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Mini Reviews | WITSEC Series by Ashley N. Rostek

Salutations everyone! I have another series mini review post for you! If you didn’t know, I’ve been doing series reviews for a hot second here on my blog and today, I get to bring the WITSEC series to the table. Book two and three are going to be short, and vague. Due to this being a series review and the fact that each book, except book one, picks up where the previous book before it left off. This is a dark contemporary romance series that comes with a lot of content/trigger warnings. So before we dive into the reviews or you dive into the books themselves, please make sure you’re in a good head space when you pick this series up. All content/trigger warnings I found in these books will be listed at the top of each review.


Find Me (WITSEC #1) by Ashley N. Rostek

Content/Trigger Warnings: Violence, depictions of blood, death/murder recounted, loss of loved ones, grief, PTSD/trauma, graphic night terrors and flashbacks, underage drinking/alcoholism, smoking, bullying, depictions of panic & anxiety attacks, scenes of emesis, stalking, slut shaming, sexual assault, rape, scene of drugging, scene with a spider

Let me be frank, this was a lot, but oh, I was hooked and I couldn’t set this book down. I was completely sucked in and I ended up reading the next two books in the series, immediately after! There’s so much to unpack with this book, but I just want to say that please, please look at content and trigger warnings for this book and series as a whole. This won’t be a series for everyone because of all the content/trigger warnings and I just want to emphasize being in a good head space when picking this book, and series, up!

Shiloh has just relocated to Arizona, where she’s about to start life all over again. Picking up the pieces from a dark past, Shiloh wants to start anew, to live a normal life and finally graduate high school, to do as much as possible with this second chance at life. However, this is easier said than done. When Shiloh’s night terrors begin to impact her neighbors, soon the four handsome brothers begin crawling their way into Shiloh’s life and little does she know that the loneliness that’s eating away at her will slowly start to edge away.

I absolutely loved Shiloh’s character. I can’t begin to express what it truly means to read about a character who has PTSD/trauma and it be so accurately done, to see the portrayal be handled so beautifully. To read about a character who has gone through so much, survived so much, and to watch that character keep fighting just fills my heart with so many emotions and makes my heart melt into a puddle. That aside, Shiloh felt like such a realistic character. Shiloh constantly internally battles herself and we really get to see the highs and lows of the good and bad moments. I just have a lot of appreciation for Shiloh and the author creating this character. It means so much, more than words can describe.

Being introduced to the brothers was a whole entire experience in itself. Even though this is the first book, less than three-hundred pages, you still get a good feeling for the brothers. We’re introduced to the Stone twins first, Colt and Creed. Colt has a very golden retriever personality about him while Creed is very aloof, both brothers go to the same high school as Shiloh. We then meet Keelan next who is the second oldest Stone brother. Keelan is covered in tattoos, charming and friendly, and personally my favorite brother. Then lastly we have Knox. Knox is the oldest Stone brother, the most reserved and closed off brother, who carries the weight of everything on his shoulders. And he just so happens to be my second favorite brother of the bunch. Each brother has their own personality, but we see more of the twins than anything in the first book.

“You’re an asshole and your sexy muscles can go to hell.”

Now, here’s where we get to the good stuff. The spicy, the steamy, the smexy… nonexistent. Yup, you read that right, nonexistent. This isn’t a bad thing, though! This is a quartet series and like with many series tend to do, the first book is setting things up for the books to follow. Providing the back story, giving us those juicy details to questions we have, all that jazz. That’s probably one of the reason I loved this so much. I’m a sucker for writing bringing in details and it helps paint a bigger picture so you have a better idea of characters, situations, etc… So if you’re planning on picking this book up for sexy times, just know there’s no spice, only kissing.

Overall, this was such a fun start to a reverse harem, dark romance book! I truly don’t want to go into too many details because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. However, I’m fully, with my whole dang chest, invested in this series, the romance, the stalker subplot, literally everything. I’m here for it. Again, if you’ve been thinking about picking this series up, please check out the content ad trigger warnings because there are a lot of detailed scenes of PTSD/trauma in this book. If you’re someone like me who does deal with PTSD, a lot of those scenes may be triggering and I just really want to emphasize being in the right headspace for this series.


Save Me (WITSEC #2) by Ashley N. Rostek

Find Me ★★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: PTSD/trauma, graphic night terrors and flashbacks, depictions of blood, death/murder recounted, loss of loved ones, grief, scenes of drugging, violence, scenes of assault, gun violence, police brutality, attempted abductions, sexual content

Honestly, this was a fun time! I absolutely flew through my time reading this book and couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen next. With the first book setting the bar pretty high, I can confidently say that I still had a good time despite a few issues. I do want to say, this review will be on the shorter side of things as this book picks up where book one ended.

As I mentioned, this book picks up where book one ended. If you haven’t read the first book then you need to do that. No worries, this is a spoiler free zone. Getting past that part, we watch as Shiloh continues to build her relationships with the Stone brothers. If you’re a lover of the Stone twins, this is the book for you. There’s a huge heavy focus on the Stone twins in this book and we get to see Shiloh building deeper bonds, and connections with them. We do get brief moments with Keelan and Know, but they’re not given as big of parts in this book.

If you were hoping for spicy, steamy times then yes, we get some juicy scenes in the book. Yes, it’s more than kissing though there’s still a lot of kissing involved. Consent is heavily emphasized in this book and the Stone brothers (mainly the twins) checking with Shiloh on what she wants. I have a huge appreciation when consent is done well and really emphasized throughout a book and I just wanted to highlight that. The spicy scenes were great, not my cup of tea just due to the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of the twins. They were still enjoyable though.

There’s also a lot more exploration of Shiloh’s PTSD and trauma in this book, the way she manages and copes with it. We still get moment where we’re thrown in Shiloh’s past and there’s a few discussions involving how Shiloh has been handling all of that trauma. I don’t want to spoil too much in this department as I think it can be a bit spoiler-ish, but I appreciated a lot of things that were surrounding this as a whole.

“I was terrified at the time. But there are different levels of terror. Ones that will leave scars on your soul forever and completely break your sanity. As you try to move on, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of hating the idea of tomorrow, yet hoping you’re strong enough to see it.”

While there were many things I enjoyed about this book, I had a really big issue with this book and it was all the unnecessary drama that was added. Usually, I don’t mind when there’s a few subplots, however, I don’t like when minor subplots start taking over the main storyline and pushing aside the already established one. The whole stalker subplot basically takes to the back burner as a whole new subplot begins to take place. It completely took the focus away from the whole Mr. X thing and it just felt so unnecessary to be added in.

Overall, I still enjoyed this book despite the things I wasn’t loving. I still found myself breezing through this book the way I did the first one. I’m still invested in the series and again, I picked up the next book immediately just to know what was going to happen next. I do emphasize looking at content/trigger warnings in advance before starting this series or this book, just so you know what you’re in for.


Content/Trigger Warnings: Attempted abductions, multiple scenes of assault, harassment, violence, depictions of panic and anxiety attacks, PTSD/trauma, trauma recounted, graphic night terrors and flashbacks, loss of loved ones recounted, grief, underage drinking, police brutality, manipulation, sexual content, potential scene of rape/sexual assault

Find Me ★★★★★
Save Me ★★★★

Oh boy, this… this was not it friends. Okay, I still enjoyed this book, but I had so many issues with this book. I’m definitely in the minority on this, so take my review with a grain of salt, but all I can really is say is wow. This is book three in this quartet and so far out of all the books, this feels like the weakest book. As with Save Me, this is going to be a short review just to avoid any spoilers as book three does pick up right where book two’s cliff hanger ended.

Honestly, I don’t know where to begin with this review. In this book, Ethan and Isabelle are such forces and shine so brightly. I’ve loved Ethan and Isabelle from the very beginning. I think they’re wonderful characters who really stand by their friends and don’t let anything sway them one way or another. Isabelle really shined the most for me and it was so nice to see Shiloh connect genuinely with another female character outside of all the drama plot that was happening. It just made my heart a little warm and fuzzy to see how close they had grown, and to be able to say it felt like a realistic, natural friendship build-up.

We also get a lot more steamy moments in this book. Whew, yes we do! There’s a fantastic scene with Keelan, Know, and Shiloh during a Halloween party. Oh my glob, it was delicious! Not a fan of Shiloh’s costume, but it was a really good scene for me. Of course, there are plenty of spicy scenes with the twins and we even get a scene with Shiloh and Keelan together. If you’re here for the steamy, spicy goodness then you’re going to enjoy the daylights out of this book.

“His lips moved over mine in such a devouring and needy way that my resolve finally snapped. My hands slid over his shoulders and I pressed closer to him. I reciprocated his kiss with equal neediness and the eagerness to be devoured.”

Despite these few good things, it was really hard to look past all the things that negatively impacted my reading experience with this book. Again, I want to restate that this is the third book in this quartet. My biggest issue with this book is the fact that we’re supposed to believe our main character, Shiloh, is in a relationship with all four of the Stone brothers. However, I’m not convinced and nothing bothers me more than when authors decide to take on polyamorous relationships or reverse harem relationships and then can’t bring a balance to the whole thing. There’s a huge imbalance in the relationships between Shiloh and the Stone brothers. If you love the twins, guess what, it’s your lucky day because they are so heavily focused in almost every aspect, sexual or otherwise, that I ended up really coming to despise the twins. Before I was indifferent and appreciated the way the connections were building, was even starting to enjoy the twins, but now that we’re in book three and Keelan and Knox still haven’t gotten enough page time with Shiloh, I could careless about the twins. This book had the chance to really solidify Shiloh’s connection and desire with Know and Keelan, and it just wasn’t believable despite the spicy scenes we’re given because the twins are just so heavily focused.

My other issue is a little spoilery, but I wanted to add this in here because I just don’t have enough details to know if this should be labeled as a content/trigger warning. I still wanted to mention this scene because it unnerved me not knowing one way or the other and I feel it’s important to address it. There’s a scene of a potential home invasion, where Shiloh is really exhausted and a tall figure enters her bedroom, and Shiloh is so disoriented that she genuinely doesn’t know if it’s Knox or an intruder. That’s a whole scene that didn’t sit well with me and I wasn’t a fan of it. I just wanted to throw that in here as a warning because it may be triggering for some readers.

And of course, my other issue is the fact that this is the third book and the author waited until the very end of the book to bring back the Mr. X subplot. So, for the second book and the majority of this book (a whole 85-90%), we spend time in an entirely different subplot than the Mr. X stalker subplot. I can’t speak for other readers, but personally, I’m not a fan of being pulled away from an already pre-established subplot for a new one filled with unnecessary drama that didn’t need to be added in. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, personally.

Overall, I had high hopes for this book and this book just didn’t deliver the way I hoped to. And honestly, I don’t know if I even want to finish the series because of how this book as a whole left me feeling. I mean, yes, I enjoyed some aspects of this book, but now I’m nervous on whether or not the final book is going to be worth the read. Again, I’m definitely in the minority on this one. So please take my review with a grain of salt, but as always, I do hope you look over my content/trigger warnings for this book if you need them and to be in a good headspace when reading this series as a whole.


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3 Mini Reviews | The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Split Tooth, & I Am a Cat Barista Vol. 1

Salutations everyone! I hope you’re doing well and that your day is being gentle with you, whenever you may be reading this! Today, I’m back again with some more mini reviews. If I’m being honest, mini reviews have been a big help with holding myself accountable for getting a lot of my reviews out. They’ve also been allowing me to breathe a bit easier. I tend to write really long reviews (looking at my review of Famine) and sometimes I can stress myself out over it by A LOT. But I digress. January has been blessing me with so many good reads and all the reviews you’re about to read were all five stars reads for me! So I hope you enjoy my thoughts and feelings on these books! ♥


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Buddy Read with Destiny 

Gallant ★★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Feelings of isolation, starvation, assault (physical and sexual), depictions of abuse, abusive relationship, death, grief, loss of loved ones, drugs, substance abuse, prostitution, sexism, explicit sex, depictions of depression, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, scenes of war, brief mentions of cancer in the past

“Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.”

I can’t believe I’ve been sitting on V. E. Schwab’s work for so long! If you didn’t know – hi, hello, I am baby to Schwab’s books! My first book I ever read by Schwab was Gallant and I fell madly in love with that book. So it should come as no surprise that I’m sitting here, being soft and squishy over another book by Schwab. I’m not going to lie, this book was a very emotional, fantastic way to start off 2023. It was everything. It gave me feelings of the movie, The Age of Adaline, in some ways and even still this book touched parts of my soul. This book has truly kicked the new year off with a bang!

“Never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

Addie (Adaline) LaRue – Born in a small town with all the expectations placed upon her, but Addie is a dreamer, full of curiosity and wonder. Big dreams of seeing the world, to really live outside of this small town that expects so much of her. So when Addie turns twenty-three, everyone hopeful that Addie will finally slow down, be tamed by marriage, she quickly finds out that time isn’t something she’ll ever have to worry about, ever again.

“She has gone so long without roots, she doesn’t know how to grow them anymore.
So used to losing things, she isn’t sure how to hold them.
How to make space in a world the size of herself.”

Henry – A writer, working in a book store in New York, trying to live his life to the fullest. And one day he meets a girl with seven freckles, and he remembers her.

“His heart has a draft. It lets in light. It lets in storms. It lets in everything.”

Luc – A god, one that you should never pray to after dark, unless you’re desperate enough to pay an unknown price.

“I am not some genie, bound to your whim.” He pushes off the tree. “Nor am I some petty forest spirit, content with granting favors for mortal trinkets. I am stronger than your god and older than your devil. I am the darkness between stars, and the roots beneath the earth. I am promise, and potential, and when it comes to playing games, I divine the rules, I set the pieces, and I choose when to play. And tonight, I say no.”

When it’s clear her time is almost up, maybe, just maybe, Addie is that willing to pay the unknown price as she runs into the forest, late one night. Willing to risk everything if it means she can escape her fate, to see her dream through, and to have a life that is truly hers. Over the course of three-hundred years, we’ll watch Adaline struggle, grow, love and fall apart. Starting in the place it all began, the small town where she was born and ending in 2014 America. We’ll watch Addie yearn to be remembered, desiring to leave some for of a mark, doing everything within her to gain knowledge and experience the world like she truly wanted, even if it hurts more times than not.

“Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?”

I want to take a moment to highlight Henry because I think he truly deserves a spotlight on his character. I honestly didn’t expect to love Henry as much as I did, but oh, did his character hit my heart so hard with all the feelings and emotions. I have never wanted to go feral and protect a character as much as I did with Henry. While I think Addie and Luc felt very realistic (yes, even Luc, despite him being a god), there was something so raw about his character. I think readers are going to feel that ‘hits close to home’ kind of feeling with his character. Being unsure of what you want out of life, feeling something is wrong with you, or feeling like you’re not good enough, not doing enough… Feeling like no one will ever be able to love you with their whole chest, to love you unconditionally… Henry as a character hits the nail on the head and even more so if you’re in your twenties, fresh out of high school, starting life. It hits like a ton of bricks and Schwab didn’t hold back when she wrote Henry’s character and the way he struggles with mental health. And I’m so glad, so grateful Schwab let us fall in love with Henry as much as we get to fall in love with Addie.

“It is just a storm, he tells himself, but he is tired of looking for shelter. It is just a storm, but there is always another waiting in its wake.”

And while I love Addie and Henry a whole lot, we have one more character we still need to talk about, Luc, the god Addie made a deal with. Now, I do love Luc’s character. However, surprisingly, I didn’t love him as much as I thought I would. Also, let me emphasize that the relationship between Luc and Addie, their three-hundred-year deal, is not a healthy relationship, at all. There’s a huge power imbalance between the two of them and Addie has to constantly fight to gain even the tiniest bread crumb of power for herself. We see the way Luc and Addie’s relationship morphs, grows, and constantly develop over the course of time. The reason why I didn’t like Luc as a character as much as I thought I would, it’s the fact of wanting more. Honestly, I would have loved a third perspective. I think Schwab could have written Luc’s third perspective so we could have seen his side of things. My wanting to know more of him, dampened my love for him a bit, but as a whole character, I do love him. When I think of god who fall into the grey area of not necessarily good, but not whole heartily evil, Luc comes to my mind. I also want to point out that I think Schwab left out Luc’s perspective for a reason. Everything she did with crafting and building Luc’s character felt like a deliberate way to make him charming, to be alluring, and make the reader still love him. The fact is, abusers/abusive people can be all those characteristics about them and at the end of the day still be abusers.

“You didn’t come.”
“You didn’t call.”
She looks down at their tangled hands. “Tell me, Luc,” she says.
“Was any of it real?”

“What is real to you, Adeline? Since my love counts for nothing?”
“You are not capable of love.”
He scowls, his eyes flashing emerald. “Because I am not human? Because I do not wither and die?”
“No,” she says, drawing back her hand. “You are not capable of love because you cannot understand what it is to care for someone else more than yourself. If you loved me, you would have let me go by now.”
Luc flicks his fingers. “What nonsense,” he says. “It is because I love you that I won’t. Love is hungry. Love is selfish.”

We do see Addie, Henry, and Luc all come together, watch their stories begin to unfold and how they’re all connected. And that’s all I’ll say about that. I think it’s best if you venture into the book yourself to find out want happens. What I will say, this was a wild ride and every step of the way had my breath catching in my throat.

“Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives–or to find strength in a very long one.”

Overall, there’s so much more that I want to say, that I definitely shouldn’t say because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, dear reader. As I mentioned, it’s been a hot minute since a book pulled the rawest emotions from within the depths of my soul. A book that has caused me to reflect on the things I crave, what my soul truly yearns for, what it really means to be remembered. Even now my eyes are watering because this book just touched the softest parts of me. I think this book really hits the human experience, captures it in all of the rawest ways, and I think if you’re like me, reading this book when you really need it, it’s going to unravels your tangled heart. And before I forget, quotes upon quotes! I wanted to dedicate so many notebook pages just to quotes. Truly, I wish I would have read this sooner because I think this is going to be a forever favorite read of mine.

Thank you, Addie LaRue. I will always remember you. ♥


Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual abuse, child abuse, death, brief mentions of famine, alcoholism, drug use

“This is where my lesson was learned: pain is to be expected, courage is to be welcomed. There is no choice but to endure. There is no other way than to renounce self-doubt. It is the time of the Dawning in more ways than one. The sun can rise, and so can I”

This book has been on my ‘want to read’ list for what feels like ages and after much time has passed, I finally got my hands on a hardback copy! I knew I would love this book, but I didn’t expect it to pull so many emotions from me. At the end, I not only loved this book, but oof, my heart! I think this might be the most beautifully haunting book I’ve read thus far.

Before I give my initial thoughts, I want to put a heavy, HEAVY emphasis on the themes of sexual abuse in this book. This is a consistent theme throughout these pages and as far as the physical book copy goes, there are no mentions of trigger warnings. Like I have listed above, I just really wanted to spotlight this in case anyone was considering picking this book up. To give you the gentle reminder to check in with your mental health before picking this book up.

My experience is a little different compared to most readers. A lot of reviews I’ve seen have been for the audiobook and sadly, I can’t make any comments about the throat singing that is featured in the audiobook. However, I love the fact that the extra mile was taken to feature throat singing and I wish more Native/Indigenous literature, in audiobook format, went that extra mile.

“There are secrets hidden in our flesh. Our cells being born and dying with the same force that makes galaxies form and deconstruct.”

Prepare for a haunting, bone chilling reading experience as this book isn’t for the faint of heart. Set in the northern parts of Canada, we read passages of mixed media, of surviving in the Great North. Told in first person, we’re taken to a place where empathy for others is scarce and one must do whatever it takes to survive. A place where sexual abuse is common and part of a young girl’s “normal” sexual development, where death looms in this disguise of ice, and where fox populations can get immense that they starve and start attacking children. No, this place is cruel in more ways than one, but also chillingly beautiful. Tagaq recounts everything clearly, like it happened yesterday, and with almost a young girlish wonder. Though at times disconcerting with how you should feel after such passages.

Though this book is haunting and beautiful, it’s incredibly powerful, jarring, and incredibly important. If you miss the dedication, this is a reminder that this book is dedicated to Murder & Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, 2S and to residential school survivors. This dedication is an echoed reminder, constantly, throughout this book and just adds to the various amounts of emotions you’ll experience while reading/listening. Tagaq does an incredible job taking those important themes, weaving them throughout the book with culture and mythology.

Overall, I’m being careful not to say too much when it comes to this book. I think the best way to read this book is going into this is just knowing the content warnings and then diving in. Will it make sense? Possibly not. Will you feel like you’ve been swept in a whirlwind of things unfolding? Absolutely! As an Apache Native, did I fully understand everything I was reading? Not always, but oh was I swept away by everything this book is, everything laced throughout, and yes, I did cry more than once. This book will stick with me for a long time and even now I’m still thinking about it. I do want to recommend the audiobook, though, especially now knowing that there is throat singing. I think it’ll add an element that the physical book is lacking. So do check it out especially if you’ve never heard any throat singing before.


I Am a Cat Barista, Vol. 1 by Hiro Maijima

What a purrfect manga to pick up after a long, stressful day! Pun intended! Truly, this was such a lovely manga to curl up and unwind with. Like drinking a big mug of hot chocolate on a chilly winter day, this book warmed my heart. Can you tell that I need more slice of life manga in my life? Because I sure can!

There’s a café that only appears to those who truly need it. Worn out from work, stressed and overwhelmed by school, or various other things that may make us feel heavy. Staffed by the talking cat barista, who everyone refers to as Master, which pays homage to his position as the only barista at the café than anything else. Offering a place where patrons of the weary and troubled can take the time to rest a while, and receive advice with the Café Hachiware’s Special drink.

If you love slice of life manga then this will be the great read for you. I went into this book not really looking for a solid storyline, but something more casual, cozy, and light-hearted. And that’s exactly what I got! As I mentioned above, this was the perfect light read to unwind with and I’m glad I chose to read this at night, as I was settling down for sleep because it helped me relax.

If I had to fault this book for anything that I think other readers won’t enjoy, it would be the fact that there’s not a big difference in each chapter. The only chapter that really stands out the most is chapter 5: Ashio Miyako and Her Lost Cat. This chapter stands out the most due to the main character, the cat barista doing something outside of just giving sage advice and a beverage to serve the person’s woes. Otherwise, all the other stories take on the pattern of someone comes in, sits down, gets some wisdom and the special beverage, and then you move to the next chapter. I will say, the chapter where the cat barista goes to meet a friend also stands out. That chapter was interesting and I hope in future volumes we get to see their friendship explored a little more.

Overall, this was the kind of manga I’ve been looking for recently. A light-hearted, cozy read that I can unwind with, but also can see myself rereading in the future. This was the perfect fit for me! Again, if you like slice of life books then I definitely encourage you to pick this manga up! It’s so cute, so wholesome, and just lovely to read!


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Mini Reviews | Cancer Ships Aquarius, Titan, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

Salutations everyone! I hope you’re staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. Welcome to 2023, the year where I continue writing mini reviews for books that I’ve read, but never got around to writing the review for them. Today I just have three mini reviews for you. These books have been waiting to be reviewed for a while now and I’m really glad I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts with all of you. These reviews are ranked in order from highest star rating (5 stars) to my lowest read (2 stars). Without out any further delay, let’s jump into the reviews!


Cancer Ships Aquarius by Anyta Sunday

Leo Loves Aries (Signs of Love #1) ★★★★★
Leo Tops Aries (Signs of Love #1.5) ★★★★★
Scorpio Hates Virgo (Signs of Love #2) ★★★★★
Gemini Keeps Capricorn (Signs of Love #3) ★★★★
Pisces Hooks Taurus (Signs of Love #4) ★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of loved ones, grief, brief mentions of child abandonment, thalassophobia (fear of the ocean), anxiety, mention of heart condition & heart attack, accidental underage drinking, mentioned brief homelessness, child abuse/neglect (in the past), trauma/PTSD flashbacks

This is a far overdue review and I’m happy to say that I’m finally sitting down to give this review. This is probably my favorite book out of the whole series so far! I absolutely fell in love with this book, with the characters, and the fact that compared to all the other books in this series, this book does something the rest doesn’t give us. I ate this book up so fast and honestly, I want more books that are like this one.

Reid Glover has spent his whole life being abandoned, left in the breeze by those he cares about most. Now with his best friends moving in together, Reid finds himself once again losing his home. Desperate for cash and a place to stay until he can figures things out, he interviews for a position as a live-in manny position aboard widowed Sullivan Bell’s yacht. But things aren’t going to be that simple and thirteen-year-old Joanna doesn’t want or need a manny, but she does want to give her dad a friend, maybe even something more. This grumpy sunshine duo is about to shake up each other’s worlds!

Did you hear me? Read it again and say it really loud for those in the back… WIDOWED father of a thirteen-year-old daughter! YES PLEASE! I say this all the time, I want to see literature give us second chance romances with a single/widowed parent. I get it if authors are worried about if there’s a desire/market for that, but I’m telling you that this was every thing I love about single/widowed parent representation in literature. We have the chaos of a single parent raising a teenager, the possibility of that parent finding love, the complex layers of it all and trying to navigate a plethora of feelings… I want more! Not to mention the widowed father literally has a grumpy personality. It was everything thing. Then you throw Reid into the mix, who’s a ray of sunshine, trying to make the best of everything and trying to make everyone happy, and it’s chef’s kiss! I briefly want to talk about Joanna too because I think her representation is just as important to highlight. Joanna is adopted and though it’s a bit of a very subtle thing on the side in the story, Joanna is navigating a whole bunch of complex feelings right along with her father. We not only see the typical teenager stuff like school and relationships, but we see more glimpses of other things from her. And I just wanted to mention how much her character stole my heart.

“Sometimes we explode in anger, sadness, frustration with little to no warning. Feelings are messy, Sullivan. Expressing them can’t always be measured.”

Also, we get some fantastic grief representation throughout this book. I think this story really did a fantastic job at highlighting how grief manifests differently in different people of various ages. All three of our characters are dealing with different forms of grief and they’re highlighted throughout this book beautifully. This was one of the major things that really made me fall in love with this book. In my opinion, I think the author handled the grief representation really well, showed how messy and chaotic grief can be, shows that no matter how much time passes, grief never really leaves us even when we’re healing it still lingers, and shows how grief is different for each person. It was just really beautiful and for some reason, made my heart really full.

Overall, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this book and I honestly don’t want to say too much because it’s just that good. I want you to read it for yourself and decide if you like it or not. I will say, I think you could read this book by itself, but there are cameos from other characters from the previous books and I think it’s more fulfilling to read this after you read the first four in the series. But trust me, it’s really good especially if you’re someone who loves the grumpy sunshine romance dynamic.


Titan (Romancing His Stone #1) by Jillian Graves

Buddy Read with Destiny 

Content/Trigger Warnings: Explicit dom/sub interactions, financial abusive parent relationship, mentions and threats of conservatorship, acrophobia (fear of heights), vague scenes of sexual harassment, harassment, assault, graphic violence, stalking, depictions of blood

Well, this is embarrassing. Not embarrassing by the fact that I read this book and reviewing it, but the fact that in the time since finishing this book, I have been teeter-totting on my feelings with this book. Which, let’s be honest, is why I haven’t taken it upon myself to write this review… until now. Honestly, I had originally rated this a lot higher because I was so caught up in the fast pace of this book. However, once the dust settled and I came down off the rush, my feelings were on a fast decline. I was really excited about a gargoyle romance especially when you start reading this book and it feels like Gargoyles fanfiction. This novella didn’t turn out the way I had hoped or even the way I initially thought I felt.

Titan is on a mission to recover the Keystone, a precious artifact to the gargoyles and all Strange (what paranormal creatures are called in this world). When he meets Jules on a stake out one night, both of their worlds will soon collide. Jules will be thrown into a world of the paranormal, where monsters she thought were once fantasy, actually exist and Titan will discover a pull unlike any other even more noticeable than the pull he has for the Keystone. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Look, the first part of this book was really fun. I love when a character who’s has to constantly be on the alert, in constant survival mode, gets to take their hair down and enjoy life a little. I also love that we get a lot of consent and respectfulness of boundaries in the bedroom. Fantastic, I love to see consent and boundaries being taken seriously. I also really liked how Titan was angry for Jules when no one else was and genuinely wanted to help Jules. Also, I thought the chemistry between the two main characters was really good in the beginning. And all of that combined made for a really fun, good time to be had for my reading experience, in the beginning.

Sadly, this is the extent of good things I have to say. Honestly, I feel like I’m still being generous and I think it’s just due to this being a gargoyle romance. Things really started to fall to pieces for the remaining three quarters of the book. The pacing of the book picks up pretty quickly and it’s very easy to get swept up in the rush. Which is exactly what happened to me.

While Titan was respectful of Julianne in the bedroom, that was the full extent of the respect for boundaries we see. Titan fully disregards Jules’ wishes and boundaries constantly any other time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love when my boundaries are respected 24/7. This boiled my blood and even more so when we find out everything that Jules is going through, and why she does things the way she does. I was really upset that consent and boundaries were basically thrown out the window, and didn’t matter if it wasn’t in the bedroom. Boundaries aren’t a piece of clothing that you can take on and off. Boundaries are something that should be respected at all times.

On the topic of boundaries, this applies to one scene in particular that I thought had no place being in the book and actually messed up the entire vibe of the book in general. This part in particular ended up leaving a really bad taste in my mouth because it genuinely felt so… unnecessary. We have a scene where Titan not only fully disregards Jules’ request to stay out of it, don’t do anything reckless, but it’s a scene of full assault to someone from Jules’ life that hurt her. This completely took me out of the storyline, took me out of the romance, and it was in that moment that I really didn’t care what happened to Titan. Titan could have been killed off and I wouldn’t even bat an eye because any ounce of interest I had was thrown out the widow the minute the author decided to add an unnecessary, graphically violent scene of assault into the book. Not to mention, this scene didn’t even tie in with the main storyline and the author really wrote Titan in the aftermath as doing Jules a kindness. No, NO, this was not a kindness and this scene never had to happen in the first place.

With all that aside, the main leads of our story become almost unbearable by the end of the book. Jules constantly takes on a petty, childish tone and personality where she’s literally doing shit to piss Titan off or doesn’t even try to have a proper conversation when Titan does something she’s not okay with. As I already mentioned, Titan really started to really annoy me and piss me off. In the beginning his character wasn’t terrible, but by halfway through, he was just becoming overly aggressive or even passive aggressive at some points, and I’m not a fan of that kind of behavior. By the end of this book, I genuinely didn’t care what would happen to either of them because I was so annoyed by how they were acting more childish than like adults.

Overall, I wanted to love this so much and I think my desire of wanting a gargoyle romance for so long really shadowed how I felt about this book, and showed the many notes taken on issues I was having with it. This book could have been everything for my gargoyle loving heart and it just fell short in so many ways. I think if you’re someone who values boundaries a lot, you’re not going to enjoy this book. Honestly, you can find books that value boundaries a lot better, with characters in many other adult romance books than this one. If you’re just someone looking for a fast read or a potential fun time, then give this a try and see how you feel, but personally I wouldn’t recommend for any other reason.


The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Buddy with Destiny 

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of misogyny, mentions of bullying, gore, blood, violence, graphic injuries, dead animals, graphic animal deaths, mentions of animal abuse, mentions of burying someone alive, mentions of kidnapping, brief mentions of a miscarriage, alcoholism, brief mentions of a hanging (in the past), loss of loved ones, scene of attempted suicide, scene of overdosing, scenes of emesis, nudity, talk of rape, mentions of domestic violence, mentions of racism, scenes of gaslighting

Okay, okay… This has been the review I have been DREADING. Let me make this clear, this is not a bad book, but this wasn’t my cup of tea, I’m definitely not the targeted audience for this specific horror, and that’s perfectly okay. I’m stating all of this because reasons (don’t ask). Truly though, there’s nothing wrong with this book. I think I just wanted more of certain things when it comes to my horror and instead of getting just that, I got something else entirely that just left me unsatisfied and frustrated.

We follow Patricia Campbell, who’s dreamed of having a big life, but that’s not how things turned out. After leaving her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a stay at home mother, Patricia is left with a void in her life. With a husband is distant and too busy for her and their children, two kids who are ungrateful and don’t appreciate her, and a never ending to-do list, Patricia feels like she’s drowning. The only thing that makes things a little more tolerable is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. However, when strange events begin to happen and children start to go missing, every thing seems to point to the mysterious stranger who just moved to town. What will be uncovered will be much more terrifying and Patricia and her book club might be the only thing to stop it.

“it made no sense, but sometimes you did a thing because that was just what you did, not because it was sensible.”

I’m not even sure how to even begin unpacking this review. I guess we’ll start with our villain of the book, James. I loved that the author wasn’t afraid to take the iconic vampire and reimagine it into a serial killer. I think being able to take iconic monsters and reimagine them into modern day monsters can be a great way to breathe life into them. Then have the vampire cross paths with those in a book club who read mostly true crime, mystery, sci-fi books… Who wouldn’t be invested and waiting to see the chaos explode everywhere? It was one of the most intriguing, attention captivating things about this whole book. James character as a whole was incredibly impactful and the scenes we get him, you felt how cunning and manipulative he was. You felt the power in those really intense scenes. It was really well done.

Out of all the characters in this book, thank you Mrs. Greene for existing because any scene with her was fantastic! I loved how much of a spitfire Mrs. Greene was and wasn’t afraid of calling people out. Tie that with how she’s the only one who knows what’s going on and cares enough that she’s been trying for a hot minute to do something about the missing children. I just really enjoyed her character and maybe it’s because there’s a part of me that felt connected to her or understands her better than all the other characters we’re given. She was a gem and I adored her.

“These false prophets come wandering into town, take hold of your mind, and lead you down a primrose path… People fall for honeyed words.”

Those are the only things I can actively remember enjoying. From the time I finished this book to the time of writing this review, those were the only good things that I still think about and remember vividly to this very moment. Everything else in this book was a struggle horrendous struggle. If I’m being really honest, I pushed myself to finished this book because I desperately wanted to love it, to have the experience other readers were having when they said how amazing this book was, and I think the fear of missing out really impacted how burned out I got trying to read through this book.

I think the thing I struggled the most with this book was the pacing. For me, the pacing felt incredibly off. It would start out slow, have an action packed scene that picked up the pace, and then the pace would slow down again. Typically when I read my books, I want an out of the gate fast pace or I want that slow build into a faster pace trickling into a slow, smooth end. This book was neither of those paces. So that really hindered me with the reading. And I think the overuse of details really bogged that pacing as well. There were many chapters where things felt like they were being dragging out. Not necessarily due to details, but just the way some of the some of the moments were built. It was like trying to run through quick sand for me.

I also struggled caring about the characters like Patricia and the rest of the book club. While I thought they were all unique in their own ways and how close they were, having each other’s backs, I just didn’t care what happened to them. Patricia was the hardest character to like (and this goes back into what I said earlier about how Mrs. Greene’s perspective would have been better) because there was nothing there that allowed me to connect with her. I simply didn’t care and it was that way for all of them. They were all interesting in their own way and it was great to see their personalities come together, but I just didn’t care whether any of them lived or died.

I think my biggest issue with this book is the way mental health and rape are handled. I don’t see anyone talking about this in their reviews and so I thought I’d like to throw my two cents into the ring. As someone who has experience with both of these topics. My issue isn’t with the fact that the author writes about how women were treated in the mid-late 1800s when it came to the main character and side characters acting independent or speaking up (you know, the era when women could be committed into asylums for breaking the social norm). My issue is the fact the author thought it was necessary to add in an attempted suicide for shock value, a means to push the story along into a future tense, and then to add salt to injury, have an entire scene near the end of the book where the main character is basically gaslight for how everything played out. That’s my issue. The same issues also tie in with the fact the author uses rape as a plot device and for shock value. Look, I don’t mind shock value for a lot of things, but you know, I would have preferred the character to be killed off quickly than have that whole scene happen and then be dragged out over chapters, having it be kept a secret, and then for things to turn out the way they did. When I say I’m left angry, speechless, and heartbroken that we’re still living in an age where instead of writing about these topics to address or call out the still standing problems of the healthcare system and the social problems for these two topics, that we’re using them as plot devices in a non-constructive way (these didn’t even need to be in the book in the first place). What more can I say except this just wasn’t it. These didn’t need to be included in this book and yet an active choice was made, and it wasn’t a good one.

Also, I want to add this little note that I had expected a lot more from this book. I was expecting to feel a lot more dread, a lot more sense of impending doom, and more gore and death. However, that was not the case. I spent the majority of the book wondering and expecting to feel something, but it just never happened and it was a bit of a disappointment.

Overall, I’m just going to wrap up this review here. Writing this review has felt very tedious and mentally draining. Again, I chalk this up as not the intended audience or not the book for me. So take my review with a grain of salt. I’m just one voice in the sea of voices. I think this book had the opportunity to be many things, but unfortunately it fell short on so many things for me. I think if you like this author’s writing and other books to give this book a chance, and see how you feel.


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Mini Reviews | The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives, The Sockeye Mother, If I Go Missing, Night of the Living Rez: Stories, & What the Chickadee Knows

Salutations friends! I’m back with some more mini reviews! I hope you don’t mind that this is going to be a larger mini reviews post than usual. Today I’m going to be talking about five Indigenous books and recommend them to you. Yes! Yes you reader! If you’re looking to diversify your reading, wanting to read more literature by Native/Indigenous then I think these books are a good place to start. However, these book are unapologetically Indigenous and know that I loved each of these books with my whole dang chest! Anyway, here are five books that I’ve loved so far for the month of November! ♥


🪶 The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives by Linda LeGarde Grover
Finished copy provided by Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of Residential schools, abuse, trauma/PTSD, generational trauma, loss of loved ones, grief

I sobbed. Friends, I have sobbed all through this book, I cried after finishing this book, and even now as I write up this review I’m getting teary eyed. For starters, look at this cover. I’m in love with it! It’s absolutely stunning and I just needed to point this out to everyone. That aside, this book is such a loud book. It’s raw, incredibly important, and the kind of book that you need to sit on after you finish it, to feel the weight and emotions that you’ve read through. However, I always get super mushy when something is unapologetically Native/Indigenous.

This poetry collection is a collection that reflects on the experience in Ojibwe lives. Moments on boarding schools and Wounded Knee, but lacing the important moments of love, family, and culture throughout these pages. A poetry collection that encourages the reader to sit upon the weight of the history that Turtle Island (now known as North America or The United States & Canada) was subjected to, to encourage reflection and acknowledgement of how this history still carries into today. To encourage the reader to take their time reading with this book.

If I had to say anything negative about this collection, I think it would be that there are no resources for non-Native/non-Indigenous readers to follow up on with reading. I know many non-Native/non-Indigenous readers tend to struggle with connecting with Native/Indigenous literature and I think it would have been helpful if there were more resources linking to even more stories from Ojibwe people. HOWEVER, I will say/argue that Google is free, articles on Native/Indigenous history is free, YouTube is free, most Nations have their own websites linking their histories, stories and resources. All the sources are literally out there at your fingers tips, you just have to actually put in the work to find those resources. It shouldn’t be the Native/Indigenous author’s responsibility to do all the work for you.

Some of my favorites:

Sea Smoke on Gichigami
Mary Remembering, on a July Afternoon
Redemption

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this poetry collection. This collection made my heart very mushy, very soft, and really emotional. This is so much more than just a poetry collection and the powerfulness, the loudness of this book is just immaculate. I don’t think this book will be for everyone and I think there will be readers who struggle with this because there are poems that use the Ojibwe language. However, I love when an author uses their first language and does it unapologetically, and this book is very unapologetically Native/Indigenous. It was just a fantastic read and I can’t recommend it enough to those who want to read more Native/Indigenous literature.


🪶 The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) & Natasha Donovan

This book was stunning! Stunning! From the story to the artwork, I absolutely fell in love with this book. I’m truly grateful to a friend who recommended this book to me and needless to say… I’ve already bought book two and added the rest of the series to many of my wishlists. I’m really excited to read the rest of the series and experience more of the Mothers of Xsan, and the stories from the Gitxsan Nation of British Columbia!

To the Gitxsan Nation of British Columbia, the sockeye salmon is more than their source of food, but also important to their survival. This book reflects how the circle of life impacts everything. From birth to death, everything in an ecosystem is impacted and even the smallest creature has an important role. We see that through the cycle of the sockeye salmon in this book and how it contributes to the Gitxsan Nation.

The biggest thing I want to highlight about this book is the role the sockeye salmon has. We don’t just see the sockeye salmon ecologically, but we see it culturally for the Gitxsan Nation, as well. This is the main point of this whole entire book. Everything is connected to each other and I think this book does a fantastic job at highlighting this for readers. Far too often, we tend to forget how even the smallest thing can make the biggest ripples. The author wrote this book in a way to not only highlight this, but causes the reader to reflect and really think about, well, literally everything that is life.

The other thing I was super happy about was the highlighted vocabulary words. This book does a really good job providing that for those special key words. I really love that and really appreciate the author taking the time to do that. And this makes it an ever better reading experience if you’re reading this book with younger readers. I think it adds so much to the reading experience and I enjoyed taking the time to read the little boxes. Speaking of vocabulary, we see Gitxsan language being used and it makes my heart so full. I love when authors use their first language unapologetically in their books. There’s also a Gitxsan Moons vocabulary chart in the back of the book too. I love that this little detail was added to just add to Gitxsan being used throughout this book! We love to see it!

“Little does this small sockeye fry know that its life cycle not only nourishes the people and other beings along the watersheds, it is the whole reason the forests and landscapes exist.”

Let’s talk about the artwork within this book. Holy cow, the illustrations are gorgeous. Some of the pages I want to frame and hang on the wall because it’s so beautiful. The way the colors play and compliment each page individually is captivating and constantly drawing the eye to soak up all the details on each page. Not to mentions, in the back of the book there’s an illustrated map that shows where the four clans are located. It’s everything in a map that I want. Immaculate. Truly immaculate.

Overall, I loved this book. What more can I possibly say about this book. To me, this book is flawless and perfect to read with readers of all ages. Plus, you’re never too old to learn something new. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m excited to continue with this series. I believe there’s five or six books total and I’m excited to continue on. I recommend giving this a chance as it’s a shorter read and perfect for those who want to dip their toes into Native/Indigenous literature.


🪶 If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie, Nahanni Shingoose, Neal Shannacappo (Illustrations)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk about MMIWG2S, racism

This is an illustrated book that’s inspired by the letter written by 14 year-old, Brianna Jonnie to Winnipeg’s chief of police, addressing how white children are framed in a better light over those who are Native/Indigenous. And when those who are Native/Indigenous do go missing, making the news, they’re always framed in a stereotypical light that dehumanizes them. This is the story highlighting what it means to be Native/Indigenous and the constant worry Native/Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people face should they go missing.

This book made me really emotional for so many reasons, hit so close to home and I was very raw after reading this book. I don’t think there’s enough words to convey, even now, how I feel right now writing this review. As an Apache person, I spent many moments in my life where this was my biggest concern and moments where I almost turned into a missing person. So this left me feeling very seen and very vulnerable all in one. This also touches a personal side to my family that too personal talk about and I don’t feel comfortable sharing, but it hit close in that regards too. So I was feeling very vulnerable and very emotional for so many reasons.

There’s also plenty of resources in the back of the book along with the letter that was written. For those who enjoy having websites to follow up on this with, this is the book for you. There are six website links to various resources and it’s great to get more familiar with MMIW & MMIWG2S. So if you wanted resources to learn more about the hardships Native/Indigenous people face, I recommend starting with this book.

Overall, I don’t want to say too much other than I really enjoy this book, despite all the tears shed. Again, this book hit very close to home and just writing a review is making me feel some kind of way. If you’re looking to dip your toes into Native/Indigenous literature, but you don’t want to start with a book that’s going to bathe you in the cold hard, historical truth for hundreds of pages, then pick this book up. Its informative, provides statements, follow up links for further education, and isn’t too long that you may feel over-stimulated. Its a good starting point for everyone and I highly recommend it!


🪶 Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

ALC was given by Libro.fm & Tin House Books in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, scenes of emesis, poverty, talk of dementia, talk of infertility, brief mentions of postpartum depression, loss of a child, loss of a loved one, death

This was the perfect audiobook for long drives to go hiking, friends. I’m not going to lie, I think because I was listening to the audiobook and hiking while doing so, it added to how much I enjoyed it and how quickly I flew through this book. Though honestly, I was a little salty that I couldn’t update my reading progress of the audiobook as I was listening, but it’s fine, everything is fine. I really enjoyed this and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Night of the Living Rez is a short story collection portraying the life of Maine’s Native Penobscot Nation. Stories of layered friendships, dysfunctional family dynamics, addiction in Native/Indigenous communities, trauma, the way poverty influences us and some of the decisions we make, and so much more! Though there are many, MANY heavy moments, Talty laces funny and light moments to help balance the heavier moments. All these stories from different points of time come together to make a collection that you’ll think about days after you finished reading this book.

If you were expecting a horror book or a light read, then let me emphasize that this book is probably not the book you’re looking for. This book has many dark moments that are brutal, that will gut you or make your heart wrench. Morgan Talty has stated in multiple interviews that he didn’t want to write Native/Indigenous people in a way that’s “easy, comfortable tour of Indian Country.” You can find one of those interviews HERE. The author wanted to write these characters, this family, in a way that humanizes them and breaks down the stereotypical image. To show those struggles and that constant fight for survival, when you’re at the bottom of the barrel and no one addresses it, but those who constantly go through it. So that’s why I say make sure you’re in a good mental place and to check out content warnings. This is beautifully written, but there’s a lot of heavy topics.

I really enjoyed the audiobook. I really want to put emphasis on this because I’ve seen a few reviews stating they didn’t like the physical form of this book. For me, I think the audiobook is what brought balance to the time shifts. I think if I had read the physical copy, the shift in time might have been a little jarring or overwhelming. However, I think the transitions were really well done in the audiobook and it helps with the way the narrator handles those transitions.

However, while I did enjoy this book, I did have one issue when it came to the audiobook. I wish that the audiobook would of had multiple narrators. Sometimes the voices of certain characters would blend together and it was a little hard to tell who was who. I think if they had a full cast for this book or even two narrators, it would have improved the listening experience. Other than that, I think the only issue that some readers may find, is the flow of the story and the time shifts. As I stated above, I think the audiobook helped in the regard, but I can understand why many readers didn’t feel this book was a short story collection.

Overall, I think this will be a very polarizing book among readers. I think people will either love this book or really not like this book. Again, I emphasize, this isn’t a horror book, but a book that leans more contemporary and deals with very heavy topics. Despite this, I really enjoyed this collection. As someone who has family members who live on the rez, some of the stories hit close to home for me concerning one of my cousins. Plus, I was listening to this while I was out hiking in the woods and it added to the feelings I was already feeling when I go to get lost in the woods. I still recommend this book. Even if you think you might not like it, I encourage you to give it a chance as this book does have themes that impact Native/Indigenous communities.


🪶 Watch the Chickadee Knows by Margaret Noodin

“I know there are different worlds
because our ancestors sent them messages
because lost lovers now live in them
because you just said that right now.”

Another book that made me soft, teary eyed, and squishy! I loved this book so, so much. I think when I was taking notes and updating my reading progress I said something along the lines of, “Not me five pages in and sobbing over chickdees!” I just loved this poetry collection so much and the fact that it’s both in Anishinaabemowin and English was such an incredibly thing to see. This was such a captivating read that’s laced with deeper meanings to things and even though this is a quiet book, it’s so loud. This collection highlights the importance of traditions and relationships, but we also see history and connections, many connections, to nature.

“Whether we hear giji-giji-gaane-shii-shii or chick-a-dee-dee-dee depends on how we have been taught to listen. Our world is shaped by the sounds around us and the filter we use to turn thoughts into words.”

Overall, I don’t want to spoil too much because I think this collection is better when you go into it without knowing too much about it. It’s just a better experience when you go into it with an open heart and open mind. I wish as a kid I’d seen more books like this that had the dual languages. I think if I had books like this as a kid, it would have been absolutely everything. If you’re a poetry lover, I definitely have to recommend this to you. Plus, this cover is probably one of my favorite covers of all time, but I’m also very sentimental of chickadees.


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The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, & Carey Pietsch

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Explosions, bombs, death, vehicle accidents

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins ★★★★★

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited! ★★★★★

“For every evil impulse drawn from a tempted heart, there is a heroic deed, spurred on by unimaginable bravery.”

We have finally, FINALLY returned to The Adventure Zone! I know, I know… it’s been a hot minutes since I picked up this series, but we’re back and I’ve been eagerly waiting to start this. And what a more perfect season to pick this series back up than the autumnal season?! Truly, I’m thriving and this graphic novel, comic added 10 years onto my life! So grab your snack, sit back, and let’s follow our chaotic trio on a new chaotic adventure!

We once again join our chaotic friends, Magnus, Taako, Merle, and of course the hilarious dungeon master on a whole new adventure. This time our friend are jumping in the race car seats and they prepare to reclaiming The Sash of Gaia! However, they soon find out this won’t be so easy obtaining the artifact, and they’ll have a few close calls along the way. With the help of Hurley, our adventures will do everything they can to save lives and maintain balance, but… sometimes there’s a price to be paid and not even love can stop fate.

This was an absolutely fantastic read! If you don’t know by now, I absolutely love these characters and love following them. So when we’re introduced to Sloane and Hurley, we learn of their story, and their relationship… Be still my beating heart! I loved them, I absolutely loved them. They’re by no means a perfect couple and even the start of their relationship was rocky, but somehow they just work together. Not to mention, the height difference was so glorious to see. We stan tall women with short cuties! We also see some growth and development with our main three characters. We also get some very character specific moments for Taako and Merle, and I was thriving seeing them have their own moments. I wish we could of had a moment for Magnus, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see it in the next book.

“I don’t know if you can hear this anymore. But on the off chance you’re listening… on the off chance you’re still you… I wanted to give you fair warning. You’re going to lose tomorrow. And then… And then you’re gonna come home.”

There’s also a lot of hilarious moments, a lot of action packed moments, but most importantly, the freaking ending of this book wrecked me. I was sobbing and getting so emotional over how everything concludes. If there was ever a way to make me realize how attached to these characters, the ending really made me realize that. Even more so for Sloane and Hurley! We only have these two for this volume and everything that we get to learn about those two, it wasn’t enough. I wanted more and despite knowing we’d only have them for this volume, I still got emotional about their whole journey. This is what this series does so well though! It makes you get attached to these characters, no matter how brief or long term, and you just want to see them thrive, and succeed.

If I had to say anything negative about this volume, it’s that I have more questions than I do answers. Volume two of this series already gave us a whole lot of questions that we don’t get answers to and now we’re in the third volume, still without anymore clarity. The ending of this left me with so many more questions than answers and I really wish I had a bread crumb to go off of. Even the small scenes for foreshadowing doesn’t really lead me to a whole lot either. So I’m invested to get my answers, but also I wish we had gotten at least a bread crumb at the end or something.

“Is it for keepsies? Everything is for keepsies if you’re sneaky about it.”

Overall, I always have a blast reading this series and getting caught up on the shenanigans of this family. There were so many funny moments like Merle and the vines, and the introduction of Garyl, too! I need more of this, more of Garyl in general! It was just a fun time and I love a good story that can remind me how much I love and adore my all my nerdy goodness. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves DnD, loves RPG (role playing games), or just want a fast read for any readathons. I do recommend that you read these in order though because, in my opinion, the recaps don’t always give all the best details to give a good overall of what’s happened thus far. So read them in order and have fun while you do!

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

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Drug use, alcoholism, blood depictions, graphic injuries, gore, grief, loss of a loved ones, loss of a parent (in the past), death, murder, scenes of emesis, PTSD/trauma, slut-shaming, death of a child (pg 255), talk of war, war crimes, bombings, talk of torture, talk of slavery, graphic execution, brief mentions of suicidal ideation & attempted suicide recounted, human experimentation, violence, sex scenes, swearing, abusive relationships, depictions of anxiety & panic attacks

“Through love, all is possible.”

Honestly, this is a long overdue review. This book is the literal reason why I didn’t read a single book for a whole month and it took me that whole month to realize I was in a reading slump because of it. Whew, it has been a wild ride with this book. And if I’m being honest, I don’t know what more I can add into the review pool on this book. Although some feelings have changed, shifted, and after all this time my thoughts still drift back to moments of this book.

When a brutal massacre claims the lives of people close to her, Bryce Quinlan spends two years trying to return her life to normalcy. Until… bodies begin showing up again and the Archangel of Crescent City is knocking on her work’s door. Forced to work with the Archangel’s personal assassin, The Umbra Mortis, they’re time is limited as the next summit is on the horizon and bodies begin piling up.

It’s rare when I say this, but I would ride or die for Bryce Quinlan. Out of all the characters, I was instantly locked into her perspective and I felt very connected to her character. A lot of the ways Bryce carries herself hit really close to home for me especially when it comes to the people she cares about, and yes, that includes the scar. I’m very much one in the same with a lot of it and Bryce is just going to forever hold a special place in my heart. Plus, I feel like no one talks about this, but Bryce is plus-sized and it just makes me love Bryce even more. On the other hand, we also get the perspective of Hunter and I just wasn’t as connected to him as I was with Bryce. However, his perspective was still captivating and even more so as we get towards the end of the book. It was a really interesting perspective to be in and I’m curious to see if we’ll continue with the duel perspective in the next book. And put these two characters together, the banter is delightful, the chemistry is so good, and I really enjoyed how the two of them together aren’t perfect, but somehow suit each other really well. They just click.

“You’re the person I don’t need to explain myself to – not when it matters. You see everything I am, and you don’t run away from it.”

Speaking of characters, Maas has this habit of writing so many side characters that you end up falling in love with and oh, I fell so hard for so many of them. I loved Bryce’s boss and I adored the demon cat (if ya know, ya know), but there is one character aside from Bryce that caused me to sob relentlessly and that was Lehabah, a fire sprite and coworker/friend to Bryce. Lehabah was such a spark during this whole book and even though we don’t see her that much, I absolutely loved her. She captivated my heart and I had to mention her. There are many, many characters to love in this book, both main and side characters, but Lehabah was a blessing and I adored her. I wish we got to see more of her.

“I am a descendant of Ranthia Drahl, Queen of Embers. She is with me now and I am not afraid. My friends are behind me, and I will protect them.”

And while I’m talking about side characters, let me tell you, there are so many villains in this book and every one of those characters who are displayed as a terrible person, are truly terrible! When I say I had my book in a choke hold every time one of these buttmunchers decided to be a little butt… my book almost got chucked across the room a few times. This is actual high praise because only a very small handful of books (3 to be exact) have actually caused me to throw them. This has now been added to that list. The end game had so many good scenes of these villains getting their butts served on a platter to them, which was delightful. However, I’m a little hopeful that we’ll see a little bit of redemption for potentially some of them, but if something tragic happens to them, well… I ain’t crying for them.

Storyline wise, it was interesting. Every time I read high fantasy or high sci-fi (basically heavily detailed books), it takes me a hot minute to get into it, but once I’m in it, I’m in it. And that’s how it was for this book. As I’ll mention below, the details of this book didn’t really impact me the way I saw it impacting a lot of readers. There were so many scenes that I felt like I was there, witnessing what was happening. I was pulled into the storyline really easily with this book and it hooked me. There’s also a lot of foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the storyline as well and it kept adding fuel to the flames that just kept me going, wanting to know more.

“That’s the point of it, Bryce. Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow. It makes everything that much more precious.”

Despite all the things I loved this book there were a few things that just didn’t work for me. My biggest issue was that three of the major “twists” in this book were easily predicted for me. While I did still enjoy the scenes, I feel like I would have loved them more if it didn’t feel obvious with the way the author was going in the storyline. This won’t be the issue for everyone, but for me, it was easily predicted. This also ties in with the ending and I feel like the ending of this book would have hit twice as hard if some of the things revealed didn’t feel obvious in the direction certain things were going to go. My other really issue I can’t really talk about without spoiling anything, but this character soured my taste from the beginning, knew they were horrendously suspicious, and it ties in with one of the big twists. This was so painfully obvious and I was just really irked by how obvious it all was.

With all of that being said, I do want to put in here a little section to emphasize that this reads and feels like a high fantasy book. There’s a lot, I mean A LOT, of details that go into the first chunk of this book to build of the world, give details about the different quarters and the hierarchy, and even give backstory of the war situation. It’s a lot friends, it’s a lot and you should know that considering this is an 800 page book. While this didn’t bother me personally, if you’re not a typical avid reader of high fantasy and sci-fi books then this book may feel like a challenge to trudge through. It may also put you in a reading slump if you’re not a big lover of heavy details. The author does this for all of her books, laced with great detail to make you feel like you’re in the world or at least like you’re vividly experiencing it. So just something to keep in mind if you’ve been feeling a little intimidated by this book.

Overall, I had a really fantastic time reading this book. If you can’t tell in the picture of this review, there’s so many tabs and I took so many notes. This book made me order more tabs because I ended up running out. I was so captivated and enthralled by the story, the characters, and the world that I couldn’t stop reading. I just got caught up in all the details and that’s the case with every book I read from this author. I truly am trash for Maas and I’m not ashamed of this. I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but I recommend this book to anyone who loves this author’s work and loves high fantasy.

Buddy Read with Destiny & Caro

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3 Mini Reviews | Below, Muscles & Monsters, Garlic and the Witch

Salutations friends! I haven’t done any mini reviews in a hot minute, but I’m finally doing one after ages! I think the last one I did was in the winter of 2021. I’m currently on a really strong reading kick and I’ve been cruising through so many great books. This may be due to November looming over my shoulder or it just may be from finding my spark again in books after a month slump. Either way, here are three mini reviews of three recent reads that I loved! ♥


🕯️ Below by Laurel Hightower

Content/Trigger Warnings: Depictions of anxiety & panic attacks, misogyny, talk of divorce, on page vehicle accident, death, talk of grief, talk of nyctophobia (fear of the dark), depictions of blood, graphic injuries, gore, violence scenes of emesis, scene of drowning

“Keep you head down and get out, remember? Doesn’t matter how, just take it and run.”

It has been a week and I’m still thinking about all the ways this book haunts my thoughts. When I heard someone say this has Mothman in it, you bet your sweet booty that I jumped on this train immediately. Plus, seeing my friend’s review for this book also had me running for it immediately. However, I want to state that Mothman isn’t the main focus of this novella. Mothman kind of takes very to the sidelines despite the fact that we have a few select moments with them. But despite knowing this, I was hyped and super excited to dive into this book as soon as my claws were wrapped around this book.

We follow Addy who is recently divorced and is currently traveling through the West Virginia mountains to meet up with her friends. However, her journey goes from okay to pure chaos as a bad snow storm rolls in and the truck driver she met at the diner get into a sudden vehicle accident. Now Addy must decide if she’s just going to spend her time in fear or attempt to help her new friend, even if it means battling her inner monsters, and potentially something more realistically frightening.

“Came outta of nowhere, didn’t it?”

I liked Addy and how imperfect she was. She was angry, anxious, fearful, but also trying to find herself again in the aftermath of this divorce. She’s also very distrusting of men because of all the poor treatment she has had to deal with, not only in life, but in her marriage as well. So we see Addy start off as very anxious, weary, and hurting, but that quickly changes because things in this book escalate rapidly and all you can do is hold on for the ride as we see Addy grow and change.

I’m not kidding when I say thing escalate rapidly. Things pick up pretty fast and I think you’ll find yourself pretty hooked. Even when I wanted to put this book down, I couldn’t because I constantly was wondering what was waiting to happen. However, I did have to stew on this book and my thoughts for a day. Reading this book in less than two hours and you would need to sit on your feelings too.

Overall, I had a really great time with this book and I recommend going in not knowing too much about it. I think a lot of the twists and turns will be better enjoyed that way. If I had to really give issue with this book, it was the lack of Mothman. I think I would have liked Mothman playing a bigger role in this book than was given, but despite that I still loved the author’s interpretation of Mothman. It’s a great atmospheric read and one that I recommend for the fall season!


🕯️ Muscles & Monsters (Leviathan Fitness, #1) by Ashley Bennett

Content/Trigger Warnings: Abusive/toxic relationship (in the past), depictions of anxiety, bullying (in the past), mentions of & scene of fatphobia, body shaming, scene of prejudice towards monsters

“A moment of discomfort is nothing compared to a lifetime of unhappiness. Knowing that it led me to you, I’d make that choice again and again”

Holy cow did I enjoy my time reading this book! I have thirty-seven notes on this book and I’m still thinking about how delightful this was. Wow, wow, WOW. My expectations were blown out of the water for this. I thought it was going to be straight up monster erotica, but there’s so much more to it than that and I enjoyed every second of it.

We get duel perspectives from Tegan, a plus-seized baker, who got tasked with making a wedding cake that’s supposed to be delivered for the mayor’s daughter’s wedding only her assistant called out and now Tegan is struggling until she drops the cake. Enter Atlas Oberon, the werewolf owner of the gym down the street, Leviathan Fitness. Atlas had been on his way into work when he stumbled across Tegan and offered to assist with the cake. Who would of thought a wedding cake would blossom into a romance between these two?

“Well I’m glad you chose what was best for you, Atlas Oberon. And I happen to like that stupid fucking tail of yours. Very much.”

There were so many great elements to this read that made these characters so likeable and almost real. I think Tegan is my favorite though. The way the author chose to write Tegan really made the biggest impression with me. Tegan is very body positive in being plus-size, but we also see moments where she has doubts and questions herself. This was handle so well and in a way that I felt was realistic. Being plus-sized myself, I have my moments of ups and downs and seeing that represented in Tegan in this book was really nice to see. Speaking of body positivity and different views of bodies, I thought the way Atlas was handled was a great way to show the opposite spectrum of how you can be healthy, have a well toned body, and still have insecurities about the way you look. I think if anyone were to make this a book club pick, this would be a great way to open the floor to bigger discussions on body positivity, body image and societal views, and learning to love oneself.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the sexy times. The sexy times were actually really great and I mean that in the sense of the before, during, and after. Tegan and Atlas have really strong communication with one another, they care for each other in their own ways, and do what they can to protect each other. And sexy times aren’t excluded from any of that. Tegan is human and Atlas takes such good care of Tegan in the aftermath even when they go to the gym, after their romp, he keeps the routine of the day light and calls it early for Tegan. It was all really sweet and the open communication is fantastic. Plus, there’s a scene that involves icing and I think readers are going to have a blast with it.

Overall, this was a fun time and I read it a lot faster than I thought I would. I wasn’t expecting to get through it as fast as I did and I wasn’t it expecting to have so many different elements stirred in. If you’re a lover of monsters, you definitely want to add this to you list. Plus, the second book recently came out and I’m really excited to continue on with this series!


🕯️Garlic and the Witch by Bree Paulsen

🍄 Garlic and the Vampire ★★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Depictions of anxiety, brief mentions loss of a loved one

I had no idea I was this excited about this sequel until I was ordering it. I fell madly in love with the first book because of the characters, the story, the layers, and just everything, truly. So waiting for this to release felt like trying to run through syrup. And honestly, now that I’ve read the sequel I’m kind of sad that this has come to a close. I don’t think this author has plans for anymore books in this world and just having the chance to read Garlic’s story in this duology feels like such a blessing altogether. All I know is that Bree Paulsen has become a favorite author of mine and I need to keep my eyes peeled for more of their work!

Our story takes place with a step back in time. We get to see how everything began and see how Garlic and the other veggie-people came to be in this world. This is a little treat for us as the reader, as we never get to see this bit in the first book. However, we quickly resume where the first book left off, only this time there are some changes, some unexplainable changes and Garlic seeks the truth of what’s happening to her, to everyone. Witch Agnes has no choice but to reveal her secret, they’re becoming humans!

As with the first book, Garlic is embarking on another adventure, two if you count them becoming human. Garlic must travel to the Magic Market with Count to retrieve some goodies for Witch Agnes and along the way she’ll learn to cope with her anxiety, to have faith in herself and the people who surround her, and trust that everything will turn out okay even if it all seems a little scary. We also find out a little more details about Count throughout this whole story too. Truly, Count just deserves all the love and is such a precious character.

Overall, this was one of the easiest reads I’ve rated all year. I absolutely loved the first book and so it was impossible for me not to fall in love with the second book. How could I not fall in love with these characters, this world, the representation we see?! It was all lovely and I truly mean it when I say I’m truly going to miss these characters and this world if there aren’t any books in this series. I’m not sure what those books would look like considering how this book (and the fact of how hard I sobbed), but if there are more books, then I can’t wait to see the adventures of these characters continue on. If you haven’t checked out the first book or perhaps you’re debating whether or not to get the second book, let this be the sign you need to go pick them up. I promise, you won’t regret it!


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How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery, Illustrated by Rebecca Green

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, death/loss of animals, death/loss of parents, brief mentions of cancer, grief, depression, mentions and talk of suicidal ideation, spider chapter (pg 62 – pg 79)

“I am still learning how to be a good creature. Though I try earnestly, I often fail. But I am having a great life trying…”

It has been a hot minute since I’ve read a nonfiction book, let alone a book about animals. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last nonfiction book I read about animals was back at the end of 2020 with my review of When Dogs Heal. Which is a book I highly recommend, but I digress. This book was such a lovely breath of fresh air and a great reminder of all the life lessons I’ve learned from animals over the years. And I’m happy to say I’ll be looking into more books by this author.

How to be a Good Creature is a memoir that follows our author, Sy Montgomery, as they navigate the ups and downs through life. Along the way she learns important life lessons from the animals who come into her life. From dogs to emus, all the way to a loving octopus, we get to see and learn about the incredible animals who’ve imparted their wisdom upon Sy.

“Knowing someone who belongs to another species can enlarge your soul in surprising ways.”

Don’t let this cover fool you, this book was such an emotional read for me. Despite all the work I’ve done with animals and continue to do, this book hit me hard in my feelings. I took plenty of breaks reading this book because I was constantly reflecting on the animals that have come out of my life and the lessons they left me with, and how much I miss them. And I definitely recommend giving your pets some cuddles before, during, and after reading this book!

If I had to choose some of my favorite chapters of this book, they’d be the following:

Chapter 2: Bald Throat, Black Head, and Knackered Leg
Chapter 5: The Christmas Weasel
Chapter 9: Octavia
Chapter 10: Thurber

“Being friends with an octopus-whatever that friendship meant to her-has shown me that our world, and the worlds around and within it, is aflame with shades of brilliance we cannot fathom”

Even though this book is a memoir, I think there’s a lot of beauty to be seen through this book and a great way for animal lovers to experience the magic of various animals they wouldn’t. I think the most precious things in life is being able to experience something through someone else’s eyes, to feel that wonder and magic, and then feel inspired to find that magic for our selves. Whether that magic be found with our own animals, rescuing animals or educating others about animals, an so much more. I think it’s books like this that can make the world fall in love with the other creatures we share this life with. And while it’s not always easy, there is love, beauty, and wisdom to uncover in it.

“Teachers are all around to help you: with four legs or two or eight or even none; some with internal skeletons, some without. All you have to do is recognize them as teachers and be ready to hear their truths.”

Overall, I’m sure this review seemed vague, but trust me when I say that this book is beautifully written and holds many lessons that I think it’s better to go into this book not knowing too much. I do recommend checking out my content warnings though because there are some heavy topic throughout this book that could potentially be hard on someone’s spoons, but otherwise it was a fantastic read. As I mentioned, this has me excited to read more books by this author and bring back more animal books back into my life!

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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Gallant by V. E. Schwab

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Graphic animal deaths, grief, death, murder, scene of committed suicide, strangulation, depictions of blood, loss of loved ones (past & present), child abandonment, bullying, ableism & ableist language, mutism, child abuse & neglect, night terrors

“The Priors didn’t build this house. Gallant was already here. It called out to our family, and like fools, we came.”

Friends, I have been sitting here asking myself why I haven’t picked up anything by V.E. Schwab until now. Why did no one recommend her books to me sooner? Like, I really freaking loved this book. Every time I set it down, I was thinking about this book, itching to pick it back up. Even while I was reading two other books, this book still danced in my thoughts. Needless to say, Schwab’s books have been bumped up on my radar for books to read.

Olivia Prior has spent her whole life in an all girls school, where cruelty is abundance. With only the vaguest of clues to her past and the parents who left her behind in the pages on a journal, written by her mother. Until one day, a letter arrives from distant, unknown family, summoning Olivia to Gallant. But upon arriving, Olivia is only met with confusions and secrets. Refusing to leave, Olivia is determined to unravel the secrets that everyone, even her mother’s, is trying to shield her from.

As someone who’s new to Schwab’s writing and world building, I felt entire emersed in the world of Gallant. It was so easy for me to get sucked in with the ghouls and the way little things would slowly unravel. I absolutely adore world that can catch my attention with the tiniest, little things. I always say the beauty is in the little details and that’s what we’re given with this book. They’re the subtle details that you can only feel and truly see when you almost feel like you’re the main character. As if you’re experiencing things for yourself. And I think the mixed media was a nice touch to really paint the picture of what our mc was reading, seeing, and just added the icing to the cake, if you will.

“Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me.
I would write the words a thousand times if they’d be strong enough to hold you here.”

Speaking of our main character, holy French toast yes please! Can we have more main characters who are mute, who use sign language?! Characters that are quiet on the outside, but filled with noise, bottled up feelings waiting to escape in it’s own way?! I really loved Olivia and everything that made Olivia who she is. I think her determination really made me fall in love with her because her desire to seek out answers were so strong. And I really loved that about her. She’s just one of those characters that has a fire lit inside of them that burns so brightly, it’s hard to ignore and that’s what she was for me. She was a character who stood out in so many ways. I also want to say we have a side character who’s implied to be dyslexic and I really appreciated that representation being added into this book.

The themes scattered throughout this book were fantastic. There were so many themes about love and freedom, and homes. The discussion about homes and finding a place where you belong. There’s this constant theme of how homes can take on many forms. It can feel like a gilded cage or home can be a person. How sometimes even in a home, we can feel like an unwanted stranger and never really know peace or safety. The constant themes of freedom and homes constantly made me think of (and I don’t say this very often) Genie and Aladdin when they talk about freedom. “Freedom. But, oh, to be free! To be my own master. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.” This is a constant feeling I got from Olivia, from all the Priors really, in various different ways. I think of all the things I loved about this book, the themes throughout really hit my soul the most and are the real reason I loved this book as much as I did. As readers, we don’t often look for themes, but when we do, they can hit all the softest parts of our being.

“Free – a small word for such a magnificent thing. I don’t know what it feels like, but I want to find out.”

Honestly, I don’t have the words to describe all the things this book made me feel, how it touched parts of my soul in ways I don’t want to be vulnerable about. I think this was just a masterfully written book, with very beautiful writing and I think those who are looking for themes or some sort of connection with this book, you’ll find it. I know I found it when I least expected it.

If I had to sit down and say anything negative about this book, I think it would be two things. One, that this doesn’t fully feel like a young adult book. I think there will be readers who feel this fits in the middle grade category more. For me, I think they can be both because both can be true at the same time. The other thing I think will cause may readers to dislike the book will be the constant conversations and themes around death. Death is a theme and topic, let’s just be honest, people in general get skittish or hesitant to read or talk about. It tends to remind us of our own mortality especially when a book feels set in our own world or scenes are laced with very real situations/consequences, etc… I think the theme of death will be something that may cause readers to take a step back with or even feel uncertain about especially because there’s been so many different portrayals of Death throughout literature, media, etc… For me, these things weren’t an issue, but I think they may be issues for other readers.

“But the truth is, death is everywhere. Death comes for the roses and the apples, it comes for the mice and the birds. It comes for us all. Why should death stop us from living?”

Overall, what more can I say about this book except that I loved it. This was such an atmospheric read that hooked me right from the start. Honestly, one of the hardest books to set down for sleep and regular necessary things because I was so hooked on the story, in love with the writing. I think this may be a hit or miss for readers especially if you’ve been a long time fan of Schwab’s work. But I absolutely fell in love with this book and I’ll definitely be picking up more books by Schwab in the future!

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Darling by K. Ancrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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