ARC Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

Release date: April 2nd

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★★★

Okay so first of all, I haven’t read Geekerella yet! But I wanted to read this for the F/F romance and I was lucky enough to get approved for it. Reading Geekerella is definitely not necessary but reading this book made me want to read it. I think those of you who have read it will enjoy the references to it (which were a bit lost on me).

I love books about cons, and fandoms, and meeting people you met online, and internet culture, and all that. This was more or less what I had thought it would be. Actually, it kind of was more than I had expected, in both good and bad ways, but I overall loved it.

First of all, you need to keep in mind this is a loose retelling of The Prince and the Pauper. I haven’t read it, but the modern setting made it kind of hard for me to really believe that thousands of people online and IRL would see photos of one girl and think she’s another, especially when one is a kind of famous actress. I mean, fandom twitter is better than the FBI at investigating so the premise of them both looking very alike and being able to effortlessly pass for one another was kind of a miss for me, but once I accepted to go with it I could sort of forget about it and it didn’t bother me so much.

The two MCs in this book are Imogen, fangirl who wants to save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off the franchise, and Jessica, actress playing said Princess Amara and currently under attack by a big part of the fandom, which she wants nothing to do with anymore. She’s actually glad her character is being killed off.

Things happen and they “must” exchange roles in order for Jess to investigate about a missing/stolen script. I say “must” because I thought the reason behind this exchange was not entirely believable for me, and there were too many risks from the start. But anyway, once they found themselves in each other’s shoes I could let it slide, and it’s not like I’m reading a cute contemporary for it to make absolute sense.

Jess gets to meet Harper, a Black fanartist and Imogen’s online friend, and spend two days with her. Jess is a closeted lesbian and Harper is also queer, and they have a really cute and endearing romance. Because this book takes place within a single weekend, things were a little fast, but I didn’t mind and I just enjoyed reading about them.

Imogen, under the guise of being Jess, spends her days with Ethan Tanaka, Jess’s Asian-American assistant, and they start off by hating each other. Their romance was cute if a little bit overdramatic, but I love that they’re both big nerds, and at least he knew about her being Imogen (as opposed to the other romance, where Harper initially thinks Jess is actually Imogen because they’d only met online).

I love when contemporary books throw a few pop culture references here and there, and I expect a book about fandom to have a lot of them, but I just didn’t expect them to be quite so many. I understood almost all of them to some degree but I wouldn’t have minded them being toned down a little. But I forgive Ashley Poston because she mentioned Yuri On Ice!!! and Zuko’s redemption arc too.

Anyway, even with a few issues here and there that didn’t make this a full five stars for me, this was a really fun read that I think a lot of contemporary readers will enjoy!

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Graham’s Delicacies: Characters Interview

graham's delicacies Character Interview Graphic

Today I am so happy to participate in Graham’s Delicacies‘ blog tour! You can read my review to see what I thought of it and get excited for this collection of three novellas all set in the same world and revolving around a group of friends/coworkers finding love.

Today is also a special day because it’s the book’s release date, so you can go ahead and purchase it for yourself at the following links (but please come back and keep reading my post after!).

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I sure hope you came back because I sat down with three characters (one from each novella) and asked them a few questions each and I love their replies.

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Interview with Emilie (they/them):

Silvia: Share an easy recipe for those of us (like…me) who can’t bake.

Emilie: I’m assuming you mean something to bake. Well, I recommend starting off with easy stuff like cookies, which don’t really take much time? Or, or, pancakes! Pancakes are tricky and they deal with like the basic of creating soft batter? I’m afraid all of my measurements are… pretty chaotic. Trial and error!

S: Which would you say is the most nonbinary of cakes?

E: Hmmm, I’ve never thought of cakes in the term of gender before… Is it egoistic to say Saffron cake? I mean, it’s that golden yellow that is in the flag!

S: Can you talk about what it’s like working in such a queer positive environment as Graham’s?

E: It’s the simple things like feeling safe; and surrounded by people who are like you and who’d protect you.

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Interview with James (he/him):

Silvia: How would you describe your relationship with your family?

James: I’d say I have a good relationship. Sure, I’m a bit meddlesome but it’s only because I love them so much.

S: What do you like most about Graham’s?

J: The ability to eat my weight in sugar.

S: Tell us something adorable (and SFW!) that Sam does when you two are alone.

J: Okay, listen, Sam will fight me over this, but he sings to himself while he’s reading. Like, it’s so cute. It starts off as a hum, and it’s totally unconscious when he starts singing. It usually means he’s having a good time. When I asked him about it, after an hour of him arguing he didn’t, he confessed that it’s because he used to listen to music while reading on like public transport.

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Interview with Alex (they/them):

Silvia: What do you like most about Yujin?

Alex: Is it weird if I say I love his body? You wouldn’t guess that Yujin can easily lift up a couch or assemble an IKEA bookcase just by looking. You’d get distracted by his smile, which is fantastic, or his hair while practically glows in the sun despite it being pretty dark. He also can lift me without hesitation and it’s really fun.

S: If you were a cake, which cake would you be? Which cake would Yujin be?

A: I’d be a latte cake. Don’t ask. I think coffee and cake is a neat combination. Yujin would be a Japanese cake. Fluffy as fuck.

S: Will you ever consider making an Instagram account (maybe with a new phone)?

A: Nope. Have you met my boyfriend? I’d be leaving him indecent comments all the time. I’m not to be trusted with technology. Besides, he has scary fans. You can find me on Instagram on the bakery’s account (and Yujin’s… he kind of posts a lot of beautiful pics, go follow my boo!)

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Thank you so much to Emilie, James and Alex for agreeing to answer my questions! They also told me they can’t wait for people to meet them and see their love stories unfold, so make sure you get your hands on the book!

Also check out Em’s thread with all the posts of the blog tour so far (and future ones) so you don’t miss all the reviews, characters aesthetics and all that good stuff that other bloggers are posting!

About the author:

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Em Ali grew up on TV and K-pop like many her generation. She learned a lot about how to be a hermit and not interact with people, but she loves to hear from readers!

Links:

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

ARC Review: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Modern Romance by Madeline J. Reynolds // a cute queer time travel romance

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Elias Caldwell needs more than his life in nineteenth-century England has to offer. He’d rather go on an adventure than spend one more minute at some stuffy party. When his grandfather gives him a pocket watch he claims can transport him to any place and time, Elias doesn’t believe it…until he’s whisked away to twenty-first-century America.

Tyler Forrester just wants to fall hopelessly in love. But making that kind of connection with someone has been more of a dream than reality. Then a boy appears out of thin air, a boy from the past. As he helps Elias navigate a strange new world for him, introducing him to the wonders of espresso, binge-watching, and rock and roll, Tyler discovers Elias is exactly who he was missing.

But their love has time limit. Elias’s disappearance from the past has had devastating side effects, and now he must choose where he truly belongs—in the Victorian era, or with the boy who took him on an adventure he never dreamed possible?

Release date: March, 4th

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★★★.5✩✩

When I heard about the premise of this book I just knew that I had to read it. Time travelling gays from Victorian England? Hell yes.

The book is narrated in a dual POV: Tyler, a 21st century bisexual boy who wants to be a filmmaker, and Elias, who was born in the 19th century and has a hard time finding a sense of belonging in his Victorian London. Elias’ grandfather shares a secret with him and Elias finds himself in front of Tyler’s camera, across one ocean and more than one century away.

By far the aspect that was the most fun to read was Elias discovering everything there is to know about the world now: the technology, the music, the culture and language. In this aspect the book was everything I was hoping it would be.

On the romantic side of things, Tyler and Elias were cute enough but I didn’t lose sleep over them. I just felt like their only reason to like each other was the fact that they were both a novelty in the eyes of the other, and this meant that I wasn’t incredibly invested in the romantic conclusion of this. I cared more about Elias staying in our century because we have better hygiene and antibiotics than staying because of Tyler, but at the end it was just a cute lil love story (there wasn’t really a plot, just some drama that I didn’t care about) so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Generally speaking, while I definitely liked this overall, I also found the last 25-30% kind of boring and repetitive, with some plot lines that went nowhere and writing that felt more immature than the rest of the book (but I guess endings are harder to write).

Overall I would recommend this to anyone who loves time travel and gay stories and is looking for something light-hearted and quick to read.

ARC Review: Graham’s Delicacies by Em Ali // three sweet and super queer short stories with different pairings and just a pinch of angst

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Summary: 

Six people and three love stories all in one bakery. 

Saccharine
Jen goes to work, agonizes over college, and looks forward to the stolen moments in the kitchen. There she can watch Emilie bake love into every morsel. Their delicate friendship takes a step towards a budding romance, but will Jen’s anxiety help them survive their first hurdle?

Delectable
James has never been kissed but he wants to be. Especially by his co-worker Sam, who he can’t talk to without turning into a little jerk. Sam is made of all the good stuff, but will James’ deepest insecurities allow him to kiss the boy?

Ravenous
Alex won’t let some foodie with a video camera bash their beloved bakery, even if it means to be petty. Except they’re nowhere ready for Yujin, the one who got away and is now romancing them. Will Alex’s pride let them see the gold heart the bashful king hides?

Release date: March, 5th

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★★★★✩

One word: SWEET.

Graham’s Delicacies follows three different romances revolving around a bakery. Everyone is queer and every romance is differently structured with different tropes and different pairings so there is really something for everyone.

Saccharine follows Jen, a Black bisexual waitress with anxiety, and Emilie, the chubby and anxious nonbinary baker that caught her eye (and her heart). It is the type of story you want to read with a warm cup of tea and maybe a slice of cake or two.

The pining that was hinted at in the first story between James, who’s gay and Mexican-American and has never been kissed, and Sam, his gay Black coworker, is central in Delectable . This story was probably my favorite, I loved James’ characterization and how good Sam is.

The dynamic in Ravenous is closer to enemies to lovers and sees Alex, an Arab-American queer nonbinary baker, trying (and failing) to keep Yujin, his gay Korean-American one night stand and foodstagrammer, at a distance. I loved them both and I am a huge fan of the trope used here.

All stories are extremely positive and inclusive with queer and trans side characters. There are explicit scenes in all of them and I love how clear the consent is on every page. You can see that Em Ali cares a lot about their characters and about the readers, from the note about Emilie’s pronouns to the detailed content warnings at the beginning of the book.

I really recommend this as the kind of cute, not complicated romance that will melt your heart and give you everything you need from a story.

ARC Review: My Fake Canadian Wife by M. Hollis // sapphic fake dating

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: When Dora receives a letter from the immigration service in Canada saying she will be deported soon, as her visa is expiring, a friend suggests she marry a woman. Since she doesn’t currently have a girlfriend, faking a relationship might be her only option since she can’t muster the desire to return to school for advanced photograph studies.
Abby is a reserved librarian who seems enthusiastic about helping with the marriage plan. As the two girls get to know each other through dates in snowy Toronto and meeting Abby’s family for Christmas, Dora starts to wonder how much of this relationship they are faking and how much is real.

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★★★✩

M. Hollis’s books continue to be a safe haven for queer women and I’m so grateful for her.

This book is about Dora, a lesbian girl from Brasil living in Canada, who has to find a way to not get deported because of her expired visa. One way would be to get married, and when a friend of a friend, Abby (who is pansexual), seems willing to fake a relationship with her, the two have to spend some time together to have proof of their relationship.

What I always love in M. Hollis books is the relaxed atmosphere, which is always very queer-positive and comforting. The writing always goes straight to the point but I wouldn’t say it’s a case of too much tell and little show. It just does what it’s supposed to do, especially in books that are on the shorter side (this one is around 100 pages).

With that said, one of the reasons I love the fake relationship trope is to get to that moment when both characters are so deep into the act that their own feelings start coming to the surface and they forget for a second that the relationship is fake. This is something I didn’t really feel happened in this book, and I sort of missed it. Everything played out very safely and neatly but I wish I could said that I rooted for the couple more than I did. I know it’s supposed to be short, but for a romance, I felt like it ended at what would’ve been the 40 or 60% mark on a full-length novel with a similar premise.

In any case, I really appreciate the kind of stories this author puts out because they always find a way to make you feel safe and seen in your identities. I definitely recommend this book if you want a soft romance that’s low on angst and with a cozy, winter atmosphere.

Review: Accepting the Fall by Meg Harding

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 
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Summary: Confronting the past is never easy.

Cole Whitaker is happy. He has the job and boyfriend he always wanted. His heart’s in no danger of being broken, and he can’t ask for more from life. As a kindergarten teacher, he sees it all; however, one troublesome student has him reaching out to the parent, wanting to help. There’s something about Savanah that tugs at his heartstrings.

He never expected her father.

Zander Brooks hasn’t had an easy life, and he’s made some mistakes. Freshly retired from the military and working as a firefighter, Zander thought he’d left Cole in the rearview mirror. He’s not expecting him to appear in St. Petersburg, Florida, of all places, teaching his daughter’s kindergarten class. Suddenly, his biggest mistake is being shoved in his face.
This is Zander’s chance to close a door he’d never fully shut, but time with his former flame might change his mind.

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★★★★

I loved this second-chance romance so much, without realizing it I even finished it within one single day (more like single evening) and that never happens because I’m a very slow reader.

The story is about Cole, a gay kindergarten teacher, and Zander, a Black bisexual firefighter whose daughter is in Cole’s class. Cole and Zander both grew up on military bases and they meet each other again after almost two decades of having had a relationship that ended abruptly as teens.

It’s hard to find anything I didn’t like about this book, to be honest.

I loved the single-parent aspect, and how Zander didn’t really know what to do with a little kid (he only had her for a few months because her mom dropped her on his doorstep and disappeared) but how he loved her so much and always wanted to do what was best for her. He is working as a firefighter and his job makes him a little absent from his daughter’s life at first but he learns to do things with her and how to be a great dad. I also loved that this wasn’t a story about him coming out and that his colleagues and friends knew about him being bisexual and nobody had a problem with it.

Cole was a sweetheart and he loves the kids he’s teaching and seeing him with all his pets and farm animals had me so soft. He is also in an established relationship at the beginning of the book, which is something that initially I didn’t like because I never know where a story might go from there. Fortunately there was no cheating and instead we were given enough time (I believe in the book a few months passed) to see why his current boyfriend wasn’t good for him. It’s not that he was a bad guy or anything (I also hate when someone is in an abusive relationship and finds a new partner, because I’m never sure that they love the new partner or if they’re really just looking for something better). In fact, the guy was great on paper, but just not what Cole needed in his life.

Once things with Cole’s ex ended, the romance took up from there. Cole and Zander’s dates were so adorable and once they started dating there was no real obstacle to their romance. Most of the conflict was from their time together when they were teens, and I loved seeing snippets from the past to understand what had gone right and what had gone wrong.

I also liked the focus on Savanah’s mental health and trauma of her mom leaving her and how she interacted with the world (mostly Zander and Cole, but also the other kids) because of it. I just wanted to hug her and make sure she was okay and I cried with that epilogue because yes, she turns out okay and loved.

So, I can’t recommend this book enough if you want to read a cute second-chance romance with a single parent trope and an out and proud bisexual Black man.

TW: mentions of past homophobia, past break up, car accident, hospitals, child abandonment

Review: On the Fly by P.J. Trebelhorn // for the f/f sports romance lovers out there

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Courtney Abbott is a gold-medal-winning Olympian who always dreamed of playing in the NHL. But breaking into a man’s game is nearly impossible, and she’s put her all into playing in a semi-pro women’s ice hockey league.

Concert violinist Lana Caruso and her teenage son return home to care for her father. The move is only temporary, though—as soon as he recovers, Lana plans to return to Chicago and her position in the orchestra.

Court knows Lana isn’t going to be sticking around for long, but she’s used to living life on the fly. She doesn’t think for even a second she’ll end up truly falling for Lana, but when hearts are on the line, love becomes the one game she can’t afford to lose.

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★★★★.5

This book is a romance between hockey player Courtney Abbott and Lana Caruso, a violinist who has to take time off from her orchestra in Chicago in order to help out her family because of her father’s health issues. Lana also has a teenage son so there’s a single parent trope in this too, which I really liked. Because he’s 15 and plays hockey too, he had kind of a important role and I thought the scenes with him were really cute and endearing.

I thought that because the romance was going to be between an athlete and a violinist, this book wouldn’t focus so much on the sports element, but I was wrong and I really enjoyed this aspect. Particularly I loved how fierce Court’s teammates were when it came to backing up one of their own, even if it was usually against a new member of their own team who caused trouble. In this it reminded me a bit of The Foxhole Court, just in how violent and threatening some scenes were. It’s nowhere near TFC levels though. Although at the beginning it was cool to see this strong friendship among women, it also annoyed me that the main conflict had to be a teammate who was causing trouble for no reason other than the fact that she’s a bigot and has a problem with Courtney being a lesbian. That grew old soon and it distracted from the romance and the cute scenes. If I’m reading an f/f book I usually don’t want to be reminded of queerphobia. I also didn’t like the implication that because she’s a homophobe she has to be secretly closeted and not accepting of her own sexuality. It’s a tired argument that’s only meant to justify bigotry.

On Lana’s side of the story, she has to help out in her family’s pizzeria and try to find a relationship with her parents where she doesn’t really have one. I am Italian and I have to say that I recognized Lana’s family’s mentality as typically Italian and not in a stereotyped way. It was the small things that made it real and I don’t know if the author really did her research or what but I thought it was spot-on.

The romance itself was really good. I liked them right away and how flirty they were with each other. I really felt for them because they knew the time they had was limited since Lana would go back to Chicago after a few months. Something that was different compared to other romances was the fact that the book stretched onto a long time period, overall I think about two years? It had some necessary time jumps at the end but that was expected, however even while Lana was still in town sometimes I thought the pacing was a bit off.

There were a few other things that bothered me like the equivalence that having breasts = being a woman, or the fact that sex was treated as something everyone needs to have, and one comment in Court’s POV about bisexual women that I thought could have been edited out (Lana is a lesbian but Court initially thinks she’s bi because she has a son, and thinks in her internal monologue that she doesn’t have a problem with bi women but doesn’t want to hear about their sex with men, which….was really not prompted by anything and just made me uncomfortable) but overall I had a really good time while reading this and I would definitely recommend it for fans of f/f and sport romances.

TW: lesbophobia, mention of suicide, past death of a parent, cancer, hospitals, violence, the d slur