Bonus: November 2023 Reading Wrap-Up – Graphic Novels & NetGalley ARCs

Welcome, my book friends!

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below.

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram or X (aka Twitter), where you can comment.


One of my themes last month was food fiction. Here in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving in November, which is all about a large feast that we have with family and friends every year to give thanks. I would also call myself a foodie because I love food and I wanted to read about it. Well, I didn’t get to read much food fiction, but I did read some great non-fiction food books in the form of graphic novels. So all but one of the graphic novels that I read were food books/cookbooks.

Then, I finally got to some NetGalley ARCs that I had been wanting to read or listen to. I read three standard novels – one was a digital ebook, and then the other two were audiobooks. I also read two more non-fiction food graphic novels and three children’s picture books.

Graphic Novels

These books are listed from my least favorite to my most favorite of the month.

Relish by Lucy Knisley

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: Biography | Cooking
My GR Rating: 3 (2.5)
Nominee for Best Food & Cookbooks (2013)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: A vibrant, food-themed memoir from beloved indie cartoonist Lucy Knisley.

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe—many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions.

A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, Relish is a book for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product.

My Review: I didn’t really care for this graphic novel. It was alright. It got boring and then I just didn’t care. I started skimming through this novel just looking at the pictures. There were a lot of word bubbles and it became overwhelming to read. The illustrations were okay as well but not my favorite art style. 

The author shares about her life growing up around food and how it shaped her into who she has become. I didn’t feel like her stories were that entertaining. I couldn’t relate or connect with her, so I didn’t really care about her childhood and how she grew up. It became tedious and dull so I skimmed just to finish it. But she does share some recipes throughout the book, which was a nice touch. 

I wouldn’t recommend this graphic novel unless you’re a big fan of the author’s.

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: Adult Comedy
My GR Rating: 4
GR Winner for Best Graphic Novels & Comics (2016)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Are you a special snowflake?

Do you enjoy networking to advance your career?

Is adulthood an exciting new challenge for which you feel fully prepared?

Ugh. Please go away.

This book is for the rest of us. These comics document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas, and wondering when, exactly, this adulthood thing begins. In other words, the horrors and awkwardnesses of young modern life.

My Review: This was a fun, short book with a collection of comic strips that were very relatable and hilarious. Since I read her graphic novel, Fangs, back in October and really enjoyed it, I thought I would check out more by this author. My library had a digital copy that I was able to borrow. 

There were so many scenarios that resonated with me. It’s incredibly relatable, and I was laughing out loud the entire time. There were so many moments where I said to myself, “Yep, that’s me!” 

If you need a palette cleanser or want a quick, silly, and funny read, pick up this comic collection. You’ll have a great time!

Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: Food History | Cookbook 
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Have you ever wondered who first thought to freeze cream? Or when people began making sweet pastry shells to encase fruity fillings? Food sprite Peri is excited to show you the delicious history of sweets while taking you around the world and back!

The team-up that made ice cream cones!

The mistake that made brownies!

Learn about and taste the true stories behind everyone’s favorite treats, paired with fun and easy recipes to try at home. After all, sweets–and their stories–are always better when they’re shared!

My Review: This was a really fun way to explore food history. There was so much information, but it didn’t feel overwhelming because of the entertaining format this graphic novel took. 

I really enjoyed the characters or “food sprites” who were introduced to us. They were funny, sweet, likable characters. Instead of just spewing loads of food facts and historical information, there are different sections with creative spins, like storytime where they share stories about the real people behind certain types of foods or recipes. Then, they have a section where it’s a TV interview-style where one of the sprites dresses up like a historical figure and gives an interview as if they were on a talk show. It was all highly entertaining and fun to learn about many mainstream treats and desserts. There are also many recipes included in this book as well. 

The illustrations are cute with bright colors. I really enjoyed the artwork style and taking my time to go through the book and admire the illustrations. It definitely felt like the target audience for this graphic novel was kids and teenagers, but I really liked it as an adult. But it would be a perfect book to read with a child or teen where they can learn more about history in a fun, exciting way.  

There is a bit of woke nonsense talking about colonization and slavery, but it’s easy to overlook. 

Overall, I had a great time with this graphic novel and would check out another one like this. In fact, she just released a new graphic novel called Tasty this month.

Let’s Make Ramen by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan

Format: Digital eBook – Libby app
Genre: Cookbook | Food History
My GR Rating: 5
GR Nominee for Best Food & Cookbooks (2019)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Playful and instructive, this hybrid cookbook/graphic novel introduces the history of ramen and provides more than 40 recipes for everything you need to make the perfect bowl at home, including tares, broths, noodles, and toppings. Authors Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan present colorful, humorous, and easy-to-follow comics that fully illustrate the necessary steps and ingredients for delicious homemade ramen. Along the way, they share preparation shortcuts that make weeknight ramen a reality; provide meaty tidbits on Japanese culinary traditions; and feature words of wisdom, personal anecdotes, and cultural insights from eminent ramen figures such as chef Ivan Orkin and Ramen Adventures’ Brian MacDuckston. Recipes include broths like Shio, Shoyu, Miso, and Tonkotsu, components such as Onsen Eggs, Chashu, and Menma, and offshoots like Mazemen, Tsukemen, and Yakisoba. Ideal for beginners, seasoned cooks, and armchair chefs alike, this comic book cookbook is an accessible, fun, and inviting introduction to one of Japan’s most popular and iconic dishes.

My Review: If you love ramen, then you must read this book. There’s a little history included, but this is all about how to make your own ramen bowls. It gives you detailed information on all the tools and equipment that you need, the ingredients to cook, and even how to prepare it. There are explicitly detailed recipes, tips, advice, and information in this beautiful graphic novel. 

It’s not just a graphic novel, it’s also a cookbook. There are quite a few recipes in this book. The illustrations are gorgeous and the colors are bright and vibrant. It’s very easy to read and follow along with. 

Highly recommend to the ramen lovers out there!

Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)

NetGalley Graphic Novels

Kawaii Café Bubble Tea by Stacey Kwong and Beyah del Mundo

Format: Digital eBook
Genre: Cookbook
Publication Date: January 9, 2024
My GR Rating: 4
Pre-Order on Amazon here.

GR Description: Satisfy your bubble tea cravings at home (and affordably)! Kawaii Café  Bubble Tea includes over 60 easy-to-follow recipes, beautifully illustrated in a fun anime style.

No matter if you call it boba or bubble tea, this addictive drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s has taken the world by storm, with shops popping up on every corner and lines out all their doors.

Kawaii Café Bubble Tea covers all the basics, from brewing tea and making your own tapioca balls (aka boba) to handcrafting sweeteners, syrups, toppings, and more with all-natural ingredients and no corn syrup. Each recipe includes exciting anime-style illustrations and instructions for customizing to your preferred level of sweetness.

My Review: I am a boba tea ADDICT!! It’s seriously my favorite drink ever!! So when I saw this cute graphic novel that was all about boba, or bubble tea, I knew I had to check it out. 

This adorable cookbook has fun, cute illustrations, and the colors are bright and with a soft palette that gives it a cozy feeling. Visually, it’s very appealing. 

This book doesn’t just give a ton of recipes, it also explores the origin of boba, provides tea basics, like what equipment to use, fun facts, basic information about the tea and boba, along with how to brew green and black tea and information about syrups and bases of the drink. The recipes consist of a variety of fruit teas, including recipes for different jams, homemade fruit syrups, and fruit tea with boba. Then, you’ll find recipes for classic milk teas with boba. And finally, recipes for toppings to add to your drinks. 

It’s very easy to read and follow along. It’s not as thorough with some information as other graphic cookbooks that I’ve read, but there’s still a ton of information and recipes to enjoy. All of the ingredients and equipment are very accessible so it doesn’t feel like you can’t make these recipes at home. It doesn’t require anything that you can’t find near where you live. 

If you are a boba tea lover and you enjoy making your own drinks, then you absolutely must pick up this colorful graphic cookbook. Definitely recommend!!

Noodles, Rice, and Everything Spice by Christina De Witte and Mallika Kauppinen

Format: Digital eBook
Genre: Cookbook
Publication Date: May 7, 2024
My GR Rating: 5
Pre-Order on Amazon here.

GR Description: From an exciting all-female, all-Thai team, Noodles, Rice, and Everything Spice combines easy-to-follow comic book panels with pops of vibrant food photography to perfectly capture the bright, colorful flavors and ingredients that are crucial to Thai cuisine.

Noodles, Rice, and Everything Spice showcases real Thai food from the country’s distinct culinary regions. Journey to the northern Lanna region and dine “khan tok”–style with small bowls of chile dips, curries, sticky rice, and vegetables on a gilded pedestal tray for sharing; sit cross-legged on a bamboo mat around a spread of tangy salads and grilled meats in the northeast Isaan region; roam the bustling markets of central Bangkok for iconic street food treats; and lounge on a beach in southern Thailand with dangerously spicy seafood.

With recipes divided into six delectable sections for any meal or mood of the day, discover how to make world-class snacks and starters such as Som Tam (papaya salad) and Satay Gai (grilled chicken skewers), or iconic noodle dishes such as Khao Soi (coconut curry noodle soup) and Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles), as well as some lesser-known regional favorites to pair with rice such as Pad Sator (stir-fried bitter beans) from the south and Nam Prik Ong (Ong’s spicy pork and tomato chile dip) from the north. The book also teaches helpful cooking and preparation techniques such as how to properly grate a papaya, make sticky rice in the microwave, fry an egg to crispy perfection, and more.

My Review: I’m new to Thai food, so I wanted to explore this culinary world through this adorably illustrated graphic cookbook. It’s extremely thorough with its information and recipes. I really enjoyed the cute illustrations, which also had some humor to them. There are also a few real photos of the dishes mixed throughout the book, which was a nice touch to actually see what the dishes looked like in real life. 

The first part of this graphic novel explains why the authors wrote this book, which were touching and interesting stories. Then, they explained different parts of the country, the types of food that are cooked in each area, and what they are known for. I really appreciated this info because it felt like getting an insider’s scoop, and I liked learning about a different culture. Then, they move on to the history of certain foods. They also cover all the equipment, appliances, and utensils needed, as well as how to use them and why. 

There are loads of delicious-sounding recipes that will make your mouth water. They cover everything from appetizers and snacks to main entrees and condiments and sauces to desserts and drinks. They also talk about the ingredients, where to find them, and how they are used in the dishes, which is helpful. Then you learn how to prepare the food and get cooking tips along the way. They even offer a list of Thai cooking staples to keep in your kitchen. 

What really made this graphic cookbook special were the personal stories from the authors. It made me feel more connected to them. They did a great job explaining the world of Thai cooking to people new to this cuisine. For people interested in this type of food or for Thai food lovers, you must pick up this graphic novel. Highly recommend!

Children’s Picture Books

The Taekwonderoos: Rescue at Rattling Ridge by Michael Panzner

Format: Digital eBook
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Hop into an action-packed adventure with George, Brianna, and Jackson, kangaroo friends who are masters of taekwondo. When they spot a frightened joey trapped at the top of treacherous Rattling Ridge, the three Taekwonderoos spring into action, using their kicking, jumping, and spinning skills to navigate cliffs, boulders, and ravines on a daring rescue mission. This thrilling tale of bravery celebrates how courage, quick thinking, and teamwork can overcome any challenge.

My Review: This is a fun, action-packed adventure story. I loved the setting in the wilds of Australia with these three taekwondo-fighting kangaroos. The illustrations were beautiful with bright, vibrant colors. The scenes were full of detail and creativity. I also liked the font and the larger size of the font, making it easy to read for children. 

In this story, this trio must help a young kangaroo, or joey, who is trapped on a cliff. They must come together to rescue him safely. I liked the focus on teamwork and problem-solving to save the little joey. They are determined to help him and use their strengths to approach this dangerous situation. I appreciated how the three friends are shown to stay calm and focused on the problem instead of freaking out. They were pretty clever in their strategy to help the little one. 

It’s a compelling short picture book that offers great messages to kids. The concept was creative and imaginative, the pictures were stunning, and I had a really good time with it. I don’t know if this is the first book in a series, but it could easily be turned into one. I’d love to see more adventures from these three kangaroos practicing martial arts. It was highly entertaining, I absolutely recommend it!

Rumi–Poet of Joy and Love by Rashin Kheiriyeh

Format: Digital eBook – NetGalley app
Publication Date: March 5, 2024
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Even the greatest poet was once a child. And so it was with Rumi. When he was young he was enchanted by birds and books. He later became a scholar, but it was the loss of his best friend, Shams, that inspired Rumi to his most important Love is in us and everywhere.

The Persian mystic and poet Rumi is one of the best-known and most widely-read poets in the world. The renowned illustrator Rashin Kheiriyeh herself comes from Iran. With this picture book she creates a touching memorial to Rumi’s wisdom and warmth. The strong colors and ornamental details transport us to the Persian Empire in the 13th century. Yet Rumi’s story and his poetry are timeless.

Written by award-winning Iranian-American artist Rashin Kheiriyeh, this narrative nonfiction picture book has been published to honor his life and the 750th anniversary of his death.

My Review: I really enjoy reading Rumi quotes added to graphics scattered among social media, so when I saw a beautiful picture book about his life, I knew I had to pick it up. I knew nothing about this amazing, loving, and kind poet and teacher, so I actually learned a lot by reading this book. This is basically a short biography of Rumi simplified down for kids to read and enjoy. 

The illustrations and artwork are absolutely stunning! The colors are so bright and vibrant. The style of the art is unique and fun. I didn’t want the book to end because I loved the beautiful artwork so much. Plus, I wanted to learn more about Rumi in this easy, simple way. 

I also enjoyed reading the author’s note and more info about Rumi at the end. 

After reading this book, I went to my library app to borrow some books written by Rumi. It made me want to learn more about him and read his works. Highly recommend!

Mika and the Gurgler by Agata Loth-Ignaciuk

Format: Digital eBook – NetGalley app
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Meet Mika! Mika is a young explorer who faces familiar-yet-not-fully- known objects and obstacles around her house. Today’s newest challenge? The “gurgler” that spins, spews, whirrs, beeps, and even swallows things whole! But the gurgler isn’t as scary as it appears. With the help of her friends, Mika is able to rescue her frog from the malicious machine and learn that not everything is as scary as they may seem. Perfect for the youngest comic readers, Mika and the Gurgler is sweet, simple, and charmingly playful!

My Review: Not sure if this is a picture book or graphic novel, but it’s super cute and fun for kids, especially those just learning to read. This book focuses more on the artwork to tell the story through body language and emotion shown in the illustrations. There is very little text, so it’s great for beginner readers. But the humor in it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s so adorable and sweet. 

I enjoyed watching Mika become curious about the world around her, and seeing how patient her mother was as she explored various new things in the house. 

This book took me right back to when I was a little girl and was afraid of my mom washing my favorite stuffed animals. I never felt like I had to “save them” from being washed because I loved how soft and fluffy they felt afterward and how good they smelled, but this is definitely a relatable story. Highly recommend!

NetGalley Novels

When I’m Dead (Black Harbor #3) by Hannah Morrissey

Format: Audiobook – Narrators: Andrew Eiden; Caitlin Kelly; Gary Tiedemann; Xe Sands
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: On a bone-chilling October night, Medical Examiner Rowan Winthorp investigates the death of her daughter’s best friend. Hours later, the tragedy hits even closer to home when she makes a devastating discovery—her daughter, Chloe, is gone. But, not without a trace.

A morbid mosaic of clues forces Rowan and her husband to question how deeply they really knew their daughter. As they work closely to peel back the layers of this case, they begin to unearth disturbing details about Chloe and her secret transgressions…details that threaten to tear them apart.

Amidst the noise of navigating her newfound grief and reconciling the sins of her past, an undeniable fact rings true for Rowan: karma has finally come to collect.

My Review: This is my first Hannah Morrissey book and the first that I read in the Black Harbor series. This worked as a standalone murder mystery, not having read the first two books. I may have missed some things or characters from previous books, but it didn’t change the story or hinder my experience with this book. 

I listened to the audiobook, which is multiple POV with multiple voice narrators. Unfortunately, I really disliked the voice of Rowan, Caitlin Kelly. It sounded like she was trying to be breathy and seductive, which didn’t work at all for me. At times, she mumbled and sounded muffled, which made it hard to understand her portions. I preferred hearing the other narrators. I would not listen to Caitlin Kelly again. 

Overall, this was just an okay murder mystery. There was nothing special or unique about it. It felt like I was listening to an episode from the former TV series, Bones, but not as good. We followed the detective/crime investigating side with Axel, and then the medical side with Rowan since she’s a medical examiner. There were descriptions of the murdered or decomposing bodies that were gross, but they felt accurate. There was a lot of medical information, technical details, and portions of the story that felt realistic. 

The book was well-written with descriptive, lush writing that immersed the reader and transported you to this rather bleak town. The conveyed messages about Black Harbor were extremely negative. So much so that I wondered why these people would choose to stay in such an awful town where crime, murders, and dangers seemed to lurk around every corner. The place sounded absolutely dreadful to me. 

However, this murder mystery story fell flat for me. It was pretty repetitive, which made it sound boring for most of the book. There needed to be a lot more drama and action. I kept waiting for something big to happen, and it never really did. The last quarter of the book picked up in pacing, but before this part, it felt like a chore to get through all the investigating. It barely kept my interest. Honestly, if I had been reading this book, I probably would’ve DNF’d it about halfway in or before. But since I was listening to it, I just increased the speed to push through it. 

The characters were underwhelming for me. I didn’t connect with any of them, which didn’t make me care that much for them. Also, Axel and Rowan didn’t behave in ways I’d think parents would behave when their daughter goes missing, potentially kidnapped. The side characters were easy to forget about. There really weren’t any memorable qualities to any of the characters. The only one that I felt some compassion for was the neighbor girl next door, Libby. 

As for the murderer, I had no clue who it was until they were revealed. So at the very least, this book kept me guessing the whole time, which was fun. There were many red herrings that I fell for, and then when I realized it wasn’t that person, I had to rethink some of my guesses. However, once we discovered who the murderer was, I felt disappointed. I can’t really explain without spoiling the book, but it felt like a letdown. The last quarter of the book picked up in pacing, which I liked, but the whole resolution scene felt predictable and stereotypical. 

I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t really like it either. It was very middle of the road for me. I don’t know if I would recommend it, but if you’ve already been reading this series, then I’d suggest to keep going and maybe you’ll like it more than me. It also takes place around Halloween so it would be a good seasonal read around fall and Spooky Season. It did feel rather creepy and eerie at times. The atmosphere felt cold and mysterious. 

There was also quite a bit of language in this book and one spicy scene, which felt awkward and unnecessary. I don’t care for spice in my murder mysteries, so that was a turnoff for me. There were also some woke/liberal comments made here and there by characters, which was another huge turnoff and eye roll for me as well. Even though I appreciated the descriptive writing, I don’t know if I would read another book by this author.

GrimmWorld: The Witch in the Woods by Michaelbrent Collings

Format: Digital eBook
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: March 5, 2024
My GR Rating: 4
Pre-Order on Amazon here.

GR Description: Twins Willow and Jake Grimm are not prepared for the bizarre gadgets and scary changes in their new home of New Marburg, the location of the top-secret Think Tank where their parents now have jobs as scientists. In this town, people jetpack to work, robots direct traffic, and senior citizens duel with laser swords.

Yet nothing compares to what happens the day after lightning strikes the twins’ house. Their school building transforms around them, becoming a medieval castle—complete with moat, drawbridge, and a dangerous giant who looks strangely like the school’s overly aggressive hall monitor.

Barely managing to escape before a massive beanstalk lifts the castle above the clouds, Willow and Jake learn that their ancestors, the original Brothers Grimm, were more than storytellers. They were Grimmwalkers, able to travel from our universe to Grimmworld: the universe where all fairy tales are born.

Somehow, Willow and Jake have been transported to Grimmworld as well. But before the twins can figure out how to get back to their own universe, they discover that their best friends, Hank and Pearl, have morphed into the fairy tale characters Hansel and Gretel and been captured by a candy-obsessed witch deep in the Cursed Forest.

Now, aided by a mysterious wizard with shimmering golden eyes and a befuddled, talking naked mole-rat named Chet, the twins must trust in each other, believe in themselves, and find the courage to face their darkest fears in order to save their friends, return to their family, and maybe—just maybe—save the world.

My Review: This middle grade fairytale story is full of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. It’s a little bit of everything that I enjoy reading. I will say that this leans more toward dark horror than I thought it would, so it would be more suitable for middle graders and up, not elementary kids, in my opinion. It got pretty creepy and eerie for a kid’s book. The kids face danger around every corner, and they constantly have to work together to defeat the evil witch.  

Overall, I found the story very creative and imaginative, dark yet hopeful, and suspenseful yet heartwarming. I’ll admit, it took me until about 25-30% before I fully committed to this story and could get into it. But, then it really took off and was quite the action-packed, magical adventure. The writing is rich with details and really immerses you in the different worlds. 

When Jake, Willow, and their parents moved to New Marburg, I was shocked to see how sci-fi the town is (reminded me a little of the old cartoon, The Jetsons), but it was fun to see the weird and bizarre scenes and people. It made me curious about this place and I wanted to know and see more. I wished they explored the town a bit more. 

The first part of the book is in our world, and it kept me guessing the whole time. I was very curious to know more about this strange new town as well as what was going on because there was a lot of strange behavior happening with most of the adults, including their parents. It was definitely a page-turner once I got into it. 

Then, in the second part of the book, we’re in Grimmworld, which is a very magical and fantastical place. However, the explanations about the different universes and all the science talk were a bit of a brain teaser. It was a little confusing and hard to understand for me as an adult, so I could see a child having a bit of a difficult time with those scenes. But it was still very intriguing and creative. 

I enjoyed learning how the two main kids were descendants of the Brothers Grimm and how it turned into a family adventure. There is a lot of care and love between the two siblings. The character development goes pretty deep into their feelings and struggles in their daily lives, but then we see how much they both look up to each other and focus on each other’s strengths when they both focus on their own weaknesses. There were some very touching moments between brother and sister that tugged at my heartstrings. There is definitely familial bonding during this adventure. I loved seeing their relationship grow stronger. 

While in GrimmWorld, we see a unique take on the fairytale, Hansel and Gretel. We meet the witch, who keeps the children as prisoners in her candy house. The challenges the witch puts the kids through are interesting, but I wish there was more to them. I wish they were bigger and more action-packed. But I enjoyed the puzzles, riddles, and games they had to play. They really made you think. In fact, this entire book really makes you think! 

I had a good time with this book. It looks like it’s the first book in a series. I would be interested in reading book two if it comes out. Definitely recommend this book!

The Letter Tree by Rachel Fordham

Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Kira Fixx
Genre: Historical Romance
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Mere words can’t end their families’ feud, but the Campbell heir and the Bradshaw heiress plan to write a future together. Buffalo, NY, 1924 Laura Bradshaw adores stories with happily ever afters. But since her mother died seven years ago, the Bradshaw Shoe Company heiress has been as good as locked away in a tower. Her overbearing father cares little for her dreams, throwing himself instead into his tireless takedown of his competitor, the Campbell Shoe Company. 

However, Laura has been gifted with a mysterious friend with whom she’s been exchanging letters. As heir to the Campbell Shoe Company, Isaac Campbell is a sought-after bachelor who has never felt an inkling of desire for the women who constantly bat their eyes at him. His thoughts are consumed by an oak tree in the Buffalo Zoo—or rather, the mystery woman he exchanges letters with courtesy of the tree. She’s been one of Isaac’s only joys in a life consumed by his father’s tireless hatred of Bradshaw. A hatred that, Isaac is coming to realize, may affect him more personally than he ever imagined. When Laura’s father orchestrates a match between her and an important business owner, she resolves to pursue her only chance at freedom. But Isaac believes their story isn’t bound for a tragic ending. He’s certain there’s more to the Bradshaw-Campbell feud than meets the eye. And he won’t stop digging until he uncovers the truth that might bridge the divide between him and the woman whose words have captured his heart.

My Review: I loved everything about this story – the setting, the time period, the characters, the plot, and most importantly, the romance! 

This was my second Rachel Fordham book, and she is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. I love her clean historical romances. They warm my heart and always put a smile on my face. 

This is a Romeo & Juliet retelling with a dash of You’ve Got Mail, and it was so sweet and charming. I listened to the audiobook and couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s a dual POV from both the main female protagonist, Laura, and the main male protagonist, Issac. I appreciated getting both of their perspectives in this story, which helped me to connect and relate to both characters. You could see how they were both innocent young adults swept up in this family feud between their fathers, who worked together at a shoe factory until they had a falling out. Now, they both rival each other with their own shoe factories, constantly trying to exceed the other in business. 

I really enjoyed this story being set in the 1920s. It was fun going back in time to this era, and through the descriptive writing, I was fully immersed in this time period and could picture what was being described, from clothing to housing to lifestyle to behavior of people back then. I also enjoyed the settings of the Buffalo Zoo and Niagra Falls toward the end of the book. The author weaves in real historical facts mixed with fiction, and at the end, she offers an author’s note about the story, what was made up, and what was real. 

I really enjoyed getting to know the characters. They were fully developed and were easy to connect with and relate to. I felt fully invested in them and watching this relationship progress was really entertaining. We get depth from the characters and the overall story, which added to the book. We feel their tension and exhaustion of this family feud that has been going on for many years. If you enjoy the enemies to lovers and forbidden love romance tropes, then you’ll love this story. 

I also was really engaged with the plot. I thought it was creative and entertaining. It kept my interest the entire time, and I kept wanting to know what would happen next. The pacing was great. There was a wonderful balance of romance and drama to keep my attention. There’s even a bit of a mystery to figure out, which was unexpected and made the book even more interesting. 

This is such a heartwarming, feel-good story that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance stories and historical dramas. Absolutely loved it, and now I want to buy a physical copy for my personal library and reread it! This is an author I want to read to zero now.


There you have it, the rest of the books that I read in November. Like I mentioned in my first wrap-up episode, I had a solid reading month with some great books. 

Until next time, my story lovers, happy reading!

Get Cozy with the Podcast

To listen to this podcast episode, head over to The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform. You’ll also find full book reviews, reading topics, self-care tips, and a whole lot more.

You can also find pictures of book covers, book tag graphics, and other visuals on Instagram

If you’re interested in exclusive member goodies or want to support the show even more, you can join my Patreon community.


Come soak up all the warm, fuzzy feelings! My name is Kelly, and I’m excited to share my thoughts and opinions with you about books, movies, and TV series. I’m also obsessed with all things comfy cozy, self-care, and personal development.

Join me as I snuggle up with my favorite blankets and yummy beverages, and talk about my favorite forms of art.


Like, follow and subscribe.

© 2023. All rights reserved.