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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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Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

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The Only Good Indians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cafe Con Lychee by Emery Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5) by Seanan McGuire

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🚪Every Heart a Doorway ★★★★★
🚪Down Among the Sticks and Bones ★★★★★
🚪Beneath the Sugar Sky ★★★★
🚪In an Absent Dream ★★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, grief, murder, blood depictions, gore, panic attacks, dysphoria, mysophobia, mentions of cancer (in the past), mentions of medical experiments (made with coerced consent), trauma/PTSD

“I am what I am, and there’s much about me that won’t be changed with any amount of wishing or wanting.”

I have finally, FINALLY picked this series back up after what seems like an endless hiatus from this series. And there’s something special about picking this series back up and it revolves around one of my favorite characters from this series as a whole. Plus, if I haven’t said it before, I love the Moors and I was hoping we’d see more of this world. However, I’m pretty surprised I didn’t end up giving this the full five star rating that I thought it was going to be. Still, my time reading this book was one that I couldn’t put down and you know we have to talk about it! P.S. Before we dive into this review, as always, the art in this book by Rovina Cai is always a highlight of these books!

Once again, we return to the world of The Moors and all is not well. In fact, one might say the very balance of this world hangs by mere threads and it all started when Jack and Jill returned home to their world. Now Jack has returned to the school or should I say basement that they once called a temporary home. And all is very, very wrong. Jack has ended up in Jill’s body and the place they once called home, The Moors, hang in the balance as Jill and The Lord Vampire threaten to throw everything into chaos. With the help of friends, Jack will return home to make the most difficult choice to restore the balance.

“But I warn you, this isn’t a tale for the faint of heart. It is a story of murder, and betrayal, and sisterly love turned sour.”

I think what I absolutely love the most about this series is how diverse the characters all are. Each book in this series, from book one, has such a wide variety of souls who are so diverse. And this book is no different. Jack has OCD and mysophobia, we have two gorgeous side characters with fat representation (which needs to happen more often in books), there’s sapphic representation between Jack and Alexis, and so much more within these pages. And as I’ve mentioned before, the author approaches all of this representation with a lot of love care, and detail that can make many readers feel seen. And as someone who constantly looks for ways to connect with characters, I’ve seen myself so many times in various characters in this series that I can’t help feeling grateful and having a deep appreciation for the author doing so, so much.

Speaking of diversity, I want to take a moment to address Alexis and the amazing scene between her and Kade, and the whole conversation that followed that. McGuire has this amazing talent of having these small conversations laced throughout each book and this book was no except. Actually, there were a lot of discussions, but this one hit particularly hard. As someone who has been through a lot and constantly has people assuming I’m broken because I’ve been through terrible things, this conversation between these two characters hit home so hard. And I think anyone who’s disabled/has a disability, been through traumatic events, or has chronic illness/illnesses will see themselves within this conversation that happens between these two characters.

“I understand wanting to know what your allies are capable of, but the fact that I’ve been damaged doesn’t make me broken, and you don’t need to behave as if it does.”

One of the things that really stood out to me in this novella was the talk and mention of The Drowned Gods. Let me tell you about the pterodactyl that escaped my body for this. From the moment The Drowned Gods were mentioned, everything in my soul has many, many questions. And at this point, I’m assuming the author did a little nod to Lovecraftian deities such as Cthulhu. Low-key hoping because my spooky soul almost melted. Not to mention I feel like it would fit so perfectly into the Moors. Outside of that, I’m not going to talk too many details because it many dip into the spoiler zone, but this little piece of the book truly made my spooky little heart the fullest. I quickly want to mention the Frankenstein references were fantastic and truly filled my heart so much. Obviously, all this dark spooky stuff isn’t for everyone, but if spooky is your cup of tea then you’re in for a good time!

“The drowned Gods are amiable monsters,” she said. “They sleep, and dream of worlds where fire is a forgotten impossibility, and occasionally they wake long enough to eat a few dozen villagers before going back to bed.”

Even though I really loved so many things about this book especially all the quotes and notes I was able to pull, there were a few things that I found very disappointing with this book. One of those things being the lack of vampires we see throughout this entire book. Considering we have a character who is desperately trying to become a vampire and has been “causing chaos” or as I call it, throwing a giant tantrum, we don’t see many vampires throughout this book. For the most part, majority of vampire encounters are recounted in past tense. It was kind of disappointing to one get glimpses of vampires until the end of the book. On that note, the lack of Jill’s presence throughout this book was surprising especially since there’s been this huge declaration from Jill since the beginning that it’s “finally time she got what she wanted.” We’re made to believe that Jill has psychologically gone off the deep end and instead it’s what I mentioned previously, a giant tantrum. This is solidified when we finally meet Jill, at the very end of the book and how she chooses to act on top of the things she declares to Jack.

The other thing I want to mention, that made me uncomfortable more than anything, was the whole Jack and Jill switching bodies. I’m not sure what the author’s goal was by doing this. In my opinion, there are better ways to show dysphoria representation and considering Jack’s character as a whole especially after we see them in the beginning, it was a really uncomfortable situation as a whole. And I know there will be people who are like, “But these are just fictional characters, blah blah blah…,” but at the end of the day dysphoria is a real mental health illness that can impact anyone and I think it could have been handled better than the whole “body swapping” or Freaky Friday trope.

I was just kind of let down or slightly disappointed, and a little uncomfortable by the end of this book. I know this is a novella, but I think so much more could have been added to this book to feel less rushed or like certain things were getting brushed off. Sometimes it’s better to include certain details than to exclude them because it’ll add an extra three pages or so.

“I’m Jack Wolcott. I am the mad scientist who lurks in the fens and the fields, and I’ll be damned before I’ll let my sister take this world away from me.”

Overall, I enjoyed the majority of my time reading this book and there were times where I was eager to dive right back into this book. Honestly, I’m kind of sad we didn’t see Christopher get his door or get a lot of scene time with Jill, but it was still a good read. I will say, the way this book left me feeling at the end has me feeling kind of cautious to go into the next book in this series. And please please please, give us a Christopher dedicated book because truly this character deserves all the happiness possible!

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Her Soul for Revenge (Souls Trilogy #2) by Harley Laroux

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Her Soul to Take (Souls Trilogy #1) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, kink/fetish content (see author’s summary or cw/tw page for details), talk of drugs & drug dealing, mentions of adultry, occult themes, alcoholism, death, stalking, talk of hospitalization/institutionalization, loss of a loved one, grief, trauma/PTSD, depictions of blood, knife play, needles, gun play, talk of torture, violence, sex, anxiety, predator behavior (drugging drink), scene of emesis, scene of snuff (sexual arousal/climax by killing/murdering someone)

“Revenge had been a long time coming.”

Friends, I had been looking forward to this book so, so much. I read the first book and absolutely fell in love with it and was eager to continue this series. Plus, any bread crumbs about the third and final book had my motivation spinning into overdrive. However, this book was definitely not what I had expected and I definitely wasn’t expecting to feel the way I did after reading this. There were a lot of surprises, many tears shed, and maybe a few times where I almost threw my tablet across the room (I didn’t, but oh, there’s just some lines you shouldn’t cross). It was all around a rollercoaster of a time.

The Deep One demands it’s sacrifice… The one who got away… Juniper Kynes has other plans than to have her piece of light blown out all because the majority of the people she thought she knew, all seem to want her dead. Ever since that night, Juniper has been fighting for survival, but her fight isn’t lost on watching eyes. Zane is demon who loves things that are fierce, scarred, and have a history to them. So the story of Juniper has caught his interest not only as demon, but as a soul hunter. And oh, he will have Juniper’s soul and he’s willing to wait for as long as it takes until she’s his. Only problem is, every thing comes with a price and sometimes that means putting your life on the line to take on a god and cult out of control.

I absolutely loved Zane and Juniper together. I love them so much more than Leon and Rae. The way Zane feels about her, how he sees her despite everything she’s been through… it was just wow. It truly was everything. It really brings forth that whole theme of ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and there’s so much emphasis from Zane (through Juniper’s perspective and Zane’s own perspective) of how beautiful he thinks people who have been through trauma and how they move on from that is. And it just hit like a ton of bricks. I don’t think there’s enough words to convey how that all made me feel. Not to mention, that these two together flip roles constantly of who’s the dom and sub. Like, how often do you get to see that in steamy time books? Not that often or at least in my case not that often. So that was a really fun time and the chemistry is so dang good.

One of the things I really appreciated about this whole book, even in the first book, was the trauma/PTSD representation. As someone who has permanent PTSD, seeing that in Juniper (also in Leon from the first book) and how she handles a lot of things, how she views herself and her body, it hit really close to home. I saw a lot of myself in Juniper especially with trying to bury the scars under layers of clothes or tattoo work, even building that hard exterior of showing no weakness. It hit like a ton of bricks. Every time I read a book with good PTSD or trauma rep, I get so emotional because there’s still so much stigma around PTSD and trauma, and trying to have conversations about is never easy. So seeing the author include that in these books and handling it so well just makes my heart feel really warm and full.

“Don’t be ashamed of what you want to say. I’m not going anywhere.” And that was the thing, wasn’t it? That was the spark that lit up my dark, dead, broken soul — he’d seen all its sharp edges and hadn’t left. He’d seen me as broken as I was and wanted me, regardless.”

Despite the many good things in the book like the quotes for days, I had two major issues with this book. The biggest issue of this book is that it reads like the first book of the series and it should have been the first book in the series. Having read the first book in this series and comparing it to this one, it would have been so much better for this book to be first. Even more so timeline wise with events and who’s the last to see whom within the book. And in my opinion, the first book sets things up better for the third and final book in this series. That’s the real kick that kind of gets me and has me feeling a little salty. It was a bit disappointing for me especially as someone who like the timeline of things and can really get sucked into the storyline very easy.

My final issue with a particular scene that’s an intimate scene. Typically, I love a lot of stuff that goes down in sexy time books, but not this, this crosses an uncomfortable line for me. The first scene that bothered me I’ve kind of let slide because looking back and reflecting, it’s not too big of a deal. However, this scene I’m about to talk about is and honestly, I think the author should have outright stated that there was a scene like this instead of not mentioning it at all in their own content warnings. At the 70-75% mark there’s a scene of snuff. Now some of you may be going, “What the hell is ‘snuff’?” Snuff is an extreme sexual act of getting a sexual arousal/climax from murdering someone. Now, I originally thought this was bordering into nercophilia territory and had to do some research because this whole scene didn’t feel right and kind of shocked my system. I also had someone else fact check me before I even made notes about it. Even more so, no one has talked or mentioned this scene, at all. So I’m talking and addressing it so others don’t have to. This is not a good scene, at all. It’s a really messed up scene and the author should have done better to actually make it known that this was in the book. And I really wish I could wipe this scene from my mind, but I can’t and now it lives in my memory with the other things I wish I could forget.

“Survival is messy. Survival has no morals or kindness. Survival isn’t black and white, good versus evil. Survival is shades of red; it’s blood taken and blood lost.”

Overall, what a freaking roller coaster of a book. I cried a lot, I cringed a lot, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell I just read. There really was a lot of stuff I loved about this book and I think those who like dark romance erotica will also love it. But also, there’s a lot of things that just live in my brain rent free now. Some of them good, others regrets… yeah, lots of regrets. It was still a good read and as I mentioned with the first book, this series would be the perfect read for the fall/spooky season if you’re in need of books to chill your soul.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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Pisces Hooks Taurus (Signs of Love, #4) by Anyta Sunday

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✨ 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) ★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief scene of aracnophobia (fear of spiders), mentions of bullying (in the past), mentioned horseback riding accident (in the past), brief discussions of death, talk of divorce, talk of adultry (cheating), sexual content

“You hooked me at Toy Story.”

We’re finally back with the fourth book in this series! This was an absolutely adorable slow burn romance! There were so many details that had me smiling and geeking out over what was about to happen next. We get to see cameos of previous characters from the past books which is always such a joy to see. It was just a really great to return to this series and meet some new characters while seeing the ones we’ve met along the way.

“People can be complicated. We can also be ridiculously simple.”

We follow Zane Penn, who’s a little in over his head. Not only is he in a bind of trying to find a new place to move into, but at the end of the month his green card is about to run out and he’ll have to return to New Zealand. Unless he can get married, that is. Enter Beckett who graciously opens his home and offers Zane a place to take harbor. Beckett is a professor at the local collage and is still healing from a divorce, but Zane is determined to help Beckett heal and believe in love again. Even if it means he loses his heart and falls head over heels for Beckett in the process.

I really enjoyed Zane and Beckett as our main characters. They might just be my favorite out of this whole series. They have amazing banter and the chemistry between them is so thick you could cut it with a knife. There were so many memorable moments between that really stuck out with me. I think my favorite would have to be the cinnamon standoff. That was such a fantastic scene that I don’t think I’ll ever get over. I truly believe these two characters were meant for each other. And can I just say how rare it is that we get romance stories where one of the characters is a divorcee. It’s so rare to have story like that and I’m really glad the author decided to take that and make it a part of this story.

Some of the themes in this book were fantastic like Zane discovering his self-worth and leaving an employer who constantly put Zane down about his work. Zane did a lot of work to figure out his own worth and chase after what he really wanted. Even by the end of the book he was still working on himself. I think my favorite theme has to be the one centered around Beckett. There’s a whole theme of of healing after you’ve been devastatingly hurt by someone you once loved. Beckett’s theme constantly sucked the air out of my lungs because watching everything unfold, watching Beckett rediscover love, and watching him a safe harbor with Zane was absolutely everything. And seeing Zane be patient, never giving up on Beckett was literally everything. The soft, healing moments Zane and Beckett have with one another was so wholesome, and everything.

“I was supposed to be charming your pants off. Yet you’re literally charming off mine.”

I did have some issues with this book though. I think the biggest thing was this book really being a slow burn and it was even emphasized throughout the book that it was a slow burn. Most of the steamy, spicy scenes didn’t happen probably till the 75% mark within this book. That’s how much of a slow burn this is. I think that was my most frustrating thing about this book because it just gave a feel of running circles around the actual romance and chemistry. The other thing I struggled with, that I actually had to research and ask a few people about, was the constant reference of ‘Kiwi’ throughout this book. I was so confused and I’m glad I actually researched and talked to a few people because I probably would have been very clueless if I hadn’t. For those who don’t know, like myself, Kiwi is in reference to those who are from New Zealand. I had no idea about this and now I do, but oh, I was so lost and confused for a hot minute with that being constantly repeated throughout the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this book. As always, I have a wonderful time reading about this characters, reading their independent stories and seeing the cameos, and of course, I’m eager to finish this series. I think we have one last book in the series to read (excluding the novellas in between each book). If you haven’t checked out this series, I strongly recommend doing so. There’s so much lgbtqiap+ representation throughout this series and I just love this series with my whole chest.

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Her Soul to Take (Souls Trilogy, #1) by Harley Laroux

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, kink/fetish content (see author’s summary or cw/tw page for details), anxiety, captivity/enslavement (demon mc), talk of torture, indications of trauma/PTSD, cult themes, brief mentions of underage drinking, death, murder, talk of suicide, graphic gore & violence, depictions of blood, scene of decapitation, brief mentions of drug use (in the past), attempted drugging (drugged drink), scene of emesis, scene of needles

Side Note: Please check out the author’s personal content warnings for the kink/fetish play within this book for more details before reading!

“… but within those pages, in the dark, those golden eyes still shone.”

Look, are you really surprised I found myself in this rabbit hole? Are you really surprised? It was bound to happen eventually! It has demons, Lovecraftian themes, the female lead is a paranormal investigator for Pete’s sake! The banshee screeches that have erupted from me from having this literature at my finger tips has been nothing short of an experience, to say the least. Truly, it’s been a while since I’ve had a piece of literature that felt very on brand to my soul. I loved this, I loved this so much. I had to sit a think about my rating because I was very torn and I just have to be honest, I really freaking loved this book and this might be my favorite series to have demons in it thus far.

We follow the perspective of Leon, a demon who’s summoned and held captive by the local cult of Abelaum, Libiri, run by Kent Hadleigh, the head of one of the founding families in this small town. With the grimoire, the last known book with a physical record of Leon’s name, in Kent’s hands, Leon is forced to do the cult’s bidding. That’s until the grimoire goes missing. Enter our second perspective of paranormal investigator, Rae. A college student moving back to her hometown after being gone for seven years. With the promising potential of paranormal activity and whispers of strange creatures being seen in the local woods, Rae is determined to catch real paranormal activity on camera to help boost her blog and of course, finish her last year at university. So when her best friend, Inaya hands her a grimoire, suddenly Rae may be having second thoughts of being thrown into the world of the paranormal… or she just might be falling pretty damn hard in love with it.

These characters were absolutely fantastic read about! The duo perspective in this book definitely added to my enjoyment of these characters. Between our two main characters, Leon stood on the most to me. Not only is his personality very attention catching, but there were so many passages in this book that just hit home for me. When Leon would talk about wanting to find the grimoire and how much he values his freedom, it instantly, made me think of Genie from Aladdin. In the movie, there’s a conversation between Aladdin and Genie about the wishes and Aladdin asks Genie what they would wish for to which Genie responds with, “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.” It made me really connect with Leon’s character, really love and appreciate his character build, and I don’t think that was the author’s intention when writing Leon’s character, but oh I couldn’t help myself from seeing the resemblance. On the other hand, Rae was an okay character for me. Honestly, I thought I would enjoy her character more, but there were parts in this book where I was just like, “I can’t deal with you.” I do like that she’s a paranormal investigator and how passionate she is about that, and I adore her cat, Cheesecake.

“I’ll rip Heaven and Hell and this goddamn Earth apart before I let them steal you from me.”

Speaking of characters, there’s some really amazing side characters we get to witness in this book. I freaking adore Zane. Zane is like a calmer, more level headed demon compared to Leon. However, Zane’s relationship with Leon was perfection. I’m very hungry for a novella talking about their past and their relationship to one another because they’re such a dynamic duo in their own way. There’s also Inaya, she’s not only best friends to Rae, but she runs her own bookstore, Golden Hour Books. Her character was absolutely wonderful and I would have loved to see more of her in this book. Plus, the few times we do meet her, you can tell how much she cares about all of her friends and just how far she’d go for them. And of course, I have to mention Everly because I just want to know so much more about her. I mean, she’s a witch and she’s here to rock this world! Before I forgot, I need to talk about Kent. Kent is a terrible character and he reminds me so, so much of Joseph from Dream Daddy. If you know, you know. Kent just gives me all the bad vibes and honestly, he made for a good villain in this book.

I want to circle back to Leon and his constant focus on his freedom. Not only is there such a heavy emphasis on demons valuing their freedom, but with Leon there’s an underlying theme of trauma/PTSD. Not just that trauma, but how after all of that you can still find love, happiness, or contentment. We see this theme unfold from both perspectives. We have Leon who has spent centuries being tortured and used only to find sanctuary with Rae. Rae’s side of things is different because she’s just dealing with a break up, but we see this escalate with how everything unfolds for Rae throughout this book. We see how this very snarky demon becomes a sanctuary for her in the chaos of all of this. I think the trauma/PTSD representation is done very well even though it’s subtle and not many readers have picked up on it. And I want to say that this is one of those relationships where two broken individuals can heal one another and have a good relationship with one another.

There’s also an entire theme of consent throughout this book. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but consent is super attractive. From the very beginning, Leon constantly asks if Rae is okay with the things they do intimately and constantly makes sure she knows the safe word before anything even happens. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love characters who check to make sure they’re comfortable or they’re okay with proceeding into more spicy things. It’s super attractive and often times in a lot of romance or erotica they’re just instantly jumping into the sheets. I really enjoyed how the author gave us spice, but also made sure to sprinkle the consent in throughout this book.

“You’re a light in the dark, and I’ve been in the dark a vert long time.”

Speaking of spicy scenes, this book has a lot of spicy scenes, If you thought there were only going to be a few scenes sprinkled in then guess what, that’s not the case here! It was a fun time for me and the entire time I was just hyped. However, I will say the scene where Leon was giving Rae her piercings was not my thing. For me, that was very triggering just due to my own bad experience, but I do like how the author tried to give this scene balance of it not only being about the that whole commitment, but Leon and Rae becoming closer to one another. So I think this will be one of those hit or miss things for many readers.

If I had to fault this book on anything, it would have to be Rae’s character. Look, it has to be said, Rae made some really questionable choices and acted really reckless a lot of the time. Actually, I liked Rae’s character up until the last handful of chapters. It was like the closer it got to the end of the book, Rae just got more naive and was making really poor choices. It was frustrating a lot of the time and as I mentioned earlier, it made it really hard to like her character. Also, it almost painted Rae in a light of hypocrisy because she’s not only a paranormal investigator, but she’s also a horror lover and the way she acts is entirely different to most horror and paranormal lovers I know. I think a lot of readers are going to feel frustrated with her character and wish that she had been structured different especially near the end of this book.

“But with your soul, death can’t touch you. The God can’t touch you. Nothing, nothing will take you from me.”

Overall, I had a really fun time buddy reading this with my friend. It was such a captivating read and I love the pre-setup we get to see for the second book in this series. I’m just hyped about this whole series, okay! I usually don’t read a lot of dark romances, but if and when I do, I always want them to have snarky demons in it. I think many lovers of dark romance are going to enjoy this book and this whole series. I hear book two has to do with Zane and I can’t begin to express how excited I am about this!

Buddy Read with Destiny

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Theirs for the Night (Twisted Hearts #1) by Katee Robert

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, talk of poverty/financial struggles, child neglect (in the past)

“You can’t fall in love with a person – let alone two people – in a single night.”

Oh what a fun, steamy time this was! Every time I pick up Robert’s books, I always have a fun time and honestly, that’s why I read them, for a fun time. Plus, to be more transparent and honest, I love reading books with polyamorous relationships and that’s a side of me I don’t often share or discuss, and I’d like to. And it was just a good book to unwind with.

Meg Sanders is too busy and has far too many worries on her plate to even think of partying, let alone celebrating her very own birthday. Until her co-worker and friend, Cara convinces here that she needs a night to forget her troubles and just unwind. Little did Meg expect, two sets of eyes watching her from afar, wanting to take her home for a night of pleasure. Theo and Galen are keeping a low profile, that is until they both set their eyes on Meg. Afterall, who could resist a gorgeous woman in a red dress? If they only have one night, the three of them are going to make it one hell of a night to remember!

I loved, LOVED Galen and Theo as love interests, potential partners to Meg. I’ll be honest, I do have a bar that’s set kind of high when it comes to poly-relationships and all three of them hit pretty close. The fact that Galen and Theo already have a preexisting relationship with one another was the icing on the cake for me. You can see flickers of the history between the two. Not just in the sense how tight their friendship is with one another, but also the bond and pull, that attraction that crackles and sizzles underneath the surface. Also, I want to take a moment to point out that Galen has visual scarring and for me, that’s not only something that attracts my attention, but characters who have scars and it just is what it is, that’s a huge thing for me. I always want to appreciate those details when an author does that. Meg, on the other hand, felt like a wild card to me. While Meg does come off as lacking confidence and being unsure of her own desires, she has no problem flipping a switch and just diving head first into savoring both of these men. I really enjoy when characters have a switch they just flip. Seeing Meg do that I was like, “Okay boo, I see you! Go get your men!”

“They always seemed to know where the other was, and both kept a careful distance between them and her, touching only on her hips and nowhere else.”

I want to take a moment to show a little appreciation to Meg’s coworker and friend, Cara. I find that not many authors write supportive, but also encouraging side characters for main characters when it comes to romance. There’s a particular scene that really stuck out to me where Cara pulls Meg away from Theo and Galen, pulls her to the bathroom and is ready to fight people if they hurt Meg. Yet, supports Meg and encourages her to go gets these men after Meg expresses this is what she wants, but it still willing to drive the getaway car if Meg needs it. I absolutely adore side characters like this and I wish they got more appreciation because they deserve it.

It’s steamy, very warm and steamy! Fogging up every glass window from heavy breathing. Is it the greatest sex scenes of all time? Maybe not because everyone has their own preferences for spice and steam, but if you’re looking for a fun time then this can definitely be thrown into the mix. I might be a bit bias and may have been referencing my own experiences with poly-relations, but I had a really wonderful time with this. From the moment these three characters meet, everything is a steady, slow build and almost everything they do has chemistry and sexual desire crackling between them. Whether this is from the way they dance with one another or how they all play with each other behind closed doors. It’s just a fun time and really easy to get caught up in the scenes.

“He really was beautiful in the way of fallen angels. But a fallen angel was just a prettier name for a demon.”

Overall, this was a delightful, fast read for me! I had such a wonderful time diving into the story, savoring how everything was playing out, seeing the little secrets being hinted at, just a fun time. Again, this series isn’t going to be for everyone. I still recommend picking the first book (this book) up if you’re looking for books for Smutathon, reading sprints, or you’re just looking for a steamy good time. I enjoy Katee’s writing and the characters she writes. It’s always a good time for me and I love recommending her books to others.

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