Grown | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Grown

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Sexual Assault, Rape, Mystery, Thriller

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.

  • Aesthetics ~ the cover is gorgeous! I love that mustard yellow and brown combination with the earring carrying the title of the book.
  • This is a murder mystery that really got me hooked on the first page. I didn’t know it would be inspired by R. Kelly’s story and yes, I did watch that docuseries Surviving R. Kelly which aired last year. The author did such a great job following Enchanted and how she is groomed by Korey. She thinks it’s love but it becomes something more dark and sinister the longer she is trapped with him. I was afraid for her and the other girls in his life. I felt the same way as when I watched that docuseries.
  • The story brings up so many issues such as parenting ~ was it Enchanted’s parents to blame for what happened? The artist himself, Korey, obviously had a pattern of this behavior ~ how could people let him do this in front of the whole world? The police ~ why didn’t they believe Enchanted or her parents when they reported something was wrong? Enchanted ~ should she have known better, she knew he was 28? Bottom line, Korey was the adult and the monster.
  • Enchanted is filled with so many dreams of being a singer in the beginning and she gets part of her dream – with a huge cost. She loses herself, her family, her power, and the little control she had over life. Korey was scary because he came off so perfect at the start, in the end he was the boogie man in the closet.
  • Triggers: physical, emotional and sexual abuse, being drugged, grooming, kidnapping
  • There was a point in the book when Enchanted’s sanity is questioned – especially when it comes to her friend Gab. Even I thought I was losing my mind as it confused me for a moment as to what the author was trying to do with that moment.

Whether you know the R. Kelly story or not, this book is a powerful read. Enchanted’s story is scary and heartbreaking, I felt scared and trapped with her. How do we let these predators get away with so much? If you can handle the heavy issues in this book, read it.

💛 ~ Yolanda

Parachutes | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: Parachutes

Author: Kelly Yang

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 496

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Sexual Assault, Racism, Classism

They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.

Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.

Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.

  • I was really clueless about this term of parachute kids. This book was a learning experience for me on the whole subject of Chinese kids coming to American to live with host families to go to school here. I used to work in a college library and many of my student workers were female Chinese students, but graduate students, so they did their high school years in China. I do remember them telling me about how hard they studied and the pressures they had to deal with.
  • The wealth disparity in this story shows such a big gap between the kind of wealth Claire (parachute kid) has and Dani, her Filipina roommate, lacks. Dani’s mom is a cleaning maid and Dani herself works part-time as one too. They are Claire’s host family because they need the money. Claire is basically filthy rich by most people’s standard – but not rich enough to have their own private jet kind of rich.
  • Sexual Assault is a BIG theme in this book and a major trigger so please be aware of that. There is a situation with Dani’s debate coach, and then Claire experiences one with her boyfriend but throughout the whole story the boys and men (minus Zach) were really trash. There are some events that happen that help the two girls bond, but for a good time in the book, they aren’t very close.
  • The girls learn to find their voices to tell their truths and that’s the inspirational part of the book.
  • Triggers: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, grooming, cheating, stalking
  • I understand Dani and Claire barely know each other and it stays that way throughout most of the book. I was hoping for a little more connection between them but then again, Claire does make friends with the other Parachutes.
  • I wasn’t feeling the Zach romance storyline – I didn’t think it was needed. Also, I think I got it that Claire and her friends were super rich, there was a lot of brand names and labels being dropped. Those parts definitely reminded me of Crazy Rich Asians.

This book was eye-opening to me because of the parachute kids in American schools. I have no experience with that, so it was good to learn. There are a lot of important issues covered in this book, especially when it comes to racism, classism and sexual assault. Though both Claire and Dani experience some traumatizing moments in this book, I liked that the ending was hopeful as they found their voices and told their truths. Overall, an important story to read about two different girls, who are strong in their own ways.

🪂~Yolanda

The Inheritance Games | Book Review

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Title: The Inheritance Games

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 376

Categories: Mystery, Young Adult, Suspense, Contemporary

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.

  • Aesthetics ~ that cover is so awesome in all it’s greenery! Confession – it’s the main reason I bought the book.
  • World Building ~ a mansion or compound more like in Texas. A billionaire who is fond of puzzles and games dies, leaving his fortune to a stranger. But why did he leave it to Avery and not to his four grandsons? This book is FUN. I loved the puzzles, the secrets, the tragic love triangle, the mystery of the Hawthornes. It did not disappoint.
  • Characters ~ Avery is a girl trying to survive after her mother’s death. She’s trying to find a way out when she comes into a mysterious inheritance with lots of strings attached. She is smart, has such a brain on her for statistics, I love it. Then there are the Hawthornes: Nash, Grayson, Jameson and Xander. All different, with their own motivations. My favorite? It’s a toss between Grayson and Xander haha.
  • Romance ~ there is a tragic romance history…is it about to repeat itself? We don’t know yet, it almost did but it stopped short of it.
  • Writing ~ fast paced, which I love because slow mysteries bore me but I read this in four hours. I could not put it down and I want book two NOW.
  • The ending is a cliffhanger but I love that this game isn’t over even though we thought it was!

I picked this up because of the cover and it didn’t disappoint at all. It was exactly what I was needing to read right now and I look forward to reading the next book in the series! If you like mystery, puzzles, riddles and handsome brothers, the you will like this one.

💚 ~ Yolanda

Heart Bones | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5

Title: Heart Bones

Author: Colleen Hoover

Format: eBook (KU)

Pages: 338

Categories: contemporary, romance, new adult, poverty, drug abuse

Life and a dismal last name are the only two things Beyah Grim’s parents ever gave her. After carving her path all on her own, Beyah is well on her way to bigger and better things, thanks to no one but herself.

With only two short months separating her from the future she’s built and the past she desperately wants to leave behind, an unexpected death leaves Beyah with no place to go during the interim. Forced to reach out to her last resort, Beyah has to spend the remainder of her summer on a peninsula in Texas with a father she barely knows. Beyah’s plan is to keep her head down and let the summer slip by seamlessly, but her new neighbor Samson throws a wrench in that plan.

Samson and Beyah have nothing in common on the surface.

She comes from a life of poverty and neglect; he comes from a family of wealth and privilege. But one thing they do have in common is that they’re both drawn to sad things. Which means they’re drawn to each other. With an almost immediate connection too intense for them to continue denying, Beyah and Samson agree to stay in the shallow end of a summer fling. What Beyah doesn’t realize is that a rip current is coming, and it’s about to drag her heart out to sea.

My Attention: read in one night

World Building: Kentucky to Texas

Writing Style: easy to read, good character development, emotional

Crazy in Love: yes

Triggers: drug abuse, child neglect, broken family, death, overdose, poverty

  • Beyah goes from her mom over-dosing to living with a father she hardly knows. Beyah is a strong character for someone who has been broken and damaged all her life. Her story is heart-breaking. I just wanted good things for her.
  • Samson is mysterious and handsome. I liked how Beyah judges and we as the readers start doing it too because we only know what they know of him. He’s hiding a lot of secrets which come out in a shocking way.
  • It’s all about Beyah and Samson. Beyah finds all her guards giving way the more she spends time with Samson. They are both damaged and that’s why they are drawn to each other. From the moment they met it was intense between them.
  • The twist in the end was heartbreaking. But I’m glad Beyah did what she did.
  • Some tough topics are covered in this book: poverty, drug abuse, sexual assault – this book is about survival and the kids that fall through the cracks in society. What happens to them? How does someone like Beyah who had an addict mother, take another path in life – talk about strength and determination.
  • The way how Beyah didn’t tell her dad that her mom died, bugged me! Like…that would be the first thing I’d say, I think. But I understand her secrecy, she was trying to protect herself the only way she knew how. But seriously…the way she tells him – I guess I wanted more of a conversation on that between her and her dad.

Heart Bones is heartbreaking. We have Beyah and Samson who has been beaten by life at such a young age, they have both done everything to survive (good and bad). They find each other in all their damaged state and fall in love. I honestly still feel bad thinking about Samson after the story – but glad it had a happy ending.

💙 ~ Yolanda

The Whisper Man | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5

Title: The Whisper Man

Author: Alex North

Format: paperback (owned)

Pages: 355

Categories: crime, thriller, adult fiction, contemporary, mystery

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: village of Featherbank

Writing Style: easy to read, direct

Crazy in Love: none of that

Creativity: a crime mystery that touches on grief, and facing things from the past

Triggers: crime against children, murder, alcoholism, troubled home, abuse, kidnapping, grief

  • I’m one of those people who likes watching documentaries on serial killers – it freaks me out, but I like learning about the psychology and motivation of these killers. So if you are like me, and liked stories like Silence of the Lambs, then you will like The Whisper Man. There is a spooky children’s rhyme in the village about the Whisper Man. There is a creepy house that Jake and his father move into and of course…whispering heard in the house and Jake talking to himself (or so people think) – everything that will give you some chills and thrills while reading the story.
  • The characters are all pretty fleshed out and have mystery to them as well. Jake has lost his mother and finds himself talking to a little girl only he can see. Tom, Jake’s father, is barely holding it together. We see how parenting and grieving is hard for him. Then there is Pete Willis, the detective on the case that has haunted him for years. He is now a recovering alcoholic with a few regrets in his life. I could feel all their struggles. I love the emotional connections that were made in this story.
  • The case of The Whisper Man is mostly solved except for one body that has never been recovered. And now there is a copycat on the loose, so the mystery reveal was something I didn’t expect and then the ending was…wow.
  • It’s disturbing – as any story about harming children should be disturbing. So when we finally meet the killer…I was scared for all parties involved. I’m a parent so it definitely made me want to grab my kids and not make them leave my house ever!
  • There wasn’t anything mind-blowing about this story but I did enjoy how all the elements came together.
  • The rhyming song creeped me out (because children singing songs about serial killers usually creep me out) – but the story didn’t give me that scary factor, so if you are wanting a book to scare you – this won’t be it. It’s more thrilling mystery than scary.

This book had a little bit of everything: crime, mystery, thrills and creepiness. It also delves into the challenges of dealing with grief, addiction, and forgiveness. Overall, an enjoyable read that makes you follow the trail of clues and gives you a little thrill here and there.

🖤 ~ Yolanda

The Ravens | ARC Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: The Ravens

Authors: Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 400

Publication Date: 11/3/20

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Categories: Witchcraft, Magic, Young Adult, Sorority, Romance, Contemporary, Thriller

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

Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.

Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: read in 2 days

World Building: Westerly College in Georgia

Writing Style: easy to read

Crazy in Love: some romance

Creativity: Sorority of witches

Triggers: violence, gore

My Takeaway: Don’t mess with a witch.

  • Love the diversity of these college witches, they come in all skin colors and races. The sisterhood between them shows even between Vivi and Scarlett who have a rough start with one another.
  • The story is fun and even creepy at times. Even though these witches don’t mess with black magic, there is a villain who does! The twist is something I guessed earlier in the story but I did like how it took to the next level creepy.
  • I enjoyed learning the history of Kappa Rho Nu. The witches being Tarot Card signs is different and it worked!
  • Scarlett is not as perfect as she seems! She has secrets and they catch up to her and her best friend Tiffany.
  • I like the ending when it gets super dark and creepy! Definitely gets me in the mood for Fall reading and Halloween. The story reminded me of The Craft (movie) and Sabrina (Netflix show).
  • Vivi was a little weak. She’s this girl dying get away from her tarot reading/fortune teller mother and a life of always moving around. I liked the reveal at the end explaining why her mom raised her that way but personality-wise, Vivi had strong magic and that’s it! I just wanted a little more from her.
  • The love triangle involved Scarlett, Vivi and Scarlett’s ex-Mason. It didn’t overtake the story, thank goodness.

This story made me want to rewatch the movie The Craft so bad! The Ravens is fun, creepy, witchy and we got sisters who have each other’s backs. It’s perfect for the Halloween Fall season.

🎃 ~ Yolanda

BLOG TOUR | The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Welcome to the blog tour for The Code for Love and Heartbreak by. Jillian Cantor!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Author: Jillian Cantor

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

Categories: Jane Austen Emma Retelling, Coding, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Dating App

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

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

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

My Attention: took some time to get into story

World Building: high school romance

Writing Style: easy to read

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: very slow love story

Creativity: I thought it was cool the story featured the Coding Club

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: parent health scare, bullying

My Takeaway: Sometimes you have to stop coding and get out there and have a little fun!

  • This was a super quick read and I could recognize it as Jane Austen’s Emma retelling right away, since Emma’s name is kept the same and the other characters as well.
  • Emma is fairly independent as her dad is always at work. Her mom had passed away and her older sister moved away for college, so a lot of the times, Emma is without family. She spends a lot of her time excelling at school and more importantly, coding. Emma doesn’t like social interaction much, she’s a homebody who likes to stay home and chill.
  • George is a good friend to Emma, and yes they get into some high school drama with the matchmaking app they create for the coding club – but I knew they’d end up to together…because it followed the original Emma story. Are there sparks? Not really? But it’s a friendship that grows into something more, something safe and perfect for Emma. His declaration was really sweet.
  • I’m glad the coding, STEM kids got the spotlight in this book. Coding is awesome and creative, just in a different way – but the little parts that come together to make the app was interesting to see step by step. They had to tweak it a few times to make sure it worked right.
  • Personally, I like a little angst in my rom-coms. I thought this was cute, not a little of angst, some drama yes, but it was slow to get into. I was bored at some parts.
  • It’s a retelling so yes, it was definitely predictable but I was still intrigued to see how the author carried out the story.
  • This is a perfect romance for teens. It’s pretty G rated and has that innocence of a first love.

I think this story showed us Emma’s naiveté in the world of dating because she has no real experience with it. Yet she still had the strong desire to succeed at creating a winning matchmaking app! Creating this app gave Emma the courage to go out and try new things, like go to a dance, make new friends…and even fall in love. Overall, I think this was a cute but predictable retelling of a Jane Austen classic.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

https://www.jilliancantor.com/

Twitter | Facebook | IG | Goodreads

Book Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

 I’ve always loved numbers a whole lot more than I love people. For one thing, I can make numbers behave any way I want them to. No arguments, no questions. I write a line of code, and my computer performs a specific and very regulated task. Numbers don’t play games or hide behind some nuance I’ve missed. I write an equation, then formulate a definitive and absolutely correct answer. 

And maybe most importantly, numbers never leave me. I tell this to Izzy as she’s sitting on her suitcase, trying to force it closed, having just packed the last of her closet before leaving for her freshman year at UCLA, which is exactly 2,764 miles from our house in Highbury, New Jersey. A number which seems insurmountable, and which makes me think that after this day, Izzy’s last one at home until Christmas break, we’ll be more like two strangers floating across a continent from one another than sisters.

 “Numbers,” I say to Izzy now, “are much better than people.”

 “You’re such a nerd, Em,” Izzy says, but she stops what she’s doing and squeezes my arm affectionately, before finally getting the suitcase to zip. She’s a nerd, too, but not for numbers like me—for books. Izzy is running 2,764 miles away from New Jersey to read, to major in English at UCLA. Which is ridiculous, given she could’ve done the same at Rutgers, or the College of New Jersey, or almost any one of the other sixty-two colleges in our state, any of which would’ve been within driving distance so we could’ve seen each other on weekends. Izzy says she’s going to California for the sunshine, but Dad and I both know the real reason is that her boyfriend, John, decided to go to UCLA to study film. Izzy chose John over me, and that part stings the most. 

“I can’t believe you’re actually going,” I say, and not for the first time. I’ve been saying this to Izzy all summer, hoping she might change her mind. But now that her suitcase is zipped, it feels like she’s really leaving, and my eyes start to well up. I do love numbers more than people. Most people.

 Izzy and I are only seventeen months apart, and our mom died when we were both toddlers. Dad works a lot, and Izzy and I have barely been apart for more than a night in as long as I can remember, much less months.

 She stops messing with her suitcase now, walks over to where I’m sitting on her bed and puts her arm around me. I lean my head on her shoulder, and breathe in the comforting scent of her strawberry shampoo, one last time. “I’m going to miss you, too, Em,” she says. “But you’re going to have a great senior year.” She says it emphatically, her voice filled with enthusiasm that I don’t believe or even understand. 

“You really could stay,” I say. “You got into two colleges in New Jersey.” This has been my argument to her all summer. I keep thinking if I say it enough she really will change her mind. But even as I say it, I know it’s probably too late for her to change anything for fall semester now, no matter how much I might want her to. And she just looks back at me with worry all over her face. 

“Em, you know I can’t.” 

“Can’t or won’t?” I wipe my nose with the back of my hand, pulling away from her. 

She leaves me on her bed, and goes back to her suitcase. She shifts it around, props it upright and then looks back at me. “You know what you need?” she says, breathing hard from managing the weight of her entire life, crammed inside this giant suitcase. “To get out there this year. Be more social. Get some friends. Maybe even a boyfriend.”

 “A boyfriend?” I half laugh, half sniffle at the ridiculousness of it. 

“If you keep busy, you won’t even notice I’m gone.” She speaks quickly, excitedly. There’s nothing Izzy likes more than a good plan, but this sounds terrible to me. “Christmas will be here before you know it—” she’s still talking “—then next year, you’ll be off to college, too.”

 Maybe that would be true for her, if I were the one leaving, and if she were staying here. If I were the older one, leaving for California first, Izzy would stay here, spend the year with John and barely even notice my absence. Which is what I guess she’s about to do at UCLA. But I’ve always needed Izzy much more than she’s needed me. 

“I hate being social. And I don’t want a boyfriend,” I say. “And anyway, you know what the boys are like at our high school. No thanks.” Mostly, they’re intimidated by me and my penchant for math, and I find their intimidation so annoying that I can barely even stand to have a conversation with them, much less a date. And the few that aren’t? Well, the one that isn’t—George—is my equal and co-president of coding club. He also happens to be John’s younger brother. We’re something like friends, George and I. Or maybe not, because we don’t really hang out outside of family stuff, school or coding club, and I guess in a way we’re supposed to be rivals. One of us will for certain be valedictorian of our class this year. The other will be salutatorian. And knowing George, he’s going to be more than a little bit annoyed when he’s staring at my back during graduation. 

“You love numbers so much and you’re so good at coding,” Izzy says now with a flip of her blond curls over her shoulder. She wheels the suitcase toward her bedroom door and stops and looks back at me. “You could always code yourself a boyfriend.” She shrugs, then laughs a little, trying to make this moment lighter. 

I don’t even crack a smile. “That’s a really ridiculous thing to say,” I tell her. “Thank God you’re going to be an English major.”

 But later, after it all fell apart, I would blame her. I’d say that it was all Izzy’s fault, that she started the unraveling of everything with her one stupid offhand comment on the morning that she left me.

Excerpted from The Code For Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor Copyright © Jillian Cantor. Published by Inkyard Press.

In A Holidaze | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: In a Holidaze

Author: Christina Lauren

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Gallery Books

Categories: Romance, Adult Fiction, Groundhog’s Day, Contemporary

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

One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays. 

My Attention: had it for the most part

World Building: Salt Lake, Utah – annual Christmas trip

Writing Style: flows quickly, great character dialogues

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥 

Crazy in Love: friends to lovers

Creativity: it has a Groundhog’s Day movie time loop

Mood: ready for the holidays

Triggers: car accident

My Takeaway: Be careful what you put out into the universe – you might really get what you want. And I mean that in a good way.

  • The bonds between the families is awesome. Mae’s parents and their best friends have a tradition, they meet up in Utah and spend Christmas together. They’ve been doing it for years and the bonds are evident.
  • It’s so hard to hate a Christmas book – it just puts you in a happy mood and this book definitely made me feel like I was watching a Hallmark Channel holiday movie!
  • Andrew and Mae are so cute together. She’s crushed on him forever, since they were kids and now as adults her love has endured but he’s never reciprocated his feelings until something happens – and Mae finally has the guts to tell him. They are friends who become lovers, so there is heat in their touches but laughter too when things get awkward. It’s wonderful!
  • Benny is awesome, he’s the family friend/Uncle figure who is a great listeners and knows Mae’s secrets. We all need a Benny.
  • The groundhog day’s aspect of the story threw me off a little. I was getting into the story and then bam! Haha…it’s not my favorite kind of trope to read but I went with it.
  • Theo, Andrew’s brother is supposedly the closest to Mae. They sounded like they were besties and yet…it didn’t come off that way in the book at all. So I think I wanted to see more of her interaction with Theo.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, lighthearted holiday romance story that would totally make a good Christmas movie. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

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

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