The Rainbow Race – Cate Summers

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This was a really sweet novella about a summer camp for girls with a secret LGBTQ friendly side.

I liked the main character Eleanor, her ability to bring people together and her almost grown up before her time attitude. Yvette was interesting in that despite the fact she is introduced early and it’s clear Eleanor likes her, her quiet nature means she probably doesn’t speak as much as some of the secondary characters – keeping her enigma persona.

I’m sure writing a book that incorporates lots of different characters in this kind of environment is a big challenge so I’m really glad to be able to say that Summers does this really well. The incorporation of the cabin groups and the team events opens up lots of opportunities for different interactions.

I also really liked that the book explored all the things that teenagers might be worried about, from family, to getting into College, to how to pay for College, whilst still keeping a positive tone to the narrative. There’s a lot of humour amongst the more serious topics too.

When Eleanor and Yvette do get together, I loved that it didn’t suddenly change who they were, they both continued to undertake the relationship on their terms. The book ends in such a way that this could easily start a series, either about Eleanor and Yvette in the future – should the happy for now turn into happily ever after – or into a series about the camp itself.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

The Other Side of Forestlands Lake – Carolyn Elizabeth

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I have to say this wasn’t what I was expecting. I really enjoy Carolyn Elizabeth’s Curtis and Reynolds series – but I enjoyed this in a completely different way. Whilst the book is a little bit spooky – and I really shouldn’t have insisted on reading it past midnight – it’s essentially at heart quite a sweet book.

Starting with a prologue and approximately 25% of the book set 25 years ago, we meet Lee and Willa as teenagers, where they are staying at Forestlands Lake for the summer with their parents. They get up to the usual things teenagers do, but it’s the sweet exploration of what their friendship means to each other, and whether it is possibly anything more that really stands out at this point. Tragedy strikes and they are split apart.

25 years later we meet the two again, back at Forestlands Lake in very different circumstances. Lee now runs the summer camp – though it’s a very different one to the one they encountered in the past. She also has a daughter, Maggie. Willa has a her half-sister Nicole in tow and is returning to the lake for the first time since the tragedy.

This part of the book deals with Lee and Willa picking up where they left off – which might feel a little instant love to some – but I actually liked. It also deals with the difficulties of Willa’s return. Nicole and Maggie really shine as characters here as well.

I found I actually enjoyed the paranormal aspects of the story, which I thought would be a sticking point for me. I love the way it’s discussed through Willa’s books, Maggie and Nicole, rather than it all being about some phantom camp gossip and whispers. It made it more real and understandable to me.

Early death and how it impacts those left behind is never an easy topic, but I thought Elizabeth did a great job of covering the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters, whilst still giving both the paranormal aspects and romance parts equal footing.

I’d recommend this to romance fans and paranormal fans. It’s convinced me to read a paranormal book by one of my favourite authors that I’ve left to one side as I was convinced I’d hate it because of the paranormal – so I’d say Elizabeth is definitely onto a winner.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Handsome – Holly Lorka

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies when I was younger – across a wide range of different topics – but I never really had the opportunity to access many, if any, queer voices. The younger adult me would definitely have appreciated the existence of this book and I definitely appreciated it now – especially as someone who has experienced some similar feelings at times to Lorka.

Lorka covers a number of topics, many in a humorous way, but their exploration of gender and sexuality and their relationship to both are the things that really stands out, and act as the thread for the collection of stories. The topics covered are definitely adult in nature, varying from sex toys to teddy bears and top surgery to life as a nurse. I found some of the stories genuinely heart wrenching, whilst at other times I was laughing out loud.

I can partially understand the decision to mix up the chronological narrative of the chapters, but I needed something to tie things together to make it a little easier to read. If the chapters had all been bunched together in the same general topic I might have found it a bit easier if chronology was to be avoided – but instead I was often left at times wondering where in Lorka’s life this fit, which girlfriend were they dating, where were they living etc. Perhaps in the long run none of things actually mattered, and maybe that was the point, that irrespective of those markers in life, these things still happened, but it’s the lack of chronology or grouping standing between me and a five star rating.

Lorka was definitely an interesting person to spend time learning about, and I’m definitely interested in learning more. If you like memoirs I’d recommend you pick this one up and give it a go.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

How to be Ace – Rebecca Burgess

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I’m a big fan of comic books/graphic novels and this one didn’t disappoint. It was great to see representation of one of the lesser represented letters in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It’s wonderfully drawn, easy to follow even if you’re not a comics fan, easily digestible, understandable and super relatable.

As with most graphic novels it’s not a long read and I think it would be really useful in educational environments to educate young people on asexuality in a way that they may hopefully connect with. There are a number of books popping up in this kind of vein and this is definitely one of the better ones. By connecting it directly to the personal experiences of the author it gives a really good perspective so it’s not just a clinical representation of what asexuality means, rather a depiction of how people feel and experience their asexuality.

I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about asexuality and whether you are aware of it or not, whether you are on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum or not. I’d also recommend it as a really good graphic novel on the merits of it’s drawing and storytelling.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Twice Shy – Aurora Rey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
This was my first book by Rey and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It’s over a four star but not quite a five star. I had no idea this book included characters from other Rey books, so I think that speaks as to the ability to read this book as a standalone and still enjoy it – but I’m definitely going to want to read The Last Place You Look and Built to Last now.

I really enjoyed the premise. Amanda is a bakery owner looking to expand her bakery into the shop unit next door. She hires Quinn, an architect, to help her make her vision a reality. It’s clear from their very first meeting that they have chemistry and the storyline revolves around their getting together. It’s a cute, sweet romance, with a satisfying HEA.

I liked both MCs a lot. I enjoyed the scenes of Amanda both at work and being a mother to two teenagers. I thought the balance of her life was expressed really well. I thought it was a shame that her ex had such a big part in the book and it actually caused me a bit of anxiety because I was really enjoying the relationship between Amanda and Quinn and hated the interjections of Mel – but I could understand why it was done this way as I’m sure there are many divorced couples where one or the other person wants to get back together.

I thought Quinn was great, and I really enjoyed her getting to know Amanda’s kids. As someone who has been the person inserted into a ready made family with older children, I thought the way Rey dealt with Quinn’s introduction into the family was done really well. I also enjoyed how the teenage characters were written, especially when it involved discussions on gender and the like.

All in all this book had me smiling a lot and I’d highly recommend it. It doesn’t stray wildly from the traditional romance tropes but it does bring some much needed levity and openness into the mix. I’d happily recommend to any wlw romance fans and I’m looking forward to exploring more Rey.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.