BLACKOUT by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.


Title : Blackout
Author : Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 256
Genre : contemporary / diverse reads
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : June 22, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’m leaving this unrated and instead rating the stories separately with mini reviews.

Tiffany D Jackson’s story, The Long Walk, is the main driving force of these interconnected stories of Black kids during a city-wide blackout, with four parts that break up the anthology. This story focuses on a couple who have since broken up and both happen to arrive an internship there’s only one spot for. Before it can be resolved, the blackout hits. With nothing else to do, they agree to walk home together and, along the way, hash out their issues. This definitely got a bit overwrought at times, I’m mostly thinking of Act Three, and maybe I’m just used to Jackson’s more mature stories but this felt very.. young, on the childish end of YA, despite the fact that the characters were eighteen. And it’s such a bummer as I’ve loved so many stories from this author. But this one just didn’t do it. Two stars.

Mask Off by Nic Stone : a coming out/coming of age short between two boys who weren’t ever quite friends but were in each other’s orbit throughout the years. Until a queer masquerade party brings them together.. in a way. But it isn’t until they are stuck on the train together when the blackout hits that the masks (not literally!) come off. Honestly, this one was just.. fine. Nothing really remarkable. Two stars.

Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk : this short was set in an senior’s living facility, where two girls, one the granddaughter of a resident and the other, who visits the seniors with her therapy dog, meet. When a photo goes missing, the two girls search the home and, as they spend time together, sparks fly. This was a little too insta for me but it tied in with the theme of all the epic love stories being told around them. It was also a tiny bit repetitive RE the granddaughter’s sorta ex but it was cute. Three stars.

All the Great Love Stories.. and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton : hmm, sorta mixed feelings about this one. I love the idea of these two best friends with their history of bets combing through a library to find the greatest book of all time. She’s working up the courage to tell him how she feels and we get pieces of their history together; he’s got a revolving door of girlfriends, she never bothers. Does he feel for her what she feels for him? Again, love the concept, but some of this, despite being a novella, dragged out a bit. The pacing was a little off. But, still, it was cute. Three stars.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Angie Thomas : this short features a girl on a tour bus, on a school trip from Mississippi, struggling with feelings for her crush.. when she already has a boyfriend. I’m not going to say much more about this and risk spoiling it, because it didn’t end the way I expected, but the tie-in is that the driver is another character’s father and he may have accidentally gone off-route to drive them towards the block party happening in Brooklyn, where all the other characters we’ve met so far are also planning to attend. Four stars. And, in hindsight, though I loved Yoon’s writing best, this was my favourite story.

Seymour & Grace by Nicola Yoon : easily the best written of the bunch! And I enjoyed the story, too, even if it felt extra short. A girl is trying to find her way to the block party all the characters have made it to where she plans to confront her ex who dumped her because she’d “changed”. She ends up in a Ryde with someone listening to a philosophy podcast and they strike up a conversation; but it’s a rocky meeting. Things go wrong on the way to their destination but, eventually, they get there. And then.. well. Spoilers. I would’ve loved an extra chapter of this, instead of the extended Jackson story, and I’m sad it was so short. It’s a softer story but felt very Yoon-like. Which is a good thing. Four stars.

But while the little throw away tie-ins in Yoon’s story to bring everyone into the story, into the party, was nice, it still boggles my mind we didn’t get a concluding chapter that made it feel, after all this build up, that we were actually at this party?.That’s still confusing. It just kind of ends. Even though the Jackson wasn’t my favourite story, it held the anthology together, working as the glue. So couldn’t we have had a proper ending?

Overall, this wasn’t bad, but I expected to love a lot more from this bind-up than I did. So that’s a bit of a bummer. But I’ve not read anything by Woodfolk or Clayton before, though I’ve definitely had the latter on my radar, and I will definitely be picking up their solo offerings in the future.

CAZADORA by Romina Garber

In Cazadora, the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.


Title : Cazadora
Author : Romina Garber
Series : Lobizona
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : August 17, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2.75 star review

Did I think this was a duology? Yes. Am I disappointed? A bit. Because even though my feelings about this instalment were kind of lukewarm, the ending hooked me. I kind of expect to be in the same spot again with book three, where I end this review thinking the next book might inspire some love and probably being a little let down again.. but oh well, we’re going to do it anyway.

Bruja. Lobizón. There’s no accompanying symbol, but there’s no need. The gendered language makes it clear which one is for girls and which one is for boys. There’s no breaking out the binary, no room for anything in between.

Some of what I struggled with in book one wasn’t here in book two, which was great, but overall I’m not 100% what actually happened in this book to differentiate it from book one. I mean, yes, we had the big capture, the big confrontation, but the majority of this book was just going through similar motions except the world expanded a bit more from the binary structure introduced in Lobizona. Until those misfits, much like their strict counterparts, weren’t willing to unbend quite as much as expected. Part of me appreciated it, because going with the flow would’ve been a little too easy, but it did reinforce the whole ‘what was the point of this’ feeling. I imagine where we go next will be to lean back into a lot of the themes of book one — isolation, illegal, unwanted — with a few key differences.. such as the truth being out in the open. I can’t picture how this ends, though; so that’s something.

They’ve been making up stories about independent girls in every tradition since forever. And I think it’s time we take back our narrative.

As creative and visual as this world is (don’t ask me why but my brain conjures Avatar-like colours and scenery), I do think it is a bit of a distraction from the dragged out plot. The themes, the dialogue, are all just as important and great as they were in book one, but.. I don’t know. There’s just a but for me.

Again, the ending was good, I will be back for more, but am I still sad I’m not loving this world? So much. Because of that, please disregard this review. I won’t recommend you pick it up but I think this is important enough that you should anyway.

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

LIVING BEYOND BORDERS edited by Margarita Longoria – double review!

Twenty stand-alone short stories, essays, poems, and more from celebrated and award-winning authors make up this YA anthology that explores the Mexican American experience. With works by Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sanchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Laura Perez, Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

In this mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, this celebrated group of authors share the borders they have crossed, the struggles they have pushed through, and the two cultures they continue to navigate as Mexican American. Living Beyond Borders is at once an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers. 


Title : Living Beyond Borders : Stories About Growing Up Mexican in America
Author : edited by Margarita Longoria
Format : eARC
Page Count : 224
Genre : YA contemporary/mixed media anthology/short stories
Publisher : Philomel Books
Release Date : August 17, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Who made the rules on what being Mexican was or wasn’t? I’d always been told to check a box — to fit in one category or the other. But it wasn’t ever that easy. And why did it matter?

I wasn’t sure I was going to rate this, as I don’t tend to award stars to non-fiction (not that I read much of it, to be fair, despite my best intentions!), but as I think most of what is comprised of this anthology is fiction (though I could of course be wrong..), I felt it deserved to be rated. Particularly in the hopes that people see the stars and feel inspired to look a little closer at this and maybe, even, hopefully, pick it up.

Mom and Dad used to love taking me to all the Mexican and Chicanx pride events, and I used to like it too until I got older and couldn’t wrap my head around how it’s possible to dance with such fierce colourful joy while shouldering a legacy of so much pain.

Though there are twenty different offerings within this collection this is not a long read and, in the case of some of the specific ones I’ll shoutout below, I wish it had been longer. I can’t possibly know the impact of what this collection will do for readers who see themselves, or their parents, or their loved ones, in these stories but I have a feeling this’ll mean a lot for a lot of people.

I understand that for many Americans — including my own parents — being seen as American is a struggle that can be tiring and long.

As for those standouts? These were mine.

Coco Chamoy y Chango by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo was the first one to make me wish there had been more to it. I wanted to keep reading, I wanted to learn more about these characters, and where they were going. It was such a casual little snapshot in time but it made an impression.

Next was My Name is Dolores by Guadalupe Ruiz-Flores and, to quickly sum up, it broke my heart. The image of that little girl.. well, I won’t spoil. But it was one of those little big moments that leaves quiet devastation in its wake.

An Ode to My Papi by Guadalupe García McCall might have been the shortest of the bunch but.. I don’t want to call it lovely, because it was also so sad, but it was a bittersweet, heartwarming, heartaching little tribute. Though there’s nothing little about the message.

Finally, there was La Princesa Mileidy Dominguez by Rubén Degollado which snuck up on me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t invested in the story as it unfolded but it wasn’t until the final paragraph or two when I realized how much I had softened as the story went on until I found myself brushing away tears. Partially it was the importance of the celebration described, the moment of transition from child to young adult, but it was more how this group of strangers, this community, came together without hesitation. It was incredibly moving.

There was one more quote I really wanted to share so I’ll use it to sign off this review but suffice it to say yes, I had some favourites, but most of the quotes I’ve pulled didn’t even come from those stories I’ve mentioned. There was something different, something important, something moving, in everything offered in this collection. And also something for everyone.

I’m so tired of these trying political times, and I’m tired of trying to care about the newest protests and the hashtags and the kids who die or almost die and get fifteen minutes of fame from the adults who have all the money and the clout and the thoughts and prayers but don’t actually do anything.

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Here’s a collection of short stories to push you right into your emotions and some of them are going to be discomforting ones. From the first story of this anthology of stories/poems/letters from people who have straddled the Mexican/American borders, I was absorbed. These stories made me angry and hopeful, sad and in awe.

While I appreciated them all, here’s a flavour of some of the ones that either hit me in the gut, educated me or transported me to someone else’s experience (sometimes all of these things).

Ghetto Is Not An Adjective by Dominic Carrillo took a chance encounter and made an impact through poetry, ignorance felt like it was the theme for this story.

“There Are Mexicans In Texas?” by Trinidad Gonzales really conveyed the importance of family history to how he’s navigated peoples’ ignorance and racism at various junctures. These familial stories seemed to ground the author’s sense of self. I could have read his experiences and anecdotes for much longer. This quote really hit home and has relevance to other countries too:

The struggle to belong is found not only in the politics of the street, but in official institutions that are supposed to be inclusive of all Americans.

Ode to My Papi by Guadalupe García McCall squeezed my heart in a mere moment on the paper. So much was conveyed in a short space.

There were so many others to mention, but I wanted to give a dynamic snapshot of what’s on offer here.

I live overseas but I read and watch these issues, wanting to know more, especially when tensions were heightened under the 45th POTUS’ control. This book afforded me a deeper dive into individual experiences both fictionalised and non-fiction. I recommend this to all and it is definitely suitable from teenage upwards.

The editor/author provided me with a early copy through netgalley but this has not influenced by review.

LOBIZONA by Romina Garber

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.


Title : Lobizona
Author : Romina Garber
Series : Wolves of No World (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Right off the bat, I have to say, I absolutely love and respect what Garber is both saying and doing with this story. Between the very real-world fear about being undocumented, illegal, deported, the author has also transported that same fear into their fantasy setting where the origins of our MCs birth make her just as illegal but with the added bonus of her existence also being punishable by death. That said, the real-world scenes with ICE were scarier.

Despite the creativity of the fantasy portion of this world, I rather wish we hadn’t been in it. And not just because of the constant references to a certain Wizarding World and school (which, hey, warning! now you know). I almost wish all the fantasy bits had happened within the real world setting somehow and this had been more urban fantasy than what it was. Because I did like parts of the magical side of things, even if, brujas and lobizones (witches and werewolves) the whole society, was stuck in binary gender roles — though at least with more open-mindedness at the possibility of being other.. for reasons.

If you hadn’t noticed, this book tackles Lots Of Things.

Sometimes I liked the descriptions but I could feel myself glazing over a bit, skimming, until a certain reveal was revealed (clever). But even in the lead up to a certain confrontation I just felt lost in this other world. We definitely hit a point near the end where it’s just a frenetic rush to get some action in before the end and I was definitely feeling checked out.

I like, though don’t love, the characters but totally appreciate the slight deviation of formula in regards to the romance. But ultimately it does get a similar YA fantasy treatment, snowflake and all, and is saved by all the important dialogue happening around the fantastic elements (I stupidly didn’t keep track of any quotes but man there were some really great lines in here). And, again, not only what Manu represents but all the who she represents.

I’m interested to see where book two goes, and thankfully have an ARC I can dive into soon. I can totally see why so many people love this and hope I come around to those same feels in the sequel.

SIX CRIMSON CRANES by Elizabeth Lim

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.


Title : Six Crimson Cranes
Author : Elizabeth Lim
Series : Six Crimson Cranes (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 464
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : July 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I make no bones about the fact that Daughter of the Forest is probably my favourite book, from my favourite series, of all time. Six Crimson Cranes is loosely based around the same fairytale, The Six Swans. Marillier puts her own spin on the former and Lim does the same in her story. Comparing the two would be like comparing two different Beauty and the Beast retellings.. except for the fact that I am far more invested in this one!

I liked so much of this particular reimagining, from transporting the tale into an Asian-inspired setting, to the extra fantastical elements the author infused into it, the different direction she took with the main character, and, specifically, one thing I can’t mention due the spoilers.

I did, however, find it was a struggle to imagine certain scenes, either because it was hazily described or there were just too many bodies and things bouncing around at once, and it got muddied, which would bounce me right out of the story. I’ve not read the author before so I’m not familiar with her writing in this way but this is also an ARC so maybe it’s just one of those ARC things. That said, the big conflict flies by so quickly, particularly the one I’m familiar with from the story, and some of the impact is lost as a result. Which is unfortunate as I had really become invested up until that point and it was then that I lost steam and pretty much immediately knew I’d not be rounding up the rating.

Also, there’s a certain condition of the curse that befalls our main character and the way it’s described? I hope some character art gets made to give me a better idea of what that’s supposed to look like as my brain struggled to picture something that wasn’t.. silly. And even still I’m not entirely sure there’s any way to salvage it.

Speaking of picture, though, that cover? S t u n n i n g.

So, yes, there’s a lot of good here, and I’m probably biased, but it’s not going to be a favourite. I am, however, very interested in reading on and seeing where the story goes as the retelling portion has concluded and it’s all new territory from this point on (at least I assume! maybe there’s a new fairytale inspiration for book two, who knows, not me). If you need more diverse fantasy for your TBR, I would definitely encourage this as an option.

Side note, to all my Daughter of the Forest fans? Reading this will only make you want to immediately pick up the Sevenwaters series for a reread, so. If you don’t have room in your schedule for that kind of thing, beware (or be resigned, and excited, to have an excuse for such a thing).

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

OFF THE RECORD by Camryn Garrett

The behind-the-scenes access of Almost Famous meets the searing revelations of #metoo in this story of a teen journalist who uncovers the scandal of the decade.

Ever since seventeen-year-old Josie Wright can remember, writing has been her identity, the thing that grounds her when everything else is a garbage fire. So when she wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine, she’s equal parts excited and scared, but also ready. She’s got this.

Soon Josie is jetting off on a multi-city tour, rubbing elbows with sparkly celebrities, frenetic handlers, stone-faced producers, and eccentric stylists. She even finds herself catching feelings for the subject of her profile, dazzling young newcomer Marius Canet. Josie’s world is expanding so rapidly, she doesn’t know whether she’s flying or falling. But when a young actress lets her in on a terrible secret, the answer is clear: she’s in over her head.

One woman’s account leads to another and another. Josie wants to expose the man responsible, but she’s reluctant to speak up, unsure if this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if this ends her writing career before it even begins? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

From the author of Full Disclosure, this is a moving testament to the #MeToo movement, and all the ways women stand up for each other.


Title : Off the Record
Author : Camryn Garett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : May 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Oof, I feel pulled in a lot of directions right now, and hope I manage to do an okay job at explaining my thoughts with this one. But I think, not unlike another contemporary I’ve read this year (likely more than one, actually..) the main issues I had with Off The Record is that I think it’s just trying to do too many things.

While reading this book I had actually forgotten what the main plot point was going to be because I felt like it just took too long to get there. Which naturally made the catch-up, the acceleration of it all, that much more.. frantic. Balancing this whirlwind adventure after having won a write-in contest to interview an upcoming actor, catching feels, making friends, battling anxiety, body issues, slowly realizing said friends had experienced something terrible, being convinced to write about it in addition to the profile on the actor, have a romance, bond with a sister.. there are a lot of spinning plates.

In addition to all that, there’s also some good discourse over separating art from artists, which is something I know we all struggle with; more and more each day.

I don’t necessarily think anything beyond the romance really suffered for being rushed (Marius was such a soft lovely human but to be honest I wasn’t really convinced by the connection) but there’s also the suspension of disbelief over how quickly all the pieces fell into place for the big climax.

Sadly I also don’t think I liked any of the characters. No one was awful beyond the villain of the piece (though the main sister dynamic was tough for the majority of the story) but I was reading for the story, even oddly paced as it was, more than the characters. I’m not sure why I didn’t like anyone; not even Marcus, despite his soft loveliness — but I definitely felt for them. Josie’s anxiety overwhelming her, the mixed feelings about her weight and acceptance of her body, I could connect so well to both. But there was just.. something. I can’t put my finger on it.

The subject matter of this story is very relevant and important — and, of course, trigger warnings surround the whole issue so please be conscious of that — and despite my mixed overall feelings I definitely recommend people still pick this up.

Also, as always, you should take my review and my rating with a grain of salt. Though none of my criticisms touch on anything non-plot specific, please prioritize #ownvoice reviews over my own.

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

WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD by Ciannon Smart

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance. 

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power. 

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes


Title : Witches Steeped in Gold
Author : Ciannon Smart
Series : Witches Steeped in Gold (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 560
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Look, I’m not saying I’m an idiot for picking up a dense complicated fantasy while trying to pull myself out of a slump but.. if the shoe fits, right?

While a good portion of my struggle with this book is, as above, my own damn fault, I also think the first half of this book is just too thick. There is so much to wade through as far as history and worldbuilding and terminology, which is kind of understandable with a series-starter, but it just didn’t sink in. And while the second half of the story was full of action and betrayals and reveals, oh my, I’m still left wondering if I understand anything about this world.

I’m also kind of confused as to where we ended up with one of the main characters. But that’s a whole other thing.

Easily my favourite thing about this was the writing; even when I was struggling with a character, or two, or the plot, I enjoyed how it was all written. But overall, beyond the representation, I’m not entirely sure this is memorable and I know I will absolutely to remember anything about this by the time the sequel is out. Which is a bummer.

I definitely suggest you still give this is a try if you’re interested, though; I’m writing this just two weeks shy of its release and the early buzz is poppin’. This is connecting with, and entertaining, so many readers. So don’t let this slumpy party pooper put you off.

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

FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley

Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange. 

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother. 

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation. 

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. 

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known. 


Title : Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author : Angeline Boulley
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA contemporary/mystery
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : March 16, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

While this has not become a new favourite like I thought it might, I highly encourage all readers to consider picking up this book. I know we all feel differently about what a three star rating means but please know that I did really enjoy reading this. But what’s more I just think this book deals with so many important things.

The best way I can pitch this story is something along the lines of an Indigenous Veronica Mars. But unlike Neptune, this world balances more than just the haves and the have-nots, but also the dynamics of the Ojibwe community and those outside; of which Daunis, our biracial protagonist, knows well. The complexities of the Native community are explored beautifully (at least from this reader’s perspective!) and while I never felt like I was being lectured to, I nonetheless wanted to know more. However, much like Neptune, there are some dark depths both in this setting and this community, so bear that in mind and seek out content warnings if you require them.

I don’t want to get too into the details of the plot itself as this unraveled in ways I wasn’t expecting but I will say that what brought this down, and kept it from a higher rating, was I felt some weakness in the romance and maybe some of the layers of the whole mystery felt a little.. overblown? Too much? There is a lot going on in this debut. I think had a few off-shoot plotlines not been included it would’ve felt a little stronger, a little more contained, but I still enjoyed what this was at its core. That said, if you can suspend a little extra disbelief, which most of us do anyway when it comes to fiction, you might be okay. Additionally, there were also plenty of lovely passages and turns of phrases that absolutely have me keen to read whatever comes next for this author.

If you’ve made it to the end of this review, and if you haven’t already done so, I would highly recommend you also search out some #ownvoices reviews.

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

FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender – double review

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve. 


Title : Felix Ever After
Author : Kacen Callender
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : May 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4 star review

I went into this read with some trepidation on two fronts; one, because I had read a book by this author before and absolutely hated it and two, so much hype. Almost all my friends unanimously loved this. So, yeah, I worried.

But pretty much from page one I was completely captivated.

There are a host of difficult themes, attitudes, and dialogue within this story. This isn’t just a tough coming out or coming of age contemporary. It’s self-discovery, sure. It’s battling prejuice, yes. It’s navigating life in all its ups and downs and ugly and messy and beautiful realities.

I’ll admit there are two bits or elements that are what keeps this from being a full five star read for me. Firstly I don’t enjoy catfishing plots, so that’s definitely a personal preference, but also I did just feel there was a lot of drama. Nothing really to the point where it felt manufactured just for the sake of it but, still, a lot of conflict.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t yet been convinced to take the leap and pick this book up, please let me be the one to nudge you over the edge. It won’t be easy but I hope you’ll find it worth it. I certainly did.


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Roller coaster emotions
A road to understanding
Journeys

This book packed a punch to my heart, my emotions and it also paved a way to learning. I feel like this book should be a high school must-read, to provide a space for identificaton for teens questioning but also to inform, teach and give the opportunity to walk for a little while in Felix’s shoes. I threw myself into this story, the characters and they educated me and I loved them.

There is a world of hurt in this read, be ready. Felix was the kind of endearing and relatable character, finding his way, himself and often a bit of loner apart from his bestie. The hurt from family quarters was something deep, the hurt that arose from actions in school nearly did me in, my jaw drop and I felt.

The story was so quintessential age 17 in lots of ways but through the lens of someone experiencing life in a way many of us will not. This isn’t an overtly educational book but it really did educate me about that thing I am most interested in – people’s lived experiences. There were so many lines in this book, often inner monologue that struck me and stayed with me. Here’s a few.

I guess it just feels like I have one marginalisation too many, sometimes.

“The pride march is in a couple of weeks,”
 they say.
“But sometimes, it can be difficult to find pride for ourselves.”

Read. This. Book.

Thank you to Pride Book Tours and Faber Books for the gifted copy.

CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.



Title : Cemetery Boys
Author : Aiden Thomas
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 350
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Swoon Reads
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

Man, I am so bummed right now. I really thought this was going to be a read that lived up to all the extraordinary hype and became a new favourite. But..

Okay, good stuff out of the way? The first half was pretty excellent (more reason for being bummed). The descriptions of both family and culture? So vivid. I could see the colours, I could smell the food, I could hear the overlapping chatter of families. Everything was written with such ease, such flow, that I couldn’t believe this was a debut. There were a few instances of repetition but it seemed to happen as new chapters started, almost like a reset, so.. I kinda forgave it. Also, I was a pretty big fan of Yadriel, our main protagonist, and thought his struggle to make a place for himself in the Brujx culture to be heartwrenching; he refused to give in, to compromise who he was even as every rejection, every time he was misgendered, or dead named, was a stab to his heart. That said, I didn’t love the love interest all the time. He had some extremes I wasn’t down with and while the protagonist didn’t always let him get away with it, it wasn’t fun to live through the tantrums. And some of the exchanges were just.. chaotic.

I would like to note that this isn’t a story with a big shocking mystery. You know who the villain is almost from the beginning. Or at least I did. But it’s fine. Just don’t be surprised if you are expecting a spooky dark mystery. This is actually fairly lighthearteded in the overall vibe.

Remember why we’re doing this.”
So they’ll see that I’m a brujo.”
Well, yeah, but other than that.
Spite?
Spite!

Where this went hella sideways was the big confrontation. I said things were chaotic at times? Wow, it got worse. Things happened at break-kneck speed and then my eyeballs were being assaulted by capslock and !? exclamations over and over again.. at which point events happen in such a way that a certain character is, like, doing something that amounts to crouching over another and snapping like a dog because they are worried or being protective, or both, and it was just. I had to put the book down because suddenly I didn’t know what I was reading or what was happening. Things just really went off the rails. It was all those moments I disliked about the character from before but magnified to a hellish extreme. Even the bestie of our main protagonist, who up until this point was a solid favourite, was just so.. over dramatic for literally no reason. It went full on soap opera/CW moment and I was just left baffled.

In conclusion. The first half? Very good. The second half? Actually, it’s not even a full half, it’s like.. maybe three chapters? It doesn’t drag out but it really slaps you in the face. Or at least it did for me. So that bit? A lot less good. But we had a sweet ending and there was something that did happen that I didn’t expect, possibly because I’m dumb, and said thing is a good thing. So while this wasn’t an overall win for me there is lots of enjoyment to be had, along with knowing you’re reading an #OwnVoices story with solid representation, and I will absolutely read this author again.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started