Review: Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace

Tailor-Made has lighthearted moments like many romance novels, but there are many depths within this novel. There’s steaminess as well, plus it touches on serious subjects such gentrification and difficulties faced by the LGBTQIA+ community.

Grace and Dakota may be the focus of the story, but once you pick up this book, you will find much more than their story alone to enjoy. There is writing that draws you into the story, weaving various aspects into a larger picture that keeps your interest and leaves you wanting more.

Steaminess level: Hot!


Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository  –  GoodreadsIndiebound

Published: 1 December 2017

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Category: Romance/LGBTQ+/Contemporary

Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.

Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.

Rating: 4 Stars

Rep: Plus size Black Lesbian MC, Genderfluid presenting MC, supporting LGT cast, Filipino side character

CW: some homophobic comments/inferences

The character game is strong in Tailor-Made. Grace, one of the main characters, is a generally no nonsense type of person with a strong head for business. She’s worked her entire life in order to take over her father’s tailor business and while she’s learned everything from him, she doesn’t simply embrace his ideals, she builds upon them and makes her craft her own. Through the questions she asks of Dakota during an interview to make a custom suit, it’s clear that not only does she know what she’s talking about construction wise, but the author does as well.

While reading Tailor-Made, I really got the sense that Wallace had at least more than a passing knowledge when it came to clothes making. During the above mentioned, Grace asks Dakota for details about how she dresses, considers that Dakota’s presentation is genderfluid, and she asks “do you dress left or right?” I didn’t understand this at first and had to Google it. Doing so made me appreciate the detail in the book even more because I realized that Wallace was getting things correct, even if they were seemingly small.

Dakota, the other main character, was an intelligent character that had many personality facets. As a model, she is business savvy, particularly when it comes to modeling. Poignantly aware that there’s a shelf life on that type of career, there’s a secondary career throughout Tailor-Made that took up Dakota’s time, as well as mentions of investments like a gallery or day trader dabbling. Dakota’s strength is also evident in an unwillingness to compromise personal integrity. As a model that specializes in modeling menswear as opposed to women’s clothes, while Dakota could be making a lot more money modeling bikinis and wedding dresses (supermodels raking in top dollar can make millions while male models make significantly less), Dakota isn’t willing to do so just for money. Money is good, but it isn’t the be-all-end-all in their life. Blurring the line between male and female is who Dakota is, whatever anyone else says.

The relationship between the two starts with a good foundation of attraction versus instant love. It felt like a more comfortable, authentic beginning than some stories I’ve read and allowed me to enjoy it more. There’s a good blend of tender moments that illustrate the building blocks of their relationship mixed with increasingly fiery moments of passion. Their conversations, getting to know each other, lead to intimacy and steaminess that would certainly melt a block of ice in the middle of a New York winter, so fans of those scenes won’t be disappointed.

Supporting characters ran the gamut from good people to disappointing. Lillie, a co-worker of Grace’s, was a fully supportive friend that was more family like than anything. An older woman, she kept up the spirits of a much younger person and had an openness that was refreshing. While she made some comments about Dakota and modeling that were a bit crass, that misconception doesn’t last as she gets to know Dakota throughout the book and sees how much Dakota means to Grace, even before either of them is really ready to admit just how much.

Dakota’s family was a mixed bag. Early on, when Dakota is remembering when she came out to her family, there’s a point when her sister Brooke seems like she might be as difficult to like as the rest of Dakota’s family (parents have rigid, old fashioned thoughts regarding “boys should look like boys, girls should look like girls”). Brooke’s reaction is antagonistic at best, but when Brooke comes to New York later in the book for a visit, there’s a real in-depth discussion that reveals a lot more to the situation and a lot of growth on Brooke’s part. It also allows the reader to consider what questioning might mean themselves, whether things that are felt as younger people mean something or evolve into something else as we learn more about ourselves. While Brooke isn’t on the page as much as some of the other characters, she was more developed and experienced more growth.

Grace’s family was, for the most part, tight knit. They live together in a brownstone while having their own spaces within, walk to church every Sunday, and have meals together that can last for hours. They aren’t perfect, though, which is very apparent in eldest sister Hope. Neither Hope nor Faith, Grace’s other sister, are involved in the family business other than profit collecting, but Hope seems particularly selfish in this regard. Regarding some events toward the end of the novel, coupled with her actions during it and especially her snide, borderline homophobic comments, her selfish nature is quite solidified. She might have been confronted at times, but there are no lasting consequences, which was a problem for me.

One of the failings I found in Tailor-Made was, I think, in the resolution of the book. There were some sudden turnabouts of character personalities that didn’t make sense, given what we’d learned about them in the course of the novel. Their endings as detailed in the last few pages didn’t feel earned and thus felt cheap, Hope especially. Even prior to the epilogue there were some choices that I was really confused by, given the setup that the author had made up earlier in the book. I wouldn’t say sloppy in that regard, rather baffling.

Yolanda Wallace, while her bio says that she’s not a professional writer, sure could fool me. This book is really good and was a satisfying read, even if I was kind of unsure about some of the choices made in the narrative.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.


Top 5 Wednesday: Book List for a Foodie Class


Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.



School’s starting up all over the United States around this time of year. Some students are back in class already while in my area they head back next week. Summer is gone and to be honest, I’m not really sorry to see it gone. With the new school year comes new reading lists and I’m not unhappy about those! This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is about picking books that could act as a reading list for a class on the bookish topic of our choice.

The list I choice to cultivate is made up of books that might appeal to students that are on a culinary tract where they want to read something that has to do with what they’re passionate about, but it isn’t strictly scholarly so hopefully the book won’t feel like work. I’d like for them to be able to feel at home with these characters, whether they just enjoy food enthusiastically, whether they’re people that want to cook in a more than casual capacity, or whether food is just a good theme along the way such as an important cafe/food truck/etc.



North of Happy by Adi Alsaid


His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.



The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

by Amy Spalding


Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?



Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm


Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . .

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.



The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo


From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.



Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres


Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for her dad to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be put out to pasture. It’s no fun being known as the “Taco Queen” at school. But just when it looks like Stef is going to get exactly what she wants, and her family’s livelihood is threatened, she will have to become the truck’s unlikely champion.






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Penguin Teen Blog Tour: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – Review & Guest Post


I wanted to read Darius The Great Is Not Okay because, on the surface, it’s about someone who loves tea. This geeky kid who would rather talk about Middle-earth and the way to brew a proper cuppa is my sort of person. There’s a lot more to it, though, multiple layers to the story. It’s about Darius’s levels of identity, how he navigates life as this person with so many different facets in a world that would rather see people shoved into single term boxes.

The tea and the nerdiness might be what got me to read the first few pages, but the quickly realized richness of Adib Khorran’s debut novel is what got me to stay. Today, thanks to Penguin Teen and the blog tour, I’ll be able to share with you my thoughts on the book and a special guest post from the author themselves.


AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryGoodreadsIndiebound

Published: 28 August 2018

Publisher: Dial Books

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT+

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian–half, his mom’s side–and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough–then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.

Rating: 5 Stars

Rep: mental health (depression [including medication discussion/side effects/stigma]), biracial MC (Persian [Iranian] American), fat MC

CW: bullying (w/particular racist tones at times)

Darius The Great Is Not Okay introduces the reader to Darius Kellner and for my perspective, I liked him immediately. He was a kind character who had sympathetic traits, interests that were relatable, and a voice that told his story, whether it was of good times or bad, in a rhythm that was comforting. While I felt the anxiety of certain scenes, such as moments when Darius recalls mood swings or encounters with bullies, there was still a sense of community with Darius that smoothed the edges.

The depression rep, especially when Darius talks about his medication and how he felt while trying to find the right one because of mood swings and side effects, made me feel very seen, very real and appreciative. I’ve read books with depression rep before and I’ve thought them good. I don’t remember many where I’ve felt like the author has written about the potential struggle to find the right balance of medications in a way that felt truly personal to me.

There are lines throughout that speak to Darius’s experience as a biracial teen. He’s white on his father’s side, Iranian on his mother’s and things come up throughout that let the reader into his experience: an interaction with a TSA agent, his mother telling him what the culture around mental health in Iran is like, etc.

Darius’s relationship with his father is complicated because there are so many facets that cause it to be shaky. Stephen’s perspective is worrying about his son’s mental illness, one that he himself shares and one whose stigma he understands not only in a general societal sense but on a personal level as well. He worries about Darius’s weight, which seems to be more of an excuse, something to focus on rather than their mutual MI diagnosis, but one that crops up constantly throughout the novel. Stephen is constantly doing what comes across as picking on Darius about what he eats, what he looks like, almost gas lighting him about how he would have an easier time of life if he fit in more, if he were more normal, if he looked more like everyone else. These moments were tense, spine tightening instances, but in a weird manner I think I understood why Stephen was acting this way.

Another aspect of Darius’s familial relationship was the one with his sister Laleh. Even though they’re years apart, teenager vs child, they’re very close. Darius isn’t afraid to sit down and have a tea party with his baby sister, or to carry her on his back when she was tired after the long flight to Iran. There are so many stories where siblings are pitted against each other for one reason or another. Watching the Kellner siblings interact with each other was like, if you go with the overall theme of the book, drinking a well brewed cup of tea. It warms you up from the inside and makes the experience better. A smile spreads across your face because there is goodness in the world, in something as simple as the well written portrayal of a strong sibling relationship.

The cultural representation was intricately intertwined throughout the narrative and made for such a rich reading experience. Darius’s feelings regarding his Iranian heritage, from things that he identifies with to other aspects that he only has a passing familiarity with, strengthened his characterization. It was easy to see, to feel his emotional state; combining that with his mental health, it made reading his book, his story, so engaging.

Drawing from Darius’s experiences, the reader learns about Darius’s internal experience and because of those experiences, the reflections against outside motivations, we learn about his family and their culture ranging from the food that Darius’s mother would prepare only on weekends because of the laborious process to taroof (what Darius calling a Primary Iranian Social Custom: putting others before yourself). These moments can seem fleeting, but they and the other more prominent moments felt like the threads that connected the reader not only to Darius, but to Laleh, Mamou, and other members of Darius’s family.

Darius The Great Is Not Okay has a lot of context that will reach out to many different readers. The rep within in cannot be discounted and I think it will mean a great deal to the people that it reaches. The voice of the novel, Darius’s words regarding himself as well as his observations of the world around him, give the story a deeply personal feeling, like every scene has a meaning that is so much more significant that the surface level.

One of the things I love most about Adi Khorram’s book is that this is not a read-once-and-done book. There is nuance in this book that will mean re-reads will be enjoyable and pleasing for many times to come.

Guest Post From Adib Khorram

The Hermit Librarian: Tea, properly made, is a core interest to Darius, despite his manager at Tea Haven. Are there greater themes or parallels between his interest in properly brewed teas and his story/journey that readers should take note of?

Adib Khorram:

A lot of people ask me if Darius Kellner, the narrator of Darius the Great Is Not Okay, got his love of tea from me. Yes, he did, but it’s more than that. Tea infuses every bit of the story, because tea represents so much to Darius: his independence at work; his connection to his family; his hope for the future, because tea is what he wants to pursue as a career.

Tea means a lot to me, too. Every time I sit down to write, I always start with a cup of tea. Every cup of tea is a journey, just as every book is a journey.

Every cup begins with carefully measured leaves and perfectly heated water. And every story begins with thoughtfully crafted characters and a memorable plot.

Every cup requires patience as you wait for it to steep. And every story needs patience, as you learn to anticipate what happens next.

Every cup teaches you ritual. You have to perform the steps of making tea in a particular order or it turns out wrong. Writing is a ritual, too: you have to show up. Whether it’s a certain word count every day, or a few minutes at a time when you can squeeze them in around an already busy life, you have to want to write. You have to have intention.

Every cup has to stop steeping at some point. If you leave the leaves in too long, the tea turns bitter. And every story has to come to an end.

Every cup is a promise, because even though you’ve finished one cup, you know you can always have another. And that’s what’s beautiful about stories, too. When one ends, that means another can begin.

Darius’s story is all about love: love for his family, love for his friend, and ultimately, love for himself.

And at the end of the day, the reason he loves tea, the reason I love tea, the reason any of us love tea, is this:

Tea is love.

About the Author


Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he’s not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle (SCY) under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri. This is his first novel.

Tour Schedule


August 20 – Novel Novice – Creative Instagram Picture

August 21 – AEB Book Reviews – Review

August 22 – VelarisReads – Book Aesthetics

August 23 – Happy Book Lovers – Creative Instagram Picture

August 24 – Forever and Everly – Review


August 27 – Vicky Who Reads – Listicle: Random Things Darius Would Approve Of

August 28 – Snarky yet Satisfying – Creative Instagram Picture

August 29 – The Hermit Librarian – Author Guest Post:

August 30 – Keep Holding on to Books – Book Aesthetic

August 31 – Malanie Loves Fiction – Review


September 3 – Afire Pages – Review + Author Guest Post

September 4 – Dotters Daughters Picks – Moodboard

September 5 – The Fandom – Review + Different Persian dishes in the book

September 6 – The Royal Polar Bear Reads – Author Interview

September 7 – Reading (AS)(I)AN (AM) ERICAN – Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss

Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss is one of the few novels I’ve found that hits the right time period for me that balances between young adult and adult, the coveted New Adult genre that I wish was better marketed at large. This book is one of excellent quality and represents NA books well.

The story of graduate students Elena and Cora, as short as Learning Curves is considering it is a novella, there’s a wealth of interest within ranging from the little details that enhanced the story line to the diversity and representation.



Amazon  –  Amazon Kindle  –  Book Depository  –  Goodreads  –   Indiebound

Published: 16 August 2018

Publisher: Self-published

Category: Contemporary/LGBT+/Romance/Novella

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Representation: Fat MC who is Puerto Rican Amercian/Lesbian, MC who is ADHD/Panromantic asexual

Learning Curves is a short, sweet story about two people meeting and getting to know each other over the course of a few months. While a longer story might have been jam packed with more scenes of excruciating detail, in this case the author knew what scenes of intimacy, both friendship and relationship, to highlight to make it heartwarming in the time that we had to spend with Elena and Cora, the main characters.

Elena is a fat, Puerto Rican American lesbian law student who meets Cora, an ADHD panromantic asexual business student, when Cora asks to borrow notes for a mutual class. Such an innocent, pass-you-by moment, but in the hands of Ceillie Simkiss it was the catalyst for something more.

There’s real evidence of trust, the building block of a good relationship, wherein we see Elena and Cora sharing things about themselves that we learn along with them, such as Cora sharing her ADHD and her sexuality, plus her hesitation due to past difficulties within the LGBTQIA+ community.

“…it’s unfortunately common for ace, aro, bi and trans folks to be shut out of their own communities because we weren’t the “right” kind of queer,” Cora said sadly.

Elena also talks about what her experience being a lesbian in a religious family is like, what acceptance/”acceptance” is like from different generations. The pair of them talking through these facets of their identities felt wholly organic, something I loved, because it felt like being acknowledged instead of preached to.

Their identities does not render them one dimensional characters, however. Elena and Cora are fully fledged individuals with more passions and facets. Elena, for instance, embraces her Puerto Rican roots and connects to it with her cooking, especially recipes like sancocho and coquito. Her relationship with her family is apparent, particularly with her mama, seen through phone calls and at the family Christmas party. We also learn about why she’s a law student and not just that, but why she wants to be a family attorney.

Cora was a bookworm after my own heart. Her aesthetic aside (which I loved – that hair! a curly pompadour on top with the sides shaved), it was clear how much she truly loved reading, from investigating the admittedly meager bookshelf in Elena’s apartment to bringing books of her own to the school’s academic library:

“The library doesn’t have the right books,” she said with a pout. “This library only has academic stuff. I want fun – magic, dragons, queer people. The works!”

To sum up my experience with Learning Curves: I think it will make you laugh. It’s a current book with little nods or name drops that those in the bookish community will be able to enjoy, but those that are just picking up a good book won’t mind either. There will be some quiet, slow smile moments of contentment. There are a couple of instances where a slight hint of sadness creeps in, like the tiniest puncture in a balloon that begins to leak.

In the end, though, there is a warm glow and it makes everything worth it. I hope Ceillie Simkiss writes more books because her writing was so good that it made me want to immediately buy everything she’s ever written or will write. That is a truly A+ book, when it elicits that reaction. Here’s to the next one!






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Review: Sheets by Brenna Thummler

At BookCon this year, the publisher of Sheets had a table set up with many of its books for purchase and there was section in particular that was for hyping Sheets. Brenna Thummler herself was there, too, so I got to hear a little about this graphic novel before I decided to look into reviewing it before its release next week.

The cover image draws you in at once because who hasn’t seen the classic ghost costume of a bed sheet, hastily thrown over one’s head to conceal their identity? It’s perfect in it’s simplicity, which works out quite well for the citizens of the afterlife in Thummler’s work, but it also has a deeper and more necessary meaning for them, as readers soon find out.


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

Published: 28 August 2018

Publisher: Lion Forge

Category: Middle Grade/Sequential Art

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen year old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes, and the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck who is committed to destroying everything she’s worked for.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

When their worlds collide, Marjorie is confronted by unexplainable disasters as Wendell transforms Glatt’s Laundry into his midnight playground, appearing as a mere sheet during the day. While Wendell attempts to create a new afterlife for himself, he unknowingly sabotages the life that Marjorie is struggling to maintain.

Sheets illustrates the determination of a young girl to fight, even when all parts of her world seem to be conspiring against her. It proves that second chances are possible whether life feels over or life is over. But above all, it is a story of the forgiveness and unlikely friendship that can only transpire inside a haunted laundromat.

Rating: 4 Stars

I will admit that the story is kind of sad because of certain key events. Wendell, for one, is dead, to begin with and has to learn what that means. He’s a child and that’s never easy, but the afterlife comes with its own set of rules that must be followed or he risks real death, moving on to a place where he won’t even be a spirit under a sheet anymore.

Marjorie’s struggling to keep her family’s laundromat open while her father copes with the death of her mother, succumbing to his grief and barely able to care for himself much less anyone else. That situation was a difficult one to read because while it was understandable, the pain that he must have been experiencing at the loss of a loved one, it was also incredibly frustrating that he would put such a burden on Marjorie when she, too, experienced the same loss and now has to be an adult before her time.

Reading the book is a twisting path of emotion and that’s a good reflection of the emotions of the characters because there’s a lot they have to come to terms with: self-identity, right and wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective and Brenna Thummler navigates those paths quite well.

Sheets is about much more than the surface story of a living girl and a ghost boy. There’s Marjorie’s father, coping with an inexorable grief that consumes him. There’s Mr. Saubertuck, the blatant “baddie” of the piece, who is clearly horrible because of his actions but retains the slightest mark of pity because of his facade due to a need to please others. The multiple layers of Brenna Thummler’s story form a narrative that binds itself well to the graphic novel format. While it might stand well enough on it’s own, the ability to see the emotions play across faces, the actions of certain characters as they happen, add more depth for the reader, enabling us to connect more deeply with Marjorie, with Wendell, and many more.

There’s sadness in this book, whether it comes from grief in various forms, from the pressure of expectations and duty, but there is also strength and light from friendship in its many forms: neighbors and even friends from beyond the grave, wearing sheets to stay with us a little longer.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Cover Reveal: FireBrew by Liz Crowe

Well-versed in writing steamy romances, Liz Crowe returns with another book in Firebrew. Today on The Hermit Librarian, I’m featuring the cover reveal for the novel, being released on October 16th.

On good authority I have it that there will be a Happily Ever After, a classic mark of the Romance genre. If that sounds like your drink of choice, then this could be just the read for you in the coming months.


Firebrew cover



One wounded hero + one shattered heroine = an untraditional romance for the ages.

Jane Terrance believes her life is in perfect order. She’s got a great job selling commercial real estate in Detroit, a condo in Midtown with her best friend, plenty of her own money, plus full control over the men she seduces and discards with regularity.

Trey Lattimer seems a little too young to be retired from firefighting and, at first, he’s just another guy for Jane to conquer. But the harder she tries, the more mysterious he becomes, until his presence in her life does nothing but wreak havoc on her psyche.

When her carefully constructed world comes crashing down around her one violent night, Jane reaches out for a hero, a role Trey is eager to play – as long as Jane accepts she must be her own heroine if they’re to stand any chance at a real relationship.



About the Author



Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, craft beer marketing consultant, brewery founder, and avid sports fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Michigan. She has decades of experience in sales, public relations, and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

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Mirage Blog Tour: A Review of Somaiya Daud’s Debut Novel


Mirage is clearly a special book before you even pick it up. Visually stunning, brilliantly colored and designed, it’s a book that draws you in with it’s richness and only begins to hint at the continuing luxuriance within.

Somaiya Daud as a debut author displays a deft hand at her craft with this Moroccan-inspired story. Aside from the visual appeal, from the first page the reader is drawn in with the descriptions of Andalaan culture, the people, and what the Vathek colonization and continuing effects thereof has meant for them, more specifically for Amani and her story in Mirage. As I was reading this novel, I felt so much: love, terror, empathy, dread. It was so intense, reading this book, and it makes me so happy, with the tour starting, that the members of it will be able to share our thoughts.

Aimee from Aimee, Always has organized a excellent tour for Somaiya Daud’s debut novel, Mirage, full of our thoughts and with a good dash of creative posts and a giveaway of one copy of the novel (US only) as well. A lot of care went into preparing this tour and I want to thank Aimee for allowing me to take part.



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Published: 28 August 2018

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Science Fiction

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Rating: 5 Stars

Immediately drawn into the story of Amani, growing up under the Vathek occupation, I was interested in the detail of everything. Somaiya wove so much in descriptions of events (such as the majority ceremony) stories of deities, and continued to build upon these foundations with her characters.

Amani is the person through whom the story is told and whose perspective we learn things through. Her memories, her history, and most importantly to the events of the book, what life is like because of the Vath, the people that colonized her planet and ultimately kidnap her for their own purposes. There are many instances throughout the book that demonstrate colonialism, the attempts to obliterate the Andalaan culture, so much harshness that draws many parallels to real world events that make some scenes alternately sad, heartbreaking, and stomach churning-ly terrifying.

Mirage was also, I found, a nice blend of character and plot driven narrative. It neither relied too heavily on one or the other. There was much to learn and to derive from the narrative, and rich as it was, you then saw it flow through the characters, influencing their evolution. Early on it was easy to think that they might be one dimensional, but there were subtle moments, a flinch or a comment, that built upon one another until you realized that everyone was either changing or not entirely who they were to begin with. It was confusing, but in a fun, Chesire Cat grin spreading sort of way where you are so happy to realize that there’s a new discovery to be made about the people you’re reading about.

I liked how, even though Amani had a lot of work to do in order to be prepared as Maram’s body double, the necessary elements of this preparation were not conveyed to the reader in excruciating detail. The progress was evident, as shown through tests Amani was put to, and small scenes to training with Nadine, a High Vath secretary of the King. That was enough and it kept the plot moving along, a much appreciated thing where it could easily have been bogged down with text that ran to minutiae that was unnecessary.

Mirage has much to offer its readers from political intrigue to historical threads and more. There’s a lot it can teach, a lot it can give, and I think it changes each time you pick it up because there are facets in the magic of reading this book. It’s possible to understand something new each time you read a certain passage, like watching a movie over and over again and noticing something new in a familiar scene. Somaiya Daud in her debut has hit a level of exquisite quality and more from her, and from the world of Mirage, will be much anticipated from me.


Author Information

Somaiya Daud author photo[1033]

Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment.

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ONE winner will receive a finished copy of MIRAGE by Somaiya Daud (US Only).


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Review: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

What happens when you’re dead? Well, that depends a lot on who you ask. In “The Things We Learn When We’re Dead”, Lorna Love finds out, in a manner of speaking, when she wakes up on a ship called the Hyperspace Vehicular Navigator: HVN for short…


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Published: 26 January 2017

Publisher: Accent Press Ltd

Category: Literary Fiction

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is about how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, but how we can sometimes get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.

It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN, because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… or does God have a higher purpose after all?
Despite that, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is neither sci-fi nor fantasy. It is a book about memory and how, if we could remember things slightly differently, would we also be changed?

In HVN, Lorna can at first remember nothing. But as her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that, maybe, she can find a way back home.

Rating: 3 Stars

CW: scenes dealing with unplanned pregnancy/abortion, anti-fat character attitudes scattered throughout

The Things We Learn We When We’re Dead begins in Lorna’s present, actually before we learn she’s Lorna, and continues through to her afterlife, such as it is, in HVN (Heaven). The novel is then told in something resembling alternating “perspectives”, going back to Lorna’s memories. They’re not exactly flashbacks, because they don’t start in Lorna’s current time and proceed backward, thus fulfilling their name.

The relevant scenes, such as that of Lorna’s birth and stories relating to her family, are more like exposition scenes meant for the reader’s benefit. This storytelling method creates a slightly disconnected feeling. There’s a lack of linearity regarding the memories, which isn’t necessarily a negative, but it disrupted the flow of the story when I tried to orient myself the different characters and where they fit in.

I understood, while reading, that this might have been in an effort to make the reader relate to Lorna remembering things disjointedly, explained to her in Heaven as part of her regeneration, but in attempting to make it more relatable, it actually became more difficult, thus less satisfying. There’s also the manner of separating the memory and current time sections. There weren’t totally distinct chapters, rather there might have been many sub-instances of memory-current-memory within the same chapter. Going back and forth like that was a bit rough for me.

Heaven, or HVN, as a setting was such an odd place. The concept of it being both an idea (what religions think) and a place (a spaceship of a far off species that’s been stranded half a light year from Earth) wasn’t difficult to grasp. The place itself was odd in its essential breadth and inherent creepiness. It’s everything an inhabitant could ever want and this is apparently supposed to be a big selling point (just think it and it can be yours!), down to any food or experience such as lamb cutlets or high end shipping. However, along with the eternity of life is the fact that brains can’t cope with all those memories so you will forget everything eventually, even the people you loved, and the fact that because no upset is allowed in Heaven, mood controlling drugs (likened to Diazepam) are pumped into the air supply. To be honest, it made Heaven feel rather like a cult to me while I was reading.

I felt a bit ambivalent about the pacing of the book. While it’s a not a terribly long novel (around 400 pages according to Amazon), as I was reading my e-copy, it felt longer due to the manner in which it was written (particularly the jumps I mentioned earlier) as well as the long windiness of some portions. The first 30-40%, for example, is just so heavy on explanation and seemingly pointless memories that I was quite bored. There was some social commentary early on that I thought might be interesting if it went somewhere, but then Lorna died and the “action” became all about how Heaven works, what she was meant to do with this new “life”, and so on. I spent so much time waiting for something to happen.

The characters themselves, who might have alleviated some of this boredom in the meantime, weren’t particularly likable. Lorna was a bit blase but at least her memories started to introduce some depth to her as things went on. This wasn’t always a good thing, as she started out with some characteristics that I wasn’t too keen on and her memories didn’t really reassure me. Irene was not someone I liked at all. She pontificated, she judged, all the acting as though it were the right way to be and Lorna’s personality was to be disregarded in the face of a new Heaven life, as if memories were garbage. She really rubbed me the wrong way, let’s say.

The ending…oh dear, what can I say about that? I was shaking my head toward the end because I thought things were getting sorted and, as best as I can figure out, it all basically boils down to The Wizard of Oz all over again only the hamsters didn’t get to talk. The revelation of what Lorna’s situation was, the conclusion of this book, honestly just made me want to throw up my hands in frustration. It felt like I’d spent quite a lot of hours slogging through some dense text and the payoff at the end wasn’t up to snuff.

I’d venture that I might try this author’s work again, but not in this series. There wasn’t anyone in this book I’d care to know more about.




I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Audiobook Review: The King of Average by Gary Schwartz


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Published: 14 December 2016 (Originally published 7 October 2016)

Publisher: Bunny Moon Enterprises LLC

Category: Middle Grade/Fiction/Humor

James isn’t the world’s greatest kid, but he’s not the worst, either: he’s average! When he decides to become the most average kid who ever lived, James is transported to another world where he meets Mayor Culpa, a well-dressed talking Scapegoat who recruits him to become the new King of Average.

He’s joined on his quest by a professional Optimist and his grouchy companion, an equally professional Pessimist. Together, they set out on a journey of self-discovery that leads them all the way from the Sea of Doubt to Mount Impossible, the highest peak in the Unattainable Mountains. When James stumbles into a Shangri-la called Epiphany, he uncovers the secret of who he really is.

Follow James on his hilarious, adventure-packed journey to find self-worth in this heartfelt middle grade novel The King of Average by debut author Gary Schwartz.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

CW: emotional abuse by a parent

The premise of The King of Average sounds like it could be a fun enough story. Who doesn’t love adventure? Sure being Average might not be what everyone wants, but it sure seems safe enough, right? Well, that’s what I thought, but there’s are some rather sad and dark reasons that made this book not be the wholly lighthearted novel that I thought it was.

The author made use of more than a few puns and quite well, I thought, from the goat Mayor Culpa to the Nervous Nellies, to phrases like “a little birdie told me” (referencing the little birdie harbinger of James’s story to the other characters). The Mayor was nice enough, reminding me very much of a certain house elf from a wizarding series. Their behaviors, such as of taking the blame for everything and head butting against things in penance, brought the resemblance into sharp relief. The other characters, such as the Optimist and the Pessimist, were very true to their names and played off each other like a pair of comedians might have done on stage.

Now, the darkness I mentioned earlier. There were rather dark undertones in the book that I’m was surprised by. There were some hints about poverty, but they got swept up in the portrayal of the main character’s emotional abusive mother, whose emotional abuse was evident explicitly in the things she said very early on and which continues to crop up throughout the story. Then, there was the Shadow, or the manifestation of James’s depression itself, which was never treated quite right. It seemed to be written as depression, with all the qualities thereof, but it seemed like the ending didn’t know how to deal with it properly and things were resolved with the flick of a switch and not really all that well.

There was history revealed as to James’s mother’s potential “reason” for the abuse she inflicted upon her child, a dream sequence that James had that reveals the cycle of abuse his mother’s family is in that felt jammed in to give her an excuse. It was an awkward scene, when James is in this scene, and once the book concluded, I felt it all the more because it once again made me feel like the dark undertones weren’t quite given the necessary respect and for a middle grade, which can tackle this subjects, I think it’s even more important.

I’m not sure whether the author meant to get so invested in this subjects of abuse and mental illness, but it hit a chord with me and I wanted to mention it because parents reading this to their children ought to know what’s coming up before stumbling over this blind, plus kids reading on their own might have questions about the nasty things this woman says.

The pacing of the book was one of my bigger problems and where I thought it dipped from being Average to being merely Okay, just a bit under the A bar there. Reading this straight through feels like more of a chore than it should. It just didn’t have enough fun in it, enough humor, to make it enjoyable to swallow all at once. It slogs in places and that makes the overall thing suffer. Because I alternately listened to the provided audiobook and an e-copy that I picked up, I think I saw both sides of the coin: reading with my eyes and my ears. The King of Average comes out much better as a “being read to” book, maybe as a nightly treat, than it does a “soldier through it”.

Gary Schwartz was a good narrator. While I wouldn’t say I became fully immersed in the story, I can fully imagine Schwartz reading this at a reading event in a bookstore or some such event. The emphasis, the enthusiasm, it all came across in his telling.

The King of Average was longer than needed, didn’t treat all its angles with the attention they needed, but had some fun moments and really reveled in its puns.






I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

The Wayward Children series has swiftly become one of my favorite series. It answers the question: what happens to those individuals that go through portals into fantasy worlds when they come back, willing or no? Have you ever wondered what life might have been like for Alice, for the Pevensie children, for Dorothy? Read these books and find out what it’s like to finally find a world where you belong, only to lose it.



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Published: 8 January 2019


Category: Fantasy

This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

For anyone . . .

In An Absent Dream tells the story of one of the characters introduced in McGuire’s first Wayward Child book, Every Heart a Doorway. Lundy wasn’t the focus of that book, but there was enough detail to make a story all about her very tantalizing.

A goblin market alone would make for a fascinating story. A tale set in that sort of world, knowing what’s coming? I have a feeling this book will be equally thrilling and heartbreaking.

2019 is going to be full of tears.






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