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A heart-wrenching exploration of grief from a bestselling YA author, set in a landscape corrupted by fame and the scrutiny that comes from living in the shadow of a star.

To the world, Lizzie Beck is a superstar: famous, talented and beloved.
To Emmy, she is simply Beth: her brilliant older sister, her idol.

But then Beth takes her own life, and all the light in the world disappears.

Now Emmy is lost. Amidst the media storm and overwhelming public grief, she must fight to save her own memories of her sister – and find out who she is without her.

Title : Where The Light Goes
Author : Sara Barnard
Format : Physical
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Walker YA
Release Date : May 4, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5

Micky’s 4.5 star review

Navigating grief
Read through the hurt

Grief is a scream you’re living inside.

Like every Sara Barnard book I’ve read, this book was superb, but this was a different offering from this author…jagged, painful and raw. The story revolves around Emmy who’s famous sister just took her own life. I’m mentioning this in the first paragraph because this is one where you need to know what you’re getting into and be sure this is a topic you can handle. Sara Barnard navigates the difficult theme of suicide and its arising grief with honesty and care.

Emmy’s experiences started on day one and ended years later. The early days ticked by with the slow thud of pain. Her family were a complete s*** show (understandably) and her friends struggled to be what Emmy needed. Conversely, Emmy struggled to ask for what she needed.

How the story ebbed across the pages took the reader on this painful journey, feeling the hurt but also the love-aches that Emmy was feeling for Beth. Emmy had all the emotions but as a reader I also felt heartache, anger and resentment. Being from a priviledged family didn’t seem to help Emmy at all other than the later therapy she accessed.

Talking of therapy, the way this book was formatted really added to the reading experience including some therapy insights. We also got messages, voice notes (transcripted), tweets and news headlines.

The author leaves the reader in a good place, I think that’s important to mention when dealing with such a tough theme as this; you will be ultimately safe with this read.

Thank you to Walker books for the early copy.

Content warnings: suicide, grief, substance misuse, alcohol misuse


A Big Gay Rom-Zom-Com with Heart

Jesse Spark has a broken heart and in a few short weeks he’ll require major surgery to repair it – which means he only has a month to accomplish two almost-impossible tasks.

1) Shoot his epic zombie movie on a shoestring budget if he has any hope of getting into film school.

2) Fall in love before this surgery lands him with a huge scar – because how will anyone ever fancy him after that?

Sex Education meets Love, Simon – with fake zombies – in this savagely funny gay YA romance about body image, self-acceptance and falling in love, all while shooting a low-budget zombie flick!

Fun, fresh and authentic, this is the feel-good hit of #hotboysummer, perfect for fans of Alice Oseman, Ciara Smyth and Adam Silvera.

Title : Broken Hearts & Zombie Parts
Author : William Hussey
Format : Physical
Page Count : 400
Genre : LGBTQIAP Rom-com
Publisher : Usbourne Publishing
Release Date : May 11, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5

Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

Lots of heart
Chaotic but endearing banter
Body image

This rompy YA gay rom-com was a lot of fun, with a slice of chaos and heart. The main character had health problems, a huge surgery to face and lots of uncertainty floating around in the atmosphere. This was all set in the backdrop of a friendship group making a zombie movie and a budding romance.

Behind the facade of the quips and verbose dialogue from Jesse were hidden depths of fear and anxiety, mixed with some living in the now. I appreciated how the characters would move away from the tough stuff when it got to much for them and find release in the fun they could make. There were some elements of dialogue that ended up a bit much for me but overall I had a soft spot for most of the characters.

This read does make me interested in trying some of Hussey’s darker reads.

Thank you to Usbourne Publishing for the review copy.

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. **

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.


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. **

FRACTURED FABLES series by Alix E. Harrow

Hi readers, here’s a mini review round-up for you! Today we’re bringing you short and sweet reviews for this duology of fractured feminist fables relating to Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. And if these aren’t already on your radar, they should be! Or, at least, Hollis thinks so.

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Title A Spindle Splintered
Author : Alix E. Harrow
Series : Fractured Fables (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 128
Genre : fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : October 5, 2021

Hollis’ 4 star review

Is Harrow lowkey turning into one of my favourite authors? Did this just sneak up on me without any warning and or intent? Because hi.. I really loved this. 

What I never thought I needed in my life was an Into the Spider-Verse take on Sleeping Beauty. So it’s Into the Sleeping Beauty-Verse, basically. But also modernized. And feminist. And queer. And the iteration of Sleeping Beauty we’re following isn’t cursed but dying.

I’ve always resented people for trying to save me, but maybe this is how it works, maybe we save one another.

Truthfully there isn’t much I disliked about this. Even though part of me wanted more, I think it was the perfect length, with the perfect ending, and I don’t think I’d change a thing. Every deviation, every change, was a delight (even if it was sad or horrible). And oh, yeah, when I mentioned it’s queer? It is, but maybe not in the way you’ll expect it to be.

Initially when I wrote this review I mentioned how excited I was that there was more from this world, not realizing it was actually a connected series instead of companions, and how I would be diving right into the next one. But these are now batched so, like, obviously you know book two’s review is.. here. Right below. So, enjoy!

Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends, and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request and save them both from the hot-iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

Title A Mirror Mended
Author : Alix E. Harrow
Series : Fractured Fables (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 130
Genre : fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Hollis’ 4 star review

Okay, so, yes, can confirm. Harrow might be on my favourites list now because book one was not a fluke. And she already has the honour of holding the spot of my one and only five-star read in 2023 (so far) for her other novella so, like.. yeah. Thank goodness there’s another book in her backlist to get me through until her 2023 release in the fall.

But okay, so, things get a little off-course in book two. We couldn’t have another book filled with even more rehashings of Sleeping Beauty, and funny enough even Zinnia was getting sick of them, too, after rescuing dozens of them. So lucky for her (I guess?) she winds up in a different fairytale; and this time there’s no heroine to lend a helping hand, it’s the Evil Queen asking for help. Naturally, resistance ensues. And shortly thereafter we find ourselves in one of the weirdest, and darkest, retellings of the fairytale. And a surprise cameo.

Oh, Little Brier-Rose, you feel sorry for her. Poor Snow White, so pretty, so pure. You think this is her story. You know nothing.

There are so many great layers to this story, about endings, about choice, but also the biggest take-away I think is that there really is no magical cure for everything. Happily ever afters? Well, they don’t really exist, either. There’s definitely a bittersweetness to the end of this one which I think works perfectly, both for Zinnia and The Evil Queen.

Even though in book one I was perfectly happy with the end of it, and moving on to something else, I’m only partially satisfied this time. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great ending, and I don’t really want more, because this did feel like an ending, but I already miss these characters. So, yeah, bittersweet is right.

If this at all seems like a series you might be into, I would highly recommend it. They aren’t long, and there’s only two (so far? forever? who knows!), and it made for a great way to pass a dull and dreary afternoon. And stay tuned for (hopefully!) more fangirling from me for future, and past, Harrow titles.

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways… but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant, award-winning novel from the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

Title : I’ll Give You The Sun
Author : Jandy Nelson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 371
Genre : YA contemporary / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : September 16, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Even after all this time, if you had asked me what this book was about, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I had no idea. Just that I hadn’t read it yet and every year I would have to dodge the hounding (and disappointment!) of my friends when I didn’t bump it up the TBR. I doubt it’s much of a surprise this didn’t become one of my favourites, like it is for so many others, but honestly my feelings are all over the place for this one. I wanted so badly to like it but not sure I ever did. But I didn’t hate it.

This definitely stands out in a sense for it’s uniqueness. Also, for that eye-catching cover. Which definitely didn’t warn me, #NoBlurber that I am, of the grief that would await me within the pages. Or the estrangement. Or.. let’s be real, the weirdness. Because again I had no idea what this was about. And it took a while to find out, too.

Initially I felt overwhelmed with metaphors and, of course, just when I was getting used to that, I felt underwhelmed and annoyed by the personality switch. I found myself preoccupied by wondering how much of this was magical realism and how much was just wishful thinking. But I think, overwhelmingly, what was stranger were the coincidences of the connections — they were just a little too convenient. But also hey life is strange, it could happen. Maybe. Okay, no, unlikely. And finally, though equally as overwhelming at times, these characters inflicted so much damage to each other.. and I just don’t know how you could come back from that.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the last bit more than the first, even though nothing was particularly surprising as far as the reveals. So we did end on a high note. And I didn’t hate the big fix that solved almost everyone’s problems (except the one that’s just on a time delay), though I probably should’ve.

Maybe I could’ve loved this a decade ago but sadly we’ll never know. Some parts of this were lovely (mostly I’m thinking of their mum’s immediate acceptance for a certain someone) and interesting (not sure I’ve encountered stone work like this before! and it was so beautifully described), others less so of both (I won’t list them all out, I think you get the idea). But I’m glad I finally had a reason to read this — this was the fourth pick from my Twelve Books in Twelve Months challenge — as it was long long overdue.

Spoiler alert, I downgraded this rating as of the posting of this review so if you saw it rounded up.. no you didn’t.


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. **


The end times have come.

Relos Var’s final plans to enslave the universe are on the cusp of fruition. He believes there’s only one being in existence that might be able to stop him: the demon Xaltorath.

As these two masterminds circle each other, neither is paying attention to the third player on the board, Kihrin. Unfortunately, keeping himself classified in the “pawn” category means Kihrin must pretend to be everything the prophecies threatened he’d become: the destroyer of all, the sun eater, a mindless, remorseless plague upon the land. It also means finding an excuse to not destroy the people he loves (or any of the remaining Immortals) without arousing suspicion.

Kihrin’s goals are complicated by the fact that not all of his “act” is one. His intentions may be sincere, but he’s still being forced to grapple with the aftereffects of the corrupted magic ritual that twisted both him and the dragons. Worse, he’s now tied to a body that is the literal avatar of a star – a form that is becoming increasingly, catastrophically unstable. All of which means he’s running out of time.

After all, some stars fade – but others explode.

Title : The Discord of Gods
Author : Jenn Lyons
Series : A Chorus of Dragons (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 512
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 2.75 (rounded up) star review

Finally. We have a straight-forward bit of storytelling. I’m not saying we don’t jump around a bit, with some overlapping bits from different POVs, but it wasn’t like what came before. And thank goodness for that.

Having said that, I knew the stakes wouldn’t feel very high because they’ve never felt very high. And even though we finally introduced a way to keep from everyone coming back to life, forever and ever, we still had enough of it. And as a result of that new caveat, I knew we wouldn’t lose a lot of characters. And we didn’t. In fact I think we came out ontop in a way.

In that sense though I’ll admit that everyone who has annoyed me the most.. annoyed me a little less. Maybe because we had less time (this is the shortest book of the series) for the story itself but we also had a tighter focus and a bigger ticking clock in a sense (though we still had time for repeated rehashing as certain players had to get caught up on things) as things were finally coming to a head.

And yes, the confrontation was finally here. How did that measure up? Welllll. I’ll admit I solved the final “aha!” conflict well before the reveal but there was something to do with the remaining immortals I didn’t see coming. And, of course, the whole truth behind the demons had interesting and horrible implications. But like so many of these big epic series, the final showdowns never really feel as big because they’ve been built up so long, that when it finally happens.. it’s just a shrug.

I’m not mad I pushed on in this world despite the ups and downs (mostly downs? I think? maybe it’s an even split) but I really feel this was just too convoluted for it’s own good. Tried to be so many things, do so many things, chronicle so much history and drama, and it just got so tedious and, weirdly, lowkey overwrought sometimes. But that doesn’t seem to be an opinion anyone else really shares so what do I even know. I obviously wouldn’t recommend these but hey if you ever decide to give them a try, I wish you better luck than I had! And also that you have an all-around better time, too.

AMERICAN QUEEN by Sierra Simone

It starts with a stolen kiss under an English sky, and it ends with a walk down the aisle. It starts with the President sending his best friend to woo me on his behalf, and it ends with my heart split in two. It starts with buried secrets and dangerous desires…and ends with the three of us bound together with a hateful love sharper than any barbed wire.

My name is Greer Galloway, and I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States.

This is the story of an American Queen.

Title : American Queen
Author : Sierra Simone
Series : New Camelot Trilogy (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count 387
Genre : romance / LGBTQIAP+ / retelling
Publisher : Bloom Books
Release Date : April 13, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’m pretty sure everyone who wanted to read this book has already read it by now but when I saw it up for Read Now on NetGalley (likely a glitch because it disappeared, as it also did for the other two books before I could grab those too, moments after I downloaded) I thought.. why not. I’m pretty sure the whole series is actually buried on my kindle somewhere but that project is slow going and I didn’t have these on my 2023 list. So here was an excuse to knock another oldie off the TBR and see what all the hype and fuss was about all them years ago.

And honestly? I think my low expectations helped. Because this might not be a glowing review or high rating but.. I disliked a lot less than I expected to. But having said that, I skimmed too much of this to bump this any higher than it is.

I’ll be interested to see if I enjoy this more or less as the series goes on but I was definitely intrigued by the Arthurian-style premise, even though one of the characters is apparently an expert on the subject which feels a little too on the nose, and I’m always looking for more good polyamourous romance. Time will tell if this is one of them. Mostly because, so far, I only enjoy one side of the triad. Ash doesn’t really interest me as a character, made worse by the suspension of disbelief required around him being the bloody President, and Greer.. well. She’s just a reader insert. She doesn’t have much of a character and what she does is contradictory. How can someone purported to being so perceptive be so oblivious about Ash and Embry but also Abilene. Like, what the fuck. If shady had a colour, it would be her.

Also, I mean, speaking of suspension of disbelief, the circumstances around the romances themselves? The whole kiss thing and the pining and waiting? It just.. well, it begs some disbelief. The only thing that felt real(ish) was the backstory between Ash and Embry and I think we get more of that in book two as it looks to be Embry’s book. So I’m looking forward to seeing that unfold and the answer to some of the whys of how it all went down the way it did. Plus it might be a tad angsty. And maybe less Dom/sub’y so there could be winning all around. For me, at least.

As to that comment about skimming, well, I was tuned out for all the Dom/sub moments. I think I got through the first and then remembered I rarely can get through those scenes feeling any sort of way other than “nope” (not yucking anyone’s yum here! it’s just rare these dynamics work for me) and so spent the rest of the story skipping around them. Honestly, I’m not going to push on with this series for the steamies though it is, yes, steamy. I’m interested in the three of them, how they make it work, what more political machinations are going to ensue, and what other juicy Arthurian bits we are going to have woven into the series. We’ve seen most of the original cast by now and I want more of that. It’s one of the original messy soap operas and I love it.

So, yeah, this is a weird one to review — and I’m definitely not here to convince you any which way about it — but it was nice to have a reason to finally get into this series. No idea when I’ll get to the next but I’m sure it won’t be long now.

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