Flower Moon – Gina Linko

Do you remember lazy summer afternoons as a child, laying on the grass under the shade of a tree, watching clouds pass overhead? You could hear the leaves rustle above you and feel the wind on your face. A friend was laying beside you and you’d laugh together, deciding what animals the clouds resembled. That’s what the first half of Flower Moon felt like to me. There was a pervading sense of nostalgia and I felt like the words were just washing over me.

Tempest and Tally Jo are twelve year old mirror twins. Tally has always been the leader and protector, whereas Tempest has been the shy follower. Throughout the past year the twins have started to grow apart. This summer, like every year, the girls will be spending time with the travelling carnival their Pa Charlie runs. Twin girls run in their family, as does the mysterious Greenly Curse. Told from abrupt Tally’s point of view, we follow the twins as they embark on a summer like no other.

I felt as though I was transported to 1950’s America, so much so that the occasional references to the present, like a Pokemon bandaid, felt jarring. I would have preferred for there to have been no references to any specific time period at all in this book. I could hear the words spoken in a southern accent and while some of the phrases didn’t sit right with me, overall I inhabited this world with Tempest and Tally Jo.

As an only child I grew up wishing for a sibling and romanticised the idea of being a twin for several years, most likely in response to my The Parent Trap obsession. That said, I can only imagine what having a sibling must be like. I’m also not quite sure the world could handle two of me!

Growing up I looked on with fascination at the relationships my friends had with their siblings and have witnessed some siblings cast long shadows, with others living their lives inside them. Even without siblings, I understand what it’s like to live in the shadow of someone’s expectations of you.

In Flower Moon, Tempest has lived in the shadow of Tally’s limelight all of her life, and both girls seem to think that the reason they’ve grown apart over the past year is because the other twin has changed and is pulling away. Sometimes you don’t realise what you’re projecting into the world and your relationships until it’s mirrored back to you.

There’s a growing tension in this book and from my perspective it felt like the heart of this tension really stemmed from the difficulties that come with trying to hold on to how things were in the past (or how you remember them to be) at the expense of appreciating what’s in front of you in the present. Fear and issues of trust are addressed, including the fear of what the future will look like if the dynamics in relationships change over time.

I really liked Digger and would have loved to have learned more about him and for his personality to be shown separate to his connection with Tally. I loved the animals and the atmosphere of the carnival. I had unresolved questions about the curse, including why it affects this family, and I wanted more background information about the twins’ mother and aunt, and their mother and her twin.

I didn’t always like Tally that much. She was quite abrasive and self-centred, and I spent some of the book wishing it had been written from Tempest’s point of view instead. However, the realisation that the world doesn’t solely revolve around her added more depth to Tally’s character.

The first half of the book may not have enough action for those who only equate magic with wands. The amount of introspection may also be off putting for some readers. While I expect I would have enjoyed this book as a child I doubt I would have appreciated its beauty like I do now.

I am almost certain I felt my heart grow while I was reading and although I spent some of the book feeling sad at the loneliness and disconnect between the twins, I came away feeling better about the world. While difficult subjects were raised, there was still enough of a feeling of childhood innocence that I felt heartened by it. I loved the messages of hope and empowerment. I think what I’m going to take away from this book above all is the reminder that magic is both around and within you.

Favourite passage:

“Maybe that was what growing up was, understanding where the real magic lived in this world. Inside our very own hearts.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sky Pony Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Tempest and Tally Jo Trimble are mirror twins – so alike they were almost born the same person – and they’ve been inseparable since birth. But it’s the summer they turn thirteen, and it seems like everyone can tell something is changing between them. Pa Charlie, whose traveling carnival is the best part of every summer, is watching them closer than ever. Digger, who sneaks poor kids onto the carnival rides for free and smiles faster than anyone, seems to be fixing for a fight. Even Mama is acting different, refusing to travel with the carnival this year even though her own twin, who she hasn’t seen since childhood, will be there.

And Tally and Tempest are the most different of all. There’s a strangeness between them, a thickness to the air, an unseen push and pull, and it’s getting stronger. It starts as a feeling, but soon it’s sputtering and sparking, hurling them backwards, threatening to explode.

When Tally learns that she and Tempest may not be the first twins in their family to be separated by whatever this force is, she realizes she’ll have to find a way to stop it – or she might lose not only her sister, but everyone she loves.

Swirl #1: Pumpkin Spice Secrets – Hillary Homzie

A book with a name that includes a type of muffin and frappé, both of which feature in the book? Sold!

This is one of those cliché tween first crush books that follows the usual script:

  • Shy girl meets first crush / dreamy boy of her dreams.
  • Shy girl plans on gushing about dreamy to her outgoing friend.
  • Outgoing friend gets in first and tells shy girl about dreamy new crush.
  • Turns out dreamy 1 and dreamy 2 are actually the same boy. What’s a shy girl to do?!
  • Shy girl pretends not to be crushing on dreamy while internally cringing every time outgoing girl openly crushes.
  • Dreamy starts spending more time with shy girl and develops his own crush. Aargh! Panic stations!
  • Outgoing girl finds out she’s not the only girl in the world and some boys will actually like someone other than her. Oh, no! The sky’s falling!
  • Friend break up scene …
  • Drama, drama, drama.
  • Friends make up. Aww!
  • Shy girl and dreamy are free to live happily ever after – until one of them develops a new crush.

The moral of the story: If you can communicate openly and honestly you will never secure a leading role in a romance novel.

Snarky, anti-romance, I’m going to die alone surrounded by my cats sarcasm aside? This was actually quite a sweet story. Sure, I wanted to strangle shy girl and outgoing girl, and tell them to wake up to themselves and actually talk, but I accidentally enjoyed reading this one.

I loved that dreamy wasn’t a pretentious pretty boy. I liked that shy girl had an older sister who came through with some sisterly love and had a surprisingly rebellious attitude beneath her studious exterior. There’s a café in this book so major props for that. The school sounded like one I’d like to attend. I loved the birthday locker idea. The girls play soccer.

My favourite thing about this book is that the tweens actually acted their age, and even a tad younger sometimes. It bugs me when the 12 year olds are really 20 year old characters in disguise. The tweens in this book spoke and acted like kids. They didn’t sound like walking thesauruses. They got cranky and grounded. They planned sleepovers. There weren’t any drugs or tween sex or even any swearing that I can remember. It was just a really sweet book.

And did I mention the pumpkin spice muffins and pumpkin spice frappés with whipped cream, caramel swirls and sprinkles?? Yum! 😋 I definitely need to find more books with food items included in the title.

Favourite sentence:

“Mom doesn’t get angry very often, but when she does, she spews like a shaken-up soda can.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Sky Pony Press and Xpresso Book Tours for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Just as Maddie picks up her favorite pumpkin spice drink from the coffee shop counter, she spills it all over the cute guy standing behind her! Luckily, her embarrassment evaporates into a crush when she starts chatting with him – his name is Jacob, and he’s just starting in her grade at her middle school. 

But before Maddie can tell her best friend Jana about him at lunch the next day, Jana announces her huge new crush – on the same guy! Maddie doesn’t want to cause trouble, so she keeps her feelings hidden. Jana will get over her crush soon, right? 

Add major school stress to Maddie’s secret, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Can she keep her cool and work things out with both Jacob and Jana before it all turns into a total mess?