Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Wendy Xu – #ARC #GraphicNovel #Review

Goodreads: Mooncakes
Publish date: 15 October 2019
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Fantasy
Rating:

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town. One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods.

As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home. Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

How cute can a graphic novel be?! I’ve seen Mooncakes making the rounds on a few blogs and it sounded so cute I just had to pick it up asap. It’s a very quick and enjoyable read that is full of representation and diversity. We have queer grandmas, a queer young witch that wears hearing-aids, and a nonbinary young werewolf. We also have lots of magic, books and cute little forest creatures! Not to mention a demon and a cult… This fantasy graphic novel really has it all! The artwork was rich and full of vibrant autumn colors that leant a cozy but also a darker mood to the story. The art style reminded me of the late 90s-early 00s comics that I’d always read.

Tam and Nova are lovely main characters and the relationship that blossomed between them was sweet. The grandmas were also great and extremely supportive–I loved the little grandma jokes and banter! I do wish that we got more backstory to the characters. Nova and Tam got together pretty early on and while they were ‘picking up where they left off’ as the reader, I found their chemistry lacking at that point and I would’ve liked to know more about their history together as kids and how their friendship grew, and had the potential for romance. I still enjoyed their relationship and how they learned to grow together and as individuals. Everyone was heartwarmingly supportive in this comic!

Another issue I had was that it initially felt like we were jumping into the middle of a story that was already almost finished because there was very little backstory and world building. I wanted to know more about the place and the history! I also found it a little unbelievable that they could get away with carting a demon in a floating magical cage and there were still zero people around? Where were the townspeople that they’d occasionally mention? Unless they actually live in seclusion but that wasn’t the impression I got!

Overall, a quick, witchy and heartwarming read. I can’t wait to see the finished product and the bonus material that will be included. I would definitely recommend it to those who love cute, magical, and queer comics!

Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Have you read Mooncakes or is it on your TBR?
This is out in October 2019 so be on the look out!

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Posted in Book Reviews, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks (Illustrator)

Goodreads: Pumpkinheads
Genre: Graphic Novels, Young Adult, Romance
Rating:

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.
Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.
But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.
Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years… What if their last shift was an adventure?

PUMPKINHEADS WAS JUST SOOO CUTE. If you’re excited for fall, you’ll love this book! I just want more of Deja & Josie. I loved their friendship and their chemistry–they were so sweet! I also need to go to this pumpkin patch ASAP. I’ve never wanted four seasons more than after this!

I did not want Pumpkinheads to end. Ever since stumbling across the title earlier this year, I knew that I’d need to get my hands on it ASAP! So when I walked into the bookstore on Friday evening, I was shocked but super happy to see it on the shelves. I didn’t expect it to be available here already, especially since it wasn’t that long ago since it was released. You can bet your ass that I scooped it up without a second thought!

The Artwork

I adored the artwork in Pumpkinheads and it’s safe to say that I’m a big fan of Faith’s work. The colors were so vibrant and perfectly suited to the fall vibes of the story. The art style is exactly the kind that I love to find in graphic novels and I felt that the illustrations really brought the whole pumpkin patch to life. I felt as if I could taste the food (omg it just looked so good!), feel the fire and smell the changing weather in the air. I also loved how Faith illustrated the expressions of the characters in the story! Josie’s expressions always had me cracking up and the longing and sadness in Deja’s face really felt like a punch to the gut sometimes. It was honestly all so perfectly done. Since finishing the book, I’ve been flipping through it again and again just to look at the art.

The Storyline

Deja and Josiah have been best friends ever since they met at the pumpkin patch three years ago. They’re opposites in so many ways, but they complement each other well. Deja is beautiful and outgoing. She talks to and knows everyone and is loved by pretty much all. She’s also dated a few of the guys and girls while she’s worked there. On the other hand, Josie is a bit of a shy nerd and has had a huge crush on ‘The Fudge’ girl for the last three years, despite never speaking to her in all that time. But that changes tonight because Deja has made it her mission to make sure they both enjoy their last night to the full and to have a ‘last adventure’ at the pumpkin patch that they’ll never forget!

Oh my goodness, I don’t even know what I DIDN’T love about this story! Pumpkinheads is the perfect read to transition into the autumn season! It is fall all over and I want to immerse myself in it repeatedly. Deja & Josie were great characters and their experience dealing with the big changes coming their way was very relatable and so very real. They were both loveable characters and it was nostalgic to watch them reminisce about their days working at the patch, and about their worries for the things to come now that high school is over. It’s something that we’ve all been through and it made me think about myself all those (very many) years ago! While there were plenty of serious and heartfelt conversations, there was also a lot of fun and adventure as their mission took them all over the park, with its fun games and very delicious foods. While the story might not have been something completely new or life changing, I loved it for its simplicity, and that it was still able to evoke a range of emotions from me. It’s about dealing with change and taking hold of those simple moments and living for it. It was sweet, nostalgic and relatable. It was a heartwarming story and the ending is the kind that leaves me with good, happy feels all around!

Have you read Pumpkinheads? What’d you think?
Let me know in the comments below and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin, Noah Hayes – #ARC #GraphicNovel #Review

Goodreads: The Avant-Guards
Publish date: 03 September 2019
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Sports, LGBTQIA+
Rating: ★★★★★

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team. As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

I LOVED this one! Oh my goodness, I want more issues/volumes now! This was a super fun and inclusive graphic novel about females playing college basketball. It’s a simple premise, and there’s a love story that’s quickly involved, but it’s all sweet. I really enjoyed the characters, how they’re all queer and how their personalities and ethnicities were all mixed. The friendship group reminded me a lot about my own friendship group from uni and how we were always together and sticking by each other’s side. Although Charlie’s character is a bit sullen at first, I love seeing glimpses of her happy side but also about her past–it seems like something big and bad happened to her that badly affected her trust, and I really can’t wait to find out what her reason was for moving schools (I don’t believe it’s only because of no longer playing basketball?)! Liv’s character, while mildly annoying, was also sweet and I loved seeing her vulnerable sides. She’s such an exuberant, high energy character that seems confident 100% of the time but it’s nice to read from her perspective as well.

I really enjoyed the artwork. The work gave me old(ish) school Archie Comic vibes, also with the text/speech bubbles. I loved the colors that are used in the comic, it lends the story an even happier vibe. I liked that there were some moments with a lot of text, but not too often, and that the text wasn’t so squished into speech bubbles that they were illegible. Also, did I mention how much I love the name of the comic and the basketball team? Super cool! There were four issues in this volume but I just want more now. I can’t wait for people to read this one because it is funny, quirky and a little bit romantic!

Thanks to NetGalley and BOOM! Studios for the free copy in exchange for an honest review! This graphic novel is out 03 September 2019.

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Middle Grade

Sparrowhawk #1 by Delilah S. Dawson – #ARC #GraphicNovel #Review

Goodreads: Sparrowhawk #1
Publish date: 20 August 2019
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Comic
Rating:

Teen Victorian fairy fight club! As the illegitimate daughter of a Naval Captain, Artemesia has never fit in with her father’s family, nor the high class world to which they belong. However, when she is targeted by the Faerie Queen and pulled into another realm, she has no choice but to try and save the world that has always hated her. Writer Delilah S. Dawson (Hellboy: An Assortment of Horror, Star Wars: Forces of Destiny) and artist Matias Basla (The Claw and Fang) present a beautiful, gripping tale perfect for fans of Labyrinth and Princeless. 

Sparrowhawk is a fast paced, well drawn comic. The artwork is full of bold colors although the style itself is not one that I’m usually drawn to or prefer. That said, I thought it suited the strangeness of this story. I liked the artwork on the chapter/title pages more than I did the artwork throughout the comic, but I loved the contrast of the colorful against the brutal, gruesome and dark faerie world story. The plot itself reminded me of elements of Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, which the author also mentioned as her inspiration in the afterword.

I found the story interesting. Artemesia is the daughter of a colonizer and a slave woman who grew up in a family that was cruel and didn’t want her. After being forced into a situation she doesn’t want to be in, Art finds herself being pulled into the faerie realm, having been replaced by the Faerie Queen in her world. In faerie, Art meets a demonic bunny (reminiscent of the cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland) who makes a pact to help her get back home, in exchange for one of Art’s memories. Art must go through faerie slaying monstrosities in order to get back home, and along the way she encounters both the good and evil creatures of faerie, including the gentle faerie prince, whom she falls in love with. How far will she go to get back home?

Art was a strong willed character who was fiercely determined to go home. Her transformation from a thoughtful human, to a monster who enjoys killing as much as any unseelie, was disturbing. It begs the question: how far would you go to do what you think is right, even if it turns you into someone who you don’t like. The side characters were all very interesting as well and although he was an evil, twisted thing I really enjoyed the demonic bunny’s character.

I liked the sinister vibes of the ending and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next and how Art will deal with the repercussions of her actions.

Thanks to NetGalley and BOOM! Studios for providing the e-ARC for an honest review.
Have you read Sparrowhawk? Loved it? Hated it? Meh about it? Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, General Books, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

That Second Chance by Meghan Quinn – #BookReview

Goodreads: That Second Chance (Getting Lucky #1)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating:

It was supposed to be an innocent night, celebrating my brother’s birthday. Nothing was supposed to go wrong. We’d vowed to be on our best behavior after all . . . But it only took one rowdy night with my brothers to flip my world upside down. One unlucky encounter saddled us with a family curse and the promise of doomed relationships. I laughed it off immediately. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “A love curse. Ha!” Boy, was I wrong.

Word spreads quickly in a town like mine; rumors about that night soon made us the most eligible yet untouchable bachelors in Port Snow, Maine. As a subject of endless gossip and speculation, I could kiss my dating life goodbye. It would have stayed that way if Ren Winters, the new girl in town, hadn’t crashed into my life. Brave, beautiful, and smart—her vivacious thirst for a fresh start has given me hope that maybe, just maybe, I can have one too. Everyone wishes for that second chance . . . but could this really be mine?

A funny and sweet story about second chances, featuring a hilariously embarrassing family full of meddlers, and a picturesque town that sweeps you off your feet!

This is a perfect light and fluffy romantic comedy that had me laughing out loud several times! Although I was initially wary what with the ‘love curse’, I’m glad that I kept on with it because it was exactly what I was looking for! The story is told through alternating POVs between Griffin and Ren and I really liked both of their characters. They have an almost immediate connection but thanks to Griffin’s wariness with the curse, they build a strong friendship before anything romantic happens. Their banter was so cute and sweet and gave me all the warm fuzzies (like stupid grin on face and giggles fuzzies). The build up in sexual tension was also great. There are some steamy scenes but the more explicit ones are minimal (I think there are two).

The best part of the book for me was the Knightly family though; especially the relationship between the four brothers who were all so sweet and funny. It was so refreshing to see how they all wore their hearts on their sleeves and how supportive and invested they were of Griffin’s love life (enough to meddle and boy, did they ever! It was too funny). They were genuinely good guys! Can I also say how cute and picturesque this town sounds? What with an adorable gift shop, pastel colored decorations dotting the town, and a lighthouse amongst other small-town landmarks? I love stories that involve small towns and this one basically had me wanting to move there myself!

Now let’s be real. Was it predictable? Yes, it was. But sometimes you just really need a good, easy read that makes you feel happy and hopeful, and this ticked all the boxes! Being even more real with you, I actually picked this up because of the guy on the cover (omg), so I’m really happy that I ended up loving this! I’m so looking forward to the reading the rest of the series and seeing how all the brothers defeat the ‘love curse’. I’m particularly excited about Rogan because he’s the “brooding brother” (weakness!) and I’m so curious to learn more about his back story!

Have you read That Second Chance? FYI: If you want to pick it up and have Kindle Unlimited, all Meghan Quinn’s books are up there!
Leave me a comment and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, General Books, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – #BookReview

Goodreads: Red, White & Royal Blue
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
Rating:

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him. 

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Coming at you hot with an unpopular opinion. Please don’t come for me! We all have different reading experiences, and honestly, I’m just as bummed about it as you probably are!

This is another one of those books this year that has received an insane amount of hype and I got so excited when I came across the last copy at the bookstore two weeks ago that I (obvi) immediately snatched it up. Oh friends, I’m really torn up about how I feel about this book… Did I hate it? No… Did I love it as much as 99.9% of the rest of the book community did? Also, no. I wanted to love this book so much and I’m pretty disappointed that I didn’t. When I thought I’d be zipping through and finishing this in basically one day, I ended up finding it a much slower read than I anticipated. I struggled with the characters and a bit of the politics too (although I surprised myself with how much I know about American politics compared to politics in my ‘home’ country). Though the big turning point for me was really in the last 30% of the book and it made a huge difference in how I felt about the story in the end.

I want to keep this as straightforward as possible so I’m going to focus on what my likes and dislikes are. Starting off first with the dislikes because I want to end my review on a brighter note!

What I didn’t like about it:

I really wished that we had more than just Alex’s POV. I think that the book would’ve been much more enjoyable, and also worth the 450+ pages, if there was more than one perspective. Especially considering that Alex was so far from my favorite character. He was infuriating, childish and annoying. He was also incredibly over the top. I just couldn’t get past Alex’s attitude and it got to me a lot more as the book went on, especially in comparison to Henry’s person.

Although honestly, I thought the majority of the characters were over the top. I felt like there was drama just to make drama sometimes and I actually read a lot of the dialogue as if they were shouting at each others’ faces because their tones were just SO LOUD. Also, I’m sorry but, do people really say “shut up” all the time for everything? Is that really how people talk? Everyone, including the president, came off as just way too much 90% of the time.

How I feel about the characters greatly influences how I feel about a book and unfortunately, for the majority of RW&RB, my feelings were pretty negative. Although McQuiston’s writing style is pretty straightforward and easy to read, it didn’t help that I found the pacing very erratic and the story jumped around a lot. I usually don’t mind text messages and emails thrown into the writing mix too, and while I didn’t mind the emails, the text messages were just confusing. This didn’t add anything to story and it could’ve be done without. Sorry to say it, I thought the book was too long for what it was. A lot could’ve been cut out and I don’t think anything crucial would’ve been missed. 🤷🏻‍♀️

What I liked about it:

The romance between Alex and Henry was wow. Like, WOW, I was not expecting that heat between them, and their chemistry was off the charts, honey! Towards the latter half of the book, so many beautifully written words were exchanged between them that made my heart swell, my throat close up, and my eyes water. There was so much sweet tenderness between these two and these exchanges were pretty much the only times I found myself genuinely liking Alex. Also, their banter was brilliant! I found myself unable to contain my laughter so many times while reading this book. The many quips were also just too good!

“The next slide is titled: ‘Exploring your sexuality: Healthy, but does it have to be with the Prince of England?’ She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles. Alex actively wishes for the sweet release of death.”

I loved Prince Henry. Hands down, he was my favorite character and half the time I found myself wanting to bundle him up and keep him safe from the nastiness in this world. I also really liked a few side characters like Nora, Pez and Bea. They were quirky, hilarious and surprisingly strong pillars of support. They were also so unapologetically themselves.

This book also raises a lot of important topics that are prominent in today’s social dialogue and agenda. Sexual identity, race, and inequality are just some of the big issues this book covers. And honestly, even though the ending is predictably fairytale-esque and sappy, it also left me feeling so lifted, happy and light. Reading this book did leave me with a feeling of hopefulness and I think that’s one of the best things about it. The interactions in this book are so open and all of the people in Alex’s life are so supportive of his coming out (in fact, it seems that a lot of people suspected or “knew” about him before even he knew about him). It was a really positive discussion surrounding LGBTQIA+ issues, about not having to hide who you are and be vilified for it, and while maybe we’re not to that level yet, I have no doubt that the younger and future generations will be able to take the important steps to creating platforms for openness and discussion. I really wonder if or when that’ll ever happen in Indonesia and it makes me a little sad that there’s an even longer way to go for LGBTQIA+ people here to find a place where they will feel loved and accepted for who they are.

To round all this up, I basically wanted to share the quotes that gave me so much life and made me feel everything! Some of the romance and lines were super cheesy but it still managed to make my heart melt. Feast your eyes on the goo:

“I thought, this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I had better keep it a safe distance away from me. I thought, if someone like that ever loved me, it would set me on fire. And then I was a careless fool, and I fell in love with you anyway. When you rang me at truly shocking hours of the night, I loved you. When you kissed me in disgusting public toilets and pouted in hotel bars and made me happy in ways in which it had never even occurred to me that a mangled-up, locked-up person like me could be happy, I loved you. And then, inexplicably, you had the absolute audacity to love me back. Can you believe it? Sometimes, even now, I still can’t.”

“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.”

“To every person in search of somewhere to belong who happened to pick up this book, I hope you found a place in here, even if just for a few pages. You are loved. I wrote this for you. Keep fighting, keep making history, keep looking after one another.”

So, that’s it. I hope that I wasn’t too harsh or bruised anyone’s feelings with this review. If it isn’t clear, I didn’t hate this book, I just didn’t love it like everyone else. It was just okay for me, and while I was really looking forward to loving it, I’m okay with that. If I could just read the latter half, especially the last 30% of the novel, then I would’ve given it a higher rating. If it was just the email exchanges and only the romantic bits of this book, I would’ve rated it even higher still. The sweet romance was undoubtedly my favorite part of this book–it was heart meltingly sweet– and if there was one reason that I’d remember this book it’d be for the amazing romantic quotes. 😍

Have you read Red, White & Royal Blue? Anyone feel the way I felt about it? (Lol 😂 ) Leave a comment down below and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Middle Grade

The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2) by Katie O’Neill – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2)
Publish date: 17 September 2019
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Comic
Rating:

Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

The Tea Dragon Festival is another beautiful graphic novel by Katie O’Neill. The style and use of color in the artwork is gorgeous and really brings to life this wonderful world of dragons, tea dragons, magical forest creatures and village life. The story takes places before The Tea Dragon Society, and I really enjoyed meeting the younger versions of Hesekiel and Erik, two loveable characters from that book.

In this comic, we follow the story of Rinn, a young village girl who’s an aspiring cook and talented forager, who stumbles upon Aedhan, a young dragon who has been asleep for 80-years. Aedhan is plagued by guilt for having not done his duty of taking care of the village residents, but he was put under a sleeping spell by a magical forest creature. Rinn brings Aedhan to the village and the two quickly form a strong, sweet bond as Aedhan picks up his dragon duties and reintegrates to village life. I loved how this story was even more diverse and inclusive than the first book. We have characters who use sign language, different ethnicities, and diverse sexualities, and none of these elements in the story feels contrived.

The tea dragons were just as freaking adorable as in the first book. I want to live in this world and I want to take care of those tea dragons, no matter how pesky they’re claimed to be! At the end, O’Neill also included additional information about the tea dragon varieties, and more wonderful history about dragons like Aedhan.

This was a very quick read full of sweet and fluffy things! And I mean, super cute good looking dragons. Come on, isn’t that all you really need to know? Recommended to everyone who wants to experience all the good and happy feels!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing the e-ARC for an honest review.
Have you read any of the Tea Dragon graphic novels? Love em? Hate em? Meh about them? Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!