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Lobizona (Wolves of No World, #1) by Romina Garber

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ARC was provided by NetGalley & Wednesday Books in exchanged for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (August 4th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Anxiety, talk of claustrophobia, xenophobia, sexism, discussion of menstruation, bullying, drug trafficking, drugging, talk of postpartum depression, trauma, misogyny, scene of attempted sexual assault, forced marriage, minor homophobia

“I come alive on the full moon.”

Dearest readers, I’m so thankful that I received an arc of this book. Not to mention that I was able to buddy read this book with so many of my fellow friends and partners at the Social Distance Book Fest. This book was captivating, unique, and I literally took a couple of weeks just to put my thoughts in order, to write this review and tell you all about it.

Our story follows Manuela Azul, an undocumented immigrant, who had her whole life turned upside down. Secrets are now coming to light, with her grandmother in the hospital and her mother taken into custody, Manu has no other choice other than to run. Only fate will lead her to a place that allows her to be herself, trace her heritage, and uncover her own story.

I loved Manu as a main character. She’s very strong, independent, and even though it’s not shown enough (in my opinion), she’s very family oriented. She also has this free spirit about her that I absolutely adored. The way Garber shows Manu’s vulnerability with being so uncertain, not wanted people to get in too deep with her situation, and the scene where she tries to push everyone away… I couldn’t stop appreciating that side of her and those vulnerabilities really resonated with me. I’m very much a person who wants to protect the ones she loves and cares about. So seeing Manu’s internal conflict about what she should do and how she do it, it really hit my soft spots.

“Because you can’t be invisible when your irises are yellow suns and your pupils are silver stars.”

The side characters were fantastic. I loved the way there were so many different personalities and how they all meshed so well with one another. What I really loved about these characters was how a small handful of them had Manu’s back despite everything. I loved how Cata and Saysa were willing to help Manu stay in the bruja part of the school, but what I loved the most is how Cata and Saysa both represented the angel on one shoulder with the devil on the other. Not to mention, we’re made aware of it later on in the story, but they’re both in a secret relationship with one another. And I think the thought of their different personalities coming together in a relationship really made me love them even more. Then we have Tiago and this poor boy couldn’t catch a break. Manu kept cutting him off left and right. It about killed me having to watch this boy get crushed so many time especially after a special scene that shows us the feelings growing between Tiago and Manu. Plus, his personality mixes so well with the way Manu’s personality is throughout this story. It was great chemistry and I truly felt that they were a perfect match for one another.

I also loved the way the magic was shown throughout this book. For my reading experience, the magic and the world felt very ancient, something alive and breathing. That feeling became even more solid after Manu is told Lunaris is the home of all magic and how Lunaris ends up having a real conversation with Manu. Ten years were added to my life by all of this. And I truly believe it was a clever idea to give Lunaris the ability to have a persona and the ability to communicate. And can I talk about this world building for a second?! I loved the world building in this book. I’m very picky about fantasy and world building. If a book can’t rope me in within the first five chapters, I will probably struggle with reading the book. However, for my experience, Romina Garber really gave me a vivid experience. It felt like I was walking right beside Manu as she moved from different areas in the book. I adore and crave books that can give me the vivid experience. And I think the author did a marvelous job delivering that expectation for me.

“You seek to discover your true home, yet you no longer have one… You have two.”

This book also addresses many important issues, as well. There’s a huge discussion of immigration and about ICE which overlaps a lot with what’s happening in today’s time. I don’t want to speak too much on that because that’s not my story to tell. However, if this is an own voices read for you and you have a review for this book, talking about your own experiences, please send me a link so I can help boost your voice and story. This book also addresses the topic of gender and gender identity. This is another important topic that sparks many arguments and conversations today. Even though there has been so much progress, there’s many places where gender restrictions is still a thing or an issue. In the the same area, we have the relationship with Cata and Saysa where they have to hide their love and relationship because it’s illegal for them to be open about it. Once again, even though the lgbtqiap+ community has made great strides and helped the world progress so much, there are many places in the world where it’s illegal to be open about same sex relationships. So I really appreciated Romina Garber adding these topics in because they’re still important issues that exist today and it’s not talked about enough.

“Fierro valued every life, wanted the best for everyone no matter if they were lobizones, brujas, or humans.”

I also want to mention that any reader should practice self-care while reading this book. There are a lot of content warnings, but I want to point out that there is a scene of attempted rape and as a rape survivor myself, that scene left me very uneasy and how it went unchallenged. I would have liked to see it challenged more or see some form of punishment happen. While I realize this is to show how society handles sexual assault and rape situations, I feel like it could have been challenged more. As I mentioned, just practice self-care and step back when you need to while reading this book.

I think the biggest issue I had with this book and the reason why I couldn’t give this a full five stars was the translated Spanish. And what I mean by that is Romina Garber’s personality is very un-apologetically Latinx, but when you read this book, it’s anything but. Now, I’ve seen many authors who are un-apologetically whatever heritage they are in books. Julie Kagawa is one of the of the best examples I can think of because she uses a lot of Japanese words and saying in her books, but she doesn’t explain it every time she uses them in her Shadow of the Fox series. She has a glossary in the back of her book for readers to constantly reference. Then you also have the matter of Google which is there for a reason. Now, I could understand if the author was explaining the sentences to add to the world building, however, I thought the world building was beautifully done. So the fact that every time there’s a Spanish sentence spoken and then immediately translated right after it’s said was very surprising for me. I truly would have loved to have seen the author run wild with the Spanish, without translating it, and leaving a glossary or dictionary piece in the back of her book. I would have loved to have seen the editing process for this book because I truly believe the translations didn’t need to be added. In my opinion, the world building speaks for itself and I would rather have the author be un-apologetic about their heritage and culture then see them feel obligated to translate it.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this Lobizona. I loved how there was such emphasis on family and how important it is, I fell madly in love with the world building and characters, and I think many readers are going to be putting this on their top books for 2020. I’m truly hoping more readers will pick this book up, preorder it, and get as excited as I am about this book. However, now that I’ve finished reading the first book, I need the second one immediately. Can I have it already?!

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

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Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox #2) by Julie Kagawa

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🌸 Shadow of the Fox – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, graphic violence & injuries, grief, loss of a loved one, death of a animal, war themes, threats of torture, and much more!

“All souls have a destiny. Some are simply brighter than others.”

It’s no secret that I fell in love with Julie Kagawa and her captivating writing in 2019 when I first read Shadow of the Fox. I loved it so much that I knew from the moment I read the first page that I would be continuing the series. And I’m so glad that I did! Book Two had so many surprises, a lot of tension, and many question on how the end game will conclude. Needless to say, book two was everything I wanted and more!

Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, Hakaimono has returned and Tatsumi is gone. After saving Master Jiro, everything seems to have taken a turn for the worst. Our band of heroes now knows Yumeko’s biggest secret, Hakaimono has been unleash into the world, and they seem further away from completely their goal then they ever could have imagined. Despite the challenges they face, they will continue to travel and fight side by side. But in the shadows, a dark presence is rising and will stop at nothing to have all pieces of the Dragon Scroll.

👹 Yumeko – Raised by monks in the Temple of the Silent Winds, half kitsune, who is a lot better at illusions than she gives herself credit to. Soon she finds her life thrown into chaos as her only home is ripped away from her by the destruction of an army of demons. Now she will embark on a quest to a hidden temple to bring half of the ancient scroll to safety.

👹 Tatsumi – Samurai/Shanobi of the Shadow Clan, one of the most feared and deadliest warriors and demon slayers ever, even though he is very young. Wielding the blade of Hakaimono, a sword sealed with one of the most deadliest demon generals of his time, Kamigoroshi, Tatsumi is constantly tested with how strong his will is. Sent on a mission by his clan to retrieve a piece of the ancient scroll by any means, instead he finds Yumeko and makes a promise to deliver her to the hidden temple in exchange for the scroll. Only now, Tatsumi has been completely taken over by Hakaimono because love can make even the most disciplined person crumble.

👹 Suki – Bits and pieces of her were sprinkled throughout the first book, but now we see her playing a roll in this book as well. Daughter of a celebrated flute maker, Suki is shipped off to work as the new maid for the favored concubine of the emperor to live a better life than running his shop. Suki was turned into a sacrifice, now a spirit that continues to cling to the mortal world, only she’ll play a much larger role than she ever imagined.

👹 Seigetsu – We meet Seigetsu in the first book when he first encounters Yumeko and saves her from a terrible situation. Now, we see him playing a bigger role in book two. He’s still a mysterious person, but we now come to know that he’s a master of shogi and is able to know about events in the future with his companion, Taka.

👹 Hakaimono – The sealed within his own sword, Kamigoroshi, Hakaimono was one of the deadliest demon generals of his time. And now he’s finally on the rise after he’s possessed Tatsumi’s body.

👹 Reika – The priestess from the Sun Clan’s territory. Agreed to come along with Yumeko and the others to find Mast Jiro, and save him from whatever trouble he would be in. Now, she travels to ensure the piece of the Dragon Scroll is delivered to the Steel Feather Temple.

👹 Master Jiro – Head priest of the temple in Sun Clan territory. Ended up being taken captive in the first book. Now he travels with Yumeko, Reika, and the others to lead the way to the Steel Feather Temple.

👹 Okame – Often referred to as Ronin, but is actually the sweetest and a damn good shot in archery. Originally a bandit, but changed his tune after Yumeko showed him kindness, compassion, and understanding. Having nothing better to do, he decides to join the team. He’s snarky, witty, and secretly a cinnamon role.

👹 Daisuke – A noble who was once as a great samurai who fought fighters for passage on a bridge, but after meeting Tatsumi, he was unable to fulfill the greatest battle of all. Now, he travels with this unlikely group of friends. Even after finding out Yumeko is a kisune, he still swears his sword to her and promises to protect her as she travels to the Steel Feather Temple. He’s also a complete romantic and is sweet on one of the traveling companions.

I love these characters with every fiber in my being. Even Hakaimono has a piece of my heart and I know he’s one of the deadliest demon generals, but… I just love him and despite it all, I bet he’s a secret cinnamon roll (probably not, but one can hope). Every part with these characters is just fantastic, including when we flash from the three povs. Each pov was executed so well and no matter who’s perspective we were in, as the reader, we get to see the full picture with all the side characters.

Speaking of the characters, Daisuke and Okame threw me for a loop! They couldn’t be more different from each other, but they both shine in their own ways. However, I never realized how well their conversations between one another melt together so well. And their scenes together are so good. There’s warmth, there’s tension, they challenge each other, and they’re just an all around good time!

We also branch away from the Tatsumi perspective and instead get Hakaimono. Now that was a wild ride. I’ll admit, I was secretly hoping Kagawa would take this series it there and have Hakaimono take full control of Tatsumi’s body, but the way she made Hakaimono’s point of view so enthralling, we love to see it. We also see what Tatsumi is like since Hakaimono has taken over his body. When Yumeko goes to find Tatsumi’s soul in the dream world, we see how much Tatsumi has suffered. That was the moment, the moment I realized I want Tatsumi to be happy and to watch him flourish into everything he could be outside of his clan.

“But then, he let out a breath, and it seemed to release all the fear, uncertainty, horror and doubt of the past nightmare. He crushed me to his chest, clinging to me like a lifeline, like I was his sanity and he was afraid I would abandon him.”

I also loved how we see Yumeko really come into her kitsune side. Yumeko clings to her humanity in this series, but in Soul of the Sword, her character development is fantastic. In the first book, Yumeko was very timid and didn’t use her powers that often. In this book, that isn’t the case. Yumeko does whatever she can to keep her friends safe, she learns how powerful and deadly her powers can be, and she uses them to save Tatsumi. I have no doubt that in the final book we’ll see her be taken to a whole new height as she’s forced to use ever ounce of kitsune magic to protect her loved ones and the entire country.

Also, how dare Kagawa give us an ending like that! I think I choked on my drink several times reading the last handful chapters. I knew things were going to get really intense, but I never thought it would go the way that it did. This is probably one of my favorite endings in any series I’ve read so far. True blessings for such high stakes and surprises. And I’ll admit that there were a few parts I should have seen coming, but I was so wrapped up in all the chaos and Tatsumi/Hakaimono that I was hardly registering anything else.

I truly loved everything about this book and I don’t want to reveal too much especially if you haven’t read the first book yet. However, if you were expecting this book to follow the romance between Tatsumi and Yumeko, then you’re going to be disappointed. The romance has never been the main focus of this series, but it’s a key factor in the story-line. I went in knowing that it wasn’t focused on the romance and I still loved it so much. I still have questions I want answers to! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance, but the story-line, plot, and world building is so good that it doesn’t matter to me if there’s a romance or not. If you think you need the romance to keep you motivated to read this book, the romance is still there, but it’s not so heavily focused or even as obvious as it was in book one.

“My master used to say, sometimes a whisper is all that is required to calm a storm, but when words fail, sometimes you need the thunder.”

Overall, I have heard the good and bad about this book, but I still fell in love with it just like the first book. I loved the world building, I see every ounce of Japanese mythology that went into this, and I just really, really love this series. If you haven’t picked this series up then let me tell you that you should. Even if you’re not much of a fantasy reader, I believe any kind of reader can find something that they’ll really love and appreciate in this series.

Read for the Asian Readathon 🏮

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Leo Loves Aries (Signs of Love, #1) by Anyta Sunday

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Cheating, toxic relationships, sex

Chandler Ainsley made me do it! Her amazing book recommendations kicked my butt into gear to finally start this series! Wow, just wow. I haven’t flown through a book this fast in a hot minute. I loved everything about this book and it’s a roommates to lovers trope. So yes, I am here for this book!

We follow Theo who’s still hung up on his exgirlfriend and seems to be lacking in the friend department. With his mom spamming horoscope predictions on the daily, Theo feels the ache even more. After Leone challenges him to find her the perfect date for a spring wedding, Theo is dead set on making his ex-economics tutor, Jamie Cooper, his sister’s date. Only things don’t go the way he thought they would. Everyone else can see what’s written in the stars, but will Theo?

“I’ve one hell of a to-do list. Just need someone to do it.”

I loved this book so much! I think the way Theo and Jamie’s personalities collided with one another was fantastic. They couldn’t be more opposite of each other. Jamie is organized and likes to keep a balanced yet passionate life. While Theo is a procrastinator and hasn’t done a load of laundry in ages. And the banter between the two is so good! Out of all of it though, the amount of electricity that flies between this unlikely pair had me living my best reading experience. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good roommates trope.

I also loved the way sexuality was handled and how realistic it felt. Even though we can tell right off the bat Jamie is gay and flirting with Theo from day one, Theo is absolutely oblivious to any of this. It’s so accurate! When I was first discovering my bisexuality, I never realized I would flirt with women until one day someone had to point it out for me. I think that’s why I relate to Theo so much because the way he discovers his feelings for Jamie, it was like staring at a mirror. Even when Jamie confronts Theo about his sexuality and his interest in Theo, Theo reacts in shock and he spends so much time trying to figure out his feelings, his sexuality, and his own obliviousness. And I know there are many people out there who frown upon the whole friends with benefits kind of relationship, but I loved how this book shows that sometimes you need that kind of relationship as a stepping stone when it comes to figuring out your sexuality. I saw a lot of readers who were upset with the way Theo’s sexuality was handled and why many readers have labeled it as bisexual erasure… being bisexual myself and having gone through a similar period in my life, I can understand why. However, there are many people in the lgbtqiap+ community who don’t like to use labels. So, if Theo doesn’t label himself as a bisexual, pansexual, or demisexual then that’s fine and a character/character development shouldn’t be punished for that.

“I thought you didn’t believe in love. With you, I believe in anything.”

We also have visually impaired representation. Leone, Theo’s sister, is blind and doesn’t let it phase her. She’s smart, witty, and is just like, “I’m blind, I know it and accept it, so suck it up and deal with it.” She has such a charismatic personality, she tries to find the positive in everything, and I love her a whole heck a ton. And the bond that Theo and Leone have with one another, how they take care of each other, and it warms my heart so much. Theo really shows his brotherly side when it comes Leone. He doesn’t look down at her, he tries to do what he can to make things a little easier for her, and despite how protective he is, he let’s her be her own person and live her own life.

Overall, if you haven’t heard of this book or this series yet, you need to add this to your tbr. I’m super excited to read the next book in this series and I truly believe these characters are so easy to fall in love with. Besides, I power read this in two days. If that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what will!

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The Perfect Hope (Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, #3) by Nora Roberts

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💐 The Next Always (InnBoonsBoro Trilogy, #1) | ⭐⭐⭐⭐

💐 The Last Boyfriend (InnBoonsBoro Trilogy, #2)| ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, talk of cheating & adultry, toxic relationship, talk of parental abuse, scene of assault, scene of graphic war themes (Ryder’s dream)

We have finally reached the end of this trilogy. I just don’t want this series to end, ever. I love these characters, this town, and just every bit that went into making this trilogy. I say this all the time, but this really is a great series to read if you’re new to Nora Robert’s work. I truly love this series and it will always have a piece of my heart.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re following Hope Beaumont and Ryder Montgomery in this book. Hope was recruited by Avery MacTavish and Clare Brewster to move to BoonsBoro to be the inn keeper at Inn BoonsBoro. Even though her friends are happy to have her and Justine is thrilled to have such a confident inn keeper, Ryder Montgomery is anything but happy about it all. Of all the Montgomery boys, Ryder is the hardest nut to crack. He’s anti-social and can’t see Hope as anything other than a city girl. But after a New Year’s kiss, things have somehow shifted between the unlikely pair and soon they’ll realize what their hearts’ desires are.

“Time with a friend was as refreshing as a nap.”

💐 Hope Beaumont – The inn keeper for the newly redesigned Inn BoonsBoro by the Montgomery. Recently moved to BoonsBoro for a fresh start and the former manager of a D.C. hotel. She’s confident, independent, and right where she wants to be in life…except for in the love department. And constantly sparring with Ryder Montgomery.

💐 Ryder Montgomery – The hardest, most stubborn, alpha male of the Montgomery family. He’s anti-social and hard to figure out, but he’s honest and fair. But there’s only one person who gets under his skin and her name is Hope Beaumont.

💐 Elizabeth/Eliza – The spirit who lives at the historical inn the Montgomery family is fixing up. Waiting at the inn for her Billy to return to her.

💐 Justine Montgomery – Sassy mother of the Montgomery brothers and the head boss over every project the Montgomery boys take on.

💐 Beckett & Own Montgomery – Brothers to Owen Montgomery, Beckett the architect and husband to Clare Brewster/Montgomery, father of three boys and Owen the organizer of the Montgomery family and engaged to Avery MacTavish.

💐 Clare Brewster/Montgomery & Avery MacTavish – Best friends to Hope. Clare is the wife of Beckett Montgomery, mother of three boys with an exciting bundle of love on the way and Avery is the fiance of Owen Montgomery, owner of MacT’s Restaurant and Tap Room.

I say this all the time as well. I love these characters. They’re fantastic and I swear, Justine is such a delightful, sassy, take no b.s. character that I absolutely love. They’re wonderful in their own ways and they’re always there for one another. Even more so in this book. We really see how everyone rallies to Hope and how Ryder stands by her in very specific moments.

“It’s never simple.” Avery slid an arm around Hope’s waist. “It shouldn’t be. Because being with someone should matter enough to be at least a little bit complicated.”

I’m not going to lie, I loved the way Hope and Ryder somehow balance each other out and are exactly what one another need. Hope can handle herself and throw it right back at Ryder when he’s being alpha. She challenges him, gets under his skin, but despite all that, she’s drawn to him because he’s stable and honest. Ryder drives Hope up a wall, always assumes she’s just a city girl, but he’s drawn to her for her strong will and independence. Not to mention, their intimacy and chemistry is 10/10.

Of course, I have to talk about the sense of family and community in this book. Being that this is in a small town setting, it’s very much small town vibes. I really wanted to point this out because even though Hope has Avery and Clare, she’s essentially still on her own in a new environment. So when a certain incident arises in this book, we really see how the Montgomery family flocks to her defense and surrounds her in that family love. I love books that that sense of family and community, the way they rally to someone who has carved out a space of importance.

“But you stand up for me. You tell me the truth. You make me laugh, and you make me want. You let me be and feel who I am. And you fell in love with me even when you didn’t want to.”

We finally get a conclusion for Eliza and Billy in this book. We learn all about them, their story, and we receive a final closing moment with Eliza and all the main characters. While I’m still not a fan of the paranormal element, I liked how their story was wrapped up.

However, I do want to take a moment to address Ryder’s dream though. First, please make sure you practice self-care when you read that section. Most importantly, this is probably the most conflicting thing that could have been added into this book. Despite the paranormal element and how I dislike it, I liked that so much more than this one scene. Now, it might be reading too much into it, but this was an indirect way of trying to represent trauma and possible PTSD. Basically, Ryder is “dreaming” yet he’s really reliving someone’s trauma and death during the war. For those who don’t know, those who suffer with PTSD or trauma can have flashbacks while they sleep. After this dream concludes, Ryder exhibits all the reactions of someone who just had a flashback. He’s woke up drenched in sweat, his heart was pounding, even when he talks with his family later on he says it felt so vivid, like he was living through it. I completely understand why we learned about this person’s death through Ryder’s “dream.” However, a character shouldn’t be having traumatic or PTSD flashbacks if they have never experienced trauma or have PTSD. There has never, ever been any indication that Ryder experienced something traumatic and there has never, in the whole trilogy, been a statement that Ryder has PTSD. So, I was not a fan of this particular scene and truly wish that whole scene had be executed in a completely different way.

Overall, I still enjoyed this book despite the paranormal element and despite the conflict with the trauma/PTSD representation in this book. The epilogue in this book is also lovely. It’s about Avery and Owen’s wedding. However, I’m still holding on to a glimmer of hope that one day we’ll get a novella about Hope and Ryder’s wedding. Fingers crossed. But I can’t recommend this trilogy enough. I love it with my whole heart and I’m constantly recommending it to fellow readers.

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Mass Effect: Discovery by Jeremy Barlow

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Other creators involved in the making of this graphic novel include: John Dombrow, Gabriel Guzman, & Michael Atiyeh

Content/Trigger Warnings: Minor xenophobia/racism (directed from humans to Turians), death, violence, talk of assault

Okay, I can explain, but first you need to hear me out. I swear, I didn’t know this was a Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiative graphic novel. In fact, the first time I saw the cover I instantly thought of Garrus Vakarian. And of course, my love for Garrus was such an obvious, logical answer that my brain said it didn’t need to read the synopsis of this graphic novel before purchasing it. So that’s what happened. But seriously, this wasn’t that bad of a graphic novel and I’ll just throw it out there… Fellow gamers need to give Mass Effect Andromeda a break for a hot second.

Our story follows a turian solider, Tiran Kandros, to investigate the Andromeda Initiative after they suspect them of using illicit Geth technology. However, getting to the bottom of things won’t be that simple. He’ll have to team up with the intimidating Luna Shanks to hunt down a missing Quarian scientist, who happens to hold the secrets of the Andromeda Initiative. But one Salarian mercenary is about to shake their mission up and make things twice as difficult.

Honestly, this wasn’t a terrible story line. As you read, you can’t help wanting to know the answers as much as Tiran. For those who are aware of Mass Effect, we get to see some familiar faces too. We see Nyreen and Aria both make an appearance in this book, and let me just tell you, the way they interact in Mass Effect 3 is the same in the graphic novel. Not to mention the action in every scene is so eye catching that it’s almost impossible to turn away for the context. However, I wish this would have been a little bit longer. I felt like we could have gotten a lot more from the story if it had only been a couple pages longer.

“I don’t know what’s waiting for us on the other side of 600 years… But I can’t wait to find out.”

However, I really liked that this graphic novel took the opportunity to show and talk about having a well recognized family name. There’s this theme of how riding the coattails of your parents or your family name isn’t always easy, full of rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes you have conflicted feelings and you want to branch away from that and make your own name. And I really liked how at the end of this graphic novel, we see Tiran decide to branch away from his family, get a new start, and really begin the next chapters of his own story. So I really appreciated that part of this book and I think many readers will love that.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad graphic novel at all. I think many lovers of Mass Effect will enjoy this graphic novel even if it is the Andromeda Initiative. I know if this had been a little bit longer then I would have given this a full five stars, but it definitely felt like the ending was rushed a bit and it needed to be just a tad longer. Besides that, I really enjoyed my time reading this graphic novel.

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The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts

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💐 The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy, #1) – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warning: Loss of a loved one, minor obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), talk of cheating/adultry, talk of abortion, talk of divorce, grief

Friends, this is probably my favorite out of all three of the books in this trilogy. I usually don’t like having favorites when I a trilogy or series, but this book just has my whole heart, and hits so close to home. And even though there’s the paranormal element in this book, it doesn’t have such a huge role in this books as it does with the other two books. And I just really love how Avery and Owen remind me of the way my spouse and I came into each other’s lives. I just love this book so, so much!

💐 Avery MacTavish – Owner of the popular pizza place, but has plans to run her own restaurant one day and wants nothing more than to play her part in helping the Montgomery family. Only she never planned for her feelings for Own Montgomery to be in the picture.

💐 Owen Montgomery – The softest, most organized boy and probably my favorite Montgomery boy. He has minor OCD and shows how things have to be done a certain way or it’s the highway. And in all his organization and needing to have a plan for everything, he never planned for Avery MacTavish to shake things up every plan he’s ever had.

💐 Elizabeth/Eliza – The spirit who lives at the historical inn the Montgomery family is fixing up. Waiting at the inn for her Billy to return to her.

💐 Justine Montgomery – Sassy mother of the Montgomery brothers and the head boss over every project the Montgomery boys take on.

💐 Beckett & Ryder Montgomery – Brothers to Owen Montgomery, Beckett the architect and husband to Clare Brewster/Montgomery, father of three boys and Ryder the muscles, the alpha male, of the Montgomery family.

💐 Clare Brewster/Montgomery & Hope Beaumont – Best friends to Avery. Clare is the wife of Beckett Montgomery, mother of three boys with an exciting bundle of love on the way and Hope just moved from D.C. to BoonsBoro, who now works as the inn keeper.

“Love runs the engine”

We follow Avery MacTavish who has never had any time to slow down. She runs the local pizza shop that always seems to be busy and every once in a while does she get a short pause to enjoy the little things in life. With a plan in mind, she wants nothing more than to take over an empty lot, the Montgomery family purchased, to turn into the restaurant of her dreams. But despite all of her planning, she never imagine Owen Montgomery, her lifelong crush, to play such a huge roll in her future. Owen Montgomery has had everything planned down to the final details with a backup plan in store. While the inn keeps him busy, he can’t stop his eyes or his mind from wandering to Avery MacTavish. Despite all of his fine planning, he never imagined Avery coming into to life and shaking up every plan for the future he’s ever had. Together, they’ll navigate what it means to be in a relationship and show each other that their future plans can include one another.

I said this before with the first book, but I’ll say it again here, I love all of these characters. They’re so thoroughly developed and you really get a feeling of who they are as individuals, but also when certain characters come together into the relationships forming. I also really love how we have a character who has some obsessive compulsive disorder aspects. Even though it’s minor, it’s still nice to see that kind of representation.

Of course, I have to talk about the family dynamics. Oh wow, when I say this book hits close to home, damn if it doesn’t hit close to home. For starters, Justine Montgomery is a character that deserves so much praise. Not only is she a widow and raise her three boys into wonderful men, but she’s a business woman and doesn’t tolerate any b.s. from anyone. She also talks about what it means to want companionship after the death of her husband. This leads to her having a conversation with Owen about her expressing her feelings and how she wants to have some fun in her life again, with a certain Will B. MacTavish, Avery’s father. Speaking of the MacTavish family, Avery’s mother walked out of her life at a very young age and was raised by her father, Willy B. Every time I read about Avery being raised by her father, my heart gets all warm for all the dad parents out there who are doing it all on their own. Single dads don’t get the spotlight they truly deserve and I’m glad we have such a strong, positive father-daughter relationship in this book. And when I mean this book hits close to home, even though I was raised in a single mother household, my father walked out on my life at a young age too. So it lands a certain way especially after Avery’s mother does come back into the picture and boy, it hit so hard. So you really see some great family dynamics in this book and I’m just really appreciative that there’s so much positivity, but it also shows the reality and the hardships that come with them.

What I love most about this book is the way Owen and Avery balance each other out. They’re so similar, yet so different in so many ways. Together, they’re like this unstoppable force that keep each other held together with love and determination. Without Owen, Avery would probably run herself into the ground and without Avery, Owen would never branch outside of his plans. Out of all of the couples in this trilogy, I truly love and appreciate the way Owen and Avery work. Plus, their conversations and the way their intimate scenes are set up, they hit all my expectations. And I also have to appreciate the way Avery’s father reminds Owen that even though she has the nickname, “Little Red Engine,” she still has bruises deep within her and Owen really provides a space where Avery can drop all her barriers, to show her vulnerable side.

“I want you to be careful with her, Owen. She’s had other boyfriends, but you’re different. You’ve got history and connections, and she’s had a sweet-on going. She’s tough, my girl, but she’s got places that bruise easy. It’s easy to forget that, so…don’t. I guess that’s it.”

This book also tackles so many important things that I don’t often find in the romance books I read. We really see Avery and Owen try to navigate what it means to love someone since childhood into adulthood and more so from Avery’s part, but trying to believe you’re worthy of love when someone who should have loved you and been there for you, rejects you. Now, I also want to state a warning, there is also a scene where abortion is talked about and it brings up a lot of discussion of pro-choice, pro-life, and when we should or shouldn’t include someone in these situations. I’m not going to talk about my feelings or opinions on that one, but there’s a whole scene of that in the book and it’s there to spark neutral discussion. I’ll just say this, there’s a lot of themes revolving around Avery’s mother that are there to spark discussion among readers.

“No matter how bad things are, and sometimes they were bad in our house, you want your mother to be there, to love you. And when she doesn’t, you feel . . . less.”

The only reason this book didn’t get the five stars is of course, the paranormal element. I truly believe this would have been better without the paranormal element. While it doesn’t bother me that it’s there, it feels like it’s unnecessary at times. However, I understand why the paranormal element was thrown in and I know many readers love it. For this particular series, the paranormal element just doesn’t work for me. If you’re not a fan of paranormal elements, out of all the books in this trilogy, this book has the least amount of paranormal in it.

Overall, I love this series so much and I really love this particular book. I just really love the positive representation of family dynamics, the way Owen and Avery mesh so well together, and of course, Justine Montgomery throwing her wild business plans all over the place. It’s just a really fun time and it’s just my favorite of all three of these books. I mentioned in my review of the first book that I get asked about Nora Roberts all the time and I truly think this is one of the best series you should read if you’re new to Nora Roberts. It’s just a great way to be introduced to her writing and the way she tends to write couples. Ugh, I truly love this series with my whole heart.

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The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited! by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, & Carey Pietsch

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🗡️ The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of death, murder, depiction of decapitation, swearing

Friends, if you thought I was just going to stop with the first book of this series then you thought wrong! My inner nerd is screeching at high levels because of this book, for so many reasons. My number one, favorite thing in adventure books is a good murder mystery. Needless to say, I was hooked from the very title and it just gets better the minute you open the page. I’m not kidding, if you have checked The Adventure Zone out yet, then you need to go look into it, immediately!

If you couldn’t guess by now, this book follows our main characters after they decided to join The Bureau of Balance, to help save the world and maintain, well, balance. Our heroes have been made reclaimers, they retrieve artifacts that could threaten the very existence of the world they live in. Upon receiving their new jobs, they are thrust into a new mission, to locate and retrieve a new artifact that’s more dangerous than the last they encountered. Now they’re on the Rockport Limited trying to locate the artifact only to be thrown into a murder mystery. Not only will they have to protect the world this time, but they’ll have to protect the innocent passengers of the train from a serial killer

🚂 Griffin McElroy – Dugeon Master; podcasting, karaoke, weaving a rich tapestry of drama

🚂 Magnus Burnsides – Human Fighter; battle, carpentry, everything else…apparently

🚂 Taako – Elf Wizard; spell-casting, transmutation, gastronomy

🚂 Merle Highchurch – Dwarf Cleric; healing…supposedly, now specializes in nature domain

From the dungeon master to our side characters, you will absolutely fall in love with each and every one of them. In the first book we were introduced to our main characters, Magnus, Taako, and Merle, but now we have an array of different characters. In the beginning of this book, not only do we get a recap of everything that happened, but we get reintroduced to The Director who is the head of The Bureau of Balance and Killian, the orc warrior we met in the first book. While they only play minor roles in this book, they’re both important characters to the overall story. Our side characters, however, are fantastic! Many readers are going to fall in love with Angus McDonald (the world’s greatest detective), Graham (a human wizard with an obsession of trains), and Jess the Beheader (prized fighter, weilds an axe that’s soul bound to her). They all great characters in their own way and I absolutely adored the various personalities they added into this adventure.

“Like I said, I am the world’s greatest detective and I am on the trail of a serial killer named… the Rockport Slayer.”

I think I say this all the time with any nerdy read, but this graphic novel was like coming home. This is a series filled with content that I’m more than familiar with. I play video games, I do LARPing, I do cosplay, I have also played plenty of D&D in my time, and reading The Adventure Zone reminds me of how much I love all of those things. So yes, every time I open the pages to these books, it’s like opening the front door and greeting my family, saying I love you to the person I am, and just acknowledging that these are things that I love, and I don’t want to lose that feeling, ever. So, I think for many readers who have a nerdy side to them, who love D&D, love a wild adventure that will hold your attention for days, I think readers will fall in love with The Adventure Zone as much as I have. Plus, dad jokes!

“Admittedly… This looks cool… But STILL! This is stupidly dangerous and he’s probably gonna die! That’s our boy!”

Of course, like the first book, this book is filled with so many things hilarious things and though book two has some serious elements, I still found myself wrapped up in giggles. There are so many great moments that are hilarious, awe striking, and moments that will twist your gut, but you can’t help loving it all. It’s the perfect balance of so many good elements and I think it’ll be easy for many readers to get wrapped up in this story.

And if you haven’t seen the stunning art for this series yet, then you really need to pick up a physical copy! The art style is absolutely stunning and constantly keeps my attention on the pages, lingering just a little longer before turning the page. I truly believe the art is one of my favorite things about this series and it’s so easy to feel a certain way on each panel. It’s perfect in every way and choosing one panel to love more than the other is so so difficult. It truly is enthralling.

Overall, I love this series and I’m patiently waiting for the third book to come out. Yes, that’s right, book three is coming out in July of this year! I’m so excited and I can’t wait for it to be here! We don’t have any details on what it’s about, but hopefully all the questions we had from this book will be answered in the next. Seriously, I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s a piece of my heart and I truly hope you’ll pick it up as soon as you can!

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