Welcome to our community book reviews post! This month features 3 novels supporting PRIDE month that you can find at Bookmarks. Get to know our local reviewers, all of whom shared with us one of their favorite characters in a book and why!
Books were donated by Bookmarks; we will be posting new reviews monthly.
Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander
Reviewed by Maya Dalton (pictured above!)
Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander is an amazing way to start off Pride month with an LGBTQ+ romance novel. Alexander’s characters come to life through their anxieties, triumphs, and real-life moments as adults navigating queer romance. Simone, a well-endowed baker, feels very familiar with her type-A, high-strung work ethic. She puts her entire self into her career as a top baker at a well-known cooking magazine. However, her routinization is upended when Ray enters the workplace as the new kitchen manager. Coupled with previous relationship anxiety and navigating the customs of the non-binary community, Ray and Simone become close friends despite Simone’s reluctance to the “golden-retriever” energy from Ray. The pair navigate their new workplace relationship, coupled with struggling with upper management in the company, all while attempting to kindle their passion for their careers. Alexander perfectly brings an LGBTQ+ romance to life through her characters, their struggles of “adulting,” and the concept of being out in the workplace.
My favorite character in a novel is Feyre Archeron from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. I absolutely love following her journey to finding herself and family. She overcomes so much and truly tries to make the best out of her situations, all while exuding confidence and poise.
Love that Story by Jonathan Van Ness
Reviewed by Leslie Underwood (pictured above!)
Author Jonathan Van Ness is best known as the beauty stylist for Queer Eye. However, for more than six years, Van Ness has also been hosting a weekly podcast where he interviews experts about their respective fields, covering everything from menstrual cups to Downton Abbey. He has honed his research, interviewing, and writing skills to produce a thoughtful, funny, inspirational, conversational, and sometimes raw set of essays about current issues seen through the lens of his life experiences. At first, I worried that not having read his 2019 autobiography Over theTop would put me at a disadvantage. But not so!
Van Ness’ book, Love that Story, connects multiple essays with the overall theme of accepting and loving ourselves and others with all our beauty and flaws. The essays cover grief, fashion, body positivity, LGBTQIA+ and HIV support systems, as well as history of the war on drugs, hairdressing, Harry Potter fandom, imposter syndrome, family relationships, white privilege, and, of course, gymnastics (Van Ness is a superfan). The essays about his hometown of Quincy, Illinois, the history of the war on drugs, and HIV safety nets are the strongest of the bunch. These are well-researched and thoughtful with just the right amount of personal history to make them particularly powerful. This book is for you if you are a Van Ness fan or (if not) want a witty, life-affirming, and interesting read.
I love science fiction and fantasy, and one of my favorite characters is Tiffany Aching in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Tiffany is spunky, thoughtful, caring, and a really talented witch!
I’m So Not Over You by Kosoko Jackson
Reviewed by Katie Davis (Pictured above!)
Kian Andrews and his ex-boyfriend, Hudson Rivers, are southern transplants living in Boston. Their months-long, seemingly happy relationship ends with Hudson abruptly dumping Kian, leaving Kian heartbroken and bitter. Just when Kian feels he is getting over Hudson, Hudson requests a meeting with Kian and presents him with a shocking proposition. He asks Kian to pretend they never broke up and attend a family wedding in Georgia. Kian reluctantly agrees, and the sparks begin to fly!
Immediately, I got Hallmark movie, classic rom-com vibes from this book. Two men with unresolved feelings for one another reunite for a romantic wedding. We all know where that plot is headed, right? What I did not expect was such an honest representation of homosexuality, racism, and classism. It added so much substance to what would have otherwise been just a fluffy, fun read. If you are looking for an entertaining, light-hearted, second-chance romance that imbeds thought-provoking themes throughout, this title is an excellent choice!
Katie Davis is a proud, lifelong Winston-Salem native who loves exploring this wonderful little city with her family. One of her favorite book characters is Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby. Ramona is often labeled overly exuberant or precocious, but she is just eager to experience and understand the world. She has a kind heart and wants to be loved for who she is, and she is a fierce protector of her family.