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Warrior Princess.

That’s what Nigeria’s father calls her. He’s raised her as part of the Movement, a Black separatist group based in Philadelphia. Nigeria is homeschooled and vegan and participates in traditional rituals that connect her and other kids from the group to their ancestors. But when her mother—the perfect matriarch to their Movement—disappears, Nigeria’s world is upended. She finds herself taking care of her baby brother and stepping into a role she doesn’t want.

Nigeria’s mother had secrets. She wished for a different life for her children, which includes sending her daughter to a private Quaker school outside of their strict group. Despite her father’s disapproval, Nigeria attends the school with her cousin, Kamau, and Sage, who used to be a friend. There, she slowly begins to blossom and expand her universe.

As Nigeria searches for her mother, she starts to uncover a shocking truth. One that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew about her life and her family.

From award-winning author Ibi Zoboi comes a searing, powerful coming-of-age story about discovering who you are in the world—and fighting for that person—by having the courage to remix the founding tenets of your life to be your own revolution.

Title : Nigeria Jones
Author : Ibi Zoboi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : May 9, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated

Hollis’ unrated review

Here I am, once again, coming out of a read by Zoboi that I was so excited for.. and just not feeling any of that excitement by the end of it all. I think maybe, as much as I’m enthralled by the author, excited by what they are putting out in the world, it’s just maybe not meant to be for me.

I was lucky enough to attend an event and see Zoboi speak, and speak particularly about this book, and I was just star struck. I was so hooked by how they described this story, this journey, and how it related to them personally, and I was desperate to read it. So ending up here, with this result, is a bummer.

A lot of what Zoboi has done with this story is put the usual tropes of similar journeys on their head and flipped them. This isn’t the slow understanding of injustice and systemic racism and oppression. This is from the point of view of someone who has lived and breathed this knowledge since infancy. Equally, instead of being someone who has broken down barriers and been integrated into a predominantly white school system, Nigeria’s father is actively trying to keep her out of said school because it is, well, a system. And instead he wants to her remain homeschooled with the eventual goal of realizing the Movement, allowing for a curriculum, and a safe space, untouched by white society and structure.

My father doesn’t want to change the world; he wants to create his own world.

But not free of the patriarchy, as Nigeria soon comes to realize.

Despite how interesting all of this was, I found myself hard pressed to push through this book. Despite the sympathy and concern and, well, rage, I felt for Nigeria, I was at equal turns frustrated and put off by her, too. I don’t know if it was the rougher cut of the ARC or how she was meant to be read but she flipflopped a lot from one mentality to the next and maybe that’s understandable with how she was raised vs what she was experiencing but it was very inconsistent. Equally, with all this heaviness, I struggled to connect or at least enjoy the characters, any character, and I’m not sure I found a single one. Maybe KD? Or maybe she was the one I liked because she was easy to like. I don’t know.

I also wasn’t all that surprised by the ‘twist’, if we can call it that, and I just kept waiting for that shoe to drop.

I don’t know, I’m all mixed about this one. So I’m taking the easy way out and leaving this unrated. I am sad about this result but I’m hopeful this was just a case of wrong time for me to read this or maybe, again, I’m just not able to connect with the author’s words despite loving their concepts. So I definitely would not discourage you from picking this up, in fact it’s the opposite. I highly recommend you give this a go. Because frustration with Nigeria’s character and circumstance aside, it’s a whole new perspective on a similar story and I think it’s incredibly important.

[..] where do we draw a line between the harmful ideas our loved ones perpetuate and our own journeys to find meaning and truth in the world?

And hey maybe I wasn’t supposed to enjoy it, just learn from it. And I did. But I also like to enjoy my reads and sadly, as I didn’t, well, here we are.

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


What if marriage was the law? Dare you disobey?

Britain. The near-future. A right-wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills — the Sanctity of Marriage Act, which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single.

But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives — monitoring every word, every minor disagreement — and will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honor and obey.

Title : The Marriage Act
Author : John Marrs
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : dystopian / sci-fi / thriller
Publisher : Hanover Square Press
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★

Hollis’ 2 star review

This might very well be a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing because I was so hooked by this premise but so little of it satisfied. Infact, I found the whole thing to be bleak and un-fun. And yes, I mean, if you read the plot you might think of course it’s bleak, of course it won’t be fun, but I think there could’ve been a way to have all these themes, these events, and not come away feeling as I do.

Naturally, we aren’t about to root for the system that’s been set-up in this near-future world. But you’d think we would have some characters, or some situations, to root for. Except the only one who was really deserving.. well. He has the most heartbreaking plotline. Everyone else, even those who weren’t sociopaths or narcissists, they were all somehow complicit or hypocritical and while there’s something to be said for shades of grey, complicated personas, well.. yeah. I guess there’s something to be said. But not here.

Because much of what is found in his society, the Smart devices, the Smart homes, etc, already exists in ours, it’s not hard to make the leap that the rest could one day be true, too. Already we see the push to control others, to dictate what’s acceptable, so why wouldn’t this be the next step? It does make you think. But I guess I expected to feel something, too. And I didn’t.

I think if you like an Orwellian dystopian world, especially one that feels just a half-step away, with various POVs that slowly overlap in subtle ways, you might enjoy this. And while I can’t count myself among them, I try this author again.

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

HOW HIGH WE GO IN THE DARK by Sequoia Nagamatsu

For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague—a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice.

Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.

Once unleashed, the Arctic Plague will reshape life on earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

Title : How High We Go In The Dark
Author : Sequoia Nagamatsu
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 304
Genre : sci-fi / dystopian
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 4 star review

The moment you check-in your hold before remembering you were supposed to go back and write down all your favourites parts of the collection..

Because even though these are more like companion pieces, vignettes, of a whole story, they still do feel like their own separate entities. They connect in more than just the overall plot, as a character referenced in one might have their own story next, and again, and again. Each tackled something a little different for this world, and these people, going through a pandemic. Unlike ours, theirs seemed almost supernatural, science-fiction, and eventually they do progress to leaving Earth and traveling amongst the stars. 

So, yeah, big red flag here : this is a pandemic novel so if you aren’t ready for that, stay far away.

But as initially mentioned, some of these stories were so so great. In fact, the first handful of them were absolute standouts. A few along the way were fine, interesting, but it was the early ones that really hit me emotionally. And near the end things got really unexpected and I enjoyed that, too.

I will absolutely be reading this author again and I’m so glad this somehow ended up on my radar.

IMOGEN, OBVIOUSLY by Becky Albertalli

With humor and insight, #1 New York Times bestseller Becky Albertalli explores the nuances of sexuality, identity, and friendship. 

Imogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she’s got the World’s Greatest Ally title locked down.

She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili—newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends.

Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen’s all in.

Even if that means bending the truth, just a little.

Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero—not even Lili’s best friend, Tessa.

Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with. . .

Title : Imogen, Obviously
Author : Becky Albertalli
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 3 star review

This is somewhat of a painful book. Painful because of what Imogen goes through with the self-doubt (exacerbated by a friend who does not behave in understanding ways for the majority of their interactions) but also painful because it’s so heavily inspired by what the author herself went through. And so many others, in fact, who were forced to come out to be seen as an acceptable voice or presence in queer spaces.

This book is basically what it’s like to exist online these days. All the discourse, the critiques, the questioning (in mostly negative ways), it’s all in here. But thankfully there’s also the other side, too. The found family, the acceptance, the reassurance, and the joy. I hope readers, of all ages, find some comfort in those bits. Because they were lovely.

Gretchen, though, wow. She was exhausting. I literally had to put the book down as the diner scene was ramping up because I knew it would be awful. I knew it would be bad. My blood pressure was spiked. But it’s a true portrayal. Gretchens exist. And they aren’t always coming from a bad place; her backstory was a perfect example of that. And while I highlighted a few bits I think this is the one that stands out the most and is what I hope most people come away realizing :

Maybe shared experiences shouldn’t be the foundation at all. Maybe it should be a promise to hold space for variation.

I wish this book had a been a little less pointed. But I think it comes from a place where it was hard not to be. But it was equally hard at times to get through this; maybe because of the authenticity. There were a lot of feelings. Not all of them good. Which is fine, it’s real. It just made me glad there were silly heart-eyes moments of sweetness with the texts. But being in Imogen’s head, being suffocated by certain forces around her, yeah, it’s a lot. She’s so busy being the perfect ally, the straight friend, that she’s never given the opportunity, or the space, to explore anything more. Until college changes everything. But even then, it’s not smooth sailing.

Which, hey, this is another recent YA read that is actually in the imminently-leaving-for-college and early-days-college stage and can I say? I like this trend of moving outside of the highschool box.

It’s so important for this story to exist, much in the way of Red, White & Royal Blue with Alex’s journey with his sexuality, and so many others I am completely blanking on at the moment, because knowing that it’s safe to come out, to be fluid, to evolve, at any time, at any age, is.. well, important. There is no one singular experience. And I hope this is helpful for anyone who might need to hear that right now.

I would definitely recommend this but would caution you that it is, as I’ve said, hard to read sometimes (maybe about fifty/fifty in the good and not so good bits). Though not likely any worse than scrolling through twitter these days. Just bear that in mind before you get distracted and swoony over that bi-you-tiful cover.

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

THE LAKE HOUSE by Sarah Beth Durst

Claire’s grown up triple-checking locks. Counting her steps. Second-guessing every decision. It’s just how she’s wired – her worst-case scenarios never actually come true.

Until she arrives at an off-the-grid summer camp to find a blackened, burned husk instead of a lodge – and no survivors, except her and two other late arrivals: Reyva and Mariana.

When the three girls find a dead body in the woods, they realize none of this is an accident. Someone, something, is hunting them. Something that hides in the shadows. Something that refuses to let them leave.

Title : The Lake House
Author : Sarah Beth Durst
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA thriller / horror
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : April 25, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 2.75 (rounded up) star review

This definitely didn’t go any place I expected based on the pitch I heard (which was more vague than the synopsis) or the vibe of the cover. So in that way I think this’ll definitely surprise you along the way.

Part survivalist, part mystery, part horror, The Lake House focuses on three young girls, all with their own battles, who have to stick together and survive not only in some extreme conditions and circumstances in the wild but also outsmart, and outwit, an added element of danger as well.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this one. I enjoyed it as I read it, though I maybe would’ve liked it more if it was more straight-forward in the sense of the real conflict behind everything that was going on, but I appreciated the characters and their strengths, their determination, and their connection. Having said that, I’m not sure I’ll remember much of this in a few months, even despite the element that otherwise would make this memorable, but that’s okay.

If you enjoy a good mystery mashed up with uncertainty and survival, this might be the read for you!

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

IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS by T.J. Klune – double review!

New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune invites you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe. 

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans. 

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming. 

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached? 

Inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, and like Swiss Family Robinson meets Wall-EIn the Lives of Puppets is a masterful stand-alone fantasy adventure from the beloved author who brought you The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door.

Title : In The Lives of Puppets
Author : T.J. Klune
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy / sci-fi
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : April 25, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 2 star review

I really didn’t think I’d be coming out of one of my most anticipated releases feeling so.. ambivalent. Unmoved. But here we are.

I definitely didn’t hate it but despite some quirky side-characters gadding about with the usual Klune-style hijinks it is, unfortunately, unmemorable. I’ve definitely struggled with some of this authors’ work in the past (notably, in fact, said struggles were with the series that I constantly saw parallels of while reading this book) but even those stand out in a variety of ways. This one? Honestly, it doesn’t. It’s already starting to fade and I literally just put it down.

However, I’ll say that if you enjoyed the Verania series? I think you’ll have a better time than I did. The more outlandish humour that exists in those books has been absent from the last few (trad) releases but I finally saw some of it filtering through these characters. It was occasionally funny, especially in the beginning, and then I got tired. The same way Verania tired me out. And in fact it felt like the same character ensemble dynamic — even if I did enjoy these character archetypes more, particularly in the case of Nurse Ratched (though would I be saying the same if we were five books deep with the same shtick? unlikely because, again, I was tired well before the end of just one book). Maybe another reason this didn’t work.

But truthfully, I think it was more than just the fifty shades of Verania. Or a combination of the two. Because for a book so focused on hearts, I didn’t feel much of it. Heart, I mean. I never connected with the emotional beats of the story, I never connected with Victor who was our only lens to live through, and when it’s all said and done I have no idea where these characters go from here. A story doesn’t really need a purpose or a finite ending but I feel like some direction might’ve helped here, especially as the plot was so.. light.

There are definitely some lovely bits mixed in with the outlandish, Klune certainly knows how to turn a phrase, and there was some interesting dialogue about humanity and flaws and acceptance, but sadly it all just kind of bounced off me. I could acknowledge the funny, the sweet, the whatever, and then, poof, moment over. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the problem.

While I’m (sadly) not able to climb aboard the hype train for this release, if you’re looking for something that’s an homage (though less than I expected..) to Pinocchio, with more The Brave Little Toaster than I’ve seen since the nineties, seasoned by a pinch of Frankenstein, a dash of Wall-E, and a splash of The Monk and The Robot.. or you’re just another Klunatic willing to devour anything by this author (no judgment here, I am one of you!), I would definitely not want to scare you away from giving this a go. This might very well satisfy — or, to stick with the robot theme, hit all your buttons. And I hope it does.

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

Micky’s 4 star review

Quirky, HAPpy and sad
Found family (of course)
A story of halves

If In the Lives of Puppets leaves me with one impression it’s the found family goodness that is Klune’s signature move and he does it so well. This family however was the weirdest yet, one that really grew on me and dragged me on board with the whiplash dialogue.

This was a story of two halves, the first half I adored, the second half was less engaging as the characters moved from a take on Pinnochio to what felt like the Wizard of Oz to me. When the story completed and came full circle, it brought satisfaction (mostly) in culmination. It wasn’t wrapped in a bow but it was enough.

The characters in this book were special. Vic at the centre but the pages were equally shared with Gio, Nurse Ratched (my personal favourite), Rambo and Hap. There were so many highlights and laugh out loud moments with Nurse Ratched; I loved her demented banter.

“I’m old enough to be your motherboard. Please do not flirt with me if you do not mean it.”

There were themes gently behind the whole tale about humanity, the direction we’re moving, what humanity strives for and overall about kindness. Klune never preaches, he just cleverly crafts the words.

Overall, this was a truly interesting standalone from Klune and one I will remember.

Thank you to Tor Books for the review copy.

YOURS TRULY by Abby Jimenez

A novel of terrible first impressions, hilarious second chances, and the joy in finding your perfect match from “a true talent” (Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.

And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse. 

Title : Yours Truly
Author : Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : April 11, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75

Hollis’ 3.75 star review

Yes, that’s right, I’m being picky with this rating. But lemme explain.

First of all, though we do start off a bit awkwardly — it felt like I was missing a chapter or had jumped in mid-chapter when this book kicked off — I was pretty invested by, oh, chapter three. Rocky start or no, Jimenez hooks you and once she’s got her claws in you, she doesn’t let go. And Yours Truly was no exception.

I’ll admit, I do feel like she made Bri go too hard on the dislike button for Jacob with the initial anti-meet-cute but thankfully we don’t spend too long in that phase. We get into the good stuff pretty soon. And the good stuff? Letter writing. Be still my heart!

But not because they were ooey gooey emosh word vomits, oh no. They were sweet, observational, anecdotal, and funny. Which should come as no surprise because this author knows how to turn a phrase. There were multiple times, even in the non-epistolary portion of the story, where I found myself laughing. Which wasn’t even the best part.

The best part? The yearning. The pining. The slowburn. But oh was it slooOoOoOw. Which leads me into the bit I disliked. It was too long. The misunderstandings which veered into miscommunications (due to lack of communications) definitely started to harsh my buzz. I was worried we were going to have an MZ situation on our hands and we’d get the resolution and kiss at 98%. It wasn’t quite that dire but we got close! And honestly it dragged too long. Especially considering what came after. Buzz. Kill.

Truthfully, the last 15%, emotional as it was, took some of the wind out of my sails and I couldn’t quite recover. There was some important emotional dialogue, specifically I’m thinking of one scene between Jacob and his mother, but it all crashed together too soon and too quickly amongst other things happening and it made the third act conflict even harder to push through. But of course we get our HEA and everything is great so I’m really complaining for no reason, I guess. Everything up until this point though? Pretty rock solid.

Because these characters? Felt so real. Jacob really came off the page for me with his anxieties and his quiet moments but in contrast Briana really grounded things; not just Jacob, such as in her ability to calm him, in advocating for him, but she also felt like a grounding presence for the story. Jacob was much in his head but Bri had mostly external conflicts. Her struggles with her brother, her divorce, they felt very real-world and tangible. And so the way these two complemented each other was just beautifully done and I know that’s mostly the point of this pairing, and the romance, but it’s easy to try and convince a reader the sky is blue but for the reader to actually believe it? That’s a whole other talent.

So, yes, I’ll be rounding up in all the non-blog places that count, and I think I had a better time with these characters than I did with the ones in the book before, but it’s definitely got a few bumps that did throw me out of the story a bit. However, it’s still a Jimenez, which means it’s funny, sweet, emotional, tackling a variety of issues, and giving you a romance you want to root for. Even if the characters are occasionally their own worst enemies and act like a bunch of dumb dumbs. It’s all that. Which is why I definitely think you should pick this one up.

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


While we live, the enemy shall fear us.

All her life Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the all-powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the Majoda their victory over humanity.

They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. But when Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to the nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.

Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, she escapes from everything she’s ever known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.

A thrillingly told queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you, Some Desperate Glory is award-winning author Emily Tesh’s highly anticipated debut novel.

Title : Some Desperate Glory
Author : Emily Tesh
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ sci-fi
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : April 11, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5 

Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This book had me feeling all sorts of things. And one of those things, like is typical for me, is whether I need to round this up or not. Because even though this took me a week to read, the good parts were pretty good. Almost great. But what keeps it from being actually great are the bits that if you look too hard at.. kind of fall apart. Maybe. Unless that’s just me.

I will say that the way this story went wasn’t remotely what I expected. Events take a turn that definitely shocked me and also very much intrigued me — even though the very presence of this element is part of what I’m trying not too look too hard at for fear of it all disintegrating.

In some ways what Some Desperate Glory offers isn’t anything particularly new. But through Kyr, our main character, we have what feels like such a painfully authentic character arc that somehow things do still feel fresh. Everything she experienced, and then re-experienced, felt true. Most of the time in these extreme perspective shifts, breaking away from the mentality or the indoctrination or the belief, whatever, it doesn’t always feel genuine. This one did. Because we see her work through it, re-evaluate, and own it.

I can’t really claim to have enjoyed any other character, though. Maybe that was hindered by the single POV and because of how Kyr looks at the world in the early chapters? When we finally do understand more of those around us, it’s a little too late to be invested in them. Yiso might be the exception. But that’s a gimme. I think we’re not given a choice on whether or not to like them.

While there was a lot I couldn’t picture — mostly the engines, the Wisdom, the shadowy jump things — I didn’t really let that be a stumbling block in the enjoyment of it all. Or I tried not to. Though it does go hand in hand with the bit I mentioned above about just not looking too hard at it all. I understood enough from context clues but the whole existence of them, and how little (really) gets explained, well. Maybe if I was a little smarter, a little more invested in the whys, one could pick some things apart, open up some literal and plot holes, but I just shimmied on by and let it all happen.

And I think it was easy to do so because of the writing. Tesh tackles a lot of topics and concepts but also does it with a really accessible kind of style. There was plenty of emotional resonance when required and there were some devastating stark realizations, too. It felt well balanced and compelling. Which makes the reality of the romance, or really lack thereof, a bit disappointing. But it’s hard to get into the why of it without being spoilery. Better reviewers than I could probably hint or explain this and I’ll leave that to them.

Overall, I did have a good time reading this and I will absolutely read this author again. I enjoyed so much of what this story was doing and can see myself revisiting this again in the future. So if this sounds like your thing, I would definitely give it a chance.

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

NEVER VACATION WITH YOUR EX by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Forgetting Sarah Marshall meets Crazy Stupid Love in a YA second chance romance from fan-favorite author couple #Wibbroka!

Seventeen-year-old volleyball star Kaylee Jordan lives a life of player rankings, constant training, and a carefully curated social media full of followers watching to see if she’ll go pro out of high school like her famous mom. Her one refuge, and the thing she looks forward to every summer? The vacation her family spends in Malibu with the Freeman-Yus. This year, there’s only one problem: Kaylee and their son, Dean, dated for the past three months, and Kaylee just unceremoniously dumped him. Hoping to spare them the worst summer ever, Kaylee comes to Dean with her unconventional solution: she’s going to walk him through her rules for getting over an ex. When Dean grudgingly cooperates, Kaylee’s got her work cut out for her. But helping Dean follow her own rules starts becoming difficult when the pressures of Kaylee’s family legacy and perfect life start to feel less like a plan and more like a prison…and amid warm California nights and stolen laughs, Kaylee feels herself falling for Dean for the same reasons and some new ones. With their trip coming to an end, Kaylee has to make the complicated choice between doing what’s expected and taking a (second) chance on love.

Title : Never Vacation With Your Ex
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA romance
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 4, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 2 star review

I have a bad feeling I’m in a slow-moving breakup with this author duo. The magic is fizzling out, if not outright gone, and clearly I need to follow the path of this protagonist’s story and drop it like it’s hot.

Because, yeah, I could not muster up any sympathy for Kaylee. There was no ambivalence, even, or moments where I felt for her, she just made me frustrated. And the whole guide to getting over a break-up/ex routine she played off on Dean, her ex, just rubbed me the wrong way the whole time. But I can’t even say that I felt more for Dean or sympathized with him, either, because he frustrated me, too. And so did the parents. Honestly, the only characters that escaped my irritation were the younger sisters. I wish you hundreds of family game night wins to ensure endless Mamma Mia! rewatches, girls. You deserve it.

So, yeah, I won’t be recommending this. And I wish I had gone with my gut when I initially hesitated over requesting this, knowing the last few reads by this author (not just YA, but I’m lumping their adult debut in this corner, too) did not go well. But it was almost habit to get excited over a new Wibbroka and therefore the thought of not wanting it in my hands seemed foreign. But.. we (I) shall be moving on from this. We (I) will do better apart. We are, maybe, no longer meant to be. Insert a Taylor Swift lyrics here.

Or, at least, I won’t be on the pre-release hype squad. I’ll probably still pick them up on the down-low. What can I say, I have endless chances in me for those I once loved. For now, at least.

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


After inadvertently starting rumors of a haunted cemetery, a teen befriends a ghost in this brand-new young adult novel exploring Indigenous identity from the critically acclaimed and bestselling author of The Marrow Thieves series.

Winifred has lived in the apartment above the cemetery office with her father, who works in the crematorium all her life, close to her mother’s grave. With her sixteenth birthday only days away, Winifred has settled into a lazy summer schedule, lugging her obese Chihuahua around the grounds in a squeaky red wagon to visit the neglected gravesides and nursing a serious crush on her best friend, Jack.

Her habit of wandering the graveyard at all hours has started a rumor that Winterson Cemetery might be haunted. It’s welcome news since the crematorium is on the verge of closure and her father’s job being outsourced. Now that the ghost tours have started, Winifred just might be able to save her father’s job and the only home she’s ever known, not to mention being able to stay close to where her mother is buried. All she has to do is get help from her con-artist cousin to keep up the rouse and somehow manage to stop her father from believing his wife has returned from the grave. But when Phil, an actual ghost of a teen girl who lived and died in the ravine next to the cemetery, starts showing up, Winifred begins to question everything she believes about life, love and death. Especially love.

Title : Funeral Songs for Dying Girls
Author : Cherie Dimaline
Format : eARC
Page Count : 280
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Tundra Books
Release Date : April 4, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 2 star review

Unfortunately, here is another book that was more exciting in concept than execution.

Full disclosure, I have never read the author’s beloved other work, The Marrow Thieves. But I was excited to experience their writing with this new novel that sounded a little dark, maybe even spooky, with a bit of magic thrown in. Featuring both Indigenous characters and identity, and set in my hometown, it seemed like it was all lining up to be a new favourite. And I’ll admit, the early few chapters, seemed to solidify that belief.

But some of the lovely writing and turns of phrase.. well they quickly felt less present as the story went on. The characters had never really hooked me and I grew increasingly disconnected from them as time went on — most are really unlikeable, or maybe just the loudest personas are, so it just feels like more than it is? And while somewhere amongst these two hundred-and-some pages there is an exploration of mourning and grief and moving forward.. I don’t know if I actually saw the journey. There were too many distractions about sex and the best friend who didn’t actually feel like a best friend (so why did I care when they had a falling out) and the shitty cousin (being consistently shitty) and overall I just don’t know what I should be left feeling. On the whole, it felt unbalanced and uncertain of its own tone or vibe — never sitting too long in the humour, the valid anger, or the horror, but flipping between each too quickly to land on anything that felt solid or impactful — and the fact that the young characters felt too old and too not-childlike didn’t help matters.

The one true highlight of the story for me was Winnifred’s relationship with her aunt. I really enjoyed those moments and was always looking forward to the next.

I really wish I had enjoyed this more and hope that other readers will feel for it what I wasn’t able to. I will definitely be giving this author another try though because it may just have been that this story wasn’t the one for me.

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