ARC Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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ARC Reviews

Wild is the Witch by Rachel Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ARC Reviews

Taproot by Keezy Young

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

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

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

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk and themes of death

“I’m just a gardener.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ARC Reviews

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Riox

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Arc was given by First Second Books & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (June 21st, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexism/sexist remarks, abandonment, displacement

Friends, this was such a delightful, whimsical read with stunning artwork! I know I usually talk up a lot of the graphic novels that I read, but I really enjoyed this one. It has monsters, a main character who is beautifully layered, an art style that pulls you in, just so many goods wrapped up in this graphic novel. Honestly, I wish I knew about this sooner because I would have talked about it sooner.

Our story follows Suri, a young girl who wants to be a monster tamer, but for right now she’s telling stories/legends of monsters, while travelling with her monster camp. However, things start to take a turn for the ominous when Suri discovers a ball of golden twine. Soon Suri finds her world being turned upside down and setting out on an adventure with an Imp and a giant-sized dog named Byron.

Suri was such a wonderful main character to follow. As a reader, I feel that I’m always drawn to characters who have a very headstrong, warm, but also lighthearted kind of presence, who wants to seize their opportunities throughout this story. Also, Suri is that kind of character you can’t help rooting for, you want to see her succeed and have the happy ending she deserves. And there’s a whole mystery around Suri about how she ended up with this traveling monster camp, why is this person of authority chasing after her and want her gone, and more so related to the end of the book, what will happen to Suri now that she’s on her own.

The artwork of this book is probably one of the most stand out elements. Though, all graphic novels usually have drop gorgeous artwork, but the color tones of this graphic novel really stuck out to me. It really resonated with aesthetics that I’m really drawn to. The design of the monsters really stands out as well. There’s a very eerie, spooky, almost ominous vibe expressed through the art style for these creatures. Though I do want to point out, this art style isn’t of a horror aesthetic. This is a graphic novel that’s directed more to younger audiences though I say anyone would enjoy reading this graphic novel especially in the fall/winter season.

Despite these wonderful elements, I still had questions that I doubt I’ll get answers to. Mostly, I had questions surrounding the backstory of our main character and the traveling camp. It feels like there’s missing details surrounding these two elements. This is also a fast paced read and with that being said, I felt like this could have been a longer graphic novel. I’m still holding out hope we may get some more details or more backstory about those two things and fingers crossed the next book with be a tad longer.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this graphic novel. It’s such a fast paced, whimsical read that I think many readers are going to fall in love with. It has such an amazing, magical feel to it and I’m really excited to see where this story goes in the next book, The Mole King’s Lair. I’m even more excited to check more books by Jo Rioux and I think this will spark many readers to look into more of this author’s work.

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ARC Reviews

Tiger Honor (Thousand Worlds, #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

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Arc was given by Disney Hyperion & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (January 4th 2022)

🌠 Dragon Pearl ★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Violence, severe injuries, talk of death, grief, mentions of abandonment (near end of book), hostage situation, attempted forced exorcism

“By the White Tiger of the West, I swear to serve the clan in all matters.”

Creature Factions:
✨ Dragons – Enormous, uses weather magic, can terraform planets
✨ Goblins – Ability of invisibility, mostly secret agents, can also summon food with their wands
✨ Ghosts – Spirits that have unfinished business, most likely haunting someone/something
✨ Tigers – Large in size, strong, fierce, feared by everyone, Sebin and their family
✨ Shamans – Healers, help ghosts crossover
✨ Humans – Like you and me
✨ Fox Spirits – Bad reputation, considered myths, extinct, Min and her family

Other Factions:
✨ Dragon Council – Galactic government
✨ Space Forces – Military, to protect the people and the different worlds
✨ Mercenaries & Pirates – Factions of all kinds trying to survive by whatever means

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it feels so good to be back in this world! I have missed this world dearly and I had been wondering where or more specifically who would come next in this series. I’m pleasantly surprised by the faction we got to follow and how everything seem to come full circle. Now, I’m just eagerly waiting to see what Yoon Ha Lee has in store for us next!

Our story follows Juhwang, Sebin, who’s been training to enter the Space Forces, in hopes of one day becoming a captain of their own ship like their uncle. In the midst of training and hoping to here back from the Spaces Forces, on whether or not they’ve been accepted into the program, tragedy strikes. Sebin is not only given the good news of being accepted into the program, but now their loyalty will be tested as their beloved uncle has committed treason, and is on the run.

“The White Tiger had told me, pay the price for breaking your oath, but pay it willingly.”

I love the themes we get to see so heavily engraved in this series. There is a strong, consistent theme of family and what it means to love your family so deeply, and at what lengths you’ll go to find out the truth of what’s happening with your family. Looking back on Dragon Pearl, we saw the main character go to great lengths to find out the truth about her brother. Now, we get to see our new character Sebin, not only seeking the truth, but having that inner struggle of loyalty to your family or doing the right thing to prevent others from getting hurt or potentially innocent lives being lost. And one of the most beautiful parts of this theme has been the character growth for the main characters. These family themes are not only consistent int he book, but they’re also key elements to watching the main character grow and come into their own.

Another favorite part of this book was seeing characters from Dragon Pearl return to this one. I loved seeing our favorite gumiho come back and I adored the way Sebin and Min clashed. One of my favorite things is seeing the “enemies to friends” relationship blossom and grow, and the author delivered. Its not a perfect friendship and there was a lot of miscommunication between the two of them, but it was wonderful to see them slowly come to understand one another and the hardships they both had to endure.

“It must be a hundred times worse to have to conceal something so fundamental about yourself.”

Also, I wanted to add a little side bit. I did this in Dragon Pearl and I really wanted to state it with this book as well. There’s a lot of Star Trek vibes throughout this entire book. Dragon Pearl had a lot of scenes where it felt like it may have been Star Wars inspired or even pulled inspiration from Mulan or Lilo & Stitch, but in this book, if you’re a Star Trek lover, this book feels like there’s a lot of inspiration pulled from it.

I think the most interesting part of this book was watching Sebin’s character development. We didn’t just see them come into a role of their own as a cadet, but we also see the conflicting feelings they have about many things relating to their uncle. Truly, I think one of the most beautiful things this book did was put an emphasis on how you can still love someone despite the bad things they’ve done, despite how imperfect they are, but still recognizing there’s a right and a wrong, and that its okay to have a lot of conflicting feelings about it as a whole.

“Losing him as a hero was more painful than an injury I had received.”

Of course, we see a lot of diversity throughout this book as well. There’s a few side characters who are non-binary, but our main character Sebin is also non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. We also have a side character who uses sign language. And speaking of disabilities, there’s a normalization of required sign language interpreters by the Space Forces, which I find isn’t often shown in books. It was handled in a very respectable way and I really appreciated that included aspect.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I feel like a power read this book so fast. That might be why I gave it four stars was from this book feeling short compared to the first book in the series. Either way, it was a fantastic read. I recommend this to anyone who’s a sci-fi lover for sure. I’m actually in the process of trying to get my significant other to read this series and they’re a die hard sci-fi lover. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and I think many readers will find themselves falling in love with this world all over again with this sequel!

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

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ARC Reviews

2 Manga Mini Reviews | With You and the Rain Vol. 1 & Anyway, I’m Falling In Love With You Vol. 1

Salutations friends! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, that everyone stayed safe! I wanted to do another bundle of reviews since so many liked the first one. This time we’re looking at two manga arcs given to be by Kodansha & NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviews of each manga. I’m excited to finally get these reviews up and I hope that one of these manga will spark your interest! 💙


With You and the Rain, Vol. 1 by Ko Nikaido

Arc was given by Kodansha & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

For the fans and lovers of ‘slice of life’ styled manga, this is right up your alley! As a manga reader, I feel that I’m always in the romance genre of manga. You know, really romance heavy manga. It’s rare when I’m reading slice of life books or manga, but ironically, I watch a lot of ‘slice of life’ anime. So reading this manga was a nice breath of fresh air for me. Plus, there’s a tanuki! I love tanukis especially when they’re the center of attention for storylines.

With You and the Rain is a manga series that follows a young woman, who’s attention is stolen on their way home from work one day. It’s raining really hard and she stumbles upon a little cardboard box with a creature that looks closely to a dog, but is actually a tanuki. After some persuading from the tanuki, the young woman and the tanuki start their new adventure together.

I really enjoyed reading this manga. I thought it was really cute seeing the two of them go about their life together. Seeing them build their friendship and how their friendship impacts those around them. It’s a very calming read for when you don’t want anything too heavy. Perfect for light reading! As a little side note: if you’re familiar with the manga Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku then you might enjoy this kind of manga due to them having similar atmospheres.

My only issue with this manga is the lack of details. Most ‘slice of life’ manga at least give us some bread crumbs concerning details like character names, setting, etc… You know, the details that make us invested, but this manga was definitely lacking in that department. The only thing we really get is a nickname for the tanuki from the young woman’s father who calls the tanuki, Angel-chan. I wish we had more names to put with faces or even names for settings, but we’re not really given much.

Overall, I did enjoy this manga quite a bit. For myself, personally, this was the type of book I needed to read to feel a little lighter. I needed that slice of life even if there wasn’t a lot of details to keep me fully invested. I think readers who are familiar with this type of style will enjoy it, but I think many readers will feel a mixture of feelings because of the lack of details. However, I still encourage everyone to read this. I’m actually eager for the next volume to come out and I can’t wait to see what our two main characters get up to next!


Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You., Vol. 1 by Haruka Mitsui

Arc was given by Kodansha & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of a pandemic, astraphobia (fear of thunderstorms), trauma, loss of a parent (in the past), grief

Remember when I said I spend a lot of time in romance manga? Yeah, this is one of those times and I’m so excited for the next volume to come out! Look, look… I love a book who loves to kick the door in with a controversy! And this manga, this freaking manga, delivered with the goods, my friends. Truly, this manga gave me the burst of serotonin that I have been craving lately.

The year is 2030, Mizuha is celebrating another bad birthday when she suddenly remembers another bad birthday ten year prior to this one. Though being surrounded by all of her childhood friends at the time, this was probably one of her toughest birthday thus far. Not only has her crush turned her down and said some mean things to her, but no one of her childhood friends is trying to change their friend group by confessing his love to Mizuha. All of this causes a mixture of feelings with her along with trying to deal with celebrating yet another birthday without her mother.

Truly, the blessing that is this manga because it gives us all the fluff we could want. If you want fluffy goodness then you’re going to love this manga. The author really said give them all the sweetness. One of my favorite themes and tropes within books always has to do with childhood friends. I think my favorite part is how supportive they all are to one another. Always looking out for each other and doing little acts of kindness to help. Not only do we get childhood friendships, but the childhood friendships are built around a reverse harem theme. There’s also the childhood friend to lover trope slowly coming into play, as well. Though everything is such a slow burn and I think that’s the best part. The slow burn hooks you only to pull you into a love triangle. It gave me butterflies on how everything was going to play out.

Of course I have to talk about this single parent household theme. I think one of the most commonly, overlooked themes in books in the single parent household theme. Maybe I’m just a sucker for single parent households because I, myself, am from a single parent household. However, single father households, in my opinion, are so uncommon and deserve to be recognized. I believe with my whole chest that single father households deserve the spotlight because often times we see the single mother household, but rarely ever see the father side of things. The author really captured what it’s like to have that single parent household and even though they’re only glimpses, it warms my heart to see this theme in another manga I enjoyed.

I think my only issue with this manga was how short it was. Now look, I know some of us can read a manga like it’s no one’s business, but this just felt shorter to me. It felt like there could have been more details packed in or even an extra 40-50 pages into this manga. Normally, I spend about an hour reading a manga book, but I flew through this book in thirty minutes. It made being invested in the characters really hard especially when it came to the childhood friend group. It would have been nice to see more of that or get a feel for how everyone views Mizuha, not just her crush or the guy from her childhood friends.

Overall, I think this is a really light-hearted read despite the content warnings. As I already mentioned, I flew through this manga and I wish there were more pages because I have no doubt I would have been more in love with this book, enjoyed it even more. If you’re a manga reader or you’re looking for something that’s fluffy and sweet then I definitely recommend picking this manga book up!


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Shortbread Shakedown by Sofia Aves

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Arc was given by The Wild Rose Press & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (November 16th 2021)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Trauma/PTSD (flashbacks, night terrors), brief/vague mentions of fatphobia

“All I wanted was to find the honey-blonde curls of a woman who had ghosted into my life and disappeared.”

This was the perfect read to snuggle up with. Seriously, I loved curling up with this short, wholesome read. I think far too often we see the typical holiday romance stories, but never enough of them that revolve around military members. I’ve only mentioned it a few times, but my own spouse served this the military. So this novella has a soft place in my heart. Truly, this was everything I could have wanted for a holiday read.

Dominic Cage has just returned home from deployment and things seem, feel different, and wants nothing more than to continue filling up the holes in his life with work. Until a beautiful honey-blonde woman rushes into his life at the airport. Now the remnants of this brief encounter have the ghost of this woman filling up his thoughts and Cage is determined to track her down. As fate would have it, they meet a lot sooner than he expected.

With my whole chest, I can’t say how much I loved these characters. Our main character Dominic is suffering from PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, that develops from exposure to traumatic events (war, abuse, traffic collisions, etc…), and he’s struggling with adjusting to anything that’s related to civilian life. Dominic will constantly talk about him not deserving of love, happiness, or even building a life for his own outside of the military. Truly, Dominic as the main character was a excellent perspective to read this book through. There’s also our mystery lady, Violet. Violet is absolutely precious. She’s one of those characters who sees the good in everyone and no matter their flaws or hardships, loves them anyway. I want to add a little side note that she is plus-sized. It’s never directly stated, but from her own dialogue it’s hinted that she’s plus-sized.

“Change didn’t come easily to me, but she had slipped into my meager existence, nestling in as though there’d always been a place reserved for her in it.”

This book is so beautifully written and has some of the best themes I’ve read in a book all year. This novella is about adjusting to new environments and life after experiencing traumatic events. It’s about finding love in the unlikeliest of places and learning that no matter how broken we may feel, we are deserving of love and happiness. And I just want to say, as someone who lives with PTSD, I thought the trauma and PTSD representation was handled very well, and accurately. It felt so real, from the small parts we get. That alone makes me want to shove this book into everyone’s hands.

The love in this book is very much insta-love. Now, those who know me know I’m not the biggest fan of instant love. I think I’m just too picky on how it’s done, but I really loved the way the romance blossomed in this book. And I want to say, if you’ve never dated or married someone who’s in the military then the insta-love my feel weird or off to you, but I can say as someone who has, this is very accurate for relationships with military members, at least in my experiences. With someone in the military, tomorrow is never guaranteed (there’s always another deployment around the corner or they’re being shipped off to another base and you can’t go with them) and so time is of the absolute importance.

Overall, I truly loved this novella. I wish I had more words to sum up how much I loved it, but I think keeping it simple is the best way to say I adored it. With the holidays right around the corner, this book holds such a soft spot in my heart and is probably my favorite holiday read of 2021. And if I didn’t mention already, this is a short book. You’re bound to fly through this one. So if you’re looking for a holiday short-story, then please add this one to the list. Truly, in my opinion, I feel like we never get many holiday romance stories revolving around military members or veterans and I just think this is a really great book to add to one’s tbr pile this winter season.

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

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Kisses and Lemon Snowflake Cookies (Christmas Cookies) by N. Jade Gray

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Arc was given by The Wild Rose Press & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This review is being published on the release date (December 6th 2021)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of cheating and womanizing

I must be in the mood for wholesome, cute, and romantic holiday read because I adored this read! I had my cup of coffee, my fuzzy socks on, and devoured this book in one sitting. Truly, I was geeking out over how precious this book was. Maybe it was from the small town vibes or maybe it was the fact the two main characters were so… so perfect for one another. Whatever the reason was, I was swooning and enjoying my time cozied up with this read.

Dustin Keith has always been a shy kind of person and the last thing he expected was, after doing the fire departments year calendar, women would be coming out of the woodwork, taking an interest in being “Ms. July.” More importantly, he never expected that after getting a call, one morning about a certain donkey on the loose, he’d end up meeting Lauren Badini. Lauren just came to Cedar Bend to help her aunt with her bakery. After having her heart and trust broken back in Denver, getting away from everything was exactly what she needed. But little did she know that coming to Cedar Bend would hold a lot more than just helping her aunt with the bakery. And she certainly wasn’t expecting “Mr. July” to show up in the bakery kitchen one morning. To think, it all started with a loose donkey and some protesting gingerbread men!

“He wanted a relationship like theirs. Someone who got him, just the way he was.”

I absolutely adore the main characters of this book. Dustin is very much the silent knight, dark horse kind of character, who you really want to get to know and see their personality unfold. However, Lauren is the character I feel dominates this book. Though we get both perspectives from both main characters, we learn so much more about Lauren than we do Dustin. Yet we these characters come together, I feel like we can truly see the kind of person Dustin truly is. And the quote above is probably my most favorite line Dustin says throughout this whole book, truly.

I think my most favorite part about this story was the themes of found family and new beginnings. I won’t give anything away, but truly this book has lovely themes in it. The found family Dustin has with his most closest friend is so wholesome and would warm any heart. And though there are many new beginnings, Lauren is the one character who stands out the most for the new beginnings. As she works through her trust hardships, she’s given opportunities that are paving a path for her to have a new, happier future.

“Legend has it if you kiss someone under the branches of the tree, you’re destined to fall in love with that person.”

There’s also the little legend of the “Kissing Tree” in this book. I thought this was such a lovely little detail and addition to the story. Not to mention with this being a holiday book, instead of the typical mistletoe, there’s this tree, the oldest tree that has a legend of love surrounding it. And every year this town holds a little holiday market around this tree. You all know how much I love small town vibes and anything that shows off small towns. This truly left me missing my own hometown and the little things it would do for the holiday season.

“The black denims she wore held a dusting of two man-sized flour handprints on her butt.”

While this book has wholesomeness and is easy to curl up with, there’s plenty of steamy moments. And let me tell you, the author delivers right from the beginning with sparks flying. While I can’t speak for other readers, I love when my romance books have sparks flying, almost immediately. The slow build to streamy moments is well worth the wait. I think my only complaint about this has been the fact that this book is so short and there could have been more sexy, steamy moments added in. Despite that, I really loved the intimate moments between the two main characters.

Overall, I had a wonderful reading this book. I enjoyed curling up with my coffee being able to sink into this lovely little town with these two delightful characters. As I said, the connection these two characters have is immediate and it really kicks your drive to read through, to find out what happens next. And with this book being so short, it makes for a quickly holiday read to unwind with at the end of day. Truly, I can’t recommend this cozy little book enough!

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

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The Moon Resides in Her Heart by Isabel Scheck

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Arc was given by BookBuzz & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (November 28th 2021)

This was probably the hardest poetry collection I’ve had to rate. Honestly, my feelings with this collection was very torn. Not just with the contents of the book, but how I wanted to rate this and whether or not I actually enjoyed my time reading this poetry collection. Ultimately, I decided that this collection wasn’t for me. I really wanted to love this and maybe the reason why I didn’t connect with this was due to setting my expectations too high. But I digress.

The Moon Resides in Her Heart is a sapphic poetry collection about crushes and unrequited love. What it means to love someone so much, but to become heart broken because they don’t see you that way. These haikus are very short, three lines per page. With that being said, this makes for a very fast read. Also, there’s matching imagery to represent the haikus.

I will say, some of these haikus are very relatable. Whether you’ve dealt with an unrequited love or perhaps you loved someone so much that you thought entire universes lived within them. It’s very easy to feel connected to them and enjoy the underlying message of these haikus.

“Stars in her ribcage. Moon residing in her heart. Galaxies love her.”

However, despite the haikus being relatable and descriptive enough to enjoy them, there were two major flaws that prevented me from truly being able to enjoy this book the way I hoped. My biggest issue was repetitiveness. This is something that I can usually overlook at times, but the theme was very repetitive on multiple pages which made it incredibly hard to overlook. It didn’t help that this book is so short. Which leads me into the second issue with this book, the length. Fifty-six pages long with repetitive haikus, and themes. It was really difficult to enjoy this book with these two elements. I think if this book had been longer, add another fifty or so pages and I think the repetitiveness would have been easier to overlook or even be more forgivable.

Overall, this just wasn’t the kind of poetry collection I was looking for. It’s definitely relatable and I truly believe there will be others who may find joy in this collection. Sadly, the repetitiveness and the short length of this book made it very hard to enjoy. However, I still recommend this book. Even though it wasn’t for me, I truly believe someone else may enjoy it more than I did.

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

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Starry Night, Blurry Dreams by Henn Kim

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Arc was given by Andrews McMeel Publishing & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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

“Who are you when you’re alone.”

Friends, I’m not going to lie to you… This cover and title got to me. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but yeah, I got really emotional when I stumbled across this arc on NetGalley. I’ve said it a few times before, but I’ll say it again, I truly believe, with my whole dang chest, that pieces of literature come into our lives when we need it the most. And for whatever reason, somewhere in the catacombs of my mind, a piece of me was screaming that I needed to read this book. As fate would have it, the NetGalley gods smiled down upon me and blessed me with this arc. And wouldn’t you know, I consumed the contents of this book immediately.

Starry Night, Blurry Dreams is a collection of poems playing with words and their representation with imagery. The poems are short, incredibly short. Sometimes the lines are about one to two lines and may only have a couples words to them. Which is why it was so easy to read through it. This book truly is a quick read and perfect for light reading during your morning routine or when you’re trying to unwind at night.

If I had to describe this collection with one word, that word would be ‘human.’ Henn Kim’s writing pulls from dreams, love, heartbreak and sadness, and just life in general, as a whole. Despite the simplicity of this collection, it was very easy to feel a connection or have certain poems or imagery resonate with with oneself. And I think that’s what I love most about this book. Even though it’s a fast read, it was so easy to feel seen or feel the tickling of something familiar about it all. Whether it was through the poems itself or the illustrations throughout this book.

And speaking on the illustrations, they’re stunning. There’s so much details and sometimes I found myself staring at them, wondering if they’d reveal any hidden easter eggs within them. Each images could be seen as individual pieces of art, hanging in a museum on display for the world to see, with their own story to tell. Yes, I think that’s probably the best way I can describe it. Like an art gallery and you can’t help being overcome with ‘awe.’ And I think any first time readers of this collection will fall in love with the artwork throughout this book. Truly, they fit so beautifully and honestly, I don’t think I can picture this book without these illustration in it.

“A heavy heart is hard to carry.”

If I had to point out one thing that impacted me and my reading of this book, I’d have to say repetition. There’s a definite cycle within the pages of this collection and at times poems seem to repeat or feel very similar to one another. It may be the repetition of themes or maybe an emotion, but I think for many readers, myself included, that feeling of repetition is going to be a struggle.

Overall, I enjoyed this poetry collection very much. As I mentioned before, I truly believe pieces of literature come into our life when we need it the most and I definitely needed this book. And I think there will be many readers who will fall in love with this collection, whether it be for the poetry or the illustrations. Truly, it flows so nicely, like a calm river. And if you’re in search of a quick read then I definitely think this is one book to put on your to be read pile.

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

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