AN UNEXPECTED PERIL by Deanna Raybourn

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family—the royalty who has never claimed her


Title : An Unexpected Peril
Author : Deanna Raybourn
Series : Veronica Speedwell (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical romance/mystery
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : March 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Easily the best part of this book was that it wasn’t the previous installment. As in, it was better. Not that it counts for much as I felt book five just so overwhelmingly.. well, not good. But anyway, yes, this was likely the closest to being what I loved from these books in the early installments. For which I’m grateful, even as I continue to believe I have just lost the love for this world. Or maybe the magic just isn’t there anymore. One or the other.

While I won’t say that this mystery was compelling or edge of your seat, I do think the diversion of the politics of this little country, and the involvement of the princess to the murder victim, was well done. I even appreciated that despite how things are now going for our investigative duo, there are still moments of friction and disagreements and yet it doesn’t become a big moment of drama. They work through their clashes, resolve them, and I appreciate that adult behaviour. I do think my love for Veronica will never quite return and it’s definitely Stoker that is keeping me in this game but she does have her moments.

Overall, even though we had some near death/disaster moments, the stakes never really feel high or even remotely tense. I think the series has just become somewhat.. fluffy? Lighthearted? I think I saw another reviewer say cozy and I don’t disagree with that actually. They are a little silly, while balancing real moments of history, and maybe I just have to stop taking them as seriously as I have during the last few installments. I don’t know. Time will tell. Because I still don’t think we know how many more books are to come. I wish we did.

Ultimately this wasn’t a bad addition to the series and I am happy to not have been disappointed yet again.

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

THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things. 

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.


Title : The Initial Insult
Author : Mindy McGinnis
Series : The Initial Insult (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA mystery/thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I think we can all agree that what the actual fuck.

I have such a weird relationship with McGinnis’ books. I love that she writes the strangest but often most compelling, unflinching, kind of things. But I seem to either love them, hate them, or not know whether I love or hate them. This is in the last category. And it’s a stranger feeling, too, considering this isn’t a standalone and there’s to be a sequel. Maybe I’ll know which camp I fall into after reading book two? Because I will.

I couldn’t tear myself away from this, could only stare unblinking as things got weirder and continued to escalate, and then.. that ending. Which we know isn’t an ending, but. Wow.

I’ve read this two months early so I’m going to be incredibly interested to see where this goes, and how people feel, as more readers pick it up. There’s really not much more to say! Compelling, yes, but definitely a qu’est-ce-que-fuck kind of read.

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

THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying–and failing–to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone.

But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Welcome to The Unity Project.

The next pulls-no-punches thriller from New York Timesbestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult. 



Title : The Project
Author : Courtney Summers
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA thriller/mystery
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

It’s probably my fault for expecting The Project to be another Sadie but.. I expected another Sadie.

That said, the way that Summers actually utilized this concept, and your preconceived notions about how exactly that looks like, might end up being different from the reality. Or so was the case for me. And that was definitely to its benefit, I think.

Having a sister is a promise no one ubt the two of you can make — and no one but the two of you can break.

This was definitely on the tamer end of a story featuring a cult, or an organization that looks like one (but is it?), so I would encourage those who are interested but afraid of the potential darkness to not despair. I think you could handle this. That doesn’t mean it’s pure easy going, of course, but it’s far less brutal than I thought it would be. Though not without an edge.

There’s no forgiveness in me, I don’t think. Just a brutal acceptance of all that has been lost and a resigned march forward in the face of no other options.

The plot is what kept me reading for this one. Not the characters. Unfortunately I just couldn’t quite connect to anyone. There was loss and heartbreak and abandonment that I could definitely sympathize with at times but I eventually did hit a wall where I couldn’t go further or parts I was just reading, not really living, if that makes sense. I’m kind of bummed because I definitely wanted an experience like Sadie (which wrecked me) and I didn’t get anywhere near that. But it’s okay.

While I wanted something from this that I didn’t get, though the plot hooked me and kept me going, it didn’t quite follow that expected path, which is definitely in its favour. It’ll be memorable for that.. but not much else.

A good read, and not one that felt very long, with a lot of meat for you to chew but unfortunately, at least for me, not one that left me feeling totally satisfied.

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

BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Gardner

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.


Title : Before She Disappeared
Author : Lisa Gardner
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : crime/mystery
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Incase you’re wondering how this fits into Gardner’s DD Universe, or various connected series, surprise! It doesn’t. BEFORE SHE DIED is a standalone from this prolific author and stands apart (at least for now?) and in a sense our protagonist, Frankie Elkin, feels like a combination of all Gardner’s other leading ladies.

What Frankie does is investigate missing persons cases, specifically people of colour, whose disappearances have remained unsolved, long gone cold. This definitely gave me a bit of a Flora vibe, minus the vigilante thing, because Frankie has no investigative experience, isn’t pretending to be a cop or a private detective. She is a full on civilian, leaning into the perks of having no red tape to contend with, while somehow managing to ask the right questions, poke the right bears, and use her single-minded focus as an limitless resource to do what the police can’t : find answers. And though she is without training, and heeds no rules, she gave me serious DD vibes with her wit, and her addiction, as a recovering addict, made me think of Rainie. See? Little bit of everyone.

Did I like her though? I don’t know. Sometimes. She definitely has a bit of mystery of her own, some backstory that haunts her, and haunts us too with teasing little moments that make us wonder what happened, what would possess a middle aged woman to be transient, traveling from city to city, state to state, working odd jobs to make a living wage for the length of time she needs to search out the missing person, only to pick up and leave. I love the idea of this. I love how Gardner leaned into the loneliness of it, the fixation, a different form of addiction — one she doesn’t resist, one she feeds, even as she fights the call of a drink — and yet I never truly.. felt her, understood her. Maybe that’s realistic, though. Maybe we’re not supposed to. No one else seems to.

The mystery of this story? So unique. I’m not sure I’ve read one like it. It twists and turns, the pieces never seem to quite fit, much less seem to actually belong to the same puzzle, and yet it did all inevitably make sense.

What I liked almost as much as the concept? The setting and, as it went hand in hand, the supporting cast. This takes place in a very multicultural area in Boston and the mix of neighbours, the various people Frankie befriends, orbits around, they all felt rich, solid, like people I would want to know. It makes me sad that even if we get another story featuring Frankie, it won’t be with these other characters. Or, rather, unlikely to be. Because that defeats the concept of her existence, of her mission.

Overall this was really solid, though I definitely found the first half more compelling, and while it probably won’t make the cut if I ever did a Top Ten Gardner Books list? I still had a good time with it.

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

WATCH OVER ME by Nina LaCour

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

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

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



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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

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

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

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

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

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

THE SILENT WIFE by Karin Slaughter

Investigating the killing of a prisoner during a riot inside a state penitentiary, GBI investigator Will Trent is confronted with disturbing information. One of the inmates claims that he is innocent of a brutal attack for which he has always been the prime suspect. The man insists that he was framed by a corrupt law enforcement team led by Jeffrey Tolliver and that the real culprit is still out there—a serial killer who has systematically been preying on women across the state for years. If Will reopens the investigation and implicates the dead police officer with a hero’s reputation of wrongdoing, the opportunistic convict is willing to provide the information GBI needs about the riot murder.

Only days ago, another young woman was viciously murdered in a state park in northern Georgia. Is it a fluke, or could there be a serial killer on the loose?

As Will Trent digs into both crimes it becomes clear that he must solve the cold case in order to find the answer. Yet nearly a decade has passed—time for memories to fade, witnesses to vanish, evidence to disappear, and lies to become truth. But Will can’t crack either mystery without the help of the one person he doesn’t want involved: his girlfriend and Jeffrey Tolliver’s widow, medical examiner Sara Linton.

When the past and present begin to collide, Will realizes that everything he values is at stake . . . 


Title : The Silent Wife
Author : Karin Slaughter
Series : Will Trent (book ten)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 498
Genre : thriller/mystery
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I’m actually pretty tempted to round up on this one. This book consumed me. It’s almost five hundred pages and yet I flew through it, hardly able to tear myself away, and when it ended I could’ve read two hundred more pages. It was that good.

But it’s also.. not good. As usual Slaughter does not hold back and this particular case, which requires some time jumping, was dark and brutal. There are some horrible things to navigate but thankfully nothing on-page, however we do have to live through the breakdown of events through the investigation of the case. If you’ve read this far into this series, however, you’ll know what’s to come. And for those who haven’t? Why are you even here, this is book ten! In a series that spins off another. Go back and start with Grant County, please. You can thank me later.

And speaking of said series.. Slaughter gave us such a gift. The way she ended her first series was devastating. And I think in some ways we’ve all come to romanticize certain things — though I obviously can’t speak for everyone. What the author did in The Silent Wife? Makes all of us (sorry, again, maybe just me) want to go back and do some serious ass kicking. This author always knows how it push my buttons and it’s not just in the horror sense. She writes these characters that make you want to reach through the page and bitchslap them. And we got three of them in this one. Familiar faces one and all and ugh. Visceral reactions, I had them. Five stars for making me feel almost unrivaled hate and disgust and disappointment. Thanks for that.

As for the mystery itself, I actually guessed this one! Ten points to me. I don’t think the foreshadowing was actually that obvious but like. I kept noticing something. It could easily have been a red herring but my gut wouldn’t let go of it. I couldn’t have rationalized it or pointed out anything to back it up. And yet. So, yeah, I’m proud. But wow what a mindfuck for.. well, one of our characters. I’m not spoiling.

On the relationship front (also, please, read the author’s note at the end, I loved it and Slaughter made me laugh at her comment regarding romance), we had some serious ups and downs to navigate. As one would expect. The author is dragging this out but now.. oh now. This was a great foil, a perfect tipping point, and getting the side by side of memory vs present, now and then, well. Obviously I have a favourite. Obviously I love these two. But I love all the characters, too. Our supporting favourites were in their element and everything just worked. Brilliant.

I’m so happy there is still more to come in this world. Thank you, Slaughter, for confirming that. Is it too soon to be asking for it.. now?

THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NONE SHALL SLEEP by Ellie Marney

The Silence of the Lambs meets Sadie in this riveting psychological thriller about two teenagers teaming up with the FBI to track down juvenile serial killers.

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.


Title : None Shall Sleep
Author : Ellie Marney
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA historical fiction/thriller
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think I would’ve enjoyed this a lot more if the tone, or writing style, had been a little different. Because the way this thriller unfolded, the chase, the crimes and the why, the whole set-up of using teens to hunt those who hunt and kill teens, is all fascinating. The fact that the backstories of these these junior investigators (not highschool age, this is a bit more realistic than that) were so traumatic, in very different ways, and how they battled those demons to do this work.. it was great.

Equally great was sidestepping much of what the female protagonist had gone through. We get hints, terrible hints, but nothing is explicitly explained and instead Marney lets us use our imagination — the scariest thing she could’ve done. It also, in a way, feels protective. Conversely, though, the author also leans into that when it comes to another character and that tease, as opposed to hitting us with every terrible thing, carries so much more weight.. but for a different purpose.

However. I felt quite removed from.. a lot of this. Maybe that was purposeful because there are pretty gruesome, not to mention traumatic, moments but Marney didn’t linger over them, didn’t sensationalize them, as they were already impactful. And yet still.. there were maybe only two highly charged moments that I truly felt, was truly moved by, and that just wasn’t quite enough.

I’m also left very curious as to how things wrapped. Is this the beginning of a series, maybe? Could there be more? I would absolutely read on. Maybe being familiar with the style would make a follow up book more enjoyable. I don’t know. But these two characters have me so curious as to where they would go next. Plus I liked how effortless it was to be thrown into the eighties without a thousand blinking neon signs reminding us of that fact at every turn. It was nice to leave the current timeline and skate back to something different. Even if it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

If you’re looking for thrills and chills during this spooky season, I would totally give this a try!

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

GROWN by Tiffany D. Jackson

Korey Fields is dead.

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

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

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

All signs point to Enchanted.


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY’S NOT COMING by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone? 


Title : Monday’s Not Coming
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA mystery/contemporary
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : May 22, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Oof, man, oof. Jackson does not pull punches with her stories.

Whereas ALLEGEDLY gripped me, sometimes terrified me, twisted me up in knots, MONDAY’S NOT COMING, by contrast, was an equally important story — this time about the children, particularly those of colour, (and in this case, a young Black girl) who go missing — but failed to maintain that same intensity, of suspense. There was definitely some dread to be felt, as a reader, knowing that this would not have a happy ending, but getting to that moment, and wading through all the scenes leading upto it, felt a bit.. arduous. This wasn’t helped by the fact that our protagonist, Claudia, read very young. I mean, she is, I believe she’s fourteen or fifteen at the onset, but her voice felt even younger. Particularly when set against some of the subject matter. But maybe that was a deliberate choice.

This story was heartbreaking to read because for so long only Claudia notices something is wrong. Only Claudia cares. And watching how others were so slow to action, how reluctant people were to pay attention, was just excruciating. The circumstances that Monday (and her siblings) endured? Horrific. That’s where the aforementioned dread came in. You could see it happening, unfurling in slow-mo, as we live through the “before” moments; all the clues that Claudia was just too young to understand, too quick to believe otherwise, it was awful.

Where this particular read failed to land, however, was in the timeline shifting back and forth; yet another unexpected element that definitely makes me think I should be wary of getting the rug pulled out from under me for all of Jackson’s books; and there was a little too much meandering around in-between all the Monday-centric stuff. That said, of the meandering, I did like that we had some focus on Claudia’s struggle with dyslexia and some very positive and helpful moments with teachers towards coping with that.

So, yes, I had some pretty high expectations coming off of reading this author’s debut and this didn’t quite measure up. But it’s still a read touching on some very real and important issues and would recommend you give it a go.