The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School

by Sonora Reyes
First sentence: “Seven years of bad luck can slurp my ass.”
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Content: There is homophobia, swearing – including multiple f-bombs, teen drinking, and suicidal ideation. It’s in the Teen (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Yamilet is about to start her junior at a Catholic school, rather than the public school she’s been attending. It’s not for her own good; her brother, Cesar, has been getting into fights and their mother has decided that they need to transfer to help him avoid trouble. The problem is that Yamilet is a closeted lesbian, and the one person she came out to – her best friend – not only outed her to all their friends, after which they shunned her for being “nasty”. 

Side note: I know homophobic kids and parents exist, and I applaud Reyes for exploring those beliefs in the Mexican/Latinx community, but still part of me was like, “Really?” Someone would really shun, make fun of, ostracize, etc. someone for coming out as gay? In 2022? If so, we’ve not progressed as much as I hoped. 

Anyway, at the Catholic school, it looks like Cesar is adjusting okay, but Yamilet is struggling. There are mean white girls who are super racist, but there’s a nice one – Bo – who is an out lesbian, who Yami not only likes but likes. It’s up and down as, over the course of the year, Yami figures out how to come out, how to be proudly out, as well as how to be first Bo’s friend, and then expresses to Bo just how much she likes her. It’s not a smooth road, but Yami finds that it’s worth it 

I really liked this one, first and foremost, for the representation. Not only do we have LGBTQ representation, but it is in a darker-skinned, half-Indigenous (her father was super proud of their Indigenous roots), Mexican girl who is proud of her heritage. As I mentioned before, I liked that Reyes explored homophobia within the Latinx community, but not every Latinx person in the book was homophobic. The book also explored the latent homophobia in the church, and confronted it really well, I think. But, it was also a good story, with Yami figuring out her relationship with her mother, her brother, and with Bo. I really enjoyed this one (finished it pretty much in one sitting!), and can’t wait to see what Reyes does next. 

Audiobook: Lost & Found

by Kathryn Schulz
Read by the author
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Or listen at Libro. fm
Content: There’s some mild swearing and frank talk of dying. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

The subtitle of this one is “Reflections on Grief, Gratitude, and Happiness” and I think that sums the book up really well. Schulz divides the book up into three parts: Lost, in which she reflects on the death of her father, and the process of grieving him; Found, in which she recounts the story about how she met and came to marry her wife; and And, in which she talks about coming together, and the importance of community. It’s a simple premise, but Schulz pulls it off beautifully.

I first heard about this when one of our Random House reps, Bridget, spoke highly about how this book about grief and loss wasn’t sad but filled her with gratitude for living. And she’s right: yes, it’s a book about loss and grief, but it’s also a book about learning to live with loss and grief, and gratitude for the simple act of living. It’s reflective and poignant and sometimes quite funny. And Schulz is a good narrator; she reads well and is captivating to listen to.

In short: the RH rep was right: it’s one of the best books about loss that I’ve read in a long time.

Happy Place

by Emily Henry
First sentence: “A cottage on the rocky shoreline, with knotty pine floorboards and windows that are nearly always open.”
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Release date: April 25, 2023
Content: There are a couple sexytimes and swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It will be in the romance section of the bookstore.

Harriet and Cleo and Sabrina have been friends since their freshman year of college. They’re an unlikely trio from vastly different backgrounds with different ambitions, but they make it work. As they get older they add more: Parth, whose house they moved into their junior year, and then Wyn, Parth’s friend, got folded in. Except Harriet and Wyn felt an almost-instant attraction. They eventually got together, thinking it would last forever.

Fast forward 8 years and Wyn and Harriet have broken up. Harriet’s in a medical residency in San Francisco, and Wyn just… wasn’t happy. So he left. Then he broke it off. But, they’re both at Sabrina’s family’s cottage in Maine for a week in the summer, with everyone, for one last fling. Can they pretend everything is fine, for the sake of old times?

This one is less focused on the romance, though Henry intersperses chapters of Wyn and Harriet’s getting together and falling in love, with the present week in Maine. It was an effective tactic: we got to see the fallout before we read about how they got together. But it worked. Mostly because this book is less about the Romance Tropes than it is about friendship – as important as Wyn and Harriet’s breakup is, the feeling that the friendships are falling apart because everyone is getting older, and things are Changing – and about making your own happiness.

It was the last thing that struck me the most. Harriet had spent her life trying to make her unhappy parents happy, making the choices that landed her in San Francisco. But, over the course of the novel, she realizes that she can’t do that, that the one thing she can control is her own happiness and her own choices. It was something that resonated with me.

So, while this was not my favorite Henry (that remains Book Lovers), it was a very, very good one, one that resonated with me quite a bit.

The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

by Deya Muniz
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Release date: May 9, 2023
Content: It is, at its heart, a romance. It will be in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Lady Camembert just wants to live her life. She doesn’t want to marry a man, which is required in order for her to inherit her father’s lands and wealth. So she does the unthinkable: she disguises herself as a man and moves away to a distant kingdom to start over as Lord Camembert.

But then she (he? the pronoun preference isn’t clear) meets Princess Brie and is immediately taken. Brie thinks Cam is a man and is taken with him, but Cam knows it’s impossible for them to be attached because of the laws of the country. It’s a push and pull as they slowly fall in love. Until Brie discovers Cam’s secret.

It’s a cute enough graphic novel. I do love the art, and the representation is excellent. Cam is into fashion, and no one blinks an eye at a masc-presenting person being into dresses and furs and clothes. But, in the end, it just didn’t work for me. I thought the ending was rushed, and even though I believed in Brie and Cam’s romance, I thought the fight and the eventual makeup were a bit stereotypical. So, while really pretty, it wasn’t quite there for me.

The Stolen Heir

by Holly Black
First sentence: “A passerby discovered a toddler sitting on the chilly concrete of an alley, playing with the wrapper of a cat-food container.”
Others in the series: The Cruel PrinceThe Wicked King, The Queen of Nothing
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some disturbing violence, child abuse, and swearing, including a few f-bombs. It’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

Wren thought she was a mortal, until the day when her faerie parents came an violently took her from her mortal family. From there, they kept her in the Court of Teeth, abusing her and trying to make her as vicious as she was. But, she escaped back to the mortal world, prefering to live in the forest, scrounging for food, and breaking faerie spells instead. That is, until the heir of Elfhame, Oak, comes to ask Wren’s help going north to the Court of Teeth to overthrow her mother and rescue his father.

Of course, their quest isn’t that simple. There is a lot of mistrust and backstabbing, and some close calls, and some very tense moments. Black is not afraid to hurt or kill off characters, and there were moments that I was genuinely worried about Wren and Oak. And then the end… let’s just say, well, now I’m going to have to read the next book.

I’ll venture to say that no one understands the fae with all their charms and vicious nature, and no one writes better faerie books than she does. And this is an excellent addition to the Elfhame books.

Audiobook: The Inheritance Of Orquídea Divina

by Zoraida Córdova
Read by Frankie Corzo
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Or listen at
Content: There is mention of abuse, one on-screen sex scene, and some swearing, including a few f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Orquídea Divina Montoya is dying, so she calls her family back to their home in Four Rivers so they can say goodbye. Once they get there though they are confronted with the decisions Orquídea made in the past. When the house burns down, Orquídea is turned into a tree, and three of them – her grandchildren Marimar, Rey, and great-grandchild, Rhiannon are left with magic marks – they are forced to figure out what Orquídea has done to bring them all to this point. Seven years after Orquídea’s death, members of the Montoya family are dying, and it’s up to Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon to finally untangle all the knots Orquídea tied, and set everyone free.

I’m not usually one for magical realism, but I really loved this one. Part of it was the narrator: Corzo is incredibly talented at capturing the essence of a book and holding the listener’s interest. But there’s also a deeper layer to this book as well: it’s about generational trauma, and the choices one makes to survive. Orquídea is doing the best she can in a bad situation, and she is making decisions that backfire, but ones that also give her her family. It’s captivating and engrossing and heartbreaking all at once.

I’m so glad I finally got around to this.


by Amina Luqman-Dawson
First sentence: “Sanzi had broken yet another rule, but she didn’t care.”
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Content: There is violence against human beings – beatings and whippings, talk of removing fingers, and violence in the wild. It is in the Middle Grade section of the bookstore.

Homer is an enslaved boy at a plantation in the south. When we first meet him and his sister, Ada, they are running for their freedom. They’re supposed to be with their mother, but Homer insisted that they go back for his friend, Anna. Which meant that their mother, Rose, was caught. Homer and Ada kept running and found their way into the swamp. From there, they met some formemrly enslaved Black people as well as free Black people in their free community, deep within the swamp: Freewater.

This is less the story of Homer and Ada’s escape – that really only takes a chapter or two – and more of them learning to live free. Homer is obsessed with going back for his mom and works toward being able to do that. Ada is just a 7-year-old getting underfoot. They meet other children: Billy, who is a formerly enslaved person like them, and Sanzi and Juna who were born free in Freewater. Sanzi wants nothing except to be like Suleman – a tracker and explorer. Juna is a homebody and from all accounts, her mother’s “favorite”. We follow them as they experience life in Freewater.

I hate to say it, but I felt like this book was more Important than, well, Good. It is important: these stories of slavery need to be told. While people need to be shown as what they were: often cruel, but sometimes some of them were kind (if misguided). The struggles of Black people need to be told, and their joys and successes – like building a whole community in a swamp! – need to be written down. (The book is based on a real place, which is quite remarkable.)

But I wasn’t engaged. I slogged through until the very end, when it got exciting, as the children (and a couple of adults) raided the plantation wedding (wreaking havoc) during a wedding to rescue Homer’s mother. Luqman-Dawson captured the tension of doing that and made the stakes relatively high.

It was just a chore getting to that point. So, while I see the Importance and Value of this book and am glad it’s out there for people to read, it will not be my favorite.

Graphic Novel Two-fer

Lost in Taiwan
by Mark Crilley
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: May 23, 2023
Content: There are some intense moments and the untranslated Chinese might deter some readers. It will be in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Paul has been sent by his father to live with his older brother, Theo, in Taiwan for a couple of weeks. It’s the last place Paul wants to be, and he’s more than content to spend it on Theo’s couch, playing video games. But then Theo leaves on an overnight trip, and Paul is alone. An online friend convinces Paul to go find an exclusive device, and Paul sets out with his phone’s GPS. He walks through winding streets and open fields, but when he gets to the store, he drops his phone in a puddle and is now stuck, somewhere in the city, with no way of getting back. Thankfully, he met a Taiwanese girl who did a study abroad in England and can speak English. They set off on an adventure to try and find Theo’s apartment. It takes all day, and on the way Paul learns that 1) putting the games down and getting off the couch is a good thing and 2) maybe his view of the world is pretty narrow.

It’s another beautifully drawn graphic novel from Crilley, and in this one, he manages to tackle both American exceptionalism and the beauty of Taiwan. It’s a fun read, not only for kids but for anyone who wants to experience what a day in Taiwan might look like.

The Faint of Heart
by Kerilynn Wilson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: June 13, 2023
Content: There are some disturbing themes in this one. It will be in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

At some point in the future (in this world at least), “The Scientist” has discovered a way for people to remove their hearts and numb them, thereby making them immune to all emotions. Pretty much everyone has done this, except for June. She clings to her heart, because she wants to feel, and wants to continue to draw. But, the pressure mounts, and her parents decide that June needs to go through the procedure. June fakes it though, wandering around the city, and finds a heart in a jar. This sets off a chain of events that will lead June to change the future.

This was such a gorgeously drawn book. It was the art that drew me to it in the first place. I liked the use of black and white, with June being the only pop of color. But the story was odd. Yes, I know it was all metaphorical, and it was an exploration of why we need feelings and art and why solely relying on our unemotional analytical side is not a great way to live. But I did get hung up on people living WITHOUT THEIR HEARTS. How did they function? How did the blood go through their bodies? I couldn’t let that go while I was reading.

Which may be a me problem, actually. Otherwise, it’s really good.

Audiobook: Blood Debts

by Terry J Benton-Walker
Read by Bahni Turpin, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Torian Brackett & Zeno Robinson
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Or Listen at
Release date: April 4, 2023
Content: There is a lot of violence, a lot of swearing, including many f-bombs, and an on-screen sex scene. It will be in the Teen (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

The basic plot? Clem and Chris Trudeau are practitioners of Generational magic – a branch of magic along with Light and Moon and Necromancy. But their family hasn’t had the best history with it. Their grandmother was the leader of the Gen magic council but was framed for murder and killed by an angry mom. Their father was killed after something went wrong with a spell Chris cast. And their mother was slowly dying until they found the cause: a hex doll. Chris and Clem are determined (in spite of adults telling them to stay out of it) to figure out why their family has had such a run of bad luck with magic and fix it.

Truth be told, it’s a LOT more than just that. This book has everything. Family drama? Check. Solving multiple murders? Check. Stupid white people with grudges and guns? Check. Authorities refusing to help because the Trudeaus are black? Check. Zombies? Check. (Seriously.) Wonderfully sweet gay love? Check. Complicated gay love? Check. This book has EVERYTHING. It’s so much.

That’s not to say it was bad. It wasn’t. The audio is especially good – the narrators pulled me in and kept me coming back for more, even as I wanted to cringe and pull away because it’s a LOT. But, I really liked the magic system Benton-Walker dreamed up, and I liked the way he wove the challenges and triumphs of Black people into the book. There’s surprisingly a lot to talk about. (There’s just a LOT. Period.)

In the end, I think it was good? I’m still reeling from the end, and I want to know if there’s another, so at the very least, it hooked me.

Figure it Out, Henri Weldon

by Tanita S. Davis
First sentence: “Fluorescent lights really, really sounded like bees, Henrietta decided, shifting in her seat.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Disclaimer: Tanita and I are both on the Cybils board, but I purchased the book.
Content: There’s some mild bullying. It’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Henrietta – Henri for short – Weldon feels like she has a lot to figure out. She’s in 7th grade, but she’s just transferred to a public school, so the family could afford for her mother to get her Ph.D. It’s an adjustment, to say the least. On top of that, Henri and her older sister, Kat, are always arguing, though Henri feels like it’s always Kat picking on and nagging her. Kat has, especially, told Henri she is not to be friends with the Morgans – a group of foster kids living in the same home. Except the Morgans are nice to Henri. And then there’s math, which Henri just doesn’t get. As things start piling up, and she feels less and less like she has support at home, Henri wonders: Will she ever figure things out?

This was such a charming book. The sibling rivalry felt realistic, even though I felt bad for Henri – she was really trying her best, and her family just kept piling on. Families do that, though. And I can see how the youngest child would especially feel that. I liked the way Tanita depicted Henri’s learning disability; there are a lot of books out there on dyslexia and other reading disorders, but not much about dyscalculia, and I appreciated learning how Henri dealt with it. But, mostly it was a book about a girl trying to figure things out, which feels very 7th-grade. And I really really liked it.