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

Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space edited by Zoraida Córdova

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Arc was given by St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (February 15th 2022)

Maybe we really should reclaim the stars! Friends, if you know me then you know I always get nervous reading anything that’s sci-fi, but oh, this anthology was a pleasant surprise. I always feel like I’m such a hard reviewer on sci-fi reads, but I really enjoyed my time within these pages and have found myself daydreaming about galaxies far, far away.

I’ll be honest, there were so many stories I fell in love with during my time reading. Trying to choose just one feels like an impossible choice. However, I think my two favorites were The First Day of Us by David Bowles and Tame the Wicked Night by Zoraida Cordova. Though there were many other stories in this anthology I deeply loved, these two in particular had me clutching my pearls. Maybe it was the romance or maybe the spark of the characters, but I just really loved these two stories best.

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.

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Reign of Diamonds by Anna-Marie McLemore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of death, violence, wounds

I won’t lie, I was pretty excited that this was the first story we get to read upon first starting. I’ve really enjoyed Anna-Marie McLemore’s work in the past and seeing their name on the list of authors had me really hyped up about this book. With that being said, this story didn’t disappoint. As always, McLemore writes characters that are so beautifully layered and contain multitudes that you can’t help loving the story, no matter how emotional it gets. I’m not saying I got soft and sappy over these two princesses, but they have my whole heart. And I lowkey wish this story got made into it’s own book.

“There was something heartbreaking at that moment, the two of us staring like that.”

Flecha by Daniel José Older ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of a plague (Silent Cough), grief, loss of a loved one, mentions of genocide

This story had me absolutely sobbing, ugly crying everywhere. Maybe its due to some of the themes within this story or maybe it was due to how vivid the emotions emanated from these pages. Truly, this is one of those stories that stand out to me the most because of the impact it had. I really loved this and I can’t wait to see what other stories this author has written for us, the reader, to discover.

“I’ll become that arrow of Ochosi, launched for divine justice – sacred, razor sharp, unforgiving.”

The First Day of Us by David Bowles ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one, grief

Did I fall madly in love with this story because of a polyamorous relationship? Yes, yes I did and I don’t care who knows it! Truly, I wish there were more short stories, more stories in general, out there that normalize polyamorous relationships. I think this story was so well-done, so beautifully handled, and I loved the way how the feelings between each character manifested. Honestly, I wish this had it’s own book because I loved it so much and I feel that there’s so much more to discover about this world, these characters, and I just have a mighty need to know more about everything that was this short story.

The Tin Man by Lilliam Rivera ⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Pandemic, natural disaster, grief, loss of loved ones

This wasn’t a bad short story, but this story hit my emotions so hard that I thought I was going to have to skip it entirely. You follow the perspective of a child, potentially young teenager, who’s not only trying to survive, but is coming to terms with the loss of their family. This story is beautifully written, easily to get emotional over, and a main character you want to see have the happy ending they deserve. The reason why I gave it three stars is just due to the fact that it caused me to go into a sensory overload and after that, it was very hard to maintain a lot of the details.

This Is Our Manifesto by Mark Oshiro ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of incarceration, mentions of death, brief mentions of police brutality

Another story that had me wrapped up in my feelings. Our story follows a character named Ramona coming across a manifesto. In this manifesto, we learn about these planets that holds those who’ve been incarcerated and the horrible treatment they’ve had to endure. This story hit close to home and left me weak in the knees. When I say the world melted away and there was only this story, I say it with my whole chest. Mark Oshiro has such a beautiful talent for taking serious topics that happen in the real world and manifesting it in literature, in such a poetic, emotional piece that leaves you with countless thoughts and feelings. And the way this story ends on a strong note, but also a kiss (yes, a literal kiss) is truly the icing on the cake.

“There is one thing we – the abandoned, the diminished, the harmed, the forgotten – want you to know. We will dismantle them all. And when we do, we are coming home.”

Creatures of Kings by Circe Moskowitz ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, talk of death, mentions of cancer, scene of homocide

This is the first short story in this anthology that had me really questioning how I felt about this story. And I have to admit, I’m a little bias towards stories that involve gods of death, grim reapers, etc… I just really enjoy those type of stories, like a lot. However, I felt a lot of confliction with this story due to the mother in this book. Our story follows an mc who can’t die and whose mother refuses to tell her the truth. I was really curious to see how this story was going to unfold. Honestly, I know why the mother acts the way she does, but I really didn’t like her and her behavior (no matter the circumstance) just painted her as a terrible person/neglectful parent. That aside, I did enjoy the story and I was invested to see how everything would unfold. However, I still have many questions and I’m still asking myself what the hell did I just read.

Eterno by J. C. Cervantes ⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, hospitalization, car crash, mentions of terminal illness, manipulation

Much like the story before this one, I was very conflicted on my thoughts of how I felt with this story. Again, this is another story that involves gods of death or grim reapers except this time they’re called eterno and things are anything but peaceful. Also, this short story is told in then and now flashes. Ultimately, I liked the story, but at times it felt like it was a lot of information to keep track of between flashbacks. Like, I was INVESTED in the mc and their romance! And then… it hit a point where my brain dumped all the information, my eyes glazed over, and my brain just goes, “Yup… Nope. Can’t keep up with this.”

White Water, Blue Ocean by Linda-Raquel-Nieves-Pérez ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Dead naming, misgendering

Okay, the concept of this story had me clutching my blanket because it was so good! A curse has been placed upon the Garcia family by an ocean goddess, making them unable to lie without emanating a terrible smell. We follow Gabriel, a non-binary teen returning to their family, who refuses to accept them for who they are. I was completely captivated by the whole element of everyone in this family being unable to lie. What I think I loved most about this story was the subtle bond between Gabriel and their father. It’s not a main focal point of this story, its very subtle, but its there and those moments were very wholesome. And the way Gabriel constantly keeps coming back to the ocean, their love for it radiating through the pages so much. It fills my heart with a lot of warmth.

Leyenda by Romina Garber ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexism

I want to state that I’m not fully sure if this short story has any relation to Lobizona, but there did seem to be hits towards it in some of the parts of this short story and it is set in the same world. So if you haven’t read Lobizona yet then you might want to skip this short story. Let’s talk water witches! Yes, the mc of this story is indeed a water witch. She is a force to be reckoned with and I absolutely adored her. She has no problem standing up for what she believes in, but when she does, there are those who are very displeased with her. I always enjoy the characters that Romina creates and the abilities given to those characters are always fascinating to watch unfold. If I’m being honest, anything Romina writes, I feel invested in. I wish we got the chance to see more of Zaybet and their story especially with the way this story concludes. I’m so invested and I need more!

Color-Coded by Maya Montayne ⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Abandonment

I was really interested in premise of this short story. In this world, when women hit puberty, they start to develop a magical abilities. Some ladies develop the power of flight, someone may set things on fire, or even obtain abilities relating to plants or creatures. However, our MC is terrified of this happening to her after having a terrible experience with a loved one. Honestly, I was really excited to see where this story would go. I think the premise of getting magical abilities when you reach maturity/puberty is a really interesting element to loop in. However, I wasn’t in love with this story. It feel like some things were missing and personally, I just didn’t like the MC. The MC spent large portions of this story whining, throwing fits, and due to that, it felt like a lot of excitement I had about the story ended up dying down a lot. And it doesn’t help that the MC’s mindset doesn’t start to change until near the end of this story.

Magical Offerings by Nina Moreno ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Displacement

I was pleasantly surprised and caught off guard by this story. This is story of a girl coming to terms with who she is, what her abilities are, and finding out the place you can call home has been right there all along. Honestly, I was really surprised on how much I enjoyed reading this. The atmosphere as it starts to build to the climax of this story was just chef’s kiss. I think the part I loved the most was watching the MC truly discover who they were and what they were capable of. Seeing the MC come to terms with that and how happy they felt was just one of the best elements of this story.

Rogue Enchantments by Isabel Ibañez ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one, harassment

I’m so hyped to read more from this author! I loved so many elements about this book, the atmosphere, the brief mention of dragons, just so many things I fell in love with in this story. Our story follows an MC who just took over her abuelita’s stall to sell magical brushes and paints. However, since the start of their first day, things seem to be quite amiss from what they originally thought. With sabotage a foot, our MC has to get crafty to seek out the truth and put a stop to all of the harassment. Again, I loved this. It’s a very atmospheric read and I constantly wondered if the MC was going to get the justice they deserve.

Sumaiko Y La Sirena by Vita Ayala ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of slavery, loss of a loved one, hostage situation, manipulation, brief depictions of blood, death, murder

Who doesn’t love a good story about sirens? This story is sure to deliver a love story you won’t forget! This story was so sad, but so beautiful. And this is the first time I’ve seen sirens told in this way. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was really good, enough to make me go, “Damn! The plot thickens!” This stories follows our MC who once was a siren, but has been stranded on land. When one night, after singing to the ocean, another siren reveals themselves. But, after the MC’s father passes away, terrible things will begin to happen. This was such a captivating story. The atmosphere is so good with setting the tone especially in the more climatic scenes. However, I adored the connection between our MC and the siren she becomes close with. I loved the way their friendship built and way it slowly blossomed into something more.

“It is said that on clear nights, two glowing shapes shapes can be seen frolicking in its water, the laughing sound of their joyous song carried for miles on the wind.”

River People by Yamile Saied Méndez ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of parents (in the past), grief

What an atmospheric read! I can’t decide what I enjoyed more; watching the story as a whole unfold or the MC blowing me out of the water. Truly, this was a really good read. We follow an MC who can talk to ghosts and not only ghosts, but can speak with the river god of the Paraná River. This gift comes in handy when one day the river god tells the MC that her older brother is in terrible danger. Thus, our heroic MC does everything she can to save her brother before it becomes too late. This was a really good short story. I was so sad when the story finally ended because I wanted more. This was such an easy story to get caught up in because the pacing starts of slow, but once the pace picks up, you’re just along for the ride and the ride is fantastic!

Moonglow by Sara Faring ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of sex, illness, abortion, abuse, physical violence

Let me just say that this story… this story was a wild ride and I’m still asking myself what the hell I read. I don’t know if I walked away from this story shell-shocked or in the midst of processing everything, but I sure wasn’t expecting the story to unfold that way it did. One of the key elements of this story is it’s told in diary entries which adds a bit of ominous atmosphere and leaves us, the reader, wondering what the next entry will hold. We follow an MC who talks about about her love and the things happening within her household, from the mischievous to the more unfortunate events. I was hooked, hanging off the edge of me seat waiting to know how this story was going to conclude. Though I haven’t read anything by this author before, this honestly has me excited to look into more of their writings.

Killing El Chivo by Claribel A. Orlega ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of loss of parents, brief mentions of starvation, mentions of abandonment, depictions of blood, death

Okay, this should come as no surprise by how much I adored this story. How each word had me hanging by a thread, wondering what was to come next. I love the way Orlega writes; the way she creates worlds and characters always has me excited. Okay, so maybe I was a little bias going into this, but truly, at the core of it, I do enjoy the stories this author writes. We follow an MC who is learning magic to help assist the remaining people of this world stop El Chivo. Many people have already left or have died, but our MC with her sister and aunt have devised a plan on how to put an end to all the tragedy that has been plaguing their homeland. I was fully captivated by this story and maybe it was how quickly the pace picked up, but oh, I couldn’t consume this story fast enough. I think my favorite part had to be the way it concluded. The ending just felt so powerful and after day of finishing this anthology, I still think about this ending relentlessly.

Tame the Wicked Night by Zoraida Córdova ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Minor war themes

Have I maybe, kind of, sort of fallen in love with this story because a mortal falls in love with a fallen goddess? – Yes, yes I have and I have zero regrets about this! I think I just loved everything about this story. From the MC who’s been gifted an ability with plants to the way the relationship blooms, thinking back on reading this story, I don’t have a single complaint. With my whole chest, I adored this story. We follow an MC who refuses to marry and choose to stay true to himself, and so he’s sent into the mountains to tame The Night. The Night is said to be a fierce beasts that takes no prisoners, and anyone who dare enter the mountain never returns. Yet what our MC finds is so much more than what they could have expected. And there’s a goat. A very charming, quirky goat with his own little attitude and little chime ins! I know I’ve said it a lot, but I really loved this short story and this is probably my first piece by this author that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. This has me excited to see what other pieces this author has created.


I gave Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space four stars overall, because out of the possible 85 stars (5 stars being possible for all 17 stories) this anthology accumulated 71 stars (83%)!

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

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ARC Reviews

Together, Apart by Erin A. Craig

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (October 20th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of pandemic (covid-19), grief, anxiety (The Rules of Comedy), talk of homophobia (Socially Distant Dog-Walking & Stuck with Her), mentions of death, brief allusions to racism (The Boy Next Door), depictions of panic attacks (Stuck with Her)

An anthology that normalizes feelings and social situations during the current pandemic of 2020? I think this is brilliant! If I’m being honest, when I got approved for this arc, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t read the synopsis because I like to go into some anthologies without knowing too much. I’m pleasantly surprised! I really enjoyed this and a lot of pre-reading thoughts I had were cast away immediately (like thinking I was going to be overwhelmed).

This wasn’t exactly a perfect read though. I think one of my biggest issues with anthologies, in general, is some of the stories are too short when I really want more. That’s been on of the biggest, most consistent factors when I read any anthology. And that was definitely the case while reading this anthology. There were some stories in this anthology that I really wanted more details or just one or two more pages. To be honest, I think this anthology could have been a bit longer than it was. Despite that, there were some real gems in this book that I loved and felt my heart swell with warmth.

I will also say that this book is very diverse. Not only are the authors diverse, but a lot of the stories in this book are diverse. There’s ownvoices stories such as queer rep, Asian rep, Indian rep, Black rep, etc… all the way to showing different situations during the pandemic, different family dynamics and living situations, and how we never truly know what’s happening in someone’s life. I really loved and appreciated all of this representation in this book, and I think there’s going to be many readers who are going to pick this book up and see themselves within these pages. I know I sure did and the amount of validation for a lot of the feelings I’ve been feeling since this pandemic started, all found within these pages. Truly, this book is going help many readers.

Of course, with all anthologies, bind-ups, etc… that find their way into my library, I like to do a break down with a mini review for each story that shares my thoughts and feelings!

Love, Delivered by Erin A. Craig ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I won’t lie, this one probably hit the closest to my heart out of all the stories in this anthology. For starters, this is short story is by Erin A Craig, who’s writing I absolutely fell in love with right around this time last year. Erin just has a way of writing that hooks my attention and makes me feel all of the feelings. And it was no surprise that I her short story left me feeling super soft and sappy. Our main character of this short story is trying to navigate life, not just from the pandemic, but from moving into a new house and having two parents who are barely around, but also doctors working the frontlines during the pandemic. With her parents constantly gone and with everyone still trying to get everything set up from the move, Millie orders pizza and soon meets the cute pizza delivery boy, Luke, and suddenly, Millie doesn’t feel so alone in the world. My heart! This hit me in all the soft spots of my soul. Family is everything to me and seeing another person who has parents on the frontline during the pandemic, it was a critical hit. And adding the family own pizza business into this story? *chef’s kiss* Truly, this story kicked this book off in an amazing direction and just stole my heart immediately.


The Socially Distant Dog-Walking Brigade by Bill Konigsberg ⭐⭐⭐
This is one of those stories that I wish we would have gotten a page or two more. I thought I was going to love this more than I did (mostly due to the dogs), but I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much. I think the reason for this is due to wanting just a little more details or having that extra page or two. We follow two dog walkers, Kaz and Daxton, as they walk their dogs every day together and the conversations they have together. Among this short story is the bigger discussion of homophobia and how sometimes the people we care about most, can be the ones who hurt us the most painful way. Along with this story being so short, I also wanted to see a little more from these characters. I think this would have really hit the nail on the head if we saw them have a conversation about how one of them stood up to their parents to correct them on their homophobic ways. Despite the shortness and some missing details, I did enjoy this. I just wanted to see a little more from these two quirky, queer boys!

“I felt the slightest jolt of joy, imagining more conversations with the cute, queer boy who said not Normal things.”


One Day by Sajni Patel ⭐⭐⭐
I debated about my feelings for this short story for so long and I think my biggest want for this story was to laugh a little more or feel a swoon towards these characters. And though my heart strings weren’t pulled too much, this is a very cute short story that many readers will love. When Bobby is looking for an escape for some peace and quiet, and crawls out onto her balcony, that quiet becomes disrupted when the boy across the way won’t stop playing his guitar. Before Bobby knows it, she’s throwing her shoe and soon becomes sucked into a mission of reclaiming their shoe. As I said, this is very cute, but I really wanted to laugh a little more or feel connected to the characters just a little bit more. But I loved the writing of this short story and the story line was the cutest. I was pleasantly surprised and overall enjoyed this short story.

““One day” couldn’t come soon enough, but it would come.
I couldn’t wait for our “one day.””


The Rules of Comedy by Auriane Desombre ⭐⭐⭐
Harper is starting a new high school and has social anxiety, but the biggest thing Harper is dealing with is a crush on her classmate, Alyssa. But things change when Harper watches Alyssa’s coming out TikTok and soon she realizes she might have a chance at dating her. This is probably one of the weaker short stories throughout this anthology. While I enjoyed the social anxiety rep and queer rep, it felt like the romance was pushed off to the side to focus on the sibling relationship more. And while I love sibling relationships, it felt like that relationship and the conflict that happens within that bond draws most of the reader’s attention. Also, the romance in this story felt… off. I don’t know if it was from the romance being instant love or if it was from a lack of bond/connection between the two characters, but I just had no interest in the main character and love interest.


The New Boy Next Door by Natasha Preston ⭐⭐⭐
Quinn has been given a mission: talk to the new boy, Archer, who just moved into her neighborhood. As this pair begin to talk to one another, a friendship begins to bloom and maybe into something a little more. For starters, I love when extrovert personalities bring out the socialness in an introvert and we see plenty of that in this short story. However, this is the other weakest story in this entire book. The biggest flaw, the countless Twilight references. I’m not the biggest fan of Twilight, I try to avoid it whenever I can when reading and this short story killed a lot of the mood for me with those references. This is a cute story, it just would have been a better reading experience if there weren’t so many Twilight references.


Love with a Side of Fortune by Jennifer Yen ⭐⭐⭐⭐
When her superstitious mother drags her off to have her fortune told on her birthday, Michelle just wants it to be done and over with especially since she doesn’t believe in any of it. However, when Evan Kwon walks into her family’s restaurant, Michelle can’t help feeling the sparks fly. I absolutely loved this short story! Another gem within this anthology. I laughed, I swooned, and just really enjoyed my time reading this short story. I also love how Michelle’s best friend helped her sneak out of the house so she could go on a date with Evan. This was just a really fantastic read! However, I do think many readers will end up being annoyed by the mother in this story and if I’m being honest, the mother was definitely a bit much at times for me too.


The Green Thumb War by Brittney Morris ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. I definitely think this story is going to be overlooked and if I’m being honest, this is a true gem of a short story. This short story is about two people becoming friends with one another and I was living my best life reading this book. We need books with more platonic friendships! I also want to point out that this book normalizes therapy. Often times when I’m reading books, there’s a stigma around therapy and I’m really glad the author included the talk of therapy in this book. With the pandemic happening, I don’t think many people have considered therapy and I think this was an excellent way to say, “Hey! It’s okay to seek help in these hard times.” I just really appreciated this book.


Stuck with Her by Rachel Lippincott ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is another one of my favorite stories. It might be my most favorite of this whole collection of short stories. We follow Allie who stayed in the dorms instead of going home when quarantine hit. Unfortunately for Allie, every night her roommate, Mia blasts music and can be found snacking on Allie’s pop tarts. I loved this one so, so much. I do have to warn there are anxiety and panic attack depictions in this short story, but I loved the way the author had the roommate instantly be right there, willing to do anything to help Allie. There’s also the hard discussion of homophobia and how not all families are accepting of those who are lgbtqiap+. Also, even though this is a roommates to lovers kind of story, I loved how the sound speaker was used as such an important device on bringing the two main characters together. Truly, this is the cutest and I love it! This was just an all around great short story and truly, I wish we had just a little bit more because I flew through this one too quickly.

“And… the second thought is, as her arms tighten around me, my eyelids slowly closing, that… I don’t hate it. I don’t hate sitting here, my face pressed into Mia’s warm, sandalwood-smelling shoulder. I don’t hate the way her hand feels in mine, and the way she always knows, good or bad, exactly what to say. I don’t hate her.”


Masked by Erin Hahn ⭐⭐⭐
Out of all the stories, this one seems like the most unlikely thing to happen. While most of the stories have been more realistic, this one definitely feels like a one and billion chance of happening. Our story follows Gray, who decided if she can’t attend prom then she’s going to put her dress to good use by making masks from her dress. That’s where Jude comes in. Jude’s uncle needs masks at his store and Gray is happy to help out. Thus, the friendship between Gray and Jude sparks, but Jude has a pretty big secret and Gray is determined to find out the truth. Honestly, I wanted this story to be a little more realistic. I’m not saying this situation couldn’t happen, but it definitely through me off compared to the rest of the short stories. However, there were some really cute moments in this story and I really enjoyed Gray’s determination. Also, the Romeo and Juliet reference was so, so good!

Overall, I gave Together, Apart three stars because out of a possible 45 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 9 stories) this collection accumulated 31 stars (69%)! But, if half stars were a thing, I would totally give this 3.5 stars, because it is almost exactly that when you tally all the stars up!

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

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My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/loss of a loved one, domestic abuse/toxic relationships, scene/talk of terminal illness, minor homophobia, scene of attempted rape

This was the perfect books to finally put me in the mood for the holidays! This year it felt like I was lacking a little holiday cheer whether it was due to stress or many the pressure of not doing enough. But after reading this book, I can say that I feel that spark of holiday magic again! I also wish I had mapped this out a little better because you could read a story a day up to whatever holiday you celebrate so I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt for not thinking about that sooner.

My True Love Gave to Me is an anthology of Twelve holiday stories by some big named authors like Laini Taylor, Jenny Han, and Holly Black! Full of holiday romance, struggles, and even finding your family. We also need to take a moment to talk about the cover for this book! Upon first seeing it you would think it just fits the holiday vibes, but if you look much closer you’ll notice all the couples from within the various stories in this book! This was such a delightful Easter egg and it’s the cutest thing ever!

“He says presents aren’t important, but I think they are – not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.”

As always, whether it’s a a graphic novel bind-up, an anthology, or even two stories bound in the same book, I like to do a spoiler free breakdown (to the best of my ability). The next portion may contain spoilers, but I will do my best to keep it as spoiler free as I possibly can.

🎄Midnights by Rainbow Rowell | ⭐⭐⭐

Meet Mags and Noel, both have been best friends after Mags saved Noel’s life. Told in flashbacks, we follow Mag and Noel on each New Years Eve and what happens between them when the clock strikes midnight. Starting from sophomore year in high school to the end of freshmen year in college, readers will be hit with nostalgia and the reminiscence of growing up, and feeling like everyone around you is changing. While I really did like the writing of this story and the way Rowell can make sentences flow, there were a few things that made me feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable in the story-line. Not to mention it felt a bit odd that this book would start off with a New Years Eve story instead of a Winter Solstice or Christmas story instead.

🎄 The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you’re familiar with the folk-tale of The Snow Queen then you will absolutely fall in love with this story! I know I instantly did! Meet Miranda and Fenny. Miranda is a young girl who’s mother has been sent to prison for life. Every Christmas she spends it with her Godmother and her Godmother’s son. Constantly throwing big, elaborate parties, the Honeywells aren’t ones to shy away from a good time. But one year changes everything for Miranda when she spots a man outside the widow, looking in at the party, and decides to investigate. I adored many this with my whole heart and soul. It was so beautifully woven and the connection that Miranda and Fenny share was something I couldn’t stop thinking about even after I had finished this story. Miranda has this unspoken devotion and determination, and I found myself rooting for her even though I suspected what the outcome would be like. I also really appreciated the symbolism of the fox in this story. If you’re not familiar, before bear traps were outlawed and deemed inhumane, farmers and hunters would use them to catch foxes and wolves, and once the trap closes it’s nearly impossible to reopen. I’ve seen a lot of readers give this story a one star and I think I could understand if it revolved around not being familiar with the folk-tale this story is a retelling of, but I’m shock not many readers recognize how wonderfully written this tale truly is and how beautifully these two main characters were written.

🎄 Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña | ⭐⭐⭐

I wasn’t ready for an incredibly sad story! This story had me choking on breaths and while I truly do love a good story or book that can rock or shake me emotionally, I just wasn’t prepared for this reality to hit out of nowhere. Plus, I never felt like there was any real closure for the heavy things happening. This is a story about a boy named Shy who has traveled from his poor family back in California to go to college in New York. While many of his fellow students have traveled home for the holidays, Shy has stayed behind to cat sit for his boss, and that’s how he meets Haley. They also end up snowed in together. The main character and the situation hit too close to home for me and this wasn’t something I wanted to read about for the holidays. While I did enjoy the writing and how well everything was brought together, this was too heavy of a story and the ending didn’t add too much relief for all the heaviness.

🎄 Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han | ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was super cute and original! This is the first story in this whole book that features elves and our setting takes place at the North Pole. We also see more of a real Santa presence in this story! If you’ve ever seen the movie Elf then you’re definitely going to fall in love with this story and our main character Natalie. This story isn’t that romantic as some of the other stories in this anthology. Actually it’s a little sad and it’s more about Natalie trying to find the boy, Lars she met one fateful Christmas. This story leaves on a table gripping cliffhanger and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if the author actually released a novella or a Christmas book continuing this story-line. I still wonder if Natalie went to see Lars and what Lars reaction would be.

🎄 It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins | ⭐⭐⭐

Oh boy, this was kinda cute, but somehow it missed a few marks for me. For starters, I loved the names of the main characters in this story. We have Marigold and we have North, the love interest. Both have beautifully enchanting names that you hear too often. I also love that we get two different family dynamics; we have Marigold’s family which is a single parent household (ouch, my heart) and then North has a family own business background with family tears between siblings and their parents. I loved it, I craved it. However, despite a lot of good elements that I found in this story, I truly believe this would have been better written as a novella or even a full length book so we as the readers had more time to explore them as characters, them forming a relationship, and really going more into depth of why Marigold needed North’s voice and what the final outcome would be.

🎄 Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan | ⭐

This was my least favorite story out of the entire book. It felt very awkward, very forced, and a lot of the times reading it I felt really uncomfortable. Basically, a boy dressed up as Santa for his boyfriend’s little sister, which it sounds sweet and could have been sweet, but it was incredibly forced especially with how much the main character was stressing over the whole situation. He even has a confrontation with the older sister when he tries to leave and for my reading experience it rubbed off as a little homophobic and overly aggressive to borderline harassment. That whole scene just didn’t sit right with me. I’m extra disappointed because I would have loved a good cute, romantic, or even sexy holiday LGBT story, but this was just awkward and uncomfortable.

🎄Krampuslauf by Holly Black | ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you thought this was going to be a Christmas read, guess again because you got Krampus! Can I just take a moment to pass around all the high fives that we finally get a Krampus story that not only has some fun sprinkled in, but a great kissing moment too?! I loved that Holly Black took Krampus and made him into this guy who rights the wrongs that have been done to people. I loved it. How often do we see Krampus’s tale be turned into one of good? Not to mention that there were some really powerful quotes in this story as well. Once again, Holly Black has mesmerized me with her writing and she truly has a great talent for writing.

“Sometimes I felt like I was waiting for my life to begin and more than anything, in that moment, I wanted to force some kind of beginning. I wanted things to be different than usual. I wanted to bend reality.”

🎄 What the Hell have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman | ⭐⭐⭐

This was such a sweet story and such a breath of fresh air because this is a Hanukkah story! Basically, this is a story about two people trying to find themselves while they’re also finding each other. While I did like the writing of this book and the way the two characters were getting to know each other, I felt disconnected by some of the things said or happening in this story. However, the minute they mentioned apple pie with cheese, I was hit with some nostalgia of childhood memories. That alone made this a three star instead of a two star for me.

🎄Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire | ⭐⭐

I was pretty convinced I was going to dislike this story on some incredible level, but I’m glad I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. It was insanely cheesey and sometimes cringey, but there some really sweet and heartwarming moments. I feel like this might have been better written as a novella or a three-hundred paged book. We follow Vaughn who’s a notorious troublemaker with a good heart, but has a rough home life and Gracie who’s a reserved pastor’s daughter. Even though they’re polar opposites, they connect and find the good in each other.

🎄 Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Okay, I bawled my eyes out with this one. This is everything a true holiday story should be! This was everything I wanted from this anthology and so much more. It was perfection and if this story ever gets released as a novella or a series then I will be investing some serious time into this. And the way some of the quotes hit, they land right on their mark! This story was heartwarming, emotional, had a happy ending, some romance mixed in, a little magical element sprinkled in, and was wonderfully written. This story is about a girl who’s trapped in a small town. Her mother runs a Christmas themed diner, which she begrudgingly works at, and just got a new cook who doesn’t follow the recipes! My best advice, go into this one blind and let the power of this short story overtake you!

🎄 Star of Bethleham by Ally Carter | ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This one took me by surprise and I was even more surprised that this had a lot of The Holiday vibes to it. I really loved the way the whole “trading the plane ticket with a random girl” came full circle near the end and we saw the real reason Lydia was so secretive about things. I also really appreciated the theme of finding one’s family after you’ve lost yours. I got really choked up and emotional near the end because it hit so close to home on my own beliefs. I definitely believe this would benefit a lot more as a novella because there are some important details missing, but I think many readers will be surprised by this story.

“Sweetheart, when you lose someone, you lose a little bit of yourself, too. And that missing piece? Sometimes you have to lose the rest of yourself to find it.”

🎄 The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor | ⭐⭐⭐

First time reading anything by Laini Taylor and she took me for a ride! This story threw me for a loop and I truly wished this story alone had been a physical book because I have no doubt that I would devour this story all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I had some issues with the content of this story, but wow, what a ride, what a story, what a talent Laini Taylor. The way Laini weaves sentences and gives details. My imagination went full scale with this story. Basically, if you’re a single lady on this island (which is nearly impossible to leave from), on December 1st through December 24th a suitor can leave you a gift on your porch. After the last day, the island has a ball, where you find your betrothed, and seal the marriage with a dance. One thing I will say and why I docked it by a star was the scene where the pastor attempted to sneak into our main character’s cabin and have his way with her. I cringed, I nearly ripped my book, it was an unnerving time. Not to mention, the pastor character conveyed a lot of Frollo vibes and I wasn’t here for it. Basically a lot of my issues with this story revolved around the pastor and that this story would have benefited more as a novella or a full book. There’s too many missing pieces, things left unsaid, and too much ominous vibes that were still lingering at the end of the story.

Overall this book receives a very low four stars. Out of the 60 stars possible (5 stars for one story each), this book receiving 40 stars our of the 60.

Aside from this book, I hope all my friends, family, fellow book lovers reading this are having a wonderful holiday filled with lots of love, laughter, good health, and many holiday filled reads!

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No Tricks, Just Treats by Tijan, J. Daniels, Helena Hunting, and Tara Sivec

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, cheating, stalking, manipulation, mental abuse, drug addiction/drug abuse, alcohol abuse, talk of infertility, death/murder, graphic violence, implications of an eating disorder, body shaming.

Four love stories all wrapped up and bound in a deliciously fall book. Full of sweet moments, thrills, chills, and will leave you screaming.

Dearest readers, I truly wish I had loved this book as much as I did when I first picked it up. When I saw this book, my heart flew right out of my chest with the thought of some fall romance, let alone in a bind-up of four stories. Sadly, I’m disappointed, un-amused, and quiet frankly, I never want to pick this book up ever again. I wish I could have loved this bind-up, but this book just wasn’t for me.

Like with every bind-up, whether for graphic novels or books, I like to do a spoiler free breakdown (to the best of my ability). This breakdown will include all four stories, a brief description of the short story, my thoughts and rating of each story.

🍁 Fallen Crest Nightmare by TIJAN – ⭐⭐

Sam, Mason, and the rest of their gang enter a fun Halloween-themed weekend with pumpkin carving, a girls’ night out, and a haunted house―until things take a turn into something far more sinister than they could have expected…
Description from GoodReads

If you like a spin-off on the movies Scream, Sorority Row, and The Nightmare on Elm Street all mashed together, then this is a story you’re going to want to read! Sadly, this wasn’t quite my cup on tea. The biggest issue I had with this story was the “date rape” scene in this story. It was horribly cringey because all the girls were too drunk, drinks kept appearing at their table, and the main character of this story definitely had indications of being drugged, and the theme of the main character being drugged was a common theme throughout the rest of the story from that point. This story just didn’t sit right with me. I would have been fine if this story just stuck with the stalking element, but I was cringing by the end of this story.

🍁 So Much More by J. DANIELS – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Four couples from Alabama reunite on Halloween for an evening of thrills and chills. Between haunted mazes, sexy stolen moments, and good old-fashioned trick-or-treating, this Halloween promises surprises, shocks, and maybe even love for all.
Description from GoodReads

Out of all the stories in this book, this is probably my favorite of them all. I loved seeing all the diverse couples and reading about how each couple interacts with their lovers. I also loved how there was infertility representation in this story. I especially loved the way the character with infertility expressed her feelings and you really got a feel for the emotions she was having. The only thing I didn’t like was how the news was broken to the character with fertility struggles. I feel like it was a round-bout way of telling her and for myself, I would want to be told directly by my friend or in-law and not through someone else. That’s just my own two cents and with my own personal fertility issues. Overall, I really loved this story and it ended on such an endearing note!

🍁 Getting Down by Helena Hunting – ⭐⭐⭐

Ruby Scott wants to have a party! With the help of her best friend Amalie―and Amalie’s fiancé’s budget―the two of them throw a Halloween-inspired fund-raiser. But no event goes off without a couple of hitches.…
Description from GoodReads

This has two perspectives, one from Ruby and the other from Amalie. Out of all the stories, this story has the most intimate and sexy scenes in it. It’s a real good time and there’s some really hilarious moments in here. My biggest issue with this series is mostly with Amalie and her fiance. Amalie comes off as easily manipulated and in honesty, her whole engagement comes off as a toxic relationship of abuse. There’s a lot of moments of Amalie being body shamed, there’s a few scenes where you could consider that she has an eating disorder, there’s scenes of the fiance being overly possessive of Amalie where he actually starts to hurt her or causes her discomfort, and so forth. It’s just wasn’t a good time. However, Ruby and Bane’s relationship was a joy ride! All I have to say is Catwoman, Batman, and the supply closet. And this amazing quote!

I’ve shared the size of Bane’s cock with her. I’ve mentioned my new religion: the Church of Bane Cock. I’ve written sonnets about how beautiful it is. Not really, but I’ve made up a couple of limericks.

🍁 The Pumpkin Was Stuffed by Tara Sivec – ⭐⭐

The Holiday family is coming together for Halloween. As Sam and Noel prepare for their upcoming life with a new baby, their crazy family and friends pull out all the tricks and treats and jack-o’-lanterns to make sure this ghostly holiday is one to remember…or, will it turn out to be one they’d rather forget?
Description from GoodReads

Okay, let me grab my glass of wine for this. Let me start off by saying this, clowns. Clowns galore. If that’s you’re thing then you’re going to love this story, but as someone who has a bad association with clowns, this is not something I wanted to read about. My second issue was with the aunt. At first, I had no problem with this character until the scene where everyone was putting together the wedding goody bags. The fact that the drug addiction and abuse is so bad with this character that drugs got put in all the goody bags including the bags for the children just blew my mind. That was the point where I wanted to put this book down and never pick it up again. I don’t mind stories with a crazy and chaotic family, but the aunt diverts all attention away from the story. The only saving grace this story had for me was the ending. I think the ending brought a little happiness back into this story.

As an overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t familiar with these authors. Mostly due to the fact that this whole book feels like you’ve had to read other series that lead into this book. If you’re someone who is going into this book and you’ve never read anything by any of these authors, it’s really easy to tell that these characters have been established in past series. And just to clarify, it’s not that this book was bad or anything, I just don’t think this was the right book for me to read. I personally struggled with trying to get into this book, to find reasons to care about the characters, and there was just so many moments I couldn’t stop cringing at. But please, take my opinion with a grain of salt because this is my first time ever reading something by any of these authors.

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