How You Grow Wings by Rimma Onoseta

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

Book: How You Grow Wings

Author: Rimma Onoseta

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Nigerian MCs and characters

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, Nigeria, Nigerian characters, realistic fiction, family, sisterhood

Publication Date: August 9, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary

Age Relevance: 16+ (religion, religious trauma, violence, child abuse, sexual content, sexism, colorism, animal violence, animal death, rape, death, grief, racism, colonization, panic attack, cursing, kidnapping, PTSD, addiction, depression)

Explanation of Above: Religion and religious trauma are discussed and shown throughout the novel, including bits about purity culture and it shows how toxic it can be. There is physical violence shown and child abuse is shown and mentioned. There’s also a kidnapping scene. Death and grief are shown in the book. There is some sexism shown and sexual content is mentioned as well, including adultery. Colorism and racism are mentioned and shown in the book. There is some animal violence via a chicken fight and mentions of killing a chicken for food. Rape is mentioned, but not shown. Colonization is discussed. There is a scene with a panic attack and PTSD is shown. Addiction and depression is also shown and discussed.

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 336

Synopsis: Sisters Cheta and Zam couldn’t be more different. Cheta, sharp-tongued and stubborn, never shies away from conflict—either at school or at home, where her mother fires abuse at her. Timid Zam escapes most of her mother’s anger, skating under the radar and avoiding her sister whenever possible. In a turn of good fortune, Zam is invited to live with her aunt’s family in the lap of luxury. Jealous, Cheta also leaves home, but finds a harder existence that will drive her to terrible decisions. When the sisters are reunited, Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.

Debut author Rimma Onoseta deftly explores classism, colorism, cycles of abuse, how loyalty doesn’t always come attached to love, and the messy truths that sometimes family is not a source of comfort and that morality is all shades of gray.

Review: I really liked this book! I loved how the chapters were done and showcased each sister. While both sisters had a hard life with their own set of unique struggles, I liked how each was framed and how the theme of the book was sisterhood and what that can look like. The book did excellent to discuss different issues as well and it’s probably one of the best contemporary books I’ve read recently. The character development was superb and the world building was also well done.

The only issue I had with the book is that I wanted more of a conclusion to the book. It kind of ends and it’s a cliff hanger of sorts as to what the next chapters in the sisters’ lives are. I’d love to see a continuation as to what happens to the both of them.

Verdict: It was excellent! Highly recommend!

Other Ever Afters by Melanie Gillman

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

Book: Other Ever Afters

Author: Melanie Gillman

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Sapphic characters, people of color main characters, plus size characters, trans character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, graphic novel, LGBT, fantasy, queer, retellings, fairy tales

Publication Date: September 20, 2022

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

Age Relevance: 13+ (illness, gore, violence, death, poverty)

Explanation of Above: There is some illness depicted in the book. There is some gore with blood and violence shown with weapons. Death is mentioned and shown in the book. There is also extreme poverty shown.

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Pages: 240

Synopsis: Once upon a time . . . happily ever after turned out differently than expected. In this new, feminist, queer fairy-tale collection, you’ll find the princesses, mermaids, knights, barmaids, children, and wise old women who have been forced to sit on the sidelines in classic stories taking center stage. A gorgeous all-new collection in graphic novel format from a Stonewall Honor-winning author and artist.

What if the giant who abducted you was actually thoughtful and kind? What if you didn’t want to marry your handsome, popular, but cold-inside suitor? What if your one true love has all the responsibilities that come with running a kingdom?

Review: I really liked this short anthology of queer fairy tale books. I love the overarching story theme and I loved how diverse the book was. The book did well to keep the ton of the fairy tales and to also have important life lessons in them. I especially liked the trans analogy one and the one with the flowers. The book was also beautifully illustrated. I also think it could be good for children younger than the intended audience, as it was overall sweet and had very little graphic details.

The only issue I had with the book is that it ended really short. I think it could have fit in a few more stories and offered a bit more LGBT aspects to it.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales by Melanie Gillman

Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novel

Publishing Date: September 20, 2022

Synopsis:

Once upon a time . . . happily ever after turned out differently than expected. In this new, feminist, queer fairy-tale collection, you’ll find the princesses, mermaids, knights, barmaids, children, and wise old women who have been forced to sit on the sidelines in classic stories taking center stage. A gorgeous all-new collection in graphic novel format from a Stonewall Honor-winning author and artist.

What if the giant who abducted you was actually thoughtful and kind? What if you didn’t want to marry your handsome, popular, but cold-inside suitor? What if your one true love has all the responsibilities that come with running a kingdom?

Award-winning author Melanie Gillman’s phenomenal colored-pencil art creates another “ever after” for the characters who are most worthy of it.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59776461-other-ever-afters

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0593303202/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/other-ever-afters-melanie-gillman/1140956642

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Other-Ever-Afters-Melanie-Gillman/9780593303191

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/other-ever-afters-new-queer/9780593303184-item.html

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780593303191

About the Author:

Melanie Gillman is the cartoonist behind this story.  They hold an MFA in comics from the Center for Cartoon Studies, and currently live in Columbus, OH.  Melanie is also the author of Stage Dreams, a lesbian western graphic novel, available from Lerner/Graphic Universe.  They are represented by Jen Linnan, of Linnan Literary Management.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.melaniegillman.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/melgillman

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7307646.Melanie_Gillman

Tumblr: https://pigeonbits.tumblr.com/

Tour Schedule:

If You’re A Kid Like Gavin by Gavin Grimm

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

Book: If You’re A Kid Like Gavin

Author: Gavin Grimm, Kyle Lukoff, J. Yang

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Trans MC

Recommended For…: children’s, picture books, Trans rights, activism

Publication Date: January 1, 2022

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Age Relevance: 4+ (bullying, harassment)

Explanation of Above: The book shows and talks about the bullying and harassment the MC deals with.

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Pages: 42

Synopsis: The picture book biography follows Gavin in his fight against his school administration when he was banned from using the boys’ restroom, eventually taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Review: I really liked this picture book! I loved that it talks about trans rights and that the book showed an MC who grew up throughout the book and showed the honest reality of the bullying and harassment they face because of who they are. I also loved that the book is autobiographical and shows activism throughout the book. The book is for a little bit older children, but it can definitely help young kids understand kids who are like Gavin.

Verdict: Adorable and very important! Highly recommend!

A Spindle Splintered by Alix Harrow

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

Book: A Spindle Splintered

Author: Alix Harrow

Book Series: Fractured Fables Book 1

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Chronic illness queer MC, Lesbian adopted character, Lesbian character

Recommended For…: fantasy, retelling, Sleeping Beauty, multiverse, meta

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Genre: Fantasy Retelling

Age Relevance: 18+ (cursing, death, illness, romance, alcohol consumption, HP reference, rape, assault, violence, grief)

Explanation of Above: There is cursing in this book. There is some violence via physical injury and physical violence, as well as some death and grief mentioned and shown in the book. The book’s MC has a chronic illness that is caused by water pollution and death is expected from the illness. There is romance in this book and some alcohol consumption. There is an HP reference but it is done in a tone that’s condescending to it. Rape is alluded to and assault is mentioned and shown.

Publisher: Tordotcom

Pages: 128

Synopsis: It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Review: I really love this book so much! I think it’s my new favorite retelling series! I love that the book is very open about it being meta and basically about a multiverse of Sleeping Beauty retellings. I loved that the book mentioned other fairy tales and went into the fairy tale lore and history. The book did well with the character development and the world building. I fell in love with this series so hard and I can’t wait to see what else the author writes.

The only issue I had with the book is that sometimes the pacing was a bit off in places and I wished that the book was longer.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!

As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

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

Book: As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow

Author: Zoulfa Katouh

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Syrian Muslim MC and characters

Recommended For…: young adult readers, historical fiction, romance, war, Syria, Middle East

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Age Relevance: 16+ (war, starvation, gore, violence, pregnancy, religion, death, depression, torture, infanticide, rape, human trafficking, cursing, PTSD, romance, attempted sexual assault)

Explanation of Above: The book takes place during the war for freedom in Syria, so there is a lot about war in the book. There is also gore, including blood and some surgery, and weapons violence. There is also death mentioned frequently in the book and there are mentions of torture as well. There is starvation mentioned and shown in the book and pregnancy is also shown and discussed, as well as some infanticide committed by opposing forces. Religion (Islam) is discussed a lot in the book. There are depictions and mentions of depression and PTSD. There is some slight cursing in the book and some romance. Rape is mentioned a couple of times in the book, there is a scene with an attempted sexual assault, and human trafficking is mentioned as well.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 432

Synopsis: Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

Review: This was an excellent read! I absolutely loved the story and I thought it did well to talk about the struggles of living in Syria during the majority of the fighting. I loved the world building and character development. The pacing was on point and the writing was very well done. The twist in the book was so well done and I could NOT put the book down. I cried, I screamed, I fell in love. And this story will stick with me for a long time. It’s definitely changed me for the better.

The only thing I think could be a bit better is that I wanted a little bit more of the romance and I wanted a bit more resolution with Khawf.

Verdict: It was amazing! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Publishing Date: September 13, 2022

Synopsis:

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

Content Warning: on page death and sexual assault. As well as, descriptions of torture, child abuse and torture, PTSD, starvation, and general descriptions of the horror that comes with war.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57390604-as-long-as-the-lemon-trees-grow

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316351377

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/as-long-as-the-lemon-trees-grow-zoulfa-katouh/1140835426

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Long-Lemon-Trees-Grow-Zoulfa-Katouh/9781526648525

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/as-long-as-the-lemon/9780316351379-item.html

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316351379

About the Author:

Zoulfa Katouh is the only person in her family who can’t roll her tongue, but that’s okay because she writes characters who can do so. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Drug Sciences. She is trilingual in English, Arabic and German. Zoulfa currently resides in Switzerland where she finds inspiration in the Studio Ghibli picturesque scenery.

Ever since her Mama gave her a copy of Anne of Green Gables when she was eight years old, she discovered the beauty of books. Soon enough she was sneaking books under her school desk to read while teachers went on about Math and Physics. Her imagination grew, and one day, she had the courage to pen down the stories that roam her mind. And she never stopped!

Her speculative contemporary YA debut AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW comes out September 13th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and September 15th by Bloomsbury Kids & YA UK, making her the first Syrian YA author to be published in the US and UK.

She is represented by the warrior queen Alexandra Levick at Writers House.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.zoulfakatouh.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thelemonwitch_

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21273700.Zoulfa_Katouh

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/zoulfa94?si=fbgYINjzSAO6r0_krt4d_g&nd=1

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/08/04/tour-schedule-as-long-as-the-lemon-trees-grow-by-zoulfa-katouh/

Flip Turns by Catherine Arguelles

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

Book: Flip Turns

Author: Catherine Arguelles

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: MC with Anxiety Disorder, Sapphic couple characters, Mixed Latino character, Character with Alopecia

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, mystery, romance, relationship violence/stalking

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Genre: MG Mystery

Age Relevance: 11+ (relationship violence, sexual harassment, gore, stalking, vandalizing, romance, cancer)

Explanation of Above: The book focuses on a failed relationship between a boy and the MC, in which she sees the signs of relationship abuse and stalking. There is also one scene where there is some very slight sexual harassment. There is some gore mentioned, like poop and blood and surgery. It’s very slight. There is some property destruction shown in the book. There is some small romance. Cancer is briefly mentioned.

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Pages: 272

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Maddie just wants her classmate, Lucas, to leave her alone. He keeps asking her out—as if she hasn’t already said no a thousand times! Focusing on her competitive swim team, the Electric Eels, Maddie tries to ignore him, hoping he’ll go away.

But then, when someone starts sabotaging Maddie’s family-owned pool—glass on the deck, ketchup in the pool, followed by a “code brown”—Maddie worries it’s her “admirer” trying to get even. After Maddie’s parents rule the problems at the pool just harmless pranks, Maddie and her best friend Ez decide to investigate on their own. Could it be Lucas? And how can Maddie get him to leave her alone once and for all? The future of the Electric Eels and Maddie’s family legacy are on the line.

Review: I didn’t expect the book to be what it was, but I’m very impressed by it! I loved the story and I felt like it did so well to explain the signs of relationship violence and stalking to younger children. It’s a horribly unfortunate thing that happens, but the sooner your young children who are dating/starting to see their friends going out know what signs to look out for, the better prepared your young one will be if that situation comes up with themselves or their friends. It can be very slight and look a lot like children picking on each other, but things like this should not be ignored for numerous reasons and victims should always be heard and believed. The book is so impressive that I’m going to get a copy for when my friends young child becomes of that age range, because I’d rather her be educated and weary than hurt and afraid. The book also did well to be a well crafted mystery. The character development was well done and the world building was stupendous.

The only issue I had with the book is that I felt like the perpetrator of the relationship issues should have been told as going into therapy or some other consequence, but it was resolved and the most important part of the book (the education) was solid.

Verdict: I absolutely love this one! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

Flip Turns by Catherine Arguelles

Genre: Middle Grade Mystery

Publishing Date: September 13, 2022

Synopsis:

Thirteen-year-old Maddie just wants her classmate, Lucas, to leave her alone. He keeps asking her out—as if she hasn’t already said no a thousand times! Focusing on her competitive swim team, the Electric Eels, Maddie tries to ignore him, hoping he’ll go away.

But then, when someone starts sabotaging Maddie’s family-owned pool—glass on the deck, ketchup in the pool, followed by a “code brown”—Maddie worries it’s her “admirer” trying to get even. After Maddie’s parents rule the problems at the pool just harmless pranks, Maddie and her best friend Ez decide to investigate on their own. Could it be Lucas? And how can Maddie get him to leave her alone once and for all? The future of the Electric Eels and Maddie’s family legacy are on the line.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59911411-flip-turns

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Flip-Turns-Catherine-Arguelles/dp/1631636359/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flip-turns-catherine-arguelles/1140942757

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Flip-Turns-Catherine-Arguelles/9781631636356

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631636356

About the Author:

Before writing novels, Catherine earned a BA in English with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a MA in Psychology, Counseling. She has worked as a counselor with middle school students, a fundraiser for non-profits, and is the proud parent of two feminist readers. She lives in Northern California and her favorite event was once the 100-yard backstroke.

Author Links:

Website: https://catherinearguelles.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/arguellescath

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22084777.Catherine_Arguelles

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arguellescath

Tour Schedule:

The Bluest Sky by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

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

Book: The Bluest Sky

Author: Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Cuban MC and characters

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, historical fiction, Cuba, 1980s

Publication Date: September 6, 2022

Genre: MG Historical Fiction

Age Relevance: 9+ (activism, refugees, dictatorship, violence, death, grief)

Explanation of Above: The book discusses 1980s Cuba and it showcases a lot about activism and the dictatorship. It also talks about refugees. The book shows some physical violence and there is one death on scene and grief shown.

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 320

Synopsis: There are two versions of Hector: the public and the private. It’s the only way to survive in communist Cuba–especially when your father was exiled to the U.S. and labeled an enemy of the people. Hector must always be seen as a fierce supporter of the regime, even if that means loudly rejecting the father he still loves.

But in the summer of 1980, those two versions are hard to keep separate. No longer able to suppress a public uprising, the Cuban government says it will open the port of Mariel to all who wish to leave the country–if they can find a boat. But choosing to leave comes with a price. Those who want to flee are denounced as traitors by family and friends. There are violent acts of repudiation, and no one knows if they will truly be allowed to leave the country or not.

So when Hector’s mother announces that she wants the family to risk everything to go to the United States, he is torn. He misses his father, but Cuba is the only home he has ever known. All his dreams and plans require him to stay. Can he leave everything behind for an unknown future?

In a summer of heat and upheaval, danger and deadly consequences, Hector’s two worlds are on a collision course. Will the impact destroy him and everything he loves?

Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s great-grandmother, great-uncle, and extended family came to the U.S. through the Mariel boatlift. She vividly remembers meeting them all for the first time in the summer of 1980 and is proud to share this part of her family’s history.

Review: I adore this book so much! The book did so well to talk about 1980s Cuba and it offered so much information and insight into an area of history that I don’t know a lot about. The book had a math prodigy MC and featured a lot of Spanish phrases. The book also had a really good message, about making your dreams follow you. The book did well with the worldbuilding and character development as well.

The only issue I really had with the book is that it feels like a series book, the ending is a bit open-ended. I want to see more of this universe in other books, because I think the MC is a strong enough character to build on what America looks like in immigrant lenses.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!

Book Info:

The Bluest Sky by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Publishing Date: September 6, 2022

Synopsis:

A boy and his family must decide whether to remain in Cuba under a repressive government or risk everything for the chance of a new beginning in this gripping story from the award-winning author of The Red Umbrella.

There are two versions of Héctor: the public and the private. It’s the only way to survive in communist Cuba—especially when your father was exiled to the U.S. and labeled an enemy of the people. Héctor must always be seen as a fierce supporter of the regime, even if that means loudly rejecting the father he still loves.

But in the summer of 1980, those two versions are hard to keep separate. No longer able to suppress a public uprising, the Cuban government says it will open the port of Mariel to all who wish to leave the country—if they can find a boat. But choosing to leave comes with a price. Those who want to flee are denounced as traitors by family and friends. There are violent acts of repudiation, and no one knows if they will truly be allowed to leave the country or not.

So when Héctor’s mother announces that she wants the family to risk everything to go to the United States, he is torn. He misses his father, but Cuba is the only home he has ever known. All his dreams and plans require him to stay. Can he leave everything behind for an unknown future?

In a summer of heat and upheaval, danger and deadly consequences, Héctor’s two worlds are on a collision course. Will the impact destroy him and everything he loves?

Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s great-grandmother, great-uncle, and extended family came to the U.S. through the Mariel boatlift. She vividly remembers meeting them all for the first time in the summer of 1980 and is proud to share this part of her family’s history.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60372352-the-bluest-sky

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0593372794/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bluest-sky-christina-diaz-gonzalez/1140956671

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Bluest-Sky-Christina-Diaz-Gonzalez/9780593372791

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-bluest-sky/9780593372807-item.html

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780593372791

About the Author:

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the Edgar® award-winning author of several books including The Red UmbrellaA Thunderous WhisperMoving TargetConcealed, and two upcoming books, Invisible (a graphic novel available in August 2022) and The Bluest Sky (a historical fiction novel available in September 2022). Her books have received numerous honors including the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, and the International Latino Book Award. Her work has also been designated as an American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection, and as an International Reading Association’s Teachers’ Choice book. Christina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, sons, and a dog that can open doors.

Author Links:

Website: https://christinagonzalez.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristinaDG

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1030094.Christina_Diaz_Gonzalez

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinadiazgonzalez

Tour Schedule:

The House With The Golden Door by Elodie Harper

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

Book: The House With The Golden Door

Author: Elodie Harper

Book Series: Wolf Den Trilogy Book 2

Rating: 5/5

Spice: 2.5/5

Diversity: Egyptian character

Recommended For…: historical fiction, romance, tragedy, Italian, adult

Publication Date: May 12, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction Tragedy

Age Relevance: 18+ (slavery, rape, sexual content, romance, cursing, death, grief, domestic violence, violence, gore, fatphobia, pregnancy, childbirth)

Explanation of Above: The book discusses characters who live in brothels or are contractually bound to other people and also people who are just outright slaves in slavery positions. There is some slight romance, a lot of sexual content, and rape is mentioned. There is a lot of cursing and grief is shown and mentioned. There is some death mentioned. There is one scene of domestic violence, where a character is grabbed by the throat by another character, and there is some violence shown in the book and mentioned. There is also some gore with blood. There is one instance of fatphobic comments about a character being made. There is a pregnancy in the book shown a lot and there is a childbirth scene as well.

Publisher: Apollo

Pages: 472

Synopsis: The life of a courtesan in Pompeii is glittering, yet precarious…

Amara has escaped her life as a slave in the town’s most notorious brothel, but now her existence depends on the affections of her patron: a man she might not know as well as she once thought.

At night she dreams of the wolf den, still haunted by her past. Amara longs for the women she was forced to leave behind and worse, finds herself pursued by the man who once owned her. In order to be free, she will need to be as ruthless as he is.

Amara knows her existence in Pompeii is subject to Venus, the goddess of love. Yet finding love may prove to be the most dangerous act of all.

We return to Pompeii for the second installment in Elodie Harper’s Wolf Den Trilogy, set in the town’s lupanar and reimagining the lives of women long overlooked.

Review: Ok this was a wild ride! In this book we got a little more into the thriller/intrigue aspect of this series. Amara is out of the fire for the most part, but still wishes to make right with her blood oath and to help out the girls still at The Wolf Den. Amara is quickly caught up in a new issue though, as our heroine finds herself haunted by old fears and new concerns. I thought the book did well to keep that epic feel to it. It’s kind of like a drama much like the first one, but it also has that epic feel to it much like The Odyssey or The Iliad, which I guess would make this more of a Tragedy. The character development was well done and the world building was great as well. As a final note before the third book is released, I’m wondering if the series will ever explore the fall of Pompeii or if this is set so far before it that it won’t happen. I’m invested and can’t wait for book 3.

The only issue I had with the book is that it felt a little flatter than the first one and a lot of the plot is stretched out, as the timeframe in this book is much shorter than the first one. I also wished that the plot was a bit more sped up, but overall I enjoyed it.

Verdict: It was well done! Highly recommend!

On The Subject of Unmentionable Things by Julia Walton

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

Book: On the Subject of Unmentionable Things

Author: Julia Walton

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Hispanic Character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, sex education

Publication Date: August 23, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary

Age Relevance: 15+ (sexual content, racism, micro aggressive comments, alt-right ideals, rape mentioned, illness, vomiting, homophobia, romance)

Explanation of Above: The book talks openly about sex and sexual practices and sexual health in an informative and educational manner that I believe every teenager needs to read. We cannot stop teenagers from having sex, but we can give them the information to proceed with it in an informed, safe, and consensual manner. There is some racism in the book, including micro aggressive comments about ethnic food, and homophobic remarks as well. Alt-right ideals are shown in the book, though the MC and most of the cast of the characters are against it, but it does eerily show reality in those passages. There is some illness shown with vomiting shown as well. There is one scene in which a character is threatened with an allusion to rape and that is discussed. There is also some romance in the book.

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Pages: 320

Synopsis: Phoebe Townsend is a rule follower . . . or so everyone thinks. She’s an A student who writes for her small-town school newspaper. But what no one knows is that Phoebe is also Pom—the anonymous teen who’s rewriting sex education on her blog and social media.

Phoebe is not a pervert. No, really. Her unconventional hobby is just a research obsession. And sex should not be a secret. As long as Phoebe stays undercover, she’s sure she’ll fly through junior year unnoticed. . . .

That is, until Pom goes viral, courtesy of mayoral candidate Lydia Brookhurst. The former beauty queen labels Phoebe’s work an “assault on morality,” riling up her supporters and calling on Pom to reveal her identity. But Phoebe is not backing down. With her anonymity on the line, is it all worth the fight?

Julia Walton delivers a brutally honest novel about sex, social media, and the courage to pursue truth when misinformation is rife. Who knew truth could be so scandalous?

Review: Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think that this is one of those necessary books because it speaks so openly about sex and sex education and sexual consent. I love that it was directed at teenagers as well. Teenagers are going to have sex and making them ill-prepared is only setting them up for failure via pregnancy, sexual violence, sexual trafficking, or illness with STDs. It’s uncomfortable and raw, but it’s a necessity for them to learn, especially about how to protect their own bodies and what warning signs to watch out for with partners. The book is a funny, but passionate and honestly raw book that I think everyone should read. The character development was amazing and the writing was well done.

The only issue I had with the book is that I felt like it was a bit quick with the romance aspect and that sometimes it took away from the plot of the book.

Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!

Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe

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

Book: Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe

Author: Lindsay S. Zrull

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Foster care plus size vegetarian MC, Asian character, Black character, Mexican American anxiety disorder character, bipolar disorder character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, plus size, foster care, cosplay contests

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary

Age Relevance: 14+ (Bullying, Cursing, Schizophrenia, Sexual content, Parental Death, Fatphobia, Anxiety, Panic attack, Suicide, Bipolar, Deportation, Abelism, Racism, Romance)

Explanation of Above: There are mentions of schizophrenia, anxiety, and a very brief mention of bipolar and suicide. There is one scene with a panic attack, but it is quick. There is some bullying shown throughout the book. There is some cursing in the book. There are very brief mentions of sexual content in the form of kink and sex jokes, nothing explicit is shown. There is mention of a parental death and very brief mention of deportation. There is some fatphobia shown in the book and one instance of abelism. There is also one scene of  racism shown in the book. There is also some slight romance in the form of kisses.

Publisher: Flux Books

Pages: 341

Synopsis: Bounced between foster homes since the age of seven, Jessica knows better than to set down roots. Most of the kids at her new Michigan high school think she’s a witch anyway (because, you know, goth). The only one who gives her the time of day is geeky Oscar, who wants to recruit her fashion skills for his amateur cosplay group. But Jess is fine showing off her looks to her Insta fans—until a woman claiming to be her biological mother barges into her DMs.

Jess was claimed by the state when her bio mom’s mental illness made her unstable. While their relationship is far from traditional, blood ties are hard to break. There’s only one problem: Jess can’t reunite with her mom in New York City without a bunch of paperwork and she worries her social worker will never approve the trip. That’s when she remembers Oscar’s cosplay group, which is aiming for that big convention in New York . . .

So, Jess joins Oscar’s team—with every intention of using them to get to her mom. But her plan gets complicated when she discovers that, actually, cosplay is pretty great, and so is having friends. And Oscar, who Jess thought was just a shy nerd, can be as gallant and charming as the heroes he pretends to be. As the big convention draws near, Jess will have to decide whether or not chasing a dream of “family” is worth risking the family she’s built for herself.

Review: I really love this book! As someone who grew up with a mom who suffered from mental health issues, I really connected with the main character and her plight. I wasn’t ever in the foster care system, but I could relate to her struggles with her mother. It’s like constantly walking on eggshells and not knowing if your remarks or questions will set them off. It’s not knowing if they’ll come out of their room to make dinner or not. It’s being yelled at for things you didn’t do and having bread thrown at you because they didn’t like the way you folded the towels or they didn’t remember where they set their bible. It’s super hard and being in foster care or not you always feel the effects. I love how unashamed the book discussed mental health, because while there can be significant heartbreak in it, it’s not the end of the world for most and it’s something that can be helped a lot by medication. I really appreciated the ending, because I’m currently in the unknown with my own mother. I don’t know what the future looks like and I’m glad this book left it open as well. The character development was well done and I also really liked the world building. The story was well plotted and it developed very naturally throughout the book.

The only thing I thought the book could improve on was that the romance I thought could be a bit more pronounced (but that’s a personal preference) and I think the cover could have been better designed to fully illustrate the plus size heroine. She’s there and she’s plus size, but she hiding herself and in all her black apparel it’s hard to see that she’s plus size. I think it would be great for young people to see her better.

Verdict: I highly recommend this one for younger kids going through what I did and what this MC is.

Book Info:

Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe by Lindsay S Zrull

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publishing Date: July 19, 2022

Synopsis:

Bounced between foster homes since the age of seven, Jessica knows better than to set down roots. Most of the kids at her new Michigan high school think she’s a witch anyway (because, you know, goth). The only one who gives her the time of day is geeky Oscar, who wants to recruit her fashion skills for his amateur cosplay group. But Jess is fine showing off her looks to her Insta fans—until a woman claiming to be her biological mother barges into her DMs.

Jess was claimed by the state when her bio mom’s mental illness made her unstable. While their relationship is far from traditional, blood ties are hard to break. There’s only one problem: Jess can’t reunite with her mom in New York City without a bunch of paperwork and she worries her social worker will never approve the trip. That’s when she remembers Oscar’s cosplay group, which is aiming for that big convention in New York . . .

So, Jess joins Oscar’s team—with every intention of using them to get to her mom. But her plan gets complicated when she discovers that, actually, cosplay is pretty great, and so is having friends. And Oscar, who Jess thought was just a shy nerd, can be as gallant and charming as the heroes he pretends to be. As the big convention draws near, Jess will have to decide whether or not chasing a dream of “family” is worth risking the family she’s built for herself. 

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58303798

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Goth-Queen-Universe-Lindsay-Zrull/dp/1635830788/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/goth-girl-queen-of-the-universe-lindsay-s-zrull/1140880397

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Goth-Girl-Queen-Universe-Lindsay-S-Zrull/9781635830781

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781635830781

About the Author:

Lindsay S. Zrull is a former foster teen and current book nerd. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and earned a second Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Harvard Extension. Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe is her first novel. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @LSZrull.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.lindsayzrull.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LSZrull

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21580305.Lindsay_S_Zrull

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/05/19/tour-schedule-goth-girl-queen-of-the-universe-by-lindsay-s-zrull/