Penguin Teen Social 2019 - Recap (May 23, 2019)

Right before going to NYC for BEA/BookCon, I got to be at Penguin Teen Social event at Penguin Random House Canada HQ - effectively, kicking off my bookish 2 weeks. I was trying to write and upload this post before I left, but there was just too much happening!

I love going to book events in Canada as I get to see lots of bookish friends and bloggers! Not to mention get my hands on the newest releases. And this event was not an exception.

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Book review: "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake

The Uncrossing  

I received an e-ARC of "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake from Entangled Teen in exchange for a free and honest review.


The moment I saw this book available for request, I immediately hit ‘send’ button. Gay boys, curses, and magic? Hell yeah!

However, when I started reading the book, my excitement dampened.

Let’s start with the plot.




Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can't break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn't be falling for.


Jeremy's been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something's missing. Jeremy's family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it's tied to Jeremy.


This might be the one curse Luke can't uncross. If true love's kiss fails, what's left for him and Jeremy?




The synopsis sounds more coherent and put together than the book itself. I loved the idea of an urban fantasy set in a modern New York City. I loved that it was all about old curses and family secrets. However, I found the execution of this plot as well as world building rather weak. Magic system seems to be connected to spells, blood, and voodoo-like curses, but the limitations of the magic, or how each character does what they do, is never really explained.


"The Uncrossing" lacks exposition to the point that I had to go back a page or two to visualize what is happening. It took me some time to get used to the narration. It is not a poorly written book, but it has holes that often left me floundering and second-guessing what I am reading.


Luke and Jeremy though. Ah, those two are absolutely adorable. I enjoyed all the characters in the book, although the attempts at creating morally ambiguous and grey characters, like Andrei and Sergei, with this sort of jumpy narration have largely failed, in my opinion. I liked them both, but some aspects just missed the mark for me.


Problematic aspects


Even though the book is great when it comes to diversity, the choice of cultural background for the characters left me slightly confused. The Kovrovs are Russian, while the Melnyk family is Ukrainian-Creole. I can not speak for the Creole culture, but I can speak for the Eastern European part.


The portrayal of a rich and influential Russian mafia family (because let’s be honest, this is what the Kovrov family is) is so stereotypical for western society to the point of being mildly offensive. The Ukrainians are portrayed as hardworking but poor.


Besides mentioning a prayer in Russian or some Russian or Ukrainian words, without actually mentioning them in the text, the cultural background of both families is shown only in their given names and the mention of borscht in the first chapter - which, let me be absolutely clear, nobody would ever serve to an important guest as a meal neither in Russia nor in Ukraine, unless we are speaking of a rural Russia in the feudal times.


There are reviewers who love to throw around complaints about “cultural appropriation”, but in spite of my feelings on the subject, "The Uncrossing" is hardly damaging. I would have, however, appreciated a more meaningful portrayal of both cultures. Both Russian and Ukrainian folklore have enough depth to provide inspiration for any fantasy setting or magic system.


I had problems with the world building and magic system, mild issues with some of the characters, but I adored the romance part in the book, although it is usually the least favourite plotline for me. I also felt that the ending of the book was better thought through than some middle parts. I found myself more engaged in the book after I hit 50-60%.


It is a debut novel, so I hope that Melissa would produce more fiction in the future. Hopefully, it would also be about queer boys and magic. It was overall a fun read, even though it took some time to get used to the style. Recommend for the fans of the YA LGBT books, otherwise, you might find it boring.


Personal rating: 3.5 stars



My book reviews on my blog

Play review: My Night with Reg by Kevin Elyot (Mirvish)

My Night with Reg I watched "My Night with Reg" on February 24, almost by the end of the play’s run, which is unfortunate as I would have loved to see it again. This was one of those plays which I had on my list as something that I would like to see but it was nowhere near at the top. More so, I bought the ticket only because it was on sale on Boxing Day, since I am not too fond of Panasonic Theatre as a venue.

I also knew next to nothing about the play as I have never heard of it before but I did have an inkling that it might have something to do with LGBTQ+ community (I still have no idea how I guessed but here you go!). But then the show started its run, three actors of the main cast did a short interview during Morning Show on Global (which I watch faithfully every day), so it gave me a better understanding of what I was going to see. And I got excited.

It is a rather short, only one hour and a half long, chamber play. There is no intermission, however, there are three distinctive parts that span across several years. The transition is so quick that the audience is often left to wonder how much time has actually passed.


It is a play written by British playwright Kevin Elyot. The events take place within gay community in London in 1980s, when the threat of HIV/AIDS is on the rise. The story is about a group of close friends who go through love, heartbreak, betrayal, and death, somehow still maintaining their friendship. The central figure in the majority of conversations is a mysterious Reg, who never makes an appearance, but whose existence affects most of the characters in one way or another. In spite of a looming threat of terminal disease and occasional bouts of depression, the play is surprisingly funny and racy (plus, it includes full frontal nudity on stage - just saying!). There are a lot of tongue in cheek jokes, as well as jokes that might fly over the heads of those who are not part of LGBTQ+ community (I was sitting next to a couple who seemed to be confused throughout of the play), however, the problems that those guys face are universal and relatable.


I, personally, found the play both heartwarming and heartbreaking. All of the characters have their own secrets and troubles. The threat of HIV/AIDS is never discussed or mentioned explicitly, although it is being referred to more than once. There is also a mention of rape, which is sort of glossed over as well. I had a feeling as if the Guy’s apartment was some sort of a bubble in which they all encompassed themselves, trying to hide from the realities of death, disease and reality. This bubble, unfortunately, starts to crack as the play progresses and the friend face the deaths of their loved ones.


I think all the actors did an amazing job at playing their characters. If I had to pick my favourite, I would say that Daniel was probably my favourite. I stayed for a bit of Q&A at the end of the play, which provided a bit of more insight into the characters of Bernie and Benny.


I wish I had read the play before watching it but I am going to rectify it soon. This was the first time it was performed in Canada, but hopefully not the last time.


Personal rating: 4 stars




More of my theatre reviews