Blog Tour Review: Coming Back by Jessi Zabarsky

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Coming Back by Jessi Zabarsky.
Special thanks to Random House Graphic for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Coming Back
Publisher: Random House Graphic
Publication Date: 18 January 2022
Genre: Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

A beautiful graphic novel fantasy romance that follows two young women who have to go on their own separate adventures to discover the truth about themselves and about each other.

Preet is magic.
Valissa is not.

Everyone in their village has magic in their bones, and Preet is the strongest of them all. Without any power of her own, how can Valissa ever be worthy of Preet’s love? When their home is attacked, Valissa has a chance to prove herself, but that means leaving Preet behind. On her own for the first time Preet breaks the village’s most sacred laws, and is rejected from the only home she’s ever known and sent into a new world.

Divided by different paths, insecurities, and distance, will Valissa and Preet be able to find their way back to each other?

A beautiful story of two young women who are so focused on proving they’re meant to be together that they end up hurting each other in the process. This gorgeous graphic novel is an LGTBQ+ romance about young love and how it can grow into something strong no matter what obstacles get in the way.

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Book Review: King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair

Goodreads: King of Battle and Blood (Adrian X Isolde #1)
Published: 30 November 2021
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Romantasy)

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Their Union Is His Revenge.

Isolde de Lara considers her wedding day her death day. To end a years-long war, she is to marry vampire king, Adrian Aleksandr Vasiliev, and kill him. ⠀

But her assassination attempt is thwarted and Adrian threatens that if Isolde tries kill him again, he will raise her as the undead. Faced with the possibility of becoming the thing she hates most, Isolde seeks other ways to defy him and survive the brutal vampire court. ⠀

Except it isn’t the court she fears most—it’s Adrain. Despite their undeniable chemistry, she wonders why the king——fierce, savage, merciless—chose her as consort. ⠀

The answer will shatter her world. 

TL;DR: If you love vampires, witches, and other paranormal creatures, a fantasy world full of political intrigue and backstabbing drama, and an extremely steamy but nonetheless swoony romance between fated lovers, then I would recommend checking this one out! This was strongly reminiscent of JLA’s From Blood and Ash books with the same addicting qualities to it but I personally enjoyed my reading experience of this one so much more (take that as you will but pls no attack lol)! 😂

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Book Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Goodreads: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Published: 08 June 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

TL;DR: I started off really enjoying this fantastical world that’s richly infused with magic and folklore, not to mention being very excited about the enemies-to-lovers romance that I’ve been hearing all about. Sadly, I found myself losing steam thanks to the erratic pacing, plus I also found it difficult to connect to and care about our main characters—which meant that although there were some swoony moments between Gáspár and Évike, I didn’t end up being blown away by their chemistry or romance. No one’s more disappointed than I am that I didn’t enjoy this one more because I was absolutely ready to love this and thought I’d be kicking off my 2022 with a banging 5-star read. 😮‍💨 Still, I’m glad that I gave it a try; I didn’t dislike it but if I’m honest, I feel kind of meh about it.

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Blog Tour Review: Crushing by Sophie Burrows

🥳 Happy Pub Day to Crushing! 🥳

Special thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to be on the blog tour and for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Crushing
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: 11 January 2022
Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

She’s lonely and searching for a connection. He’s lonely and afraid to reach out.
Life in the big city means being surrounded by connections—making them, missing them, and longing for them. But is finding someone else really the answer to their problems?

Crushing, the stunning debut graphic novel from Sophie Burrows, is a story told in silence; a story without words but bursting with meaning; a story about loneliness and love.

Achingly beautiful, quietly defiant, and full of subtle wit and wisdom, Crushing is a unique meditation on the human condition in the twenty-first century, and a timely examination of young adult life in an age of isolation
.

buy a copy

Sophie Burrows is an award winning British writer, illustrator and comics creator. Inspired by the everyday, she loves to tell stories which explore themes of human behaviour, mental health and relationships. In 2019 she graduated from the MA in Children’s Book Illustration course at Cambridge School of Art, and subsequently won Student Illustrator of the Year 2019 at the V&A Illustration Awards.

Her first picture book as writer/illustrator, Ig Pig and Og Frog! was released in 2020, and her debut graphic novel, Crushing , publishes in 2021. Alongside her illustration, Sophie is also an associate lecturer and teaches on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.

Sophie lives and works in London with her partner Daniel. Besides drawing, she also loves to cook, and enjoys being creative in the kitchen. She is an avid music lover, and often spends her spare time watching live music and going to festivals. 

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TL;DR: Crushing is a graphic novel that I think will resonate with many of us because we’ve all felt loneliness and do feel lonely, especially since the pandemic. The artwork was simple, beautiful and vibrant with pops of red amidst the black and white, and the style complemented the quietness of the story very well. There was no plot but we follow the lives of our two protagonists as they navigate their everyday situations, searching for opportunities and connections, and it was simply so relatable. There may not be a happy ever after just yet but it’s certainly a hopeful new beginning! 🥰

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ARC Review: The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev

Special thanks to Amazon Original Stories for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: The Wedding Setup
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Published: 11 January 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

TL;DR: I’m honestly a little disappointed (in myself) that I haven’t picked up anything by Sonali Dev until this short story because I loved everything about this second-chance romance with hilarious and well-intentioned meddling BFFs, mothers, and aunties. Dev’s writing is humorous, heartfelt, and packed with emotion, and her characters were realistic and relatable. If this short story is a good indication of what her full-length romances are like then I’ve definitely been missing out and I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Dev’s books asap!

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December 2021 Monthly Wrap Up

Happy New Year, friends! 🥳

I can’t believe that it’s already the last day of December as I write this. How quickly time does fly! I’ve spent my month in Bali reunited with the parents in our newly renovated home. My sister has been with me and my brother recently joined us and for the first time in a very long time, it’s the five of us under one roof again. It’s been a little… overwhelming at times (lol) but it’s also been nice! 😊 We’ve been really lucky that the sun has been shining more than it has been raining which gives us time to soak up some vitamin D after a year stuck indoors.

This month was also my last month of work and… It was a bittersweet moment. Five years of my life with this organisation and its been tough a lot of the time but I know I’ve been lucky to have a well-paying job that allowed me to indulge in my pretty expensive love of books (especially pretty special edition ones)! 😂 Let’s hope 2022 brings something good my way on the employment front.

I ended up reading 26 books in December and all of them were romances. I’m not usually as a seasonal reader but apparently holiday romances have been my thing this month and I’m not mad about it at all! For the most part, I enjoyed most of the ones I read but there were a few duds that weren’t my jam or ended up being a let down (for me). I think this might be the most I’ve read out of any month this year and what a great way to end 2021, especially considering how weird my reading mood has been all year!

In terms of favourites, this month saw me reading two of my favourites for the year: The Love Hypothesis and Battle Royal! I loved these books so much and both book couples are some of my new favourites. There are so many feel good and swoontastic moments in these books and I can’t stop gushing about them! 😍

The Love Hypothesis

Battle Royal

Continue reading “December 2021 Monthly Wrap Up”

Mini-Reviews: Steamy Holiday Romances

I’m not much of a seasonal reader but the holiday romances have really worked for me this particular holiday season! Having spent the majority of my life living in the tropics, with a few years here and there in countries with four seasons, I actually do miss the cold weather and these reads have allowed me to immerse myself in both holiday cheer and snowy settings.

Dipped in Holly by Dana Isaly

Goodreads: Dipped in Holly
Publication Date: 17 December 2021
Genre:
Contemporary Romance, Erotica

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Holly was just dumped.
Less than a week before Christmas. In public. Dressed as a slutty Mrs. Claus.
All she wants is to hide in the bathroom and have a breakdown in peace.
But the Silver Fox who owns the bar has other plans.

The moment Nick takes in Holly’s grey eyes and sassy attitude, he’s hooked.
There’s no denying the attraction that has sparked between them.
And when that tension finally snaps, he finds himself taking Holly to bed.
A kinky one night stand later, and they’re left questioning if it was enough.

Continue reading “Mini-Reviews: Steamy Holiday Romances”

Book Review: The Plight Before Christmas by Kate Stewart

Goodreads: The Plight Before Christmas
Published: 19 December 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Clark Griswold was onto something, at least with his annual holiday meltdown. And since the last three weeks of my life have been riddled with humbug—another breakup, a broken toe, an office promotion I deserved and didn’t get—I’m not at all in the mood to celebrate nor have the happ, happ, happiest Christmas EVER.

When Mom insisted that we all gather at my Grandparent’s ancient cabin for an old school family Christmas, I fully intended to get into the holiday spirit with the help of the three wise men, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, and Jim Beam. But those boys did absolutely nothing to offset the shock or temper the sting of seeing my EX on our doorstep the first day of our holiday soiree.

Apparently, Santa missed the memo, and this elf is pissed.
Stuck for a week with the man who obliterated my heart nearly two decades ago, I did the only thing I could do and put on my game face, thankful for the home advantage.

I knew better than to drink that last cup of eggnog.
I knew better than to get tongue tangled beneath the mistletoe with the only man to ever break my heart.
I knew better than to sleep with Satan’s wingman on the eve of the Lord’s birthday.

I could blame the nog. I could blame the deceitful light blue eyes, thick, angelic hair, and panty evaporating smirk…but mostly, I blame Eli because he always knew exactly which of my buttons to push.

I foolishly thought a family Christmas filled with nostalgia was going to turn my inner Scrooge around, but this year’s festivities went up in flames. Leave it to the ghost of my Christmas past to be the one to light the match.

Fa la la la la, la FML. 

TL;DR: It admittedly took me a little while to get into the story but I ended up really enjoying the Christmas vibes, the Collins family, the sibling relationships, and following along with Eli and Whitney’s second-chance romance after a gut-wrenching heartbreak and 17 years apart. This ended up being a bit more serious than I expected (CW/TW below) but the story was well-balanced with light-hearted moments of cheeky banter, swoony romance and steamy moments.

CW/TW: recounting of terminal illness (cancer), parental death, anxiety

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Book Review: Homecoming King by Penny Reid

Goodreads: Homecoming King (Three Kings #1)
Publisher: Cipher-Naught
Published: 14 December 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Rex “TW” McMurtry’s perpetual single-hood wouldn’t bother him so much if all his ex-girlfriends didn’t keep marrying the very next person they dated, especially when so many of those grooms are his closest friends. He may be a pro-football defensive end for the Chicago Squalls, but the press only wants to talk about how he’s always a groomsman and never a groom. Rex is sick of being the guy before the husband, and he’s most definitely sick of being the best man at all their weddings.

Bartender Abigail McNerny is the gal-pal, the wing-woman, the she-BFF. She’s dated. Once. And once was more than enough. Privy to all the sad stories of her customers, ‘contentment over commitment’ is her motto, and Abby is convinced no one on earth could ever entice her into a romantic relationship . . . except that one guy she’s loved since preschool.

The guy who just walked into her bar.
The guy who doesn’t recognize her.
The guy who is drunk and needs a ride home.
The guy who has a proposition she should definitely refuse.

TL;DR: This was a delightfully binge-able fake-dating/marriage romance that I had a really hard time putting down. Abby and Rex stole my heart and their romance made me swoon and sigh with happiness! I’m eagerly anticipating the next two books in the series, which I’m assuming will be about Cyrus and Alaric(?) and I absolutely cannot wait 😍

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Book Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Goodreads: The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom #1)
Published: 09 June 2020
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Romantasy)

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is driven by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees.

The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she’s sent as a bride under the guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. And the defenses of its king.

Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. And as her feelings for Aren transform from frosty hostility to fierce passion, Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save… and which kingdom she’ll destroy.

I buddy read this with Julie @ One Book More and I’m so glad because I really needed someone to wail to when shit hit the fan and hit the fan shit really did! 🥺 We loved this first book so much and were so shook by that ending we immediately started the second book!

TL;DR: There’s a lot of hype around this book and it’s definitely for good reason. This was an extremely binge-able read that I had a really hard time putting down. I’d recommend this if you enjoy romantasy, but more specifically: vivid fantasy worlds, slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance, a plot full of deception and heart-pounding action, and a romantasy couple that will have your heart swooning with happiness and weeping with angst.

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