Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Hey all Dani here.

Whew…it has been a busy month of bookish events, reading and reviewing. Next month will be just about as busy…just substitute book events for Camp NaNoWriMo. Speaking of busy times, the book I’m reviewing today jumped into the plot and action fairly quickly and basically managed to keep up the pace through the whole story. Let’s not waste any time and just jump right into the review.

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Summary

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

My Thoughts

Rating: 4.5 stars

Okay, this is a great way to end the month, as well as a nice wrap-up to the first half of the year. I have read a lot of really good books so far this year, and that is fantastic. As might have been noticed by a lot of my reviews lately, I haven’t been reading too much fantasy…and I missed it so much. Thankfully I had this tome waiting on my TBR stack.

The way things are described and the phrasing used for this story was just great. I loved following this adventure through Tilla’s eyes. I have to say, the character development in this book was so good. It’s possible that my favorite character is actually Miles, and I started the book finding him annoying…maybe because I was seeing him through Tilla’s own biases.

There was quite a bit of action and of doing in this book, instead of just sitting around and talking about doing, which I liked. Plus each of the main five characters had their own strengths and weaknesses with their own set beliefs, while still being able to work fairly well together as a group.

Now let’s get into the romance aspect of the story, which wasn’t really that big of a part but still. I saw another reader’s review–I think it was on Goodreads–that talked about this book as having an unrequited love triangle, and that seems a pretty apt description. Tilla is clearly interested in Zell, but he either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t feel the same way. Then again, Zell is a pretty difficult guy to read. Then there’s Miles, who quite obviously likes Tilla, but she does not share those feelings. But Miles grew so much as a character, even just in the first half or so of the book. I started to see him on his own merits, instead of through the opinions of our narrator Tilla.

For the reasons why this book does not quite get a 5 star rating from me. First, I actually would have liked to see a bit more worldbuilding, especially after they brought up the different orders/factions/groups of mages. I wanted to know more about all of that. Now, maybe that is something that will be discussed in books two or three; I don’t know.

The other reason why this book falls short of that rating of excellence is that I discovered this book on an anticipated list of LGBTQ+ releases. That was such a teeny tiny part of the book that I can’t really see it as being able to make that list. I wanted more. In terms of diversity the book did a pretty good job with racial diversity, with a couple of the main group being POCs, so that was nice.

Overall I rather enjoyed this book and before I finished I worried that it would be a standalone. According to a few other readers though, this is apparently the start of a trilogy, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Where to Buy

You can pick up a copy of Royal Bastards from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Hey all, Dani here.

Today’s book was one that I had been anticipating because it sounded interesting, even if not my normal type of read. It also turns out that it works for GLBT Book Month as well, so that’s a great bonus.

Are you ready for the premise of this story? Basically it is if you took the character types of The Breakfast Club and put them in detention but one of them does not leave the room alive. Then it turns out that it may have been murder. Want to know more? So did I, and so I eagerly dove into this book and devoured it in no time at all.

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Summary

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My Thoughts

Rating: 5 stars

The Brain, the Beauty, the Criminal, the Athlete, and the Outcast. Sounds familiar right? Well, yes and no. I loved the way this book explored the characters and all the secrets and revelations that were prevalent throughout the story. I was hooked from the very beginning and really did not want to put this story down.

Also, can we take a moment and appreciate the cover? I just think it has a clever design to it and it does capture the concept of the book rather well.

And as I mentioned in the beginning, it turns out that one of the main characters is a homosexual. I don’t want to say which one because this story is all about these different secrets being revealed, but I thought it was an interesting aspect of this character’s story and development. I liked the variation in reactions from friends, family, acquaintances, and more.

There’s a reason I don’t typically read thriller and mystery type novels: I like to just dive into a story and enjoy it without trying to figure out the hows and whys before they are revealed. But I admit that this one got me thinking and wondering and trying to figure things out. As it turns out I was part right and part wrong, so that’s pretty cool.

That intrigue was one of my favorite parts of this novel. I also genuinely liked how the Bayview Four–as they called the four suspects of this crime–developed and connected with each other. I liked the ways that the characters fit their respective stereotypes, and I liked the ways that they broke those stereotypes.

So I’m glad that I read this book and there’s a really decent chance that I’ll check out more books by Karen M. McManus in the future.

Where to Buy

You can pick up a copy of this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

BookTuber Recommendation

Hey all, Dani here.

Okay, so today is sort of another post related to BookExpo and BookCon, but it is more about the book community in general.

Now, I’ve had this book blog for almost a year and a half now, and it is by far the best book blog I’ve done. I had another one that I used for a few years back in college and I was lucky to get a few hits every month. But now I’m trying to be a bit more involved in the book community and make friends with other bloggers and such. That’s why I’m a part of Bookstagram and why I have several bookish people I follow on Twitter and Facebook as well.

There is one area of the book community though, where I’m just starting to be a little more active in, and it’s an area I’ve wanted to join but haven’t yet because I’m nervous about it. And that is BookTube.

I vaguely knew that there were people on YouTube who talked about books, but I had never explored that particular subsection until I started looking into bookish subscription boxes. I saw a few unboxings by BookTubers on the subscription box’s web site and that led me down the rabbit hole. Now there are eight BookTubers I am subscribed to and watch regularly. So I went from nothing to watching all of these great videos in the past year.

Today I want to talk about the BookTubers I enjoy following. I’ll also be including links to each of their channels in case you would like to check them out.

For me it all started with Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia). I was checking out the page for the subscription box Lit-Cube and they were featuring a few unboxing videos on the site and I happened to click on Sasha’s. I liked her energy and excitement and so I went on YouTube and started watching a few other videos and soon enough I had subscribed to her channel.

The next BookTuber I want to talk about is probably my favorite, mostly because I feel like our reading tastes are very similar, so I’ve gotten some really good recommendations from her. I am talking about Regan Perusse (peruseproject). Now, I found Regan because of Sasha. Together the two lovely ladies have a monthly book club called perusetopia, and hearing Sasha talk about her friend Regan, I found myself curious about other BookTubers. My TBR list has grown massive because of Regan, and it’s also because of her that I discovered the joys of buying books from BookOutlet.

From there I don’t know which BookTubers I discovered next but I feel like they all joined my list around the same time, which makes sense as they are friends and even have a monthly book club together. I’ll talk about them each individually in a moment, but for right now I’ll just mention their names: Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), Kat O’Keefe (katytastic), and Jesse George (jessethereader).

Christine’s videos are just so well made, and her energy and excitement are wonderful. I may be reading a bit more contemporary books mostly because of her but with a little help from other BookTubers as well. When I see a new polandbananasBOOKS video in my subscription feed I get excited, because I know that Christine’s enthusiasm is just going to burst out of the screen. Plus there’s all the book tags and bookish games and such she does on her channel as well. It’s just a lot of fun.

What I enjoy about Kat’s videos, though they are sometimes posted months and months apart, is that she also talks about NaNoWriMo. As a Wrimo myself, I find it nice to connect with others who join that marvelous and hectic writing event. Also, listening to her and a few others speak so highly of certain authors has gotten me to give some of them a second chance.

Then there’s Jesse. Now obviously it is clear that most of the BookTubers I follow are female; for the longest time Jesse was the only exception to this. I just enjoyed some of his skit videos and I liked how he talked about the books and bookish things. There’s a sweet adorableness to his channel. I don’t know how to explain it exactly but I just feel like watching Jesse’s videos is like having a bookish little brother to talk about books with.

Sometime after that I also added Zoe Herdt (readbyzoe) to my list as well. She has recently had a couple hiatuses on her channel, but I still like her content. Okay, I admit it, I may have been attracted to her videos because of seeing her bookshelves in a few of the video thumbnails.

While in a search for more book diversity, I came across Emma Giordano (emmmabooks). She is all about inclusion and diversity in her reading, and she has a big obsession with all the Shadowhunters books by Cassandra Clare. But I like that she features books that talk about mental health issues, and eating disorders, and racial issues or LGBTQIAP+ stories as well as own voices novels. She tries to spread more awareness about these types of stories and I just really appreciate that.

Finally, the reason why I consider this a BookExpo/BookCon relevant post. I saw each of these BookTubers at the convention, though I only really had a brief conversation with Sasha, and even shorter conversations (ie: one question about a book signing line) with Emma and Michael). It was actually seeing all of them at the Javits Center that got me started watching Michael D’Angelo’s (Michael BookLion) videos.

And now I feel bad for not finding Michael’s videos earlier; he is such a fun guy. I’ve lost count of how many of his videos have left me laughing. He’s a bit awkward in the most endearing way. I adore watching his book hauls and subscription box unboxing videos.

So there you have it…a bunch of awesome people who talk about books on YouTube. Are there any BookTubers you follow/like? Let me know about them in the comments.

Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Hey all, Dani here.

I’m back with another review for GLBT Book Month. Today’s review also happens to be for one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, so I’m excited to share this with you all. A couple of my favorite shows on YouTube are modern adaptations of classic novels (Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved) so having a book that features a character who is creating an adaptation of Anna Karenina interested me as a lover of literature. And this book’s main character, Tash, identifies as aesexual, which is something I feel like we don’t see a lot of in books.

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Summary

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

My Thoughts

Rating: 4 stars

This was an enjoyable read. I like stories with this sort of content, you know literary adaptations and such. It’s always fun to see how someone might adapt a beloved classic to the modern era. I have seen this done rather well with shows like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, both of which I have watched all the way through multiple times.

I have read several fandom related books this year, so this book also fit in with what I seem to be enjoying lately. As someone who enjoys conventions and most things geek and/or nerd, it just makes me happy to see the culture represented so much in books and shows and movies.

Of course, I also really appreciated the discussions Tash had with people about her aesexuality. They just seemed so true to life, or what I imagine a true to life situation would be like. Lately I’ve been appreciating the theory that sexual identity is fluid and can change based on where we are in our lives. I related to Tash quite a bit in this book, because for the longest time I felt no sexual attraction to anyone…well, at least anyone who wasn’t a fictional character (I read a decent amount of smutty romance books). So to see a character who still had romantic feelings towards others but just didn’t see them in a sexual manner was really cool.

I’m glad we’re starting to see more representation in books and media these days. The more it happens, the more I feel like the culture shifts towards acceptance. Yes, I think there will likely always be those with more radical beliefs around, but hopefully someday they will be in the vast minority.

My reasoning for the lower rating is because I wasn’t as obsessed with this book as I thought I would be. I suppose I can actually blame that on the fact that I have not read Anna Karenina, nor have I watched any of the movies or mini-series that have been released. That lack of familiarity made me care just a little less about the adaptation.

Still, I really liked this book, and I’m sure if I read it again in the future–after becoming familiar with the source material–my review will probably change.

Where to Buy

You can pick up your own copy of Tash Hearts Tolstoy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

Discovery @ BookExpo

Hey all, Dani here.

Yes, I realize that we are nearing the end of the month and BookExpo was at the beginning of the month, but there are just a few books I really want to talk about that I learned about while at the event. That’s why I am writing up this post today.

Okay, I’m just going to run through these books in order of their release dates. I’ll also be sure to link to the book’s page on Goodreads in case you want to learn more about it.

First up… All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (August 29, 2017). Now, I’ve already read this book, mostly because it just sounded so interesting and I couldn’t help myself. Having read it, I can now say that I am sad that I have not heard more talk about this upcoming debut because it is outstanding and the topics and themes are highly appropriate considering how our world is nowadays.

Next, Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast (August 29, 2017). This sounds like an interesting post-apocalyptic tale which puts two people–I’m assuming young adults–who are technically on opposite sides in a position where they only way they survive is by working together and trusting each other. I don’t know. You have a male character named Eighth who was meant to protect his Offside until a human kills her. Then you have a female character named Raven who was at a summer camp when the invaders came and she was going to stay safe and hidden but then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. I’m curious to see what happens in this one.

Next is a middle grade novel, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (September 5, 2017). I didn’t know about this book until I arrived at the Javits Center and saw a huge poster in the entryway showcasing it. And then I didn’t know anything about it until I picked it up at the Disney booth and read the back cover. It follows a family who made a deal with a malefactor and now that the deal has been broken, the fiend is possessing young Prosper Redding with the intent of destroying everything the Reddings have. It sounds like a sort of dark middle grade novel, but I’m intrigued.

After that is Invictus by Ryan Graudin (September 26, 2017). Okay, so I have not read a single of Ryan Graudin’s books, which means I had no idea about this upcoming release. The basic pitch on the back of the book was Doctor Who meets Guardians of the Galaxy. So it’s about a group of people and they are involved in time travel. I really didn’t need to know more than that, really. I snatched up a copy and I look forward to reading it soon. This is also apparently a standalone novel so…

Then there’s The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (October 3, 2017). Another book I had not heard of until I saw it in the daily show guide. But female dragon hunter was all I needed to sell me on this book. Basically we follow Asha as she goes on a mission to free herself from a betrothal she does not want. What does she have to do? Oh, only kill the most feared dragon in the lands. I have a feeling it will become more complicated than that, but I’m looking forward to reading this one.

There is a reason why this post talks about book discovery. None of these books were ones I knew about at all before going to BookExpo. Next up is an adult novel, The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (November 14, 2017). First, the cover is really pretty. Second, it is pitched as an alchemical combination of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights. A conwoman accidentally summons a djinn warrior to her side, and yep, just let me add this to my TBR. It sounds great.

This is the last discovery with an actual ARC available at BookExpo, but sadly I was unable to snag a copy for myself. Nevertheless I am excited to add this book to my TBR list. Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughan (January 30, 2018) which apparently follows a young woman who becomes Queen of the Bonelands in order to save her people. But she struggles because her husband wants to destroy the Elementae, and she is developing feelings for her husband’s brother. And naturally along the way she discovers that she is Elementae. I love fantasy books with elemental powers.

Finally, I have a book that I found out about while talking with a wonderful employee at one of the publisher’s booths while she was selling books during BookCon. I read Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost earlier this year and loved it. I even commented that I would love to see a sequel/companion novel with some of the other characters. As it turns out, that is happening. More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer (March 6, 2018) will follow Rev and I am so darn excited about this. But man, March is so far away.

Okay, well that’s it for today. Thanks for stopping by. If you have learned of any exciting book announcements, I would love to know as well. Please leave the details in the comments.

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2017 Session

Hey all, Dani here.

Wow…that’s kind of a dull post title. I’ll just say that I’m saving my creative thoughts for my upcoming writing project. Right? That sounds reasonable.

Anyway, I am preparing for yet another session of this wonderful event. I really need to get back into a rhythm with my writing; I haven’t managed to accomplish much on that front this year and it makes me a bit sad.

But I think I have an idea for a story I want to write, and it’s actually a bit of a deviation from the normal stuff I come up with. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you may have realized that I really like fantasy and paranormal stories. Those are primarily what I write and I enjoy doing that.

However, the current story that is in my mind and my heart is a contemporary romance. I have no idea how well I’ll do with this, but I’m willing to give it my best shot. I really like the story and the characters that I’ve developed so far. This might partly be on account of this story being loosely based on real events.

I don’t want to say too much about it because I’m trying to see if I can actually write more if I don’t just tell everyone most everything about what I’m doing or plan to be doing. All I can say is that it will hopefully be a cute nerdy romance story. Plus a lot of my friends from Dungeons & Dragons have been gracious enough to let me use them and/or their characters as inspiration for characters in my novel. So that’s great.

So far I’ve managed to come up with a number of possible chapter titles, so that will make parts of the writing process easier. What I’m still missing is the novel title. For now I have it saved as ‘Untitled Nerd Romance,’ which is not an inspiring title at all…kind of like the title of this post. They let you know what the following text is about but they don’t really make you really want to dive into what follows.

Anyway, for those who aren’t aware, Camp NaNoWriMo is a branch of big sister event NaNoWriMo which takes place every November. Camp takes place twice a year, typically in April and July. But Camp takes a slightly different path than NaNo, making it a more flexible event.

For NaNoWriMo the challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Camp allows you to write and/or edit. And you aren’t bound to a set 50K word goal. No, you can set your goal for a word count of your choosing, or even a goal of so many hours of editing, or so many pages written if you’re working on a play, or even so many lines written if poetry is more your thing.

Also instead of being in regional groups you are placed in smaller cabins where you and up to 11 other writers will get to chat and support each other through the month. Your cabin mates can be randomly assigned based on age and/or genre criteria, or you can create a private cabin and invite your closest writer pals to join in.

I myself am a fan of the private cabin, but since many of my friends opt out of one or both Camp sessions, I often find myself with a few open slots. So, if you think Camp NaNoWriMo sounds interesting, or if you’re already signed up as a Camper and are looking for a cabin, I have some open bunks. Let me know a bit about you and your writing project in the comments (including your username) and I’ll send you an invitation to the cabin.

Let’s have a wonderful month of writing (or editing, if that’s your focus) in July. It’s going to be a fun time.

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Hey all, Dani here.

Happy Book Birthday to the book I’m reviewing today. Yes, today is a bit of a deviation from my GLBT book month reviews. Oh, and also, I do need to mention that I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Okay, well, here we go.

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Summary

Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

My Thoughts

My rating: 4 stars

The concept of this story alone intrigued me. I was excited by the prospect of following the daughters of some of literature’s classic men. Plus, look at that cover. I love all the tiny details on it.

I think my favorite part of this novel is actually the format. It is written as if the girls are telling this story after the fact, and that includes numerous interruptions by the girls to clarify something or just make commentary on a scene. The format is a unique one and it made the reading experience more enjoyable for me.

And really the story is more about all of these young women. Yes there is this search for Mr. Hyde, and then this secret society of scientists later on, but the reason you care about all of that is because you get to know Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

So whether or not you are a fan of classic literature, I think this book is enjoyable, but if you are a literature aficionado, I definitely recommend that you pick up this inventive tale.

Where to Buy

You can pick up a copy of this lovely book today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

Review: No Holding Back by Kate Evangelista

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome to another review for GLBT book month. I was excited to read this book because it featured my favorite character from the previous book in the trilogy, and I wanted to see him get his happy ending. This is where I guess I should tell you that you can find my review for the first book, No Love Allowed, here.

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Summary

A romantic European vacation is the perfect excuse to let go in this highly anticipated sequel to No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista.

Everyone knows that Nathan is in love with his best friend, Preston…Everyone except Preston. Nathan has always accepted that Preston was too focused on his swim training to worry about love. But Preston is heading off to train for the Olympics soon, so if Nathan wants his chance at love, he has to speak up now. But saying “I love you” is surprisingly difficult, even for someone as confident as Nathan. Maybe a whirlwind vacation in Europe could help? But… what if it doesn’t work out and he loses the best friend he’s ever had?

My Thoughts

Rating: 4 stars

I did enjoy this book but it wasn’t amazing or outstanding. It was a nice cute contemporary and perfect for a summer beach read or whatever. That’s one thing I can say about all three books in this trilogy: their length makes them good quick reads. This one starts shortly after the first one ended, though our focus has shifted from Caleb and Didi to Nathan and Preston. I did also like that this book introduces the male protagonist for the third book, Jackson, who is Natasha’s ex.

The characters still remain the best part of these books for me. I love the idea of being able to travel and do all the fun touristy things, and Nathan and Preston had a chance for that in this book. I was looking forward to enjoying Europe with them, but I feel like we missed out on some awesomeness there. Which I get. The focus really was on Nathan trying to figure out how to tell Preston that he loved him.

That aspect took forever. And it took so long for Preston to figure it out as well. Then just when you think the two boys will get their acts together and be able to go on a proper adorable first date, one of them acts like a dunce and does something stupid, which puts the whole potential relationship in jeopardy.

I don’t really want to spoil anything for anyone so I won’t say more on this, but it was a cute read. If you’re looking for a light contemporary read that you can finish fairly easily in one sitting, then I would definitely recommend this trilogy.

Where to Buy

You can pick up a copy of No Holding Back from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore. The final book in the trilogy is also available in stores now.

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Hey all, Dani here.

Happy Book Birthday to the lovely book I will be reviewing today. Okay, so first thing I need to say because disclaimers are important. I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As always this does not affect my rating or review of the book.

The next thing I need to say is that this is the second book of a series, but they are both relatively short, so I think it would be easy for you to catch up if you’re interested. Also, this one is technically more of a prequel as it follows the story of Jack and Jill before they appeared in the first book.

Anyway, let’s just get into today’s review of Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire.

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Summary

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

My Thoughts

Rating: 4 stars

I love that this series is basically short and fairly quick reads. But don’t think that means they don’t pack a punch; they still manage to fit a lot of action, adventure, and development into such a limited number of pages.

This book really does explore and bring about an interesting discussion on gender norms, which is nice. You have more of a girly girl and then a tom boy, and it is perfectly acceptable to be either/or or a blend of the two.

I will say that having this book contain several time jumps was frustrating…in the sense that I was enjoying myself and would have liked to have more with the story. Still, the adventures of Jack and Jill was an entertaining one.

Now, the reason why this review also works for my celebration of GLBT book month is that there is a little bit of a lesbian romance. Also, the first book of the series–Every Heart a Doorway–follows a main character who is aesexual. So there’s some decent representation in these books.

I like that we are getting more information on the mythos of this world…er technically worlds. This is why portal fantasy can get really interesting; there are so many possibilities and such.

And I’ve also heard that there are more books in the series to come, at least a third and fourth, with the possibility of more if they do well. I’m looking forward to following the adventures of some of the other characters.

Where to Buy

You can pick up a copy of this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

Review: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome to another GLBT Book Month review. Today’s book is one I have heard wonderful things about, and I have had it on my TBR list for quite some time. No longer. Now it joins the massive list of books I have read in my lifetime (or technically just since I joined Goodreads back in 2010).

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Summary

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My Thoughts

Rating: 4 stars

Maybe it was all the hype I’ve heard about this book, but I was mildly disappointed with it. Yes, it was cute, but I didn’t connect with it as much as I have with some other reads of 2017. I feel like I’ve read a few books this year that feature two characters exchanging messages, where the characters are unaware of who each other is. And just like with those other books, it doesn’t take all that long before one of the two in this anonymous exchange discovers who the other is.

I can also say that figuring out the identity of Blue was not all that difficult, as he made it a bit obvious in his real life interactions. Even with the attempt to make readers think that Blue was a not so nice character instead, it was obvious that the assumption was wrong.

Simon felt like a real person to me, though I can also say that sometimes I didn’t like him much. The way he treats, technically ignores, Leah is very aggravating. Speaking of annoyances from characters–am I the only one who felt like Martin’s blackmail felt sort of awkward and forced?

I did like Simon and Blue’s e-mail exchanges though. It was easy to see their relationship develop. Speaking of that, this didn’t affect my rating, but having all the characters refer to Tumblr as “the Tumblr” was annoying.

Okay, I will say that I can understand why this book is raved about and why it has won so many awards. I just wanted more from it. But the story was a decent one and for the most part I enjoyed the character interactions, which is why I gave the book a 4 star rating instead of a 3 star one.

Where to Buy

You can pick up Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.