Tag Archives: lgbt literature

ARC Review – The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I knew I had to have this book when it was described to me as “Monty and Percy’s Big Gay Eurotrip.” A lot of friends and bloggers who I trust who had read this book early had said it was one of their favourites in a long time. Needless to say, this book was super hyped in my brain and it lived up to all my expectations.

What I loved about this book is the chemistry between all the main characters. Monty nearly killed me half the time with his hi-jinx, while Percy always made me smile trying to be the rational one. I also loved, loved, loved Felicity and I am stoked she is getting her own book. The friendship between all the main characters was easily one of my favourite parts of this book.

While this book is chock full of humour, it also had some more serious moments that were so compelling and sad. This book was over five hundred pages, but it was one of those books where I savoured and enjoyed it regardless of size. Sometimes I find chunky books have too much padding, but that was not the case in Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

I also adored the romance in this book as it’s so cute. I found myself constantly shipping Monty/Percy even from the beginning and I loved how Lee develops that relationship and how it unfolds in the narrative. It’s wonderful, funny, charming and it just made my teeth rot with it’s cuteness. I ship it. I also think the way in which Lee describes all the locations that Monty and Percy visited was exquisite and vivid. It made me feel like I was there with the characters!

With strong, interesting and quirky characters coupled with fun and quippy writing, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a must read for those who love historical fiction, cross-country globetrotting, and a fun romance. Mackenzi Lee is an author worth reading and watching for.

 

ARC Review – Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Title: Ramona Blue

Author: Julie Murphy

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really loved Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Very, despite it being such a polarizing novel. I have yet to read Dumplin’ (seriously, I need to get on that), and skipped my way to Ramona Blue, a book that had some polarizing conversations up until it’s release.

Truthfully, I found the novel very engaging throughout. Yes, this book, looks at Ramona’s sexuality, and yes it looks at the idea of how she doesn’t want to label herself entirely one way or another. But I think that is just a fraction of what this story is truly about. This story is about self-sacrifice for family, sisters in a bind, and importantly, Ramona trying to figure out who she wants to be and if she wants to stay in Eulogy for the rest of her life.

I think Julie Murphy does an amazing job walking the reader through Ramona’s journey. Ramona is a complicated character who is trying to figure out what is the right course of action regarding her family, as well as herself. I loved her as a character, and I constantly found myself empathizing with Ramona because I found her easy to connect with. I’ve done a lot of what she has in terms of putting others over myself, and like Ramona, there’s no regret. It’s interesting to watch Ramona’s complicated life grow and transform throughout the course of the story, and that made it all the more engaging.

I also loved Ramona’s friends and I thought they were wonderfully developed. I found Grace frustrating at times, but I also feel like I could understand where she was coming from when it came to her feelings for Ramona. Her feelings for Freddie in the story are conflicting, but I think it also shows how Ramona is growing, and I think there’s an interesting conversation presented in this book about labeling one’s self. There is no man saving Ramona in this story, or no man changing who she is — that’s not the discussion this book is presenting. The conversation that is apparent is about learning who you are and who you want to become. If I am being honest, the romance wasn’t a huge deal breaker for me like it was others — I liked it, but I adored the parts about Ramona’s self-discovery and her family life more.

Ramona Blue is a wonderful story about growing up in a situation where you are forced into adulthood at an early age. It’s about discovering oneself and trying to figure out who you want to be. There is is so much depth and complexity to this novel, and I think despite the controversy, people should read it before making a judgement call.

ARC Review – The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

26828816Title: The Pants Project

Author: Cat Clarke

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It’s that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Live to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy- it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Pants Project is one of those books I knew I had to read when I first discovered it. It is the story of Liv who is transgendered, but goes to a uniformed school that has some strict policies regarding gender and the clothing that must be worn. Liv launches “The Pants Project” in an attempt to show that gender norms shouldn’t be the norm, and since Liv is a boy, he feels that he shouldn’t be subjected to wearing a skirt if he doesn’t identify as female.

This book is an amazing little gem that offers big discussion about being transgendered, as well as rights for those who are transgendered. Liv is a great hero who often discusses with the reader what his identity is like (he states it’s like a Transformer, which I can totally see), what people see on the surface and why people need to dig a bit deeper. Liv’s narration is a wonderful tour de force, showcasing in such simple but powerful ways the kinds of discussion that needs to be had at schools regarding students who are transgendered. Liv’s quest in providing this knowledge doesn’t come without challenges, but he has great support in Jakob, who is just an amazing and sharply written character. Seriously, he and Liv are a delight when they are on the page together.

Also I loved that Liv had two moms. In fact, if I am being honest, the moms were my favourite characters in the story because I love how different their personalities were, but the joke of the story is that they are called “The moms.” I love how their personalities differed on somethings, but they always come together. If anything I wish their had been more of them in the story because they were seriously delightful.

The Pants Project is a fantastic discussion about transgender identity told through a fantastic and clever hero. Much like George before it, Cat Clarke weaves a courageous tale about a young boy who wants to be treated properly, and at the end of the day isn’t that what anyone wants? If you loved George then The Pants Project should easily be your next go to book, as it is both touching as it is smart.

ARC Review – When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Title: When the Moon Was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: To 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.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I haven’t read Anna-Marie McLemore’s award winning debut, but when I got When the Moon Was Ours in my goodie bag from #TeensReadFeed back in May, the premise had me completely intrigued. This is a novel about defying odds, encompassing identity, and it just offers a plethora of wonder and enchantment to the reader.

This book focuses on magical realism, sexuality, a transgender protagonist, and a Latina main character, who both inhabit each others worlds in the most beautiful and thoughtful way. The beautiful writing sweeps the reader into such an amazing space, and I found myself completely glued to the words on the page. Sam and Miel’s journey is so cleverly written, and McLemore makes you the reader feel like you’re along for the ride. Their friendship was perfect, perfect, perfect. I loved them, I cheered for them, I wanted them to have everything in the world. I felt like I knew both protagonists so well, and I loved the way in which McLemore dealt with Sam’s identity in particular, as it was so methodically done, and I had so much sympathy for him throughout the story.

I also urge readers to please read the Author’s Note at the end of this novel. It was actually one of my favourite parts of the book as it offers so much insight into how this novel was crafted and cared for. When the Moon Was Ours is a stunning journey for readers who love complex relationships and magical storytelling. I was so sad when I got to the last page of this book, simply because I just didn’t want it to be over.

Five Must-Have Books from #TeensReadFeed

Raincoast invited me and a bunch of other bloggers to an event in Toronto to showcase their upcoming line-up of titles for Winter/Spring 2017. The list of titles that they narrowed it to was completely insane, and if I am being frank, I need to say how impressed I was given the plethora of titles releasing in Winter alone. However, what I love about the #TeensReadFeed events is that they are a chance to talk to other bloggers and publishing staff to learn what folks think are going to be the it titles. It also helps that the event is run by some of the best and most delightful people in the publishing business.

There was also a special guest via Google Hangout for the Toronto Crowd, which was Mary E. Pearson! I am a shame to admit I have only read one book by her. After her discussion about writing and the writing process, I am super excited to check out some of her other books and perhaps continue the Remanent Chronicles. Those lucky ducks in B.C had her in person! SO COOL!

It was hard for me to narrow down the five titles from the event that I believe will be must haves for me personally, but I am going to give this a try. Let’s be honest, I kinda wanted to read all the darn books on the list.

27883214

Caraval by Stephanie Barber (Release Date: January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books)

Oh all the books showcased at the event, this was the one everyone repeatedly stated they wanted to read. I was lucky enough to trade for a copy of it at the event, so I am pretty darn excited to read this one (and keep finding myself tempted to pick it up and fly through it). I am a large sucker for “circus”-style books, or books where it is about performances or games, and this book seems like it’s just a little bit of everything, pixie-dust and more. I’ve heard the writing is beautiful, and that apparently it is a favourite in the Raincoast offices at the moment. Colour me super excited to get to this one. 🙂

28101540

Under Rose-Tainted Skies
by Louise Gornall (January 3rd 2017 by Clarion Books)

Those who have been around the blog long enough know I am a lover and advocate of tough!teen literature, and I love books that focus on much more difficult subject matters. This book is about mental illness, and even more specifically about a girl with agoraphobia and OCD. The author is a mental health advocate, and I am a sucker for books like this which discuss illnesses that I am less familiar with. Sometimes their are topics you just want to have more perspectives on, and I admit that agoraphobia is not a topic I have read a lot about. I am excited to see how Norah’s journey will unfold when the book releases!

30842388

Get it Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough (April 4th 2017 by Chronicle Books)

I have been wanting to read this novel since it released in Australia, and I never bothered to import it (or ask my favourite Aussie about it). I looooooove contemporary fiction sent in Australia, and there’s something about their YA authors that gets authentic teen voices just right. Not only is this an LGBT+ novel, but it looks like the story is going to have a lot of heart, humour and personal calamity. My kind of book!

26828816

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (March 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire)

Hot on the heels of Alex Gino’s George (a book I adored in 2015) comes The Pants Project by Cat Clarke, a book about a transgendered middle grader who is forced to be someone else because of a school dress code. I always love stories where boundaries must be addressed and broken and I think this book has such the potential to be the kind of story that can punch you in the gut and potentially provide all the feels. I am definitely looking forward to this one!

29102807

The Stone Heart (Nameless City #2) by Faith Erin Hicks (April 4th 2017 by First Second)

And this wouldn’t be a Sam blog post if it didn’t include a graphic novel. I finished The Nameless City back in 2014, and I was clamoring for this sequel the moment I finished it. This book has been a very hard wait for me, even after talking with Faith Erin Hicks back at TCAF 2016 and some of the elements of the story that she said would ramp up in this installment. April is going to be a hard wait for me, but I loved the first book so much that I think I can stick it out (maybe, no, no probably not). I ended up recommending this book for the public library I work at and it has been a hit with a lot of the readers who have been checking it out. If you haven’t read the first book, get on that STAT!


It was so hard to narrow down five picks, but these are the five I am super jazzed about. If I am being honest, almost all of them sound like wonderful reads and I am sure I will likely get to most of them throughout the year.

Huge thank you again to Raincoast for the invite, the food, the swag and the hospitality. I love going to these events and seeing what kind of new gems are going to be releasing. I hope all of these books rock my blogger socks off when they release!

ARC Review – The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

25689042Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am hugely torn on The Art of Being Normal. It was one of my most anticipated reads coming out of last year’s #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast because everything sounded like it would hit all the right notes with me. I love LGBTQIA+ literature and I’ve always been an avid supports of these titles, but something about this novel didn’t work for me.

I do think there are elements of this novel that make it an important read. There’s nothing new in this novel if you’ve read books about trans issues, but it does have so poginent and sweet moments that I did love. I think my main issues came more from the David chapters given that David wants to convey to people that he wants to be a girl and is attempting to push people into referring to him as such. He of course gets called by his “dead name” and it never feels like David is given a chance in the novel to truly transition. I was so sympathic to David throughout the novel, but I struggled with how the author presented David’s transition issues.

Leo, on the other hand, I enjoyed for the most part and I think the depiction of what happens to him worked well for the most part. I could sympathize with Leo, but for very different reasons, especially in regards to his relationship troubles. I think a lot of this novel is presented too simply, and I think it will get overshadowed by titles like If I Was Your Girl where the presentation feels a lot more authentic to both sides of a transition.

I will say as a positive, I did love how Williamson developed the friendship between David and Leo. I thought that was quite splendid and very well written. There was a sweetness to it that I very much enjoyed.

So I am sad. I hyped this book up in my mind as being something larger than it was, and it’s not a bad novel at all. It’s just one that half clicked with me and half didn’t. I think I wanted more out of the story than I got, and I think the resolution of it all didn’t necessarily stick the landing the way I was hoping it would either. I wish there had been more to the characters, and I wish there had been more to the story. Everything just felt too simple, even though the intentions were coming from a very good place.

ARC Review – Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup

23587107Title:  Frannie and Tru

Author: Karen Hattrup

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.

Molly’s Review:

My god, the writing in this book was effortless. I was able to sink down into it. I love it when I read a book and it feels like the words are just washing over my brain.

So I was DYING to read this book and was so excited when a friend gave me a copy. It sounded like such a ME book (dark-ish contemporary, ugly pretty people). And it was such a me book. I loved Tru and Frannie and their interactions with each other. I loved how pitch perfect Frannie’s thoughts and feelings and actions were.

This is the story of family. There’s a little romance in it, but not much, and it is NOT the focus of the book. Frannie’s family is struggling after her father loses his job. There are three kids, Frannie has twin brothers, and they’re at the start of what promises to be a long, hot, boring summer. Then one night Frannie’s mom gets a phone call from her sister and the next thing everyone knows cousin Tru is coming to stay for the summer. Frannie overhears her family talking about Tru and learns that he’s gay. Frannie then assumes that Tru is coming to stay with them because his family (a rich white NYC family) can’t handle it. Frannie tries to be sensitive to Tru while trying to understand him and what his sexuality means.

Only how much does Frannie REALLY know? All she can remember about her cousin is that he’s smart, funny, and well off. She harbors fantasies of the two of them going of into the summer to have grand, sexy, sultry adventures. And while they do, she learns that Tru is hiding something, that he’s not always honest with everyone (himself included) and that behind his charm and swagger is a guy who’s kind of a dick.

The family dynamics, the secrets and interactions between mother daughter sister brother father cousin and so on were so well done. Family is complicated, especially when one side is financially better off than the other. Relationships with blood can be difficult because you know you’re supposed to be a certain way and you can’t always be your true self.

There was another underlying theme playing out in this, about race, that I felt was a little too agenda-y. We find out that due to her family’s financial situation that Frannie will be going to a public school that’s going to be “filled with black kids”. There are black characters and they have discussions about race, but sometimes it felt a little too forced. I DID like the awkwardness of race between Frannie and Devon, that was so natural sounding, but there are a few other things that just kinda stuck out at me kinda oddly.

Overall this book was perfection and I think that it will do really well when it comes out.