ARC Reviews

The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories edited by Kate Ashwin

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Iron Circus Comics in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (April 5th, 2022)

My heart, my freaking heart is so damn full right now! There aren’t enough words to convey how happy I am to have an arc of this graphic novel anthology right now. I ended up missing out on requesting an arc for this anthology and had it wish-listed, and as fate would have it, while on vacation I was surprised with this sliding into my library. If you haven’t heard me talk about how emotional I get every time I get a book by a Native/Indigenous author/s then here it is right here. I’m so emotional, so so grateful, and very privileged to have this right now.

As an Apache reader, book blogger, this anthology means the world to me just as all literature I receive by Native/Indigenous authors. If you would have told a very young, child Malli that I would be able to see more Indigenous people in literature that isn’t from a stereotypical lens and actually by Indigenous authors, I probably would have laughed and then broke down into sobs. Growing up as an urban Native and as someone who has spent years reconnecting with one’s heritage; you end up missing a lot of things, you can’t always go to PowWow, your elders aren’t always available to teach you, you have to devote large portions of time to learning your dialect (in my case, Eastern and Western Apache), and so on. So receiving this anthology, seeing stories I recognize, having heard these stories from my elders or others of my own age, it just means everything to me. It is everything.

As always for my anthology reviews, I have mini reviews for all the short stories where I talk about my thoughts, feelings, and include content/trigger warnings.

As It Was Told To Me by Elijah Forbes (Odawa) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a story about creation and The Creator, and about life. This story had me super emotional because I couldn’t help thinking about a similar story I was told from my Auntie. It got me really emotional and soft thinking about her and when she told me about how creation was a sort of awakening, how Creator created other gods/deities, and the way everything came into being. Reading this story, I just felt instant connection and just reminded that even if the story is slightly different, all tribes are connected to each other because of a story like this one.

“They were the most sacred being, feminine and masculine. Not in parts, but both at the same time.”

Chokfi by Jordaan Arledge & Mekala Nava (Chickasaw) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story is about how animals became vain because of their coats. Chokfi being a very proud rabbit, became curious after hearing about Otter’s coat being the most beautiful and his plot to make Otter’s coat his. I think the Trickster stories are always my favorite stories to hear from my elders because each story is different depending on the tribe. For example, a lot of Apache trickster stories revolve around coyote (which I feel in modern day is used, along with foxes, as trickster icons). Look, I’m not saying I’m biased, but this was one of my favorite stories from this anthology.

White Horse Plains by Rhael McGregor (Métis/Cree) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief mentions of starvation, brief scenes/mentions of violence, and brief scene of implied death

Honestly, this was the story that held my attention the most. This story revolves around the growing conflict between the Sioux & Assiniboine and the Cree. I find that so many stories in literature (in general) constantly revolve around the colonization and the wars that constantly broke out during that whole time period, but we never see the struggles and conflicts between different tribes very often. And for me, this story was the main reason this anthology caught my attention in the first place. I had only heard faint whispers about the White Horse Plains, but never had a chance to ask anyone about it or get the chance to research into the story itself to learn more. And this was both sad, tragic, but understandable and beautiful in some ways.

“It’s believed the spirit of the bride resides within him, helping steer those who are lost or misguided onto the right path so that they do not fall into a tragic fate.”

The Rougarou Maija Ambrose Plamondon & Milo Applejohn (Métis) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of killing animals, mentions loss of loved one (in the past), grief

I think this one surprised me the most out of all these stories. The stories of the Rougarou are something that I’m very partial too and I guess in a way, I connected with this particular story on a very deep, emotional and personal level. This story is about a young child to encounters a Rougarou and befriends the Rougarou, and the story behind this child’s Rougarou friend. This story, though short, has beautiful themes and I cried reading this whole story. I think this is going to be my most loved and preferred story of the Rougarou thus far.

“You put yourself in potential danger because you could sense help was needed. Facing your fear is a great sign of bravery.”

Agonjin In The Water by Alice RL (Ojibwe) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was ever a story to remind you of how sacred water is, let this one story be it. If you don’t know, water is very sacred to Native/Indigenous people especially the plains tribes because droughts can be intensely rough to get through. This story does a fantastic job of emphasizing the importance of water and also the importance of story telling. And the artwork really helped paint a vivid picture for the reader.

“I cherished these stories and would love to share them with others as I grew older. And as I grew older, the water, our source of life, began to change.”

The Woman In The Woods by Mercedes Acosta (Taino) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Honestly, my breath hitched reading this story. For starters, this was my first time reading any story from the Indigenous people of the Caribbean. However, everything about this story was just so beautiful and the artwork really added to the beauty of this story. I wanted a few more pages of this story because I was just fully enthralled by everything, but I’ll settle for the few in this anthology. It was just so good and so breath-taking.

“Be careful of what you accept from spirits. Accepting their gifts binds you to them. Though some of us were never meant to be with anyone else.”

Into The Darkness by Izzy Roberts & Aubrie Warner (Navajo) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was one story I wasn’t expecting to encounter, it was this short story right here. And I should have known from the synopsis of the book, too! However, I ignored my gut feeling and thought, “No, it wouldn’t possibly be…” and then it was. I bamboozled myself! But in all honesty, just the fact that I know what this story is about and how vividly remember my aunties and uncle telling me about this… Shivers and chills, down my spine. If you know, you know, and if you don’t then count your blessings.

By The Light Of The Moon by Jeffrey Veregge & Alina Pete (S’Kallam) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Again, this seems like an obvious story I’d love, but any stories that revolve around the moon and I just immediately swoon. This story is about how the Moon fell in love with the Octopus Queen, and how some marine life became bioluminescence. I loved this story, from start to finish. I think starting the story from the perspective of two divers and concluding the way it did was chef’s kiss. This is definitely another favorite that now lives in my brain, rent free.

“Her movements were a ballet that spoke directly to the Moon’s soul.”


I gave The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories five stars overall, because out of the possible 40 stars (5 stars being possible for all 8 stories) this anthology accumulated 40 stars (100%)!

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

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ARC Reviews

Wild is the Witch by Rachel Griffin

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

ARC was given by NetGalley & Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (August 2nd, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, mentions of cancer (in the past), trauma/PTSD. mentions of divorce, injured animals, death of an animal, depictions of blood, graphic injuries, panic/anxiety attacks, brief scenes of bigotry (towards witches)

Friends, I can’t believe I read this book in only one day! I’m truly shocked. Aside from graphic novels, I haven’t come across a book that captured my attention the way this book did. Even when I sat this book down to go do little mundane things or even to take a reading break, my thoughts were occupied with the content of this books. It must have been the owl or perhaps the loathe to love romance, or maybe it was an impending curse that was on the verge of unleashing chaos. Well, I guess you’ll just have to find out which one it is.

“There is magic in my blood, but this place has its own kind of magic.”

With the past constantly hanging over her head, Iris Gray just wants to start over with her mother, in a small town in Washington with their wildlife refuge, Foggy Mountain Wildlife Refuge. However, even starting over can have it’s challenges and it comes in the form of one person named Pike Alder. These two don’t see eye to eye and when one day the news talks about a person from Iris’s past, the commentary from Pike leaves Iris chilled to her core. With fear seeping into her bones every second, Iris decides to do an old ritual her grandmother used to do and give a curse to the earth. But fate has other plans when a northern spotted owl interferes with her ritual, Iris is thrown into an adventure unlike any other to prevent the curse from being unleashed.

“This doesn’t have to end in darkness, in a vote that will make all the magic of the universe flicker and dim, until it finally goes out. There are other endings, and I will find one.”

One of my all time favorite things is when a character is morally grey, they’re flawed, make mistakes, and we get to see the multitudes that character contains. The author does that with our main character, Iris. Iris was such a easy character for me to love because there were so many moments where I saw myself reflected in Iris. And the thing that stuck out to me the most was how protective Iris is of everyone and everything she cares about. That just did me in with my love for her. I’m a very protective person myself and seeing that reflected in Iris just solidified my draw to her as a main character. Pike, on the other hand, was a different story. I wish we saw more of Pike’s character or at least saw more layers to him. He almost felt flat to me due to lack of details and that’s excluding the major key moments with him. Outside of the major scenes between Iris and Pike, Pike just didn’t have enough details to him as I would have liked and he kind of came off as a jerk the majority of the time. What ultimately made me like Pike was the details that were poured into his love for birds. I have a big soft spot for bird lovers for sentimental reasons and throughout this book we see Pike’s devotion to birds and how much he truly values them. However, together the build of the chemistry between one another was something to savor and that’s all I’ll say on that.

Speaking of characters, there’s also a sapphic relationship in this story. Iris’s mother, Isobel is in a relationship with her long-time friend, Sarah. Sarah actually runs a local breakfast café in the same town. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I love a good story with a café and wildlife refuge with some small town vibes. Seeing Isobel and Sarah in little moments sprinkled throughout the book was a lovely touch, but I really wish we could have had more moments. However, I loved the chemistry between them and it the small moments we see them together, they just feel perfect for one another.

“I want to forget it. I want to forget because it was so heartbreakingly kind, because for a single second, it made me wonder what it might be like to be fully accepted. Fully known.”

I will say the magic and magic classes were fascinating to read about. I’ve read a lot of books that have witches in them and to me, this book feels very accurate to how I picture witches. In this book, there are three different classes of witches and there is a council of witches who maintain the balance with witches, and regular society. The first class of witches are the Solars. Solars are witches who work with plants and you can usually find them working jobs in agriculture or like Sarah who runs her own café. The second class are Lunars, who are witches that work with animals like our main character and her mother. And the final class are the Stellars. This particular class are highly powerful and considered dangerous as their powers center around people. Mostly, Stellars are all part of the witch council and we also have a side character, Cassandra who is not only an old family friend of Iris and Isobel, but also plays a role in key moments throughout this story. As I said, the magic system was fascinating and we learn how there’s a natural balance that’s bigger than people and witches themselves. Plus, the little pieces we get about how witches view owls just sent my heart flying to the moon.

“That’s the thing about magic: people want to see it and feel it almost as much as they want to dismiss it entirely.”

Speaking of owls, let’s talk about our little mischievous friend. One of my all time favorite elements any author can do in a book is have an animal side character who interferes with everything. As a lover of owls and as someone who has worked with them, I was in absolute heaven! This little owl was an absolute delight throughout this entire story and I love how the owl kind of throws our main character into a whirlwind of chaos, and just thrusts her into an unexpected adventure that forces Iris to work with Pike. Seeing the owl’s full plan and intentions come full circle at the end was truly everything and honestly, I think the owl was my favorite character of the book. Plus, the name the mc and Pike gave to him, MacGuffin! Ugh, my heart is just so full from this owl.

“I have to squint to see him, his shape nothing more than a shadow in the dusty twilight, but sitting in an old spruce tree is the northern spotted owl. Silent, still, and watching. Always watching.”

Also, before I forget to mention, the themes of grief that are laced throughout this book were chef’s kiss. Truly, it was fantastic. We not only see the side of grief from the loss of a loved one and how that can stay with us for years, but we also see the side of mourning the living and how we can harbor the grief from the painful things the living can do to us or have happened to us. I loved that we get to see both sides of grief and I also love how we see grief and trauma/PTSD laced in together with one another. I thought all of this was really well done and well written, and these themes are laced throughout this entire book. So anticipate seeing these themes frequently and how those themes impact Pike and Iris.

“That’s one of the worst casualties of being hurt by someone who was never supposed to hurt you: you start to question all the beautiful things that led up to the ugliness, start to wonder if some of the moments you thought were perfect were actually painted with a dirty brush.”

I know I’ve been kind of gushing about the things I loved, but I do want to talk about some of the things I wish were left out or just not in to begin with. One of those things being second-hand embarrassment which is a dead zone for me in books. Second-hand embarrassment truly is a mood killer for me when reading and can be really hard for me to recover from. There were two moments revolving around a condom and while I praise safe coitus, the way those two particular scenes were handled in a joking manner really had me cringing. Not only was the main character mortified and embarrassed both times, but that embarrassment overlapped into my own mortification and second-hand embarrassment while reading. Now this isn’t going to be the case for everyone. I’m a very serious person with majority of things. So I don’t really hold it against the author for including these two scenes, but I definitely wish they weren’t in or just left out from the beginning. Circling back to what I mentioned previously, Pike’s character was the other thing that bothered me the most. I really wanted more from his character and as I said, majority of the time his character came off as a jerk despite the few sweet moments and the major key scenes where we’re learning things about Pike. I think his character could have had more depth to him and he just felt closed off the majority of the time.

Overall, I’m still long-winded from this book and how much I adored it. There was so much to love in this book from the small town vibes to the magic, and of course you have the trope of loathe to love. There’s just so much this book did and it delivered it so well. I think this is going to be one of those books that makes a lot of top books of 2022 (spoiler, it made mine) and I think a lot of readers are going to be anticipating this book’s release. If you’re looking for a book that’s whimsical, magical, and has an adventure that’s sure to suck you in, then I recommend this book with my whole chest. Plus the cover is just stunning!

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

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ARC Reviews

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Astra Publishing House in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (May 3rd, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of near death experience, talk of death, talk of murder, hate crimes, talk of racism, mentions of cancer (in the past), mention loss of loved ones (in the past), grief, trauma/PTSD, self-harm, alcoholism, underage drinking, mentions of biphobia/bi-erasure, transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, ableism, bullying, stalking, emotionally abusive parents, anxiety & panic attacks, mentions of car accident, scene of emesis, poisoning, scene of anaphylactic shock, scene of strangulation, gun violence

I have been sitting on this review for a few days now and trying to decide how to convey my disappointment with this book. I really, really wanted to love this book especially because this book has so much representation we often don’t see in literature. I was so ecstatic about the synopsis and my curiosity was running wild with what the pages of this book would contain. However, I’ve been left unsatisfied and wondering if I even read the same book as everyone else because this was a huge flop for me.

“I’m not afraid of death because the living are much scarier, even the ones who aren’t trying to kill you.”

Our story follows Sam Sylvester, a non-binary teen who just moved to the town of Astoria. This move is supposed to be a fresh new start for Sam to recover from a trauma and hopefully this school will not only be more understanding of Sam’s gender, but also help accommodate Sam due to them being autistic. But as Sam starts making friends with the kids of the club for all the queer folk at school, things begin to heat up. After finding out a local kid was murdered in their home, Sam and friends decide to investigate what really happened, but things start to take a serious turn as they get closer to the truth.

I think my most favorite thing about this whole entire book was the relationship between Sam and their father, Junius. The bond and connection between Junius and Sam was so special, so wholesome, and it was the highlight of the entire book. Every scene that we had with them made me so emotional and so mushy, so soft, and it was a wonderful experience. Plus, the dynamic between Sam and Junius is one we don’t often see in literature. Sam is Junius’s adopted child and when I tell you how emotional I got over the memory flashbacks for the two of them coming together, it had me dissolving into a puddle. It was really wonderful being able to see those memories and how the two came together. The other dynamic is the single father household dynamic. This is representation we don’t often see in literature and deserves to be recognized for what it is. Seeing a single father household and seeing such a close-knit relationship between the main character and their father was such a breath of fresh air, and I just had to point out how much I really loved this about Sam and Junius.

“This is why I will never understand how people think family is as common as blood. To me, family is breath, it’s trusting the person besides you to demand your right to air in a world that would take it away from you.”

Speaking of representation, this book has so, so much representation. As I already mentioned, our main character, Sam is non-binary (they use they/them pronouns), autistic, and ace. There’s also so many side characters who bring so much diversity to the table. Mister Quach is Vietnamese and the teacher of the Queer club, Shep is Latinx and bisexual, Sky is bisexual, and Junius (Sam’s father) is Black, asexual and aromatic! I also want to take a moment to point out Aiden comes from a home of poverty/financial struggle and there’s so many moments of conversations surrounding this. I wanted to point this out because in middle grade books we often see things from a child’s perspective or even see financial struggles in the young adult/adult perspective, but we never see things from a teenager in high school especially from a teenager who has a high social status in school. This really hit home for me for a lot of reasons and I really wanted to give this the attention it deserves. Plus, Aiden as whole is an underrated character and deserves a lot more love.

“You have nothing to prove. To anybody. You are who you are.”

Sadly, these are about the only two really redeeming qualities that I really loved and enjoyed throughout this entire book. Again, I really wanted to love this book because those two things were so strong (which is why this book got the rating it did), but my love for those two things is not enough to overlook all the issues with this book as a whole. And friends, there were a lot of issues with this book.

One of the major things that really impacted this book was the writing and narrative of the voice. I can’t begin to express how important it is to have the right tone especially when it comes to contemporary and mystery books. The way this book dialogue felt more like a middle grade book and the way it fell flat made it incredibly hard to find motivation to read this book. There were many times where I wanted to ‘dnf’ this book because it felt like I was trudging through quick sand. Plus, the pacing felt very choppy in the sense of it would feel slow and then fast, then go back to slow. It was just an around rough time. This ties in with the ending as well. The ending felt rushed and a lot of the things that came to light felt swept under the rug and the most typical consequences being used to deal with the actions of others.

“That’s just it – people get jealous, of the popular kids, of the ones who get attention because they’re nice. And kids are cruel. Even if they don’t mean to really hurt someone, well. Impact matters more than intent.”

The other major issue with this book was how predictable the killer was going to be. I love a good mystery book and I won’t lie, the mystery had me invested. I really wanted to know what the truth was going to turn out to be and I was invested in how everything was going to play out. However, by 17% into this book I already had three predictions of how this book was going to go and sure enough, I was right with two of those. Not only was the killer made really obvious, but the execution of leading up to the reveal was an entire mess. The very foundation for almost 50% of the book it’s hinted that the main reason was a hate crime and by the time we get to the 75% mark in the book, that whole foundation was scrapped for something else entirely. And what it was changed to was just a mess because the author had to rush to fill in gaps with all new information. It felt like a poor execution all around and it made the reading experience even worse.

I feel terrible for all this complaining and ranting, but this is only scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues. There’s a whole romance in this book between the main character and a side character that greatly lacked chemistry. Not to mention it felt like instant attraction between the two characters and things were really rushed between them. This is one of those times where I wish the author would have left the romantic subplot at home because this subplot literally caused this book to feel like it was trying to do too many things all at once. There’s also an entire conversation between Sam and a side character named Dylan about asexuality. When I say I had the most extreme second-hand embarrassment, I’m not kidding because I was cringing. I wish that conversation would have never happened, the scene felt entirely unnecessary, and I wish I could erase it from my mind. Not to mention the author wrote this side character to put all this pressure and blame/reason on Sam for why they were questioning things and feeling confused. It was one of the most awkward moments of this entire book (not that things weren’t already really awkward with this side character to begin with).

“They’re here with me because I found their stories, and this is the lesson I needed to learn from them.”

Overall, I was really excited and had high hopes for this book, but oof this book hurt my soul. And honestly, I should know better not to put my hopes too high when it comes to books I read due to this happening. This book fell short in so many categories and again, I wonder if I even read the same book as other readers because I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to my feelings with this book. If you’re looking for a book that has a cohesive story or a solid mystery plot, then I would recommend looking elsewhere. However, if you’re look for diverse representations like ace, non-binary, etc… then definitely give this book a chance.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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

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Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ARC Reviews

Birdsong by Katya Balen

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

ARC was given by NetGalley & Barrington Stokes in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (July 7th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Car accident, trauma/PTSD, grief, death of an animal, brief mentions of blood

“There is music everywhere – if you know how to listen.”

Wow, what a powerful read. Wow, wow, wow! I always find that middle grade books have some of the strongest themes that kids need to read about and this is definitely one of those books. Filled with conversations of finding one’s passion again after a tragic accident, finding the strength to move on past tragedy, and so much more. Birdsong is one of those reads that can make anyone feel seen.

Annie Ford loves music and has a special talent with the flute. However, after tragedy strikes, Annie loses her ability to play her beloved flute. Now after moving and having her world turned upside down, Annie struggles with finding the motivation to allow herself to heal or even talk about the feels she’s suppressing inside. Until one day she meets a boy named Noah, who tends to a blackbird family in the bushes. Soon, Annie not only made a new friend, but slowly realizes that with the help of these feathery friends, she’s slowly beginning to heal.

I really enjoyed Annie as our main character! Annie is a main character who’s had her entire world turned upside down and I think there’s going to be so many children who will end up relating to Annie, and what’s she’s been through. For myself, Annie reminds me of a lot of some of the things that I experienced and felt as a kid. I feel like I say this all the time with middle grade books, but I truly wish I had had a book like this growing up because seeing characters like Annie can change your perspective especially when you’re a kid. And Annie is far from being a perfect main character. She’s angry and grieving, but healing and scared of if she has a future with her passion. She’s all of those things as she navigates so many changes.

There’s also a theme of healing and how healing is never linear, but also how you can begin your healing journey in the unlikeliest ways/places. And I really loved how the author used the blackbirds as the center of Annie’s healing journey. Of course, Noah and music helps, but the blackbirds really help Annie and her journey back to the the that brings her the most joy. Annie finds her way to healing and forgiving the person she’s the most angry at too. All of it flows so well together and it’s a steady process of ups and downs, but it’s such a good theme we need to see more often in books.

“I fill the space around me with music. I don’t play anything that I’ve learned. I just play. I play for me and I play for the bird who has lost so much.”

My only major issue with this book is that it feels so short. Actually, it feels shorter than most middle grade books. I think if the author would have added more to the story, like a few chapters, then I think it would add to what’s already established in the story. However, I feel like I say this with most books that are on the quicker side of reading.

Overall, this was a really wonderful and emotional read. I really enjoyed so many themes within in this book and just reading from Annie’s perspective was such a nice treat. Again, this is a short read and would be perfect for reading challenges or something to read if you’re looking for those fast reads (for all your traveling adventures too).

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

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ARC Reviews

Taproot by Keezy Young

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

ARC was given by NetGalley & Oni Press in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (July 5th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk and themes of death

“I’m just a gardener.”

What a cute and wholesome read! I’m always a sucker for a graphic novel that feels light, but also can make me feel a certain kind of emotional and this graphic novel does exactly that for me. And honestly, I’m kind of keeping my fingers crossed that maybe this will turn into a series because I’d love to continue following these characters. It was a very lovely and whimsical experience.

Hamal is just a gardener, who works at a little florist shop. The only thing is he can see and talk to ghosts, and he has no idea how he’s able to. Blue is a ghost, but he’s not just any ghost, he’s Hamal’s best friend and in love with him. With Hamal being able see ghosts, more keep flocking to him and his talents as a gardener continue to grow. Until strange things begin to start happening and a Reaper has suddenly turned up, looking for a necromancer.

I really adored these characters and I’m really glad we got to see a little backstory of how Blue and Hamal came to meet. Both of these characters are such soft, cinnamon roll characters that you can’t help rooting for, that you want to see come together in the best way. And speaking of characters, I absolutely fell head over heels for the Reaper. I adored their snarky, sarcastic tone, but also they way we find out they have a mushy heart and are a secret mushy hearted being. It was fantastic! The Reaper also gave me Suriel vibes and if you know then you know what I mean.

“Think of it as a favor you owe me. I’m a sucker for cheesey romance novels, and you two are terrible.”

The artwork was really stunning and captivating. The shades take on a soft tone, but when you move into those scenes of importance and seriousness, the coloring really emphasizes that to the reader. It feels very easy to get lost in the little details of the artwork, as well. I kept searching for any hidden secrets or little details that may hint to where the story was heading next. It was really enjoyable to get lost in the pages.

I think if I had to say anything negative about this book, it would be two things. The first thing is the romance in this story. It’s very insta-love and if you’re not a big fan of insta-love then this might be a bit of a miss for you. I find that for me, insta-love is very hit or miss and never anything in-between. The other thing, I feel like I say this with every graphic novel, is it felt very short and that some parts felt rushed. I think the author could have gotten away with adding more pages, a little more detail, and I think that really would have added more to the story as a whole.

Overall, this was a really fun read. I had a very delightful time reading this graphic novel and I really want to see it turn into a series. There’s so many characters in this one book that deserve the spotlight (like the Reaper, cough cough). If you’re looking for a fast read with wholesome cinnamon roll characters then I definitely recommend giving this graphic novel a chance!

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

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ARC Reviews

Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend by Alys Arden & Jacquelin De Leon

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

This review is being published before the release date (July 26th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Near death experiences, death, loss of loved ones, grief

Oh my glob, friends! Receiving an arc of this comic came out of left field and I am shook! I was graciously blessed by the arc gods and oh, thank you because this was a wonderful experience. I don’t really talk about my favorite DC universe heroes too often and Zatanna has always been one of my favorites. She’s also a hero that we don’t know much about. Zatanna doesn’t have a huge backstory and she doesn’t get the spotlight that often in shows or comics, and it feels so good to see Zatanna getting the spotlight compared to a lot of other DC heroes.

Zatanna is the daughter of famous illusionists, Ezra and Lola Starr. In Coney Island, New York, Zatanna only wants to get away from everything and lead a normal life. A life that doesn’t involve being in the constant spotlight or even the center of her father’s stunts. When one night Zatanna it out with her boyfriend and friends, strange things begin to happen and she decides to confront the one person who may have answers. Soon, secrets and mysteries surround Zatanna begins to pop up, friends and foes lurk in the shadows to see what with become of this magician.

Again, Zatanna is one of my favorite DC heroes. I’m pretty much a lover of the kind of heroes that don’t often get the spotlight like Martian Manhunter, Huntress, Hawkgirl, etc… So seeing a comic come out with more of Zatanna’s childhood/teenage years was a big excited time for me. However, I’ve been hesitant due to these comics being written in middle grade style, but also they tend to feel hit or miss to how the characters have already been established from the get-go of DC Comics. And I’m happy to say that this is one where I really fell in love with it.

The artwork is absolutely breath taking and the colors of the cover instantly drew me in. Not only is the art style something that really captures me attention and really shows off the mood in ever panel, but the color pallet is one that speaks to me and feels very much like my own personality at times. Plus, I have to talk about the rabbit, Flop. The way the rabbit was given expressions had me on the floor dying because I loved it so much.

Overall, I had a great time reading this comic. I think my only real issue or downside I had was the lack of information we have around the foe/foes of this book. I think I would have liked to have seen a little more information about that, but still a fantastic read. Like with all comics, I recommend then for readathons and those quick reads for travel. And I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s a true whimsical time!

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Uncategorized

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

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

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

“Revenge had been a long time coming.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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Misc.

Life Update | Small Break, Returning May 9th-10th

Salutations Chapterlings! How are you all doing? Have you been hydrating and taking a break when you need it? I hope you’re doing okay! Today is going to be a very brief update. I know I’ve been gone for about three weeks now and believe me, that was never supposed to happen, but life had so many other plans. So, I hope to clear up where I’ve been, what’s happened to make me disappear for a hot minute, and why I’m taking a short break.

DISCLAIMER: CW/TW for loss of loved ones and myself being sick

To start this off, I ended up getting really sick. It started off as the flu and as fate would have it, blossomed into a really terrible ear infection and bronchitis. This was the thing that knocked me out for the first two weeks of everything. Usually I’m sick longer due to having a weak immune system and chronic illnesses, but from the very first sniffle, I was being hyper-active with pushing immune support supplements, taking vitamin c, drinking tea for some of the sore throat stuff that was happening, lysoling everything, etc… Despite all this, I still got knocked on my butt for two weeks.

Now for the more sadder news to happen. During the time of me being sick, we had three family members pass away in a short amount of time, almost back to back to one another. This has been really hard on everyone including my spouse and I. Due to all of this, we’re spending a lot of time traveling for services/funerals and I’ve been kind of radio silent on social media, but with friends as well. Though, I’ve been trying hard to reach out to those closest to me to let them know, “Hey I’m not ignoring you or anything, this is what’s going on.”

This leads me into the final part of this post. My short break and returning May 9th. As the time of this post going up, we’re in prep for traveling for funeral stuff. With that being said, I’m really hoping that by May 9th or May 10th I’ll have some post going up on the blog, hopefully my tbr for this month will be going up, and just in general kind of catching up on Instagram as well. Though, I’ll probably post some photos on my IG stories of what I’m reading or listening to in my travels. So keep your eyes open for that!

I think that covers everything for this small life update. I wish this was a more happier or even a longer post with both good and bad things, but sadly things just didn’t turn out like that. I’m really hoping things will start turning around soon. Until next time friends, hug your loved ones a little tighter and take care of yourselves! I’ll see you soon! 💛

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ARC Reviews

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

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

🥀 Eternally Hers: The Prequel ★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Grief, mentions loss of loved ones, brief mentions of witch trials, sexual content

“A vampire can live for an eternity, but eternity comes at a price.”

Wow, wow, wow! I loved everything about this book, possibly more than the prequel. If you haven’t read the prequel yet, do yourself a favor and check that out. I had a really wonderful time reading it. As I’ve already mentioned, books with vampires have been dying for me, but I’ve really been enjoying my time with this series so far. However, this one was so, so good. I adore when books have the storyline and the connection between the two people as a bigger focus than the spicy content. Ugh, it was so good friends! Plus, I feel like this is one of very few books/series that actually pull off the time skips with two point of views really well.

Set is modern day Salem, Massachusetts, we follow Maven Wildes, who sorta new at this whole “living in the present/modern world” thing. Maven is young with one dream set… Buy the Monreaux Estate, fix it up, and finally live in her dream home. The one place where she feels like she truly can call home. To which, Fate is as Fate does, and blessed Maven with the biggest dream she ever wanted. Enter Alexander, who’s been in a coma for what seems like an eternity to him. Yet upon him stirring, things aren’t quite as they seem. Who is this girl on the Monreaux Estate, what business does she have here, and why can’t she see or hear him? One thing is for certain, Alex can’t deny the strong pull he has towards her. Now that the two are so close, both Maven and Alex can’t help the events that begin to unfold between them.

I absolutely adored all of the characters! Not only are our two main characters layered and fully captivating, but some of the side characters are just chef’s kiss! Now, I don’t want to spoil too much for you, but the connection Maven and Alex have is so good and more focused on their connection rather than the spice. We also see Maven developing her powers and learning about them which I adored. I have to say the way the male characters in this series are so devoted to their mates/beloved in this series has been so refreshing truly and of course, Alex is no exception. And we have to talk about Maven’s Papa! There’s a scene at the beginning of this book that was so freaking good. Top favorite moments of this book for sure! Truly, Maven’s Papa just touch a soft spot in my heart that I don’t think I’ll ever get over. And Dottie is such a firecracker! Oh my gosh she’s fantastic best friend to Maven and has so much fire in her personality. I really adored her.

“Dreams are meant to drive the human soul. If we don’t have dreams, we don’t have anything.”

As with the prequel, be prepared to meet new characters and see old faces from the prequel in this book. The author is really lining this series up with so many possibilities, having you wonder who’s going to get paired with who, and where is the author going to takes us next. The possibilities are literally endless and I’m so excited. Plus, the author always ends these books on a note that leaves you craving, wanting more! That’s how I feel right now. Just in a craze to get my hands on the next book in this series.

Overall, I truly don’t want to say too much or spoil too much for anyone. I definitely recommend reading the prequel before reading this book. The prequel did a really good job at setting the stage for all the other books in the series to follow. So go read that first! Otherwise, what a great read. I think these characters just live in my brain now, rent free. They’re just here permanently now. What else can I really say except that I’m having a fangtastic time reading this series and January Rayne feels like an author everyone needs to watch.

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

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