Can’t Wait Wednesday | June 29th

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. I first heard about this meme from Kappa at Kappa Reads!

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
176 pages
publishes July 12th, 2022

From T. Kingfisher, the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones, comes What Moves the Dead, a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster book review

Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster by Andrea Mosqueda
352 pages
published May 24th, 2022

In this voice-driven young adult debut by Andrea Mosqueda, Maggie Gonzalez needs a date to her sister’s quinceañera – and fast.

Growing up in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Maggie Gonzalez has always been a little messy, but she’s okay with that. After all, she has a great family, a goofy group of friends, a rocky romantic history, and dreams of being a music photographer. Tasked with picking an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, Maggie has to face the truth: that her feelings about her friends—and her future—aren’t as simple as she’d once believed.

As Maggie’s search for the perfect escort continues, she’s forced to confront new (and old) feelings for three of her friends: Amanda, her best friend and first-ever crush; Matthew, her ex-boyfriend twice-over who refuses to stop flirting with her, and Dani, the new girl who has romantic baggage of her own. On top of this romantic disaster, she can’t stop thinking about the uncertainty of her own plans for the future and what that means for the people she loves.

As the weeks wind down and the boundaries between friendship and love become hazy, Maggie finds herself more and more confused with each photo. When her tried-and-true medium causes more chaos than calm, Maggie needs to figure out how to avoid certain disaster—or be brave enough to dive right into it, in Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster.

I enjoyed this book a lot! I think Maggie, who is the main character, is my favorite character. I really enjoyed her voice throughout the novel. I wasn’t super into or attached to any of the side characters. This is a quick and easy read. Also, a love triangle that I was genuinely invested in! Obligatory readalike for Ghost Wood Song, without all of the ghosts. Same color scheme though! Four stars. Bookshop link here.

SLIP graphic novel book review | blog tour!

Slip by Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya
208 pages
publishes June 7th, 2022

From Eisner-Award nominated writer Marika McCoola and debut artist Aatmaja Pandya, an emotional coming-of-age graphic novel for fans of Bloom and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me.

Right before Jade is about to leave for a summer art intensive, her best friend, Phoebe, attempts suicide. How is Jade supposed to focus on herself right now?

But at the Art Farm, Jade has artistic opportunities she’s been waiting for her whole life. And as she gets to know her classmates, she begins to fall for whimsical, upbeat, comfortable-in-her-own-skin Mary. Jade pours herself into making ceramic monsters that vent her stress and insecurities, but when she puts her creatures in the kiln, something unreal happens: they come to life. And they’re taking a stand: if Jade won’t confront her problems, her problems are going to confront her, including the scariest of them all–if Jade grows, prospers, and even falls in love this summer, is she leaving Phoebe behind?

I actually got this book through a blog tour, which I’ve never done before and I was very excited to participate in! So this post gets specific thanks to Algonquin Books’ publicist for finding me and inviting me — obviously I am Pleased As Punch about it.

This is a queer graphic novel in three colors: black and white and red, which really works for this art style and this setting and characters. I really enjoyed the art in this book, and it really helps bring the characters to life here. It’s a book about the magic of summer, the emotional turmoil over friends and changing and growing up, and also about being a ceramicist. I don’t think I’ve ever read about a ceramicist before, although as a child I was obsessed with a book about a glass-blower (Alien in a Bottle by Kathy Mackel), which was my only context for some of these Ceramics Terms. I really liked this one! If you enjoyed Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me, or even, say, Ophelia After All, I think you’ll like this one two. Four and a half stars; rounded up for NetGalley. Check it out on Bookshop here!

Something I haven’t done before in a review is do a little note about the authors, but my Blog Tour Kit came with pictures of both the artist and author! So here are photos of Marika and Aatmaja. Something that is very cool is that I think Marika is wearing the glasses I just bought, but in blue. Marika has written another graphic novel that was illustrated by the inimitable Emily Carroll! This is Aatmaja’s first graphic novel and I am super excited to see whatever she’ll do next.

Marika McCoola
Aatmaja Pandya

The Big Book of Pride Flags review

The Big Book of Pride Flags, by nobody??? and illustrated by Jem Milton
48 pages
publishes June 21st, 2022

Celebrate and learn about the LGBTQIA+ community with this colourful book of Pride flags!

Featuring all the colours of the rainbow, this book teaches children about LGBTQIA+ identities through 17 different Pride flags. With fun facts, simple explanations and a short history of each flag accompanying beautiful illustrations, children will uncover the history of Pride and be introduced to different genders and sexual orientations. There’s also a blank Pride flag design at the back of the book so that children can create their very own Pride flag!

With a Reading Guide that provides a detailed History of the Pride Flag and questions for further discussion, this inspiring book is a must-have for every child’s bookshelf, library or classroom.

This is a book all about pride flags, written for kids. The illustrations are friendly and quite lovely, and include a diverse range of people. The information in the book is easy to understand, but glosses over the unpleasant and divisive parts of LGBTQIA+ history; why did we need our own flags? What exactly was happening in the 80s that Harvey Milk asked Gilbert Baker to make a flag? I understand that this book is for children, but I’d like at least a nod to the unpleasant parts of our history. Also, this book went into production presumably about a year ago, but it doesn’t use the most recent version of the progress pride flag, which includes the intersex flag. The end of the book includes text about the history (but none of the unpleasant history) of the Pride Flag, including the Progress Pride Flag and reads “The most recent iteration of the Progress Pride Flag also includes the Intersex Pride Flag, further widening its inclusivity”. There is an illustration of this flag ONLY here, but it does not include the purple circle on the yellow part of the flag. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the intersex flag featured at all! There is an error(?) on the genderfluid flag page where the person on the page is wearing a genderqueer flag, not the genderfluid flag. There is another error on the Modern Pride Flag page where it describes adding the black and brown stripes to represent queer people of color, but the page only shows the first rainbow flag. A third error is where an intersex person wearing the intersex flag as a t-shirt holds a gray cat, and there is movement from their hand petting the cat, but the way the movement is drawn, it looks like it breaks up the circle on the intersex flag. Additionally, the book chooses not to credit some flags with their original creators, presumably due to the ‘problematic’ views of some creators, which I disagree with. The pansexual flag, for example, is not credited to anyone, but we know that it was originally created by Jasper V. The book also characterizes a nonbinary person as “someone who might experience their gender as neither exclusively female or male, or who is in between or beyond both genders”, which is correct, but leaves out agender people (people without gender), and misses the main point of being nonbinary; a person who experiences their gender as being outside the standard binary of male vs. female. Also, why does the Transgender flag description explicitly describe Monica Helms as a transgender woman, where it did not call out any of of the other identities of creators? I agree, we should definitely uplift trans women’s voices, but if we’re going to do that, we should explain why we are doing that. Another criticism I have is that this book shows all the ways that Pride flags are commercialized into various products, with no hint of irony. All in all, I found this book to be a very friendly and diverse introduction to rainbow capitalism that ignores most of our history and issues as people. Perhaps some of the problem is that apparently this book wasn’t written ‘by’ anyone, it’s just published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and illustrated by Jem Milton, so I guess the book was just written by a team of Content Creators who will go uncredited. Two stars, although the illustrations alone are five stars.

A Poisonous Page book review

A Poisonous Page by Kitt Crowe
320 pages
Publishes July 12th, 2022

Kitt Crowe’s second Sweet Fiction Bookshop mystery whips up an array of intriguing suspects and motives into a diabolically deft read, perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Joanne Fluke.

It’s summer festival time in Confection, Oregon, and that means a barrage of tourists making cash registers ring at Sweet Fiction Bookshop. But what should be bookseller Lexi’s most lucrative time of year turns disturbing when a member of the chamber of commerce suddenly dies of a heart attack. Not entirely unexpected–considering her family history–but it’s a different story when another chamber member dies just one week later…also, presumably, of natural causes.

Something about this doesn’t read right to Lexi. And it gets more unfathomable when her friend Dash–who dated both women–stands accused of murder! With Cookie, her lovable border collie mix, at her side and countless volumes of inspiration on her shelves, Lexi opens the book on another perplexing case. Who could have murdered two prominent townspeople without leaving even a hint of evidence on the scene? And why is an irksome-but-intriguing detective always seeming to catch her and Cookie working the case?

Lexi’s Confection Rose-colored glasses come off when she learns of thorny discussions among the council members, involving a string of secretive real estate transactions. Enlisting her faithful fellow members of the Macaroon Book Club, Lexi sets out to bind the clues together and clear Dash’s name. But if she can’t devise a clever trap for the real killer, she may soon end up with a very unhappily ever after of her own.

Once again I have not read the other books in this series etc etc. Personally I don’t think you need to read cozy mystery books in order, I think series in the genre of cozy mysteries are mostly a fun bonus and a way to follow your favorite authors. More of a feature rather than the main point. I’m never going to anxiously await the next book in a cozy mystery series because cozy mysteries simply do not take up that much space in my head.

Copaganda: The cop’s the love interest!

The mystery: It was fine!

Animal action: There’s a dog, her name is Cookie.

Setting: Small town, involving the manager of a bookshop. Lots of puns involving dessert/books in this one because the town is named Confection.

Main character: She’s likable but not super interesting, I guess? Which is fine!

Three stars. It was perfectly fine.

Sorceline book review

Sorceline by Sylvia Douye and Paola Antista
144 pages
published May 17th, 2022

Welcome to the Island of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts–including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected . . .

This is definitely a great readalike for someone who has just finished reading Coraline. It’s also a great introduction for readers who are reluctant to start graphic novels. Fantastic character dynamics, cryptozoology, interesting mystery. I really enjoyed the color palette of this book. There’s also promise for a future sequel! Four stars. Bookshop link here.

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester book review

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor
360 pages
publishes May 3rd, 2022

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary autistic teen realizes they must not only solve a 30-year-old mystery but also face the demons lurking in their past in order to live a satisfying life.

Sam Sylvester has long collected stories of half-lived lives—of kids who died before they turned nineteen. Sam was almost one of those kids. Now, as Sam’s own nineteenth birthday approaches, their recent near-death experience haunts them. They’re certain they don’t have much time left. . . .

But Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, their next-door neighbor. Yet the past keeps roaring back—in Sam’s memories and in the form of a thirty-year-old suspicious death that took place in Sam’s new home. Sam can’t resist trying to find out more about the kid who died and who now seems to guide their investigation. When Sam starts receiving threatening notes, they know they’re on the path to uncovering a murderer. But are they digging through the past or digging their own future grave?

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester explores healing in the aftermath of trauma and the fullness of queery joy.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy.

Back when I was a kid coming out, the only book around for nonbinary pals was I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver, which is a really boring book. (Sorry, it’s just that nothing happens in it). Now THIS book? About a nonbinary teenager solving a murder mystery? AND ALSO THEY’RE AUTISTIC? Excuse me??

Let’s pull out some bullet points:

  • a little bit paranormal!
  • ace spectrum
  • adoptee
  • a great dad!!!!
  • starting over at a new school!
  • new friendships!

Honestly, this is a queer cozy mystery that really just needs like, a couple more puns for it to hit four stars for me. The writing feels somewhat stilted and weird, and it never drew me in enough to ignore the fact that the NetGalley copy was a PDF, which is the absolute worst way to read an eARC. Three and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

Rabbit Chase graphic novel review | But gossiping is one of the most important things we do!

Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth Lapensee and KC Oster and Aarin Dokum
120 pages
publishes April 5th, 2022

Anishinaabe culture and storytelling meet Alice in Wonderland in this coming-of-age graphic novel that explores Indigenous and gender issues through a fresh yet familiar looking glass.

Aimée, a non-binary Anishinaabe middle-schooler, is on a class trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits known to protect the land. While stories are told about the water spirits and the threat of the land being taken over for development, Aimée zones out, distracting themselves from the bullying and isolation they’ve experienced since expressing their non-binary identity. When Aimée accidentally wanders off, they are transported to an alternate dimension populated by traditional Anishinaabe figures in a story inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

To gain the way back home, Aimée is called on to help Trickster by hunting down dark water spirits with guidance from Paayehnsag. On their journey, Aimée faces off with the land-grabbing Queen and her robotic guards and fights the dark water spirits against increasingly stacked odds. Illustrated by KC Oster with a modern take on their own Ojibwe style and cultural representation, Rabbit Chase is a story of self-discovery, community, and finding one’s place in the world.

I loved the concept of this book – the art style reminds me of the book “Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy” by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo. I’m not versed in Ashinabee culture at all, and it felt jarring — but you know what? This book doesn’t have to be for me. Maybe you’re familiar with Ashinabee folktales and this book will be for you! I loved that Aimee was nonbinary, and I loved their journey through the “rabbit path”. Four stars.

Bookshop link.

Hell Followed With Us review | I will be good. I will make them suffer.

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White
416 pages
publishes June 7th, 2022

A furious, queer debut novel about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors. Perfect for fans of Gideon the Ninth and Annihilation.

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.

But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.    

Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.

Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC.

This is one of the most beautiful and brutal things I’ve ever read. Honestly, if this description of the premise got you interested, you’re going to love the book. It’s everything that it promises and more. Look, I’m from an age where we had three books about Homosexuality and two of them were by David Leviathan and one of them was The Geography Club. I am so lucky to live in this time and so lucky that things have changed so much so that Andrew Joseph White could write this book that is suffused with horror and trauma and love. Also there is so much fucking gore in this book. Which I normally don’t read a lot of so it was really Intense to me. Holy fuck I think this is the best book I’ve ever read. Incredibly lived up to its promise.

The main message of this book: They tried to kill us, and they failed. [And we made them suffer.]

Five stars.

Bookshop link.

Storygraph link.

Survive the Dome review | We do this together, or we don’t do it at all.

Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson
352 pages
publishes on March 29th, 2022

The Hate U Give meets Internment in this pulse-pounding dystopian thriller about an impenetrable dome around Baltimore that is keeping the residents in and information from going out during a city-wide protest.

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.

“Darkness and pain and hate and anger come slowly, creeping like ivy, and they strangle you, and before long, you’re a victim of it like everybody else.”

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

This is a really fast-paced book that honestly reminds me a lot of The Marrow Thieves, which is basically like, Futuristic/Dystopian technology plus Current World Problems. I could not put this book down and read it in like about four hours. It’s not as lyrical writing as The Marrow Thieves, but it’s more intense. Honestly the way this book is written is kind of anxiety-inducing!

Four stars from me. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.