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Review: Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Title: Bloom

Author: Kevin Panetta

Illustrator: Savanna Ganucheau

Publisher: First Second

Genre: graphic novel, m/m romance

Source: borrowed from my sister

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Summary

Ari is ready to move to the big city and make it a go with his band. Unfortunately, his obligations keep him at home working in his family’s struggling bakery. He comes up with a deal: he’ll find someone to replace him, train that person, and then he’ll leave. What he doesn’t expect is Hector, a laid-back guy who loves baking. As the summer moves on, their relationship and attraction deepen. And then Ari manages to ruin everything. Can Hector ever forgive him? Or is their love as dead as burnt bread?

My Thoughts

This was such a cute book. The art was beautiful. All the colors were done in blues and grays and it just lovely. So calming and soothing. The love story was good as well. You could feel the attraction between the boys from the very start, and it was fun to watch it grow. My only problem with this is I didn’t like Ari very much. Maybe it’s just an age thing, but I found him thoughtless and immature. I was glad Hector was so strong and sure of himself and could call Ari out when either he or his friends were rude. I wasn’t sure about the ending, though. I thought Ari crossed a line that I wouldn’t be able to forgive him for, and I think I wanted the book to be a little longer so Ari could win back my forgiveness. Still, I can’t say I hated the happy ending; I just wanted something a little more.

Would I Recommend This

I definitely would. It’s a sweet, soothing, and relaxing read that flows well from beginning to end. It’s also a perfect summer beach read. You should read this book.

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Books about Black Lives

I debated whether or not to post today, because I didn’t feel like taking space from black voices. However, I decided I can use my blog to promote those voices. So, here are some books I’ve read written by authors of color.

Goodreads synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Desta belongs to a small, isolated mountain community of Ethiopian Jews. She and her brother and sister leave their aunt and uncle and set out on the long and dangerous trip to freedom — an airlift from the Sudan to Israel, the Promised Land. They travel barefoot, facing hunger, thirst and bandits. “Vivid and compelling…Levitin’s tour de force is sensitively written.” BOOKLIST. An ALA 1987 Best Book for Young Adults.

Goodreads synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. 

Goodreads synopsis: Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

Goodreads synopsis:

irst published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.

Goodreads synopsis:

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Goodreads synposis:

Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.

‘In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist—we must be ANTI-RACIST.’ —Angela Davis

Gain a deeper understanding of your anti-racist self as you progress through 20 chapters that spark introspection, reveal the origins of racism that we are still experiencing and give you the courage and power to undo it. Each chapter builds on the previous one as you learn more about yourself and racial oppression. Exercise prompts get you thinking and help you grow with the knowledge.

Author Tiffany Jewell, an anti-bias, anti-racist educator and activist, builds solidarity beginning with the language she chooses – using gender neutral words to honour everyone who reads the book. Illustrator Aurélia Durand brings the stories and characters to life with kaleidoscopic vibrancy.

After examining the concepts of social identity, race, ethnicity and racism, learn about some of the ways people of different races have been oppressed, from indigenous Americans and Australians being sent to boarding school to be ‘civilized’ to a generation of Caribbean immigrants once welcomed to the UK being threatened with deportation by strict immigration laws.

Find hope in stories of strength, love, joy and revolution that are part of our history, too, with such figures as the former slave Toussaint Louverture, who led a rebellion against white planters that eventually led to Haiti’s independence, and Yuri Kochiyama, who, after spending time in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII, dedicated her life to supporting political prisoners and advocating reparations for those wrongfully interned.

This book is written for EVERYONE who lives in this racialised society—including the young person who doesn’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life, the kid who has lost themself at times trying to fit into the dominant culture, the children who have been harmed (physically and emotionally) because no one stood up for them or they couldn’t stand up for themselves and also for their families, teachers and administrators.

With this book, be empowered to actively defy racism to create a community (large and small) that truly honours everyone.

A link to Black Owned Bookstores

Black Lives Matter

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Weekly Wrap-up | May 24, 2020

Hi everyone! This past week was a really good one for me. It was days 65-70 of isolation, and I’m falling into a good groove. My reading has shot up incredibly. I finished six books this week: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Illuminae, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, A Study in Scarlet Women, and Bloom. I also started a book journal and if you’re interested, I’d be happy to post pictures.

I’m getting back into the exercise groove this week as well. I ran three times: a mile on Tuesday, two miles on Thursday, and 3.10 miles on Saturday. I didn’t work out on the days I didn’t run like I’d ideally want to, but I did go on walks. A lot of times around the internet, I see posts that say something to the effect of “running is my therapy” or “lifting is my therapy.” Well. Therapy is my therapy, but working out is what I do to help my mood. And getting back to running this week has really helped it.

In other news, I wrote a little this week, but not as much as I should. I hope that once school is officially out for the year, I’ll have the discipline to get back to doing what I love. Right now, my work stuff takes up my desk and I’m just not as focused when I’m writing on my couch.

Lastly, I’ve moved to a self-hosted journal. I’m completely out to sea at how this works, and can only hope people will follow me here.

And now, onto the week.

Posts Last Week

Monday: The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss (review)

Tuesday: Top 5 Opening Lines

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (review)

Friday: Stay At Home book tag

The Upcoming Week

Monday: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (review)

Tuesday: Top 5 Summer Reads

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas (review)

Friday: TBD

Currently Reading

Cools Posts by Others

6 of My Favorite Books as Mood Boards @A Literary Latte

5 Bookish Sins I Commit on a Regular Basis by Sherena

How do I pick a book? @Local Bee Hunter’s Nook

How was your week? Any new or interesting books? Drop a comment below and let me know!

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Review: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Title: Whose Body?

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

Genre: mystery, detective story

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: 1923

When a dead body turns up mysteriously in a bathtub wearing a pair of pince-nez, Lord Peter Wimsey jumps at the chance to investigate. The police soon think they have identified the body, but Wimsey is unconvinced. He thinks the missing person the police have identified the body as is still missing. Excited by his first murder case, Wimsey dives headfirst into intrigue, deceit, and grudges long held.

When I bought this book, I really had no idea what to expect. I’d heard of Lord Peter Wimsey, but have never seen nor read anything of him. I went into this book blind.

Luckily, I was very pleasantly surprised. I love Wimsey. He’s easy-going, light-hearted, funny, sarcastic, and good humored. He pokes fun at others and himself. He’s a gentleman without a profession, so he’s turned his sharp mind to detecting. He also is a veteran of World War I, something that could not fail to leave its scars.

The mystery was well constructed. A body is found in a shared bath of a building. Another man fitting the description has disappeared. It seems like an easy match and the police are happy to rest there, but Wimsey is observant and soon discovers the man in the bath cannot be the missing gentleman. He works very well with a police detective, Charles Parker, and his valet, Bunter, and they soon untangle the mess.

I will say that I was uncomfortable by some period-typical anti-Semeticsm. The missing person is Jewish, and while everyone is complimentary, it’s in a sort of back-handed way that makes it clear that “for a Jew, he’s actually not bad.” That made me very uneasy because I was unable to decide if it was the characters or the author talking. My only solace was that Wimsey himself did not join in.

I also really loved the lighthearted digs at other detective novels the characters too. They weren’t mean-spirited, but all in good fun. The characters would mention how thing would go if this were a detective novel and how much easier it would be. It was a lot of fun. There was also a brilliant scene in which Wimsey and Parker question a witness. They start by saying how witnesses rarely have as good a memory as in detective stories, and then ask a series of questions that guide the witness deeper into his memory until he surprises himself at how much he knew. It was brilliant.

Yes. Whose Body? is a sharp, funny, and well constructed detective mystery. Wimsey is a delight, and I look forward to reading more of him.

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WWW Wednesday May 20, 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Each week, participants are asked three questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

So, I’m reading quite a few things right now. I’ve been listening to Illuminae by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff while following along with my copy, and I am loving my reread. Everything about it is fantastic. I’m also rereading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in my new Penguin English Library edition and thoroughly enjoying myself. I’ve been listening to Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and while I like it, I feel like I’ll never be done; I’ve listened to ten hours already and still have another twenty to go. I started reading My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which is a collection of things she’s written in her life. And, this morning, I started The Feminine Revolution by Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors, which is about reclaiming the feminine as powerful. I’m juggling a lot, but , hey, I’ve got time!

I just finished rereading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, which was even more delightful than I remembered it being, and then I read Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers. This was my first Sayers novel and I enjoyed it so much, I became an instant fan of Lord Peter Wimsey. I cannot wait to read more.

Next, I’m going to start tackling my giant TBR pile (I really need to get me one of those TBR carts) with the book on top: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. I’ve been wanting to read it for quite a long time and totally forgot I’d borrowed it from my sister until last week. I’m super excited.

What are you reading this week?

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Review: The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Title: The Hockey Player’s Heart

Author: Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Publisher: Big Gay Media

Genre: contemporary m/m romance, hockey romance

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: January 15, 2020

Caleb Carter is a hot shot hockey player out with a foot injury. He’s returned to his hometown for some rest. He never expects to run into an old crush, Aaron Price. Seeing him brings up a lot of old feelings, and he decides to go for it. But Aaron’s had some bad experiences and isn’t ready to jump into a relationship with a celebrity. The chemistry between them, though, is hard to deny and both become optimistic about their chances.

This was a very sweet story. Both characters were wonderfully well done and very believable. For all his fame and fortune, Caleb was very down to earth. He’s affable and outgoing, connects with those around him, and politely deflects attention that is unwanted. I also like how good he is with kids, both in Aaron’s third grade class and the local hockey team. There’s also a very sweet scene near the end of the book between him and a teenage fan that almost brought tears to my eyes.

If I had any complaint about the story is that it was almost too easy for Caleb and Aaron to get together. There were barriers, yes, but they all were easily overcome and there was no real drama. I would have liked to explore the depths more, especially Aaron’s troubled past.

However, this book had wonderful relationships between characters. I loved the main relationship, but also the relationship between both men and Caleb’s sister, Pam. I thought it really brought the characters alive.

Yes. If you want to read a lighthearted romance that will make you smile, this is a great book to pick up.

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Review: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

When the Banks need a nanny for their children, Jane, Michael, John, and Barbara, they never expect the magical woman who arrives. While Mr. and Mrs. Banks never notice the odd things she does, Jane and Michael are fascinated by her tricks, from sliding up the banister to her magical carpet bag. Together, they have many adventures and experiences.

So, I did not like this book. I know that I was influenced by the movies, but I found Mary Poppins to be completely unlikable. She was perpetually in a bad mood, sniping at the children, snapping at strangers, and acting offended when anyone brought up the extraordinarily things going on around them. The kids weren’t much better. There was a whole chapter devoted to Michael being in a bad mood and acting out.

The magical scenes didn’t feel very magical to me. I think that’s mainly because Mary kept poking holes in them and acting like it wasn’t magical. I think the only time she seemed to enjoy the magic was when she and Bert had a tea party in one of his chalk paintings.

My favorite chapter revolved around John and Barbara, who were babies. It was revealed that babies under the age of one can speak the language of the world. They could hear the wind talking, converse with a bird, etc. They were distressed to discover they might lose that ability, and it was very sad when they did.

But, other than that one chapter, the book felt very flat and dull to me. I’d checked out an anthology of Mary Poppins stories, but I didn’t want to read any more after that first.

Not really. There are better classic children’s books that inspire a sense of wonder. Mary Poppins falls short.

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Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzalez

Title: Only Mostly Devastated

Author: Sophie Gonzales

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: YA, m/m romance, LGBTQ

Source: bookshop.org

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Ollie has met the man of his dreams in Will Tavares. Spending his summer at the lake, taking care of his cousins while their mom battles cancer, Ollie meets Will one day and is swept off his feet. Their summer concludes in the perfect night… only to have Will stop answering his texts and totally cut Ollie off. Then, when his aunt grows worse, causing Ollie and his family to move to the same town as Will. But the Will he meets with at Collinswood High is nothing like the sensitive, sweet, caring guy from the summer. This guy is a closeted class clown and not very nice. Ollie decides that he doesn’t have time for Will, but suddenly, Will is everywhere he is., and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

This book was adorable. I bought it after listening to a livestream with the author, and when she described it as a m/m retelling of Grease, I knew I had to read it. The characters were a joy. Poor Ollie had so much going on in his life: his aunt’s battle with cancer, being an on-call babysitter for his two young cousins, and being uprooted from California to North Caronlina (I think). His new social circle is fraught as he’s immediately adopted by a group of girls, one of whose claws frequently attack Ollie. But he’s a kind, warmhearted guy and sees more than she intends. They soon bond, although the friendship is never all roses.

Will was more difficult to like, but even he had his tender side. He was good with kids and when he was one on one with Ollie, very sweet and sensitive. His fear of coming out and losing his status kept him pushing Ollie away until it was almost too late. Not only does he struggle with his sexuality, but with his future. He’s a basketball player, but didn’t get a scholarship and secretly desires to be… I think it was a nurse (but don’t quote me on that; it’s been a few weeks since I read this and it’s a little hazy). Whatever it was, he feels like he has to keep his professional aspirations a secret from his family along with his sexuality. Gonzales shows the struggles of being in the closet very well, and makes it also clear why Ollie doesn’t want to be involved with that without making either of the characters unsympathetic.

The book has it’s emotional ups and downs and the characters weather them in very realistic ways. I loved how everything worked out and the conclusions. It was a very satisfying read.

Yes. I think this is a great book and fans of Simon Verses the Homosapien Agenda would enjoy it.

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Review: Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray

Title: Briarley

Author: Aster Glenn Gray

Genre: M/M Historical romance, fairy-tale retelling

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: May 5, 2018

During World War II, a parson takes shelter in a country house during a rainstorm. Unnerved by the empty rooms and lavish supper laid out for him, he soon flees, but not before plucking a rose from the garden for his daughter. This, of course, brings out the master of the house, a hideous dragon-man breathing fire and raging at the theft. The beast demands the parson send his daughter to the house as his punishment…

And the parson refuses. He stays instead, and our Beauty and the Beast tale takes a delightful new turn.

This was such a lovely retelling. I love the parson, Edward, and his concern and care for not only his daughter, but the invisible staff at the country home. He’s told the way to break the curse, and becomes determined to help because it’s the right thing to do for the staff. I’m all about characters who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I love his suggestions as to alternative ways to find love, like getting the beast a puppy.

The romance was very sweet, too. I like that sexuality was explored in various ways and how the beast, who’d been cursed for a hundred years, had a more rigid concept of his sexuality than Edward did. It makes sense that a man from the 1800s would still view his sexuality as an abomination, while Edward had a looser view of his own.

Overall, this is such a sweet read and a lovely m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I’ve been looking for a long time.

Yes!

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Review: A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber

Title: A Stroke of Malice

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: historical mystery

Source: Purchase (Amazon)

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

On holiday for a Twelfth Night Party in her friends, the Duchess of Bowmont’s home, Kiera Gage quickly finds what she’d hoped to be a pleasant escape to be another day on the job. A decomposing body is found in the castle’s crypt and is tentatively identified as the duchess’s son-in-law, purported to have gone to Paris a few weeks prior. Kiera and Gage called upon to investigate and find not only the identify of the body, but the killer as well. They dive into the investigation, but Kiera soon finds that the killer will go very far to hide his identity and stop the truth from being discovered.

I really love this series, and the latest entry didn’t disappoint. It starts out light-hearted with wonderful historical details and costumes. I’d never heard of a Twelfth Night party before, and it was described so vividly, I could imagine myself there. I wish I had been, except for the part where the dead body was discovered.

Once again, my favorite part of this series is the love and devotion Kiera gets from her husband, Gage. Where he could demand she stop investigating, especially since she’s pregnant, he’s nothing but supportive of her. He understands that she needs to use the skills she unwillingly was taught to do some good in the world. Their relationship is loving and romantic, and I would read a thousand books for it.

The mystery was really well done, too. I love books that expose the seedy underbelly of the age when it came to the upper class. Most books of the time make it seem like everyone was perfect and faithful and no one every strayed, but Huber delves into the affairs the upper class had and shows how it was an open secret of the time. I loved the duchess and her family. They were definitely a colorful sort and not one that you come across in books a lot.

Overall, this was an excellently written book and a fantastic read. It was just the kind of thing I needed to escape the world around me.

If you haven’t read any of the Lady Darby books by Anna Lee Huber, I highly encourage you to start today. They are excellent historical mysteries with just the right touch of romance. You won’t be disappointed.