5 star, YA

ARC Review: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on bouncing through worlds that are almost-but-not-really his own.

The changes start small, but they quickly spiral out of control as Ash slides into universes where he has everything he’s ever wanted, universes where society is stuck in the past…universes where he finds himself looking at life through entirely different eyes.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…



**Game Changer comes out February 9, 2021!**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

That basic human need for identity is, and has always been, a double-edged sword. Because the closer to our feet we draw that line in the sand, the more we see everyone else as the enemy.

I don’t have any coherent words to say, but I will do my utmost best.

Game Changer is a different kind of story than Neal’s other books, but at the same time, I totally see how it is in his wheelhouse of ideas. While I have seen other early reviewers calling it preachy and taking on too much, I think this was the author’s way of dealing with the wreckage that was 2020. I mean, even COVID was mentioned briefly as a defining moment of history. Like, hey, remember the year everyone went into lockdown due to COVID? Yep. Not sure if I’m ready to see this mentioned in my fictional books, but I totally understand at the same time.

We follow Ash, full name Ashley, a football lineman. I know next to nothing about football – I’m sorry it’s not my country’s sport? – but this isn’t a football-focused story. It’s just the vehicle by which Ash finds himself hurtling through different dimensions of the same world if certain changes or decisions were unmade. I know, this sounds super vague but bear with me.

At first it may be a little confusing to get into. What? Different worlds? Trust me, you just got to hang in there. The changes initially start small. Just one small detail Ash notices that wasn’t the same as what he previously knew the world to be like. However, no one else in his circle of family, friends or townspeople can recall these changes. It’s like the world never made those decisions and Ash is the only one who remembers a different reality where it existed.

I always admire Neal for his ingenuity and creative thinking. I like this take on multi dimensions. And with each dimension Ash accidentally jumps into, the larger the changes and the more drastic consequences. The interactions and events that occur in each dimension’s timeline are still remembered in the new dimension, but with altered memories to fit the narrative of what that world looks like. Yes, it’s a bit complicated but it’s interesting once we’re there.

Now, where do the more negative reviews stem from? This book tackles A LOT of big issues. Racism and segregation, homophobia and hate crimes, sexism and emotional/physical abuse, it’s a lot to learn and take in for just one of these let alone ALL of these. I get that.

BUT I also see where the author is coming from. I don’t see it from the stance that he fully explored each topic in depth (of course he didn’t), but to showcase how imperfect our world is and what more we need to work on as a society together. Yes, sometimes you may feel called out on our own privileges and our ignorance. I think that’s the point. Neal Shusterman’s books always make us think beyond just the story itself to what our own reality and life is like. What makes us tick. What breaks us apart. What builds us up together. It’s the beauty of it!

I can promise you, the ending isn’t just a white-saviour complex whereby Ash, a white dude, saves everything and all is good in the world. No, the point is that there is still a lot to be done and it starts by each of us owning our own biases and figuring out what we CAN do besides just silently agreeing. The ending is hope.

I personally loved the way Neal introduced, not necessarily solved or fully addressed, each social issue we have through Ash’s eyes. I don’t feel called out by it but invigorated to learn more and do more in my life. I hope you pick up this book and feel the same. Let’s not just get defensive but let it bring us to discuss these things to learn and DO something about it.

I have been schooled in my own ignorance. That’s not a bad thing…Perhaps, in the end, that’s the perspective that matters. Only by being humbled can we ever hope to be great.

Ashley Bowman

Overall Recommendation:

Game Changer is one of those books that stay long with you after its final pages are turned. Juggling many things at once, it delicately balances the need to show us the imperfections of our society and world while emphasizing the optimism and hope that we can do better as a whole together. Shusterman excellently throws these perspectives together in a story of multi dimensions through one boy’s eyes. Following Ash’s journey as he unravels his own ignorance and views of the world is eye-opening and guaranteed to shine a light on our own perspectives as we journey with him. What a read indeed!

5 star, adult

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel eBook: Reid, Taylor Jenkins:  Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.



I am not normally easily convinced by reading biographical type stories – but this one had me hooked in very few pages. This novel follows an aspiring journalist, Monique, who lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a now-aged Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo. Famous for a plethora of scandals and of course, her seven husbands, what is it that finally makes Evelyn open up about her past? And what secrets has she been hiding all these years?

Wow, 5 Drink Me Potions. I really didn’t think I would have many books in my life I was confident to rate at the top level. But honestly, I was so enraptured by this book I flipped through it in one day and absolutely could not put it down. The character Evelyn Hugo, is just so perfectly imperfect, exactly the type of character I absolutely adore. And this was a whole biographical retelling of her life story. Evelyn was an absolutely stunning character, so well written and intricate. I found myself heavily admiring her, and wondering if I would have the courage and smarts to do all that she did to protect herself and her loved ones.

When I say they go through her life story I really do mean her life story. After all, how else do you get through seven husbands? But from her childhood all the way to old age, the roller coaster of events that life takes her through is an absolutely wild and riveting ride, and all facets of her character are truly shown off. While she makes very morally ambiguous choices, and stretches the grey zone further than most people ever do, I found that despite her “bad” actions, I just couldn’t blame her for anything. I understood her motivations, and despite that not being a justification for her actions, it was completely understandable. I reckon that if I had the courage to reach for my goals the same way she did, I would have done the same things.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is well-researched and written, as we span the decades of 20th century Hollywood through the eyes of Evelyn. This is also beautifully tied back to the journalist Monique, and her own journey as she learns about Evelyn’s. I really haven’t been this moved by a book in a long while! The complications and difficulties of real life situations are illustrated so well, and demonstrates the necessity of morally grey actions and truly highlights the complexities of life. This is story of a girl’s humble beginning through her rise to fame and all the sacrifices she had to make to attain her goals and looking back, just what was it all worth in the end?

Obviously, it is just a personal opinion that this book (and mainly, this character) spoke to me so much, but if you love that 20th century Hollywood setting, and honestly one of the most clever and powerful heroines I have ever met (or read about), then give this book a shot!

Overall Recommendations:

Obviously, with such a rating, I absolutely recommend this account of Evelyn Hugo’s life. This novel truly explores the theme of dreams, love, and sacrifice, and how far one can push to reach for the stars (or stardom, in this case). You are really taken through a journey (7 husbands, can you imagine?) and as more and more of Evelyn’s character comes to light, this idea of being perfectly imperfect could not be more clear. If you wanna see a female protagonist truly tear up the Hollywood scene and seriously outsmart the patriarchal society, Evelyn Hugo’s your girl. I was absolutely entranced by her story, and hopefully you will be too!

3.5 star, adult

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic #1

A Darker Shade final for IreneKell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


The world sits in balance, humanity in one hand, magic in the other. The two exist in every living thing, and in a perfect world, they maintain a kind of harmony, neither exceeding the other.

With all the hype that surrounds this series, I was a bit intimidated picking up V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. But everything they say about this book is absolutely true.

Be prepared for a world – or should I say worlds – of creativity as you enter even the very first page. While it was a bit confusing at first, readers soon get the gist of how this society is run. 3 parallel worlds exist and only those with very special magical abilities can traverse between the worlds. Kell, our protagonist, is one of the only two that still exist.

[Kell] was, after all, Antari.

Magic is described similarly to how we see it in many other novels. Elemental magic exists, with control of the elements like water, air, fire, rock, etc. But there’s a difference with Kell and the kind of magic he possessed. To be short, blood magic. And who can’t say they’re slightly thrilled when hearing just those words put together? It could spell trouble, or it could just mean there’s great power and potential.

And Antari could speak to blood. To life. To magic itself. The first and final element, the one that lived in all and was of none.

Aside from the magic system, the parallel worlds is a fun addition. And aptly, Kell has named each of the worlds he can visit by a colour that represent the society.

I don’t normally explain a fantasy world so in-depth in a review but I can’t help but marvel at the uniqueness and enthralling way this world building has touched me. 3 worlds. 3 colours.

Whitea world falling apart and dying as its ruthless citizens fight for control and hold back any dangers magic may have once presented. It has somehow lost some vitality – hence colour – to it

Greya world without much magic, and its citizens have almost forgotten about its existence. It is dreary and kind of boring without the essence of magic filling up the place – probably the closest world to what you can imagine as our Earthly version of London

Reda world brilliantly flourishing with different elemental magic among its citizens, and a fairly content way of ruling and continuing as it is. Maybe that is why it’s associated with the scent of flowers and red as it reminds us of life and growth

Yet, there is more. There was once a fourth world. One that has been sealed off from the rest. But something has come into Kell’s possession from that lost world and it opened up a world of trouble right into his lap.

If that world building description and the main plot arc of the book/series didn’t get you excited, then I don’t know what will. This is imaginative fantasy making at its best, with the brilliant Victoria Schwab standing at the helm.

Even the prose is beautiful in its elegant yet simple descriptions. Not just of the world around the characters, but the individuals themselves. There were a number of names and characters to sort through – let alone which worlds they hail from – but no one else aside from Kell was as important as Lila Bard. For all her thorny masks and thievery, she was someone I came to admire. ‘Cause isn’t inside every hardened shell some experiences that made them that way? Something deep and vulnerable that doesn’t want to be seen by the light of day?

And for the first time, Kell saw Lila. Not as she wanted to be, but as she was. A frightened, albeit clever, girl trying desperately to stay alive. One who had likely frozen and starved and fought – and almost certainly killed – to hold onto some semblance of a life, guarding it like a candle in a harsh wind.

With the book broken down into several parts and short chapters in each, it was fairly easy to breeze through, especially for those who are daunted by long and complicated fantasy novels. While I have many praises to extol on this first book, I will admit that it started off quite slow. Some of it may be due to the natural progression of acclimatizing us readers to the world Schwab has built without overwhelming us with pages and pages of information dump. I certainly never felt that as I am still very much in awe of the story, even days after I’ve finished it. But the excitement and the main storyline took its time in coming and developing.

However, I have very high hopes for the rest of the series. As first books go, A Darker Shade of Magic is more than an excellent start to an exciting series. It excels at making itself stand out in a sea of such similar fantasy tropes.

The danger may seem to have been dealt with, but I get the feeling something is still stirring and there’ll be more for Kell and Lila to deal with soon.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” Kell asked Lila now.

She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply.

Overall Recommendation:

Excellent prose, brilliant plot and a world beyond your imagining, A Darker Shade of Magic is everything that people have been shouting about these past years. In a land where parallel worlds exist and only certain magical people can travel between them, danger lies when things that don’t belong in some worlds show up and remind everyone of the dangers imbalanced magic can bring. Protagonists Kell and Lila embark on a crazy quest to save all their worlds as trouble comes to them, all the while fighting something dark that may fester inside each of them. Even if you aren’t normally a fantasy lover, this book explains its world building well and will guarantee to satisfy fans of action, adventure and a tease of romance. While it can be slow-going at first, trust me, you’ll want to get through this, and feast your senses on a world with Antari.