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?

Spotlight Sunday

Spotlight Sunday (June 18)

ssSpotlight Sunday is a weekly post to shed a little light on a book that deserves some love!

 

29904219Before we get started, can we just talk about the cover of NOT YOUR SIDEKICK by C.B. Lee? I mean, this cover is pretty stunning. It also features a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese heroine and at this point, what’s not to love?

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

You can follow the author on twitter @author_cblee to stay up to date on all her projects!

 

Reviews

Review: WILD BOY AND THE BLACK TERROR

wbBook: WILD BOY AND THE BLACK TERROR
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!

Forever Friday

Forever Friday (June 16)

ffForever Friday is a weekly post to show some love to a book I’ll love forever!

 

496102BETWEEN MOM AND JO by  Julie Ann Peters was one of the first books I ever read that featured Queer characters. While the main character isn’t Queer, his two mothers are and the book revolves around the dissolving of their marriage.

Nick has a three-legged dog named Lucky, some pet fish, and two moms who think he’s the greatest kid ever. And he happens to think he has the greatest Moms ever, but everything changes when his birth mom and her wife, Jo, start to have marital problems. Suddenly, Nick is in the middle, and instead of having two Moms to turn to for advice, he has no one.

Nick’s emotional struggle to redefine his relationships with his parents will remind readers that a family’s love can survive even the most difficult times.

I loved the message of this book… that it doesn’t matter who the “biological mom” is when it comes to loving a child.

 

 

Reviews

Review: THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED

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Book: THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED
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!

Wishing and Waiting Wednesday

Wishing and Waiting Wednesday (June 14)

WWWWishing and Waiting Wednesday is an original weekly meme to spotlight two books that have been on my to buy list and TBR shelf for a little too long.

 

wishing

 

17465574BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR by Julie Maroh is one of those books I keep saying I’m going to pick up… and never do. Hopefully that will be changed this year!

Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.

 

waiting

 

6472451Once again, I am a sucker for f/f retellings and Malindo Lo has my attention with ASH, a f/f retelling of Cinderella.

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

 

What books are you wishing and waiting on this Wednesday?

Reviews

Middle Grade Review: Zinnia and the Bees

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Book: 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:

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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

Spotlight Sunday

Spotlight Sunday (June 11)

ssSpotlight Sunday is a weekly post to shed a little light on a book that deserves some love!

 

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RADIO SILENCE by Alice Oseman feels like one of those books everyone has heard about. It features bisexuality and demisexuality, something YA is terribly lacking in.

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Thoughts on this book?

 

Reviews

Review: Rez Rebel

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Book: 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.