Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne

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

Book: Pretty Dead Queens

Author: Alexa Donne

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Filipino American Lesbian character, Lesbian character, Filipino American character, Indigenous character, Bisexual characters, Achillean romance between two side characters

Recommended For…: young adult readers, mystery, thriller, prom, unsolved murders

Publication Date: October 7, 2022

Genre: YA Mystery Thriller

Age Relevance: 15+ (death, cancer, grief, animal death, animal gore, language, drugs, gore, classism, racism, homophobia, murder, child abuse, sexual content, sexual assault of a minor, violence)

Explanation of Above: There is death and murder shown in the book and mentioned. There are mentions of cancer and grief is shown in the book. There is two animal deaths (rabbit and dog) and animal gore (rabbit) mentioned in the book. There is some cursing in the book. Drugs are mentioned briefly in the book. There is some violence with knives and gore with blood. There is classism, racism, and homophobia shown and mentioned in the book. Child abuse is mentioned and sexual assault of a minor is vaguely mentioned in the book (there is an adult character in the book who is having a relationship with a child under 18 but nothing explicit is shown). There is also some sexual content mentioned and one fade to black sex scene.

Publisher: Crown

Pages: 336

Synopsis: After the death of her mom (screw cancer), seventeen-year-old Cecelia Ellis goes to live with her estranged grandmother, a celebrated author whose Victorian mansion is as creepy as the murder mysteries she writes. On the surface, life is utterly ordinary in the California coastal town . . . until the homecoming queen is murdered. And she’s not Seaview’s first pretty dead queen.

With a copycat killer on the loose, Cecelia throws herself into the investigation, determined to crack the case like the heroines in her grandmother’s books. But the more Cecelia digs into the town’s secrets, the more she worries that her own mystery might not have a storybook ending.

Review: For the most part I really loved this book! The book was a great thriller mystery novel about past murders and a current killer. There’s a lot of twist and turns and it’ll keep you guessing on the whodunit for the longest time. It definitely has a Karen McManus feel to it and one of my newer favorite mystery books. I loved all of the funny pop culture moments as well. The character development was well done and the world building was great. I loved the writing and I had 2/3 overall guesses come true, which surprised me as I’m usually able to accurately guess the end of mystery books.

The only issue I had with the book is that I feel like the planting evidence on a Filipino character should have been called out a bit more for what it was and condemned more. I also feel like the book had some confusing moments that could be cleared up a little bit.

Verdict: I loved this one!

I Want to be a Vase by Julio Torres and Julian Glander

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

Book: I Want To Be A Vase

Author: Julio Torres, Julian Glander

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: This book can be read as an analogy for trans rights and thus the characters can be trans!

Recommended For…: children’s readers, picture book, LGBT

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Age Relevance: 0+ (a little rudeness)

Explanation of Above: There is a rude vacuum who says some unkind things to other household appliances.

Publisher: Atheneum

Pages: 48

Synopsis: Shapes. You’ve heard of them. You might have even interacted with a few. But do you really know them? From plucky Plunger, who wishes to defy his shape and become a beautiful vase, to other household objects with dreams of a life beyond their predestined roles, I Want to Be a Vase takes readers on an essential and visually stunning journey through the lives and intimate dramas of often-overlooked household appliances.

Review: I really liked this picture book! The artwork looks computer animated and I loved how colorful it was. The book focuses on inanimate objects and how they don’t feel like who they were made to be, but they feel like other objects. It’s their journey to being accepted by some of the ruder members of the household and understanding themselves. The book can be read as an analogy for trans rights, which is how I’m reading it, but the most important message that you can take away from the book is to just be accepting to others as they view themselves. It’s not for you to police how others define themselves.

Verdict: It’s such a great book! I highly recommend this one!

Out of the Blue by Jason June

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

Book: Out of the Blue

Author: Jason June

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Gay Plus Size MC, Nonbinary MC, Gay character, Bisexual Hispanic character, Indian Bisexual character, Sapphic characters, Nonbinary person of color character

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

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Genre: YA Fantasy Romance

Age Relevance: 15+ (sexual content, language, romance, gore, cheating, violence, depression, death, grief)

Explanation of Above: There is some sexual content in this book. There is sex mentioned and implied. Nothing is graphically shown, but there is lead-up before the fade to black and in one scene there’s flowery language about it. There is a few curse words in the book. There is a lot of romance in this book. There is some gore involving vomit and blood in the book and one scene where a fist fight breaks out for violence. Depression is briefly mentioned a couple of times in the book. There is a very brief death scene and grief scene. There is cheating shown and mentioned in the book.

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 320

Synopsis: Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the monthlong sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder–or fail and remain stuck on land forever. Crest is eager to get their Journey over and done with: after all, humans are disgusting. They’ve pollluted the planet so much that there’s a floating island of trash that’s literally the size of a country.

In Los Angeles with a human body and a new name, Crest meets Sean, a human lifeguard whose boyfriend has recently dumped him. Crest agrees to help Sean make his ex jealous and win him back. But as the two spend more time together and Crest’s pespective on humans begins to change, they’ll soon be torn between two worlds. And fake dating just might lead to real feelings…

Review: Okay this was an incredibly cute read! I loved this mix of mermaid fantasy but they’re kinda operating as fairy godmothers to gather intel and living a month away from their colony ala Rumspringa like the Amish. The book is a bit of a grumpy/sunshine romance in the beginning, but is very much a fake dating romance. The book does well to make the mermaid fantasy spin fresh and new and I loved all of the queer-ness of this book! The characters are well developed and the romance was so sweet. I loved the world building as well and I read this book in one sitting.

The only issue I had with the book is that it was a bit slower paced in the middle than I would have liked to see it. I also thought that the book was a bit too quick with the epilogue, so I’m hoping for a loose sequel in the future for the two MCs, but also to encounter other fantasy elements in the world together.

Verdict: It was a well done read. Highly recommend!

Book Info:

Out of the Blue by Jason June

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publishing Date: May 31, 2022

Synopsis:

Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the monthlong sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder–or fail and remain stuck on land forever. Crest is eager to get their Journey over and done with: after all, humans are disgusting. They’ve pollluted the planet so much that there’s a floating island of trash that’s literally the size of a country.

In Los Angeles with a human body and a new name, Crest meets Sean, a human lifeguard whose boyfriend has recently dumped him. Crest agrees to help Sean make his ex jealous and win him back. But as the two spend more time together and Crest’s pespective on humans begins to change, they’ll soon be torn between two worlds. And fake dating just might lead to real feelings…

This sophomore novel from Jason June dives into the many definitions of the world home and shows how love can help us find the truest versions of ourselves. 

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58931216-out-of-the-blue

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006301520X/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/out-of-the-blue-jason-june/1140112786?ean=9780063015203

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Out-Blue-Jason-June/9780063015203?ref=grid-view&qid=1648502838624&sr=1-9

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/out-of-the-blue/9780063015203-item.html?ikwid=out+of+the+blue&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=ff4e52e73f23c055f77b8e55a249ef9c

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780063015203

About the Author:

You’ve come here wondering, “What is the meaning of life?” Er, I mean, Jason June’s life. Jason June (it’s a two-name first name, like Mary-Kate without the hyphen or the Olsen twin) is a genderqueer writer mermaid who loves to create picture books that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark, and young adult contemporary rom-coms full of love and lust and hijinks.

When not writing, JJ zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, Pomeranians, and anything magical that takes you to a different world or time. JJ is a tried and true Laura Dern stan, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend.

​His picture books include WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, illustrated by Jess Pauwels, and PORCUPINE CUPID, a queer-inclusive Valentine’s Day story, illustrated by Lori Richmond, both from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. For under-the-sea whimsical adventures, check out the MERMICORN ISLAND chapter book series from Scholastic! And get ready for JAY’S GAY AGENDA, Jason June’s debut YA, queer rom-com, coming June 1, 2021 from HarperTeen!

Author Links:

Website: https://www.heyjasonjune.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/heyjasonjune

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15906433.Jason_June

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/04/23/tour-schedule-out-of-the-blue-by-jason-june/

A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy

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

Book: A Little Bit Country

Author: Brian D. Kennedy

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: 2 Gay MCs, Mexican American character, Hispanic characters, character with Multiple Sclerosis, f/f romance mentioned, Lesbian character, m/m romance

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, romance, LGBT, m/m romance, country music

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Age Relevance: 15+ (sexism, sexual harassment, sexual content, romance, micro aggressions, language, homophobia, gore, underage alcohol consumption, religion)

Explanation of Above: There are some mentions and comments about sexism. There is one brief sexual harassment comment made by an obvious slimey character to a side character. There is some sexual content in the book in the form of jokes and mentions, and there is one fade to black scene. There are a few curse words throughout the book, but not a lot. There is some slight homophobia in the book and homophobic comments. There is one moment with gore, blood, where two characters are hurt. There is one small scene of underage alcohol consumption. There is a brief mention of religion.

Publisher: Balzer and Bray

Pages: 351

Synopsis: Emmett Maguire wants to be country music’s biggest gay superstar – a far reach when you’re seventeen and living in Illinois. But for now, he’s happy to do the next best thing: Stay with his aunt in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer and perform at the amusement park owned by his idol, country legend Wanda Jean Stubbs.

Luke Barnes hates country music. As the grandson of Verna Rose, the disgraced singer who had a famous falling out with Wanda Jean, Luke knows how much pain country music has brought his family. But when his mom’s medical bills start piling up, he takes a job at the last place he wants: a restaurant at Wanda World.

Neither boy is looking for romance, but sparks fly when they meet – and soon they’re inseparable. Until a long-lost secret about Verna and Wanda comes to light, threatening to unravel everything.

Will Emmett and Luke be able get past the truths they discover…or will their relationship go down in history as just another Sad Country Love Song?

Review: Overall I absolutely adored this read. It was a sweet romance between two gay characters and how country music/small town life affected that for both of them. The book is kind of a band book, but definitely a coming out journey and it’s perfect for fans of It This Gets Out or Kiss and Tell. Honestly, I don’t know what we did to deserve 3 gay boy band books this year but I’m loving it! There are a lot of pop culture references to country music in this, which is perfect for fans of the genre. The book is also Multi POV and the author did well to make sure that the characters had distinct voices, especially in how they talk (subtle northern/southern differences). The book is an insta-love romance with a happen chance meeting. The characters are well developed and the world building is good. I loved the writing and the book is definitely a page turner!

The only issue I had with the book is that it felt like some of the plot was a bit slow in the middle. I felt it dwindled down significantly and then really picked up about 15% left in the read. It really rushed the character development of a few people and I think some of that and a little of the plot was still left unresolved by the end. I think it would have been better a bit slower throughout or a bit faster throughout.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

A Little Bit Country Brian D. Kennedy

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Publishing Date: June 7, 2022

Synopsis:

Emmett Maguire wants to be country music’s biggest gay superstar – a far reach when you’re seventeen and living in Illinois. But for now, he’s happy to do the next best thing: Stay with his aunt in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer and perform at the amusement park owned by his idol, country legend Wanda Jean Stubbs.

Luke Barnes hates country music. As the grandson of Verna Rose, the disgraced singer who had a famous falling out with Wanda Jean, Luke knows how much pain country music has brought his family. But when his mom’s medical bills start piling up, he takes a job at the last place he wants: a restaurant at Wanda World.

Neither boy is looking for romance, but sparks fly when they meet – and soon they’re inseparable. Until a long-lost secret about Verna and Wanda comes to light, threatening to unravel everything.

Will Emmett and Luke be able get past the truths they discover…or will their relationship go down in history as just another Sad Country Love Song?

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55685792-a-little-bit-country

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Little-Bit-Country-Brian-Kennedy/dp/0063085658/ref=sr_1_1?creative=330641&keywords=A+Little+Bit+Country&qid=1646694772&s=books&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-little-bit-country-brian-d-kennedy/1140112732?ean=9780063085657

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Little-Bit-Country-Brian-D-Kennedy/9780063085657?ref=grid-view&qid=1646694921879&sr=1-2

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/a-little-bit-country/9780063085657-item.html?ikwid=a+little+bit+country&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=d9fd69aa2cdea39c0183171a6772743f

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780063085657

About the Author:

Brian D. Kennedy writes books for young adults. Born and raised in Minnesota, he occasionally elongates his vowels still. He now lives in New York City with his husband and their very photogenic dog. When he’s not writing, Brian can be found working at the LGBTQ Center, sitting in the audience at a Broadway show, or out buying more books—despite the stack of unread ones he has at home.  

Author Links:

Website: https://www.briandkennedybooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bdkennedybooks

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20814893.Brian_D_Kennedy

Tour Schedule:

Beauty and the Basharam

“We’re teaming up with ColoredPages and PenguinTeen to give away 5 (FIVE) finished copies of Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale! Follow the link in the bio to enter this US ONLY giveaway! You must be 18 years or older, or have parental permission to share your address if you win.”

If possible on the day of your blog post, share the rafflecopter link in your bio or on the top of your linktree (or whatever is used to share your socials!).

Link to the giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c5f831b92/ 

HTML/Embed Code for blogs: <a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c5f831b92/&#8221; rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”c5f831b92″ data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_mojglqp6″>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

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

Book: Beauty and the Besharam

Author: Lillie Vale

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: While some of the characters have stated sexuality in the book, some of it is not mentioned. This is the rep that the author specifies is in the book: Bisexual Demiromantic Indian American character, Black Sanegalese lesbian character, Sapphic character, Indian American character, Mexican American trans gay character, Lebanese American character, Korean American character, Bisexual Indian American MC, Korean American anxiety disorder LI

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, romance, retellings, Beauty and the Beast, LGBT

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Age Relevance: 14+ (language, underage alcohol consumption, cheating, sexism, sexual content, panic attack, anxiety, romance, death, grief)

Explanation of Above: There is a couple of curse words sprinkled throughout the book, but nothing a child won’t hear at school. There is underage alcohol consumption mentioned as well as sexual content mentioned. Cheating is slightly shown, but it’s more of caught in the aftermath so it’s not explicative. There is one panic attack scene shown and anxiety is mentioned in the book. Death is also mentioned and there is grieving shown in the book. There is also a fair bit of kissing scenes, but nothing beyond intense kisses and hand holding.

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Pages: 389

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam.

So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer. [Cue the combative banter.]

Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.

Review: I really liked this book overall! It’s a very loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, but with our MC being the “beastie” character. The book has some great pop culture moments, including their love for Sailor Moon and mentions of Percy Jackson. Props to the author for not mentioning books that shouldn’t be mentioned, especially in a book that’s very LGBT+ friendly with a trans character in it. The book has a grumpy (she)/sunshine (him) romance and I love all the little mentions about bookstagram and bookstagramming and ARCs. The book reads very much like your typical YA Contemporary Books, but I feel like the charm of this read is that the book is so much more than just a romance. The main point of the book is that the MC has a drive for competition, but being too competitive leads to a lot of her issues at home and with her friends. Seeing the character realize and rectify that was really well done. The character development was great. The world building was good. And I honestly read this in almost one sitting because it was just that captivating of a read.

The only issue I had with the book is that I think the sexualities of the characters could have been better stated. Some of it was great and well done, but others I only found out about from the author’s note on Goodreads. I would have liked to see that incorporated a bit more, but overall I thought it was an awesomely well done and inclusive book.

Verdict: I love it! Highly recommend!

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!

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

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

Book: Hollow Fires

Author: Samira Ahmed

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Iraqi American Muslim character, Desi American Muslim MC, Muslim characters, Queer characters, Jewish character, Pakistani Muslim character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, mystery, contemporary, thriller, race, white supremacy

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Genre: YA Thriller Mystery

Age Relevance: 14+ (death, kidnapping, murder, violence, gore, rape, terrorism, racism, bullying, micro aggressions, white supremacy, police brutality, antisemitism, sexism, islamaphobia, religion, language, climate change)

Explanation of Above: The book involves death and a murder of an Iraqi American child. Kidnapping is mentioned, violence is shown with fights and mentioned in various ways, and gore is briefly shown and mentioned in the form of vomit and blood. The word rape is used in the book, but nothing like that happens. It’s just a thought of what might have happened. There are a lot of tough subjects that are covered in the book, including a lot of racism and micro aggressions, extreme islamaphobia, terrorism and hate crimes committed by white people, and white supremacy shown and dog whistles mentioned. There are also instances of Donald Trump being quoted in the text. There is some showing of police brutality against Muslim characters and there are mentions of antisemitism and sexism. The Islamic religion is shown in this book and the book beautifully describes some of the practices and customs of the religion. There is minimal cursing in the read. There is one mention of climate change.

Publisher: Little, Brown

Pages: 416

Synopsis: A powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin.

Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy.

Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering.

Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs.

This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.

Review: I absolutely loved this work. It made me both sad and angry, but gave me strength to fight for a better tomorrow for my BIPOC friends. The book discusses injustice in the legal system and corruption/injustice in the education system at length. The more and more the book went on, the more my heart broke. I wanted to punch so many people in this book because of the hurt they inflicted on so many children due to the adults racist agendas. The book is very raw and it demands that you listen and it does so good to show how white supremacists and lazy attitudes toward racist behavior have led to a huge issue in society today, especially in America. The book also did good to juxtapose famous quotes that alt-right politicians and others, one specifically being Donald Trump, have said to what the truth actually is. The character development was well done, the world building was superb, and I could just go on and on and on about every aspect of this book and how we should be dissecting it for study on how well it describes the increasing attitudes of today’s world. This book should definitely be taught in Literature or Social Studies classes.

The only tiny issue I had with the book is that because it’s in mixed media format and told in a flashback manner sometimes that it’s sometimes hard to remember which is the past and which is the present due to both of those times only being a year apart.

Verdict: I highly recommend you read this book so we can learn what behaviors we need to look for to protect children from the dangers of white supremacy and the alt-right.

Book Info:

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Genre: Young Adult Mystery Thriller

Publishing Date: May 10, 2022

Synopsis:

A powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin.

Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy.

Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering.

Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs.

This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58511505-hollow-fires

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316282642/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/hollow-fires-samira-ahmed/1140137040?ean=9780316282642

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Hollow-Fires-Samira-Ahmed/9780316282642?ref=grid-view&qid=1646255635566&sr=1-1

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/hollow-fires/9780316282642-item.html?ikwid=hollow+fires&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=d045818e451cb3c6e8f6d164886865c1 IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316282642

About the Author:

Samira Ahmed is the bestselling author of Love, Hate & Other FiltersInternmentMad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, and  Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, as well as a Ms. Marvel comic book mini-series.  Her poetry, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies including the New York TimesTake the MicColor Outside the LinesVampires Never Get Old and A Universe of Wishes.

She was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Samira has taught high school English in both the suburbs of Chicago and New York City, worked in education non-profits, and spent time on the road for political campaigns.

Samira currently lives in the Midwest. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found on her lifelong quest for the perfect pastry.

Author Links:                                            

Website: https://samiraahmed.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sam_aye_ahm

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8345582.Samira_Ahmed

Tour Schedule:

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

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

Book: Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Muslim Chinese MC and side character, Chinese side characters

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, fantasy, Chinese, Chinese history and mythology

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Genre: MC Fantasy

Age Relevance: 12+ (racism, micro aggressions, possession, violence, death, scary moments)

Explanation of Above: There is some racism and micro aggressions shown throughout the book toward the MC. Possession by ancient ancestor is shown. There is some small violence and death in the book. There are also some scary moments that might scare some younger readers.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 340

Synopsis: A middle grade contemporary fantasy that follows a young boy as he journeys across China to seal the underworld shut and save the mortal realm.

Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever

Review: For the most part this was a great book! I loved the storyline, it was unique and had a very interesting premise. I thought that the magic system and how the information was overlaid to Zachary was also interesting and well done. It’s a fun read that I think most kids would highly enjoy and one that I think that could use to help learn about the Chinese Emperors. The characters are also well developed and the world building was as well.

However, I had issue connecting to the book. I thought the book was a bit too fast paced and it took me a bit to get into it because of that pacing.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim

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

Book: The Noh Family

Author: Grace K. Shim

Book Series: Standalone… for now?!?

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Korean American MC, Korean side characters, Lesbian side character, Colombian side character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, K-Dramas, Korean

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary

Age Relevance: 14+ (parental death, grief, classism, alcohol consumption, DUI, car crash, suicide, exercise and dieting)

Explanation of Above: The book talks about two sets of parental death, one of them through suicide that is mentioned a couple of times in the text, and the grief of those deaths. Classism is shown and mentioned in the text. There is alcohol consumption by the characters, but it’s in a country where they are allowed that. There is a scene with a DUI shown and a car crash, but no serious injuries. There is also exercise and dieting mentioned throughout the book.

Publisher: Kokila

Pages: 373

Synopsis: When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Kang doesn’t think much of trying it out. She doesn’t believe anything will come of it–she’s an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It’s been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected–she’s got a whole extended family from her father’s side half a world away in Korea. Her father’s family are owners of a famous high-end department store, and are among the richest families in Seoul. When they learn she exists, they are excited to meet her. Her mother has huge reservations, she hasn’t had a great relationship with her husband’s family, which is why she’s kept them secret, but she can’t stop Chloe from travelling to Seoul to spend two weeks getting to know the Noh family.

Chloe is whisked into the lap of luxury, but something feels wrong. Chloe wants to shake it off–she’s busy enjoying the delights of Seoul with new friend Miso Dan, the daughter of one of her mother’s grade school friends. And as an aspiring fashion designer, she’s loving the couture clothes her department store owning family gives her access to. But soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad’s family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?

Review: For the most part I loved the book so much! The book is a love story to K-Dramas and if you’re a lover of K-Dramas than this will be the book for you! There are so many twists and turns in this contemporary book that I found myself unable to tear myself away from the book to even eat! The character development was amazing, the world building was well done, and the pacing was on point. I absolutely loved the read and the way the book ends gives me hope there will be a sequel in the future… which I am absolutely hoping for!

However, I did have one little issue I had with the book. There was one line where the character who is lesbian is mentioning dating another friend of the MC and the way she responded to the statement made me a bit uncomfortable. Basically, she responded that she’s dating a male, so she doesn’t swing that way, which kind of erasures bisexuality. It would have been something else if the MC had said “oh no she’s straight” or something like that, but the written response in the book is a bit of an issue with me. I think it was an innocent oversight and nothing malicious, but I’d like to see another book by the author improve upon this.

Verdict: I highly recommend this one!

Book Info:

The Noh Family by Grave K Shim

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publishing Date: May 3, 2022

Synopsis:

A sparkling K-drama inspired debut teen novel by Grace Shim, THE NOH FAMILY introduces irrepressibly charming teen Chloe Kang, who is reunited with her deceased father’s estranged family via a DNA test, and is soon whisked off to Seoul to join them…

When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Kang doesn’t think much of trying it out. She doesn’t believe anything will come of it–she’s an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It’s been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected–she’s got a whole extended family from her father’s side half a world away in Korea. Her father’s family are owners of a famous high-end department store, and are among the richest families in Seoul. When they learn she exists, they are excited to meet her. Her mother has huge reservations, she hasn’t had a great relationship with her husband’s family, which is why she’s kept them secret, but she can’t stop Chloe from travelling to Seoul to spend two weeks getting to know the Noh family.

Chloe is whisked into the lap of luxury, but something feels wrong. Chloe wants to shake it off–she’s busy enjoying the delights of Seoul with new friend Miso Dan, the daughter of one of her mother’s grade school friends. And as an aspiring fashion designer, she’s loving the couture clothes her department store owning family gives her access to. But soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad’s family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57983699-the-noh-family

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Noh-Family-Grace-K-Shim/dp/0593462734/ref=sr_1_1?creative=330641&keywords=The+Noh+Family&qid=1646685530&s=books&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-noh-family-grace-shim/1140010260?ean=9780593462737

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Noh-Family-Grace-K-Shim/9780593462737?ref=grid-view&qid=1646685675970&sr=1-2

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-noh-family/9780593462737-item.html?ikwid=the+noh+family&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=10384a612d7d8a1ae3968ccaa338ed2f

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780593462737

About the Author:

Grace grew up in Tulsa Oklahoma as one of two Korean-Americans at her high school (her sister was the other one). Today, Grace writes books with Korean-American protagonists that she wished she had read about as a teen.

When she’s not plotting (the writing kind, not the world domination kind), you can find her wearing a Korean sheet mask, baking French macarons, and unintentionally killing house plants & succulents. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three kids.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.gkshimwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gracemisplaced1

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21471974.Grace_K_Shim

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/03/14/tour-schedule-the-noh-family-by-grace-k-shim/

Loteria by Karla Valenti

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

Book: Loteria

Author: Karla Valenti

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Mexican MC and characters

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, fantasy, magical realism, Mexican mythology and lore

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Genre: MG Fantasy

Age Relevance: 8+ (poisoning, scary moments, death, grief)

Explanation of Above: The MC is poisoned by a scorpion at one point in the book, but is ok. The book shows a character’s death and the grief after it. There are also some scary moments, including a moment with a spider.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 320

Synopsis: It is the hottest hour of the hottest day in Oaxaca City when Life and Death walk into town, ready to begin a new game of Lotería. But first, they need a pawn, a child whose fate will be determined by the winner of the game: a long and prosperous life or an untimely death. Fate finds this child in a robin-egg blue house, tucked beneath a massive jacaranda tree. And so, the game begins.

Every card reveals a new twist in Clara’s fate: a tree, a scorpion, a fateful arrow, a mermaid, a deer, a treacherous rose. But Clara knows none of this. All she knows is that her cousin Esteban has vanished, and she’ll do whatever it takes to save him, travelling to the mythical Kingdom of Las Pozas in her search. And although it seems her fate was sealed as soon as the cards were dealt, Clara just might have what it takes to shatter the game and choose a new path.

Review: I loved this book! It was a fun read that reminded me a lot of Coco. The book is Mexican Mythology and Lore inspired and had so much culture in it as well. The book is also very informative and offers a ton of information in the back about the card game that is played throughout. The book is also very adventurous and younger children who are just beginning their fantasy reading journey would love this book. The book had well developed characters and world building as well.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is that the POV switching was a bit confusing for me as the voices were not that different, but it was still a fun read.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!