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”

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.

Continue reading “eARC Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde”

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”

December Monthly Wrap Up!

Oh what a month December turned out to be! With the end of the year activities at work combined with family flying in for the holidays, and my sister staying with me, there turned out to be a lot less time to read than I anticipated. Silly me for thinking I’d have more quiet time this month 😅 Now that everyone is on their way home, I’m back alone at my place and although I still feel slightly frazzled, I can also tell that my mind is calming down some. With that, I managed to read 17 books in December.

Continue reading “December Monthly Wrap Up!”

Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Trophy Life
Publish date: 09 April 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

For the last ten years, Agnes Parsons’s biggest challenge has been juggling yoga classes and lunch dates. Her Santa Monica house staff takes care of everything, leaving Agnes to focus on her trophy-wife responsibilities: look perfect, adore her older husband, and wear terribly expensive (if uncomfortable) underwear.

When her husband disappears, leaving Agnes and their infant daughter with no money, no home, and no staff, she is forced to move across the country, where she lands a job teaching at an all-boys boarding school in the Bronx. So long, organic quinoa bowls and sunshine-filled California life. Hello, processed food, pest-infested house, and twelve-year-old-boy humor—all day, every day.

But it’s in this place of second chances (and giant bugs), where Agnes is unexpectedly forced to take care of herself and her daughter, where she finds out the kind of woman she can be. Ultimately, she has to decide if she prefers the woman and mother she has become…or the trophy life she left behind.

This was slow to start and was a little difficult to get into at first but once the story got rolling, I found the ‘light and fluffy’ contemporary I expected. I didn’t find it very surprising or different to anything that I’ve read in women’s fiction before though. For some reason (probably based on the cover) I might have thought the story and characters would be more comedic, but it was still an enjoyable and entertaining enough read.

Continue reading “Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview”

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Publish date: 29 October 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But…

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.
She just needs to learn to listen to it…

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae was a heartwarming (no pun intended) story about health, family, friendship, love, grief and quite simply ‘adulting’. Ailsa was born with a heart condition which meant that for most of her life she was too ill to really live. She wasn’t completely unexperienced and sheltered although she missed out on a lot of the ‘normal things’ that kids, teenagers and young adults experienced because her heart and body simply couldn’t handle it. She started to blog about her ‘blue heart’ and what her life was like as she waited for a transplant, until she finally gets the new heart she has literally been waiting for her whole life. It’s not a fast paced read and while there’s a lot of changes that happen, it’s not a larger-than-life miracle story either. It’s set in Edinburgh and as you might know by now it’s one of my favourite places! The author really made the city come to life and I could practically feel myself navigating the streets alongside Ailsa and it was such a wonderful feeling!

Continue reading “The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland – #eARC #BookReview”

#TopTenTuesday: Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With

It’s that time of the week again, friends! We’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is: book characters I’d love to be besties with (submitted by Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Blog). Fun! There are so many bookish characters that I’d love to be besties with, but these are the first ones that popped into my head!

Tanner Scott from Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Tanner is one of the ultimate cinnamon rolls and I think being besties with him would be so awesome. Not only is he a reader (and a writer, duh), but he’s funny, sweet and so caring.

Elisabeth, Nathaniel and Silas from Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I know I should probably just pick one of these characters, but honestly, they’re like the Three Musketeers and I can’t imagine being besties with one without expecting to become besties with the others too! I love these characters so much!

Hannah Martin from Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hannah Martin is just like me in so many ways. I think we’d be able to relate on so many levels.

Jessica Pan, author of Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come
Jessica Pan is a real person but she’s featured in her memoir, which I loved, so this totally counts, right? Honestly, I’d love to be besties with Jessica Pan because not only is she absolutely hilarious but I feel like we’d get on well because we’re both (sh)introverts and going through a lot of similar things people in their early 30s go through? Lol I’m not tryna be creepy though 🙈

Hazel from Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Hazel is hands down one of the most hilarious and unapologetic characters I’ve had the pleasure to read. She’s loud, she’s clumsy, she’s always into doing her own thing, even when everyone else thinks it’s weird, but she does it anyway. I think we’d have the best time hanging out!

Mateo Torrez from They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera
Mateo is so freaking pure. He’s so selfless and I just want to protect him at all costs. What better way to do that than by being his bestie!?

Knightly Brothers from That Second Chance (Getting Lucky #1) by Meghan Quinn
As much as I’d love to find myself in a relationship with either one of these amazing brothers who believe in a crazy love curse, I also really love their very different personalities and their hilarious banter. Although I’d probably get teased and pranked to no end, they’d be so much fun to hang with!

Lois Clary from Sourdough by Robin Sloan
I really love how passionate Lois is about everything and I admire how she dives into even the most unprecedented things and fights her way through to the other side. She’s so full of life and energy, plus she makes a really mean sourdough! We’d have awesome adventures in San Francisco!

The Illuminae Files Gang from The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Um, do I really need to have a reason why being besties with ALL OF THEM would be so fun? I love all their personalities and I mean, tbh, if I were going to be living in space, and finding myself fighting crazy battles for survival, these are the people I’d trust to keep me safe lol

Raymond from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I loved Raymond so much. He has the biggest heart and to be honest, he kind of reminds me of a bestie I lost several years ago to a horrible freak accident. I think being besties with Raymond would bring so much warmth and comfort into my life.

What characters would you want to be besties with? Would you wanna be friends with any of these characters? If you’ve also done a TTT for today, don’t forget to leave your links in the comment and let’s chat 🙂

#TopTenTuesday: Cover (Re)Designs I Love/Hate

It’s that time of the week again, friends! We’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is: cover redesigns I’ve loved/hated. Okay, I admittedly struggled with this one because I realized that I’m actually not very aware of what book covers have been redesigned. Are different editions of books considered cover re-designs? Like, international vs US vs UK editions? I’m still not very clear on it but I’ve made a list of some covers that I’ve loved and hated. I think most of the time when a cover changes I’m pretty okay with it, although sometimes, I’m disappointed that the original covers get pulled and we mere mortals won’t ever have the chance to get our hands on it without kissing our monies goodbye! *drama*

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
I know that a lot of people have commented that they like the original cover so much more, but I actually really like the redesigned cover more. I think this is mostly because of the colors!

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
I like the cover redesign so much better than the original cover. It’s just honestly so much more bad ass and fitting of the fierce killer character that Celaena is introduced as!

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman
This one also has a different name: The Golden Compass but I prefer The Northern Lights name and cover much more. There are so many versions of both titles but I think these are my two favorites!

Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab
One of my biggest book related regrets is not buying that original/first edition cover of Vicious before the series became popular. I don’t know why I didn’t do it, but I was a silly duck. I do love the editions that I have now, but the details in the first edition are awesome and if I were to buy one now, I’d have to sell an arm, leg and liver for it (probz, you know) 😅

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
This probably doesn’t count but I’m making it count because I’ve only been able to find the movie cover locally and I don’t know why they’d ever change it. That first cover is gorgeous!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor
I don’t know what to say about that cover with the mask except I really hate it. I also hate that it was actually the redesign? Or is it just the the US edition? Whichever it is, I’m really not here for it lol

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
While I don’t dislike the cover with all the hearts on it, the colors are beautiful and stand out, but I like the simple cover with the girl on the front so much more.

The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handmaid’s Tale #1) by Margaret Atwood
I actually do love the original cover, but I don’t hate the cover of the modern vintage edition.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir
I actually don’t mind both covers although I do love the redesign because I love seeing the characters’ on the front and I love seeing how they change through the rest of the book covers!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling
Obviously depending on where you’re from and what edition you’re reading, it’s also The Philosopher’s Stone! The HP books have gone through so many cover redesigns/editions but the ones I will always love most are the first (US) ones. It takes me back to my childhood and I’m not so much a fan of the newer editions (sorry not sorry)!

Do you like cover redesigns or different cover editions? Are any of the ones you’ve liked/hated on this list too? If you’ve also done a TTT for today, don’t forget to leave your links in the comment and let’s chat 🙂