Author: Sandhya Menon
Rating: 5/5
Rep: Indian/Indian-American, feminism, sex-positivity.


Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Never have I rooted for a couple as hard as I rooted for Dimple and Rishi.

Right out of the gate, I knew I was going to love Dimple Shah. There’s just something about girls who love their parents but still roll their eyes at them that set my heart on fire. I did not, however, expect to love Rishi the way I did. Seriously, I want a “Protect Rishi Patel at all costs” shirt.

The book starts out with Dimple’s mom hounding her about being more womanly and needing to “fix herself up” to find the IIH- Ideal Indian Husband. I was cringing the entire time but then Dimple broke out with “Mom, your so misogynistic!” and I immediately fell in love. While I am not Indian American, I do understand traditional cultures, aunties, and how sometimes that older generation doesn’t understand why the younger can’t be, well, more submissive and seeing Dimple give it right back to them was a blast of fresh air. I also loved Dimple’s dad- how he sort of just went along with the flow and really only wanted both of the ladies in his life to be happy. Even if they did have ulterior motives (seemingly), I also loved how both parents were willing to front money for their child’s education. That’s an element I sometimes feel is missing from a lot of diverse books- PoC and Native/Indigenous parents are usually willing to sacrifice everything to give their kid an education.

While Dimple resists her mom’s push for traditionalism, Rishis Patel embraces it. And this isn’t a ‘I’ll do what my parents say but internally mope about it’. No, Rishi honestly believes in the power of tradition and wants very much to be the good son, even sacrificing what he really wants out of life in order to secure a more “financially secure” future. That part touched me in inexplicable ways. Most YA novels feature MCs who are going to do what they want to do and chase their dreams recklessly. While I appreciate that sentiment, it doesn’t ring true for me. Rishi wants to work towards a future that includes being able to provide for his family, and not just his wife and children. He explicitly states that he wants to be able to take care of his parents in their old age and that felt truer to me than anything else in the book. I come from a fairly traditional background where we take care of our elders (parents, grandparents, uncles/aunties without children) and I think this is what connected me so deeply to Rishi.

If you follow me on twitter, you know my first reacting to Rishi and Dimple meeting was “RISHI NO!” This kid… is a dork. He’s a huge dork. He’s a huge, classy dork who makes bad jokes, can’t dance, and pretty much falls for Dimple the first time he meets her. Dimple is a little more… reluctant. While this book has a happy ending (a big, sweeping, beautiful happy ending), it also stays very true to it’s characters and their beliefs. It was interesting to see a YA story where the love interest had to give in more than the MC and, let’s be honest, I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed seeing the boy give in so that the girl can have what she needs.

This book is also super sex positive. I was a little worried about how sexuality would be treated in the book but it’s definitely portrayed in a positive light. There is a lot of consent-seeking in the book and GREAT communication of what each partner needed or wanted or didn’t want. Dimple’s roommate has a very quick, very random hook-up and she isn’t shamed for it. In fact, the shock of the hook-up isn’t the act itself but rather who her partner was.

I loved the relationship between Rishi and his brother, Ashish, and how we got to see it unfold. Ashish is the exact opposite of Rishi in every respect and there is a lot of tension between them during most of their scenes together. It was nice to see that tension somewhat resolved by the end.

Listen, there is nothing about this book I didn’t like. It’s hard for me to find a YA book that keeps me smiling the whole way through, but this one did. Even when there was a conflict, I knew Dimple and Rishi were going to get their happy ending. Not just because it’s YA contemporary and that’s how it goes, but because they fit together so well and the author developed so much chemistry between the two that there was NO WAY they wouldn’t end up with a happily ever after.

If you’re looking for a feel good book, this one is for you.

Middle Grade Monday

Middle Grade Monday (June 26)

MGMMiddle Grade Monday is an original weekly meme created to spotlight a great middle grade book!


249840LETTER IN THE ATTIC by Bonnie Shimko.

I am so in love with this story. I won’t tell you that it’s a particularly hard read or that you’ll take away some great, life-changing message but the book has a feel good vibe that will make even the hardest cynic smile. First, let me say that the synopsis is misleading. If you’re looking for an LGBTQ novel where girl meets girl, falls in love, girl gets a boyfriend but then realizes that she is also in love with a girl… walk away. This is about a young girl maturing and coming to terms with her sexuality and her changing life. Be prepared to fall in love with the minor characters.

Lizzy McMann, A feisty twelve-year-old, lives with her immature mother and Manny, her father (she thinks) in a fleabag Phoenix hotel. One night, Manny’s sudden announcement that he wants a divorce forces mother and daughter to move to upstate New York to live with Lizzy’s grandmother and grandfather—a mixed blessing. At school, Lizzy befriends, then falls in love with, Eva Singer, who is dyslexic, looks like Natalie Wood and lives right down the street. Like all girls her age, Lizzy has to deal with her first period, her first bra and her first boyfriend. But what scares her most is her love for Eva. She is also concerned with getting a new husband for Mama—especially after reading Mama’s letters that she has found in the attic. Then Eva gets a boyfriend and Mama’s life enters what seems to be a new crisis. . . . How Lizzy comes to grips with life’s strange twists and turns makes fascinating reading for adults and young readers alike.



Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Rating: 4.5/5
TWs: Abuse, attempted suicide, deadnaming (challenged in text), misgendering (challenged in text).
Rep: Latina (ownvoice), Pakistani-American, trans, Queer (not sure if Peyton was lesbian, bi, or pan).

28220826To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I was not properly prepared for this book.

Which was probably my fault. I went in only knowing that there was a trans love interest and a girl with roses and that was pretty much it. I’ve seen a fair amount of gushing reviews about how beautiful this book is but I still wasn’t prepared for just how right this book feels.

This is the perfect Autumn book if you’re more into magic than spooky. The story involves a strange cast of characters. Miel, the girl who is afraid of pumpkins and water and grows roses out of her wrist. Samir, a boy who just wants to call his body what he wants. The Bonner sisters, a near sinister group of girls who have their own set of secrets. Aracely, a woman shaped by the river. The setting of this book flits between a violet house, a pumpkin patch full of increasingly glass pumpkins, and the woods that house a stained glass coffin. This book is a sensory experience and more character driven than plot oriented, but McLemore makes it work. No, she more than makes it work- she leaves you desperately wanting more.

While this book pretends to be an almost fairytale, this is really about two best friends falling in love but learning to accept themselves on their own. It takes Sam owning his own body and name to allow him to let Miel in and Miel has to start moving forward from her traumatic childhood in order to stand up for herself against the Bonner sisters. I did love how in the end, it wasn’t Miel protecting Sam as much as it was Sam protecting himself which is very important.

The magic in the story is so effortless. People believe in magic, people use magic, and it’s just something that is there and accepted. I really appreciated how organically it flowed throughout the story.

There was a lot of commentary on how PoC are treated as outsiders, especially through Samir’s mother. The town trusted her with their children but were always quick to make sure she knew that she was an outsider because of where her family came from. McLemore didn’t hold back on this topic, at all. She’s very bold in her assessment that if you are different from the people around you, it’s like walking a tight-rope… one misstep and it’s all over. Parents love Samir because he paints moons that lull that children to sleep but if they knew that he was trans, they would hate him.

Samir. Good LORD, SAMIR. I had never heard of the Pakistani practice of bacha posh and I was sort of weary about how this would play out in the story since it had been lauded as revolutionary trans rep. However, McLemore beautiful touches on this tradition and what it means for Samir… who doesn’t want to go back to being Samira because that’s not who he is. I also loved the relationship he has with his mother and how she is willing to do anything for her son. There was so much GOOD exploration of gender and sexuality and sex, and it was so great to see this characters explore and not be shamed for that exploration.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews state that they didn’t “get this book”. Honestly, if you’re a reader who needs everything to make sense or needs world building, this book probably isn’t for you. There are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of “just roll with it” in this book. Why does Miel’s family have a history of rose girls? Why are the Bronner’s parents so apathetic? Are we in modern times? No one knows! This is definitely a book for people who are ok with “suspending disbelief” for the duration of the book.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. To everyone. 100x over.



Author: Claire Legrand
Rating: 5/5
TWs: Death, bullying, blood, vaguely graphic scenes of death.
MG/YA/NA/A: Middle Grade


Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother’s left, her neglectful father—the maestro of a failing orchestra—has moved her and her grandmother into the city’s dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help—if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living…and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

So far, Claire Legrand has not let me down.

I picked up her debut novel, THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, and was immediately blown away by the stories and characters she created. The book was the perfect amount and creepy and entertaining, but not so creepy that I felt uncomfortable sharing the book with my godkids. THE YEAR OF SHADOWS is no different.

The story starts with Olivia Stellatella moving into the concert hall with her aging Nonnie and her… Maestro. See, Olivia refuses to call him Dad anymore because she’s convinced he is the sole reason for all of her problems. She isn’t too far off base. Not only is the Maestro so focused on the orchestra that Olivia’s mom ran away, but he’s poured all of the family’s money into saving it and now the family is homeless and living off scraps and charity. Even worse, Olivia’s perfect classmate, Henry, works as an usher at the concert hall and knows her family’s situation.

But then the ghosts start showing themselves to Olivia and Henry, and they need help to move on to the other side.

I love how Legrand uses reluctant friendship to move her plots along. Olivia is definitely an abrasive character who doesn’t know how to let her guard down since her mom walked out and Henry is just open and nice to everyone. While they have their ups and downs throughout the book, I enjoyed that their friendship never really wavered. This is middle grade, so we don’t exactly get a romance but we do get to see Olivia’s feelings change from disdain to friendship to butterflies for Henry.

This does have the usual middle grade element of neglectful parents, ridiculous school officials, and the cool adults down the street. As an adult, I think I do understand the Maestro’s intentions: the orchestra is how he provides for his family and the only career he has ever known. It did seem very unfair that Olivia put all the blame on him for her problems when it was her mother’s choice to leave and to not take Olivia with her.

There is a bit of  plot twist at the end, but if you pay close enough attention to the shades, you’ll figure it out long before Olivia does.

If you have younger ones who are affected by death, be careful of this one! In order for the ghosts to move on, Henry and Olivia have to experience their deaths as if it was happening to them. Not all of the stories are terrible, but their are a few that’s probably a bit much for delicate readers.

I really enjoyed this book and the characters! Would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a little spook in their middle grade!


Middle Grade Monday

Middle Grade Monday (June 19)

MGMMiddle Grade Monday is an original weekly meme created to spotlight a great middle grade book!

23203257LILY AND DUNKIN by Donna Gephart has been on my TBR for what feels like a super long time. It’s one of those book I keep meaning to pick up.

Sometimes our hearts see things our eyes can’t.

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Have any of you read this book or know of any reviews from trans reviewers?



Author: Rob Lloyd Jones
Rating: 5/5
TWs: Blood, death, abuse.
Series: Wild Boy (Book 2)
MG/YA/NA/A: Middle Grade

22926571London, 1842. Wild Boy, master detective and former freak-show performer, and Clarissa, circus acrobat and troublemaker, are the secret last hope of a city beset by horror. A poisoner stalks the streets, leaving victims mad with terror?—?and then dead. Can the Black Terror be traced to a demon called Malphas? With their partnership threatened by rules and regulations, can Wild Boy and Clarissa uncover a cure in time to save the queen and the city?

I was so excited to pick up WILD BOY AND THE BLACK TERROR by Rob Lloyd Jones, the sequel to WILD BOY. This book was one of the ones I randomly selected for my TBR Beatdown in June.

This book picks up with Wild Boy and Clarissa under the protection of The Gentlemen, the Crown’s secret organization. While most of the organization is against having the two former circus performers under their roof, Marcus Bishop remains their biggest supporter. But when Marcus is struck by the Black Terror, Wild Boy and Clarissa find themselves racing the clock to save their mentor.

This book, like the first one, is super fast paced, eerie, and full of ‘who done it?’ fun. I loved the supernatural element of it- the supposed demon and the Black Terror, a condition that makes it’s victim relive their most traumatic memory over and over until their heart and mind can’t take it anymore. Wild Boy is the spunky Sherlock and Clarissa plays Watson perfectly. In this book, we get to see a more agitated yet vulnerable, Clarissa and it was interesting to see how the Black Terror worked on both of our young heroes.

Speaking of young… I’m not exactly sure why this is sold as middle grade other than the fact that the main characters are young. It’s marketed for Grade 5 (10 years old+) but I’m not sure that I would let my 12 year old godchild read this. There are a lot of graphic details in this book (such as an autopsy) and at one point, Wild Boy is trapped under a corpse and the book explains how the body is rotting. While an adult can usually handle those details, I don’t think I would expose a child younger than 13/14 to it.

Having said that, it is still a fantastic read. If you enjoy mysteries and the underdog getting the upper hand, this book is definitely for you!




Author: Becky Albertalli
Rating: 5/5
Rep: Bisexual, lesbian, fat (ownvoice), anxiety (ownvoice), Jewish (ownvoice), mixed families.
TWs: “Casual” fatphobia, racism, and homophobia (all of which are challenged on page). Underage drinking.

30653853Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I cannot believe it has taken me 3 reads to write an actual review for THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli. Like, I am literally questioning what I’ve been doing all these months. (In hindsight, I think I might have actually written a review on my old blog… but eh, here’s another one.)

If you’ve followed me on twitter for a while, then you know I spent a good portion of October and November begging for an ARC of UPSIDE because I have exactly zero shame when it comes to books I desperately want. Becky, in her usual sweet and ridiculously nice manner, answered my prayers (Saint Becky, anyone?) and I received an ARC in December. When the book was released in April, I read it again. Then I decided to do a traveling book project this summer and it only seemed fitting for UPSIDE to be that traveling book, so I just finished my third read (this time with annotations).

The first thing that hits me about this book is Molly’s unwaveringly innocent and anxious and sweet voice. While there are times that Molly calls herself a “shitty person”, she is nowhere near that. Becky has given us a character that is so real and so fleshed out that I had to remind myself several time (mostly when I was mad at how she was treated) that Molly isn’t actually real. I love reading, I love characters, but it takes A LOT to make me forget that they are actually fictional and Becky has done this in every single one of her books to date. Molly’s feelings on love, on wanting to be kissed, on crushes, and her own body felt like I was reading 17 year old Weezie’s diary. I have never in my life felt more exposed or seen after reading a book.

It’s not just Molly, though. All of the character’s in UPSIDE have their very own distinct personalities, including the parents which is SO refreshing to see in YA. Most of the time, background characters aren’t recognizable from each other but Becky has breathed life into even the tiniest character. We don’t ever meet Evan Shulmeister but I have such a clear image of him in my head and I hate him! This is a character that gets mentioned maybe a handful of times, a few lines each time and I remember his full name! I don’t think anyone understands what level of talent it takes to make someone remember a background-background character.

And we get an unconventional love interest. Reid Wertheim is a giant nerd with too white sneakers, a collection of Middle Earth t-shirts, walks his cat on a leash, and is referred to in text as “husky” more than once. This is not your typical rippling abs, athletic, sure of himself Love Interest. Reid is your impossibly adorable, Ren Faire loving pal that you slowly but surely fall in love with. To be honest, I thought I’d be rooting more for Molly’s other crush (I have a thing for hipsters, sue me) but the minute Reid was introduced, I was a goner. The whole book felt like Molly was my best friend and I was rooting for her to make the right choice in boys.

While I did love the family dynamics in the book, Molly’s twin sister, Cassie, was probably one of my least favorite characters. The relationship she has with Molly seemed very… strained and toxic. I know teenage sisters fight (BOY DO I KNOW) and maybe my hard feelings towards Cassie comes from my own conflicted feelings for my sister. Becky captures the growing pains of siblings perfectly, though, and even though I kind of wanted to kick Cassie, she does pull through for Molly in some important moments.

I have always been ok with standalones for YA contemp books. I think they are better that way. While UPSIDE does exist in the SIMON VS universe (and we see Simon, Nick, and Abby! … but no Leah which was SO SAD WHY??), it has it’s own brand new plot and characters. And while I’m ok with it being a standalone, I also desperately want a sequel involving Molly and Reid and all the amazing things come with there ACTUALLY BEING A MOLLY AND REID.

If you haven’t read this book, do yourself, your heart, your skin, and your crops a favor and pick it up!


Middle Grade Review: Zinnia and the Bees


Author: Danielle Davis
Rating: 5/5

32179015I received a free eARC of ZINNIA AND THE BEES by Danielle Davis from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A colony of honeybees mistakes seventh-grader Zinnia’s hair for a hive ― and that’s the least of her problems. While Zinnia’s classmates are celebrating the last day of seventh grade, she’s in the vice principal’s office, serving detention. Her offense? Harmlessly yarn-bombing a statue of the school mascot. When Zinnia rushes home to commiserate with her older brother and best friend, Adam, she’s devastated to discover that he’s gone ― with no explanation. Zinnia’s day surely can’t get any worse . . . until a colony of honeybees inhabits her hive-like hair! Infused with magical realism, Danielle Davis delivers a quirky, heartfelt debut, exploring both the complex life of a young loner and a comical hive of honeybees. Together, these alternating and unexpected perspectives will touch anyone who has ever felt alone, betrayed, or misunderstood.

I requested this eARC only knowing that it was a middle grade book that involved bees. I love MG stories and I love bees, so I figured I would enjoy this book. Turns out, I more than enjoyed this book- I loved it.

Zinnia is a 7th grader who lives with her 18 year old brother Adam (who she feels is her best friend) and Dr. Flossdrop, her dentist mom who seems to care more about her community action group than her actual children. The book opens with Zinnia and Adam yarn bombing the school mascot, Ronny the Rattlesnake. If you’re unaware of what yarn bombing is, here’s a picture:


That is the beginning of Zinnia’s very bad day. After someone snitches on her, she is forced to stay the entire last day of school in the principal’s office while her classmates enjoy a day of cupcakes and games. When she arrives home that afternoon, she finds out that Adam has disappeared, taking only his clothes… and leaving Zinnia the work boots that had belonged to their father, a gift he had given to Adam before he died. Dr. Flossdrop appears to not care that her oldest has gone missing and instead of comforting Zinnia, she sends her out of her office.

To make a bad day even worse, Zinnia attracts a swarm of bees who, thanks to Bee 641, think her hair is their new home.

Danielle Davis writes a simple story that packs a punch. I love that Zinnia can admit when she’s wrong and that she also has the introspection needed to realize that sometimes her problems are her own fault. The friendship that develops between Zinnia and Birch is real and honest. Even when they have a fight, it isn’t some dramatic falling out and their apologies are simple.

There are a beautiful cast of characters in this story and they are all well fleshed out, even the adults, which is something that usually lacks in middle grade fiction. I loved that Mildred’s Queerness wasn’t a huge deal and the way she and her girlfriend were described was so well done, I almost cried. I also loved Lou. He vaguely reminded me of Mr. Bobo from Coraline (but less creepy and without the mice). It was refreshing to see all the adults be there for Zinnia, even if it did take time for her mother to get there. I also LOVED the chapters told from the bees perspective.

All in all, this was a delightful tale about a sad girl, her new friend, and the bees that just want to find a home

Middle Grade Monday

Middle Grade Monday (June 12)

MGMMiddle Grade Monday is an original weekly meme created to spotlight a great middle grade book!


12477984MARCO IMPOSSIBLE by Hannah Moskowitz is another MG LGBT book I’ve heard about but haven’t read yet. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one, though!

Thirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco onstage to confess his love for (and hopefully steal the heart of) Benji, the adorable exchange student and bass player of the prom band. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, and every heist comes with its fair share of hijinks.

You can follow Hannah on twitter @hannahmosk


Review: Rez Rebel


Author: Melanie Florence
Rating: 4.5/5
TW: Suicide, depression, alcoholism

31742552I received an eARC of REZ REBEL by Melanie Florence from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Floyd Twofeathers has always trusted his mom, a traditional healer, and his dad, hereditary chief of their band, to take care of the people on their reserve. But a lack of educational and career opportunities, medical support and counselling has left young people feeling that they have no future. As suicides pile up, Floyd finds that his friends and kids he knows are taking their own lives because they feel that they have no future — but his father refuses to listen to Floyd’s attempts to find a realistic solution. When Floyd’s father is overwhelmed by the situation and succumbs to alcohol and depression, it is up to Floyd to turn around his community’s descent into crisis before it’s too late.

Set in a situation of suicide contagion among young people in Aboriginal communities, this novel follows one teenager’s determined efforts to help his friends and his community find solutions.

While Florence’s writing style is very plain, the topic of the book was a hard read for me. Floyd Twofeathers lives on a reservation where suicide has reached a near epidemic level. While this is a fictional story, the overwhelming amount of suicide and depression in Native and Indigenous communities is not. Native youths commit suicide at 3 times the national average- some reservations even see suicide rates at 10 times the national average.

Florence explores this and the impact these deaths are having on the community. She also highlights the importance of language and culture in combating depression and suicide in Native communities.

This is a coming of age tale about a boy who would do anything for his people and steps into the role of protector for everyone who needs him.