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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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The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1) by Nora Roberts

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/loss of a loved one, grief, assault, talk of domestic violence, misogynistic language, sexist language, stalking

“I’ve wanted to be with you when I didn’t have the right to.”

Friends, if you’ve been here a while then you probably already know I’m a reader of Nora Roberts. Yes, yes, I know. I have heard it all. That’s not the point. I grew up on Nora Roberts. In fact, I’m a third generation reader of Nora Roberts so it’s only natural that I would read her books. So if you’re one of many who have followed me from the very beginning, then you probably already know what I’m about to say. That I love the Inn BoonsBoro series with my whole heart and soul, and if you were thinking about trying to read some books by Nora Roberts, the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy is a perfect place to start!

💐 Beckett Montgomery – Architect in the Montgomery family, social life consists of talking shop over pizza and beer with his brothers, and has been waiting to kiss Clare Brewster since they were sixteen.

💐 Clare Brewster – Widowed mother of three, Harry, Liam, and Murphy, runs the town bookstore, and absolutely in love with the inn the Montgomery family is fixing up and might be falling in love with a certain architect.

💐 Sam Freemont – The antagonist, a know womanizer and abusive partner known among BoonsBoro town folk, has his eyes set on Clare and refuses to take the hint of rejection, but soon starts forming a plan.

💐 Elizabeth – The spirit who lives at the historical inn the Montgomery family is fixing up.

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

💐 Owen & Ryder Montgomery – Brothers to Beckett Montgomery, Owen the organizer, the softest boy, and Ryder the muscles, the alpha male, of the Montgomery family.

💐 Avery MacTavish & Hope Beaumont – Best friends to Clare Brewster. Avery owns the local pizza shop and Hope just moved from D.C. to BoonsBoro for a fresh start.

I love all of these characters (except Sam Freemont)! They’re wonderful, they truly paint the picture of a family who takes care of one another no matter what. It was everything my heart needed and loves to read about! Plus, the family dynamics are wonderful and shows them in such positive lights.

“That’s possible to likely. We’re involved, you and me. I’m telling you what I’m going to do because I figure when people are involved, when they matter, they tell each other.”

The Next Always follow our two main characters, Beckett Montgomery and Clare Brewster, as they navigate the challenges in their life, but navigate the road of romance to find one another. Beckett is trying to manage the challenges that come with rebuilding an inn, but also navigating the heart of a widowed mother who is too busy to consider love and romance. Clare is a busy mom of three sons, the owner of the local bookstore, and dealing with a creep who won’t take no for an answers. The last thing Clare has on her mind is starting a romance with anyone, let alone Beckett Montgomery, but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.

I say this all the time, I love this trilogy, the characters, the world building, and relationships. For those who didn’t know, the inn that’s talked about throughout this whole trilogy is an actual inn in BoonsBoro, Maryland that you can stay at or tour. While I haven’t been there myself, just from the photos alone and their website, it looks like an absolute dream!

This book also discusses many topics. For example, what it means to leave home to start a family and when it feels like you have no place to go, you can always go back home. That’s one of the main themes throughout this book, no matter what, you can always go home. This book also talks about what it means to be a single parent and how there are many challenges a single parent faces. I do say it often, I am from a single parent home and I watched my parent struggle with fiances, dating, and feeling like the only person they could rely on was themselves. And I think Clare’s character really opens the floor up for discussion for single parents and the hardships they may face.

“Harry, I promised you something. I said I’d clear it with you before I asked your mom to marry me. I need you to tell me it’s okay if I do.”

I also really love how you get the true feeling of small community and small town vibes with this book. When you read this book, you get a sense of everyone looks after one another. Also true to small towns, you pick up on how fast “gossip” flies around BoonsBoro in this book. Not only that, the description of the book store, the pizza shop, and the inn are so vividly described that it feels like you’re walking around BoonsBoro.

I also want to take a moment to talk about the problem with Sam Freemont and the way Clare handles the situation with Sam Freemont. I think this might be something that causes a lot of readers to have an issue with this book or cause dislike. So, I thought I would come in and give a little perspective from someone who has experienced the things Sam Freemont does is this book. Of course, please make sure you practice self-care while reading the sections. Sam Freemont is a character in this book who has always been given everything he wants and if he can’t have it, he takes it. Sam’s character starts off as a narcissist, but over time escalates to stalker, but eventually develops to showing signs of psychopathic traits. Sam refuses to hear Clare’s rejects, refuses to take a hint, and it has been indicated that Clare has been hiding the situation from everyone, including her best friends. As someone who has gone through having a stalker and people in my life showing psychopathic traits, Clare’s action or natural response is an accurate representation of those who have gone through these situations. It’s not the correct response, but it is accurate and valid because most of the time, you convince yourself it’ll stop all on it’s own.

Despite all the things that happen within this book, I think the part that dulled my experience was the paranormal element in this book. When I first read this book, I was head over heels and while I still love this trilogy, the paranormal element wasn’t my favorite part. I think if it was removed, I would have been able to give this the five stars I had originally gave it.

Overall, this was a reread for one of my favorite series and even though it only got four stars, I still love this series. I’m always asked what is the best place to start with Nora Roberts books and I will always say this series. The family dynamic will have you falling in love, small town vibes, there’s an inn involved, and characters you will love with your whole heart. There’s something in here for everyone and I just can’t stop recommending it.

Read for the Stay Home Reading Rush 📖

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Check Please!, Book 2: Sticks & Stones (Check, Please! #3-4) by Ngozi Ukazu

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🏒Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey | Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Hazing, underage drinking, homophobia, anxiety/panic attacks

“It’s about having each other’s back. Because they’ve taught me I can be strong just how I am. Exactly how I am.”

My heart is so bitter sweet right now! I can’t believe that this is it. This is the last book in the Check Please duology! My heart is full, but sad at the same time. I love all these characters, this story, and there’s a part of me that’s excited to see what Ngozi will come up with next! If you haven’t read this series yet, hop on it! It’s so wonderful and it’s a piece of my own heart. I think this duology has made into my top five favorite graphic novels and I’m not okay!

If you haven’t read the first book, well, you definitely need to change that asap! Book Two follows introduces us to Bitty’s junior year and with that, we follow up on how things ended in Book One. So you have to go read the first book before diving into the final book. However, I will keep this review as spoiler free as I possibly can!

Of course we’re following Bitty (Eric Bittle) in his junior and senior year, and boy have things changed! Bitty is now the captain of the Samwell hockey team and he’s facing all kinds of new challenges. Like how to manage the team and trying to be the best captain for the team that he can be. We also discover that Bitty is dating someone and we watch them navigate the struggles of being in a relationship with one another. And of course, Bitty is still his typical self with baking, cooking, and all the food goodness! I was living for all the food in this graphic novel!

That aside, I really loved this book a lot more than the first one. While the first book was more about Bitty coming to college and how he became part of the hockey team, book two deals with a lot harder topics. For example, Bitty and his boyfriend navigating their relationship, figuring out who they want to tell and how open they want to be about their relationship. We see the hardships and we also see how coming out can be hard, scary, painful, and being unable to find the words to tell the ones you love most. There’s even a scene where Bitty and his father end up in a very heavy topic. It really shows how being out in your sexuality can cause someone such internal turmoil and the emotional strain one may be enduring.

There’s also really great representation throughout this entire book as well. You have players from different nationalities, there are actual characters of color on page, and there’s so much lgbtqiap representation! Now can you understand why I love this graphic novel so much. It has everything a reader could want in a book and there is a bisexual character as well. So you know my heart is filled to the brim with happiness.

“God Bits, I wish I could kiss you.”

We also see a lot of our favorite from the first book as well! They’re there for all the important points and we even get updated on how they’re doing since they left Samwell. Even though they’re not around as much, they still remind us of why we love them so much. Plus, in the back of the second book, we find out Shitty’s real name! One of the biggest highlights of this whole book. And even though a lot of the original crew isn’t around too often, the new member we meet are just as entertaining, charming, and captivating as the first crew.

I just love this graphic novel series so much! And the ending of this book was absolute perfection! I don’t think I’ll ever be over this duology and any chance I get, I will probably be recommending it to anyone who’ll listen. This is such an enchanting book with great characters who you’ll fall in love with. Besides, I’m not much a sports reader, but this is one sports book that I will sing the praises of for all eternity. I hope you fall in love with this duology as much as I have, love these characters as much as I do, and just enjoy the ride of it all!

Read for the Stay Home Reading Rush 📖

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Well Met (Well Met #1) by Jen DeLuca

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of loss of a loved one (non-hodgkins lymphoma), grief deception, depression depiction, abandonment, and anxiety

“I didn’t choose the wench life. The wench life chose me.”

My heart, my heart can’t get over this book! Everything I wanted, everything I needed was right here in this book! Now I’m kicking myself because I waited so long to read this book. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m obsessed with anything that’s Renaissance Festivals. Whether it’s in a book or out in the physical world, I love Renn Fest so much. I attend it every year and it’s just the biggest highlight to my fall bucket list. So when I found out that there was a contemporary-romance that takes place during a Renaissance Fair, my heart was over the moon. And I’m still in love with this book!

🌹 Emily – 24, leaves her past behind and travels across the country, to a small town in Maryland, to help her sister and niece while her sister recovers from an accident. Her niece, Caitlin, wants nothing more than to join her friends in the the Renaissance Festival, but she can only join if a parent or guardian volunteers as well. Soon, Emily goes from being the newcomer to Emma the tavern wench.

🌹 Simon – 27, a high school English teacher, protective of his town’s Renaissance Festival, that he helps run every year to help continue the legacy, while he transforms into the famous Ian Blackthorn, the sexiest pirate at the whole fair!

I loved these characters and I loved the way they fit so well with one another. From their very first encounter, the tense build between them was so good. However, as individual characters, they were just as amazing. Watching them go through everything and reading their character development just made me the happiest reader ever. It was so hard not to fall in love with them.

“Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.”

One thing that really struck me was that this takes place in a small town, in Maryland. This book hit so close to home for so many reasons. One, I’m originally from a small town. So I understand how word travels and how the sense of community can be great, but also feel like a heavy anchor at times. And secondly, I currently reside in Maryland. So that fact that there are references to the Renaissance Festival that literally happens in the state I live in, it made me feel a certain kind of soft and sappy.

And of course, I have to talk about the family dynamics and the amount of family love this book has! As I mentioned, this book had so many of my favorite elements and that includes all the family goodness. I loved that there was a strong unconditional love between Emily and her sister, April. I loved that in their times of need, they both rallied for one another, to take care of one another. It filled my heart with so much love. I also really loved that we saw the positive side of small towns with how every rallied to Emily, to take care of her while she was hurting. I really loved that and as I said, family elements are one of my favorite things a book can have.

“Let us love you, and remind you that you’re worth it until you figure out what you’re going to do next.”

Overall, I an’t believe I waited so long to read this, but I’m so happy that I finally read it. I laughed, I swooned, and I cried for this book, these characters. I think I love every inch of this book and it was the perfect book that lifted my heart in so many ways. From the romance, to the setting, to all the family dynamic love, my soul feels very complete after reading this book. I’m excited for book two and if you’ve been thinking about picking this book up, please do. I promise, there’s so much to love about this book!

Buddy read with Drew from Drew the Reader ❤️

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Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles

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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 25th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Alcohol and drinking, mind manipulation, controlling/possessive behavior, trauma, misogyny, mentions of blood and injury, missing persons, grief/loss, death of a parent

“For in the world of magic, a woman’s place lies in the quiet shadows of labor magic, the encouraged path. The safer one. Because the ones who dare most often disappear.”

Dearest friends, with this being one of my anticipated release for 2020, I wanted nothing more than to love this book with every fiber of my soul. The question is, did I fall in love with this book? Yes, yes I did! It captivated my attention from the very first page and left me craving more. It’s no surprise that Where Dreams Descend has made it onto my top books of 2020! I am in love with this book, Janella’s writing, and I can’t wait for all of you to pick this book up!

Kallia has been a showgirl at Hellfire House for most of her life. With a deep bond with the head of the club, Jack, and everything at her finger tips, how could she possibly want anything more? Until a flyer lands in her possession about a competition happening in Glorian where magicians compete to be the next headliner for the Conquering Circus. With an everlasting dream, powerful magic, and an ambitious desire, Kallia will start to uncover all the lies and manipulation keeping her caged at Hellfire House. When she finally flees Jack, she’ll learn just how dangerous Glorian really is for a magician especially as her fellow competitors start to disappear and everything she’s longed for is threatened.

♠️ Kallia – The Star, our main heroine, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost. Truly proud of her powers, how hard she’s worked, with a dream to one day preform in Glorian. A cinnamon roll in every way, trying to break free from the chains and cage Hellfire House placed upon her.

♠️ Jack – The Master, controlling and mysterious, the enigmatic keeper of Hellfire House, and more than one lie told to keep the show going. Using manipulation and deception to keep Kallia caged at Hellfire House, protecting her from the dangers of the the outside world.

♠️ Demarco – The Magician, a mysterious man, the brooding judge with a past that won’t stop haunting him. He is a broken, soulful boy who used to be a powerful magician and now he’s the strictest one to prevent others from making the mistakes he made. Also, he’s unable to resist the pull of Kallia’s energy and her fiery passion.

I say this all the time, give me a book with morally grey characters and it’s a sure guarantee that I will fall in love with your book. Where Dreams Descends delivers just that, characters who are morally grey. No matter if they were a main character or a side character, I fell in love with so many of them and I truly can’t wait to see more of them. And while I’m talking about our lovely characters, we have to talk about Aros! Aros was a fiercely loyal character to Kallia. Despite their original interaction, I truly believe Kallia saw the true potential and all the best qualities in Aros. I never mattered if Kallia told him her secrets, he was always right by her side especially in the times where she needed him the most. He was a witty, charming, and such a soft character who delivered so much for me, as a reader.

Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge with Cinderella and Repunzel elements? Yes please! The writing style is lush with vivid descriptions, mysterious wonder, with an atmosphere so captivating, so familiar that it will hook you from the very beginning! I was in a complete trance of tension and anticipation as I submerged myself into this story line. Angeles has the kind of writing style that I love. One that catches you from the first page and makes you want to power read the whole book in one sitting. She laces her book with a story and plot laced with hints, clues, and truths that reveal just enough, but doesn’t show our author’s full hand. Leaving us, the readers, to theorize, wonder, and visualize what’s in store for us next. With so many questions unanswered and a cliffhanger of an ending, book two is bound to deliver a good time.

“It was wrong to justify what sort of hurt mattered and what didn’t. Anything that left scars came from hurt. Only now was she realizing the scars she bore and had trained herself not to see.”

I also want to talk about a lot of the content warnings in this book. Of course, please make sure you practice self-care and self-love when reading anything with content warnings. Even though there are clear elements of fantasy in this book, I want to say how accurate the representation is for being in a relationship or having a connection to someone who uses mind manipulation or essentially brainwashing as a tool to aid with their control and possessive behavior. I don’t want to go into too many details, but as someone who has lived with someone who has that kind of behavior, it’s an accurate representation. Ever emotion, every feeling Kallia feels due to the things Jack subjects her to, this is what it feels like to have that kind of presence in your life and to have them coming back after only short amounts of time from the last you saw them.

And of course, there’s the romance that blooms! This was the factor that surprised me the most. Even though it’s right in the description, it still took me by surprise and I still fell madly in love with it. I do wish we had more of it though. The romance was there, but there truly wasn’t enough for this to be labeled as a romance. So I’m hoping in the second book we’ll be seeing more of the romance elements that we’re all dying for!

Overall, I’m honestly shocked. It feels like an eternity since I read a ya fantasy that really reminded me of why I love the fantasy genre so much. Even after finishing this book, I’m still asking myself why I’m so surprised when it has so many elements that I love. This book is bound to be on so many readers’ top books for 2020. With this being one of my anticipated releases for 2020, I’m happy to say this was everything I wanted and more. If you’re looking for a darkly dramatic book that’s own voices then I can’t recommend this book enough to you!

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

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Always Human by Ari North

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Eating disorder, discussion of body image, anxiety

“When I see you, the universe comes into focus”

Friends, I absolutely adored this webcomic! Everything about this comic was so beautiful, so endearing, and everything I never knew I needed until I had it. My soul is so filled with warmth, happiness, and all the best vibes. I don’t think I can recommend this enough and you can read it for free on Webtoons!

☄️ Sunati – 22 year-old Asian-Australian, has anxiety and loves mods, works for a company on VR environment design, dreams of being an astronaut and loves space.

☄️ Austen – 18 year-old Chilean-Australian, can’t use mods due to an autoimmune disorder, struggles with an ED, also a college student.

Our story follows Sunati and Austen, our main characters who fall in love with one another. They’ll navigate their relationship, the struggles they’ll face, and learning what it means to be truly human with one another. Oh yeah, there’s also a lot of topics addressed like living with an autoimmune disorder and how that impacts your relationships, subtle talks of gender fluidity, addressing the struggles and pressure of college, and oh yeah, navigating the complexities of feelings in the relationships around us.

Let me start by saying the representation in this graphic novel is fantastic! Not only are our two main characters in a sapphic relationship, but there’s many side characters who are agender or asexual. We even have a polyamorous relationship with Sunati’s parents. We also have the representation for autoimmune disorders and eating disorders in this webcomic as well. Not to mention, there are many people of color throughout this story. It’s just a wonderful way to represent so much diversity.

Speaking of side characters, I absolutely adored Rae. Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she truly is a magnificent friend to Sunati. I wish we saw more of her through this comic and I’m secretly hoping the author will give her a spin-off series. I can’t get over her and I adore her, so much!

I also need to go off on a side tangent on how beautiful the art style is. I absolutely adored the colors and the music the author paired with this webcomic was fantastic. When I say I fell in love with this webcomic, I mean I really fell in love with how stunning it all is. My heart has never felt so at peace and at home with a comic the way I did with this one because that’s how alluring and captivating the art is.

I also really enjoyed Sunati and Austen’s relationship. Despite how hard they struggled and the challenges they faced, they always found a way to work it out, talk it out. I liked how the author really showed the complexities of a relationship and how things in a relationship aren’t always easy. Seeing that, I think many couples who have walked into hell and have come back will be able to appreciate this relationship. I know for myself, there were many parts of their relationship that hit close to home and it makes a person pause to appreciate walking through the fire, and coming out on the other side.

“And even though she’s leaving, and even though I’m staying behind, I have to believe distance won’t matter. I have to believe we’ll always find each other.”

One thing I wish we had more of was Austen. The reason I say that is because Austen felt like the weaker of the two main characters. Suntai felt like a stronger force for me and had a way of capturing my attention over Austen. Even when we had panels of just Austen, I found myself wanting more from her and wanting to know so much more about her. I’m hoping we’ll see these characters again and I refuse to believe that this is the end of the story for these two.

Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. It was the perfect read, the perfect pick me up, and something I really needed to lift my spirits. I think many readers are going to fall in love with this comic, with these characters, and everything it has to offer. I wish I could sit here and gush about every little thing, but I think you need to find out for yourselves what I’m talking about. After all, you can read this graphic novel for free!

Read for the Dragons and Tea Book Club 🐉

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The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, emotional abuse, talk of past war themes, mental abuse (by the male love interest to himself), scene of PTSD/trauma

“For this moment, there was no before and no after. There was only now, and now was everything.”

Friends, historical romance is not my genre for books, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say this historical romance gave me everything! For my first true historical romance and first Tessa Dare read, this absolutely blew me out of the water. I laughed, I sobbed and cried, I clutched my pearls, and I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!

🏰 Duke of Ashbury – Coming home from the war, most of his body is severely burned and scarred. It has taken him great amounts to recover, but even after recovering, his engagement is broken off and has a falling out with many friends. Now, Ash keeps himself locked away within his estate and finds himself in the position of needing to sire a son.

🏰 Emma Gladstone – The Seamstress who made the dress to the betrothed of Ash. Yet, no one paid her for all the hard work and labor that went into making the dress. Emma has been living on her own and is desperate need of money. So she takes it upon herself to go collect what is owed and march up to the Duke’s estate.

Yet, the Duke will not only pay her for the dress, oh no, he will also take her hand in marriage and make her his Duchess; even though she doesn’t come from a family of wealth, has no name of power, and has been living on her own for quite a while now. However, this offer is mostly for the Duke’s gain because he is in need of a son and not a marriage of romance like Emma secretly wishes. The Duke expects Emma to take his offer, but it will only be in name. He will come to her every night to try to conceive a child, and once she’s pregnant, he will pack her up to send away into the country to live on her own and raise his heir. It’s an offer too good to pass up especially when Emma’s friend is in need of help, and Emma will realize that this is an offer that could change everything she ever knew, completely.

I loved this story. From the very beginning it gave me Beauty and the Beast vibes. I was almost tempted to giving it the label of a retelling. It was so good and even some side characters reminded me of characters from the original Beauty and the Beast story. I think many readers who love tat kind of theme, but don’t necessarily want the full Beauty and the Beast retelling experience. Alongside all of this, I really loved the way Emma and Ash came together. Whether it was the way they thought about the other inside their minds, the small moments they shared together, or even when they were in the bedroom. I loved every moment of it and I loved the banter they shared between one another. They complimented each other really well.

“Ash gripped the doorjamb so hard, his knuckles lost sensation. He wanted her to read the whole cursed book while he watched. He wanted the book to have a thousand pages.”

I do want to take a moment to say how much I loved Ash. While I haven’t seen war, I have had a lot of things happen to me that have left terrible scarring on the outside of my body. So having Ash as a character was like taking a swift blow to the gut. The way Ash talks about himself, how he feels about himself, and the way he can’t look past his scars… I know those feelings all too well. And I truly loved seeing the representation his character. Not to mention, he has moments where he does relive his traumatic experience and I have to say that this is accurate. A lot of times those who suffer traumatic experiences often relive it while they’re sleeping or having that “looking often into the distance” expression. I know because I live with PTSD every single day of my life and Ash’s character was so much more than I expected him to be. So I’m really glad the author took the time and effort to craft Ash the way he is.

With all of this being said, there was one thing that really threw me for a loop and that was the cover. It is said in the book that on one side of Ash’s body he is fully burned and scarred, but I truly wished the author and publisher would have taken the time to truly show the representation. While I understand why the cover is the way it is, I would have really loved to have seen that representation on he cover of this book.

Overall, I loved this and this won’t be the last of my Tessa Dare adventures. I think now is the perfect time to pick up this series and start power reading it. I’m so thankful for Kayla from Books and Blends because she know exactly what books are going to hit my soul in all the right ways! And I had to include one final quote because she told me I needed to add this (I was laughing so hard and still am)! This quote reminds me so much of my spouse and many of my friends. It was just bloody brilliant and I will never get over that quote! On that note, this book is fantastic and I can’t wait to start the next in the series.

“Because,” he said, “I like to know the names of the people I despise. I keep them in a little book and pore over it from time to time, whilst sipping brandy and indulging in throaty, ominous laughter.”

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Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo, Lilian Klepakowsky

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

This review is being published on the release date (April 21st, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Fat shaming/fat phobia, body dsymorphia, eating disorders, depression, anxiety

Dearest friends, let me start by saying that there will be many pieces in this review where I am speaking from my own experiences of eating disorders, body dsymorphia, and disordered eating, and that I strongly urge anyone who picks this graphic novel up to be in the right head space before reading. I will be addressing many things in this review and I think it’s important to state that everyone who reads this graphic novel will experience it differently than others will. I truly liked this graphic novel and I think many readers will like this graphic novel. However, this book did miss a few marks for me and I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed.

Our story follows our main character, Mindy who suffers from bulimia and body dsymorphia. One night when she goes grocery shopping, she discovers a candy bar she never heard of before and soon realizes this chocolate bar isn’t like all the others. This chocolate bar takes Mindy back to points in her life to teach her a lesson to hopefully bring her closer to loving herself and seeing the true value despite what others say.

For starters, the art work in this graphic novel is very beautiful and absolutely captivating. The coloring of each panels really helped set the tone and the experience for the readers. I also really enjoyed the way the chocolate bar was used as a way of flashing back to the past. I thought that was a really creative and unique way on the author’s part as well.

I also really appreciate the harsh reality of what eating disorders are like and the way various eating disorders were handled in this book. As someone who had bulimia nervosa from a very young age into pre-teens and is still dealing with disordered eating, the representation definitely landed all the hits. You can tell that the author truly understands eating disorders and is written by someone who lived it. I do have the content warnings listed above so please make sure you are practicing self-care when reading this graphic novel. There were some parts that definitely sparked some need for self-care with myself. So please make sure you’re in the right head space. I will say that this graphic novel is brutally honest at addressing fat shaming, fat phobia, and eating disorders especially due to a lot of scenes being from friend and family. However, even though these are people a person can care about, they can still find ways to hurt us by saying hurtful things and using “we only want what’s best for you” as a way of justifying their actions.

Despite these positive things, I definitely had some issues with this graphic novel. For starters, I felt very underwhelmed emotionally. I stated that I have lived with eating disorders almost my entire life now and it just didn’t pull on my heart strings the way it has for other readers. My experience with eating disorders has always been a very brutal relationship especially when it came to the loved ones around me and the things they would say. So when the scenes of conflict with the loved ones arose, it felt like things were swept under a rug and never truly explored in depth. I feel like an opportunity was missed on a proper conversation happening between Mindy and those loved ones. I would have loved to see her really sit down and have those conversations.

My other issue was the ending. By the time the ending rolled around, it should have felt like Mindy learned something. However, once again I felt very underwhelmed and feeling like Mindy learned nothing. It almost felt like the conclusion to the story was rushed. I also want to point out that there was never any true feeling of Mindy learning to love herself through this entire book. As we read through the book we see Mindy see how everything started to happen and she does acknowledge what is happening to her. However, we never get a true sense that Mindy fully understands what it means to love herself. All we have is the ending where she states that she’s going to do better by her body. That’s it, it’s no address in further detail or even concludes with bonus content with some time that has passed. We just have her saying she’s going to do right by her body. I really wish we would have gotten a couple more pages or even a more in depth look at how she’s going to start doing right by her body instead of the feeling that it did.

Overall, I did like this book and I think it’s a great message at addressing eating disorders in a more visual tone. However, I would have liked more from this graphic novel, in so many ways. I also would have liked bonus content ending on a more positive note of reclaiming her body and actually treating herself with more kindness. I think many readers will enjoy this book, connect with it, but for myself, I truly wish there had been more depth. The art work, however, is absolutely stunning and I think many will love it as much as I do.

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Happily Ever After & Everything In Between by Debbie Tung

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

This review is being published on the release date (June 2nd, 2020)

Dearest friends, this was just the sweetest read and a great way to kick off the month of April. I absolutely loved this comic and in some ways, remind me very much of my own marriage with my partner. It’s funny, charming, and just the little things about married life. It also reminds you to take a moment to appreciate everything you have in these challenging times. The perfect read if you need that quick pick me up!

Our story follows two characters who are newly weds. This book shows their every day life and their interactions with one another. They share funny moments, the chaoticness that can come with being married, and even moments of awe. We even have moments where they spend time with their friends and it shows how things can change once you get married. The moving scenes are absolute hilarious perfection!

I really loved this book and I loved all the moments the couple shared. I think many newly weds and even married couples will be able to relate to this graphic novel very easily. The characters are easy to see oneself in and even if you’re not married, I think someone could related to the things happening in this graphic novel. The ending is probably the sweetest part though! It ends on such a feel good note and I would be lying if I didn’t say I ‘awe’d’ a few times before finally turning the page.

Overall, I think it’s easy to tell that I enjoyed this graphic novel and found that it brought a lot of sappy feelings into my heart. I think now is the perfect time to pick up all those feel good books and this is one you don’t want to miss out on. It’s super endearing, really precious, and just the book many readers need in their life right now! I highly recommend giving it a try and letting the wholesome goodness of this book make you a little warmer!

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The Girl from the Other Side: Siuil A, Run Vol. 8 (The Girl from the Other Side, #8) by NAGABE

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🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 1 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 2 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 3 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 4 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 5 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 6 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌻 The Girl from the Other Side Vol. 7 | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Graphic injuries, impalement, talk of democide, grief, starvation, attempted sacrifice, terminal illness

“This time I will surely save you.”

Friends, I love this series with every fiber of my being! These characters, this world, just everything about it makes me melt into a puddle. I have been following these characters since I got my hands on the first volume and to say this isn’t a new favorite would be doing it a disservice. Also, if you haven’t read my full series review yet, please go check it out so you have a better idea about this world and these characters!

Factions

🌻 Humans/Mortals – Like you and me, live on the Inside
🌻 Cursed Ones – Beast like creatures, plagued with The Curse, feared by mortals, roam the Outside
🌻 Humans/Mortals – Like you and me, live on the Inside
🌻 The God of Light – Creator of happiness and peace
🌻 The God of Darkness – Trickster, plays pranks on the God of Light, steals away happiness, cause of The Curse

Characters

🌻 Teacher – Main character, horned Cursed Child, guardian of Shiva, either a scholar or doctor when mortal
🌻 Shiva – Main character, child of Light, protected by the most holy, innocent, companion to Teacher
🌻 Teacher – Main character, horned Cursed Child, guardian of Shiva, either a scholar or doctor when mortal
🌻 Father or Head Priest of the Church – Orders for constant capture of Shiva, believer of the “prophecy”, orders soldiers to cause democide, aid of his royal majesty
🌻 Mother – Intentions unknown, creator of the Black Children
🌻 The Black Children – Created by “Mother”, similar to Teacher, wish to obtain Shiva’s soul

This is the volume where it finally happens, the church final captures Shiva. So the majority of this book we follow her perspective and the things that befall her after Teacher saves her life. In previous volumes, we learn that the church has been trying to capture Shiva because of a prophecy that claims if you sacrifice the child of white from the Outside then the curse will be lifted. However, things don’t go according to plan when things take a turn for the worse during the ceremony.

I have said this so many times, this series is so good at building a story-line and anticipation! Not to mention that this author has a tendency to end their volumes on a cliffhanger. I have never come across a manga series that ends on so many intense cliffhangers. Now, I may be over selling it. However, in all my time reading manga, I have never wanted to acquire a series so fast because of the way the story-line is built and how each volume ends. Each volume is it’s own master piece at painting the bigger picture of the story that’s unfolding and it makes the reader become fully invested.

I really loved that we see a lot of character development in this volume. In past volumes there was character development, but in this volume we really get that sense of what the main characters mean to one another. Teacher makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Shiva, while Shiva realizes how much she wants to stay with Teacher after being captured by the church. We already had a sense of how important each main character was to the other, but this volume has both main characters acknowledge their love for one another, the importance of each other, and how they don’t want to lose one another. This is a very similar character development that you see in the manga series, The Ancient Magus Bride between Elias and Chise. I love these type of character developments and I really enjoy when characters realize the importance of their love interest or their companion/friends.

“You were like the light of a flickering candle flame. Too faint to illuminate the path ahead. You were so small, so slight and fragile. A breath could have extinguished you. And yet… You were all that I needed and more.”

Of course, we also see more of the church and His Majesty in this volume. We’ve seen bits and pieces of them in past volumes. Along with scenes of soldiers sent by the church venturing through the Outside, but we never had a volume that fully involves the church. In this volume, we learn that His Majesty is terminally ill with a type of heart condition that keeps becoming worse. We also have this sense that the church is pulling a lot more strings then it lets on. The last scene we have of the priest leaves a dark, ominous feeling that would lead to speculation that something far worse is coming or the possible potential of the church taking matters into their own hands. Either way, this volume has more darker themes than one would expect.

And I have to mention how the author includes these important moments with specific items. Near the end of this book, Shiva interacts with a stranger within the prison she’s being held in. This stranger ends up bringing her the pocket watch that Teacher gave to her. Turns out, Teacher had the pocket watch inscribed to Shiva to show how much he valued her, how important she was, and ultimately gave this pocket watch to her. Now going back to the stranger, we have no idea who this person is or what their true motives are. However, my guess is this person will be revealed in a later volume that shows them helping Shiva escape captivity or secretly be a Cursed One. Either way, I have no doubt that this person is going to be of great importance in volumes to come.

Overall, I absolutely loved this volume. I can find nothing wrong with this series and I truly love it with my very being. I can’t believe we have to wait until August for volume nine to be published in English! However, we have a cover for the volume and it is absolutely stunning! I can’t wait to see what the next volume will hold in this dark fantasy. Seriously, if you haven’t picked this series up yet, let me be the voice that tells you to give this manga series a chance! It’s so good and I recommend it with every ounce of my soul!

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