eARC Graphic Novel Review: Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo, Lilian Klepakowsky

Goodreads: Eat, and Love Yourself
Publish date: 21 April 2020
Publisher: BOOM!Studios
Genre: Graphic Novel
Panda Rating:

A story about Mindy, a woman living with an eating disorder who has to learn how to love herself again.

In pursuit of the perfect body, Mindy buys the low-fat diet products and the glossy magazines which promise the secret to losing weight. One night, while perusing the aisles of the neighborhood convenience store for a midnight snack, she finds a new product. A chocolate bar called “Eat and Love Yourself”. On a whim, Mindy buys the curious candy, not knowing that with every piece of chocolate she eats, she will be brought back to a specific moment of her past — helping her to look at herself honestly, learn to love her body the way it is, and accepting love. Perhaps, she will even realize that her long lost high school best friend, Elliot, was more than just a friend…

Trigger warnings: Eating disorders, body dysmorphia, body shaming, binge-eating, purging

I got extremely excited when I saw this cover and read the synopsis. The comic covers an extremely important topic that is such a personal issue for so many people who have struggled with their weight, and loving and accepting themselves. So I’m pretty sad to say that the story gave me pretty mixed feelings and that ending was especially disappointing because it was so abrupt. I checked to see if this was a series but I couldn’t find any information on it. I’m kind of hoping that Mindy’s journey will continue but I have a feeling it won’t?

Continue reading “eARC Graphic Novel Review: Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo, Lilian Klepakowsky”

eARC Review: The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm

Goodreads: The Sunday Potluck Club
Publish date: 31 March 2020
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

(actual 2.75 stars)

New friends can be found in unexpected places. For Bridget and Amy, that place was the cancer ward of an Anchorage hospital. Now, as each struggles to overcome loss, they lean on each other for support—sharing suppers, laughter and tears.

Bridget and Amy aren’t about to let hardship knock them down—Bridget plans to return to her veterinarian school studies, Amy to her position as a second-grade teacher—but neither feels quite ready. And so the Sunday Potluck Club is born, a way for Bridget, Amy, and other women who have lost a loved one to find solace and understanding. Savoring favorite dishes while sharing memories and the comfort of connection, the members of the Sunday Potluck Club nourish body and soul.

As weeks go by and the group grows in unforeseen ways, both Bridget and Amy are inspired to find greater purpose. Amy reaches out to a student whose father bravely faces his own struggle. Bridget volunteers at the local animal shelter, rehabilitating dogs whose unconditional love will bring others a chance to heal. And with the help of a very special man, Amy is realizing that there’s always room at the table for love and rekindled joy… 

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The cover caught my eye, and I liked the idea of a group of friends who meet under unusual life circumstances celebrating their friendship through Sunday potluck get togethers. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the story that was delivered. I think there were maybe two potluck gatherings in the whole book, and the friends didn’t spend any time talking. There was none of that ‘savoring favorite dishes while sharing memories and the comfort of connection’, and also none of that ‘nourishing body and soul’!

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Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

We’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme! This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

This Sunday I should’ve spent the day in bed with Ruthless Gods. But if you guessed that I spent the day gaming, then you’d be 10,000% correct 😅 I’m reading this as a buddy read so I really need to get myself together and get cracking on it! I’ve got my first two blog tours coming up next week and yikes, this panda has not read anything in what feels like forever now 🐼 Curse you, gaming! 🙃

Darkness never works alone…
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.
As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

What are you currently reading?

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ARC Review: Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese

Goodreads: Only When It’s Us (Bergman Brothers #1)
Publish date: 01 April 2020
Publisher: NetGalley Connect
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Panda Rating:

2 Frenemies.
1 Disastrous prank.

Ryder
Ever since she sat next to me in class and gave me death eyes, Willa Sutter’s been on my shit list. Why she hates me, I don’t know. What I do know is that Willa is the kind of chaos I don’t need in my tidy life. She’s the next generation of women’s soccer. Wild hair, wilder eyes. Bee-stung lips that should be illegal. And a temper that makes the devil seem friendly. She’s a thorn in my side, a menacing, cantankerous, pain-in-the-ass who’s turned our Business Mathematics course into a goddamn gladiator arena. I’ll leave this war zone unscathed, coming out on top…And if I have my way with that crazy-haired, ball-busting hellion, that will be in more than one sense of the word.

Willa
Rather than give me the lecture notes I missed like every other instructor I’ve had, my asshole professor tells me to get them from the silent, surly flannel-wearing mountain man sitting next to me in class. Well, I tried. And what did I get from Ryder Bergman? Ignored. What a complete lumbersexual neanderthal. Mangy beard and mangier hair. Frayed ball cap that hides his eyes. And a stubborn refusal to acknowledge my existence. I’ve battled men before, but with Ryder, it’s war. I’ll get those notes and crack that Sasquatch nut if it’s the last thing I do, then I’ll have him at my mercy. Victory will have never tasted so sweet.

Holy slow burn and sexual tension, batman! *phew* I’m a big fan of slow burn romances especially when they’re done right and this one does not disappoint! I loved that this gave me so much more depth than I expected from a romcom! There was so much to both characters and oh mans, Ryder the lumbersexual is absolute PER-FEC-TION! I know I’m gushing but he made my heart all melty and my feelings all gooey and yep, I’m crushing hard on him and if you read this book, you’ll definitely get why!

Liese brings rep to her romance with Ryder, a character who lost his hearing after contracting bacterial meningitis as a college freshman. I’ve already mentioned how much I loved his character but really, his arc was so well done. He’s a bear of a man but with the softest and sweetest heart just looking to find his way back to “normal” after losing his hearing. I can’t even imagine how devastating it would be to lose your hearing because of an illness. In a way his hearing loss does define a big part of his life, but it’s not just who he is and the author did a wonderful job of showing his many sides. And as if I wasn’t already fully in love with him 30% through the book, the author had to have him reading JANE AUSTEN and that’s me 100% gone!

I was on the fence about how I felt for Willa. She’s physically strong as an athlete, she’s incredibly hardworking, and her love for her mother was so heartwarming. But Willa does literally everything to avoid opening up and being honest about her life with people she’s afraid to get close to. Her fear of confronting serious issues, while understandable, also became a bit too much for me at a certain point. I want to say that Ryder deserved better and for a good chunk of the story I did think that. In reality though they were perfect for each other because his patience, understanding and ability to be vulnerable with her was exactly what she needed to balance out and do the same. And as much as he balanced her, Willa’s acceptance of him as he is with no hesitation, disability or no, was exactly what he needed to feel normal. There were some pretty emotionally raw scenes that had me tearing up! Also, if it isn’t obvious by now, the chemistry between these two was absolute FIRE! It’s a (really) slow burn, but the way the connection builds between Ryder and Willa is SO good and it’s SO worth the wait! I’d put this at a 4/5 on the steamy scale.

One of the best things in this book was the family relationships. I loved the Bergman family and how they ribbed each other but how they were so openly affectionate and caring with each other. They’re a beautiful family and I can’t wait to follow the stories of the other Bergman brothers as the series continues!

Overall, this was a surprisingly deep romcom that had me laughing, squealing, swooning and cheering for both characters as they fought for a wonderful heart-stopping love. Also, I really liked that this came with a playlist for the book and songs per chapter. I enjoyed listening to some of them while reading! I can’t wait to continue with this series and I’m looking forward to checking out the other books the author has written. I’d highly recommend it!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. The book is out 01 April 2020!
Have you read Only When It’s Us or is it on your TBR?

eARC Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde

Goodreads: What the Other Three Don’t Know
Publish date: 03 March 2020
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Will I still be loved if I show people who I really am?
Four high school seniors. Four secrets about to be told.

If Indie had it her way, she would never choose to river raft with three other high school seniors, mostly strangers to each other, from her journalism class.

A loner, a jock, an outsider, an Instagram influencer. At first they can’t see anything that they have in common. As the trip unfolds, the unpredictable river forces them to rely on each other. Social masks start to fall as, one-by-one, each teen reveals a deep secret the other three don’t know.

One is harboring immense grief and unwilling to forgive after the death of a loved one. One is dealing with a new disability and an uncertain future. One is fearful of the repercussions of coming out. One is hiding behind a carefully curated “perfect” image on Instagram.

Before they get to the end of Hells Canyon, they’ll know the truth about each other and, more importantly, learn something new about themselves.

I requested this book because of the strong Breakfast Club vibes that I got from the synopsis but I was a little underwhelmed by the story. I really appreciated the author’s note at the start but I found it difficult to connect with the characters and I wasn’t all too sure about how I felt about the writing style.

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Nils: The Tree of Life by Jerome Hamon – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Nils: The Tree of Life
Publish date: 11 February 2020
Publisher: Magnetic Press/Diamond Book Distributors
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Panda Rating:

A dystopic Nordic fantasy world, where spirits of light are the key to life, but seemingly have abandoned the world. Young Nils and his father set out to discover why the ground has grown infertile, heading north where the drought seems worse to find the cause. Far along the way, they find signs of fresh and vibrant life, caretaken by these little light spirits. But before they know it, a large metal creature arrives and attacks the creatures, apparently hunting and gathering them.

From out of the woods, a woman attacks the creature, bringing it to its knees… apparently the plant was bait for the spirits, which in turn were bait for the metal creature, which serves the high-tech Cyan Nation. This huntress, named Alba, takes Nils and his father into their tribe, where the battle between the shamanistic people and the Cyan Nation is paramount, a battle over the protection vs exploitation of the light spirits power…

Meanwhile, three goddesses watch these events, lamenting the fact that man had abandoned all belief in their power long ago. They watch but do not intervene, despite the fact that the spirits are being harvested en masse by the Cyan Nation, wreaking ruin on the world outside their city. Realizing that this conflict will in one way or another change the very fabric of this world, they slowly begin to intervene…

As they continue their travels, Nils has a dream (seeded by one of the goddesses) about the World Tree, Yggdrasil, which is being consumed by a metal plague. He knows he must now find and save the tree, and in the process, save the world. But the high council of the Cyan Nation would have otherwise…

Having been separated in their quest, Nils’s father finds himself a guest of the Cyan Prince, where he learns that they do indeed understand the power of the spirits, which they call Ethernum, serving as the power source for their technological advancement. More sinister than that, however, is the fact that they’ve used the Ethernum as a means of near-eternal longevity, having wiped out all competitors to their power and resource long ago. And now, they believe they have unlocked the secrets for using the Ethernum to revive the dead…

And for the goddesses, that is a step too far. They intervene, but in the process find one of themselves surprisingly captured by the Cyan royalty… and then killed. The remaining two goddesses are torn by this affront. One vows to wipe mankind off the planet for good, while the other goes to help Nils save the Life Tree.

High fantasy adventure combining science-fiction with pseudo-spiritual magic, posing dramatic examinations of man vs nature, life vs death, fact vs faith, and man’s desire to play god.

This was an interesting graphic novel that had a fascinating mix of Nordic mythology and fantasy elements that shared a story about a dying earth due to corruption, exploitation of resources, and the troubled Goddesses that are affected by the effects of human greed and technological advancement.

I enjoyed how Nils started but as more elements of the story were introduced I became confused with the direction it was going but also the erratic flow of scenes towards the middle and end. There were many scene jumps that made the climax feel disjointed and since there was a lot of action in these parts, it only left me feeling confused with everything that was going on. I did go back to re-read scenes in case I missed anything but I still didn’t get the clarity I was looking for. I had plenty of questions about the whole world and the characters in it — Nils, the goddesses, the Cyan nation and how it came to be, and Alba’s tribe of women hunters and how they survived. I wish that these elements were better explained so that we could have a better understanding of the story. There was also some romantic notions that were hinted at between one of the goddesses towards Nils which seemed unnecessary and didn’t make me feel more sympathetic towards her fight to save him and human kind. It honestly creeped me out a little bit lol…

That said, the artwork is simply stunning and it’s what made me want to continue reading despite not fully understanding what was going on in the storyline. The color palette was well chosen and really reflected the ‘cold tundra’/Nordic feel alongside dying nature and technologically advanced city vibes that the story presented. The details were wonderful and I loved the distinctive look of all the different characters. There were some illustrations, particularly to do with nature and the spirits, that really gave me Princess Mononoke / Miyazaki vibes and I loved it!

While Nils had an interesting and promising premise it unfortunately didn’t follow through for me. The artwork was beautiful and I’d love to see more graphic novels illustrated by this artist however, I wish that the storyline had been more clear and easy to follow/understand!

Thanks to NetGalley and Magnetic Press/Diamond Books Distributor for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This graphic novel is out 11 February 2020.
Have you read Nils: The Tree of Life or is it on your TBR?

How to Build A Heart by Maria Padian – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: How to Build A Heart
Publish date: 28 January 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Panda Rating:

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

There were elements to this that I really enjoyed and really didn’t enjoy. The start hooked me in quickly but around the 30% mark I started to struggle with our main character Izzy, and I found myself only wanting to read the story in small doses. I’m glad I pushed through though because I ended up really liking the new characters that were introduced further on, and most importantly how Izzy’s story ended. I obviously knew that this book wouldn’t have an unhappy ending but it was, for the most part, a very satisfying end to a story full of teenage angst and struggles. Padian delivered a sincere story about family, friendships, finding yourself and understanding where your heart belongs. Some content warnings include: (cyber) bullying, depression, racism, and physical abuse.

Surprisingly, what I enjoyed the least was the portrayal of one of the main friendships. Also, the character that I started out liking the most, ended up being the character I felt most frustrated towards for the majority of the story, and unfortunately that was our MC, Izzy. To me it was clear as day from early on how Izzy’s actions would spiral and end up exploding into exactly what happened in the story, and it filled me with such angst. I couldn’t help wanting to shake sense into Izzy and to tell her to stop lying and digging an even bigger hole for herself. I didn’t like Roz at the start and thought she wasn’t a great influence but I also felt that her character deserved better considering that she also didn’t have it easy (something that even Izzy attested to). While I’m not saying what Roz did in the story was okay, I really didn’t like how Izzy ended up treating their friendship; especially as she claimed Roz was the only one who knew the truth about her and was the only person that understood the “real” her. Although their friendship was more or less mended at the end, I personally didn’t think it was a very satisfying resolution and I felt that Roz deserved better than Izzy’s lack of apology and brushing over for her own selfish reasons.

That said, I thought the cultural representation was very well done. That’s the aspect I related to the most in the story and it’s the reason why I requested it in the first place. I appreciated the author’s note at the start about how she came to write this story and how much of her own experiences went into forming Izzy’s character and relationship with her mixed heritage. Although I’m not of mixed heritage, growing up outside of my own country made it difficult for me to connect and relate to a lot my Indonesian heritage and extended family. Izzy’s limited understanding of her Puerto Rican heritage and the language was a struggle that hit close to home. The most satisfying part of ‘How to Build A Heart’ was the growth that Izzy experienced in regards to her identity and when she finally stood proud of who she is.

I also have to mention that there were some really great side characters like Mark and Betts who I adored, not to mention the warmth of the Shackleton family, and the rallying support behind the Habitat for Humanity house building. There were only a few Habitat scenes and they were mostly at the end but they filled me up with such warmth and happiness. I used to volunteer for Habitat in high school and it’s such a truly rewarding experience!

The more I let this story sink in the more satisfied I am with how it went. There was a lot more depth in many aspects of the story than I expected and it was such a pleasant surprise. Yes, Izzy made some very questionable decisions throughout but then again I have to remind myself that she’s a teenager. and I’m certainly no stranger to making similarly bad decisions when I was her age (and even when older–oops)! It’s all a part of growing up and her character certainly did that at the end. I think many young adults who read this will be able to relate to and enjoy it!

Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available!
Have you read How to Build A Heart? Is it on your TBR?

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Publish date: 21 January 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Mystery & Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Panda Rating:

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

Bitter Falls is just as intense and action packed as the first three books in the Stillhouse Lake series. Once again we’re swept up in a high-stakes thrilling drama as Gwen and her family face harassment from a town that shuns them, harrowing messages from trolls that want to see them grievously harmed, and getting caught in the cross-fires of the latest case that Gwen has been assigned in her new job. I’ve been a big fan of this series ever since I read the first book and I’ve truly come to appreciate all the main characters (Gwen, Sam, Lanny and Connor), as well as the recurring side characters in the series (Javi, Kezia, Agent Lustig etc.)

Continue reading “Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine – #eARC #BookReview”

Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo by Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo
Publish date: 11 April 2017
Publisher: UDON Entertainment
Genre: Graphic Novel, Classic Literature
Panda Rating:

A Conspiracy and a miscarriage of justice turn the gentle Edmond Dantès into an implacable agent of fate: The Count of Monte Cristo . Obsessed by vengeance and empowered by providence, the Count avenges himself on whose who have wronged him – but is this justice, or is this hubris? In the end, does even the Count know? Alexandre Dumas’ skillful narrative combines intrigue, betrayal, and triumphant revenge into a powerful conflict between good and evil. Now this exciting saga, rich and diverse, takes on an entirely new life in this Manga Classics adaptation!

The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic that I’ve been meaning to read but have always been too intimidated to actually pick up, so when I saw this manga I immediately jumped on it! Surprisingly I realised I knew very little of the story when I started reading it and since I haven’t read the novel I also can’t attest to how well the manga actually adopts the classic. I do however know that it’s a fairly chunky text and I have no doubt that it has some very complex plot lines and in-depth character studies. Based on that, I think that the adaptors did an amazing job in condensing everything into a more simplified text. It took me a couple of hours to read this 400 page manga while I’m sure it’d probably take me one month+ to finish the original!

Continue reading “Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo by Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview”

Doctor Mirage (2019) by Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Doctor Mirage (2019)
Publish date: 18 February 2020
Publisher: Diamond Books Distributor/Valiant Entertainment
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Superhero
Panda Rating:

How do you solve the case of your own death?

Paranormal expert Doctor Shan Fong Mirage was born with the ability to see and speak to the dead—an ability that has mysteriously stopped working. Have her powers failed or is something far more sinister at work? Will she figure out her fate and the fate of the one she loves the most? Valiant’s gripping supernatural mystery starts here!

A brand-new DOCTOR MIRAGE series conjured by Eisner Award-nominated writer Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio (Eternity Girl), artist Nick Robles (Euthanauts), Eisner Award-nominated colorist Jordie Bellaire (The Vision), and letterer Dave Sharpe (Harley Quinn)!

I admit to requesting this book based solely on the cover alone. The name “Doctor Mirage” rang a small bell but I actually haven’t read superhero comics, so I can’t speak to how differently or how well her character is portrayed in this new comic compared to previous ones. I will say that I really enjoyed it though!

Continue reading “Doctor Mirage (2019) by Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview”