Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

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I have been excited about this book since I first heard about it, so needless to say, I was thrilled to pieces when I finally got my (digital) hands on a copy.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease”

Um, yes please!

Ollie had an amazing summer fling with Will, but their relationship came to a natural end because Ollie was supposed to go back home at the end of the summer. But circumstances changed, and his family ends up moving to the area to support his aunt while she battles cancer. Ollie texted Will, of course, but he didn’t text back—no big deal, Ollie has enough to deal with.

But then Ollie *sees* Will at his school, and he realizes that Summer Will is a completely different boy. School Year Will is a jock, a bit of a jerk, and most definitely not out of the closet.

So Ollie is left trying to start over at a brand new school and babysitting his cousins to help his aunt. He doesn’t have time for a boy who says one thing when they’re alone, and acts completely different when they’re in public. Read more

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

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Life is pretty good for Brooklyn teen Cal; he has an impressive follower count on the FlashFame app and he’s about to start an internship at BuzzFeed. But then Cal’s father announces that he has been selected for NASA’s upcoming mission to Mars, and the whole family is moving to Houston.

Cal thinks this is terrible: not only is his NY-based internship delayed indefinitely, but then he learns that he can’t even parlay his streaming journalism into providing content for his father’s new opportunity because StarWatch, a reality television production company has exclusive rights and they’re filming everything for their Shooting Stars show. Read more

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

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Ben De Backer tells their parents that they are nonbinary, and is promptly kicked out of the house. Ben calls their older sister, who they haven’t spoken to in years, and she says that Ben can stay with her and her husband.

It’s not easy to be the new kid at school, but it’s even tougher when it’s the second semester of senior year. Ben just wants to keep a low profile and finish school. They don’t expect to make any friends, but a boy named Nathan keeps popping up. He’s everywhere; he even lives next door to Ben’s sister! It’s not clear to Ben whether Nathan is just being friendly, or whether there’s something more.

There are so many poignant moments in this book, like Ben’s mixed feelings about being kicked out of their house. From an outside perspective, this seems like such an unforgiveable act, but Ben’s feelings are more complicated. Naturally, they are scared and angry, but after a while, they have a sense of cautious optimism regarding resolution. My heart just ached for the kid because I didn’t want to see them get hurt again.

While the story might begin with a catastrophic rejection, the tone of this book is very positive. Ben is accepted as who they are by their sister and brother-in-law, and they also have the opportunity to start therapy to help process their feelings about everything. What starts out as survival turns into thriving, and they even find a friend in Nathan.

I would absolutely recommend I Wish You All the Best. This is a beautiful book, and I am looking forward to reading more of Deaver’s books in the future.

 

 

 

Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva

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I came across Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva when I was browsing Netgalley, and the blurb piqued my interest. My request was accepted, and so I added the book to my reading queue.

Alek is an Armenian-American high school student. He has been dating Ethan for almost six months. Things are getting pretty serious, but Alek has reservations. He loves kissing Ethan, but he’s not sure if he’s ready for things to go further physically. Alek measures his life in terms of Before Ethan and After Ethan; he’s changed so much for the better because of this relationship, and he can’t imagine what would happen if it ended. Read more

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich

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Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel was written by Val Emmich. It is, of course, based on the Tony award winning musical by Steven Levenson, Benk Pasek and Justin Paul. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my girls and I have been listening to the DEH soundtrack since the spring.

Evan Hansen is a high school boy with anxiety. He’s supposed to be writing inspirational letters to himself as a therapeutic exercise. One of these letters ends up with Connor Murphy, who commits suicide in an unrelated incident. When the Murphys find the letter, they believe that Connor wrote the letter to Evan. Instead of telling the truth, Evan allows the Murphys to believe that he was Connor’s best friend and fabricates an entire relationship. This desperately lonely boy finally has people paying attention to what he has to say, but it’s all for the wrong reasons. He has everything he could ever want, but it’s all based on lies. How can he tell the truth now? Read more

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

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Band Sinister is a Regency-era m/m romance novel by KJ Charles. I received an ARC of this book, and before I launch into my review, I want to share how excited and grateful I am for the opportunity. For Charles’ last two books, I stumbled upon the submission form for review copies too late. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was able to submit a request for Band Sinister.

Guy and Amanda Frisby live in bucolic mediocrity, and while they aren’t necessarily happy with their forced seclusion, they endure it because that’s the way things need to be.

As the story begins, Amanda has just written a gothic novel based on their neighbor Sir Philip Rookwood and his friends. Amanda breaks her leg in an accident, and is taken to Rookwood Hall to recover. Guy is obligated to join her in order to maintain a sense of propriety; no decent woman will serve as chaperone because of the rumors surrounding Sir Philip and his friends. They are certainly an eclectic bunch, but they are kind to the Frisbys.

Guy realizes that Rookwood Hall is not the wretched hive of scum and villainy that he was led to believe. There’s clearly a connection between Guy and Philip, but Guy has never allowed himself to even acknowledge such feelings, let alone act upon them. Philip is much more (so much more) experienced, but he’s gentle and patient with Guy, who proves to be equally adept and curious. Guy is so shy that he can’t even say what he wants in English- he reverts to Latin. And if that’s not the sweetest most precious thing in the entire world, I don’t know what is.

In many books, conflict stems from a Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved with a frank conversation. Conflict in Band Sinister does not fall victim to this pitfall; it’s much more realistic, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate the weight of obligation versus doing what the heart wants.

I loved everything about Band Sinister. I took two classes about gothic novels in college, so I appreciated the inclusion of a gothic novel as a plot point. I’d like to think that Charles named the Frisbys after the family of mice in the children’s modern classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It would be so delightfully perfect.

Speaking of delightfully perfect, I’m grateful for the lessons in some of the salacious lines from Latin literature.

On a more serious note, despite the frequent doses of levity, this book presents some serious points on family bonds, friendship, love, redemption, consent, and trust.

I would absolutely recommend Band Sinister to fans of m/m historical fiction. This is absolutely my favorite KJ Charles book. I received my copy at the end of August, and I’ve read the book at least 3-4 times since then. I plan to buy my own copy of this book, and if an audiobook is produced, I’ll buy that too. I can’t wait to read Charles’ next book, but in the meantime, I will content myself with another readthrough of Band Sinister.

 

The Most Beautiful Village in the World by Yutaka Kobayashi

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The Most Beautiful Village in the World is a picture book written and illustrated by Yutaka Kobayahi. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.

This is a slow-paced picture book about an Afghani boy named Yamo who lives in the village of Paghman with his parents. His older brother is off fighting in the war, and because of this, Yamo will get to travel to town to sell the fruit they have picked. Yamo has never been to town before, and is somewhat intimidated when his father asks him to walk around with the fruit. Later, he and his father share tea at a restaurant, and they have enough money to buy a lamb. No one else in the village has a lamb of their own, and Yamo is very proud to be able to return home with their new lamb. Read more

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

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A Girl Like That was written by Tanaz Bhathena. I read this book a while ago, but I have fallen behind with my review writing. I found this book on the new release shelf of the young adult section of my library. The premise interested me, so I added it to my pile.

The book opens with the deaths of the protagonist Zarin and her boyfriend Porus. Armed with this knowledge, the reader must delve into the backstory, which details the events that led up to this untimely demise.

Zarin is a teenage girl living in Saudi Arabia. She’s Indian, and she lives in an expatriate community with her aunt and uncle. She has already acquired a reputation by the time she meets Porus, but she is so much more than “the girl like that”. Her life is heartbreakingly complicated, and her story deserves to be told. Read more

Poco and Moco Are Twins by Jun Ichihara

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Poco and Moco Are Twins is a picture book written and illustrated by Jun Ichihara. My girls have mostly moved beyond picture books, but they still enjoy checking out the digital review copies that I receive.

Poco and Moco are a pair of sheep twins. Poco is a boy, and Moco is a girl. They share similarities, but they also have their differences. Poco likes bread, and Moco likes desserts- but they both like donuts! There’s not much of a plot, but that’s okay, because this book is intended for older toddlers and younger preschoolers. It’s more of a concept book than a narrative.     Read more

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

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The Orphan Band of Springdale is a middle grade novel written by Anne Nesbet. I always read the middle grade novels I receive with my oldest daughter, so I was excited about the opportunity to share another book with her.

Gusta Neubronner arrives in Sprindale, Maine to stay with her mother’s family. She wants nothing more than to fit in with her new classmates, but she immediately stands out when she fails an eye exam on the first day of school. Gusta has always known that she needs glasses, but she always used coping mechanisms like memorization to “pass” the test. Glasses are a luxury that she doesn’t think her family can afford.

Gusta also stands out because of her “foreign” name. It’s 1941, and her school is engaged in activities that highlight what it means to be a Real American, and what they as children can do to be patriots. Gusta wants to do her part, but she is also struck by the injustice that she sees around her. Her father is actually on the run from the authorities for his role in labor organization. Read more