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ARC Review: ABC Pride by Louie Stowell and Elly Barnes

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Synopsis:

A is for Acceptance! B is for Belonging! C is for Celebrate!

ABC Pride introduces little readers to the alphabet through the colourful world of Pride. Children can discover letters and words while also learning more about the LGBTQIA+ community and how to be inclusive.

Every letter of the alphabet is paired with fun, bold illustrations to support language learning, and a handy list of discussion points at the end gives adults the tools to spark further conversations and discussion.

ABC Pride offers a simple yet powerful way to explain gender, identity, ability to children, while supporting diverse family units. Ideal for children to explore together with a caregiver, or in the classroom.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book and can’t wait to read it with my second grader. Yes, he’s maybe a tad older than the target audience but I think he’ll still get a lot out of it and the amount of text is perfect for him to practice reading aloud.

The illustrations are cute and draw you in, and they’re very diverse and inclusive! I was impressed with the way the illustrations feature a lot of racial diversity and a wide range of disabilities along with the LGBT+ diversity. Kudos to the illustrator because I don’t think I’ve seen a more inclusive, diverse children’s book.

I love the words that were chosen and the simple, easy-to-understand way they were each explained. For something that seems simple on the surface, there’s a lot of thought that went into this book. I can already tell it will spark some reflection and thought in my kiddo.

*Thanks to NetGalley and DK Children for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin

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Publishing Date: December 28, 2021

Synopsis:

Don’t miss this standalone spin-off in Allie Therin’s acclaimed Magic in Manhattan universe!

Their scandalous pasts have left them wounded and unworthy—and hopelessly perfect together.


London, 1925

Sebastian de Leon is adjusting to life after three years spent enthralled by blood magic. The atrocities he committed under its control still weigh heavily on his conscience, but when he’s asked to investigate a series of mysterious murders, it feels like an opportunity to make amends. Until he realizes the killer’s next likely target is a man who witnessed Sebastian at his worst—the Viscount Fine.

Lord Fine—known as Wesley to his friends, if he had any—is haunted by ghosts of his own after serving as a British army captain during the Great War. Jaded and untrusting, he’s tempted to turn Sebastian in, but there’s something undeniably captivating about the reformed paranormal, and after Sebastian risks his own life to save Wesley’s, they find common ground.

Seeking sanctuary together at Wesley’s country estate in Yorkshire, the unlikely pair begins to unravel a mystery steeped in legend and folklore, the close quarters emboldening them to see past the other’s trauma to the person worth loving beneath. But with growing targets on their backs, they’ll have to move quickly if they want to catch a killer—and discover whether two wounded souls can help each other heal.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was a little apprehensive about this at first because I *loved * the trilogy this spins off from, but I needn’t have worried. Now that I’ve finished it, I love this one too. Possibly even more, as Wesley was a delightfully cynical curmudgeon gone soft for Sebastian alone and I adore that trope.

This was satisfactory as a standalone, though it would also have been lovely if it had been expanded a bit. I hope we get more from this world in the future. And more Wesley because he’s possibly more fun than even Rory.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect, but the best part was Wesley the cynical curmudgeon with a deeply buried heart of gold, and Sebastian the “dangerous marshmallow” as they slowly became closer and let one another see what they let no one else see. (They were terribly entertaining together from practically the moment they met. I highlighted SO many passages.)

Also, paranormal art!

This is a book (along with the series it spins off of) that I will most definitely be reading again because it thoroughly stole my heart. Historical paranormal MM is apparently my thing XD.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Carina Press for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes

…she claimed the ridiculous creature’s affections eased her rheumatoid pains. What a load of sentimental rot. Everyone was miserable; it was no excuse to dote on a yappy speck of fluff.

“Are you all right, Lord Fine?”
Wesley had some bruises, some scrapes, and blisters on his arms. But he was alive, and free, and most importantly, not on fucking fire anymore, so what came out was, “Yes.”

“Are you serious right now?” said Lord Fine incredulously. “You’re handcuffed to my bed at gunpoint and you’re more upset that the English hunt foxes?”

God, everyone was always so unflatteringly surprised that he was capable of sympathy. He’d be insulted, if he wasn’t, well, himself.

A paranormal earl, yes, that was exactly what Wesley wanted to learn existed.

There were not enough cups of tea in the world to deal with this morning.

Was–was Wesley being flirted with?
Wesley might have just been flirted with.

“Some people don’t like my accent, or my Spanish.”

“Some people don’t like opera. The world is full of classless philistines.”

Sebastian blinked.

“Xenophobia is a waste of time,” Lord Fine went on, like he hadn’t just paid Sebastian something of a compliment. “Everyone is a foreigner somewhere. Foreigners are just people and all people are universally terrible, so what’s the point of disliking foreigners in particular?”

“I said, I think you’re the witch, because when I’m with you, I remember how to be free.”

Sebastian blinked. “Is everything okay?”

No, it isn’t. You’ve just uttered the most romantic words anyone has ever said to me, in a Yorkshire pub over chips.

Oh, Christ. Wesley was not equipped to experience feelings, this was completely unacceptable.

And he did, despite Wesley’s pessimism–maybe with magic, obviously that was going to be Wesley’s explanation for everything now…

But I will admit there is one tiny place in this godforsaken world that isn’t cold and miserable, and that’s the corner you light up.”

“If you stay with me, there might be a lot of magic.”

“I’ll be thoroughly enchanted either way,” said Wesley, and went back in for another kiss.

ARC Review: If This Gets Out by Cale Dietrich and Sophie Gonzales

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Publishing Date: December 7, 2021

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure about this one at first, but once I got into it I flew through it and loved it.

I fell in love with these boys. All four of them, really, though we only got into Zach and Ruben’s heads. But Angel and Jon were such well developed characters that they didn’t really feel like side characters. And I would love to read more from their POV. I would also love to hear some of their songs. I would probably love them.

The premise, of a teenage boy band being stifled by its management and driven to the edge of implosion, echoed several stories that have been in the news of late, and the quiet desperation of each of the boys rang true. Reading it was at times painful and at times joyful and the experience was overall lovely. I really felt for all four of them, and it made me feel again my own teenage angst and love and queer joy.

This is a story about finding yourself and what you stand for, for standing up for yourself and those you care about, and for finding your voice in a world that wants nothing but to stifle it and stuff you back into the boxes you’ve outgrown. In other words, highly relatable.

The plot was believable, cohesive, and moving. I was surprised to remember that this was a coauthored book, with how streamlined and smooth it all was. I’ve read and loved Cale Dietrich’s work before, and now I’ll have to check out Sophie Gonzales’ books.

The only criticism I have is that sometimes Zach and Ruben’s voices seemed too similar – to the point I had to backtrack sometimes to remember whose chapter I was reading — especially surprising as I believe each was written by a different author. But most times they were distinct so it wasn’t a big deal.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

It’s been easier to think of it as something that future-me would face.

Problem is, future-me is about to become present-me

I knew there was a flaw in the plan