My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham

5 Star Read

Summary

Wilder Girls meets The Craft in this Sapphic horror debut that asks: what price would you be willing to pay to achieve your deepest desires?

Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the ultra-competitive Ulalume Academy… but she’s also not what she seems. Months before school started, Finch and her parents got into an accident that should have left her dead at the bottom of the river. But something monstrous, and ancient, and terrifying, wouldn’t let her drown. Finch doesn’t know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she’s felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.

Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena’s suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another.

One night Finch, Selena, and her friends accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts—beauty, power, adoration—in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed, before it consumes the entire island.

The Review

I don’t know if I was in a darker headspace or what, but I LOVED this book. I was very suspicious about the fact that it was branded as Wilder Girls meets The Craft. Which was an entirely accurate description. This is a YA sapphic horror, and there are some intensely dark moments.

Finch Chamberlin experiences an unthinkable tragedy the day she additions for a position at the Ulalume Academy. She isn’t sure why she didn’t drown with her parents, but she knows it wasn’t natural. Whatever is calling her to Ulalume Academy, it feels like it needs her to be there.

Selena St. Clair, the stereotypical popular girl, and her friends accidentally summon the creature that sends them spiraling on their dark journey.

Selena was the most surprising character out of everyone. I thought I was going to HATE her with a fiery passion, but I really ended up liking her.

There were a lot of elements that seemed to draw me deeper into the world of Ulalume. The imagery was vivid and rich. The dialogue flowed well (and it was clear the author wasn’t trying to sound ‘young’). I felt like I was in Rainwater, Maine on the ride with Finch and Selena.

The cyclical nature of Nerosi, Finch, and Selena discovering what happened in the past, understanding the echoes and then their lightbulb moments. There was a sick part of me that wanted to know how far these girls would go to get what they wanted, but at the same time, I was pleading with them to stop.

This is the first book this year that I had fun reading and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for Kayla Cottingham’s work in the future.

On Sale March 29, 2022 – Pre-Order Here

Hidden Powers – Tara Lain – DNF

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No Stars – DNF

Summary

Superordinary Society: Book One

Jazz Vanessen is weird—and not just because he’s a werewolf. For most of his life, he’s felt different from his alpha male brothers and friends. Since he’s adopted, he can’t even blame it on family.

Now eighteen, Jazz meets his idol, the social activist Lysandra Mason, and her breathtaking nephew, Dash Mercury. When Dash is around, even stranger things start to happen, including Jazz falling hopelessly in lust. Not only is Jazz having visions, making people disappear, and somehow turning invisible, but somebody’s following him and threatening to reveal his pack’s secrets to the world.

Together with Dash and Jazz’s equally amazing friends—Carla, BeBop, Khadija, and Fatima—they discover the danger is even more lethal than they thought, and Jazz’s weirdness may save all their lives.
 

Review

            I wanted to like this book. I did. LGBTQ+, YA, werewolves, and intrigue, are all excellent ingredients to an adventure I want to go on.

            My main issue is no knowing anything about the characters. If you hadn’t read any of the author’s other books, you’re going to be as lost as I was. As this was the ‘first’ in a new series, I didn’t think I’d be scrambling to figure out who all these people were. It’s a very established world and if you didn’t know that, you’d get frustrated like I did.

            I also had an issue with the language used. I’m not old by any means, I’m 30, and I read YA regularly across many genres. It was off putting to me. Not even in TV shows, do writers use that much ‘teen’ language.

            Will I be reading the next in the series? No. It just disappointed me entirely.

Give it a try if you’ve read previous books by this author, you may enjoy it.

Queen of All by Anya Leigh Josephs

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.

 

Review 

I have mixed feelings about Queen of All.

I was extremely excited to see a YA LGBTQ+ novel. Add the fact that it was branded as F/F and a fantasy world I was all about it. One of the main issues I had, was the main conflict was a little meh. There was so much build-up but by the end of the book, I was left wondering if I had missed something. What happened with the prince? Was Jena more than meets the eye like I thought she was going to be? I felt a bit lost.

Sisi and Jena are tight friends. So much so, that once Sisi is summoned to the royal court due to her rumored beauty, Jena goes with her. They take on the royal court and work together to ensure they are safe.

What I liked was Jena. She took the opportunity to read and learn as much as she could. She used her plain appearance to venture around the castle unnoticed. But I feel like she got pushed into the traditional role of supporting character who is the fat best friend. Nothing irritates me more. I had so many hopes for her and was let down.

There were few LGBTQ+ elements in this. Jena does admit to herself that she has feelings for another girl, but again, her happiness here gets sacrificed.

This was just a huge miss for me. Other readers absolutely adored this novel. Check out the reviews on Goodreads, they raved about it. It just didn’t work out for me.

To be released June 9 2021

I Knew Him by Abigail de Niverville

40711378Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: In his senior year of high school, Julian has one goal: be invisible. All he wants is to study hard, play basketball, and pretend he’s straight for one more year. Then, he can run away to university and finally tell the world he’s bisexual. And by “the world,” he means everyone but his mom and best friend. That’s two conversations he never wants to have.

When he’s talked into auditioning for the school’s production of Hamlet, Julian fears that veering off course will lead to assumptions he’s not ready to face. Despite that, he can’t help but feel a connection to this play. His absent father haunts him like a ghost, his ex is being difficult, and he’s overthinking everything. It’s driving him crazy.

The decision to audition leads Julian on an entirely different path. He’s cast as Hamlet, and the boy playing Horatio is unlike anyone Julian has met before. Mysterious and flirtatious, Sky draws Julian in, even though he fears his feelings at the same time. As the two grow closer, Julian begins to let out the secrets he’s never told—the ones that have paralyzed him for years. But what will he do if Sky feels the same way?

The Review

This book, I felt it in my bones, and I wished that I had something like this to read when I was in high school. To have something like this to relate to would have made it a little easier getting through the school day surrounded by people who didn’t have to fear being true to themselves.

Julian has a plan during his final year I high school. He’s going to pass his classes, play basketball, and not tell anyone that he’s bisexual. The best laid plans never work. He is talked into auditioning for Hamlet and it brings him down a path he didn’t expect. He lands the part of Hamlet, meets a boy who sparks feelings in him, comes to terms with why his father left his mother, and comes to realize that his happiness matters just as much.

I want to say how much I related to Julian. I’ve had friends who couldn’t believe in bisexuality. You either are, or you’re not gay. There’s nothing else. This was before I knew there was more than gay, lesbian or bisexual identifiers (I live in the deep south and still haven’t come out completely – gotta do this in my own time right?). I felt his fear at coming out to a friend who had a track record of calling him a coward or a liar for not ‘picking’ the gender he wanted to be with. It hurt seeing Julian struggle with all the feelings revolving around Will, but it was one hundred percent real.

Sky was such a beautiful, creative character. I was intrigued with his first appearance on page. He’s smart, kind, sensitive and is everything that Julian needs at this moment of his life. They were so great to each other. Listening, reassuring, understanding, supportive. It’s what everyone needs in a relationship and they had it.

Julian’s relationship with his Dad was touching. They were unsure of where they stood with each other but they learned how to be father and son again. Julian learned that family doesn’t have to be traditional, but happiness is important. To lie to yourself is to set yourself up for some pretty tough times. His mother’s reaction broke my heart. Like damn, why did it have to happen that way. I was pretty close to crying at one point and that isn’t an easy feat with me.

This book left me feeling hopeful, happy and excited for the possibilities that life could bring. I thoroughly enjoyed this, plan on buying a physical copy, and making sure I recommend this to everyone I think needs this in their life. If you are a YA fan, this is definitely worth a read – and very likely a reread.

Get your copy here

First Time by Stella Starling

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: Cody McPherson is a high school senior everyone says is destined for the NFL. Simon Andrews is the transfer student who doesn’t want any attention. It’s 2007 and no one is out at Hamilton High School, but there’s a first time for everything, and when biology tutoring sparks the kind of chemistry not found in textbooks, 2007 starts to look like the year that there will be a lot of firsts at Hamilton…

First Time is a coming-of-age gay romance novella of approximately 34,000 words. Every Stella Starling romance takes place in the same interconnected, contemporary world, and First Time is a prequel to Cody and Simon’s present-day love story, which will be told in the novel Second Chance, scheduled for release in 2019.

The Review

This was such a sweet read 😍 I wish there had been more. I love a good coming of age, first-time, YA Romance. And this had everything you could want for a mature reader (I say mature because there is a sex scene towards the end that definitely steps over into the NA genre)

Cody McPherson is the star of the football team and is expected to make it to the big leagues. He just needs to get his biology grade up to par to keep playing and to make sure he keeps those scholarships he’s been offered. He’s been keeping his head down, not looking at his team mates in the locker room and managed to get away with not dating throughout high school because he was focusing on football. Simon Andrews is a nobody and just wants to make it through high school without causing any waves and to make sure he gets a scholarship so he can finally be himself without any barriers.

Cody has been fighting his attraction to Simon since Simon started tutoring him. He’s smart, kind, funny, and sweet. He’s everything that Cody wants but thinks he can’t have. Simon thinks Cody is a straight jock that’s completely off limits. They are so cute with each other. They both get flustered, stumble over their words when they are around each other, and dissolve into shy smiles and laughter. It reminded me of the first relationship jitters that everyone gets. You’re happy, excited and want everything all at once. This was exactly how they were with each other.

Cody’s friends melted my heart. They were supportive and had his back, just like they would have on the football field. They had me smiling and laughing with how they were with both Cody and Simon. It didn’t matter that they were gay, or from different ends of the high school social ladder. They were there for each other.

By the time I finished reading this, I was in such a good mood. It was exactly what I needed.

I wish there had been more tutoring scenes, awkward dates and maybe meeting Simon’s mom scene. I know it’s a novella, and there’s a full length book featuring their second chance romance, but I just needed more!! I’m definitely going to be reading more by Stella Starling.

Get your copy here!

 

 

 

 

Struck by Victoria Kinniard

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary:

Capes are stupid.
Superheroes are just wishful thinking.
True love doesn’t exist.
I’m not a hero.
Well…not yet.

***

A seventeen-year-old hacker, a group of teenage superheroes and one hell of a family secret come together to form the perfect storm.
Are you ready to get struck?

The Review

I have a weakness for Superheroes and YA books. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read Struck. 

Ethan is a small-town hacker who already knows how to his own version of justice done until he was struck. Now he’s trying to figure out what exactly his power it is and how the Lightning Project is going to be doing good for the world. I loved Ethan. He is so freaking sarcastic and witty he had me cackling at times. Everyone needs a friend like Ethan in their lives.

Ethan doesn’t also immediately buy into the Lightning Project. He challenges it like a teenager would. He wants to know as much as he can about the Project and to understand it before he accepts his new role. I enjoyed all the other characters as well. They helped push the story along and each proved vital to the story line in their own ways. I particularly enjoyed Esther and her teasing nature. She was fun for more than just her powers.

I enjoyed the romance between Ethan and Adam. It wasn’t all roses and there were moments that I wanted to shake both of them but they got their act together. But they were sweet to each other in that teenage way. I loved the little flirty moments mixed in with all the action. It made this extremely fun to read and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Get your copy here

Skating Through by Jennifer Crosgove

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: There are two things Ben Lewis has convinced himself he can never have at the same time: playing hockey and being openly gay. Hockey is looking to be his only choice. Until now. Being captain of the team and starting his senior year of high school is a lot to handle. Throw in a budding friendship with his crush, Marcus, and Ben is faced with deciding if he’s brave enough to take the next step.

Fortunately, courage can come from unexpected places. His BFF Ryan, new friends, and a voice from the past are great assists to his determination to be true to himself and keep playing the game he loves, but will they be enough?

The Review

Skating Through combines some of my favorite things to read: hockey, young adult, and first times. It was sweet, a bit emotional in parts and extremely fun to read.

Ben Lewis is a high school senior and he’s the captain of the hockey team. He isn’t your average jock either. He’s shy, quiet, closeted and has one best friend Ryan encourages him to get out of his shell. In all manners, like going to parties, finally talking to the boy he’s had a crush on since freshman year and finding a little bit of happy that’s outside of hockey.

As Ben slowly starts to find himself, he starts to open up to more possibilities of how his life can be if he were to come out of the closest. Everything happened in stages. It isn’t like a switch that flipped and everyone knew. He told the people he cared about the most and went from there. There were times I could see how anxious and afraid he was and then I could feel his relief. They were adorable together and every date like scenario made me root more for them.

There was a bit of a side story happening too. Ben found letters from WWII in his Gran’s attic and turns out there was a little bit of a love story there as well. There is so much of me that wishes there were dual storylines happening the entire span of the book. I wanted there to be more letters, to see the war time romance as well. I was extremely intrigued and now I’m looking for more books like that.

I enjoyed being able to see Ben’s journey and how everything would unfold. I read this book in one sitting, about two hours. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. I loved this and now I want to read everything by Cosgrove.

Get your copy here!

Fake It by Victoria Kinnaird

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Four out of Five Stars

Book one of the Keswick Chronicles

The Summary: Jack Daveyson grew up with a guitar in his hands and his head full of melodies. Ten years after writing his first riff, he knows exactly what he wants to do with his life – graduate high school, escape Wayville and hit the road with his band, Forever Fading Echoes.

But it’s a bit hard to launch a band without a singer. Enter JJ Keswick.

JJ is everything Jack isn’t: rich, confident and popular. He also happens to be one of the best singers Jack has ever heard.

Jack reluctantly lets JJ into his band and into his life. The spark between them in the practice studio grows into something neither of them were expecting – a love that threatens to tear their lives apart.

The Review

Fake It by Victoria Kinnaird is a YA book that encompasses everything I love about the YA genre with the LGBTQ appeal as the cherry on top. I’m not a fan of teenagers getting into alcohol as much as JJ did (it’s a personal thing and I live in New Orleans so I know kids can party) but it wasn’t overly done. Jack laid down the law on JJ showing up under the influence to band practices and gigs. Having someone put that rule down, made me go, okay, I’m going to keep reading.

In the beginning there was a lot of play on the typical character types and makes them into something more. Jack isn’t just the gay kid who gets bullied and JJ is not just a rich-kid throwaway. There were times where I could pinpoint that certain characters were just like my friends back in high school. It felt like I was part of that world while I was reading.

The imagery of each setting, the record store, JJ’s house, Jack’s house, I could see these places in my mind.

The struggle Jack faces, deciding on college or pursuing his dream of having a legitimate band and skipping college that hit home. I know how hard it was for him to make that decision, to tell his dad what he chose and he was going to do it no matter how hard it was. I didn’t go that route and now I have a useless degree, work in retail and follow my dream on the side. I wish I could have been as brace as Jack was.

Absolutely loved this and can’t wait to read the next in the series!

Purchase Here

 

 

The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake

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Summary: Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

 

The Review

The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake was a book I was really looking forward to reading. The entire premise of curse work and Russian rivalries plus M/M YA story line reeled me in. But I was a bit disappointed. In the beginning I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters and usually that is never a problem for me. Within the first chapter I usually have it but I kept getting Luke and Jeremy confused for each other.

Then I got bogged down in understanding just what uncrossing and crossing really was. It didn’t seem to be the focus like I thought it would be. I actually got lost with what the main conflict was until the last 20%.

What I did like was the relationship between Luke and Jeremy. It was well written once I got everyone right in my mind. They were really sweet and fun to read in scenes together. I feel like if this could have been longer, the details drawn out a little clearer, this would have been an amazing book that I’d want to read over and over.
Will I read Melissa Eastlake’s work again? Most likely. She caught my interest and had a interesting storyline.

I received an E-Book copy of The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Link: Here on Amazon