ARC Reviews

Once Upon A K-Prom by Kat Cho


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Arc was given by Disney Publishing Worldwide & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (May 17th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: MC with low self-esteem, scene and talk of separation anxiety, depictions of anxiety, talk of abandonment, bullying, brief mentions of chronic migraines, harassment, death of a parent (in the past), talk of acrophobia (fear of heights)

“And for a breathless second, all I could do was stare at him as my pulse echoed like thunder through my head.”

Kat Cho has been an author on my radar for a while now, but I haven’t had the chance to sit down with her work until now and I think my expectation where blown out of the water. This book was absolutely everything. Truly, with my whole dang chest, I loved this book with every fiber of my soul. I mentioned before that I put this on a few five star predictions lists and honestly, I wish I could give this all the stars. Maybe I’m being mushy and sentimental about the places in my heart this book touched, but I really adored this book, these characters, and I wish it wasn’t over just yet.

We follow the perspectives of Elena Soo, an anxious girl who always feels like she’s being left behind by the ones she loves and now the one place she calls sanctuary is now in danger of shutting down. And Robbie Choi, a K-Pop idol and an old best friend to Elena, who has returned to keep the childhood promise they made to one another from long ago. After all the time that’s passed between the two of them, these once close best friends will go on a journey of reconnecting with one another and even admitting the truth about their honest feelings. Swoon worthy moments, heartbreaking moments, and second chances will ensue for this dynamic duo.

I adored Elena and Robbie as our main characters. I’ve seen so many readers say that we don’t see enough of who these characters are, not enough detail of their history together, but I think they’re perfect. Robbie and Elena came off as very really people. Not only when they’re together, whether it was them reconnecting or struggling with expressing themselves, but also in the moments that had your heart hammering in your chest, rooting for them to be happy. Even on their own, they felt like very strong characters. Elena has anxiety and we see that constantly reflected throughout this book. We see her doubt herself and see her navigate her feelings, and even her coming to terms with some of the things she’s done to protect herself. And Robbie, Robbie is incredibly shy yet we see him be charm and charismatic at times, as well. There were so many layers to these characters and it was lovely getting to see all the different sides to them.

“There’s too much between us to be just starting out. But we can see how we fit together now, after all of our history, the good and the bad. A K-Pop idol and a regular girl.”

The friendship between Elena and Robbie was probably the thing that got me the most. I’m talking moments of clutching my tablet, rooting for them and sobbing as these two were navigating their way back to one another. This friendship so close to home with my own childhood friend, how close we are, and how now we’re navigating our friendship after he and his family moved back to Japan. So reading Elena and Robbie go through so much with their friendship and seeing them work through the good, the bad, and the cute yet awkward moments really tugged at my heart strings, and made me miss my best friend a whole heck-a-ton.

“Robbie didn’t want to give up on this chance to spend time with his old best friend. Not when he’d jumped through so many hoops just to see her again.”

Speaking of characters, there’s so many amazing side characters throughout this book. Like Elena’s brother, Ethan and how despite them having some rough patches, these two always make amends with one another. We also get to see the way Robbie interacts with the other members of WDB (Wondeo Byul or Wonder Star) whbich was so freaking wholesome and precious. It’ll make your heart melt. Plus, we get little WDB member pages scattered throughout the book which was a lovely bonus. I’m just going to say it, there’s going to be a lot of happy k-pop lovers who I think are going to fall in love with this book, for sure. And I have to talk about Soonyeon is and how much I loved her character. Her character was such a lovely surprise and I really enjoyed the way the author had Elena become good friends with someone from Robbie’s whole world. That friendship blooming the way it did was just chef’s kiss!

Also, there’s a lot of Korean culture throughout this entire book. I really appreciated the author adding a lot of Korean words throughout this book. Every time I see authors use their language, their culture, anything of the sort it just makes my heart all warm and fuzzy inside. Which I know, probably sounds a little corny, but it just makes me so happy seeing authors do that. I think that’s an aspect in books that often get overlooked or aren’t always given the spotlight it deserves . So I wanted to take a moment to say how much I really valued and cherished that part of this book. On top of that, we get to see a lot of insight of the music industry in different cultures. There was a time where it was almost taboo to talk about the way the music industry treats their artists or what artists have to go through, and thankfully now, we’re entering into a time where it’s being brought into the light more and talked about more. And that was an element of this book that I’m glad the author didn’t hold back with. I really appreciate how the author took it, not just with Robbie, but also with the side characters in this book. I’m really glad we got to see different sides of that within these pages.

I think if there was anything I had to really find fault in with this book, it would probably be the lack of perspective we get from Robbie. While this book a two-person point of view book, we get very few chapters from Robbie’s perspective and I think this book would have benefitted even more if we had more chapters from Robbie’s pov. There were so many moments in this book that would have been really interesting to see from Robbie’s side and we just didn’t get that. Not necessarily a disappointment, but it definitely felt like a missed opportunity.

Overall, what more could I possibly say about this book that I haven’t already. Honestly, I thought I may have set the bar too high for this book especially since this is my first time reading anything by this author, but I truly loved this. I had messaged my childhood friend about this book, telling him how much I adored it, and he’s really invested in reading this book now, and I just really fell in love with this book. I definitely think this is going to be one of those books where readers will find every flaw in it or they’re absolutely going to adore it. And definitely, many k-pop lovers are going to enjoy this book. I can’t recommend it enough and you know, if you’re on the fence about whether to pick it up or not then let this review give you the nudge you needed to give this book a chance.

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



P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #2) by Jenny Han


🌻 To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1 – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Ableist language, slut shaming, suicide joke, cheating/implied cheating, adultery

“People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

Synopsis from GoodReads

Lara Jean wasn’t expecting to truly be this in love with Peter. When things get more than messy, Lara Jean is forced to look deep inside herself to figure out what she really and truly wants. Scandalous videos, time capsules, dream boys from the past, and snowy kisses – P.S. I Still Love You is about to deliver all the things that can really happen in a small town with a girl growing up and walking her own path.

Okay friends, let me be honest for a minute. I think I’m the odd one out because so many of my trusted friends really loved this book or swears this is the best book of all three. However, I think I was expecting so much more from this book. I can’t pin point the exact thing because it feels like a number of little things added up to me rating this book somewhere in the middle. It just really felt like it was missing something, an extra umph, if you know what I mean.

For starters, don’t think I disliked this book. There were some many parts and moments that I feel in love with. For example, when Kitty takes Lara Jean’s side and supports her sister or the moment Lara Jean and Kitty have a heart to heart during Kitty’s birthday party. There were so many heartwarming, sweet moments scattered throughout this entire book. I really loved them. I even loved the parts where Lara Jean’s sisters rallied to her defense with the leaked video. I love a good moment between siblings where they rally to each other.

I think what I really and truly loved in this book was the amount of diversity we see shine through. We, as the readers, get to explore and see more into Lara Jean’s culture and family traditions. It’s such a rare, but beautiful thing that authors should do more often in their books. We also get a minor gay character. Thank you Jenny Han for adding that character and making them appear more frequent in this book!

“So much of love is chance. There’s something scary and wonderful about that.”

And let me take this moment to say this… Team John Ambrose McClaren. I love a character who is romantic, appreciates a girl for who she is (flaws and all), acts like a gentleman, and loves a good homemade cake, but has the class to back it all up and throw down when others want to be jerks. I loved him, I adore him, and I regret nothing by choosing him over Peter. He was the real V.I.P. of this book and his character made everything feel more entertaining, more interesting. I think he was the only character that I felt an attachment to in this book. Plus, he hand wrote letters back to Lara Jean. And there were some really good moments with John Ambrose and Lara Jean that made me all soft and swoony. I just really loved his character.

Aside from all this good, those little things that were bothersome were really hard to forget. My two biggest issues are the ones that bothered the most. For starters, Peter’s attitude and how he handled a lot of situations. There were moments in this book had me going, “Did you really just do that? Did you really just act like that?” I let a lot of his behavior slide and convinced myself he was just being protective or jealous, but for me, it reached a point where I was over it and I just wanted to wash my hands of him. The second issue I had was that one little scene with Genevieve’s father and Anna Hicks. Something about an older man with a daughter and a girl the same age as man’s said daughter gives me icky vibes. I don’t want to get into details, but it gave me little tingles of creepy. Everything else that followed were minor things like the beginning feeling like an extended epilogue, Lara Jean leading John Ambrose McClaren on, Kitty coming off as an un-supportive sister, Lara Jean badgering Josh about his new girlfriend, etc… it all just added up to an un-fun time and I didn’t like it. It was annoying and it felt like filler to fill the void in the empty space until something suspenseful or drama filled happened. Not my cup of tea.

Overall, I did like this book, but there were very problematic things that happened in this book that completely turned me off from reading it at certain points. I definitely have to say that John Ambrose was a huge highlight for this book and probably one of the most exciting things that has happened (in a positive light) that has left an impression with me. Otherwise, parts felt dragged out or like a lot of fluff has been added just for the sake of having things happen. However, as someone who did enjoy the first book, I would recommend picking this book up. There are truly some wonderful moments just like the first book had that will make your heart all soft and mushy. On the the other hand, if you’re someone who really didn’t enjoy the first book or thought it was just “meh” then I don’t recommend reading this book anytime soon. It definitely had great moments just like the first, but it definitely leaves you with a desire for more than what you actually get.

“If two people are meant to be, they’ll find their way to each other.”



Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali


Content/Trigger Warnings: Islamophobia, racist micro-aggression, cultural appropriation, chronic illness, talk of family death, grief, trauma, phantom pain, mention of rape and sexual violence, discussion of war and war victims.

This book was read for the Dragons & Tea Book Club hosted by the lovely Melanie @meltotheany and the insanely sweet Amy @acourtofcrownsandquills.

🌻 The Dates & Breakdown:
July 8th:
 (Pages 1 – 68) Zayneb Saturday March 9
Oddity: Unpredictable Creatures
July 9th: (Pages 69 – 134) Adam Tuesday March 12
Marvel: Strangers
July 10th: (Pages 135 – 207) Adam Sunday March 17
Marvel: Zayneb at the Perfect Place
July 11th: (Pages 208 – 276) Zayneb Tuesday Marc 19
Oddity… And Marvel: Plotters
July 12th: (Pages 277 – End) 🌻

marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Synposis from GoodReads

Do you ever walk right into a book, knowing nothing about it, but then you end up falling deeply in love with it? That’s exactly what Love from A to Z will do to you! Friends, I never expected to fall in love with this book! A book that touches a little bit too close to home and still has the gears in my head turning, thinking even days later after finishing it.

In this book, we follow a two person, point of view. We have the point of view told through Zayneb and then we have the point of view told through Adam. However, this book is so much more than just two POVs. It’s also told in the format of Marvel and Oddity entries from their own journals. Something entirely unique and different that I have yet to truly see be done in YA literature…so far! I loved this element so much in this style. It was very easy to read and follow along in the journey between our two main characters. We also receive the element of texts and emails, but they definitely get overshadowed a bit with the journal element.

“Human rights. For everyone. Because that was the only way the world made sense. When the arc of care went far and wide, it journeyed and battled to exclude none.”

I think the most important thing that needs to be said about this book is how powerful and how emotional this book will be for so many readers. This is a book that has tears, has laughter and joy, but it’s also somewhere in between, something I can’t quite put my finger on. The only word to truly describe this book is masterpiece. It’s a masterful, unsparing exploration of the distorting weight of prejudice, discrimination, racism and Islamophobia, and so much more. I completely surprised that more readers aren’t talking about this book more from how insightful and important this book truly is.

While I can’t relate too much to Zayneb’s side of things, Adam’s story was an entirely different wave. Adam’s tale is bold and illuminating tale of a young man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The author handles Adam’s story with such respect and delicacy, gently spooling out his struggles and triumphs in the face of the disease. Reading about Adam slowly unraveling things about his diagnosis just hit me in waves. While I don’t have MS, I do have a loved one who is. Every bit of Adam talking about his mother or even about himself, it was earthquake after earthquake of emotions. I think anyone who has a loved one with MS or does have MS will be touched immensely with Adam’s journey and personal struggles.

And while I’m on the topics that touched me the most… The fact that this book normalizes stuffed plushies and blankets was a breath of fresh air. I have never read a book that has openly said these are okay things to have to bring comfort in dark times and during your personal struggles. This part part hit me like a ton of bricks! S.K. Ali has made waves with having Zayneb’s character normalize those. I can’t even begin to express what that even means, as someone who struggles with mental health. This was perfection.

“Maybe that’s what living is—recognizing the marvels and oddities around you.”

Overall, I think the best way anyone can experience this book is to go in completely blind. I think the more you know about a book, it can spoil things and I thoroughly believe this is one of those books. It’s such an emotional read and it will bring anyone reading to their needs or at least get them thinking about everything that takes place in this book. This is a book that deserves to have more readers talking about, more discussions need to happen about this book, and I definitely think more readers need to pick this book up. It’s brilliant, beautifully written and a very well developed novel. I can’t recommend this enough!



Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan


Arc provided by Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warning: War, death/murder, violence, fighting, self-harm (both for a magical system and talk of self-harm in the past), torture, parental abuse, abandonment, abduction, use of alcohol (possible alcohol addiction), gore, talk of human sacrifice, strong religious fighting.

You can find my first review of this books on my GoodReads.

“You could be exactly what these countries need to stop their fighting. Or you could rip them apart at the seams.”

Let me start this review off by saying how much this book took me by storm! This has been an anticipated book for so many people and I wasn’t expecting to become someone obsessed with this book, but here we are and now I feel like no other book can compare. From the lyrical writing to characters that captivate you with a strong pull, to the beautiful descriptions of the themes: this book sunk it’s talons into me and has found a place within my heart. This debut fantasy, filled with blood magic and a cleric born to serves the gods (if this doesn’t give you D&D or role playing game vibes then I don’t know what will), blew me sky high and then some!

The author pulls from Russian and Polish inspiration and we get two countries, the Russian inspired Kalyazin, and the Polish inspired Tranavia. We also get the deserts of Akola, which we meet a few characters from, but there’s vibes within this book that those deserts will be explored in later books. With this book being so fast paced, we quickly realized how different these two countries are from one another when it comes to religion. We see how far each country is willing to go in the name of their religious beliefs. These two countries are warring, and the author never shies away from that, but they are also beautifully woven together to create such an immersive and captivating world and setting.

“Are we so different, Nadya?” He lifted his hand, fingers tipped with long claws, and pressed his thumb against her lips. “We both long for freedom. For power. For a choice. We both want to see our kingdoms survive.” 

Our tale begins with a girl who has lived and hidden with the protection of a monastery’s walls for her entire life. She has power unlike any other, and it’s her people’s only hope to not only restore the faith of the gods, but bring them back into power. Yet, there are plenty of people willing to do anything to make sure the goods and their religion(s) stay silenced forever. And as fate would have it, the girl’s world is turned upside down when her monastery is brutally attacked by the enemy. She and her friend barely escape with their lives, while everyone stays behind to ensure they can flee to safety. Yet, the cunning prince commander quickly learns the girl is not among the dead. The girl desperate to live and not to have her gods be silenced, is willing to do almost anything to live. Even if that means getting help from a powerful rebel mage, who has many skeletons hidden away in his closet.

“The girl, the monster, and the prince…” 

Nadya – The cleric who can speak to all the gods
Malachiasz – A blood mage, who believes he’s a monster
Serefin – Bisexual icon: Also, a blood mage prince of one of the most powerful realms in this world, but the king is trying to ensure that no one can contest his power, while also wanting to use his son as a martial pawn. He also has a visual impairment and is unable to see out of one of his eyes. 

(Beautiful art of Nadya by Nicole Deal at NicoleDealArt)

All three of these characters? They’re all morally grey characters who have all stolen my heart. Okay, let me be honest…I may be a bit bias towards Malachiasz, but maybe I just connect with him a lot more than the other characters. Although Nadya comes pretty darn close. We do get more disability and sexual representation by some of the side characters. If I could tell you how many times my bi-radar went off, you would be shouting at me like “Calm down!” We also get many characters of color to add even more diversity into this outstanding book. I can’t wait to watch these characters bloom and flourish in later books! However, I may have a soft spot for Ostyia who the author did confirm is a tiny, murder lesbian and as a short, bisexual girl myself….this has given me absolute life! I’m always here for fierce, kick-butt ladies of sexual representation!

Okay, I’m hear to dish on our main girl Nadya a little more because my nerdy self has to gush a little. Also, I really loved how the author crafted the religion and the saints of this book. Truly beautiful and fascinating. First off, I come from a vary colorful religious background of my family being divided into Christian, Catholic, and Apache faith/religion. So you know I come from a very diverse upbringing. However, on the opposite spectrum of that, I have played so much D&D, Pathfinder, done a lot of misc. role playing, and even to this day still do LARPing. And I kid you not, I have always had characters who are clerics, healers, and (in opposite contrast to those blood mages) my most favorite and recent character I LARP as, rogue mage. Seriously, my nerdy-self can’t contain my hype for a book with mages and a cleric who can speak to the the gods. A cleric who has been blessed by the divine (holy cow, YES!). Also, the fact that we get so many moments of Nadya and her banter with these gods, all of whom have different characteristics and personalities, was probably one of my most favorite elements the author has added to this book! I loved it!

Once again, let me take this time to express how dark of a book this is. Please see my content warning above because self-care is so important when reading these topics. It took me so long to get through this book because I had to take time to process what I was reading and making sure I was caring for my mental health. But one of the major magic systems in this book is blood magic, where people will use their own blood (most of the time, freshly cut) and merge it with pages of a spell book to be able to wield their prepared spells and harness their magic. This is something I feel is so heavily represented in D&D, there are a lot of Lovecraft theme board games that feature this, and even some video games will feature it. And I loved every second of it because I’m so familiar with the blood mage characteristics. The author did an exemplary job of weaving the true power of the blood mage into this book.

“Dazzle the monsters, Nadya. You’ve already charmed the worst of the lot; the rest should be easy.” 

I feel like I need to talk about the romance in this book because I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was near the end and I was shook! Now, let me say this because I know a lot of early reviewers who have read this book and didn’t love this romance….this type of romance is an acquired taste. You’re either going to love it or you’re going to say fuck this. That’s just how that type of romance goes. For me, I live for a dark, forbidden, “evil and good” type romance. I live for it, I eat this romance for breakfast. I will go as far as saying I married a chaotic neutral person (which if you’re a nerd and have played D&D, you know what I’m talking about here). Reading this book, even though we had two POVs, I always assumed Nadya was the star of this book. The pull to her was a lot greater than Serefin. So regardless of who Nadya who she would develop feelings for. If you’ve been around my reviews and myself, then you know I always go for the first character who spells trouble with a capital ‘T’. So, when Malachiasz started getting closer and closer to each other…I was so here for it. This book had me thinking that Nadya was about to be made Queen and I was losing it when Malachiasz scooped Nadya, told everyone to fuck off, and put her to bed. Their slow burn, friend-enemy romance was so delicious and I devoured that. So naturally, the way this book ended left me as a husk.

Overall, this book just landed too many punches in my personal arsenal. My only issue with this book was the ending. I felt like there were far too many unanswered questions and it didn’t even leave off on a cliffhanger. But that epilogue just about killed me. The author did an amazing job making the epilogue from The Black Vulture’s point of view. I really think Emily A. Duncan has crafted such a unique book that will make readers wanting more. Wicked Saints is such a beautiful debut and just a hard punch for starting off this series. I can’t wait to see what Emily has in-store for us in the next book, especially since this ending left so many things unanswered and left so many broken pieces of my heart scattered all over the pages. 

“We’re all monsters, Nadya, some of us just hide it better than others.” 


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