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!

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!

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill ARC Review {Graphic Novel}

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O'NeillThe Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill (Tea Dragon Festival #2)

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Pages: 136

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: The Tea Dragon Festival

Summary: Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

*Requested ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Tea Dragon Festival is both a delightful and captivating companion to The Tea Dragon Society!  Rinn, aspiring to be a cooking apprentice, loves collecting ingredients for the locals in their village! After an encounter with a sleeping dragon, Rinn sets off on a series of adventures as the Tea Dragon Festival is just around the corner! Enchanting art, alongside an equally captivating story with beautiful messages will make your heart soar as you turn the page in Katie O’Neill’s next Tea Dragon tale!

After finishing The Tea Dragon Festival, I truly need more TEA DRAGON content in my life, this series carries such a special place in my heart! 😭🧡✨🐉🌿

I originally read The Tea Dragon Society as a webcomic in 2017 and fell in love with it from page 1! Not only did it introduce me to the beauty of webcomics, but it also got me back into graphic novels and it still remains as one of my all-time favorite graphic novel series!

Going into this companion all I knew was that it was essentially a prequel and would include cameos from Tea Dragon Society characters! From its opening pages, I was whisked away into the world of The Tea Dragon Festival by not only the art, but also its opening line:

“At the nearest station, trains come once a week…” (7).

The kind-hearted Rinn lives with their grandmother and travels the surrounding forests and plains of Silverleaf Village to collect ingredients for not only family, but local townsfolk!

Journeying into the forest with a pouch, adorable Fennel tea dragon, and list of ingredients (with one they can’t seem to find by the name of goatshorn) Rinn stumbles upon a seemingly abandoned house in the forest!

Their in for a quick surprise when it turns out a dragon lives there! Not only that, but the dragon Aedhan has been asleep for over 80 years! With his destined task to look over the festival and protect the village, he’s left sad at the time that’s been lost. However…

Rinn invites Aedhan to town and with that, allow him to feel more at home!

As Aedhan adjusts to this jump in time, he also comes to learn more about the community and feel a sense of belonging. We learn he’d been tasked by his ancestors many years ago and that now, he feels pain for those he’s lost during his sleep. But Aedhan quickly finds a powerful friendship in Rinn (alongside their family) and finds a place to call home.

There’s something special about stories like this that evoke a quiet and endearing tale, while immersing you in a compelling and fantastical world…

What I loved about this prequel is that not only did it build more into the lore and history of both tea dragons & dragons, but also gave this sense of expansion to the world of the Tea Dragon universe in ways I can’t really put into words.

I feel though, that has to do with how O’Neill brings together two important elements! The art and story meld together to present an utterly timeless tale that offers so many beautiful messages about family, community, friendship, and much more!

Let’s talk for a minute about O’Neill’s art! While its no surprise that I adore her art-style I really payed more attention to the colors, paneling, and emotion evoked in The Tea Dragon Festival!

Every panel is weaved with a beautiful array of color that brings to life the dense and whimsical forests, the open fields, the sunsets, open sky, and and timeless magic of nature!! 🌿🌸✨

I internally screamed when seeing Erik & Hesekiel again and the little Easter Eggs it left for those who read and adored The Tea Dragon Society, like myself!

The writing is phenomenal! I loved the story in The Tea Dragon Society, but The Tea Dragon Festival is a fantastic on a completely different level and readers will not be disappointed! The writing flows wonderfully with the soft, colorful art and I can’t tell you how many times I stopped to write down some of the beautiful quotes woven throughout this book!

The art also beautifully portrays a diverse and inclusive setting (feat. Non-binary protagonist Rinn, characters of color, and Sign Language, and messages of the fluidity of gender). Alongside that, the color and soft detail, immerse you in a wondrous setting focused on nature (there’s a magic to it that just comes to life through O’ Neill’s art).

The story itself is perfectly paced and with my anticipation to get back into this lovely world, every page I was ready to see what would happen next (I also appreciated how there were more pages in this companion 💖). From forest adventures, magical creatures, moments of quiet and everyday life, festival planning, cooking, and much more, this graphic novel also has a cast of characters that will capture heart!

There’s themes of identity, friendship, family, appreciating your talents and skills (even if they come easily), and the power in community!

If you haven’t read The Tea Dragon Society, please pick it up if you love stories about friendship, are looking to learn more about the tea dragons, and are interested in seeing where Hesekiel and Erik end up together! Then, after that, pick up this companion 😆💖🌿🐉✨ Though these can essentially be read in any order, I recommend reading them in release order (Tea Dragon Society first).

The Tea Dragon Festival is a must-read! Through whimsical storytelling grounded in truth, a diverse cast, and charming characters, this tale will captivate you from page 1! There’s a uniqueness O’Neill’s art-style alongside the equally wonderful story, beautifully explored themes and delightful ensemble cast of characters! This companion to The Tea Dragon Society will leave you wanting more once you’ve reached the last page!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin Review {Graphic Novel}

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly UsdinThe Avant Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist), & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: BOOM Box! (Boom Studios)

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: The Avant-Guards Vol. 1

Summary: When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Avant-Guards is a fantastic series from Boom Studios! This female-led series is about friendship and discovering who you are! The colorful art, alongside the great cast of characters, and much more, deliver a page-turning story you won’t be able to put down! With a fresh start at a new college, Charlie learns more about herself and finds where she belongs when her new friends convince her to join their basketball team!

This first volume of The Avant-Guards completely captured my heart and I can’t wait to see where the series is headed next! 💞

I’d already been familiar with Usdin’s graphic novels, already having read Heavy Vinyl (which is getting a sequel next year & recommend checking it out! 🎉 — it basically follows a group of girls in the 90’s who work in a record store and follows the newest employee, Chris as she discovers her co-workers are actually part of an all-female vigilante group!).

Going into The Avant-Guards, I knew I’d love it! But, I didn’t just love it, I adored it so much! I can definitely say―that THE AVANT-GUARDS IS MY NEW FAVORITE GRAPHIC NOVEL SERIES, I love it with all my heart!! 😭 

Charlene (Charlie) Bravo is a recent transfer to the Georgia O’Keeffe College For Art & Subtle Dramatics (amazing title for a school tbh) and she’s still figuring out where she fits in, that is until she meets the all-girls basketball team!!

Olivia is the energetic and optimistic one that really wants Charlie to join and sees her potential, then there’s the other wonderful teammates who I loved too: Jay, Nicole, Tiffany & Ashley, who are all incredibly welcoming to her!

This first volume chronicles the team getting together and introducing us to the wonderful team of The Avant-Guards! From beginning to end I felt I knew the team so well and I’m excited to learn even more about them. The Avant-Guards is the kind of story where the characters just pull you into the story and throughout it, they feel like your best friends too! 💞💞

Stories like that connect with me on such a deep and personal level because friendship is incredibly important to me and to see it highlighted and be such a focus of this series, just warms my heart!

Alongside that, this story is just filled to the brim with supportive and positive energy and you can’t help but smile while reading. As Charlie attempts to find where she belongs on this new campus, she seems to be pretty nonchalant about her environment. That is until she meets The Avant-Guards at their table during the campus’s activities fair!

With the team only needing one more player to make it official, Liv makes it her mission to convince Charlie to at least think it over. But after they all immediately click with Charlie, Liv comes up with a plan for all of them to get her to join!

As the story progresses, you learn so much about each of the girls (Liv is the captain of the team & got them all together, Nicole is the “resident cynic,” Ashley who “sings like Beyonce, [parties] like Rhianna & balls like Lebron,” Tiffany, whose interested in crystals & the like, & Jay, they are pretty quiet but an incredibly loyal friend).

The Charlie & Liv dynamic was so beautifully written! Having been a former basketball player, Charlie isn’t too interested in returning anytime soon, but its through Liv and the other girl’s she realizes its not just about the game, but also the connections she’s made with them!

We learn that they both had girlfriends in the past and its so obvious Liv has a crush on her, so seeing their friendship and romance develop was just so beautiful and I just loved seeing them together! 😭💞 There’s 3 moments throughout this volume that stuck out to me: Liv telling Charlie she wouldn’t give up on getting her to join, Liv explaining that the other girls genuinely want her to join b/c they’d love to be her friend, & their talk on the bus about Charlie’s anxiety!

All of the girls have their own quirks and personalities that shine throughout this entire first volume and I’m really looking forward to more of their interactions and dynamic as both friends/teammates in future issues! Every one of these girls resonated with me so much because their confidence and loyalty to each other was just incredibly inspiring to me!

The writing and pacing of the story allow for their characters to get the perfect amount of development, page-time, and still leave some mystery about them for future issues/volumes!

I also appreciated this intersection between sports and art! An underlying message (at least that I found) was the empowerment one can find through art! I mean anywhere you go I believe your surrounded by art in some way and I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I feel The Avant-Guards gets that? 😄

Throughout Volume 1, I found the art and paneling was done so wonderfully! The colors are bright and bring even more to the already brilliant story! As does the art! Its expressive, detailed, and feels incredibly cinematic & animated! The paneling is also something I was paying close attention to and it never felt like space was wasted. Alongside that, I felt the art and dialogue together complemented each other and came together to tell a fantastic story!

From the character expressions, pacing, action scenes, and even backgrounds, they all come to life through the vibrant colors and great art-style!

Overall, I felt The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 story was complete and well explored!

Honestly, if you were to ask me to pick a favorite character of the Avant-Guards, I honestly couldn’t do it, I adore each of the them with all my heart!! ❤ ❤

Considering this is a sports comic series, I did want to quickly talk about another series I’ve read which is Fence! Looking back, I can see why I enjoyed it when I first read it (its one the first sports comics I read & had a unique cast of characters like Avant-Guards). But if I’m being honest, I feel like my love for Fence has faded and The Avant-Guards has found that special place in my heart! Not saying they should be compared (because they are completely different stories) but if your stuck between both series and not sure which one to pick up, I’d say read The Avant-Guards!

Based on this first volume alone, I found the art, characters, pacing, and much more to be better developed and explored!

The Avant-Guards is diverse, colorful, the characters are all full of life, and the wonderful themes of the story weave their way through each page! I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful graphic novel!

Featuring characters of color, queer women, and just overall being incredibly inclusive, I just love the care and attention to diversity that the team behind this series has represented!  From the characters of different backgrounds (mainly featuring Brown/Black women), characters identifying as Queer and Jay (who uses They/Them), this is just such a beautifully inclusive series and I hope more people will pick it up!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 is must-read graphic novel series from Boom Studios! This series is all about friendship, self-discovery, and is beautifully inclusive + diverse! Charlie learns more about friendship and overcomes obstacles from her past when she joins the all-women’s basketball team! From the lovely artwork and colors to inspiring themes throughout this first volume, The Avant-Guards is a new series you don’t want to miss!

Sera And The Royal Stars #1 by Jon Tsuei Comic Review

Sera And The Royal Stars Issue 1Sera And The Royal Stars #1 by Jon Tsuei, Audrey Mok (Artist), Raúl Angulo (Colorist),  Jim Campbell (Letterer), & Tim Daniel (Design)

Publisher: Vault Comics

Release Date: July 17, 2019

Pages: 28

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: Sera And The Royal Stars Vol. 1

Summary: Civil war rages in the Empire of Parsa, and famine has struck. As the seasons refuse to turn, Princess Sera receives a vision from the deity Mitra telling her to find the Royal Stars and restore them to the heavens. Despite her kingdom and her troops’ need of her command, Sera embarks on a quest to find the fallen stars—now trapped on earth—and save her people from dearth and death.

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: Sera And The Royal Stars #1 is a must-read epic fantasy-adventure comic! The detailed art, page-turning story, alongside its rich and expansive world, all come together to deliver a great introduction to what I know will be a fantastic series! Princess Sera finds herself embarking on a quest to save her kingdom and its people during the height of a civil war!

Sera And The Royal Stars is a comic series I’ve been waiting to read for months since I’d heard about it earlier this spring! I’d already been following the publisher for sometime,  I just hadn’t read any of their comics yet. I’m SO filled with joy that I finally did because I’m even more excited to read more of Vault’s comics on my TBR shelf!

This is the kind of story that swept me away without realizing it, allowing me to connect with its rich world, phenomenal characters, and immersive story and before I knew it― I’d reached the last page.

Sera And The Royal Stars is the type of story that roots you into its fascinating world (and doesn’t let go for one single second), as seen through a brave and valiant princess who’s willing to trek across her war-torn land to save her country and its people!

In the western territories of Parsa the story opens up with Princess Sera alongside her brother and sister (Jahar & Roya), who’ve come to collect the fallen soldiers as they continue on to fight a civil war across their dying land.

But Sera finds herself, in the midst of battle, summoned by the deity Mitra! She’s told that she’s been chosen to “break the bonds that bind the Royal Stars…” Once she does, she can save her people who have been suffering. With one more visit from Mitra, the deity replaces Sera’s heart with a special crystal and her journey quickly begins! The crystal seems to guide her along her journey and I’m interested in learning more about it.

The empire of Parsa is vast and within this first issue we get just a glimpse , but it leaves so many pockets of this world open to exploring―places, characters, the mythology, and the royal family!

What I loved about this first issue is how we’re thrown right into the action and already established story threads! We’re given all of these detailed bits of world-building to learn more about the story itself in a layered way! For example, Sera states that she’s already aware of the visions she’s had, but Mitra was the first to actually speak! Additionally we learn more about the queen, Tara who wasn’t able to complete the mission of restoring the dimming royal stars.

The layered and subtle details allow for the reader to build on this vast world with each turn of the page!

I’m also a big fan of royalty in fantasy stories and I appreciate how this first issue layers the complexity of the royal family, above all showcasing the importance of family (seeing Sera and her siblings fighting together)! I also love how the mythology and lore of Parsa are such driving forces in Sera’s journey to find a solution to this war–it allows the reader to get a glimpse into the on-going conflict and history of the world.

Sera is an incredibly dedicated and brave princess who’s love for her country and its people that pushes her to embark on a heroic quest!

Sibling dynamics are often overlooked in fantasy, but its clear Sera And The Royal Stars wants to explore it in more depth as future issues are released. Within issue #1, not only do we see Sera, Jahar, and Roya together on the battlefield, but also the conflict between family as the presence of war continues.

As Sera prepares to leave for her journey, her brother Jahar offers figs and feels confident in Sera’s abilities to find the answer. However, her sister Roya still carries the grief and anger of being abandoned by their mother all those years ago–just wanting Sera safe and staying home to fight!

I’m really interested in exploring more of the wonderful sibling dynamics that were introduced, in future issues.

Now onto the story–just wow! There’s so much that happens within this first issue and sets up even more as the series continues. After Sera’s vision on the battlefield, she heads back and we’re introduced to the king and quickly learn that the civil war is against Shaheen, Sera’s uncle!

We also learn that the queen was also called upon a similar mission to Sera’s but couldn’t complete it. As Sera is sleeping she’s contacted by Mitra and learns if she doesn’t break the bonds of the royal stars, not only will the seasons continue to remain unchanged, but her people will be led towards a horrible fate. Sera wastes no time leaving for her journey which starts with being directed east to find the Bull.

As she embarks on her journey, back home outside Parsa’s city walls, Shaheen is readying his forces to attack the kingdom! With Sera being the best tactician, the kingdom is left without her intellect.

After a few days of traveling she reaches a local village that directs her to a temple filled with ancient magic! She meets an old man who can’t remember who he is, until we realize he is the Bull–and the issue ends there!

Alongside Sera’s uncle, there’s a mysterious brother and sister duo who know quite a bit about the deities, the figure known as the Yazata, and are determined to rule, in time!

There’s a very present theme of war and its impacts on the people of Parsa from famine, to death, alongside mysterious forces at every turn. The plot though dark in its themes, presents resounding messages of hope and resilience!

“My earliest memories of family all revolve around war…”

Delving more into the mythology of Sera And The Royal Stars, the world seems to lay a large foundation on the deities and astrology! According to an interview with writer/creator Jon Tsuei over at Comics Pit, Tsuei was inspired to build this world around ancient Persia and wanted to focus on mythology from non-Western (specifically Asian) cultures:

” [The idea of the Royal Stars] seems to have originated through the Zoroastrian religion, which started in ancient Persia…It led me to sorcery and also led me to astrology…”

The setting is incredibly immersive, expansive and leaves so much to explore in future issues! The world of Parsa is vast from its rocky canyons of the Western Territories to its capital city, villages far from the outskirts of the kingdom, lush forests, and magical temples! There’s so many locations explored in issue 1 and not once did I feel lost in the world–I was excited to learn more and see what else lies in the expansive Kingdom of Parsa!

I’m also interested in exploring more of the politics of the different parts of the world, royals, and the war as the series continues!

The themes, world, characters, story, etc. all come together in such an incredible way to deliver an such a complex and layered story that’s easily my new favorite series!

Audrey Mok’s artwork is another highlight of this series! Its colorful and detailed, showcasing lush backgrounds, various styles of clothing, detailed characters, and the vastness of the world itself. As for the paneling, its done extremely well– the pacing of the story is great, each panel offers something important to the story and offers more insight into the world.

Also, every moment filled with action, shined through Mok’s detailed art and brought each scene to life!

I had such incredibly high hopes for this start to the Sera And The Royal Stars series and I was not disappointed, in fact I was left surprised and everything about it continued to exceed my expectations–I loved every moment and I can’t wait to read the future issues!

Sera And The Royal Stars #1 introduces an expansive fantasy world in the middle of war! Sera embarks on a heroic journey to save her people, while dark forces loom close by! If you love fantasy tales filled with epic journeys, ancient prophecies, royalty, heroic princesses, immersive world-building, and stunning artwork, don’t miss Sera And The Royal Stars, its a phenomenal start to a new comic series!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 2 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 2Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 2 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #2)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: June 25, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 2

Summary: Her journey as a witch is underway, and Coco’s earnest wish is but to learn. But now she has a dragon in her way, and friendships she badly wants to earn. For comrades lend one strength to carry on and kindred spirits blunt the keenest threat. A dragon, once enraged, now sleeps ’til dawn, transforming peril into light vignette. Though Coco has attained apprenticeship and Qifrey’s trio now becomes quartet, his gift to Coco threatens to be stripped, for wary Watchful Eyes no wrongs abet. When Knights Moralis come to take their due, her magic learned turns magic lost anew…

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier is a must-read series that’s magical and captivating! Coco finds her journey filled with obstacles, from strengthening her new-found friendships and taking what she learns at every turn to improve upon her magic! The detailed art, inspiring messages, and captivating story weave together to make Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 2 an outstanding sequel!

You know when you’ve been highly anticipating a book and when its finally out, you put off reading it only to read it in practically one sitting, then your left wondering how on earth you’ll possibly be able to wait for the next one?

That’s how I feel reading the Witch Hat Atelier manga! It’s a series I’d really been looking forward to since I’d heard about it at last year’s AX and it’s easily one of the best fantasy manga series I’ve ever read!

I truly believe this series is incredibly underrated and underhyped in the bookish community–I can’t recommend this series enough! If you love complex magic systems, amazing ensemble cast of characters, whimsical, but also inspiring and almost timeless tales? Then please pick up Witch Hat Atelier!

The story follows a young girl named Coco who dreams of becoming a witch. But in this world, it’s not such an easy task, only select few are born with the ability to practice this secret art.

Coco discovered her love of magic when she attended a castle festival with her mother at a young age! Since then, she’s held onto the dream that she can make it happen one day!

An unfortunate accident involving forbidden spells leads her on a magical adventure alongside magician Qifrey, where he takes her to his atelier and let her training begin.

In Volume 2, it picks up right where the story left off with Coco, Tetia, Richeh, and Agott trapped in an empty and abandoned Mc Escher-esque city, trying to escape a dragon!

What makes Witch Hat Atelier such a memorable series for me, is that through the writing, characters, their development and plot, I feel like I already know the cast so well that it was so easy for me to get back into this world in the second volume!

Coco attempts to help her other friends find a way out, but Agott and Tetia have their doubts about her abilities. Because of that, Coco questions whether she’ll ever find that sense of belonging in the atelier as they go on without her.

I related to her so much in that first chapter, that sort of unsaid doubt that she picks up on and questioning whether she can make it. But, Coco is both inspiring and dedicated in her perseverance to continue learning, alongside strengthening the bonds with her new friends, even if she knows she isn’t quite ready. I adore that about her as a character, time and time again she’s faced with obstacles that seem impossible but she keeps on trying and uses what she learns to help others!

During this time, were also following their master Qifrey who’s outside of this mysterious city, trying to help the girls and find a way out! But, we also learn this misfortune may be connected to the Brimmed Caps: Witches who wear masks and caps from a bygone era. They keep their identities hidden and practice forbidden magic!

As Coco reunites with her friends, she has a heart-warming moment with Tetia, keeping her spirits up and reminds her of the strength she has within herself!

As they come up with a plan for escape, Qifrey manages to find them, but Coco is quickly faced again with the mysterious, masked magician!

Next, Witch Hat Atelier introduces us to some interesting new characters and magicians! First there’s Olruggio, Qifrey’s close friend and overseer of the atelier. Next are the Knights Moralis, defenders of magic who maintain order by ensuring those who aren’t allowed to practice magic, have their memories erased & eliminate those who practice forbidden magic!

In this volume not only do Coco and Qifrey continue to be my absolute favorite characters, but I’ve now gotten to know more about Agott and I loved her so much + seeing her development!

What makes this volume such a great sequel, is how it balances the action, character development, new character introductions, and world-building in such a seamless way. The complexity to the magic system is developed even further through the use of new spells and obstacles, where we see Coco take each and every adventure as a learning experience to help her on the next one!

Additionally, I loved how for most of the characters, I could see a clear development arc that began and ended in this volume!

Alongside Coco, another character who gets more development is Agott! She’s hesitant towards Coco at first and doesn’t want her in the way. But, as she begins to see Coco’s true strength, potential, and tenacity, she realizes just how much she really belongs there as much as she does! She begins to see just how powerful and inspiring Coco truly is.

We learn she mainly feels this way, because as Agott grew up in another Atelier, she always felt like she was never good enough. Her mother was incredibly skilled and all these outside expectations turned into other’s disappointment. Because of that, she feels that at Qifrey’s she has to continue proving herself.

However one moment that really stuck with me was when Coco and the team were headed out to help a family caught in a raging river and Qifrey said this:

“Agott tends to dwell on things she has not yet learned, rather than rejoicing in the things she has…” (135).

As the story progresses we get a little more about the hierarchy among witches and magicians! This makes for a very interesting end to this volume and I was left in shock once I turned that last page–How am I supposed to wait for Volume 3? I don’t think I can??

The art, as with the first volume, is carefully detailed! The characters especially are illustrated with such care and come to life on the page. What I noticed more in this volume was the little details that continue to make the world incredibly immersive. For example, the onomatopoeias added more layers to the sights and sounds of the world―action scenes alongside the settings, and food (one of my favorite scenes was the rainy picnic they all had!).

In addition, through the writing and art together we get more depth and added layers to the world! More spells and their capabilities, rules, magical equipment like the Rain Cleaver and Link Rings, even the nuances to the magic system (such as why the witches cloaks are so large and billowy― to prevent the secret of preforming magic from being seen by normal people).

The way the panels are shown too, present the story in such a wonderful way. Each and every panel offered something to the story and from the magic system, character development, to the setting–not one single panel or page ever felt wasted!

I continue to be in awe at how everything in this series flows together so perfectly! The various elements to the world-building continue to be incredibly captivating and so well developed. Every time your introduced to something new, it immerses you so much into the story to the point you forget that its your first time reading about it–that’s not easy for a story to do, but Witch Hat Atelier does it with such care!

Another element of this series that is not only an important part, but also something that connects with me on such a personal level is the powerful messages deeply rooted into the story! As I mentioned in my review of Volume 1, there’s this feeling of endless hope and possibility that allows the reader to keep asking “What-If,” which connects to this inner wonder of the magic that’s all around us!

One of my many favorite inspirational moments is when Coco is helping Qifrey cook something in the kitchen using magic and he explains to her:

“When your anxious to learn something and need to get better…the solution is to make it part of your daily life…” (84).

Its moments like that between the characters where beautiful and inspiring messages just stick with you on such a personal level that makes this series so much more special to me!

Witch Hat Atelier proves you can blend humor, dark moments, alongside happy and cheerful ones to deliver a story both inspiring, timeless, and captivating all at once!

Witch Hat Atelier Volume 2 is a page-turning continuation to Coco’s adventures! Character development, inspiring messages, and immersive world-building are just some of the many highlights this volume has to offer! Everything weaves together to bring an epic continuation to the Witch Hat Atelier series that will leave you speechless and want the next volume right away! Kamome’s Witch Hat Atelier is a truly phenomenal manga series that is a must read!

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu ARC Review

The Best Lies by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 2, 2019

Pages: 352

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: The Best Lies

Summary: Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

*tw: for toxic friendship, mention/discussion of abuse, trauma, & moments of gaslighting

*Requested an ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Best Lies is a 2019 YA debut that’s a must read for fans of mystery! Remy Tsai recounts her friendship with her best friend Elise during an investigation when her boyfriend Jack is killed. The story follows a brilliant narrative told through past and present POV that weaves together perfectly! Lyu’s debut is an introspective look at love, the complex bonds of friendship, and trauma!

What inspired me to read this book originally, was the summary and gorgeous cover! But, I’d also loved that the story itself would be focusing on friendship and had a mystery to solve, because I personally don’t read many of them or if I do, I’m pretty selective. So, I took the opportunity to request a copy and I’m incredibly happy I did! There’s so many positive things I have to say about this book because throughout its entirety it kept exceeding my expectations, getting better and better!

The Best Lies is a thought-provoking novel, layered with mystery that unravels a complex view of friendship! It will grip you from the very beginning!

“The best lies are at least half true..”

Katherine “Remy” Tsai’s boyfriend Jack, is dead. She can’t remember how it happened exactly, but when the police get involved, she has no choice but to recount what happened as part of an investigation. As she sifts through one years worth of memories between her and her best friend Elise, the truth of their friendship slowly unravels!

But there’s also some issues, Remy wants to desperately protect Elise (knowing she was involved) and seems to have blacked out during an ominous 14 minutes leading up to her boyfriend’s death.

At the start of this timeline we quickly learn that all Remy is desperate to do is escape the hardships in her life–her parents constant fighting, living with a brother whose seen as perfect by her mother, and her group of friends, quickly growing distant. That all changes on homecoming night after Remy has just been dumped by her boyfriend and is comforted by new student, Elise Ferro. Elise quickly allows Remy to understand that her happiness in any relationship is the most important and Remy finds herself in awe at Elise’s wisdom and this energy between the two of them because in those moments everything disappears and Remy finds this unmatched strength within her–they can conquer anything that gets in their way!

The two instantly click and become the best of friends! Whether its talking openly with one another, confiding in each other, or putting in effort to hang out and get out of their shells a bit more (like driving around & attending parties together). Remy also respects Elise for her fearlessness. As Remy finds herself continuously pulled into Elise’s orbit, we see they quickly begin relying on each other and promise to be at each others sides no matter what, but the bond between them slowly begins to change.

As they support and confide in each another, we learn that Elise’s life isn’t all too great either. She struggles to share her devastating personal life with Remy in the early stages of their friendship, but we soon learn more about it as she opens up: Elise lives with an abusive father and she’s lived with the fact that she  her estranged mother abandoned her at a young age, only to see her 9 years later at her funeral.

Elise quickly introduces Remy to her world of pranks to get back at those who’ve wronged others– this happens on the first night they meet when Elise persuades Remy to set fireworks near her ex-boyfriends room. Elise sees herself as somewhat of a vigilante, helping those who’ve been wronged by exes, former loves, or female classmates being bullied (This is made clear throughout the Kill Bill movies they watch together & the references that are made more apparent as the story progresses).

Their friendship which starts off loving and supportive, slowly alters into something toxic, that both Elise and Remy can’t seem to escape.

You know when you finish a book that has captivated you from the beginning & you finally reach the last page in disbelief that its over?? That’s what reading Lyu’s debut was like! This book has easily made it to my list of favorite books of the year & all time–this book ruined me…(;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) It was SO GOOD, but also heartbreaking!! I’m not sure how I’ll recover; The Best Lies was–just utterly phenomenal and I’m broken…

There’s just so much I have to say about this phenomenal book from its brilliant use of past and present POV, the writing which shows Lyu’s attention/care to her characters, and the spectacular way the plot unfolds. The Best Lies also offers an incredibly introspective look at friendship while chronicling Remy & Elise’s story throughout each and every page.

Friendship throughout this novel is many things for Remy and Elise–it’s a home, it’s love, but it’s also complicated, messy, and obsessive.

The depth of their friendship and why that is such an important foundation for people in their lives, was something that Lyu explored so heavily in this novel!! Friendship is something incredibly important to me and I loved how Lyu really developed that message through her writing.

The main characters from Remy to Elise, Remy’s parents, Christian, Jack, Remy + Elise’s other friends like Melody, Julie, Jae, and others– all feel so incredibly real in ways I can’t explain. You understand this depth to their hearts, their pain, their expectations, and even the hurt they feel (especially Remy, Elise, and her parents).

More on the writing, its a style unlike any I’ve ever really read before. Its kind of hard to explain unless you read it for yourself– you really get in the character’s head space and are pretty in-tune with their emotional state. Lyu’s writing is just incredibly good and if your looking for a novel that really shows you the depth of a character’s inner thoughts, emotions, and is layered with focus on its characters and pays attention to detail, you’d really love the writing-style in The Best Lies!

Throughout the novel, Remy struggles with the fact she isn’t the typical daughter her parents expect her to be. She smokes, isn’t taking expected AP classes like her friend Melody, and isn’t “perfect” like her older brother Christian. Lyu also explores Remy’s internal battle between her expectations and who she really is, feeling like she will always be the disappointment in her parents eyes.

I loved the relationship between Remy & Jack. They meet when Elise “abandons” her at a party and they develop this beautiful relationship that allows them to learn more about love and growth! I adored their scenes together so much because you know how much they love and care for each other!! (Also the text scene between Remy & Jack about his dog Lola was the cutest (´▽`ʃƪ) 💞 Jack’s backstory was heartbreaking, reading about his parents abandonment only to lose his grandpa (who practically raised him) a few years later. + Jack’s confession that he started swimming again because of her was so beautiful!!

Expanding on the pranks, I found they were also a brilliant metaphor for many different aspects of the story! They represent Elise’s fire, determination, and complex emotions she keeps bottled inside due to her neglect (with each prank getting more intense than the last). Similar to the Pink Caddy & Mansion, the pranks also represent this cement in their friendship, which keep them coming back to each other.

What also made this book so emotionally gripping was that you root for Elise and Remy because you see how they become this anchor in each others lives. But, knowing how the story ends–you still don’t expect it until you see the threads of their friendship slowly unraveling through their actions–your still heartbroken anyways.

I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens near the end, but when truths are revealed, I sobbed so much! Understanding the truth of their friendship and where it was headed hurt most of all.

Remy learns a lot over the course of this story about trauma and not only how it impacts someone’s life, but also what it can represent. Again I don’t want to give exact spoilers but throughout The Best Lies, Elise teaches Remy about trauma can make you stronger and if she’s survived thus far, she can make it through anything! Those were incredibly inspiring messages, but Remy (with Jack’s help) also learns that often time that pain is something to just something to accept, learn from, and move on! Both messages weave themselves perfectly into the story and develop at such pivotal points in the plot!

Lyu also includes an incredibly open authors note within the ARC which delves more into the themes explored throughout The Best Lies. I can’t put into words how admired I am of Lyu to include this message and how the themes hit close to home for her. The themes explored throughout this book feel just so real and you sense that through the complex main heroines of Remy and Elise!

Overall this debut just resonated with me in so many ways, I could sympathize so much with main characters, understand their hardships and connect with the story on such an introspective level. Although I’ve never personally experienced topics like these explored throughout the book, the deep exploration of friendship, its incredibly complex layers, and how people’s past (or trauma) just impacts them in many intricate ways is something that Lyu develops so so incredibly well!

The Best Lies is an utterly brilliant mystery thriller novel with a deeply layered, complex view on friendship, trauma, and so much more! Lyu’s debut explores so many themes, provides an introspective look at its main cast, and brilliantly unfolds the tale of an intricate friendship that turns to obsession! 

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu comes out in July and its a fantastic debut, so definitely pick this book up!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama Vol. 1Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #1)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: April 2, 2019

Pages: 204

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1

Summary: In a world where everyone takes wonders like magic spells and dragons for granted, Coco is a girl with a simple dream: She wants to be a witch. But everybody knows magicians are born, not made, and Coco was not born with the gift for magic. She’s resigned to her un-magical life, until a traveling magician passes through her village, and Coco learns what what everybody “knows” might not be the truth.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 1 is a captivating manga debut and easily one of my new favorite series! The beautiful art, alongside the enchanting story, powerful messages, & fantastic characters all come together so perfectly! The first volume of Witch Hat Atelier shows that there’s a powerful magic inside each of us!

Witch Hat Atelier is a manga I’ve waited almost a year for at this point! I’d first heard about it at AX last year and knew I just had to add it to my TBR!!

The story follows Coco who lives in a world where magic is all around her, but not everyone (including herself) know how to use it. Only witches can, however in this world witches are only born–not made!

The daughter of a seamstress, both Coco and her mother live in a small village living their everyday lives. But, one day a magical carriage comes into town with wealthy women from another town.

Not long after, a traveler by the name of Qifrey stops by quickly to get a cloth from their shop. However, after the Pegasus Carriage gets damaged Qifrey reveals he has the ability to fix it–because he’s a magician.

Coco shares with Qifrey that her love of magic came when she was little! Both she & her mother went to a castle festival, where Coco encountered a masked magician that offered her a special book and a pen that she’s kept alongside her ever since!

Magic in the world of Witch Hat Atelier is not only beautiful, but explored in such a unique way! Knowing magic long ago used to be a part of everyday life, but with the world being in a constant state of war, a new order was set up so few (with good intentions) would keep magic alive. But in turn, everyone else had to forget magic.

What also brought such a unique take on the exploration of magic, was how its cast! The secret that must be kept behind closed doors, is that the magic of this world isn’t through words, but drawn!

If your looking for a deeply complex, elaborate, but whimsical magic system, Witch Hat Atelier delivers! The fulidity of magic and how its explored through Coco’s past and present allow the reader to really feel a sense of wonder in this captivating world!

The events of the day inspire Coco to examine the journal one more time, but her spells go wrong! Now she must join Qifrey on a quest to understand more about this intriguing world of magic and save her mother.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, because the way it unfolds was so brilliant and I highly recommend experiencing this wonderful tale for yourself!

But I will say, as Coco’s journey begins she’s brought to Qifrey’s Atelier where she meets other young girls like herself who are also magicians-in-training: Tetia, Richeh, & Agott!

A very present message throughout this whole volume which I adored was this idea that although magic is rare in this world, its something grounded in a reality that was so relatable to me in a way I hope I can explain?

Basically, because we follow a main character who sees the possibilities of magic (though she can’t wield it) we get this sense of hope, wonder, and the wonder of what-ifs! So, the world feels far vaster than we can imagine, but never hollow–which show’s the incredible depth to the world-building and how its rooted in the powerful messages of the story!

The plot has mystery, hope, moments both happy and sad, humorous and they all complement each other in this fantastic introduction to the series of Witch Hat Atelier so perfectly! The pacing never falters for a moment and the story is captivating from the opening page!

I honestly cannot pick a favorite character because I love them all so much–Coco, Qifrey, Tetia, Richeh, Agott & the masked magician! They each feel so incredibly developed in this first volume and connected with each and every one of them. There’s also a mystery to Qifrey and the masked Magician that I have some theories about (when it comes to how magic is used by very few)–but I’ll keep it to myself for now 😂✨

The setting is rich, immersive, and just gives you this thread of limitless possibility when it comes to the scope of magic as you get further along into the story! It has a steampunk + historical magic feeling to it and it works perfectly! I never felt confused with all these new elements being introduced, instead I felt even more captivated and was in awe! Overall, the world-building is phenomenal

The art style is just breathtaking! Shirahama’s details to the background, character designs, attention to details among each and every panel are true works of art!

Its stories like Witch Hat Atelier that I find can appeal to readers of all ages, because it connects to this inner wonder we have about the magic in the world around us, that endless hope of finding magic where we know there may not be, and its beautiful! Its about believing in yourself and following your heart to see that magic appear in its own way!

If your looking for your newest manga obsession, Witch Hat Atelier is a must!! I can’t recommend it enough, please add this captivating series to your to-read list, you will not be disappointed, I can promise you that!

Witch Hat Atelier Volume 1 is a truly incredible start to a magical manga series I can’t wait to continue! Everything from the story, characters, world, themes, and artwork are utterly phenomenal! Magic thrives through each page of Witch Hat Atelier and will leave you in awe, eager to read the next volume right away! 

January 2019 Wrap-Up

During the month of January I read 5 books! I’m really happy with this number & the books I read, because a lot of them were part of a TBR list I created for myself in my bullet journal!

Fierce Fairytales Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill1. Fierce Fairytales: Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill

LibraryStarted January 1 + Finished January 2My Rating:★★★★☆ Fierce Fairytales Full Review

Overall Thoughts: I’d never read any of Gill’s poetry before, but after reading this book I definitely want to check out more of her collections in the future! I loved the modern twists and inspiring messages she wove into Fierce Fairytales! Gill transforms fairy-tales/classic fairy tale elements within each piece of the collection to turn it into something wholly unique and I loved that! However, there were definitely some elements that made me take off a star: You can clearly see the message and emotion she’s trying to evoke, but with the plainness in writing, it comes off as very direct and abrupt. The pacing did drag a bit too. However, there we’re definitely some poems & stories that I adored, which I found both showed the strongest writing and imagery: Badroulbadour, Shoemaker’s Son, Rapunzel Rapunzel & Moon Dragon! 

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi2. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (The Gilded Wolves #1)

ARC Started January 3 + Finished January 8My Rating: ★★★★★ The Gilded Wolves ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Though 2019 has just started, I know for a fact that The Gilded Wolves is one of my all-time favorite books of the year! The dazzling setting & world-building, phenomenal characters (banter especially), plot, dialogue–I could go on & on–were fantastic!  This book was just too high quality and I’m not sure if I’ll ever recover. I adored this crew so much: Séverin, Hypnos, Enrique, Tristan, Zofia & Laila–I loved each of them so much!! Chokshi really builds their backstories, motvation, growth + vulnerability where you are left truly understanding these wonderful characters! There’s multiple heists, puzzles, a mysterious society, intrigue, and non-stop adventure! The Gilded Wolves is a masterfully crafted historical fantasy & not a book to miss! 

*Another one of my reviews for The Gilded Wolves was also featured on Bookish if you want to check it out! 

i hear the sunspot limit 1 by yuki fumino3. I Hear The Sunspot: Limit 1 by Yuki Fumino ( Sunspot #3)

OwnedStarted January 10 + Finished January 11My Rating: ★★★★☆ I Hear The Sunspot: Limit 1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: It was great to return to the world of I Hear The Sunspot again! This is the series that got me back into manga again and I fell in love with the story and characters! Suspot centers around college students Kouhei & Taichi who become friends and fall for each other! Kouhei is hard of hearing and this series also goes into great length to discuss and explore hearing disabilities! The introduction to new side characters make the story even more interesting. Though I did find that Kouhei and Taichi’s relationship in terms of development does take a step backwards. But, I am so interested to see where Kouhei & Taichi are headed in this series! I highly recommend this manga because the story is impactful, the two main characters Taichi & Kouhei go through so much development, and there’s a lot of discussion about hearing/ hearing disability! Highly recommend this manga series, its SO underrated!

The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera4. The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera (Their Bright Ascendancy #2)

OwnedStarted December 22 + Finished January 25My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ The Phoenix Empress Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Phoenix Empress is a phenomenal continuation to this epic fantasy series! The Tiger’s Daughter chronicled Shizuka and Shefali’s lives starting when they were born to their unfortunate separation later in life! However, in the end they are reunited, but not for long as we see in The Phoenix Empress–Shizuka is still haunted by events in her past as a soldier during Shefali’s absence and Shefali is attempting to understand the darkness that now runs through her! The detail, insight into the characters, and further development of the world are just some of the many things I loved about this sequel! There’s a cast of dynamic and incredible female characters, expansive lore, politics, and immersive plot made The Phoenix Empress such a fantastic sequel! I can’t wait to read book 3, The Warrior Moon!

planting stories--the life of librarian and storyteller pura belpré5. Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise + Paola Escoba

LibraryStarted January 29 + Started January 29My Rating: ★★★★★  Planting Stories Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Planting Stories is a must-read picture book that chronicles the life and legacy of storyteller, librarian, and author Pura Belpré! She uses her power of storytelling to not only spark a love of stories, but also to get more Latinx (& especially Puerto Rican folktales) in the library! The art, with its use of warm colors evokes a sense of magic in this heartwarming story! She moves to New York from Puerto Rico and becomes the 1st Puerto Rican librarian in the city. Both the writing and illustrations bring Belpré’s story to life. From the impact of Belpré’s legacy to the importance of having diversity/representation among stories, this picture book is must-read!

Additional Posts From This Month:

2018 Wrap-Up & 2019 Book Blog Goals {Bookish Goals}

January 2019 YA Books I’m Looking Forward To!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi {Reading Diary}

Upcoming 2019 YA Book Recommendations From Book Bloggers
feat. Adriana, Jordan, Marie, & Sil

The Gilded Wolves {Reading Playlist}

YA Book-To-Movie Adaptations Releasing In 2019!

Empire Of Sand by Tasha Suri Optioned For TV! {Book Blog Discussion}

King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo {Bookish Theories}

Flyest Fables Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

~ It wasn’t until I was writing this wrap-up that I realized how many additional posts I created! If you have time, I’d love if you could give one of them a read–it would mean a lot! ❤❤ I had so much fun creating all my non-review posts this month & January left me inspired to create more! 😭✨📚

~ I also created a new banner for my wrap-ups & I really like how it turned out!

Plans For February:

~ More podcasts reviews! I listened to my first podcast of the year this month and really want to bring back my fiction podcast reviews! 🎙✨❤

~ Stay on track with my monthly bullet journal TBRs!

~ Create more non-book review posts! 😍📚✨

So that was my January TBR! Thoughts on what I read? What books did you read in January? 😍📚🎉🎉

Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar Review

planting stories--the life of librarian and storyteller pura belpréPlanting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise + Paola Escobar (Illustrator)

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Pages: 32

Available Through The Book Depository: Planting Stories

Summary: When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular stories into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and cuentistas continue to share her stories and celebrate Pura’s legacy.

This portrait of the influential librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the power of storytelling and the extraordinary woman who opened doors and championed bilingual literature.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Planting Stories chronicles and celebrates Pura Belpré, her journey as a storyteller, bilingual librarian, and author! The illustrations are colorful, detailed, and evoke a sense of magic!

I’ve made it a priority ever since getting involved in Latinx Book Bingo last year to discover and read more Latinx books!

Planting Stories is a picture book I’d been wanting to read for quite a while and now that it finally released this month, I just had to read it before January was over!

Pura Belpré grew up in Puerto Rico as an avid storyteller and she shared the stories + folktales her abuela told her with her community! Then in 1921, she comes to America carrying those tales with her.

What started as a visit to celebrate her sister’s wedding, soon marks a new part of her life both for her and her stories when she decides to stay in New York!

Her first job is in the garment industry, but when the New York Public Library is seeking a bilingual assistant, Belpre takes hold of this opportunity and it changes her life!

When she notices the lack of Latinx stories on shelves, she uses her power of storytelling to bring those tales to the children of the library!

Belpre’s stories gather both children and families, which leads her from librarian assistant to storyteller/puppeteer, and soon–author! She publishes the folktales and other stories of Puerto Rico to allow them to reach many more readers.

Planting Stories is a magnificent picture book that reminds us of the power of storytelling and celebrates the legacy of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City!

It was so beautiful to see Spanish woven throughout this book as well!

I adored Paola Escobar’s art and illustrations! From the warm colors, detail, to the heartwarming emotions and magic it evokes!

The symbolism of flowers and trees really bring to the center how stories grow, flourish, and celebrates the power of stories.

Her art brings so much to this wonderful story!

Denise’s writing throughout this picture book, chronicles Belpré’s life in such a beautiful way! Her writing-style is also what brings a sense of magic to this story!

Those who are looking for a book that celebrates stories, influential storytellers, and the impact of stories in a community, Planting Stories is a must read!

Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré is a heartwarming picture book that celebrates the legacy of an influential storyteller, librarian, and author! Detailed and vibrant illustrations bring the story to life! Woven throughout the pages are the importance of storytelling, diversity among stories, and their lasting impact!