DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?



Title : Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 433
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 27, 2011 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

Don’t worry, I’m not late to the party when it comes to this series. This is a reread inspired by the upcoming release of the tenth anniversary paperback editions featuring new covers that, to be quite honest, I didn’t love at first sight. But in person? Wow do they grow on a body. And lets be real, as much as I love a cover, it’s the insides that really matter. And was I afraid this might not live up to my memories? A tiny bit. It’s 2020 after all. Much stranger things have happened.

Despite owning two different editions of this series, this was my first reread. I don’t know how that’s possible, either, but thankfully reliving the magic and wonder and heartbreak was only slightly less pow, bam, boom, amazing than the first time.

Loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve — like a soul’s version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.

Taylor’s writing is.. well, I mean, you either love it or you hate it. But I love it. I love how vividly and perfectly I can picture everything she describes. I love how I can sense the emotion she’s trying to convey. I love how her characters can make you laugh just as quickly as they can make you bleed. It’s really the whole package for me.

To take from the universe, you must give.
But.. why pain? Couldn’t you give something else? Like.. joy?
It’s a balance. If it were something easy to give, it would be meaningless.
You really think joy is easier to come by than pain? Which have you had more of?
That’s a good point.

If, after all these years, you’re still on the fence about this series, you should definitely.. get off that fence. There is such wonder and magic in this story and, yes, darkness but also humour, with strong characters, hints of destiny, and.. inevitability, I guess. In a good way.

Surprising no one, I’m diving face first right into book two and absolutely preparing myself to be destroyed and devastated all over again. Bring it.

** I received a finished copy of the new edition from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ROCK by Anya Sunday

Igneous.

When Cooper’s parents divorce, he finds himself landed in Week About—one week with his mum and one week with his dad.
Only, it’s not just his dad he has to live with. There’s Lila, too: The other woman, the one who stole the rock-solid foundation of his life. 
And then . . . 
There’s Jace. Lila’s son. Lila’s smug, regurgitated-fish-scale-blue eyed son. 
All Cooper wants is to have his family back the way it once was, but there’s something about this boy that promises things will never be the same again. 

Sedimentary.

Resisting the realities of his new life, Cooper and Jace get off to a rocky start. But rocky start or not, after hundreds of shared memories together, they forge something new. A close . . . friendship. 
Because friendship is all they can have. Although it’s not like they are real brothers. Technically, they’re not even stepbrothers . . . 

Metamorphic.

But how does that friendship evolve under the pressures of life? 
Under pressures of the heart?



Title : rock
Author : Anyta Sunday
Format : eBook
Page Count : 248
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : October 1, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this is a big yikes for me as this book is one of my buddies’ favourites and one I’ve been keen to read for a while (but likely avoided because of said aforementioned status as a buddy’s favourite — the pressure!). But I can’t say I went into this with any preconceived notions or trepidations because I had no idea what it was actually about and knew only that it was an m/m contemporary. And now, having read it, what people likely assume was my problem with this.. wasn’t. Or rather it wasn’t my main issue or why I disliked this.

Said main issue was this : I realize the family dynamic is purposefully a little messy and chaotic and that plays into complications between Cooper and Jace but.. like, wow, this family really did that and just went along as if it was okay? Like, I’m not going to spoil anything but what Cooper and his sister Annie are just forced to accept? Wow. Hard no. And to be honest I’m not sure how it was any better for the other side, either. I’m sure this kind of thing happens in reality (though I hate to think it), but I found the whole thing so strange. Particularly in the beginning when everyone just found themselves distracted by “family vacation fun-times” as, like, what a bribe? A manipulation into forcing camraderie and connection? I’m honestly pretty mad. Maybe I’m taking this a little too far but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

As for the angst itself, I mean, I don’t like how things were left when it came to a certain unveiling but I think what was more disappointing about it all was that I didn’t find either character very compelling. No one, in fact, in the entire story really interested me. This was likely exacerbated by time jumps, weird chapter ends, and strange transitions, which made it hard to really connect to anyone or feel grounded in events or emotions. Which didn’t help when we later had the whole cyclical back and forth of it all which just felt kind of tired and tedious — even though I didn’t know if this would even have an HEA and therefore couldn’t predict what awaited me. I was prepared for either result and not quite invested to care either way. Though maybe I would’ve liked it more had it gone in the opposite direction it did? Unsure.

So, yes, I feel bad (my shoulders have been up around my ears as if said buddy was lurking behind me as I write this) but this wasn’t remotely a win. However, in order to not end on a negative note, I will say the writing had moments of loveliness and the reason for the title, the way Cooper connected to rocks, was sweet. But sadly that’s all I’ve got.

THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy, not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real. When her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s truly safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. Unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything: not only her role as Keeper, but her memories – and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?



Title : The Unbound
Author : Victoria Schwab
Series : The Archived (book two)
Format : physical/hardback
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 28, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

THE UNBOUND picks up a few weeks after the end of book one and things are both better, for having survived and having come out ontop of the villain from the previous book, and also worse because surviving, and winning, doesn’t mean you come out unscathed. Family dynamics take an even messier turn over the course of this installment because of near misses and secrets and oh boy. I get the difficulties but these particular parentals were something. Additionally, Mackenzie is haunted both literally and figuratively by what happened to her but this time she doesn’t have the freedom of movement or time because summer break is over and school’s in session. It’s a new school, too, which means new routines and new faces but maybe one familiar one.

“I’m not ready for this.
You hunt down the animated records of the dead in your spare time. I’m pretty sure you can handle private school.

I’m always a sucker for an ensemble and while Mackenzie’s new social group doesn’t take up too much page time they are still very present and very fun — and not without complicated histories (little h!) to navigate.

The walls between worlds used to feel like they were made of stone — heavy and impenetrable. These days, they feel too thin. The secrets, lies, and monsters bleed through, ruining the clean lines.

And it’s not the only thing to navigate. The Archive is coming down hard on her, in new ways, and while in some ways the villain from before is still present in this book, there’s also a new baddie : one of the top members of the Archive is out to discover what Mackenzie is hiding, by any means necessary, but all for the good of the Archive. I did kind of question this insane zeal but it does kind of fit with the the mixed bag of feelings about the Archive itself; it has an important role but not everyone involved is on the level.

And speaking of important role? Wesley. That’s all.

I don’t remember this feeling as open ended as it clearly is but in the years since I’ve read this at least we know (?) there are plans to continue this series. Eventually. Maybe. That’s reassuring. Plus I’d love to see where Schwab goes with these characters after all these years. I am definitely here for it. I’m not sure I liked this one as much as book one but as an overall arc? It works so well. Plus this just brought with it so much more Wesley and, as established, that’s all I need.

One more thing? Don’t forget to read this after you finish.

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?



Title : This is Not a Test
Author : Courney Summers
Series : This is Not a Test (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 337
Genre : YA horror/post-apocalyptic thriller
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : June 19, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5



Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I wish I could say my problem with this book was the fact that I was reading about the downfall of society in the face of a zombie apolcalypse whilst enduring a global pandemic but sadly this just sucked because of the characters. However the scary part is it is very likely to be a realistic portrayal of a group of dysfunctional teens and the drama and chaos as they try to survive.. but it still just sucked to experience.

The arguments, the antagonizing, the petty BS.. it was just never ending. This clocks in at just over three hundred pages but it felt so much longer and I dreaded picking this up every time I put it down. Which is why I powered through it this afternoon just to be done with it. The zombie aspect was fine and I actually liked those action sequences. I would’ve been happier with more of those, maybe? It was the humans I hated. I definitely wanted them to die off quicker. Too harsh? Sorry.

That said, I did pick up the novella that follows this, from a different POV, and that was better. Not good or great but readable. Also, short! It was more action packed but with an ending that was pretty sad, awful, sawful and yet also somewhat open ended so I don’t think if there’s eventual plans for more or not. But.

There are plenty of similar themed stories out there. I would give this a miss.

YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true? 



Title : You Should See Me In A Crown
Author : Leah Johnson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Scholastic Inc.
Release Date : June 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This isn’t quite the rating I had hoped to give this read but alas here we are. Don’t let the stars, or this lackluster intro sway you though; if you haven’t yet picked this one up, you totally should.

There’s a reason this book was all over the place a few months ago and that’s because this debut? Adorable. Truly. I honestly can’t say there was anything about the scope of this book that frustrated or upset me. It was just that I found little things within that chipped away at the overall enjoyment, or flow, and that’s why I can’t quite round up on this.

When you already feel like everything about you makes you stand out, it just makes more sense to find as many ways to blend in as you can.

Liz Lighty really goes through it. Over the past four years she’s taken on a certain role because of a fateful event in freshman year that lost her a friend. But, through her need for scholarship money which is the reason she tosses in her hat for prom queen, she ends up reuniting with said friend. At the same time her actual bestie is testing her by trying to over-control Liz’s campaigning. She’s also crushing on the new girl, but keeping it on the downlow because she’s not out, which is made even more complicated by the other girl also running for prom queen, and the rules being set out that the whole prom establishment allows for only male/female matchups. There’s also a sick brother, grief from losing a parent, and probably other things I’ve already forgotten. It’s a lot.

But, at the same time, it doesn’t feel like too much? It definitely has that Netflix/’90s teen movie treatment but there’s nothing really wrong with that. My minor frustrations mostly came about because I felt certain things got a lot of page time, others less than they should, and the pacing felt a little compromised in the lead up to the big climax when everything just gets a big convenient. But overall everything that Johnson put within the pages? Great. And actually, up until the inevitable break up (it’s not even a spoiler, people, we know this happens), the romance was probably my favourite part. The adorable sweetness was unreal. Even the villains of the piece and the ridiculous homophobic rhetoric within the school wasn’t too grating to be unpalatable. Everything really did work.

So basically what this means, or what I think it means, is that if Johnson can do this for a first book? Her sophomore release will likely be a smash.

Definitely recommend.

MASTER OF ONE by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett

Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.

Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.  


Title : Master of One
Author : Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : YA fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : November 10, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This might be a read I could actually round up on but for now I’m going to linger just under a three. I definitely didn’t hate this and, despite the length (so long!), it was a pretty easy read — I swear, my eyes only skimmed the tiniest bit. Also the concept is definitely different and I appreciate that. But I do rather feel the pitch of this book as being a big ol’ heist adventure is patently false.

Instead, this book is about the ever lasting reign of a queen who has committed, or at least contributed to, genocide against the fae that used to live alongside them. And a resistance that has spawned in the wake of not only her un-ending reign but also the secrets that lie beneath the surface.

Said resistance is led in part by unsuspecting characters who are pulled together by some kind of fae destiny as the discovery of one leads to another, who leads to the next, etc. This is not the standalone I thought it to be (again, see aforementioned length) so nothing is quite resolved and players are still to be discovered (hope you like multiple POVs!). Along with, you know, taking down the queen and her various sorcerers and unmasking her along the way.

What kept me from enjoying this to the extent I thought I could was how removed I felt from so much of it. I mostly felt this in the characters but I also kind of feel it of the world, too. Like, I can mostly visualize it but it’s very.. rough. Not fleshed out. The authors have set the stage but forgotten the props. You understand the motions that are playing out but there’s nothing to draw the eye. Anyway, enough of that.

I will pick up the next book because I’ll admit I’m curious at the motivations behind the big ruse. But that’s mostly it. Plus, I do have one character that kind of was a favourite, even though he’s the love interest for one of the more annoying main characters. Poor guy.

If you like fae, if you want a fantasy that has queer rep, and are keen to dive into a pretty substantial series (duology, trilogy, who can say!) opener, this might just be the book for you.

** I received an ARC from 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.

BIRTHDAY GIRL by Penelope Douglas

He took me in when I had nowhere else to go. He doesn’t use me, hurt me, or forget about me. He listens to me, protects me, and sees me. I can feel his eyes on me over the breakfast table, and my heart pumps so hard when I hear him pull in the driveway after work. 

I have to stop this. It can’t happen. 

My sister once told me there are no good men, and if you find one, he’s probably unavailable. Only Pike Lawson isn’t the unavailable one. 
I am. 

PIKE

I took her in, because I thought I was helping. As the days go by, though, it’s becoming anything but easy. I have to stop my mind from drifting to her and stop holding my breath every time I bump into her in the house. I can’t touch her, and I shouldn’t want to. 

But we’re not free to give into this. She’s nineteen, and I’m thirty-eight. 

And her boyfriend’s father. 

Unfortunately, they both just moved into my house.


Title : Birthday Girl
Author : Penelope Douglas
Format : eBook
Page Count : 407
Genre : romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 17, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I suppose this one is on me because I’m not really sure what else I expected when I picked up BIRTHDAY GIRL.

If what you want is a slowburn romance that leans into the taboo of not only an age gap but also the “wanting my boyfriend’s dad/wanting my son’s girlfriend” angle, I’m sure you could probably do much worse than this. However..

I’m not sure the characterizations were all that consistent. With maybe the one exception, surprisingly enough, being the nineteen year old protagonist. She was mature for her age, she was pretty focused, she was weathered by disappointment and experience (not the good kind) which gave her perspective and some gravitas. But she also had moments of being impulsive and.. maybe bratty is harsh but young. And it felt true to form. The thirty-nine year old older man, however? Way less consistent. And also didn’t remotely feel his age. But maybe that was purposeful to like.. make him more accessible and lend him that air of being younger than he seemed? Take the edge off both sides of the equation by mentally aging her up and then also mentally making him a little.. not young but. I don’t know how to explain it. And lastly, to round out the main trio (even though we didn’t get his POV), there was the boyfriend. A pretty inconsiderate person all around, his behaviour worse considering how he was treating not just someone who was supposed to be a friend first but also the person you love, and the abrupt pivot at the end with the magical fix? Eye roll. So, really, I only liked Jordan and basically thought both men unworthy of her.

Additionally, this story has a bunch of outside drama, too, incase the (actually relatively low, considering..) angst from the above wasn’t enough for you. We have evil exes (one also violent because why not), on both sides of the relationship, and all the drama that comes from a small town with nosy neighbours and the down on their luck or straight up trashy residents. Which I guess explains why so many people have excuses for their bad behaviour? I don’t know.

I guess overall I just expected something more? In the sense that this didn’t feel as edgy or taboo as I expected. It felt rather standard as far as romances go, just with an age gap. But as much as I wanted more, I also maybe wanted a little less. This felt a bit long.

So, yeah, not remotely a homerun for my first time reading Douglas but both this and PUNK 57 come recommended by so many people. So I’ll still be giving that a try before assuming we’re not a good fit.

THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.



Title : The Archived
Author : Victoria Schwab
Series : The Archived (book one)
Format : physical/hardback
Page Count : 337
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 22, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

This was another reread I chose to do for a spooky readathon and yet another world I’m really happy to have revisited. Similarly, it’s been about five years since I first read this series but this one has stood out in my mind pretty vividly. Up until Schwab’s most recent release, I considered this duology my favourite by this author. And while it’s easy to see how much progress she’s made as a writer, which sort’ve implies this is inferior.. it isn’t quite that. It’s a different target audience, for one, but yeah it does read a little younger — which is fitting for the characters. But my biggest issue with this on reread is perhaps the pacing. Everything else was still great. Also side note, I guess I just love all of Schwab’s writing when she’s in dark moods or leaning in melancholy and grief?

I flew through in a few short hours (yes I’m one of those one or two sitting binge readers!) and while that clearly implies it sucked me in — which it did! — I think this could’ve done with about a hundred more pages. Some places to flesh out events and characters but also even out some of that change in pace. To a certain degree it makes sense that the latter half is faster because events have escalated and are happening at breakneck speed, and you do get a sense of that slow building with the increase in Histories, so.. maybe it’s not quite so unbalanced. But I still think it would’ve been improved by more. Particularly in the case of a certain romantic element; had it been built up a little slower, giving it more strength, it might have felt less out of character. I got the why of the appeal but it did feel unlike our lead character.

Ultimately, if you didn’t already know, this story deals with a group of people who work for the Archive. Which is where, for all intents and purposes, a copy of those who die are kept. The visual is a big library, everyone a book on the shelf, but a backed up copy of a person’s life and/or upload into the metaphysical Cloud works, too. Within that Archive are levels of people from the Keepers, tasked with returning Histories (what amounts to our ghosts), all the way up to Librarians who monitor the Histories who are sleeping or have been returned to sleep after their escape. There are other players, too, but that’s the gist. It’s not dissimilar to THE STARLESS SEA in that sense but the story itself is vastly different.

After a loss, Mackenzie’s family uproots into a new town, into a new home, and there her responsibilities take an uptick as the hotel-turned-apartment building seems to have a high traffic of Histories to manage. In doing so she meets another Keeper, the first outside of her grandfather, and increasingly things change and also begin to spiral out of control. She’s balancing a new home, a discordant family dynamic as they all try to adjust to the new normal, grief, and suspicions that something within the Archive isn’t right.

There’s feels, and danger, and secrets. And also Wesley. Boy did I ever love him just as much the second time around.

And yes, surprising no one, even though I’ve just completed my required readathon reading by finishing this, I’m diving right into the second book.

THE GUY ON THE LEFT by Kate Stewart

It started with a lie. A night of blurred lines between a teacher and a student. 

I wasn’t her student, yet it was the single most defining night of my life. 

I’ve never been the man she thinks I am. 

Most people have no idea about the life I’ve lived or the words that ring true when it comes to me—still waters run deep. 

But you’d be hard-pressed to find a coed on the TGU campus who knows otherwise…because I’ve never corrected them. 

The clock is ticking down, it’s Fourth and Inches with the ball inside the one-yard line and the focus is on me, The Guy on the Left. I’ve never felt like a football god, inside I’m…just Troy. 

It’s time to set the record straight. 

For my son, I‘ll find the strength. 

In her eyes, I’m determined to gain redemption. 

I will have them both, even if I have to take my eye off the ball. 

All books in the series can be read as a stand-alone. 



Title : The Guy On The Left
Author : Kate Stewart
Series : Underdogs (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 429
Genre : romance
Publisher : KLS Press
Release Date : December 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5



Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I was warned by some that book two in this series wasn’t on par with book one. But I’m not sure I expected it to be.. this.

I’m sorry to say there wasn’t a single thing in this that I enjoyed. Not the drama (of which there was a lot), not the characters, not the soap opera-style dialogue without any sense of actual emotion fueling them, just words thrown around, not the stalking-because-I-care behaviour that no one ever acknowledged was a problem (seriously he did this for years and at one point references hanging outside a window to listen to a baby cry.. like, wow, no), the back and forth rehashing of the same problems over and over again even though you thought you’d kind of resolved it the chapter before but surprise nope, the really annoying child character (I swear I got over this and found myself enjoying the young precocious child character concept but this one? nah..) .. I could go on.

Troy has always been diligent with his stalking. But can it really considered stalking when it’s your own child you’re watching over? I decide it can’t. <– this is from the female protagonist’s perspective. I hate it.

Everything I liked in book one was missing to the point that I truly don’t understand how this is the same series much less the same author. Was I drunk? Punked? I’m mostly being a shit but honestly, it makes you wonder.

I’ve already deleted this off my kindle and we’re just going to pretend it never happened. I think the third book is the final in this series but I’ve already side eyed some reviews, one from someone who warned me about book two but more telling are reviews by those who loved books one AND two, so that’s not reassuring. Completionist in me wants to wrap this up but considering I wanted to DNF this like twelve times.. the odds don’t look great. We’ll see. It won’t be soon, that’s all I’m saying. I would still recommend book one. But, as of right now, treat it as a one and done.