Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Sari, Not Sari by Sonya Singh

* * *

This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun.

Manny Dogra is the beautiful young CEO of Breakup, a highly successful company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. As preoccupied as she is with her business, she’s also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents.

For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father, who were both born in India, always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So that’s what she did. She knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that’s never been a problem—until her parents are no longer around, and an image of Manny that’s been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Suddenly, the woman who built an empire encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis.

But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he’ll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother’s wedding.

What follows is days of dancing and dal, masala and mehndi as Manny meets the lovable, if endlessly interfering, aunties and uncles of the Patel family, and, along the way, discovers much more than she could ever have anticipated.

Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for a honest review

As a South Asian who grew up outside of the community and looking to learn about her own roots, Sari, Not Sari's premise spoke to me on a deeply personal level, but that's about as far as it went.

Manny is a successful CEO of Breakup, a company that she built from the ground up. Her expertise is in relationships and specifically how to help people end relationships cordially with minimal damage when those relationships come to the end of the road. It's a lucrative business and people are noticing as evidenced by articles and tv interviews. A recent write up in a high-profile magazine is supposed to catapult the company into the stratosphere, but the excitement is dimmed when Manny sees that they've photoshopped her cover to make her lighter-skinned. Being that her darker skin tone is one of the few things she feels ties her to her Indian heritage, it sends her into a frenzy, and now she wants to find out more about the culture she comes from.

You know, I get all of this because I feel it, too. It's just that I found the way Manny goes about it to be a head scratcher. She agrees to help Sammy, a client and fellow South Indian, with a temporary breakup on the condition that she accompany him to his family's wedding so she can learn all about everything Indian. I have two reactions to this. One, the idea that attending a weeklong wedding celebration is enough to learn all about a culture that's as diverse as the number of dialects within the Indian subcontinent is a faulty one. Two, one of her best friends and colleague, Anjali is Indian so it makes no sense to me that she'd never sought to connect to the culture through their longtime friendship. But going to a wedding with someone she barely knows will solve her identity crisis problem. See? Head scratcher.

Full disclosure - I started Sari, Not Sari with the sincere hope of finding something meaningful for myself through Manny's experience, but it all fell flat from the beginning. I wasn't into their romance, either. I would've liked to see Manny learn about her family's roots and culture through genuine connection outside of a wedding celebration. Instead, she only saw the showy parts, the ostentatious celebratory stuff that's all surface level and part of what she's seeking. It's a small fraction of a rich culture and that's all she takes from it to feel fully Indian. It didn't jibe with me in the least.

What I was hoping for and what I read were two completely different things. Upon reflection, I think I wanted the content of Sari, Not Sari to be more women's fiction, and in a rom-com format there's only so much deep-diving that can happen into a question as loaded as "What does being Indian mean?". I'm disappointed this didn't work out for me but I think this story works for a reader who wants to get lost in the joyful experience of an Indian wedding.

~ Bel

Friday, April 8, 2022

Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall

* * * 1/2

From the acclaimed author of Boyfriend Material comes a delightfully witty romance featuring a reserved duke who’s betrothed to one twin and hopelessly enamoured of the other.

Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.

It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.

Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.

Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.

*Source: purchased copy

Since I read my first Alexis Hall book a few years ago I've felt that I can never really go wrong reading his novels. He makes me laugh, snicker, look up words in the dictionary...I just always enjoy them. Something Fabulous somewhat rested that for me.

I loved Valentine right off the bat. Yes, he's a bit clueless about matters of the heart but his clueless heart is sincere. And he believes in duty which is why he proposes marriage to Arabella. Except Arabella is repulsed by this idea because he's doing this out of a sense of duty, and he has no genuine feeling for her. Neither does she have any for him. I commiserated with her up to this point because she shouldn't have to be in a loveless marriage. She wants romance and she should have that. It's just that she wants the drama, too. She runs off in the dead of night away from her family, from Valentine, and then her brother Bonny shows up the next morning to insist Valentine set everything right again. Bonny's worried for his twin sister since they've never been far from each other, and he knows that she was not the least bit impressed by Valentine's attempt at a marriage proposal. This is all fairly understandable. But what ensues can only be described as consistent bullying towards Valentine.

In truth, I enjoyed the story more than I was irritated by it. Arabella is a drama queen to the nth degree and I did not like any scene she was in. All her melodrama and machinations only served to torture Valentine - emotionally and physically - and put him in harm's way several times. She does this in the name of self-preservation and above all, adventure, and seems only too delighted to thrust Valentine into danger. Her behavior does not elicit sympathy in the least. Bonny messed with Valentine, too, but mostly in a teasing and crossing boundaries way. The thing is Valentine is not a bad guy. He's just oblivious, and part of that comes from the fact that he's never felt anything real before. All he has comprehended so far is that he's part of the upper class and with that comes responsibilities and expectations. He has tried to live up to them, but there's never been anything that has caused him to question his life until now. This bizarre traumatic series of events has disrupted his world so abruptly, and yet somehow, Bonny has squirreled his way into Valentine's ambivalent heart.

I want to say this was a fun read but it doesn't feel right to say that when the comedic aspect comes at the expense of Valentine's agony and abuse. A lot of it is repetitive, and while forced proximity can be an exciting trope, it feels so ... wrong here because of the other cast of characters involved. I mean, Bonny is not as terrible as his twin but it's not like he readily jumped to Valentine's defense. So I'm not particularly fond of Bonny, either, for playing along with Arabella's games.

It might sound like I'm dissing this story but I don't think Something Fabulous was a waste of time. I stuck around for Valentine and in the end I came around to Bonny, and the idea of them together. I wish their union wasn't borne out of all the chaos, but I'm certainly wishing them a happily ever after.

~ Bel

Monday, April 4, 2022

Witch Please (Fix-It Witches #1) by Ann Aguirre

* * 

Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls in this adorable witchy rom-com with:

• A bisexual virgin baker with a curse
• A witch looking to avoid romantic entanglements
• And a chemistry between them that causes literal sparks

Danica Waterhouse is a fully modern witch—daughter, granddaughter, cousin, and co-owner of the Fix-It Witches, a magical tech repair shop. After a messy breakup that included way too much family “feedback,” Danica made a pact with her cousin: they’ll keep their hearts protected and have fun, without involving any of the overly opinionated Waterhouse matriarchs. Danica is more than a little exhausted navigating a long-standing family feud where Gram thinks the only good mundane is a dead one and Danica’s mother weaves floral crowns for anyone who crosses her path.

Three blocks down from the Fix-It Witches, Titus Winnaker, owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery, has family trouble of his own. After a tragic loss, all he’s got left is his sister, the bakery, and a lifetime of terrible luck in love. Sure, business is sweet, but he can’t seem to shake the romantic curse that’s left him past thirty and still a virgin. He’s decided he’s doomed to be forever alone.

Until he meets Danica Waterhouse. The sparks are instant, their attraction irresistible. For him, she’s the one. To her, he’s a firebomb thrown in the middle of a family war. Can a modern witch find love with an old-fashioned mundane who refuses to settle for anything less than forever?

Source: borrowed from HooplaAudio

Witch Please started off well. It seemed to live up to its clever, cutesy title. Danica and Titus seemed like the classic rom-com couple that readers and viewers always adore, and it was all going swimmingly until...until several details popped up that made the story not so great overall.

As the blurb suggests, Danica and Titus are both looking for love, though they have differing requisites for their long-term relationships. Danica needs to end up with a fellow witch to appease her grandmother and continue their witchy legacy. Titus just wants to be with someone who actually wants to be with him wholeheartedly. Commitment has always eluded him and he has this debilitating tendency to fall head first for any person. It feels so right and so different with Danica, whereas all she wants is a quick fling with a non-witch before she agrees to her grandmother's terms. I was okay with this setup because forbidden love is kind of sexy, but then it veered into an unpleasant direction.

Danica's grandmother is distrustful of humans. History has treated woman and witches badly. However, her distrust is full on bigotry when you get further into the story, and she uses it to manipulate Danica and her cousin, Clem. She'd previously shut out Danica's mother because she married a non-witch, a big no-no, so she's willing to do the same to Danica. Clem also goes along with the grandmother and is outright hostile and unsupportive of Danica's relationship with Titus. The part that's frustrating is that Danica can see her grandmother's unreasonable and unfair behavior. She sees it towards non-witches, she see how her grandmother treats her mother, yet she doesn't say anything. She and her cousin are so indoctrinated that they simply accept their grandmother's bullying. Danica spends most of the story worrying about pissing off her grandmother instead of confronting her. It was incredibly annoying.

Another plot detail that was horrifying - and I'm sorry but this is a spoiler - is that Titus' unfortunate love life is because of a curse that was placed on him by Danica's mother. Her mother had simply arranged for Danica's true love to never be able to connect with anyone so that he'd only be available to Danica when the time was right. It was her way of providing a happy outcome for her and to counteract the  grandmother's meddlesome ways. WHAT??? NO!!!!! This is not romantic in the least. Instead it's manipulative and just so WRONG! Rather than up to her own mother, she took the coward's way out and effectively robbed Titus of his choice over his own fate. Not only was he not aware of it, he also thought that something was wrong with him. How is that remotely acceptable? This is not a fairytale of centuries past so we shouldn't have to deal in that kind of backwards scheming in a story in today's climate. Yet Danica accepts it with no qualms and reacts like it's a loving gesture. 

The one small bright spot in all this is Titus and his sister providing a home to their younger stepsister. Their parents are essentially clueless about how their kids feel left out and now shoved aside with a baby on the way.  Titus has a big heart and it was so sweet of him to create a safe, welcoming space for her. There's more involved in that bizarre family dynamic but this really was the one thing that warmed my heart in this story.

I can generally handle flawed characters and scenarios and wade through the storm with them. Do I expect my heroines to be perfect? No. But I expect some awareness or smarts. Danica's complete inaction to call out inappropriate behaviors were problematic. She didn't seem like an adult with her own mind but a child restrained and too afraid to venture outside the bubble. Even when she did finally stand up for herself she never addressed all the issues. And while she and Titus got together, I did not celebrate it because it was due to magical manipulation instead of free will. I did not find it endearing at all. Witch Please might conclude with a happy ending, it's the issues that weren't treated with any kind of gravity - the bigotry, manipulation and complacency - that make that ending unsatisfying. 

~ Bel

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Murder Most Actual by Alexis Hall

* * * *

From the author of Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake comes a cozy mystery that revisits the Golden Age of detective fiction, starring a heroine who’s more podcaster than private eye and topped with a lethal dose of parody -- perfect for fans of Clue, Knives Out, and Only Murders in the Building!

When up-and-coming true crime podcaster Liza and her corporate financier wife Hanna head to a luxurious hotel in the Scottish Highlands, they're hoping for a chance to rekindle their marriage - not to find themselves trapped in the middle of an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery with no way home. But who better to take on the case than someone whose entire profession relies on an obsession with all things mysterious and macabre? Though some of her fellow guests may consider her an interfering new media hack, Liza knows a thing or two about crime and – despite Hanna’s preference for waiting out the chaos behind a locked door – might be the only one capable of discovering the killer. As the bodies rack up and the stakes rise, can they save their marriage -- and their lives?

Source: NetGally; ARC provided by Kobo Rakuten for an honest review

Alexis Hall writing a cozy mystery? Sign me up! Murder Most Actual is delightful mystery that pays homage to Clue and the current obsession with true crime mystery shows. 

When Liza and Hanna check into their hotel they weren't to know that their getaway, which is an attempt to repair their strained marriage, would be hijacked by multiple murders and a snow storm. The hotel is filled with the quintessential quirky characters including a Poirot-like detective who refers to himself in third person. The first murder when it occurs naturally unsettles all the guests, but Liza's inquisitive mind is drawn to the intrigue. As much as Hanna wants her wife to keep away from danger, she knows that this falls squarely into Liza's area of interest. As the bodies pile up, Liza gets deeper into the mystery potentially risking her own safety and that of Hanna's.

I truly enjoyed this book! It felt old-timey in a way and I absolutely go for that stuff being that I grew up on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Poirot series. I never got into the true crime frenzy, however, I did enjoy reading Liza's process and getting a bit of an idea of it.

Aside from the mystery, I was incredibly taken with the subplot of Liza and Hanna's relationship. The reason for their holiday is that their marriage has felt a little off recently. Hanna distracted by work, Liza who spends the bulk of her time researching and working on her podcast with her co-host means a lot of time has been spent apart and losing touch with one another. Hanna booked their getaway hoping that would be a kind of refresh button for them. It's not easy closing a gap that's been steadily widening. I think Hall did spectacularly at capturing the nuances of a long-term relationship that has stalled, of a couple who feel so distanced from each other that where the little things they used to like about the other become the things that irritate. All the subtle changes that steadily occur over a period of time that end up gaining momentum and that eventually change the face of the relationship. I understood that so well. 

I've read a few Alexis Hall books and I've become used to his style of writing and the self-deprecating ways most of his characters have. So I was impressed by how easily he switched to mystery-mode and by how it felt different. He's still excellent with the eccentric characters, but the way he wrote Liza and Hanna as more serious-minded and steady individuals with their humor intact was what felt different for me.  I've already said I enjoyed it and yes, I'd recommend Murder Most Actual to any mystery fan or any Alexis Hall fan.

~ Bel


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

One Night on the Island by Josie Silver

* * *

Spending her thirtieth birthday alone is the last thing that dating columnist Cleo wanted, but she is going on a self-coupling quasi-sabbatical--at the insistence of her boss--in the name of re-energizing herself and adding a new perspective to her column. The remote Irish island she's booked is a far cry from London, but at least it's a chance to hunker down in a luxury cabin and indulge in some quiet, solitary self-care while she figures out her next steps in her love life and her career.

Mac is also looking forward to some time to himself. With his life in Boston deteriorating in ways he can't bring himself to acknowledge, his soul searching has brought him to the same Irish island in search of his roots and some clarity. Unfortunately, a mix-up with the bookings means both solitude seekers have reserved the same one-bedroom hideaway on exactly the same dates.

Instantly at odds with each other, Cleo and Mac don't know how they're going to manage until the next weekly ferry arrives. But as the days go by, they no longer seem to mind each other's company quite as much as they thought they would...

Written with Josie Silver's signature warmth, charm and insights into the human heart, One Night on the Island explores the meaning of home, the joys of escape and how the things we think we want are never the things we really need.

* Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

One Night on the Island sees two individuals at pivotal moments in their lives crashing into each other's orbit at a most inconvenient time. Cleo is supposed to be at Salvation Island 'self-coupling'. She's an online columnist who's turning 30 and she and her editor decided that she should go to the island to celebrate that milestone by marrying herself as a way to embrace herself as she enters into her thirties. It's so weird even to Cleo. Then of course Mack shows up to the same cottage that Cleo booked claiming that he's supposed to be there as well. He rented it from his distant cousin so he could immerse himself in his photography while he gives his estranged wife space after she asked for a divorce the year before. Neither he or Cleo are willing to budge and there's really nowhere else to go on the island. Their solution is to draw a chalk line through the house and they can each reside on their own side. Stuck on the island, they have to make do and be civil.

This was a strange kind of romance and I have to tell you, I was on the fence through most of it. I was unsettled by the initial hostility between Cleo and Mack because some of it felt so unnecessary. Cleo seemed to put on tantrums and Mack was so closed off. It just comes down to that fact that I didn't want to encounter this kind of vibe in my reading. Things between them thaw when they start to find some common ground and make peace. And yes, it's weird again how they swing from antagonists to buddy-buddy and start revealing their secrets. Mack is distraught over the breakup of his marriage and still after over a year apart can't accept that it's over. Cleo is finally embracing her single life and keeps lobbing truth bombs Mack's way about the state of his relationship. Her honesty is brutal but one thing that's a no-go zone is is two boys. He adores them and wants everything for them. While he and Cleo get cozy and attraction builds, he's still hesitant to let go of his marriage. Even if it's his wife wanting the divorce and already off with someone else. His vows are sacred to him.

There were times I felt that the book should've been two different books. What Cleo and Mack were going through independent of each other was more interesting to me than their 'thing'. I liked being in on their thoughts and self-analysis when they were off by themselves. I normally enjoy a forced proximity romance, but this didn't get its hooks in me. It just felt that the other person was conveniently there and they thought, why not? It's difficult to explain because there are profound moments between them where I understood the sentiments they shared, but as far as the romance goes, I didn't feel their heat.

I did appreciate the residents of Salvation Island. They're all such engaging characters making anyone feel at home amongst them. I liked how they'd tease Mack and Cleo about their accommodation snafu and hint at any budding romance between them. They all had their own interesting stories and I thought they were absolutely delightful.

I adored Silver's other book, One Day in December because I liked those characters and I liked what they were working through so I was hoping I'd feel the same about One Night on the Island. It's a quiet, subdued story and romance that worked in parts, but this time it wasn't for me.

~ Bel

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

With Love from London by Sarah Jio

* * * * 1/2

A librarian inherits a bookshop from her estranged mother, leading her halfway across the world on a journey of self-discovery that transcends time and honors the unbreakable bonds of love and family.

When librarian Valentina Baker was a teenager, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own. Now in her thirties and fresh out of a failed marriage, Val feels a nagging disenchantment with her life--and knows she is still heartbroken over her mother's abandonment.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, Val receives word that Eloise has passed away, leaving Val her Primrose Hill apartment and the deed to a bookshop Val never knew she'd owned. Though the news is devastating, Val finds herself more determined than ever to discover who her mother truly was. She jets across the Atlantic, departing Seattle for a new life in charming London.

Slowly but surely, Val begins to piece together Eloise's life in the UK, falling in love with her pastel-colored flat, cozy neighborhood, and tucked-away storefront. But when she discovers that The Book Garden is in danger of going under, Val must work with its eccentric staff to get it in working order. In the process, she learns more about Eloise than she ever thought possible. And as Val races to save the shop, Eloise's own story unfolds, leading both mother and daughter to unearth revelatory truths.

Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

The main draw of With Love from London for me, and I suspect loads of other readers, is that it's a story about the love of books. How they transport you, how they comfort you and how magical they can be. As a librarian, Valentina knows all about this, having a love for books she inherited from her mother at a young age. Even after her mother disappeared from her life, Val continued to find solace in books, both old and new discoveries. Soon after her divorce, she receives word that her mother has passed away and that she is the beneficiary of her mother's treasured bookshop and flat. It fills Val with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, she's still traumatized by her mother walking out on her. On the other, she's curious to learn what drew her mother back to her homeland and kept her there. And since she's divorced and has nothing at the moment to tie her down, she could use the the change of scenery.

With Love from London is charming from the get go. I could easily understand Val's apprehension about what lies ahead, just as easily as I could sense the wounded child within. She's looking for answers and doesn't realize how much she wants to understand her mother's motives until she arrives in London. I appreciated that the story was told in two POVs - Eloise's and Val's first person voice. In a way, both storylines are tragic. Both women in different ways experience perfect timing and bad timing, the paths taken and not taken, new opportunities that are born out of disappointments. It's also a joy to see how similar they are like when they have the same visceral reaction to the same book but decades apart. Val's journey to discover her mother's story is laid out through several riddles Eloise had set out for her before she passed. 

I did cry a little at the end. I couldn't help it, it was just so darn sweet and poignant. Even with some predictable elements I thought the the story was engaging and lovely. I looked forward to it every time I picked it up because I knew that after the heartbreaks and grieving would come second chances. If anything, With Love from London is an ode to any passionate booklover out there of any age or genre, who appreciates how a good book is good for the soul!

~ Bel

Content warning: 

- divorce, illness (Eloise - ovarian cancer; brief mention of the diagnosis but no graphic details)

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

* * * * *

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she's focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

Source: NetGalley; advance audio copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

I'll describe Love & Other Disasters in one word: PRECIOUS. It's a memorable experience when a book starts off so well and carries that momentum through to the end. I was wowed from the get go and couldn't help but smile every time I listened to it.

Dahlia and London meet on their first day of taping the cooking show, Chef's Special. They're both wracked by nerves that come from being on live tv, the jitters from competition and also all the personal stuff that lingers in the back of their minds. Each has come to the cooking show with a clear agenda - win the competition and show the naysayers that they can make a success of themselves. Dahlia has the kind of personality that easily makes friends. Everyone is instantly at ease with her. She's one of my favorite characters because she's forthright and speaks with absolute sincerity which I find to be an admirable trait. London is equally straightforward and has learned over the years that they don't want to deal with bull. Coming on to Chef's Special took guts because they're announcing to the world that they're nonbinary while back at home, their father has yet to accept them. Dahlia somehow endears herself to London and the instant connection and acceptance surprises them.

Listening to London's journey educated me about how one can question their sexuality and struggle to find a space that accommodates their sense of self. That London was able to do that and have so much support behind them was heartwarming. That it isn't always sunshine, roses and acceptance, as demonstrated by her strained relationship with her father, is heartbreaking. Dahlia's journey has also taken her in a different direction. Married at a young age, happy until she realized that she no longer wanted the same things as her husband, she made the bold move to divorce and then to pick up the pieces and remake her life. Both of them have much to prove to themselves and anyone else who has ever doubted them.

While Dahlia and London's relationship takes off with the cooking show as a backdrop, what happens away from the show is equally interesting. I lived for the little details they'd pick up about each other, the inevitable closeness that brought them together as friends and then even more. I loved some of the high jinx they'd get into like when they crashed a wedding, and I was floored by their raw, vulnerable moments like when Dahlia admitted her insecurities aloud after getting drunk at said wedding. That moment seriously got me in the gut and also broke my heart. I felt the weight of that and it's so incredible to come across a writer's words that so uniquely and perfectly captures what feels like a universal sentiment. 

I was pleased to see the nonbinary, queer and trans rep, and I was glad to read a story that wrote from those perspectives. London does have to deal with a fellow contestant's hostility towards their presence, but they don't give that person much energy, and Kelly doesn't make that a central issue in the story, either. Instead she devotes time to London's relationship with their father. London gives energy to the relationships that matter, but will set boundaries and is prepared to walk away from a toxic situation if it risks their well-being. 

I don't know how else to express what a gem Love & Other Disasters is. It took me a long while to even write this review because I didn't feel I could effectively say how much I liked this book. I strongly recommend listening to the audiobook, if you can. The narrator, Lindsey Dorcus, made Dahlia and London's personalities come to life so vividly. It's a wonderful thing to feel a book has enriched and expanded your perspective of life and I can say that Love & Other Disasters has definitely done that for me!

~ Bel