YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true? 



Title : You Should See Me In A Crown
Author : Leah Johnson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Scholastic Inc.
Release Date : June 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This isn’t quite the rating I had hoped to give this read but alas here we are. Don’t let the stars, or this lackluster intro sway you though; if you haven’t yet picked this one up, you totally should.

There’s a reason this book was all over the place a few months ago and that’s because this debut? Adorable. Truly. I honestly can’t say there was anything about the scope of this book that frustrated or upset me. It was just that I found little things within that chipped away at the overall enjoyment, or flow, and that’s why I can’t quite round up on this.

When you already feel like everything about you makes you stand out, it just makes more sense to find as many ways to blend in as you can.

Liz Lighty really goes through it. Over the past four years she’s taken on a certain role because of a fateful event in freshman year that lost her a friend. But, through her need for scholarship money which is the reason she tosses in her hat for prom queen, she ends up reuniting with said friend. At the same time her actual bestie is testing her by trying to over-control Liz’s campaigning. She’s also crushing on the new girl, but keeping it on the downlow because she’s not out, which is made even more complicated by the other girl also running for prom queen, and the rules being set out that the whole prom establishment allows for only male/female matchups. There’s also a sick brother, grief from losing a parent, and probably other things I’ve already forgotten. It’s a lot.

But, at the same time, it doesn’t feel like too much? It definitely has that Netflix/’90s teen movie treatment but there’s nothing really wrong with that. My minor frustrations mostly came about because I felt certain things got a lot of page time, others less than they should, and the pacing felt a little compromised in the lead up to the big climax when everything just gets a big convenient. But overall everything that Johnson put within the pages? Great. And actually, up until the inevitable break up (it’s not even a spoiler, people, we know this happens), the romance was probably my favourite part. The adorable sweetness was unreal. Even the villains of the piece and the ridiculous homophobic rhetoric within the school wasn’t too grating to be unpalatable. Everything really did work.

So basically what this means, or what I think it means, is that if Johnson can do this for a first book? Her sophomore release will likely be a smash.

Definitely recommend.

WATCH OVER ME by Nina LaCour

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.



Title : Watch Over Me
Author : Nina LaCour
Format : hardback
Page Count : 272
Genre : contemporary / mystery / magical realism
Publisher : Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 15, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

Right off the bat, I have to say : if you’re longing to fill a hole left by The Haunting of Bly Manor, I think you should absolutely pick this book up.

This story is less about jump scares and actual ghosts, though, and is more about being haunted by your own past, your own memories, and the grief we all carry around that follows us throughout our lives. It might actually be the perfect kind of fall/spooky read for those who really can’t handle big spooks, scares, or horror. This is more melancholy than anything else.

I feel the length of the read, which was short, both worked for it and against it. You want to know so much more, want some clarity (or at least I did..), and yet I wonder if more explanation, more time, would’ve ruined some of the magic of it all. It’s obviously hard to say.

This is not a new favourite read, though it is my first by this author and definitely won’t be my last, but it did satisfy that craving for more Bly Manor as well as leave me feeling a whole bunch of things. I don’t know if I can quite parse all said feelings but I felt them anyway.

If you want something haunting and heartbreaking, lovely and lonely, strange and sad, with a found family dynamic for those who have been cast adrift, look no further.

BIRTHDAY GIRL by Penelope Douglas

He took me in when I had nowhere else to go. He doesn’t use me, hurt me, or forget about me. He listens to me, protects me, and sees me. I can feel his eyes on me over the breakfast table, and my heart pumps so hard when I hear him pull in the driveway after work. 

I have to stop this. It can’t happen. 

My sister once told me there are no good men, and if you find one, he’s probably unavailable. Only Pike Lawson isn’t the unavailable one. 
I am. 

PIKE

I took her in, because I thought I was helping. As the days go by, though, it’s becoming anything but easy. I have to stop my mind from drifting to her and stop holding my breath every time I bump into her in the house. I can’t touch her, and I shouldn’t want to. 

But we’re not free to give into this. She’s nineteen, and I’m thirty-eight. 

And her boyfriend’s father. 

Unfortunately, they both just moved into my house.


Title : Birthday Girl
Author : Penelope Douglas
Format : eBook
Page Count : 407
Genre : romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 17, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I suppose this one is on me because I’m not really sure what else I expected when I picked up BIRTHDAY GIRL.

If what you want is a slowburn romance that leans into the taboo of not only an age gap but also the “wanting my boyfriend’s dad/wanting my son’s girlfriend” angle, I’m sure you could probably do much worse than this. However..

I’m not sure the characterizations were all that consistent. With maybe the one exception, surprisingly enough, being the nineteen year old protagonist. She was mature for her age, she was pretty focused, she was weathered by disappointment and experience (not the good kind) which gave her perspective and some gravitas. But she also had moments of being impulsive and.. maybe bratty is harsh but young. And it felt true to form. The thirty-nine year old older man, however? Way less consistent. And also didn’t remotely feel his age. But maybe that was purposeful to like.. make him more accessible and lend him that air of being younger than he seemed? Take the edge off both sides of the equation by mentally aging her up and then also mentally making him a little.. not young but. I don’t know how to explain it. And lastly, to round out the main trio (even though we didn’t get his POV), there was the boyfriend. A pretty inconsiderate person all around, his behaviour worse considering how he was treating not just someone who was supposed to be a friend first but also the person you love, and the abrupt pivot at the end with the magical fix? Eye roll. So, really, I only liked Jordan and basically thought both men unworthy of her.

Additionally, this story has a bunch of outside drama, too, incase the (actually relatively low, considering..) angst from the above wasn’t enough for you. We have evil exes (one also violent because why not), on both sides of the relationship, and all the drama that comes from a small town with nosy neighbours and the down on their luck or straight up trashy residents. Which I guess explains why so many people have excuses for their bad behaviour? I don’t know.

I guess overall I just expected something more? In the sense that this didn’t feel as edgy or taboo as I expected. It felt rather standard as far as romances go, just with an age gap. But as much as I wanted more, I also maybe wanted a little less. This felt a bit long.

So, yeah, not remotely a homerun for my first time reading Douglas but both this and PUNK 57 come recommended by so many people. So I’ll still be giving that a try before assuming we’re not a good fit.

THE GUY ON THE LEFT by Kate Stewart

It started with a lie. A night of blurred lines between a teacher and a student. 

I wasn’t her student, yet it was the single most defining night of my life. 

I’ve never been the man she thinks I am. 

Most people have no idea about the life I’ve lived or the words that ring true when it comes to me—still waters run deep. 

But you’d be hard-pressed to find a coed on the TGU campus who knows otherwise…because I’ve never corrected them. 

The clock is ticking down, it’s Fourth and Inches with the ball inside the one-yard line and the focus is on me, The Guy on the Left. I’ve never felt like a football god, inside I’m…just Troy. 

It’s time to set the record straight. 

For my son, I‘ll find the strength. 

In her eyes, I’m determined to gain redemption. 

I will have them both, even if I have to take my eye off the ball. 

All books in the series can be read as a stand-alone. 



Title : The Guy On The Left
Author : Kate Stewart
Series : Underdogs (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 429
Genre : romance
Publisher : KLS Press
Release Date : December 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5



Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I was warned by some that book two in this series wasn’t on par with book one. But I’m not sure I expected it to be.. this.

I’m sorry to say there wasn’t a single thing in this that I enjoyed. Not the drama (of which there was a lot), not the characters, not the soap opera-style dialogue without any sense of actual emotion fueling them, just words thrown around, not the stalking-because-I-care behaviour that no one ever acknowledged was a problem (seriously he did this for years and at one point references hanging outside a window to listen to a baby cry.. like, wow, no), the back and forth rehashing of the same problems over and over again even though you thought you’d kind of resolved it the chapter before but surprise nope, the really annoying child character (I swear I got over this and found myself enjoying the young precocious child character concept but this one? nah..) .. I could go on.

Troy has always been diligent with his stalking. But can it really considered stalking when it’s your own child you’re watching over? I decide it can’t. <– this is from the female protagonist’s perspective. I hate it.

Everything I liked in book one was missing to the point that I truly don’t understand how this is the same series much less the same author. Was I drunk? Punked? I’m mostly being a shit but honestly, it makes you wonder.

I’ve already deleted this off my kindle and we’re just going to pretend it never happened. I think the third book is the final in this series but I’ve already side eyed some reviews, one from someone who warned me about book two but more telling are reviews by those who loved books one AND two, so that’s not reassuring. Completionist in me wants to wrap this up but considering I wanted to DNF this like twelve times.. the odds don’t look great. We’ll see. It won’t be soon, that’s all I’m saying. I would still recommend book one. But, as of right now, treat it as a one and done.

INSTANT KARMA by Marissa Meyer

In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate. 



Title : Instant Karma
Author : Marissa Meyer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary / magical realism
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : November 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 2 stars review

It’s not like I asked for this gift, so I figure I must’ve done something to deserve it.

So, full disclosure, I didn’t remember requesting this and when it popped up for download I did experience some minor trepidation. I’m not sure why. I just wasn’t sure about this one, even knowing as little about it as I did, so again, why on earth did I click? I blame quarantine brain.

I can punish and I can reward. It makes perfect sense. I’d just been so eager to right wrongs before that I hadn’t considered how karma flows in two directions.

And ultimately I guess my gut instinct was right. But not quite to the extent I expected. Because Prudence? Completely and utterly insufferable — even before she’s given the power to award and punish those around her for situations she infers at a glance. No context, no understandings, just snap judgments and bam, a bird shits on your car, bam you fall and break a leg, bam a baby pukes on your feet, and on and on. The reward element of her magical powers are very underutilized as is to be expected from someone who assumes she knows all and not only has a right to judge others but has somehow earned it.

So you’re officially volunteering at an animal rescue centre for the next month. How very selfless of you, dear Prudence.”
Hey, I can be selfless.
I know you can, but don’t you see the irony? You’re only doing this for the grade.
So? Actions make a person good, not motives.”
I’m not sure I agree with that.”

^^ additionally the irony is Prudence’s whole argument definitely feeds into her delusion of thinking she knows best. But also.. doesn’t the fact that she’s directing the universe to work through her to punish others also mean her actions, despite her motives, make her a bad person?

The frustrating thing is there was such a lovely element to this story, which thankfully did take up a lot of page time and is what kept me reading, regarding the animal rescue centre and all the animals requiring care and rehabilitation and, occasionally and happily, even a return to the wild. There is a big emphasis on the environment and conservation and protection of animals, both those in the wild but also farming practices and the meat industry too. It worked to ground the story, yes, but was also a nice distraction from everything else.

Ultimately, though, even though Prudence undergoes many little epiphanies and realizations that she’s erred in judging others, I’m just not sure she ever really overcame where she started from. I liked Quint, the love interest, but do not think he deserved half of what he put up with. Though he did have a line regarding his feelings towards Pru that summed it up perfectly, I think. I won’t spoil it though. It’s worth experiencing in the moment.

And, to make matters worse, there ended up being a person who deserved true karmic justice and ultimately didn’t get it. So after putting up with all Prudence’s choices for the whole book, when she finally gets the chance to make an informed decision and enact justice and retribution — even though I don’t agree with someone having that kind of power, particularly an entitled sixteen year old — the one person who does deserve it? Doesn’t get it. Arg.

This definitely wasn’t a win. It wasn’t quite terrible. But it definitely skirted the line for me. It was frustrating, and there were a few too many things left unresolved, but it wasn’t toss-the-book-across-the-room rage inducing. Plus, the image of big eyed seals are keeping me from rating this any lower. So, thank the seals.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

HAVOC & HAPPINESS by Wren Handman

Michaela Peters didn’t let dying get her down.

After all, it was only for a few minutes, and the hospital paid her a huge settlement. Now she’s an emancipated minor with nine million dollars in the bank and her entire future ahead of her. Life could be a heck of a lot worse!

Michaela moves to Montana, determined to enjoy the queer high-school drama that life is serving up. Instead, she finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a fight between horrible monsters that shift with a person’s imagination, and the gorgeous trigger-happy siblings who hunt them. The problem? She seems to be able to destroy the monsters with a thought, but the hunters haven’t decided which side she’s on. 



Title : Havoc & Happiness
Author : Wren Handman
Series : Agathi Adventure (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 290
Genre : YA paranormal / LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wandering Roots
Release Date : October 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

The easiest way to pitch this book is Supernatural meets Kaylee, from Firefly, if she was queer.. and also sixteen. Look, the pitch isn’t perfect but that’s the vibe. Our main character is a relentlessly cheerful and hopeful human and honestly if Kaylee isn’t the first person you think of, who is? But I digress.

Michaela, the protagonist of HAVOC & HAPPINESS, has been dealt a hand that would bring lesser humans low. And somehow she keeps on going, and with a smile on her face. Add to that the fact that she’s left the foster system, emancipated herself, and willingly thrown herself into a new school, trying to make new friends, all while living on her own. Said new school comes with plenty of drama.. even before she stumbles across a dead body and the siblings who are hunting the thing that did the killing.

The Supernatural vibes are strong in this one but it’s balanced by the total opposite of that show’s dark and brutal aesthetic. The tone is light even as it tackles heavy topics like grief, abandonment, and a few other things I don’t want to mention because spoilers, and as a bonus it’s also diverse af.

Also? This is the first book in what might be a trilogy, but I think will actually be a duology. So if you’re looking for a new paranormal series to lose yourself in that’s got a healthy portion of romance, angst, trying to find one’s place in a world that is more complex than at first glance, as well as the strangeness of monster hunting stakeouts, all while balancing homework and highschool parties, this would be one to try!

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.



Title : The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author : Taylor Jenkins Reid
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 402
Genre : contemporary / historical / LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Washington Square Press
Release Date : June 13, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated



Hollis’ unrated review

Yep, we’re doing this unrated thing again. Because I don’t know how to feel.

Sure, I’m getting out of a slump. Sure, the world is bouncing back — in part — from something awful, and that offers much distraction. And sure, life is kind of terrible right now. But. I still don’t think that impacted this read as much as I wish it had.

I like you impure and scrappy and formidable. I like the Evelyn Hugo who sees the world for what it is and then goes out there and wrestles what she wants out of it.

At first I thought I was just struggling with the character in the contemporary timeline. I didn’t like her at the beginning and didn’t like her at the end and she doesn’t offer up much in the middle so it doesn’t count. But just when I thought I would be trading in my like, and my fascination, of Evelyn into love.. it didn’t quite go that way.

You have worked so hard for a life so grand. And now all you want are the smallest freedoms. The daily peace of loving plainly.

I appreciate, and respect, that TJR wrote complicated women in this story. And there’s nothing wrong with finding a person, man OR woman, hard to love. But compounded by so many things, one of which was the drama, it was a lot. Reading of the struggles of queer people, of wanting to be part of the Stonewall riots, particularly in today’s climate, though? The struggles with identity, both in race and orientation, it all hits so hard. And feels very close. A lot of this, I think, was well done; though I don’t have a stake in either so my opinion means little. But it felt tangible. Heavy. But I kept waiting for an emotional connection and it never landed. Maybe it was the writing. Maybe it was just the Too Much of it all. I don’t know.

You do not know how fast you have been running, how hard you have been working, how truly exhausted you are, until someone stands behind you and says, “it’s okay, you can fall down now. I’ll catch you”

I am happy to have been pulled out of the world for a bit. I was wonderfully and totally distracted for a few hours. And I love that this book means so much to so many people and is out there doing so much for so many. I’m sad I’m not one of them. But don’t let this deter you. If you’re one of the handful of others still to read this? I still think you should pick it up.

THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. 

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.


Title : The Inheritance Games
Author : Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series : The Inheritance Games (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 322
Genre : YA contemporary / mystery
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

If you’ve read a book by this author before, you will absolutely feel at home picking this one up. Barnes has a style that feels very familiar even if her plots vary. At first, though, I’ll admit this gave me a bit more than just a familiar vibe with the ‘girl uprooted and thrown into wealthy family dynamic’ concept which we saw in both the the Fixer and the Debutantes series but shortly after the introduction of said trope it this diverges into it’s own story, just like the other books did. Plus, I mean, that does seem to be Barnes’ preferred way of kicking things off. It’s definitely on brand. And that’s not a complaint.

I am currently looking at a picture of Jameson Hawthorne. Gotta say. He’s faxable.
Max!
I’m just saying, he looks like he knows his way around a fax machine. He’s probably really great at dialing the numbers. I bet he’s even faxed long distance.”
I have no idea what you’re even talking about anymore.”

This read completely sucked me in for the span of an afternoon and that’s another thing readers familiar with this author know to expect. Not only does she plot out a tense thriller but her books are compulsively readable and often a lot of fun even when the stakes are high. She also loves to torment her protagonists by bouncing them off a variety of personas and we definitely had those, too. I definitely felt this particular group was appropriate not only for the circumstances but also as a result of their upbringing but I’ll admit I wasn’t quite won over by them. I think it felt like they were trying too hard to lean into their archetype and I never quite bought it. I liked those more on the periphery, connected to the family but not the actual players, like the main lawyer liason and the bodyguard (and maybe because those two were often in the same scenes? hard to know!), but overall this might’ve been my least favourite ensemble from this author; at least from the last few releases. But the excitement of the thrills, the mystery, the games? I was hooked.

[it’s] not a figment of Thea’s delightfully vindictive imagination.”
Xander.”
I said she was delightfully vindictive.
If I were a boy, people would just call me driven.
Thea.”
Right. No feminism at the dinner table.”

Barnes does mix things up with the romance, however. She’s known for little to almost no romance in many of her stories and this one.. well, there’s an element. I’ve never minded the lack of it because I’ve always found Barnes’ stories to be strong enough to not need that as a distraction but I was totally open for seeing where things might go. And sadly I think this might’ve been a case akin to going from abstaining to.. overdoing it. Not in content but in abstract. I don’t what to spoil to how or why but it’s not my favourite trope and because of not really being sold on the characters themselves, either..? It didn’t help matters. But I’m open to seeing where this goes because of course I’m excited for a follow up and to see what is in store for these characters after certain final-chapter reveals. Because you know this isn’t the end of the secrets or the game.

I knew better than to put any confidence in the assurances of good-looking guys.

This twisty story definitely keeps you guessing, almost right up to the end, and the sheer craftiness of the method of the unveiling is unreal. But the message at the heart of it? You won’t expect it.

I will forever mourn the unfinished Fixer series but as long as Barnes keeps setting new books out in the world? I’ll be happy.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

CHECK, PLEASE! BOOK 2 : STICKS & SCONES by Ngozi Ukazu

Eric Bittle is heading into his junior year at Samwell University, and not only does he have new teammates―he has a brand new boyfriend! Bitty and Jack must navigate their new, secret, long-distance relationship, and decide how to reveal their relationship to friends and teammates. And on top of that, Bitty’s time at Samwell is quickly coming to an end…It’s two full hockey seasons packed with big wins and high stakes!

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life. 


Title : Check, Please! Book Two : Sticks & Scones
Author : Ngozi Ukazu
Series : Check, Please! (book two/volumes three & four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ sports graphic novel
Publisher : First Second
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I’m not sure how I managed to be oblivious to the fact that this was the final installment but.. I was. And I’m so sad about it.

But nonetheless this was such a sweet, wonderful, way to end this series made up of pure wholesome hockey fun. Even though we had some much bigger moments overall, I still think I liked book one a little more. This one did definitely feel a bit more real, though, as in with real stakes and real coming outs, among other things, and I loved it for that serious foundation.

I really don’t have a lot to say. This is soft, pure, laugh out loud delight, with baking, romance, coming of age and also coming into into your own. Also.. hockey. You should definitely read it.

GROWN by Tiffany D. Jackson

Korey Fields is dead.

When Enchanted Jones wakes with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night, no one—the police and Korey’s fans included—has more questions than she does. All she really knows is that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Korey was Enchanted’s ticket to stardom.

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted was an aspiring singer, struggling with her tight knit family’s recent move to the suburbs while trying to find her place as the lone Black girl in high school. But then legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots her at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight.

Enchanted is dazzled by Korey’s luxurious life but soon her dream turns into a nightmare. Behind Korey’s charm and star power hides a dark side, one that wants to control her every move, with rage and consequences. Except now he’s dead and the police are at the door. Who killed Korey Fields?

All signs point to Enchanted.


Title : Grown
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : ARC
Page Count : 380
Genre : YA contemporary/mystery
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : September 15, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This book is a hard one to rate for me for a few reasons. One being this just feels.. too real. It’s fiction, yes, and the author stresses in her foreword that this is not about R. Kelly.. but we’re all drawing those paralells anyway. And a result it toes that line between fiction and reality a little too closely for me to feel 100% comfortable rating it. But I will.

This book was brutal at times but also very strong. You watch as Enchanted is awed by the attention and praise of a super star. Is won over by his charm. How harmless innocent texting eventually changes tone. How opportunity becomes a cage. The manipulations, the abuse, the gaslighting, the isolation.. it’s hard. It’s tough.

We open up on the aftermath of all this, not knowing quite what has happened to get us there, when Enchanted wakes up to find her abuser, the superstar, is dead. I expected a bit of a whoddunnit, the uncertainty, because if you’ve read a Jackson before you know things can be twisty and fluid. But then things took an even stranger turn and that’s where I feel this lost some of its impact. I think there were too many elements being juggled — murder mystery, the grooming and abuse of power, and straight up abuse, the.. other element, I don’t quite want to mention for fear of spoilers, mental health, and then also the very relevant, and worthy, social commentary regarding why women don’t come forward; but more specifically why Black women are treated differently than white women when they do. It’s a lot. So much of it is important. But I think tackling so much affected some pacing, affected some character development (I wish Enchanted had felt more solid prior to everything that happened to her), and even though I was riding some of the highs (and I don’t mean in a good way but in the sense I couldn’t look away) and the lows (I teared up bad at one scene), and I hated everything that was going on, so was clearly affected on a visceral level, I just feel a half-step out of sync with the whole experience as things came to a head.

What I didn’t expect from this book, but which did give this a very well-rounded feeling, were some sorta mixed media elements and snippets that really felt perfect for the way the events of this book unfolded. I don’t quite want to spoil what these elements are or look like but I liked them.

I definitely think if you can handle the subject matter (please look for trigger warnings, many lovely reviewers on GR have listed them in their reviews; but also you can see them for yourself in the beginning of the book itself), you should read this. I also encourage you to seek out reviews by #ownvoices reviewers as their opinions and feelings should definitely get priority over mine.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **