Hi Chaperlings! I’m finally sitting down to write up some long overdue reviews that I haven’t had the chance to get to. I’ve had this review ‘to-do’ list for about a hot minute now and it was getting a little long. Granted, two of these books are recent reads, but I personally feel like I should have posted about them by now. Though I will say I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for not having these reviews out as soon as I would like. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately and I’ve been trying to be gentle with myself. I hope all of you are being gentle and kind with yourselves, as well. So, without any further delays, here are five overdue reviews with their content/trigger warnings!
➼ Famine (The Four Horseman, #3) by Laura Thalassa
✨ Pestilence ★★★★
✨ War ★★★
Content/Trigger Warnings: Depictions of blood, graphic deaths, graphic violence, scene of stabbing, misogyny, slut shaming, scenes of emesis, trauma/PTSD, graphic injuries, mentions of captivity, mentions of torture, natural disasters (earthquake), grief, mentions loss of loved ones, scene of decapitation, mentions of abuse (in the past), scene of sexual harassment, alcoholism, swearing
“I always knew I would see Famine again. Call it intuition, but I knew that fucker would come back.”
I’m shocked, absolutely shocked! I wasn’t expecting to read this book so fast, I wasn’t expecting to love this book the way I did, and I definitely didn’t expect to give it five stars. I didn’t read the synopsis, I didn’t read any reviews, but I had my reservations about this book. War left me hanging on a tight-rope, debating back and forth on whether or not I would continue the series. Ultimately, Death was the biggest reason I picked this book up, but also bless my fellow buddy readers for getting me hyped about this book. I was sure this was going to be another three stars, my expectations were low, but once I started reading, I just couldn’t stop.
Ana da Silva saved Famine once, once… and after he showed her how cruel he can be, she escaped, hoping to never see the handsome horseman again. Until he shows up, in the place where she tried to rebuild her life. When Anas is offered up to the horseman, Ana expected him to remember who she is, but only a cold fate awaits her. Determined to seek her revenge for everything Famine has done, Ana da Silva track Famine down to deliver some well deserved payback. Only… things don’t go how she planned and she definitely didn’t plan on developing feelings for the horseman she despises.
“That evil fucker made one huge mistake coming here: he didn’t make sure I was dead. And now he’s going to pay for it.”
Compared to the first two books in this series, with the female leads, I freaking adored Ana as a main character. I love a female character who stands her ground, set boundaries, fights tooth and nail, and you know, I enjoyed that she didn’t censor herself in anyway. The way Ana carried herself in this book was something I really loved and I think, next to Death, she’s my favorite character in the whole series so far. Now I will say, Ana is a sex worker. There is a lot of references to her fight for survival, making a living through sex work, and there are brief discussions surrounding the dangers she experienced during her time as a sex worker. For me personally, this didn’t bother me, it didn’t hinder my reading experience, and if anything it made me love Ana as our main character even more. I do think this will be something that turns a lot of people off from her character, but it wasn’t an issue for me. Also, Ana swears a lot. When I say Ana is a character that has no censorship, I’m not kidding. Personally, I loved it and enjoyed it. I love a character who has some bite to them and it just heightens my adornment of them. However, I know not everyone likes characters who swear a lot and I felt the need to mention it.
On the other hand, Famine was a little more difficult to warm up to. However, with every horseman, it takes me a minute to warm up to them. So I went into this book fully expecting to struggle with warming up to Famine. This might seem silly, however, I think the thing that really prevented me from loving Famine was the alcoholism. I think this will be a problem for many readers, as well. Famine is an alcoholic and I really struggled with his character because of how heavily he relied on alcohol as a coping mechanism. And it bothered me even more during the scenes where Ana enabled Famine’s alcoholism. For me, it just wasn’t it and it would take me out of quite a few scenes. I love the details we receive about Famine and his love for horses was probably one of my most favorite things, but it was hard to look past the alcoholism.
“I don’t know what I expected when I saved him, but I didn’t think it was this. The third horseman of the apocalypse is having a mental breakdown right next to me.”
Despite my issues, the chemistry between Famine and Ana was palpable and the tension you feel waiting for these fools to smooch, is so good. All of the books in the series are slow burn, but this one in particular felt like perfection for these two characters. Both personalities and the way the slow build happens, it felt so right for these characters. Out of all the characters, from the first two books to this one, Famine and Ana’s relationship thrived on the slow build, the tension, and how it all solidified their feelings for one another even more. I wish I had popcorn for a snack while reading it because something about it was like watching a film unfold in my brain. Out of everything in this book, this is probably my favorite thing about the entirety of this book. The chemistry and the way the author just made these two characters to fit one another so well. It was absolute perfection.
“I’m still curious. He felt like sin against my lips. And damn me, but now all I want is to do it again – if only to see another tree blow up.”
Overall, I had a really fun time with this book and I enjoyed so much of it. I don’t want to say too much because this is the third book in the series and as much as I want to completely unravel, gushing over this book, I think it’s better for you to find out for yourself. Again, I had a fun time. I don’t think everyone will like this book. I think there will be many readers who take issue with quite a few things in this book, but for me personally, it didn’t bother me and it didn’t hinder my enjoyment or the way my love built up for these characters. I just had a great time and I’m really glad this book surprised me with how much I fell in love with it!
➼ Legends & Lattes (Legends & Lattes #1) by Travis Baldree
Content/Trigger Warnings: Violence, brief depictions of blood, stalking, depictions of anxiety, arson
“She looked around. Her place. Not a temporary stop or a spot to sling her bedroll for one night. Hers.”
This was the perfect read to start off my year! Since the moment I first heard about this book, I knew I was going to fall in love with this book with my whole soul. Every fiber in me has been screaming with longing for my DnD shenanigans and my LARPing adventures, once again. This book has made me miss it so, so much. Not only missing those elements of my life, but it has reminded me of some of my favorite fictional taverns that I’ve fallen in love with over the years like The Gilded Horn, Herald’s Rest, Harth Stonebrew’s Tavern, The Glorious Sea Dog, or The Tavetaan (though this is more of a pub than tavern). This was truly the most perfect read for me and I’m so thankful for everything this book brings to the table.
Viv, an adventuring orc, has only known dungeon crawling, bloodshed, hopping from one place to the next, with her trusty sword, Blackblood, for the majority of her life. After one final mission, Viv disappears to start fresh and build something she has been craving. A place of her own. On this journey, Viv will learn many lessons like healing, calling a place your own, and even finding love, in more ways than one.
“You found a very peaceful place here. A special place. You’ve planted something, and now it’s blossoming. Very nice. A good spot to rest. My thanks to you for letting an old-timer shade under the branches of what you’ve grown.”
The found family elements of this book was absolutely beautiful and so powerful. While I loved the romance and I loved seeing Viv’s journey of a fresh new start, the community Viv builds and the healing Viv finds in that loving community absolutely stole my breath away. Seeing Viv bring so many together with her vision, her dream moved me to tears so many times. This is one of my absolute favorite themes any book, any story can have for me as a reader. They became this little family in their own way and meeting each individual like Thimble, Darius, Hemington, etc… each one of these characters will forever hold a special place in my heart. This whole book holds a special place in my heart.
“He threw his arms around her upper arm and gave it a brief, startling hug, and then disappeared into the pantry. Viv found her throat unaccountably thick.”
Overall, there’s so much I want to talk about when it comes to this book. From the quotes to each individual characters, all the way to the little surprises. Every piece of this book just made a comfortable little space in my chest and the magic of this book is best experienced going into this book not knowing too much about it. This is a beautiful story of found family, of building something you want in your own way, starting new and chasing after your own dreams, not living up to what others expect of you and doing something for yourself. It was truly everything and as I said, this was the most beautiful, eye-watering, perfection of a story for me and it will always, and forever hold a special place in my heart.
➼ Nanny For the Neighbors by Lily Gold
Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of financial hardship/struggles, talk of unemployment, mentions of drug dealing & drug addiction, child abandonment, talk of child foster/care system, minor themes of stalking, talk of sexism, scene of slut shaming, scene of gaslighting & manipulation (challenged), talk of depression, talk of infertility, brief scene of sexism in the work place
When I first heard about this book, I was excited about the polyamory representation. Honestly, that was the first thing that drew me to this book and what slapped it on my radar. I was hearing whispers through the grape vine that it was done really well and the chemistry between all of the characters was chef’s kiss. Little did I know I was going to love this book even more because it also addresses the child foster/care system. This is a topic that I have been wanting to see being written in books a lot more. So I had some pretty high hopes going into this book – and I wasn’t disappointed!
✨ Beth – When the pandemic hit, became unemployed from her nanny agency, after it went out of business, for over a whole year. Now, Beth is struggling to find a job and bills keep piling up, but when her upstairs neighbor, Jack, the guy she’s been secretly crushing on, is suddenly on her doorstep asking for help with a newborn baby, an opportunity presents itself for Beth, in more ways than one. Beth just has one rule, no dating or getting close to anyone, even the three very attractive upstairs neighbors.
✨ Jack – Blonde, blue eyed, guy with a golden retriever personality, has been crushing on Beth ever since he first laid eyes on her.
✨ Cyrus – Golden skin, black hair, very flirtatious with Beth from the beginning. He’s been disowned by his family for choosing a job that makes him happy, being a male entertainer. Cyrus also deals with dyslexia.
“I won’t apologise for my job. I truly believe there’s nothing wrong with it, and I love doing it. But I’m so used to people judging me for what I do. Making assumptions about who I am. And she doesn’t.”
✨ Sebastian – Hasn’t had the easiest life. He comes from a toxic home life that has molded him into a person who fears he’ll hurt anyone he gets close to. He’s also the father of Camilla and suffers from chronic migraines.
“He’s reading her a story,” he says, looking amused. “Seriously?” “Well. It’s a chapter from a textbook about international copyright law. I’ve told him he has to at least do funny voices to keep her interested, but he refuses.”
There is so much to unpack with this book, so many important themes. First, let me start off by saying we get all the point of views. Not only do we get Beth’s point of view, but we get all of the guys’ point of views, as well. Things are just so much better when you get the duel perspective especially with this book. Beth has so many important conversations with each guy individually and we get to see those conversations from both sides. For example, Cy and Beth have a full conversation about accessibility for those with learning disabilities and how hard it is find that support, not just at an academic level, but also from loved ones. There are so many conversations like that, on different topics like infertility, what it means to be yourself, and the child foster/care system, sprinkled throughout the book and I just have so much love for the author including all of the different point of views. There’s also so many themes of found family and having the choice of who we let into our life.
“We don’t have to love anybody who doesn’t love us back.”
I want to say, Beth’s character development and journey through this book was a wild ride. We see Beth go through all the ups and downs, and despite all of the challenges she faced, she gets a happy ending that she thought she’d never have. It was an emotional journey, but I loved every second of it. As a bonus, the way she is with each guy and when they’re all together is so good. It’s steamy and I have to agree, I think the polyamory was done really well. That’s all I’m going to say and if you want to know more then you’ll have to find out for yourself.
The only thing that prevented me from fully loving this book was how long it was. There were many times that this story felt like it was being dragged out or there were unnecessary details or scenes that we didn’t really need. However, I understand that with multiple point of views that this can happen at times. I do think it could have been a bit shorter though and I did find myself skimming certain sections to push through the story.
Overall, this was still a fun time and I thought a lot of the topics that were addressed in this book were handled really well. I will say this book has me excited to pick up more books from this author and I’m excited, eager about them. I believe all of Gold’s other books are polyamorous, as well. So I’m very ecstatic about it. I think many readers are going to love this book and appreciate some of the discussions that happen in this book. And if you haven’t put this book on your radar yet, definitely give this book a chance. It was such a wonderful time!
➼ The Moth Keeper by Kay O’Neill
Content/Trigger Warnings: Scenes of nyctophobia (fear of darkness), anxiety, burnout, isolation, brief scene of child abandonment/neglect
I think I will always love O’Neill’s work and constantly crave their next title. So naturally when I heard of this book’s release, I immediately rushed to pre-order this book. Between loving moths, the moon, and just O’Neill’s art style, I knew I was going to fall in love with this book. Maybe I loved this book so much because I read it in a time of needing that warm, gentle touch that O’Neill’s books always seem to have or maybe it was simply the themes of this book that caused my heart to fall. Whatever the case may be, this has become one of my favorite titles.
“With this vow, you will become a beacon for the Moon-Moths… a guardian to the Night-Flower tree… and a companion to the moon.”
Our story follows Anya, a child who was just appointed as the new Moth Keeper. This is a job that holds a lot of responsibility and requires much isolation on the part of the Moth Keeper. While Anya has strong feelings of hope about this job and wants to have a place in the village, Anya soon discovers that being a Moth Keeper might be more of an undertaking than they originally thought. We’ll follow Anya’s journey of burnout, loneliness, facing one’s fears, the lasting effects of a neglectful parent, and learning the importance of community.
“I knew… that it would be hard at times. But I thought doing this job – so important to our village – would keep me warm inside even on long, cold nights.”
I can only think of one moment in this entire book where I wasn’t crying, turning into a mushy puddle and that was with the storytelling. This is something that’s not only consistently celebrated throughout this book, but the importance of this also highlighted consistently, too. This is something many cultures hold very dear, put a lot of emphasis on, and truthfully, it’s one of the ways you keep a culture alive, by storytelling. This topic filled my heart with so much warmth and love, and makes me truly believe, gives me a little bit of hope restored, there are people still out there who care about the stories that come from different cultures other than their own. And I truly wish we had a few more scenes with the owl woman, “Keeper of Stories”, I believe they’re called. Probably one of my favorite characters of the whole book.
Burnout was another topic and theme that hit really close to home especially as someone who considers themselves a workaholic. I find literature doesn’t often talk about burnout and the importance of balance. Usually when there’s talk of balance, it references life and death, but this is the first book I’ve seen that addresses burnout and finding a good balance between work and play. I want to really mention Estell, Anya’s best friend (who is disabled and is chronically ill) because they were such an important character and I find no one talks about Estell. Estell really looks out for Anya and tries to help give some balance to Anya by telling others that Anya needs help, by bringing treats to Anya, doing little things that are filled with so much love, but also very healing. They just have this friendship that deserves to be highlighted.
“We all have days when we can’t quite remember the ratio of things. Or times when we feel unsure of our skills.”
I will say, if I had to find fault in anything with this graphic novel, it would be the story itself. For everything this book was trying to do and pack within the pages, it could feel like the story was too big to be a graphic novel. It could even feel like there were details missing or plot development missing. I think this could have been fixed by potentially making it a duology and still having the large bind up. I think this book is just a few pages over the 250 count. So it would have been perfect to expand the story over two volumes to pack in the details that may be missing or add that extra room for any plot development while still keeping around that 250 page count.
“Magic’s a wild thing. It only flows when life is left to exist in its own natural way.”
Overall, this was such a moving, emotional story for me as a reader. Like I say with many O’Neill’s work, I think just diving head first into the world is the best way to experience each story. Even more so if you love whimsical worlds like Studio Ghibli. I find O’Neill’s worlds always remind me of my love for Studio Ghibli. I think the timing of this book’s release is so important especially because this graphic novel is available for younger audiences right now and the fact it tackles the theme of burnout, so important. There’s going to be so many kids who read this book and feel so seen, so understood, and I think this book will bring out some great discussions between parents and their children. This was just an all around stunning graphic novel and if you haven’t put it on your radar yet, definitely consider picking it up soon!
ARC was given by NetGalley & Abrams in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date (March 21, 2023)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Grief, loss of a loved one, talk of automotive accident (off page), bullying, talk of anxiety, scene of accidental dead naming & misgendering, mentions of transphobia
“And, Mothman, it was the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel so alone.”
I wasn’t expecting to get so soft and squishy over this book or to fill out five whole pages full of quotes. This book just came in and took me by storm. I knew I’d love this book for the Mothman, cryptid goodness and the trans representation, but this book is so much more. It’s about grief and healing from that loss, a discovery of figuring out oneself and who we are, and found family themes.
We follow Noah, a trans boy navigating middle school, all while dealing with the death of his best friend and first love, Lewis. Noah faces many conflicting feelings of not just knowing who Lewis truly was, but trying to navigate with life, and school without the only person who made his world feel okay, feel seen for who he truly is. When the school’s science fair approaches, Noah uses this as an opportunity to make Lewis’s science fair project come to life – finding Mothman and proving he exists. Even though this is no easy task, Noah is determined and long the way will make new friends and coming to terms with many thoughts, and feelings too.
“I wonder if Mothman ever lost someone. I wonder if Mothman feels like he lost Lewis too.”
I really enjoyed the fact that this book is told in verse. To feel like you’re opening up the pages of the journal and feeling like you were reading the letters themselves. It even adds more feelings onto it once you get to the end of the story and you find out what happens to the journal Noah was using to write these letters in. Also, we get letters from Hanna as well. Now, this is closer to the 75% mark of the book and the way Noah’s and Hanna’s letters overlap each was very well written. I really enjoyed the way it represented the aspect of time and how they were both writing their letters at the same moment. It was a very lovely touch.
The magical realism was done really well. With magical realism, I don’t always like to put emphasis on it because I prefer the readers to go experience it themselves, but this was just beautifully handled and I feel like I have to talk about it. The way Mothman is used as a focal point for the unknown, a world where not many people can connect to, not just with Noah being trans, but also when it comes to believing in the supernatural or any bigger mystery out there. On the other hand, we see Mothman helping Noah tackle the loss of Lewis, head on and help with the healing process, in the terms of these letters. And in small ways, we see how Mothman helps with other small changes and the scary side of preparation for adulthood. The way the author chose to write Mothman almost as a ‘jack of all trades’ was stunning, as well. Mothman gets to be the mysterious, unknown terrifying supernatural being, but we get a softer side of a cryptid who is beautiful, comforting, and able to provide almost safety for those who need it. It’s probably one of my favorite ways of seeing Mothman being described and I think it made me love Mothman even more.
“I think monsters are here to make people like me feel less alone.”
I mentioned found family and you know, it’s a theme that I love with my whole chest. There’s a found family element laced in this book as Noah tries to make new friends. The way LARPing is used as tool to bridge both Noah’s world and this other group of kids together was just perfection. It made my heart so warm and soft. Even more so when we see Noah getting close with all of them, but most Hanna. The way those two become close to one another was just lovely to read about.
“I hope you have people who make you feel less alone. If you don’t, I can be that for you. Your friend, Noah.”
Overall, there’s so much I could say about this book because there’s so many themes in this book to unpack. With this book being just over a hundred pages, I think the best thing I can tell you is to just pick it up and read it for yourself. I truly loved this book. The only thing I had issues with was it felt a little repetitive at times, but still such a beautifully captivating middle grade read. I think if you’re looking for more queer books that have important themes, but also has some cryptid magic, then you need to give this book a chance!
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.