Review: Everwild (Skinjacker Trilogy #2) by Neal Shusterman

Everwild (2) (The Skinjacker Trilogy)Everwild (2) by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everwild is aptly named as it is just that, wild!

As far as sequels go, this is top notch. Shusterman succeeded in continuing to build out the world in a gripping way, while also making me more invested in the characters.

There were some startling revelations and I absolutely adored how this ended. We could go anywhere from here, but I have a feeling we’re going West…

This second book in Neal Shusterman’s Skinjacker Trilogy succeeded in so many ways, but forefront in my mind is the world-building. I love when you can feel the boundaries of a fictional world expanding, as more interesting concepts and characters are brought into play.

We continue to follow our tried and trues from the first book, Allie, Nick and my favorite, Mikey. There’s also a continuation of baddies, like Mary.

The new characters are quickly drawn into the varying sides and with new alliances, come new strength. I enjoyed how Shusterman focused on the political maneuverings of Everlost. I liked learning more about the motivations and goals of our leaders. I know whose side I would be on.

Most interesting for me this time around was following Allie the Outcast. She’s picking up new skills and learning more about her family in the living world. It’s always gripping to read about the interactions between the characters in Everlost and those in the living world.

There were some scenes, one in particular, that actually made me really sad. I mean when you’re dealing with the themes that Shusterman covers here, that’s bound to happen. Sometimes it does come out of nowhere though, so be prepared for that if you pick this up.

I do enjoy the level of action blended with thoughtful topics. I feel like this trilogy is sort of unique in that way.

I’m really glad that I made time for this one. It may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie!

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Review: Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit (Theo Tan #1) by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit (Theo Tan, #1)Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit is the Middle Grade debut of one of my favorite authors, Jesse Q. Sutanto.

Recently, after finishing Sutanto’s latest release, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, I wasn’t quite ready to part from her writing.

I’ve had Theo Tan on my radar for a while, and with the second book in the series, Theo Tan and the Iron Fan releasing at the end of May, I figured now was the perfect time to pick it up.

This story follows, you guessed it, Theo Tan, an average Chinese-American boy just doing his thing, playing video games and trying to fly under the radar. So far, he thinks he is doing pretty well in that regard.

When his older brother, Jamie, is killed in an accident though, everything abruptly changes for Theo. Not only is the startling loss of his brother devastating, Theo has also inherited Jamie’s fox spirit, Kai.

Prior to this time, Kai and Theo didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. There’s no love lost between the two. Kai is snarkier than ever now, grieving the loss of Jamie with every fiber of their being.

The two are forced to let bygones be bygones, however, after discovering a coded message from Jamie that seems to indicate something was awry at Jamie’s internship with Reapling Corporation.

Obviously, I am cutting some corners here, but basically this chain of events leads Theo and Kai on a mystery-filled adventure at a highly-competitive summer camp program, ‘Know Your Roots’, run by the Corporation.

Know Your Roots is a program that celebrates Chinese and Indian cultures and is designed to help connect students with their heritage. Since Theo has been actively trying to ignore the Chinese part of his heritage his whole life, he is a bit behind the learning curve when he enters.

Together Theo and Kai think if they are at the camp, undercover of course, they will be able to get to the bottom of the mystery Jamie wanted them to solve. Are they right, or will they crash and burn in an epic way?

I had a lot of fun listening to this audio. The narration was excellent and I had no problem getting swept away with Theo and Kai.

You did get chapters from both of their perspectives and it was so funny, especially in the beginning, because neither one of them likes the other, so they definitely spill some tea. Over time, it was nice to see their relationship grow.

With Jamie being gone, and them being forced together, they were finally able to come to some mutual respect and understanding.

I definitely felt Sutanto’s sense of humor in this one, which is one of my favorite aspects of her writing. Particularly with Kai’s character. Kai is super snarky, smart and laugh out loud funny.

I enjoyed the setting of the Know Your Roots program. It did have a bit of that competitive feel that I like. I also liked that Kai and Theo had a mystery they were trying to solve.

The highlight of this for me though was the growth displayed in Theo’s characters. He really goes on quite the journey mentally and emotionally.

His self esteem grows a lot, which was the most satisfying for me. To see him push past the shadow of his brother’s legacy, who he saw as the golden child who he could never live up to.

Also, watching Theo learn about, come to appreciate and ultimately embrace his Chinese heritage was a really important message for a Middle Grade story, IMO. I think Sutanto excelled with that.

Overall, I had a great time reading this. It was action-packed, cute and funny as heck. I loved Theo and Kai so much and can’t wait to continue on with their adventures.

This left off in a fantastic spot, leaving plenty to explore in the next installment. You better believe I will be picking it up as soon as possible!!

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Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Daughter of Doctor MoreauThe Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first heard about The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, this was my exact response:

What in the heck is this!?!? OMG, I’m so exicteddddddddd!!!

I hear THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU and I’m sold. We all know Moreno-Garcia can bring that toe-curling body horror to the page and we love to see it!!

That’s quite a reaction, I’ll admit. I can be dramatic.

Unfortunately, I struggled with this story from the very start. I was kindly gifted an e-ARC and started it at least a week prior to its publication date. Two weeks later I was stil at 25% with zero desire to continue.

I made the decision to put it back on the shelf and wait for an audio copy through my local library. I finally received the audiobook on August 16th and read it in three days.

It made all the difference for me. The narration by Gisela Chipe was fantastic. They brought this story to life for me and actually succeeded in keeping me engaged. With this being said, the story still wasn’t anything I was crazy about.

This is a good book, with solid character work and a wonderfully-developed historical setting, however, I was here for the SFF-Horror and I just didn’t get it.

Maybe I set myself up for disaster thinking this was going to be something that it wasn’t, but regardless, that’s the experience I had with it. I was bored and underwhelmed.

This doesn’t detract from the fact that Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an incredibly-gifted storyteller whose work I will continue to pick up from now til forevermore. This just wasn’t my favorite of her work.

I am happy that I gave this one a second chance though and that I was able to get through to the end. It is a sweet story, sad and dramatic. I think a lot of people will really love this one. Particularly people who enjoy Historical Fiction with complicated familial relationships.

Thank you to the publisher, Ballantine, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It’s always a pleasure to see what Moreno-Garcia has developed and this was no exception.

I’m looking forward to her next release!

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Review: Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2) by Liselle Sambury

Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic, #2)Blood Like Fate by Liselle Sambury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

When I read Blood Like Magic in 2021, I was blown away by Sambury’s writing. She drew me in from the very start and I was 100% invested in that book.

The perfect blending of SFF elements, along with phenomenal character work, easily made that novel one of my favorites of the year.

To say I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this sequel, Blood Like Fate, would be putting it extremely mildly.

This is a chunky monkey and it is so full of deep, moving, thought-provoking content, I was left in awe upon completion. Sambury left no stone unturned in the exploration of these characters and their lives.

At the start of this story, Voya’s family is still reeling from the choices she made at the end of the first book.

For Voya, those were the toughest decisions she has ever made in her life and now she is suffering the consequences. Her closest relationships have been shattered, but she must continue on.

Voya has been named the Matriarch of her witch family; their highest position. Even at such a young age, she is now the official leader of the Thomas family, but how can she be?

Voya doesn’t feel capable, she questions herself and feels like all the adults in her life are questioning her as well. Voya feels they aren’t taking her seriously. Is that true, or are Voya’s own insecurities getting the best of her?

It is an extremely uncomfortable and uncertain position for her to be in.

Making matters worse is that fact that Voya’s love interest, Luc, has completely cut her out of his life. For Voya, it feels like she is losing on all fronts.

Then she has a horrifying vision, one that if it comes to pass could mean total destruction for the witch community. It could mean the death of her entire family.

Confusing Voya is Luc’s presence in the vision. Could he be involved in some way? Is he out to get her revenge on her by punishing her family?

Calling on the ancestors and the greater witch community, Voya begins to investigate the vision. If there is a way to stop it, she must figure it out. She cannot allow that vision to become reality.

It’s my understanding that Blood Like Magic is a duology. This did end with a satisfying conclusion, but I will admit, I will be sad if this is all I ever get with these characters.

You cannot read these two books and come away feeling like you are not a part of the Thomas family. I was so impressed with how intricate Sambury got with these characters. You come away feeling like you know not only these characters, but through the ancestors, their history as well.

There is a lot of action, a very serious plot involved in both of these books, but for me, the character work definitely stole the show.

Even though this is a futuristic story, I loved how inclusive it was and how many current themes and issues were interwoven into it. It touches upon things such as gender identity, mental health, generational trauma and a whole host of familial issues.

I thought that every topic Sambury tackled, she handled with grace and skill. Nothing overshadows the overall plot of the story, but enhances it in a truly lovely way.

If I were to offer forth any critiques on this novel, I would say that for me, this one felt a little long. Not in the fact that I felt there was extra content included that could have been cut, I wouldn’t have cut anything. I just felt like it dragged on a bit too long.

I almost feel like this story could have been better served if it had been made a trilogy versus a duology. Of course, this is completely personal opinion, but I certainly wouldn’t have minded a whole other book in this series.

Overall though, I absolutely loved these two books. I cannot even express to you how impressed I am by Liselle Sambury’s work.

She blew me away with this duology full of heart, Black girl magic and a level of depth rarely obtained in the genre. I highly recommend these books!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Blood Like Fate releases tomorrow, Tuesday, August 9, 2022!!!

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Review: Only a Monster (Monsters #1) by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster (Monsters, #1)Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only a Monster is an engaging start to an all-new YA SFF trilogy. Admittedly, the first thing to attract my attention to this book was the gorgeous cover.

I’ve definitely fallen victim to the infamous cover buy on more than one occasion. Sometimes that works out and other times, not so much. I am happy to report, in this case, the content is just as fun as the cover.

This story follows 16-year old, Joan, who recently moved to London to live with her late-mother’s family, which includes an eccentric Grandmother and cousins.

Joan has secured a job she likes and has even managed to make a few friends. One of those friends is a handsome boy, Nick, who she happens to work with. When Nick asks Joan out on a date she’s so excited and nervous.

She’s been crushing on him for a while, so is elated that her feelings may be reciprocated.

As the date approaches, however, a wild and crazy thing happens to Joan, causing her to miss her date. That’s devastating, but worse than that, this event reveals the secret truth surrounding her family.

They’re monsters with hidden powers.

Part of their power is the ability to travel through time, which really throws Joan for a loop. It’s hard to wrap your mind around something like that out of nowhere.

Joan’s Grandmother had mentioned before that they were monsters, but Joan never took that seriously. She can’t believe it. Her world has been flipped upside down.

As the plot escalates, Joan finds herself under attack from a monster hunter, who happens to be the cute guy, Nick. Just her luck, am I right?

Joan is forced to pair up with Aaron, a boy from a rival monster family, to try to stop Nick and avenge their families.

I really enjoyed the world Len created here and am excited to see this narrative expanded upon in the next book. It was fast paced and ended up drawing me in a lot quicker than I anticipated.

I found the monster aspect of her family fascinating. They are never given a specific name, they are simply called monsters throughout, and I liked that obscurity.

Once you put a label on something, like zombie, werewolf or vampire, you put certain parameters around what those monsters can do. We all know what those creatures are supposed to be like, so to me it made sense for Len to write Joan’s family the way she did.

If I had to compare them to anything, I would say vampires would be the closest, but using time versus blood. If you’ve read Doctor Sleep this won’t be a foreign concept to you.

I did think the time travel element was done well. It was very interesting. There’s a lot covered in this book and I think it was a good foundation.

I definitely think there is still a lot of room to grow with this story and I am looking forward to seeing where Len goes with it.

I would recommend this to YA Readers, particularly if you like time travel, or a darker tone to your stories.

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Review: Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)Steelstriker by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steelstriker is book two in Marie Lu’s Skyhunter duology.

I really enjoyed my time reading the first book, learning about the world and being introduced to the characters, so in comparison to that, this one felt a bit lackluster to me.

As this is the second book, there may be details within this review that seem like spoilers to some. I will not include anything that you couldn’t find in the publisher’s synopsis, but regardless, I just want to put the warning out there.

Turn back now if you want to know nothing regarding the end of the first book…

Assuming we have narrowed it down to the people who aren’t afraid to know…after the concluding scenes of book one, Mara has fallen. The last outpost to hold out from Karensa’s control is no longer.

With her friends gone and her mother captured by the Premier, Talin has no choice but to serve him and the Karensa Federation. It goes against everything she believes and holds dear, but with her mother’s life on the line, Talin is more than willing to bend.

Using the same process they used to turn Red, the Federation transforms Talin into their newest Skyhunter; the most dangerous weapons around.

From afar, Red is trying to make contact with Talin via their telepathic connection. He’s no stranger to the tortures of the Federation, so he hates to think about what she may be going through on her own in the Skyhunter labs. Thus, he constantly tries to make his presence known.

Will Red and Talin be able to reunite and combine their powers to save Talin’s mom, as well as countless others before it’s too late?

As mentioned above, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book. It’s certainly not the writing. Lu’s writing is flawless always.

To me, I think a lot of the joy and excitement for me with the first book was just learning about the world and characters. Learning how the world got to the point where Mara was the last nation outside of the Federation’s control.

Also, how Talin and her mother ended up in Mara, as well as learning about the Striker Force versus the Federation’s Ghosts.

Watching Talin’s relationship with Red grow was fun as well. So in this novel, with Talin on her own for the majority of the book, I felt it was lacking those deep character interactions I had enjoyed so much in the first.

Additionally, maybe I wasn’t paying as close attention, but I didn’t feel like I learned that much more about the world in this one. It could be that I wasn’t as interested so my mind was wandering a bit.

Either way, while this is still a good book, a solid conclusion to a duology, it didn’t blow my hair back like Skyhunter did.

Have no fear though, I will continue to pick up everything Marie Lu writes.

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Review: Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys #2) by Seanan McGuire

Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, #2)Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seasonal Fears is the long-awaited follow-up to Seanan McGuire’s tour de force of SFF, Middlegame. When I originally read Middlegame in May of 2019, I had the understanding that it was a standalone novel.

Since that time, to my complete delight, we have been blessed with two books from the companion series, The Up-and-Under, and now THIS!!!

Seanan McGuire has blessed the world with her words. Literally blessed; life-changing, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring goodness. That’s the best way to describe The Alchemical Journeys

In this second installment, we follow two new main characters: Melanie and Harry. They’re a pair, much like Roger and Dodger from the first book, although Mel and Harry are not brother and sister.

Nevertheless, Melanie and Harry are two sides of the same coin. They’re also in love; teenagers completely devoted to one another.

Melanie and Harry are in high school, living somewhat normal lives. Melanie has a chronic illness and is expected to die at any moment, but besides that, somewhat normal.

When Melanie collapses one day at Harry’s football practice and Harry, athletic as heck, suddenly collapses right along with her, they realize their connection may run deeper than they even imagined.

Insight arrives with an unexpected guide who clues the pair in on the truth behind their lives and the greater world around them.

Together the couple, along with their new friend, set out on a journey, one full of dangers and intrigue, in order to meet the destiny they didn’t even know existed for them.

Seasonal Fears is just as enjoyably mind-boggling as Middlegame. I was in no way disappointed by this. I’ll also not pretend that I followed everything going on in this book.

I recently reread Middlegame in preparation for this release and discovered even more to love on that second time through. I have no doubt this will be the same and that’s right, I am already planning to reread this at some point.

This series is the type of epic, complex SFF that you have to be cautious not to get too mired down in the details. Yes, of course it is important to pay attention, but I wouldn’t take notes or anything.

Trust McGuire will deliver you to exactly where you need to be. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Nothing more is required of you.

Just know you may feel a little out of control from time to time, like it’s losing you. Stay the course. You’ll make it, you’ll love it. McGuire doesn’t just create a world in these books, she develops a whole new cosmology. It’s stunning.

I have no idea if there will be more books in this series, I certainly hope so. I definitely need more alchemical journyes in my life. Yes, please!

Thank you to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I absolutely loved this. All the stars!!

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Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

SundialSundial by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Rob does not have a good relationship with her husband. In fact, their relationship is so toxic that I had to take a break from this book only 10% in just to get away from it.

The couple have two young daughters. Callie, the oldest, favors her father, while Annie, the youngest, is definitely her mother’s favorite.

Rob struggles to understand Callie and her increasingly disturbing behaviors. Unfortunately, the older Callie gets, the more frightening her behaviors become. It even seems that Callie may pose a serious threat to Annie, something Rob cannot stand for.

Rob’s husband, Irving, doesn’t see the way Callie is. He doesn’t understand Rob’s concerns, not that she could have expected him to be on her side regardless.

Knowing she has to do something before tragedy strikes, Rob steals Callie away and heads back to Sundial, the mysterious property where Rob grew up, deep in the Mojave desert. What her parenting plans are for after that point seem ominous, at best.

After the pair arrives at Sundial, the focus shifts to exposing the history behind the property, about Rob’s childhood and the truth of who she really is. Through this, the Reader also learns how Rob’s own history could be influencing her current circumstances, as well as her daughter’s lives.

I was very intrigued by the past perspective. It was an interesting set-up and like nothing I have read before. I enjoyed the SF-feel of some the activities occurring during Rob’s childhood.

I do think it is important to note that Rob’s parents kept dogs on the property and I don’t mean as pets. I was hesitant once I discovered that because I am quite sensitive to any harm coming to animals in books.

I can get past it, as long as it is not too drawn out, or as long as it has a point within the larger narrative more than just shock value. In this story, there’s a point. There were a few places I had to skim read, but for the most part, it didn’t have too much of an impact on my overall enjoyment level.

There were times that I even wished the entire book was just the past perspective, but on arriving at the end, it became clear why there’s two perspectives. I was impressed with how Ward tied it all together, as well as the themes explored by doing so.

The ending was wild and crazy, but I liked it. For the most part, while I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this story, as there is literally no joy to be found within these pages, it’s definitely intriguing. Ward succeeded in keeping me uncomfortably interested the whole way through.

It’s the kind of story where you are desperate to know what the heck is going on. I won’t claim to understand the points Ward is trying to make here 100%, but I think I have enough of it to be impressed.

Unique from start-to-finish, this is definitely worth a pick-up for Readers with the stomach and mental fortitude to tackle such a story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I think it is fair to say that I will pick-up whatever Ward throws at us next!

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Review: Blood Like Magic (Blood Like Magic #1) by Liselle Sambury

Blood Like MagicBlood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dang, this was good!!! I can’t stop smiling.


Voya Thomas is initially excited for her Calling. It’s a task each witch in her family must complete before they are able to come into their powers.

The tasks are assigned by different ancestors and over the years have varied in detail and difficulty.

The ancestor who assigns her task, however, is known to be tough, as she should be. Her life was extremely tough, parts of which are shown to Voya through visions.

After Voya fails, she is given an unprecedented second chance, but her task seems impossible. Not only does the task seem impossible, the stakes are higher than ever.

Generally, if a witch fails in her Calling, she doesn’t gain her powers. Yeah, that sucks, but you can overcome that. You just have to live like any other person without magical abilities.

For Voya, if she fails, her entire family will lose their powers. Every single one of them! Their livelihoods are based on their powers, and most importantly, her little sister’s life depends on their powers.

Her task is to destroy her first love. Problems, Voya has never been in love, not even close, and she’s a little against killing someone.

The task seems clear, there is no way around it, so in order to save her family, Voya must make the ultimate decision. Can she take a life?

I loved this book from the very start. Sambury created such an intricate and addictive story with Blood Like Magic.

I absolutely adored the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements. A lot of the story is based around a corporation that has created a genetic match-making program; I love those sort of futuristic tech elements added to a story. They definitely make my nerd heart soar.

Additionally, I quickly became attached to Voya. She’s a very likable character. She drew me in and had me feeling everything she was feeling.

The Thomas family itself, is full of drama, but also love and support. Voya had many special connections within her family and I think those relationships really provided her with the strength she needed to progress with her Calling.

The love interest, Luc, was fun to learn about as well. He’s had an interesting life up until the time he meets Voya and is frequently misunderstood.

In Voya, he found someone he could open up to and watching their relationship evolve made me swoon. Somewhat enemies to lovers; so, if you’re into that…

This did not end how I thought it would end. There were so many twists that I never could have predicted. My jaw spent the last quarter of the book on the floor!

I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book. Liselle Sambury is amazing and I predict a long, successful career ahead of her.

I fully expect this will end up as one of my top books of the year. An absolutely phenomenal debut!


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Review: A Phoenix First Must Burn, Edited by Patrice Caldwell

A Phoenix First Must BurnA Phoenix First Must Burn by Patrice Caldwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 and it did not disappoint! Definitely one of the most unique anthologies I have ever read.

A Phoenix First Must Burn is full of super diverse SFF elements, black girl magic and lyrical storytelling. This is a book everyone should be reading right now!!!

I always find it difficult to review anthologies. As with any anthology, there were definitely some stories I enjoyed more than others.

However, with this being said, there is something for every reader. Whether you are a fan of science-fiction with futuristic societies, fantasy with earth magic, mermaids or vampires; you will absolutely be able to find stories within these pages to sink your teeth into!

My personal favorite was, Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi. It was heavy and dark, speaking to the history of colonization, as well as continued oppression of native cultures in areas heavily touristed by privileged whites.

You could feel the Afro-Carribean influence throughout the story. It is actually the first I have ever read by Zoboi and I am really looking forward to picking up more of her work.

Kiss the Sun centered around a group of Soucouyants. I had never heard of a Soucouyant and have discovered they are a type of magical entity in Caribbean folklore.

They are shapeshifters and sort of like vampires, in that they drain blood, or spirit from the individuals they attack. Now I am fascinated and want more stories where these supernatural beings play a role; if you know of any, comment down below!

Other stories I loved include, Elizabeth Acevedo’s, which followed a slave uprising on a sugar plantation, which I believe, if I understood the Afterword correctly, was loosely based upon an actual revolt in 1522; Melie by Justina Ireland, which followed a magician’s apprentice on her hunt for mermaid tears and dragon’s heat; Hearts Turned to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton, which included a bottle tree, a tradition I learned about recently in Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong novel; and, The Actress by Danielle Paige, where a witch and a vampire take center stage.

While these are the stories that resonated the most with me, as I mentioned before, this has stories for every type of reader. It’s super diverse, extremely fast-paced, empowering, uplifting and a must read for 2020. This group of authors, and Patrice Caldwell, as editor and contributor, nailed this!

Update: My library hold has FINALLY come through!!! I’m so excited; definitely reading this week!!!




It’s official, this is one of my most anticipated releases of 2020!

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