Review: No Judgments (Little Bridge Island #1)

Title: No Judgments (Little Bridge Island #1)
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The storm of the century is about to hit Little Bridge Island, Florida—and it’s sending waves crashing through Sabrina “Bree” Beckham’s love life…

When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.

But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker.

But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too. 

Review:

Bree Beckham moved to Little Bridge Island in the Florida Keys after a bad break up and some startling discoveries about her family. A hurricane is due to arrive on the island, which is causing many residents to evacuate, but Bree thinks she can wait it out. She goes to her boss’s home, where an extended family lives in a mansion high above sea level and safe from the storm. The storm is much worse than expected, leading to power outages and destroying the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. Bree volunteers to help look after the pets that were left behind, but she needs the help of Drew Hartwell, who has the reputation of being the island’s sexy heartbreaker.

I haven’t read many books about hurricanes, and I have never experienced one. It seems like a scary experience, that can bring unexpected destruction. The hurricane in this story added some extra tension that isn’t usually seen in a romance novel. Bree is naive in thinking the storm won’t affect her very much, since it ends up taking out the power and destroying the only way on and off the island. This storm made the stakes much higher for the characters, but it also threw Bree and Drew together in a way that wouldn’t be possible without it.

I liked how the title “no judgments” was woven through the story. People made many misguided judgments throughout the story. Drew was judged as staying with many different women on the island because his truck was parked at various houses every night. Bree kept saying that the pet owners who left their pets behind when they evacuated shouldn’t be judged for their decision. Bree’s mother was also a famous judge. Despite these reminders not to judge others, characters still made judgments that weren’t necessary.

There are a couple of content warnings for this story. There was a brief scene of animal abuse and a sexual assault was described. These warnings can often make me dislike a book, but these were mild scenes that weren’t offensive. These scenes were short and resolved quickly.

I really enjoyed this romance!

What to read next:

Bridal Boot Camp (Little Bridge Island #0.5) by Meg Cabot

Well Met (Well Met #1) by Jen DeLuca

Other books in the series:

  • Bridal Boot Camp
  • No Offense

Have you read No Judgments? What did you think of it?

Review: Harvey Holds His Own (Harvey Comes Home #2)

Title: Harvey Holds His Own (Harvey Comes Home #2)
Author: Colleen Nelson, Tara Anderson (illustrations)
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 11, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The West Highland Terrier that brought Harvey Comes Home to life returns with his tail wagging and his nose sharp, ready for a new adventure

Harvey the West Highland Terrier, hero of Harvey Comes Home, is back with his beloved Maggie. He is also back at Brayside retirement home, where he and Maggie now volunteer along with their friend Austin. There Maggie is drawn to a new resident, Mrs. Fradette, who tells stories of learning to fix cars as a twelve-year-old during the flood of 1950. Mrs. Fradette, with her bold fashion and love of poker, doesn’t fit in among the beige-cardigan-wearing, bridge-playing ladies of Brayside, but she doesn’t seem to care. Maybe that’s why Maggie likes her so much. Since seventh grade began, Maggie hasn’t been fitting in well with her friends, either.

Harvey has a problem of his own. He can smell an intruder in his yard, and he needs to find it. He is so intent on the nighttime fiend that he almost doesn’t notice how worried Austin is about his grandfather, who has been Brayside’s custodian for longer than Harvey has been alive. It seems like the retirement home is planning to give the job to a younger man, an injustice that Austin can’t let pass unchallenged.

In intertwining perspectives, Colleen Nelson tells four stories of individuals standing firm for what they know is right: Josephine Fradette, insisting on her right to become a mechanic; Maggie, certain that her friends’ expectations shouldn’t define who she becomes; Austin, indignantly campaigning against ageism; and Harvey, who has found his home at last and is determined to protect it.

Review:

Maggie still holds a grudge against Austin, who found her dog Harvey and kept him for a while when Harvey got lost before searching for his owner. When Maggie’s class is given a volunteer assignment, Maggie decides to volunteer at Brayside retirement home, where Austin helps his grandfather, who is the caretaker there. Harvey is allowed to go visit the retirement home too because the residents love him. Austin takes Harvey for a walk one day where they discover a newborn puppy who had been abandoned. This time Austin brings the puppy right to the animal shelter to get help. Then, Austin finds a job posting for the caretaker position that his grandfather has. He’s worried that his grandfather is going to be fired, so Austin has to try to find a way to save his grandfather’s job. Meanwhile, Maggie enjoys spending time with the residents and learning their history, while avoiding the drama with her friends at school.

This story was so cute. I enjoyed it much more than the first one. Harvey Comes Home was sad, since Harvey was missing from his owners and there was a death at the end of that story. This one was more uplifting and cheery, which I liked much more.

There are three alternating perspectives in this story. I love that parts that are from Harvey’s perspective. He spends a lot of time sniffing things and cataloguing them for later. It’s great to see this dog perspective. The two other perspectives are from Maggie’s and Austin’s points of view. Austin’s is in first person, since he was a main character in the first book and this one. Maggie didn’t have a big role in the first book, so her chapters are written from the third person point of view. It made a distinction between hers and Austin’s chapters, even though they were both main characters. However, it worked since it is a continuation of the first book.

This is a great story! It could be read as a stand-alone or as a sequel to Harvey Comes Home.

Thank you Pajama Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson, Tara Anderson (illustrations)

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Other books in the series:

Have you read Harvey Holds His Own? What did you think of it?

Review: Loathe at First Sight

Title: Loathe at First Sight
Author: Suzanne Park
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Avon
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Format: Ebook
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Melody Joo is thrilled to land her dream job as a video game producer, but her new position comes with its share of challenges. Namely, an insufferable CEO and a team that consists of mostly male co-workers who make the term “misogyny” pale in comparison to their obnoxious comments. Then there’s the infuriating—yet distractingly handsome—MBA intern Nolan MacKenzie, a.k.a. “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss”. 

Just when Melody thinks she’s made the worst career move of her life, her luck changes on a dime. While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly, Melody’s “joke” is her studio’s most high-profile project—and Melody’s running the show. 

When Nolan is appointed a key member of her team, Melody’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she sees he’s smart and sexy, which makes Melody want to forget he’s her intern. As their attraction deepens, she knows it’s time to pump the brakes even with her Korean parents breathing down her neck to hurry up and find a man. But she’s here to work—and nothing more. All she has to do is resist the wild thoughts coursing through her mind whenever Nolan is near. Easy . . . or so she thinks.

With her pet project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a social media trolling scandal that could end her career. She suspects one of her co-workers is behind the sabotage and is determined to find out who betrayed her. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work and love?

Review:

Melody Joo has her dream job as a video game producer. She has to deal with disrespectful and insulting remarks from men just because she is an Asian woman. When Melody and another female producer joke about making a game for women featuring male strippers, the CEO of the company decides to create the game to appeal to more female gamers. Melody is given the lead role for the game creation, with an almost impossible release date in six months. Melody has to work with the annoying intern, Nolan, who got the job because his uncle is the CEO. The details of the game are leaked from someone in the company, leading to Melody being harassed online and even getting death threats. Nolan becomes an unlikely ally for Melody throughout the development of the game.

This story explores sexual harassment of women who work in technology. I was shocked at some of the things that were said to Melody in this story. They were often said to her face by her coworkers. There was even a scene where they attempted to have a sexual conduct meeting, which failed miserably with the men calling Melody names. These scenes were quite disturbing, but unfortunately they were realistic.

The only parts of this book that could be changed are the title and cover. From the title and cover, I couldn’t tell that it was about video game production. I also didn’t realize that the main character was Korean. Her Korean heritage was mentioned a lot in the story with her hilarious parents calling her all the time. She was also recognized as a minority at her office, which the men thought was a great way to diversify the office, though most of the workers were white men. A different title and cover that shows the importance of video games in the story would give a hint to what the story is about.

This is a great story!

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

What to read next:

How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park

Have you read Loathe at First Sight? What did you think of it?

Review: Dear Sweet Pea

Title: Dear Sweet Pea
Author: Julie Murphy
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Review:

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco’s parents are getting divorced, but they will still be living on the same street. One day, Sweet Pea sees her neighbour, the advice columnist Miss Flora Mae, who tells Sweet Pea that she is going away for a while. She asks Sweet Pea to collect the letters she receives for her column and to send them to her, as well as to submit the ones that she answers to the newspaper. When Sweet Pea recognizes the handwriting on one of the letters, she decides to answer it herself. The decision to answer the letter creates a lot of problems for Sweet Pea.

I loved Sweet Pea. She was funny and quirky. She spoke her mind, which sometimes got her into trouble. She wore the same outfit everyday and had a cat named Cheese. I liked that Sweet Pea acknowledged her bigger size. I could relate to that, especially when she has trouble finding a nice dress to wear because the pretty ones weren’t in her size. Sweet Pea was an adorable and relatable character.

There was a variety of problems that came up in this story. There was bullying, losing friends, and moving to a new school. Body changes and puberty were mentioned a few times. Two different sets of parents had marriage problems. These things didn’t all happen to Sweet Pea, but they were all addressed in the story. It’s nice to see these realistic challenges in a middle grade novel, because readers may also come across these issues in their lives.

This is such a fun story! I loved it!

What to read next:

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Have you read Dear Sweet Pea? What did you think of it?

Review: The Stepping Off Place

Title: The Stepping Off Place
Author: Cameron Kelly Rosenblum
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Every girl loves her best friend, but Hattie is more like Reid’s social oxygen. Hattie’s the badass, Reid’s the wingman; that’s how it’s meant to be. But when Hattie drowns off the coast of Maine while summering with her family two weeks before the start of senior year, Reid must confront the devastating loss and her own identity crisis, all while hearing and seeing Hattie everywhere. 

The police declare that Hattie died by suicide, but it just doesn’t make sense. Hattie was one of the most enigmatic and joyful people Reid has ever known. Something just doesn’t feel right, and in her grief, Reid immediately begins to question the circumstances surrounding Hattie’s death—and the secrets kept by the person she thought she knew better than herself. This is the summer that Reid is forced to reexamine everything she knows about alphas and betas, truth and lies, the complexities of mental health, and what it means to step into yourself.

Review:

Hattie is Reid’s energetic and fun best friend. One day, when Reid is looking forward to Hattie returning from her summer at the cottage, she learns that Hattie has died. Reid is shocked to hear that Hattie’s death has been ruled a suicide. Reid can’t understand how someone as happy as Hattie could have killed herself. Reid embarks on an investigation of her own to find the truth behind Hattie’s death.

This was an emotionally heavy book. Some trigger warnings are suicide and sexual assault. Mental health and grief also played an important part of this story. Even though someone may not appear to have mental health problems, doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. Mental health illnesses can be an invisible disease, which isn’t apparent from a person’s outward appearance though they may be suffering internally.

I felt so sympathetic towards Reid throughout the story. She felt like she had a hard life because she had to look after her autistic brother. Her family had to organize their life around her brother’s schedule. Though everyone could see Reid’s brother’s autism, Hattie’s mental health problems weren’t as apparent at first glance. Reid couldn’t understand how her friend, who appeared happy, could struggle so much with her mental health that she would take her own life. Reid’s theories behind Hattie’s death were so convincing, I was tempted to believe her. This story shows how Reid copes with her grief by being in denial about the cause of Hattie’s death.

This was an emotional and powerful story.

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

What to read next:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Have you read The Stepping Off Place? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: The Kids Are Gonna Ask

Title: The Kids Are Gonna Ask
Author: Gretchen Anthony
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Park Row
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A whip-smart, entertaining novel about twin siblings who become a national phenomenon after launching a podcast to find the biological father they never knew.

The death of Thomas and Savannah McClair’s mother turns their world upside down. Raised to be fiercely curious by their grandmother Maggie, the twins become determined to learn the identity of their biological father. And when their mission goes viral, an eccentric producer offers them a dream platform: a fully sponsored podcast called The Kids Are Gonna Ask. To discover the truth, Thomas and Savannah begin interviewing people from their mother’s past and are shocked when the podcast ignites in popularity. As the attention mounts, they get caught in a national debate they never asked for—but nothing compares to the mayhem that ensues when they find him.

Cleverly constructed, emotionally perceptive and sharply funny, The Kids Are Gonna Ask is a rollicking coming-of-age story and a moving exploration of all the ways we can go from lost to found.

Review:

Thomas and Savannah have a podcast where they interview the eclectic people their grandmother brings home for dinner. One evening, they get the idea to create a new podcast to document the search for their biological father. Their mother died when they were thirteen years old, and they have lived with their grandmother since then. They work with a media company to develop their podcast to find their father, which is called The Kids Are Gonna Ask. However, it brings them a lot of attention that they weren’t expecting and they don’t know how to cope with it.

Though this story has two seventeen-year-old main characters, it’s an adult novel rather than a young adult novel. Some of the chapters were writing from the perspective of adults, which I don’t think young adult readers would be interested in. Since this story has both teenage and elderly characters, it could appeal to a wide variety of age groups.

I liked the mystery of this story that slowly unfolded as Thomas and Savannah learned more about their mom and their biological dad. The identity of their bio dad was revealed fairly early on in the story, which cut out the suspense of wondering who he could be. The pacing slowed down after they found each other, though there were still some surprising events to come.

This story shows the dangers of doing a public search for someone. Thomas and Savannah had to make some serious decisions about how much privacy they were willing to give up in the search for their father. They were also criticized for possibly revealing the identity of their father and affecting him and his family. It’s important to recognize that others can be affected when embarking on a public search for someone through a podcast.

I really enjoyed this story.

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

What to read next:

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Sadie by Courtney Summers

About the author:

GRETCHEN ANTHONY is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, which was a Midwestern Connections Pick and a best books pick by Amazon, BookBub, PopSugar, and the New York Post. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Medium, and The Write Life, among others. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Have you read The Kids Are Gonna Ask? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: More Than Maybe

Title: More Than Maybe
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her? 

Review:

Luke Greenly is the son of a former British rocker. He hosts a podcast with his twin brother Cullen. Luke has a crush on Vada Carsewell, a girl who works at the bar where they record their podcast. When Luke and Vada get paired up to work on a school project, with Luke writing a song to go with Vada’s choreography, they realize they both like each other. Luke’s secret talent for music is revealed when he is recorded while composing, and the song is released online. Everyone wants to know who the mystery girl is in Luke’s song, and Vada hopes it’s about her.

This was a cute romance. It’s set in the same music world of Erin Hahn’s first novel, You’d Be Mine. A song by Annie Mather, the main character from You’d Be Mine, was mentioned in the book. I liked that the books were connected in that small way, though it isn’t a sequel. I actually liked this book more than You’d Be Mine. I think that’s because I could relate to the rock music references in More Than Maybe more than the country music in the previous book.

The characters were well developed in this story. Even the parents of Vada and Luke had lengthy backgrounds that influenced their children. These backgrounds, that went beyond the story, made the characters seem like real people. The backgrounds of the characters added to the story.

I loved this story! It had an adorable ending!

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

What to read next:

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

About the author:

ERIN HAHN is the author of You’d Be Mine and More Than Maybe. She teaches elementary, would rather be outside and makes a lot of playlists. So many playlists in fact, that she decided to write books to match them! She married her very own YA love interest who she met on her first day of college and has two kids who are much, much cooler than she ever was at their age. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, aka the greenest place on earth and has a cat named Gus who plays fetch and a dog named June who doesn’t.

Have you read More Than Maybe? What did you think of it?

Review: 10 Things I Hate About Pinky (Dimple and Rishi #3)

Title: 10 Things I Hate About Pinky (Dimple and Rishi #3)
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie follows Pinky and Samir as they pretend to date—with disastrous and hilarious results.

Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny-tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.

Samir Jha might have a few . . . quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.

Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions (aka boyfriends) she’s made, she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy, Samir—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer. As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.

Review:

Pinky is a rebellious, social justice warrior. She’s known for getting in trouble and dating delinquent boys. When the barn at their summer house burns down, her mom immediately thinks Pinky did it, rather than Pinky’s perfect cousin Dolly. To prove that Pinky didn’t do it, she tells her mom she couldn’t have been in the barn with a boy because she has a boyfriend. The only problem is that Pinky has to find a perfect boyfriend to keep up with the lie she told her mom. She invites Samir to stay with them for the summer, when she finds out he didn’t get the law firm internship that he applied for. In exchange for helping Pinky by being her fake boyfriend, Pinky promises Samir that her high powered lawyer mother will give him an internship next year. It all goes according to plan until Pinky and Samir develop real feelings for each other.

This is the perfect summer romance! Pinky was such a fun character. I loved her style, with her rainbow dyed hair. I imagined it as much more rainbow coloured in the story than is pictured on the cover. She was the opposite of clean-cut Samir, who was always dressed up. Even though they were opposites in looks and personalities, they made an adorable couple.

This is the last book in the “Dimple-verse” about these characters. Since Pinky and Samir were away from their hometown of San Francisco, the other characters from past novels didn’t appear in this novel, other than a brief appearance by Ashish. I usually don’t like it when books in a series don’t include all the characters, because they don’t feel connected. However, since Pinky and Samir were away from home in this story, it worked for the plot to not include their friends from home.

I loved this summer romance!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Love at First Fight (Dimple and Rishi #2.5) by Sandhya Menon

From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

Other books in the series:

Have you read 10 Things I Hate About Pinky? What did you think of it?

Review: The Black Flamingo

Title: The Black Flamingo
Author: Dean Atta
Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

Review:

Michael has always had a hard time fitting in. He doesn’t act like the other boys, who play with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and like to fight. He would rather play with Barbies and sing. He also doesn’t fit in at home, where he lives with his white mother, rather than his black father. When Michael begins university, he finds his identity as the drag queen The Black Flamingo.

This story is written in verse. This was such a great format to tell the story, since it takes place throughout Michael’s life from when he was a child to when he was a young adult. The verse format gives snapshots of important moments that affected his life. It also conveys more emotions in the short lyrical lines than it would have in prose.

There were many parts of the story that were so well written that I had to pause and read them over. Two scenes stood out to me and really made me think. When Michael was a child, he wanted a Barbie for his birthday, but he was given a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle because it is considered a “boy” toy. When his sister was a child, she was allowed to play with his ninja turtles and Barbies, and wasn’t criticized for playing with a “boy” toy the way he was when he wanted to play with a “girl” toy. Another part that stood out was when the characters were talking about what things they look for in a partner. When they talked about preferring people of certain races, a character brought up how racist that was. Race shouldn’t be a factor in finding a partner, but I have heard people say that before. I hadn’t thought of the racist implications of that, and the way it was explained in this story made so much sense.

I loved this book! I highly recommend it!

What to read next:

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Have you read The Black Flamingo? What did you think of it?

Review: Date Me, Bryson Keller

Title: Date Me, Bryson Keller
Author: Kevin van Whye
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

What If It’s Us meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this upbeat and heartfelt boy-meets-boy romance that feels like a modern twist on a ’90s rom-com! 

Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Kevin van Whye delivers an uplifting and poignant coming-out love story that will have readers rooting for these two teens to share their hearts with the world–and with each other.

Review:

At a New Year’s Eve party, Bryson Keller, the most popular boy in school, is dared to date a different person every week until Spring Break. The catch is that they have to ask him to date on Monday morning until Friday afternoon. When there are just a few weeks left to go in the dare, Kai Sheridan is paired up with Bryson for a drama project. On a whim, Kai asks Bryson to date that week. The rules said that a person had to ask him, not specifically a girl, though that was assumed. The problem is that no one knows that Kai is gay, so Bryson and Kai have to hide their fake dating for the week. Their new relationship becomes more than just a dare when they have to explore their identities.

I loved this story so much! Kai and Bryson were adorable together. The first two thirds of the story were filled with fun fake dating, where everyone was happy. In the last third, there was more conflict, but it was unavoidable with so many lies about the fake dating.

Kai and Bryson were so cute, but there was also a layer of lies since no one knew Kai was gay. He had to hide it from his friends and family, because he didn’t think they would accept him if they knew. He had a bad experience with a friend that he told when he was younger, so he was afraid to share his secret. The story addressed the way that everyone is automatically assumed to be heterosexual. Kai figures that any guy who he likes won’t like him back, because they are straight. Sexuality shouldn’t be assumed for anyone, but we often automatically make a decision based on how someone looks or who they date. Though Kai’s story is fictional and has a hopeful ending, it’s important to recognize that there are many people who don’t have such a positive life when coming out.

This is such a great story!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Have you read Date Me, Bryson Keller? What did you think of it?