ARC Reviews

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

GoodReads|Amazon

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.

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Unraveling by Brandon Leake

GoodReads|Amazon|Barnes&Noble|BookDepository|IndieBound|Bookshop

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

ALC provided by Libro.fm and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review

Content/Trigger Warnings: Themes/Mentions of racism, alcoholism, gun violence, violence, death, anxiety, Acrophobia (fear of heights)

Wow, what a powerful poetry collection. I have sat with this poetry collection for a few days now, sitting with my feelings on this book and my feelings. Let me tell you, how does one even begin to rate a poetry collection. All I know is that with this collection, Leake reveals some of the rawest parts of himself and some of them will stay days after reading this book.

Brandon Leake’s Unraveling is a poetry collection that explores what it means to be a Black man living in America, his faith as a Christian and his relationship with God, and even takes a look at his fears and concerns surrounding fame (a topic which isn’t usually discussed often). Within these pages, Brandon shows the rawest pieces of himself, expressing his love and passions, but also showing us his fears and worries. Bringing some very important topics up and addressing them.

The only thing I will say impacted my reading was the constant religious themes and passages. I’ve said it a few times in other reviews, but I’m not a very religious person. I, personally, have a lot of conflicting feelings and experiences with religion, and so I don’t typically read anything that has a lot of religious themes. This is something to be aware of especially if you’re someone like me who also has very conflicting feelings/experiences.

Overall, this was a really powerful read and I think if you’re looking powerful poetry collections or really good audiobooks narrated by the author (hint, hint, wink, wink) then you should definitely consider picking this book up. It’s been about two-three days since I finished this and I’m still thinking about a lot of the themes within this book and some of my favorite pieces like Trails, Sandcastles, Safe Haven, and a few others. I definitely recommend giving this book a chance!

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Sakura’s Dedication, Vol. 1 by Fuyu Yukimiya

GoodReads|Amazon

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

ARC was given by NetGalley and Kodansha in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (February 22nd, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of cheating, scenes of brief verbal abuse

Calling all lovers of the manga Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku and just any slice of life manga! Put this manga series on your radar because this was really cute and I couldn’t help thinking about some of my favorite manga that’s more slice of life. Yet, this manga also gave me very brief vibes of Ouran High School Host Club. Look, if you know, you know. I really enjoyed my time reading this and it was a nice pick me up when I needed something light yet sweet, borderline wholesome.

We follow Sawa Hanasaki, a high school girl, who recently broke up with her boyfriend after finding out he was cheating on her. While she’s still trying to work out her feelings, Sakura Yuma has decided to confront Sawa to ask her to be his girlfriend. Despite rejecting him, Sakura is even more determined he can be the boyfriend that she needs.

“I feel like you’ll get lost and I don’t want to let go of you.”

I feel like my opinion is going to be on the minority side of things, but I actually enjoyed Sawa and Sakura together. In the aspect of them acting like high schoolers, still navigating feelings, and even learning what it means to find true, genuine people who care about you is hard. I think the mangaka did a fantastic job of translating all of this into the manga itself. I think readers, like myself, who’ve been out of school for a while sometimes forget how much a whirlwind high school really was and some of the things that we endured during that time. And I truly believe with my whole chest that the mangaka really brought that to life in this book. Even more so when it comes to navigating the waters of love.

There’s also this whole minor theme of appreciating the little things. You all know, I love a good sprinkling of appreciating the little things in anything I read. And oh, it was delivered so beautifully for us in this manga. Not to the point that it’d be really obvious or overwhelming, but just the right amount that when you do notice, it’s such a burst of warmth. I think we need more literature that has this theme casually sprinkled throughout it.

“But I find myself wanting to touch him like this longer.”

The main theme, though, is what really caught my attention. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a whole theme of discovering what it truly means to be loved, to be valued as you are, and what that can look like when you finally find those genuine caring people. I think Sawa and her relationship with Sakura is such a good example of what it means to truly navigate leaving behind someone who was clearly very toxic, potentially abusive, or even an absolute jerk of a person and find people who value you as you are. It’s not an easy thing to do. I think this manga was a great example of showing a very realistic relationship of love and self value, but the relationship shows us a bit of Sakura and how new it is for him to be with a person he cares so much for. I really loved this theme a lot and this is the main reason why I can’t wait for the next volume.

I will say, I did have one issue with this manga and to be fair, it’s still the first volume. There could still be more on the horizon that we as the readers are unaware of. I really wanted to see more of the scenes with the ex-boyfriend. The few scenes we get of him show that he’s a bit of a verbal abuser, but I also feel there’s a whole lot more to things with him. Even more so with the very first scene we have with him and Sawa. I’m not going to lie, I was on the edge of my seat, but I wanted more. I really wanted to see how those scenes would play out just to get a better feel for his character as a whole. I’m really hoping in future volumes we’ll see little more details.

Overall, I had a really fun time reading this manga. I feel like I say this a lot, but I’m not the biggest slice of life manga reader, but when I do pick them up, I typically enjoy them. Again, I’m really excited for the next volumes and really eager to see what the mangaka has for us. So far, I haven’t seen any announcements on the next book or anything, but you bet I’m keeping my eyes peeled for any bread crumb of news!

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Unlock Your Storybook Heart (You Are Your Own Fairy Tale, #3) by Amanda Lovelace

GoodReads|Amazon|Barnes&Noble|BookDepository|IndieBound

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

ARC was given by NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published on the release date (March 15th, 2022)

✨ Break Your Glass Slippers ★★★★
✨ Shine Your Icy Crown ★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a parent (in the past), grief, sexism, depression, talk of death, queerphobia, talk of fatphobia, talk of eating disorders, sexual harassment, self-harm, suicide, mentions of intrusive thoughts, mentions of toxic and abusive relationships

Wow. What can I say fellow readers other than wow. What a way for me to end this poetry collection. It’s been a while since a poetry collection left me completely… underwhelmed. Honestly, I’m a little salty I didn’t connect with any piece of this collection other than the two-three pages talking about cats. As always, I say literature comes into our life when we need it the most and maybe that’s why I’m so underwhelmed. Maybe this wasn’t my time of needing this collection because I already know all the things that this collection has to offer or perhaps, it was something else.

This collection is the third and final installment in the You Are Your Own Fairy Tale trilogy. Like the rest of the books in this series, this collection is broken into three parts and beautiful illustrations that divide the sections. Lovelace went above and beyond to make sure the readers of this collection has access to content/trigger warnings in advance so you know what to expect going into the collection. Lovelace does this with every collection which is a nice little touch to show the author cares about their reading audience and their mental health.

“Let no book collect dust. You never know which one will heal wounds you never knew you had.”

I would say that my favorite parts of this book had to be the illustrations. I always enjoy when authors add their own artwork into their books and Lovelace is no exception. If I remember correctly, each illustration is drawn by the author themselves and in a way, you can almost get a feel for the things this author enjoys, what they love to draw the most, and the full colored panels were a fantastic touch. There’s a lot of coziness to the full colored panels and there’s little details in them that make me wonder if the author actually has a little corner like that in their own home. The full illustrated panels are also a nice break from a lot of the themes in this collection. Those panels are there to say, “Hey, take a break. Take a moment to come down and breathe.”

I mentioned before that I really enjoyed the few pages we had about cats, but I also enjoyed the few passages we received about books. Now, I know the parts are titled in reference to books, but more so the pages that talk about books healing wounds or helping you to escape reality for a little while. As a consumer of books, and for you too book lovers, I think these sections will touch your soul and remind you how important books are. I think it was a great way for the author to nod at their readers and the book community.

“Some change happens gradually, some changes happens in the blink of an eye, & some change manages to do both at the same time.”

Despite the good things I found within this book, there was a lot of issues with this book that I just couldn’t look past. The biggest things for me that made it really hard to enjoy this book was the constant whiplash and jumping around. In past books, the author had some solid organization and structure to help with the flow of the book, but with this book in particular it felt like there was no consistent flow. You would constantly have these moments where it would be talking about good things and then it would thrown in a page or two that was talking about something negative like toxic relationships or self-harm. If anything, the one consistent thing this book does is give you the choppy flow of giving you large doses of feel good, uplifting passages and then smack you in the face with dark, negative passages. This made it really hard to focus on the content within the book and had a desire of wanting to skip pages build up inside of me. Also, just for reference, ever book up until this particular book had a good steady flow of working through the bad into the good. That’s the kind of writing style the author normal put into their books and we just don’t get that in this book. This would have probably stood stronger if the author had kept that structure to this book.

My other issue and struggle with this book was the repetitiveness throughout this books. I think I talked about this in my last review for this series, for the second book, as well. The things being written in this book literally feels like passages from previous books just being rewritten in a different manner. There were a lot of times where I was reading this book and I’d sit here, asking myself, “Have I read this before? This feels familiar.” Usually, I don’t mind a little repetitiveness, but consistent repetitiveness just doesn’t work for me.

The most minor issue I had was the fact that this collection felt like there were passages just thrown in there that had nothing to do with the overall theme of this book. Honestly, I was expecting this trilogy to consist of them not only coping with the loss of their mother, but also their relationship with their partner. And while we get bits and pieces of that, there were passages thrown in that had nothing to do with these themes. It’s not a huge issue, but this does circle back to how the pacing of this book felt so off and had that choppy flow to it, making it hard to focus to read this book.

“& if she had a choice, things would be different.”

Overall, this isn’t a bad read, but it definitely wasn’t for me. Again, maybe it wasn’t my time to have this piece of literature come into my life or maybe it’s something else. I think there are a lot of stand out passages that surround finding love, loving oneself, passages that deal in grief – many passages I think many readers may potentially connect with. However, the reading pace/flow of this book was really rough and choppy, and I think I would have enjoyed a little more structure when it came to the pacing. I still recommend this collection because I know that even though I haven’t connected with this book, I know someone out there will. So if you enjoy poetry, I still want to encourage you to pick it up.

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Once Upon A K-Prom by Kat Cho

GoodReads|Amazon|Barnes&Noble|BookDepository|IndieBound|Bookshop

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

Arc was given by Disney Publishing Worldwide & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (May 17th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: MC with low self-esteem, scene and talk of separation anxiety, depictions of anxiety, talk of abandonment, bullying, brief mentions of chronic migraines, harassment, death of a parent (in the past), talk of acrophobia (fear of heights)

“And for a breathless second, all I could do was stare at him as my pulse echoed like thunder through my head.”

Kat Cho has been an author on my radar for a while now, but I haven’t had the chance to sit down with her work until now and I think my expectation where blown out of the water. This book was absolutely everything. Truly, with my whole dang chest, I loved this book with every fiber of my soul. I mentioned before that I put this on a few five star predictions lists and honestly, I wish I could give this all the stars. Maybe I’m being mushy and sentimental about the places in my heart this book touched, but I really adored this book, these characters, and I wish it wasn’t over just yet.

We follow the perspectives of Elena Soo, an anxious girl who always feels like she’s being left behind by the ones she loves and now the one place she calls sanctuary is now in danger of shutting down. And Robbie Choi, a K-Pop idol and an old best friend to Elena, who has returned to keep the childhood promise they made to one another from long ago. After all the time that’s passed between the two of them, these once close best friends will go on a journey of reconnecting with one another and even admitting the truth about their honest feelings. Swoon worthy moments, heartbreaking moments, and second chances will ensue for this dynamic duo.

I adored Elena and Robbie as our main characters. I’ve seen so many readers say that we don’t see enough of who these characters are, not enough detail of their history together, but I think they’re perfect. Robbie and Elena came off as very really people. Not only when they’re together, whether it was them reconnecting or struggling with expressing themselves, but also in the moments that had your heart hammering in your chest, rooting for them to be happy. Even on their own, they felt like very strong characters. Elena has anxiety and we see that constantly reflected throughout this book. We see her doubt herself and see her navigate her feelings, and even her coming to terms with some of the things she’s done to protect herself. And Robbie, Robbie is incredibly shy yet we see him be charm and charismatic at times, as well. There were so many layers to these characters and it was lovely getting to see all the different sides to them.

“There’s too much between us to be just starting out. But we can see how we fit together now, after all of our history, the good and the bad. A K-Pop idol and a regular girl.”

The friendship between Elena and Robbie was probably the thing that got me the most. I’m talking moments of clutching my tablet, rooting for them and sobbing as these two were navigating their way back to one another. This friendship so close to home with my own childhood friend, how close we are, and how now we’re navigating our friendship after he and his family moved back to Japan. So reading Elena and Robbie go through so much with their friendship and seeing them work through the good, the bad, and the cute yet awkward moments really tugged at my heart strings, and made me miss my best friend a whole heck-a-ton.

“Robbie didn’t want to give up on this chance to spend time with his old best friend. Not when he’d jumped through so many hoops just to see her again.”

Speaking of characters, there’s so many amazing side characters throughout this book. Like Elena’s brother, Ethan and how despite them having some rough patches, these two always make amends with one another. We also get to see the way Robbie interacts with the other members of WDB (Wondeo Byul or Wonder Star) whbich was so freaking wholesome and precious. It’ll make your heart melt. Plus, we get little WDB member pages scattered throughout the book which was a lovely bonus. I’m just going to say it, there’s going to be a lot of happy k-pop lovers who I think are going to fall in love with this book, for sure. And I have to talk about Soonyeon is and how much I loved her character. Her character was such a lovely surprise and I really enjoyed the way the author had Elena become good friends with someone from Robbie’s whole world. That friendship blooming the way it did was just chef’s kiss!

Also, there’s a lot of Korean culture throughout this entire book. I really appreciated the author adding a lot of Korean words throughout this book. Every time I see authors use their language, their culture, anything of the sort it just makes my heart all warm and fuzzy inside. Which I know, probably sounds a little corny, but it just makes me so happy seeing authors do that. I think that’s an aspect in books that often get overlooked or aren’t always given the spotlight it deserves . So I wanted to take a moment to say how much I really valued and cherished that part of this book. On top of that, we get to see a lot of insight of the music industry in different cultures. There was a time where it was almost taboo to talk about the way the music industry treats their artists or what artists have to go through, and thankfully now, we’re entering into a time where it’s being brought into the light more and talked about more. And that was an element of this book that I’m glad the author didn’t hold back with. I really appreciate how the author took it, not just with Robbie, but also with the side characters in this book. I’m really glad we got to see different sides of that within these pages.

I think if there was anything I had to really find fault in with this book, it would probably be the lack of perspective we get from Robbie. While this book a two-person point of view book, we get very few chapters from Robbie’s perspective and I think this book would have benefitted even more if we had more chapters from Robbie’s pov. There were so many moments in this book that would have been really interesting to see from Robbie’s side and we just didn’t get that. Not necessarily a disappointment, but it definitely felt like a missed opportunity.

Overall, what more could I possibly say about this book that I haven’t already. Honestly, I thought I may have set the bar too high for this book especially since this is my first time reading anything by this author, but I truly loved this. I had messaged my childhood friend about this book, telling him how much I adored it, and he’s really invested in reading this book now, and I just really fell in love with this book. I definitely think this is going to be one of those books where readers will find every flaw in it or they’re absolutely going to adore it. And definitely, many k-pop lovers are going to enjoy this book. I can’t recommend it enough and you know, if you’re on the fence about whether to pick it up or not then let this review give you the nudge you needed to give this book a chance.

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Eternally Hers: The Prequel to Shallow Cove™ Dimensions by January Rayne

GoodReads|Amazon

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

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of loved ones, grief, violence, sexual content, mentions of suicide, depictions of blood, scene of complicated child birth, brief mentions of witch trials

“I am lost and locked out of the world. But my love will remain eternally hers.”

Look, if you told me I would be picking up a vampire romance book in 2022… I probably would have cackled and went off to buy a coffee because surely I was lacking caffeine in my system, and needed a wake me up. Yet here we are, in 2022 and I probably just read the the best vampire prequel thus far in my time of reading. And no, I’m no exaggerating. I’ve read a lot of vampire books over my years of reading and honestly, I’m really glad the author reached out to have me read this because I had just about given up on vampires, and vampire books.

Our story follows Severide Monreaux, who’s just been thrust in to a world of sadness and grief. With the death of his mother, his father thrusts the position of clan leader upon, the very position that he never wanted to earn in at the expense of his father. Severide must find a mate to make his clan strong again and with his mother and father’s dying wish hang over his head, he finds himself attending a party that makes him wish he was anywhere, but there. Will Severide find a mate? Who’s to say. With no witch to the clan, the werewolves threaten too tear the his clan apart, and now a warlock from the past has returning to claim a debt that’s owed… What else can a new clan leader do?

“Once our hands lock, my breath is taken from me as warmth now replaces the frozen tundra that has recently blocked my heart off from the world around me.”

Let me start by saying this is a prequel novella to the Shadow Cove Dimensions ™ where we follow the trials of love, loss, and hardships surrounding the Monreaux family, a vampire clan of Salem. This isn’t a full novel, so don’t expect this to be a very long read. This novella is very fast paced and even has time skips to show the change of time moving or passing. Personally, I’m usually not a fan of any kind of book that has time skips, but I found that it worked quite well for this novella. And the way this novella sets things up for the books to come, the plots to come, the possible potential feels endless. I haven’t been this excited about a series and the future books in a hot minute. I feel like a child let loose in a candy store. And the conclusion to this novella ends on a cliffhanger that leaves you craving more.

Speaking of the Monreaux family, this character cast was fantastic. Though we have quite a few faces to keep track of and keep our eyes on, each one has their own personality including the antagonists of the story. They all stand out in their own unique. With the mention of following a vampire clan, in this world we also have witches, warlocks, and werewolves. How all these paranormal beings interact with one another is truly intriguing. Vampire clans have a duel reliance with witches to incorporate their magic together to make a vampire clan strong, and protected. There also seems to be a mirrored relationship between warlocks and werewolves, as well. But don’t quote me on that. There might be more to this that meets the eye. As I said, it’s very intriguing. And Severide as our main character was perfection. Devoted, protective, but also flawed. Chef’s kiss, all the chef kisses!

“Happiness and lust are born from this woman.”

I love a little bit of spice with my paranormal and this book delivers so deliciously. I absolutely adored the spicey scenes within this novella. It was such a treat to see Severide and his mate not only equals in their positions, but also in their private moments, was such a refresher. The balance between them was probably one of my favorite things about this novella especially with how often in adult romances there’s usually a more dominant character while the other is more passive/subtle. And we don’t get that here. They both give and take, constantly changing between them and it was very attractive to say the least.

My only real complaint about this novella would be how short it is and it’s not so much the case of not getting enough of these characters, but more so having a lot of questions and not enough answers. There were a few things I wished were flushed out more such as more details on the feud between vampires and werewolves or even Brenden Hall, a warlock Severide knows from his past. I would have liked more details in this area and even more details about Sarah Wildes would have provided better understanding of her importance. There’s characters I wish we would have seen more of and had more details of, Luca and Greyson, who play major roles in the story yet it felt like we hardly see them or know them. I’m holding out hope they’ll have their own books in this series especially with some of the moments we see with Greyson that were a bit mysterious. Truly, this novella probably could have benefitted even more with more pages or chapters added to it. And I think that due to how fast paced and short this is, I think many readers will see these same issues and hoping for more details on characters and events in the future.

Overall, I had a fantastic time reading this novella. I went in with low expectations because most vampire books haven’t really been tickling my fancy including the steamy adult romance ones, but this was a pleasant surprise. The world was fascinating, the characters were captivating, and I’m eager to see what the first book in this series has in store for us. As I mentioned, I think there will be readers who will have issues with this novella because it’s short, fast paced, and it feels like certain characters or events aren’t given enough details. Again, more questions than answers, but it was still an overall fun time reading. If you’re like me, struggling to get back into reading books with vampires, I definitely recommend giving this novella a chance. Truly, a captivating time!

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Playing Cupid by S.C. Alban

GoodReads|Amazon|Barnes&Noble|BookDepository|IndieBound

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

ARC was given by NetGalley and The Parliament House in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a parent, grief, depression, talk of hospitalization, terminal illness (cancer), car accident, child neglect, forced institutionalization, brief mentions of attempted suicide

I had to sit with myself and collect my thoughts and feelings on this book. I’ll be honest, it took me a hot minute to get through this book and even really feel out how I felt about the book. There’s some really lovely elements and discussions happening, but ultimately, I think there were a lot of things I wasn’t expecting. Though, I am a sucker for a mythological story.

We follow seventeen-year old Megan, who’s closed off her heart from every finding love again. After her mother dies of cancer and her father descends into a six year mourning and depression, Megan decides to fast track her life. She’s fended for herself this long, why should she rely on anyone else when you’ll just get hurt? With the end of the school year rapidly approaching and her ticket to leave this small town just in sight, things are going well. Until she gets stuck with Jay Michaels for a final grade project and he keeps giving every excuse in the book. And if things couldn’t get any worse, on the night driving home, she hits Cupid just as he’s about to close out his quota for the year. Now Megan’s world is turned upside down and now she’s not too sure if she’ll ever be able to escape this town or the painful memories attached to it.

Whew, these characters were something else, let me tell you! I think this was the hardest part to decide my feelings on because everything else I knew what I liked and disliked, but these characters left me feeling conflicted. I will say Megan and her father felt very realistic for me. I think many readers will have a hard time connecting with them or caring about them, but I found it was really easy to feel invested in them. This might be due to my own history of having iron walls built around my heart and dealing with neglectful adults in my life. However, Megan was really judgmental at times or lacked understanding in certain parts. Jay on the other hand felt very under-developed to me. In fact, the way the books paints him for the reader is in a light of where we shouldn’t like him from the beginning. The only thing that had me invested in Jay’s character was the fact that it was very obvious he had a secret he wasn’t telling anyone. We only see more to Jay at the 75% mark in the book and even then it feels too late to really get a feeling for who he is as a character because up until this point Jay’s just painted in a bit of a negative light. As for Amadeo, our mischievous Cupid, I still have mixed feeling about him. There were times where I thought his personality was very fitting, but other times that felt like his attitude had no place being in a certain scene. Though out of all the characters, Amadeo has the strongest character development.

The thing I loved the most about this book was the world building. Not just the way Mountain Valley is built up with a lot of small town vibes, but also what we learn of the Cupid societal structure. The amount of details we learn about this world, the different levels and how each of these levels mirror places on Earth, and the way you can see how Amadeo fits among this society was really interesting. I was heavily invested in learning more details about the world and honestly, I think this alone could of been turned into it’s own book because it was such an interesting concept.

“Maybe the point is to remind us there are two sides to everything. It makes us more appreciative of the loving part, you know, knowing at any moment, it could all end.”

Most of all, I think the elements that really sealed my connection to this book were the hard topics of this book. We see a lot of themes of grief and how no person in the same with grief. More specifically with Megan’s father, how you can love someone so much that it breaks you, how nothing including you will ever be the same, and how difficult it is to emerge from that grief, that depression and right the wrongs that have taken place during that time of being a shell of who you once were. On the opposite spectrum, we see how Megan fortifies herself because she’s never been given the opportunity to grieve, to feel the full weight of the loss of her mother and instead had to grow up far too quickly than she should have because no one was looking out for her. I think the author did a really fantastic job at writing the grief in a realistic way that allows others to feel a connection to the characters.

I want to take a moment to address the other hard topic in this book. Though this is for the last 75% of the book and I think this will make a lot of readers turn away from this book, I still wanted to talk about it. There’s a whole discussion happening about mental health and the stigma that surrounds mental health, and not just mental health, but we see a small piece where it’s addressed of how there’s still a strong societal stigma surrounding those who end up institutionalized for mental health. And I wish, oh how I wish, this was addressed more openly, in literature and otherwise. How as a society we have the preconceived notion that we can never speak openly about this, that it’s something to be ashamed of, and how if someone does speak up about their experience they’re instantly labeled as someone to avoid, that they’re “unstable” or “crazy”, or they’re dangerous instead of treating them like human beings who are ill, who are facing challenges and hardships with their mental health, and how they chose to be brave to speak up of needing help and their experience.

The only issue I really had with this book was the insta-love between Megan and Jay. A lot of this book is focused on Megan healing from the loss of her mother and her assisting Amadeo hitting his final three targets for his quota. There was never any time fully dedicated to Megan and Jay establishing chemistry between one another, there wasn’t dedicated time to truly see Jay’s character until the last 75% of the book, and Megan and Jay had barely any interactions with one another, as well. We get small little pockets, but for the most part they barely have anything to do with one another and the fact that this relationship was an inst-love with all of that preestablished just didn’t work for me. Honestly, I think I would have loved seeing Megan fall in love with a Cupid over the relationship between her and Jay.

Overall, I really did enjoy reading this book, but I definitely want to caution that this isn’t the book it’s advertised or the way a lot of readers label it as a rom-com or a fluffy romance. Honestly, I removed the romance tag for this book because I see this more as a contemporary story with romantic elements, but it’s a strong contemporary read with hard hitting topics laced throughout the entirety of this book. If you’re someone who’s not turned off by books with heavy topics or enjoy books with mythological elements then I think you’ll enjoy reading this book.

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Falling Drowning, Vol. 1 by Yuko Inari

GoodRedas|Amazon|Barnes&Noble

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

Arc was given by Kodansha & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (February 2nd, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Depictions and talk of a car accident, talk of loss/death of a parent

I love a good manga that gets me eagerly invested, craving for the next volume to descend into my grabby, little hands. This was such a great manga and it had everything. It has a love triangle, protective friends, a dark horse love interest, a main character with a tragic backstory, just everything you want and need in a manga to keep you invested in the series. I think I can say, with my whole chest, there are going to be many manga readers who don’t want to miss this series.

We follow Honatsu Tenma, a high school student who’s starting a new year at school with her childhood best friends, Toma and Akine. Only Tenma has missed a good chunk of school due to being sick and upon starting her new year, her friends become even more protective of her especially Toma. Toma is so protective that the other students start to notice and soon start a rumor of the two of them dating. With the past of a tragic accident from six years ago claiming her memories, Honatsu tries her best to do things her own way, at her own pace, despite her two friends constantly interfering. While Tenma is trying to get her bearings among all of this, she learns about a new transfer student, Shun Tachibana, who’s Toma’s friend from childhood, but also has rumors going around about him too. This is the start of Honatsu’s journey of discovery her divided feelings between Toma and Shun, and the secrets that are being kept away from her and her tragic past.

“Rather than a single moment it’s more like your feelings of “liking someone” gradually accumulate.”

Let me start by saying there’s something about a childhood friend to lovers trope that hits differently in literature especially in manga. Sprinkle in a love triangle and you’ve got a spicy story just waiting to unfold. There’s also a whole mystery that surrounds to two love interests of our main character that just adds a nice little touch to this story as a whole. What I’m trying to say, I’m invested. I’m in deep and I don’t want anyone to take me out of this rabbit hole.

Starting off with the characters, we have a lot of groundwork being established in a steady pace in this first volume. We see bits and pieces of their history, pieces of childhood, and little details that have you wondering, eager to know more about those characters. While the brief details of Honatsu’s memory loss is sprinkled throughout this volume, the approach to build up the characters first was nicely executed and the best method to approach this first volume in the series. It leaves the readers invested in the characters, but leaving us with a fiery desire to seek out the truth by reading volumes as they release. Which I’m going to be honest, I really want to know more about Shun due to there being so much mystery surrounding his character.

“I think people who can take care of themselves are far more precious.”

Speaking of characters, Honatsu’s character is probably one of my favorite main characters in a while. The way the mangaka established her character was really refreshing to read about. Despite having lost her memories, she has a strong desire to learn things on her own and discover what she likes and dislikes. Her approach to love felt very realistic as well. Falling in love, crushes are both feelings that can cause such internal stress for anyone, at any age. So seeing her character have all these thoughts and feelings about falling in love while she’s under going her own journey of self-growth was really refreshing, and felt realistic for someone of her age.

Of course, I say this with every manga, but the art style was superb. It gives me similar vibes to Ouran High School Host Club and it’s just an art style that’s like catnip to me. There were little details in the illustrations that were really eye pleasing. The way some of the scenes are illustrated fit perfectly to the emotions being set or expressed during that scene. It’s beautifully done, absolutely beautiful.

Overall, I really adore this manga and I really wish we had details for volume two! For a first volume in a series, the story has me fully captured and I’m obsessed with what the next volume is going to give us. Not to mention, I have so much intrigue and questions about so many things, and I just really need the rest of this series. Of course, if you’re a lover of contemporary, romance, and slice of life kind of books/manga then I highly recommend picking this manga up. Plus, I think the way story itself will capture you, making this a fast read.

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Riox

GoodReads|Amazon|Barnes&Noble|BookDepository|IndieBound|BookShop

Arc was given by First Second Books & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (June 21st, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexism/sexist remarks, abandonment, displacement

Friends, this was such a delightful, whimsical read with stunning artwork! I know I usually talk up a lot of the graphic novels that I read, but I really enjoyed this one. It has monsters, a main character who is beautifully layered, an art style that pulls you in, just so many goods wrapped up in this graphic novel. Honestly, I wish I knew about this sooner because I would have talked about it sooner.

Our story follows Suri, a young girl who wants to be a monster tamer, but for right now she’s telling stories/legends of monsters, while travelling with her monster camp. However, things start to take a turn for the ominous when Suri discovers a ball of golden twine. Soon Suri finds her world being turned upside down and setting out on an adventure with an Imp and a giant-sized dog named Byron.

Suri was such a wonderful main character to follow. As a reader, I feel that I’m always drawn to characters who have a very headstrong, warm, but also lighthearted kind of presence, who wants to seize their opportunities throughout this story. Also, Suri is that kind of character you can’t help rooting for, you want to see her succeed and have the happy ending she deserves. And there’s a whole mystery around Suri about how she ended up with this traveling monster camp, why is this person of authority chasing after her and want her gone, and more so related to the end of the book, what will happen to Suri now that she’s on her own.

The artwork of this book is probably one of the most stand out elements. Though, all graphic novels usually have drop gorgeous artwork, but the color tones of this graphic novel really stuck out to me. It really resonated with aesthetics that I’m really drawn to. The design of the monsters really stands out as well. There’s a very eerie, spooky, almost ominous vibe expressed through the art style for these creatures. Though I do want to point out, this art style isn’t of a horror aesthetic. This is a graphic novel that’s directed more to younger audiences though I say anyone would enjoy reading this graphic novel especially in the fall/winter season.

Despite these wonderful elements, I still had questions that I doubt I’ll get answers to. Mostly, I had questions surrounding the backstory of our main character and the traveling camp. It feels like there’s missing details surrounding these two elements. This is also a fast paced read and with that being said, I felt like this could have been a longer graphic novel. I’m still holding out hope we may get some more details or more backstory about those two things and fingers crossed the next book with be a tad longer.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this graphic novel. It’s such a fast paced, whimsical read that I think many readers are going to fall in love with. It has such an amazing, magical feel to it and I’m really excited to see where this story goes in the next book, The Mole King’s Lair. I’m even more excited to check more books by Jo Rioux and I think this will spark many readers to look into more of this author’s work.

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi

ARC Reviews

I’m Looking for Serious Love! by Shoko Rakuta

GoodReads|Amazon|Barnes&Noble|BookDepository|IndieBound

Arc was given by LOVE x LOVEs & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (February 15th 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Bigotry (those who live in the city/country), brief scene of cockroaches (censored), entomophobia (fear of bugs), scene of underage drinking, drink spiking/drugging, brief fatphobiac name calling, sexual predator behavior, stalking, harassment, brief mentions of abandonment, sex

Oof, friends this manga was rough for me to read. I’m still wondering what the hell I just read. On one hand, I can acknowledge a lot of the cultural references that are happening in this book that relate to things actually happening in present day. On the other hand, the amount of second-hand embarrassment was a lot to read through. And second-hand embarrassment is something that’s always hard for me to recover from with a book. Either way, this was a doozy of a read.

Miyazawa Kyouhei just moved to Tokyo from the country and he has this big idea of the city life is, and how those who live in the city actually are. When Miyazawa goes to give his new apartment neighbor a gift of welcoming, Miyazawa is met with Takara Tomohiro, his senor. And thus begins their wild story of shenanigans and how they come together.

For those who love manga like Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi or Junjou Romantica then this book is right up your alley. However, I will caution that the difference between those manga and this manga is the content warnings. I wasn’t kidding when I said I had a lot of second-hand embarrassment. Not to mention, instead of this manga coming off as leaning more to the romantic, slice of life side of manga, this manga leads more towards contemporary and has back to back scenes that could make the reader really uncomfortable. Often times if feels like you can’t catch your breath on the amount of serious scenes.

However, I really enjoyed the art style and I really appreciate the bursts of happy, positive moments throughout this story. For example, there’s a side character who really enjoys a popular J-Pop group and when this character meets Miyazawa’s grandmother, they have such a wholesome connection that brough the biggest smile to my face. Truly, one of my favorite moments of this manga.

Overall, this wasn’t a terrible read, but this definitely wasn’t the best. A lot happens in this one manga and there’s a lot to process while reading through it all. Plus the second-hand embarrassment from a lot of the incidents that happen. Also, I wish we got to see more romance between the MC and the love interest, but it was interesting to watch them come together. Still a good read and if you’re looking for more contemporary manga then I’d definitely recommend giving this one a chance.

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

|GoodReads|Instagram|YouTube|Wishlist|Kofi