I like reading contemplative stories, but they’re what I’m best at writing. As noted, I write a broad range of things, but these are some of the stories I’m most proud of.


5) Do you plan to write anything else or have you wrote anything else? If so, what are they or what will they be?


I’ve done relatively little writing over the past 5-6 years. Just as I was starting to write quite a bit, I decided to start a magazine (Metaphorosis) and rather to my surprise also went back to a full-time day job. The combination has left little time for writing, so I squeeze it in where I can. The ideas, however, continue to come – I’ve got hundreds of story ideas waiting to take shape, a dozen or more partially done, and a half-dozen novel ideas. I’m hoping to be more productive when I step back from full-time work again this spring, perhaps starting completing a quartet of books I started with my novella The Speed of Winter many years ago, and now have fully sketched out.


6) What is your writing process like?


As noted, I have a file full of story ideas, but often enough, I’m just seized with an idea and feel I need to get it down. I’m very much a discovery writer rather than an outliner, so after the idea has percolated for a little while, I just sit down and write until I’m done – ideally finishing a story in one sitting. I generally have a fairly clear sense of the mood I’m aiming at in the story, and particularly in the ending, but not always a sense of precisely how I’ll get there. Sometimes I have particular phrases in mind. For “Dragons I Have Slain”, I developed the piece during a short car ride, coming up with the opening lines, the mood, and a general sense of the story’s trajectory while I drove, and then trying desperately to retain them until I could get them down on paper. I say paper, but I write entirely on a laptop; my handwriting is both too slow and illegible to work for serious writing. Once I’m done, I set stories aside for a little while, then go back and polish them up.


7) Where do you normally write?


I write on my laptop, either on a couch or a chair, inside or on the deck. Usually there’s a dog beside me, a cat on my lap or chest if I’m inside. I’ve learned to type effectively with the keyboard at odd and uncomfortable angles, and with occasional pauses to throw a ball or take a walk. Preferably the former, because long breaks risk killing the feeling I’ve built up about the story’s direction, and it can be hard to reconstruct.


8) What is your writing Kryptonite?


Outlining. I enjoy learning about the stories I write as much as the ones I read. Occasionally, and especially for longer work, I do set out a sequence of events. But genuinely outlining what will happen, and then just filling it in? That’s too much like work. On the other hand, it took me decades to learn one simple lesson – writing won’t happen by itself or only when you’re enthused, inspired, and ready. I my case, I have to treat it seriously – set aside time to sit down and get through an hour of dithering before I finally start doing something productive. Once that’s past, it goes fairly smoothly. And practice improves matters. These days, the dithering is down to a few minutes.


9) What was the best writing advice you were given by another author or editor?


Sit down and write. Lots of people say this, but it took a while to sink in for me. The best way to write is to write – not think about writing, not plan to write, not jot down story ideas, not explore character histories. Just sit down and write something. Eventually, your writing will be good, and eventually it will make stories.


10) What is advice you would like to give, writing and/or non-writing?


Beyond the above, it would be, “Read.” Reading is the easiest and most fun way to improve as a writer, and it’s also a great way to learn. Especially in SFF, there are ideas all over the place, and often from left field. I can’t count the ideas I’ve encountered through reading, and thought, “That’s crazy.” only to find out they’re real. They’re not always good ideas, but every idea you think about helps form your thinking and increase your knowledge. Reading is a great way to do that.

Bio
B. Morris Allen is a biochemist turned activist turned lawyer turned foreign aid consultant, and frequently wonders whether it’s time for a new career. He’s been traveling since birth, and has lived on five of seven continents, but the best place he’s found is the Oregon coast. When he can, he makes his home there. In between journeys, he works on his own speculative stories of love and disaster. His story collection Chambers of the Heart comes out in April 2022.

The One True Me and You by Remi K. England

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The One True Me and You

Author: Remi K. England

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Queer romance, Lesbian MC, Non-binary pansexual/questioning/prefers girls MC, Bisexual character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, romance, LGBT+, fandom

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Age Relevance: 14+ (slight body dysphoria, homophobia, sexism, misgendering, romance, slight language, parental death mentioned, suicide death mentioned, racism mentioned, outing)

Explanation of Above: The book features a character who is questioning their gender identify and their sexual preference. They experience a little body dysphoria and misgendering. They are also outed and it’s shown in the book. Homophobia and sexism are discussed in the book. There are slight mentions to a parental death and death by suicide. There is lots of cute romance in the book. There is also one very slight mention to racism in regards to pageant officials (how they do the bare minimum) and very slight language (there’s just a handful of curse words in the book).

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 272

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: If it can be possible to fall in love with a book, then I have completely fallen in love with this one. The book is so so sweet and I loved the story. The romance is between a pageant queen and a fanfic writer. It gives me a lot of Geekerella vibes and has a lot of fandom mentions, the biggest being Sherlock (johnlocke especially). The book is not only a sweet romance, but it also is a sweet tale about a person who is finding their gender identity and sexuality, which I think is hugely important in today’s day and age. I felt like the character development was amazingly well done and the world building was fun and well done as well. The pacing is on key and I honestly will reread this one day (and I never reread!).

The only issue I had with the book is that I felt like the ending was a bit too open-ended so I hope that we get another book that follows Teagan and Kaylee or a side story with the other characters, especially Jess and Miss Oregon.

Verdict: I highly recommend this one!

Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Bright Ruined Things

Author: Samantha Cohoe

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5

Diversity: 1 queer side character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, fantasy, mystery, The Tempest retelling… kind of, set in the 1920s

Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Genre: YA Fantasy Mystery

Age Relevance: 15+ (Parental Death, Abelism, Violence, Animal Violence and Death, Parental Abandonment, Sexism, Drug Abuse, Death, Classism, Sexual Content, Coercion, Romance, Homophobia, Outing, Suicide, Suicidal Ideation)

Explanation of Above: There is parental death mentioned and parental abandonment is shown very slightly. There is one scene where an abelist comment is said in regards to mental health. There is one moment where the MC questions about an animal death and how they died, but it’s very brief. There is some sexism in the book, some homophobia and a case of outing, and classism is sprinkled throughout. There is drug abuse mentioned very briefly and, because it’s in historical terms, you wouldn’t know it’s talking about drugs unless you knew the terms. There is death shown in the book. There is some sexual content in regards to talk about sleeping together, but nothing is shown, and there are some characters who try to use coercion/sexual advances as manipulation. There is also some romance scenes with kissing and feelings. There is also some mention of suicide and suicidal ideation in the book by a character. There is also a bit of violence in the book, including fighting, guns mentioned and seen, airplane crash land (non-graphic), fire being set, slaps, and imprisonment.

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 352

Synopsis: The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

Review: This was a so-so book. The book had an interesting premise with the arranged marriage, set in the 1920s, and I was really intrigued with the spirits and how they worked. I also liked the mystery/fantasy element and how the book was set over the course of one day. The book is also The Tempest inspired, but it’s very slight.

However, I really did not like this book. There’s not a lot of backstory to this book and I was confused throughout the text on what was going on and how we got to where we were. To my not surprise, when I was writing this review I discovered that most of the backstory is in the synopsis, which I absolutely hate in books. Books and synopses should stand alone and one shouldn’t depend on the reader having read the other for it to make sense. The beginning of the book was so cluttered and confusing I almost DNFed at 13% and sometimes I wish I did just go ahead and DNF it. There was a bit of flowery language, so maybe that’s what the cause was, but I also felt that the magic was just too unexplained and that things happened but weren’t explained. The book didn’t really explain why the story was set where it was either and there was some sort of weird love quadrilateral thing and then it went to a triangle and then to a regular romance, but it was like the author didn’t know where to go with the book for most of it. I never got a sense of who the main character was as there was no character development beyond “all of these kids are horrible and say horrible homophobic or sexist things or try to do sexual coercion, and their parents are either dead, not there, or addicted to drugs”.

Verdict: Overall, this book was not for me but you might have better luck.

The Classmate by Will McIntosh

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Classmate

Author: Will McIntosh

Book Series: Standalone for now

Rating: 4/5

Diversity: MC with Anxiety Disorder

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, sci-fi

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Genre: MG Sci-Fi

Age Relevance: 12+ (gore, violence, some scary moments)

Explanation of Above: There is slight blood in the book and some violence, including scary moments.

Publisher: Future House Publishing

Pages: 170

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Benjamin is pulled from his old life and forced to attend a special boarding school in the middle of nowhere. That’s confusing enough. Then, he’s fed instructions through an earbud and thrown into etiquette classes alongside an angry, spike-covered creature. Despite wearing purple dresses and having the unassuming name of Eve, the creature is horrifying and, as Eve quickly demonstrates, dangerous.
 
With the help of his new friends Lorena and Persephone, Ben must overcome his own anxieties and uncover the truth about Eve’s origin. But he learns that the school’s agenda is much bigger than he ever thought possible. Ben needs to earn Eve’s trust, and fast. The fate of the world depends on it. 

Review: For the most part the book was pretty good. It has an interesting concept and I think that if it was developed a bit more it would be amazing. The book had fairly well developed characters and the world building was fair too. The book also has a good message about acceptance.

However, there were some parts of this book that were icky to me. There are real life events where teens are taken from their parents under false pretenses for “camp” where they are starved and tortured and the book, how it was worded, started to give me those vibes. I’m glad it was just a government thing, but for younger readers parents might want to read the book first so they can judge if this would be appropriate for their children.

Verdict: It was ok!

The Best Liars in Riverview by Lin Thompson

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Best Liars in Riverview

Author: Lin Thompson

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: f/f parents, Black characters, Latinx character with anxiety, Trans questioning character, Trans character mentioned, Non binary character mentioned with they/them pronouns, Black gay character.

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, mystery, contemporary, LGBT+

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Genre: MG Mystery

Age Relevance: 8+ (child disappearance, religion and religious trauma, sexism, toxic masculinity, bullying, homophobia, running away, gender identity, racism, anxiety attacks)

Explanation of Above: The book deals with the disappearance of a child who has run away and later on shows another character who runs away. There are a lot of issues that the children deal with including bullying, homophobia, sexism, toxic masculinity, and racism. There is religion in the book, but also some pieces that show some religious trauma. The book also shows characters questioning their gender identity and sexuality in a very beautiful and age appropriate manner. There are also small anxiety attacks shown.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 336

Synopsis: Aubrey and Joel are like two tomato vines that grew along the same crooked fence—weird, yet the same kind of weird. But lately, even their shared weirdness seems weird. Then Joel disappears. Vanishes. Poof. The whole town is looking for him, and Aubrey was the last person to see Joel. Aubrey can’t say much, but since lies of omission are still lies, here’s what they know for sure: 
For the last two weeks of the school year, when sixth grade became too much, Aubrey and Joel have been building a raft in the woods.
The raft was supposed to be just another part of their running away game.
The raft is gone now, too.
Aubrey doesn’t know where Joel is, but they might know how to find him. As Aubrey, their friend Mari, and sister Teagan search along the river, Aubrey has to fess up to who they really are, all the things they never said, and the word that bully Rudy Thomas used that set all this into motion.

Review: I really loved this book so much! The book spoke so much about identity and finding who you are and acceptance. The book had also had a lot in it about the outdated expectations of gender norms and falling into traditions that the characters parents expect them to fall into. The characters are all well developed and, while it doesn’t look like it in the first few chapters, the book has a great amount of diversity in it. The book has amazing world building and pacing as well. The book is gorgeous and so impactful and I can’t wait to see kids get this book and read it.

The only issue I had with the book is that I wished that the adults had more of a reckoning when all was said and done. The adults had some issues that weren’t resolved in the book, which directly affected their own children who were the main characters, and it feels a bit incomplete for some of the adults to not do more at the end of the book to condemn the wrong they did.

Verdict: It was excellent! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

The Best Liars in Riverview by Lin Thompson

Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel

Publishing Date: March 8, 2022

Synopsis:

Aubrey and Joel are like two tomato vines that grew along the same crooked fence—weird, yet the same kind of weird. But lately, even their shared weirdness seems weird. Then Joel disappears. Vanishes. Poof. The whole town is looking for him, and Aubrey was the last person to see Joel. Aubrey can’t say much, but since lies of omission are still lies, here’s what they know for sure: 
For the last two weeks of the school year, when sixth grade became too much, Aubrey and Joel have been building a raft in the woods.
The raft was supposed to be just another part of their running away game.
The raft is gone now, too.
Aubrey doesn’t know where Joel is, but they might know how to find him. As Aubrey, their friend Mari, and sister Teagan search along the river, Aubrey has to fess up to who they really are, all the things they never said, and the word that bully Rudy Thomas used that set all this into motion. 

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58275991-the-best-liars-in-riverview?ref=nav_sb_ss_1_27&fbclid=IwAR0xj2gU6iJE17cojQqYiWE3IZk9rplCH__DnJYy_XMO3pdL6FSFG-_pnks

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Liars-Riverview-Lin-Thompson-ebook/dp/B0976WK3D9/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3V7K07FQFHCDI&keywords=the+best+liars+in+riverview&qid=1642275472&sprefix=the+best+liars+in+%2Caps%2C116&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-best-liars-in-riverview-lin-thompson/1139653635?ean=9780316276726

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Best-Liars-Riverview-Lin-Thompson/9781922458452?ref=grid-view&qid=1642276271093&sr=1-2

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-best-liars-in-riverview/9780316276726-item.html?ikwid=best+liars+in+riverview&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=a8d076ad0a05db7131a1070afdd1c855

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316276726

About the Author:

Lin Thompson (they/them) is a Lambda Literary Fellow of 2018. The Best Liars in Riverview is their debut novel. Lin grew up in Kentucky but now lives in Iowa with their
wife and cat.

Author Links:

Website: https://linthompson.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lin__thompson

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20871196.Lin_Thompson

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