ARC Review – ‘Flowerheart’ by Catherine Bakewell

TITLE: Flowerheart
AUTHOR: Catherine Bakewell
GENRE: YA Fantasy, LGBTQ+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 352 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins on March 14th, 2023
RRP$19.99 USD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

Perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson and Tamora Pierce, this standalone YA debut is a stunning cottagecore fantasy romance about a girl with powerful and violent magic, which she must learn to control—or lose everything she loves.

Clara’s magic has always been wild. But it’s never been dangerous. Then a simple touch causes poisonous flowers to bloom in her father’s chest.

The only way to heal him is to cast an extremely difficult spell that requires perfect control. And the only person willing to help is her former best friend, Xavier, who’s grown from a sweet, shy child into a mysterious and distant young man.

Xavier names a terrible price in return, knowing Clara will give anything to save her father. As she struggles to reconcile the new Xavier with the boy she once loved, she discovers their bargain is only one of the heavy secrets he’s hiding. And as she hunts for the truth, she instead finds the root of a terrible darkness that’s taken hold in the queendom—a darkness only Clara’s magic is powerful enough to stop.

I enjoyed this one! Lovely, lush writing, the focus on flowers made it vivid and dreamy (except when the flowers evoked body horror, that was viscerally terrifying!) and I liked how it was a cozy low-stakes fantasy. No cliche Chosen One versus Dark One, this is a charming alternative which focuses on the heroine’s struggles with her magic and a potion wreaking havoc in her community. 

The casual queerness is very welcome, it shouldn’t be groundbreaking, but I’m always happy to see it. There’s no homophobia in this world, it’s not unusual to be attracted to/married to someone of the same sex. Transgender characters aren’t as common because Robin mentions being happy to have a transgender mentor who understands them, but again, no transphobia or angst over it which is a relief.

I love the overall theme of overcoming negative self-talk, pushing past your anxiety and having confidence in yourself to achieve your goals. There’s also an emphasis on experiencing your emotions both good and bad, rather than bottling it up or suppressing it, and how crying can be healing which I appreciated.

Disclaimer: digital copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘Planning Perfect’ by Haley Neil

TITLE: Planning Perfect
AUTHOR: Haley Neil
GENRE: YA Contemporary, LGBTQ+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 336 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Bloomsbury on February 14th, 2023
RRP$19.99 USD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this charming, heartfelt YA romcom about being on the asexual spectrum, a girl tries to craft the perfect wedding for her mother but discovers that sometimes the best parts of life can’t be planned.

​Felicity Becker loves watching an event come together. Whether it’s prom, graduation, or just the annual Arbor Day school dance, there’s something magical about crafting an experience that people will remember. So when her mom gets engaged, Felicity sees the wedding as the perfect opportunity to show off her skills.

​After Felicity’s long-distance friend Nancy offers up her family’s apple orchard as a venue, wedding planning gets even better. But the more time Felicity and Nancy spend together dress shopping and hunting for just-right mismatched china, the more it starts to seem like there might be something besides friendship between them. Felicity isn’t sure how she feels. As someone on the asexuality spectrum, what would dating even look like for her? And would Nancy be open to dating when Felicity doesn’t even know what she wants from a relationship?

​Suddenly the summer is a lot more complicated. Especially when Felicity finds out that one of the wedding guests is an event planner with a prestigious internship available. Can Felicity wrangle her irresponsible mom, juggle her judgmental grandmother, figure out her feelings for Nancy, and plan the perfect wedding? Or will all of her plans come crashing down around her?

Planning Perfect is an #OwnVoices YA contemporary novel about a Jewish teenager on the asexual spectrum. Felicity Becker has a Type A personality to rival Rory Gilmore, and her dynamic with her free-spirited, unconventional mother and uptight, controlling grandmother will ring a bell to anyone with a passing familiarity with the show—not a surprise as the author pitched this as ‘Gilmore Girls but make it Jewish’. Always armed with a plan, to-do list and matching Pinterest board, Felicity believes she can make life to conform to her rigidly outlined expectations, but when she fails to secure the coveted position as Junior Committee President of the Social Friends Committee, she falls into an anxiety spiral over the notion that she’s destroyed her future now that she only has the less impressive title of Chief of Moral Support to put on college applications. But when her mother becomes engaged, Felicity has a chance to salvage the situation with an internship up for grabs if she can pull off the perfect wedding…in forty-seven days.

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