FC was given by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date(February 2nd, 2021)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Racism, themes of displacement, terminally ill loved one (cancer), loss of a loved one, grief
Friends, this book put me in all the feels. As someone who walks the line of two worlds, the themes of this book had me quaking. And the fact that it’s told in verse was the cherry on top! Truly, this book is so beautifully written and there’s not a single doubt within me, this book will touch so many people. I feel truly honored that I could be given a final copy to read and share with all of you my love for this story!
Our story follows Reha, an Indian American, who loves K-Pop, dreams of becoming a doctor (despite being woozy at the sight of blood), and yearns to find a balance as she navigates the between her two worlds. One world where she’s the only Indian American student and the other, a world filled with her family and community’s culture. As Reha tries to navigate her teenage years, at terrible kind of news will cause Reha to face new challenges. Challenges she never expected to experience.
I can’t say it enough, I love the themes within this book and I think they’re tremendously important. One of the biggest themes about this book is the feeling of displacement and trying to find the place where you fit in. For me, this theme hit so close to home. As someone who grew up with their culture and having to learn my dialect from the beginning, but also growing up going to a regular public school and being the only half Native student, being white-passing, there was never a time where I didn’t feel like I was walking a line between those two worlds. So reading this book and how the main character struggles to find their place between both of those worlds, it really struck a cord with me. And I think that theme alone is going to make so many biracial readers feel seen. I find in literature it’s hard to find books that accurately represent what it means to be biracial and how big of a role displacement can play. Truly, the author did a wonderful job at bringing those feelings and thoughts to life with this book, and I really appreciated seeing everything come together they way they did.
“You belong to both, and they both belong to you. You will find your way in making those two streams one. You will write your own story, and it will be beautiful, because it is yours.”
The other major theme of this book is navigating life with a terminally ill loved one and more specifically, when the loved one is a parent. Not only does the author have a beautiful way with words, but the way the author brings Reha’s feelings and thoughts to life as she experiences this tragedy is so well written. The author doesn’t shy away from showing a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and actions. I think anyone who has had a terminally ill loved one or has had to face losing someone they care about will feel an instant connection with Reha. I couldn’t stop crying (for a plethora of reasons), but this really hit home. I think the author did a fantastic job at writing about this theme in a very respectful way and you can tell that the author was writing from a personal experience.
There’s so much that I fell in love with throughout this book and if you were it ask if there was anything I didn’t like, I’d say you’re being ludicrous. I loved the K-Pop references and how some of the titles were references to popular songs of the 80’s. Reha, our main character, was such a wonderful character to follow throughout this book. Her perspective was filled with layers of constant changing feelings and thoughts especially as she was navigating this time in her life. What I truly loved most was the author’s not at the end. I loved reading about the author’s experiences and how they were able to take those experiences, and bring them to life with this novel. Truly, I loved this book with my whole chest.
Overall, this was such a delightful book to read and I’m so glad I was sent a final copy! Thinking about this book even now, I still feel a deep stir of emotions this book left with me. I laugh and I cried, I cried so much, but I think this book will touch the hearts of many readers. And I think this book is going to leave a huge impact with an biracial reader. It left a huge imprint on my own heart and I have no doubt it won’t do the same for someone else. I’m happy to say that this is my first favorite book of 2021 and I think that Red, White, and Whole is going to make it onto a lot of ‘favorites’ this year.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Body shaming, fat phobia, mentions of adultry
Oh boy, friends, this just wasn’t the book for me. To be fair, this isn’t the worst romance book with plus-size representation I’ve read, but this definitely wasn’t the best either. I wanted so much more from this book. Hell, I expected a lot more from this book! Maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. As a plus-size reader, there were moments where I was cringing, annoyed, or even getting second-hand embarrassment. After so many friends recommended this to me, saying how much fun they had reading it, I went into this books expecting a fun time, but that’s not what I got.
Our story follow Cece (Cecelia Harper), who’s on her way to her parent’s lake house, but when she starts having car troubles, Cece finds herself at the mercy of Aiden’s help. Aiden Perry is Cecelia’s father’s best friend and business partner. When Cecelia calls him up about his car troubles, how is he to deny helping out his best friend’s daughter. However, when these two come together, sparks seem to fly and secrets that have been kept hidden for years seem to surface. Will these two ever communicate their feelings or will they remain just friends?
Let’s chat about the things I really loved about this book. One of the biggest things I loved about this book was the sexual experience between the two main characters. Cece is still a virgin while Aiden has more experience with dating and bedroom experience. I really appreciate seeing those partner dynamics in books especially since we don’t often see that type of partner ship often. My second favorite thing about this book was the plus-size representation. As a plus-size reader, I find it harder to find books that have plus-size characters in them, let alone heroines who are plus-size. So that piece of information alone was enough for me to pick this book up.
However, despite these good things, this really wasn’t a fun time. I wanted a steamy, sexy, fun time and it felt like all the steamy times got overshadowed by everything else happening within this novella. For starters, despite that this is plus-size representation, the main heroine isn’t confident in her body, her curves, and even uses her fatness or “fattitude” as a reason to give attitude and make people do what she wants. I’m fine if a character has body issues or low self-esteem in the way they look (no matter what size, everyone feels like this at some point in their life). However, when it’s one of the main focuses of the main character and the whole character is centered around the size of their body, and that’s the reason why they do or don’t do certain things, despite being told they are loved and appreciated for who they are… I can’t. As a plus-size reader, that boils my blood. Give me a morally grey character who can be confident, but still have doubts in her body size. Give me a character who owns the curves of their body, but still questions if they’ll face rejection by the character they love. Give me anything else than what this novella did. Now that’s my two cents on the matter. I can’t speak for other plus-size readers because their opinions will be different. For me, this wasn’t the kind of plus-size representation I didn’t expect to see.
My second major issue with this book is how Aiden’s character handles every little thing. Aiden finds out Cece is a virgin, it comes as a huge shock and then later on he basically rejects her only tell her to go date around, build more experience, and only come back to him if she figures out what she wants (despite Cece telling him exactly what she wants). It’s very clear from the very beginning just how deep into his mind Aiden goes because there are key moments in this novella where he ignores what Cece says and tells her what was wrong about the whole situation or will do something that miscommunicates his intentions to Cecelia.
Speaking of miscommunication, that’s another huge issue throughout this book. Both, Cece and Aiden, are adults and despite them being adults, they handle things like they’re childish games. They don’t have good communication between one another and the author throws in unnecessary drama that forces them to finally communicate with one another near the end of the novella. I wasn’t a fan of this and there were a lot of moments because of miscommunication that I got second-hand embarrassment or cringed by the result.
Overall, this just wasn’t a fun time for me. I can understand why other readers may have enjoy this novella, but for me, this wasn’t it. It hurts even more to say that because this is a revised copy of this book and I can only imagine what this book was like before the revisions. Truly, I wish many things would have been handled better or done differently. However, this does make for a quick read and could be good for any readathons or achieving any reading goals one may have.
“If I’m with you, it’s because I think you let in more stardust than storm clouds.”
Friends, I love Lovelace’s work and you all know how much I loved the Things That Haunt duology. However, I’m starting to notice a pattern with a lot of these duologies, these trilogies. I always end up loving the first and/or second book, but then the final book seems… lack luster, to say the least. Maybe this wasn’t the right time for this to come into my reading life or maybe it was from the lack of emotions this book didn’t stir. Whatever the reason, I just didn’t love this book the way I thought I would.
Starting with the positives, I’ve always loved the way the author writes. Out of all the modern poetry I read, Lovelace is the one I can connect with the most. I know a lot of readers struggle with this writing style especially since everything is lower case, but I find that it’s smooth read for my own experience. The other thing I really loved about this book was the artwork. The art in these books is always so beautiful and if I’m remembering correctly, Lovelace does all the art. There are these gorgeous forest and crystal panels in this book and they were probably a big highlight for me. And lastly, I couldn’t stop pulling quotes. I’m a lover for a good quote and I was able to pull some many from this book. So that made me really happy.
“Embody the heroine you needed when you were a child, but don’t forget to embody the heroine you need now, too.”
Despite the things I loved, there were a few things that just prevented me from loving this book. My first issue with this book was the lack of the theme. From the beginning this book states that this is going to be centered around sisters or sister relationships, and I just didn’t get that feeling from this book. It started off strong, but then that theme kind of disappeared for me. Tying in with that, there was this vibe of negatively charged vibes while reading this book. When I finished reading this book, I didn’t feel good at all. Most of the time when I read the books by this author, there’s a big shift from the negative to the positive, and that just wasn’t here in this book. The negativity seemed to dragged throughout the majority of the book for me. The other issue I had with this book was the repetitiveness. I haven’t seen many people talk about it, but for me there were sections that felt repetitive to the author’s past work. I was really hoping for something fresh, I was excited for the sibling theme (as I’m very partial to mine) and this just wasn’t it.
Overall, there were some things I loved and then other things I really didn’t like. I think the execution could have been done better and I wish the author would have focused on the actual theme just a little bit more. There’s also a big imbalance between the poetry and prose. There was a lot more prose than I was expecting. I’m hoping for future works we see the balance return. And I still recommend giving this book a chance. Even though this book didn’t work out well for me, it doesn’t mean that will be your experience.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, toxic friendships, manipulations, talk of death, mentions of racism, loss of a parent (in the past), loss of a loved one (in the past), allusions to depression, grief, depictions of suicidal ideation
“Except there’s nothing more delicate than a life.”
Friends, this graphic novel knocked my socks off! I really liked Sheets, but this Delicates was a whole other level for me. This graphic novel hit home in so many ways and I ended up in my feels. Brenna Thummler always has an important message in their books and the one in this graphic novel is so damn important. I just really loved this graphic novel so, so much and if you haven’t started this series yet, please do!
Following the events that took place in Sheets, Marjorie, our laundromat girl who looks after the ghosts who live there, is back in an all new story about navigating friendships and what it to be a middle schooler who feels out of place. Also, we’re introduced to a new character, Eliza Duncan, an avid photographer who spends most of her time in the school’s dark room and ghost hunting for her next photograph. Eliza doesn’t have any friends and through that loneliness (as well as Wendall), we see Eliza’s story truly unfold.
I love the characters in this graphic novel. When Eliza’s character was introduced, I instantly wanted to know more about her, about the backstory, and why Eliza likes to ghost hunt. I think many readers are going to enjoy Eliza’s character and the way her storyline plays out. Of course, I love Wendall and Marjorie, and the friendship they share with one another. I love how it’s not a perfect friendship, that there’s bumps along the way, but I love how everything comes together with them. Also, I really enjoyed the intersecting storylines of Eliza and Marjorie. They have a really rough path, but the conclusion with them was really wonderful.
“Humans are delicate too. The teeniest mistake can ruin them, even if you do everything else right. Just because mistakes seem small and insignificant, doesn’t mean they are.”
Of course, I have to talk family dynamics. I feel that this is one aspect of this graphic novel series no one talks about a lot. Marjorie comes from a single parent household, a widowed father of two. In the first book we saw him struggle with grief and depression. Now in book two, we see the hardships of what it means to be a single parent and trying to start you life again after the loss of your partner. There’s also Eliza’s family, who’s far from perfect. We see Eliza’s parents struggle to find balance within their home life. From schedule struggles to trying to co-parent the best they can of three children, these two are tackling the hardships the best they can even if it does stir up some disagreements. I love family dynamics and I love family dynamics that show the more realistic side of what families go through instead of the typical “rainbows and sunshine” family trope.
As I mentioned above, this graphic novel deals a lot with mental health. I think many of us can remember a time in school where we experienced peer pressure, bullying, or maybe some of us felt like outcasts. And Thummler doesn’t hold back from when we’re going through those hardships. This opens up to the bigger discussion of suicide and how during this point in many teenagers lives, they feel like they’ve hit a rock bottom and find it impossible to get back up once they reach that point. For myself, reading this was really emotional because of the friends I’ve lost to suicide and from the low points I’ve reached in my past. And I truly believe this graphic novel is going to resonate with so many readers like it did with myself. Truly, this graphic novel is going to touch the hearts of so many readers.
“Life is a precious thing, dearie. It has skin that feels. And feet that can dance. And hearts that can love and be loved.”
Overall, I loved this graphic novel so much. I love how there’s so many important themes laced throughout this graphic novel, how many important discussions this will spark. Truly, this hits like a ton of bricks and so many readers will resonate with the messages in this book. And I just wanted to say that if you do feel like you’re in a dark place, please reach out to loved ones or reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline. Please know that I see you, that you are loved, and that I’m so glad that you’re here.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
ARC was provided by NetGalley and Zest Books in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date(March 2, 2021)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Mental health, homophobia, toxic relationships, addiction (drug abuse & alcoholism), depression, grief, mentions of suicidal ideation, trauam/PTSD, mentions of terminal illness (cancer), death, loss of a loved one, microaggressions, mentions of rape, mentions of assault, mentions of a forced outing
“What I’ve learned throughout my life is that while I struggle to feel loved and supported by the people around me, I can always rely on my dogs, no matter what.”
With my whole chest, I love this book so damn much! I’m a firm believer that there are some books that everyone needs to read at least once in their life. This is one of those books. All too often society doesn’t talk about mental health or certain illnesses because of the stigma around them. And all too often, that stigma can cause a one-sided perspective of them and the person who has to face these challenges every day. HIV and those who have HIV are no exception to these type of circumstances, but this book is so fantastic because it offers so many different perspectives, from a plethora of people who share their own stories. I can’t express the importance this book holds and how much I wish I could put this book in everyone’s hands.
This book is a collection of stories with a photo of a person(s) and their dog(s), and their story. Each story is centered around their story with HIV and how their canine companions help them heal, and improving their life despite the challenges happening to them. Throughout the book you’ll meet a plethora of diverse people who are trans, do drag, queer, BIPOC, and so much more. You’ll learn about their background and the most common theme is the rejection of one’s family and loved ones, addiction, and facing the struggles of mental health from all the stigma surrounding HIV.
This is probably the most emotional book I’ve read in a very long time. You know I love my books that make me cry and steal my soul away, and this book succeeds at that. This book is so heart breakingly beautiful and it shines a light on the importance of fighting back against the stigmatism surrounding HIV. As someone who faces stigmatism around certain mental health challenges, this book hit so close to home on how hard it is to keep going despite the stigma, despite feeling like you don’t have the support you need, and this book melted me into a puddle. And while I don’t have HIV, one of my good friends passed away from having HIV and seeing the hardships they faced, reading this book just hit so close to home in so many ways. I think that’s why I loved it so much because I love books that touch that part of my soul.
“I am not a bad person – you don’t get HIV because you’re a bad person. You can be a good person, an educated person, and get HIV. We have to get past the stigma – that is the reason people don’t get tested and are not honest about their status.”
I think the thing I love most about this whole book is the hopefulness and the reflection on the benefits, emotional and physical, that pets have on people. I loved that despite the hardships all these people face, there’s always a feeling of hopefulness, of love, and seeing the silver-lining. And I think with everything combined, the good and the bad, readers will be able to connect with the people within this book.
Overall, I don’t want to say too much about this book because I want to encourage you to go pick this book up and read it. I believe with my whole heart that everyone needs to read this book at least once in their life because this book is too important not to. Even though I read and finished this in 2020, this is book has made it onto my top books of 2021 because it truly is a master piece and I just love it so, so much!
“I know that without him I wouldn’t be alive, and without me he wouldn’t either. We saved each other.”
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of harassment, talk of sexual harassment, talk of cyber bullying, talk of misogyn, themes of misandry
I’ll be honest, I’ve been dreading writing this review and have been putting this off for far too long. I really wanted to love this book and there were some things that I found really helpful, informative even, especially because I’ve been in various nerdy communities for such a long time, but I find that my opinion is going to be of the minority when it comes to this book. So take my review with a grain of salt. However, if you’re a reader who’s looking for some opposing thoughts on a lot of the content that’s talked about in this book then I can’t recommend enough checking out these following videos: HERE, HERE, and if you’re looking for statics about online harassment then I recommend checking this article out!
Let me take a moment to talk about the good of this book. This book is true to what it is; a guide book, a self-help book, however you want to view it. I really loved how this book talked about the different types of conventions, navigating the conventions, budgeting and expenses, and even things to pack. Despite the fact that I’ve gone to various conventions, events, etc… for almost fourteen years, I still find this kind of information helpful and good for referencing. There’s even an ‘after the convention’ list that I would’ve loved to have had after all of these years. There’s also interviews in this book with various women in the industry who have worked on a plethora of nerdy, geeky things such as anime, DC and Marvel, etc… that I enjoyed reading, despite the repetitiveness and the awkwardness of some of the interviews. Also, this is a super quick read and most sections are very brief, easy to fly through.
Despite the few good things I found within this book, they weren’t enough to prevent the issues I had with a lot of the content within this book. One of the biggest things being the continued theme of misandry throughout this book. This is a huge issue for me especially when no one wants to talk about how this book is set up to convince you men are terrible and do nothing but terrible things. Throughout this book, the author continuously references how we’re all in this community together, how we’re supposed to be supportive of one another, no matter the gender, for about one to two pages, and then will spend the next three or four pages talking about how horrible men are and how their actions are always terrible towards women in nerdy communities. There’s actually a whole entire section based around ‘internet trolls’ that’s based in the context of assuming they’re all male. Even when the author talks about sexual harassment and assault in the cosplaying community, it’s always in the context of a man doing these actions. I can’t speak for everyone in the community, but basing my opinion on my own experiences and things I have witnessed as a cosplayer and LARPer, I’ve experienced and witnessed more female/female and male/male harassment and sexual assault than I have any situations that are male/female related. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but what I’m saying is we need to make sure we’re accurately talking about what really happens instead of assuming/creating a certain narrative to fit our own views. And when you continuously place these narratives of one side being innocent/good and the other being guilty/evil, then you’re continuing to cause rifts and issues within communities instead of helping it grow and make it a more positive community to be in.
Overall, this book was exhausting to read and writing this review has been something I’ve been dreading for a long time now, for a plethora of reasons. I don’t have the energy or time to list the multiple references to a lot of the things that were inaccurately talked about throughout this book (do your own research, listen to those who talk about the facts), point out every little thing that was wrong with this book, or even try to continuously explain to people how misandry is just as bad as misogyny no matter what community it is. If you can’t see the problematic issues within this book then I don’t know what else to say expect to check out the links I provided up above if you want to hear opposing opinions about a lot of the things that were talked about in this book. I wish so many things would have been handled in a different light especially since this is an introductory book, a guide/self help book and I know there are going to be young readers who will pick this book up and be influenced by this book. With the knowledge and experience I have, I can’t recommend this book because of the narrative this book takes on and I can’t support a book that inaccurately talks about a plethora of things.
ARC was provided by NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date(February 2nd, 2021)
Oh, this was just the sweetest and filled my heart with so much warmth! Times are really hectic and hard right now, and I’m not going to lie, I’ve been looking for things that keep me happy and make me laugh. This is the first book I ever read by Catana and I’m so pleasantly surprised! My heart is bursting with warmth, love, and just bright sparkles of joy. And this book reminds me of my own marriage to my spouse. The whole time I was reading this I couldn’t stop saying, “It’s us!” It’s such a sweet book, truly!
This book is a collection of comics that shows it’s okay to accept how perfect and imperfect your partner really is. What may seem odd or ridiculous to others, may work for other couples and this collection is the perfect example of this. With characters that are clingy, funny, and in their own unique way of charming, many readers will find themselves connected to this adorable couple.
I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud (so dang much), swoon, and get so soft and sappy that I went to look back through all the photos I have of my spouse and I. Even the little things in the collection reminds me of the little things that happen in our every day especially the parts where our female character is short and asking for help. That’s literally us, every single day! Or the parts with the naps, we’re always together for those. It’s just the little things and this book filled my heart with all the feels. I really loved it.
Overall, this is a fantastic book that you should pick up (even though it doesn’t come out till 2021)! This is such a relatable book and I can’t think of a better present to give to your partner for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. Also, it’s a really quick read and perfect for readathons and any reading goals you’re hoping to accomplish. I can honestly say, I’m eager to pick up more work from this author and I can’t wait to see what’s waiting around the corner for us!
Content/Trigger Warnings:Incest, attempted rape, gore/body horror, child sacrifice, human sacrifice, murder, death, racism, fetishisation, eugenics, mentions of loss of parent (in the past), mentions of stroke (in the past), talk of colonization, mentions of epidemics (in the past), mentions of homocide (in the past), sexism, physical assault, scene of seizures, mentions of miscarriages (in the past), mentions of divorce (in the past), child abuse (in the past, beatings with a cane), attempted murder, cannibalism, trauma, sexual assault, gaslighting
Yes, it’s true, this is the first book I’m not giving a rating to. I know, it’s a big shocker because I usually rate every book, no matter how good or bad they are. Yet, this is the first book that’s caused a stir within me that I should state that I’m not the target audience for this book. I’m typically not a horror or thriller reader and so I feel that if I give this book a rating, it’s unfair to the author and the book itself. In truth, this isn’t a bad book, it’s definitely a book that’s not for everyone, but this book does an excellent job in the genre it was published for.
This story is about Noemí Taboada, a twenty-something young woman from a wealthy family from Mexico City, who upon receiving a frantic and disturbing letter from her cousin, departs for High Place, where she’s to investigate what’s really happening and determine if her cousin needs to be brought home. Upon arrival, Noemí will find countless rules thrust upon her by her cousin’s husband’s family. But the longer Noemí stays at High Place, the stranger things become and soon, Noemí might find it impossible to leave.
“The future, she thought, could not be predicted, and the shape of things could not be divined. To think otherwise was absurd. But they were young that morning, and they could cling to hope. Hope that the world could be remade, kinder and sweeter.”
The writing of this book is unique and the story-line is a slow burn kind of horror. It’s been a month since I read this book and I still can’t forget the contents of this book. This isn’t just a slow build, this book doesn’t hold back from building up an atmosphere and as you read, things become more disturbing. However, it gets very graphic, very gory, and if you’re not someone who typically reads horror (like myself) then this book may be a shock to the system.
However, if you’re someone who’s looking for a ownvoices read, that’s set in the 1950’s, reads similarly to dark academy books, and is sure to send chills down your spine, then I can’t recommend picking this book up during fall and spooky season. With the beautifully unique and atmospheric writing of the author, I have no doubt that this book will be making it on to many top books for 2020.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, death of animal, murder, torture, human sacrifice, loss of a loved one, grief, trauma/PTSD, abandonment, allusions to child abuse and child neglect, forced gender roles, transphobia, mentions of alcoholism, verbal abuse, manipulation, body horror
I had a lot of feelings about this book, shed some tears, and held my breath for so much. Truly, I think I love this book with every fiber of my heart and can still feel the life this book breathed into me. This is probably one of the best fall/spooky seasons reads I have ever encountered. From the world itself to our three main characters, I don’t know how I went so long without reading this book.
Set in Three Graces, a town that never encounters plagues or misfortune, a deal with the devil is what keeps this town bound from every having to face those hardships. But everything comes with a price especially when it concerns the devil. Every seven years, with the dawn of the blood moon, a saint is sent into the woods without any hope of survival. The woods itself? No one knows what dark, twisted things lurk within it’s depths nor do they know the things that take place within. For those who do manage to survive, haunted by the events that took place, leave Three Graces when given the chance. Our story follows an unlikely trio, united by an unwavering love for one another, who will all play a role when the blood moon comes too soon and the devil demands a heart.
“The sun rises and she approaches the edge. A forest devil, a witch, a young woman, with eyes like a starry night and teeth like cats, and thorny, flowering brambles tangled in her hair, littering white petals behind her. They’re waiting for her. Two of the hearts: one burning, one perfectly in tune. She smiles, lips parted over sharp but not too-sharp teeth. Instead of slowing, she leaps forward. She dives at them, throwing arms around both together. One hisses as some sharp piece of her body slices at his skin, and the other grunts because he catches most of her weight. Neither of them lets go.”
This book was everything I wanted for my fall reading. An atmospheric read that has you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. The setting is rich with details that chills your skin, the writing is absolutely beautiful, and main characters who aren’t perfect, but shine so brightly you can’t help falling in love with them. And side characters you can’t help secretly loving (I’m looking at you Haf and Devil). There’s also some amazing underlying themes of this book that touched my heart in ways I wasn’t expecting. Ultimately, just everything I wanted and more. However, I think some readers will want a little more and will hope Gratton takes things an extra mile that would shock or stun the reader. Personally, this wasn’t an issue for me, but I think it might be something other readers might not like.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Graphic injuries, death, murder, loss of a loved one, grief, drug use, overdosing, drug abuse, gore, mentions of drug dealing, trauma/PTSD, anxiety, blood depictions, brief mentions of menstruation, child (12) rape (very, very graphic), brief mentions of child molestation, bullying, brief mentions of conversion therapy, assault, physical abuse, violence, scene and talk of victim blaming, talk of suicide, mental abuse (in the past), scene of drowning, abandonment, child neglect (in the past), manipulation, a magical date rape drug (pg 249 & pg 250), brief details of date rape scenes, sexual assault, forced sexual assault (on video), blackmail, forced eating of human waste (to a rapist), and racism
“But the trouble had begun on a night in the full dark of winter, when Tara Hutchins died and Alex still thought she might get away with everything.”
This is probably my most requested review since I finished reading this book. Everyone has been asking, “When is your review going up?” Well, I’m finally sitting down to write it all out. This is probably my most polarizing book that I’ve read, thus far. My first book by this author that I haven’t picked up in a hot minute. And I’m pretty sure this is the first book I’ve read all year that’s really made me question some of my reading choices. I have many thoughts, many feelings, but despite that, I feel like I have to make the statement that I did like this book and there were plenty of things I did enjoy. So before you raise your pitch forks because I gave this book three stars, take a seat because we need to have a little chat about Ninth House and then you can judge me.
Let me start by saying Ninth House is a very, very dark book and I say that in the sense that you need to practice self-care. This author didn’t add content and trigger warnings at the beginning of this book (which should have been). So please take care of yourself because there are many heavy scenes and topics throughout this book.
Ninth House is about a girl named Alex (Galaxy) Stern, who’s originally from L.A., but is now living on the east coast, studying and majoring in art at Yale. But Alex isn’t just there to study art, Alex is at Yale for another reason and was given an opportunity too good to pass up. This book flash between Late Spring and Winter, where we see two different timelines link to one another, where we see the events of what happened in the past and how those events impact Alex in present day.
Winter shows us Alex at Yale, meeting her mentor, a man named Darlington, where he teaches her about the nine secret societies of Yale. With secret, magical rituals and the many tasks they’re assigned to do, Darlington helps teach Alex to perform them, but to also defend and protect herself. The House of Lethe recruits one new freshmen every three years, where they gain the knowledge of the occult. And despite all the candidates from this year, all eyes have been pegged on Alex, for a very long time because she has a highly sought after ability. And as the ninth house, it’s Lethe House’s responsibility to keep all the other houses in order and prevent them from doing terrible things.
In Spring, things are a lot different and Alex carries a heavy weights on her shoulders. Darlington is missing, ghosts who are paying her too much attention and getting way to close, and now a girl has turned up murdered and Alex is starting to think one of the other secret societies is behind it. But when Alex keeps hitting brick wall after brick wall, and sometimes the only way to get results is to do everything except following the rules. Even if that means you make a pact with a ghost you’re technically supposed to be ignoring.
But most importantly, Ninth House is a book designed and written for those who have survived unspeakable abuse and trauma, for those who are still living with it, and for the ones who feel haunted by the abuse and trauma of their past. This book is layered with pages about trauma and PTSD, and the slow process of healing. This book is for the victims, who feel like a piece of them has been taken away, a piece they may never get back from someone who took it by force. A book for those who will do anything to survive, to keep fighting, to feel empowered after something horrible occurred. This book is for the ones who walked straight into Hell and made the journey back. This book is dark and light, painful and healing, and on these pages you’ll find the phases of the in-between where humans go when they’re trying to find their voice again. This is truly my favorite part of this whole entire book and the most seen I have ever felt by a book.
“He needed her and she needed him. That was how most disasters began.”
Truly, this book is really great especially for those rainy fall days or just for sitting around a camp fire. It’s so atmospheric and it really has a way to pull you into the story. And truly, I had to open up a word document to fit all the quotes I was pulling from this book.
And I want to briefly mention the conversation of privilege and power dynamics that’s happening throughout this book (and it’ll tie in a little bit with another piece in the review). The author doesn’t hold back from showing the privilege of what rich families especially their children can get away with. How they feel entitled to anything and everything. The scariest part is we see this happen all the time in our world where you have rich and privileged people doing terrible things and no one steps in to punish them, and if they do get punished then it’s a slap on the wrist situation. Unchecked privilege is very scary, I’ve encountered it many times in my life and I’ve seen how it’s impacted victims (how it impacted myself), and bless the author because she’s not afraid to drive the point home. From the terrible acts and cycles of abuse to the horrifying ends they deserve, the author really delivers.
“There were always excuses for why girls died.”
So you’re probably wondering, why did I rate this three stars if I enjoyed so much of the content? Let me be brutally honest for a second, a plethora of things bothered me. From the pacing, to the whiplash, to the privilege that this author can write about Native/Indigenous trauma and no one, I mean not a soul is talking about how this author handled it. In my opinion, this book didn’t spend enough time in the editing process and it should have before it was released because there’s parts that should have never been included and completely removed from the book. As much as I loved the atmosphere, the way this book accurately portrays trauma and abuse, and the many side discussions happening, these weren’t enough to make me give this book a higher rating.
And before I dive into my issues with this book, let me address the elephant in the room. Yes, I dnf’d this book 80% of the way through. Why? Because at some point, when you’re reading a book that has content and trigger warning for days and you feel like you’re trying to run in quick sand, you have to ask yourself if a book is doing you more harm than good. And so I did, I dnf’d, and I still gave it a rating. Simple as that.
“You couldn’t keep sidling up to death and dipping your toe in. Eventually it grabbed your ankle and tried to pull you under.”
I want to start with my biggest issue because no one is talking about it, I’ve read plenty of reviews and not a single soul wants to speak about it. I talked about this in my October wrap up too. Remember earlier in this review, how I talked about privilege and how unchecked privilege can be scary. Guess what, we’re here to talk about how this author took two events that impacted Native/Indigenous communities, one in which the author tried to make it seem like the event didn’t happen, brushed it off and down played it, and the other, well, it’s not good, let’s just leave it at that. A non-Indigenous author inaccurately writes Native/Indigenous trauma and no one bats an eye, but when a Native/Indigenous author accurately writes about that trauma, everyone loses their marbles. Let that sink in and sit with it a while.
As an Apache woman, let me just say, please do your research. I’m not going to go into really long details, but I want to encourage you to do your own research. If you are not Apache, you do not get say in the first event that I’m starting with. So starting off, page 50 and page 51 the author decided to bring up an event that concerns the crime and traumatic event concerning Geronimo’s remains and the desecration of his grave. For those who aren’t fully familiar with Geronimo, you can learn more about him here. The author wrote this event off like it never happened and I’m here to correct you. This event did happen, we know the names of the people who committed this crime because one of their own confessed about this horrible act and someone witnessed the whole violation, there are videos out there of people who have infiltrated the secret societies of Yale and they discuss what they learned about this horrible act and how it’s praised in those secret societies, there are plenty of articles out there for you to read (go research it, I’m not going into all the details). Ultimately to summarize, it was a very traumatic event that resulted in nothing except pain, trauma, and grief for a lot of Apache especially the remaining family of Geronimo. Then there’s page 165 and I quote, “He didn’t want to spend the evening fielding judgmental snipes from the Manuscript because Alex had felt the urge to dress as sexy Pocahontas.” Do you really need me to tell you what’s wrong with this sentence and how it’s harmful to Indigenous communities?
My issue with these two moments in this book ties in with an opinion that I have always strongly stood by. If you are a non-Indigenous author and you choose to write about Native/Indigenous trauma and history, you need to write it accurately and you need to feel the whole weight of what you’re about to write because the continuous erasure of that suffrage and history is still happening today. And depending on how you write it, especially if you are a popular, non-Indigenous author, can have a positive or negative impact towards the Native/Indigenous communities. As for you fellow reader, do your research and if you still don’t know why that sentence was so harmful, then you need to go learn about MMIW and relearn your history about Matoaka.
As for the rest of my issues with this book, the pacing of this book felt incredibly off. Some chapters flew by where others seem to be more sluggish. One chapter, something high-stakes would happen, full of shock value and then the next chapter barely anything would happen, maybe one or two action scenes and that’ll be it. At times it gave me whiplash or it would feel like large pockets of information dumping. There were also times where traumatic things felt thrown in to add to shock value. Not always, but some of the time it felt like the author was just putting it in there for the shock of it all and that doesn’t sit right with me because trauma shouldn’t be used as a tool or a way to push a story forward.
Overall, I kind of expected this to be the outcome. Going in, I already knew this was a polarizing book and I wanted to go into this book to find where I stood with this book. I’ll be honest, I’m a little disappointed, but I’m still glad I read this because there was so much I truly loved about this book. I didn’t talk about it, but I did enjoy the characters and as I said, the atmosphere is so, so good. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next installment, but if I do then I’ll probably read the end of this book just to get an idea of the kind of setting the next installment is set up for. And if I do pick it up, hopefully I’ll love it a little bit more than I did with this book.
“That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for.”
ARC was provided by NetGalley and Harlequin – Carina Press in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date(October 19th, 2020)
Content/Trigger Warnings:Loss of a loved one (in the past), sexism, mentions of divorce (in the past), abandonment, mentions of body shaming (in the past), sex
Oh, I loved this! I loved this so much, with my whole heart and soul. I’m a big softy for books that involve coffee shops, cafes, and bakeries. There’s something that reminds me of home when these elements are thrown in. Throw in the sibling bonds and the importance of family, *chef’s kiss* perfection! Truly, this is sure to make it onto so many reading lists as we approach closer to the holidays. It truly is an adorable read!
Set in the Philippines, Sweet On You follows two shop owners forming a rivalry between each other. When the empty store next to Sari’s cafe sells, Sari doesn’t like the thought of competition or change one bit. Then she meets the owner, Gab, the baker extraordinaire, and in that moment their rivalry is set in stone. Soon, the prank wars begin! But while these two are lost in the tide of pranks, everyone around them begins to question on whether or not this is actually a courtship. And that might be true! Even though they’re knees deep in pranks, they just can’t help themselves from flirting with one another.
🧁 Sari Tomas – The cafe owner of Tomas Coffee Co., who doesn’t like change and tries to avoid it at all cost. But over the next ten days leading up to Christmas, big changes throw her into a whirlwind. It started with Sunday Bakery opening next door, then her younger sister, Sam announced she’s moving out. With all these changes, Sari can’t help feeling everything is moving on with life, everyone except her.
“But the Laneaways had wriggled its way into his heart, and the person standing across from him was one of the biggest reasons why.”
🧁 Gabriel Capras – The owner of Sunday Bakery, who’s been trying to prove to his father that he can be professional and financially successful baker. With big dreams and goals keeping him motivated, Sunday Bakery is his first step to making those dreams come true. There’s just one problem, he never expected someone like Sari Tomas to wiggle their way into his heart.
Amidst all the pranks, these two rivals will start to find it impossible to spend their days without thinking of one another. Every thought with flash to some moment of the time these two have spent together, spicing up each others days. Even the hard days will be a little less hard. After all, baked goods and coffee speaks volumes to the soul!
I really loved our two main characters! Their personalities were absolutely fantastic and you could instantly tell the chemistry these two characters had. Both of these characters are like wizards in their own kitchens and the scenes we get of them making coffee or food were fantastic. Also, I really enjoyed the way these two characters talked about their siblings, how much love radiates from them throughout this book, and I loved seeing our main characters reconnecting with their siblings and family. It really warms my heart and I couldn’t help feeling soft, and a bit sappy about it.
“But most of all, I can’t imagine being here without you. You’re home to me now.”
And the way these characters fall in love with one another is hilarious yet so wholesome. They try so hard not to fall for each other and seeing them come together was so sweet. There’s something about a slow fall and then fast that really lures me in. The way the author wrote it, gave me everything I wanted from their romance. They had some hilarious moments, but they had some really endearing moments. The really steamy moments were perfect and there were some moments in those steamy scenes that got me a little choke up. I will say, if you’re not a fan of sexy times in books then this might not be the book for you. There are at least two major sexy moments in this book and if that impacts your reading, just know that those are in this book.
Of course, there’s the food featured in this book. A book has never made me look up so many foods that quickly. If someone were to open my browser right now, they’d just find countless pages of all the Filipino food. The way food is talked about in this book is so heavenly, so deliciously, that I recommend you read this on a full stomach. Otherwise, you’re going to be sitting there wanting to take a bit out of your book. I also loved the way Gab named some of his baked goods after his siblings. I thought that was the sweetest thing and I’m not going to lie, a little swoon worthy.
Overall, I had such a great time reading this snuggly, cozy, holiday romance! I loved so much about this book and I think many readers are going to enjoy curling up with this book. I think this book will really make the reader want to travel and I know this makes me eager to pick more books up by this author. I really loved the culture throughout this book and I’m excited to see what her other books have in store especially if its romance! I definitely recommend picking this book up during this holiday season especially if you’re looking for a book to brighten you day up!
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.