Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The “Check, Please!” Duology by Ngozi Ukazu

Image courtesy of amazon.com

Hello readers!

Welcome back to another one of my fancasting posts that seem to be my most popular content on here, which is more than okay with me considering it’s something I really enjoy doing for myself as well as for those who keep returning to this little passion project of mine that is having a book blog running for over two years now.

Recently, I’ve had someone comment on one of my posts saying how they disagree with my choices for a particular fancast on here, and while I’m totally okay with not having everyone agree with me on everything, they lost all credibility with me when they decided to be rude, disrespectful, and just downright unpleasant for absolutely no reason…there’s nothing wrong with just saying you don’t agree with someone and simply leaving it at that but the negativity and overall just plain nastiness is just so unnecessary…

….So this is just a reminder to everyone who sees this and reads it to be nice and be respectful on not only on here, but anywhere else on the web or even on social media! You may forget it sometimes, but there’s still another human being on the other side of the keyboard, and some people seem to just get an unwarranted sense of confidence and overall bitchiness when they type something behind a keyboard and not say it to someone’s face…those people deserve a good smack upside the head!

BE NICE, it’s not that hard to do…

Okay rant over…..glad I got that off my chest, now back to bigger and more important things worth my time and energy.

I’ve been posting LGBT book reviews so far this month (for obvious reasons, and all M/M since that’s my preference), and have plenty more on the way, but I wanted to do at least one fancast too so I can switch it up a little bit! It was no question that I put together a fancasting for these particular books, and I did it for multiple reasons: they’re the first LGBT graphic novels I’ve ever read, and they’re by far one of my favorite queer romance stories I’ve ever gotten my hands on too. Everything about these just speak to me; from the artwork to the storyline, the characters, the banter, the humor, the themes of friendship & first love & and self acceptance & college, and the author herself and the story behind this whole project!

The story is about Eric Bittle: a young little figure skater who loves to bake and post on his vlog about his life who winds up getting a scholarship to a fictional Ivy League University, but with a hockey scholarship! You can imagine how well that would possibly go over for everyone…but along the way he meets some incredibly interesting people, learns a heck of a lot about himself and those around him, and of course while dealing all the regular stress of a college freshman! Let’s not also forget how he may or may not be hardcore crushing on his team captain too…

To see my review of book #1 – #Hockey – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Sticks & Scones – Click HERE

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Here is my official Fancast/Dreamcast for the “Check, Please!” Graphic Novel Duology!

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P. “Shitty” Knight: Gaspard Ulliel, or Glen Powell

Gaspard Ulliel, image courtesy of fred.fm
Glen Powell, image courtesy of justjared.com

P. Shitty Knight is probably my favorite character because of how lax and out there he is about literally everything. He’s THE character of this whole story, and I have two people who are on the exact opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to casting him. Gaspard is a french actor best known for playing Hannibal Lecter in “Hannibal Rising,” and he more just fits the role with his looks. Glen Powell might be a much better choice, as he can look the part AND he has the personality to play the part. I became a fan of his when I saw him in “Scream Queens” and even more so for Shitty for his character—who also has a mustache—in the movie “Everybody Wants Some.” For anyone who doesn’t know what I mean, GO WATCH THAT MOVIE, and then try and tell me you can’t see him playing Shitty for that movie alone!

Adam “Holster” Birkholtz: Nick Milone, or Wyatt Nash

Nick Milone, image courtesy of the model’s Twitter profile
Wyatt Nash, image courtesy of justjared.com

The first half of the “Holster and Ransom” dynamic duo, I’ve picked Wyatt Nash for a few other characters on my blog already, but since he’s in the Netflix show “Dear White People,” I just picture him being pretty comfortable in this role and setting too. Nick Milone is a model I found on Instagram who physically fits the look of Adam—at least in my opinion—and to add a new face to my fancasts!

Justin “Ransom” Oluransi: Remi Alade-Chester

Remi, image courtesy of beauty-around.com

The other half of the bromance that is “Holster and Ransom,” Remi is actually a Nigerian male model who may or may not actually look the part! Justin is a cutey and so is Remi, so I’m happy with this pairing!

Larissa “Lardo” Duan: Lana Condor, or Malese Jow

Lana Condor, image courtesy of refinery29.com
Malese Jow, image courtesy of wisdominbeauty.com

I’ve been a fan of Lana since I first seen her in the Netflix film adaptations of the “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” series, but I know Lardo is a completely different character than Laura Jean. Lardo has a lot of spunk wrapped up in such a petite little body, Lana Condor is just the only actor I can think of who’d play the part well. Malese has been in shows like “The Vampire Diaries,” “Unfabulous,” and “The Flash,” and is another choice I could see as the manager of the Samwell hockey team.

Kent “Parse” Parson: Alex Pettyfer, or Alex Wennberg

Alex Pettyfer, image courtesy of wallpapercave.com

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Kent Parson is an interesting character who causes a lot of drama where he goes, and he just so happens to be incredibly handsome and good looking and that’s probably why he gets away with it all most of the time. For this, it kind of reminded me of the actor Alex Pettyfer, both in his golden-boy looks and in his hollywood reputation being less than stellar. I also wanted to include Wennberg because he’s not only a pro hockey player just like Parson, but also has the similar aesthetic and even a mischievous smile that I’m sure could get him into (or out of) trouble.

Derek “Nursey” Nurse: Jordan Matheson

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

I found this model on Instagram and think he’s absolutely gorgeous with his hazel eyes that I think perfectly match Nursey’s in the graphic novels when we meet him. He looks like he’d have that laid back, chill mood that Nursey is known for!

William “Dex” Poindexter: Ken Bek

Image credit to owner

Dex is actually one of the harder characters to cast, as there’s not a whole lot of actors or models who are redheads with golden eyes like him. Believe it or not, but a lot of them have dreamy blue eyes instead—darn it—so my choices were limited! I feel like KJ Apa was the only other choice since he plays Archie in the CW’s “Riverdale.”

Chris “Chowder” Chow: John Harlan Kim

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

I can’t say I’ve ever watched this Australian actor in anything, but I feel like just looking at pictures of him on his IMDB profile that he gave me vibes he could totally play Chowder if they ever decided to make a live-action adaptation of these graphic novels. He’s got the eyebrows and the facial expressions that I think this is a really good match!

Suzanne Bittle: Julie Bowen

Image courtesy of disney.fandom.com

She may not fully fit the character in a physical sense to some, but Julie Bowen screams mom ever since she starred in “Modern Family”! She’s got the blonde hair, brown eyes combo that technically fits Bitty’s mom’s look, so I’d be happy to see her play the character if this ever got turned into a show or movie.

Richard “Coach” Bittle: Sam Jaeger

Credit to owner

This was by far the hardest casting choice to make! No one was popping up in my sources for quite some time, but then I ran into Sam Jaeger and thought to myself “You know…give him a mustache and he could work!” I found this image of him, and I think I’m convinced, hopefully others are too! Sam has been in film/shows like “Lucky Number Slevin,” “The Politician,” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Bob Zimmermann: James Patrick Stewart

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Jack’s father and living hockey legend himself, I pictured this actor playing this character! He’s been in films/shows like “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Supernatural,” “Las Vegas,” “Gettysburg,” and even “All My Children.”

Alicia Zimmerman: Cameron Diaz

Image courtesy dnaindia.com

As soon as I first glimpsed Jack’s mom and her large, bright blue eyes, I immediately was reminded of Cameron Diaz! She may not quite be old enough to actually be the character, but since she was the first face to come to mind, I decided “why not?” and put her down as my Alicia Zimmerman.

Georgia “George” Martin: Eiza Gonzalez

Image courtesy of deadline.com

Georgia is the assistant general manager to the Providence Falconers, and I got the vibe that she was possibly of latin or spanish descent based on the color of her skin and the way her hair is drawn in the story—I could be totally off base with this, but it’s just the impression I got. Eiza Gonzalez is a mexican actress and singer who’s been in films like “Baby Driver,” “Hobbs & Shaw,” and “Godzilla vs. King Kong.”

Alexei “Tater” Mashkov: Andrew Biernat

Image courtesy of the model/actor’s Instagram page

I’m not sure if Andrew actually has any Russian in his heritage, but I follow the guy on Instagram and he has a goofball attitude in his videos that kind of reminds me of Alexei, Jack’s (most likely) favorite teammate when he goes to the NHL!

Denice Ford: Courtney Sauls

Image courtesy of zimbio.com

Denice—Who thanks to Key & Peele I pronounce it like D-Nice—becomes the new team manager in volume 2 when Lardo graduates, and she luckily seems to be able to handle the pressure of keeping all those players in line! Courtney plays the strange and quirky reporter named Brooke on the Netflix show, “Dear White People,” and she just gives me somewhat-similar vibes to Denice in the second volume of these graphic novels.

Connor “Whiskey” Whisk: James Maslow

Image credit to owner

This fancasting is funny to me only because I know James all the way back from 2009-11 from a guilty pleasure called “Big Time Rush” on Nickelodeon—of all places! He was way more animated and expressive on there than Whiskey is in the whole second book. This may not be the perfect choice for the character, but I know James over a ton of other actors so this is purely subjective to who I follow!

Tony “Tango” Tangredi: Brandon Larracuente

Image courtesy of spoilertv.com

I know at this point for some of these minor characters it can really get vague and a lot of other actors could play them, but it’s still fun to kind of put a face to the drawing, so don’t think some of these are final selections! Brandon played Jeff Atkins in “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix, and he played a jock on there too, and he’s also kind of adorable, so I’d be happy to see him on my screen again!

River “Bully” Bullard: David Bodas

Image courtesy of the model’s Twitter profile

The first thing that you notice about Bully is HAIR. He has got some gorgeous flow that he absolutely rocks as a newly incoming freshman during Eric Bittle’s senior year. David Bodas is a model I discovered on Instagram, and he’s one of the few guys that I feel like is actually really rockin’ the long haired look like this nowadays!

Jonathan “Hops” Hopper: Rome Flynn

Rome, image courtesy of the actor/model’s Instagram profile

Rome Flynn has a smile that could get him out of trouble, and Hops is a total sweetheart so I could totally see this being a thing if they actually make “Check Please” into a film or tv show! For those of you not familiar, Rome Flynn can be seen in “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Lukas “Louis” Landmann: Benjamin Eidem

Credit to owner

I’m trying to keep it ethnically accurate with this choice, but Benjamin is actually a swedish model so it fits! He’s actually done some high end fashion brands like Prada, Michael Kors, and Burberry just to name a few, NOT that that has any reasoning behind why I picked him!

Jack Laurent Zimmermann: Robbie Amell, or Ryan Kennedy

Robbie Amell, image courtesy of robbie-amell.com
Ryan Kennedy, image courtesy of models.com

Robbie Amell is one of my favorite male actors, i’ve had heart eyes for him ever since he was first seen in the Disney Channel Original series, “Life With Derek.” He’s also been in “American Pie: Beta House,” “The DUFF,” “The Babysitter,” and has been cast in the future film “The Hating Game.” Ryan is a model who someone on Tumblr posted as their choice, and I looked and looked and couldn’t find the post to give credit where it’s due, but if someone knows who I’m talking about, PLEASE send the profile my way so I can credit them!

Eric “Bitty” Bittle: Tom Holland, Troye Sivan, or Michael Provost

Tom Holland, image courtesy of stanfordartsreview.com
Troye Sivan, image courtesy of popbuzz.com
Michael Provost, image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

I picture Tom Holland playing an adorable, gay little figure skater-turned-hockey player, and my heart just gets so warm, full, and excited at the idea. All these guys are as cute as a button, and I could picture any of these guys being the main character of these graphic novels! Troye Sivan is a singer and actor who actually is queer himself, so that’d be great representation for him to play this role, and Michael is an adorable actor I found on one of Netflix’s cancelled shows, “Insatiable.”

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So there you have it!

These are my choices for who I picture the characters looking like in real life, it’s interesting to do a fancast for a graphic novel just because there’s actually more of a limit on who to pick since you have a visual of the actual character. It’s not so up-in-the-air and vague with their physical descriptions, but either way it was fun to do another one of these!

Don’t agree with my picks, or do you have your own choices as to who you could see playing these characters? Feel free to comment or message me what your thoughts are, just don’t be a dick about it (referring back to my rant earlier)! Either have respect and be friendly, or I’ll just report and block. I have no time or interest in dealing with toxic internet trolls, so lets have a mature and friendly conversation instead.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT’S Most Romantic Books

Valentine’s Day is soon upon us—at least as I create this article—and that means romance is in the freezing winter air and couples of all shapes and sizes are going all out in order to feel the love on that special night!

For those like me who love a good book with a bunch of heartfelt romance, I decided to help my fellow booklovers out and create a list of some of my more memorable titles over the years and (hopefully) help someone find a new story to get their hands on and swoon over all the passionate confessions, the scorching love scenes, and enjoy it all as much as I have!

As you read the titles below, are there any on here that you agree with? Are there other books/series you recommend? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message on one of the many social media platforms I’m on! To find those, simply scroll back up to the top and find the “Contact Info” page on the main menu; I love to hear recommendations and just talk about books with people in general.

Enjoy the list I created below, it is in no particular order!

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What If It’s Us: by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

This was such a sweet, adorable contemporary LGBT+ title that was co-written by two of the most prolific authors in YA fiction. Two young guys meet during summer break in New York City, and of course EVERYTHING that goes wrong actually happens before these guys can possibly have a happily ever after! I’ve been meaning to reread to be able to give a better book review on here, especially with the more recent news that there’s going to be sequel!

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From Blood And Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Also known as the best series of 2020 for me, these books have just taken me in mind, body, and soul! A Fantasy-Romance series that is oh-so bingeable, I can’t recommend these books enough, and with the third book coming out in April, those who’d just be starting these books wouldn’t have to wait as long as other members of the fandom for it to release already!

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Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

These books have been such a more lighthearted, fun, and enchanting series to read. You’ve got dangerous scavenger hunts, mysterious figures, handsome men with plenty of secrets, great romance, and plenty more where that came from. I’m going to start the third and final book soon and can’t wait to also post my Fancast soon too!

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It Ends With Us: by Colleen Hoover

This book has a more serious tone than most of the others on this list, and has subject matter that may not be suitable for more sensitive readers, but the love story that is interwoven into the darker moments of this story will utterly take your breath away; I can’t recommend this book enough!

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The Off-Campus Series by Elle Kennedy

One of my favorite romance series ever, it’s a hilarious and sexy college romance series that I think anyone who’s a fan of the genre will enjoy. Elle Kennedy certainly knows how to write stories that are equally part sweet and scorching moments with all her couples in these gems; anyone who enjoys snark, smut, and smoking hot hockey players will really enjoy these!

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Him duology by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Another LGBT+ romance title, these books were amazing to find when I enjoyed Elle Kennedy’s other stories like the Off-Campus books. I absolutely had to read these when I learned she wrote about more hockey players, but this time it was M/M. A great second-chance romance when two former best friends return to the summer camp of their younger years and new passions are soon discovered!

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Serpent & Dove series by Shelby Mahurin

A surprisingly great debut, I loved the first book of this YA Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series when it was released. It has so many great romance tropes like “Enemies-to-Lovers,” “There’s Only One Bed,” “Marriage by Convenience,” and plenty more! I’m a little hesitant to start the next book because it’s gotten really mixed reviews (seems to have suffered from “second book syndrome”), but the third and final book’s cover was just revealed, so I’ll have to get to it soon by the time “Gods and Monsters” releases in August!

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Red, White, & Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

A M/M LGBT+ romance genre MUST READ! It was my favorite book of 2018 and was the kind of book I wish I had growing up back when queer titles weren’t as mainstream as they are now. I adored the love story that developed between the (fictional) first son of the president of the United States with the Prince of Wales! Ugh….PLEASE just read it.

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The Song of Achilles: by Madeline Miller

Totally expect waterworks with this book! It’s a beautifully written take on a classic greek tale that we’ve all heard before, but with a completely new take on it while being told from the perspective of a character who never really got the spotlight in “The Iliad” until now. Even though you know the eventual fate of the hero of this tale, the love that blossoms between Achilles and Patroclus makes you yearn for a possible chance that they’ll overcome all that comes between them!

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The Edge of Never duology by J.A. Redmerski

These books made me believe in soul mates…I’m totally serious! The story of Camryn and Andrew as they meet on a cross country bus ride is a story that I can’t believe isn’t more popular with other readers. They’re literally perfect for each other, and both discover new passions for life and each other along the way; this is such an underrated duology in my opinion!

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Again, But Better: by Christine Riccio

A lighthearted, beachy read about second chances with a shy, introverted girl moving abroad in order to find herself; this was a great book to lift my spirits! It was a little cheesy, not gonna lie, but I say it’s definitely worth a look at if you’re looking for an incredibly sweet romance adventure!

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River’s End: by Nora Roberts

I remember snagging my mom’s copy of this off the shelf back when I was in 7th grade and fell in love with this story. It has literally everything: Hollywood, Murder, Family, Mystery, Suspense, and a magnificent romantic journey over the course of many years for both Noah and Olivia. I was obsessed with this book as I grew up, and the copy was ragged over the many times I reread it, I definitely had to buy a new copy in order to keep it on my shelf!

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Chasing Red duology by Isabelle Ronin

I’m always a little skeptical of anything that gets published off Wattpad, but this New Adult romance duology was actually pretty decent! Caleb was at first a total player, but once it was obvious how smitten he was with Veronica, aka “Red,” he became a total book boyfriend to add to the list!

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From Ashes: by Molly McAdams

An utterly addicting book, I loved this book for the romantic storyline about Gage and Cassidy. The female main character definitely had a “Mary Sue” kind of vibe a couple times and has WAY too many guys that are so obsessed with her, but I had to keep reading every time until they got together! Lots of frustration over all that happens that possibly keeps them apart, but what a great romance title!

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The Hookup: by Kristen Ashley

This was an alright title, there wasn’t as much angst and drama to really keep my eyes glued to the pages, but the relationship that develops between Johnny and Izzy was certainly enjoyable nonetheless! An easy, beach read of a romantic story set in a small town was worth mentioning on here.

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The Hook Up: by Kristen Callihan

I know…it may be confusing to list two books with really similar titles and both authors are named Kristen, but this one is also such an amazing romantic story! It’s another college romance that New Adult fans will enjoy, Anna and Drew are another amazing couple that I discovered and think a lot of other romance fans will also enjoy!

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A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Of course I had to recommend something from my favorite author! This Fantasy series is such an immersive and addicting story to get into, and the romance is considered top tier amongst many other fans. As I type this, I cannot wait for the fifth book to be released on February 16th; you know I had a copy pre-ordered way in advance!

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Fangirl: by Rainbow Rowell

For anyone who’s been a part of a fandom of any kind, you will for sure relate to the main character, Cath, in this YA/New Adult romance standalone. She’s starting her freshman year of college, and she must learn to live outside of her dorm room and in the pages of her fanfiction WIP’s of Simon Snow!

The Roommate: by Rosie Danan

An impressive debut novel, this book has hilarious sitcom written all over it with an uptight, east-coast WASP living under one roof with a male porn star! The banter is hilarious and sexy, and both characters are a ton of fun to read as they learn valuable lessons in sex positivity and where they belong in the world.

The Bargainer series by Laura Thalassa

A Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series that’s highly recommended for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Richelle Mead, these books have a love story that is worth checking out! Many years ago, Callie made a deal with a mysterious winged being known as “The Bargainer” and now he’s come to collect! The romantic relationship was the major highlight of these books.

Caroline and West duology by Robin York

This duology was a surprise for me at how much I actually really got into the story! With titles like these, I thought they were going to be pretty trashy smut, but the storyline is actually incredibly solid and both main characters really develop as they get closer and reveal their unrequited feelings for each other! Caroline deals with a vicious act from her ex, who posts explicit photos and videos of her all over the internet, and she finds herself running into West and finding comfort with him at his early morning shifts at a local bakery.

Check, Please! duology by Ngozi Ukazu

A hilarious and absolutely adorable LGBT+ sports graphic novel revolving around Eric Bittle, a figure skater who loves to bake and vlog, gets a scholarship to an Ivy League college, but has to join the Varsity hockey team! Crisp & clean artwork, and an engaging and relatable coming of age storyline, Bittle learns a lot about himself from his new circle of teammates, and tries to ignore the fact that he has a huge crush on his captain!

Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas

Another addicting book from my favorite author, this first part of her newest series has just about everything: murder, suspense, plenty of twists and turns, heartbreak, and some serious slow burning sexual tension between the two main characters of Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Alathar as they hunt down the demon who murdered her best friends. What they discover is another perfect example of how deep something like this plot can truly go!

The Kiss Quotient: by Helen Hoang

A scorching romance between a product trend forecaster and a male prostitute, what truly is noteworthy is how the female main character is actually Autistic! Having her have Aspergers made this romance title feel fresh within a genre that has a surplus of overly familiar tropes and clichés!

Anna and the French Kiss: by Stephanie Perkins

It’s a coming-of-age story about Anna, who moves to Paris for a year to study abroad, and finds herself falling in love with Etienne St. Clair. Yeah, his name sounds pretentious, but he is actually a total sweetheart who’ll have anyone swooning after him like our main character, but of course he has a girlfriend already!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han

A widely popular trilogy in the YA reading age group, the themes of family, first love, and dealing with change are incredibly relatable, and the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky is super sweet; Peter is a total sweetheart when it’s obvious he is crazy about her and will do just about anything for her in a moment’s notice. Sure you can just watch the Netflix movies, but seriously…the books are a whole lot better. Definitely give them all a read if you can!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Another popular book title that has also won quite a few awards, any book lists with notable LGBT+ titles more than likely includes this book because of the story between Dante and Aristotle and the summer they meet that changes both their lives. The prose feel so rhythmic together and makes you think it’s one gigantic poem, the ending will melt your heart and make you believe in happily ever afters for sure!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: by Becky Albertalli

This was such an adorable book to read! If you’ve seen Love, Simon you’ve got the whole jist of the book, but of course the book is always better, so why not look even further into the storyline of Simon and his secret messages with Blue?

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Perfect Chemistry trilogy by Simone Elkeles

These were a total guilty pleasure when I was younger, and they are also kind of a more modern take on the Grease-like setup of the blond popular girl falling for the bad boy from the wrong side of town. I know it sounds super cheesy, but the banter that usually goes with each of these storylines was well worth it! Those Fuentes boys have quite the colorful vocabulary!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT’S Top 10 Books of 2020!

Image created on canva.com

Another year is in the books, and boy oh boy, I think we can all agree that we are surely glad that 2020 is nearly behind us! I mean seriously… what a shitty year this has been, amiright? I don’t need to rehash the gory details, I’m sure we’re all trying to forget about most of it, but one thing that has certainly gotten me through some of the hard times was—of course—reading some absolutely amazing books!

Below I have gone back through the course of these months since January and have looked back on some of the books/series I’ve started and have compiled a list of the top ten of what I considered to be the much better stories. This list is in no particular order, and feel free to share with me what you considered your favorite books of 2020! I’m always looking for new recommendations to add on my “To-Read” list on Goodreads!

Just a few reminders: This will be my last post of 2020, and you can also check out my full book reviews by clicking on any of the hyperlinked titles!

Enjoy!

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1. From Blood and Ash (From Blood and Ash #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

This book series has been an unexpected hidden treasure of 2020, I’m so completely obsessed with it! Poppy and Hawke are an absolutely amazing couple to read, and 2020 gets even stranger when I say I’m such a big fan of a Vampire/Werewolf fantasy series! Strange times indeed, but If you haven’t read these books yet, I can’t say it enough: GET ON IT!

2. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1): by Sarah J. Maas

It should be NO surprise that if Sarah J Maas has a book published that it’d end up on this list… that woman just checks off so many of my needs in order to make a book utterly addicting, and if not, I know to check out other authors instead of bashing her to change her stories for me! Oka rant over… This is her first “adult” fantasy novel—it’s also the first in a new series—and despite a weird beginning clumped with WAY too much worldbuilding information, it’s just as entertaining as her other books if not more, and is filled with every “fuck” that Aelin wasn’t allowed to say.

3. Serpent & Dove (Serpent and Dove #1): by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent and Dove was a surprisingly fun debut novel about a young witch and witch hunter who (of course) fall in love despite the world—that’s a little too similar to France—threatening to tear them apart. It’s a slower read than what I usually look for in the fantasy genre, but I still say this is one to check out for those who love a good forbidden romance. There’s many tropes like “marriage out of convenience,” “there’s only one bed,” “enemies-to-lovers,” and more I’m sure I’m forgetting, and Lou and Reed give me some major Nina and Matthias vibes from Six of Crows!

4. The Fever Series: by Karen Marie Moning

Image courtesy of thesaucywenchesbookclub.blogspot.com

It honestly feels so weird to think I only started this series at the very beginning of the 2020 year, it almost feels like it’s been a favorite of mine for many, many ages already. I am so entranced every time I open the latest installment in this addicting book series, and I can’t believe the final book comes out already in Early 2021! Full of mystery, scorching romance, and brilliantly executed plot twists, the whole Fever series is of course on my list. With having the whole series included, I don’t have the hyperlinks to each of my book reviews or the Fancast, sorry for the inconvenience!

5. A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (From Blood and Ash #2): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The sequel to From Blood and Ash that you came across earlier up on this list, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire is so much bigger and even so much better than its predecessor. So many secrets are revealed yet so many more that are merely hinted at, some absolutely smoldering romance, plus a major war on the horizon! That’s only a small tidbit of what this epic series entails. I’ll say it again: READ THESE BOOKS!!!! I’d even go as far as to say this was the best book of 2020 that I’ve read, and that Casteel Da’neer is my favorite Book Boyfriend!

6. Silk & Steel (Silk & Steel #1): by Ariana Nash

I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did, but WOW did it sure impress me when I clicked on it to read on my Kindle! Its darkly intense, sexual, aggressive, but an extremely fun and (kinda) sexy start to a fantasy trilogy starring a developing LGBTQ+ (M/M) love story! I definitely will be checking out the other books that continue this story!

7. The Hook Up (Game On #1): by Kristen Callihan

This was definitely the best contemporary titles I’ve read this year, I just loved both the main characters so much! It’s a new-adult college romance, and both Drew and Anna grow so much through the course of this story, and I couldn’t get enough of the hot romance blooming between the two of them.

8. Top Secret: by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Whenever these two authors get together and write an LGBT+ new-adult romance, it equals to a very happy Nick Goodsell! This was another college romance between two fraternity brothers who also compete against each other to become the next president, each of them having their own secret/personal reasons for doing so, but their love story begins all because one’s girlfriend wants to try and have a threeway! They anonymously find themselves on a dating app (not knowing they’re literally next door neighbors in the frat house), and the fun goes off from there…

9. Check, Please! Vol. #2: by Ngozi Ukazu

The second part—and conclusion—of one of the only graphic novels I’ve read, this book was a gigantic anticipated release for me ever since I’d first discovered the first book the year prior. It’s an amazing coming-of-age college story filled with laughs, first love, hockey bros, friendship, courage, and also plenty of baking from our cinnamon roll of a main character!

10. A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4): by Sabaa Tahir

I had to end this list on a high note! The epic conclusion to this series was an exciting if not bittersweet tale, but it was certainly a great way to end the year in books that also didn’t disappoint either. I can’t believe this series is now over, but I also cannot wait to see what Sabaa Tahir comes up with next!

~~~

BONUS CONTENT!

Honorable Mentions:

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1): by Emily A. Duncan

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1): by Adalyn Grace

Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1): by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Legendary (Caraval #2): by Stephanie Garber

Boyfriend Material: by Alexis Hall

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1): by Laura Thalassa

Captive (Beautiful Monsters #1): by Jex Lane

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

graphic novel, LGBT, New Adult Romance, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks and Scones (Check Please #3-4): by Ngozi Ukazu

Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 Pages
Publisher: First Second
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, YA Romance, LGBT

***Warning! This book review contains spoilers from the previous book, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of Book #1- Check, Please! Vol. #1 – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

A fair warning is needed for anyone who’s about to start this next installment in the Check, Please! story: expect some tears. Expect tears both sad and happy to flow down those cheeks of yours because of how touching, how tender, how pure of a storyline this has come to be and just about everything else about it, but also because it’s coming to a close.

I was someone who’d discovered this story when the hardcover Vol. 1 came into the bookstore where I work one day, and I immediately fell in love with the cover and decided to give it a chance, then discovered something to truly fangirl over and completely stan.

The characters!

The banter!

The found family dynamic!

The coming of age tale!

The LGBT representation!

The slow burn romance!

All of it was just about perfect in my eyes, and these books were the YA LGBT graphic novel I wish I had growing up, or even just going through college myself. It makes me so happy to see so many more LGBTQ+ stories and books coming out for the younger readers that desperately need them in order to feel heard and understood.

After finishing the first book, I never really followed the webcomics posted (the original source of this whole story), and told myself to wait until this sequel was to be released in hardcover format almost a whole year later. Why, you may ask?…I’m not sure, but the best way for me to describe it is how I can’t watch a show by only viewing the one episode a week now. Netflix ruined that for me, and I’d rather just wait for it all to be released as a complete set rather than torture myself waiting to see what happens next with the little bit I’m given every week, if that makes sense? It’s all or nothing for me!

So fast forward, and it’s finally the time I can read this next volume, which contains main protagonist Eric “Bitty” Bittle’s Junior and Senior year of college. It felt like a reunion to get to go further into the story and see what happens after the VERY cliffhanger of that kiss him and Jack shared the day of Jack’s graduation! It was a whirlwind of past and present bunched together as we move forward in the story, but also are given lots of flashbacks to small scenes that happened before the start of book #2. It was a little jarring at first, but once the school year started, it was smooth sailing from there on. You’re reunited with a lot of familiar faces, and are also given a crop of new characters with the new incoming freshmen joining the team and Lardo trying to find her replacement once she graduates.

The bigger change in this book is Eric Bittle’s handling of his sexuality with his family, and I mean his biological family (I.E: his mom and dad). It has some heavier moments, but still keeps the usual lighter tone and mood of the whole series throughout, and leaves you with a sense of hope that our actual lives can turn out alright too.

There were a few issues I did have with the story this time around, which was odd for me considering I didn’t really have much if any from the previous book. One of which was the handling of a certain storyline involving Bitty and a newer face, Whiskey. I’ll go further into details with that below, but despite any issues I had, I still tremendously loved this book and was so happy with how it all ended: Where Jack goes, where Bitty goes, where their relationship goes, where everyone else goes, and just pretty much everything that happens.

Reading something like this can seriously help someone who’s struggling feel less alone in this world. It goes over so many issues that people around that age deal with: the anxiety, the pressure, the relationships, high expectations both set on yourself and others, love, thinking about your future, independence, leadership, and of course the joys and pains of coming to terms with your sexuality if you’re queer. Even if you’re not a hockey fan—or any sports in general—I feel like anyone who’s looking for a story like this one can enjoy it!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Bitty is heading to junior year of college and though he has overcome his fear of getting ‘checked’ on the ice, he and Jack now face new challenges. They must navigate their new relationship while being apart, and also decide how they want to reveal their relationship to those around them. Not only that, but Jack and the Falconers are now a big part of the NHL–and Bitty’s life! It’s a hockey season filled with victories and losses.

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

What I Liked:

  1. It Truly Makes You Laugh & Cry While Reading! I’m not someone who gets overly emotional whenever I read something. I can get incredibly emotionally invested in some things, sure, but that’s different. I can 100% full honesty, full disclosure admit that I both laughed out loud and actually teared up when I was reading this. If something can evoke so much emotion from a reader, that only proves that it’s something worth checking out!
  2. There’s Great Closure! Lately over the last couple years, a lot of series for me have come to an end, and I’m always so deeply disappointed when I feel like something didn’t end well. The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, Game of Thrones, the IT movies just to name a few…but it seems like a lot of these popular books/movies/tv shows just can’t end on a perfect high note when the series itself was so spectacular through the journey. Check, Please! was thankfully not something I needed to add to my list of disappointing endings because the author actually did a great job of tying up all her loose ends, had the right endings for each of her characters, and it all just came together almost perfectly. Anyone who’s already a fan of the story will adore it!
  3. Bitty’s Development! Eric Bittle, or “Bitty” has really come into his own through the series. He’s become more confident in himself and his abilities on and off the ice, his relationship with Jack, his coming to terms with being gay, and to him all of a sudden being a senior on the team and is thrust into a position of leadership amongst the other players. I saw a bit of myself in Bitty sometimes along his journey, what with his whole self discovery and coming out in college amongst all his friends. He was a great protagonist to follow throughout the four years that they totally called it: they go quicker than you think!
  4. It Reveals Realistic Coming-of-Age Issues! I’d kind of mentioned it above, but this book tackles so many issues that really resonated with me, and I feel like relate to a lot of people around my age: anxiety, depression, acceptance, financial woes, fear and uncertainty of what comes after college and the future in general, coming out, friendships, first love…there’s plenty more, but if that doesn’t convince you, what will? Each issue is addressed and handled incredibly well; I’d almost even say there doesn’t even need to be a trigger warning for any of it because the book keeps its lighter tone throughout.
  5. The Found Family Trope! I’m such a sucker for the story arc of a group of diverse people coming together because of a certain cause or similar interest, and how they get closer over time and learn so much about each other…and eventually notice certain faults each person may carry, but loves them anyways! They support each other, they love to be around each other, and always enjoy each other’s company. The group also grows as more people join in over the years and the bond just continues to keep growing while they never lose touch of that original base that the group dynamic was founded on…I just love found/chosen family story tropes, they get me every time!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Flashbacks In The Beginning. The book starts off with many flashback scenes of certain things said or certain events that happened before the start of the book, all the while being mentioned or referenced in current time. I found this to be a little jarring, disorientating, and a confusing way to start for a graphic novel. Mainly, I think I just got a little overwhelmed and couldn’t tell what was past and present; maybe if the flashbacks had a certain difference in color tone or grading to make it visually less confusing, that would’ve been helpful!
  2. The Issue with the Player, Whiskey! Whiskey is a newer character introduced in this book, and he’s introduced as Bitty is talking about him to Jack over the phone, saying that the guy seems to want nothing to do with him and he has no idea why (kind of like how Jack first treated him tbh, but at least that got better). There’s a scene that happens at a college party, and then it’s entirely left alone until close to the end of the book when Bitty and Whiskey finally address it. To be honest, this whole storyline irked me a little bit! It never really fully gets addressed and felt like it’d gotten shafted under everything else going on, and even the final confrontation left a lot to be desired in terms of how is this going to be handled moving forward…Plus, it showed Whiskey’s character to not be in the greatest light, and I’d just hoped for more to come out of this whole storyline…

Conclusion:

It’s always sad when something comes to an end, and Check, Please! is no different than any other book, tv show, or movie that you adored and suddenly it’s over. What’s the hardest part is that hangover-like feeling of being lost and wondering to yourself: What now? Do you wallow and mope about how it’s over and worry if you’ll ever find something to love as much as you loved that story? Or, do you get excited at the anticipation of that hunt to find that next thing to obsess over? I guess it depends on the specific reader…

A truly great conclusion to an incredibly uplifting, joyful story of a little queer baker/figure skater/vlogger who turns into a hockey player, overcomes his fears, and finds true happiness with those he ties up his skates next to on the bench and shares the ice with. So many feels…but just what an amazing series! Can’t recommend enough!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

graphic novel, LGBT, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey (Check, Please! #1-2): by Ngozi Ukazu

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Publish Date: September 18th 2018
Number of Pages: 288 Pages
Publisher: First Second
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Sports, LGBT, YA

Total Star Rating: 4.35 Stars

Okay, so if you love hilarious, heartwarming, coming of age story with college male athletes who love to party, and a gay little figure skater who loves to bake and joins the team, this graphic novel is totally for you!

Before this story literally fell into my hands, I never really read graphic novels before. Not that I ever had anything against them, they were just something that I never really looked into, plus they seemed like something that Marvel took over for the most part. This book just so happened to fall into my hands one day while at work in the bookstore, and I was immediately drawn towards the artwork, the blurb on the back, and I thought it would be great material to not only enjoy, but to get some possible inspiration towards my own story that I’m working on, which also takes place on a college campus.

After some resarch from my ever curious, erudite Ravenclaw mind, Check, Please turned out to have started out as a webcomic on the author’s Tumblr and/or Twitter accounts, and it gained so much popularity with it’s growing fandom, that she eventually turned to Kickstarter to be able to make printed copies of it to send to interested parties. It eventually went on to become the most funded webcomic to ever be put up on the site, making an astounding $74,000 when her goal was only $15,000.

I’m so sad to say that before I stumbled upon the book that I’d never even heard of the franchise, and thats because it turned out to be one of my favorite stories that I’ve read in recent memory! Its got sports, it’s got friendship, it’s got brotherhood, it’s got it’s laughs and tears, romance, hot male athletes, witty and hilarious banter, sexual tension, and it’s such a great story to get behind. It’s got some extremely relatable themes like coming out, collegiate stress, overcoming fears, friendship, growing up, athletes, and eventually graduation. I’m only sad that I have to wait until Spring of 2020 in order to read Vol. 2 (at least a printed copy of it, which I want to hold off on anything until the physical copy comes out, I know the third and fourth years are available to read online).

What It’s About:

Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a vlogger and baker, enrolls as a new freshman at Samwell University, a private college over in Massachusetts. He’s a former figure skating champion, but is actually at Samwell to play on the boy’s Hockey team, who all begin to warm up to through his cheery demeanor, his excellent baking skills, and overall kindness and compassion.

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Eric Bittle, image courtesy of tvtropes.org

Four other characters meet Bittle and become a big part of his overall story; there’s his teammates Shitty, Ransom and Holster, Jack, and Lardo.

B. “Shitty” Knight is a typical cocky, chill, go with the flow kind of guy who is actually pretty intelligent, but wants to keep it on the down low. Despite being a junior who’s actually double majoring in Political Science and Sexuality, Women and Gender studies, he is very much what some people may consider to be a “stereotypical” hockey bro, at least by appearance and first impressions.

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Shitty, image courtesy of tvtropes.org

Adam “Ransom” Birkholtz and Justin “Holster” Oluransi are the dynamic duo; they’re not an actual gay couple, but they might as well be. Both are each other’s best friend, they play off of each other and are always there for a good laugh, or get into “deep” philosophical debates like whether flow actually helps a hockey player’s performance or not, how nicknames are created and earned, the perfect shape of Jack’s ass (which has its own parody twitter account), and plenty of other hilarious and random qualms that come up. They are total bro’s, but lovable bro’s in a beautiful bromance.

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Holster and Ransom, image courtesy of tvtropes.org

Larissa “Lardo” Duan is the snarky and moody female team manager. She is an art major in her sophomore year, based off her sculpture and painting work done that’s referenced, and though she doesn’t always say much, she usually knows what needs to be said. Initially best friends with Shitty since they’re from the same hometown, she also befriends Bitty and gets closer to him.

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Lardo, image courtesy of tvtropes.org

Finally, we have Jack Zimmerman. Considered by most as a “prodigy” with his dad being a hockey legend, Jack always felt the pressure coming from all sides, and it’s led to issues with stress and anxiety and other things down the road. A junior at the beginning of the story who’s a History Major, he’s incredibly driven, brooding, moody during the preseason and is a natural born leader with a no nonsense attitude. He initially dislikes Bitty, but grows to like him over the course of the two years that they are teammates. Jack even begins to tease Bitty about his mannerisms and his obsession with Twitter and baking, and they develop a fun dynamic because Bitty reminds him to take joy in the little things in life.

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Jack Zimmerman, image courtesy of tvtropes.org

As the story develops, you discover that Bitty learns to come to terms with his sexuality when he discovers that he has a major crush on Jack. No one else really knows, and he’d prefer to keep it that way. This first volume covers Bitty’s freshman and sophomore years at Samwell University, while the second volume (releasing Spring 2020) will of course feature the last two years, and hopefully/most likely feature some characters that graduated and moved away in this first part.

What I Liked:

  1. The Characters! Honestly, it’s the characters and their whole group dynamic that steals your heart in this story. They’re just such a fun group of people to read about, and you feel like you’re immersed within their inner circle. They say funny and stupid things, and actually do funny and stupid things too; the author absolutely nails the banter and the camaraderie amongst the teammates. Her characters were surprisingly so fleshed out and dynamic, and it was so great to see how they grew as time went on. Yes, to some, they’re just the typical alpha jocks on campus, and sure, sometimes they say things that may seem problematic or stupid, but I can appreciate the fact that the author nailed their authenticity to a T, and still made them likeable all the same. With that said, I suppose there are some slight trigger warnings for some readers: there’s underage drinking, panic attacks, hazing, and the misogynistic guy talk about hooking up with girls, and frankly other sexual content. Personally, I didn’t mind any of it as I thought it added to the authenticity of the characters and who they are (boys who are athletes in college), but I could see others not be too keen on it.
  2. The Slow-Burn Romance! Yes, there is a romance, and oh….it is so agonizingly drawn out, much like someone who is a giant wuss and makes tearing off a bandaid an absolutely horrendous experience. It’s fun to see it slowly develop, but also so satisfying when it finally goes somewhere. There’s plenty in between to keep you interested at least! You can’t help but love Bitty and want him to get everything he wants in the world; he is the literal definition of a human cinnamon roll!
  3. The Author! the author took her time studying the sport of Hockey for three months at Yale back when she was writing a screenplay that was similar to Check, Please, but much darker in tone. afterwards, she wanted something lighter, more fun and uplifting, when she witnessed the friendship amongst the athletes and their own group dynamic, and so Check, Please was created. Also, she unintentionally became a huge fan of the sport after all the research she did for her works of fiction, which is awesome! She went above and beyond because she wanted it to be authentic, realistic and show that she knew what she was talking about. Any writer, author, etc should do the same sort of thing in order to make their work stronger. I also just love that from what I’ve heard, she’s just as much a part of the fandom while also being the main contributor of it all. She literally just sits and draws little three-part comics, sketches, character’s, you name it. She does her own fanart for her own comic, which just sounds adorable. It’s awesome to hear about a creator who loves her work so much, that she’s also such a huge fan as well!
  4. The Artwork! The artwork is done in such a beautiful, fun way, and the panels are smartly done in a seamless way that easily moves you within the story the next box. It’s simple and cartoony, but effective and enjoyable all at the same time.
  5. Bitty! I mean, he’s a short, gay little baker who was a figure skater who joins the hockey team. Imagine Spongebob Squarepants making it into the Salty Splatoon. He’s also from the south and says “Y’all,” “Bless your heart,” “Girl, Please” and uses people’s full names like an angry mother whenever he needs to make a point. So, he’s a gay little southern baker who’s on the hockey team, and he’s officially too pure for this world.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing…I didn’t dislike anything…it was all so so so so perfect….I am WAY too excited for Spring 2020 for it to release! I don’t even care, I’m rolling up in my 2004 Mercury Sable at Barnes & Noble and paying full price like:

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Conclusion:

Oh my lord…What can I say? This story is a treat. A delicious, sweet, cavity inducing treat that most fans of LGBT!, sports, M/M romance and college story lovers will immensely enjoy. It’s mainly character driven, so it’s a little on the slower side towards the middle, but like I said, the author has created a truly amazing dynamic with her characters with their unique personalities, their banter and conversations, and how they develop for not only themselves, but for you, the reader. They truly may shock you at some points when you think you have them all figured out.

It’s funny, its heartfelt, its deep, and it’s another great coming of age story for anyone to enjoy! If you couldn’t guess, I am currently in countdown mode for the release of vol. 2 in the spring of 2020, and refuse to read what happens before then on the internet, because who doesn’t like the long, drawn out torture of waiting for the next book in a series to come out a year later?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell