The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent Vol. 1 by Yuka Tachibana {Manga Review}

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent Vol. 1 by Yuka Tachibana, Fujiazuki (artist), and Yasuyuki Syuri (character design)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: December 8, 2020

Pages: 180

Available: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: Unlimited Power and Infinite Mercy

Living the workaholic life in her mid-20s, Sei never expected she’d be summoned to another world, let alone obtain the power of a living Saint. And she especially didn’t expect to be totally ignored by the locals! While the kingdom desperately needs a hero, it turns out Sei was just the backup option.

Left alone, she explores her newfound powers at the royal Research Institute, unraveling the mysteries of magic potions. As she helps the sick and the dying, her talents reveal themselves. Might Sei be the Saint this world needs after all?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent is an isekai series that follows Sei Nakanashi, a workaholic in her 20’s who gets transported to a fantasy kingdom during a saint summoning ritual, only to be left as the back-up option! She decides to make use of her time crafting potions and improving her talents along the way. Propelled by a charming cast of characters, this is a quiet fantasy manga worth reading!

From the moment I’d read the summary, I knew this isekai would captivate me!! I’m starting to fall in love with these kinds of stories where the mc’s are transported to other worlds, so the fact that this follows someone who possibly gains the abilities of a saint?? How could I not read this!

Sei is very much upset when she is one of two people summoned, only to be completely ignored by the prince with Aria (the other girl) being accepted as the saint. However why was the ritual performed to begin with? Well it turns out that Saints have special abilities to defeat monsters created by miasma, an almost odor or air that makes them form. So, it seems the kingdom is in desperate need of help.

However instead of letting time pass her by, Sei meets Jude in the royal gardens and with her fascination of medicinal herbs, he teaches her more about plants within the kingdom of Salutania and invites her to the Medicinal Flora Research Institute! She decides to stay there for the time being, learning to make potions and even practice magic! As the months pass also she realizes her unique abilities in crafting potions makes them 50x’s more powerful!

Throughout the manga she uses the knowledge gains in potion-making, applying it other areas of her life from cooking to creating beauty products, and even gets a chance to showcase how powerful they are when the kingdom’s knights are attacked. When her special potion even miraculously saves the commander, Albert Hawke, she finds purpose in seeing her work help other people.

The cast of characters truly make this story shine, the dynamics are exactly what you would expect, but its just done in a way where there’s an unexplainable charm. Jude is the supportive best friend teaching Sei everything about potions and Institute, then there’s Director Johan who is there to help when necessary, but also has a *somewhat of a secrecy to him as he’s asked to report anything regarding Sei’s powerful magic to the prime minister. Jude, Johan, the knights, Commander Albert, and her new library friend Liz all recognize her unique talents. There’s just such a nice camaraderie between everyone and it’s wonderful getting to follow Sei’s journey in carving out a space for herself in this new place.

Despite being set in a high-stakes fantasy world, its a very quiet slice of life type of fantasy, which I really appreciate. There’s something about these kinds of stories that just captivate me every time.

Sei is a wonderful protagonist! Although she doesn’t have much experience when it comes to romance and was always focused on work back in Japan, she uses that drive to pursue a new hobby and make friends! By the end however, she realizes she’s still focused on working, so it’s nice to see lots of reflection on why focusing on yourself is so important. Overall it’s fantastic seeing an isekai heroine in her 20’s, with the spotlight on learning more about her own interests. She really is such a relatable main character!

This manga strikes a splendid balance between the great pacing, focus on the magical research, sincerity to the characters, briefly hinting at larger themes many can relate to (putting work or business obligations over oneself), and presenting a delightful story / world you just want to stay immersed in. Such a great escapist fantasy!

There’s also little hints sprinkled in throughout the story that never explicitly state whether she is the true hero or not, however once you reach the end you begin to wonder: Could she be the real saint after all?

I’m so interested in seeing what Sei’s adventure is next and especially as her abilities continue to improve, also the subtle romance with Commander Hawke…the cutest!! Although I love the friendship dynamic with Jude too??

The art style presented such a distinct choice of paneling that highlighted the characters, pacing, and backgrounds really well. Also the FASHION? Seriously Sei’s dress is so pretty. There’s such a unique presentation of the outfits the characters wear, I just want their fancy jackets and dresses in my wardrobe now! But overall, the art’s strength was definitely shown through the character dynamics and expressions.

Overall, there’s nothing I particularly disliked, I guess this just sits at a 4-star rating for me. If anything, perhaps just more details about the world because it’s quite brief in the beginning, although I love the inclusion of research and apothecary in this fantasy setting. Maybe there could have also been a bit more background on the elements of potion-making and potions in general because it was just a lot of fun to learn about!

There’s also an anime adaptation coming later this year and I am just so excited!! 2021 is really the year I’m trying to get back into anime and the wait is getting tough for me…This story is so full of mystery, charm, magic, and that quiet slice-of-life atmosphere that is a very specific niche love of mine, so its no surprise I’m eagerly awaiting the adaptation, add in the magical cooking, potion making, and subtle hints at romance?? The excitement is real

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent is fantastic introduction to a new isekai series! Featuring a slice of life atmosphere, potions, and great character dynamics, the story hints at more magical adventures to come!

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen Review

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions #2)

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Pages: 256

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Cover Artist: Victo Ngai and Esther S. Kim (Jacket Design)

Summary: Los Angeles, 2006. Eighteen-year-old Robert Gorham arrives in L.A. amid the desert heat and the soft buzz of neon. He came alone with one goal: he wants to see the ocean. And Robert always gets what he wants.

At a very young age, Robert discovered he had the unusual ability to make those close to him want whatever he wants. He wanted dessert instead of dinner? His mother served it. He wanted his Frisbee back? His father walked off the roof to bring it to him faster. He wanted to be alone? They both disappeared. Forever.

But things will be different in L.A. He meets a group of strange friends who could help him. Friends who can do things like produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past. They call themselves Unusuals and finally, finally, Robert belongs.

When a tall figure, immune to their powers, discovers them, the first family that Robert has ever wanted is at risk of being destroyed. The only way to keep them all together is to get his powers under control.

But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Neon Darkness is a prequel and origin story to one of the main antagonists of The Bright Sessions podcast, taking place before the events of the show! Set in LA during the early 2000’s this is an introspective novel that explores themes of loneliness, humanity, and consequence through the lens of a character who doesn’t even realize they are turning into a villain. A great addition to The Bright Sessions universe that answers the question: What if the villain of your story is you?

As a long-time listener of TBS, I couldn’t wait to read this book because the main character Robert Gorham (or Damien) is easily one of my favorite villains ever! In this world, there are those with special powers called Atypicals and Damien’s rare ability is that he can impose his want onto others, much so that they essentially do whatever he wants. Over the course of the early seasons within the show he becomes quite a powerful character, interested mainly in furthering his knowledge about other Atpyicals and his own ability. Before diving into my review, I will say this book does mess with the canon of the original podcast a bit, but overall I thought it gave Shippen an interesting way to explore more of this fascinating universe she’s created.

At the age of 13 Robert left his quiet, small town life in Nebraska in search of something more. Over the course of the novel there’s small paragraphs or pages of flashbacks interspersed within the story that slowly begin to fill in the gaps of a situation that caused him to leave, mainly involving his unique powers and his parents, which he refers to as “Them.” At 18, he finds his way to Los Angeles he has a very idealistic view of the city, planning to start over once again in any way he can.

I truly had no worries about how Lauren Shippen would navigate a villain’s POV because within the podcast you know how much care and attention she’s put into these characters. She does a fantastic job at humanizing even the most morally questionable characters, if anything it made me realize why creators are hesitant at crafting stories from villains perspectives. It can be uncomfortable and also frustrating because, as Neon Darkness has shown, everyone is capable of change but not many will choose to act on it.

Robert soon meets a crew of misfits called “Unusuals,” this is a turning point because he’s never met who have abilities like him. Throughout the story he learns more about his own powers, the underlying motivators that compel him to use these abilities, even how the pain and loneliness he feels becomes a pillar for his own selfish behavior.

Damien, we realize, is someone who just wants a family, to be loved, and no longer wander through life alone. So the main story essentially follows him as he hops from place to place around LA, realizes that this rag tag crew could be the new found family he’s been looking for, and how his role in the group is put into jeopardy when a missing friend returns home.

The “Unusuals” comprised of Indah whose a bartender (who can sense the abilities of others though she has no powers of her own), Neon whose a mechanic (she can control electricity), and Marley, a veteran, (who can see into the past) let Damien in and allow him to join in their group over the course of about a year. However, Damien has struggled understanding the dynamics of family, friendship, and he doesn’t realize how the unintentional selfish use his powers to keep this misfit crew together, will be his downfall.

As the Unusuals worry about their friend Blaze, intertwined within the story of Damien’s new LA life, we learn a bit more about a mysterious figure called Isaiah, whose keeping tabs on this group.

While the groups powers are vastly different from his own, Robert/Damien learns more about the potential he has by staying with them and being their friend. Though he genuinely cares about their acceptance and care for him, it’s interesting that despite him wanting a deeper connection with others, he manages to still keep everyone at arms length and still be such a vulnerable character. He’s given quite a few times to see things from a new perspective and reconsider his egotistical attitude, but then the question becomes: Does he really want to change? The further he gets lost in his own head, it makes for an interesting character study into a exploring a villain/antihero who is so deeply human. Shippen has mentioned time after time that she doesn’t describe Damien as a “villain” specifically and through her attention to the craft of character, you see her focus on creating someone who at their core just feels so real.

The plot (while from the outside seeming repetitive) actually presented a normalcy for Robert in ways he hadn’t experienced in a long time, I think that alongside the interactions he has with Indah, Neon, Marley, and later on Blaze, let us readers begin to pinpoint how he there’s a slow, but steady build as he begins to learn about others as a means to have control over any situation he’s in.

This prequel answered questions I had never even considered when listening to the podcast: How does his ability work or feel from his perspective? Where did the name Damien come from? Why did he choose to give into this manipulative/selfish behavior when he has limitless protentional to use his powers for a better purpose?

As a reader you really empathize and sympathize for Robert/Damien, I know I definitely did because I felt like there was finally this understanding as to how his power works from his point-of-view. Additionally, with how Shippen developed his personal journey, it’s joined by the fact that his wants and desires slowly begin to meld within his general consciousness so unintentionally to the point where he can’t even draw the line between what he truly wants vs. what he wants others to want on his behalf. That was one of the most intriguing parts of Robert’s character that no doubt podcast listeners will have a lot of fun learning more about too.

Some interesting scenes that caught my attention which gave me more of a different understanding about his powers was when I began to notice that while he is attempting to connect and be more vulnerable with the people around him, he instead uses his powers to get people to give him the answers he wants to hear as well. So its not just about realizing he can get people to do what he wants, but also he’s in a sense reaffirm or establish his perspective on a situation (if that makes sense)? That was a new side of his ability I’d never even considered which was interesting to learn more about, especially from his perspective.

One of the strongest storylines within this novel is seeing how Robert learns his place in the group as dynamics change, while seeing his reaction/emotional arc become an anchor for his morally questionable behavior. It shows how his power became much stronger and how listeners can learn more about it from his own perspective, but the question remains “what if you are the villain in this story?” Shippen navigates that with such humanity and very specific lens that makes it an interesting read for sure, especially as Damien is such a unique character!

Now to discuss a bit more how the book deviates from the canon of the show: I did notice that some lines feel like they were directly lifted from the podcast (which takes place during 2015-) which I think was a great inclusion because it helped to present some of the bigger questions and themes that we encounter with Damien from the series once he’s in his late 20’s. I also thought it was surprising (maybe disappointing?) that Damien drinks quite a lot in this book. The reason I’m on the fence about that decision is because, the reasoning behind that in the podcast felt like a somewhat important detail that was part of Damien’s character for a reason. There’s a mysterious aura about him in the show and using the canon for a completely original story, gives lots of context. Overall though I think the deviation from canon is both a pro and con. A pro for how it lets fans learn a bit more about TBS universe while not completely following Damien utterly alone for the entirety of the story, giving him an emotional character arc. Yet, a con for how it disregards the little details of his character from the podcast I personally thought were very interesting or important.

There’s also a couple Easter eggs that I fans will really enjoy: A precursor to “Atypicals” being “Unusuals”, the mysterious figure who I think was in reference to The AM (?), even learning about Robert/Damien’s experience with therapy before meeting Dr. Bright. These were just some really fun tidbits that were intriguing to see on page!

The audiobook by the way is fantastic! As you may (or may not know) sometimes an audiobook can be a hit or miss for me, but this easily makes it onto the list of the best as it’s done by the voice actor from the show, Charlie Ian. There’s also a Q&A at the end that gives even more background on how this book interestingly connects with the podcast through an interview with the author.

As for the representation, there’s characters identified as Black (Neon), Muslim and Indonesian background (Indah), and Blaze (Asian). Neon and Indah are also a sapphic couple.

I think if anything my main con is that while Robert’s journey is interesting, it can feel a bit aimless (lots of back and forth between new homes and talks with the Unusuals), it felt like there could have been just a couple more plot threads added in. While this book is very much focused on Damien’s descent into “villainy” as he learns more about himself and his ability, it very much feels like there’s such a specific route for his arc we’re not really left to explore elsewhere within the story either (if that makes sense?). It felt like there could have been more opportunity to explore different layers being presented in the story. The writing is also very character-focused, so the worldbuilding can feel a bit sparse at times. There’s also small paragraphs or pages from the past of Damien/The Unusuals that could have been formatted differently so it doesn’t blend too much with the present storyline.

Surprisingly while reading this book, I came to an interesting realization. Now this is my personal opinion, but I truly believe if you have not listened to the podcast or sepcifically Damien’s episodes, this book and it’s plot will probably not impact you as much. The story and emotional moments of his character arc will be more enjoyable if you learn more about Damien’s character from the show first. So if you are looking to dive into this series [which I highly recommend] I’d say please listen to the wonderful Bright Sessions podcast before doing so and check out these books!

Each of these books follow a different character from the show and I’m interested in seeing what will be the focus for the last book featuring a dreamwalker named Rose. I also recently learned that spin-off series like The AM Archives and College Tapes will be available for free starting this year and I’m just so excited to dive back into this world again (especially as I started relistening to the show again while reading Neon).

A Neon Darkness is the newest addition to the Bright Sessions world, perfect for long-time fans looking to get more background on the series antagonist! Through an exploration of privilege, power, and the nature of connections, this is a book that will make you question the human nature of villains. Shippen has crafted a unique story about the descent into villainy by exploring the past of a beloved character from her podcast. This is a character-driven novel that sheds light on an antagonist shrouded in mystery!

The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera Review

The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Simon Teen)

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Pages: 296

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Cover Artist / Illustrator: Myokard and Lizzy Bromley (Designer)

Summary: THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

My Thoughts: The Education Of Margot Sanchez is a phenomenal YA Contemporary novel that touches on a lot of important topics, while at its core being a compelling coming-of-age story! Margot is stuck working at her family’s supermarket, but learns some much needed life lessons along the way. Lilliam Rivera has become one of my new favorite authors!

I know I just stated it above, but it’s worth repeating: Lilliam Rivera is truly a new favorite author! Despite the myriad of Young Adult Contemporary novels out there, Margot’s story is a unique one of reflection, growth, and with a focus on family. This novel captured my heart in many ways (much anticipated), but has also left me continuing to think (close to a month after reading). I knew from the summary alone she would be a new favorite author, but wow the themes and realistic character growth exhibited in this novel makes me want to read the rest of her books asap!

After using her father’s credit card, Margot is grounded for the summer and has to work at her family’s supermarket, Sanchez & Sons, to pay off her debts. However, she’d rather be somewhere else, like the sunny Hamptons with her closest friends from Somerset Prep, Serena and Camille, but also her crush Nick. From page 1, you can sympathize with Margot, her annoyance and frustration at her break being taken from her. She powers through the tedious jobs her father assigns (like stacking shelves, slicing deli meats) and yet her friends, despite being a phone call away, feel further than ever.

Trying to adjust to the 10 weeks of work she’ll have to endure, she soon meets Moises, a community activist who sets up a stand near the market and despite not being sure how she feels about him, they spend more time together, and soon she realizes she now has to navigate her complex feelings for him too. But there’s an underlying thread between him and Margot’s older brother Junior that slowly develops throughout the story.

Margot and Moises’s dynamic was so wholesome? Despite him being obvious that he’s interested, Moises is kind and offers Margot a much needed break from her family, but also time when she needs to figure things out for herself. I loved that he also showed her the importance of being there for your community and his work to support the local apartment complex being impacted by gentrification.

From the very beginning I loved reading from Margot’s perspective, there’s such a genuine voice to her despite her flaws the story presents, she’s a compulsive liar and has trouble being both honest and vulnerable. However, she’s truly just a teen trying to figure out who she is and her place in the world. Throughout the novel she learns lots of lessons about life, the world outside her personal bubble, and connecting more with her family’s business.

Margot finds herself confronting many varying situations regarding her friends and herself, where she slowly begins to realize it means she’ll have to own up to her mistakes and learn to do better. She is such an amazing main character, yes she is flawed in her thinking and perception, but she is growing and realizing what it takes to become the person she wants to be. Her friend Elizabeth, who she’s known for years, is attending an art school and Margot doesn’t have the words to say how distant she feels from her. But throughout the novel Margot begins to see how her new persona at Somerset has changed her in many ways, keeping her from seeing her friends, family, and community from a different perspective. Also delving into the theme of friendship, she learns who truly has her best interests at heart and the people she needs in her life to help her be her best self.

Despite having no interest in the family business, Margot realizes how important it is to her family’s livelihood, the slowly gentrifying community, and ultimately herself. She even learns more about the employees like Jasmine, her passion for music, and many others.

Family is a core element of this story and Rivera navigates through a realistic and complicated lens. There’s lots of love, but also a lack of communication which is delved into as the book progresses. Throughout the story Margot learns more about her father, mother, older brother Junior, but through it all she’s also tackling the machismo/sexist culture displayed by the men in her family. It unknowingly dictates many of their actions towards Margot and rightfully you feel frustrated alongside her seeing the many double-standards and attitudes displayed. Junior and her father are two characters who have much growing to do themselves and despite doing what they believe is in the best interest for Margot, this presents another brilliantly multi-faceted layer of the novel. But, overall it also played an important part in having Margot wonder whether she can be any different. Despite their mistakes, the Sanchez family is struggling to cope with their problems, but there’s hope for solutions if they work together.

The novel delves into core themes that remain present throughout the entire book such as gentrification, family, and especially identity. Margot realizes more about herself and the people around her that allow her to truly open her eyes, which ultimately leads to her accepting herself as she truly is and not hide behind other people’s expectations or her own insecurities. Its such meaningful message that plays an important part for her growth with each page, yet as many of us are, she is still navigating her flaws and accepting them. Gentrification is a major impact on the supermarket as a college is close by and a competing market is close to opening, Margot realizes the impacts this has on the community she’s come to appreciate. I liked seeing her use her pr/social media skills to help the place later on in the novel not only for the market, but also for her friends. Being from Latine background, family is navigated with such nuance and depth in ways that I could really see and understand. Its such a foundational theme that is present in many characters through their actions and reflections.

Being from the Bronx herself, I loved how Rivera made the setting come to life through the atmosphere and descriptions. Additionally as an #ownvoices novel, it features Puerto-Rican rep., following a Puerto-Rican/American main character, and also features an Afro-Latino love interest (Moises).

If anything it did feel like the ending wrapped up a bit quickly, and just as everything is working out for Margot and I just wanted a little bit more. But honestly, that’s because with each page I fell in love with this wonderful story Rivera was telling about a girl who is learning to be herself, do better, and figure everything out. I truly adored this book and I’m looking forward to reading more of Lilliam’s fantastic books. It’s my goal to continue reading backlist books on my physical tbr and it was an absolute joy to have finally picked up this gem.

The Education Of Margot Sanchez is a marvelous contemporary about family, identity, friendship, learning from mistakes, and figuring out where you fit in! Set in the Bronx, Rivera navigates a variety of multi-layered themes and delivers a compelling story about new beginnings featuring a cast of realistic characters who bring the story to life! Margot’s compelling character and the plot filled with meaningful messages makes this a YA Contemporary worth checking out if you have yet to read Lilliam Rivera’s books!

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle Of Spirits by Anna Meriano Review

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle Of Spirits by Anna Meriano (LSM #2)

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Pages: 309

Available Through The Book Depository: A Sprinkle Of Spirits

Cover Artist / Illustrator: Mirelle Ortega

Summary: Leonora Logroño has finally been introduced to her family’s bakery bruja magic—but that doesn’t mean everything is all sugar and spice. Her special power hasn’t shown up yet, her family still won’t let her perform her own spells, and they now act rude every time Caroline comes by to help Leo with her magic training.

She knows that the family magic should be kept secret, but Caroline is her best friend, and she’s been feeling lonely ever since her mom passed away. Why should Leo have to choose between being a good bruja and a good friend?

In the midst of her confusion, Leo wakes up one morning to a startling sight: her dead grandmother, standing in her room, looking as alive as she ever was. Both Leo and her abuela realize this might mean trouble—especially once they discover that Abuela isn’t the only person in town who has been pulled back to life from the other side.

Spirits are popping up all over town, causing all sorts of trouble! Is this Leo’s fault? And can she reverse the spell before it’s too late?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Sprinkle Of Spirits is the magical, utterly charming sequel in the Love Sugar Magic Series! When spirits begin showing up around town, Leo, her family, and friends work together to solve the mystery. Filled with sweetness, adventure, and inspiring messages, this is a heartfelt sequel!

It’s a new year and Leo’s been training more with her family now that the Logroño legacy of bruja magic is no longer kept secret. However, amidst her best friend Caroline’s return from Costa Rica, she’s now finding herself pulled in so many different directions. From her training, family’s expectations, experimenting with magic, and all while feeling like her sisters don’t trust her enough in her bruja skills, Leo is also given these rules about the importance magic and family. This leaves Leo struggling to choose between her family and friends, but also fulfilling her expectations as a bruja.

But at the end of the day, she doesn’t wanna have to pick between family and friends. However, another added pressure arrives when her abuela returns as a spirit and Leo thinks she’s the cause! Luckily with the help of family and friends, she gathers more clues leading her to learn more about the other spirits that crossed over and the consequences if they don’t find their way back!

It was so wonderful being able to return to the Amor y Azucar Panaderia in this sequel! I adore this magical world of Meriano’s series and I couldn’t wait to join Leo on another adventure. You can sense this stress and uncertainty Leo faces in having to make choices, but also with the help of her abuela she learns some solutions in balancing all these different parts of bruja life. Over the course of the story, Leo also further strengthens the dynamic with her sisters, who can be quite secretive and convinced that separating family from friends is what’s best for their magic.

At its core, this series is about family, friendship, and the magic of those relationships. Despite getting caught up in another magical mishap, Leo never falters to get help from those around her when it’s necessary. With Caroline also having lost her mother, this story is also about processing grief and healing as both Leo and Caroline are mending their friendship.

Leo is joined by her older sister Isabel and her Tia Paloma in their quest to not only find all the spirits that crossed over, but also learn how exactly it happened so they can be sent home.

I could literally sense all that pressure of all these different sides of Leo’s life as she’s trying to help the spirits, but despite that there’s this unwavering hope that everything will work out in the end.

The magic system is developed even more throughout this novel as we’re introduced to a new baking spell, Leo’s own magic, the magic of spirits, and all those different layers separating our world from the spirit world. As with the first novel, A Dash Of Trouble, I love how it emphasized the idea of opposites in creating a portal to send the spirits home, sort of like solving a puzzle. There’s also a focus on emotion and how they play a huge part in accessing magic.

Learning about El Otro Lado in relation to our world was developed in such an interesting way. This gave Leo the opportunity to ask questions, talk with her abuela, and learn more about what’s keeping the spirits wandering around Rose Hill. There’s also lots of traveling which makes for a fun adventure and along the way, Leo is learning more about finding that balance in her life.

Messages woven throughout this sequel are such a vital part of the narrative and were developed beautifully with each chapter: The importance of prioritizing all the different relationships in life and finding that balance, relying on those around to help when you need it, learning to accept & let go even when it’s difficult, and much more!

Something that I completely forgot was just how funny this series is? There’s lot lots of humor sprinkled among the cast and that just makes this equal parts magical and humorous. Many moments either from Leo or the other characters just left me smiling. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the series with A Mixture Of Mischief very soon.

A Sprinkle Of Spirits brings readers back to the magic of the Logroño family and a new spooky mystery that needs solving! With friendship, family, alongside humor and deep, meaningful messages of this novel make this such a great sequel!

My fellow book blogger shout out for today is Caro’s review for this delightful sequel! They focus on the impact of Leo’s journey throughout the story and delve into how that adds a new layer to the conversations being explored here, and overall I just love how this review was written. 🍪🕯

Ophiuchus by Ali Leriger De La Plante and Natasha Tara Petrović Review {Graphic Novel}

Ophiuchus by Alexis Leriger de la Plante and Natasha Tara Petrović

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Pages: 144

Available Through The Book Depository: Ophiuchus

Summary: OPHIUCHUS follows the story of the lone sentry of an ancient, inactive gate, until one day, a strange being breaks through and infects her with a virus.

Shortly after, she is approached by two machines, who implore her to follow them to the center of the universe to put an end to the virus, a malevolent being which rots all worlds.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Ophiuchus is a stunningly illustrated graphic novel following a lonely sentry who joins two machines in brining an end to a strange virus infecting the worlds! Presenting a unique color palette and art style, among a page-turning story, this standalone blew me away!

On those rare occasions do you ever find yourself stumbling upon a sf/f read both unique and one-of-a-kind, you find yourself whisked away becoming familiar with this fascinating world only to wonder how it connects with you on some deep level you were never expecting? That’s what it felt like reading Ophiuchus with it’s vibrant colors of pinks, purples, and blues which at it’s heart is about friendship and fighting for a better world.

A lonely sentry guards her Gate among the Mountain Folk keeping it safe from all trespassers. However, when she gets infected with a virus that’s found it’s way through, she meets two other machines who are eager to stop this serpent-like creature that’s attacking and infecting worlds, plus those within them. Hesitant at first, she feels it’s rather reckless to leave her post, but after being convinced by Saggita, one of the machines, she doesn’t hesitate to learn more about what’s beyond.

It takes a leisurely pace despite how fast the story actually goes, but it gives much opportunity to examine the world in peculiar way that actually says quite a lot about the expansive universe as a whole. There’s an array of sub-units and models of machines, tradition, and culture that we barely scratch the surface of due to the virus known as Serpentis that’s infecting the galaxy and taking it away.

Though Saggita and Pyx are close friends at the start of the story, it isn’t until they meet Sentry that we see the distinct personality to each of them shine through as they travel to contain the virus. They build this beautiful friendship and although the story is contained within this single volume, I would not hesitate to buy 100’s more with even more of their adventures. Sentry is very much the awkward misfit in the beginning, but learns to take risks for her friends, especially as she learns she is inherently unaffected by the virus. Saggita is the serious, focused leader of the group whose life has really been impacted because of the serpent. Then there’s Pyx, he’s the quiet, loving, comedic one of the group who you can’t help but love. But all together, these 3 make a phenomenal team and you see their personality shine through even more during the tight-knit moments and even the dynamic action scenes, which are so well done!

What also makes this such a charming read is despite the dark undertones of the story, there’s a humor woven throughout that just adds more depth to who these characters are, I loved them! There’s a scene in particular that’s so memorable because it’s a surprisingly funny moment early on in the story where Sentry is getting ready to leave, says goodbye, and her fellow Mountain Folk never knew she could talk! It’s in those quiet moments that added even more depth to the story.

There’s even motifs that delve into Greek mythology if I’m not mistaken and seeing how it melds with this futuristic space setting was fascinating to see. After revisiting the book again on a reread, I can see how the mythological elements present this story as a sort of Epic, which so clever and made for an even more unique layer to the adventure.

Now the artwork which is utterly stunning, get ready to be wowed! I honestly feel like I could write an entire essay about the art alone. The color palette is composed of subtle pastels such as pink, purples, blues, but as you read further along you notice how they darken or lose saturation, which hints at the more serious moments of the story. There’s a clear focus on geometry throughout the various shapes of the architecture, characters, and scenery that give a gritty sci-fi look despite the mix of warm and cool colors. Where the geometric design stuck out to me, was when I noticed it especially as Saggita talked about the tradition involving a unique square-shaped flower with a neon color to it.

Overall it’s just done in such a unique style making it such a joy to see across each page! Visually stunning in every way. The paneling also varies across every moment of the story, bringing your attention to all these different parts that never fail to stand out.

If anything, I just wish there were more to this story! It ends on a mysterious, but hopeful note and I just was not ready to say goodbye to this delightful trio I was just getting to know. It feels like there a lot more that can be explored about this fascinating space-opera esque/fantasy world. I would literally read an entire series about the many adventures that Saggita, Pyx, and Sentry have (who does in fact have a name). They captured my entire heart even though I’ve met them in this single volume.

This is very much a distinct kind of story that may not meld with everyone, but I utterly adored it from the artwork to the journey and how everything came together, there’s a mysterious quality to this compact story, and with each page it captivated me.

Ophiuchus is a fast-paced science fiction graphic novel that’s about friendship and saving the world! Filled with mystery, a great cast of characters, and gorgeous artwork, it’s a wholly unique story. With humor, action, adventure, and much more, this is a fantastic read!

Nicola Traveling Around The Demons’ World Vol. 1 by Asaya Miyanaga {Manga Review}

Nicola Traveling Around The Demons’ World Volume 1 by Asaya Miyanaga (Nicola Traveling #1)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Pages: 176

Available Through Book Depository & Bookshop: Nicola Traveling Around The Demons World Vol. 1

Summary: A World of Magic and Mischief!

Nicola never really felt like she fit in around other humans…so she came to the demons’ world instead! Together with her demon friend Simon, Nicola travels far and wide, meeting many monsters along the way. With Nicola, every day on the road is a new adventure!

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Nicola Traveling Around The Demons’ World is a charming, whimsical manga series that evokes the feeling of delightful fairytale. Nicola is a young girl who’s embarking on adventures throughout a strange magical world alongside her demon friend and guide. Miyanaga’s series delivers fun adventures, a magical world with so much heart, clever humor, and is entertaining start to finish!

With an expanse of cities and locations across the Demon World, little Nicola travels with her demon friend Simon where they meet new creatures, find adventure wherever they go, and try to avoid trouble if they can help it!

From it’s opening pages, I knew Nicola would be a fantastic start to my reading year of 2021! Told through a series of episodic chapters, each one takes the reader across various locales of the Demon world. From the threads of humor, varying cast of characters, fairytale-esque art style, and underlying yearn for adventure, this title pitched as one for all ages, is a manga that not only younger readers, but also adults will find absolute whimsy in.

The story begins in the bustling city of Klimburg, where human girl Nicola is accompanied by her demon friend / traveling merchant named Simon. While evading guards for discovering Nicola’s “other-worldly”-ness as a human, they race towards another part of town, leading them to the welcoming Black Bazaar (an underground shopping district) to wait out the guards. During their stay, we learn more about the banter and comedic dynamic the two have, which makes this series a true comedic gem!

From the situational humor, fast-paced jokes, and just underlying threads of comedy that reminds me very much of Spy X Family in a way, the wacky situations Simon and Nicola get into make for an utterly entertaining read.

The episodic nature of this series, especially as a fantasy, allows for the expansive world to build in chunks that the reader can connect to previous chapters and yet also not feel bogged down by a longer running plot. The result is a harmonious blend of magic, whimsy, and humor that transports you. Along the way, this first volumes complies messages of friendship, facing the unknown with a laugh or two, and allowing yourself to find whimsy in the world!

In regards to worldbuilding, there’s various cities and locales that show how expansive the Demon world really is. There’s a tavern, a Count’s mansion, whimsical mushroom forest, mysterious hotel, and a bustling district! A sense of wonder follows you through each chapter as Nicola and Simon encounter magic, new creatures, and get lost in whatever adventure they embark on next.

The demon world upon first hearing can sound like a scary place, but Nicola creates a heartfelt, cozy atmosphere where our young protagonist is making herself more at home with each new chapter.

We also get glimpses into Nicola’s past, her grandmother, and the magic her family had as witches in our world. Although I’m very interested in knowing more, the author gives you just enough to see how it plays an important part in this first volume to establish Nicola’s own magical abilities.

One of my favorite chapters because of how it delved into worldbuilding while not feeling too info-dumpy was chapter two: “Hanging Out At The Tavern.” The Poisson Tavern, an oasis for travelers, becomes the setting for a fun competition between Simon and Nicola when he tells her more about the different species of demons. It not only gave a lot of detail about the different kinds of demons, offering more background, but it also served as another comedic look into their dynamic.

Another chapter that presented more of the particular folklore of the setting was chapter four when the duo treks to a quiet forest in search of a rare mushroom. There’s also “After The Visit” chapters giving nice insight into the characters that Nicola and Simon meet once they’ve moved on to a new place.

What also makes this series a stand-out in the fantasy space are the creative monsters and species it’s established, I loved that attention to detail making the world feel much more unique. There’s the gaboorian, fluff monster, and popay species, they each have their own distinct looks as some of the humanoid creatures of the demon world.

As for artwork, to start the use of brown ink instead of the traditional black just further elevates the whimsical and magical quality of this series. Paying more attention to the paneling, the compact and tight use of the panels gives a personal feel to the setting and cast. There’s a rough inky, scratched line detail to the art allowing it to evoke the idea of having that beloved fairytale quality.

Although very brief, the only reason I’m giving this 4 stars is that I personally felt there could have been just a tiny bit more detail for the setting. There’s lots of information introduced here and although that’s mainly due to it’s episodic nature, I would have loved to get more insight into the surrounding areas or particular section of the demon world to get a better scope of how expansive it is. However despite that, this was a such a great start to a new series.

With the variety of mangas out there, I believe this one is pretty underrated. It’s the kind of series that leaves you with a sense of wonder the moment your thrust into the very page! The clever blend of humor and fantasy makes this a series worth checking out, I’m eager to continue and see where our comedic duo heads to next.

Nicola Traveling Around The Demon’s World Vol. 1 spins a delightful comedic, fantasy adventure following the adventures of girl and a demon merchant, who happens to be her friend and guide! An utterly immersive start to magical series. For those who enjoy magical adventures packed with humor and whimsy, don’t miss this series!

The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black Review

The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #3)

Publisher: Little Brown & Company

Release Date: November 19, 2019

Pages: 305

Available Through The Book Depository: The Queen Of Nothing

Summary: He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to. Jude learned that lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now, as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time, determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines, she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And when a terrible curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity….

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Queen Of Nothing is the entertaining conclusion to the Folk Of The Air trilogy! When Jude’s exile is cut short by her sister, she’s given an opportunity to return to Elfhame, confront Cardan, and give it one more shot at her hold for power. Dynamic character arcs, dramatic politics, and more make this a page-turning finale!

As 2020 was coming to a close, I was very undecided on what my final read of the year would be. Then remembering one of my goals was to finish up QON after the gripping sequel that was The Wicked King, it wasn’t surprising at all that as with the previous book, it was read in practically a day. Taking a pause on blogging gave me more time to think about all the things that happened in this finale and while I find these reads to be just pure escapism, still felt there were parts that could’ve been better.

What kept me motivated to finish up Folk Of The Air was not only Jude x Cardan dynamic, but also the fate of Elfhame after Jude’s exile. Though without question, TWK is by far my favorite book in this series.

Jude is barely getting by in the human realm and continuously feeling out of her element, with her sister Vivi and Oak. However, when a quest involving the a former Court fae by the name of Grima Mog offers her the chance to brush up on her strategy / training she’s retained within her since being exiled, she knows she has to find a way back.

Then when her twin sister Taryn gives the perfect opportunity by switching places with her and attempt to pardon her after murdering her husband Locke, she questions whether she should take this chance and risk facing the King of Elfhame, Cardan again.

While seeming rather disjointed and unpredictable early on from Jude’s moments undercover at the Court Of Teeth to her eventual return to the palace, there’s importance to these scenes especially in how Jude’s power as queen and the stakes are confronted later on in the story.

Both a pro and a con of this finale is how sympathetic I felt for the cast, which is supposed to be filled with morally grey / bad fairy folk. When Jude is reunited with her sister again, there’s that moment of fear for Taryn and the feeling of triumph that Jude finally has a way back to Elfhame. When she sits down with Madoc at the Court of Teeth, there’s a sense of understanding in knowing now why Jude and Taryn were brought up so differently with Madoc. However, why this majorly impacts the story is that it takes away from the whole purpose of what I thought this series was meant to be: these are morally bad people and Jude being one of them, we’re still compelled to root for her in her journey to gain power.

In a way our characters felt weirdly out of character. That intense greyish morality and cunning was swapped for this idea that now everyone is just misunderstood. Did I like some of those characters regardless? Absolutely, in the context of the book I enjoyed it, I’m not sure about you but I felt like I finally understood Taryn in this one even Nicasia. However, in general it felt like that mystery of whether characters can be good was just taken away and didn’t seem like it made sense when looking to the series as a whole.

The politics, while not as strong as in The Wicked King, do carry an important weight as we begin to see the impact power, prophecy, and the fae lore has on the future of this world. The division between Elfhame and the mortal world was a much needed addition that brought a nice balance of realism to the fantastical elements of the Folk Of The Air. The way it operates is pretty different than in Elfhame and it was fun to see that introduced.

Next I wanted to talk briefly about the writing. While it does have a fairytale-like quality to it and Black is very clever (in this book especially) with weaving together plot points/ fae’s ability to say things a certain way in order for them to come true later. I feel like it gets me to remember specific scenes, and allowing those important tidbits of info to stick with you. But as a whole, the writing in general doesn’t have much substance to it. It’s very focused on Jude’s internal and emotional thoughts which leaves little to no detail for the setting or building more concrete elements into the world itself.

Okay now onto Cardan and Jude!  The ending of the second book left them off on an interesting twist and no doubt I was invested to see what would happen to them in the finale. Out of all the characters, he was the most interesting and one of my favorites throughout the series. I think their dynamic here was more like an established partnership (which was nice) as their fitting into their roles as king and queen, but I thought that angst and uncertainty wasn’t as strong in this one. While I won’t spoil specific scenes, it felt like a core piece to Jude as a person did a complete 180 in this book because of their roles and established relationship. Again, I didn’t dislike their relationship, but it felt like something was missing here.

The pacing itself is also a bit weird. It’s fast paced at times and yet it felt it like I was stuck at certain spots forever, like the Court Of Teeth and the Madoc stuff near the end. It felt like that sense of urgency to the story wasn’t always there. Also a very random side note, I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this in previous reviews of The Cruel Prince or Wicked King, but overall, don’t really like Bomb, Roach or Ghost…In this book I thought they brought interesting surprises for Jude in the story for sure, but sadly I’m just not the biggest fan of them and honestly could not tell you a single thing about them.

The ending does wrap-up rather quickly, though the build-up towards it felt like forever. Spoiler’s ahead: Probably one of my favorite chapters in the entire book was the throne room stuff near the end, yet I felt like it was bogged down with trying to show Jude become more comfortable in her role as queen on her own. But in general it’s a nice ending so I’ll leave it there. Overall this series was just fun, entertaining, escapism, and I could probably see myself rereading them in the future one day.

The Queen Of Nothing is the conclusion to the Folk Of The Air series! Wrapping up all the loose threads this finale does seem a bit out of place compared to previous books, but overall it’s filled to the brim with politics, intrigue, some romance and is just entertaining all around!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2 by Makoto Hagino {Manga Review}

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow by Matoko Hagino (Tropical Fish #2)

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2

Summary: From the moment they met at the Aquarium Club’s open house, Konatsu has admired Koyuki and treated her like she wasn’t a distant figure on a pedestal. In turn, Koyuki has been open and welcoming to the new girl who stirs her heart.

When the time comes to pick a club, Konatsu chooses the Aquarium Club with Koyuki. And even though it’s just the two of them, they manage to host a successful open house. What’s next for Koyuki and Konatsu, now that the shared experience has deepened the bond between them?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2 follows Konatsu and Koyuki as the story builds on their wholesome friendship and navigates their introspective feelings as they continue to deepen their bond! This character-driven, page-turning story is propelled by the girls start to summer vacation with much on their minds. A quiet, slice-of-life manga sure to captivate!

Without a doubt after falling completely in love with Tropical Fish Vol. 1 I had to continue this series! There’s a poetic beauty to it as new girl in town Konatsu and aquarium club leader Koyuki find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other, like a wave upon a shore. They both are navigating this underlying loneliness, their feelings for one another and in this volume, keep each other in their thoughts.

As the aquarium open house comes to a close, Konatsu worries about her well-being as Koyuki, in reality, is trying to keep her feelings hidden. Konatsu, in her pursuit to help during the open house, is told from Koyuki’s father that the best she can do is just be there for her (the frog/salamander bread scene was too wholesome).

Unsure of how to communicate her complex feelings about Konatsu, Koyuki seems to struggle to further strengthen their friendship in the beginning, which leads to some moments of miscommunication between them. However, Koyuki takes the chance to invite Konatsu during their summer break to Aoshima (aka Nekojima / Cat Island) for a club trip, with much anxiety about asking for her number too! That led to this very funny line that I just have to share from Konatsu: “I’d call her anytime…but I don’t actually know her number!!!” (52).

During the trip, they go fishing, get caught in the rain, have some longing glances, and run into lots of cats! It was a very sweet chapter seeing them together and it just warmed my heart. I was very much just along for the ride in this volume and loved how every moment they have together (or apart), carries so much depth to each scene.

As the Summer Festival approaches, Koyuki struggles with the guilt of trying to ask Konatsu while not wanting to be unfair to those she turned down before. This leads to her assuming that because Konatsu and Kaede hung out, she’s no longer available. Although this volume leaned towards some miscommunication, this series adds more to it by navigating their girls reflections or inner dialogue as their feelings drive a particular scene.

Kaede is another character who gets a little more development too which I loved! In fact, I adore this main girl squad and can’t wait to see their friendship continue to grow. She’s very bubbly, outgoing, a bit blunt at times, however she’s always there to lend an ear. When Konatsu can’t stop thinking about Koyuki during their afternoon together, Kaede steps in to offer advice as Konatsu expresses she feels like she’s annoying Koyuki with her texts. Kaede is incredibly supportive, taking her right to Koykui’s house to solve it.

Once everything is cleared up, Koykui and Konatsu agree to go together (with both their dads joining too). But one scene that further presented the loneliness the girls are navigating throughout the series was when Koyuki shares that she admires Konatsu’s strength. However, Konatsu begins to sink back into that quiet, empty space thinking their isn’t anything particularly special about herself. As the two of them get split up because of an upcoming fireworks display, Konatsu can’t get a certain question off her mind: Why did Koyuki speak to Konatsu randomly at the open house the day they met? [More context is given early on in this volume, but seeing that come full circle finally in the end was nice and I’m hoping Koyuki will finally say (or even hint) at how she feels].

Hagino’s quiet, slice of life atmosphere really gives a calm, simplicity to the series that’s also very thought-provoking too. It’s seen especially in the personal moments that Koyuki or Konatsu reflect on their feelings or internal loneliness.

As with the first volume, I just love the artwork and how it really allows those quiet moments to stay with the reader through every page. The frog/salamander symbolism makes a return, but it’s definitely a little more in the background as the metaphorical elements are more hinted at throughout this volume. Honestly, every close scene they have together is very emotional, moving, and I just can’t wait to see their relationship develop throughout the series (though I’ve seen that it is *very slowburn).

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this volume honestly, it’s more about the plot and it just feels like a 4.5 rating! Although, this series has truly captured my heart and made a mess of my life only two volumes in, Koyuki and Konatsu are just very much in need of some hugs!! ❤

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a fantastic, but also underrated manga series with lots of depth, two very complex protagonists, and a slow-burn romance that will keep you reading! As Koyuki and Konatsu spend more time together, they continue to navigate their feelings for each other! An absolute gem of a manga series!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 1 by Makoto Hagino {Manga Review}

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 1 by Makoto Hagino

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Volume 1

Summary: When her dad gets a job overseas, Konatsu Amano has to leave the Tokyo life she’s always known and relocate to a small seaside town to stay with her aunt. The move also means starting a new school surrounded by complete strangers, and it’s a lot to handle for a girl who has trouble with change. But on her first day in her new town, Konatsu is instantly drawn to Koyuki, an older girl who is the sole member of the Aquarium Club. Konatsu’s introverted tendencies are hard for her to overcome, but maybe she’s found something worth coming out of her shell for?

Konatsu is doing her best to adapt to her new school, but being required to join a club has introduced additional pressures. Her friendly classmate Kaede invites her to join the Home Ec Club, but Konatsu hasn’t even had time to consider which club she’s interested in. Meanwhile, Koyuki is like a ray of sunshine in Konatsu’s cloudy world. Will Konatsu join the Aquarium Club?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a charming, slice-of-life manga debut that follows the bond between two girls who go to the same school in a seaside town! Their instant connection makes for a wholesome, sweet story as the relationship grows with each page! Featuring much SLOWBURN and YEARNING, this is a fantastic start to a new series!

A quiet, seaside town, a chance encounter at a school aquarium, and two girls who are in their own ways…lonely. This is the beginning of A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow, easily one of my new favorite manga series!!

Konatsu Amano moves to Nagahama to live with her aunt after her father gets a job overseas. However, Konatsu can’t let go of this loneliness that’s buried within her. But, when she sees her new high school with an open house for its aquarium, she finds herself instantly drawn to Koyuki Honatsu, the club’s leader and only member.

There’s a comforting, almost delicate, gentle bond that forms between these two girls and that exact feeling unfurls throughout the various layers of this story from its art style, character dynamics, themes, and underlying romance. It’s beautiful & although it seems like a very simple story, Hagino’s masterful execution is anything but that.

As Konatsu tries to drift among the current of her new life at school, she can’t help but feel those tides shift whenever she sees or hears about Koyuki! There’s such intense emotion that’s woven throughout the entirety of this first volume and it’s in a way, poetic?

The reader is left with a sense of melancholy, but also bountiful feeling of joy seeing these two girls continue to bond and navigate the emotions they feel for each other.

As each student is required to join a club, Konatsu wonders whether joining Koyuki’s Aquarium Club is a good idea (with her feelings for Koyuki only continuing to build) as her other classmate Hirose, recommends the Home Ec. club. The author brilliantly delves into the inner complexities of our heroines, the complicated emotions they have for one another, and the underlying sense of loneliness.

Konatsu instantly finds a friend in Hirose, the bubbly, extroverted classmate who gets her to see the aquarium in the first place! She’s just a really fun character and seeing Konatsu’s inner conflict with wondering whether to accept or decline her offer to join Hirose in the Home Ec club turned out to be very funny. I can’t wait to see all 3 of these girls bond even more over the next volumes!

Hagino builds such a fascinating, unique slice-of-life school atmosphere through Nanahama High School, not only through its minimal details, but also by emphasizing the importance of clubs! The inclusion of having club involvement be mandatory for students just added to the distinct atmosphere of Nanahama.

Now the ROMANCE is very slowburn, but also achingly soft and sweet. The tiniest moments really capture an entire scene whether its small hand holds, sharing food, or just the longing gazes. This SAPPHIC romance has really gone under the radar and hopefully my review inspires you to pick up this series!

There’s such wonderful imagery and metaphors woven throughout Vol. 1, especially when it comes to salamanders, which becomes the foundation for the girls’ dynamic! Masuji Ibuse’s “Salamander” to a salamander in the aquarium club from the very first pages, even to Konatsu calling it by Koyuki’s name, represents the desire for these two to escape the cold, loneliness they feel.

At its heart, its such a beautiful message about the two allowing each other to escape when they feel trapped and isolated. Though Koyuki feels more of a weight from expectations from those around her and in turn, she never really feels understood. All the details about marine life are beautifully woven in as well, very much looking forward to see how the author develops it!

One of my favorite moments between them was on page 36 when the aquatic background takes over the scene as they hold hands at the beach! We see how much Konatsu and Koyuki mean to each other with every moment their on page together (or even just thinking about one another), its very cute!! ❤

The budding relationship between Konatsu and Koyuki is not only delicate and gentle, but also brilliantly captivating in how it navigates emotion, yearning, just…all those layered feelings!

Story-wise although its definitely slower-paced, its very character-driven, which in turn draws you into all these other captivating elements of the story because of how wonderfully developed they are. The writing is also very good and I can count many beautiful lines that show the deep, inner feelings the girls had for each other.

The artwork is wonderful, allowing for a slow, introspective view of the story. Its in the detail of the characters, expressions, alongside the backgrounds, that bring so much to each scene. The inclusion of the aquatic elements like the ocean, marine animals, etc., all add to that special world that these two have carved for themselves and its really beautiful. I’d even say through moments where the animals around them seem more animated or a salamander appears on their shoulders/near by, uses an element of magical realism/fabulism to convey the importance of their inner voices.

If you take anything away from this review, its that you should definitely pick up this series and get carried away by its remarkable story! Tropical Fish has easily become one of my new favorite manga series, Konatsu and Koyuki have captured my heart!!

Despite the 4.5 star rating, this is a 5-star series ABSOLUTELY!! I think its just wanting a bit more to our characters in this first volume, but despite that I adored it so much!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a fantastic yuri manga series filled with a slow-burn, heartwarming romance, wonderful main heroines, unique school setting, gorgeous symbolism, and an immersive story you won’t be able to put down!

Spy X Family Vol. 2 by Tatsuya Endo {Manga Review}

Spy X Family Vol. 2 by Tatsuya Endo (Spy X Family #2)

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Available Through The Book Depository: Spy X Family Volume 2

Summary: Master spy Twilight is unparalleled when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions for the betterment of the world. But when he receives the ultimate assignment—to get married and have a kid—he may finally be in over his head!

Twilight must infiltrate the prestigious Eden Academy to get close to his target Donovan Desmond, but has he ruined his daughter Anya’s chances with his outburst during the admissions interview? Perhaps the truly impossible mission this time is making sure Anya both becomes an exemplary student and befriends Donovan’s arrogant son Damian! 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Spy X Family is one of the most brilliant manga debuts of 2020! This dark, comedic, entertaining series follows a FAKE FAMILY consisting of a spy, telepath, and assassin that each have their own secrets! The mission continues as the Forger family gets a coveted spot in a prestigious academy! This dynamic, action-packed series is propelled by clever humor, phenomenal storytelling, and a stellar cast of characters!

Twilight has been tasked with creating a fake family as part of an elaborate mission to keep the unsteady truce between neighboring countries Westalis and Ostania! Now, his family includes himself (a master spy), but also a telepath daughter and assassin wife! However, each has continued to keep their identities a secret from each other.

This volume follows Anya’s entrance into Eden Academy as the Forgers continue to adjust in their roles as a found family. However, as Loid (Twilight) does his best to carry on the mission in the background he quickly realizes his next step to get closer to his target means Anya will have to befriend his spoiled son Damian!

The plot allows for introductions to some new characters (Damian, Handler, + Yuri) and hilarious hijinks for the Forger family! The comedy brilliantly woven throughout this series makes for so many unexpected plot points you never see coming. There’s mystery, action, high stakes and tons of humor, you won’t be able to put this book down.

While Anya tries adjust to school, she not only wants to do her best for her family, but also continues to use her telepathy (and fighting skills she learned from Yor) to survive the first few days. Its so wonderful seeing Anya make a new friend, Becky and one of the funniest side plots was seeing Loid go undercover to get Anya to apologize to Damian once it was clear they didn’t get along in the beginning, for the sake of the mission. Very interested in seeing the Anya, Becky and Damian dynamic in future volumes too!

While Yor wasn’t given as much page-time this volume, I utterly adored every moment she was in. Seeing her unwavering support to Anya and Loid was so beautiful to read, in fact here was one of my favorite lines between them in Volume 2: “You’re being a wonderful father to that girl…But again, what do I know? It’s not exactly my place”…(Loid): “No Yor. It’s exactly your place…I rely on you to be everything I am not…” (120-121).

Also, seeing Yor beat up a group of people trying to hurt Anya, then teaching her how to fight was a highlight of this volume tbh, especially since early on in the volume Yor talks about wanting to continue being a good mother to mind-reader Anya.

The stakes heighten in different ways, which mixed together with the perfectly-timed comedic moments, make this manga not only entertaining but leave you on the edge of your seat as you continue to immerse yourself in the Forger’s chaotic lives!

Twilight, Anya, and Yor have captured my heart just 2 volumes in, I LOVE THEM SO MUCH! 💕

As with the first volume, the espionage motifs and references continue to build such a distinct atmosphere and world throughout this series. From the telephone booth transport, Twilight’s disguises, and a hilarious moment about overspending the operations budget, its so easy to immerse yourself in this intriguing, captivating world!

The artwork continues to be detailed, making each character and their motives distinct. From the action to the setting, characters, etc., it really builds on the exaggeration, humor, and tone perfectly crafted to match each panel.

There’s just something that’s keeping this series at a 4 for me, but rating aside this series is utterly BRILLIANT and you should read it while it still only has a couple volumes. As I’m sure many other Spy X Family readers can predict, this series will continue to get better and better, I just know it!

Spy X Family Vol. 2 is a stellar sequel that reunites readers with the hilarious hijinks of the Forger family! The dynamic cast of characters, fantastic artwork, witty humor, and page-turning story are just some of the many reasons you should hop on the bandwagon while its still in its first volumes! This series succeeds in so many ways and you don’t want to miss it!

I’m also planning some manga recommendation lists, so keep an eye out for those during the next few months! 😌💞