Knit, Purl, a Baby and a Girl – Hettie Bell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
3.5 stars. This is a solid debut from Bell.

Poppy has just found she’s pregnant. Her circumstances tell her she isn’t ready for this to be a part of her life, so she visits her local Planned Parenthood. It’s here she meets Rhiannon, an interesting woman who helps her find her way to and from the clinic through the protestors. Poppy doesn’t think she’ll ever see her again until she decides to join her local knitting group.

Bell has written this in first-person point of view, so we spend the book in Poppy’s thoughts. The writing comes across as light-hearted, with a determination and humour in the prose, however, the narrative actually deals with some pretty complex topics, and for the most part, does this well.

The narrative is mainly about the romance, and it was here I really wanted the opportunity to get more of Rhiannon’s thoughts to understand the decisions she was making. I really liked the idea of her as a character, but as we only see her from Poppy’s point of view, I found it hard to connect with her.

However, at the same time, I enjoyed getting to read Poppy’s thoughts on her pregnancy, her family, and her life in general. I thought Bell did a good job of bringing all of the secondary characters together, both in the family situations and with the knitting group. I felt I could really picture them all, which is impressive for a book with a large number of secondary characters.

Like most debut books it has its bumps, but they soon even out. There were some moments I didn’t like personally, and I did nearly put this down after the sex scene, but I think they were more a question of personal taste, and suspect others would read this and not feel the same way.

Whilst the topics are relatively common in sapphic fiction, I thought Bell did a good job of keeping it fresh and I’m looking forward to seeing what Bell does next.

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

Coming Out Stories – Edited by Emma Goswell and Sam Walker

Rating: 4 out of 5.
A little disclaimer – I haven’t had the opportunity to finish all of the stories in this book, but it’s actually one of the beauties of the book – it doesn’t need to be read from start to finish, you can read as much or as little as you want to in one sitting and it doesn’t diminish the effect.

I have to say I wish this book had existed at all the points of my life when I was thinking about coming out. The stories aren’t all positive to start with, but the ones I’ve read so far do demonstrate that no matter what happens in the initial moment, things do get better. They might not look how we hoped but it will be okay.

I liked the acknowledgement by one of the editors that as LGBTQ+ people, we never actually stop coming out, it isn’t just that one big moment and it’s all over and done with, it happens on a semi-regular basis, in the little things and situations we often encounter. There’s also an acknowledgement that life changes, just because we come out as one thing doesn’t mean we won’t change as people in the future.

I particularly think this book would be of benefit to parents and other allies of LGBTQ+ people, who may benefit from the insights in these stories.

Somehow I’ve never come across the phrase ‘logical family’ (an Armistead Maupin phrase) before, I’ve always used ‘chosen family’, but I find I quite like it, so that’s another small takeaway for me too.

I’ll definitely finish this over the next few weeks.

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

Juliet Takes A Breath – Gabby Rivera

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I loved this. I’m a big graphic novel/comic book fan but I’m bad at keeping up with the interesting ones coming up so I’m really enjoying seeing all the queer storylines that are becoming available. Juliet Takes A Breath is adapted from the novel by Gabby Rivera – a work I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to read as of yet, however this did not impact my enjoyment of the graphic novel at all – it stands strong by itself.

I loved the storyline of this. The novel was originally published in 2016 and is still very relevant today. It tells the story of Juliet, who is from the Bronx, who heads to Portland for an internship and finds her community amongst fellow QTPOC people. When she leaves the Bronx she comes out to her family – not all of whom take it well. Her internship is with Harlowe, who wrote a book Juliet initially identifies with. Juliet’s time in Portland and then Miami gives her a different perspective on her queerness than being in the Bronx with her white young democrat girlfriend and I loved this exploration for her.

The illustration in this really stands out for me, especially the colours used. It makes for a beautiful read through the scenes. I enjoyed how the diversity of the characters is depicted and how the key scenes are illustrated.

As with most graphic novels it’s very easy to read, but the topics aren’t glossed over and I really appreciated the fine balance and editing this must have taken.

I’d highly recommend to any graphic novel fans, and if getting your stories in this manner isn’t your kind of thing I’d encourage you to pick up the original novel – just like I’m going to.

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

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre – Robin Talley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is very different in terms of style than the books I’m usually reading, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I found the writing to be refreshing and perhaps that’s due to it being YA, but it’s definitely also down to the writer.

Melody is the stage manager for the performing arts productions at her high school. She’s known as a serial monogamist, even as a junior. Like most people involved in theatre she follows a number of superstitions and her crew manages to convince her that for the sake of their productions she needs to be single or the curse will strike again.

Odile is the school success story. She’s already been to Broadway, featured on some TV shows and is up for a movie. She returns to school for her senior year, adding a certain star quality to the school musical.

The majority of the book explores the things that take place in order to put on a musical – in this case Les Miserables. I love musicals, did perform in them at school, but have managed to not somehow not see Les Mis, so some of the references went over my head a little bit – but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the narrative.

Both the narrative surrounding Mel and Odile falling for each other, and the storyline of the curse and the production itself work really well, especially when they intertwine. Naturally as the book centres on a group of teenagers there are some moments of drama but none of it feels out of place or overblown.

All of the characters, even the bit part ones, fit in the narrative and despite the large ensemble I was able to keep track of who was who – which is an achievement on Talley’s part as far as I’m concerned. I also really enjoyed the diversity throughout the book.

It’s a longer book than I was expecting, but I still read it one sitting as it became quite the page turner and was very disappointed when it finished.

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

The Secret Ingredient – K.D. Fisher

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This is a solid 3 1/2 star book for me.

Beth and Adah come from very different backgrounds, nearly everything about them appears to be the opposite of each other, except for their love of cooking – although they both believe that the others philosophy on cooking is different to themselves.

Beth appears to be a fly by night, disorganised character, yet she runs a successful family business that is gaining a reputation on the east coast. Adah is a complicated character due to her background and the majority of her cheffing experience is working at high end restaurants. Both characters shine when they are together. Adah grounds Beth, whereas Beth gives Adah the opportunity to open up and want more.

I enjoyed all of the additional characters in the book, especially Adah’s son Pete and her best friend Jay. Fisher managed to make it so that both MCs were supported by great additional characters who helped to add to the depth of the story and each character.

I loved the amount of representation throughout the book, be it gay, bisexual, genderqueer or a butch single mother and really appreciated Fisher’s style of writing. I will definitely want to read more of Fisher’s work. The writing relating to both the food and the places the story is set work really well – giving you enough information to paint the picture in your head.

There is something missing from the narrative that means the book isn’t elevated into the four star world for me – but I would definitely recommend this to fans of opposites attract romance and another other wlw romance fans.

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