Slay | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Slay

Author: Brittney Morris

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 323

Categories: Gaming, Race, Racism, Relationships, Family, Friendship, Contemporary, Young Adult, Own Voices, Identity

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

My Attention: Read in 1 day

World Building: Washington State

Writing Style: Kiera’s voice carries us through this story and it flowed so well, even when it was describing game play scenes which can get confusing as a non-gamer

Crazy in Love: Kiera and Malcom are definitely in love but they have challenges

Creativity: I loved everything about Kiera’s virtual reality game!

Triggers: racism, toxic masculinity

My Takeaway: Wear your crown!

  • This story covers so many topics! Racism – Kiera and her sister are 2 out of 4 black kids at their school. Toxic Masculinity – in Kiera’s relationship with Malcom and when it appears in a male dominated gaming world. Identity – who is Kiera? She’s hiding this VR game she created, she’s smart, beautiful, and she has a great family and boyfriend, she seems to have it all – but her secret remains a secret because she doesn’t think anyone would understand it or accept her.
  • Gaming is a big part of this story and I’ve been reading more books about it because my son is a gamer. I’ve learned more about how male dominated it in and how feels go through so much harassment as a gamer. So this story was so good because Kiera created this rich, lush virtual world based on black and African culture – a world where black people can feel safe playing in no matter what kind of black they are. But then the question of safety comes at the forefront when someone dies after playing the game…so yes to all the issues and questions that come up in this story! Safety, racism, toxic masculinity, responsibility, all in the gaming world.
  • I love Kiera’s family – her parents have raised her as well as they could, and her sister, Steph always has her back. But there was a moment I teared up at the end, when she tells her parents why she never told them about the game and the pressure to conform to what they think is acceptable. Kiera poured her heart and soul into this game and to be afraid that her loved ones wouldn’t accept that – I felt her.
  • There are parts of this book where some of the main gamers in Kiera’s game gets some book time. For Cicada/Claire, who is an African French national but half Italian, in her France she has to deal with French people assuming she was born somewhere in Africa. She’s smart, can speak many languages and has a mom who is dying in Italy. Then there is Spade, a businessman who plays the game to escape the everyday life. I loved that the gamers were all different ages all over the world.
  • The search for Kiera’s black identity is a journey – for Kiera, I thought it was fascinating how she talked about being the voice of blackness at her mostly white school because she was one of the four black kids there. We see it in her relationship with her friend white friend, Harper. And then there is her boyfriend, Malcolm who is filled with goals and dreams to succeed as a black man in America. He has a plan for how this will happen with Kiera at his side…but will he accept her secret? The discussion in the news about if the game she created is racist because the game only allows black people to play…so much to think about and I loved that the book kept asking questions.
  • The ending! It shocked me and bugged me a little because I didn’t expect it. Like, no, how could that happen?! It came near the end and we don’t get to see Kiera try to work it out fully. But wow…and yes I’m trying to be vague and not spoil anything!

Read it. Gamer or not, I think you can relate to people wanting their own safe spaces and finding their identity. The game Kiera creates is fantastic – the costumes and scenes that are describe in this world of Slay is something I would love to experience as well. Also, the game cards (the cards they use in a duel) are so cool and inventive! Most importantly though are the issues and questions this book touches on. Kiera is a Queen, in her game and outside of it. I’m definitely going to be reading more from Brittney Morris.

💕 ~ Yolanda

Incendiary | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Title: Incendiary (Hollow Crown, #1)

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 384

Categories: Magic, Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: epic world building inspired by Spanish Inquisition era

Writing Style: flowed nicely, story slowed down a bit in the middle

Crazy in Love: so in love 

Creativity: Moira people have magic, Whispers are the Moira rebels fighting the king of Puerto Leones

Triggers: grief, violence, death, torture

My Takeaway: Who can you really trust?

  • That cover is pretty amazing!
  • I liked learning about the world of the Moira, people with different magic. Renata is a Robari, she can take memories and even do it to the extent to kill or “hollow” out a person. Other magics include persuasion, illusions and reading minds. The Moira have been pushed out of their homes and they are being hunted by the King of Puerto Leones. Now the king has a weapon that would ensure the destruction of the Moira for good.
  • Renata is a Robari so a lot of what her character does is taking memories and examining them. But her past is a mystery to her – she remembers some things, but not everything. This is a weakness for her. She’s a fighter, she’s tough and brave, but because she can’t fully face the memories of her past, there are things she misses and it causes her to make some mistakes. I thought it was fascinating to watch her deal with feeling like an outcast with both the rebels and being in the palace.
  • There are some twists and turns in this story that was like putting together a puzzle. But I could only really piece them together through Ren taking memories. It definitely drew an unexpected picture of evil Prince Castian!
  • This story is dark – I mean the Spanish Inquisition, with all that torture? 😒
  • The story starts off fast, with action but it dies off somewhere in the middle. Then picks up again to finish strong. I think what was missing for me was Prince Caspian making a real appearance throughout the book. He is there at the beginning and the end, the middle felt like a mystery and slow…I just wished he was there throughout the whole thing, just to give Ren someone to battle.
  • The beginning starts off with no world building, you get thrown into the story with a lot of action – so I did have to get my bearings.
  • So that cliffhanger ending…what the heck is going to happen in book two?!

This story grew on me. I found the world building interesting, even though the rebels with magic versus the king who hated magic trope is pretty similar to many young adult fantasy books out there. I think the Spanish Inquisition inspiration makes it stand out. Renata with her missing memories and taking memories is a fascinating character, and so is Prince Castian who we still don’t really know much about! And yes, I will be reading book two because that ending was pretty crazy.

💕 ~ Yolanda

I Know You Remember | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: I Know You Remember

Author: Jennifer Donaldson

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 326

Categories: Mystery, Grief, Recovering Addicts, Mental Health, Young Adult, Thriller, Twist

Zahra Gaines is missing. 

After three long years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to this devastating news. Zahra was Ruthie’s best friend–the only person who ever really understood her–and she vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie’s return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Gone is the whimsical, artistic girl who loved books and knew Ruthie’s every secret. In her place is an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever…

As Ruthie desperately tries to piece together the truth, she falls deeper and deeper into her friend’s new world, circling closer to a dangerous revelation about what Zahra experienced in the days before her disappearance–one that might be better off buried.

My Attention: read in one night

World Building: Anchorage, Alaska – rugged trails and terrain, trailer parks, diverse population

Writing Style: quick read

Crazy in Love: not a romance 

Creativity: major twist I didn’t see coming

Triggers: violence, racism, mentions of drug abuse, physical abuse, abuse in a church

My Takeaway: You think you know…but then you don’t.

  • Ruthie’s dad is a recovering alcoholic, and her mom just died. She is trying to deal with it when she moves back home to her dad in Anchorage, Alaska. Now she has a step-mom and step-sister, Ingrid who is her age. But all Ruthie wants to do is see her best friend, Zahra. But Zahra is missing, so Ruthie does her own investigating.
  • I like the diversity represented in this book, since I don’t know a lot about Alaska. I enjoyed the Native American and Samoan representation. Alaska is the perfect setting for this book too, because bears? (Frightening), woods and trails where you can get lost in (and maybe get mauled by a bear?) haha…but it lent the story some of the creepy vibe.
  • Usually mysteries bore me, but this one really had me guessing. We get a cast of characters who last saw Zahra and so one by one we follow Ruthie as she tries to find out what really happened to her.
  • I liked Ingrid. She seems sweet and cheery but underneath all of it is a past where her mom was a meth head, they lived in their car for awhile, so she did not have things easy.
  • The twist was good, in a messed up way. I had some suspicions but couldn’t quite put the puzzle together totally.
  • There were some parts along the way to the twist that made me think…what does this have to do with Zahra? It was a slow build but I really wanted to know what happened to Zahra so I stuck with it.

I bought this book last year and I haven’t read it until now because I was waiting for the right time. I don’t read many thrillers but since Halloween is near, I felt I was ready to read this and I really enjoyed it! It’s a quick read that led to a twist that was so unexpected. If you like to read mysteries and young adult thrillers, this one might be something you would enjoy.

💕~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | Skunk and Badger by. Amy Timberlake

Welcome to the Skunk and Badger blog tour! This one is a little different from the books I usually feature on this blog but I couldn’t pass up on the illustrations in this book. Look and their faces!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Skunk and Badger

Author: Amy Timberlake

Illustrations: Jon Klassen

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 136

Publication Date: 9/15/20

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Middle-Grade Fiction, Animals

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
 
No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
 
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
 
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
 
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
 
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.

  • The illustrations are what caught my eye in the first place. I love the facial expressions of Badger and Skunk, the drawings really capture their personalities.
  • The characters Badger and Skunk are so different that living together comes with some challenges. Badger is set in his ways and Skunk is a flurry of energy. I like how the story shows how people with different personalities can learn to get along if they try.
  • This is perfect for middle grade readers but as an adult, I enjoyed it a lot too.
  • The ukulele scene had me! I live in Hawaii, so when Badger started belting out a Hawaiian tune, it made my heart melt and smile.

Skunk and Badger is so full of charm! I love how they eventually resolve their problems. It just goes to show that even with differences we are also alike in a lot of ways.

💕 ~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | Smash It! by. Francina Simone

Welcome to the blog tour for SMASH IT! by. Francina Simone.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Smash It!

Author: Francina Simone

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 269

Publication Date: 9/22/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Book Here: Amazon | B & N | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | GooglePlay

Categories: Coming of Age, Romance, Drama Club, Theater, Identity, Sex, Body Image, Family, Friendship

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me. 

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned? 

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”  

A lot, apparently.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Orlando, Florida

Writing Style: raw and relatable

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: love triangle…sorta…

Creativity: It’s an Othello retelling, which I don’t remember much of – but I love how we get Liv who’s basically in a Desdemona situation

Mood: drama…and let’s talk about sex  

Triggers: cheating, negative body image, insecurity

My Takeaway: F#ck it lists are great! As long as you don’t take it too far.

  • I liked being in Liv’s thoughts because we get to see her insecurities. Being a teen is all about insecurities! She’s best friends with two guy, one of which she is in love with – but maybe in honesty she’s attracted to both. Confusing? Can’t pick a lane? Yeah maybe, but she’s trying something new – it’s a year of saying YES to things that make her scared, or like she says…a year of F#ck Its. She writes a f#ck it list, and it leads her to so many new experiences. She’s a teen, making mistakes – and oh so relatable.
  • There is a lot of sex talk in this story – and not adults talking, teens talking and honestly I can’t say that my friends and I talked that honest about sex in high school. I WISH. It was the 90’s and we had songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex”…which was awesome, but I only talked about it when I went to college and let me tell you, it was a relief to have friends you can talk to about sex.
  • Lennox and Jackie become Liv’s first female friends! Liv grows a lot when she opens herself up to more experiences like auditioning for Othello and hanging out with the drama kids. I totally loved Lennox’s vibe – she wasn’t ashamed of her love of sex. But I thought it was cool that it was okay to be like Liv too – unsure about sex and not into something casual.
  • Diversity abounds in this book – we have POC characters, and bisexual representation. Now Liv isn’t someone exposed to much it seems – she’s shocked about Lennox’s sexual freedom, embarrassed at Jackie’s loudness at being black and proud (Jackie is from Atlanta). Mind you Liv is black but her mom taught her to basically be quiet about it. Her new black friends help her to embrace her body image and identity.
  • This story touches so many topics about identity, body image, race, cheating, sex, love, friendship and family.
  • I love how real the characters are. It’s the first book I’ve read from this author, but now I’m curious to read more. It had me laughing out loud at many parts because I felt like the characters were so relatable!
  • If you don’t like love triangles, this book may put you off. It’s not a “love” triangle, per se, she knows who she loves but it’s complicated. I thought the guys were fun, but at times I did want her to stand up for herself when she tried to shine within their little trio. I think the mistakes come when Liv is trying to figure out love, lust, like, etc…and it’s okay that she’s confused.
  • Liv’s problems become messy when certain events take place…I was happy with the conclusion, but this won’t work for some people. I would have equally happy if she ended up with no guy and just happy she had new girlfriends!

Smash It! is an engaging, drama-filled, coming of age story of a girl named Liv caught between trying to find her identity, loving herself – imperfections and all, and opening herself up to new experiences. Liv makes some mistakes along the way but with a new outlook on life and some new friends, she finds the strength to own up to it. This one got me cackling out loud and reminded me how we always make mistakes in life, we just better recognize it and fix it when they do happen.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.  http://www.francinasimone.com/

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

BLOG TOUR | Furia by. Yamile Saied Méndez

Welcome to the blog tour for Furia by. Yamile Saied Méndez!

“In this stirring novel by Argentine American author Méndez, passion for sports and personal growth intersect in Camila’s powerful, feminist first-person narrative about her experiences as an ambitious athlete, a teenager deeply in love, the daughter of an abusive father at the point of taking charge of her own life, and a young woman finding her voice in a deeply sexist, patriarchal society… A riveting coming-of-age story.”

Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Furia

Author: Yamile Saied Méndez

Format: Paperback (gifted by Publisher)

Pages: 358

Publication Date: 9/15/20

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Own Voices, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Young Adult, Soccer/Fútbol, Family, Friendship, Romance, Latinx

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far her talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university, but the path ahead won’t be easy. Her parents, who don’t know about her passion, wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. Meanwhile, the boy she once loved, Diego, is not only back in town, but has also become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Things aren’t the same as when he left: Camila has her own fútbol ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, she is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and passion of a girl like her.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me an ARC of Furia.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: engrossed ~ finished in one sitting

World Building: Rosario, Argentina ~ a melting pot of various cultures

Writing Style: beautiful, easy to digest and heartfelt

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: sweet love story

Creativity: Camila wants to be a fútbol star but she has to keep it secret for now ~ I loved learning about Argentine culture and the people

Mood: Inspired 

Triggers: misogyny, abuse, death

My Takeaway: If you don’t see a way to your dream, pave your own way!

  • Camila is so inspiring! She is of mixed ancestry: Russian, Palestinian, Andalusian, African. Camila’s African roots is what came out physically in her but her heart is all Argentina. She is complex: smart, beautiful, independent, ambitious, athletic and determined. Camila’s is also a teenager who is trying to balance going after her dreams, and chasing after love.
  • Life isn’t perfect for Camila, her family has secrets. Her dad is an overbearing misogynist, who wants a way to riches and fame through his kids! Camila’s mother is trapped in a loveless marriage and her brother, a talented fútbol player has the pressure to elevate his family. It all falls apart when her dad goes too far, but that’s when they find their strength as a family.
  • Part of the reason Camila keeps secrets is because people in their town thinks fútbol is mainly a male sport. Her brother and their friend, Diego, a young superstar are praised for their talents. Camila is as talented but fairly unknown except in the women’s leagues.
  • The book touches on many issues like poverty, domestic abuse and women’s rights. There is a feminist movement growing and the story connects it to Camila’s fight to play fútbol and shine as a talented, female player.
  • The romance is so sweet! I loved Diego and Camila’s relationship and yes, it didn’t seem to stand a chance with their life paths going different ways. But man, did I cheer them on and hope so hard that they would have a happy ending! They are young and in love and I felt it was realistic. The two of them had to make tough choices for their future.
  • The fútbol scenes were pretty awesome! I’m not a huge fan, but I’ve watched my fair share of the FIFA World Cup. I felt the excitement, I felt the tension ~ it was like watching a real game.
  • There is a violent family abuse scene in the book but Camila’s dad is the worse. I’m glad Camila was strong enough to not let her dad destroy her self-esteem and dreams.

Furia is a fantastic Own Voices story about a girl who will stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Camila deals with many challenges from an abusive father, and a love life she wants but cannot ultimately have. There are tough choices to be made in life, but Camila shows she’s strong enough to make them. By the end of the book I was inspired and overwhelmed with joy as Camila achieves her dreams. Furia is inspiring!

❤️~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine American who loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Méndez is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors. Furia is her first novel for young adult readers. https://yamilesmendez.com/

Red, White & Royal Blue | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Red, White & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Format: eBook (KU)

Pages: 421

Categories: M/M Romance, American Politics, LGBTQIA+, Family, Royalty, Adult, Contemporary

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: the political First Family world of the USA and the Royal family of England

Writing Style: dialogue was great, moved fast

Crazy in Love: so crazy, the first son and a royal prince 

Creativity: Love how we get a fictitious peek at the American political life, on the verge of a re-election campaign, and what being a royal in England would be like if one was a gay prince

Triggers: homophobia, anxiety, depression, grief

My Takeaway: Love is love and sometimes you have to fight for the one you love.

  • This is an enemies to lovers queer romance that had a lot of spark to it. I can’t say they are true enemies since the hate was one sided and misunderstood. I loved the dialogue between Alex and Henry, there were some pretty funny scenes. Alex is the loud, confident one and Henry is the quiet, mysterious guy. There is a lot of love making, a lot of it were booty calls at first but things change between them with romantic emails and confessions.
  • I love Nora and June who rounds out the White House Trio with Alex. They are young, ambitious, smart, and a force to be reckoned with! Alex’s parents are divorced but they work together to help each other out the best they can, so they have a modern family. Alex and June are also half white and half Mexican which adds to the diversity of this story.
  • Alex is on a road to self-discovery in this story. Henry is gay and always knew he was. Alex has been with girls, but has fooled around with guys too and just never thought he was bi, until Henry. I liked that we got into Alex’s thought process when he felt confused about his past and actions.
  • There are some mental health issues touched on in this story as well. Henry’s dad passed when he was a child, and he has his moments of depression, a wall that at times Alex can’t understand or get through. But he wants to know and understand. Alex on the other hand keeps moving, jumping from project to project so he doesn’t have to stay still and deal with life issues like his parents divorce.
  • I went into this thinking it was a young adult book, but with how many times they have sexy scenes, I’d say it’s more like a new adult/adult book. It didn’t get super detailed though, but you know what happens. Thing is Alex and Henry are apart most of the time, because they live in different countries, so the romance grew mostly through texts, phone calls, emails and the occasional hook-ups.
  • Alex was the main character…but he wasn’t my favorite. Like I said, he’s a firecracker or a tornado, he was busy and overwhelming. I related more to Henry who was quieter haha. I guess that’s why they work, opposites attract. But Henry has a great scene where he finally explodes and it was quite emotional.
  • Since Alex is the First Son and his mom is the first female President of the USA, and from Texas – I thought the take on White House life was fascinating and optimistic. In current reality? I’d say it’s volatile haha, but yes there is American politics in this book.

Overall, I had fun reading this one, and I think it’s the first true M/M romance I’ve read. I’ve read books in the fantasy genre where there are M/M relationships. Red, White & Royal Blue is an enjoyable queer romance that has fun dialogue, sexy scenes, a great cast of secondary characters, and a happily ever after.

💕 ~ Yolanda

You Should See Me in a Crown | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: You Should See Me in a Crown

Author: Leah Johnson

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 328

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, F/F Romance, Racism, Sickle Cell Disease, Friendship

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?

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: Campbell County, Indiana – where prom is the event of the year

Writing Style: easy to read, flowed beautifully

Crazy in Love: cautious in love 

Creativity: a prom giving away prize money? I can see the appeal of running for prom court!

Triggers: racism, outing, mention of death, illness, homophobia

My Takeaway: “I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.” ~ Leah Johnson

  • Liz Lighty, is smart, talented and queer. Only her friends and family know but now she’s running for prom court because there is a money prize she needs to attend the college of her dreams. So everything about her now is in the spotlight at school – who she talks to, who she hangs with and who she likes.
  • The f/f romance was so cute and Amanda’s promposal was a winner! These two don’t have it easy dating each other but it’s obviously easier for Amanda because she’s a new girl, quirky and white. Liz is black, in Indiana and queer. She has it harder on all levels but they try to make it work and mostly do with some challenges.
  • For me the friendship stories really stood out in this book. Liz has a different crew of friends, each with their own quirks and talents – but Gabi is her best friend. Gabi is also all in with helping Liz win prom court, but it gets too be a bit overwhelming for their friendship. And an old friend, Jordan, reunites with Liz because they are both running for prom court – but they have a troubled past and relearn to be friends again.
  • The message of taking the crown for your own is empowering. Liz stays classy while fighting for her right to run for prom Queen despite her race and who she loves. I absolutely loved that moment when her friends help her come up with her motto! It was so inspirational.
  • I can see this one as a movie or tv show.

This story is an inspirational story about a black girl, Liz, who is trying to be prom queen and win a crash prize in a small conservative town while being queer. What starts off as a story about winning money to attend her dream college ends with a girl who takes the crown by being unapologetically herself. YES. “Eff your fairy tale.” 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

💕 ~ Yolanda

BLOG Tour | Road Out of Winter by. Alison Stine

Welcome to the blog tour for Road Out of Winter by. Alison Stine!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Road Out of Winter

Author: Alison Stine

Format: ebook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 9/1/20

Publisher: MIRA

Purchase Links: Harlequin |Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

Categories: Dystopia, Climate Change, Eco Thriller, Survival

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter. So opens Alison Stine’s moving and lyrical cli-fi novel, ROAD OUT OF WINTER (MIRA Trade; September 1, 2020; $17.99).

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

Thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: intrigued but kind of waned in the middle

World Building: fascinating – Appalachia Ohio enduring a very long winter, resources are low and people are in survival mode

Writing Style: slow, tense

Bringing the Heat: more like cold, VERY cold 

Crazy in Love: no time for love in this story

Creativity: weed, an endless winter, and trying to survive makes for a very interesting story!

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: drug use, violence, mention of rape

My Takeaway: The currency of the future in a climate crisis will be seeds and someone who knows how to grow them.

  • I don’t read many eco-thrillers but this caught my eye because Wil is a weed grower and it’s a skill that will help her survive this endless winter. Wil comes from a place of poverty and heavy drug use, she’s been around all kinds of drug users since she was a child, and that helps her navigate her way out in this new cold world.
  • I like how the author describes what’s happening in the towns as winter doesn’t let up. We see resources grow scarce, people panicking and leaving for someplace else. There is no internet, no way to really communicate, no news…it’s a dire situation and it’s something that could happen in reality. That’s the thrilling and scary part of the story.
  • Wil is on a mission to get to her mom, so she needs to leave her town but she meets people along the way, and the further they get from home – they get into harrowing situations and meet other people on the road. They encounter different groups of people out there which made me wonder if Wil would get to her destination at all or intact?
  • Who knew being a weed grower would be a skill to come in handy? There isn’t much weed growing happening in this story but I understand that once she settles down somewhere it will be the knowledge that will help her grow food to survive.
  • I didn’t connect much to any character. But I think the story gets much more interesting when Jamey and Starla enters the picture.
  • The beginning for me was a slow build but the later half is definitely when things pick up. There is more action as Wil and her friends try to get out of certain situations.
  • The ending felt rushed, but will there be a sequel? I felt like more of the story could be told.

I think this was a solid eco-thriller. It made me feel this story could become reality in the future especially with how our planet is undergoing climate change. Wil is an interesting character who has survival skills because she grew up around drug users and she herself is a weed grower. Wil’s journey to her destination is filled with challenges and terror. If you like eco-thrillers, I think you will really enjoy this one.

About the Author:

ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Author Website | Twitter: @AlisonStine | Instagram: @AliStineWrites | Goodreads

The Traitor Queen |Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Traitor Queen (The Bridge Kingdom, #2)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 346

Categories: Adult Fiction, Romance, Fantasy

Lara has only one thought when her husband is taken prisoner: I will do whatever it takes to set you free.

A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared.

But as Lara and her companions formulate a plan to free Aren from her father’s palace, they soon discover that while it is easy to get in, it will be quite another thing to get Aren, and themselves, back out. Not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed.

With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or for herself.

My Attention: read in one night

World Building: warring kingdoms, a bridge that controls trade between them, an evil King who raised assassin daughters for one goal…absolutely love this world

Writing Style: so much tension, action and emotion

Crazy in Love: they are crazy for each other but will Lara’s deception end it between the two of them? 😫

Creativity: this series got me in the first chapter of book one when Lara has done something heinous…until we find out her motivations

Triggers: violence, death, torture, snakes, sharks, drowning

My Takeaway: Fight for what you love.

  • I like how fast pace this book is, it continued right away from book one. There is high stakes, political chess moves, rescue mission, reunions, and a few battle scenes. The story had me from beginning to finish.
  • There is so much tension in this book from Aren being a prisoner and tortured, his struggle to make sense of his feelings for Lara and then what to do when he gets out. Lara on the other hand is living with guilt, trying to fix what she had done, and making hard decisions along the way. I was torn for both of them. I just wanted them to be together, but they had a lot of things to work through on to of saving the people of Ithicana.
  • We are introduced to Keris, Lara’s older brother and Lara’s half sisters! I definitely want to know more about Keris and his motivations but wow…Lara’s sisters are ah-mazing. I loved their reunion and I hope we get to see them again sometime in future books!
  • The ladies kick major butt in this book. I love how they are strong and smart they are, even the women in the harem who would be looked upon as just slaves and docile – nope…they had their ways to fight as well.
  • This book had me emotional, I even shed a few tears at the end. I wondered how much more Lara can give of herself – yet I understood the distrust of the people she betrayed as well. Yet how can someone who was raised in torture, learn what love is? She was bound to make mistakes after being so brainwashed by her dad…but I love Lara. I loved watching her transformation, with Aren by her side.
  • Like I said, I hope we get to see Lara’s sisters again. I do know Keris’ story will be told next and he is such a mystery, it will be interesting to know how he grew up.

The Traitor Queen was the perfect conclusion to The Bridge Kingdom duology. It had everything I wanted: action, humor, broken hearts, and it took me on an emotional journey. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I read this book. I can’t believe Lara and Aren’s story is over because I love them so much but I look forward to reading whatever Danielle L. Jensen writes next.

💕 ~ Yolanda