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The Fangirl’s Guide to the Universe by Sam Maggs

ARC was provided by NetGalley and Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (October 27th, 2020)

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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.

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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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In Love & Pajamas: A Collection of Comics about Being Yourself Together by Catana Chetwynd

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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!

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Victor and Nora: A Gotham Love Story by Lauren Myracle & Isaac Goodhart

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

This review is being published after the release date (November 3rd, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of death, talk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, scene of attempted suicide, loss of a loved one (in the past), loss of a parent (in the past), grief, PTSD/trauma, terminal illness

“So. Fire. Ice. Both hold the power to snuff out life. But love. Stronger than fire, more powerful than ice. Where love surrounds, life abounds.”

I don’t talk about it often, my love and appreciation for one of the saddest love stories in all of the Gotham Universe. While there are many love stories, many ships and pairings that happen, none of them quite compare to the love story of Victor and Nora. Victor Fries/Mister Freeze is probably one of my most favorite Gotham “villains” and truly, he’s just a man on a mission to save the one he loves. Being able to read this graphic novel in advance and see a whole new take on Victor and Nora makes me fall in love with this couple all the more. Also, I now have a deeper appreciation doe these characters and their younger side

Our story follows Victor, a cryogenicist, who’s headed to Gotham Cemetery to visit his brother’s grave, as his grief and trauma weigh heavy on his shoulders. Nora and her family have just moved to a new house in Saint Agnes, to be closer to where her mother is buried. Upon their arrival at the new house, Nora decides to go visit her mother’s grave. Thus, these two characters cross paths and spark a very unusual conversation between one another. From here on out, these two will be pulled two one another and a romance will slowly bloom between them.

When I say I loved these two characters and how they come together, I mean I really loved these two characters come together. Victor isn’t like your typical love interest. He’s very soft spoken, brilliant, and so compacted with love and passion. And Nora, she’s one hell of a firecracker. She’s whimsical, sarcastic, and she brings people out of their shell. These two balance each other out incredibly well. The chemistry shared between them is apparent from the very beginning, despite the unusual conversation. I don’t talk about it enough because it’s such a fifty-fifty chance, but I like to believe there are the cases where two broken people can heal one another, love each other so fiercely and deeply, and make the world seem a little brighter. And I truly believe with my whole and soul that Victor and Nora are one of those relationships.

What I truly love most about Victor and Nora’s relationship is their love. Out of all the love and relationship pairings, none shine quite as bright as this particular relationship. These characters love one another so beautifully, so deeply, and I don’t think here has ever been a relationship in the Gotham Universe that had a more devoted partner than Victor when it comes to Nora. For those who aren’t familiar with the DC Universe or the Gotham Universe, Victor gave up everything for Nora. His love for Nora basically consumed him to the point of the only thing that has ever mattered has been finding a cure for Nora. Victor never cared if he came off as villain or how his actions impacted the those around him, his whole world revolves around Nora and finding the cure. And seeing how Nora and Victor come to love one another in this book, despite knowing everything they both carry on their shoulders, their love for each other grounds them in those difficult times. I really loved that the author included those moments of grounding because it’s so important to show how powerful love truly can be.

“Just, for years I’ve reached out to no one. And if anyone reached out to me… Well, I made sure to keep my heart protected. And then this girl comes along. And… and… She melts me.”

Of course the story itself is very well done. I’m not sure if the author actually researched the story of Victor and Nora, but reading this graphic novel felt like author did. I loved how the author alternated the story between Nora and Victor’s perspective. Most of the graphic novels out there only has Victor’s perspective of everything. So it’s a nice breath of fresh air to see Nora’s side of things. It’s also a nice change to see these this couple in their youth. Before Victor became Mister Freeze and before Nora became frozen. It’s nice to see these two characters in love and being in their relationship with one another. And just the mundane things like hanging out with friends and arguing with family. We also see the harder, more difficult side of things concerning their mental health and Victor who’s coping with his trauma and PTSD. I really appreciated see those sides of Nora and Victor. It’s just nice to see that side of these characters before everything became intense in their story.

And I have to talk about the art because as always, Isaac Goodhart has such a beautiful art style. I really loved seeing the Tim Burton type of twist in the beginning. That was such a pleasant surprise and I think that was my particular favorite. However, the artist has a fantastic way of highlighting these scenes that are softer, kinder and the scenes that are intense like the panels where Nora is seeing the crow. The way those panels were designed with the shading and lighting really made for a great reading experience.

My only real issue with this graphic novel has to be the one key detail that’s always remained true to Victor and Nora’s story line. Victor and Nora were and always have been married when Victor froze Nora. While I’m not sure if this was an intentional change for the story, given the audience this graphic novel is trying to target, but this is one key element that should have been included especially since this could have impacted the way this graphic novel concluded. Even more so, it seems the scene of attempted suicide was included (which has never be a part of Victor and Nora’s story) to replace the fact that Victor and Nora have been married. If you were to really look at the context of the graphic novel, we already see Nora and Victor fight over Victor suggesting he cryogenically freeze Nora until he can find a cure. Then the whole scene of attempted suicide comes in to play. In a way, depending on what you take away from this, all of these events lead to painting Victor in a negative light and making it seem like he was giving Nora no other choice than to be frozen. For my reading experience, personally, I would have preferred if we saw them elope or actually have a wedding ceremony compared to this one tweak of their story line. It comes off as hopeless, very negative way to lead into an ending for this graphic novel and I think it would have really benefitted this graphic novel to have a little more good scenes than fully wrap this graphic novel up on such a heavy note.

“But I don’t care. I’m just happy to be alive. Happy to be in love.”

Overall, I really enjoyed myself reading this graphic novel. I definitely think the marriage panel could have been added in to help balance the heaviness of the ending and to also stay semi-true to Victor and Nora’s original story. Also, I think this graphic novel shouldn’t have been so heavy with the death and suicide elements. If this graphic novel is targeting a younger audience, I’m not sure if going the darker route was the best path to take especially when it concerns those who are typically reading middle grade level books. However, I really liked this. It was so refreshing to see these characters outside of their usual setting, you know, Victor being a villain and Nora being fully frozen. And if you couldn’t tell, I just really love and appreciate the love story that is Nora and Victor’s. My heart felt so full reading this. And I have to mention the mental health and trauma/PTSD representation was very well done. I really liked how we got see those pieces throughout the book. I definitely recommend this to those who enjoy the DC Universe or even the Gotham Universe. I especially recommend this to those who love Victor and Nora’s relationship like I do. And of course, if you need a quick read or you’re look for a new graphic novel to pick up then I have to recommend this graphic novel!

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

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Blue Period, Vol 1 by Tsubasa Yamaguchi

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Kodansha Comics in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (October 13th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Underage drinking and side remarks directed at a side character who crossdresses

“Here are a few tips to ensure a smooth relationship: Tell people what they want to hear. Don’t focus on yourself, make sure they are having fun in the conversation. At least that the only way I know how to communicate.”

I can’t believe how much I loved this manga and I still can’t believe I didn’t know about this series sooner! This might be a new favorite manga series I need to invest in because this story line, these characters, oh be still my fluttering soul. Going into this book, not realizing how centered around art it was, and then being blown away by so much within these pages was truly an experience. And I just really enjoyed this manga so much, with my whole heart!

Our story follows second year student, Yatora Yaguchi, who’s always gone with the flow and making sure to be practical, to stay on the path his family expects of him. He’s spent most of his time pleasing those around him, never really talking about his passions or interests because to choose those would cause trouble for those around him, or so he believes. When one day he returns to the art room, he comes across a painting that stirs something within his soul and shortly after, his thoughts begin to be consumed by art.

I really loved Yatora as our main character. Yatora’s character is such a breath of fresh air especially in the manga world. Yatora is classified or labeled as a “delinquent”, but despite the bleached hair and the terrible smoking habit, Yatora is actually an honors student and has really high marks on their grade card. And like any coming of age story, we see a light shined upon some of the inner thoughts almost every high schooler has, thoughts such as passion vs. money, hobby vs. career, follow expectations vs. make your own path, peer pressure, parents support and disappointment, etc… We see a lot of that inner monologue with Yatora and I think many readers will be able to connect with a lot of those thoughts. There’s a moment where Yatora receives praise for a class assignment and how it touched him, how good it felt, and I truly believe that scene alone will resonate with so many readers.

“And those who are true to themselves make truly great art. Because art is a language without words.”

I think the progression of the story is the biggest factor that impacted my reading of this manga. The progression of this book is very much geared towards providing information about art and the various art school in Japan. Setting that aside, I couldn’t help becoming swept up in all the hard work, the dedication, and the way Yatora’s skills were developing. Even meeting the side characters and learning about their own skills was really enjoyable. I’ve never been an artist, but this book reminded me of how much I love to draw and sketch. However, I do think some readers will feel bogged down with the amount of information that’s scattered throughout this book.

I do want to say that there were a few minor things that caused me to reread the passages to make sure I was reading them correctly. Yatora’s friends are really disrespectful and there were times where it caught me off guard or it would throw off the entire vibe of a scene. There were also one or two moments where side remarks were made towards the side character Yuka, who cross dresses. For most readers, I think this will get overlooked or no one will talk about it. However, when I caught it and then noticed it was never challenged, it didn’t quite sit right with me. And that might be my own reaction especially due to cross dressing in the past myself, but it was hard to tell what the intentions were with those remarks and hopefully in future issues this will be challenged more.

“Liking something and saying so is scary.”

Overall, I had a pleasant experience and as I said, this might be a new series I’ll end up investing in. I’m eager to see how things will play out, I’m dying to know if Yatora will tell his parents, and most importantly, I want to see more of the side characters in the art club. There’s just a really soothing and enjoyable mood when all the art club students are together. Plus, the teacher is a a true gem and she’s one of those teachers who really cares for her students. If you’re looking for a new manga series to fall in love with, I definitely recommend give this series a chance. I think many readers will enjoy the progression of this manga and be eager to find out what will happen next!

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

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Sweet on You: A Filipino Christmas romance by Carla de Guzman

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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.

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Weathering with You, Vol. 1 by Makoto Shinkai & Wataru Kubota

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Vertical Comics in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (September 22nd, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Homelessness, physical assault, gun violence, mentions loss of loved ones

Did I request this manga because I loved Your Name? Yes. Did I completely fall down a rabbit hole reading this manga and therefore need to know what’s going to happen next? Also, yes! I really loved Your Name. It was a very emotional, whimsical series and movie. So naturally my interest was at an all high when I saw this was available for request. And this book didn’t disappoint! It fully captured my heart and I think many manga readers are going to fall in love with this series, if they haven’t already!

We follow a boy named Hodaka, who’s run away from the island he grew up on, fleeing to the Kabukichō neighborhood of Tokyo to start a new beginning. However, Hodaka finds himself struggling to adjust to the new city and all the gloomy weather. Until he comes across a girl named Hina, who has a the special ability to bring out the sun, also known as a sunshine girl. Together they’ll turn Hina’s ability into a means of helping Hina gather funds to support herself and younger sibling, but Hodaka is keeping secrets and Hina is keeping her own.

“All this time, I think… I was chasing the light that you bring, Miss Hina.”

I loved these characters so much. They’re not your typical main characters who are fierce warriors or magical beings. They’re just two kids who come from rough backgrounds, trying to survive in the big world. I love when characters are just like everyone else, but we get to see their hardships, they’re struggles. It makes those characters feel more realistic and easier to connect to. And of course, the story line that pulls these two characters together is so beautifully woven. I loved seeing the small pieces of Japanese myths and legends tie in to the events happening and the characters.

Just like Your Name, Weathering with You has underlying themes to it. Looking at Hina’s character in this book, he character is designed to show the weight that women often carry. Women are often expected to provide warmth, comfort, and happiness, more time than most being the caregiver of the household. Now, I don’t want to spoil too much (especially for the anime), but the author does a brilliant job of showing this and how if affects women, how much energy the deplete from themselves, and the toll it begins to take on their bodies. I thought it was so beautifully done and I think this book shows the beginning of that process really well.

And of course, I have to talk about how stunning the art style is because it is gorgeous! The beginning of this arc we have one to two pages of colored art and it is everything. That alone had me gasping for breath. It so beautiful and I wish more manga had more little glimpses into colored panels. Even the black and white panels just really had an extra emphasis on the events happening throughout the book. The illustrator of this book is truly talented and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next!

Overall, I really enjoyed this manga with my whole heart. I think the story line does a fantastic job hooking the attention of the reader, pricking the curiosity of those who want to know more. It truly is a beautiful story and I can’t recommend this graphic novel enough. I hope my fellow manga readers will be picking this series up and if you haven’t checked out this series yet, please do. It truly is wonderful!

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

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Lost Girls Go Everywhere: Poetry & Prose by Azzurra Nox

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Victory Editing NetGalley Co-op in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (October 6th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions and allusions to rape and assault, mentions of death and loss of a loved one, grief, depression, mentions of suicidal thoughts, mentions of physical violence, toxic relationships, mentions of blood, body shaming, mentions of slut shaming, alcoholism

I always find rating poetry really difficult. I don’t say it often enough, but I’m a firm believer poetry and works of literature come into our life when we need them the most. So maybe I went into this collection with high expectations or maybe I was wanting something more from within these pages. Either way; I wanted to love this book, I wanted to enjoy this book, but I’m sad to say that wasn’t the case with this book. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed and maybe, this book wasn’t meant for me.

This book is broken into two parts, part one is poetry and part two is prose. There were a few pieces of part one that I enjoyed or felt a small pull to, but for the most part I felt nothing. I felt detachment and I found myself wanting more emotional pull, more connection. A lot of this portion paints all men in a terrible light, how they’re entitled, take what they want, or how they’re always causing more harm than good. There was nothing positive to be said, not even once. Honestly, it felt like I was reading passages by someone who hates all men and that’s not my cup of tea. I’ll also make the statement that this can happen the other way around and it does happen. There’s also a lot of references as to wanting to harm them back, to the point of potentially killing them. There’s actually a passage in one of the poems that references twisting a knife repeatedly into a man’s chest because he enjoys it and the blood. Needless to say, I was completely turned off. Not to make this about me, but I like to think I’m a very open person about you should always defend yourself and only do harm if it’s necessary to your survival. I have said this a few times in past reviews, if it’s not in self-defense or in a situation of life and death, physical violence should always be a last resort otherwise it’s not necessary. This entire poem alone, turned me off from the rest of the book.

“I got so much misfortune that I’m bathing in my bad omens.”

The second portion of this book was probably my least favorite. The entire second half felt like I was sitting down with someone I had just met and they thought the best way for us to get to know one another was to break out a rollodex of all the bad, toxic, or loveless relationships they had been in. I felt completely detached from this entire portion of the book. I think I read about five of these short stories before I started skimming. As I mentioned, I wanted more pulling, something that would jab at my emotions, but I didn’t feel anything, no spark. This portion of the book really dragged on for me especially since these short stories were two to three pages long. There needed to be something to capture the reader’s attention.

Overall, I wish I had a more positive experience with this book. I felt really underwhelmed and felt this book was a big rant of some sort. And there were so many other issues with this book. I definitely felt like this book needed to be balanced with some poems or short stories of hope, signs of life improving, or something to lighten things up. As an avid poetry reader, I wanted so much more from this book and unfortunately it fell flat for me.

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

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Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Saga Press in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (October 13th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Ritual disfigurement, cult themes, poisoning, abandonment, mentions of homophobia, mentions of slavery, death, mass murder, suicide, death of a parent, loss of a loved one, grief, graphic violence, graphic injuries, beheading, trauma, mentions of human sacrifice, physical assault, brief mentions of prostitution, allusions to rape, mentions of anxiety, alcoholism

“A man with a destiny is a man who fears nothing.”

What a wild ride of a read! I have been sitting on my thoughts and feelings for a good chunk of time. I feel that anything I try to write in my review about this book will pale in comparison to the actual contents of this book. Truly, this is a fantastic read and as a reader new to Roanhorse’s writing, I’m very impressed. I also want to put emphasis on a few things before diving into my thoughts. For starters, please practice self-care when reading this book because there are a lot of content warnings (as you can see listed above). These content warnings start from chapter one and proceed throughout the book. The other thing to keep in mind is I’m not an “ownvoice” reviewer for this book. I’m Apache, a Native American reader and reviewer, but this book has pre-Columbian cultures such as Yutatec Maya, Tewan, and Aztec cultures, and I cannot speak about those cultural elements and representation. So please do your own research on those cultures and also read the acknowledgements page.

Set in a high fantasy world with a civilization inspired by pre-Columbian Americas, Black Sun follows four characters who have destinies all intertwined with one another. In Tova, the holy city, Winter Solstice usually means a time of renewal and celebration among all, but this year is different. This year’s winter solstice converged with the solar eclipse, a rare celestial event that dictates unbalance. Here, our story begins with Xiala, a disgraced Teek woman, who has been tasked with an important mission to cross dangerous waters to deliver a supposedly harmless passenger to Tova in time for the Convergence.

Xiala – The bisexual (possibly pansexual), disgraced Teek woman our story begins with, is the hired captain of a ship and tasked with the important mission to deliver Serapio to Tova. Though she originally didn’t want to take on this mission for various reasons, she’s been given too many reasons why she should.

“She instinctively reached for her Song the way another woman would reach for a weapon. She no longer had a dagger at her waist, but even if she had, her Song would have come first.”

Serapio – Stripped of his childhood and destined to become the Crow God, Serapio is placed upon Xiala’s ship, to seek passage straight to Tova for Convergence. Despite everything he’s been through, everything he’s been taught, his time spent on Xiala’s ship and in her company leaves his wondering of what life would be like if he didn’t have a prophecy to fulfill.

Naranpa/Nara – The Sun priest, where we experience the more political side of this world. Nara is in a vulnerable position as the Institution is loosing respect, and will sooner learn there’s a lot more at steak in the game of politics than Nara originally believed.

“She wished that power allowed her to divine her own future, or the future of any of the priests. But it was forbidden, and that was one rule she would never break.”

Okoa – A character that comes into to play later on in our story. Okoa is first introduced to us when we learn about the matron/leader of the Carrion Crow clan being dead. He is oldest child of the leader, who left home to train to become a great warrior. He swift learns that things might not be all it appears to be and returns home to get to the bottom of what has really been happening in his clan since he’s been away.

All of these characters will intertwine throughout this story of destiny, dark magic, prophecy, and sacrifice. They will struggle along the way, face hardships, and try to fill their roles the best they can. For some, they’ll think of what life would have been like if they weren’t walking the path they’re currently on.

“The costliest mistake one can make is to underestimate one’s opponent through low expectations.”

I love the way Roanhorse has crafted and built up her characters. None of these characters are good or evil, they’re simply morally grey. I say it all the time, I love morally grey characters. When characters have multiple layers to them, complex feelings, and backstories that make you crumble. Each pov for the four main characters was designed to build a bigger picture of where they came from, what their objective is, and the events that are currently taking place in that time frame. I definitely think two of the main characters were stronger than the other two and there’s also a lot of things we learn about in each pov that doesn’t have an answer, doesn’t clarifies on certain moments, and definitely leaves the reader wondering. I think the two weaker povs are designed to be more mysterious and I’m hoping we’ll see a little more insight in the second book in this trilogy because there’s some parts I need answers to!

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the world building. In high fantasy, I love the details of the world and the way it gets built up and this book hit a lot of marks for me. Roanhorse did an outstanding job on the world building. There’s so much detail in the world, the history, even with the character development there was such great detail. It truly feels like the author poured a lot into this book to deliver a world that the reader will never forget. Not to mention, the ending of this book, the cliffhanger that it was, fantastic and I’m still not over it. I’m still thinking about how this book ended.

I also have to talk about the representation throughout this book. We are given so much representation and the author does a phenomenal job. I mentioned with Xiala that she’s bisexual (possibly pansexual). As the reader, we learn Xiala has sept with women, but we also see a lot of feelings brewing between her and Serapio. It’s also hinted that Serapio is also bisexual/pansexual. During a flashback and briefly mentioned, Serapio has a relationship with one of his mentors and how special that mentor was to him. Of course, we see the feelings forming for Xiala and him wondering what it would be like to truly be with her. There’s also the past relationship between Nara and Iktan, which I believe was a female and nonbinary relationship. There’s also a transgender side character. We also have disability representation throughout this book. Serapio is blind, Xiala is missing limbs, and Nara’s brother walks with a limp. So if you wanted diversity, Roanhorse delivered in so many ways.

“If your stories are of the glory of war, then I will know you value power. If your stories are of kinship, then I know you value relationship. If your stories are of many children, I know you value legacy. But if your stories are of adaptation and survival, of long memory and revenge, then I will know you are a Crow like me.”

I also want to remind you, as the reader, to please practice self-care. I don’t think I can emphasize this enough. There are a lot of dark themes throughout this book and it starts immediately in chapter one. There’s a lot of heavy chapters because of the dark themes you have to read through. I’m very much a fantasy reader, I can devour a fantasy, especially a high fantasy, like it’s no one’s business, but this took me longer to read than I expected. There were times where I felt overwhelmed by a lot of the dark themes in this book. I’ve also had a few conversations about this because there were some readers who were genuinely concerned for their mental health. I think as of right now, I’m the only reader who has gone to the extent of being specific with the content/trigger warnings in this book. So please look over them, make sure you’re in the right head space, and take care of yourself while you read this book.

I think my biggest struggle with this book is the multiple povs. I say this so, so much. Multiple povs is not my strong suit with reading. I can handle three max, but once a book goes past that, it becomes a little dicey. That isn’t to say books with multiple povs are bad. For me as a reader, sometimes those povs can bleed together or feel like the book is dragging on more than it needed to. And it definitely affected my reading. So, between the multiple povs and the dark themes, I had to dock a star because it impacted my reading and enjoyment.

“I am the only storm that matters now, and there is no shelter from what I bring.”

Overall, I’m so grateful I got to read an arc of this book! I really enjoyed this book as a whole. I think Roanhorse did a fantastical job creating a world many readers are going to fall into, really enjoy, and there was so much that blew me out of the water. I’m really impressed especially as someone new to her writing. I think my true love lies within the characters because I can’t resist a morally grey character, it’s a weakness of mine! I have no doubt this is a book that’s going to take readers by storm and I have no doubt will end up on many top 2020 lists!

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

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Alaskan Christmas Redemption (Home to Owl Creek Book 3) by Belle Calhoune

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and HARLEQUIN Romance in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (September 29th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death of a parent (in the past), loss of a loved one (in the past), grief, abandonment, mentions of multiple accidents, mentions of kidnapping and abduction, trauma, mentions of heart attack (in the past)

“I want to help you save the diner.”

In my true bad reading habits fashion, I read the the third book in this series and I have zero regrets. Seriously, this romance hit me in all the soft spaces of my heart, friends! Truly, this was such an emotional read and I loved this book so much. I’m not sure if you should or can read these book out of order. Even though this is the third book, I’ve never heard of this series before or this author, but this book has enough details that you understand the side characters and being new to this series, I had so much appreciation for that. After experiencing this author’s writing, I’m excited to explore more of this series and more of Calhoune’s writing!

Alaskan Christmas Redemption follows the story of two childhood best friends finding their way back to each other after four years of being part. Piper has spent these last four years carrying a great weight on her shoulders and now with her family diner at risk, she needs to find a solution to save it or close the doors to the Snowy Owl for good. Braden has just returned to Owl Creek after spending four years running away from his past. When Piper contacts him, asking for help, Braden ends up doing everything he can to help her, despite the secrets he’s keeping from everyone. The two estranged friends will work together to save the diner and maybe lose their hearts to one another along the way.

🦉 Piper Miller – After inheriting her family’s diner, The Snowy Owl, Piper has spent the last four years grieving the death of her father, but The Snowy Owl is in a lot of trouble. With a debt that was covered up by her father, Piper is struggling to come up with a way to save the diner without having to close the doors for good. She reaches out to her childhood best friend, Braden to assist her in saving the diner, but after four years of being apart, she can’t help wishing they could be close again or noticing Braden is hiding something.

“There was no one in the world who could replace Piper. She was one of a kind and as unique as an individual snowflake.”

🦉 Braden North – After leaving Owl Creek four years ago, Braden has finally come home to be with his family, but the weight of the past is weighing heavily on his mind. When Piper, his childhood best friend reaching out to him, seeking his help with saving the diner, despite wanting to keep his distance, Braden agrees to help and comes up with a brilliant plan to save The Snowy Owl. But as Braden spends more time with Piper, he’s not only falling for her, but he’s struggling to confess the real reason he left Owl Creek four years ago.

Together Piper and Braden will make a dynamic duo that’ll turn The Snowy Owl into the hottest spot in Owl Creek for the holiday season. Along the way, these two characters will learn to find the hope in situations out of their control, unravel the secrets of the past, discover what it means to fall in love with someone you’ve known all your life, and be forgiving even when we’re our most vulnerable.

“Remember when a chocolate cherry shake would make everything feel better? I miss those days”

We follow the perspective of both Piper and Braden throughout this story. I really loved Piper as a character. She’s confident, sweet, loving, and has a charismatic charm about her that I couldn’t resist. Plus, her love for Christmas just really warmed my heart. We also see a lot of Piper’s grief through her perspective. Braden, on the other hand, wasn’t my favorite perspective. A lot of his perspective is through internal struggle and seeing his thoughts on how he’s handling things. Together, I think the perspectives balanced the story out nicely and it paints that full picture of what happened with both characters in certain moments.

There’s also a huge theme of family throughout this book and I crumbled so much with this that theme. I always say my loyalty and family are my Achilles’ heel, and they truly are. And the whole sense of family throughout this book just hit so close to home. Piper is carrying the knowledge of what’s happening with the diner, and refuses to tell her brother and mother what has been occurring because she knows how hard they’ve recently struggled. On top of that, her whole family is still feeling the loss of Jack Miller, Piper’s father. There’s also the rekindling of family bonds on Braden’s side of this story. Braden’s younger sister was kidnap as a baby and now that they’re both home, under the same roof, they’re trying to find a way to connect with one another. But under all of that, there’s a deep sense of not wanting to disappoint your family or let them down because of hardships, feeling like you’re not measuring up to expectations, and it plays an important role in the lives of our two main characters throughout this book. And since this is a small town, we have the small town vibes and close knit community. So it feels like one big family and it’s like being wrapped up in a warm, fuzzy hug.

“His mother had once told him that even when you lost a person you loved, memories of them were everywhere you turned.”

Even though this is a holiday romance, there are heavy themes of grief and loss of loved ones in this book. And even though this is suppose to be a holiday romance, this is the first holiday romance I’ve read that addresses the amount of loss and grief you can feel around the holidays. I find not many authors show this side of the holidays, but it’s such an important perspective to show especially during the holidays. A we see a wide plethora of that through this book with many side characters. We also have multiple conversations surrounding that grief and remembering those loved ones. As I mention all the time, family is everything to me and this book really touched parts of my soul when it comes to that topic. But even though we have themes of grief, there’s also themes of hope throughout this book. I think the author did a beautiful job at pairing the two alongside one another. These two feelings go hand in hand with one another so often and I really appreciated that we see both sides.

Overall, this book made me really soft and sappy. I was crying on and off through this book because of so many themes throughout this story. I think many readers are going to fall in love with this story, with the characters, and the Alaska setting is just stunning. I’m truly excited to pick up the other books in this series and I’m eagerly awaiting future books for this series because this was such a great read. I read this book in one whole day and every time I set it down, I had to pick up back up immediately. Truly, I hope more readers pick this book up because is such a great read and it touched all the soft spots of my heart!

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

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