ARC Reviews

Together, Apart by Erin A. Craig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: Stories, Poetry, and Art from Refugee Youth Around the World by Ahmed M. Badr

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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

Content/Trigger Warnings: War themes, bombings, refugee crisis, poverty, homelessness, mentions of gang violence, talk of racism, Islamophobia, mentions of terminal illness (cancer), death, murder, mentions of homophobia, mentions of drug abuse and drug addiction, grief, loss of a loved one, trauma, mentions of terrorism

“Together, we are speaking up and proclaiming to the world that our existence is worthy of its attention.”

Friends, I truly cannot express how important this collection is. I truly believe with my whole heart that this collection is a gift that should be talked about so much more. It’s rare when we hear the voices of people who have been severely impacted because of war, violence, and other hardships, but even rarer when they’re children. I think I spent my entire reading experience crying. This book truly is a gift and I hope many readers decide to pick this book up.

While the Earth Sleeps We Travel is a collection of poetry, stories, and art by refugees who have been displaced for various reasons, but the most common is war and violence. In this book these people come together to share their hardships, their experiences, hopes, and dreams. From those who are just children to an elderly artist determined to teach their artwork to those who’ll listen, we’ll hear the voices of refugees from a plethora of places. All beautifully expressed on page to be shared with the world.

“We have to find out what people like and need and use that to help them towards a better future.”

Truly, this book is a gift. It’s heartbreaking, humbling, and encouraging. As I mentioned, I spent the entirety of this book crying because it was so moving. I’ve listed some of the pieces that really stood out and touched the softest part of my heart.

⛰️ Erwin’s Story
⛰️ Lina Habazi’s Story
⛰️ Karem Potela’s Story
⛰️ O’s Story
⛰️ Meteorite Yasan’s Story

I truly hope everyone picks this book up and take the time to listen to the voices on the pages in this book. I think this book is going to unravel many people, cause the readers to pause and really take a look at their privilege. I don’t think everyone will appreciate this book, but I think everyone needs to read this book at least once in their life.

Overall, this was just a really touching book. I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to pick this book up and hear the voices of these people. Their experiences, their souls have been laid bare for all to read and experience in this book. This is such an important collection and I hope it gets the spotlight that it truly deserves.

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

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Star Wars: Myths & Fables by George Mann and Grant Griffin

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, sacrifice, mentions of bullying, violence, oppression, loss of a parents/loved one, kidnapping, slavery, abandonment

Oh how I loved this so very much! I meant to read this book last year during the winter, after it had released, but never got around to it because of the holidays and family gatherings. So when the opportunity came around for me to finally sit down and read this, I couldn’t resist!

This is a beautifully written and illustrated book, compiled of nine short stories and fables in the Star Wars universe. From fierce warriors defending the innocent to bounty hunters avoiding being caught, this is a great book to introduce those not familiar with the Star Wars universe.

As always with anthologies, short story collections, and bind-ups, I like to do a break down of each one and keep them as spoiler free as I possibly can.

“… stories were told told amongst the people of a kindly wanderer who would emerge from the mist to aid the people in their hour of need, assisting them with their most difficult or dangerous plights.”

🌌 The Knight and the Dragon – A great dragon by the name Krayta becomes awoken by a nomadic people who made their home in in the harsh desert sands on the planet, Tatooine. With the dragon stealing their livestock and their people, these nomadic people are reduced to desperate measures. Until one day, an old knight started looking into the disappearing people of the nearby town.

🌌 The Droid with a Heart – This story follows two characters. The first bit follows a little big about the backstory of General Grievous, how he became obsessed with becoming a droid. However, his cruelty well known among the droids who work under him. In the midst of a war between the Republic and the Separatists, a singular tactical droid stands against the general to save it’s fellow droids from destruction in the general’s tactical plans.

🌌 Vengeful Waves – Our fable follows two races, the Nautolans and the Anselmi, on the planet Glee Anselm. For two millennia, both races thrived and their cultures flourished. Until one day, Anselmi allowed their greed to get the better of them. After ignore all warnings, they’ll be faced with the angered ocean spirit of the planet.

🌌 The Wanderer – On the planet Cerosha, a stranger known as The Wanderer helped the people of Solace during three major events. After those three events, the kind Wanderer never returned to Solace.

🌌 The Black Spire – At the heart of the Black Spire Outpost, there stands an ancient tree tall, black tree that has survived thousands of years. The tree has witnessed many terrors, but has witnessed the advent of heroes. One hero in particular, a young girl named Anya, who saved her siblings from a terrible fate. A story of heroism that is all but forgotten, except with the spire and Anya, herself.

🌌 Gaze of Stone – A strory that follows the tale of a Twi’lek boy, Ry Nymbis, who was gifted with the force and taken under apprenticeship of Darth Caldoth. Though, this is not a happy tale and soon Ry learns he’ll experience a fate worse than death itself.

🌌 The Witch & the Wookiee – In the Outer Rim, a small band of pirates came to find themselves on a ship with a huge haul of treasure. After they betray their fellow criminals, they soon find themselves hunted by their former allies and the Imperial governor. So they create a plan to escape to Wild Space and find themselves landing on the moon of Jhas Kill. But even in the darkest corners lurk danger and sometimes you’ll cross the one that delivers the worst punishment.

🌌 Dark Wraith – Returning to the planet Cerosha, the city of Mock faces the ruins of Solace. Whispered even in hidden most places, the citizens talk about the Dark Wraith, the one who punished the people of Solace into a melancholy graveyard.

🌌 Chasing Ghosts – The scoundrel named Misook has been on the run from a bounty hunter ever since he reneged on a deal with a notorious crime boss. Now he flees to Wilder Space, hoping to shake his bounty hunter. But Mirialan is persistent and trying to make a name for herself. But things changed when Misook made up the tale of Arquel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I find Star Wars is the most common reason why I find myself reading Sci-Fi. And this book definitely hinted at some of my favorites from this universe. This book really shows how vast this universe really is and I hope we see more books like this come out in the future. If you’re interested in reading more about the Star Wars or you’re trying to get someone into the Star Wars universe, I think this is a great book to start with.

Read for The Reading Rush 💚

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Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez & Translated by Megan McDowell

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ARC acquired from Hogarth in exchange for an honest review

Content/Trigger Warnings: Graphic violence/harm, torture, decapitation, sexual assault/rape, graphic violence, gang violence, death/murder/homicide, drug addiction, underage drinking, alcoholism, homophobia, depression, emotional/mental abuse, eating disorders, trauma/PTSD, self-harm, bullying, suicide, postpartum depression, animal cruelty, and so much more!

“What do you know about what really goes on around here, mamita? You live here, but you’re from a different world.”

Twelve macabre short stories set in Argentina. It’s very dark and disturbing.

I have thought long and hard on how I would write this review. On what I would say, what I would write, and how I would write this review. As always, the doors are always open with honesty, but these door for this review will be only cracked. For readers of any kind, I issue caution with picking this book up. Even fans of horror, true horror, take caution. There are no content warnings in this book or even stated in advance. So let me be the first to officially say out loud those content warnings. The synopsis paints the darkness, but the contents of some of these stories may blind side you out of nowhere.

The reality is tens of thousands of people were disappeared or killed from 1976 to 1983, when Argentina’s military junta committed “crimes against humanity within the framework of [a] genocide.” While not overtly mentioned, the horrific tales in Things We Lost in the Fire are intertwined with Argentina’s past. Past atrocities refuse to stay buried, always lurking in the back of the collective mind. Some ghosts still lurking in today’s world…

Normally I would do a breakdown of all the stories listed in this book, but unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to go into great detail with this book. There is a lot of graphic content and much of this content is a lot to take in, to absorb, to think upon and process. There are so many trigger and content warnings that I can’t stress enough how important self-care is during any time reading this book. Even if you think you’re doing enough self-care, do more. I made it about 75%, if not more, into this book before I ended up incredibly ill to the point of vomiting. I was so broken and weak after everything that I ended up DNFing this book before I was even finished reading the book as a whole.

Overall, I don’t recommend this book to anyone who struggles with mental health and I express extreme caution with reading this book. Even the most sound mind may end up sick and incredibly hurt from reading the contents in this book. If you’re a horror lover, this might be right up your alley, but I stress that it’s important to take care of your mental health while reading this book. I will probably never touch this book ever again and I can honestly say that this book is probably the book that will end up haunting me for a long time before I can fully forget the contents sealed within these pages. I don’t recommend this book at all. Read at you own risk.

“We all walk over bones in this city, it’s just a question of making holes deep enough to reach the buried dead.”

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

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Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Abuse, toxic obsession, trauma, alcoholism, talk of emotional and mental abuse, PTSD, war/war violence, talk of murder, death, loss of a loved one, depression, abandonment, implied cheating, and many more.

“Take this as your reminder. Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear darkness, some wear wounds.” 

Rousing new prose and poetry collection, Nikita Gill gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Through her gorgeous reimagining of fairytale classics and spellbinding original tales, she dismantles the old-fashioned tropes that have been ingrained in our minds. In this book, gone are the docile women and male saviors. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains. You will meet fearless princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle, and an independent Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own. Complete with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations by Gill herself.

My Thoughts

I say this all the time, but I’m going to say it again…I absolutely LOVE a poetry collection that shatters my soul and causes my eyes to turn into waterfalls. Always remember that an author pours a bit of themselves into their poetry collections so going in with an open mind is the best that you can do. However, as much as I wanted to love this poetry collection, there were parts that started to wear a little thin with my enjoyment of this book.

So starting with the good, I loved that Gill had so many retellings in this poetry collection. I love a good retelling and the fact that we get heroes and villains was a huge bonus. I really enjoyed the villains the most, of the two. We don’t often get to see the villain side of things, having so many villain retellings was enjoyable for me. I wish more authors did more retellings of villains and I think Gill did a wonderful job of breaking down some of the well recognized villains.

I also really enjoyed the fact that there is a wide variety of serious topics addressed in this poetry collection. Gill writes so intensely and allows the reader to visually picture topics and stir emotions within us. I may have shed a couple of tears myself. A lot of these topics were fairly accurate in representation (I’m just going off my own experience so hold those pitch forks) and for myself it caused me to do a lot of reflecting on my past and journey, on others I have talked with, and even reflect on those who have come and gone. All these topics were nicely represented and I almost wished we got just a little to provoke deep conversation among ourselves. And of course, I always stress this when there’s heavy topics being addressed, but please remember to practice self-care. These aren’t easy topics to talk about, read about, or even try to push yourself through. So make sure you do take care of yourself, practice self-care before and during reading this, I love you! ❤️

“I hope you summon your courage and you invite your demons to tea, and you learn to listen to all their stories.” 

Even though there were plenty of parts that I liked, things did get a little problematic for me. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of hard topics represented, but there comes a point in this book where that stops and things become repetitive. Now, repetitiveness isn’t always a bad thing, but for me personally it wasn’t just the repetitiveness that started to bother me, but there were large bits of hatred of men scattered throughout. For me as a reader, I’m not here to read a book that tries to push the concept of hatred towards others and I’m also not here for content that constantly wants to push the concept of men always being the villain, the bad guy, or painting this picture of them being monsters. As a reader, I’m not here for that type of content. I don’t want to read any book that feels like it’s trying to be subtle about hatred and beat in hatred towards others, no matter the gender. I’m not here for it, I don’t want to read it, and once that point got reached in this book, I was cringing the entire time and wanted to throw this book out the nearest window.

I want to state this… There’s never a truly supreme gender that is better than the other. Each gender has it’s flaws and if you exclude gender, everyone is morally grey. There is no truly/purely good person in this world, but we all do good things and bad things, no matter what. With this poetry collection, there are times where it comes off as painting women as angels or as the better gender and men as these terrible monsters or as the “bad gender”, and that the only good kind of man is in touch with his feelings or “sensitive” side. Let me be the first to call out this crap and say women are not better than men and men are not better than women. We all balance each other out. We are all good and bad and it’s high time we start realizing that there’s bad and good in people, no matter the gender, the race, sexual orientation, etc…

If you couldn’t tell, I reached multiple points where I was asking myself if I wanted to continue reading this collection (to answer that, yes, I did finish this poetry collection) and I had to really analyze how I was feeling about the book. To elaborate, there were times where it almost felt like I was reading a self-help book or Gill’s personal diary. There are parts where you can feel her emotions so strongly that it feels like a ton of bricks just landed on you. There were times where the anger and hate were so strong that I was cringing and asking the book “who in the world hurt you so badly that you have all this pent up anger?!” I’m all about pouring a little emotions into your work, but coming off too strong or putting too much of those emotions in can be overwhelming, suffocating, and at times, it can turn a reader off, but for me this wasn’t my cup of tea.

“Trauma when left untreated has the capacity to make a villain out of you.” 

Overall, there were some wonderful parts of this poetry collection that I absolutely loved and of course, I’m always here for villain retellings. The hard topics are a bonus too! However, the repetitiveness was okay, but it was the constant hatred of men that truly turned me off. Even more so with the repetitiveness tying in with the man hate. Since reading this and taking the time to really think on my thoughts and whether I truly enjoyed this collection, my rating has since changed. I was originally going to rate this poetry collection a three stars, but the amount of hatred and distaste for men is so strong that it left a bad impression with me and actually triggered some of my anxiety. Since all this has happened, I have decided on a solid two stars. And normally, I recommend the dickens out of poetry collections even if I didn’t personally like them, but I can’t recommend this poetry collection on a good conscious knowing how much hatred is woven throughout this book. I never want to be a person who becomes a beacon for spreading hate and anger. So if you’re not someone who likes large quantities of hatred and misandry or even someone who doesn’t want to read about those two things, then I don’t recommend this poetry collection.

“We have all taken turns being Red Riding Hood and we have all been the wolf.”

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