Review: Esme’s Birthday Conga Line

Title: Esme’s Birthday Conga Line
Author: Lourdes Heuer, Marissa Valdez
Genre: Children’s, Picture Book
Publisher: Tundra Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Esme always has a plan. A funny and sweet early illustrated chapter book about a problem-solving girl who has to manage her own birthday bash. For fans of Dory Fantasmagory.

Esme lives with her grandparents on the uppermost floor of the topmost best building. It’s her birthday. Mimi and Pipo gave her a beautiful guitar. But they didn’t plan a birthday party.

Esme thinks this is the way with grandparents. They don’t know about parties or piñatas or birthday cake. No problem! Esme is great at problem solving.

With a little help of her cat, El Toro, and a LOT of help from her neighbors in the topmost best building, the irrepressible Esme gets the birthday party of her dreams.


Esme lives with her grandparents on the uppermost floor of the topmost best building. They gave her a guitar for her birthday but they didn’t plan a party for her. So Esme, with her cat El Toro, decides to make her own birthday party by making a piñata, baking a cake, and inviting everyone who lives in the building, even the grumpy superintendent!

This is an adorable early chapter book about an independent little girl. When Esme didn’t get the party she wanted, she decided to make it happen. Though she made the plans to do everything, the rest of her guests from the building helped her with each step. 

I liked that Esme lived in an unconventional household, living only with her grandparents. They didn’t understand that Esme wanted a party for her birthday, so this shows one issue that can arise from an unconventional family situation. It’s important to have diverse representation of different cultures and family structures, so that all children can see themselves in books and all children can learn all family lifestyles. 

Esme’s Birthday Conga Line is an adorable children’s book. 

Thank you Tundra Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Your Birthday Was the Best by Maggie Hutchings, Felicita Sala

Have you read Esme’s Birthday Conga Line? What did you think of it?

Review: Veil (Hush #2)

Title: Veil (Hush #2)
Author: Dylan Farrow
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley, Raincoast Books
Format: Ebook, Paperback arc
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

The thrilling sequel to Hush, one of the most talked about YA fantasies of 2020.

Shae’s entire world has been turned upside down, and everything she’s ever believed is a lie. More determined than ever, she sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal—a place forbidden to mention and resigned to myth—in search of a dangerous magical book that could alter the fabric of the world.

Following the trail of Ravod, the boy she thought she knew and trusted, Shae discovers there is far more to the young man who stole the Book of Days than she ever realized. Together, with her friends, Mads and Fiona, and a newfound ally in her fierce former trainer, Kennan, Shae crosses the borders of the only home she’s ever had and into a world ruled not by magic, but technology and industry — one fraught with perils of its own.

In a world shrouded in lies, Shae is desperate for answers and to restore peace, but who will lift the veil?


After discovering that everything she had ever been taught was a lie, Shae sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal with her friends. They are looking for the Book of Days, which was stolen by Ravod. When they go to Gondal, they discover that it’s ruled not by magic like their world, but by technology. Shae is still adjusting to a world with writing and books that is completely different from the world she grew up in. She has to find and use the Book of Days to restore her home. 

This was an exciting sequel to Hush. I liked that it showed the world beyond Montane, the setting of Hush. Gondal closely resembled our real world, with large buildings, technology, and a lack of magic, whereas Montane was a fantasy land. 

I was a little disappointed in the ending. I hoped that it would continue in another book because there is still more to explore in that world, but the epilogue suggested it’s the end of the story. There was an unexpected death that I thought Shae should have had a stronger emotional reaction to. I did like some surprising twists near the end of the story.

Veil is a good sequel to Hush. 

Thank you Raincoast Books and Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Other books in the series:

Have you read Veil? What did you think of it?

Happy Pub Day – May 17

Happy Pub Day to all of these new books!

From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper

Harvey Takes the Lead by Colleen Nelson

How to Live Without You by Sarah Everett

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

The Peach Rebellion by Wendelin Van Draanen

Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho

Gideon Green in Black and White by Katie Henry

Melt With You by Jennifer Dugan

Practice Girl by Estelle Laure

Twin Crowns by Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber

Take Your Breath Away by Linwood Barclay

The Sisters Sputnik by Terri Favro

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

The Emma Project by Sonali Dev

On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Love Connection by Denise Williams

My Summer Darlings by May Cobb

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman

What books are you most excited for this week?

Review: Dukes Do It Better (Misfits of Mayfair #3)

Title: Dukes Do It Better (Misfits of Mayfair #3)
Author: Bethany Bennett
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Forever
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: May 24, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

From the series guaranteed to “win the hearts of Regency fans” comes a story of secrets, scandal, and unlikely love that will warm even the coldest of hearts (Publishers Weekly).

After a debut season plagued by scandal, Lady Emma Hardwick is ready to return to London, now with her young son in tow, and make a match. She’s looking for someone respectable. Someone wholly unlike Malachi Harlow, the new Duke of Trenton and former ship captain, whose long hair and tattoos make him decidedly dangerous to her peace of mind.

Malachi would rather be at sea than in a London ballroom. But until he can sort out why the admiralty brought him home, he has to stay landbound. That becomes less of a hardship when he meets the beguiling Lady Emma, whose dimples and easy laughter capture his imagination. When they start receiving threatening notes, they realize that there’s more to their connection than chemistry, and they’ll have to work together to figure out why someone wants to ruin their lives.


Lady Emma Hardwick had a scandalous history in London, but she’s ready to return for the season, with her young son. She would like to find someone who can give them a secure future, but that may not be Captain Malachi Harlow, the new Duke of Trenton. Emma and Malachi had one night together on a beach months ago, but they’ve been apart ever since. Malachi would rather be on his ship, but after the death of his older brother, he needs to be in London to find his place as Duke. They try to have a short fling during the London season, but they have undeniable feelings for each other. Then they receive some threatening letters that put their relationship at risk. Emma and Mal must decide if their love is strong enough or if they should go their separate ways. 

This story began with the romance already in progress. I liked that Emma and Mal already had strong feelings for each other right from the beginning. It made their story feel bigger than this book, since it had begun off the page. Their chemistry was strong and believable. 

The miscommunication trope was in this story, which I find so frustrating. It made sense and was believable that they would misunderstand certain things in those circumstances, but I still wanted to yell at the characters to just talk it out. Luckily the misunderstanding part didn’t last too long in the story. 

Dukes Do It Better is a great Regency romance!

Thank you Forever Pub for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry by Kate Pembrooke

Other books in the series:

  • Any Rogue Will Do
  • West End Earl

Have you read Dukes Do It Better? What did you think of it?

Review: Harvey Takes the Lead (Harvey #3)

Title: Harvey Takes the Lead (Harvey #3)
Author: Colleen Nelson, Tara Anderson (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

The award-winning Harvey Stories are back with a new story of acceptance, understanding, and the loving comfort of everyone’s favourite Westie.

There’s nothing quite like the loving companionship of a loyal dog. When Harvey’s status as Brayside’s comfort dog comes into question, the elderly residents are quick to stand up for him.

Mr. Kowalski, a longstanding Brayside resident, is struggling with his wife’s recent hospitalization. As Harvey watches over him, Mr. Kowalski shares stories of his youth during World War II—tales which fascinates Harvey’s friend Austin. At the same time, the newly appointed Assistant Director Hilary Appleby, the person who wants to get rid of Harvey, also creates unreasonable rules which make the residents of Brayside miserable.

The new school season for Austin and Harvey’s owner Maggie proves to be harder than expected. Maggie’s audition for the school play of Annie doesn’t go as planned, with the role she wanted going to Ndidi, who rarely comes out to rehearsals. Austin, for his part, is battling shame around not being able to afford a school trip.

Award-winning author Colleen Nelson and illustrator Tara Anderson team up once again to deliver another engaging story where Harvey’s exceptional nose leads Maggie and Austin to find resolution to the many challenges they face.

Themes of acceptance, understanding, and intergenerational friendships are the strengths of this middle-grade novel.


When Brayside retirement home gets a new assistant director, she decides to make new rules. These include, Harvey, the Westie, needing special permission to visit and having restrictions while there. Mr. Kowalski’s wife ends up hospitalized, so Harvey would be a great comfort to him. Maggie and Austin sneak Harvey in when they can, but they also have a lot of other issues to deal with. Maggie has auditioned to play Annie in her school play, but she’s given the understudy role and is disappointed. Austin wants to go on a special class trip, but he knows his mom can’t afford the expense. Maggie and Austin have to try to save the welcoming place they know Brayside can be, while also solving their problems along the way. 

These Harvey books are so adorable. They get better with each book. Though they’re fairly short, there is a lot of information packed inside them. There is also incredible character development, so it feels like I’m reading about real people. 

The issues at the retirement home were an important part of this story. The new assistant director thought she was doing the right thing by restricting Harvey’s visits and banning activities for the residents. However, these were things that they looked forward to, so it actually hurt their quality of life. I saw first hand at my grandmother’s nursing home how music and dogs can brighten up the residents. There were even non-verbal residents who would speak when they saw dogs or heard certain songs. I’m glad this was part of a children’s book, so they can learn about life in a retirement home. 

Harvey Takes the Lead is another wonderful Harvey story!

Thank you Pajama Press for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Undercover Book List by Colleen Nelson

The Unique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael

Other books in the series:

Have you read Harvey Takes the Lead? What did you think of it?

Review: Rebel Rose (The Queen’s Council #1)

Title: Rebel Rose (The Queen’s Council #1)
Author: Emma Theriault
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Author giveaway
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Happily ever after is only the beginning as Belle takes on the responsibility of becoming queen and learns to balance duty, love, and sacrifice, all while navigating dark political intrigue—and a touch of magic.

It’s 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Belle has finally broken the Enchantress’s curse, restoring the Beast to his human form and bringing life back to their castle in the province of Aveyon. But in Paris, the fires of change are burning, and it’s only a matter of time before the rebellion arrives on their doorstep.

Not so very long ago, Belle dreamed of leaving her provincial home for a life of adventure. But now she finds herself living in a palace, torn between her past as a commoner, and her future as royalty. While Belle grapples with her newfound position, there are those who would do anything to keep her from power.

When she stumbles across a magic mirror that holds a dire warning, Belle wants nothing more than to ignore the mysterious voice calling her to accept a crown she never desired. But violent factions of the revolution may already be lurking within her own castle, and doing nothing would endanger everything she holds dear. With the fate of her country, her love, and her life at stake, Belle must decide if she is ready to embrace her own strength–and the magic that ties her to so many female rulers before her–to become the queen she is meant to be.

Rebel Rose is the first in the Queen’s Council series, an empowering fairy tale reimagining of the Disney Princesses-and the real history behind their stories-like you’ve never seen before.


France, 1789: Belle has broken the curse and freed Prince Lio from his beastly form. The newlyweds travel to Paris to try to establish Lio’s place in the aristocracy, since he was gone for ten years and no one has any recollection of him as a beast. There are violent protests in the street in the name of revolution. Belle is torn between her commoner birth and her new royal lifestyle. She discovers another magic mirror, which shows her a future where their palace is burning down. Belle must reach inside herself to find her magic to save her country, her home, and her love. 

This story takes place after the events of the Disney Beauty and the Beast movie. I’ve never read a story that tells the events after the movie, and I loved it. Beauty and the Beast was one of my favourite movies as a kid, so it was fun to see these characters facing new challenges after their main story. 

There was a lot of real history that happened in the story. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were mentioned many times. The French Revolution played a big role in the conflict between the aristocracy and the general population. I loved how this brought the story into the real world. 

Rebel Rose is the first book in the Queen’s Council series, and I’m excited to see what happens in the next book about Mulan!

What to read next:

The Beast Within by Serena Valentino

As Old as Time by Liz Braswell

Have you read Rebel Rose? What did you think of it?

Review: Read Between the Lines (Ms. Right #1)

Title: Read Between the Lines
Author: Rachel Lacey
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Publisher: Montlake
Source: Thomas Allen and Son
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 1, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

From award-winning author Rachel Lacey comes a playful romance about a Manhattan bookstore owner and a reclusive author who love to hate—and hate to love—each other.

Books are Rosie Taft’s life. And ever since she took over her mother’s beloved Manhattan bookstore, they’ve become her home too. The only thing missing is her own real-life romance like the ones she loves to read about, and Rosie has an idea of who she might like to sweep her off her feet. She’s struck up a flirty online friendship with lesbian romance author Brie, and what could be more romantic than falling in love with her favorite author?

Jane Breslin works hard to keep her professional and personal lives neatly separated. By day, she works for the family property development business. By night, she puts her steamier side on paper under her pen name: Brie. Jane hasn’t had much luck with her own love life, but her online connection with a loyal reader makes Jane wonder if she could be the one.

When Rosie learns that her bookstore’s lease has been terminated by Jane’s company, romance moves to the back burner. Even though they’re at odds, there’s no denying the sparks that fly every time they’re together. When their online identities are revealed, will Jane be able to write her way to a happy ending, or is Rosie’s heart a closed book?


Rosie Taft runs the Between the Pages bookstore in the Upper East Side. She loves romance novels, and she’s started an online friendship with her favourite author Brie. However, Brie is a pen name, so Rosie doesn’t know who she is. One day, Rosie gets a letter that she’s being evicted from the store because the building will be torn down. Jane Breslin works for the company who owns the building, and she’s the one who sent the letter to Rosie. But Jane’s secret is that she’s a romance author who uses the pen name Brie. When Jane and Rosie meet, Rosie only sees her as the woman who’s tearing away her store. Their secret online relationship is undeniable, so they have to decide if they can put aside their differences to have their happy ending.

Enemies to lovers is quickly becoming one of my favourite romance tropes. The tension in their “enemy” relationship didn’t last long in the story though, so most of it was a cute romance. It was so adorable to see how their relationship started with a love of books online and then moved to the real world.

I liked the progression of their relationship in this story. There was a lot of tension, with Jane’s secret identity as an author and the fact that Jane’s company had destroyed Rosie’s store, so it was bound to explode at some point. I was really happy with the way it ended though.

Read Between the Lines is an adorable queer romance! I can’t wait to read the next book!

Thank you Thomas Allen and Son for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

No Rings Attached by Rachel Lacey

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Other books in the series:

  • No Rings Attached

Have you read Read Between the Lines? What did you think of it?

Happy Pub Day – May 10

Happy Pub Day to all of these new books!

Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas

A Show for Two by Tashie Bhuiyan

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson

Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee

Dead End Girls by Wendy Heard

Breathe and Count Back From Ten by Natalia Sylvester

Bright by Jessica Jung

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Help! I’m Alive by Gurjinder Basran

God Isn’t Here Today by Francine Cunningham

Mad Honey by Katie Welch

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

Some Mistakes Were Made by Kristin Dwyer

Chasing After Knight by Heather Buchta

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

Last One Alive by Amber Cowie

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero

Set on You by Amy Lea

What books are you most excited for this week?

Review: Kiss and Tell

Title: Kiss and Tell
Author: Adib Khorram
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 22, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Kiss & Tell is a total rush! Perfectly sweet and swoon worthy. I loved every page! – Julie Murphy, New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’

A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.

But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the drummer for the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble–for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself.


Hunter is the only gay member of the Canadian boy band, Kiss and Tell. After they start their first North American tour, Hunter’s ex-boyfriend leaks texts and details about their relationship, fueling gossip about Hunter. People start to question if he is a good role model for young kids after this leak. Hunter starts dating Kaivan, the drummer for their opening act, and when their label finds out, they plan out the dates for them. The label also changes Hunter’s style to reflect a more family-friendly image. Hunter has to figure out how to deal with the vicious gossip and his new image before he has a complete breakdown. 

This story was a fun look behind the scenes of a boy band. The boys had to deal with the usual problems of growing up, like new relationships, while also living in the public eye. There were news articles and interviews between chapters so we could see exactly what the press was saying about Hunter and the rest of the boy band. 

Most of the characters had to deal with racism, homophobia, and sometimes both. The press and the public were horrible to the boys a lot of the time. It was interesting to see that everyone was okay with Hunter being gay, until the details of his sex life were leaked to the public. Once he was sexualized, he was no longer an “acceptable” gay, yet straight people don’t face the same kind of criticism. Many of these scenes were uncomfortable to read, but embarrassing moments and having them made public, especially in the days of social media, are part of growing up. 

Kiss and Tell is a great, queer story!

Thank you Dial Books for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Have you read Kiss and Tell? What did you think of it?

Review: Games in a Ballroom

Title: Games in a Ballroom
Author: Jentry Flint
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback ARC
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

She was forbidden to love him.
He only wanted her heart.
Can a childhood game bring them together?

London, 1815

Olivia Wilde has resigned herself to never finding a love match. Her father has insisted she marry a man with a title, but the men her father deems acceptable are either boring or are only interested in increasing their own diminishing coffers. With her future looking dismal, Olivia vows to enjoy the last few months of freedom with her childhood friends, including Emerson Latham. His devilish smile and flirtatious teasing stirs up feelings she knows she cannot entertain.

Emerson is struggling to rise to his responsibilities after his father’s death. Though he is still learning his place, one thing he knows for certain is that he wants Olivia Wilde to be his wife. Emerson had long ago fallen in love with her quick wit, beauty, and passionate heart. Yet, without a title, he will never be permitted to court Olivia openly. But he has a plan that may give him a chance to court her in secret.

As the Season kicks off, Emerson proposes a playful game of tag. Olivia’s friends are delighted by the idea, though Olivia is wary. After all, the game must be played in secret as they tag each other at dinners and balls. As the romance builds between Olivia and Emerson, so does the risk of being discovered. Not only are their reputations at stake, so is their safety if they are caught by Olivia’s strict father.

Can their love find a happily ever after before the game ends?


London, 1815: Olivia Wilde’s father has insisted that she marry a man with a title. Their family has money but no title, so this is her father’s way to bring a title to the family. She dreads the men who her father brings to her at balls. Meanwhile, Olivia likes spending time with her childhood friends Arabella and Emerson Latham. Emerson is struggling with being the head of the family after his father’s death. Though he doesn’t have a title, he wants to marry Olivia. To spend more time with her during balls, without drawing attention to his courting her, he plans an elaborate game of tag between his friends. However, time is ticking for Olivia to choose a husband. She must decide if she’s willing to risk everything for a love match with Emerson. 

This story was a fun look at balls in Regency England. Balls and parties in the Regency period usually seem serious, with specific dances and social rules to be followed. Emerson shook up that idea by playing tag with his friends throughout the parties. There were other moments where Emerson and his friends would play elaborate pranks. I enjoyed this pleasant and lighter side of the Regency period. 

There were some serious moments in this story. Emerson and his family were still grieving for his father. Though it didn’t appear on the page, it was implied that Olivia’s father was abusive. The serious implication of his abuse put some urgency into her finding the right mate, and protecting her mother from his wrath as well. 

Games in a Ballroom is a fun Regency romance. 

Thank you Shadow Mountain for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Valet’s Secret by Josi S. Kilpack

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Have you read Games in a Ballroom? What did you think of it?