Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

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

Book: Primal Animals

Author: Julia Lynn Rubin

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Diversity: Queen characters, Trans character, Bisexual MC, Adopted character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, thriller, mystery, LGBT, horror, summer camp

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Genre: YA Thriller Mystery

Age Relevance: 17+ (religion, religious trauma, sexual harassment, sexual assault, medical gaslighting, anxiety, parental death, child abuse, kidnapping, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, underage alcohol consumption, drug use, language, gore, violence, death, murder, romance, animal death, animal gore)

Explanation of Above: Religion and religious trauma are mentioned briefly in this book. There are mentions of sexual harassment and one mention of a sexual assault. The book shows some medical gaslighting, anxiety, and mentions parental death. There are also some scenes of child abuse via emotional abuse and one slight mention and scene of physical abuse. Kidnapping is shown once in the book. There are mentions of transphobia and homophobia in passing of what’s going on in Texas. There is also sexism shown in the book, as well as a LOT of underage alcohol consumption and some drug use mentioned. There is some cursing in this book, as well as vomit and blood gore and a lot of violence shown and mentioned. There is death and murder in this book. There is some very slight romance in this book. There is also a lot of animal death and gore in the book, occurring to moths, foals, deer, cockroaches, and flies. The animal gore in this book is extreme and I highly advise those sensitive to it do not read this book or go into it warned.

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 304

Synopsis: Protect the girls

Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways.

Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger.

Review: I felt like this was a good book. I immediately connected with the main character because of our shared fear of bugs and I liked the idea of the secret society. I thought the book did good in the world building and I liked the premise of it. I also liked the overall feel of the book. It did well to be a thriller and keep a mystery atmosphere rather than a horror one that sometimes thriller books fall into.

However, I didn’t like the book that well. I thought the book had a lot of characters at the beginning and that made it really hard to keep everyone sorted out. The book had a lot of twists and turns and a lot of them weren’t well plotted out. The character development wasn’t there and I just felt like the book could have been better if more expanded and more explained. It just felt like everything was way too rushed.

Verdict: It was ok, just not for me.

Book Info:

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

Genre: Young Adult Horror

Publishing Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

Protect the girls

Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways.
Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger. 

Content Warning: Blood, gore, mentions of Sexual harassment/assault

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58724958-primal-animals

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250757290/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sin_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/primal-animals-julia-lynn-rubin/1139985579?ean=9781250757296

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Primal-Animals-Julia-Lynn-Rubin/9781250757296?ref=grid-view&qid=1646931159558&sr=1-1

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/primal-animals-a-novel/9781250757296-item.html?ikwid=primal+animals&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=5bf2193da2f53ae3912a84b6652a5ec7 IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250757296

About the Author:

Julia Lynn Rubin lives the writer’s life in Brooklyn, where she finished an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at The New School in 2017. For three years she served as a writing mentor for Girls Write Now, New York City’s premiere writing program for high school girls, and she continues to facilitate pre-K literacy programs throughout Brooklyn at libraries and family shelters.Julia has been writing books, poems, and stories since first grade, and loves reading about everything from film analysis (she’s a film nerd) to psychology and philosophy. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as the North American ReviewSierra Nevada Review, and The Lascaux Review, and she has written for a variety of online publications, including BuzzFeedThe Content StrategistFatherly, and Wetpaint Entertainment.

Julia is passionate about realism and diversity in teen literature. She hopes to one day own a French bulldog, pug, Boston terrier, or perhaps a mix of all three. She loves indie films, drag shows, and spending as much time as possible at the beach.​

She is represented by Lauren Spieller of Triada US Literary Agency

Author Links:

Website: https://www.julialynnrubin.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julialynnrubin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/swissbeauty/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17071577.Julia_Lynn_Rubin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julialynnrubin/?fref=ts

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/04/07/tour-schedule-primal-animals-by-julia-lynn-rubin/

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele

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

Book: Summer’s Edge

Author: Dana Mele

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3.5/5

Diversity: Queer character and MC

Recommended For…: young adult readers, thriller, mystery, LGBT, paranormal, horror

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Genre: YA Thriller Mystery

Age Relevance: 14+ (language, death, grief, involuntary committal, underage alcohol consumption, arson, murder, romance, animal death, animal gore, PTSD, suicidal ideation, sexual content, gore, drowning, violence, drugging)

Explanation of Above: The book contains some slight cursing and shows of death, arson, murder, drowning, and drugging. There is some slight blood gore and violence with fights. There is grief, PTSD, and involuntary committal shown and mentioned in the book. There is a lot of underage alcohol consumption. There is slight romance and slight mention of suicidal ideation. There is one scene that shows an animal death and blood animal gore, both to a rabbit.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Pages: 325

Synopsis: Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.

A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.

As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.

Review: For the most part the book was pretty thrilling. The book reminded me a lot of Until Dawn and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but with a more horrific twist. The book had a lot of good twists and turns and for the most part it had a great premise. The world building was fairly well done and the book is definitely one that will keep you intrigued throughout.

However, I felt like the character development was very poor. The book didn’t explain everyone’s motives well and they just weren’t well formed. I also thought the book was confusing, which I think can be a good plot device, but wasn’t well executed in this book. While I know now about this friend group, in the beginning there are just too many things off about the group and it can deter readers from continuing the book. I think if the twist was shown earlier in the novel and then played with a bit more, than it wouldn’t have been so off-putting in the beginning. The book also had a great deal of an info dump at the end and I didn’t like that. I think if the flashbacks were scattered more throughout the book then it would have worked better.

Verdict: It was ok.

BOOK INFORMATION

TITLE:  Summer’s Edge

AUTHOR: Dana Mele

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022

GENRES: YA Thriller/Mystery
BUY LINKS:

Barnes & Noble: 

Amazon: 

Bookshop: 

SYNOPSIS:

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Author’s website:  

Author’s instagram: ihttps://www.instagram.com/danammele/

Author’s twitter:  N/A

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

For bloggers:

There is one (1) copy of Summer’s Edge available. Please attach the following link to your post for your followers to enter:  

For bookstagrammers:There is one (1) copy of Summer’s Edge available. Please attach the following link to your post or place it in your bio for your followers to enter: 

Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon Spotlight

NEVER COMING HOME

Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon

ISBN: 9780778386100

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: MIRA Books

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon

Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon

Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon

Goodreads

Author Bio: 

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors, Her Secret Son, Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Book Summary:

Gone Girl meets Fargo in this deliciously sinister suspense novel about a man who plots his wife’s murder to cash in on her inheritance, only to have his brilliant plan turned around on him.

First comes love, then comes murder

Set to inherit his in-laws’ significant fortune, which would help him care for his ailing father, Lucas Forester decides to help things along by ordering a hit on his wife. (Michelle’s not exactly the most lovable person, anyway.) Everything is going according to his meticulous plan, until he receives a potentially recent photograph of Michelle. Frantic that his plan is being foiled, Lucas must find out if she’s alive, and silence her forever before she can expose him.

Excerpt

1

SUNDAY

The steady noise from the antique French carriage clock on the mantelpiece had somehow amplified itself, a rhythmic tick-tick, tick-tick, which usually went unnoticed. After I’d been sitting in the same position and holding my ailing mother-in-law’s hand for almost an hour, the incessant clicking had long wormed its way deep into my brain where it grated on my nerves, stirring up fantasies of hammers, bent copper coils, and shattered glass.

Nora looked considerably worse than when I’d visited her earlier this week. She was propped up in bed, surrounded by a multitude of pillows. She’d lost more weight, something her pre-illness slender physique couldn’t afford. Her bones jutted out like rocks on a cliff, turning a kiss on the cheek into an extreme sport in which you might lose an eye. The ghostly hue on her face resembled the kids who’d come dressed up as ghouls for Halloween a few days ago, emphasizing the dark circles that had transformed her eyes into mini sinkholes. It wasn’t clear how much time she had left. I was no medical professional, but we could all tell it wouldn’t be long. When she’d shared her doctor’s diagnosis with me barely three weeks ago, they’d estimated around two months, but at the rate of Nora’s decline, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if it turned out to be a matter of days.

Ovarian cancer. As a thirty-two-year-old Englishman who wasn’t yet half Nora’s age I’d had no idea it was dubbed the silent killer but now understood why. Despite the considerable wealth and social notoriety Nora enjoyed in the upscale and picturesque town of Chelmswood on the outskirts of Boston, by the time she’d seen someone because of a bad back and they’d worked out what was going on, her vital organs were under siege. The disease was a formidable opponent, the stealthiest of snipers, destroying her from the inside out before she had any indication something was wrong.

A shame, truly, because Nora was the only one in the Ward family I actually liked. I wouldn’t have sat here this long with my arse going numb for my father-in-law’s benefit, that’s for sure. Given half the chance I’d have smothered him with a pillow while the nurse wasn’t looking. But not Nora. She was kindhearted, gentle. The type of person who quietly gave time and money to multiple causes and charities without expecting a single accolade in return. Sometimes I imagined my mother would’ve been like Nora, had she survived, and fleetingly wondered what might have become of me if she hadn’t died so young, if I’d have grown up to be a good person.

I gradually pulled my hand away from Nora’s and reached for my phone, decided on playing a game or two of backgammon until she woke up. The app had thrashed me the last three rounds and I was due, but Nora’s fingers twitched before I made my first move. I studied her brow, which seemed furrowed in pain even as she slept. Not for the first time I hoped the Grim Reaper would stake his or her claim sooner rather than later. If I were death, I’d be swift, efficient, and merciful, not prescribe a drawn-out, painful process during which body, mind, or both, wasted away. People shouldn’t be made to suffer as they died. Not all of them, anyway.

“Lucas?”

I jumped as Diane, Nora’s nurse and my neighbor, put a hand on my shoulder. She’d only left the room for a couple of minutes but always wore those soft-soled shoes when she worked, which meant I never heard her coming until she was next to me. Kind of sneaky, when I thought about it, and I decided I wouldn’t sit with my back to the door again.

As she walked past, the air filled with the distinctive medicinal scent of hand sanitizer and antiseptic. I hated that smell. Too many bad memories I couldn’t shake. Diane set a glass of water on the bedside table, checked Nora’s vitals, and turned around. Hands on hips, she peered down at me from her six-foot frame, her tight dark curls bouncing alongside her jawbone like a set of tiny corkscrews.

“You can go home now. I’ll take the evening from here.” Regardless of her amicable delivery, there was no mistaking the instruction, but she still added, “Get some rest. God knows you look like you need it.”

“Thanks a lot,” I replied with mock indignation. “You sure know how to flatter a guy.”

Diane cocked her head to one side, folded her arms, and gave me another long stare, which to anyone else would’ve been intimidating. “How long since you slept? I mean properly.”

I waved a hand. “It’s only seven o’clock.”

“Yeah, I guess given the circumstances I wouldn’t want to be home alone, either.”

I looked away. “That’s not what this is about. I’ll wait until Nora wakes up again. I want to say goodbye. You know, in case she…” My voice cracked a little on the last word and I feigned a cough as I pressed the heels of my palms over my eyes.

“She won’t,” Diane whispered. “Not tonight. Trust me. She’s not ready to go.”

I knew Diane had worked in hospice for two decades and had seen more than her fair share of people taking their last breaths. If she said Nora wouldn’t die tonight, then Nora would still be here in the morning.

“I’ll leave in a bit. After she wakes up.”

Diane let out a resigned sigh and sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the bed. A comfortable silence settled between us despite the fact we didn’t know each other very well. I’d first met Diane and her wife Karina, who were both in their forties, when they’d struck up a conversation with me and my wife Michelle as we’d moved into our house on the other side of Chelmswood almost three years prior. Something about garbage days and recycling rules, I think. The mundane discussion could’ve led to a multitude of drinks, shared meals, and the swapping of embarrassing childhood stories, except we were all what Michelle had called busy professionals with (quote) hectic work schedules that make forging new friendships difficult. My Captain Subtext translated her comment as can’t be bothered and, consequently, the four of us had never made the transition from neighbors to close friends.

Aside from the occasional holiday party invitation or looking after each other’s places whenever we were away—picking up the mail, watering the plants, that kind of thing—we only saw each other in passing. Nevertheless, Karina regularly left a Welcome Back note on our kitchen counter along with flowers from their garden and a bottle of wine. Not one to be outdone on anything, Michelle reciprocated, except she’d always chosen more elaborate bouquets and fancier booze. My wife’s silent little pissing contests, which I’d pretended to be too dense to notice, had irked me to hell and back, but when Nora fell ill and Diane had been assigned as one of her nurses, I’d been relieved it was someone I knew and trusted.

“I’m sorry this is happening to you,” Diane said, rescuing me from the spousal memories. “It’s not fair. I mean, it’s never fair, obviously, but on top of what you’re going through with Michelle. I can’t imagine. It’s so awful…”

I acknowledged the rest of the words she left hanging in the air with a nod. There was nothing left to say about my wife’s situation we hadn’t already discussed, rediscussed, dissected, reconstructed, and pulled apart all over again. We’d not solved the mystery of her whereabouts or found more clues. Nothing new, helpful or hopeful, anyway. We never would.

Silence descended upon us again, the gaudy carriage clock ticking away, reviving the images of me with hammer in hand until the doorbell masked the sound.

“I’ll go,” Diane muttered, and before I had the chance to stand, she left the room and pulled the door shut. I couldn’t help wondering if her swift departure was because she needed to escape from me, the man who’d used her supportive shoulder almost daily for the past month. I decided to tone it down a little. Nobody wanted to be around an overdramatic, constant crybaby regardless of their circumstances.

I listened for voices but couldn’t hear any despite my leaning toward the door and craning my neck. I couldn’t risk moving in case Nora woke up. Her body was failing, but her mind remained sharp as a box of tacks. She’d wonder what I was up to if she saw my ear pressed against the mahogany panel. Solid mahogany. The best money could buy thanks to the Ward family’s three-generations-old construction empire. No cheap building materials in this house, as my father-in-law had pointed out when he’d first given me the tour of the six bedrooms, four reception rooms, indoor and outdoor kitchens (never mind the abhorrent freezing Boston winters), and what could only be described as grounds because yard implied it was manageable with a push-along mower.

“Only the best for my family,” Gideon had said in his characteristic rumbly, pompous way as he’d knocked back another glass of Laphroaig, the broad East Coast accent he worked hard to hide making more of a reappearance with each gluttonous glug. “No MDF, vinyl or laminate garbage, thank you. That’s not what I’m about. Not at all.”

It’s in the houses you build for others, I’d thought as I’d grunted an inaudible reply he no doubt mistook for agreement because people rarely contradicted him. As I raised my glass of scotch, I didn’t mention the council flats I grew up in on what Gideon dismissed as the lesser side of the pond, or the multiple times Dad and I had been kicked out of our dingy digs because he couldn’t pay the rent, and we’d ended up on the streets. My childhood had been vastly different to my wife’s, and I imagined the pleasure I’d find in watching Gideon’s eyes bulge as I described the squalor I’d lived in, and he realized my background was worlds away from the shiny and elitist version I’d led everyone to believe was the truth. I pictured myself laughing as he understood his perfect daughter had married so far beneath her, she may as well have pulled me up from the dirt like a carrot, and not the expensive organic kind.

Of course, I hadn’t told him anything. I’d taken another swig of the scotch I loathed, but otherwise kept my mouth shut. As satisfying as it would’ve been, my father-in-law knowing the truth about my background had never been part of my long-term agenda. In any case, and despite Gideon’s efforts, things were working to plan. Better than. The smug bastard was dead.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Excerpted from Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon. Copyright © 2022 by Hannah Mary McKinnon. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

One Hundred Percent Me by Renee Macalino Rutledge

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

Book: One Hundred Percent Me

Author: Renee Macalino Rutledge

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Puerto Rican Filipino MC, Asian Latino side character, Indian Kenyan side character, Mexican side character

Recommended For…: children, babies, picture book, multiculturalism, diversity, ancestry

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Age Relevance: 0+

Explanation of Above: While the book does talk about themes of multiculturalism that might not be understood by babies, it’s still a great book with tons of pictures to show them and have them grow up knowing the story. Perfect for 4-8 year olds learning to read as well!

Publisher: Bloom Books for Young Readers

Pages: 32

Synopsis: It can be confusing to be a child of mixed race. As the little girl moves through daily life in the big city, she hears some people say she looks more like her Puerto Rican dad, while others claim she takes after her Filipina mom. Should she favor one identity over the other? No! In fact, honoring every facet of her identity equally becomes the main character’s favorite affirmation. This beautifully illustrated book about celebrating differences, claiming our belonging, and acknowledging our heritage encourages all readers to embrace the fact that we are all 100% ourselves.

Review: I really loved this adorable book! It did so good to talk about multiculturalism and ancestry in an easy-to-understand way for children. I’d love to see more books talk about multiculturalism and normalize it more in children’s books. I also loved that the book featured so much diversity in it and it really offered a great chance for a multitude of children to see themselves in the book. The illustrations were adorable as well and this is a highly recommended book from me.

Verdict: I highly recommend this one for you and your little ones!

The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby

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

Book: The Science of Being Angry

Author: Nicole Melleby

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: 2 moms, f/f romances, IVF and anonymous donor MC and siblings, Queer MC

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, contemporary, LGBT, mental health, family

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Genre: MG Contemporary

Age Relevance: 9+ (violence, slight romance)

Explanation of Above: There is some light violence in this book, with our MC who pushes and shoves people. Sometimes stuff is thrown too. There is also a very slight romance.

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 276

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Joey is angry. All the time. And she doesn’t understand why. She has two loving moms, a supportive older half brother, and, as a triplet, she’s never without company. Her life is good. But sometimes she loses her temper and lashes out, like the time she threw a soccer ball—hard—at a boy in gym class and bruised his collarbone. Or when jealousy made her push her (former) best friend (and crush), Layla, a little bit too roughly.

After a meltdown at Joey’s apartment building leads to her family’s eviction, Joey is desperate to figure out why she’s so mad. A new unit in science class makes her wonder if the reason is genetics. Does she lose control because of something she inherited from the donor her mothers chose?

Review: I really REALLY loved this book. It was such a good book in showing how sometimes kids are angry because of genetics or things outside of the (very wrong) assumption that “they’re just bad kids”. The MC has good intentions, but sometimes she just gets mad because of things outside of her control. I loved that the root of the anger was discussed at the end and that the whole family apologized to each other for the way they all contributed to the MC’s anger. I especially loved how it showed the family having fights and showing that it was ok to fight or disagree sometimes with each other. The book also did so good in discussing ancestry and genetics, but also discussed how “non-traditional” families in several different forms. The explanation of IVF and the anonymous donor was very well done and very well explained for children to understand the basic concept. The book also did well to show how well this family in the book works, which sets the example for how families do and can look like. I also thought the romance was so sweet and adorable. The character development was well done, the world building was well done, the writing was amazing, and the book just draws you in and refuses to let you go. I highly suggest tissues when you read this.

The only issue I had with the book is that I wish the diagnosis was shared to the audience, but I did love that many different things were thrown out there and several coping mechanisms discussed so other kids who are also dealing with this could see their own mental health journey in this book.

Verdict: Highly recommend!

Jewish American Heritage Month

Hey bookies! May is Jewish American Heritage Month and I wanted to celebrate by recommending books released or releasing in 2022 with Jewish protagonists in them and/or written by Jewish authors. Here’s the list:

The Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert releasing this year!
Kenya & Genesis by Brandy Colbert releasing this year!
(A Shot in the Dark by Victoria Lee coming this year!)

Twelfth by Janet Key

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

Book: Twelfth

Author: Janet Key

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Diversity: Non-binary character, Wheelchair user character, Trans character, Gay character, Queer characters

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, mystery, LGBT, thriller, theater, summer camp

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Genre: MG Mystery

Age Relevance: 12+ (homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, religion, religious trauma, depression, parental death, kidnapping, war, gore, violence, domestic abuse, romance)

Explanation of Above: There are some homophobia, transphobia, and antisemetic comments made to characters in the book. There is mentions of religion and religious trauma. Depression and parental death is mentioned briefly. There is a couple of kidnapping scenes, along with mentions of war and scenes of gore (vomit and some slight blood) and violence (assault on minors). Domestic abuse is alluded to in the book and there are a couple of brief scenes of romance.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 368

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Maren is sure theater camp isn’t for her. Theater camp is for loud, confident, artsy people: people like her older sister, Hadley—the last person Maren wants to think about—and her cinema-obsessed, nonbinary bunkmate, Theo. But when a prank goes wrong, Maren gets drawn into the hunt for a diamond ring that, legend has it, is linked to the camp’s namesake, Charlotte “Charlie” Goodman, a promising director in Blacklist Era Hollywood.
 
When Maren connects the clues to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, she and her new friends are off searching through lighting booths, orchestra pits and costume storages, discovering the trail and dodging camp counselors. But they’re not the only ones searching for the ring, and with the growing threat of camp closing forever, they’re almost out of time.

Review: I enjoyed this summer camp read! I loved that it was a theater camp and that the mystery was Shakespeare themed. The book had pretty decent character development and world building. The story was interesting and it kept me reading until the very end to figure out the whodunit. I also enjoyed the riddles even though I didn’t understand them. I also appreciate all of the useful material at the end of the book!

However, I knew it wasn’t going to be so good for me when the book started off with 2 full pages of characters. I did have trouble remembering all of the characters, there were a lot, and reading an ebook made it hard to flip to the front of the book to check who was who. I thought that the book was a little on the boring side in the beginning until about halfway through the book and that there was just so much slow pacing throughout the read.

Verdict: I liked it!

Book Info:

Twelfth by Janet Key

Genre: Middle Grade Mystery Historical

Publishing Date: May 17, 2022

Synopsis:

Better Nate Than Ever  meets The Parker Inheritance in this heartwarming mystery about finding your people and accepting others as they are.

Twelve-year-old Maren is sure theater camp isn’t for her. Theater camp is for loud, confident, artsy people: people like her older sister, Hadley—the last person Maren wants to think about—and her cinema-obsessed, nonbinary bunkmate, Theo. But when a prank goes wrong, Maren gets drawn into the hunt for a diamond ring that, legend has it, is linked to the camp’s namesake, Charlotte “Charlie” Goodman, a promising director in Blacklist Era Hollywood.
 
When Maren connects the clues to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, she and her new friends are off searching through lighting booths, orchestra pits and costume storages, discovering the trail and dodging camp counselors. But they’re not the only ones searching for the ring, and with the growing threat of camp closing forever, they’re almost out of time. 

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58783431-twelfth

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316669318/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sin_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twelfth-janet-key/1140137043?ean=9780316669313

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/twelfth/9780316669313-item.html?ikwid=twelfth+janet+key&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=526c89bab0803c85591991b908acdc04 IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316669313

About the Author:

When Janet Key was twelve, she sang and danced onstage in the background of musicals, stayed up too late reading Shakespeare, and had a closet full of themed, handsewn vests.

This is her first novel. 

Author Links:

Website: https://www.janetkeybooks.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janetkeybooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21737421.Janet_Key

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/04/11/tour-schedule-twelfth-by-janet-key/

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and then I bought my own copy of the book. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School

Author: Sonora Reyes

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Mexican characters, Indigenous Person of Mexico Lesbian MC, Indigenous Person of Mexico Bisexual character, Chinese Adopted Queer Character, Navajo Indigenous Atheist Character, Black character

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

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Age Relevance: 15+ (language, gore, violence, religion, deportation, parentification, micro aggressions, racism, abortion, forced outing, homophobia, underage consumption of alcohol, depression, sexual content, suicide, suicide ideation, religious trauma, romance)

Explanation of Above: The book has themes of religion (Catholicism), which mentioned all throughout the book, and religious trauma, which is shown, and how it influences people to be hateful towards those who don’t fit their perceived mold of how a person should be. This is especially evident in the homophobia shown in the book and the forced outtings. There is some slight gore with vomit and blood mentioned and some violence shown with punching a mirror and fist fights mentioned, as well as a lot of cursing. Suicide is mentioned, Depression is shown, and ideation is mentioned as well. Deportation is mentioned throughout the book, as well as racism (which is also shown) and micro agressions (which is also shown). Parentification, in the form of being forced to parent a younger sibling is shown in the book. Abortion is briefly mentioned, as well as sexual content (virginity), and there is a scene where underage characters consume alcohol and are drunk. There is also slight romance in this book.

Publisher: Balzer and Bray

Pages: 385

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers drawing attention for her killer eyeliner, not for being the new kid at a mostly white, very rich, Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend, she could use the fresh start.

At Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: make her mom proud, keep her brother out of trouble, and most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami.

The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And smart. And talented. And cute. Either way, Yami isn’t going to make the same mistake again. If word got back to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection. So she’ll have to start asking, WWSGD: What would a straight girl do?

Told in a captivating voice that is by turns hilarious, vulnerable, and searingly honest, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School explores the joys and heartaches of living your full truth out loud.

Review: I really liked this book! It was a sweet story about a girl who’s having to deal with the perceived notions of who she should be and what she is at heart. The book is equal parts heartbreaking as it is victorious and I found myself cheering for Yamilet everytime she had a little victory with being her genuine self. The book heavily reminds me of Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and Furia. I loved all of the twists and turns in the story, as those who I thought would be endgame was not and those who I had no hope for became more than I expected. I also loved the theme of “you should have been there” which plays a lot in Yamilet’s family and how they expected her to act, but also how she expected them to act. The character development was well done and the world building was great. The pacing was on point and the premise immediately drew me in and refused to let me go. The book is absolutely gorgeous inside and out and I highly recommend this read.

The only issue I had with the book is that I wished there was more romance in the book as it did take a long time to get to that part, and I wished that there was a good conclusion with a certain character I had high hopes for. I loved what the family did to that character, but I wished that there was a tidbit at the end as to what their motives were and if they got around to accepting the situation.

Verdict: It was amazing! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publishing Date: May 17, 2022

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers drawing attention for her killer eyeliner, not for being the new kid at a mostly white, very rich, Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend, she could use the fresh start.

At Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: make her mom proud, keep her brother out of trouble, and most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami.

The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And smart. And talented. And cute. Either way, Yami isn’t going to make the same mistake again. If word got back to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection. So she’ll have to start asking, WWSGD: What would a straight girl do?

Told in a captivating voice that is by turns hilarious, vulnerable, and searingly honest, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School explores the joys and heartaches of living your full truth out loud.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57435050-the-lesbiana-s-guide-to-catholic-school

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lesbianas-Guide-Catholic-School/dp/006306023X/ref=sr_1_1?creative=330641&keywords=The+Lesbiana%27s+Guide+to+Catholic+School&qid=1646848470&s=books&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lesbianas-guide-to-catholic-school-sonora-reyes/1140022825?ean=9780063060234

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Lesbiana-s-Guide-to-Catholic-School/9780063060234

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-lesbianas-guide-to-catholic/9780063060234-item.html?ikwid=the+lesbiana%27s+guide+to+catholic+school&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=7f67e1db64c6ea216c0ef23d62fb0859

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780063060234

About the Author:

Born and raised in Arizona, Sonora Reyes is the author of the forthcoming contemporary young adult novel: THE LESBIANA’S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL

They write fiction full of queer and Latinx characters in a variety of genres, with current projects in both kidlit and adult categories. Sonora is also the creator and host of the Twitter chat #QPOCChat, a monthly community-building chat for queer writers of color.

Sonora currently lives in Arizona in a multi-generational family home with a small pack of dogs who run the place. Outside of writing, Sonora loves dancing, singing karaoke, and playing with their baby nephew.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.sonorareyes.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SonoraReyes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonora.reyes/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21286978.Sonora_Reyes

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLx5ojHluRTcP9o1vbIrqcg?view_as=subscriber

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/03/30/tour-schedule-the-lesbianas-guide-to-catholic-school-by-sonora-reyes/

Interview With Author Pete Alexander for The Pod Tower

1) Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Pete Alexander. I am a father of two and live in the sleepy Suffolk town of Bury St Edmunds. I make my living as a guitar technician and own a little store selling stringed instruments.

2) What can you tell us about your book The Pod Tower?

The Pod Tower is set in the harsh winter of 2057 and tells of one man’s personal battle with a technological world that he feels has consumed and crippled society. Feeling alienated from the denizens of Mother City he moves away to seek an alternative lifestyle in a small and rustic community beyond the ‘Outer Zones.’ However, his idyllic lifestyle is clouded by his own family’s dark past which soon catches up with him, and reluctantly he is forced to return and face it.

3) What gave you the idea for this book?

It’s odd but looking back I can’t actually remember any one thing being the inspiration for the story, but definitely seeing people walking around constantly glued to their phones would be on the list. As a person of middle age I can recall hours spent as a young man, sitting around with friends listening to records, watching a film with the family and having conversations with people without the discussion being interrupted by phone calls and messages. Also, as I’ve grown older I have become very aware of the disinformation we are fed on a daily basis and people’s willingness just to accept it without question, however ludicrous it might be.

4) What are some things you do to get into the writing mood?

I am one of those people that needs silence to write as I find myself easily distracted by any noise. I also write more ‘freely’ after a couple of drinks as I find it allows me to ‘unlock’ ideas that I naturally would probably never find.

5) Where do you like most to write?

I don’t have a particular favourite place to write as such, but much of this novel was written sitting in my van parked next to some woods in the middle of nowhere. I also form ideas walking to work and back and scribble them down.

6) If you could write any book, where would you base it and why?

I do like novels that are based in England, especially London. I don’t know why but it might have something to do with the fact that Orwell’s 1984 (my all time favourite novel) was based there.

7) What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best writing advise I ever received was to write what feels natural to you, whatever genre that happens to be. I am aware that dystopia/sci fi/speculative fiction is a niche subject – not like crime or romance for example – so getting reviews will always be tougher, but it’s what feels right to me. One of my friends recently read The Pod Tower and remarked that she could tell it was written by me. Looking back, that might not have been a compliment….!

8) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I am mostly a pantser I think. I have an idea and then sketch a rough outline and then just go for it. But I do believe it is important to have a good ending thought up and weave your way towards it almost right from the word go. However well a book is written, there is nothing worse than a ‘cop out’ ending is there?

9) What are your other hobbies?

My other hobbies include writing songs for my band, playing guitar, and restoring old motorcycles. I do like zoning out to old records of 1970’s rock bands too.

10) What would you say to someone who is struggling to write their own book right now?

Ooh a difficult one for a novice to answer but here goes. Write what you feel rather than what you think will sell, and when your mind goes blank, step away from your screen/paper and go for a walk. Often your best ideas come when you’re not trying to force them.

Blackwolf by Phil Gilvin

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

Book: Blackwolf

Author: Phil Gilvin

Book Series: Truth Sister Book 2

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: dystopian, feminism, sci-fi

Publication Date: April 27, 2022

Genre: Dystopian Sci-Fi

Age Relevance: 16+ (climate change, sexism, violence, gore, language, sexual content, plague, sickness)

Explanation of Above: The book discusses climate change and contains a plague and worldwide sickness in the book. There is sexism and sexual content in the book. There is some violence and gore. There is also some cursing.

Publisher: Aelurus Publishing

Pages: 300

Synopsis: What is truth in a world of lies?

Added to the deteriorating climate and dwindling energy, a wave of plagues is sweeping Britain. But while the Women’s Republic of Anglia attempts to keep cloning going, former Truth Sister Clara Perdue plans to help her mother escape from prison. But can she succeed against the Republic’s prohibition on Naturals?

Meanwhile, Jack Pike has fallen in with a warlike chieftain in the disputed territory between Anglia and Wessex. Drawn into a fight that they cannot win, will he and his friends survive?

And when Clara and Jack’s paths cross again, can they put the past behind them and trust each other once more?

Review: For the most part I thought this was a pretty good book. I liked the premise of it and was instantly drawn into it. The book had a Handmaid’s Tale feel to it and I liked it overall. The book had decent character development and world building. I liked where the story was going for the most part and how it had parallels to the real world.

However, I didn’t realize it was the second in a series and I think reading the first book would help in comprehension of this book. I thought that while the book was really reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, I also had the same hesitation of this book that I do with THT: that the events shown are a parody or callback to events in time that have actually happened to BIPOC women, but the story doesn’t have a lot of BIPOC characters. I also didn’t see trans men or women in the book and in an era of feminism literature where a lot of authors are writing about dystopian worlds where women and/or men are killed off/enslaved  needs to address all levels of intersectionality. I also felt that the book was a bit too fast paced for my liking.

Verdict: It’s ok.