Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft Review

Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Pages: 388

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist (Jacket Design): Olga Grlic

Summary: He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

My Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts: Down Comes The Night is an atmospheric gothic YA debut that melds fantasy with a bit of horror and suspense! Through an intriguing world, science-based magic system, including an intriguing romance at its center, Saft delivers a solid standalone filled with twists, mystery, and an immersive world that comes to life!

While I’m not one to often gush about anticipated releases on the blog, DCTN was absolutely one of them! I luckily got an ARC early in the year and was captivated by the setting. The aesthetics of this novel build such a distinct atmosphere, world, and I just had to learn more about this intriguing cast of characters.

Wren Southerland is a healer of the Queen’s guard and from the very beginning of the story it’s made clear that her strength lies in her emotional, empathetic nature, which makes her journey as a protagonist not only relatable to me, but also quite interesting. She’s not on the best terms with her aunt, Queen Isabel and is on very thin ice after letting a possible suspect go early on in the novel, which could have been a clue to the whereabouts of her missing friend Jacob Byers.

After her dismissal, she receives a mysterious letter from a noble by the name of Alistair Lowry who’s in need of her skills to heal an ill servant of his. In exchange, he’ll offer Wren assistance in brokering peace between the warring kingdoms of Danu and Vesria, while also restoring her reputation. What Wren isn’t expecting is the servant “Henry” to be none other than, Hal Cavendish, “Reaper Of Vesria” and her kingdom’s sworn enemy.

As she stays in the eerie Colwick Hall to complete her work, she learns along the way that Hal is not all he appears to be and there’s something sinister about the desolate mansion. They are both eager to find comrades who’ve gone missing and perhaps together, they can find answers?

The worldbuilding has a unique set-up which is established in such a way where the setting feels lived in, expansive, and left me wanting to know more. Danu and Vesria are countries that rely heavily on magic, compared to the neutral region of Cernos which relies more heavily on technology-based innovations. There’s a clear dichotomy Saft explored through the magic system and politics, which add yet another interesting layer to the world. With a science-based magic system, the introduction to the fola, or the special vein that allows people such as Wren to tap into their magical abilities, is an integral part of the world that’s explored through both Wren and Hal.

In a world with magic, I appreciated how Saft also delved into this distinction between countries that either rely heavily on magic or 19th century technology. Through a 3rd person perspective the writing creates an atmospheric, dark. ominous tone with an equally cozy ambience. The imagery and Saft’s writing style deliver the aesthetic so well. In addition, the medical terminology adds even more to the atmosphere of the story, especially as it’s reflective of Wren’s skill as a healer.

As Wren makes herself at home within Colwick for the time being, she learns that the Reaper isn’t all he appears to be. The dynamic and chemistry between these two was my FAVORITE, despite being from opposing sides they are left on even ground with the crumbling mansion and wintery atmosphere, isolating them. This leads them to uncover more about each other, realizing there’s a lot they never really knew about one another or their countries. Wren / Hal each have their own goals, ambitions, and motivations, that propel them to grow throughout the novel.

Each character comes to life on the page and they have their own distinct personalities giving you a clear sense as to who they are. Una is Wren’s commanding officer, but also her friend and former love, there’s so much history, story, etc. between them that despite spending quite some time apart, their relationship really stood out to me. However at times certain characters can feel a bit static (in my opinion I felt this way with Queen Isabel), especially when their motivations don’t feel too fleshed out…but as a whole this is pretty well-developed cast. Wren’s dynamics with the cast overall were given enough interactions to the point where I knew them and enjoyed their arcs: Una, the Queen, Lowry, Sister Heloise, etc.

Throughout the novel, Wren is led to believe her emotions are what make her weaker, she is driven by them at every turn. However, I appreciate how Saft built this as her own personal strength. I’d say I’m a pretty emotional and the way Saft explored this as a constant through Wren’s character, presenting it as a core spirit to her character was satisfying to read about, especially in fantasy. Wren’s character arc to me felt incredibly well developed and satisfying, she grows along the way, but also stays true to her self, especially when it comes to her emotions. Una is driven by her loyalty to the kingdom, but underneath you can also tell she still worries for Wren, despite the obstacles along the way.

Interestingly despite being pitched as an enemies-to-lovers romance, I felt the execution didn’t work. Both Wren and Hal are given preconceptions about one another, their countries, etc. to the point where once they actually meet in person, there’s more of a hesitancy to their conversations than any solid antagonistic feelings between them. They do have meaningful conversations, challenge one another, and find that their love inspires growth within them, so with that said, I personally felt the enemies-to-lovers element wasn’t the best descriptor here, in my opinion.

Additionally, together the politics, magic system, mystery, character arcs, worldbuilding, and more combine so incredibly well, however looking back on each element on its own separately, it felt like more detail or development could have made them a bit stronger.

Overall there’s lots of elements woven throughout this book that I enjoyed and perhaps at a later date I hope to dive into them a bit more.

Down Comes The Night is a promising gothic fantasy debut that’s immersive, atmospheric, and packed with many different layers sure to keep you intrigued! Saft’s YA Fantasy is perfect for those who love a good fantasy with romance, and are looking for a solid standalone!

I’m shouting out fellow book blogger Cossette from Tea Time Lit and her review of this intriguing debut! In the short time I’ve known Cossette, I can tell you she is passionate about this novel, from the lush writing to Wren’s fantastic character arc, all of it! She loved this world, its characters and her review constantly reminds me of the stand out elements that Saft has weaved together. If you have yet to read this and need a motivator to pick it up, READ Cossette’s post!

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda & Valynne E. Maetani Review

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. MaetaniSeven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani

Publisher: Harper Collins (Harper Teen / Quill Tree Books)

Release Date: January 28, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Seven Deadly Shadows

Cover Design: Sam Webber (artist), Erin Fitzsimmons (designer)

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her family ignores her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Japan. But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.

Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtesan with covert reasons of her own for getting involved.

As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer by the day, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Seven Deadly Shadows is a character-driven contemporary fantasy that follows Kira, whose on a quest to save her family’s shrine and possibly the world, by finding 7 death gods and reconstructing an ancient sword to fight a demon king! Featuring Shinto and Japanese culture, this unique book is filled with action, adventure, and a compelling story making it a must read!

Its a fact that amazing books can get swept under the radar and I think Seven Deadly Shadows is one of them. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about a priestess in training joined by her half-kitsune best friend embarking on a journey to recruit death gods to defeat a demon lord and save the world?

Out of all her family members, Kira is the one who feels the most dedicated to look after the Shinto shrine alongside her grandfather and best friend Shiro. Her family also has the ability to see demon monsters or spirits called yokai.

Kira’s most at home whenever she’s at the shrine, learning about the glamours or tradition with her grandfather, and vows to carry on the legacy her other brother Ichigo and parents ignore (with only her little sister Ami showing the slightest bit of interest). However, one day the shrine is attacked and her beloved grandfather is murdered.

After learning the shrine is rumored to carry the pieces of a legendary sword bestowed by the sun goddess Amaterasu, she’s left with no other option but to prepare for a looming battle with a demon lord, set on bringing chaos to the world.

She travels with Shiro across Kyoto and Tokyo, to enlist the help of shinigami to aid in her quest, while also trying to keep up with her school work at the prestigious Kōgakkan high school! The way this novel handled Kira’s dual world was phenomenally done!

There’s so much depth to her journey as she views and tries to balance these 2 parts of her life, the everyday and the supernatural. The magic of this world seamlessly blends in with the reality and day-to-day of Japan.

This is such a great standalone because, you get such a solid grasp as to who the characters are and their stories. The dynamics between the characters are all interesting and compelling, overall what makes them great is how their personalities are elevated through Kira’s pov. For example, the brother dynamics between Shiro and Ronin, or Kira and Ichigo all have this unresolved/unsaid conflict that show the rift between family. Even Lady Katayama (O-bei) whose Shiro’s adopted mother, is such a powerful force on the page, yet still retains an air of mystery as Kira’s trying to continue her quest.

However, the friendship (and possible romance) between Shiro and Kira was one of my favorites too, because no matter what he’s there to offer her help and join her in any way that he can (even tagging along at her school). There’s this undeniable trust between them and Shiro continuously supports Kira in her cause. There’s always a sweet and supportive moment of them together on the page.

As for the plot, while its a bit slow its always surprising. Kira is traveling to real life locations (parks, cities) even spirit worlds, to seek out Shinigami who are hidden by glamour. I also don’t know much about Torii gates, but I fee like it represented this shift from our world to the sacred (shrine), supernatural settings and I appreciated how they were woven into the story.

You see Kira’s internal struggle as she feels out of place in our real world and yet is still trying to find her footing in the world of the yokai and shinigami. Its heartbreaking, because she has to navigate this world without her grandfather, who she loved so much and who also supported/helped her in the journey to become a priestess. Its very much a personal journey and one she’s willing to take risks for! However, she finds support through Shiro, Oni-chan, and the shinigami who allow her to better understand this world she feels the most at home to.

The build-up of those last few chapters are some of my favorite and enjoyed seeing how it all came together. Learning how Amaterasu’s sword, the spirits, and Kira’s own personal journey all wove to create an epic conclusion always offered something new to explore throughout the story and I loved that.

Alameda and Maetani’s writing styles flowed perfectly together and I would be thrilled to read more YA books co-authored by them in the future. Also, what makes it even more amazing is that its co-written two female authors of color, Latine/Latina and #ownvoices Japanese writers! According to the Author’s Note, they did travel to Japan and did a lot of research, which you can tell through the writing! While it does feel like there’s some moments of repetition and cliche metaphors, overall the writing was so good. Its descriptive and you could sense the magic flowing throughout the world! This atmospheric urban fantasy, creates such vivid pictures in your mind about the setting, weather, that you feel transported to Japan. Perhaps its just me, but there’s also the sense of a chilling, horror woven in which makes the atmosphere of the book even more unique!

There’s lots of beautiful descriptions and imagery that I felt rooted in the world from page 1. The atmosphere of the Fujikawa shrine evokes a deep sense of connection to its lore and history that bring not only that, but so many other elements of the world to life.

Shadows was as brilliant as it was in my opinion, due to its 1st person perspective. You’re given this look into Kira’s journey to become more confident and gain that inner strength. She’s ready to take all the risks and defend her family’s shrine, whether it means traveling to spirit worlds, unlocking family mysteries, facing yokai, or just trying to keep up with her classes! There’s a conflict she feels being stuck between 2 worlds and whether its the themes, character dynamics, or gravity to her mission, Kira as a character is authentic, you feel grounded and connected to her story because of how she comes to life.

Important themes your presented with throughout the book are loyalty, honor, and family. When Kira’s grandfather is killed, she carries on his work at the shrine, because she showed her how important it was. Her goal then is to not only honor him, but preserve his legacy by saving the world. Their bond was incredibly strong and you see how it motivates her to take action. In contrast, you see how there’s a strain on her relationship with her family who are focused on their reputation and image, that they really don’t understand Kira’s dedication to the shrine.

My only issue which made my rating a 4 was that because we know a final battle is coming, the pacing can feel rather slow. Being almost a little over 350 pages, we know what the end goal is so it can feel like the shinigami quest takes its time to progress. There’s lots of traveling, training, and preparation, while its lots of fun, you can see the pacing suffers at times.

Also, personally there’s a character thread I wasn’t particularly a fan of, which was for Kiku (a shinigami/ogre). *Spoilers ahead, but he shows up early on to talk to Kira and Shiro about the sword, then disappears only to show up at the end, which is where we get all this backstory. I just felt his story was kind of unnecessary and out of place with all the other shinigami and everything else that was already going on, in my opinion.

Overall though, when the book finally wrapped up I was sad because I felt so connected to Kira and her world. I wouldn’t mind more future books with her at the shrine! This is a book that is filled with so much depth and love, its fallen under the radar and more people NEED to read it!

Seven Deadly Shadows is a quiet, underrated standalone novel that will leave you wanting more! Driven by its dynamic cast, and compelling story, Kira’s tale is one of honor, growth, and finding one’s own path! The atmospheric world, writing, and immersive plot through its exploration of Japanese culture, makes Alameda and Maetani’s urban fantasy a must-read!

Today’s review will also feature a fellow book blogger shout-out! 📚🎉

I recommend Amanda from MetalPhantasmRead’s Review!It’s no surprise I adored Kira and her journey, so if your looking for a review that gives you all those little details about it, Amanda’s review one to check out! ✨

*Also, this month I’m celebrating 5 years on the blog and have a Q&A Tweet if anyone would like to ask any bookish, blogging, or other fun questions?? OR feel free to leave them here on this review!! 🥳📚🎉

The Avant Guards Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin Review {Graphic Novel}

The Avant Guards Vol. 2The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist) & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: Boom! Box (Boom Studios)

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: The Avant-Guards Vol. 2

Summary: The Avant-Guards have been on a roll when it come to their newly-formed basketball league and Charlie has been getting more comfortable with her new teammates, but when they hit the end of their winning-streak, will these new friendships survive? As the Avant-Guards struggle to move forward, they’ll soon learn just what it means to truly be a team― on the court, and most importantly, off the court too.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 is phenomenal continuation to a female-led sports series that at its core, is about friendship! This volume delves more into the team and their lives off the court as the season continues! The series art is colorful, features a great cast of characters and a page-turning story!

Although I don’t talk about it much on my blog, The Avant-Guards is easily one of my favorite graphic novel series (tied up there with Sera and Tea Dragon Society). I fell completely in love with Vol. 1 last year and there was no surprise I’d be continuing with the series.

As Charlie has become more comfortable with the team, found her loyal group of friends, also navigating her relationship with Liv, this volume very much focuses on the rest of the team and what they’re up to when not on the court.

While there are many things I love about this series, it’s very clear how much care is given to our delightful cast from Jay to Ashley, Nicole, Tiffany, Liv, and Charlie. No matter how much page time they have, their personalities shine through in every moment.

As the team continues their season at away games, you learn even more about their hobbies and them as a whole while they aren’t practicing. Jay has their art, Ashley has been recovering from an injury and we see its keeping her from playing a game she loves. There’s a joy she feels from coaching the team despite missing the game and her budding relationship with her physical therapist.

We learn there’s more to “cynic” Nicole and resident witch Tiffany too!

What makes this such a fantastic sequel is because not only are the girls loyal and passionate about what they love, but the series itself realizes this too! With each page you see the love and appreciation for these phenomenal characters! Each of these women have their own quirks, personalities, and energy that shines whenever their on the page.

There’s specific plot points/arcs in this volume that allow the cast to shine: Jay’s art exhibit, Ashley’s birthday, the film fest night for Liv, even when we learn more about Tiffany and her family! Even though Charlie is more in the background during this volume, I adored getting the cute moments between her and Liv!

But what stands out the most across both volumes so far is how Charlie, Liv, Jay, Ashley, Tiffany, and Nicole are there for each other, to lift each other up always! Their dedication to friendship and teamwork always fills me with so much joy and is just inspiring! I cannot pick a favorite character, I LOVE them all ♥♥

I can’t wait to see how the team dynamic/friendship develops across the rest of The Avant-Guards series! Some of my favorite moments include their practice and when their hanging out together, like at Jay’s art exhibit.

This second volume also delves into an underlying and subtle conflict, where their league is struggling financially. While it weaves into the story in a quiet sort of way, I liked how this obstacle further emphasized their dedication towards teamwork and finding a way to solve the issue!

The writing is really good, it delivers great dialogue and helps to build the development of our main cast! With this installment focusing more on the other teammates, one detail that just adds more to the already wonderful cast is the internal 1st -person dialogue bubbles that tells us a bit more about how the ladies are feeling at a particular moment. Although its brief, it shows us how these characters perceive themselves in ways we probably didn’t expect.

As with Volume 1 also, the panel and art continue to be a highlight of the series! The colors are bright and eye-catching, making the series an absolute visual delight! Paneling is also metaphorical in a way, limiting the use of full or large panels for impactful moments or action-packed scenes during the games, another example of this would be the final panel during Jay’s art exhibit with their partner Tyler.

The bright colors and dynamic art style showcase the fun, lighthearted ton of the series.

The emphasis on small, overlapping, tighter-fitting panels also leaves tons of room for seeing more of the characters, setting, and visuals! The paneling also emphasizes the action, movement, and expressiveness of both characters + scenes.

One example of this where it was cleverly drawn was: When Jay & Ashley are passing out flyers, even the full page spread of Jay and Tyler looking at a painting together. There was also a moment in Ch.6 where the paneling brilliantly was presented in the shape of a basket to emphasize the action! (It mirrored a similar scene in Vol. 1 where there were panels shaped in the form of a basketball). Overall, the way the panels are presented in this series is phenomenal!

Friendship continues to be a hallmark of the series and no matter what, the Avant-Guards always come together to support each other in different ways! The series also continues to feature characters of color and Queer women, and just continues to be a diverse/inclusive series! For ex. we get introduced to Jay’s partner Tyler (who also goes by they/them).

My only issue with this volume is that I wanted more page & plot time with these characters, because the last page does leave the ending somewhat abrupt leading into Vol. 3. It just felt like there needed to be MORE whether it was more Liv/Charlie moments, Tiffany/Nicole bonding, or just the team hanging out. The story is just so wholesome and they deserve the world!!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 is a fantastic sequel to a series that can only continue to get better and better! Its a series dedicated to its characters and focuses on friendship, centering around a college basketball team! The colorful artwork, wonderfully diverse cast, and immersive story makes The Avant-Guards one of the best sports series out there!

Mija Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Mija PodcastMija Podcast created by Lory Martinez

Release Date: September 25, 2019

Episodes: 14 (Across 2 Seasons)

Summary: Hosted by a narrator known only as Mija (daughter in Spanish), each episode tells the story of how members of her family experience immigration.

My Thoughts: Mija is a phenomenal podcast everyone should listen to! With each episode, our charming narrator delves into her family’s history, Colombian heritage, and what it means to a Latina living in New York City. Martinez layers such deep character profiles across the series, weaving together a heartfelt tale of family, growing up, and the meaning of home!

Where audio drama fiction is filled with an abundance of sci-fi and fantasy tales, its nice to see podcasts like Mija that delve into modern-day contemporary to deliver a story so heartfelt and authentic, it reminds me why podcasting is one of the best spaces for fictional storytelling right now!

Throughout each episode of the Mija Podcast, our narrator (Mija) chronicles her family history from parents to cousins, even brother and grandparents! In doing so, she delves into her Colombian roots and heritage, while also exploring what it means to be a Latina (Colombian-American) in New York City.

The writing is charming, moving, and delivers personal, complex character profiles in under 10 minutes. From the very first episode I fell in love with this podcast because as someone with Latin-American roots, there’s such deeply interwoven messages about family, that really is are at the heart of Latinx culture. One of the most distinct messages that really builds over the course of this first season is that family really is connected, regardless of distance.

While each of the 8 episodes does chronicle a different family member, you begin to see how they overlap as you delve deeper into Mija’s Colombian roots, especially as we travel with Mija across different timelines.

Sound design is fantastic, not only when it comes to the exceptional soundtrack and sfx, but also Mija’s narration in general, as it explores Latinx-American culture, touches on Colombian history, immigration, and spotlighting Colombian representation. Also its no surprise that Spanish is organically woven into the narrative, but just having it spoken aloud in a fictional (but very real) story was just beautiful to hear.

Told through a first and 3rd-person perspective, the storytelling really is beautifully written and so heartfelt. You can’t help but feel such JOY when listening to Mija as it puts the focus on family not only its history, but legacy and the important values that family passes down.

In fiction, I personally feel like there is still such a long way to go in terms of Latinx rep., but podcasts such as Mija remind me that is happening little by little. Stories of hope, joy, family, are important to hear from all cultures and Martinez has really made that a hallmark of this series.

From the values, stories about traveling to visit relatives, how each family member is connected to Mija, etc. these are all pieces of much larger story that I really felt connected with and hopefully you will to.

I won’t delve into too many plot-specifics because this really is a story you need to experience for yourself! You won’t be disappointed.

While my family isn’t Colombian, hearing Mija’s stories in a way felt like hearing my family’s stories too.

Also what makes the Mija Podcast such an accessible one is that it’s available in French, English, and Spanish. Even more wonderful is that Season 2, focuses on a Chinese family who now lives in Paris!

Podcasts such as Mija are absolute gems in audio drama fiction that deliver stories you really can’t get anywhere else. Please listen to this fantastic podcast, I got through the entirety of Season 1 in 1 sitting and can’t recommend it enough, add this one to your list!

Mija Podcast is a heartfelt tale about family and home! The writing is poetic, charming, and explores deeply complex themes! With each episode, Mija delves into the life of a different family member and tells their story. Martinez has crafted a truly unforgettable podcast you don’t want to miss!

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Vol. 4 by Izumi Tsubaki {Manga Review}

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun by Izumi Tsubaki Vol. 4Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Vol. 4 by Izumi Tsubaki (Monthly Girls’ #4)

Publisher: Yen Press

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Pages: 160

Available Through The Book Depository: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Volume 4

Summary: When Chiyo tells Nozaki she wants to see more drama in his manga, he rises to the task…by trying to pull bizarre pranks on her? And when a failed attempt at cozying up to his editor leaves Nozaki with a girls’ dating sim in hand, he gets schooled in melodrama, otome-style! But Nozaki’s not the one with more drama in his life. Chiyo gets a crash course on the Nozaki family when she discovers there’s another Nozaki-kun…and he’s just as eccentric as his big brother! With two Nozakis in the picture and the usual cast of lovable weirdos getting up to no good, will Chiyo be fed up with drama when the all-important, romance-boosting, summer festival arrives?!

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun continues to be one of the funniest manga series out there! Tsubaki brilliantly subverts romance tropes as our protagonist  Chiyo, alongside Nozaki and the rest of the crew get into hilarious and ridiculous situations! This volume delves more into the fun dynamics between the lovable cast, especially the guys!

I’ve really missed this series and now that its finally on Netflix, I just felt more motivated to continue it. Monthly Girls’ essentially follows Chiyo who is in love with her classmate Umetarou Nozaki, but through hilarious misunderstandings, she ends up becoming his assistant as a manga creator! From there, we meet an ensemble cast of characters that are all unique and funny in their own ways, from shy heartthrob Mikoshiba, Chiyo’s best friend Seo, to basketball player Waka, “prince” Kashima, and drama club director Hori!

The dynamic and friendship between the characters is such an essential part of this series and seeing all the funny scenarios that go one between each 4-panel page just makes this series an absolute blast! They’re all such wonderful dorks and I love them so much!!

While Chiyo isn’t as prominent in this volume, we get a lot of great moments from the guys’ perspectives Nozaki, Mikoshiba, Waka, and Hori!

Nozaki is trying to come up with more surprising plot points/twists for his story and gets Chiyo involved at every moment. Alongside that, one of my favorite Nozaki and Chiyo moments was when he mentioned how much he enjoyed walking with her 💞!!

I know this series will most likely use the “possible” but never realized romantic story line between Chiyo and Nozaki, but I still love the development of their friendship and dynamic so much!!

Now, I never knew Nozaki had a brother so, getting to meet him was a lot of fun and in this volume especially we delve more into Nozaki’s past with his family and the early years of him being a manga creator.

The Nozaki sleepover was filled with lots of really funny moments, same as the one where their playing a video game. And as with all past volumes, any Mikoshiba scene continues to be my favorite.

Overall what Monthly Girls’ does incredibly well is bring so many different characters with such unique personalities and no matter what, make any interaction interesting and filled with humor. With that said, I love the spring/summer festival pages nearing the end, where everyone is there together–also those last 2 pages of Nozaki/Chiyo were hilarious, but also kinda sweet!

Compared to Vol. 3, it felt like there were more clear storylines in this one which I appreciated, which made the plot connect more seamlessly.

Maybe its because I’ve watched more of the anime, but Nozaki felt more serious and agitated during particular moments in this on compared to past volumes and the anime… but, maybe I’m just reading into it too much 😂?

Nozaki though continues to be unaware in the most obvious of situations and its just hilarious, especially when the others end up helping on his manga. One of my favorite moments was when Nozaki decided he, Chiyo & Mikoshiba try to find each other without cellphones, also the box chapter!!

My only critiques is that because this volume is longer compared to the previous ones the pacing can feel a bit slow in minor parts. Also, I felt like the flashback moments with Ken (Nozaki’s editor) kind of slowed the story down. However, I think its because personally, I’m not too invested in that particular storyline (but it works very well in the anime, due to the comedic timing).

Monthly Girls Nozak-kun Vol. 4 brilliantly explores the stellar chemistry and dynamic between the main cast! The plot continues to subvert romantic tropes, expectations, and delivers fun new situations for our favorite characters to get into! Can’t wait to continue with Vol. 5!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome ShirahamaWitch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #4)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4

Summary: The ruin of an ancient nation’s pride is stage for three apprentices to prove how deftly their concealment abides, for stealth and honor both a witch behoove. But Richeh bridles  at the test’s constraint, preferring magic of her own design, and Euini finds expectations faint, a student by his master oft maligned. In prying from despair a shadowed grace, now Euini has seized a slender hope, but triumph with creeping dread replaced as from the dark a fearsome evil gropes. Forbidden magic’s nightmares come afresh in shadow-shrouded horror freed from flesh.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 4 delves a little more into the world of the series! Agott, Richeh, and newcomer Euini attempt to complete their next trial, while Qifrey delves into a history lesson for Coco and Tetia. However, a mysterious force may be lingering to cause chaos on Cape Romonon! This fourth volume delves more into the mysterious Brimmed Caps, while also exploring prominent themes and messages!

Before getting into my review, I’d been thinking not too long ago how it’d been a while since I’d read this series and how much I’ve really missed it. No matter what I can always count on Shirahama’s whimsical, magical series to immerse me in a fun, witchy adventure that’s also filled with hope & wonder! Its comforting and feels like home! If you’ve read any of the other Witch Hat manga, has it felt that way for you? Definitely let me know in the comments! I think its just how the author is so brilliant at storytelling that even if it takes a darker turn, I’m always excited to be back with Coco, Qifrey, the other witches, and their latest adventure! ♥♥

As soon as this volume opened up with Agott talking about the Scalewolves (in a rather figurative way), I knew Vol. 4 would be one of the more symbolic and metaphorical books of the series!

As Agott examines one of the wolves scales, she says: “If they didn’t feel the need to form pairs, they could keep their armor on all the time.” That quote told me exactly what I needed to know about Agott. Though its pretty obvious each of the girls longs for deeper connections with their fellow atelier witches, this volume took the chance to delve more into the psyche of 2 witches in particular! Not only Agott, who comes from a prominent house but also Richeh, who has secrets of her own that we learn a bit more about in this volume!

As shown with the previous books, each one takes time to delve into a specific character’s journey and this time its Richeh. She’s a serious girl who can conjure crystal ribbons and longs to show she doesn’t need to copy/paste spells to prove her worth. She wants something she can call her own.

However, in order to show her the skills she’s potentially missing out on, Qifrey signs her up alongside Agott in the “Sincerity of the Shield” test, which takes place on the ocean side valleys of Cape Romonon, more specifically in the Serpentback Cave.

Led by senior witch and friend of Qifrey’s Alaria, she proctors Agott, Richeh and Euini’s test to safely lead myrphons through the serpent-shaped road towards the cliffs on the opposite side of the cape. However, the catch is they have to use special cloaks to disguise themselves as a myrphon to lead them to breeding grounds.

The world-building as with all previous volumes has been fantastic! With this one though, its definitely more specified to the location of the story which made it feel much more contained, but I enjoyed that! We learn about the history tied to the Serpentback cave, Myrphons which are penguin-like birds, and early in the volume I loved learning about the Scalewolves too!

Its very much a test of knowledge, skill and applying all of those things well under pressure.

That theme is very much explored through Euini! I’ll be honest, based on his design I thought he was going to be a more serious, no-nonsense kind of kid, I’m glad my theory was wrong! In reality he suffers from anxiety and struggles to find the confidence within himself, thus leading him to over plan and later collapse under pressure (this plot thread broke my heart, there were moments I related to his inner thoughts and felt for him).

His master, Kukrow, is very much an absentee type of mentor and never really supports Euini in the way that he should, even as he’s prepping to take his test for the third time. Their dynamic was surprising, but definitely added a different layer as it contrasted the more comforting witch & apprentice dynamic with Qifrey and the girls!

Back with Qifrey, he delves into the history of the Cavern Nation Of Romonon which soon fell under the weight of its ignorance. But the only thing that remained, was the serpent road. This was one of my favorite sections because although they mostly stay in 1 location for most of the volume, there’s so much detail and importance to the setting. You can sense the wind blowing through the cliffs, the expansiveness of the cave, and the emptiness of what’s been left behind.

With this volume in particular, I also loved how it highlighted the difference between Coco’s enthusiasm vs. Richeh, even Agott and their struggles to hold onto that child-like wonder again, its a nice juxtaposition that was more obvious in this book, but it was a nice plot thread!

Also, let me just say that you can really see their friendship starting to grow with Coco, especially Agott, she was phenomenal in this volume! When confronted with the Brimmed Cap, she doesn’t waste a second to defend Coco and back outside, Qifrey tells Coco that Agott’s held onto her spelled shoes that she made during one the earlier volumes! ❤

There were also such prominent themes to this volume such as learning from the past, but more especially from failure, even the struggles that come with doing that! That’s a message that I feel isn’t often explored much in fiction, but  Euini’s arc explored it in such an inspiring way!

Euini was so wonderful and I just want him to be a happy, anxiety-free apprentice after what he went through in this volume!

Shirahama explores anxiety and confidence subtly through this journey in the cave with the girls and I loved how Euini really grew throughout the exam (learning there’s more than 1 way to do things, never giving up, finding the confidence within yourself and avoiding that negative voice in your head). Also, his friendship/foil to Richeh was so wonderful and I can’t wait to see where its headed in future volumes!

The writing in volume 4 was easily one of the more symbolic and allegorical of the series so far, in my opinion! From Euini’s fate at the end, the history of the cave, even delving into Richeh & Agott’s inner thoughts. There were so many inspiring quotes I wrote down while reading this volume, it kind of brought me back to how I did the same thing during Volume 1. I also felt storytelling wise, it came full circle from beginning to end, making this a really self-contained volume like Vol. 3 and it was beautifully done!

The Brimmed Cap makes more of an appearance and there’s definitely more secrecy around who they actually are, but their desire to unleash more forbidden magic is getting very interesting! I need to know more!

Witch Hat Atelier has some phenomenal artwork and the paneling is presented in an even more dynamic way with this volume that showcases Shirahama’s brilliance with storytelling (especially through action scenes), there’s more horizontal panels that really show the scope and depth of the cave/cliff setting. There’s one particular full-page spread of the serpent cave (56-57) which really immerses you into the location. There’s detailed lines during the action scenes, so they really bring to life and capture the moments within the actions themselves. Also, its tough to explain but the way the paneling was presented in this volume really did the story justice–not one panel felt underused or out of place, Shirahama is brilliant when it comes to artwork.

Though I’ve rated all the past volumes 5 stars, I think Volume 4 for me personally felt a little slower than previous ones! However, I will say that this is such a plot/character-driven volume that never has a single dull moment! I think it just boils down to how I felt the story progressed for me personally…but I still loved it!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 is just as captivating as previous volumes and the ending will leave you wondering what’s next for our group of apprentices and Qifrey! Filled with action, beautiful character arcs, and important underlying themes, this volume does take on a slower pace, but its worth it as the phenomenal story continues to develop! Shirahama once again, will leave readers needing the next volume right away!

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury ARC Review

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica KhouryThe Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Pages: 368

Available Through The Book Depository: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft

Cover Design: Federica Frenna

Summary: Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period.

Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

*Received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher* 

My Thoughts: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft is a charming middle grade that follows Amelia Jones when she attends her dream school of Mystwick to continue learning about creating magic through music! Khoury’s novel layers an intriguing magic system, delightful cast of characters, adventure, mystery, and ultimately delivers a vibrant character-driven tale!

I was not expecting to get an ARC of this in the mail, so when I did I was thrilled! I adore Khoury’s writing and the way she creates such unique worlds and memorable characters (such as those in The Forbidden Wish). Hers were some of the earlier YA Books I’d read before becoming a blogger and I was excited to have a chance to read Mystwick, her middle grade debut!

Allowing the story to be told from Amelia’s 1st person POV, you could sense with each page her unique voice/energy that presented a wonder, comedic tone, and fun delivery to such a fascinating story! Her vibrancy as a character shines through, bringing the story to life and you can’t help but want to keep turning the page (I mean not only does the book have such amazing chapter titles, but it also starts with her trying to charm a chicken!!).

On the day of her exam to get into Mystwick (a school for students who want to continue learning how to create magic through music), Amelia knows she still needs a bit of practice, but she quickly makes a new friend at auditions, Jai Kapoor! Loved how their friendship was really developed throughout the book.

Amelia’s audition doesn’t go as planned and her dreams to attend the magical school, start to feel further away! However, due to a mix up she’s given a trial period allowing her to stay. What I really appreciated about the story was how Khoury delivered a tale of growth as we see Amelia overcome this internal conflict, giving it her all to prove that she does belong! Even as she struggles to catch up with the more advanced students, while also keeping her “trial period” situation a secret, she still can’t help but feel even more distant.

Knowing that her (now deceased) mother attended many years ago, she continues to pursue her dream and it gives her the inspiration/motivation to continue to try and boost both her courage and confidence. It also was very interesting to explore the dynamic between Amelia, her grandmother (who’s now her guardian) and why Mystwick is such a tough topic between the 2 of them!

Also one of the even more intriguing parts of this novel was the element of mystery and how it seamlessly wove into the story as a whole.

If you love magical boarding school books, I recommend checking this one out. There’s always something fun to learn about or explore on the Mystwick campus. It also allowed for a lot of time to be spent with the world-building, character development, friendship, and overall magical atmosphere that beautifully weaves itself into our world.

For a standalone, there’s such a deep connection that I felt with the setting (maybe it was because I took my time to read it), but either way it feels incredibly expansive and tied to our world where there’s so much care and development put into it! If you love detailed magic systems, the world of Mystwick is great, there’s lots of explanation as to the different types of magic and instruments, musicians around the world, how the rules of Mystwick make the magic system feel so grand and much more!

Here were a couple of additional details that I wanted to highlight: Novices vs. Maestros, the colors that symbolize different types of magic, Spellstones (a store for magical music sheets), and how magicians can use magic for all sorts of things: Weather, nature, and almost anything else you can think of! *There’s also a sense of limitations to the magic which was explored as well. Also there’s some left unsaid when it comes to some of the magic, which leaves a lot to the imagination which I really appreciated.

A big focus of the plot not only follows Amelia’s daily school life at Mystwick (classes, practicing, trying to fit in with the students, including her roommate Hamako Bradshaw aka Darby), but also her attempts to solve a mystery as to who could be trying to sabotage her chances at staying! The different pockets of mystery become such big parts of the story that unravel throughout the book. It offers a lot to not only the story, but also the characters and their development.

The Mystwick school had a sense of legacy to it that was indescribable. Maybe it was the knowledge of the instructors, the structure to the rules that were laid out, the campus traditions and well-established buildings or perhaps it was the bits and pieces of knowledge we learn through Amelia over the course of the story. There’s an internal skill and strength that Amelia discovers is essential to her growth as a musician and I appreciated the slow progress of that journey.

There’s also a friend trio (what I thought was originally going to be a duo) which really grew on me throughout the book: Amelia, Jai, & Darby! Their dynamic and wacky adventures were so much fun to follow! There was also a good amount of page-time given for Amelia to interact more with other students of the campus–it was those kinds of moments that made Mystwick come to life.

However one of my personal gripes is that Amelia, Jai, & Darby’s friendship felt like it could have been a bigger part of the story too–it breaks off for a little, when a bit of drama/conflict happens throughout the book. I felt it would have shined much better if their friendship was given more page time to develop! But I also appreciated how this is a story about personal growth, hence a lot of internal page time/development with Amelia.

Family (legacy even), friendship, and personal growth were all big themes of this story and really shined through. Khoury really cemented those themes into the story and alongside the plot, were such shining moments of the book.

There’s also such a diverse cast (characters from around the world that attend Mystwick), even a side character mentioned to have a wheelchair. Overall you sense how inclusive the world is, with characters from different backgrounds, ages–even getting small glimpses as to how magic operates outside the US which was great!

There’s even illustrated pages throughout the novel, done by Federica Frenna (who also designed the cover) and it just adds a little something special to the already magical story!

Again while it seems that the story wraps up in a great way for a standalone with all the major plot threads tied up, there’s somethings left unsaid and some new threads included for a possible sequel? I’m not sure if that’s a plan, but I would ABSOLUTELY love another book set in this magical world! It really comes to life and once I reached that last page, I was sad to be leaving the wonderful world of Mystwick!

Also, I’ve heard the audiobook is fantastic! I’ve read that it even includes original compositions and orchestral music throughout the audio! I’m hoping to give it a listen!

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft is a charming middle grade fantasy which blends a character-driven tale with mystery, humor, and a delightful magic system sure to captivate! There’s a lot of depth to the world, its characters, alongside a tale about finding the confidence within yourself. This is a middle grade you don’t want to miss!

Lunar Maria by Kwan-Ann Tan Review

Lunar Maria by Kwan-Ann TanLunar Maria by Kwan-Ann Tan

Publisher: Ghost City Press

Release Date: June 7, 2019

Pages: 17

Cover Design: Charity Young

Available Through the Ghost City Press Website: Lunar Maria

Summary: This micro-chapbook is a part of the 2019 Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chap Series. In the author’s words Lunar Maria is “a myth about the moon, a dysfunctional relationship, and some longings for home- centered around Chang’e.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Lunar Maria is a stellar poetry collection that focuses on Chang’e, Chinese goddess of the moon! Tan crafts each and every poem with a distinct message and tale to be told. While weaving in beautiful imagery of nature alongside a clear story, she chronicles a tale of self, identity, and the deep complexity of emotion!

I’ll definitely expand more on this in my upcoming 2020 Reading Goals post, but in the new year I hope to challenge myself in terms of what I read. This means branching out to explore different formats of storytelling, such as chapbooks or reading more literary magazines!

My first read of 2020 is perfect start to that goal, considering its a poetry collection from an indie publisher that publishes chapbooks + micro-chapbooks that showcase poetry and short fiction!

From its very first pages, Tan immerses you in her wonderful collection with the story of goddess Chang’e and verses such as this:

I raise my head to view the moon, bow it, longing for my hometown.

Each poem (with 10 total) is crafted through such unique and beautiful imagery. They capture striking and vivid emotions linked with the oceans, lakes, even the moon!

There’s a variety of themes that are present throughout this collection and are explored through Tan’s descriptive writing! Lunar Maria includes themes of self, balance, finding home, and the complexities of love.

The jumps across time among each of the poems flows so naturally (between Chang’e’s story and a young woman returning home from school). This further showcases the distinct story that’s woven throughout each poem that also feel incredibly personal.

While I fell in love with every poem in this collection, I wanted to highlight a couple that really stood out to me: vi. mare tranquilitatis / the sea of tranquility, mare nectaris / the sea of nectar, & i. lacus somniorum / the lake of dreams.

The Sea Of Nectar is so visual and detailed, it beautifully lists comparisons of moonlight hitting earth! Its a gorgeous poem and really stood out to me.

The Sea Of Tranquility captures through such vivid emotion, a young woman returning home, making mooncakes, and enjoying the festival with her grandmother. It beautifully illustrates family, home, also the sense of love and calm that both bring.

Tan’s writing not only allows for a captivating story to be told with each poem, but also illustrates distinct emotions that shine throughout the verses. Not only that, but there’s a certain tone and mood that’s set through Tan’s impactful use of language and vivid imagery.

Kwan-Ann Tan is a Malaysian writer and beautifully explores the Chinese legend of Chang’e, which centers around immortality and how she became goddess of the moon.

Lunar Maria is a poetry collection I’d definitely see myself revisiting in the future! I’m also looking forward to checking out more of Ghost City Press’s published works, because these poems were fantastic!

Please check out this delightful collection, because its both moving and beautifully written! If your looking for magnificent storytelling explored through poetry, Kwan-Ann Tan’s is a short but phenomenal collection that I highly recommend!

Lunar Maria weaves in powerful storytelling through a wonderful collection of poetry! This a unique set of poems unlike any I’ve ever read before, filled with impactful themes, beautiful imagery, alongside wonderful writing while evoking such distinct emotions with every verse!

This book was also my first pick for #QuietReadathon, which is a readathon I’m hosting all about reading & inspiring conversation around underrated/quiet books! 📚🌿 If your interested in joining, check out all the info here!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 3 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 3 by Kamome ShirahamaWitch Hat Atelier Vol. 3 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #3)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 3

Summary: Tho’ Qifrey sends the Knights Moralis hence, admonishing their captain for his aim, his doubts yet linger. dubious and tense, and Qifrey finds them difficult to tame. The witches’ adversary now draws nigh, and using magic’s power not for good, in Coco opportunity they spy, their dark ambitions not yet understood. Obsessed to know the brimmed caps intent, now Qifrey to his fellow witches lies, betraying all he claims to represent, in service of a gambit most unwise. Still, Coco’s none the wiser or the worse, but ignorance is innocence’s curse…

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 3 is a magical manga series that gets better with each installment! This volume offers a break from Coco’s journey to delve more into the world and delightful characters of this dazzling world! Captivating story, detailed art, and immersive world shine throughout this continuation to Witch Hat Atelier!

Witch Hat Atelier is a truly unique manga series unlike any I’ve ever read before! It connects to this inner wonder we have about the magic around us! You can see there’s so much attention given to the stellar characters and world we’re immersed into, with each volume!

The story follows a young girl named Coco whose always dreamed of becoming a witch. But, in her world not all are able to learn this secret art. An unfortunate accident leads her on an adventure alongside a Qifrey, whose a witch, and he takes her to his atelier to begin her training.

Where this series truly shines is in the way Shirahama masterfully brings together world-building, characters, their motivations, art, even language, for each volume! Your presented with a new focus for each installment and you can’t help but continue to be captivated through the brilliant storytelling!

In Volume 3, were thrown right back into the conflict with the Knights Moralis who’ve captured Coco and Agott for casting magic that’s possibly connected to the Brimmed Caps, witches who practice forbidden magic.

Luckily, Qifrey gets to them in time, but its clear the Knights aren’t going to let the issue go unresolved.

What this volume dives more into which I really appreciated was, the layered politics it explores from the witches to the Knights, and the risks the girls put on those innocent people who could have had their memories erased if they discovered the secrets of magic.

When they’re all reunited and Qifrey runs one last errand with Coco in Kalhn, there’s a mysterious ink bottle that shows us that this volume will really be Qifrey’s story and I loved that! He’s easily one of my favorite characters in the series and you get more depth to his morals, what his motivations are, and what he’s willing to do to keep his witches safe. Even if means chasing after any lead that can uncover more about the mysterious Brimmed Caps.

There’s also a new character were introduced to, Tartah, grandson of Nolnoa who runs the magic shop that Qifrey has taken Tetia, Richeh, Agott, and Coco to in previous volumes!

We learn he has a condition called Silverwash, which means he can only see the world in a silver color. Though he really wants to be a witch, the fact that he can’t see color hinders his progress.

From Silverwash to Tranquileaf, Azuremoon flowers, a special twin coin and so many other unique pieces of the Witch Hat world, these additions just added more depth to the setting and how different parts of it make it even such a bigger place than we first realize. This series beautifully builds on its magical world in subtle and unexpected ways!

What made Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 3 a nice change of pace from the previous volumes so far, was how it focused a lot on the setting and different characters, like Qifrey and Tartah!

Tartah dreams of being a witch and when he’s given a chance to help Coco when she comes down with a cold, he isn’t sure he has what it takes to be one (though he’s dreamed of it for a long time). Similarly in a previous chapter, we see Coco get more page time with Agott when she returns her shoes!

Coco’s energy shines through these scenes in particular and it really shows the uplifting spirit she has that connects with me in so many ways! Her character is also what makes this series so beautiful, because no matter what hardships the characters face, she’s always there with a smile and carries this positive energy with her wherever she goes.

Back to Qifrey and his storyline, I loved getting more depth to his character and page time with him! He’s one of my favorite characters in the series and though we know he’s very wise and knowledgeable, we see the lengths that he will go to to protect his witches, even if it means putting himself in danger with the Brimmed Caps!

The world-building is a bigger focus in this volume compared to previous ones considering in this volume we explore more of the setting, townsfolk, and more background to the world of witches (like the witch’s belt, Pentacle of Proving, and the ink bottles).

As with previous volumes the artwork, paneling, and pacing are fantastic! There’s so much care put into the detail of the characters, setting, action, and expression/emotion, its shown across Volume 3! Another element I began to notice more in this volume specifically was how certain moments are placed outside of a panel, it really cements you in the world, as do certain detailed panels! For example, on page 74 as Qifrey is explaining the set of tests an apprentice can take, you see its a detailed map showcasing where all their different tests will take place along “The Pentacle Of Proving.” Where also on the previous page, you see Qifrey had been opening up old map!

Its details like that, where you see the brilliance of Shirahama’s art and how she beautifully presents panels that showcase literal and metaphorical elements of the storytelling that really tie together beautifully!

This series blends dark moments, with inspiring and heartfelt ones and that comes through with the dialogue presented throughout the volumes! Another one of those inspiring moments came from Qifrey and nearing the end of the novel he says:

“Dreams aren’t easy to address…All great discoveries are born of adversity” (185).

Though the volume ends on a happy note, we do a small glimpse into what the Brimmed Caps are planning next for Coco and her friends. I’m having a lot of fun trying to figure out the underlying mystery of the brimmed capped witches and what they’re up to! In Volume 3 what really makes them startling, sinister and such interesting antagonists is how they are really keeping their distance, but still feel closer than ever (especially for this volume)!

Witch Hat Atelier is a truly wonderful series that shines in every way and I can’t recommend it enough! Please pick up this manga series if your looking for a captivating series that features beautiful artwork, an enchanting story, phenomenal characters, and a gripping story!

Witch Hat Atelier Volume 3 is a delightful continuation to the series! World-building, development into other main characters, and  depth to the Witch Hat setting are brought to the center in this volume! Each installment of Shirahama’s series will leave you wanting the next volume right away! 

Skip by Molly Mendoza Review {Graphic Novel}

Skip by Molly MendozaSkip by Molly Mendoza

Publisher: Nobrow Ltd.

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Pages: 168

Available Through The Book Depository: SKIP

Summary: A colorful, unpredictable postapocalyptic world comes alive in Skip, when two unlikely friends, Bloom and Gloopy, find themselves tossed from dimension to dimension. Gloopy is running toward adventure, and away from their home and friends who don’t understand their creative talent. Bloom is desperately trying to return home to their lake, and avoid the terrible violence of the city. Instead, both Bloom and Gloopy find what they need in each other, and bravely return home to challenge their fears and create beauty in their own worlds.

As Bloom and Gloopy skip through dimensions and encounter weeping giants, alligator islands, and a topsy turvy 2D world, they find comfort in each other and learn that sometimes, your greatest fear reveals where your strengths lie. 

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Skip is an absolute gem and a graphic novel that should be on your to-read list! The art is enchanting, a captivating rainbow of color!  Its a deeply moving tale about 2 unlikely friends whose dimensions cross and now they must travel across countless dimensions to find their way home! Skip by Molly Mendoza is an absolute masterpiece!

I’d had this beautiful graphic novel on my TBR for months, ever since I first discovered it through LatinxInPublishing during its release day! I hadn’t yet read a graphic novel by a Latina illustrator/author and I’m absolutely thrilled that SKIP was the first!

In this mysterious, postapocalyptic world the journey starts with Bloom, a young kid who lives with their guardian Bee! The two always head out to lake to go fishing and go about their daily lives peacefully, however Bloom can’t help but be curious about the cities on the other side of the lake.

Through stunning art and beautifully crafted writing, you get instantly transported to a world that is wholly familiar, yet still unrecognizable.

The society (across the lake) seems to be teeming with tech-hounds, there’s even innocent people being chased by these technologically advanced creatures, and all other forms of communication (aside from radio) seems to have vanished.

Bee decides they’ll investigate and leaves Bloom in charge of looking after the lake. However, Bee leaves an important treasure for Bloom: a black stone necklace.

Bloom tends to things as best as possible, but there’s an emptiness where Bee’s presence should be. As Bloom skips some stones across the lake, they uncover a swirl of color that’s actually a portal–taking them to another dimension!

On this other side we meet Gloopy and their world seems to filled with unique creatures inspired by nature. Their the oddball in their world and no matter how they try, their creative spirit just doesn’t gel with other friends and townsfolk. This quickly leads to Gloopy messing some things up for The Great Harvest. As Gloopy tries to make time to reflect, Bloom appears in a field within Gloopy’s world.

The two investigate as to how Bloom got there and find themselves quickly sucked into a vibrant world of color, which leads across hundreds, possibly thousands of dimensions!

Friendship is an important layer to this story not only as Bloom & Gloopy learn more about each other, but also how it tests their connection to one another as they try to find their way back home. Gloopy is the optimistic and curious one of the group and I loved seeing their dynamic with Bloom change and grow throughout the novel! Their friendship is the sweetest ❤❤

There’s such a beauty in the portrayal of emotion from fear to sadness, joy, melancholy and through Mendoza’s surrealist-style art, its given such attention and gravity to the story! Its really brought into focus and as the plot progresses you see that its such an intrinsic part to our characters journey and the world itself.

There’s an important symbol of mirrors and reflection throughout this novel and it beautifully captures that journey through the emotional depth and story of our main characters, including those they meet. 2 sections highlighted that reflection very well, their introductions and later towards the end (If you’ve read it you know what I mean) 😭💖

What comes through in the art from very first page at Bloom & Bee’s lake (& in Gloopy’s nature-filled world) is a distinct sense of place and such a feeling of realness from the gusts of wind to a splash of water in a lake!

The art continues to capture you with each and every panel. It delivers weight, emotion, and perception, which you can see beautifully through the pauses and details, mainly through the hands and eyes.

Another brilliant element to the art that I only noticed upon writing my review, was the variety of colors used when we’re first introduced to our main characters, to later the distinct color palette we’re guided along as Bloom & Gloopy travel throughout the dimensions.

One that really stuck out to me was this distinct blue world that had a technological side to it and used a pastel, dark blue & green color palette. This world really focused on Gloopy’s internal reflection and the development was explored beautifully through the colors.

Each world though they may seem disconnected due to the distinct creativity of each, there’s a common thread that links them all. Its the tools they offer to Bloom & Gloopy to continue with the challenges they face ahead. Another important element is how they both manage to shape and inspire those they run into in each dimension.

“I have been so lonely…so afraid. I would have never left the tower if not for you…” (96).

I also wanted to mention the representation within this novel! There’s brown-skinned main characters, 3 characters (our main characters included) use They/Them pronouns: Bloom, Bee & Gloopy! Also, this was just from my personal interpretation, but I personally read the human characters to be Latinx as well!

Skip is not just a story of emotion and reflection, its also exploring what it means to find or reach home!

I could gush about this graphic novel all day! So, if my review hasn’t convinced you yet, then let me just say PLEASE read this gem! Its beautiful, heartwarming, moving and just captivated me in so many ways! If you love emotionally-driven and impactful storytelling, surrealist + vibrant art, and a journey of friendship this should be on your to-read list!

Skip is a captivating graphic novel! Beautiful in every way from its storytelling, art, characters, their journeys, and underlying themes, this is a wonderful tale not to miss! This fantastical story is a journey unlike any other, its emotionally-driven, deeply moving and enchanting! Molly Mendoza’s Skip is not a graphic novel you want to pass by!