Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud ARC Review

Truly Madly Royally y Debbie RigaudTruly, Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Publisher: Point Paperbacks (Scholastic)

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 304

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: Truly Madly Royally

Summary: Zora Emerson is not here to play. She’s enrolled in a prestigious summer program, and is ready to use what she’s learning to change the world (or at least her corner of New Jersey, for now).

Zora’s not expecting to vibe with any of her super-privileged classmates. So she’s shocked to find she’s got chemistry with Owen Whittelsey, who is charming, funny, undeniably cute…and turns out to literally be a prince. As in, his parents are the king and queen of a small European country. What?

Suddenly, Zora’s summer is looking a lot more complicated — especially when Owen asks her to be his date at his older brother’s wedding. Can her feelings for Owen, not to mention her sense of self, survive the royal chaos?

*Received ARC through Bookish*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Truly Madly Royally is a YA Royal romance, perfect for summer! Zora’s summer gets a bit more interesting when her chance encounter with a boy in the library during her pre-college program quickly puts her into the spotlight. As it turns out, he’s actually a prince! From its focus on characters, to a sweet summer romance, Truly Madly Royally is a fun debut filled with heart!

You know those books that you always find yourself interested in, but never happen to pick one up? That would be me with royal romances–I see them on my twitter feed all the time and I know about a good number of them, I’ve just never taken the time to read one!

But now I have and let me tell you, Rigaud’s debut is one that was just such a blast to read and I definitely recommend it if your looking for a fun, royal romantic contemporary that really puts a focus on its main character!

Truly Madly Royally balances the fun, cute romantic moments alongside discussions of real world issues and topics, so perfectly!

I’d already been looking forward to Rigaud’s debut because I don’t often read royal romances and this was one looked like it’d be a perfect read for me! Not only is it a debut from an author of color, but its also centered around a biracial relationship, featuring a Black protagonist! I’m always here to support debut, #OwnVoices books, and especially those featuring characters of color!

Told through a first person POV, Zora Emerson is the highlight of this novel! She is such a dedicated and hard-working young woman, you  can see the vibrant energy and spirit to her character!

Zora started an organization called ‘Walk Me Home’ as a way to help kids whose parents/guardians were busy after they finished school. She’s really dedicated and dreams of getting it expanded, to make sure it continues to grow!

From the work she puts into hoping to receive more sponsorships and ensuring she see’s it expand within her community, Zora’s organization means a lot to her and nothing stops her commitment to this project!

This summer, not only is Zora busy with her organization, she’s also attending a summer program at Halstead University as a part of its college prep program.

Throughout the novel (especially from her time in the summer prep classes), she talks about the privilege the more wealthy students have compared to others and how she doesn’t ever really feel like she fits in this atmosphere of the university!

What Zora wasn’t entirely expecting either was that a seemingly normal meeting, alongside a phone mix-up with a guy in the university library, would quickly change her day-to-day life and put her in the spotlight!

The guy she meets is Owen Whittelsey, who happens to be a prince! We learn he’s the prince of Landerel, a fictional European country. Zora wasn’t all too prepared for all the attention and royal protocol that happened because of their meeting, but she does the best she can!

Truly Madly Royally is really about Zora and her development as she continues to pursue her dreams as a community organizer! The plot itself really focuses on the introspection of her as character, as she makes new friends and tries to understand what kind of relationship she wants with Owen.

She doesn’t agree to constantly meet up with him at first, but the more she gives it a try, she realizes she’s falling for him!

The story also explores her journey to navigate all these different aspects of her life that get a bit more complicated when she meets him: relationships, being in the spotlight, her organization, & so much more! She’s a really wonderful protagonist and I loved reading from her POV!

What made this novel such a refreshing contemporary, was that it was definitely a YA that’s on the younger side, in terms of voice and the lightness on romance, which was nice! Also because of that, I found the story felt more realistic!

What I loved about this book was how plot-heavy it was! For a pretty short contemporary (averaging at about 280 pages in the ARC) there were so many different plot points and threads that were explored, which was a lot of fun!

Also, while the summary does explain a royal wedding and was mentioned somewhat early in the book, it’s definitely more of a plot point nearing the end chunk of chapters.

Friendship is another aspect of the story I loved exploring! Zora & her best friend Skye keep in touch throughout the novel while their both attending different college summer programs! They always make time to talk to each other and keep updated on what’s going on during their summer apart. Their dynamic and supportive friendship was really fun to read! I appreciated that Rigaud made it such a central part of the plot!

There’s also a plot point introduced about 1/2 way through the book when secrets get out about Zora and Owen and one of her classmates Matt, wants to be her friend! I liked that a friendship randomly blossomed in this book because to me that’s pretty realistic and I loved how it showed Zora that the classmates in her summer program weren’t all the same!

As I mentioned above, this novel discusses privilege throughout, but also so many other topics that really weave their way into the plot of this story. From race, celebrating Black culture, alongside privilege in communities and education. I loved how Rigaud made these themes and their discussions present throughout, while also keeping the light, fun spirit of the story!

Alongside friendship, family is also a really present part of the story! From her mother, step-father, older brother Zach, and father, they all get pretty equal page-time and I just loved exploring the family dynamic between them all. Zach and Zora’s brother-sister dynamic was really fun to read, but what got the most page-time was definitely Zora and her mom!

Her father was also in the story in certain moments and I thought exploring the dynamic between them was super interesting because Zora knows her father doesn’t always show Zora he’s proud of her, but when he does she really takes it to heart!

In terms of writing, through Zora’s voice, the dialogue really brings the characters to life and there’s a distinct voice to each of them! Many of the characters introduced aren’t just side characters but we see they become part of Zora’s story in some way whether its new friends or people related to Owen–they all come to life through Rigaud’s writing and overall they were all fun characters to get to know!

I feel like where Truly Madly Royally struggles though, is in certain aspects in terms of character and plot! Firstly, Owen–he’s nice and his relationship with Zora is cute, but I never felt I really knew him too much…by the time I reached the end, I felt there would have been more development to him. We got a bit more into his family, the grief for his sister who passed away, and that he’s a genuinely nice person, but it felt like there was still more to know about him.

Also, Landerel is meant to be a European country resembling the UK in some way and overall it was pretty well developed, but there were moments I just wanted to know more–because it is mentioned a good number of time throughout the story and Zora gets a chance to visit!

Finally, there were certain plot threads that are left hanging throughout the book that are just dropped when we reach the wedding portion and I was left wondering what happened (like Zach & her best friend Skye & the dynamic between Zora & her father).

But overall, Truly Madly Royally is a great summer contemporary and debut to check out! Its got a dynamic main character, focus on friendship, family, and centers around a girl navigating life alongside a cute royal romance!

Truly Madly Royally is a contemporary romance that really focuses on Zora’s journey when she gets put into a royal spotlight and now has to navigate all of these everyday aspects of her life, in a new way! Rigaud’s debut is a fun summer read with a focus on its characters, a light and adorable romance, and a focus on the plot that will keep you turning the page! Fans of royal romances will definitely want to check this one out!

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Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 by Yupechika {Manga Review}

Satoko And Nada Volume 2 by YupechikaSatoko And Nada Vol. 2 by Yupechika (Satoko & Nada #2)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: June 25, 2019

Pages: 128

Available Through The Book Depository: Satoko And Nada Vol. 2

Summary: Satoko, who is Japanese, has a new roommate in America: a Saudi Arabian woman named Nada, who practices Islam and wears a hijab. While under the same roof, Satoko and Nada learn how to live together with very different customs and still have all the fun young women crave! Through mutual respect—and the hilarious adventures of their daily life—Satoko and Nada prove that friendship knows no borders.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 continues the adventures of two women who pursue their studies abroad, in America! This manga not only focuses on friendship all while having such great humor, but it also deeply explores Japanese and Saudi Arabian culture! Satoko And Nada is a must read manga series for fans of contemporary!

I recently posted about Satoko And Nada on my twitter because honestly, this series needs SO much more love and it makes me sad its gone under so many book bloggers radars! (*I also see people constantly tweeting about wanting more New Adult/college-set novels that don’t focus on romance–well, Satoko And Nada is here!!)

It’s no surprise that I’d be picking up the second book in this series, because I adored the first volume when I read last year!

Satoko and Nada are both students studying abroad in America (Satoko from Japan and Nada from Saudi Arabia). When Nada is looking for an apartment roommate, Satoko hears about the listing and the moment she moves in, they instantly become the best of friends!

While volume 1 introduces us to these wonderful characters and their adjustment to life in America, Satoko And Nada Volume 2 shows how strong their friendship continues to be, in addition to illustrating how much they care about respecting each others culture!

Satoko And Nada follows a 4-panel style of manga. Each page (or couple) is set in its own scene and delves more into the different happenings of their daily lives.

Starting on the very first page of volume 2 in all honesty felt like reuniting with an old friend and that’s what makes this series so beautiful! Its through the writing, art, alongside Satoko & Nada as characters, where you feel so connected to them as you continue to read! From the very first page, it feels like you’re right there with them in all their adventures –and that’s really something special! 💖

It was great to see returning characters in this volume as well, like Kevin and Miracle! We also get introduced to a new character, Rahman, Nada’s older brother!

Seeing how Satoko and Nada continue to be incredibly supportive and encouraging to each other, was definitely one of the many highlights of this volume. Their friendship was already incredibly heartwarming to read, but seeing it go through even more development was fantastic!

For example on page 14, Satoko has already gotten a job at the university cafe (shown in previous pages) and Nada convinces their mutual friend Miracle to buy something for her during Satoko’s shift, but without her actually being there because she doesn’t want to stress her out and still wants to support her.

Then on page 15 we learn Nada had spent a while working on a project, which Satoko knew all about, so she snuck into class to see her present it!

Not only does Satoko get a job, both Satoko and Nada get invited to a party, they go out to tons of places to eat and shop, and there’s more preparation for Nada’s husband-to-be!!

Overall its a joy to see even more discussion between Satoko and Nada not just about the things they go out to do, but about their personal lives and opening up more to each other!

Their friendship has grown to the point where you can see its in the little moments, they’ve really influenced each other! On the page Powerful Presence, Satoko’s professor tells her how confident she’s gotten in her public speaking and by the end, Satoko comments that it may have been because of Nada!

One moment in this volume that left me with a bittersweet feeling was Someday! In this scene, its late at night and while Nada is sleeping, Satoko thinks about how their lives will be when they leave America. Its a really quiet kind of scene, but left such an impact because Satoko knows they won’t be there forever, which got her thinking that their their close friendship might one day be separated by distance!

I had so many favorite panels from this volume: Yogurt Time (the purest 4 panel page ever 💞), Sneaky, Transaction and Hot Chocolate. These pages in particular reminded me how beautiful their friendship continues to be!

As with the previous volume, it has its funny and heartfelt moments that make Satoko And Nada such a fantastic manga series, that’s really at its core, about a supportive friendship!!

This second volume delved more into the specifics of Saudi, Muslim, and Japanese culture that were more personal to Satoko and Nada (it was incredibly heartwarming). The moment they learn something new about each other’s culture, they not only incorporate it to make each other feel more at home, but also it shows us how they are always listening to one another & always have each other’s back!

One tidbit of info I found to be super interesting that was mentioned early on by Satoko in the manga, noted that in Japan (compared to America) they have food models instead of just descriptions, commonly used in other restaurants!

There’s no other word to describe their friendship other than wholesome, and that’s what really makes this story so incredibly special! As someone who takes friendships so seriously (also as a uni. student), it really resonated with me that Satoko And Nada captured the importance of that–this series truly has a special place in my heart!

Satoko And Nada’s art style is incredibly unique and is definitely something that makes this series stand out from other contemporary manga I’ve personally seen! Also, if you pay attention to each page, you’ll notice the quick pace never takes away from the great dialogue that builds on Satoko & Nada as characters! Each page is incredibly immersive and you just can’t put the book down!

Yupechika’s wonderful contemporary manga series is a must-read, not only for readers of manga, but those looking for new-adult/slice of life contemporary stories that focus on a powerful female friendship!

I’m looking forward for what’s next in this series and the last page of this volume definitely hinted at more to come for Nada’s story!

The only element that made me lower my rating was because we already know these characters and their friendship is a major part of the volume, the main over-arching plot points felt more dispersed across each page!

I do know that Satoko And Nada ends after just 4 volumes. Though I’m sad this series will end, my hopes for the next volumes are even more development to their already fantastic friendship alongside their others friends too! Exploration of each other’s culture is core part of this series and I’m looking forward to reading more about their lives in America, and how they continue experiencing each others cultures + have fun together!

Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 delves more into the beautiful friendship between these two women who’ve adjusted to their life in America! There’s wonderful humor, exploration of friendship, and culture in this brilliant manga series! Satoko And Nada will capture your heart, this series is so wholesome and a must-read!!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno Review

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina MorenoDon’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Pages: 331

Available Through The Book Depository: Don’t Date Rosa Santos

Summary: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a magical, character-driven, but above all beautiful YA Contemporary debut that takes you on quite a journey! Rosa Santos explores the dynamics of her family, its complexity, love, and choices as she finalizes her university plans before school ends!

Moreno’s debut has left me a mess of emotions & I’m not entirely sure how I’ll recover 😭✨

Don’t Date Rosa Santos was just one of those books I knew I had to read in 2019! Coming from a Latinx background, I was incredibly excited to be anticipating a YA Contemporary debut that felt like it would be a story of magic, family, love, grief, but full of new beginnings and journeys– I got that and more! 🧡🌸✨

Through a lush and all-around lovely 1st person POV, we follow Rosa in her town of Port Coral, Florida where she lives with her Mimi (grandmother) and takes part in the town-wide Spring Fest ,which is a sort of a yearly homecoming and supports local businesses, but now she’s joining to help the town save their harbor for this year’s festival!

Not only that, but she also decides to help plan a wedding too, between locals Clara & Jonas that’ll take place during the festival!

For 3 generations of Santos women, they’ve been no stranger to their curse and trouble with the seas. Mimi lost her husband and Rosa lost her father! So when Rosa begins falling for her planning partner in the Spring Fest, Alex Aquino, she’s constantly worried of what will go wrong, but takes a chance anyways!

Moreno seamlessly weaves this internal journey Rosa undergoes to better understand the curse that’s haunted the women in her family, her culture, and herself as she finds the courage to do things she never thought she would–meet a boy, fall in love, go out to sea, and confront her fears head-on to find her happiness and purpose as the days wind down for her to pick the university she’ll attend in the fall!

Through the writing, you not only get this full scope of the fictional coastal/small town of Port Coral, but also its vibrant community, and the many businesses and quirks that make it a beautiful and unique place to live! There’s an intimacy and familiarity that grows on you as you read more about the town!

Moreno crafted a story that was wholly familiar to me and found myself noting passages, phrases, or other moments that I could relate to so much: the chisme 😂✨, the power of caldo, the reference of honey & ginger to cure a cough (for me & my family we use onion!), and YES even the food such as platano chips, ceviche, tres leches cake, & so much more! Also, coming from a Latin-American background, I love discovering expressions from other Latinx cultures & now I’ll never forget tiki-tiki!!

The Santos are all too familiar with the locals around town theorizing they are bad luck and because of that, Rosa didn’t really expect any other outcome, because it had happened to two Santos women already. This journey allows her to try and find her own luck in this internal place of grief and secrets.

I found Moreno explored this idea that when we hold onto grief or events that have caused us pain, it can seem like it’ll be never-ending, which can be difficult to overcome. However, there’s an underlying theme that I found not only Rosa, but also Mimi & her mother learned was that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about these things and know that bonds between family is something strong that’ll help us get through!

The plot is so memorable and I can’t put into words how immersed I was in each page from Rosa with her best friend Ana-Maria, pondering over her college decision to not disappoint Mimi (because she wants to go on an abroad trip to Cuba), the festival/wedding planning, her development with Alex & so much more! The story kept me compelled with each and every page and I loved following Rosa’s journey of growth!

The inclusivity & diversity in this novel is beautiful from the representation of Cuban culture, prominent characters throughout the story who identify as gay, Rosa who is bi, also Afro-Latinx and Black characters!

Additionally, Moreno explores a lot about diaspora in the Latinx community, which I hadn’t ever really seen with such depth in a YA Contemporary before!

“Enough. I was still trying to work that one out…Always caught in between…Never quite right or enough for either…” (107).

Throughout the novel, Rosa wants to find more connection to her Cuban roots, though she has found some of it in Port Coral, she’s eager to know more! The secrecy from her Mimi only creates fear for her, worried she’ll upset Mimi when she asks or mentions her study abroad trip to Cuba!

Family is such a huge part of this novel and Moreno explores it with so much depth and complexity, through each of the Santos women! Mimi & Rosa’s mother, Liliana, have a relationship that’s filled with so much history and heartache. With that, it was both beautiful and heartbreaking for Rosa to uncover more to their stories, although they were hesitant to share! Mimi doesn’t put up with any nonsense when it comes to Liliana and they both are at odds throughout the story, but I love how the events of Port Coral bring them closer than ever and allow them to slowly move past their grief little by little.

Similarly, there’s so much depth to the relationship Rosa has with Mimi and her mother! Rosa remembers a time when her mother said they’d always find a home together and that, for a time, was Port Coral. As her mother moves around from town to town to keep up with her painting, Rosa doesn’t have much faith her mother will stay for long. However, Mimi has laid the roots for Rosa to feel like she truly can be a part of Port Coral, she takes care of her, offers her advice, and wants her to be her very best!

I loved uncovering and exploring the stories of the 3 Santos women! I’m honored to have followed such wonderful characters!

Through Rosa’s POV I just loved the energy and spirit she brought to the story that made Don’t Date Rosa Santos such a heartwarming, uplifting, and wonderful book as a whole!

I could relate to her a lot, from her anxieties of trying new things, her determination when it comes to things she’s passionate about, and her bullet journaling!! 😂💞

Now onto Alex and Rosa–what else can I say but they were the best?!?! Their dynamic and development was heartwarming to read and I loved how they both learned to take chances with each other in different ways! Alex was just the best–he appears to be intimidating in the beginning but we learn he’s just a quiet sailor/baker!

When we uncover more about Mimi’s past in Cuba and unlock more of the story as to why, it reminded me of my grandparents as well (because something similar happened) that just made this book feel even more vivid and close to home–I was not expecting it!!

All of the characters and vibrant town of Port Coral captured my heart, as did this story as a whole and I’m sad I reached the end!! There’s so much life and depth to these characters and this beautiful world that Moreno crafted–I loved it so much!

My only very minor gripe was the pacing in a couple parts, but aside from that, this book was absolute perfection!! It’ll stick with me for a long time and has easily made it onto my list of favorite YA Contemporary books!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a magnificent YA Contemporary that you don’t want to miss! From the beautiful writing, following Rosa’s journey, and the themes explored from family to love and loss. The plot will captivate you as will the characters! This is a magical novel about finding your place in the world know when it seems odds are stacked against you. But no matter what, the underlying message is…you’ll always find a way!

How the Book Internet is influencing our reading {Book Blog Discussion}

For us avid readers its no surprise we have countless avenues of which to discover new books and connect with like-minded people:

Bookstagram, Book Blogging, Booktube, and Book Twitter, to name a few!

The internet is not only changing how we’re reading, but also what we’re reading!

joyce-mccown-791673-unsplash booksFrom book recommendation threads on twitter, bookish articles listing the newest books of the season, to a new haul on booktube, the latest book on your to-read shelf is never far behind.

According to the Publishers Weekly article titled How Has the Internet Changed Book Culture, a PubTechConnect panel was recapped where the panelists, consisting book online book editors and writers, discussed the internet’s effect on literary culture.

“…what the internet allows us to do in changing the way we interact with books is see what people connect with…[,]how people form identity communities, and how those communities affect what they read and how they read it…”

These spaces create and build connections to share our love of books whether it’s a review talking about our favorite characters and plot points or through another form of creative book content. We find ourselves seemingly unable to stop refreshing our feeds because the newest post may introduce us to our next favorite book or a new bookish friend!

Even Vox shared an article in December of 2018 showcasing the influence Instagram (or Bookstagram) has in helping independent bookstores and getting people to buy more physical books. The platform is encouraging readers to not only support their local communities, but also build one online through a love of reading.

With all of this in mind, its not all that surprising then that print sales of books have been on the rise compared to the drop in sales for ebooks and audiobooks.

Good E-Reader, an online news agency which focuses on audiobooks, e-readers, digital publishing and ebooks, shared that in January 2019 the revenue for ebooks had declined 4.9% since last year.

Similarly with audiobooks, Publishers Weekly stated that those sales had the steepest drop in unit sales at 28.9%.

Now back to focusing on “what” we’re reading, it’s clear that depending on who’s in your feed, that will absolutely influence the books you notice and will want to pick up!

Personally, I’ve made so many wonderful friends and seen my TBR grow continuously by following readers and other bookish accounts on Twitter that align with my love of Young Adult, Latinx Books, SFF, etc. & have introduced me to more romance and indie published recommendations that I may not have considered before!

To look at this topic from another perspective, take manga for instance! A recent article from Bound Into Comics shared that manga has found more success in overseas markets and has seen its popularity increase.

Though there are many factors involved, from a book community standpoint, one can’t ignore the increase of manga on Booktube!

Booktubers who mainly read YA are now reading and hauling manga titles! I can only theorize its due to the lasting wave of YA Contemporary in 2015 & 2016 that many began to pick up more manga. It was mainly through Ichigo Takano’s Orange, which falls into the genre of contemporary, realistic fiction (mental health), and merges with a bit of sci-fi, that this newly released manga was put onto many people’s radars, which opened the doors for more booktubers/viewers to discover manga.

This, in my opinion, set the stage for more manga to weave its way into YA Booktubers TBRs!

Now if you scroll through the feed of predominately YA booktubers, many of them are not only starting to pick up more manga, but also encourage other viewers and fellow booktube friends to do the same. This has also led to more manga bookclubs or read-a-thons online.

From my perspective, as a long-time watcher of booktube, being a book blogger for over 3 years, and keeping updated on the newest buzzed books, it’s not surprising that the impact of the internet is allowing for more conversation, especially influencing and inspiring readers to pick up more diverse and inclusive titles!

It’s amazing to see how influential the internet is in the the direction of the book market, what stories we’re seeing next, allowing us readers to curate our TBRs, find new recommendations, and open our eyes to new stories that we may not have known about otherwise!

Its also important to note, the impact word-of-mouth and recommendations from online friends or influencers is continuing to have on the books people decide to add to their To-Read lists, or pick up themselves!

While there’s a variety of factors involved into what gets readers to pick up certain books, one can’t ignore all the good it’s doing to bring people together, introducing them to new fictional worlds, and inspiring them to keep on reading!

There’s many pockets of the internet where one can find new bookish content and discover their next great read and that is something that I don’t see stopping anytime soon!

Thank you so much for checking out this discussion! Feel free to share your own personal experiences on how the internet or the online book community has influenced how/what your reading! 😍📚🍃

Which online bookish communities do you go to for your next read? 📚✨💖

Hey 24hr.YABookBlog here  (~˘▾˘)~💞📚✨ I wanted to share a little bit about the inspiration behind this blog discussion! It was mainly influenced by the PW article listed above titled “How Has the Internet Changed Book Culture.” I felt inspired by what the article mentioned about building community and how it impacts what we read! I felt as a book blogger + someone who keeps up to date on the newest book news/trends, etc., I had a lot to say on the subject! 

This discussion also would not have been possible without the other fantastic resources I linked above like Vox, Good E-Reader and Publishers Weekly! Close to 3-4 hours of work went into this article, but it was such a fun one to create! 

If you can, I would really appreciate if you could check out/donate to my Ko-Fi or share this article with fellow bookish people! As a university student studying journalism, if you could support the work I shared today, it would mean a lot! Thank you!! 📚💖✨📰

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Love In Focus Vol. 1 by Yoko Nogiri {Manga Review}

Love In Focus Vol. 1 by Yoko NogiriLove In Focus Vol. 1 by Yoko Nogiri (Love In Focus #1)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: March 19, 2019

Pages: 160

Available Through The Book Depository: Love In Focus Vol. 1

Summary: Mako’s always had a passion for photography. When she loses someone dear to her, she clings to her art as a relic of the close relationship she once had…Luckily, her childhood best friend Kei encourages her to come to his high school and join their prestigious photo club. With nothing to lose, Mako grabs her camera and moves into the dorm where Kei and his classmates live. Soon, a fresh take on life, along with a mysterious new muse, begin to come into focus!

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Love In Focus is a great start to a new manga series that really centers on its main characters and introduces the perfect amount of romance! Mako Mochizuki’s passion is in photography, so her best/childhood friend Kei recommends she join their photography club! Now she’s in a new school, boarding house, and starts her new life in Hokkaido, Japan!

Mako and her grandfather were incredibly close! After he passed away, she continued photography, knowing it was because of him she had found her passion.

“I want you to go out there to see all that I can’t…” 

I know this is just the first volume, but I’m absolutely certain this is a manga series that I’ll definitely be continuing. It was absolutely wonderful and I think I’ve found a new favorite series!! (´▽`ʃƪ) ♥♥

Love In Focus just has all the great elements for a contemporary romance/slice of life manga! The main characters are all very well developed and you really get to know the important parts of their backstory, the story flows very well, the romance/friendship develops in a great way, you also get an incredibly introspective view on Mako as a character!

The main characters we focus on in this volume aside from Mako are Kei Akahoshi, her childhood friend who invites her to the boarding house and Mitsu Amemura, who she meets within the first couple pages after taking his picture on accident!

Mitsu surprisingly also lives in the boarding house and Mako not only learns more about him, but finds an interest in him as she discovers he makes for an intriguing photo subject!

As Mako finds more of an interest in him, we see their dynamic develop and we learn why he isn’t a big fan of photography.

Though to some it may seem like a romance/love triangle is obvious, I think it was done in such a great way where you really get to know both Kei & Mitsu and really root for both of them, when it comes to their friendship with Mako!

This is something I only started noticing a lot more recently, but I found the paneling was wonderfully presented. On each page, every panel contributed something to the story whether it was uncovering more about the characters and setting/world, where it felt no space was wasted.

To expand on that, I also found the art style to be very beautiful, especially in terms of the scenery when it became the focal point on the page (I do hope in future volumes more of the nature/city life of Hokkaido is featured). There was one page in particular (I think 124) where the scenery was incredibly beautiful.

Nogiri’s art also wonderfully showcases characters (especially Mako, Kei, & Mitsu’s) subtle expressions. I find its in the character’s expressions for Love In Focus, where their personalities shine and further develop in this volume to make them really well-defined characters!

If your looking for a contemporary manga that really concentrates on the main character and weaves in great development of love and friendship, you’d really enjoy Love In Focus!

Without spoiling, the ending (left me screaming tbh*) but also had me wanting to pick up the next volume right away!

Aside from love and friendship, this first volume also explores grief (lightly, but you can sense its presence throughout the story), alongside the impact art has on us and how it inspires us!

Love In Focus Volume 1 has many highlights and those would have to be the characters (not just the main ones), their introductions, the way the art expresses emotions, and just the overall story really introduces something special!

I really loved this manga and I can’t wait to continue with the series, I loved Mako, Kei, and Mitsu–I’m looking forward to seeing where their story is headed in Love In Focus Vol. 2!

Love In Focus Vol. 1 is a character-driven manga that follows Mako, an avid photographer and her new life in Hokkaido, Japan! This first volume introduces a wonderful cast of characters, exploration of grief, friendship, and a bit of romance! Love In Focus is a series you definitely want to pick up if your looking for a new contemporary, slice of life story to fall in love with!

Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson Review

Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret RogersonSorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon Teen)

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Pages: 456

Available Through The Book Depository: Sorcery Of Thorns

Summary: All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Sorcery Of Thorns is the latest novel from Margaret Rogerson, its a book that’s enchanting, immersive, and weaves together a tale that pays homage to the power of books!

Elisabeth Scrivener was orphaned, but taken in to the Great Library of Summershall where she grew up surrounded by books and wants nothing more than to become a warden, moving up the ranks from an apprentice librarian!

She continues her studies and knows she is nowhere near ready, so it’s of course a surprise when the Director calls her to assist in moving a grimoire into their facility. This not only ensures its well sealed, but examined and the text within it preserved for the future.

A grimoire comes to life one night that leads Elisabeth on an adventure across the kingdom where she gets tangled up in forbidden sorcery and complicated magic that threatens her world! She stops at nothing to uncover secrets and solve the mystery of grimoires that have become dangerous monsters, aka Maleficts.

With the Director’s death, we see that it acts as catalyst for Elisabeth to take action! I really loved how you could see the Director was a mother figure to her (wanting to show her potential) and it was through the little actions that Elisabeth did in which we saw that her mentor would have been proud, in using her knowledge to help others! Though we see the Director really did have a lot of faith in Elisabeth by leaving her Demonslayer and reminding her that her there is so much to the world of the Great Libraries that leave her many options.

Throughout Sorcery Of Thorns, Rogerson weaves mystery, intrigue, adventure, and as a standalone, I appreciated how all these different elements we’re layered into the story.

According to a feature interview from Kirkus, its mentioned that the journey Elisabeth embarks on mirrors Rogerson’s own upbringing learning more about the religion she grew up with.

“As a teenager, I was discovering a lot of things about the world that were very contrary to what I had always been told as absolute truth…”

As Elisabeth steps away from her world of libraries, she learns more about the world around her and is shocked by the sexism and other societal norms she’s never encountered before.

As a YA Fantasy standalone I loved how Rogerson layered not only the themes of this story, but also the clever foreshadowing, character development, exploration of the world, and plotting!

The way she structured Sorcery Of Thorns was done in such a brilliant way where I was always surprised at the littlest of details! She’d find ways to bring them back 50 or so pages later that had me amazed at how descriptions of characters, backstory, etc. played such a huge part as we uncovered more about the direction of the story.

As an aspiring YA Fantasy writer, I found she explored a lot of different elements in very interesting ways from the growth of Elisabeth and her finding her way, to the layers of world-building that slowly unfold, even the direction of the plot. I felt that the way she weaved all these elements together left me inspired as a writer and I’m looking forward to rereading this book again in the future–maybe annotating it to uncover more that I may not have noticed before!

Told through a 3rd person POV, Rogerson not only allows us to follow Elisabeth on her journey, but also allows us to understand the new friends and people she meets along the way! From sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, his demon servant/best friend Silas, the Director, Elisabeth’s best friend Katrien, even Ashcroft!

Honestly though, if I had to pick my favorite characters, I’d say that I loved Elisabeth, Nathaniel, Silas, & the Director all equally!

There’s not only insight into the main characters, but also the world of Asustermeer and its 5 libraries, the Otherworld of demons where Silas comes from, and even the world of grimoires.

Rogerson’s descriptive writing builds a gritty, dark, and expansive world, unlike any I’ve ever read before! There’s dark magic, but also threads of hope, adventure, moments of humor–overall there’s a lot of different tones and atmospheres to this story that get uncovered and cements itself into this magical tale! Even the tiniest of details from the green sparkles of Nathaniel’s magic to the metallic smell of sorcery made the setting feel lived in and very grounded in reality because we had so many different layers to explore.

Sorcery Of Thorns is the kind of book that even though the writing at times is heavily descriptive, you still want to keep reading! I felt the writing style really brought a lot to this book! The world always felt real and really came to life.

What surprised me as well was seeing how Elisabeth’s world of libraries and magical books completely contrasted what the world was like in Austermeer. Where librarians see sorcerers as nothing but trouble and pure evil, outside they are celebrated and seen as average people. She learns more about not only sorcerers, but demons as she changes her perspective on Nathaniel & Silas when they team up to protect the world.

“― what had it called her?

A true child of the library…”

In terms of the foreshadowing, I found that I was more surprised than anything. As mentioned above Rogerson, weaved in the smallest details into the plot where I was not expecting and I loved that although I realized it less than 1/2 way through, they still managed to be unexpected. They were used really effectively and for so many descriptions to be used to further the plot in such an interesting way, it was something I really enjoyed!

Specifically, I personally loved how we knew who the villain was early on! Not only did it offer more action and intrigue into the story, but what makes it fun is that your constantly left theorizing of what he’ll be plotting next. That was great because we kept learning more, figured out how his plan would impact the world and how his schemes are constantly influencing the world in a lot of ways (going after each library and the consequences of going after all the top Class 8-10 grimoires).

Its not explored until Elisabeth learns more about both Nathaniel & Ashcroft’s pasts, but I really appreciated the importance of family, legacy, and remembering the family that has come before you. It wasn’t until I finished Sorcery where this really symbolized Elisabeth too, growing up orphaned in the library, seeing the Director as a role model/parental figure to look up to, keeping her legacy/teachings alive by saving the world from Grimoiers. I also loved how this journey showed Elisabeth that although she hasn’t found exactly where she wants to be yet, that’s okay because there’ll always new paths open to her!

This is also really random, but the further I read, I loved when I learned why this book is called Sorcery Of Thorns! 😭💖💫🌿

Now I wanted to get into more discussion on why I personally rated this novel 4 stars!

It’s no surprise that I was really looking forward to this book because I adored Rogerson’s debut  An Enchantment Of Ravens and had already seen so many glowing + 5-star reviews!

Although 4 stars is definitely not a bad rating in any way, there were just a few things I wanted to explore that lowered the rating for me personally.

So, as an aspiring writer its no surprise that I really want to work on the craft of writing. With that, I couldn’t help but notice that from my reading experience, I picked up on quite a few writing cues and familiar turns of phrase that took me a bit out of the story.

Also with the very direct descriptions I found the pacing was very uneven at times. There were moments the story moved constantly, but then it was stopped abruptly, it happened a while throughout the story and it was just hard for me to love the book fully because of it.

Also, while I completely understand what Rogerson was doing showing these two different sides to the world of Austermeer (librarians & the regular world), I wasn’t exactly a fan of the sexism and old-era ways of thinking. For example, there’s a scene in which Elisabeth is trying to explain the villain’s plot of using the grimoire’s & how he plans to attack each library. But, she gets seen as “mad” and is almost left to be put into a hospital.

Early on, I personally saw this world as its own universe, so I really didn’t understand why these old ways of thinking had to be present (hope that makes sense??). I see how the author used it to show the strength of the female characters when they’re in the libraries and how it differs from the realities of their world, but I found it was just kind of frustrating to read at times.

Throughout the book I was left thinking: There’s powerful/brave female characters here, but outside a Great Library position their not seen as equal to men & so quickly judged?

And lastly, while the writing is definitely a strength of Sorcery, I also found it was its weakness at points. Because the writing is so descriptive and so “perfect”,  it made the story and its flow somewhat dense. With that, certain setting descriptions made it difficult at points to picture certain elements of the world, setting, and characters (though this was definitely in more specific moments).

Overall though, this was another fun fantasy standalone from Margaret Rogerson and I’m looking forward to seeing what she publishes next!

Sorcery Of Thorns is a novel that’s packed with so many complex layers and they all find their way into the story from beginning to end that will leave the reader satisfied! There’s magic, sorcery, a great cast of characters, beautiful writing, and so much more that cement Rogerson as a master in YA Fantasy standalones! 

2019 Winter + Spring Wrap-Up

You may have noticed, since January, I haven’t really posted a single wrap-up, there’s a couple of reasons for that:

1: I was starting to feel burned out doing wrap-ups each month & though I loved my new format, it was just starting to get a bit tiring for me!

2: I’ve been working on some new blog projects, posts, etc. and that’s been taking up a lot of my time:

The biggest one, which I hope you’ll check out is a new bookish website I launched called The Booked Shelf!! 😆📚✨🎉🎊

The Booked Shelf was inspired by my Book Bytes feature! I explain more about my inspiration for launching it on the site, but basically if you want to stay updated on the latest YA book news from cover reveals, adaptation news, and more, I recommend giving it a look!

I also started The Traveling ARC Project back in May to get #OwnVoices ARCs to more #OwnVoices readers/reviewers! It went pretty well for my first time putting something like this together! 

I am also planning one for the fall and I’m really looking forward to it! My next Traveling ARC Project will be for Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl!  😍💞

and 3: I just haven’t been reading as much as I have in the past–which is fine with me because I get to spend more time focusing on the quality of book over quantity, but that meant I wasn’t as motivated to post wrap-ups either because I felt they would be pretty brief anyways!

For my future wrap-ups on the blog though, I’m planning on them being seasonal so I can take more time to talk about the books I’ve read over a longer period! I’m looking forward to sharing not just my thoughts on the book but other factors as well!

So with that said, so far in the year of 2019 throughout Winter & Spring, I’ve read a total of 23 books! 😍💞📚✨🌸❄

My first book of 2019 was:

Fierce Fairytales Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita GillFierce Fairytales: Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita GillLibrary ∣ Started January 1 + Finished January 2 ∣ My Rating:★★★★☆

With every start to the new year I always make it a goal to have my first book be a poetry book! I’d heard of Nikita Gill before, but Fierce Fairytales was my first collection from her! Within this collection she not only included poems, but short stories too. She weaves modern twists & inspiring messages into this collection that transforms classic fairy tales!

The first 2019 book that I rated 5-stars was:

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiThe Gilded Wolves  ARC∣ Started January 3 + Finished January 8 ∣ My Rating: ★★★★★

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: I could gush about this book all day–I adored it! From the lush and descriptive writing, immersive setting of 1880’s Paris, scheming & heists!! Also Séverin, Enrique, Tristan, Zofia & Laila captured my heart and I adopted them all from page 1! 😭🌸✨💞

With The Gilded Wolves, this was also the first book that inspired a new blog feature, Reading Diary! I hope to get back to this feature again with upcoming books, but essentially I tracked my reading progress each day and wrote my thoughts in real-time on what I’d read so far!

Also inspired by new/upcoming releases I created these new blog features too:

1Bookish Theories:

I was inspired to create this feature while scrolling through twitter and seeing all the books people were excited for! Bookish Theories is a post where I list my thoughts or theories on what I think will happen in a book before its released–the book that started it all was: King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (which I still need to read 😂✨)

2Bookish Buzz

This feature was created because I always find books that are upcoming/newer releases that need more buzz surrounding them! So through this feature I plan to share anticipated releases that I want to promote more and spread the word about them!

My first post was titled  Bookish Buzz: Upcoming Books That Need More Hype!

Out of all the books I’ve read so far this year, here’s one with the lowest amount of Goodreads ratings, but I highly recommend checking it out because I think this book is really great!
↠ Its also diverse + #ownvoices (Latinx YA)

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues1.The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues

Told through a past & present POV, Marco Suarez in his senior year of high school, who has everything planned out. But, he wasn’t expecting his childhood friend Sally to return so suddenly after having disappeared since freshman year and he can’t seem to ignore his first spark with Sally!

I’d say out of all the books I’ve read so far in 2019, this book is probably the most underrated! It focuses on friendship, love, family, and is also such an impactful and moving story that reminds us its the little moments in life that can shape who we are!

The cast is not only incredibly diverse, with Dominican, Korean/Jewish rep., but also featuring the main character Marco & his family who are Cuban-American!

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues is such a relatable YA Contemporary that stresses the importance of the little moments in life and the important people within it, that shape us into who we are!

I can’t recommend this book enough, please pick it up if your looking for a new YA Contemporary to immerse yourself in!

Out of the 3 sequels that I’ve read so far this year, my favorite has been:

The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault RiveraThe Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera

This is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite epic fantasy The Tiger’s Daughter! As far as sequels go, The Phoenix Empress has to be one of the most memorable I’ve read so far in 2019! It expands on the world of Hokkaro, introduces a lot of great new characters, and delves deeper into empress O’ Shizuka! I don’t want to spoil much, but it expands on the lore, world, and if your looking for a series with a dynamic cast of wonderful female characters, this is a great series!!

I also read 2 books that could be categorized as nonfiction and of them, my favorite was:

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

This beautifully illustrated and heartwarming picture book, chronicles and celebrates influential storyteller, librarian, and author Pura Belpré! She moves from Puerto Rico to New York, while carrying the stories and folktales she grew up hearing from her abuela!

It also chronicles her achievements as she continued her work as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City!

Planting Stories also emphasizes the importance of diversity in storytelling and its impact, and above all, celebrates the power of stories!

Dark Of The West by Joanna HathawayAlso out of the 23 reviews I’ve written so far in 2019, my favorite review would have to be for Joanna Hathaway’s Dark Of The West!

I did a little bit of research about Hathaway’s inspiration for Dark Of The West and I felt it added something more to my review! Additionally, I just loved how I explored the different elements of the story, characters, setting, etc. alongside my personal interpretations of this wonderful book!

I also wrote one of my first discussion posts back in June titledSlice Of Life Fantasy + Book Recommendations, where I explain this unique genre of stories I particularly enjoy and offer some recommendations from manga , middle grade, even graphic novels!😍✨💞🍃

And to conclude this seasonal wrap-up, this is my most recent read & a book I HIGHLY recommend you add to your TBR:

The Best Lies by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

Release Date: July 2, 2019

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu ARC Review

If you follow me on twitter, than you’d know how much I’ve been freaking out about how amazing this book is and that this a book that I need more people to check out!

Told through a past and present POV, The Best Lies is an incredibly introspective novel that explores friendship, love, and trauma. We follow our main character Remy, whose boyfriend Jack has just been killed, but here’s the thing—its her best friend Elise who did it, but she can’t remember exactly what happened!

Now, as she becomes part of an investigation into his death, she has to recount her memories with her best friend Elise as she uncovers the truth about what happened!

This novel explores a lot of heavy topics such as toxic friendship and abuse, however, I can’t put into words just how much I fell in love with the main characters Remy and Elise!  They really came to life and this is easily one of my favorite YA Contemporary/Mystery debuts of the year & all-time!!

So I don’t want to spoil much more than that, but I hope you check out Lyu’s debut–its fantastic!! 😭💞✨

Thanks so much for joining me in my first seasonal wrap-up!! 😍💞🌸❄📚

What have been some of your favorite books so far this year? Any you recommend?