Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

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Crush is Svetlana Chmakova’s third graphic novel set at Berrybrook Middle School. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my oldest daughter is in the sixth grade, and she loves graphic novels. For several years, she read graphic novels almost exclusively. She has always been a voracious reader, so this meant that we always had a lot of graphic novels in the house. She has recently branched out and found some novels that she really likes, but she still loves graphic novels.

Since she is an expert in the genre, I thought that it would be nice if she could share her thoughts on Crush:

So, I just want to say that I LOVE Svetlana Chmakova’s books, and that I was so exited when I heard there was a third book! Read more

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Social Intercourse by Greg Howard

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Social Intercourse is a YA novel by Greg Howard. I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but the plot intrigued me, and so I made a request through my library network, and the book arrived a couple of days later.

It’s not easy for Beckett Gaines to be a gay teen in South Carolina, but he knows that he only needs to make it through high school and then he can leave his homophobic hometown. His plan is somewhat derailed when his dad starts dating one of football star Jaxon Parker’s moms.

Beck has accepted that his own mother abandoned the family, but he’s not too thrilled about the development because of his contentious history with Jax. Likewise, Jax wants his moms to get back together, so the two boys do what any reasonable teens would do and hatch a plan to break up Beck’s dad and Jax’s mom. What neither of them counted on was developing feelings for each other. 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.

 

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is a middle grade historical fiction novel by Jonathan Auxier. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed some of Auxier’s other books, and I thought it would be a good fit for my three girls who are in the fourth and sixth grades.

Nan Sparrow works as a chimney sweep in Victorian London. It’s a miserable existence, with no end in sight, but that changes when she meets Charlie, a gentle creature who befriends her. Nan has never really had a friend, and she is fiercely protective of Charlie. She understands that he would never hurt anyone, but is there a place in the harsh world for a monster? Read more

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

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Mistletoe and Murder is the fifth book in Robin Steven’s Wells & Wong series of middle grade historical mysteries. My oldest daughter is eleven years old, and she is a big fan of this series. We actually own the UK editions of most of the series (including this one), but we were super excited when we received the opportunity to read an ARC of the American edition.

In fact, my daughter was so excited about reading this book (again) that she asked if she could write the review. So, here you go:

My review on Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Note: this is my first review EVER so, sorry if you think it’s short :/

Hello whoever is reading this! This is my review on Mistletoe and Murder.

This book is part of a series called Wells and Wong in the US, but in England, it’s called A Murder Most Unladylike.

The book takes place during Christmas time in England, and Hazel and Daisy-the main characters- are staying in wintry Cambridge for the Christmas holidays.

But-of course-a murder happens. Two days before Christmas, a person is murdered, and Hazel and Daisy have to solve the case- But they have competition with the Junior Pinkertons, a rival agency, and they have to find the killer before Christmas day! Talk about all that stress!

But a big twist comes at the end, something you’d never see coming!

If you liked Mistletoe and Murder, you should try more Murder Most Unladylike books! I DEFINITELY recommend them, the books are so great, like this one! Robin Stevens is an amazing author, and I definitely love this series!

Okay, back to my adult/mom perspective now!

Boarding school books are my absolute favorite, so I was a little sad to see Daisy and Hazel leave their school for the holidays. However, it was quite pleasant to see them reunite with some of the characters from previous books in the series.

I found the mystery to be quite satisfying, and although I did pick up on the direction the book was going to take in its earliest stages, I was surprised by the Big Reveal. I do think it’s great that Hazel and Daisy go about solving their cases. Everything is very methodical and organized. Details and observations are written down in a notebook, and they discuss points before reaching conclusions.

I loved the way this book tackled tough subjects like gender and race in such a meaningful way by incorporating them organically into the plot. I also loved the evolution of Daisy and Hazel’s friendship; like many teen girls, their friendship has suffered ups and downs, but manages to persevere.

I would absolutely recommend Mistletoe is Murder to middle grade readers. I would suggest starting with the beginning of the series and then reading the books in order. Stevens is an extremely talented author, and the books are surprisingly nuanced- not your typical middle grade fare! As a mom to girls, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate such a wonderful series with strong female leads who work together and are very very clever. We are both eagerly looking forward to finding out what is going to happen next for our intrepid sleuths!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.

 

 

 

 

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall

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Been Here All Along is a young adult novel by Sandy Hall. I put this book on my “To Read” list, and then I was lucky enough to find it at my town library without having to request it through the library network.

Gideon and Kyle have been best friends and neighbors since they were five years old. They don’t share all of the same interests- Kyle plays basketball and Gideon focuses on academics- but they still love talking about things like Lord of the Rings.

Gideon realizes that his feelings for Kyle go beyond friendship. This also marks the first time that he considered his sexuality, and he doesn’t know what to do with this revelation. Kyle has already come out as bisexual, but Gideon doesn’t want to ruin his friendship with Kyle. Also, Kyle is currently dating Ruby, a cheerleader. Read more

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

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Autoboyography is a young adult novel written by Christina Lauren (Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings). I picked up this book during an Audible sale; based on the description, it seemed like something I would like.

Tanner Scott is a bit of an outsider at his high school in Provo; not only did he not grow up in Utah, but his family is not LDS (Mormon). He’s also bisexual, although he has not been “out” since moving from California to Utah a couple of years ago. Tanner’s friend Autumn persuades him to participate in a unique class called “The Seminar”, wherein kids write a full-length book in one semester. It’s kind of a big deal around town because last year, a boy named Sebastian Brother managed to get a publishing deal for his fantasy novel. 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

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

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When Life Gives You Lululemons was written by Lauren Weisberger. This is a spinoff to her wildly popular novel, The Devil Wears Prada. I must admit, I didn’t even remember that there was already a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, but I was excited about this spinoff because I was looking forward to a relatively light and fun “beach read”.

Fans of The Devil Wears Prada will remember Emily as Miranda Priestly’s assistant. She has moved on from that part of her life, and she now works as an image consultant. She’s going through a rough patch with work, and ends up in Greenwich, visiting Miriam- an old friend from summer camp. Read more