Book Review: Jujutsu Kaisen, Vol. 1, by Gege Akutami

Jujutsu Kaisen, Vol. 1, by Gege Akutami is a manga style graphic novel. Yuji Itadori is resolved to save the world from cursed demons, but he soon learns that the best way to do it is to slowly lose his humanity and become one himself! In a world where cursed spirits feed on unsuspecting humans, fragments of the legendary and feared demon Ryomen Sukuna were lost and scattered about. Should any demon consume Sukuna’s body parts, the power they gain could destroy the world as we know it. Fortunately, there exists a mysterious school of Jujutsu Sorcerers who exist to protect the precarious existence of the living from the supernatural! Although Yuji Itadori looks like your average teenager, his immense physical strength is something to behold! Every sports club wants him to join, but Itadori would rather hang out with the school outcasts in the Occult Research Club. One day, the club manages to get their hands on a sealed cursed object. Little do they know the terror they’ll unleash when they break the seal. 

Jujutsu Kaisen is a graphic novel with a good balance of character development and action. There is a great deal of world building that needs to go into a series starter, and this was done well in conjunction with the character introductions and start of growth. Itadori is a young adult that is dropped into a situation that he does not fully understand, but is trying to catch up and do his best to honor he grandfather's last wish. At the same time he is a little flighty and naive. Going along with him as he tries to find his place and the world of fighting curse energy is explained to him and readers alike is quite the adventure. I feel like there is so much more to learn about the major characters and the world, and look forward to reading more. My biggest issue is one that I often have with series like this, that the hook or cliff hanger at the end left me feeling like I was cheated out of some kind of resolution or ending. I knew this was likely, and is a common effort made to get readers hooked and eager for the next book. Sometimes it works, and other times it just makes me mad. In this case their ploy worked ad I am eager for volume two.

Jujutsu Kaisen is a well written and drawn manga with plenty of character development and action. I look forward to continuing to read this series.

Book Review: White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton

White Trash Warlock 
by David R. Slayton is the first book in a new urban fantasy series. Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage. Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife. It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings, including his first love.

White Trash Warlock is an urban fantasy novel that hooked me right away, and kept dragging me deeper into its world until I did not want to leave when I finished the book. Adam is a character that is flawed, and aware of most of those flaws. His relationships and understanding of himself is complicated and only becomes more so when his brother asks him for help and he has to face all the messy history and manipulation that leads to the current situation. I thought the characters were very well developed, complex and none perfect or too static. The world building was well done s well, I would love to dive in a little deeper to the hows and whys of things, but that really did not have any place in this story and look forward to more being revealed as the series continues. I thought the world and character building and development were nicely balanced with the action and mystery aspects of the story. Relationships, self perception, and family and hard and complicated- more so when magic and destruction is involved. The fact that the characters were complex, diverse, and outside the scope of what I normally see in the genre made it even better. I never found myself bored, and often found myself wishing I was reading while I was forced to do other things, and then when I finished it I was sad that there was no more waiting for me. 

White Trash Warlock grabbed my interest right away and left me wanting more. I am eager to see where this series goes. 

Early Book Review: Moon Pig by Celina Lagnado, Leo Lagnado

Moon Pig by Celina Lagnado and Leo Lagnado  is a children's book currently scheduled for release on December 1 2020. Pig is a dreamer and he is planning to go to the moon. Join Pig in his adventure as he works to make his dream a reality. After lots of planning and hard work he puts together a rocket and flies off to his adventure. A book for young children about possibilities, imagination, and big dreams. 

Moon Pig is a cute picturebook about a young pig that dreams of going to the moon. He seems to have talked about it ad dreamed about it for awhile, and uses his imagination and crafting skills to make it happen, and still make it home in time for dinner. I think the story itself was very cute, and one that kids can relate to and emulate, using their own imagination to take journeys of their own. The pages were colorful and told the story well, but I was not wowed by the book. It was cute, but the illustrations felt a little clunky and childlike- which could be the aesthetic they were going for- but it just dd not work for me. I think some young readers will really enjoy it, but it did not make me as happy as I had hoped.

Book Review: Their Christmas Baby Contract by Shannon Stacey

Their Christmas Baby Contract
by Shannon Stacey is a contemporary romance. 
Striking the deal was the easy part. Brady Nash is handsome and anti-marriage. And with IVF completely out of her financial reach, Reyna Bishop is running out of time to have the child she so very much wants. Theirs is a practical baby-making deal: no emotion, no expectation, no ever-after. They’ll even “date” through Christmas to silence their hometown gossips. It’s foolproof, until the time she spends with Brady and his warm, loving family leaves Reyna wanting more than a baby.

Their Christmas Baby Contract is a small town, kinda-friends to lovers romance. Reyna and Brady both feel a little trapped by the small town gossip, especially since it has them pegs wrong. Both are thoughtful, caring, and family oriented but one night gone wrong in the past dulled their friendship. I loved getting to see them find themselves and each other, and figure out how to express what they want. As frustrated as I was with them not telling each other how they felt, I knew that the journey would be worth it and I fully enjoyed the ride. The families and friends surrounding these two were just as well written and dynamic as the main characters. Shannon Stacey has always provided me with a solid combination of sweet and heat, and she continued that streak here. It was exactly the book I needed to shake me out of a reading slump and get me happily reading again. 

Their Christmas Baby Contract is a fun and sweet romance that was exactly the escape I needed.

Early Book Review: Captive of Wolves (Bound to the Fae) by Eva Chase

Captive of Wolves is the first book in the Bound to the Fae series by Eva Chase. It is currently scheduled for release on December 9 2020. 

For years, the monsters who killed my family have held me in a cage. Brutalized and half-starved. Only kept alive so they can steal my blood. Until one evening when four eerily gorgeous men break me out of my prison. They give me a soft bed and delicious food. They say they'll protect me—but their generosity may come at a price. My rescuers are monsters like my captors: fae who shift into wolves. A curse gripping the faerie realm turns them wild under the full moon. Only my blood can cure their rage. These fearsome men need me, and not just to lift the curse. A tragedy left them outcasts, and offering me to their rulers could win them back the home and the power they lost.
No matter how kindly they treat me, no matter how their smoldering eyes and strong hands stir unfamiliar desires in both my body and my heart, their castle is just another prison. As long as I'm a prize more than a person, my life will never be my own. I've survived this long without giving up. I won't roll over now. But how can one damaged human girl hold her own against the savage fae?

Captive of Wolves is a book that had a rough start for me. In the beginning I thought I might have read something very similar before (and I have) and was left wondering if this series was part of a larger series. I do believe I have read something else by the author, and they have enough of a back catalog that both aspects are possible, but it also reminds me a little of a series by Sadie Moss, different set up and very different details, but the same kind of story. The characters seem to be slowly developed, with the guys especially slow to unwind. While I liked Talia's determination and empathy I have to admit that she had more than one 'too stupid to live' moments that just had me shaking my head and closing the book for a moment to get past it. The character, world, and relationship building was well thought out, but very much slow burn and build up. I did like the story, and think the author did a good job of setting up the story. However, it felt a little too slow and like the guy's emotions and past were much less developed than Talia's. That combined with the familiar feeling of the story made it less exciting to me. I did like that we got several points of view, that helped develop the guy's a little more for me. I think this book will be a near perfect read for some, but it just did not hit that sweet spot for me.

Captive of Wolves is a decent start to a series, with a paranormal and reverse harem leaning, I think it will hit the spot for fans of the genre but will miss the mark for others.

Early Book Review: Thank You, Next by Sophie Ranald

Thank You, Next by Sophie Ranald is a contemporary romance currently scheduled for release on November 30 2020. Seriously, why do guys on dating apps think I want a picture of what’s in their pants? I could open an art gallery with the collection I’ve got. Zoe really doesn’t want to die alone and surrounded by cats. But it’s not looking good: she’s had sex precisely twice in the last year, and her feline friend isn’t the kind of male company she wants in bed. Her top dating disasters include: the guy who kissed her hand, took out a violin and serenaded her in public, the guy who force-fed her oysters (she can confirm that they’re not an aphrodisiac), the guy who was so hungover he turned up with his t-shirt on inside out, sweating sambuca, and the guy who brought his actual kid on a dinner date. And don’t even get her started on the dick pics, or how on earth you’re supposed to know whether a total stranger is an axe murderer or not. Zoe's ready to give up on the search for love, until her friend has an idea. Robbie lives by his horoscope, and he’s sure she’s got this dating stuff all wrong. He dares her to work her way through the zodiac until she finds The One. Usually Zoe would laugh at such a suggestion, but desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Thank You, Next is a romance that I have mixed feelings about. I liked some aspects a lot. The secondary characters and friendships in the book were very well done. I liked the community around Zoe, and some of the conversations and situations were very well done. There were moments of the story I greatly enjoyed, and I think the ending was well thought out and executed. However, I thought the story was a little meandering. Chapter one is the details of a bad date, that actually happens in the middle of the book time-line wise. Chapter two is the start of setting up the actual story and secondary characters. It just felt a little awkward and stilted for me. I know life often gets jumbled up, and we make bad choices and things go awry- which is often what makes for a good story. However, I felt like Zoe was a doormat and there is little to no information or development on partner in finding a happy ending. He does not even make an appearance until about a third into the book, and even then there is no real information about him, how he feels, or what he is thinking. For me it is the main characters getting to know each other and overcoming something together that really makes a book stand out, in this case it was more about Zoe finding herself and less about the actual relationship. This is something that other readers really look for, but rather missed the mark for me.

Thank You, Next is about one woman figuring out who she is and what she wants, and having some interesting moments along the way. 

Book Review: More Fish Faces: More Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish by Tam Warner Minton

More Fish Faces: More Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish by Tam Warner Minton is the second book in the Ocean Friends series. This volume offers readers more fun faces and more fun facts for fish fans young and old. Colorful photography — including the names of every fish featured — creates a colorful dive log worth experiencing again and again. The photos and fun facts are presented in small and easily digestible bites so your child can enjoy learning in short bursts or longer reads. It is a wonderful book for bedtime. Concepts like recycling, re-purposing, and sustainability are presented with photos and practical examples that are easily understood. 10% of profits will go to the Marine Megafauna Foundation to continue their scientific research to protect our oceans and ocean giants.
More Fish Faces: Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish offers readers exactly what the title suggests, a continuation of the colorful photographs and interesting information the All Fish Faces gave readers. Again, I found that the photographs were high quality and worth looking through the book all by themselves. I liked that each picture is also clearly labeled and that the accompanying information boxes were well written and chosen for the audience.  I think animal and ocean loving readers will adore this book and its predecessor. I learned a few things, and really enjoyed the photographs. 

Book Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams is a contemporary romance novel. Alexis Carlisle and her cat cafĂ©, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan. Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush. Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.
Crazy Stupid Bromance is a contemporary, friends to lover romance that is self aware. I loved the importance put on communication, consent, and honesty (especially with yourself). These are factors in every relationship, and most romance novels, but here they were not just underlying themes and plot points- they were THE point. Neither Alexis or Noah want to lose the friendship they have, and neither can get out of their own way long enough to have an honest discussion about it all because of that fear and the amount of other things going on in their lives. For awhile I thought the sheer amount of intense thing happening to them at the same time was overkill, but then I looked around and thought about my life, and sometimes that's just how it goes. Good and bad all bombarding us at the same time- and getting a moment to process and take a breath seems impossible. I held my breath with both Alexis and Noah more than once, was upset with each of them sometimes for either not listening or not speaking, and relieved when their support systems stepped up and helped. I loved the secondary characters and the community that is clearly built in the books by Adams. I will be going back to read previous book, and keeping an eye out for future releases.

Crazy Stupid Bromance is a sweet and funny romance with plenty of heat and angst built in. An emotional roller coaster to be sure, but still plenty of moments that make readers like me grin.

Book Review: Black Witch Magic by Mila Nicks

Black Witch Magic 
by Mila Nicks is a paranormal romance and mystery, and the start of a series. Selene Blackstone spends her days camped out in library corners with her nose glued to books. In a town like Brimrock, where she’s an outcast, she prefers her book friends to her real-life enemies. They’re a lot less judgmental. The rest of town believes she descends from a family of witches—including her evil witch grandma, Luna. In this case, the truth is stranger than fiction. She is a witch, and she’s cursed for all of eternity. Good thing her to-be-read list is pretty long. Prickly Paranormal Investigator Aiden O’Hare speaks two languages: sarcasm and more sarcasm. He travels the country—and sometimes even the world—investigating strange phenomena with his best friend, Eddie. Their investigations bring them to a cozy New England town called Brimrock, home to fabled evil witch Luna Blackstone. Armed with his dry wit, his bibliophilic love for books, and far too much free time, he’s determined to find out just what happened to Luna. When Aiden meets Selene, he decides he must get to know her. When Selene learns Aiden is in town investigating her grandma, she knows she must stop him. He’s out to expose the truth. She’s out to keep it a secret. Neither expects to fall under each other’s spell, but sometimes love is supernatural.

Black Witch Magic is a good example or a paranormal romance that has a good balance of danger and mystery along side the getting to know the characters as they get to know each other. I really liked Aiden's character, and his self awareness of his social awkwardness and introverted nature. He is well aware of how his bookish tendencies and sarcastic replies can come across and does his best to be himself without causing hurt feelings or misunderstandings. I felt for him as he tried to avoid the holiday festivities without causing problems or making himself miserable.  Selene is just trying to get by in a town that hates her for no other reason than the family she was born into and things outside her control. I was frustrated on her behalf and so glad that she did have a support system to help her deal with it all. I liked both characters and found their interactions to be fun and sweet. I really liked the mystery set up, and I honestly thought someone else would be the culprit when the big reveal was made. I thought the build up was well done, and the world building for that little town was complete. I rather hope that as the series continues that we get to see some of the characters play a role, particularly the friends that were such a big part of both Aiden and Selene's live before they met. 

Black Witch Magic is as much about the magical mystery as it is about the romance between Selene and Aiden. I am interested to see where the series goes next.

Early Book Review: Barely Functional Adult: It'll All Make Sense Eventually by Meichi Ng

 Barely Functional Adult: It'll All Make Sense Eventually by Meichi Ng is currently scheduled for release on November 24 2020. This collection of four color, never before seen, short stories holds a mirror to our past, present, and future selves. Featuring a swaddled Barely Functional Adult as its protagonist who says all the things we think but dare not say, this book is equal parts humorous and heartbreaking as it spans a spectrum of topics from impostor syndrome, therapy, friendships, first loves, letting go of exes, to just trying to find your purpose in the world. 
Barely Functional Adult had a little more text than I was expecting, but I really enjoyed the read. The illustrations are charming and cute, and I recognized the artist's work as something I have enjoyed in the past. As an introvert that has struggled with some of the same thoughts, I related to the personal narrative. I liked the honesty and frankness of the text, and think that there are a great many people that could relate to the book. We are all just struggling in our own way through life, and seeing that no one choice is perfect, and feelings might be troublesome but most are universal, can make readers feel less alone. Impostor syndrome and not really knowing what we are supposed to be doing are pretty common, and I hate to break it to you- age does not lessen the possibility of these feelings. While this is marketed mainly at readers that share the author's generational labels, I think everyone can find something here to relate to, including middle and high school students. I tell my own kids all the time that the adults they see are faking it just as much as they are- and that reminder that we are all just getting through life a day at a time is good for all of us. I do not mean all that to mean this book is depressing, rather that it foster the knowledge that none of us are alone, and that there is hope and humor to be found in it all.