Eighty Days by A.C. Esguerra ARC Review {Graphic Novel}

Eighty Days by A.C. Esguerra

Publisher: Archaia (Imprint of Boom Studios)

Release Date: September 7, 2021

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository

Summary: A pilot wants nothing more than to fly. Or so he thought, until he crosses paths with a mysterious thief whose tricks draw him into unchartered territory and new adventure. In a life where the truth changes as quickly as clouds in the sky, the pilot must decide for himself what freedom really means.

Award-winning cartoonist A.C. Esguerra presents an unforgettable love letter to flight, the quest for freedom and the greatest adventure of all – love.

[Received a digital galley via the publisher]

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Eighty Days presents a haunting, poetic tale of freedom and resistance when a jaded pilot and mysterious thief cross paths amid a brewing revolution! Esguerra’s knack for layered storytelling comes to life through the vivid, detailed grayscale artwork. This is a fascinating, beautiful graphic novel with profound themes and deeply complex character journeys at its core!

Jay Corvidae is a jaded, but skilled pilot working for AVO, an industrial conglomerate of sorts that’s taken over much of the world. Then one day Jay gets an assignment to transport Fix, a no-class thief looking to find work and despite his peppy, talkative nature he’s also carrying secrets of his own. But, allegiances change, truths are revealed and over the span of 300+ pages our trio feat. Jay, his best friend Sable, and thief Fix are given so much personality, history among the threads of story that make each of their journeys impactful. I fell in love with grand epicness of this story and the poignant character arcs that are explored!

The narrative structure of this graphic novel is truly one of a kind, yet also uniquely crafted to perfectly suit this story alone! Told through an epistolary-like style, the narrative expands through diary entries, thoughts, brief notes, reports, messages and communications which although initially can leave lots for the reader to figure out on their own, speaks to the grand atmosphere and scale of the 20th century-inspired world. In addition, I like how through each of the 4 parts of the novel, you follow the main characters and go deep inside their heads, but also continue to get a great understanding of Jay, Fix and Sable!

Esguerra’s succinct writing voice, alongside their masterful artwork which isn’t afraid to present the reader with lots of metaphorical imagery, uses practically all of the panel space in daring ways, in addition to incorporating a variety of artistic techniques to dive deeper into the characters heads, making this single volume story span over the course of 80 days (hence the title), making it read like a historical fable filled with tragedy, but also boundless threads of hope.

Another main part of this story is the Queer romance that propels the two love interests (Jay and Fix), its heartbreaking at times, but at its core very sweet and magnificent! Its got a slowburn kind of development to it, that is so clearly deep without the need for words.

As the story develops you learn more about Jay and Sable’s friendship, how they grew among Avo’s ranks, betrayals that ensue, but also the mistakes and lengths they go to repair the wrongs of the world. The dynamics between this trio is genuine, complicated, but also you sense each of their ambitions the clearer it becomes that AVO’s militarized, industrial power seeks to take control and silence opposition.

The story is quite grand, complex, and can feel a bit dense at times as the worldbuilding and characters truly take center stage, however that is definitely the extraordinary beauty as well. If you enjoy slower-paced, character-driven geopolitical kinds of stories this will be your cup of tea (the depth to the character arcs is superb). At times you see the plot setting up so much for being only a single volume that it takes you in many different directions, yet you can also picture this potentially being a longer series with all the little details being introduced. Why? Because the story is wonderfully immersive and the author trusts the reader to uncover the deeper meaning and once that final page is reached, the world feels rich and lived in.

I think before going into though, readers should be aware that the use of a brief writing voice with short diary entries and the like is intentional, according to Esguerra who mentioned in an LA Times Preview in Feb. of 2021 that this particular writing voice gives “a great deal up to the art to reveal…” among the greater conflict and a beautiful Queer romance.

Without giving too much away, the world and its characters are revealed little by little, but it cultivates into a daring, wonderful story about love, friendship, rebellion amid war, and much much more hidden within each stroke of the artwork, it really blew me away. I genuinely feel like its best to go into this book with minimal background that way it can surprise you just as much as it did for me!

Eighty Days is an engrossing, intricate, haunting and beautiful story. The fragmentary storytelling, fully realized characters and compelling themes make this a marvelous graphic novel!

Blog Essay: ‘Down Comes The Night’ and examining Gothic Literature

When one considers the term ‘Gothic Literature,’ notably specific images come to mind: abandoned castles or manors, crumbling architecture, flickering candlelight, and an eerily quiet, almost chilling atmosphere. In this essay, I set out to examine the gothic elements that Allison Saft’s Young Adult debut Down Comes The Night (2020) utilizes, that present it as a truly classic gothic tale.

An essential ingredient for any piece of gothic literature is setting. The locale is crucial because it is through the descriptive language, minute details and history that we see it slowly become almost its own character within the story. For DCTN, that is undoubtedly the secluded estate of Colwick Hall, where our heroine Wren Southerland travels to in order to heal a servant according to its eccentric owner, Alistair Lowry.

Saft’s novel takes place in a world where there are countries with long-standing histories, a centuries-long war leaving two magical countries (Danu and Vesria) reeling with unresolved conflict. In addition, an isolated territory known as Cernos, which possesses no magic so in this case, it has largely kept to itself. Using a medical science-based magic system, Saft’s choice of words from the description of the magical vein where the protagonist connects with her magic or the anatomy terminology describing bone, blood, tissue, etc. is used to further provide a particular ambience. In addition to the reliance on what can be presumed to align with the Victorian era plus 19th Century technology, there’s a blend of the macabre and magical that brings ‘Down Comes The Night’ to life.

Gothic literature also uses setting to establish a divide or isolation for the protagonist, making the reader feel a sense of unease, or even a fear at the uncertainty. 

Wren could make out the enormity of the hall, it’s startling emptiness…Everything outside the candelabra’s unsteady reach swam indistinctly, as if the house breathed and stirred the shadows like wind over still water…

(Ch. 8, 120)

Aligned with the setting is the atmosphere, and in this case Saft presents a deeply rooted winter backdrop seen through the various locations that Wren travels to throughout the novel from the abbey where all healers are trained, her journey to Colwick to even the estate itself. 

Weather, in this case the established winter season present throughout the novel, is a facet of atmosphere which provides another layer in which to explore even more vital elements of Gothic literature. Across the various locales, the mood of this story is made clear through character, setting, and a more obvious way to showcase the inner or undisclosed feelings of the cast.

Examples of this are heavily implied and stated throughout the text by associating the winter climate with words such as “cold,” “frost,” “chill,” among others. By using these types of descriptors Saft has not only directly presented the reader with an ambience of which to perceive this story, but it also serves as a function in which readers “decode the inner landscape of the protagonists…” according to Marquette Library’s Glossary Of The Gothic entry which provides a definition for the element of weather in this type of story.

Snow-smothered fields sprawled for miles…The wind whistled through the abbey’s towers. Cold bit through her cloak…if she stayed still too long, she feared she’d go brittle and crack…

(Ch. 6, 96)

Next, another important element of this sub-genre is emotion. Saft explores this overtly and rather brilliantly through the protagonist and heroine, Wren Southerland, healer in the Queen’s guard of Danu. Driving her decisions at every turn, whether it’s for the unresolved feelings she has for her commanding officer and best friend Una, the sense of duty she feels to seek out her missing comrade, the deep, complicated emotions she feels for the sworn enemy of her kingdom Hal Cavendish, even the opening scene where she can’t stand idly by while seeing a prisoner injured in the snow, the exploration of this is essential to her makeup and gives the novel in my opinion, a unique twist.

Throughout the plot, Wren is penalized and often seen as “foolish” for relying heavily on her emotions and empathy in response to situations she finds herself in. However, Saft never paints this a weakness for the heroine, but a strength she learns to accept about herself despite what she’s been taught.

Could that be true? After everything she’d endured because of her emotions, after everything Isabel and Una had told her, could she really believe that?

Yes, some buried part of her said. Isn’t that what makes us strong?

(Ch. 28, 430)

A more obvious example of this is when Wren, over the course of the story, learns to confide in Hal and their romance is a symbol for the “hope” of bringing peace to their lands. Wren learns to overcome her uneasiness around him as the ‘Reaper Of Vesria’ through compassion, empathy, and understanding. 

Even before the start of the novel, it’s clear Saft intentionally meant for this element of Wren’s character to be a monumental piece of her identity and for like-minded readers to admire going in at the start of the dedication: “For all the girls who feel too much.”

In perhaps a more subversive or allegorical way of presenting us with this component of a Gothic novel, Saft allows our heroine to clearly and genuinely wear her emotions on her sleeve.


Notes 📝🖊
1. Page numbers when referencing the text, corelate to a digital ebook, which may not reflect the accurate page numbers in a physical copy

What did you think about this literary DCTN essay? Did you pick up on these elements while reading Saft’s novel that clearly presented it as Gothic? What do you enjoy the most about these kinds of novels?

In recent months I noticed that I’ve become more interested in deep-dives (like video essays) or literary analysis of media and fiction. I don’t often see posts like this about books and thought this would be great starting point for new kind of content on the blog introducing literary-type essays. There was quite a bit of research I did for this post and genuinely I had a fantastic time bringing it all together. I’m hoping to deliver more posts like this about YA Books and would love your feedback on this first one! Thank you for reading! 📚💖

Recommending YA Books That Deserve More Love

Hey everyone! Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about some of my favorite backlist books and realized as time goes on, it becomes difficult to dive back into my old favorites with the sheer amount of new titles being released each year. It’s impossible to keep up with ALL the books, so today’s post is comprised of some marvelous reads that’ve been out for a while that I believe deserve more love. 💕✨

I’m so happy to be chatting with you all today about books I’ve adored that I definitely feel like should be recognized even more. Whether your looking for an urban fantasy, epic fantasy, contemporary, or thriller, this list is indeed for you if you are need of some backlist gems!

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan

Genre: Urban Fantasy┃Young Adult
Release Date: June 27, 2015 (Feb. 2017 2nd Edition)

Available through: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: The peaceful nights are kept under the clandestine and watchful eye of young, gifted Vigilantes the world over. But a sudden rash of Vigilante deaths heralds the arrival of a new and unfamiliar enemy – one whose motive is as unclear as their identity. Someone or something seems determined to disturb the peace, and they’re going straight for the watchmen to do it. In a city where those who are gifted make up their own rules, who will step forward when the threat of a swift end is real and there stands so little to gain?

Why you should read it: I still think about the unique concept that Kan delivered here― people gifted with superpowers live in a city they protect in the night! It also features a Queer / POC cast (Māori, Samoan, Indian, & Chinese characters) plus aro-ace and genderfluid rep. Friendship is also an integral part of this story as bonds are strengthened and new allies are made. Though years have passed, I continue to remember the fond memories I had reading this, truly a hidden gem in urban fantasy that delivers a fresh take on superheroes, highly recommend reading this. (Plus, if you want to support indie books and authors, you should also pick this up!)

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Genre: Young Adult ┃ Contemporary
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Available through: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything? Actually, a lot. Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret. All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse. You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

Why you should read it: What continues to stay with me about this superb novel is the use of a mixed media format which makes Alaine’s journey feel so personal as it deeply revolves around family, especially her mother! With Alaine being an aspiring journalist, I also found the element of journalism to be explored in such a thorough way. This truly is a moving, character-driven YA Contemporary story that explores many deep themes.

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

Genre: Fantasy ┃ Young Adult
Release Date: July 30, 2019

Available Through: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold. If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground… With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

Why you should read it: Firstly, umm DRAGONS, but also the detailed worldbuilding. If you’re in the mood for a “quiet” fantasy novel this one is perfect because the protagonist Maren is more of “reluctant hero” who isn’t looking for adventure, but certain events propel her to do so and she learns a lot about her world. The worldbuilding has tons of layers to it from the politics, to the setting, history, dragon lore, and lots more that develops the further you read. Also has a great cast of characters that leave you wanting to know more about them!

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

Genre: Horror ┃ Thriller ┃ Young Adult
Release Date: April 13, 2021

Available through: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends. To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own. When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

Why you should read it: Moldavsky uses elements from the horror genre in such a genius way that comes through in the writing, the way the story is told, its atmosphere, the intriguing characters and in so many other ways. Rachel is an awesome protagonist and this novel cleverly delves deep into her arc. This book truly blew my mind and is probably one of the most brilliant books I’ve read this year, I need more people to read this breathtaking and page-turning YA Thriller!

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Genre: Contemporary┃ Romance ┃Young Adult
Release Date: July 30, 2019

Available through: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: Fiercely independent and smart, Zora Emerson wants to change the world. She’s excited to be attending a prestigious summer program, even if she feels out of place among her privileged, mostly white classmates. So she’s definitely not expecting to feel a connection to Owen, who’s an actual prince of an island off the coast of England. But Owen is funny, charming…and undeniably cute. Zora can’t ignore the chemistry between them. When Owen invites Zora to be his date at his big brother’s big royal wedding, Zora is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, along with her family and friends. Everyone is talking about her, in real life and online, and while Owen is used to the scrutiny, Zora’s not sure it’s something she can live with. Can she maintain her sense of self while moving between two very different worlds? And can her feelings for Owen survive and thrive in the midst of the crazy?

Why you should read it: This is a perfect read if you’re in the mood for a YA royal romance (its also set during summer)! Alongside that, its character-driven / focused where the story centers Zora’s dreams and her development when she gets thrust into a royal spotlight. Its cute, fun, and a sweet read that I think deserves much more love!

That concludes the list, I hope you found a new underrated gem to dive into and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new feature!

What are some YA Books you’ve read that you think deserve more love or recognition? Thoughts on the books I’ve listed here?

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl Review

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (TL8 #1)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Pages: 357

Cover Artist / Illustrator: Luke Lucas

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Summary: A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Last 8 is a YA Sci-Fi post-apocalyptic novel that follows a pilot named Clover Martinez and her journey when an alien attack brings about the end of the world. Pohl delves into profound themes of survival, trauma, even mental health as a ragtag group of teens learn to fight back, knowing they are the last humans on Earth! Through mysteries, twist, and a plot spurred by unique concepts, this novel cleverly examines the idea of humanity by way of science fiction!

I distinctly remember hearing about this book through the initial book deal and felt so much joy in hearing about a novel with a Latina teen featured in YA Sci-fi. Because of that I knew I had to read this, but sadly when a tbr continues to grow, its inevitable that some books get pushed to the side, but being a mood reader there finally reached a perfect time to pick it back up (about 2 years later). Now that I’ve finally finished reading, I’d definitely say its changed how I view and hopefully will view science fiction books in the future. It all starts with this first line that will forever stick with me: “My abuelo says that there are people who belong to the earth, and others, like us Martinezes, belong to the sky” (1).

Pohl’s debut does what I wished was more present in Sci-Fi: examining mental health and the aftermath of traumatic events through the protagonist. She made this such a present part of Clover’s story and I think that’s what made this story so impactful for me.

Clover is living a simple life in her small town, living with her caring grandparents and pursing her dreams of studying aerospace engineering at MIT. She doesn’t have many friends other than her ex Noah and is ready to present her science fair project when out of nowhere, an alien apocalypse descends. Within a short amount of time, her loved ones soon disappear and are obliterated, until she is all alone left to travel across the country, no destination in sight but her one goal is to survive. But months later, she hears a radio signal leading her to Area 51 where she meets other teen survivors. Keeping her at a distance upon her arrival plus Clover’s independent nature, we are left wanting to know more about this found family who seem comfortable with their day-to-day lives, unconcerned with avenging the planet.

At its core, this story is not only about survival, but fighting back as Clover tries to inspire the crew in her help to take down the aliens. As she struggles to convince them, she also tries to uncover the mysteries she finds at the base, now that she’s decided to stay with them. This can at times make it feel like there isn’t much for Clover to do as she’s figuring out her next step, making the plot feel aimless at times, but as the mysteries begin to build and clues are uncovered, the ordinary-ness made more sense to me the further I read.

Pohl’s novel features a bi-aro Mexican-American lead, a side f/f relationship, Black and Brown characters as well as having an almost all-queer cast.

I adored how Pohl tackled so many real and human themes through an intergalactic, post-apocalyptic lens. In addition, being told from Clover’s POV it makes themes elements come through her as a character and realistic layers to her story. However, it also becomes a very personal kind of sci-fi tale unlike any I’ve ever read before as it takes time to carefully delve into and discuss themes such as depression, ptsd, and mental health in general (TW for suicidal thoughts / attempt).

However, throughout the novel there was just this sense of lots of ambiguity to this story which came across through the text, which leads to the discussion about my least favorite part of this novel was the writing style. While I did love it because of the distinct connection you get through Clover’s voice, there could have been just a bit more detailed and descriptive qualities to add more to the immediacy of how her thoughts come across. It felt like members of the group: leader Violet, Flint, Avani, Adam, Andy, Brooklyn, and Rayen despite having their own distinct roles in the story (which is awesome), there’s still this lingering thought that even once I turned the final page, I sadly never really connected with them too much.

The novel is filled with surprises when it comes to the action, intrigue, and mystery that left me with many questions just waiting to be answered. Though the ending is a bit abrupt and rushed, I am super curious to see what happens with Clover and the crew. However, at the same time I think it also genuinely enjoyed the emotions the ending make you feel, so I’m conflicted on when I should pick up the sequel. As a whole though, I truly enjoyed how inventive Pohl was with this concept in making it such a human, thematic tale of survival.

I think as far as dystopian and science fiction go I thought I was over them, but Pohl’s creativity with this concept has reminded me why they are such exceptional stories no matter passing of trends. I think this is what has me even more excited to read her upcoming book Grimrose Girls, to immerse myself into yet another of her inventive concepts.

The Last 8 is the best kind of Sci-fi, character-driven and not afraid to tackle many different themes! The mystery, intrigue and unique story will keep you on the edge of your seat. Pohl’s layers Clover’s story will leave you rooting for her amidst an alien apocalypse!!

The Sprite And The Gardener by Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt Review {Graphic Novel}

The Sprite And The Gardener by Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: May 11, 2021

Pages: 88

Artist & Writer: Rii Abrego & Joe Whitt (Writer)

Available through Bookshop

Summary: Long, long ago, sprites were the caretakers of gardens. Every flower was grown by their hand. But when humans appeared and began growing their own gardens, the sprites’ magical talents soon became a thing of the past. When Wisteria, an ambitious, kind-hearted sprite, starts to ask questions about the way things used to be, she’ll begin to unearth her long-lost talent of gardening. But her newly honed skills might not be the welcome surprise she intends them to be. 

[Requested a review copy via the publisher]

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Sprite And The Gardener is a “gentle fantasy” graphic novel that follows a kind-hearted sprite named Wisteria who rediscovers gardening and befriends a young girl as she continues to pursue this long-lost art! The unique artwork carries this quiet, slower paced atmospheric story through its whimsy and its latter focus on community!

Every single page of this story is filled with detailed artwork that gives it a life-like, but also very whimsical quality. The gentleness is further implied through the lighter, pastel color palette of oranges, pinks, yellows, greens, and so on. Throughout this graphic novel you’ll notice how it utilizes floral imagery that’s aesthetically beautiful to look at, whether its a withering garden, a peach tree with petals, a small patch of flowers, grasses, or a garden that’s yet to bloom.

Wisteria is new to Sylvan Trace and like many who settle in a strange, unfamiliar place, is struggling to connect with her fellow sprites, feeling unsure how to form a connection. Then its through her curious nature that she discovers a withering garden belonging to a girl named Elena. Tapping into the lost art, she secretly helps by using her floral magic to let the garden grow & thrive. But will she find the confidence to share her secret with the laid-back sprites?

There’s quite a bit of lore that gets introduced early on, establishing how sprites were once responsible as the sole caretakers of all flora, but now that humans tend to their own gardens, the art slowly went away. However, the sprites still mange to inhabit towns and cities. I liked how the novel explores the idea that while sprites that secluded in their own little oasis, they still find interest in foraging or visiting places where humans live.

The gentle quality of the story allows the foundational message of teamwork to come through, slowly throughout the story as Wisteria helps Elena tend to her garden. Couple alongside the slow pace and use of minimal action, its also expressing the heartfelt importance of friendship and beauty of restoring lost art through teamwork!

While the artwork does carry the story, it can feel like the plot itself is filled with this air of mystery and not enough clarity to make it seem fully cohesive. There’s a lot of wonderful elements introduced here no doubt, but its not developed enough where for me, it felt satisfying by the end. Side characters, while beautifully illustrated to present the floral motifs, don’t feel fleshed out enough into Wisteria’s story and the lore of the sprites honestly left me with questions out of pure curiosity: If the sprites are no longer needed what do they do in a typical day & how do they utilize their “mysterious, wondrous magic”? Where did Wisteria come from previously and what led to her softspoken, curious nature?

The worldbuilding is expanded on in a few ways by establishing on the first few pages how the sprites became important to humans, the general atmosphere of the story, and seeing the different backgrounds + locations that the sprites visit. Another interesting piece of info that lends itself to speculate the future of the world, is hearing the Sprites dream jobs if they were to work with plants again! Overall, I do like the whimsical, charming quality to the world.

Artwork is just so beautiful from the style to the colors, I also enjoyed the paneling which makes the world feel really big. The paneling gives it a “manga-esque” quality to where the panel boxes aren’t all the same, there’s a good variety and I like how certain panels layer onto the background settings, making everything come to life more. However that shouldn’t be too surprising because artist Rii was inspired by her love of shojo manga.

I think the story absolutely offers lots of interesting elements here, but to me it felt like it lacked because it only ended up presenting a more “bigger picture” kind of story, instead of further developing all the different layers it introduced. That coupled with the fact that the book did feel quite short, there could have been just a bit more development.

But, I definitely recommend this if you enjoyed ‘The Tea Dragon Society’ and are looking for another quiet, slower paced fantasy story.

The Sprite & The Gardener is a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel that tells a story of of friendship and teamwork! Despite selective exploration of this unique world, the well-utilized floral artwork, inspiring messages and charming storytelling, make this a pleasant slice of life fantasy read!

Spy X Family Vol. 4 by Tatsuya Endo {Manga Review}

Spy X Family Vol. 4 by Tatsuya Endo (Spy X Family #4)

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Pages: 182

Summary: Master spy Twilight is the best at what he does when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions in the name of a better world. But when he receives the ultimate impossible assignment—get married and have a kid—he may finally be in over his head!

The Forgers look into adding a dog to their family, but this is no easy task—especially when Twilight has to simultaneously foil an assassination plot against a foreign minister! The perpetrators plan to use specially trained dogs for the attack, but Twilight gets some unexpected help to stop these terrorists.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: One of the best SPY X FAMILY volumes yet, it blends the action, intrigue, and humor in such a way that its an ever-present reminder at how this is one of the most remarkable manga series out there right now! A spy, telepath, and assassin have adjusted living together, but what happens when a dog with an ability to see the future gets thrown into the mix? Chaos, laughs, and much more!

This was easily one of my favorite volumes of Endo’s series thus far, it highlights all the elements that make the series shine: Anya’s kid-like wonder and presence adds whole other layer of laughs to the storytelling, the SECRET IDENTITIES, the blend of action & espionage, but the most central piece tying it all together: Loid Forger and his mission! [But also Anya, Loid and Yor who are not only AMAZING characters, but work so well as a family]

When an assassination plot against a foreign minister threatens the peace yet again, Loid Forger aka “Twlight” is brought on board to bring an end to it, before its too late. This leads to uncovering a plan that involves highly trained, experimented attack dogs and a chase across the city! However, as the Forger’s also plan to buy a dog for Anya, who gets tangled up in the plot herself, will they find a way to save the day yet again?

If anything, as mentioned before, this Volume highlighted both the undeniable strengths and weaknesses of this series. The strength not only lies in the BRILLIANT characters and dynamics, but seeing how it all blends together to tell an entertaining, clever story. However for this volume anyways, I found the weakness for me lies with the politics of this world. Left in the background, while there are vague context of the political ties mentioned across each installment of the series and being completely understandable, in this fourth addition they are just left lingering here until the end.

While those elements of the worldbuilding are still very much explained, at times there’s this haziness to it as well where this is clearly a case of the characters completely outshining it here. In the end, I’m just left completely preoccupied with the fake (but oh so real) family dynamics, my FAVORITE spy, assassin, telepath shenanigans, seeing the way they work so PERFECTLY together and the new addition to the Forger family: a FLOOF named Bond!

Despite me not mentioning it much in my reviews, I truly love this series and am so connected to the characters and story here (5 stars in my heart). I think what always just leaves me hesitant to rate it higher than 4 is that the world/ setting is usually not given much depth beyond what’s relevant for the chapters. [I’m just always fascinated with worlds in fictional stories and with this setting feeling so big, it leaves me wanting to know MORE].

Anya is yet again the star of this volume as she feels an immediate connection to Bond, where they soon team up to save the world for the sake of Loid’s mission. Seeing her form a connection with Bond, both as experiment/test subjects and being able to understand each other through their abilities was such a beautifully explored thread of this book for sure! One of my favorite scenes of this volume though, is where Anya finds the room with the bomb and helps Loid by drawing a picture…no other books can top the HUMOR that this series has!! ƪ(˘⌣˘)ʃ

Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this across other volumes but I very much enjoy each family member going on their own side mission with the idea that they alone are protecting the family (or the world at large), it never fails to make me laugh. Overall, cannot wait to see how the Forger family grows and gets into more chaotic adventures with Bond as the newest addition!

Spy X Family Vol. 4 is a phenomenal continuation to the series! This a fantastic espionage comedy series unlike any other. Following a fake family consisting of a spy, telepath, assassin and now clairvoyant dog…the series can only get BETTER from here!

Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse by Chantel Acevedo Review

Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse by Chantal Acevedo (Muse Squad #1)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Pages: 357

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist: Jonathan Stroh

Summary: Callie Martinez-Silva didn’t mean to turn her best friend into a pop star. But when a simple pep talk leads to miraculous results, Callie learns she’s the newest muse of epic poetry, one of the nine Muses of Greek mythology tasked with protecting humanity’s fate in secret.

Whisked away to Muse Headquarters, she joins three recruits her age, who call themselves the Muse Squad. Together, the junior muses are tasked with using their magic to inspire and empower—not an easy feat when you’re eleven and still figuring out the goddess within.

When their first assignment turns out to be Callie’s exceptionally nerdy classmate, Maya Rivero, the squad comes to Miami to stay with Callie and her Cuban family. There, they discover that Maya doesn’t just need inspiration, she needs saving from vicious Sirens out to unleash a curse that will corrupt her destiny.

As chaos erupts, will the Muse Squad be able to master their newfound powers in time to thwart the Cassandra Curse . . . or will it undo them all?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Review: Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse weaves together mythology, humor, adventure and much more to tell the story of Callie Martinez-Silva whose whisked away into the world of myths, legend, even magic after learning she’s one of the Greek Muses! Acevedo presents such a wonderful start to a fun middle grade duology!

Callie is an 11-year-old Cuban-American girl who is just going about her average life like enjoying concerts with her best friend, going to school, and trying to survive sixth grade, when lots of weird things start happening to her ― from a freak “almost” metro accident to turning her best friend Raquel into a new pop sensation, Callie’s life quickly takes some surprising turns.

But what she slowly begins to realize is in moments of peril or worry for those close by, Callie can inspire confidence in those around her. These events introduce her to the world of Greek Myths when she learns she’s one of the new Muses (Muse of Epic Poetry). After confirming this huge discovery, she learns that alongside her fellow muses, they are tasked with protecting a Fated One, a person destined to change the world, which turns out to be none other than her studious, “nerdy” classmate Maya Rivero. Befriending Maya and connecting more with the Muse Squad becomes a central part of Callie’s mission as she and the Squad attempt to stop the Cassandra Curse before its too late!

This book is an absolute whirlwind filled with tons of fun moments, but also never falters in presenting an important message about the hero within. Muse Squad was truly a joy to read because it not only delves into tons of themes and ideas, but seeing how the characters bounce off each other, even discovering more about how this world of myths blends into modern day, is so intriguing! What I loved the most was seeing how the story balanced the mythology with the average, everyday life stuff: highs and lows of friendship, family dynamics, school projects, and the hardships of growing up!

Told from a first person POV, Callie’s voice is what makes this story shine! Not only following her journey as a character, but also seeing how the writing successfully blends the magic, myths, humor, and adventure as the plot jumps across Miami, the world of Greek mythology, and the Muse Headquarters (the V&A Museum in London).

The story balances the magical elements alongside friendship and family incredibly well. Callie lives with her mom and twin brothers (Fernando and Mario), their dynamic is so strong and really a foundation for Callie who is also learning more about her family’s history when she learns that her aunt was a former Muse. Seeing this important thread help Callie to cope and also learn where she fits into the Muse world was a subtle but ever-present layer in her story. But on the other hand, Callie is also grappling with her own jealousy and insecurities as she’s unsure how to patch things up with her best friend Raquel who seems to be consumed by the life of fame after Callie’s Muse powers make her a dazzling pop star, who slowly changes throughout the story. There’s a sense of gloom for Callie who is unsure of how to reconnect with Raquel, but it also delves into all the emotions and how they take time to overcome. However, befriending Maya and the Muse Squad remind her she isn’t alone, plus also an ever-present idea that friendship is a process.

The characters all had their own unique quality to them and if you like stories with big casts, this book is definitely for you! Callie and Maya’s friendship was incredibly sweet, but seeing Callie learn to forge to new friendships even when she was still feeling down about reconnecting with Raquel was a highlight because the other Muse Squad girls were so fun: Thalia is the outgoing, funny one, Nia is a lover of science, and Mela is the more realistic one. What I loved the most was seeing all of them with Callie, their dynamic is truly something else when their all hanging out together and I adored that!

The magic system was interesting also, Acevedo establishes the mythological elements so well that for someone like me who just knows the basics, it still feels like something incredibly new. The magic is very unique to each character and seeing how that works in tons of different scenarios was great, but at its core the element of TEAMWORK truly shined! There’s also lots of great action scenes, mystery, and seeing how the Greek myths slowly blend their way into the story even more was always a surprise.

However, I did find it take a bit of time for me to understand the magic system better. The magical elements were somewhat confusing for me at first (due to it being from Callie’s POV while she herself was unsure what was happening), so slowly but surely I got adjusted to the rules of Muse world, but it quickly became the center of what made this story so lively! Genuinely loved seeing Callie embark on her own journey growing into her Muse powers, learning more about her Tia, and growing alongside her friends Thalia, Nia, Mela, and Maya.

Acevedo’s novel is without a doubt, the kind of story that will leave you feeling hopeful, while immersing you in the magical tale of myths and heroism. This is one of those books that left me with so much wonder, curious as to how much more of this world there is left to explore. The fun characters, voice, the heart of the story, messages, friendship, and sense of adventure came together in such an awesome way that leave the reader with just an introduction to this Muse Squad world.

Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse, is a fun, middle grade adventure that explores greek myths, carries inspirational messages throughout, and introduces readers to new group of heroes to root for! Inspirational and delightful, this is a fantastic duology opener that’s a refreshing, entertaining spin on classic myths!

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag │2021

There’s no way we’ve already made it towards the halfway point of 2021 — it’s been a unique year for me when it comes to reading and media in general (I’ve definitely seen myself gravitate towards different genres and categories of books, plus I’ve been watching a lot more anime too). Surprisingly I’ve never EVER done the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag before in my 5 years of blogging, but have always had such fond memories of watching them on booktube, being super curious about others reading progress. So, I thought it was time to finally share one of my own!

I’ve also noticed there’s not always too much chatter on here about the books I’ve read once a review’s been posted. Though constantly I’m always thinking about how a book I’ve read has stuck with me in some way and doing this tag gives me more opportunity to go more in depth on how some of these amazing books have left an impact!

Before diving into all the bookish questions, I also wanted to share one of the super fun projects I’ve been trying out this year and that’s: Tracking my bookish stats! (though I have been behind on updating it…whoops!) But what’s made it such a great experience so far is how personal it can be with the fact I can create my own categories, isn’t something stressful and can be more about discovering my own personal reading preferences! I’m hoping to keep the momentum going till the end of the year to see what the statistics say about my reads and any other interesting things I find. Now onto the questions:

Best book you’ve read so far in 2021?

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky: There are no words to describe the sheer brilliance of this novel…okay maybe some! I knew going into it that I would end up loving it but wow, did it surprise me!

Rachel Chavez is starting over at a new school and finds herself tangled up in the Mary Shelley Club, a secret society on campus obsessed with horror. I loved Rachel, there’s a sarcastic voice to her, but in the end all she truly wants is to fit in and overcome her dark, traumatic past.

I’m honestly a novice when it comes to the horror / thriller genre, but Moldavsky’s novel really delivers on those classic elements even for a beginner like me, I understood how she was utilizing the genre in such a clever way to tell this story.

Moldavsky effortlessly brings a descriptive, sharp language with her writing that evokes all those classic horror or thriller movie vibes. The story is an absolute page-turner, the cast of characters are so well developed, alongside atmosphere, suspense, and fantastic storytelling The Mary Shelley Club was easily a 5-star read for me this year. Such a phenomenal book, I LOVED it. [Full ARC Review]

Best sequel of 2021 so far?

Oculta by Maya Motayne: Do I have a series finishing problem? Absolutely! I can think of at least 5 where I stopped after a certain point and just never continued reading. However, this year there quite a number of sequels that blew me away. If I were to pick one it would definitely have to be Oculta, the second book in the Nocturna Trilogy.

The development that Alfie and Finn undergo in this book are just unparalleled in ways I cannot describe. This book has got everything, more worldbuilding, politics, intrigue mystery, magic, humor, adventure its got it ALL. I could not put it down, the speed at which I read through this book (according to goodreads like..a day?!) was astonishing even to me because its at over 400 PAGES! With every fiber of my being I wanted to take my time reading this and not speed through, but it was just TOO good how could I put it down?

Truly loved being in the world of Castallan again and especially how personal Alfie and Finn’s journeys felt while reading this book. The growth highlighted in this story was just absolute perfection, they each have their own responsibilities and complicated emotions, but still manage to find a way to each other even when things get complicated. Am completely stoked for the third book, how will I possibly wait? I’m not even sure.

New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to?

The year of 2021 has been filled with many amazing books without a doubt and I have I read a majority of them? Sadly…no. But here’s a list of some that I definitely have on my radar still: Yolk by Mary HK Choi, Wings Of Ebony by J. Elle, Ace Of Spades…SO MANY fantastic YA are out this year I need to catch up on lots! Other’s that come to mind:

  • The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
  • Ravage The Dark by Tara Sim
  • June Hur’s books
  • The Ones We’re Meant To Find by Joan He
  • Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Most anticipated release for the second half of 2021?

During June, I actually got an ARC of this in the mail which is Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices From The Latinx Diaspora edited by Saraciea J. Fennell. Though I haven’t read it yet, I flipped through and skimmed some of the entries and cannot wait to take my time reading through its entirety. It’ll feature poems and personal essays from some amazing writers in the Latine community, so I’m pretty excited about this one! I think what stuck out to me about this one was how with lots of YA anthologies they focus more on presenting fiction, but I like that these are more personal and how some are written from the authors own unique experiences. Eager to read and review this one for the blog!

Biggest disappointment?

For this I’d probably have to say Those Not-So-Sweet Boys volume 1 from Yoko Nogiri! I’m still pretty new to shojo manga and one of the first mangas that introduced me to the demographic was Nogiri’s Love In Focus series. However, with Not So Sweet the more I think about it the more I realize the characters were quite bland and there’s nothing too memorable about them. The concept is interesting, but being 200+ pages it felt there could have been more time given to establishing the characters themselves to offer them some extra dimensions. Still on the fence about continuing this series, so this was probably one of the more disappointing reads for me as I was really hoping to like this one more!

Biggest surprise?

Aren’t the best kinds of books the ones you pick up out of nowhere and end up loving? The biggest and best surprise for 2021 was definitely Wondercat Kyuu-Chan Vol. 1 from Sasami Nitori, which is a full-color manga series about a guy who adopts an abandoned cat who’s very extraordinary and unique. I’ve probably re-read this volume like 5 times already!! It’s incredibly funny, heartwarming, silly, wholesome and FUN! You can expect a full review on the blog in the near future, still debating whether I should review by volume or after a few more have released (stay tuned for that!).

I love that its in full color, it just adds to the charm of the story, but everything from the artwork, to the vignettes, and humor comes together so spectacularly…ahh this manga makes me wish I had a wonder cat!!

Favorite new author?

Going to cheat with this one and say basically all the new-to-me authors this year. There’s definitely lots of books that I ended up loving this year from either debuts or established writers whose work I picked up in 2021. However, I love discovering more writers and overall I’m happy to have had my reading be at least over 50% new authors.

Newest fictional crush?

Okay those familiar with my blog will probably know I’m a Qifrey stan, he’s a patient and understanding mentor who also harbors a covert desire for vengeance (against an evil group of witches) as he offers main character Coco, the chance to be his apprentice and learn how to become a witch herself. He’s from the Witch Hat Atelier series and the most recent volume that released this year Vol. 7 is in one word: Intense. There’s such an aura of mystery surrounding his story, he’s also incredibly well-written, and there’s only a tidbit of his past we learn in the latest volume, but I can’t wait to learn more about his backstory as the series continues. Kamome Shirahama seems to be developing a lot of intricate plot threads to her cast, Qifrey included and I am here for it!

Newest favorite character?

Gotta say Charlie from Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. She is just FABULOUS! She’s tackling first love, learning to love herself as she is, and working to pursue her dreams as a writer. But overall she’s learning to be more confident as a fat girl and her story is filled with so many heartfelt, inspiring messages! I truly wish there could be more books with her Brian, her best friend Amelia, and her mom ahh I just adored reading Charlie’s story. I’d been really looking forward to reading this book for a couple years now and wow, it was phenomenal, I’m still thinking about it (also Parvin too, uhh I adore them both equally). Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a YA Contemporary that should be on your radar if it isn’t already!

Book that made you cry?

Oculta yet again, which I was not expecting! But of course, falling completely in love with the worlds / characters once more, there’s a lot of intrigue, conflict, and mystery to this book that of course some Alfie and Finn moments had left me a puddle of emotions okay?

Book that made you happy?

Having read more manga this year, there were quite a few series that left smiles on my face! Wonder Cat of course and also my first read of the year Nicola Traveling Around The Demon’s World. Both of these were light-hearted series and I’m so glad to have given them a chance, they’ve quickly become new favorites and I’m eager to continue.

Favorite book to movie adaptation you’ve seen this year?

I was pretty excited to watch Shadow & Bone, however despite some issues and critiques I have (mainly the unnecessary racism), what made this a great adaptation was how it didn’t follow the traditional plot of the books. Merging together the original Grisha Trilogy plus Six Of Crows, for me, added more to the world and offered unique opportunities to delve into the world in a completely fresh way.

Favorite review / post you’ve written this year?

I’ve been incredibly proud of my discussions and new blog series that I’ve launched this year, however if I was to pick one I’d probably say my favorite of 2021 has been:

Where’s All The Book-to-Video Game Adaptations?: I loved researching for this post and wondering, as a gamer myself, which books would make for unique video games and even speculating what style would work best! I’m hoping to bring more unique discussions like this one and had the best time writing this for the blog.

Aside from my favorite post from my own blog I’m also super eager to shout-out a few fellow bloggers from the community, who I’m grateful to have chatted more with, discovered, or commenting more on their content this year (tbh I’d love to do a whole blog post just shouting out some awesome bloggers because there’s SO MANY):

– Alienor from A Fox’s Wanderings: I recently discovered her blog just this year and am in love with her content! From the beautiful graphics to fantastic layout of her posts, I’m always review, check-in or reading up on the newest video game she’s playing! 💗

– Lisa from Way Too Fantasy: She makes this incredible TBR Shelf Cleanup Series that never fails to make me ponder more about my own book collection. By deciding what to get rid of or keep in her shelf, she’s always delving into a new obscure fantasy that I probably would have never heard of before if it wasn’t for her series. Its super fun and a staple in my weekly blog reading! 💫

– Joy from Ohsrslybooks: As someone who doesn’t read a lot of romance on the blog (especially adult, because this is mainly a YA space) I’m always appreciative of Joy’s content. She’s always reviewing some great romance reads and no doubt, I’m discovering some awesome recommendations through her blog! 😍

Library In The Tower: There’s always fun bookish lists and features on Library’s blog, that have such creativity! For example: On A Theme is about a particular “theme” for certain books that are listed together in a post, which is lots of fun! Super thrilled to have discovered Library’s blog this year! 📚💗

– Cossette from Tea Time Lit: After discovering Cossette through her amazing edits, I fell in love with her content! Also around the same time I started Down Comes The Night, she was an avid supporter and passionate about it and I loved reading her tweets or blog posts that really showed how Saft’s novel impacted her. Of course, I also adore reading her other content on the blog she co-runs with a few other people. Very glad to have found Cossette’s blog and read all her wonderful posts! 🥳

– Cherelle from A Bolt Out Of The Book: I distinctly remember discovering Cherelle’s blog early into January and not only fell in love with her blog graphics, but the amazing way she talks about books in her reviews! Am in awe of the way she describes all the books she reads and how her posts make it impossible for me to figure out what amazing books to read next (…like Spin The Dawn or The Ones Were Meant To Find, cannot decide)! 🤩💗

Most beautiful book you bought or received this year?

There are so many I could probably list for this post, but I wanted to highlight a more recent purchase that I’m super excited about and that’s A Trial Of Sorcerers by Elise Kova!

Back in the early days of my blog I delved into more indie YA through Elise’s Air Awakens series, which has a special place in my heart. So, this year now that a new spin-off title set in this world was finally releasing I of course had to buy a copy.

As I was delving more into who the cover artist was for this post, I thought that the original cover designer Merilliza Chan was the illustrator for Trial Of Sorcerers, but it turns out it was actually Marie Magny! I like how the cover evokes the same feel of the original series and am of course thrilled to have a copy in my collection.

Can’t wait to dive back into the Air Awakens world and this cover is just 🤩✨ I love the detail of Eira’s outfit, the colors, and beautiful background.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Well I’m sure us bibliophiles can agree there’s always a never-endling list of books we’re looking to read! Here’s a few for me that come to mind:

The sequel to Anna K., The Jasmine Throne, upcoming volumes of Spy X Family, Latinx-authored releases, also let’s just add any YA books published in 2019 and 2020 that I still haven’t read. 😂📚

That’s been the Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag created by Ely & Chami. Hope you enjoyed learning more about my reading so far this year, but now I’d like to hear from you!

What are some of your favorite reads so far this year? Any you desperately want to read before 2021 ends? Have you done this tag? (If so, feel free to share below so I can read it too 💕)

Satoko And Nada Vol. 4 by Yupechika {Manga Review}

Satoko And Nada Vol. 4 by Yupechika (Satoko & Nada #4)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: December 29, 2020

Pages: 128

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Summary: THE LAST DAYS ARE THE SWEETEST

It’s almost time for Satoko to head back to Japan! After everything she’s learned and all the beautiful friends she’s made, it’s hard to leave her new home-away-from-home. But with Nada at her side, her last days in the States are sure to be some of her best yet!

The final volume!

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Satoko And Nada is truly unlike any series I’ve ever read before! Both radiant and heartfelt in its storytelling, this finale continues to establish, till the very end, a true and authentic message in valuing the importance of friendship. This wholesome manga is genuinely heartwarming across each installment as the bittersweet finale wraps up the exchange trip of two Japanese and Saudi-Arabian women who become the best of friends while studying abroad!

If you’re new to my blog then you probably are not aware that this manga series quickly became an ALL-TIME FAVORITE when I read the first volume back in 2018 (wow that felt like a lifetime ago!)…reading each volume has truly made me feel like I’ve been a part of this journey alongside Satoko, Nada, and the rest of the crew during their studies in America. This is a series I will probably cherish forever because it’s a rare kind of story that makes it abundantly clear how impactful friendship can be no matter the distance or borders between people.

From its opening page where they welcoming the reader back, there was also this lingering sadness with the fact that their wholesome adventures would be wrapping up (YES there was quite a bit of sobbing as I reached the final chapter & WOW, the bonus chapter at the end really got me ). Satoko And Nada are truly such an iconic and inspiring duo I aspire to be, no matter the situation they are always there to support one another and this last installment is also a satisfying reminder at how the study abroad program has truly been life-changing for the both of them, despite their fears in the beginning.

As the final few days in the States are quickly approaching, Nada prepares to officially see her fiancé Abdullah in a formal family meeting (Shawfa) to make their engagement official (with Satoko by Nada’s side of course), while on the other hand, Satoko is readying herself to fly back home to Japan.

While there’s numerous 4-koma pages that could be talked about, I think what lingered with me that most was the feeling of closure on the horizon, yet seeing everyone (Kevin, Miracle, Rahman, Abdullah, and Pakeezah) interact throughout each act of the story. Though one of the best and probably stand-out moments of this ending was definitely seeing Satoko and Nada go one last major adventure together traveling to New York, Manhattan, and Canada, only for Satoko to mention on their way back to their apartment, being with Nada has left her wondering why she was even worried about studying abroad to begin with!

Despite the tear-shedding moments across this volume as the ladies are trying to say their goodbyes, the author cleverly uses the 4-koma style to input small humorous moments at the end. For example in “Change,” Satoko gives Nada her American coins that she won’t need anymore to where Nada says “I’ll be sure to think of you…as I buy this soda!” I just adored that scene so much because it was a continuous reminder to the reader that their friendship will always be filled with tons of joy and laughs despite the more emotional moments in between.

I’ll be honest, I was avoiding this volume for the longest time because there was just this crushing feeling at knowing it was coming to an end. However, what made the experience so joyful was how Volume 4 reflected on the previous ones in the smallest of ways making the reader realize just how much these two had grown during their studies: Satoko gained more confidence and in general both women pondered on the myriad of moments from the mundane to routine things like buying groceries or watching tv together, that made the experience meaningful! It was the smallest moments that reflected the power of their friendship. The epilogue in which we see Satoko and Nada once again, there’s a feeling of closure and utter joy in knowing their bond will never falter!!

My only wish is that there were more Satoko & Nada-focused scenes coupled with their storylines. I just wanted a few more adventures with them together, but it was great to see all the main characters together again. It was emotional seeing them wrap up their journey and there was this lingering part of me that truly wanted them to enjoy countless moments with one another. While someone like me could honestly read a million more volumes of their friendship together, it was also such as satisfying conclusion that also showed readers that till the very end, they continued to learn and embrace each other’s cultures.

Yupechika has truly crafted a series both phenomenal and worth your time. While being a comedic, slice of life manga about the day-to-day, its hilarious, uplifting and ultimately about FRIENDSHIP!

Satoko And Nada concludes with a terrific final volume! This series follows two Saudi-Arabian and Japanese women who become the best of friends and in a way, for the reader too! Heartwarming, humorous, and sweet, this is a genuinely fantastic manga that shows how truly impactful friendship can be!

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi Review

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (Perfectly Parvin #1)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Teen)

Release Date: May 18, 2021

Pages: 320

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Designer: Jasmine Moshiri (Photography) & Samira Iravani

Summary: Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero–with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she’s positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?

But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can’t help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Perfectly Parvin was truly a marvelous, funny, and all-around SPECTACULAR YA debut that deserves more hype! Following 14-year-old Parvin Mohammadi, she’s a girl whose starting high school with a broken heart, so she decides to reinvent herself in order to get the ultimate homecoming date!

I’ve realized hyping up my favorite books on social media is a lot harder than it looks. Trying to capture the sheer brilliance of an author’s words and storytelling putting it into your own words (for me anyways) is always difficult. So perhaps my review can convince you to read this fantastic book! If you love a witty protagonist, plots about friendship, romance (of course), but ultimately a journey about accepting yourself as you are, then you MUST pick up Abtahi’s debut!

Iranian-American Parvin thinks everything is going well with her summer boyfriend Wesley, pulling pranks and hanging out at the beach…that is until, he breaks up with her for being “too much.” Now feeling devastated and hurt, Parvin’s gearing up to overcome this obstacle into freshman year by asking out her cute sophomore classmate, Matty Fumero, to homecoming! But when she decides to use romantic heroines from her favorite movies to accomplish her goal, will she accept her new “quiet” self and be willing to sacrifice the true Parvin to find love?

Throughout this journey, she’s not alone! She’s got her supportive best friends Ruth Song and Fabian Castor by her side at ever step of the way. However, when Parvin becomes consumed with her plans on winning over her crush, she doesn’t even realize she’s ignoring and missing the special moments with her bffs, leaving them to the side.

I mentioned this in my June TBR and am still thinking about the amazing friend group that Parvin has, despite its ups downs there’s never a moment when these friends aren’t supporting and sticking by one another!

In addition to her new start at James K. Polk High, she’s also attending Farsi classes and confronting her anxieties about not being “Iranian enough.” Despite her fears though, her parents and favorite aunt Sara especially, help her to juggle it all. Being 1/2 white and Iranian, Abtahi explores the deep bond and connection Parvin has with her parents as she uncovers more about what it means to be the “real Parvin,” who loves hot cheetos, pulling pranks and has a clever sense of humor. Being biracial as well, the story explores the hardship that Parvin’s mom endures as she realizes she can’t always help her daughter connect with her Iranian side, but assures that family (and friends) are always there to assist.

As the fall semester is well underway and prepping for homecoming, Parvin meets Amir in her Farsi class and slowly begins to realize she’s more herself around him. While I won’t spoil how the romantic storyline ends, both of boys are so well developed and I genuinely loved seeing the delightful Parvin navigate her feelings + personal journey with her oh so brilliant and witty humor amid her boy-focused goals (this book is SO funny, adored it being told through her POV). Her character felt incredibly relatable and real because Abtahi builds so much depth, giving Parvin a distinct voice that carries throughout the novel. She’s hilarious both introspectively and outward as well making tons of scenes, even with something as simple as school feel utterly hilarious and charming!

Abtahi built such a distinct voice to her characters, especially for our hilarious protagonist that it was one of my many favorite parts about this book! Parvin felt like such a real character and kind of like a friend too, I genuinely loved reading from her perspective (I’m also not usually a rereader, but this book is one I wouldn’t mind experiencing all over again <3). Despite the story focusing on Parvin’s search for love, friendship and family are just a big (if not bigger) pieces of her story that Abtahi takes her time to develop throughout the novel. She also covers big topics such as the Muslim ban and racism, creating a conversation that Parvin deeply explores through her internal pov.

The setting of Parvin’s Northern Virginia town, home, alongside her high school just come to life on the page. No matter what the setting was, Abtahi’s great writing built Parvin’s world with each and every chapter (though another FUN tidbit here is that the “chapters” are more split up by days / time which adds a unique flow to the story).

This novel also features an incredibly inclusive cast where main characters include: Parvin whose 1/2 Iranian, Fabian is Mexican-American who is gay, Ruth is Korean-American who identifies as pan, Matty is Argentinian-American, and the novel of course follows an Iranian-American family / culture.

Luckily this is the first of a duology, so there’s many more hilarious hijinks with Parvin to come and I could not be more thrilled! The ending, though feels like it does wrap up just a bit too quickly, just has the reader feel joy and hope for Parvin who grows so much over the course of the story. All in all there’s so much love I have for these characters, setting, impactful messages, storytelling, each of which come to life through Parvin’s eyes. Abtahi has crafted a genuine treasure of a book in the span of just 300+ pages leaving me eager to know where Parvin’s high school adventure is headed next!

Perfectly Parvin is a true gem in 2021 YA Contemporary you don’t want to miss! Hilarious hijinks, great storytelling, and lots of meaningful messages make this a fantastic debut that promises more friendship, family, and uplifting Parvin adventures to come!