Category Archives: GLBT

Those Who Perish by Emma Viskic -a review

those who perishThose Who Perish (Caleb Zelic #4) by Emma Viskic

A MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE
Deaf PI Caleb Zelic has always been an outsider, estranged from family and friends. But when he receives a text that his brother, Anton, is in danger, Caleb sees it as a chance at redemption.

A REMOTE ISLAND
He tracks Anton down to an isolated, wind-punished island, where secrets run deep and resentments deeper.

A KILLER IN THE SHADOWS
When a killer starts terrorising the isolated community, the brothers must rely on each other like never before. But trust comes at a deadly price…

Published 28 April 2022|  Publisher: Pushkin Press |  RRP: AUD$29.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  BooktopiaAbbey’sA&RQBD

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

I have a love-hate relationship with this series. I love the setting, the prose, and the characters. I absolutely abhor the angst Caleb have about Kat and Ant. Especially Kat and the on-off vibe of their relationship. I guess this is an inherent part of Caleb’s personality that has been mentioned in the book and therefore, it’s like watching a car crash where you know it’s going to be bad and you don’t really want to see it but you can’t turn your head away. That’s exactly how I feel about this whole series.

As always, Caleb stepped into a mystery bigger and ever more dangerous but this time, as he’s about to become a father, he really needed to question his involvement. And yet, things got out of hand very quickly with his life and those he loves in danger. Of course, the ending is never what I thought it’d be with all the miscommunications and misunderstandings adding to the complexity of the twists and turns that ends with a big splash.

My thanks to Pushkin Press for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova -a review

the inheritance of orquidea divinaThe Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

One Hundred Years of Solitude meets Practical Magic, following three cousins who retrace their family lineage from Four Rivers, USA, to Guayaquil, Ecuador, in an attempt to discover the source of their power and why their family is being murdered by an unknown entity.

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a “spellbinding tale, both timeless and fresh, that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Prepare to fall in love” (Kim Liggett, New York Times bestselling author).

Published 5 July 2022|  Publisher: Atria Books |  RRP: AUD$27.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  BooktopiaAbbey’s

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

I’ve gone for the pretty cover and the somewhat interesting synopsis. I’ve heard of the author but never read any of her books yet so I thought this was a good opportunity to check out her novels. The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina started off quite well for me; I really enjoyed the prose. For one reason or another though, that didn’t last very long. Maybe it’s the story itself that didn’t quite grab me.

It’s told from multiple perspectives though there are 2 main ones and there were flashbacks to the past too. I also didn’t particularly find engage by any particular characters. There were some moments but overall, I found it a bit long. Because I love circus stories, I found the carnival bit somewhat interesting even if we didn’t really see the carnival very much. Other than that, I found it a bit painful and just wanted it to be over.

Regardless of what I felt was a slog of a read, it was an interesting world but I guess it just wasn’t the right read for me.

My thanks to Atria Books for ecopy of book via Edelweiss+ in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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Slipping the Noose by Meg Caddy -a review

Slipping the NooseSlipping the Noose by Meg Caddy

The way out is through.

Anne Bonny is chained up in the hold of a prison ship, nursing nine-month-old Molly. The baby is all she has left of Calico Jack, the swaggering pirate captain who loved her and stole her away to sea—and who now hangs from a gibbet. When armed men rip the child from her grasp, Bonny can do nothing and Molly seems lost. But Anne Bonny was not cut out for despair. She will plan for escape and rescue, and the plan will become action. And the streets of London will belong to her and her daughter—and the ragtag remnants of Calico Jack’s crew.

Anne Bonny looms large in the history of piracy on the high seas. But history, having left the notorious female buccaneer languishing in a Jamaican jail, then carelessly mislaid her. Fortunately we have Meg Caddy to imagine her subsequent exploits and whereabouts, and to bring them so vividly and rakishly to life.

Published 3 May 2022|  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: AUD$24.00

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  |  QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

As I began to read this novel, I felt that I have jumped into the middle of a story. This prompted me to check Goodreads which notes (at the bottom of the book description; I had to click on ‘more’ to see) that this book is a sequel to Devil’s Ballast which, errr, I have yet to read, oops! This kind of ruins the read a little for me… I stopped reading to read Devil’s Ballast first which didn’t turn out to be what I quite expected before jumping back into Slipping the Noose.

The good thing is that after I read Devil’s Ballast, I have readjusted my expectations and actually enjoyed Slipping the Noose. I have become acquainted with some of the characters, especially Anne, and understood her feelings a lot more which I then can sympathise with. It’s a suspenseful read with 2 perspectives (Bonny’s & Read’s) which really got me on the edge of my seat waiting for when or where these will culminate. The final pages were utterly wonderful and I got to wondering if we will see these characters again.

While the plot in this novel will stand on its own, I do highly recommend that you read Devil’s Ballast first as it will make clear of who some characters are and how they relate to each other. Do not expect a swashbuckling adventures as these novels aren’t quite those but they are action-packed with its own twist. Highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable!

My thanks to Text Publishing for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes -a review

all the white spacesAll the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes

Something deadly and mysterious stalks the members of an isolated polar expedition in this haunting and spellbinding historical horror novel, perfect for fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger.

In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary ship of his hero, the world-famous explorer James “Australis” Randall, Jonathan may live as his true self—and true gender—and have the adventures he has always been denied. But not all is smooth sailing: the war casts its long shadow over them all, and grief, guilt, and mistrust skulk among the explorers.

When disaster strikes in Antarctica’s frozen Weddell Sea, the men must take to the land and overwinter somewhere which immediately seems both eerie and wrong; a place not marked on any of their part-drawn maps of the vast white continent. Now completely isolated, Randall’s expedition has no ability to contact the outside world. And no one is coming to rescue them.

In the freezing darkness of the Polar night, where the aurora creeps across the sky, something terrible has been waiting to lure them out into its deadly landscape…

As the harsh Antarctic winter descends, this supernatural force will prey on their deepest desires and deepest fears to pick them off one by one. It is up to Jonathan to overcome his own ghosts before he and the expedition are utterly destroyed.

Published 29 March 2022|  Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books |  RRP: AUD$26.50

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  |  QBD

My Blurb (3 / 5 stars)

This book appealed to me because I recalled a couple of Antarctica thrillers which I enjoyed though I think neither was historical. Nevertheless, I thought that would add to the thrill (difficulty without tech etc) however I didn’t really count on the horror bit of the story. I’m not a huge fan of horror because for some reason, they just confuse me. I read & loved some paranormal, magical books but for some unknown reason, I just don’t get horror. It’s not particularly scary so I guess I just missed the point?

The novel opens with our protagonist’s family receiving news of the loss of their elder 2 sons whom it appears to have had ambitions for an Antarctica expedition adventures. What do you do when the 2 older brothers whom you worshipped were ripped away from you? Well, you do what they have always wanted to do! But well, there is the barrier of your perceived gender and your parents so the only thing to do is to stow away and hopefully prove yourself while onboard. Things never truly go smoothly for an expedition to the unknown but this time, there were other factors at play and not everyone can see them…

It is possibly my initial expectation of the book which influenced my thoughts on this book because I keep expecting a twist of the psychological thriller variety but it never happened so while accept some paranormal activity as possible, I didn’t find it scary. Since I didn’t find it scary nor was there any particular surprising twist, I found this book to be rather long and uneventful (yes, despite all the tragic incidents).

My thanks to Atria/Emily Bestler Books for ecopy of book via Edelweiss+ in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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Review: Meet Me at the Intersection

Meet Me at the Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices.

Published September 2018 |  Publisher: Fremantle Press  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I’m so excited to see a book, an anthology, dedicated to #ownvoices ! Finally, something for everyone (or almost). Editors did a fine job in collating stories of representation from a cross-section of those who are different, unique; of voices whom we rarely hear.

There are a couple of poetry which I struggled with… I don’t know how to read poetry! Although what really helps is the blurb at the beginning of each chapter describing who the authors are and sometimes, what their pieces are about. Each one of these authors are amazing humans!

Of course, I am absolutely partial to the Asian stories / authors as I understood them better from the cultural perspective. However, this did not diminish my enjoyment of the other stories (except for poetry as I mentioned above) for each of these stories help me to better understand their side of the story. I mean why else do we read but to open our minds to others and in listening to them, be better able to love as they deserve to be loved. I highly recommend this anthology for all who seek to understand.

Thanks to Fremantle Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Rebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator and lawyer based in Melbourne. Rebecca is the author of eighteen books, and has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, Aurealis Award and Davitt Award for YA. Rebecca’s work has also been longlisted for the Gold Inky Award and the David Gemmell Legend Award. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Portuguese and Polish.

Find Rebecca on:  goodreads

Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books as well as a YA dystopian series. Her books have been published in the United States, South Korea and China. Ambelin is a prolific commentator on diversity in children’s literature and a law academic at the University of Western Australia.

Find Ambelin on:  goodreads

Review: The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) by J.Y. Yang

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

My Blurb (4 stars)

Sometimes, there is just a book that when you finished reading, you completely have no idea where you are… This world was so immersive that I came up disoriented and rather sad that I have to leave it behind.

To begin with though, some mind-bending was required. In this world, you are born without a gender; you will remain as ‘undeclared gender’ until such time that you yourself wish to be confirmed to be one or another and then the process to change your body accordingly will take place. In an ‘undeclared gender’, ‘they’ is the pronoun used to refer to this person. I’ve only found out, thanks Google, that ‘they’ can also be used as a gender neutral third person singular pronoun. My brain is so not used to this so I’m feeling a little ignorant and slow to catch up… When I did though, I wish for this so much for our world! In a way, it will ease many heartaches… Not that this spare any of the people in this world!

This novel is divided into 4 parts and years span between each part. It begins with Mokoya’s & Akeha’s births, parts of their childhood, their teens, and ended in their thirties. This first book in the series appears to deal more with Akeha’s search for his purpose as we follow his indecision (gender), as he ran away from his heartbreak, and a discovery of new things, hopeful things.

Love, and nothing else. It was enough. As long as there was love, there would be hope. It was enough.

The Black Tides of Heaven is a magical novel with an array of complex world building. That magic (loved how it’s called ‘Slackcraft’!) and modern technology being complementary was interestingly harmonious. The characters were alive and with all their flaws invited you to welcome them into your heart. The story took me on a flight of love, explosions of heartbreaks, and only to end with a broken but living hope.

About the author

JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing (The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and two more slated for 2018 and 2019). Their short fiction has been published in over a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons.

In previous incarnations, they have been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; and a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers. Currently they are a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

JY identifies as queer and non-binary.

Find Clarissa on:  website  |  goodreads  |  twitter

Review: If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

‘The second our eyes lock in the dark is all the time I need to know that whatever happens next, my life will never be the same.’

Life and love don’t wait until you’re ready, but what if finding yourself means losing everything you’ve ever known?

Seventeen-year-old Alex Summers lives with a secret and the constant fear someone will find out. But when a new family moves to town, they bring with them their teenage daughter Phoenix Stone. When Alex falls for Phoenix, there is no warning. In a small town with small minds, girls don’t go out with other girls, even if they want to.

In fear there is bravery – you can either cling to the edge or have the courage to jump. But what do you do when you’re left spiralling through the freefall?

This is a heart-wrenching story of love in an unloving Australian landscape.

My Blurb (5 stars)

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I don’t read many LGBT books though not because I purposely avoid them but more that they’re not particularly books I usually come across without having to research or specifically look for. I’ve done a lot of reading challenges so it’s come up a few times and I would usually have to really look for them. In addition, If I Tell You, is geared towards young adult… there are even less LGBT/YA books.

Alex Summers is an easily likeable character. She has dreams and wishes for her wedding day though there is one particular details which would differ from what her mother would’ve dreamed or planned. This is a secret Alex has kept from everyone. When Phoenix Stone arrived in town though, she was a temptation Alex cannot resist.

If I Tell You is told solely from Alex’s perspective and from it, I must say that it’s a pretty UN-likeable town (and I’m being nice here!) despite her supportive friends (I adore Lin!). I think Lin is the bright shining star in this book for me and that’s because I could identify with her better being Asian in ancestry. Which makes me think that Alex may be the bright shining star for those who have been and/or are experiencing the same sort of situation. How can you be happy when you can’t be yourself?

I was caught by story from the very first sentence. And I just couldn’t put the book down. I love that it’s very Aussie in setting & feel though I don’t know if I actually want to visit this town; it’s more of a homey sort of feeling that I’m sure we can all identify with. I cannot condone the behaviours of some of the people especially the mother. As a mother of 2 young children, I feel conflicted; I wanted to know further the reason for her reaction as I can think of dozens!

Writing this review is very hard for me. I feel like I am also treading a fine line as I may accidentally have written something which sounded okay to me in my head but due to missing the nuances of spoken words, they may be misconstrued. So, I’m just going to wrap it up by saying explicitly that I loved this book for its potential in the LGBTQIA+ community but also for the wider audience. I loved this book for all the feels; the giddiness of first love to the heartbreak of loss. If I Tell You is a compelling coming-of-age tale and all of you should jump into it.

Thanks to Pantera Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

 

Alicia Tuckerman is a driving force for young LGBT voices within Australia. Raised in rural NSW before she left home at the age of sixteen, she accepted a position to study at the Hunter School of Performing Arts.

Described as having an overactive imagination as a child, she recalls writing stories her entire life. Alicia attributes surviving her teenage years to the comfort, release and escape writing offered and she hopes to inspire the next generation of readers and writers to embrace their true passions.

Alicia was inspired to write If I Tell You after finding a lack of YA novels featuring two central lesbian characters. She draws on her life experiences to explore the joys, triumphs and cruelties of modern day adolescence and considers there is no fantasy world she could create that is more terrifyingly beautiful than the one we’re expected to live in.

Alicia is a Law Clerk and now lives in the Swan Valley region of Perth with her wife and two children, where she does most of her writing in the small hours before the kids wake up, or on her daily commute to the office!

Find Alicia on: goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  facebook

Review: Shadowplay

shadowplayShadowplay by Laura Lam
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of Strange Chemistry via NetGalley

Please note this is a review of book 2 in the series and may include some spoilers of book 1

There is something behind the world of Circuses and Theatres, aren’t there? The glamorous and magical façade which overlay who-knows-what! The possibility is endless. And this is what appeals of this series, most especially when you see the author’s illustrative reviews of the books (Pantomime / Shadowplay). Those beautiful illustrations just makes you curious of the wonders you’d come across in these stories.

Shadowplay began just where Pantomime left off. We got to see Micah & Drystan eluded their pursuers and sought refuge in an old unused theatre; a theatre with the history of glittering magic shows. Thence began their adventure into the world of show business. All is not well, however, in this world. Not only are Micah & Drystan being shadowed by suspicious characters, they also need to avoid detection by their audiences, and at the same time, be ever so successful to ensure their survival is met. On top of this, as one question of Micah’s background is answered, ten more surfaced. This mystery is getting more intriguing and at the same time, frustrating because you feel like you’re getting nowhere!

The big picture of Shadowplay is the same as that of Pantomime, run away and hide in plain sight. I just loved the world and to an extent, the main characters, that I quite enjoyed this book too. I love the premise of the real magic (aside for the magic shows) and Micah’s mysterious background which I hope will all be revealed in the next book (it can’t come fast enough!).

The feud between the magicians, Maske and Taliesan, is somewhat reminiscent of the feud in The Prestige by Christopher Priest. Thereprestige were points of differences but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by this feud due to some similarities that I don’t think I loved the book as much as I wanted to.

Overall, whilst it was an easy read and I quite enjoyed being immersed in Ellada, Shadowplay has the feeling of a ‘filler’ sort of books; the ‘in-between’ sort of place. I have ten thousand more questions to be answered and I have very high hopes for the reveal-all -fingers crossed, in the next book. Especially seeing how this book was ended … we are being led on a merry chase.

Thank you, Strange Chemistry for copy of the eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Dance of Shadows

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing and The Reading Room – get your own copy from The Book Depository

In my adolescent years, growing up in Asia, manga was very popular. I devoured many series though my most favourite would have been Sailor Moon. I remember the wait for the publication of the first book then the next and so on and so forth. One other type I would voraciously hunt down are any ballet related manga. I probably would have read all the Mari-Chan’s series and fell in love more and more with ballet. The lines of drawing ballerina gracefully in mid-flight, each character’s love of ballet and determination to succeed –what can’t you love about these series?!

I just love love love this cover of Dance of Shadows –beautiful colours which gave an impression of movement. The blurb falls along the line of a ballet manga and I couldn’t resist. It was a pretty easy read despite struggling with ballet jargons (I know some but not all) and whilst I know the theory, sometimes, it’s just hard to imagine the movement they’re supposed to do. Knowing ballet and ballet terms would definitely help in understanding the characters’ struggles in their ballet class and goals.

Whilst Vanessa was likeable enough, Blaine was the character which made this book for me. He’s Caucasian-Japanese in descent, bread in Texas and bat for the other team. He might be a bit flamboyant and at time, stereotypical, but you can only be stereotypical up to a point with a Texan-Japanese boy. Most of all, he made me laugh! I always fall for guys who make me laugh…

[Blaine] “Or I could settle for a Russian dance. They’re so severe. I love it. I wouldn’t even care if he spoke no English whatsoever. As long as he made sweet, sweet love to me while feeding me caviar, and then helped me play with my set of Matryoshka dolls.” He paused. “Not that I have any Matryoshka dools.”

Vanessa and the girls continued staring at him. “The how would you communicate?” Elly asked quizzically.

“Darling,” Blaine said, leaning forward and batting his eyelashes. “The language of love requires no words. Haven’t you seen The Little Mermaid?”

The story was a little slow for me until maybe the last 100 pages when the pace picked up and things progressed in a tremendous whirl. It began with Vanessa’s arrival at a most prestigious ballet academy though it was foreshadowed by her missing elder sister. The story was slow as we follow Vanessa in fitting into school-life and discovering a mystery surrounding the school. The foreshadowing is there, bits of darkness lurked around but after pushing through 2/3 of the book, I found the resolution quite a bit exciting. All the time I was reading, I could so see it in my head in something like

This story is not in any way light-hearted though much darkness (and slowness) was pierced by chuckle-worthy humour [see Blaine above]. Whilst the ending isn’t a cliff-hanger per se, it is well set up for the next book which I look forward to!

Thank you Bloomsbury and The Reading Room for the privilege to read and review this book

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Review: Pantomime

Pantomime by Laura Lam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of Strange Chemistry via NetGalley -get your own copy from The Book Depository

What is so fascinating about the circus? I think it dates back to childhood days where we are so impressionable that the pomp, the animals, and weird & wonderful truly grabbed our hearts and souls. It’s also a very special treat which makes it utterly precious as memories. My love for circus in literature also dates back to childhood –does anyone remember Mr Galliano’s Circus by Enid Blyton? One of my childhood’s favourite!

Pantomime, whilst is set within a circus, is actually quite a dark sort of feel. It opened with Micah Gray, having been caught snooping in the circus and desperately seeking for a way in –a way to survive, having ran away from home. For the first half of the book, the story alternated between Iphigenia Laurus and Micah Grey to provide the background of these characters. At times, it felt quite slow as the secrets are unveiled bits by bits however there always seem to be a carrot dangled in front of you and you can’t help but chase after it all the time…

The blurb does not do the book justice but I’m not about to give you any more than the blurb because that’s the fun of reading it for yourself! The unveiling of all the itty bitty mysteries the author has buried deep inside the story. There are quite a number of layers in this book and I can’t share one without telling you about the rest. Suffice to say that when I started to wonder what the title, Pantomime, has to do with the book, it came about and I really enjoyed the last few chapters. This is not a stand-alone book! It definitely has whetted my appetite and I am anxiously waiting for the sequel (2014! So far away!).

A note to parents, this book is pretty clean (there are some kisses and a little touch here and there) however be prepared to face some GLBT type of questions. I would suggest you read it for yourself first.

Thank you Strange Chemistry and NetGalley for the privilege to read & review galley

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