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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ARC Reviews

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

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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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ARC Reviews

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor

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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 & Astra Publishing House in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (May 3rd, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of near death experience, talk of death, talk of murder, hate crimes, talk of racism, mentions of cancer (in the past), mention loss of loved ones (in the past), grief, trauma/PTSD, self-harm, alcoholism, underage drinking, mentions of biphobia/bi-erasure, transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, ableism, bullying, stalking, emotionally abusive parents, anxiety & panic attacks, mentions of car accident, scene of emesis, poisoning, scene of anaphylactic shock, scene of strangulation, gun violence

I have been sitting on this review for a few days now and trying to decide how to convey my disappointment with this book. I really, really wanted to love this book especially because this book has so much representation we often don’t see in literature. I was so ecstatic about the synopsis and my curiosity was running wild with what the pages of this book would contain. However, I’ve been left unsatisfied and wondering if I even read the same book as everyone else because this was a huge flop for me.

“I’m not afraid of death because the living are much scarier, even the ones who aren’t trying to kill you.”

Our story follows Sam Sylvester, a non-binary teen who just moved to the town of Astoria. This move is supposed to be a fresh new start for Sam to recover from a trauma and hopefully this school will not only be more understanding of Sam’s gender, but also help accommodate Sam due to them being autistic. But as Sam starts making friends with the kids of the club for all the queer folk at school, things begin to heat up. After finding out a local kid was murdered in their home, Sam and friends decide to investigate what really happened, but things start to take a serious turn as they get closer to the truth.

I think my most favorite thing about this whole entire book was the relationship between Sam and their father, Junius. The bond and connection between Junius and Sam was so special, so wholesome, and it was the highlight of the entire book. Every scene that we had with them made me so emotional and so mushy, so soft, and it was a wonderful experience. Plus, the dynamic between Sam and Junius is one we don’t often see in literature. Sam is Junius’s adopted child and when I tell you how emotional I got over the memory flashbacks for the two of them coming together, it had me dissolving into a puddle. It was really wonderful being able to see those memories and how the two came together. The other dynamic is the single father household dynamic. This is representation we don’t often see in literature and deserves to be recognized for what it is. Seeing a single father household and seeing such a close-knit relationship between the main character and their father was such a breath of fresh air, and I just had to point out how much I really loved this about Sam and Junius.

“This is why I will never understand how people think family is as common as blood. To me, family is breath, it’s trusting the person besides you to demand your right to air in a world that would take it away from you.”

Speaking of representation, this book has so, so much representation. As I already mentioned, our main character, Sam is non-binary (they use they/them pronouns), autistic, and ace. There’s also so many side characters who bring so much diversity to the table. Mister Quach is Vietnamese and the teacher of the Queer club, Shep is Latinx and bisexual, Sky is bisexual, and Junius (Sam’s father) is Black, asexual and aromatic! I also want to take a moment to point out Aiden comes from a home of poverty/financial struggle and there’s so many moments of conversations surrounding this. I wanted to point this out because in middle grade books we often see things from a child’s perspective or even see financial struggles in the young adult/adult perspective, but we never see things from a teenager in high school especially from a teenager who has a high social status in school. This really hit home for me for a lot of reasons and I really wanted to give this the attention it deserves. Plus, Aiden as whole is an underrated character and deserves a lot more love.

“You have nothing to prove. To anybody. You are who you are.”

Sadly, these are about the only two really redeeming qualities that I really loved and enjoyed throughout this entire book. Again, I really wanted to love this book because those two things were so strong (which is why this book got the rating it did), but my love for those two things is not enough to overlook all the issues with this book as a whole. And friends, there were a lot of issues with this book.

One of the major things that really impacted this book was the writing and narrative of the voice. I can’t begin to express how important it is to have the right tone especially when it comes to contemporary and mystery books. The way this book dialogue felt more like a middle grade book and the way it fell flat made it incredibly hard to find motivation to read this book. There were many times where I wanted to ‘dnf’ this book because it felt like I was trudging through quick sand. Plus, the pacing felt very choppy in the sense of it would feel slow and then fast, then go back to slow. It was just an around rough time. This ties in with the ending as well. The ending felt rushed and a lot of the things that came to light felt swept under the rug and the most typical consequences being used to deal with the actions of others.

“That’s just it – people get jealous, of the popular kids, of the ones who get attention because they’re nice. And kids are cruel. Even if they don’t mean to really hurt someone, well. Impact matters more than intent.”

The other major issue with this book was how predictable the killer was going to be. I love a good mystery book and I won’t lie, the mystery had me invested. I really wanted to know what the truth was going to turn out to be and I was invested in how everything was going to play out. However, by 17% into this book I already had three predictions of how this book was going to go and sure enough, I was right with two of those. Not only was the killer made really obvious, but the execution of leading up to the reveal was an entire mess. The very foundation for almost 50% of the book it’s hinted that the main reason was a hate crime and by the time we get to the 75% mark in the book, that whole foundation was scrapped for something else entirely. And what it was changed to was just a mess because the author had to rush to fill in gaps with all new information. It felt like a poor execution all around and it made the reading experience even worse.

I feel terrible for all this complaining and ranting, but this is only scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues. There’s a whole romance in this book between the main character and a side character that greatly lacked chemistry. Not to mention it felt like instant attraction between the two characters and things were really rushed between them. This is one of those times where I wish the author would have left the romantic subplot at home because this subplot literally caused this book to feel like it was trying to do too many things all at once. There’s also an entire conversation between Sam and a side character named Dylan about asexuality. When I say I had the most extreme second-hand embarrassment, I’m not kidding because I was cringing. I wish that conversation would have never happened, the scene felt entirely unnecessary, and I wish I could erase it from my mind. Not to mention the author wrote this side character to put all this pressure and blame/reason on Sam for why they were questioning things and feeling confused. It was one of the most awkward moments of this entire book (not that things weren’t already really awkward with this side character to begin with).

“They’re here with me because I found their stories, and this is the lesson I needed to learn from them.”

Overall, I was really excited and had high hopes for this book, but oof this book hurt my soul. And honestly, I should know better not to put my hopes too high when it comes to books I read due to this happening. This book fell short in so many categories and again, I wonder if I even read the same book as other readers because I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to my feelings with this book. If you’re looking for a book that has a cohesive story or a solid mystery plot, then I would recommend looking elsewhere. However, if you’re look for diverse representations like ace, non-binary, etc… then definitely give this book a chance.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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

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ARC Reviews

Birdsong by Katya Balen

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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 & Barrington Stokes in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (July 7th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Car accident, trauma/PTSD, grief, death of an animal, brief mentions of blood

“There is music everywhere – if you know how to listen.”

Wow, what a powerful read. Wow, wow, wow! I always find that middle grade books have some of the strongest themes that kids need to read about and this is definitely one of those books. Filled with conversations of finding one’s passion again after a tragic accident, finding the strength to move on past tragedy, and so much more. Birdsong is one of those reads that can make anyone feel seen.

Annie Ford loves music and has a special talent with the flute. However, after tragedy strikes, Annie loses her ability to play her beloved flute. Now after moving and having her world turned upside down, Annie struggles with finding the motivation to allow herself to heal or even talk about the feels she’s suppressing inside. Until one day she meets a boy named Noah, who tends to a blackbird family in the bushes. Soon, Annie not only made a new friend, but slowly realizes that with the help of these feathery friends, she’s slowly beginning to heal.

I really enjoyed Annie as our main character! Annie is a main character who’s had her entire world turned upside down and I think there’s going to be so many children who will end up relating to Annie, and what’s she’s been through. For myself, Annie reminds me of a lot of some of the things that I experienced and felt as a kid. I feel like I say this all the time with middle grade books, but I truly wish I had had a book like this growing up because seeing characters like Annie can change your perspective especially when you’re a kid. And Annie is far from being a perfect main character. She’s angry and grieving, but healing and scared of if she has a future with her passion. She’s all of those things as she navigates so many changes.

There’s also a theme of healing and how healing is never linear, but also how you can begin your healing journey in the unlikeliest ways/places. And I really loved how the author used the blackbirds as the center of Annie’s healing journey. Of course, Noah and music helps, but the blackbirds really help Annie and her journey back to the the that brings her the most joy. Annie finds her way to healing and forgiving the person she’s the most angry at too. All of it flows so well together and it’s a steady process of ups and downs, but it’s such a good theme we need to see more often in books.

“I fill the space around me with music. I don’t play anything that I’ve learned. I just play. I play for me and I play for the bird who has lost so much.”

My only major issue with this book is that it feels so short. Actually, it feels shorter than most middle grade books. I think if the author would have added more to the story, like a few chapters, then I think it would add to what’s already established in the story. However, I feel like I say this with most books that are on the quicker side of reading.

Overall, this was a really wonderful and emotional read. I really enjoyed so many themes within in this book and just reading from Annie’s perspective was such a nice treat. Again, this is a short read and would be perfect for reading challenges or something to read if you’re looking for those fast reads (for all your traveling adventures too).

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

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ARC Reviews

Taproot by Keezy Young

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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 & Oni Press in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (July 5th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk and themes of death

“I’m just a gardener.”

What a cute and wholesome read! I’m always a sucker for a graphic novel that feels light, but also can make me feel a certain kind of emotional and this graphic novel does exactly that for me. And honestly, I’m kind of keeping my fingers crossed that maybe this will turn into a series because I’d love to continue following these characters. It was a very lovely and whimsical experience.

Hamal is just a gardener, who works at a little florist shop. The only thing is he can see and talk to ghosts, and he has no idea how he’s able to. Blue is a ghost, but he’s not just any ghost, he’s Hamal’s best friend and in love with him. With Hamal being able see ghosts, more keep flocking to him and his talents as a gardener continue to grow. Until strange things begin to start happening and a Reaper has suddenly turned up, looking for a necromancer.

I really adored these characters and I’m really glad we got to see a little backstory of how Blue and Hamal came to meet. Both of these characters are such soft, cinnamon roll characters that you can’t help rooting for, that you want to see come together in the best way. And speaking of characters, I absolutely fell head over heels for the Reaper. I adored their snarky, sarcastic tone, but also they way we find out they have a mushy heart and are a secret mushy hearted being. It was fantastic! The Reaper also gave me Suriel vibes and if you know then you know what I mean.

“Think of it as a favor you owe me. I’m a sucker for cheesey romance novels, and you two are terrible.”

The artwork was really stunning and captivating. The shades take on a soft tone, but when you move into those scenes of importance and seriousness, the coloring really emphasizes that to the reader. It feels very easy to get lost in the little details of the artwork, as well. I kept searching for any hidden secrets or little details that may hint to where the story was heading next. It was really enjoyable to get lost in the pages.

I think if I had to say anything negative about this book, it would be two things. The first thing is the romance in this story. It’s very insta-love and if you’re not a big fan of insta-love then this might be a bit of a miss for you. I find that for me, insta-love is very hit or miss and never anything in-between. The other thing, I feel like I say this with every graphic novel, is it felt very short and that some parts felt rushed. I think the author could have gotten away with adding more pages, a little more detail, and I think that really would have added more to the story as a whole.

Overall, this was a really fun read. I had a very delightful time reading this graphic novel and I really want to see it turn into a series. There’s so many characters in this one book that deserve the spotlight (like the Reaper, cough cough). If you’re looking for a fast read with wholesome cinnamon roll characters then I definitely recommend giving this graphic novel a chance!

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

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ARC Reviews

Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend by Alys Arden & Jacquelin De Leon

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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 and DC Entertainment in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (July 26th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Near death experiences, death, loss of loved ones, grief

Oh my glob, friends! Receiving an arc of this comic came out of left field and I am shook! I was graciously blessed by the arc gods and oh, thank you because this was a wonderful experience. I don’t really talk about my favorite DC universe heroes too often and Zatanna has always been one of my favorites. She’s also a hero that we don’t know much about. Zatanna doesn’t have a huge backstory and she doesn’t get the spotlight that often in shows or comics, and it feels so good to see Zatanna getting the spotlight compared to a lot of other DC heroes.

Zatanna is the daughter of famous illusionists, Ezra and Lola Starr. In Coney Island, New York, Zatanna only wants to get away from everything and lead a normal life. A life that doesn’t involve being in the constant spotlight or even the center of her father’s stunts. When one night Zatanna it out with her boyfriend and friends, strange things begin to happen and she decides to confront the one person who may have answers. Soon, secrets and mysteries surround Zatanna begins to pop up, friends and foes lurk in the shadows to see what with become of this magician.

Again, Zatanna is one of my favorite DC heroes. I’m pretty much a lover of the kind of heroes that don’t often get the spotlight like Martian Manhunter, Huntress, Hawkgirl, etc… So seeing a comic come out with more of Zatanna’s childhood/teenage years was a big excited time for me. However, I’ve been hesitant due to these comics being written in middle grade style, but also they tend to feel hit or miss to how the characters have already been established from the get-go of DC Comics. And I’m happy to say that this is one where I really fell in love with it.

The artwork is absolutely breath taking and the colors of the cover instantly drew me in. Not only is the art style something that really captures me attention and really shows off the mood in ever panel, but the color pallet is one that speaks to me and feels very much like my own personality at times. Plus, I have to talk about the rabbit, Flop. The way the rabbit was given expressions had me on the floor dying because I loved it so much.

Overall, I had a great time reading this comic. I think my only real issue or downside I had was the lack of information we have around the foe/foes of this book. I think I would have liked to have seen a little more information about that, but still a fantastic read. Like with all comics, I recommend then for readathons and those quick reads for travel. And I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s a true whimsical time!

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ARC Reviews

Eternally Damned (Shallow Cove Dimensions #1) by January Rayne

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ARC was given by the author in exchange for an honest review.

🥀 Eternally Hers: The Prequel ★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Grief, mentions loss of loved ones, brief mentions of witch trials, sexual content

“A vampire can live for an eternity, but eternity comes at a price.”

Wow, wow, wow! I loved everything about this book, possibly more than the prequel. If you haven’t read the prequel yet, do yourself a favor and check that out. I had a really wonderful time reading it. As I’ve already mentioned, books with vampires have been dying for me, but I’ve really been enjoying my time with this series so far. However, this one was so, so good. I adore when books have the storyline and the connection between the two people as a bigger focus than the spicy content. Ugh, it was so good friends! Plus, I feel like this is one of very few books/series that actually pull off the time skips with two point of views really well.

Set is modern day Salem, Massachusetts, we follow Maven Wildes, who sorta new at this whole “living in the present/modern world” thing. Maven is young with one dream set… Buy the Monreaux Estate, fix it up, and finally live in her dream home. The one place where she feels like she truly can call home. To which, Fate is as Fate does, and blessed Maven with the biggest dream she ever wanted. Enter Alexander, who’s been in a coma for what seems like an eternity to him. Yet upon him stirring, things aren’t quite as they seem. Who is this girl on the Monreaux Estate, what business does she have here, and why can’t she see or hear him? One thing is for certain, Alex can’t deny the strong pull he has towards her. Now that the two are so close, both Maven and Alex can’t help the events that begin to unfold between them.

I absolutely adored all of the characters! Not only are our two main characters layered and fully captivating, but some of the side characters are just chef’s kiss! Now, I don’t want to spoil too much for you, but the connection Maven and Alex have is so good and more focused on their connection rather than the spice. We also see Maven developing her powers and learning about them which I adored. I have to say the way the male characters in this series are so devoted to their mates/beloved in this series has been so refreshing truly and of course, Alex is no exception. And we have to talk about Maven’s Papa! There’s a scene at the beginning of this book that was so freaking good. Top favorite moments of this book for sure! Truly, Maven’s Papa just touch a soft spot in my heart that I don’t think I’ll ever get over. And Dottie is such a firecracker! Oh my gosh she’s fantastic best friend to Maven and has so much fire in her personality. I really adored her.

“Dreams are meant to drive the human soul. If we don’t have dreams, we don’t have anything.”

As with the prequel, be prepared to meet new characters and see old faces from the prequel in this book. The author is really lining this series up with so many possibilities, having you wonder who’s going to get paired with who, and where is the author going to takes us next. The possibilities are literally endless and I’m so excited. Plus, the author always ends these books on a note that leaves you craving, wanting more! That’s how I feel right now. Just in a craze to get my hands on the next book in this series.

Overall, I truly don’t want to say too much or spoil too much for anyone. I definitely recommend reading the prequel before reading this book. The prequel did a really good job at setting the stage for all the other books in the series to follow. So go read that first! Otherwise, what a great read. I think these characters just live in my brain now, rent free. They’re just here permanently now. What else can I really say except that I’m having a fangtastic time reading this series and January Rayne feels like an author everyone needs to watch.

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

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