Again, But Better by Christine Riccio


Two copies of Again, but Better lie against a blue pillow // Soleil de Zwart

One of my favorite books of the year, and in my top five contemporaries of all time. 

I started reading Again, but Better on March 26th and finished it on March 29th at 2am in the morning. 

And that was after I had been in a real reading slump, barely being able to pick up a book, much less binge reading more than 200 pages into the early hours of the morning. 

I’m wrote this review so late because I was afraid of not being able to convey how much I loved this book. But I’m going to try anyway, because the release is tomorrow and I’m going to Christine Riccio’s book signing on Wednesday. 

I read a fair amount of contemporaries and have connected with many of them, but never like this one (besides for Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, review below). The character of Shane feels so close to me, I feel enveloped in her thoughts and choices. This book feels so close and personal because it’s my worst fears and hopes and dreams and possibilities all wrapped into one story. 

I never saw “Part 2” coming. I didn’t even guess where the story was going until I got to that page and screamed in my bed, at approximately 10pm. I didn’t stop reading after that. I had to know. This was also the first time in a long time when I read a book and did not guess the twist or the ending. I enjoy guessing what happens next and being right. But also, sometimes I get annoyed that some books or movies feel so predictable to me, I wish they would surprise me more. This book did surprise me. In the best way possible. 

As I said I’m going to the signing on Wednesday, I pre-ordered the Barnes and Noble exclusive signed edition. But it won’t get here until this weekend, which means I’ll buy a second copy at the signing on Wednesday. Which I should be more annoyed about… but also I’ll be re-reading the finished copy and I’ll want to mark up my own copy. I’m so excited. 

This book is my perfect cup of lavender earl gray tea. It’s the contemporary I’ve been waiting for. Thank you Christine for writing it. I’ve been watching Christine’s booktube videos on her channel: polandbananasBOOKS for years now. And I’ve watched every one of her “Writing Vlog” videos. They’ve inspired me that one day I can also get my stories out there, her persistence has inspired me on many levels. I’m so grateful that’s she’s also very open about her struggle with anxiety. Did I mention how excited I am for the signing on Wednesday?

Check out my vlog seeing Christine at her book signing in Portland: Booktubers in Portland feat. Jaded Reader

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto


I was so honored to be placed on the street team for this book and the following books (TWO MORE BOOKS, BECAUSE ITS A TRILOGY NOW). 

I sped through this book, the world building is so in-depth, you can feel your surroundings and know the history of it. The world building isn’t cataloged and explained through it, but is woven throughout the story, with little excerpts of history books, explanations by characters, and dialogue.

I feel for these characters and am so glad that Nicki Pau Preto is taking her time with the story development and with character arcs. These characters have a journey to go on and it’s not rushed.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the following books and to be on this journey!

Here is an excerpt of the sequel Heart of Flames!

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights.
The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights. // Soleil de Zwart


I love these boys so much, it’s difficult to put into words. But since I have been nonstop messaging my reading friends about this comic series, I’m going to move it to my blog (so that I can still have reading friends).

I thought this graphic novel looked cute so I got a hold of it from Libby (the app that lets you borrow e-books from your state library system). I didn’t have very high expectations. First off, I know nothing about hockey — correction I knew nothing about hockey. Second, I hadn’t heard very much about this book so I wasn’t sure how to feel about it going in.

When I opened those first pages on my tablet, oh was I in for a journey. This first collection covers Bitty’s first two years in college and first two years on the hockey team. Bitty’s real name is actually Eric Bittle, but hockey nicknames function in a way that his name is Bitty for the entirety of the series.

THIS SERIES! As I said earlier, I love these boys so much, with everything in my heart and soul. Ngozi Ukazu just makes them come alive on the page and the art style just matches them all so well. I wish I had my own squad of hockey bros. The story is so simple but dynamic, these characters feel real, there are minute mundane things going on and bigger picture events and it’s just so good.

The webcomic is available online:

I recently bought the book because I want to support the author/illustrator and I immediately re-read it, in physical form. The panels are much larger on the physical page and it’s so satisfying to read it physically.

Now I’m going to go disappear to read it for a third time!

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

★ ★ ★

I’ve been reading this book on and off for a few months, and it has taken me just about as long to figure out how I feel about it.

First off, I would like to praise Nadine for all of the research she put into this book, because it definitely has a lot of historical accuracy. Aside from that, it’s good to remember that this is a historical fiction retelling with a fantasy twist of the Romanov story.

I have been studying Russian for the past year and have had a fascination with Russian culture, the Russian language, and the family of the Romanovs. But that fascination does not make me an expert in any of these topics, my review of this book is based off my own knowledge and opinions, none of which are concrete facts.

***** SPOILERS *****

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, up until the halfway point, where the fantasy elements weren’t too prevalent in the story and it was all based on the historical events. But after Nastya used the “ajnin” spell it began to unravel a bit. While I do believe this book managed to combine the history with the fantasy of spellmasters and spellink, I would have enjoyed the story without magic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the concept of spellmasters and the ink and how that all combined with the already existing storylines and characters. However, I think the energy spent on making the magic believable could have been better spent on character development and plot. How Nastya and Alexei managed to escape the firing squad and certain death, with a simple spell… That is reaching a little far for me. Clearly, if Nastya had used the spell sooner she might have been able to save her whole family, but she didn’t know any better — which is understandable. But the spells in this story don’t seem to have a clear set of rules in their own magic system.

While Dochkin later says that he cannot create a spell to go back in time to save their whole family, there are spells that will pause death and make them into ethereal ghosts?

I just think that the story would have been better off without the magic elements thrown into the middle of it.

Meanwhile the relationship between Zash and Nastya is a whole sticky situation. Something I will go into further depth with in my Booktube review coming soon.

On a last note, I really did appreciate the attention to Russian history and the inclusion of Russian phrases and words into this book. I did not appreciate the lack of warning to the eye trauma towards the end of the book. That would have sent me into an anxiety spiral, if I hadn’t seen it coming.

Fence Vol. #1 by C. S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad


Something you should know about me is, I absolutely love fencing. LOVE fencing! One of the reasons I chose my university is because they have a fencing team. And although I wasn’t able to dedicate to being on the team full-time, at the beginning of the year I enjoy spending time on the team.
So naturally, I loved this graphic novel! I’ve been wanting to read it for months and the other day I was in the bookstore and just thought, today is the day! I read it in one sitting, because it’s so gosh darn short!
I can’t go into depth about the characterizations or much of the plot because the story is so short and there are three more installments in the series. I really look forward to reading more about the characters and getting to know the story.
So far I’m really enjoying the art style and the way the story is being set up, but I just really wish the chapters and volumes were longer. I believe that the third volume is the last in the series, which really disappoints me because I feel like there is so much that can be told in a fencing story.
I’ll have to wait until the next installment to see!

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker


This was a magical story, for so many fantastic reasons. I’ve been wanting to read this since my friends brought it to my attention and I’m so glad I got early access to it through NetGalley. 
The representation in this book is amazing and it adds so much depth to the story. I’m so glad we’re moving more rapidly into a time where representation is more present in our literature, we still have a long way to go, but this is start. The art and illustration is so cute and makes my heart warm, it’s a perfectly contained story but I would love to see more in this world. I love all the different characters present, the grandmas are loving and kind and parental relationships are complicated but there’s growth throughout the story. The relationships and friendships in here are a beautiful example for youth to look at, healthy relationships that may inspire them. 
I truly loved this book!

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones


I’m a linguistics minor so this work is particularly interesting to me. It’s not the type of book I would personally read cover-to-cover although I know fellow classmates who certainly would, but I really enjoyed flipping through it to certain sections and pages and learning more about some linguistics curiosities. I can’t wait to give it a more in-depth look over with colleagues, classmates, and professors. Definitely one I would recommend to others. The excerpts were neat and unique and perfect for a slow rainy day with a cup of tea by the window. I think the best way to enjoy this book is by reading it as it advices on the first page, one story a day for a year, slowly sipping the enjoyment. Another interesting thing about this book is how much I feel like I have learned for my own writing, these little unique words are what can truly elevate and make a story.

I received an advanced reader’s copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

[Summary from Alexandra Bracken’s website: This time travel duology focuses on the journey of Etta Spencer, a modern Manhattan teen, and Nicholas Carter, of 18th century Manhattan, as they race against time itself to find an object of untold value and save Etta’s future.]

I just finished reading Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, and now I’d like to share my thoughts. The funny thing is I got this book last year from Christmas and now it’s August. It took me a while to start reading it because of school, but when I did it still started off pretty slow. I knew that this book was right up my alley, but I had to get into the alley first before it really started going. I would give this book an all over 8/10 because when it picked up towards the middle, it really picked up. The whole concept of traveling and travelers in the story was well thought out and there were rules and conditions set in place for the travelers. For me it’s really important for a time travel story to also consider the consequences related to time travel, like what would happen if you went back in time and changed something, or if you saw your past/future self. I’m very glad that Alexandra Bracken thought about these questions and addressed them in the book with some probable theories of traveling through time. That’s what really made the book for me. 

The twists and turns of the plot added in the development of the story, and none of it felt entirely out of left field. There were surprises and moments of awe, but nothing that felt unnatural and didn’t fit in with the story. It remained interesting enough with the different places and times they jumped to. 


Looking at character development, Etta felt like she definitely became more flushed out throughout the book. The further I read, the more real she felt. At the beginning it seemed she only had the violin on her mind and Alice, very understandable of course. She had just seen her mentor die before her when she was thrown back in time, became very sick and was in a foreign environment. But it felt like that was all there was to her character. As the story progressed, more backstory of her and her mom was given and her feelings about traveling, her mom, Nicholas, and herself became a lot more jumbled. It felt much more realistic than the one track mind she had began the story with. 

Nicholas. He just seemed too perfect for me, it felt like he didn’t have any real flaws. His greatest flaw, which was just him trying to take care of himself in an era that did the opposite, by lying to Etta so he could be paid by Cyrus and make a good life for himself. Entirely understandable. Although, Etta should have been far more hurt and pissed that he had lied to her and was going to sell her and her mom out to Cyrus and screw up all of time. I feel like that should have been a far bigger deal than it was. She just accepted it and then they made out. 

The ending.

Of course something had to catastrophically go wrong, and we’re dealing with time travel here, so it had to be drastic. I think Alexandra Bracken definitely hit the mark on that. Especially when we thought that Etta had died. When it’s well written and purposeful I’m totally fine with authors killing off their characters. For many readers it comes off as unexpected and even more thrilling. And if it has a true purpose I think it’s a smart and bold move to make. So I was just a tiny bit disappointed that Etta had just been tossed into a different timeline.

Which brings me to my big ending question, are Nicholas and Rose and everyone else now in the alternate timeline and Etta is in the original timeline? Or did Etta get thrown into an alternate timeline and has to deal with the consequences and Nicholas, Rose & Co. are now in the original timeline? And when we say “original timeline” is that to say the one before the Cyrus and the others in the family mess everything up, or is it the true original timeline before anyone messed with it? So many options! So I can’t wait to start reading Wayfarer, the sequel in the series and see which of my possible hypotheses might be correct.

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo

★ ★ ★ ★

I really enjoyed the story of Raven. Before reading this graphic novel/comic I wasn’t aware of the story of Raven or her character. I don’t have much knowledge of the Teen Titans in general but I loved this little glimpse into their world. I look forward to reading more of her story and the story of the other Teen Titans.

In this ARC there were a few speech or thought bubbles that looked like they were coming from the wrong person, where it didn’t make sense for that person to be saying it in that situation. There were also a few spelling or grammatical mistakes, one time a speech bubble had the same line repeated, which didn’t seem purposeful.

My only other comment is I have no knowledge or experience with the world of spiritual guides, tarot card readers, or empaths so I can’t speak to that aspect of the story. I just hope that what is portrayed in this story is accurate to that world.

On the NetGalley page it says this copy isn’t in the final full color, which makes me really intrigued in what the final version will look like. I really enjoyed the illustration style and have heard many great things about Gabriel Picolo.

Can’t wait to read the final print copy!

When Dimple Met Rishi [Book Review]

Whenever I read books on my nook app, like I did with When Dimple Met Rishi, I like to highlight any words, phrases, or sentences that I particularly enjoy while I’m reading.

Loved Words/Phrases/Sentences:

dampness of disappointment pg. 8

The woman was relentless, with the jaw muscles of a jungle predator pg. 24

beatific pg. 27

gobsmacked pg. 54

they were timepieces, not watches pg. 64

the Alpha Omega Toe Jam legacy pg. 84

drawing had always been a tempering balm pg. 112

bereft pg. 141

insouciance pg. 218

cuff links that winked under the recessed lighting pg. 273

her ultrasound picture at the grainy blob/glorified amoeba pg. 296

decimated pg. 300

For this read I also highlighted multiple of Sandhya Menon’s italicized words which were borrowed terms from Hindi. Her incorporation of heritage and culture into this YA Fiction/Contemporary Romance makes it feel so much more real and so much more important. Sandhya Menon’s voice is able to shine through her words, making this contemporary novel a dive into Indian culture and a look at arranged marriages for Indian Americans raised in America. The two different perspectives of Rishi and Dimple shows the two different sides of the equation, both of their thoughts on arranged marriage and their cultural heritage.

Dimple’s character development can be seen from the beginning of the novel, her thoughts are well conveyed and her actions go along with her characterization and don’t stray until you see her change with the book, with love. By the end you can still feel who she was at the beginning, who she still is inside, but you know she’s learned and grown and found herself closer in adulthood. 

Also let’s talk about her best friend while she’s at Insomnia Con. Celia. Her character also goes through a lot of self discovery and self realization. She’s always been the outcast and never had her moment with the popular kids in high school, so when the popular douchebags take a liking to her, she morphs herself to get along with them. Then by the end she has her moment of clarity on the middle of the stage, in skimpy attire, surrounded by idiots. Celia had a rough few weeks, but in the end it aided her and her development because she learned the value of true friendship and still gained a dear friend, Dimple, by the end of the story. Although in some cases that true friendship may not have been recovered, in this hopeful story it was and it leaves the reader feeling their own sense of hope in the world. 

I did have some problems with Rishi being so perfect, he respects his parents and does everything with them in mind. Sure, there are many of us who follow ourr parents wishes, but his entire life is dictated by them and there’s no moment in which he wavers from that. He doesn’t even realize it at the end of the book, he decides to follow his dreams, but doesn’t bother to change his mind about other aspects of his life. He’s so understanding and hardly gets mad. He just feels too perfect, with no real flaws, besides the flaw that exists in perfection. It just felt a little unbelievable for me, especially since everyone has some kind of moment of rebellion when they feel misunderstood. I found it hard to believe that Rishi could be such a perfect human. 

Although it was the story about a computer science enthusiast who went to a coding event, there wasn’t a lot of focus on the coding or the project she was working on. I understand it’s a romance story, but the coding and science aspect didn’t come through so much. I was also a little confused why Celia was at Insomnia Con, since she didn’t seem that interested in coding or computer science for most of the book. 

When it comes to the actual love story, I was a little disappointed that the romance truly began 1/3 into the novel. There wasn’t enough of a build up for me. Dimple changed her mind about boys pretty fast and it was all about their relationship and their love from that point on. When the romance is painfully dragged out throughout the book it feels so much more satisfying when something finally happens. This could be because I usually read romance arcs that are thrown into books from other genres, and maybe that’s just my preference. 

I would definitely recommend this book to any reader, especially loves of romance. Even though I had some qualms with the plot or characters of the novel, I sped through it and finished it within three days. I enjoyed reading it and it was certainly entertaining. I’m so pleased that more diverse authors and books are finally finding their light in the literary universe. It’s about time that we hear more voices in literature and read the stories they have to tell. I will definitely be reading Sandhya Menon’s other novel From Twinkle, with Love.