About Jaclyn

I'm a total bookaholic! Info for authors, publishers, and publicists: My fave genres include romance, mysteries, thrillers, and fantasy. I'm especially interested in books by and about: BIPOC folks, Filipino stories and Filipino diaspora stories, plus-size / fat folks. Romances with animal-loving heroes and heroines are a major plus. My to-read pile is pretty hefty, so if your book includes any of these, please let me know! In terms of triggers/content warnings: - No animals dying, or getting hurt or killed. Even (and to an extent, especially) if it's a throwaway scene in a mystery/thriller. Hard limit. If this happens in your book, please don't send it my way. - If your book includes cancer, death of a mom or sister, mental health conditions, fatphobia, and/or abuse (particularly gaslighting and emotional abuse), please include a trigger warning in your pitch. Thanks! :-)

Review | Jade is a Twisted Green, by Tanya Turton

JadeIsATwistedGreenJade is a Twisted Green is a good coming-of-age story about a twenty-four-year-old Black queer woman in Toronto. Jade Brown is working through her grief over her twin sister’s death a few years ago, and the story follows her journey towards her twenty-fifth birthday, as she reconnects with past lovers, parties with friends, and pushes herself past her comfort zone. In doing so, she tries new experiences, meets new friends, and grows more confident in her ambition to become a writer.

I’m not usually one for literary fiction these days, but Turton’s writing drew me in. I liked how complex and textured her characters were. While Jade is the main character in the novel, the story occasionally flips to other characters’ points of view, and we see how many of them are also figuring their own ways through life.

I like how some of the dialogue was in patois, and I especially like how the narration pointed out where, for example, using patois and first names was unusual for a pair of characters in interacting with each other. Or in another example, the narration comments on how a character switches to the kind of language Jade notices her mom using with white folks. These little linguistic notes highlight the nuances going on in the scene, and the subtle shifts in the relationships between characters.

I was also drawn into the backstory of Jade’s sister Roze and, while part of me wished the book had had more scenes with her, I also kinda like the limited nature of the glimpses we did see. The part where the circumstances behind her death were revealed was especially well-done.

Overall, I thought this was a really good story with a strong narrative voice. I cared for Jade and her friends, I loved how much they were there for each other, and I was glad to see Jade gradually come into her own.

+

Thank you to Dundurn Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Always the Almost, by Edward Underhill

AlwaysTheAlmostAlways the Almost is a sweet and uplifting queer YA coming of age story and romance. Trans teen pianist Miles Jacobson has two New Year resolutions: win the annual piano competition and finally beat his long-time rival Cameron, and win back his ex-boyfriend Shane, who’d dumped him after Miles came out as trans. Things take a turn when Miles meets new boy Eric Mendez, a proudly queer cartoonist who asks for Miles’ pronouns when they first meet, and who seems to understand Miles much more than Shane ever did.

In the foreword, the author provides some content warnings, along with a content promise: this story will have a happy ending. In the afterword, the author writes that this book is all about queer joy. And indeed, even long before the promised happy ending, this book is very much a celebration of queer joy. Miles’ piano teacher comments that he plays like he “doesn’t know who he is” — the metaphor is rather obvious, but as a reader, you just get so caught up in Miles’ story that you can’t help but be drawn into his struggle anyway. The author’s descriptions of the Miles’ piano playing are powerfully evocative. Miles comes to several important epiphanies while practicing for the competition, and as a result, his piano playing isn’t just a technical feat, nor is it even just a sharing of his story; rather, each practice and each competition is a journey towards his triumph. He learns not only who he is, but to celebrate all that the totality of his identity implies.

Miles is a flawed character, and I love how the author shows him growing as a person. The book also includes some incidents of transphobia, and how Miles’ pain at times prevents him from fully being himself. But what I love is that the author also shows how his pain sometimes keeps him from recognizing and responding to other people’s pain. This plays out most obviously in his relationship with Eric. There’s a moment in the book where Miles does something that seriously hurts Eric, and causes Eric to pull away from him. In his attempt to make up, Miles focuses not on the harm he did, but rather on how much Eric’s support helps him perform well on the piano. Worse, he chooses to do so at a time when Eric is dealing with family stuff that are, quite frankly, more important than Miles’ feelings at that point. Eric rightly calls him out on such a selfish, self-centred attempt at apologizing, and Miles’ journey towards realizing what he did wrong (it took him several more chapters to figure it out, LOL) is gratifying to see.

I like how the author creates nuance in his characters — even Miles’ ex-boyfriend Shane isn’t a complete jerk, and there’s a lovely moment when Miles realizes that Shane was genuinely trying to understand what Miles was going through. Cameron and his piano teacher remain straight-up villains till the end, but I like how some of the other competitors are fleshed out as characters even though they only show up for a couple of scenes. The subplot regarding the romance between Miles’ best friends Rachel and Paige are also compelling, and I like that a secondary character involved in that subplot was also given nuance.

Overall, this is a lovely read. Queer and trans readers may want to look up the author’s content warnings, as Miles, Eric, and some of the other characters do deal with some difficult experiences. But the main impression I got (with my admittedly straight and cis perspective) is one of triumph and joy. I loved following Miles through his journey, and cheering him and his friends on towards their respective versions of happiness.

+

Thank you to St Martins Press for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | The Christmas Postcards, by Karen Swan

XmasPostcardsWhen Natasha’s toddler daughter Mabel accidentally leaves her beloved toy cow Moolah behind at an AirBnB in Vienna, Natasha turns to social media for help. Thanks to a friend with a family member who works for Harry Styles (!), the post goes viral, and soon, a man named Duffy, who’s trekking the Himalayas, responds with a note to Mabel a photograph of Moolah having the adventure of her life. Soon, Natasha and Mabel find themselves looking forward to Duffy’s emails, and despite knowing nothing about the man, Natasha finds herself increasingly drawn towards the kind stranger.

The Christmas Postcards is a really sweet, heartwarming, and feel-good book. It’s hard not to get drawn into Moolah’s story, as Duffy photographs the toy cow atop a mule, perched on his shoulder, and hanging out on mountain trails. In his emails with Natasha and Mabel, the question arises whether or not Moolah will get to jump over the moon like the cow in the rhyme, and even as an adult, it’s all-too-easy to get sucked into the same childlike wonder and hope, against all odds, that Duffy will somehow manage to make it happen.

There’s a somewhat somber emotional tug to that aspect of the plot as well, since Moolah reminds Duffy of Moodle, a toy cow his beloved sister once owned. The story behind Duffy’s family is gradually revealed, but even from the beginning, there are hints of tragedy that make Moolah’s appearance in his life especially meaningful.

The story does require a bit of suspension of disbelief at times. The plot hinges on a rather massive coincidence that’s easy enough to guess from the start, and that readers must be willing to chalk up to fate in order to get sucked in. Late in the book, Natasha is revealed to make a decision at the end of her hen weekend that I personally found frustrating. The decision was the result of a miscommunication that could’ve been resolved with a bit of patience, but most frustrating is that I think the reasons for her decision were flimsy, even with the miscommunication.

And finally, there’s a big reveal near the end acts as a deux ex machina that resolves a major conflict. The ease with which it resolves the conflict feels a bit anti-climactic, but I’m willing to let that pass because of the overall feel-good tone of the book. My bigger problem with it is that it involves a rather melodramatic twist that the story tries to explain but remains a bit of a stretch anyway.

Still, overall this was a lovely read, and a nice, comforting break.

+

Thanks to Publishers Group Canada for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.