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. **

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 COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.


Title : The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author : Holly Black
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 433
Genre : YA paranormal/urban fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 3, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I picked up this book for a spooky readathon prompt (shoutout to the #ScreamQueensReadathon hosts!) even though it would be a reread for me but considering it had been a few years — five, at least — it seemed timely to give it another go anyway.

That said, I did want to go back and peruse my thoughts before writing a new review and wouldn’t you know it this predates my GR reviewing. Fail. But it got me scrolling through some reviews from those on my flist and I got to say.. I laughed at how few people actually like this book. But I did! I feel like those who didn’t like this book are maybe the same readers who enjoyed The Folk of the Air series more than I did. No shade! It’s just amusing. And also interesting.

But back to this book. I probably won’t be able to properly explain why I liked it because I can definitely acknowledge there are bits that weren’t my favourite — the ending, for one; not the open endedness of it all but I felt it was a bit rushed to tie things up to the extent they did. I mean, some readers DNF’d this and others said it was too filled with bits they didn’t care for but I could’ve read another hundred pages no sweat!

Sure, there are some conveniences for our leading lady, some things she achieves in what could be the manner of a special snowflake but it all felt pretty reasonable to me, all things considered? And when pitted up against the exboyfriend who came along for the ride AND the people they ended up carpooling with who also came along for the more literal ride? She was certainly not at the top of my list of irritating or stupid characters.

If you didn’t believe in monsters, then how were you going to be able to keep safe from them?

This story leans into all the dark and gruesome of vampire legends (and in fact I loved the bloating detail after their feed, it’s gross and awesome!) and all the stangeness that comes with revering celebrities and the pedestal we put so many people on just for the circumstance of their existence. Because oh yeah, I didn’t mention, vampires live in lockdowned cities (the side eye) where the infected, those who have been bit or fed from, are also quarantined (quiet hysterical laughter), and these locations, called Coldtowns, are also filmed in Big Brother fashion and posted online. Though, much like an Instagram filter, the content is only one side of a coin and the reality isn’t all glamorous blood drinking parties.

This might not be for everyone (clearly isn’t if you look at GR!) but it worked for me!

INSTANT KARMA by Marissa Meyer

In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate. 



Title : Instant Karma
Author : Marissa Meyer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary / magical realism
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : November 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 2 stars review

It’s not like I asked for this gift, so I figure I must’ve done something to deserve it.

So, full disclosure, I didn’t remember requesting this and when it popped up for download I did experience some minor trepidation. I’m not sure why. I just wasn’t sure about this one, even knowing as little about it as I did, so again, why on earth did I click? I blame quarantine brain.

I can punish and I can reward. It makes perfect sense. I’d just been so eager to right wrongs before that I hadn’t considered how karma flows in two directions.

And ultimately I guess my gut instinct was right. But not quite to the extent I expected. Because Prudence? Completely and utterly insufferable — even before she’s given the power to award and punish those around her for situations she infers at a glance. No context, no understandings, just snap judgments and bam, a bird shits on your car, bam you fall and break a leg, bam a baby pukes on your feet, and on and on. The reward element of her magical powers are very underutilized as is to be expected from someone who assumes she knows all and not only has a right to judge others but has somehow earned it.

So you’re officially volunteering at an animal rescue centre for the next month. How very selfless of you, dear Prudence.”
Hey, I can be selfless.
I know you can, but don’t you see the irony? You’re only doing this for the grade.
So? Actions make a person good, not motives.”
I’m not sure I agree with that.”

^^ additionally the irony is Prudence’s whole argument definitely feeds into her delusion of thinking she knows best. But also.. doesn’t the fact that she’s directing the universe to work through her to punish others also mean her actions, despite her motives, make her a bad person?

The frustrating thing is there was such a lovely element to this story, which thankfully did take up a lot of page time and is what kept me reading, regarding the animal rescue centre and all the animals requiring care and rehabilitation and, occasionally and happily, even a return to the wild. There is a big emphasis on the environment and conservation and protection of animals, both those in the wild but also farming practices and the meat industry too. It worked to ground the story, yes, but was also a nice distraction from everything else.

Ultimately, though, even though Prudence undergoes many little epiphanies and realizations that she’s erred in judging others, I’m just not sure she ever really overcame where she started from. I liked Quint, the love interest, but do not think he deserved half of what he put up with. Though he did have a line regarding his feelings towards Pru that summed it up perfectly, I think. I won’t spoil it though. It’s worth experiencing in the moment.

And, to make matters worse, there ended up being a person who deserved true karmic justice and ultimately didn’t get it. So after putting up with all Prudence’s choices for the whole book, when she finally gets the chance to make an informed decision and enact justice and retribution — even though I don’t agree with someone having that kind of power, particularly an entitled sixteen year old — the one person who does deserve it? Doesn’t get it. Arg.

This definitely wasn’t a win. It wasn’t quite terrible. But it definitely skirted the line for me. It was frustrating, and there were a few too many things left unresolved, but it wasn’t toss-the-book-across-the-room rage inducing. Plus, the image of big eyed seals are keeping me from rating this any lower. So, thank the seals.

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

HAVOC & HAPPINESS by Wren Handman

Michaela Peters didn’t let dying get her down.

After all, it was only for a few minutes, and the hospital paid her a huge settlement. Now she’s an emancipated minor with nine million dollars in the bank and her entire future ahead of her. Life could be a heck of a lot worse!

Michaela moves to Montana, determined to enjoy the queer high-school drama that life is serving up. Instead, she finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a fight between horrible monsters that shift with a person’s imagination, and the gorgeous trigger-happy siblings who hunt them. The problem? She seems to be able to destroy the monsters with a thought, but the hunters haven’t decided which side she’s on. 



Title : Havoc & Happiness
Author : Wren Handman
Series : Agathi Adventure (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 290
Genre : YA paranormal / LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wandering Roots
Release Date : October 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

The easiest way to pitch this book is Supernatural meets Kaylee, from Firefly, if she was queer.. and also sixteen. Look, the pitch isn’t perfect but that’s the vibe. Our main character is a relentlessly cheerful and hopeful human and honestly if Kaylee isn’t the first person you think of, who is? But I digress.

Michaela, the protagonist of HAVOC & HAPPINESS, has been dealt a hand that would bring lesser humans low. And somehow she keeps on going, and with a smile on her face. Add to that the fact that she’s left the foster system, emancipated herself, and willingly thrown herself into a new school, trying to make new friends, all while living on her own. Said new school comes with plenty of drama.. even before she stumbles across a dead body and the siblings who are hunting the thing that did the killing.

The Supernatural vibes are strong in this one but it’s balanced by the total opposite of that show’s dark and brutal aesthetic. The tone is light even as it tackles heavy topics like grief, abandonment, and a few other things I don’t want to mention because spoilers, and as a bonus it’s also diverse af.

Also? This is the first book in what might be a trilogy, but I think will actually be a duology. So if you’re looking for a new paranormal series to lose yourself in that’s got a healthy portion of romance, angst, trying to find one’s place in a world that is more complex than at first glance, as well as the strangeness of monster hunting stakeouts, all while balancing homework and highschool parties, this would be one to try!

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

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. **

CHECK, PLEASE! BOOK 2 : STICKS & SCONES by Ngozi Ukazu

Eric Bittle is heading into his junior year at Samwell University, and not only does he have new teammates―he has a brand new boyfriend! Bitty and Jack must navigate their new, secret, long-distance relationship, and decide how to reveal their relationship to friends and teammates. And on top of that, Bitty’s time at Samwell is quickly coming to an end…It’s two full hockey seasons packed with big wins and high stakes!

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life. 


Title : Check, Please! Book Two : Sticks & Scones
Author : Ngozi Ukazu
Series : Check, Please! (book two/volumes three & four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ sports graphic novel
Publisher : First Second
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I’m not sure how I managed to be oblivious to the fact that this was the final installment but.. I was. And I’m so sad about it.

But nonetheless this was such a sweet, wonderful, way to end this series made up of pure wholesome hockey fun. Even though we had some much bigger moments overall, I still think I liked book one a little more. This one did definitely feel a bit more real, though, as in with real stakes and real coming outs, among other things, and I loved it for that serious foundation.

I really don’t have a lot to say. This is soft, pure, laugh out loud delight, with baking, romance, coming of age and also coming into into your own. Also.. hockey. You should definitely read it.

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. **