Tag Archives: LGBT

Review: The Sea is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

The Sea is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I
Cassandra Hartt
Roaring Brook Press
Published June 8, 2021

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About The Sea Is Salt and So Am I

West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea.

Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them―including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything.

In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.

My Review

This book wrecked me so badly. In a good way, I think? Haha.

It’s got big emotions. Secrets. People who desperately care about each other but somehow go to great lengths to do anything besides deal with the ways they’ve hurt each other. I couldn’t stop reading it. I thought about it for days after I finished reading it.

The writing is so steeped in feeling. It’s got an amazing small town setting, where everyone is waiting for storms to hit and knowing they might destroy the places they love. The story is complex. It’s deep. It’s unforgettable.

And then the ending. I… don’t even know what to say.

The ending is great, just…. abrupt? I love the book, and I’m not unhappy with the ending, I think it just left something unclear that I wanted more completely spelled out for me. But even that doesn’t dim the incredible journey that reading this story was for me. I loved it.

I think readers who enjoy books with big emotions and small towns packed with secrets will love this one. Fans of John Green or Kyrie McCauley should absolutely check this one out.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Tommy has depression. Ellis is bisexual.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used fairly frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing betwen boy and girl. Kissing between two boys. A couple scenes show people kissing without shirts and reference sex.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content – Trigger warning for suicide attempt.
One character tries to die by suicide by swimming away from shore.

Drug Content
Tommy is on medication for depression but isn’t happy with how it makes him feel. He stops taking the medication at one point. He drinks beer with Ellis at one point, which he isn’t supposed to do on his medication, either.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE SEA IS SALT AND SO AM I in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell by Kate Brauning

The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell
Kate Brauning
Page Street Publishing
Published November 23, 2021

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About The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell

Seventeen-year-old Dinah runs her family’s farm in the Ozarks. When she finds her grief-stricken mother dead in the living room with wealthy rancher Gabriel Gates standing over her, Dinah’s life narrows to a single point: kill Gabriel Gates.

But Gates has built his wealth giving out bad loans and surrounds himself with bodyguards. Dinah’s mountains are now one giant foreclosure, including her own farm. It all belongs to him. Once he puts a ten-thousand-dollar reward on Dinah’s head, everyone in the starving county wants a piece of her.

Homeless and alone in the woods, all she has is Johnny, the moonshining bootlegger at home in the caves. He begs her to leave the mountains, to start over with a new life. But Dinah is hell-bent on sparking a county revolution. She’ll lose her life to see this killer dead.

My Review

From the very beginning, I was totally invested in this book. It has this gritty, gripping writing style that I absolutely love. And I love Dinah as a character. I loved watching her grow and figure out how to be on her own and what she wanted for her life.

The last few chapters were a bit rough for me, if I’m honest. I still love the book, but there were some things that happened differently than I hoped for, and I think that kind of meant that it ended on a bit of a down note for me. I’m still thinking about it, though, days after I’ve read it, which always means it’s a book that meant a lot to me to read and that I enjoyed reading, even if it ended differently than I expected.

On the whole, I liked the gritty feel of Dinah’s town and the connections between people. I loved her as a character. I think readers who like raw, post-apocalyptic types of books will like a lot of things about THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Dinah is pansexual. Her best friend is Latina. Another character has two dads. Several characters are in a polyamorous relationship.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two girls. There’s one long, descriptive scene of having sex.

Spiritual Content
Dinah doesn’t believe in any god. She believes she has deity inside herself.

Violent Content
Several scenes show graphic violence. Some descriptions are pretty gory.

Drug Content
A few characters make and run Moonshine. One man offers Dinah Moonshine to drink. She sips some but doesn’t finish her drink. A child drinks with her.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL in exchange for my honest review.

Review: As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

As Far As You’ll Take Me
Phil Stamper
Bloomsbury YA
Published February 9, 2021

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About As Far As You’ll Take Me

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

My Review

I have mixed feelings about this one. Mostly, I think, I have mixed feelings about Marty as a character.

He has anxiety– and I thought that part was really well crafted. I felt like I was experiencing it with him, and definitely felt for him. I tend to love angsty musician characters, so I figured Marty would be a sure win.

Plus the oboe holds a special place in my heart, since I’m practically surrounded by oboe players. (My sister, my daughter, my former roommate, and my cousin all either play or played the oboe. Actually, both my sisters played, my youngest only briefly.) So I was super excited to see an oboe player. In a YA novel! Yay!

And I loved that the story featured such complex, twisty friendships. Marty and Megan is a great example. I feel like a LOT of people have had the experience where that one super close friendship we thought we couldn’t live without has some real, undeniable toxicity to it. Marty’s wrestling with how to feel about his friendship with her and the way his new friendships put that relationship into context was SO. Well. Done.

Despite that, I struggled with some feelings about Marty. He stressed about money and agonized over whether he’d be able to land gigs and stay in London, but then off he’d go with his friends and chasing down potential romance. He ignored his friends when they tried to tell him things he didn’t want to hear and seemed pretty comfortable using them. I thought he made a lot of selfish decisions.

Some of that made sense in the context of his being totally swallowed up by his romantic feelings, so I wanted to give him a break. All the breaks.

He does grow a lot through the story. I kind of wanted some of his epiphanies to happen earlier. Some things felt a bit crammed in to the last few chapters, and that didn’t really give me a chance to see him walk things out, which I think would have been really satisfying.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Marty is gay and has anxiety. His mother was born in Ireland. He comes from a conservative Christian family. Marty’s friend group is a pretty diverse group.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used roughly a few times per chapter.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys. Brief touching. One scene shows them undressed and leading up to sex. Brief kissing between two girls.

Spiritual Content
Marty’s parents are deeply religious Christians. Marty is pretty disparaging of their faith, for two reasons that are pretty interconnected. One is that he just doesn’t believe in God anymore. He also feels it’s been pretty hammered into him that who he is is a sin, which has been pretty damaging.

Violent ContentTrigger Warning for Homophobia
A person Marty cares about outs him as gay to people in his hometown. His parents offer support to him personally, but display some homophobic behavior to the LGBT community at large.

Drug Content
Marty and his friends drink alcohol together. Marty and another group member are underage at seventeen.

Note: I received a free copy of AS FAR AS YOU’LL TAKE ME in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Melissa Bashardoust
Flatiron Books
Published July 7, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Girl, Serpent, Thorn

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

My Review

I went into this book a little nervously because I’d read some mediocre reviews, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The font on my ARC was also super small, so I worried that reading it might give me a headache.

Mainly I say all that to let you know that when I feel like I zipped through the book super quick and found it completely engrossing, you get the kind of obstacles it was up against. Ha.

First, the characters. I loved Soraya and her mom and the complicated relationship between them. The women in the cast absolutely shine, from Parvaneh and the sisterhood of pariks (winged demons) to Soraya and her mom, they were all complex and fascinating.

As far as the story, I enjoyed the story world, which is based on Persian mythology. Some of the titles are a little unfamiliar and confusing, but there is some explanation about them in the back of the book. I think a glossary would have been helpful, too. All in all, though, I as I got into the story, I was able to keep my bearings just fine.

The plot is very twisty. Less in terms of surprises (though every story has its share of surprises) and more in terms of the way things sort of loop back around, where the past connects to the present. I liked that a lot, and it gave the story a layered feel to it that I enjoyed.

One of the things that will stick with me, I think, is the way Soraya talked about making herself smaller early in the story– trying to keep others safe by shrinking herself as small as she could. I felt like that created this incredible picture of who she was at the beginning and showed such a contrast with who she became and how her courage changed her.

I feel like there are areas in our lives (especially as women) where we sometimes do that– make ourselves smaller to avoid conflict or hurt, even when it hurts us. So I loved reading this story about a young woman who comes into her own, learns to take up her space and be bold. It was both validating and freeing.

I think readers who enjoyed FOREST OF SOULS by Lori M. Lee or FORBIDDEN WISH by Jessica Khoury will enjoy this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Based on Persian mythology.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very rarely.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two girls.

Spiritual Content
In this story, the world is ruled by two gods: the Creator and the Destroyer. The Destroyer releases demons, or Divs, into the world. Soraya’s family is protected by a feather freely given to them by a powerful bird.

Violent Content
Some situations of peril. Battle violence and some brief gory descriptions of battle wounds.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of GIRL, SERPENT, THORN in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.

Review: The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

The Music of What Happens
Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books
Published February 26, 2019

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads

About The Music of What Happens

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

My Review

I think I’m totally a sucker for a book with great voices in it. You know those books where you can tell whose point-of-view you’re reading because each character talks and thinks in a way that’s uniquely them? THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS totally has that, and I love it. I bought in to Max and Jordan’s stories and their very different lives with single moms and with their very different friend circles. Honestly, I couldn’t get enough.

I loved that THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS made use of stereotypes to help us understand some minor characters but also used the character cast to challenge stereotypes and assumptions. A few times I found myself re-examining a conversation or situation and thinking of things from a new perspective because of a point Max or Jordan made, and I love that, too. Love that the story makes me think in unexpected ways.

One thing I didn’t like so much was the amount of profanity. I get that people really talk that way, and maybe using the words makes it feel more authentic, but sometimes it felt like overkill to me. Like, we get who these guys are, we don’t need quite so many reminders everywhere. But that’s a personal preference for me.

On the whole, I really enjoyed THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS. I think I have at least one other book by Konigsberg, so I’m eager to check that one out soon.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16up.

Both main characters are gay. Max’s mom is Mexican. A couple side characters are also Latinx.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently. Some crude language used as well.

Romance/Sexual Content – Trigger Warning
A couple references to arousal. Some hints or statements that characters have had sex, but no descriptions of the event itself. Some descriptions of kissing and cuddling.

One character shares memories of being raped. The sexual part isn’t described in detail, but the way the character feels comes across very strongly. Sensitive readers or readers recovering from trauma may find those scenes difficult to read.

Spiritual Content
Jordan briefly talks about his mom going through a phase in which she was very interested in Christianity.

Violent Content
One boy punches another in the face and misaligns his jaw.

Drug Content
Max drinks a few beers to loosen up at a party. Another boy offers him pot, but Max declines, though he’s in the room when the other boy smokes it.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Get It Together Delilah by Erin Gough

Get It Together, Delilah
Erin Gough
Chronicle Books
Published April 4, 2017 (orig Feb 1, 2015)

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads


Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks.

But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won’t stop guilt-tripping her? What about her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn’t do something?

But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

My Review

The very first thing about GET IT TOGETHER DELILAH that hooked me was Delilah herself. I loved her spunky, quirky voice. It was easy to feel that sense of being overwhelmed and struggling to juggle all her responsibilities even as the weight of them was crushing her. I loved that the story pulled me in so quickly that way.

Delilah’s relationships felt real and complex, too. I wasn’t a huge fan of some of them, but others were totally endearing. I loved Lauren (the guilt-trip queen) and Charlie (who loves to be in love) and enjoyed watching both of those relationships evolve in the course of the story.

Some moments got a little weird for me. At one point, Del gets super drunk and stoned and tries to hook up with a guy, but it just gets awkward and weird and literally going up in flames.

But I loved the messages about community. Del realizes the only chance she has at saving the cafe will come from pulling together her people, depending on each other, and working together. That message absolutely resonated with me and made the book really satisfying, too.

Recommended for Ages 17 up.

Del’s friend is Asian. Del herself is a lesbian.

Language Content
Extreme profanity used fairly frequently.

Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls. One reference to reaching under each other’s shirts. Kissing between a boy and girl and some fondling each other.

Spiritual Content

Some battle sequences with situations of peril.

Drug Content
Charlie smokes pot, and Del occasionally joins him. They drink alcohol, too.

Note: This post contains affiliate links which don’t cost you anything, but which help support this blog when used.