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The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one, death, grief, scene of depression, anxiety, scene of body shaming, verbal abuse, scene of assault, alcoholism/alcohol abuse, trauma/PTSD, scene/talk of terminal illness

“She was a girl held together by knitted yarn and magic.”

Dee Moreno hasn’t had the easiest life and things just got worse when she gets the news that the boarding school has to give up her scholarship. Without the proper funds and a family who refuse to help, Dee has run out of options. So naturally the logical thing to do is make a pact with a demon. But everything comes with a price, Dee just doesn’t know it…yet.

Friends, I adore Emily Lloyd-Jones’ writing and the tales she weaves. I’m not going to lie, I was really nervous that I wasn’t going to love this as much as I was hoping I would. However, I’m pleased to say that Emily has a fantastic way of tugging on my heart strings and capturing my attention when I least expect it! I loved the characters, I loved the way my emotions were heightened at the end of this book, and there were so many moments that truly caught me off guard. If this tells you anything, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for future works by Emily because I truly love the way she creates a story and I love the she can pull me in to her stories.

The Hearts We Sold is about a girl named Dee who has run out of all options. Her parents aren’t the best support system, she about to lose her scholarship at the boarding school she goes to, and her college funds her grandmother left her are locked away until she turns of age. With no other options, Dee seeks out the demon from the hospital she volunteers at. She makes a pact with the demon; in exchange for funding to stay after her boarding school, she will leasing her heart to the demon for two years and joins his heartless troops in sealing portals/rifts.

Heartless Troops

❤️ DeeMain character, worked hard all her life to attend her boarding school, comes from a toxic home life

❤️ JamesArtist, childlike and quiet one of the group, this is his second troop

❤️ CalProdigy and genius, bomb expert of the group, has really fascinating theories, gave up his heart for a noble cause

❤️ CoraTroop leader, very secretive, never talks about her pact with the demon, gets her heart back in two months

Important Side Characters

❤️ DaemonContacts the troop with information on the rifts/portals, secretive, cares about humanity and his troops

❤️ GemmaDee’s roommate and best friend, lesbian, and a total badass

❤️ RileyReplacement for Cal, bomb expert, transgender, Gemma’s girlfriend

“I chose this.”

I loved a lot of the themes in this book. There is a heavy focus on parental abuse throughout this entire book. I think this is one of the first fantasy books that I’ve read that address how parents can be verbally, emotionally, and mentally abusive. It really shines a light on how abuse comes in many forms and the toll it takes on the people involved. There are bits and pieces of physical abuse throughout this book as well, however, it doesn’t out shine the other forms of abuse. This book also shows how abuse and alcoholism can go hand-in-hand with one another. As someone who has lived a similar home life that our main character Dee has, I can say that this accurately depicts the reality many children in the world face. How parents will choose the addiction of the bottle over the well-being of their family. It’s very rare that I see this is fantasy or even in YA in general. Knowing there’s a book like The Hearts We Sold is out there shining a light on that sparks some hope in my soul.

This book also hits home with shining a light on how your parents’ problems aren’t your responsibility and that sometimes you have to make the choice of choosing yourself over family. It really stresses the importance of getting away from that kind of environment and situation. It also shows how not everyone can get away (Dee wasn’t even able to leave her family right away either), but you can’t allow yourself to be stuck taking care of your abusers. However, this is the reality for many out in the world. I truly wasn’t expecting this book to hit the reality I underwent as a child and teenager. There were so many of these moments that were highlighted and weren’t easy to get through. I sobbed so much because it was like looking through a window to my past and for many who read this, your own reality.

And of course, we have to talk about the amazing representation in this book! I stated above about Gemma and Riley, but they truly great characters. Not just for their lgbtq+ representation, but also their background as well. Gemma comes from a very supportive family and she even had a great coming out. While Riley’s life highlights the struggles many transgender teens face with parents not being understanding or accepting of their choice. We also have great anxiety representation. Throughout this book, Dee is in a constant state of anxiety and really shows how the the little things can be triggering for someone with anxiety. I really loved the representation and being able to see the anxiety take on many forms throughout this book.

“She reached down, found his hand with hers. Their fingers tangled, wrists pressed together. No pulse between them.”

The ending of this book was probably my favorite thing throughout this whole story. The way everything unfolded was so beautiful and so heart wrenching that I was in tears when I finished this. Not to mention, I truly believe that just from the way this book ended, a sequel could be written. I truly was a beautiful surprise and I think many readers will fall in love with how it ended.

I also have to say how happy I am that this book subtly shows the found families element into this book. It’s very subtle, but it’s there and this books shows how important it is to have that. I loved that The Hearts We Sold put a spotlight on how important it is to have people in your life who truly love you unconditionally. Watching Dee realize that, it was one of the best things to watch unfold in this book.

However, there’s two things this book had that really prevented me from giving this book a five star. I will keep this as spoiler free as I possibly can because I do feel that these two pieces are spoilers. One of the heartless troops undergoes a great deal of trauma and stress. This whole situation ends up leading to a chain of events that turn out really shitty. This character’s actions are never addressed and the other heartless troops just have to conclude that even though this character did a terrible thing, literally having a psychological breakdown and going off the deep end without trying to think things through, they have to support that character and just accept that they’re all in it together. These events bring a whole new level of the heavy mood this book already delivers. If all of this had played out in another way, I think I would be okay, but all of these chain events just really left me with mixed feelings and I couldn’t see past all the horrible actions that were taken by the one character.

“This was how normal people survived their own fairy tales. They became their own kind of monster.”

Overall, I truly did enjoy this book. I really loved how Emily included the bits of Lovecraftian world-building into this book, I loved the detail that was spent on Dee’s relationship, and I really loved the bit where Gemma pulled out an axe! There was just some really great things about this book that I truly loved and it left me feeling very soft. I definitely think many readers will like this book for the fall season, but also struggle with some on the contents within this book. Either way, I hope more readers give this book a chance!

Buddy read with Kayla from Books and Blends ❤️

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In/Spectre, Vol. 1 (In/Spectre #1) by Chashiba Katase

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Terminal illness, hospitalization, graphic injuries, minor stalking

Dearest readers, I can’t believe I never knew about this manga series! To think it’s been flying under my radar all this time is ridiculous! However, I’m super grateful that my best friend recommended we buddy read this because I loved every second of it! Even if you’re not a fan a manga, I truly believe with my heart and soul that this will be one you want to check out, if not for the synopsis alone!

Our tale follows 17-year-old Kotoko who hasn’t had an easy life and how found herself under unique circumstances. Kotoko was taken as a child by spirits called yokai who made her their their negotiator of the mortal world, but in return they took one of here eyes and one of her legs. Now Kotoko is able to communicate with other worldly forces and keep the balance, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Since then, Kotoko has been the only one with her power until one fateful day she discovers her crush, Kur, has a secret or two up his sleeve. Together, Kotoko and Kur form a partnership that will make them stronger than ever, but for a girl who has so many gifts, love is going to be one tough quest to navigate!

I loved this book so much! I loved that this was a great way to introduce the series. The thing I loved most of all is the play of the yokai. If you’re familiar with Japanese mythology and folklore then these creatures are no strangers to you. However, if you’ve never heard of them before, yokai are a specific class of creatures, spirits, and demons; they’re known to be bewitching, attractive, calamity, and spectre in Japanese folklore. You may have also heard them be called ayakashi or mononoke. I love anything that takes Japanese folklore and myths to weave an interesting story or add a unique element into the book. It’s one of those things that will make me pick up a book instantly.

Another thing I really loved about this manga was the disability representation. Even more so for the fact that we get a very high action scene with our main character who’s disabled and showing that disabled people can be active and do many things even if they’re not like they’re old selves. I find that it’s not often we get the chance to read about a main character who can kick some series butt, but is also disabled and I just really loved every second of it. I think we need to have more disabled representation in books and I truly think this will be one book many readers will love for the disability representation.

Aside from the good elements, there was one thing that really bothered me and that was the way this book concluded. Near the end it sets things up for s weird love triangle and those can be a bit of a hit or miss for me. Honestly, this is a bit of a miss with me. I also don’t like how in the ending it was painting Kotoko is a childish light either. The whole thing just didn’t impress and I don’t think Kotoko owed Kur’s ex-girlfriend a full explanation of who she is.

Overall, I truly did enjoy this manga! I loved the pace of it all, the mysterious elements, the craving need to know more, and the way Kotoko takes on the world. Even though the ending was a bit of a miss with me, I still have plans to pick up volume two and continue on with the series. I’m always here for a good series that has some of my favorite elements in it. Plus, I really want to know what’s going to happen between Kotoko and Kur. I have my fingers crossed that this will be a bit of a slow burn romance and I love a good slow burn romance!

Buddy read with Kayla from Books and Blends | Her Review ❤️

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Graphic deaths, graphic violence, grief, talk of suicide, talk of cheating, scene and talk of domestic abuse/violence.

“It shouldn’t matter what your parents did, just what you do as a person.”

Once there were twelve lovely sisters, sheltered and raised in the manor of Highmoor, but was once a home filled with love and chatter is now filled with loneliness as four of the sister have had their lives cut short. One death is more tragic than the last and there’s whispers that a curse has fallen upon the family of Highmoor. When some ghostly vision are soon brought to life, Annaleigh starts to suspect that her sisters haven’t died by accident. With the help of the mysterious Cassius, Annaleigh will uncover the truth behind the deaths of her beloved sisters.

Oh my gosh readers, I’m absolutely in love with this book in so many ways! I was really nervous on where I would fall with this book due to all the hype, but I’m happy to say that this book is worth all the hype you’ve been hearing. There’s so many wonderful elements, true sibling bonds, curses, and talk of gods and demi-gods! What more could you want in a book?! I’m just so head over heels for this book and I can easily say that it has made it’s way onto my top books for 2019!

We follow a main character named Annaleigh who becomes disturbed by the ghostly visions that are come to her youngest sister. Soon, Annaleigh is trying to uncover the secrets that are lying within the house and the people among it, and possibly the curse that looms over Highmoor. I loved Annaleigh as a main character! She was such a breath of fresh air when it comes to so many things. Throughout this book she never let anyone tell her how to feel and she stood her ground in what she believes. And the way she loves her siblings, regardless of how unreasonable they are or how they treat her, it was something I resonated with so much. I truly lived for Annaleigh’s character in this book.

“All the dreamers are castle-bound. At midnight’s stroke, we will unwind, Revealing fantasies soft or unkind. Show me debauched nightmares or sunniest daydreams. Come not as you are but as you wish to be seen.”

Speaking of characters, Cassius was a pleasant surprise! I never thought a character like him would be introduced into the picture, but I loved the way his personality and Annaleigh’s personality meshed so well with one another. They had such a great amount of chemistry. Whether they were interacting at Highmoor or they were interacting on the mainland, they really clicked for me. The way the two of them interacted was so good and their little moments together was such a highlight especially as the reading pace begins to pick up. He really becomes an anchor for Annaleigh and his presence was just a calming experience through the eerie and darkness of this book. I think he is definitely my favorite character out of this whole book.

And if I haven’t sold you on this book yet, with Annaleigh being her true self and the mysterious Cassius, then the atmosphere is definitely one you’re not going to want to miss. The deaths are terrible and tragic, the funerals are just as unnerving, and if that isn’t enough to send a chill down your spine then the thought of ghosts haunting a manor and the general history of the manor will. I constantly had a chill slithering up my spine as a read this book. There are so many parts throughout this book that are dark and twisted that will have you gaping as scenes unfold before your eyes. The atmosphere was rich with paranormal events, secrets and lies, and a creepy setting you won’t forget.

My only true issue with this book was one of the side characters by the name of Camille. Camille is currently the oldest living sister to Annaleigh and she’s to inherit Highmoor when their father dies. At first, I didn’t mind Camille’s character and I kind of shrugged her behavior off, but then her behavior and her actions became very repetitive. Camille is a very selfish, entitled character who constantly wants to go to the ball to find a man. She also never takes the times to listen to her sister and brushes it off as her being crazy or wrapped up in all the grief. Her behavior would happen at such inappropriate times that it almost became a distraction from the main story line. I think many readers will be furious or annoyed with her character and I definitely think her character has the potential to cause a person to stop reading this book altogether.

“Nights like this were meant to be shared, remembered, and talked about for years. Skies like this were meant to be kissed under.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I was constantly on my toes trying to figure out who was behind everything or was it all some strange dream. I was fully engulfed in the story line and plot of this book. Plus that romance, it was subtle, but I was living for every moment between Annaleigh and Cassius! I really wanted to go into far more details than I have with this review, but I whole-heartedly believe this is a book you should know very little about. And besides, if you’re looking for a book to read during the autumnal season then I highly recommend this book.

Buddy read with Robin from Paperbacks and Planners

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Spell on Wheels (Spell on Wheels #1-5) by Kate Leth & Megan Levens

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, talk of mental and emotional abuse, talk of cheating, scene of grief, sexism

When three witches have their home broken into and some valuable, ancient, magical items are stolen, these three witches are about to saddle up on a road trip along the East Coast. On this road trip they’ll retrieve their stolen belongings, fight for one another and strengthen their friendships, help others, and track down the thief before any damage can be done.

Readers, what isn’t more perfect during the fall and spooky season than a book filled with butt-kicking ladies who are also legacy witches?! It too perfect! Plus, add in a road trip element and I’m sold! This was such a great graphic novel to read this fall and I truly enjoyed so many wonderful elements this book offers. If you need a great comic packed with action, female friendships, and magical elements that pair well with some hot apple cider, then look no further!

🎃 Characters 🎃

🎃 Jolene NguyenAbilities: Technopathic and emotional manipulation

🎃Claire BettanyAbilities: Psychic intuition, visions, reading the cards

🎃 Andy HighsmithAbilities: Mastery in spells, charms, and potions

In this five-issue, graphic novel bind up we follow three twenty-something legacy witches, Claire, Andy, and Jolene, as they take a road trip to reclaim their stolen belongings and prevent utter chaos from happening. On their adventure they’ll encounter many obstacles and become closer than ever with one another. There will be magical happenings, side characters that will capture you attention, and moments that will have you falling in love with our main heroines.

And if all of that hasn’t sold you on this graphic novel yet then let’s talk about how diverse this book is! We have a diverse cast from our main characters to our side characters. There’s also a f/f relationship between two middle aged women who both come from different martial situations and it gave me so much life! There’s also a strong support and theme of positive female friendships and I can’t get over it, we need more of this in books! I challenge you to pick this book up and not finding something to love about all of this!

As always, whenever I pick up graphic novels that are a bind up of multiple issues, I like to do a spoiler free breakdown of each chapter in my review. This graphic novel is a bind up of all five issues of the Spell on Wheels series and so this calls for a break down! I will keep this as spoiler free as possible and will only try to give enough details to intrigue your interest.

🎃 Chapter OneWe’re introduced to our main characters and we also follow the perspective of the thief who broke into the home of our main characters. This also causes the start of our main heroines deciding to take a road trip to recover all of their stolen belongings.

🎃 Chapter Two – Our witches have set out on their road trip and have arrived at their first destination to recover the first object on their stolen belongings list. We get a glimpse at what Jolene’s powers can do. We also see a moment of Claire and Andy have a disagreement during a party. As well our heroines’ challenges of finding the orb.

🎃 Chapter Three – Our main characters are still trying to find the identity of the thief while making their way to their second destination to reclaim a planchette. We’re introduced to our queer couple in this chapter and the struggles they’ve been having with a ghost. Also, something dark and evil intentions become revealed.

🎃 Chapter Four – Onward to three third destination, our ladies meet Paul or otherwise known as The Goat Man! If you’re a fan of Beast before he turns back into a prince then this is going to be the chapter for you! We see Andy’s abilities come to life when she discovers some rare herbs the Goat Man has. We also get a lot of information regarding the thief and the challenges our main heroines were having.

🎃 Chapter Five – The final destination and the final obstacle for our witches. Claire will face down the thief that has caused her so much pain and grief, Andy will be thrown for a loop when the darkness finally reveals it’s true self, and Jolene will be the wall of support and unconditional love Clair and Andy need.

While I loved the majority of this book, there were two things that really prevented me from giving this graphic novel five stars and I think for many other readers it will be the same. My first issue is Claire. Out of all three main characters, Claire is probably my least favorite of the three. There were a lot of moments where I thought she was being reckless or over-reacted too much. There were two incidents that really did it for me where I just knew I was never going to to like her. The first incident was during the party where she came off as having a bad attitude the whole entire time and it almost felt like she instigated a fight with Andy. As much as I tried to give her a pass or chalk it up as “she’s not a drinker, so she’s probably not into party scenes,” that whole entire scene left a really bad taste in my mouth. The second incident was near the end when they finally caught up to the thief. Claire handles the whole entire situation with violence and high levels of aggression. I understand what the author was trying to do in this scene, but for my reading experience, it wasn’t executed very well and in the end it paint Claire in a really negative light for me. And my final issue with this graphic novel is the way it ended. This graphic novel ended in a way that it can make readers believe there are more to come in this series or there will be another volume. From the time I heard about this graphic novel to current time of writing this review, there have been no announcements of plans to continue the series or any plans in the future for more issues to come. I think the way this all wraps up and hints that there’s more to come is really going to impact the reading experience for how readers feel about this graphic novel.

Overall, this was a really fun book to read for the spooky season! So many witchy vibes and magical elements thrown into this graphic novel. Along with so many great elements that really set the mood! If you’re looking for a quick read to set the mood for the eerie, spooky goodness of October then this is a comic book you’re not going to want to miss!

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The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, death of an animal

“The living had a tendency to make promises they could not keep.”

Nothing stays buried forever.

Ryn only cares about two things: her family and her family’s graveyard. And both seem to be hanging by thin strings. The existence of a gravedigger is slowly being pushed aside and Ryn’s family is barely scraping by in their small village. There’s just one catch…the dead don’t always stay buried. Some say an ancient curse is the cause of the bone houses rising, but when a mapmaker by the name of Ellis arrives in town, things will never be the same again. The bone houses are becoming more aggressive and only Ryn can put a stop to their terror. Teaming up with Ellis, Ryn sets out on a journey to put an end to this curse and stop the bone houses, once and for all.

Readers, I loved this book immensely. I devoured this book and I never wanted to put this book down. Anything that has any for of necromancy, I am always here for it and this book is no exception. There’s necromancy, a subtle romance, and a hilarious goat that can’t stop, won’t stop! I’m hear for all of it and now I’m convinced I need to read more work by this author. I never anticipated this to become one of my favorites of 2019, but here we are and so excited to tell you about it.

Our story is split between two perspectives. We have the perspective of seventeen-year-old Ryn who’s a gravedigger and loves her family with her whole heart. She’s a strong-headed lady who would do anything to protect her family and their graveyard from falling into the wrong hands even if that means bargaining and taking jobs to guide weary travelers through all kinds of danger. There’s also the perspective of Ellis, a simple mapmaker who has found his way into Colbren. Unfortunately for him, his first night arriving to the village ends up with him being attacked by a bone house. Fortunately for Ellis, he meets our daring heroine Ryn. Ellis has a mysterious past and there’s more to him that meets the eye. With Ryn being backed into a corner from the bone houses venturing out of the forest to trying to prevent her family from losing their home, Ryn quickly accepts the offer of being Ellis’s guide for his map making the minute he mentions it. Thus our unlikely pair being their journey.

“Pain doesn’t make a person weak or strong, pain just – is. It’s not a purifier, it’s a part of living.”

This book was everything my heart needed for the month of October. There is a main theme of family means everything in this book. Ryn is very family focused from protecting her siblings to waiting for her father to return one day, Ryn would do anything for them. I also really loved how open Ryn was about her fear of losing the ones she loved and cared about. I definitely saw myself a lot in Ryn’s character. Ellis has no idea who his parents are. On this journey he’s trying to track down his parents and where he came from. We also have a goat who rose from the dead as a bone goat to follow Ryn and protect her from any harm that may find them on their journey. There’s just a strong sense of family throughout this book and it made me so soft, sappy, and a little weepy. I’m a very family oriented type of person and I would do anything for my own family. So reading this book was like a piece of my soul imprinted on the pages.

We also get amazing chronic pain representation in this book. Our main character, Ellis, has an old injury that he has to cope with. When the pain from this old wound flares up, he has to use willow bark to help. Ellis also talks about all the various treatments he had to undergo while under the care of his prince. My heart ached so much for Ellis. As someone who suffers from chronic pain and has family members who also suffer from chronic pain, Ellis was so relatable and a lot of the details that are talked about are very accurate. Chronic pain is one of the more lesser medical conditions that get talked about especially in books. The fact that we get so many moments of Ellis battling the pain, taking into account his medical supply, and the scene of him trying to tell Ryn about his injury and his pain, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

I also have to take a moment to talk about the goat in this book. I swear, this goat was a hilarious highlight of this whole book. This goat follows Ryn and Ellis on their journey to protect them from anything that may want to cause them harm. This goat pops up at the most ridiculous times, but at some of the most important moments as well. This goat scales a wall in the mine sideways, but acts like a guard dog while Ellis was in immense pain. I loved this goat and is was a great little bit to keep the mood light at times. I’ll admit, I was really rooting for that goat to be magic!

I am going to add a little breakdown right here, spoiler free. This book is broken up into three parts and this breakdown will help you get an idea of what each section holds.

💀 The LivingThis sets the scene. We’re introduced to Ryn and her siblings, their financial situation, and details of the town. We also learn about the bone houses. We also met Ellis in this section. Ryn offers him guidance throughout the this section and eventually offers to be his guide into the mountains.

💀 The DeadThis is where the journey begins. Everything that happens to Ryn and Ellis on their journey happens in this section. Ryn and Ellis also begin to reveal more about themselves to each other. We learn about Ryn’s Uncle and Ellis reveals his chronic pain and injury. Also, a lot of battle along the way and some subtle romance brewing!

💀 The AfterThis is Ryn and Ellis after the bone houses have been stopped and the curse has been lifted. Both of our main characters are figuring out what the future holds and what it means to keep on living.

“I grew up thinking monsters could be slain.”
“And I grew up thinking people were the monsters.”

There are only two things to this book that I think many readers will have issues with. The first issue is the dialect. There’s a very “olden time” dialect that gets spoken throughout this book and if you’re not used to seeing or hearing dialect like that then I think it will be challenging for any reader. The other issue is the ending of this book. Without going into spoilers, I’ve talked about this with my buddy reader and a few other readers who have also finished the book, who felt that the ending was very predictable or hinted to far too soon in the book. Now, this wasn’t the case for my reading experience. I was so fully caught up in the moment, the action, and how everything was unfolding that it didn’t really register with my reading experience. However, that is something to be aware of if that’s something that might impact your reading experience.

Overall, I loved this book with my whole heart and soul! It was the perfect book for me to read right now and I’m so glad I didn’t put this book off or set it aside. It truly is a wonderful book to read for the spooky season and even in the fall in general. There’s so many wonderful, hidden messages in this book and it will truly warm the heart. Plus necromancy! Who can refuse a book with necromancy happenings taking place?! What a read for this spooky season!

Buddy read with Donna from Moms Book Collection

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Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/murder, graphic content, trauma, talk of gender dysphoria, minor transphobia

“It gets better. It never gets easy, but it does start to hurt a little less.”

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have been disappearing under all the right conditions with all the love and care they could hope for. Slipping through cracks, fading into the shadows under their bed, falling deep into the pits of a well, or stumbling through the back of the wardrobe… only this time they find themselves some place new, some place magical. But these lands come with a price and besides, what magical realm has use for a miracle child who’s used up all their luck…

Every Heart A Doorway follows the journey of Nancy, a pale girl who wants nothing more than to tumble back down her door. A door that leads to ghosts and for her, a life of being the perfect statue. She’d not the only child who lands at the home for Wayward Children. Oh no, plenty of children under Eleanor’s care understands the longing and desire to go back through their door, just like Nancy does. But Nancy’s arrival isn’t the only thing that shakes things up. Something evil begins to lurk in the shadows and when tragedy strikes, Nancy will find herself teaming up with outcasts yet some new friends to solve the reason behind the dark deeds brewing at the Home for Wayward Children.

“Death was precious. That didn’t change the fact that life was limited.”

If you would have told me I’d be thrown down a rabbit hole and become obsessed with this series, I probably would have awkwardly chuckled and ate some popcorn. Now, I’m in so deep. So deep that I already ordered the next two books in the series because I know I’m going to binge read the daylights out of this series! And I already have the fourth book lined up in my cart! It was so good and I still can’t believe I’ve waited so long to read Every Heart A Doorway!

Seanan McGuire is a legend from packing this book with so much representation! I can’t begin to list how many books I’ve read that barely had any representation, if any at all! Not only does McGuire give us a main character who’s asexual, but we get a second main character who’s transgender. Take my soul now! Not to mention, this book abolishes gender roles, but we also get a scene where transphobia is shut down with assertiveness and then there reinforcement of love. It was so wonderful read and simply wonderful.

If you were expecting a book of romance and fairy tales then this probably won’t be a book up you’ll be into. Basically, this book is a murder mystery that takes place inside the Wayward Children boarding school. This boarding school is home to many (seventy some children) children who have traveled through doors that are portals to magical worlds or realms. These children have spent so much time there that they come back changed and they no longer fit into society. You wouldn’t either if all you wanted to do was go back to the place that made you finally feel like you found your place in the world. Home is where the heart is.

“You’re nobody’s rainbow.
You’re nobody’s princess.
You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

I’ll admit, this book did a few blows to me. As I already mentioned, this book is pretty diverse with it’s characters. But the thing that gut punched me every time was the content of trauma in this book. It’s such an important topic and often times, not many books like to address trauma or acknowledge how important addressing trauma is. In this book, you have all these kids who feel completely displaced and they no longer feel like kids. These kids travel to these mystical realms and it changes them, and unfortunately, it leads to them suffering from PTSD. The worst part is they don’t even have the support they need from their loved ones. Most of these kids’ loved ones don’t believe their children and instead have their children shipped off to this boarding school to get “fixed.” My soul breaks for these children because I have been there and I’m still right there. And Seanan McGuire just hit the nail on the head with trauma because in reality, most kids don’t get the support of their loved ones when they go through traumatic events and they get shipped off to get “fixed” when all they need is someone to say they understand and they’re here for them. Thankfully, we have a character like Eleanor because she may have the ability to open any door at any given time, but she stays in the real world to care for these children who may never go back to their magical worlds.

“We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”

Not every child was from the same realm though. Many children at the boarding school were from different doors that led to different magical realms and those realms didn’t always get along well with other realms. Our main character Nancy actually comes from the realm of the Underworld (and yes, we get a name drop of Persephone, my Queen!). The Lord of the Dead makes a promise to Nancy that Nancy will return, but only if she’s “sure” or when she’s truly ready, but being back in the real world throws her some curve balls and suddenly she’s starting to have doubts. As I mentioned, other children at the boarding school had very different realms compared to Nancy. Some children come from places similar to Candyland while others may come from realms that sound more like a world ruled by Dracula to lands that are battle grounds for fairies and goblins. One can never truly know what they’ll find on the end of a mysterious door.

“This world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm.”

Overall, I don’t think I have anything negative to say about this book. Other than the fact that I wish this book didn’t end so soon. For a book so short, it really packed a punch to my gut and as I had already mentioned, I already ordered the next two books in this series. I think anyone who loves a good mystery and loves fantasy should read this book. If you get the opportunity to read this series and you still haven’t read this series (like me) then let me be the person you need, to tell you to go pick this series up and then come gush about this book with me!

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Moonstruck Vol. 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis

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Other creators involved in the making of this comic include: Art by Shae Beagle, Pleasant Mountain Sisters Art by Kate Leth, Coloring by Caitlin Quirk, Lettering by Clayton Cowles, and Editing/Design by Laurenn McCubbin

Content/Trigger Warning: Bullying, severe aggression, toxic friendship, anxiety, violent fighting, trauma, grief, body dysmorphia.

In the quiet, little town of Blitheton, creatures of all shapes and sizes live normal lives alongside mortals and call this town home. One girl in particular, strives to have the most normal life of them all. But soon her world is turned upside down when a date goes terribly wrong with an evil magician casting a horrible spell on her closest and best friend, Chet. Now it’s up to Julie and her mystical friends to team up and put a stop to the illicit illusionist before it’s too late!

“Prepare, prepare! For the Fates are plotting! From their spinning, two threads are knotting! Beneath the cold moon, their ends draw near! United in love, but divided by fear! Concede your heart to the Universe’s hum! Steel yourself, for the worst is yet to come!”

Moonstruck begins with a conversation between Julie and Chet about Julie’s new romantic excursion. It’s a scene that emphasizes the friendship between the two as they make coffee like a well-oiled machine; the characters’ interaction creating a feeling of comfort alongside the warm color scheme used in the early pages. This is a part that I really loved and appreciate because a lot of my time at my job is spent working in the cafe making drinks. The whole opening pulls you in with that familiarity and I feel nothing, but warmth for the beginning of the comic. This is a scene I’m entirely familiar with that, it’s basically a little slice of home. And the interactions between Julie and Chet are absolutely precious to the point of it showing just how close the two are.

In this graphic novel we follow two main characters. Our first main character is Julie. Julie is a plus-size Latina who works as a barista at the Black Cat Cafe. She also happens to be a werewolf (isn’t that for a twist!)! Not to mention, Julie is a bookworm and it’s the cutest thing to see her talk about books! Julie is also a very sweet character who really cares about her friends and about others, but Julie’s character also holds a lot of issues. For starters, Julie spends a lot of time trying to suppress her werewolf side. While it’s not actually stated, Julie focuses really hard on trying to conceal that part of her and tries to avoid situations that would bring out the wolf in her. Julie also has a lot of anxiety and insecurities. As the story reads on, Julie shows more sides of her anxiety as well as her insecurities; whether it’s with choosing a date or being confident with stating her own thoughts and opinions. My two biggest issues with Julie end up kind of going hand-in-hand. My biggest issue with Julie is the fact that she was made to be “too sensitive” or should I say unnecessarily, sensitive. What I mean is, almost every situation she gets herself in she ends up getting triggered into shifting into a werewolf or she gets so emotionally upset that she ends up having a breakdown. While I love that Julie reps for anxiety, I definitely feel that making her so overly sensitive made her character become annoying as it progresses along with the story-line. On top of that, I also feel like Julie’s character never really had any room to grow as a character and try to work through the issues she was having. Instead, those issues got crowded out by details that didn’t need space devoted to them even if they were fun and makes for a pretty setting. The best example of this is the six full pages spent showing a story from one of Julie’s favorite books, an attempt to create a metaphor for her own emotional journey and refer to her goal of becoming a ghost writer that, frankly, fails to land.

Our second main character, Selena, is also a werewolf and a lady of color like Julie. However, Selena is more open about her werewolf side than Julie is. In fact, Selena radiates confidence in her werewolf form and isn’t afraid to bring out that side of her in times of dire need. To be honest, we don’t get a lot of detail to go off of for Selena’s character. The only thing we really find out about Selena is in the beginning of the book, Julie mentions reading Selena’s favorite series, The Pleasant Mountain Sisters. Outside of this, Selena is a mystery in the beginning, but as our tale begins to unfold…we definitely see different sides of her character. And just like Julie, Selena’s character also has her fair share of issues. For starters, Selena is definitely a plan maker and a “I trust my instincts” kind of person. She also takes charge a lot of the time and takes on the whole “leader” role on her own. She demonstrates this on multiple occasions and it fits her character so nicely. It pairs well with the confidence she radiates for her werewolf form and well with her wanting to deliver results. However, there was a point reached in this book where I definitely started disliking Selena’s character. At about 60-70% of the way through, we end with one of Cass’s visions and it show brief moments of Julie and Selena fighting, but we don’t get a full idea of how bad it really is until a little later on. While some of their fighting is harmless, Selena ends up saying a lot of mean things that are technically insulting towards Julie. Two of these incidents where they’re fighting/arguing end up triggering Julie to shift into her werewolf form. Also, as with Julie, Selena never got any room to really grow as a character or even have an opportunity to explain herself on why she responds the way she does. Any attempt for Selena’s character to grow from the situation or try to elaborate is cut off by too much happening around them or unnecessary scene where Julie is having an outburst to cut off Selena. Either way, it adds up to why I disliked Selena a little less in the end. As a side note, there is a moment where Selena almost had a redemption moment, but the writer cut that part short with other details happening in that section.

Okay, I feel like I ended up going on a negative rant and I swear I really did like this comic. Prime example, the artwork is probably one of my most favorite elements to this comic. Now let me be more specific…I love all the artwork outside of the Pleasant Mountain Sister comic sections. The style and the coloring are just so beautiful and really captures the world building so well. Even part where you thought it would still stick to the bright colors, each panel was so magnificent! There was never a page in this book where I disliked the art style. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

“That’s why they call them h-I-jinks and not h-OUR-jinks, because you’re supposed to keep them to yourself.”

Also, lots of blessings for all the amazing LGBTQIAP+ rep within this paranormal comic! Outside of our obvious dynamic duo of Selena and Julie, we have other characters who also represent the community. We have Chet (who we all love and adore because Chet is a cinnamon roll) who is a non-binary. So happy to finally see some non-binary representation in a book. It feels like the non-binary gets a little overlooked from time to time. We also get a minor character, a minotaur by the name of Manuel who shows interest in Chet. Even though it’s never actually stated, it’s implied during each interaction shared between him and Chet. So many warm fuzzy feels to see so much diversity and representation! Not to mention, the comic also tackles discrimination through the characters’ fantastical elements with the art style really pushing their emotions through gesture, giving the characters energy.

Another favorite thing of mine in this comic was the introduction of a character name Cassandra (Cass, for short) Greenhill. Cass is basically a very powerful witch or an oracle. We don’t know a whole lot about Cass other than she get moments where she has visions that foretell the future. When she has intense visions, her whole form is rendered in black and white, giving the reader an idea of the intensity of them. We also know that she works for a coffee shop called Little Dog 2 where you get the full on witchy vibes (that and all the black cats hanging around, plotting and scheming). She’s just a really fascinating character that was thrown into this whole mixing bowl and I love it. Not to mention she is such a mood. We get this one scene where it’s super early in the morning and Cass looks absolutely exhausted and looks like she wants nothing more than to crawl right back into bed. She is full on mood! I’m just so eager to gain more detail about her and if she got a little spin-off comic, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Her character makes me excited to find out what is going to happen next and to see what the creators have in store for her and the rest of the characters!

“There once was a seer named Cass. Who could see in the future and past. Then the going got tough. She called the Fates’ bluff. And made ripples she could not forecast.”

However, all these positive things in this book doesn’t distract me for the parts that really got under my skin (other than those first couple of issues, sorry!). Besides some of the key details I stated above, I also found other issues that seemed like pointless filler or seemed to get muddled with everything going on. For example, the fact that Lindi was never called out on her b.s. Lindi is basically a character who has severe anger issues who mistreats everyone. She is constantly in the mode of looking for a fight and having “issues” with everyone around her. She’s also a really bad friend with how she treats a minor character, Mark, throughout this comic. She manhandles him, gets really aggressive, and she even gets to a point where one of her snakes looks like it’s crushing Mark in his bat form. How Lindi acts as a character is never challenged, never corrected in anyway, and then at a later point in the story is even turned into a “funny” situation to create a laughing off type of situation. I definitely wasn’t a fan and it definitely didn’t sit right with me.

Another issue that really bothered me was the story-line in the last “two issues” of this comic. The story-line starts out strong, but at some point along the way everything became muddled and it felt like it was getting lost in all the other situations happening in the comic. This is something I stress all the time and I’m going to stress it with this comic, details are fantastic and help build the world as well as having a lot of action, but too much of either of these things and it will be a hot mess. It was borderline hot mess. There were parts of the story-line/plot that had me wondering where certain details were and wondering why we were getting details we didn’t need. Not to mention, nothing was every explained with the magician and the ghost. Nothing was every truly explained on why they were doing what they were doing and nothing was ever hinted at what led them to the point of getting this far. Not to mention it felt like there was barely any build up to the ending and just as quickly as “the final” battle started it was over. It was very anti-climactic and it left something to be desired.

Overall, I did enjoy this graphic novel. There were so many wonderful elements that I loved, so many characters to get attached to, and the diversity was such a big welcome. Plus, paranormal goodness. We get monsters and creatures living side by side mortals/humanity, that was just the cherry on top of my cake. However, there were a lot of issues I had with this book and reflecting on how it made me feel and the times where things felt a little all over the place, this rating definitely took me by surprise. I do encourage any reader to pick this graphic novel up if you’re looking for paranormal fun with plenty of diverse representation. This graphic novel makes for a great quick read and something to help give you a little nudge out of a reading slump.

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