One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston | ARC Review

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ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Publication: June 1, 2021

“August doesn’t believe in most things, but it’s hard to argue that Jane wasn’t put on the Q to fuck up her whole life.”

Red, White & Royal Blue was one of my favorite books of 2019. I was able to get a very early ARC of it, and I fell so deeply in love with this alternate reality I so desperately wanted to live in as a queer biracial with a hopeless romantic heart. Casey’s prose, characters, romance, banter, and (obviously) themes were everything to me, and I knew that they would take the book world by storm with their expectation-shattering debut. But then when they announced their next book would be sapphic Kate & Leopold, with an Asian love interest? Be still, my entire heart and soul. So when I tell you that I ignored every single ARC I needed to read and review before this one for the next eight months, I say that with my whole chest because there was no way I could stop myself once it hit my kindle.

One Last Stop is a story about a twenty-three-year-old bi girl named August who has moved from university to university, state to state, looking for a place that will feel like a home she has never known. Her whole life, her mother has expected her to assist in solving a missing person case from the 70s, but August just wants to find herself, her own way, and wants to feel like she finally belongs somewhere. At the start of this story, she has made it to New York where is she going to finish her degree, and thanks to a questionably placed looking-for-roommates advertisement in a Popeyes she starts to feel like maybe she could eventually call this city and these roommates home.

The Roommates:
Niko – trans Latino psychic (good) bartender (not so good)
Myla – queer Black electrical engineer turned artist (has an adoptive Chinese mom, who really added to the story so beautifully to me, so I am mentioning it here too!)
Wes – queer Jewish tattoo artist

Oh, and I am fully in love with all three of them and the found family depicted in this book is so heartwarmingly perfect, I promise you! There are even more side characters who will easily steal your heart, too, and there is also a big emphasis on New York’s drag scene, and how queer people of color are still paving the way in 2020. This book has a very diverse cast, and we see so many different cultures, sexualities, genders, religions, and more. (There is for sure bigger body representation with August, but I’m not sure that I would say it is fat representation. I will edit this and quote an ownvoices reviewer mutual once they read and review! Also, it is brought up a couple times that August’s mom conceived her via in vitro fertilization, and I just feel like we don’t really get to see that a lot in books and I really loved that too!)

But on August’s very first day’s commute to school, where she takes the Q train subway line, she is having a bit of bad luck and an exceptionally large coffee stain. But all that luck seems to change right before her very eyes, when she meets a girl who gives August her red scarf without hesitation. She can’t stop thinking about the girl who saved her bad day, and the low chances of her being at that exact spot when she needed someone in a city that is so busy second meetings never happen, especially on the subway. That is, until she sees the girl again, and again, and starts to realize that she not only is on the Q every time August is on it, but in the exact same train car.

Oh Jane, where do I even begin? Jane is a Chinese lesbian who is displaced from the 70s in some kind of magical timeslip, where she can’t remember much of anything about her past, only what she carries in her bookbag. That is, until Jane seems to be the only person who helps her remember, while also being the only person she can’t seem to forget. Oh, and come the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag? Every sapphic in the book community with have Jane Su as their fictional crush. On God and on everything else. When I tell you Casey McQuistion wrote most everyone’s sapphic dream, I say it honestly.

But basically, since August has been taught her whole life how to solve missing persons cases, and because she is very gay and can’t stop thinking about the incredibly swoon worthy girl on the train, she decides to do whatever it takes to help not only figure out Jane’s past, but to try to rescue her from the subway she is tethered to. Even if helping her means lots and lots of kissing, maybe especially so actually.

“It’s probably going to break my heart, and it’s still worth it.”

The romance in this book? A tier above. I feel like One Last Stop gave a new definition to the word “yearning” if you want my very honest opinion. Truly, this is the type of book that will make even the most cynical of readers believe in love. The emotions (and tears) it was able to evoke from me was nothing short of astounding. And now I will be forever longing for someone to have a notebook filled with me. Like, this book is truly so goddamn romantic, and the one-liners left me utterly gasping and fully quaking.

“but none of those girls were you.”

On top of the fact that the sex scenes were probably the best I’ve read in any f/f book in my entire life. The range of sexual acts, the different kinds of sex that queer people are extra blessed to have if they want to have sex, the learning of your partner’s wants and needs and body in general; it was all just so perfect, so sexy, and so realistic. And this book was so sex positive, especially when you are in your early twenties and learning what you want and like! Also, there was a very important (and seamlessly woven in) discussion on virginity and how the concept is truly something of dated myth, especially in queer communities.

“She read about San Francisco, about the movements happening there, about Asian lesbians riding on the backs of cable cars just to show the city they existed”

Casey McQuiston constantly pays homage to the lgbtqiap+ community (especially queer people of color) who came before us, who paved the way, and who are the reason that we in present day have so many more rights and freedoms. And they do not shy away from talking about the costs so many paid with heartbreaking loss.

The UpStairs Lounge fire happened in the 1973 and was the largest gay mass murder prior to the Pulse shooting in 2016. The Stonewall riots in 1969, where people refused to be silenced and erased by the police or anyone else, and in return gave us some many civil rights advances. To HIV and AIDS activists who had to live during the Carter and Reagan administrations who not only encouraged hate with racism and homophobia, but who heartlessly let so many die, while also eventually administrated drugs that would lead to toxic overdoses, simultaneously promising a vaccine that would never come. Victims had to wait until 2003 for baseline adequate help after so many had already been lost because of the virus.

There are so many challenges still with being unapologetically who you are in present day, but it is so important to honor and remember all of the lgbtqiap+ activists (again, especially the people of color) who came before us and made what we do have today possible. And Casey McQuiston truly keeps that at the forefront and makes it the heart of this story.

“two different generations of messy, loud, brave and scared and brave again people stomping their feet and waving hands with bitten nails, all the things they share and all the things they don’t. the things she has that people like Jane smashed windows and spat blood for.”

And surrounding yourself with people who see you, amplify you, support you, celebrate you, and love you unconditionally and unapologetically is so important, too. I think it’s always really important to mention that even though Casey honors the past, they filled me with so much hope for the future, and for future generations of marginalized voices who will more easily be amplified, more easily be heard, and so much more easily be seen.

Friendly reminder, if you haven’t found a place that feels like home yet, or the people who uncondiontally love and respect you, I promise you will and I promise are never alone in the meantime. Putting yourself and your safety first will always be the most important thing in all the different stages of life. And just know I see you, and I’m proud of you, and I’m cheering for you, always. But if you ever need extra help The Trevor Project and PFLAG can be wonderful recourses.

Overall, this book just meant so much to me, and I know it is going to mean so much to so many. 2020 has been so hard, so fucking hard, on so many, and this book was the 2020 escapism that I want to fold myself into forever. I haven’t left my home’s property in eight months, but with One Last Stop I got to feel whole and happy and seen on a New York subway, while watching two girls fall in love and carve out the lives that they want, unapologetically. Truly, this book made me even more proud to be a queer Asian, I only wish I was half as cool as Jane Su.

“you’re the first thing I’ve believed in since—since I don’t even remember, okay, you’re—you’re movies and destiny and every stupid, impossible thing, and it’s not because of the fucking train, it’s because of you.”

Oh, and this will probably be my favorite 2021 publication. Happy reading!

Trigger and Content Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of death, talk of anxiety and anxiety depictions, talk of the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, alcohol consumption, talk of homophobia in the past, talk of racism in the past, talk of hate crimes in the past, mention of gentrification, and brief mentions of blood.

5

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

September 2020 Wrap Up

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Hey friends! I know we are almost midway through October, but it has been such a busy month for me (and hopefully you’ve been enjoying the other content on the blog)! But September was a bit of a mixed reading month for me! I was able to read ten things, but not a single one earned five stars from me! 🍁

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Such a beautiful story about culture and identity and loving all parts of yourself and your heritage. I also loved the themes of healing and art, too. Truly this was such a good read and an amazing way to start my month!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong ⭐⭐⭐
Publication: November 17th 2020
A Romeo & Juliet loose retelling set in historical Shanghai? Whew, that premise! I wish I loved this one as much as most of my friends, but it was still a fun read with lots of discussions about colonization and microaggressions and Western lenses that PoC have to face even in their own Eastern countries

The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu ⭐⭐⭐
A fun addition to the Shadowhunter world, but I truly didn’t love this nearly as much as the first book! But being back with the original gang always feels good and makes me happy. Also, domestic Magnus and Alec make my heart burst.

Beach Read by Emily Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I couldn’t believe how much I loved this, and how much this cover and synopsis really leads you to believe this story will be something different. This dealt with important themes of grief and healing, and truly was a book about writers block and how sometimes things in life will uproot everything.

Vampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor ⭐⭐⭐
I truly wanted to love this so much more than I did, but I was still so very happy to be on an ownvoices blog tour celebrating Filipino mythos and culture. Sadly, I’ve just had some not amazing experiences with the vampire resurgence this year!

Dragon Unleashed (Fallen Empire #2) by Grace Draven ⭐⭐
Whew, I cannot believe how much this let me down. This book was truly ungodly boring, which was so surprising because the first book was so action packed! Hopefully I will learn my lesson and DNF books that can’t hold my interest, even if I loved a previous book in the series!

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic #1) by Maya Motayne ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was the Dragons and Tea September pick and I really loved this one! This is a magical story all about identity and language and… colonization (truly a theme of books I keep picking up)! I thought this book was so very beautiful, and the grief and abuse depictions were very heartbreakingly raw.

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Sapphic witch queen must fall in love with the girl she is forced to sacrifice to save all her people? The angst, the yearning, the hunger of my dreams. I really loved this one and again, the grief and abuse depictions were important and also very raw and unapologetic.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book was my favorite of the month! From a girl who can’t remember all her memories after being sick, to a man who will stop at nothing to find his love (while also picking up the cutest companion of all companions), and two sapphics again winning me and my heart completely over. This book was everything and I promise a full review soon!

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco ⭐⭐⭐
Publication: October 27th, 2020 
This was the hardest book for me to rate. The range of things I feel for this book is very unreal. Listen, the atmosphere of this? The settings? The premise? I couldn’t get enough. Dare I even say close to perfect? And the plot had me so very invested in every single way. But this actual story and the plot conveniences, the characters and their lack of critical thinking, the obvious plot twists? The Lord might be testing me. The whiplash I felt while reading this was a full experience and deserves a star rating of its own, truly.


What was your favorite book of September? Or even so far in October? I hope you all are having happy reading, and I hope we both have a lot more five star reads for our October reading! 🎃

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September Book Haul | 2020

I feel like September was the first month since quarantine that I’m actually able to do a monthly book haul! (Obv, I did for my birthday as well, but that was a bit of a special and blessed occasion!) I feel so honored and so thankful to be able to write up this post, and I can’t wait to share these titles with you, because some of them I’ve already read and loved, and some of them I am so very excited for! 

Purchased Books ♡


Books Sent by Publishers ♡


eARCS from Publishers ♡

What was your favorite book that you hauled in September (or even so far in October)? Is there anything on this list that I haven’t read yet that you want me to prioritize? Please let me know! And thank you so much for reading! Sending you lots of love and all the stories that make you feel seen! 💕

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The Fall Time, Cozy Time Book Tag

BookTag
Hey, friends! Okay, maybe this time of year I just want to do all the transitional seasonal tags, haha! But I was tagged to do this tag by two of my favorites (Amber @ amberinoface & Destiny @ howling libraries) and I literally could not say no! Also, it seemed like a good way to start off the month of October! 🎃

1. CRUNCHING LEAVES: the world is full of color! Choose a book with red/orange/yellow on the cover.

I recently took this picture for bookstagram and I truly could not believe 1.) how gorgeous this book is, but also 2.) how autumnal it! And with the black background? Like, the perfect combination with the reds and yellows and oranges (and greens… shhhh)! Extra big thank you to Stacia for this very beautiful copy of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin — i love you!


2. COZY SWEATER: it’s finally cool enough for warm cozy clothing! What book gives you the warm fuzzies?

Truly The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was truly the biggest serotonin booster I’ve experienced while reading all summer. All the heart warming moments, all the constantly warm fuzzies, all the recommendations with my entire soul!


3. FALL STORM: the wind is howling & the rain is pounding. Choose a book that you like to read on a stormy day:

Me, the biggest baby in the world? Me, still not finishing this series? Me, knowing I’m gonna feel brave and read The King of Crows by Libba Bray this month when I’m all alone and most definitely spooked? Yes.


4. COOL CRISP AIR: makes you breathe freely~ Who’s the coolest character you’d want to trade places with?

Oh, without question Greta from The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon #3) by Katie O’Neill! Not only are they the cutest and sweetest and kindest, they are also a little blacksmith apprentice, they have the loveliest family (both blood and found), and they have the cutest little tea dragon!


5. HOT APPLE CIDER: warm autumn drink. What underhyped book do you want to see become the next biggest, hottest thing?

I am literally begging you all to pick up Night Shine by Tessa Gratton! It is the sapphic (and all around extremely queer) fantasy story of all your dreams! I truly think it could be my favorite book of the whole year, and I wish so many more people would pick it up and give it a try!


6. COAT, SCARVES, & MITTENS: the weather has turned cold & it’s time to cover up! What’s a book cover you don’t like?

I’m fully looking away at the vampire fangs on this skull, the typography, the color choices, and half of the stories in the anthology Vampires Never Get Old.


7. PUMPKIN SPICE: What’s your favorite fall comfort food?

I honestly feel like I have been living my best life with autumn comfort food all year this 2020, hahah! But I honestly do love anything with pumpkin! I honestly love anything with caramel too! Also, I truly have such a soft spot for anything with sweet potatoes! And I extra love eating all the soups this time of the year! Oh, and I love stuffing too. Hello, my name is Melanie and I love all the fall comfort foods and flavors.

Okay, friends! There is the tag! I hope you all have an amazing October, truly. And sending you extra love while we get into the start of end of the year things while the world is still in chaos. Also, if you would like to do this tag — please consider yourself tagged! I love you all so much and happy reading! 🍁🍂

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October 2020 TBR

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I cannot believe we are entering October! Basically this TBR is a good mix of me trying to read things a little spoopy (but not too spoopy because I am baby), but also still celebrating Latine/x heritage month! Also, we do not know ARCs this month and we are just going to be embracing (and hopefully loving) some backlist (but still newly released) titles! But truly, I don’t think I’ve been excited over eight books in a long while! 🎃


Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Our October 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! (Oct 5th – 9th) 🐉☕

Queen of the Conquered (Islands of Blood and Storm #1) by Kacen Callender
💕 Buddy read with Shae & Maëlys

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson 
🎁 Gift from Pamela
💕 Buddy read with Maëlys

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado 
🎁 Gift from Lacey
💕 Buddy read with Maëlys

Lobizona (Wolves of No World #1) by Romina Garber
🎁 Gift from Pamela
💕 Buddy read with Maëlys

The King of Crows (The Diviners #4) by Libba Bray

The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves #2) by Roshani Chokshi
💕 Buddy read with Maëlys

花樣年華 HYYH The Notes 2 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life #2) by Big Hit Entertainment & BTS 
💕 Buddy read with MaëlysLea, & Amy!

Whew! I am so very excited for this TBR! Truly I have the highest of hopes for these and just looking at these covers brings me so much happiness! What is a book you’re hoping to pick up this October? Sending you all my whole heart and wishing you happy reading always! 💕

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3 Mini Reviews | Star Daughter, Alloy of Law, & Girl, Serpent, Thorn


Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar 

Reviews you should check out: Fanna’sAnandi’sSara’s

“She was nothing but the words of a story, one tale weaving imperceptibly into the next. She was the loom that wove the tapestry. She was the tapestry that joined all things.”

Star Daughter is a beautiful story about a girl who is half human and half star, and she must go to the celestial court to try to save her father after he has fallen ill. And before she knows it, she is taking part in a magical competition that she must win!

This is also a story about art and all the different forms, and how sometimes music can be healing. Yet also about how much is taken from other cultures under the disguise of the word “muse”. This is such a beautiful story that is ownvoices for the Indian representation and the Hindu mythology, and I truly think it’s a bright and shining star *wink* in 2020 debuts!

If you’re looking for a story with some magic, some romance, some identity discovery, connections through our ancestors, beautiful and lush settings, mouthwatering food descriptions, and a whole lot of love on every page, I’d really recommend Star Daughter!

Trigger and Content Warnings: abandonment, lots of blood depiction, violence (cuts & stabs), captivity, hospitalization of a loved one, illness of a loved one, panic attacks, talk of kidnapping, and talk of loss of a loved on in the past.
4


The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) by Brandon Sanderson

“Huh […] tea’s poisoned.”

Oh, I loved finally experiencing this next era of the mistborn world, especially in a city called Elendale (be still, my heart)! Yet, I was not expecting this book to start out with a very tragic murder plotline where the bodies are arranged in a very specific pose, and for the actual story to be taking place five years later where Wax is very much still grieving that night. And when the kidnappings start happening again, especially when these people being kidnapped are from mistborn family lines.

I also really love how mistborns are no longer a thing in this new day and age! At most people can have one alomatic ability and one feruchemic ability (twinborns)! And our main characters have some really cool and fun powers with these two abilities:

➽ Wax – pushes steel & can grow heavier and lighter
➽ Wayne – Can alter time & heals quickly (can also make great disguises, but unrelated to metals and powers!)

Overall, I really enjoyed this first installment in a very beloved universe! And I can’t wait to continue on! Also, I will forever be the biggest fangirl of a certain brother who is destined to continue his brother’s work. Okay, brb, crying.

Content and Trigger Warnings: murder, death, mention and threat of rape, kidnapping, gore, and violence.

4


Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

“She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same.”

Oh, I wanted to love this one so very badly! Sadly, most of the characters just felt so insufferable and their actions felt so convenient and questionable. This is ownvoices for the Persian mythos, and does star a bi MC (the author is queer, but I’m not sure what they ID as!) But this is a story about a princess who is cursed with a poisonous touch, and because of that she is constantly alone and locked away by her family because they don’t want anyone to know and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone on accident! That is, until she meets a boy named Azad who not only finds out but is not scared of her or her touch! You know, until bad things happen and her, her family, and her entire kingdom is in grave danger!

Now, this is where the insufferable MC comes in, because Soraya truly just makes the most questionable of choices, while the other characters just magically choose to believe her for progression of the story. Meanwhile, a demon girl named Pavenah is everything and I loved her with the sum of my being!

This had a lot of potential, and I liked the talk on power dynamics and imbalances a lot, but the story just never made me feel like there were any risks because they always conveniently worked out over and over again. Truly, even the villains in this book were the most trustworthy for no reason. Yet, I will say that I am very much in the minority with my feelings on this book, so maybe check out some other reviews! Also, I never want to read about convenient secret passages again either!

Content and Trigger Warnings: blood, gore, violence, captivity, & panic attack/anxiety depiction.

2


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The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2) by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu | Drumsofautumn Review

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“You’re my heart, Magnus Bane. Stay unbroken, for me.”

My love for the characters and world of the Shadowhunters has manifested a long, long time ago and yet I feel like every time I read about them, they carve out an even bigger space for themselves in my heart.

The Lost Book of the White follows Magnus and Alec as they travel to Shanghai to get back the very powerful Book of the White that was stolen from their home. And on their journey they get support from the rest of the main The Mortal Instruments cast, Jace, Clary, Simon and Isabelle.
That said, there is spoilers in this book (and review) for basically almost all of the other Shadowhunter series and books and you should definitely be caught up with them before you go into this!

I loved being back with the original The Mortal Instruments squad so, so much. While they obviously show up throughout the newer books too and we always know what they’re up to, seeing all six of them together on an adventure truly made me feel so blessed.

“Jace rarely spoke of his feelings, but he didn’t need to: Alec could read them on his face. Jace had chosen Clary to love, just as Alec had chosen Magnus, and he would love her forever and with his whole heart.”

I also adored that we got to see a little bit of Magnus and Alec being domestic and the ever-worried dads, even when they are stuck in some hell dimension (as you are). Magnus and Alec having such an intense, beautiful, unconditional love for each other and their son made my queer little heart feel so very soft and warm. And I am especially happy about seeing that kind of representation in a YA book!

Other than Magnus and Alec, Simon in particular had a really interesting character arc in this story. Obviously Simon had an entire short story collection dedicated to him and his journey of becoming a Shadowhunter but this story takes place just a little bit after and we see how much the events that happened at the Shadowhunter Academy really shaped him. He is still very much dealing with processing what happened and understanding what it really means to be a Shadowhunter.

“Someone, long ago, had told Magnus that human beings could never love the way immortals loved; their souls didn’t have the strength for it. That person had never met Alec Lightwood, nor anyone like him, Magnus thought, and their lives must have been the poorer for it.”

I feel like this book in particular was such a testament to the skill of Cassandra Clare writing the most memorable characters, even if it is side or even minor characters. There were a lot of characters in here that might not get a lot of “screen time” but that we see over and over in the different series and throughout different times and I just love them all dearly and am invested in what they are up to every time.

And I just genuinely think that this is one of those things that Cassandra Clare very much excels at and that makes reading these series particularly fun and at times heartbreaking. Which, to be fair, Cassandra Clare definitely very much excels at too. Lord knows she has broken my heart several times in the past seven years that I have been reading her books and you know what – I thank her for it.

That said, I didn’t find myself all too invested in the storyline itself. I feel like there is an infinite amount of interesting things to explore in this world and this was definitely one of them but I just felt like the plot didn’t enthrall me much.

“Alec drew the strokes of the rune with attentive care, and Magnus felt the same wonder as he had years ago, the same calming of fear. On the eve of battle, amid the darkened spin of a strange infernal city: it made no difference where they were. They would fight and live and die together.”

But despite what people might think and say, I think that Clare constantly brings new and refreshing ideas and character arcs to the table. She established this world and these characters and I am glad she is still playing around with them, even the ones that are already well-known and loved because that is the aspect of this book that I appreciated the most.
Seeing Simon’s journey, who has been through so much, dealing with the repercussions to his mental health, or seeing Alec and Magnus together as fathers, are additions to this series that I deeply appreciate.

Overall, even though I gave this a 3-star rating, I have a lot of love in my heart for this book because I adore these characters and I always love following them on their adventures.

If you liked the first book, if you like this world, and/or if you miss the The Mortal Instruments cast, this comes with a huge recommendation from me for sure.
And the bonus short story (which was in the audiobook but sadly not in the library ebook copy I had) was absolutely beautiful too and showed me that I will never grow tired of just reading about these character’s well deserved happiness too.

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨