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Life’s a Beach Book Tag!

This tag was created by Lefty (The Left-Handed Book Lover) and I was tagged by Destiny @ Howling Libraries!


Salutations Chapterlings! I haven’t done a book tag in ages and when my lovely friend Destiny tagged me in this, oh ho ho! The cackle that escaped my body should have been illegal, but I digress. Since I haven’t done one of these in a while, I might be a little rusty, but I hope you enjoy this little break in all the reviews!


1 – The Sand: A book that stuck with you long after you finished reading it

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco literally haunts my thoughts. It’s been weeks, almost a month and I’m still thinking about this book, about these characters, and just everything about this book. While this book doesn’t come out till October 2022, it was such an atmospheric read and probably one of my top 5 favorite books of 2022.


2 – The Sun: A book that burned you

I’m kind of wincing as I write this because this is a very fresh, recent read for me and I feel like this book has slapped me in the face so much that I’m still a little shell shocked. Darling by K. Ancrum was one of my most anticipated reads, but this book not only has a very hurtful scene towards Indigenous people, but still has the ghost fingers of trauma gripping around my heart. If you haven’t read my review, I highly recommend checking it out for more details. Needless to say, this book has me hesitant to pick another book by this author.


3 – The Waves: A book that calms you down after a long day

Honestly, I don’t think I have a book that calms me down and I typically don’t reread books that often. Soooooo… NEXT!


4 – The Bathing Suit: A book with a pretty, summer-y cover:

I’m going to hit two-birds with one stone and give you that end of summer, beginning of fall vibes! Cafe Con Lychee by Emery Lee not only has that beautiful cover, but also has a lot of school scenes which is perfect for the month of August. With everyone trying to get in their final summer trips and preparing for school/college, this is a perfect book about family, delicious food, and a brewing romance!


5 – The Birds: A book that’s everywhere

I feel like everywhere I look, this book has been making waves in the book community. On IG, Booktok, blog posts, book twitter, etc… Everywhere I go, everyone is talking about Wild Is The Witch by Rachel Griffin and it’s well deserved. I literally read this book in one day because it was so good and every time I’d sit the book down for a break, I kept thinking about what was going to happen next. If you haven’t checked this book out yet, I highly recommend it!


6 – The Company: A book with wonderful characters

This was a recommended book and let me tell you, if you thought I wasn’t going to put a graphic novel on this tag then you would be wrong! This was such a cute, adorable graphic novel about produce characters. Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen is such a wholesome read and made me feel all the things. If you’re looking for a cute read with a lovely art style, look no further!


7 – The Ice-Cold Drink: A book you absolutely gulped down

I’m sorry, but I had to throw a paranormal, dark romance on here, with sexy demons! I couldn’t resist the temptation, okay?! But seriously, Her Soul to Take by Harley LaRoux was so freaking good! This was a buddy read and when I say it was so hard not to read ahead, I’m not kidding. If you haven’t checked this series out and you like a book with some demon action, highly recommnend. Just make sure you check out content/trigger warnings in advance. This book is not for the faint of heart.


8 – The Fun Memories: A book you can’t wait to return to

I feel like this ties in with rereads and as I mentioned,. I don’t do rereads that often. Due to my backlist being huge and out the wahzoo, but I digress. I’m going to go with a series that I’m eager to get back to. I’m really excited for the third book in the Souls Trilogy to release. I finished the second book back in May and I’m eagerly anticipating for the third book to drop. I miss these characters, the small down vibes, and the demon smexy goodness. The third book is following two characters I’m eager to learn more about and hopefully, this will be a buddy read with my best friend so we can conclude this trilogy together!


Okay, I think that covers all the parts of this tag. I think! I hope you all enjoyed seeing some of my book recs and just a bit of a recap of some recent reads for me. Honestly, I miss doing tags and maybe a book tag every once in a blue moon wouldn’t be so bad, and a great way to break up the constant flow of reviews. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed and until next time, stay hydrated! ❤️

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Darling by K. Ancrum

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death (off page), murder (off page), violence, blood depictions, police brutality, explosions, child abuse & neglect, child abandonment, grooming, anxiety & panic attack depictions, abduction/kidnapping, stalking, adult-minor relationships, PTSD/trauma, brief mention of disordered eating, underage drinking

I think I’m just as surprised as everyone else when it comes to how this book made me feel. Anyone who knows me, they know I praise Ancrum’s books and taking a hard stand for them. This was even a highly anticipated read especially because it’s a Peter Pan retelling. However, this book came out of left field and smacked me straight into a whirlwind of mixed feelings, and actually ended up being very triggering. Honestly, I feel like I’ve read an entirely different book compared to everyone else due to everything that is this book. So I sat on this review, how I wanted to rate this read, and disassociated from this book for several days just so I could write this review as critically, but as thoroughly as I could.

Wendy just moved to Chicago with her family, but of course with every move, there are always complications. Upon unpacking, Wendy discovers her bedroom window is broken and isn’t able to stay closed. And after an intruder has been caught by their dog, Wendy is feeling incredibly unsafe. Even more so when the intruder comes back and Wendy suddenly finds herself being dragged into the depths of something bigger than she ever anticipated.

“It’s like a shadow. Hides what needs to be hidden for just long enough.”

Like previous books by this author, this book is just as atmospheric as all the others. A great story has the power to not only pull you in with the writing, but the little details that we easily get caught up in. Truly, Ancrum has a talent for weaving all of these together for a story you won’t forget. That’s probably the biggest thing that I always love about these stories. The atmosphere is unsettling, uncomfortable, and bound to cause an uneasy tension as you read this book. That’s probably why I couldn’t shake the chills I had constantly during my time reading this book.

Of course, we have a diverse cast of characters who we meet. Our main character Wendy is Black, we have a side character who is Korean, more characters of color, and even Chippewa (Objiwe). We also get introduced to a side character named Fyodor who’s asexual and Wendy’s friend, Eleanor, Tinkerbelle, and Omi are all lesbian. There’s also a fantastic scene with Drag Queens and my heart was giddy with delight. And of course, let’s talk about Detective Hook who has an amputated hand. I always love seeing characters with disabilities represented in books because they truly don’t get enough attention.

As with every book that has family dynamics, I have to talk about it. There are various discussions and exploration of family. These topics hit so close to my heart and even though some of the discussions weren’t the best, they were so very much needed. I won’t talk too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but truly, one of the best parts of the entire book. There’s also a lot of found family themes and that’s one of my favorite things in books. I always say we need more books with found family and this author always hits the nail on the head with found family themes and dynamics.

However, despite all of these positive things, they weren’t enough to sway how this book made me feel and how triggering this book was for my reading experience. To put it bluntly, I had a lot of issues with this book and so, I want to openly address them as non-spoilery and as ‘not too personal’ as I can manage.

For starters, I want to address the situation I find often when non-Indigenous authors write Native/Indigenous representation. And sometimes, I really wish authors just didn’t touch something with a ten-foot pole. The author uses the term ‘American Indian’ in this book and I know there will be people who see this and will be like, “Well, what’s wrong with that? That doesn’t seem like a big deal or that seems accurate.” Actually, it is a big deal because majority of Native/Indigenous people don’t like to be referred to as ‘American Indian.’ Actually, even on majority of legal paperwork the term used often is referred to as ‘Native American.’ Most Native/Indigenous people I know usually prefer to be referred to as Native, Native American, First Nations, The People, or just have their specific tribe said. Example, I personally prefer being referred to as Native or Mescalero Apache. Plain and simple. Saying ‘American Indian’ is often received as a slap to the face and a reminder of what history has done to Native/Indigenous people, to which that history still continues to this day. It’s not hard to respectfully talk to Native/Indigenous people and respectfully ask these questions.

“You’re better than he is. Remember that. He’s smart but he’s alone, and he always will be.”

Now for the core reason of why I had a lot of issues getting through this book. This book didn’t just trigger my PTSD once, but it actually triggered it twice. I really wish more effort was put into listing content/trigger warnings at the very beginning of this book because you truly never know who is reading your book. Not only did the abduction/kidnapping scene hit so close to home with my own, personal abduction, but the twist (that’s also predictable) that comes later on in the book was probably the worst reminder and will probably leave you feeling incredibly icky like it did with me. I won’t go into details, but by the stars, this was not it friends. It could be the fact this is a dark contemporary and contemporary tends to live hand in hand with our own world events, but the details were on the heavy side and probably weren’t necessary. I think the twist is going to be something everyone loves or absolutely hates and I’m definitely on the strongly disliking side of things. And let me just say, if you are one of those people who have read this book, sitting here saying, “Oh, these things don’t actually happen.” Yes, yes they freaking do and they’re truly horrifying experiences to live through, and to continue living with the reminders of. This just wasn’t it for me and honestly, this alone should have caused me to ‘dnf’ this book.

My other major issue with this book was the main character and the main character’s parents. Starting with the parents, they were constantly contradicting themselves throughout the parts where we see them. We have these parents who are established as parents who are overprotective and are all about safety, but yet there are constant scenes that throw this detail out the window. A perfect example, Wendy’s bedroom window. The window should have been a top priority for safety reasons especially after it’s clear someone has been trying to break into their home, but it gets put on the backburner. We do have a little scene where Mr. Darling offers to move Wendy into another room, but Wendy declines. Despite that, it was still hard to believe these as realistic, protective parents. As for Wendy, I really didn’t like her as a main character. In the very beginning she’s established as a brilliant young woman with a loving, caring side to her, but throughout this book, all you see is an arrogant young girl who is constantly being disrespectful to those who are trying to help her (also disrespectful to her parents), too oblivious to realize the kind of situation she’s really gotten herself into, and in many scenes being a very self-serving character. Sadly, Wendy missed the mark greatly for me as a main character, but seeing her in the epilogue, that was fantastic and I did enjoy seeing her after everything was said and done.

“I like you, Wendy. You’re sharp and you don’t let people push you around, I respect that. I just wanted you to know that I wouldn’t put this effort in if I didn’t think a girl like you deserved it.”

Overall, this just wasn’t the book for me, friends. This isn’t a bad book and I know this is probably coming off as a harsh rating or even a harsh review, but to my own rating system, this is a true two star rating for me. This book had things I enjoyed, but just didn’t hit the enjoyment mark for me. This just wasn’t the book for me and honestly, I should have stepped away around the 30-40% mark. I think there will be many readers, especially lovers of this author’s previous work, who will enjoy this book and I think there will be many readers like myself who feel frustrated, disappointed, or maybe even feeling their own past looming over them after reading this book. I still recommend this book, but just know that this is a dark contemporary and while the ending is a happy one, this book is a dark, ominous story for the soul.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

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The Only Good Indians

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, talk of suicide, depictions of blood, grief, death of an animal, stalking, gun violence

“- we thought we’d play a fun prank on her, and now most of us are dead -.”

Oh this was such a perfect read for Summerween and to put me in the mood for fall. I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to this book especially since every time I come across a review, it’s always negative. I will say, this book won’t be for everyone and I think if you’re not a fan of the blend of first and second person perspective, you won’t enjoy this book. And I want to emphasize that if you’re expecting this to be like a zombie apocalypse, but with mannequins, this is not that book. However, there’s more than one way to be a mannequin and I think SGJ did a great job at showing that.

During one summer, four kids find an abandoned mannequin and decide that this is the perfect thing to bring excitement to their summer. They take the mannequin everywhere, do everything together, play pranks and treating the mannequin like one of their own. But all this come to an end and soon Manny is abandoned, a forgotten piece in the garage. That is until the kids decide to come together for one final prank with Manny. What could possibly go wrong, right? Right?

Like with The Only Good Indians, SGJ has a talent for writing characters that pull you into their perspective and can make you almost feel the experiences unfolding to these characters. And that’s why I really enjoyed our characters especially our main character, Sawyer. Sawyer is a very interesting character to follow because he’s not like most main characters we see in horror or thriller books. I think readers who are lovers of the Halloween movies and are really into psychology are going to have a field day with Sawyer’s character, and this book. And I think my favorite part about Sawyer is how his character arc unfolds. You have two parallel perspectives of the good and the bad, and the way they collide into on another. It’s a wild ride of a perspective to be in and I think if you’re familiar with the book, You by Caroline Kepnes, then you might really come to enjoy this little novella.

“- I knew you didn’t just walk away from your creations. Not without consequences.”

If I had to sit down and point out flaws of this novella, it would have to be two things. The first thing being how short this book was. Honestly, I wish it was a tad longer because I really wanted to see the characters come more unhinged than they were. However, I also wasn’t ready for the book to be over and that’s something I always say with novellas and short stories I read. I think the other issue many readers will have is the repetition of words and how it almost feels like a “try hard” teenager perspective. This wasn’t a big issue for me despite the repetition, but I think there will be many readers will find it hard to look past this one.

Overall, I wanted to keep this review short and as vague as I could manage. I think with this book it’s best to go in with no expectations and knowing as little as possible. If you went in knowing all the secrets then it’d spoil all the fun. Again, I had a blast reading this book. It just sucked me right in and before I knew it, it was over and I wanted more. I think this is the perfect thriller to pick up during the spooky season or even if you’re looking for a short read. And as always, I do recommend at least giving this book a chance especially if it’s been on your radar for a while.

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ARC Reviews

Cryptid Club by Sarah Andersen

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Andrews McMeel Publishingm in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (September 20th, 2022)

Oh my spooky heart is so full from reading this graphic novel and I can’t wait to pick up a physical copy of this to read whenever I want! I had such a wonderful time taking my time reading each section, enjoying the art, and the little cryptids we get to meet. I think all my spooky lover friends are going to have such a joyous time checking this graphic novel out. And if you’re like me, who’s new to this author’s work, I think this is a great place to start because it certain has me wanting to read more of Andersen’s other books.

Cryptid Club is a bind up of short comics about various cryptids and their unknown life, and why they tend to avoid humans. Some of these cryptids you might be familiar with such as Bigfoot or Mothman, while others aren’t as often addressed or talked about socially. We get to take an inside peek at the struggles these monsters have and while also seeing a lot of cute, humorous moments that will have you giggling in delight.

I really loved so many sections of this bind up. I think my favorite pieces had to be ones featuring Mothman and the Loch Ness Monster. I have a particular soft spot for those cryptids and being able to chuckle to their little moments was such a pleasure. Although, the moments with the ghosts were absolutely precious and just little treat moments. Plus, we have a little ‘release the kraken’ moment and it was so wholesome and precious that my heart was so full. There were so many wonderful moments and delightful moments that I think many readers are going to enjoy and adore.

Overall, this was a really wonderful, cute, and delightful read especially as a cryptid and spooky lover! I can’t recommend this book enough to all my fellow cryptid lovers out there who may be looking for some cryptid goodness with a big dash of joy and humor thrown in. I think there will be some readers out there who may feel this graphic novel is on the more weak side of humor, but I found it had just the right amount and enjoyed my time reading it. And of course, if you’re looking for a book that you can fly through, whether it be for reading goals or readathon, this is sure to be a winner for those and spooky season!

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ARC Reviews

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (October 4th, 2022)

Wicked As You Wish

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, loss of a loved one/parent (in the past), mentions of plane crash, racism, themes of colonization & gentrification, alcoholism, talk of cheating, human sacrifices, cult themes, depictions of blood, graphic violence, gun violence, mentions of domestic violence, gaslighting & manipulation (from Hemslock), mentions of suicide, scene of dog being shot

“It is believed that when people hear the screaming, someone is about to die.”

It’s no secret that Rin Chupeco has easily become one of my favorite authors and when this earc landed in my lap, with a synopsis that lures you in, I had to start this book immediately. And of course, recommend it to all my horror/thriller loving friends! This was probably the easiest 5 stars I’ve given all year and I didn’t even think about it because at the end of this book, I just couldn’t stop saying ‘wow’ and I stand by that statement. Also, before we get into this review, I want to quickly mention that there is a dog in this book. For those wondering, ‘Does the dog die?’ No, the dog doesn’t die and despite my content/trigger warning, I’m not going to say anything else. Just know that this book is full of twists, turns, and surprises! And I also want to mention that this book won’t be for everyone, but this was the right book for me.

The island of Kisapmata is a beautiful place, but despite that beauty the locals fear the island and know of all the lives lost who stepped foot on it. With a body count of fifteen people dead, Hollywood quickly descends upon Kisapmata, determined to find out if the legend of a slumbering god is true and document everything. Alon, the only person who’s unafraid of stepping foot on the island wants nothing more than for everyone one to leave this place. And if he can’t convince them, there’s only one thing sure to happen… death and destruction.

Chupeco has such a beautiful and detailed way of building her worlds and establishing her characters. One of the biggest things that always sucks me into a Rin Chupeco book is the detailing in the environment and the those little details that make a character feel real. That’s what you get with this book. Plus, I’ve mention this to a few people, but it gives very strong Mummy vibes (for those who have seen the movies) and The Dark Picture Anthology vibes for fellow gamers. You get a rich, detailed, atmospheric book with characters who are so well detailed that even the ones you’ll come to dislike, you can’t help enjoying. Trust me when I say, there’s a lot of characters to dislike in this book, but I enjoyed them anyway because of those little details the author added in. I also want to point out that there is no good or bad person in this book, either. Okay, that’s a bit of a lie because there’s one lovely madman/power hungry nutjob thrown into this book that just makes this book feel just right. Otherwise, most of the characters are morally grey despite a few characters having bad pasts and you see the confliction in a lot of the side characters about certain things later on in the story. I also want to put in here that Alon, our main character is non-binary and the love interest, Chase Gries is either bisexual or pansexual. And I kind of really loved them a whole heck-a-ton!

“The living bring their own ghosts to the shore, and only the latter are honest about why.”

There’s also so many themes within this book and I think this is one of the strongest reasons why I fell madly in love with it. The author never holds back on themes she wants to include in her books. When Chupeco decides to include these themes, they’re beautifully woven throughout and honestly, at time, I think it’s hard for many readers to pick them out because they’re so intricately laced in the story. The prime example, there are a few characters we see who are haunted by their past choices and we see how the choices of those pasts can impact the way the characters are in the now. And there’s many other themes like that sprinkled throughout.

Respect was one of the major themes that really spoke to me because I’m a huge believer in respect. Not just respect being earned instead of given, but also showing respect to foreign people and a culture that isn’t your own. There were so many moments in this book that put an emphasis on respect and how even a little bit of it can go a long way. We also see what happens when disrespect occurs and how people respond to that disrespect. Though this theme isn’t a major theme of this book, it’s one I wanted to highlight and put emphasis on.

“Respect is key. But most foreigners don’t have that for us.”

The other major theme of this book ties in with colonization, gentrification, and how when foreigners come to a place that isn’t their own, they constantly demand and take, and if that doesn’t work then they just pay everyone off so they can do what they want. If you think this doesn’t actually happen, then you would be very, very wrong. This is something that still continues in North America with the Native/Indigenous people to this day and this is something that constantly occurs in other places such as the Philippines and South America, and many other places in the world. This was a theme that spoke to me on so many levels, for a plethora of reasons. And I want to point out, that with the entitlement that comes from foreigners to a new place that isn’t their own, there’s a lot of racism that comes along with that too. Prime example, Chase Gries, the love interest, upon arriving on Kisapmata hands all of his bags of to Alon and assumes they are “the help” when Alon is actually the guide and local of Kisapmata for the entire production cast. There’s also conversations in the beginning with a side character who talks with Alon of how Hollywood likes to take advantage of, not only young people, but foreign people, as well. These are just two of the various moments that highlight this key theme of the book. And again, this themes ties back to the themes of respect and how respect is often disregarded by majority of people who aren’t locals.

“No. The opportunities you have in America are not always available everywhere.”

Of course I have to talk about the mythology of this book! You knew this was coming at some point in this review and we’re finally here. I have absolutely fallen in love with Filipino mythology because of Rin Chupeco and this book is no exception. This book, like all of Chupeco’s books, are very unapologetically Filipino. The amount of notes of words I had to go look up, the creatures and legends I spent three hours scrolling to learn more about, it was just everything. It filled my heart with so much joy and honestly, I wanted even more and was so sad when the book came to an end. Though the author does add English translation or the definition afterwards, I still wanted to do my own research. That also lead me down many rabbits holes and a lot of late hours scrolling to learn as much as I could find. I really enjoyed that this book motivated me to look into things more and I also love when you can tell an author is being unapologetically themselves in their book, as well. I think this will be something many readers will either like or dislike. That’s just always been the nature of the beast when it comes to things like this, but I strongly encourage readers to look things up if they still don’t understand. And if you’re a mythology lover like me, the extra research is so worth it!

If I had to say anything negative about this book (which I don’t), aside from the Filipino words/language and mythology, I think many readers may have issues with romantic subplot. Now for me, this wasn’t any sort of issue and I kind of enjoyed it. I really liked that it still happened, but it wasn’t a main focus of the story and it wasn’t too much of a standout that it impacted the main storyline. However, I think if you’re a reader who’s not always a fan of romantic subplots, this could go either way for you.

And I will say, I don’t think the horror in this book will be for everyone. I think there will be readers who thoroughly enjoy this book because of the horror/thrilling aspects of it, but I think there will be many readers who get chills or become unnerved by a lot of the things that unfold in this book. Again, this is another thing that could go fifty-fifty for many readers. Obviously, I loved it and really enjoyed the way things unfolded and played out.

“The Diwata knows. He knows all who come to his shores. He remembers us after we die.”

Overall, I had a wonderful time reading this book! I saw so many similarities between this book and The Mummy, and for the video game lovers, The Dark Picture Anthology series. It was the perfect read for me! And let me say, curling up with this book while it’s storming outside was absolutely delightful and meshed so well with the story inside these pages. If you’re looking for a good atmospheric read for Summerween or for just fall reading in general, then you definitely need to put this book on your radar. It’s the perfect spooky read for lovers of all things spooky!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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ARC Reviews

A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Tordotcom in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (August 30th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: On page depictions of anxiety & panic attacks, depression, loss of loved ones, scene of physical & verbal abuse, graphic violence, depictions of blood, graphic injuries, attempted drugging, scene of kidnapping/abduction, on page racial slur (often used towards Muslims)

Oh boy, where do I even begin with this book, this review, and just… everything. This was not it, friends. I feel like the only person in the room who dislikes this book because every review I see is four or five stars, everyone raving of how amazing this book is. I feel like I’ve read an entirely different book and usually with my romance reads, I devour them in a day or so. Nope, nope, nope, big ole’ NOPE! That was not the case and at the end of reading this book, I feel disappointed and frustrated. So much happens and yet absolutely nothing happens! This book could have been everything, but it fell short for me, greatly.

After a hunting trip gone horribly wrong, Kadou, the prince of Arasht, finds himself feeling lower than he’s ever felt in a long time. Feeling distant from his sister and in a sense, banished from court after this incident, Kadou takes on proving his loyalty to his sister by investigating a break-in at one of their guilds. What Kadou uncovers is much more than just a simple break-in. With his newly appointed body guard, Evemer, they’ll dig deeper into a thickening scheme and maybe even find themselves more drawn to each other than they originally thought.

I really loved a lot of the side characters. The side characters were fantastically done. A lot of these side characters stood out more than our mc and love interest. Kadou’s sister and sultan, Zeliha was a force that commanded attention every time she was in a scene and you could constantly feel the tug-o-war she was having with making certain decisions. Eozena was a really great character that stood out a lot, as well. Captain of the core guard and a close family friend to Kadou and Zeliha, Eozena was delightful to have in scenes. And the banter that would often take place was so good. And probably my favorite, Tenzin, who’s introduced way later in the book was a freaking riot. Tenzin is a truth telling witch and the funny moments she brings to the table was absolute bliss. I adored her so much especially when we get the scene with her and everyone walking back to the palace, pure gold moment! I wish we had been introduced to her far sooner than just getting a few pages with her around. And don’t even get me started on how wonderfully delightful Evemer’s mother was. She was a treat of a side character and definitely underrated!

“I’m getting paid as we speak,” she said with a grin, slouching down into her chair and crossing her arms. “I’m getting paid in chaos.”

The other thing I really loved about this book was the accurate portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks. We see these attacks from both Kadou’s perspective and we can see a lot of the outside perspective from Evemer. I really loved the duel perspectives in this case because you could see how things would begin to unfold within Kadou, but then in Evemer’s perspective we would see how those who are closest to Kadou would feel and see them go from not understanding the situation to doing whatever they can to help. It was really well done and the detail of these scenes was really set the tone so the reader could feel what these characters were experiencing.

However, these were the only redeemable qualities of this book I took notes on. And the more I sat on these notes and processed how this book left me feeling, there were so many problems. The issues from itty-bitty to big were stacked high and I couldn’t just overlook them. So I want to address them and hopefully prepare anyone who’s considering picking this book up.

The first thing I want to point out is something minor, but also a huge issue that had no place being used in this book. About 21% into this book, a racial slur is used that is very often used and offensive to Muslims. I really don’t care if the excuse is, “Oh, the MC was drunk, was trying to start a fight, and so they’re going to say these kind of things.” I really don’t care what excuse someone tries to use to justify this because it doesn’t take away the fact that this word is completely unnecessary and hurtful/harmful, but also the fact the author specifically chose this word despite there being plenty of other options instead. It was a lot cringe for me and it soured my reading mood pretty early on in the book.

“The knowledge that one wrong word spoken in fear to someone offering comfort could send shock waves through the whole, like ocean waves after an earthquake.”

My biggest issue with this book has to do with the writing and the duel perspectives. I’m really hoping in the final version of this book, these issues will be done a bit better or even more fleshed out. Usually, I don’t mind books that have two or more perspectives, but it bothers me immensely when the two perspectives blur together and it takes two to three pages before you realize you’re in a different perspective. Typically, perspectives are broken up into their own chapters, sometimes even labelled from who’s perspective you’re in. This is also done very often with books that flash between past and present. However, this is not the case in this book. One chapter holds both duel perspectives and are only broken up by dotted breaks. Sometimes it can take a couple of paragraphs to even a few pages before any distinction is made of who’s perspective you’re reading from. This at times ruined the reading experience for me because it was so hard to tell who’s point of view I was in. A lot of the time the perspective of Kadou and Evemer blended together because some of the time this blending of perspectives would happen in the same space and time as certain events were unfolding. It was really frustrating and it made it hard to enjoy the reading process.

Speaking of characters, this was another issue for me. If you noticed, I never mentioned anything I liked about our MC or the love interest. That’s due to not liking either of them, at all. I found no redeemable qualities for either of them. While I love the accurate portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks in Kadou, that doesn’t make up for everything else about him. Kadou was like watching a train wreck happen. With how much he boasts about all the education he received and how he was trained into being a weapon if necessary, we see those skills one time. Otherwise, we spend countless of moments of him scrambling, not thinking things through, and even causing scenes where he literally causes dangerous situations to unfold because he refuses to actually think and plan. Evemer, on the other hand, felt like a brick wall and it didn’t help that he spent 75%-80% of the book constantly trying to shut down his feelings, his emotions, kept his speech more on the professional side of things, and also spent probably 50%-60% of the book judging everyone except Zeliha. This made it really hard to connect with him or even feel any empathy towards. I did like he was a hard worker and dedicated to his job, but that’s all I really liked about him.

While I really don’t like ranting or complaining about books, since we’re already here, I might as well mention that the people behind everything is revealed pretty early on. Actually, they were revealed just slightly before the 50% mark and kind of killed the entire mystery that was behind the guild break-in. We also have an entire magic system that is never flushed out, we get glimpses of people who have special abilities, and that’s about it. We never see these abilities come into play in big scenes and if they do, the scenes are always very brief and we never really see the full extent of that kind of magic/abilities. Which the world building was even more hard to get behind because it often times felt like it was trying to do too much at once and felt confusing. With that being said, I think that played a huge part it why this book was such a slow read and why I skimmed sections because things felt very dragged out or even at times, an information dump zone.

“I don’t expect I’m going to stop wanting you.”

I also want to take a moment to address the romance in this book. I know a lot of readers say it’s a slow burn and yes, it’s a slow burn alright. The romance is so slow that nothing exciting or even romantical actually happens with Kadou and Evemer until the 70%-75% mark. Although, I wouldn’t even really classify this book as a slow burn romance or even a romance in general. You can’t take the last 30% of a book and call it a romance. For the majority of this book, there was no chemistry with either of these characters. And as I already mentioned with the characters, love and attraction was the furthest thing from both Evemer and Kadou’s minds until the 70-75 percentage way I just mentioned. It just wasn’t what I expected for a romance and for me personally, it was very lacking and at times the romance felt more lust driven than love driven.

Overall, as I mentioned in the beginning, so much happened yet nothing happened all at the same time. Honestly, I wish I could go back in time when I hit the 50% mark, convince myself to ‘dnf’ this book to save myself the trouble of reading this book like I was originally going to. This just wasn’t the book for me, but it really could have been everything and it just missed the mark horrendously. But hey, I read this book so you don’t have to! And if I’m being fully honest, I don’t recommend this book. I think there are other fantasy and romance books that are out there that have better established magic systems, have better slow burn romances than this one does, and don’t leave you with more questions than when you started.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Monthly TBR

July 2022 TBR

Buddy reads, book recommendations, and earcs, oh my!

Salutations friends! It seems like it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a tbr post and honestly, they’re probably going to become more selective just due to straying so far from tbrs and setting a general list of books to read. I really am turning into a big mood reader! But this post is super exciting because I’m doing something I’ve never done before…

Best friend recommendations!!!

Yes, I finally decided I wanted to try a dedicated tbr specifically to my best friend, Destiny‘s recommendations! I sat on this for a long time and over the past couple of months, as usual, Destiny has given me nothing but outstanding recommendations of books I need to read. And let me be frank, Destiny always has great recommendations and knows my taste in books fairly well. So I’m excited to reveal, not only our buddy reads, but the books she personally picked out for me. So without any further delays, here is my tbr for July, based around my friend’s book recommendations!

Disclaimer: Not all of the books are pictured because this is a chonky tbr, but all of the books will be listed!


A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland
August 30th 2022 by Tordotcom
Buddy Read with Destiny

I’m very excited for this arc and buddy read! I think I’m about 40% in and so far I’m very curious on the direction this book is going to go. I can say that the on page anxiety and panic attacks feel very accurate, very realistic, and have me completely stunned by the amount of time and detail the author has put into this.

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco
October 4th 2022 by Sourcebooks Fire

Rin Chupeco has easily become one of my favorite authors and you can anticipate seeing quite a few reads, and reviews for her books in the coming months. However, focusing on just this arc, I’m very excited to have an earc of this book. The synopsis is ultimately what drew me in with the cover coming at a strong second. Both of these two things combined and I have been caught; hook, line, and sinker!

Darling by K. Ancrum
June 22nd 2021 by Imprint
Buddy Read with Destiny

This shouldn’t come at a surprise to anyone. I forever worship at the alter of K. Ancrum and after putting it off for so long, this read is happening. And I get to buddy read this with my wonderful friend. Plus, if you didn’t already know, this is a Peter Pan retelling. So if you love a good retelling, you should put this on your radar!

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
September 1st 2020 by Tor.com

This is another long overdue read and it’s no surprise to me that Destiny recommended this book to me. I have sang praises for The Only Good Indians for who knows how long and I’m honestly surprised I haven’t read this sooner. So it’s happening, it’s really happening. I’m going to be sitting down this month and reading it, and I already know I’m going to fall in love with it.

Gallant by V.E. Schwab
March 1st 2022 by Greenwillow Books

This is another amazing recommendation from Destiny! For starters, the minute mixed media was mentioned, my attention was hooked. Plus, the cover is absolutely stunning. Even if Destiny never would have recommended it to me, this book would have eventually ended up on my radar.

Nine Moon in a River of Stars: Phase One by Xen
January 30th 2022

Destiny spoke to me about this book many moons ago, but I have had this sitting on my kindle shelf ever since she recommended it to me. So I’m super excited to have this on my tbr for July and also fully prepared to get emotionally wrecked! Plus, the cover is really beautiful and it makes me eager to write a review for it!

Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier & illustrated by Val Wise
August 10th 2021 by Oni Press

Do I know anything about this comic? No, but my guess is lesbian cheerleaders. And no, I haven’t read the synopsis because I like to believe some books are best going into them with no hint at all.

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
October 5th 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Look… LOOK! I know what this looks like! Yes, technically it’s another book I placed on a past tbr I didn’t read, but it’s here now! Okay? So sh sh sh! It’s fine and it will be read, and yes, I’m still excited about it!

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
February 2nd 2021 by Minotaur Books

I know absolutely nothing about this book! However, if I know Destiny, this is probably a mystery, thriller, or horror book. Which is really exciting! I don’t read enough horror or thriller books. So I’m eager to see what this book is about!

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
November 9th 2021 by Tordotcom

I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous about this book. Not from the religious aspect, but from the synopsis. It has me nervous on where I’m going to fall on the spectrum with this book. Whether I’ll love it or end up disliking it, I’m not sure.


Phew, that was a lot of books to list and technically, I left three books off of this list just due to the size of this month’s tbr. However, one of the books I left off the list is a manga and it’s of an anime series I’ve recently gotten into. So I’m excited to see how the manga compares to the anime series. Otherwise, the other two will be set for a different tbr when I’m not trying to be an over-achiever. I’m so excited for this month of reading though and I can’t wait to see which books I’ll end up enjoying the most! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this list and until next time, stay hydrated, I love you! ♥

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Uncategorized

Cafe Con Lychee by Emery Lee

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Final review copy sent by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief mentions of divorce, racism, homophobia, toxic relationships, mentions of cultural appropriation, panic/anxiety attacks, scene of ableist speech

“It’s weird, like fate is constantly trying to make us dance together, but no matter what I do, I can’t get past my two left feet.”

Friends, this was such a cute and delightful read! And let me just add, if you’re going on vacation or doing some traveling, this is the perfect book to pick up. I was completely surprised that I was able to read this within two days while on vacation and I couldn’t find the means to set this book down (except for, you know, sleep). I was was really into the story, but this is an enemies to lovers and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good enemies to lovers book?

The Mori family and the Moreno family have been rivals for a long time now, but when a new fusion café threatens everything, the sons of both families step up to the plate to do whatever they can to save the businesses. Despite having a strong desire to escape, Theo hatches a brilliant plan to help his family make enough money to pay rent and stay a float. Meanwhile, Gabi Moreno is struggling to come up with anything and when he hears Theo has been work hard on a side business, Gabi wants to know more. Together, they might just be able to save their parents’ businesses and in the process, learn more about each other.

Can I just taker a moment to screech from the roof tops that there are a lot of Romeo and Juliet vibes to this story? Oh ho, friends, there are so many moments that make me think about the the Montagues and the Capulets that I geeked so hard. Now, I’m not saying this is a retelling, far from it. There’s just a lot of scenes and moments that feel very reminiscent to Romeo & Juliet. Plus, I feel like we never really see many books that have the Montagues and the Capulets feel to it anymore. I don’t think this was the author’s intention, but it was just a really neat thing I wanted to address.

I really liked the build to Theo and Gabi liking one another, and I enjoyed how we got to see both sides of those feeling. Yes, it’s true, we have duel perspectives and can see everything from Theo and Gabi’s perspective. Which was a great move on the author’s part and really allows us to see how these two develop feelings for one another. Theo and Gabi have the grumpy sunshine vibe about them for a lot of the book and I think a lot of readers will enjoy seeing their dynamics collide. Even more so with the almost-kiss scenes! And if I haven’t mentioned already, Theo and Gabi are an interracial couple which, let me tell you, we need more of and it was so nice to see that in this book. But, there was chemistry lacking from both of them and I wish the author would have done more to make it feel like Gabi and Theo had a real connection with each other.

“He’s got that goofy grin on his face as he stammers out an apology like he doesn’t run me over every other practice.”

Despite the things I really loved and enjoyed about this book, there were a lot of things I didn’t like about the book. Actually, I found it was a lot of little things that kind of just added up over the time of reading this book. Usually little minor things don’t bother me that much, but some of these things just couldn’t be ignored.

My biggest issue is on page 25 of this book. There’s a scene where Theo mentions his uncle watching videos of, and I quote, ‘barely legal girls’. Though age is never specified, this single sentence made me really uncomfortable and it was the kind of sentence that I couldn’t get out of my head because it bothered me so much. Not to mention, I felt that this was a detail that didn’t need to be added into the story. As the reader, we can telling right from the beginning how terrible the uncle is and we just didn’t need that minor detail added.

To add to the list of things that could have been handled better, literally all the characters could have been done better. There’s no growth of any of the characters. Actually for the majority of the book, a lot of the characters are just really horrible. Theo is the biggest example that I can think of. Theo is just constantly filled with anger and takes that anger out on everyone. We never see any personal or emotional growth on his part, and at the end he’s just magically not angry anymore. Same goes for Gabi. Gabi never speaks up for himself and never calls his friend out on her crummy attitude, and how poorly she treats him throughout the entire book. Gabi stays timid and constantly comes off as a people pleaser, who refuses to get mixed in confrontation. Even the parents don’t really tickle my fancy. Actually, I’m pretty sure I disliked both families the most out of all the characters. They almost come off as neglectful parents because they’re very passive, they don’t communicate with their children, Gabi and Theo receive no support from them in anything they do, and the list goes on. We see no growth from them as side characters. However, I will give credit where credit is due and we do learn that Theo’s mother constantly loves and supports Theo by standing up to her family, and protecting Theo from that homophobia. And we do have a scene where Gabi’s father apologizes for his homophobic remarks and does states that they’re going to trying to be more accepting.

“I know I can’t fix everything, but if it takes losing one dream to save another, I guess that’s a trade I’m willing to make.”

Overall, this wasn’t a terrible book and there’s a lot of good within this book. However, I wish I could have given this a higher rating or loved this book more, but realistically this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I think there are going to be many readers who fall in love with this book for so many reasons and the little issues won’t matter as much to them. However, I think that for some readers they’re going to want more from these characters or want just a dash more of chemistry. For me, personally, I still recommend this book because there’s diversity we don’t often see in literature, as I mentioned that grumpy sunshine vibe, and that’s not even counting the Romeo & Juliet vibes too! I did enjoy this book for the most part, but definitely wish some things were done differently.

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ARC Reviews

The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories edited by Kate Ashwin

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This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

ARC was given by NetGalley & Iron Circus Comics in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (April 5th, 2022)

My heart, my freaking heart is so damn full right now! There aren’t enough words to convey how happy I am to have an arc of this graphic novel anthology right now. I ended up missing out on requesting an arc for this anthology and had it wish-listed, and as fate would have it, while on vacation I was surprised with this sliding into my library. If you haven’t heard me talk about how emotional I get every time I get a book by a Native/Indigenous author/s then here it is right here. I’m so emotional, so so grateful, and very privileged to have this right now.

As an Apache reader, book blogger, this anthology means the world to me just as all literature I receive by Native/Indigenous authors. If you would have told a very young, child Malli that I would be able to see more Indigenous people in literature that isn’t from a stereotypical lens and actually by Indigenous authors, I probably would have laughed and then broke down into sobs. Growing up as an urban Native and as someone who has spent years reconnecting with one’s heritage; you end up missing a lot of things, you can’t always go to PowWow, your elders aren’t always available to teach you, you have to devote large portions of time to learning your dialect (in my case, Eastern and Western Apache), and so on. So receiving this anthology, seeing stories I recognize, having heard these stories from my elders or others of my own age, it just means everything to me. It is everything.

As always for my anthology reviews, I have mini reviews for all the short stories where I talk about my thoughts, feelings, and include content/trigger warnings.

As It Was Told To Me by Elijah Forbes (Odawa) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a story about creation and The Creator, and about life. This story had me super emotional because I couldn’t help thinking about a similar story I was told from my Auntie. It got me really emotional and soft thinking about her and when she told me about how creation was a sort of awakening, how Creator created other gods/deities, and the way everything came into being. Reading this story, I just felt instant connection and just reminded that even if the story is slightly different, all tribes are connected to each other because of a story like this one.

“They were the most sacred being, feminine and masculine. Not in parts, but both at the same time.”

Chokfi by Jordaan Arledge & Mekala Nava (Chickasaw) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story is about how animals became vain because of their coats. Chokfi being a very proud rabbit, became curious after hearing about Otter’s coat being the most beautiful and his plot to make Otter’s coat his. I think the Trickster stories are always my favorite stories to hear from my elders because each story is different depending on the tribe. For example, a lot of Apache trickster stories revolve around coyote (which I feel in modern day is used, along with foxes, as trickster icons). Look, I’m not saying I’m biased, but this was one of my favorite stories from this anthology.

White Horse Plains by Rhael McGregor (Métis/Cree) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief mentions of starvation, brief scenes/mentions of violence, and brief scene of implied death

Honestly, this was the story that held my attention the most. This story revolves around the growing conflict between the Sioux & Assiniboine and the Cree. I find that so many stories in literature (in general) constantly revolve around the colonization and the wars that constantly broke out during that whole time period, but we never see the struggles and conflicts between different tribes very often. And for me, this story was the main reason this anthology caught my attention in the first place. I had only heard faint whispers about the White Horse Plains, but never had a chance to ask anyone about it or get the chance to research into the story itself to learn more. And this was both sad, tragic, but understandable and beautiful in some ways.

“It’s believed the spirit of the bride resides within him, helping steer those who are lost or misguided onto the right path so that they do not fall into a tragic fate.”

The Rougarou Maija Ambrose Plamondon & Milo Applejohn (Métis) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of killing animals, mentions loss of loved one (in the past), grief

I think this one surprised me the most out of all these stories. The stories of the Rougarou are something that I’m very partial too and I guess in a way, I connected with this particular story on a very deep, emotional and personal level. This story is about a young child to encounters a Rougarou and befriends the Rougarou, and the story behind this child’s Rougarou friend. This story, though short, has beautiful themes and I cried reading this whole story. I think this is going to be my most loved and preferred story of the Rougarou thus far.

“You put yourself in potential danger because you could sense help was needed. Facing your fear is a great sign of bravery.”

Agonjin In The Water by Alice RL (Ojibwe) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was ever a story to remind you of how sacred water is, let this one story be it. If you don’t know, water is very sacred to Native/Indigenous people especially the plains tribes because droughts can be intensely rough to get through. This story does a fantastic job of emphasizing the importance of water and also the importance of story telling. And the artwork really helped paint a vivid picture for the reader.

“I cherished these stories and would love to share them with others as I grew older. And as I grew older, the water, our source of life, began to change.”

The Woman In The Woods by Mercedes Acosta (Taino) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Honestly, my breath hitched reading this story. For starters, this was my first time reading any story from the Indigenous people of the Caribbean. However, everything about this story was just so beautiful and the artwork really added to the beauty of this story. I wanted a few more pages of this story because I was just fully enthralled by everything, but I’ll settle for the few in this anthology. It was just so good and so breath-taking.

“Be careful of what you accept from spirits. Accepting their gifts binds you to them. Though some of us were never meant to be with anyone else.”

Into The Darkness by Izzy Roberts & Aubrie Warner (Navajo) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was one story I wasn’t expecting to encounter, it was this short story right here. And I should have known from the synopsis of the book, too! However, I ignored my gut feeling and thought, “No, it wouldn’t possibly be…” and then it was. I bamboozled myself! But in all honesty, just the fact that I know what this story is about and how vividly remember my aunties and uncle telling me about this… Shivers and chills, down my spine. If you know, you know, and if you don’t then count your blessings.

By The Light Of The Moon by Jeffrey Veregge & Alina Pete (S’Kallam) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Again, this seems like an obvious story I’d love, but any stories that revolve around the moon and I just immediately swoon. This story is about how the Moon fell in love with the Octopus Queen, and how some marine life became bioluminescence. I loved this story, from start to finish. I think starting the story from the perspective of two divers and concluding the way it did was chef’s kiss. This is definitely another favorite that now lives in my brain, rent free.

“Her movements were a ballet that spoke directly to the Moon’s soul.”


I gave The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories five stars overall, because out of the possible 40 stars (5 stars being possible for all 8 stories) this anthology accumulated 40 stars (100%)!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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ARC Reviews

Wild is the Witch by Rachel Griffin

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This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

ARC was given by NetGalley & Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (August 2nd, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, mentions of cancer (in the past), trauma/PTSD. mentions of divorce, injured animals, death of an animal, depictions of blood, graphic injuries, panic/anxiety attacks, brief scenes of bigotry (towards witches)

Friends, I can’t believe I read this book in only one day! I’m truly shocked. Aside from graphic novels, I haven’t come across a book that captured my attention the way this book did. Even when I sat this book down to go do little mundane things or even to take a reading break, my thoughts were occupied with the content of this books. It must have been the owl or perhaps the loathe to love romance, or maybe it was an impending curse that was on the verge of unleashing chaos. Well, I guess you’ll just have to find out which one it is.

“There is magic in my blood, but this place has its own kind of magic.”

With the past constantly hanging over her head, Iris Gray just wants to start over with her mother, in a small town in Washington with their wildlife refuge, Foggy Mountain Wildlife Refuge. However, even starting over can have it’s challenges and it comes in the form of one person named Pike Alder. These two don’t see eye to eye and when one day the news talks about a person from Iris’s past, the commentary from Pike leaves Iris chilled to her core. With fear seeping into her bones every second, Iris decides to do an old ritual her grandmother used to do and give a curse to the earth. But fate has other plans when a northern spotted owl interferes with her ritual, Iris is thrown into an adventure unlike any other to prevent the curse from being unleashed.

“This doesn’t have to end in darkness, in a vote that will make all the magic of the universe flicker and dim, until it finally goes out. There are other endings, and I will find one.”

One of my all time favorite things is when a character is morally grey, they’re flawed, make mistakes, and we get to see the multitudes that character contains. The author does that with our main character, Iris. Iris was such a easy character for me to love because there were so many moments where I saw myself reflected in Iris. And the thing that stuck out to me the most was how protective Iris is of everyone and everything she cares about. That just did me in with my love for her. I’m a very protective person myself and seeing that reflected in Iris just solidified my draw to her as a main character. Pike, on the other hand, was a different story. I wish we saw more of Pike’s character or at least saw more layers to him. He almost felt flat to me due to lack of details and that’s excluding the major key moments with him. Outside of the major scenes between Iris and Pike, Pike just didn’t have enough details to him as I would have liked and he kind of came off as a jerk the majority of the time. What ultimately made me like Pike was the details that were poured into his love for birds. I have a big soft spot for bird lovers for sentimental reasons and throughout this book we see Pike’s devotion to birds and how much he truly values them. However, together the build of the chemistry between one another was something to savor and that’s all I’ll say on that.

Speaking of characters, there’s also a sapphic relationship in this story. Iris’s mother, Isobel is in a relationship with her long-time friend, Sarah. Sarah actually runs a local breakfast café in the same town. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I love a good story with a café and wildlife refuge with some small town vibes. Seeing Isobel and Sarah in little moments sprinkled throughout the book was a lovely touch, but I really wish we could have had more moments. However, I loved the chemistry between them and it the small moments we see them together, they just feel perfect for one another.

“I want to forget it. I want to forget because it was so heartbreakingly kind, because for a single second, it made me wonder what it might be like to be fully accepted. Fully known.”

I will say the magic and magic classes were fascinating to read about. I’ve read a lot of books that have witches in them and to me, this book feels very accurate to how I picture witches. In this book, there are three different classes of witches and there is a council of witches who maintain the balance with witches, and regular society. The first class of witches are the Solars. Solars are witches who work with plants and you can usually find them working jobs in agriculture or like Sarah who runs her own café. The second class are Lunars, who are witches that work with animals like our main character and her mother. And the final class are the Stellars. This particular class are highly powerful and considered dangerous as their powers center around people. Mostly, Stellars are all part of the witch council and we also have a side character, Cassandra who is not only an old family friend of Iris and Isobel, but also plays a role in key moments throughout this story. As I said, the magic system was fascinating and we learn how there’s a natural balance that’s bigger than people and witches themselves. Plus, the little pieces we get about how witches view owls just sent my heart flying to the moon.

“That’s the thing about magic: people want to see it and feel it almost as much as they want to dismiss it entirely.”

Speaking of owls, let’s talk about our little mischievous friend. One of my all time favorite elements any author can do in a book is have an animal side character who interferes with everything. As a lover of owls and as someone who has worked with them, I was in absolute heaven! This little owl was an absolute delight throughout this entire story and I love how the owl kind of throws our main character into a whirlwind of chaos, and just thrusts her into an unexpected adventure that forces Iris to work with Pike. Seeing the owl’s full plan and intentions come full circle at the end was truly everything and honestly, I think the owl was my favorite character of the book. Plus, the name the mc and Pike gave to him, MacGuffin! Ugh, my heart is just so full from this owl.

“I have to squint to see him, his shape nothing more than a shadow in the dusty twilight, but sitting in an old spruce tree is the northern spotted owl. Silent, still, and watching. Always watching.”

Also, before I forget to mention, the themes of grief that are laced throughout this book were chef’s kiss. Truly, it was fantastic. We not only see the side of grief from the loss of a loved one and how that can stay with us for years, but we also see the side of mourning the living and how we can harbor the grief from the painful things the living can do to us or have happened to us. I loved that we get to see both sides of grief and I also love how we see grief and trauma/PTSD laced in together with one another. I thought all of this was really well done and well written, and these themes are laced throughout this entire book. So anticipate seeing these themes frequently and how those themes impact Pike and Iris.

“That’s one of the worst casualties of being hurt by someone who was never supposed to hurt you: you start to question all the beautiful things that led up to the ugliness, start to wonder if some of the moments you thought were perfect were actually painted with a dirty brush.”

I know I’ve been kind of gushing about the things I loved, but I do want to talk about some of the things I wish were left out or just not in to begin with. One of those things being second-hand embarrassment which is a dead zone for me in books. Second-hand embarrassment truly is a mood killer for me when reading and can be really hard for me to recover from. There were two moments revolving around a condom and while I praise safe coitus, the way those two particular scenes were handled in a joking manner really had me cringing. Not only was the main character mortified and embarrassed both times, but that embarrassment overlapped into my own mortification and second-hand embarrassment while reading. Now this isn’t going to be the case for everyone. I’m a very serious person with majority of things. So I don’t really hold it against the author for including these two scenes, but I definitely wish they weren’t in or just left out from the beginning. Circling back to what I mentioned previously, Pike’s character was the other thing that bothered me the most. I really wanted more from his character and as I said, majority of the time his character came off as a jerk despite the few sweet moments and the major key scenes where we’re learning things about Pike. I think his character could have had more depth to him and he just felt closed off the majority of the time.

Overall, I’m still long-winded from this book and how much I adored it. There was so much to love in this book from the small town vibes to the magic, and of course you have the trope of loathe to love. There’s just so much this book did and it delivered it so well. I think this is going to be one of those books that makes a lot of top books of 2022 (spoiler, it made mine) and I think a lot of readers are going to be anticipating this book’s release. If you’re looking for a book that’s whimsical, magical, and has an adventure that’s sure to suck you in, then I recommend this book with my whole chest. Plus the cover is just stunning!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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