Dig Two Graves review

Graves
Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil
352 pages
published April 26th, 2022

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

One of Us is Lying meets Hitchcock in this novel from celebrated author of the #MurderTrending series, Gretchen McNeil. 

I did my part, BFF. Now it’s your turn. 

Seventeen-year-old film noir fan Neve Lanier is a girl who just wants to be seen, but doesn’t really fit in anywhere. When Neve is betrayed by her best friend, Yasmin, at the end of the school year, she heads off to a girl’s empowerment camp feeling like no one will ever love her again. So when she grabs the attention of the beautiful, charismatic Diane, she falls right under her spell, and may accidentally promise to murder Diane’s predatory step-brother, Javier, in exchange for Diane murdering Yasmin. But that was just a joke…right? 

Wrong. When Yasmin turns up dead, Diane comes calling, attempting to blackmail Neve into murdering Javier. Stalling for time, Neve pretends to go along with Diane’s plan until she can find a way out that doesn’t involve homicide. But as she gets to know Javier – and falls for him – she realizes that everything Diane told her is a lie. Even worse, she discovers that Yasmin probably wasn’t Diane’s first victim. And unless Neve can stop her, she won’t be the last. 

In this twisted game of cat and mouse, the reader never quite knows who’s telling the truth, who’s playing games, and who is going to end up dead.

This book was WILD and NOTHING MADE SENSE, even on a reread. However, it was a great ride! And it’s sapphic! What’s not to love? Well, there’s the writing, the dialogue, and the major plot holes. But other than that! I would have loved reading this at my middle school library. Three stars. 

Arden Grey book review

Arden2
Arden Grey by Ray Stoeve
288 pages
published April 26th, 2022

An insightful, raw YA novel about a young photographer navigating toxic relationships and how they influence her identitySixteen-year-old Arden Grey is struggling. Her mother has left their family, her father and her younger brother won’t talk about it, and a classmate, Tanner, keeps harassing her about her sexuality–which isn’t even public. (She knows she likes girls romantically, but she thinks she might be asexual.) At least she’s got her love of film photography and her best and only friend, Jamie, to help her cope. Then Jamie, who is trans, starts dating Caroline, and suddenly he isn’t so reliable. Arden’s insecurity about their friendship grows. She starts to wonder if she’s jealous or if Jamie’s relationship with Caroline is somehow unhealthy–and it makes her reconsider how much of her relationship with her absent mom wasn’t okay, too. Filled with big emotions, first loves, and characters navigating toxic relationships, Ray Stoeve’s honest and nuanced novel is about finding your place in the world and seeking out the love and community that you deserve.

This book is genuinely very good, with a very good main character voice and excellent side characters as well. Arden reminds me a lot of myself as a teenager, and the ace/aro representation here in Arden is incredible. I’m really glad this book is out and incredibly glad that I got to read it. Four stars.

The Mapmakers book review

Mapmakers
The Mapmakers by Tamzin Merchant and illustrated by Paola Escobar
384 pages
published May 3rd, 2022

Cordelia Hatmaker has saved England from war. She stopped Lord Whitloof’s sinister plans, rescued the King and Princess, and restored the Makers Guild. But she still hasn’t found her missing father. Ever since Cordelia discovered the hidden map in her father’s telescope, she’s been searching the streets of London by starlight, trying to uncover its secrets.

She never expects to stumble upon a secret society of Mapmakers–or to learn that magic isn’t limited to the few Maker families, but instead is all around, if you know where to look. But danger is lurking around every corner, and Cordelia must convince the rival Maker families to work together for once–not only to bring her father home, but to save the very essence of magic itself. . . .

With exceptional and inventive storytelling and a lionhearted heroine, Tamzin Merchant once again draws readers into her captivating London and takes them on a breathless new adventure full of wildness, wit, warmth–and magic.

Once again this is the second book in a series and I did not read the first! The first is called The Hatmakers, and I had enough “backstory” in this one to get up to speed. This is a fantastic little fantasy novel that really reminded me a lot of my own favorite book series, the Fly by Night books by Frances Hardinge. (Weird to call them a series but there are only two. Possibly more eventually??) I love Cordelia, the main character of this book, and it’s an excellent middle grade. Five stars. Would recommend to any middle-grader. Bookshop link.

Drew LeClair Gets a Clue book review

Drew
Drew LeClair Gets A Clue by Katryn Bury
288 pages
published March 1st, 2022

In this modern take on Harriet the Spy, twelve-year-old Drew uses her true crime expertise to catch the cyberbully in her school–only to discover that family, friendship, and identity are the hardest mysteries to solve.

Drew Leclair knows what it takes to be a great detective. She’s pored over the cases solved by her hero, criminal profiler Lita Miyamoto. She tracked down the graffiti artist at school, and even solved the mystery of her neighbor’s missing rabbit. But when her mother runs off to Hawaii with the school guidance counselor, Drew is shocked. How did she miss all of the clues?

Drew is determined to keep her family life a secret, even from her best friend. But when a cyberbully starts posting embarrassing rumors about other students at school, it’s only a matter of time before Drew’s secret is out.

Armed with her notebooks full of observations about her classmates, Drew knows what she has to do: profile all of the bullies in her grade to find the culprit. But being a detective is more complicated when the suspects can be your friends. Will Drew crack the case if it means losing the people she cares about most?

Drew is such a fantastic main character, and she’s what really sells this book. There have been a lot of parallels drawn to Harriet the Spy, and they’re definitely warranted – this book kind of updates that story and takes a new twist on it. Fantastic middle grade mystery novel for kids who are so inclined to mysteries. Five stars.

When You Call My Name book review

My name
When You Call My Name by Tucker Shaw
368 pages
published May 3rd, 2022

Film fanatic Adam is seventeen and being asked out on his first date–and the guy is cute. Heart racing, Adam accepts, quickly falling in love with Callum like the movies always promised.

Fashion-obsessed Ben is eighteen and has just left his home upstate after his mother discovers his hidden stash of gay magazines. When he comes to New York City, Ben’s sexuality begins to feel less like a secret and more like a badge of honor. 

Then Callum disappears, leaving Adam heartbroken, and Ben finds out his new world is more closed-minded than he thought. When Adam finally tracks Callum down, he learns the guy he loves is very ill. And in a chance meeting near the hospital where Callum is being treated, Ben and Adam meet, forever changing each other’s lives. As both begin to open their eyes to the possibilities of queer love and life, they realize sometimes the only people who can help you are the people who can really see you–in all your messy glory. 

A love letter to New York and the liberating power of queer friendship, When You Call My Name is a hopeful novel about the pivotal moments of our youth that break our hearts and the people who help us put them back together. 

This book is set during the height of the AIDS epidemic and it’s about two gay teenagers (17 and 18, I think), coming of age. It’s technically a romance between these two gay teenagers, but their coming of age is more at the forefront, I think? You kind of know that they’re eventually going to get together, and I didn’t really feel one way or another about it. The pop culture references in this book are also kind of rough, especially because for a lot of them, I Simply Didn’t Get Them, I Am Too Young.

And it’s really sad, and really slow in some places, and I think maybe I’d like to read it slowly, over the course of a summer instead of fairly rapidly for a review. (Honestly I was approved for this in December so that one’s on me.) Four and a half stars, rounded down for NetGalley.

The Queen of Junk Island book review

The queen
The Queen of Junk Island by Alexandra Mae Jones
400 pages exactly
published May 3rd, 2022

From debut author Alexandra Mae Jones comes a compelling, nuanced exploration of bi identity and body image with a ghostly backdrop–perfect for fans of Nina Lacour.

Still reeling from a recent trauma, sixteen-year-old Dell is relieved when her mom suggests a stay at the family cabin. But the much-needed escape quickly turns into a disaster. The lake and woods are awash in trash left by a previous tenant. And worse, Dell’s mom has invited her boyfriend’s daughter to stay with them. Confident, irreverent Ivy presses all of Dell’s buttons–somehow making Dell’s shame and self-consciousness feel even more acute. Yet Dell is drawn to Ivy in a way she doesn’t fully understand. As Dell uncovers secrets in the wreckage of her family’s past–secrets hinted at through troubling dreams and strange apparitions–Ivy leads her toward thrilling, if confusing, revelations about her sexuality and identity.

Set during a humid summer in the mid-2000s, The Queen of Junk Island simmers with the intensity of a teenage girl navigating the suffocating expectations of everyone around her.

This is the book you need for your mom trauma, your identity issues, your coming of age around generational trauma. It’s that Rory Power novel from last year (burn our bodies down) with less horror elements. It’s like reading your own journal written by someone else. It’s incredible, It’s affective (and also effective). It takes place before 2015 probably which is NOT clear anywhere in the marketing but Whatever (some things feel dated or weird). If you like the cover, the description, or my review, you should pick it up.

Bookshop link.

The Adam Project movie review | Time flies

Adam project
The Adam Project directed by Shawn Levy, starring Ryan Reynolds
released March 11th, 2022
106 minutes, PG-13

After accidentally crash-landing in 2022, time-traveling fighter pilot Adam Reed teams up with his 12-year-old self for a mission to save the future.

Netflix is having a weird hissy fit all over social media and the stock market, so I’m watching as many Netflix originals as I can physically stand. Let’s go babey!

Honestly? This movie is incredible. It’s heartwarming, it’s cute, I haven’t liked Ryan Reynolds’ smug face this much since Detective Pikachu which he wasn’t even really in, Walker Scobell is fantastic and I can’t wait to see him in the Percy Jackson series. The scenery is fantastic, set in the lush PNW, and a good chunk of the story takes place in this weird fantastic split-level house that’s very PNW. The cinematography for fight scenes doesn’t make me feel nauseous! Technobabble that doesn’t make me wanna scream! The weird twin pain of realizing that as a kid, adults should have done right by you but also maybe you should have done right by your adults! The classic eating a picnic on a huge lake in Vancouver and mountains are surrounding you! A heterosexual romance that brings to mind Sappho’s “someone will remember us / even in another time”! Also, people explode into dust when they are killed and it is honestly extremely cool. Zoe Saldana in a cardigan shooting people! 

And it’s also about grief, and how every action we take is for the people we love, and silly fighter jet chase scenes and about sometimes you have to rent a hotel room to hang out in because there’s no third space in late capitalism to safely do time travel secret talks. It’s about being a parent, and about having parents, and the weird trauma that comes along with both of those things. Everyone in this movie should go to therapy.

There’s a couple things in this movie that I would be uncomfy watching with my dad – several swears and some sex jokes, but if you’re not a late-sixties man with a purity complex you should be good. And even given that, maybe we’ll watch this one together! It’s a really great movie, pals. And he likes Mark Ruffalo because he was in the Avengers movies; big fan of Bruce Banner in that house. 

Shitty things this movie did not need: There’s a super minor subplot about this guy named Christos who has a scarred face (he is also part of the evil squad) and they call him ugly about it. He actually looks quite nice (Hollywood etc) and also can we not do “scarred facial deformities make a person evil” or “evil people have facial deformities” like?? Get a fucking grip. It’s such a boring and uninteresting shortcut to take in a movie that is otherwise very good and very interesting.

Five stars. It’s exclusively on Netflix.

Can’t Wait Wednesday | May 4th

Siren Queen
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
288 pages
published May 10th, 2022

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a book blogging meme hosted over at Wishful Endings. It’s to discuss and spotlight books that you’re excited about but that you haven’t read yet, to get you more excited about your TBR pile! It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, which is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

From award-winning author Nghi Vo comes a dazzling new novel where immortality is just a casting call away

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill–but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes–even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

Bookshop link.

Now is the Time for Trees book review

Trees

Now is the Time for Trees by Dan Lambo
216 pages
publishes April 12th, 2022

“Celebrates the power of trees to oxygenate the planet, purify water and air, lower city temperatures, provide habitat, nurture the soul, and provide essential food sources.” —Booklist

Trees and forests are the number one nature-based solution for revers ing the negative effects of a changing climate. If ever there was a time to be planting trees, that time is now.

Inspired by a collective sense of urgency, a global movement to plant trees is gaining momentum. To move the needle, we need to act on a massive scale and plant millions of trees today to have a measurable and lasting impact on billions of lives tomorrow. In Now Is the Time for Trees, the experts at the Arbor Day Foundation will inspire you to do your part by showing you everything you need to know to plant trees at home or in your community. From advice on choosing the right size and type of tree to tried-and-true tips for planting success, this book will help you plant a tree today and leave your own legacy of hope.

Equal parts inspiration and advocacy, Now Is the Time for Trees is a rousing call for environmental action and a must-have book for nature lovers everywhere.

This is a lovely book about environmentalism for kids! The photographs are great, and its language is age-appropriate. Five stars. Bookshop link.

In the Key of Us book review

Key of us
In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington
368 pages
publishes April 26th, 2022

From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again.

Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi’s blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like she used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy, even though she secretly has a dancer’s heart. 

At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hopes for the future. And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. 

In the Key of Us is a lyrical ode to music camp, the rush of first love, and the power of one life-changing summer.

In the Key of Us is a dual-perspective summer camp book perfect for this summer. It’s a middle grade novel about girls struggling with identity, and it’s told with such sincere voice and heart that you can’t help but love it. If you were in a middle-school band, then you’ll identify with a lot of this — I definitely flashed back to how incredibly stressful chair auditions were in middle school, which I haven’t thought about until right now. (I consistently scored dead last because I never practiced at home, and I still don’t! But I do love playing cello when I get around to it.) It’s a sweet book, and it’s also hopeful for the future; I remember being twelve and it felt like I was on the brink of a lot of different things, and this book captures that feeling perfectly. Four and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley. Bookshop link here.