THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI by Akwaeke Emezi

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom. 

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader


Title : The Death of Vivek Oji
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 248
Genre : contemporary/magical realism/LGBQTIAP+
Publisher : Riverhead Books
Release Date : August 4, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This review is difficult because on the one hand I want everyone to read this but on the other I don’t want to put this in the hands of anyone who would be made uncomfortable by it. I also don’t want to give spoilers. But nor do I tend to list content warnings because a lot of people find them spoilery (as do I). So I’ll just do what I always do : if the summary sounds like something you would want to read, but you are now concerned about the content within the space around said plot, please seek out the warnings. There are lots of reviews that list them, even if mine won’t.

If, on the other hand, you’re impervious to much or all as long as it’s in a fictional setting, and you’re SOP is going in knowing nothing.. at least you’ll go in braced for anything. So I guess you’re welcome? No refunds.

Some people can’t see softness wihout wanting to hurt it.

Jokes aside, the one spoiler I’m okay going into is, well.. the title. It’s right there. Watching the story play out both after, and before, and during, the death of Vivek Oji was.. so many things. Haunting and heartbreaking, lonely and lovely, painful and proud, unthinkable and unflinching. See? So many.

Temporarily occupying this world, this town in Nigeria, this family, the little communities within the community, these issues, I was just completely swept away. Emezi’s writing is so incredible. It honestly lulled me into a safe place even as I read about things I would otherwise (and still did, don’t get me wrong) feel disconcerted by. There was such warmth and gentleness at the core of this story even as it broke your heart. Shocking everyone (!), though, I didn’t actually cry while reading this but one part in particular got me very close.

The are quite a few POVs and storylines that split off from the main story and I was fine being taken away, even though I didn’t want to be, because I just wanted to keep reading. I didn’t care what strange path we were diverted onto. And then by the end.. you see the pieces as one whole. Not just one angle, many, not just one complicated and complex life, but many. We’re all part of a bigger picture and I felt that so strongly here.

Again, I won’t be recommending this, but oh am I glad I read it. That I’ve discovered this author. And that I have more books from them to read.

A WISH UPON THE STARS by TJ Klune

Nearly a year ago, blinded by grief and betrayal, Sam of Wilds made a desperate decision to follow the Great White into the Dark Woods. Now, he emerges to a world changed.

The City of Lockes is a prison. The King has been locked away in the dungeons. The Kingdom of Verania has fallen, and the Dark wizard Myrin sits on the throne. 

But soon after his return, Sam learns of a resistance fighting in his name led by a courageous knight, a defiant prince, a pissed-off unicorn, and a half-giant who wants to smash everything in sight. If he has any hope of defeating the villains who have taken their home, Sam must face the consequences of his choices—and the friends he left behind.


Title : A Wish Upon the Stars
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 450
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Welp, it’s done. We made it.

Sorta. Almost. <– because the short story/fairytale collection is out in April and also the series will continue with a different MC in 2022, I think. But for n o w. It’s done.

I’m not really going to have anything new to say about this series, not even for the finale. I joked with my buddies that if the author had cut out all the repetition and rehashing we’d only have had two books to read through instead of four. I stand by that statement. Pretty much nothing happened until 60% (and these are not short books so that was a long 60%), or at least not much we hadn’t already gone over or lived through or had some variation of before, so.. yeah. Says a lot, I think.

There were moments that made me snort. Maybe one particular scene almost had me welling up. But overall? These books are just A Lot. The characters are Too Much. And everything that happens is What The Fuck. So if that sounds like your jam, read on! Dive in! Enjoy!

I definitely did not get out of this what I thought I would, back when I first started, but that’s okay. I am happy to have completed a series (for now) and for the buddy read adventure with said buddies.

PERFECT ON PAPER by Sophie Gonzales – double review!

In Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper, Leah on the Offbeat meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back

Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?


Title : Perfect on Paper
Author : Sophie Gonzales
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wenesday Books/Hachette Kids-TeamBKMK
Release Date : March 9, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

It’s always strange to like something but have complicated thoughts or feelings about aspects of it.. and yet still can’t help but rate it highly. That’s really where I’m at. I don’t think this is going to be a particularly informative or cohesive review, just warning you now.

Overall I just want to say how happy I am that, conflicted confusedness aside, it is easier to like to this vs how I felt about Only Mostly Devastated, which just didn’t settle with me very well. The abovementioned was so messy and while we do have some mess, some misguided elements in Perfect on Paper, it was.. a more acceptable mess, if that makes sense. Or maybe I was just more forgiving of it.

You do realize I’m agreeing with you here?
I guess I’ve never had agreement feel so much like an argument.”

I can definitely suspend some of my disbelief at how competent a sixteen year old was at dispensing sage and well researched romantic advice to her peers but the narrative is pushed that said advise is well researched, well intentioned, so I can probably eat that one. And what helps to sell it is that while she’s being paid, she’s doing it to help others, as a passion project, and that goes a long way vs just doing it just for cash or to collect secrets on her peers. The motivation changes everything.

Did a fight lead to the breakup?
More or less. I guess I gave her an ultimatum.
You didn’t.”
I wish that were true.
Why didn’t you just throw a fucking grenade between you while you were at it?

So many elements of this felt strong; the mention but lack of focus, or harping, on her sister’s transition. The discussion around queerness, specifically internalized and externalized biphobia. The ego checks our lead received throughout regarding missteps in advice, in realizing some people didn’t want her help, and more.

Where I think this was a bit weak, even though it played a big role, was her relationship with her best friend and, initially, the characterization of a love interest. Eventually the latter smoothed out but I do wonder if I missed something to explain why he behaved the way he did in the beginning. I’m not quite complaining as I found the interactions totally delightful because of how frustrating they found each other, but I still wish maybe something had been offered up as a why. But for the best friend, well.. I don’t know. Something never really sat right about that dynamic. And I don’t want to touch on too much for risk of spoilers — and a few other niggles are maybe too specific to mention for that same reason — so.. insert vague vagueries here.

I don’t know if this review is coming across as positive as a four star would warrant but I’ll refer you back to my opening paragraph. Something about this just confuses me even though I enjoyed it so so much. Was it perfect? No. But it did just enough right. And I was just so happy about the ending, particularly one little interaction that shouldn’t be so momentous, and may not even be remarked by many, but just.. wrecked me a bit. Left me so soft. And that combined with the fact that I couldn’t tear myself away from this, well.. here we are.

After my (albeit, strange) success with this sophomore release, I’m even more excited for what is to come for this author.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Page turner
LGBTQIA+ rep for days
Incredibly cute

A clever story was contained in these pages, all centred around Locker 89 and Darcy. Darcy was bi-sexual, crushing on her friend and seemed to limit her life options and expectations. She also ran an advice service through locker 89 (you’d have to read to understand). Now I’ve got that out of the way, I can talk about my own expectations – I had no idea where the romance of this story was going to go for the first part; I loved the lack of expectation.

Friendships were on the menu, a smattering of drama, lots of secrets and lies and problematic parents. I liked Brooke but only a bit, Ray definintely grew on me, Ainsley was fab and Brougham delivered on the slow building chemistry. Brougham slowly defrosted in this story and I enjoyed the reveal of his character.

There was something special about being seen the way that Brougham seemed to see me.

There was something flawed and cocky about Darcy but also plenty of self-realisation and awareness to mitigate the cockiness. The bi context delved into the some really important experiences, which only enhanced the story even more. This book had a lovely pitch of light with the odd casting of darkness across the page. I loved that circle back around to the ‘job’ towards the end.

Perfect on Paper confirmed that Only Mostly Devastated was not a one-off piece of goodness, Sophie Gonzales followed that up with another superb offering. I still need to visit her back catalogue of titles.

Thank you to Hachette Kids & TeamBKMK for the early review copy.

ENLIGHTENED by Joanna Chambers

David Lauriston has been recuperating at Lord Murdo Balfour’s Laverock estate for the last five months. At Laverock, he has regained his health and confidence and has found—with Murdo—more happiness and contentment than he has never known before.

David is all too aware that some day soon he will have to leave Laverock—and Murdo—and return to his legal practice in Edinburgh, just as Murdo will have to return to his life in London. But when David’s mentor, Patrick Chalmers, asks David to return to Edinburgh to visit him on his deathbed, it seems that day has come sooner than either David or Murdo would have wished.

Chalmers begs David to undertake one last piece of business for him: to secure the future of Chalmers’s daughter Elizabeth. But to carry out his old mentor’s wishes, David must travel to London, with Murdo.

No sooner have the two men arrived in the capital than they encounter Murdo’s ruthlessly manipulative father, who reveals a shocking secret that rocks David to his foundations. What’s more, when David discovers Elizabeth is facing far greater danger than even her father feared, he is determined to help her, no matter the cost to his own safety.

As the stakes rise, it is Murdo who must choose what he is prepared to sacrifice to keep David at his side, and ask whether there is any possibility of lasting happiness for men like them.


Title : Enlightened
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 279
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

And so concludes the main trilogy of this series following David and Murdo. I’m quite pleased by their ending, as well as the endings of a few other characters that followed them throughout these three books, and honestly I was the least irked by either of their behaviour in the telling of this particular installment.

That said, while I was very happy, and occasionally moved by the emotional revelations, it was one particular bit of plot featuring a good friend of David’s that got me the most emotional. I may have teared up.

While — for whatever reason — this series hasn’t become a new favourite, it can’t be denied that I really got on well with Chambers’ writing and really enjoyed the characters. I have two novellas still to read that feature these two leads (so I guess I’m not quite done..) and while I look forward to seeing what else they get upto (though you likely won’t see those reviews here, maybe check GR if you’re curious), I am keen to see what this author does with a different pair. That said, if you’re a fan of KJC or Cat Sebastian and you want another queer historical series to sink your teeth into, and you haven’t yet tried these, I would recommend! They aren’t too long and they are smartly written. And I still hope to discover a Chambers I’ll love in her other series — or maybe even in the books within this world. Fingers crossed!

THE CONSUMPTION OF MAGIC by TJ Klune

Sam of Wilds faced the Dark wizard Myrin and lived to tell the tale. Granted, the battle left him scarred, but things could be a hell of a lot worse.

It’s not until he reunites with Morgan of Shadows and Randall that he realizes just how much worse things could be.

Because the scars have meaning and hint at Myrin’s true plans for Sam and the Kingdom of Verania.

With time running out, Sam and his band of merry misfits—the unicorn Gary, the half-giant Tiggy, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart, and the dragon known as Kevin—must travel to the snowy mountains in the North and the heart of the Dark Woods to convince the remaining dragons to stand against Myrin. Along the way, Sam learns secrets of the past that will forever change the course of the future.

A reckoning is coming for Sam of Wilds, and there is nothing he can do to stop it.


Title : The Consumption of Magic
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 397
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I realize I have been far from effusive over my feelings about this series but this might’ve been the first one in the series I actively disliked. I can’t even blame it on the “too much, too soon” binge situation because this is not a series we’re bingeing. It’s been a few weeks since I read book two. And yet..

As mentioned in one of my previous reviews, though it bears repeating, everything from the first two books is back again, from the oversharing and crude ridiculousness, to the almost parody-like fantasy plot, and if things were thought to be dramatic before? It gets better/worse/more (pick your preference).

There might’ve been a moment or two that seemed sweet or funny or even sad and heartbreaking. But overwhelmingly I just.. can’t. I’m frustrated or annoyed or bored by so much of this; but only to a mild extent. I don’t really feel any kind of extreme about this world. I might’ve considered actually ditching this one if not for my buddies; I was definitely kind of wishing I wouldn’t need to continue after this installment. But the ending did things and I admit my perverse curiosity wouldn’t let me stop either way, buddies or no.

Weirdly I think the only character I actually got on with this time was Justin. Because he is just so over everything and everyone; he is all of us (me). I seriously appreciated him in this book. More page time in the next books, please! Also, do we know how much further there is to go in this world? Just.. curious. No reason why.

Despite the fact that I already reused part of a review for this one, I am going to reiterate the following : I am definitely not recommending these books. They just exist; and I’m spending time with them. Nothing more. But if it sounds like your thing, I hope you have the best time. I can definitely see the appeal but it’s just not my jam.

BEST LAID PLANS by Roan Parrish

A man who’s been moving his whole life finally finds a reason to stay put.

Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.

When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.

Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.

Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with? 


Title : Best Laid Plans
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Garnet Run (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely went into this read with slightly lower expectations than I did going into book one; and while this isn’t going to be a favourite it definitely worked better for me. Mostly because of Charlie.

Characters (people) like Charlie just break my heart. And I thought Parrish did such a good job of making him big, tough, and caring but also giving him complex feelings and layers and a good chunk of angst. He felt so beautifully dimensional and the few parts that got me close to choking up were all for him.

Charlie Matheson wasn’t a Boy Scout. He wasn’t Mr. Perfect. And he wasn’t a goody-goody. Charlie Matheson was an adult who’d never gotten to be a child, and Charlie Matheson was finally mad about it.

As for Rye, I liked him, too, prickly little man that he was but sadly he definitely didn’t stand out in comparison to Charlie. Not that many people would! While he is definitely his own person, I liked him best as Charlie’s champion. Those moments are definitely my kind of catnip.

This is definitely a more wholesome feel-good kind of series than Parrish’s rockstar reads, though there are tie-ins!, but still with a good portion of steam, and plenty of four-legged characters running around for even more sweetness. All that and a gorgeous cover, too? I enjoyed this read and think you will, too!

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

BEGUILED by Joanna Chambers

Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.

King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.

David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital. 
Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms. 

But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.


Title : Beguiled
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 224
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As with my review for book one, I still can’t manage to quite round up on this one, either. But this time for different reasons.

While the background noise of book one, and the motivation and moving parts of the plot didn’t interest me, that wasn’t the case in book two. This time we have a King’s visit to Scotland to contend with, the catalyst (excuse) for the reappearance of a certain romantic interest, but also there are heartbreaking domestic issues to contend with. Additionally I also loved how a certain character from book one reappeared, and how he had changed; it definitely didn’t go the way I expected. And I really liked how it seemed to have tied off a loose end (or two).

So while all that was good, what and where was the miss?

The problem for me is I found that our leads felt a little.. different. Yes, time has passed, and on the part of David he’s done some hard thinking, and pining. And while we still had some of those same clashes from before, I was frustrated by the way that he would retreat after having made so much progress. Particularly because it was the same song and dance from book one. I would’ve much rather had see new worries, new concerns, while still in the same vein, I guess. It felt out of place considering how much stronger the connection was. But nonetheless his core self, his instrospection, his inherent goodness, it’s all just really lovely.

As for Murdo, while I have no complaints with him being more tender, a little moony, he had softened dramatically in the time between books and.. I don’t know. I think the problem is this is a single POV, as in we don’t get his, and maybe I’m missing that other side of things to sell this to me. But there was an absolutely gutwrenching and yet heartwarming scene with him surrounding a rather pivotal moment for the two of them and I thought that was brilliant.

My whatever weirdness about not being to round up on this series aside, I enjoy the writing, and I’ll be diving right into book three tomorrow.

A DESTINY OF DRAGONS by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, the wizard’s apprentice, Sam of Wilds, got his happily ever after in the arms of his cornerstone, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart. A year has passed, and while Sam’s been captured five or six more times since then, things are pretty great. His parents are happy, Gary and Tiggy still eat sass for breakfast, Randall is somehow alive despite being older than the gods, the King rules with a gentle hand, Kevin the dragon is as gross as ever, Morgan sighs a lot, Ryan continues to be dashing and immaculate, and Sam is close to convincing Prince Justin they will be best friends forever. Life is good. 

Until it’s not. 

Because Vadoma, the leader of the gypsy clan and Sam’s grandmother, has come to the City of Lockes with a dire prophecy written in the stars: a man of shadows is rising and will consume the world unless Sam faces his destiny and gathers the five dragons of Verania at his side. 

And she brings along her second-in-command, a man named Ruv. Ruv, who Vadoma says is Sam’s true cornerstone


Title : A Destiny of Dragons
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 377
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

If I thought this series would get any less like a bizarro trippy experience? I was dumb. Because why would it do that if we’d made it this far. If anything this series just gets weirder, and more absurd, in this second installment but it’s still compulsively readable. Likely I would not be prioritizing this series if not for my buddy reading buddies (hi!).. otherwise, well. I don’t think I would drop it but, yeah, suffice it to say it would not be topping my read pile right now. But whatever.

You really don’t understand boundaries, do you?
Only that they were meant to be broken.

Everything from book one is back again, from the oversharing and crude ridiculousness, to the almost parody-like fantasy plot, and if things were thought to be dramatic before? It gets better/worse/more (pick your preference).

You don’t see the way he stares at me sometimes.
I’ll bite. How does he stare at you?
Like I’m an idiot.
Sam. You are an idiot.”
Oh. Things suddenly make much more sense right now.”

As far as the romance, things are also better/worse/more (pick your preference) as book one’s conflict is replaced with something new but also different. It definitely got one of my buddies to switch shipping teams (literally the highlight of the whole read). But I also like how it resolved; though I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of it.

Sam, we’re born from magic. We don’t have parents. We are created when the world needs us most. There’s magic everywhere, in the smallest of things. Once there’s enough concentration of it, and once the world wills it so, a dragon is born.
But.. but, that’s so stupid. What the fuck is that esoteric bullshit?”

For all that this is still whacky and weird and I’m obviously continuing on with the series (hi again buddies), I still don’t really think I actually like this. There are moments, sure, that I might laugh or be entertained by something. And it’s certainly high on the hot scale compared to my other experiences with Klune. But for all that, and I realize it’s not much so this will come as no surprise, I am definitely not recommending it. It just exists; and I’m spending time with it. Nothing more.

PROVOKED by Joanna Chambers

Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, lawyer David Lauriston tries to maintain a celibate existence while he forges his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. 
 
But then, into his repressed and orderly life, bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.
 
Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. And as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway. Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.
 
But Murdo is not the only man distracting David from his work. Euan MacLennan, the brother of a convicted radical David once represented, approaches David to beg him for help. Euan is searching for the government agent who sent his brother to Australia on a convict ship, and other radicals to the gallows. Despite knowing it may damage his career, David cannot turn Euan away. 
 
As their search progresses, it begins to look as though the trail may lead to none other than Lord Murdo Balfour, and David has to wonder whether it’s possible Murdo could be more than he seems. Is he really just a bored aristocrat, amusing himself at David’s expense, or could he be the agent provocateur responsible for the fate of Peter MacLennan and the other radicals?


Title : Provoked
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 202
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 25, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Part of me is actually tempted to bump this up to four but something is holding me back for now. Probably because I compare most m/m historical romance to KJ Charles but.. this was still very good.

As a heads up, you should know this story also differs from KJC in the sense that this series doesn’t seem to be made up of companions following different couples and in fact I think the first two or three may follow the same couple. Make of that what you will.

Despite not being able to round up, though, I think this series might get stronger as it goes. I found the characters to be incredibly fascinating, particularly our protagonist, David, who suffers under the illusion that his fancying of men is unnatural and wrong and yet for all that he harshly judges himself, he never judges others. There were moments when he imagined another possible future for himself that just.. yeah, he is lovely.

The romantic interest, on the other hand, is fully himself and fully unashamed of himself and they spark off each other very well. Their relationship, outside of the steamies, is full of tension because while they are chemically compatible, they don’t seem to be emotionally or morally compatible. They view life so differently, and what they might expect of their lives considering their ways, and it’s so interesting to watch them hash it out.

I think mainly what dragged this down a bit for me is, despite the third party involved who played a fairly main role (and who I liked quite a bit), the whole reason for the events that throw these characters together just wasn’t that interesting, I guess? The characters definitely carried this installment, which is great, but I do hope the plot of book two is a wee bit more interesting.

I’m so keen to read on and I do smell a binge a’coming.. doesn’t hurt that this series seems to clock in with somewhat on the lower end of a page count. Additionally, I’m happy to have knocked this off my tbr (shelved on GR back in 2017!) and cleared yet another eBook off my unread pile! Lots of winning here.

THE LIGHTNING-STRUCK HEART by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or so he thinks.


Title : The Lightning-Struck Heart
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated



Hollis’ unrated review

If ever a book made you feel a little like you were on drugs, it would probably be this one. What a trip.

This was such a weird experience. I knew going into this to expect some extreme or absurb fantasy, with Klune himself leaning into the absurb slapsticky kind of humour, and yet somehow I was still not prepared. This is weird and wild and I would probably not recommend this to most readers. Particularly if you haven’t at least had a taste of what Klune can do.

I’m trying to be subtle here.”
You’re a talking unicorn. Sometimes when you poop, it comes out as rainbows and smells like cookies. There is nothing subtle about you.”

This story features a hornless gay unicorn, a half giant, an aggressively horny dragon, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The good thing is that most of those specific characters, along with our protagonist, Sam the apprentice wizard with the great power and great responsibility, were some of my favourites. They were ridiculous and their antics were outright lunacy but the friendship bonds were just so wholesome (even when they weren’t) and sweet and discounting the fact that Sam sometimes had two page run-on monologues (despite the fact that a running joke is how the Dark Wizards are monologue fiends and they hate it) I really did love them.

I would ask you to dance, but I don’t know how to dance, so maybe we can just stand near each other and talk awkwardly.”

I do just wish there was more, like, distinction between some of the other characters. The main cast came through pretty clear (with the love interest maybe being the one exception because he was all other the place For Reasons) but some of the secondary/tertiary characters felt a little lumped in together/silly and same-y, and considering some of their roles I don’t think it made sense. But that’s a fairly picky thing to pick at considering, like, this whole book was just.. strange compulsively funny readable strange nonsense.

Everything is a life lesson. Like these invitations from potential suitors.”
Your segue was clunky and I am embarassed for you.”

Which is why I’m not rating it because where would I even begin.

I’ve just had the most wonderful idea.”
Uh oh. Hold on to it. I have a feeling those are a rarity.

It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s pervy AF, it’s bizarre, crude, hella queer, occasionally annoying or frustrating, but also fun. This somehow manages to be a light fantasy, and also sort’ve a parody, while still being fantastical and questy and destiny.. -y. If that sounds like your cup of acid trip, definitely pick this up. For all that there’s a significant page count, I don’t think this’ll bore you, just bewilder you, but you’ll probably still find yourself laughing along. And if you come out of this story not loving Gary? We need to talk.