Sunday, April 18, 2021

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn't come at a worse time--threatening Emma's promotion and Jo's new movie.

As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a "source" is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is "no comment".

With the launch of Jo's film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all...but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Something to Talk About was a S L O W B U R N romance that I mostly enjoyed. I thought their conflicts (they never really argued with each other) were petty and didn't warrant the level of avoidance and annoying childlike behavior that occurred, so that alone was super frustrating. One of my biggest bookish pet peeves is when something can be resolved with a simple conversation, so I hated that these two managed to make a misunderstanding - or maybe just a lack of shared information - last for weeks. It felt unnecessary and didn't really add anything to the overall story. 

Emma gets her feelings hurt and doesn't tell Jo why she's upset. I'm still not convinced what she was upset about was really that big of a deal. It's not Jo's fault Emma never went to a baseball game, and her relationships outside of work really weren't any of Emma's business. Emma feeling slighted by not being told Jo was sitting at games with her sister... ugh, it was obnoxious. She ignored Jo and acted like a recalcitrant child. If the author didn't want us to think the age difference between the two was a big deal, Emma shouldn't have had the maturity of a teenager going through puberty. Jo eventually apologizes for not telling Emma, but it's still not something I think she should have had to do to appease her assistant. Additionally, Emma kept mentioning that she "deserved better," which is why she waited for Jo to apologize a second time (apparently the first time wasn't good enough), and it made Emma seem pretentious. 

I also didn't like how long it took for the two of them to acknowledge their feelings for each other and actually act on them. Everyone can see that they're attracted to each other. We know what they're both thinking and feeling because of the dual POVs, but they don't discuss those feelings with each other because of their work relationship and power dynamic. Jo doesn't want to seem like she's taking advantage of her employee, and Emma doesn't know what her feelings really are until the very end. Despite her making awkward comments and being clumsy around her boss, she remained oblivious until the last few chapters. The thoughts were there, but it took her sooo long to admit anything to herself. 

This book would have ended much sooner if Jo and Emma had been able to have honest conversations with one another. I really liked their relationship and the setting for the story (though I wish we'd seen more from the secondary characters), and thought their romance was sweet and subtle. However, I wanted more romance between the two of them, not restraint and unvoiced thoughts and feelings.

I really liked the concept Jo had for helping women who have been sexually harassed in the workplace (Hollywood specifically), and wish that had also been expanded on. I wanted to really dive into how that would work, and what it would take for women to feel safe coming forward with their experiences. I felt like it was mentioned for a few pages, but then never really addressed again.

Also, other than Evelyn and Avery, the secondary characters were flat and mostly off-the-page. Emma and Jo mention people occasionally, but it's mostly about Emma and Jo. If we were going to be stuck in their awkward, not-going-to-address-the-elephant-in-the-room brains, it would have been nice to see things outside of their immediate circle. A few times it felt like the author was going to branch out in a different direction, but then we'd come right back to all of the things Emma and Jo weren't saying to each other.

I thought the narrators (Jorjeana Marie and Xe Sands) were amazing! They really brought Jo am Emma to life and made me want to keep listening despite being annoyed with what was happening in the story. It's a short audiobook (a little over nine hours), which is probably why I listened to the whole thing. Wilsner created wonderful characters, but Emma's childlike behavior, their reluctance to talk about their feelings, and how long it took for the two of them to get together really diminished my overall enjoyment. (★★★☆☆)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

My Weekly Pull [163] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [138]


My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Young Hellboy The Hidden Land #3 by Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegoski, Craig Rousseau, Matt Smith
Daredevil #29 by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto
Proctor Valley Road #2 by Alex Child, Grant Morrison, Naomi Franquiz

Jacob's comics for the week!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Jennika II #6 by Ronda Pattison, Jodie Nishijima
Spider-Man Spider's Shadow #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Pasqual Ferry

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. It highlights the upcoming releases we're really excited about reading! CWW is a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday (WoW), that was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan
Expected publication: May 18th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school's code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can't deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan--out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start--doesn't want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn't ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

My Weekly Pull [162] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [137]


My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Silver Coin #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Michael Walsh
Seven Secrets #7 by Tom Taylor, Daniele Di Nicuolo
Last Witch #4 by Conor McCreery, VV Glass, Jorge Corona

Jacob's comics for the week!

King in Black #5 by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman
King in Black Planet of the Symbiotes #3 by Rodney Barnes, Steve Orlando, Danilo Beyruth, Gerardo Sandoval
Venom #34 by Donny Cates, Iban Coello, Ryan Stegman
Transformers Beast Wars #3 by Erik Burnham, Josh Burcham

The Amazing Spider-Man #63 by Nick Spencer, Federico Vicentini, Mark Bagley

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. It highlights the upcoming releases we're really excited about reading! CWW is a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday (WoW), that was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cole
Expected publication: October 26th by Wednesday Books

Synopsis (via Goodreads): "A deftly-plotted tale about ambition and belonging, Bright Ruined Things takes Shakespeare’s The Tempest and brilliantly reimagines its themes of family and love. Cohoe writes with a magic that dazzles and cuts right to the core." - Chloe Gong, New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all...

The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

In this YA fantasy, Samantha Cohoe wonderfully mixes magic and an atmospheric setting into a fantastically immersive world, with characters you won’t be able to forget.

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Almost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban

Synopsis (via Goodreads): From acclaimed author Linda Urban comes the funny, bittersweet story of a girl and her ghosts—and the welcoming home they find where they least expect it.

California Poppy has been dropped off, yet again, with an unsuspecting relative. This time it’s her eccentric Great-Aunt Monica, a woman she’s never even met. Aunt Monica has no idea what to do with an eleven-year-old, so she puts California to work researching their ancestor, the once-famous etiquette expert Eleanor Fontaine.

California soon discovers that Great-Great-Great Aunt Eleanor is...not exactly
alive and well, but a ghost—and a super sensitive one at that. The grand dame bursts into clouds of dust whenever she loses her composure, which happens quite often. Still, an unexpected four-legged friend and some old-fashioned letter writing make this decidedly strange situation one that California can handle.

Just as California’s starting to feel like she’s found a place for herself, life turns upside-down yet again. Thankfully, this time she has some friends almost by her side... 

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

For the most part, I really enjoyed Almost There and Almost Not. Unfortunately, I felt like it glazed over all of the important conversations and topics, and I wish those has been expanded on throughout the story. California talks about not liking her name - people making fun of her for it or making sexualized comments - but we never learn who named her California or why. She starts referring to herself as "Callie" in some of her letters, but she never asks anyone else to call her that. 

California also talks about an "Official Meeting" that was held between different people at different times, and I'm assuming she has a disability of some kind based on the outcome of those meetings. (A teacher stops criticizing her handwriting, her father looks pale after another, and people generally treat her differently once there is one.) There was also one sentence that made me think something had happened to her, and then there's the fact that people have to "look for the eleven-year-old in her." (This is said all the time.)

"We just talked about me cracking against the kitchen counter like the force behind that was my own." 

That is a really heavy sentence, yet it's never fully addressed. Did California fall? Was she pushed? Did something traumatic happen to her? I think the author wanted to explain the way California thought (the wording and organization was unusual, but not difficult to follow), but all Urban did was create more questions. Later on California mentions strange people being in her house (usually when her dad had been drinking), and there was an incident in the kitchen with an older man putting his finger in her mouth (trying to make her smile), which resulted in a hospital visit, but that was for her arm. I'm not sure what head trauma she suffered (if any), but it is something that's mentioned very early on. Obviously, something has happened to the main character, and I wish the author hadn't been so subtle about it. 

"When you are tall and need a bra that is not just for training, a lot of people expect you to do stuff you can't."

Initially, I was going to comment on the character's voice - which isn't hard to follow, but is definitely different. California has an amazing vocabulary and remembers everything she reads, but the way she talks had me mentally reading this book with a southern accent. I'm not sure if that was intentional, or just the way the wording flowed together. Even after the Official Meetings were mentioned, we don't really get any more information on California's health. The girl sees ghosts, and I have no idea if that's related or not. There were just a lot of things California did that I questioned (like being able to walk to a grocery store, but unable to start a conversation about dirty laundry), and wish her thought process had been better explained. 

Several aspects of this book were unbelievable and I had to suspend my disbelief in order for this book to work. At first California didn't mention the ghost of Eleanor to her Aunt Monica, because she said she's used to strange people just showing up and being around. However, once she realized Eleanor was transparent and occasionally turned into a pile of dust, I felt like that was something worth mentioning to someone. California simply seemed content to carry on normal conversations with a dead person, and didn't really give the how and why much thought. 

I'm also not sure if Eleanor previously lived in the house California is now staying in, and the author's explanations for her coming and going were vague. California would simply say she didn't understand how death worked, but this is what she's learned about her personal ghosts so far. Eleanor seemed to be at home in their home, so I was curious if it used to be hers, or she was just accustomed to haunting it. Additionally, I have no idea why Eleanor was there or what she wanted, and I felt like her resolution was underwhelming. She's such a huge part of California's story, and then she's simply gone. The Dog (also a ghost) had a better ending. 

"Somebody can be nice and gentle to you one time and mean the next, and Dog seemed like the type to know that."

That statement feels like it has a darker meaning, but we never get an explanation. Did something happen to her when she was with her dad? What about the traumatic event that makes her question a person's intentions, and also avoid men in general? Her father seemed neglectful, but never harmful, although he did allow less-than-stellar people into his home and around his daughter. Also, if he was so devastated by the loss of his wife, why did he do some of the things he did? People handle their grief in different ways, yes, but he also seemed very protective of his daughter. How could he put her in danger while simultaneously being the one to rescue her? 

I did like that the author chose to address feminine hygiene (videos and products), and discussed making them more accessible to people (told through the lens of an eleven-year-old). California writes letters to various people, and the president of the Playpax Corporation was one of them. She tells them her idea of letting girls "sign up in school like they do for discount lunch and put money in an account like that too and give you their address, and you could just mail some to their house every month instead of having those girls have to ask their dads to go buy pads or tampons." I also really liked her second idea, which is that boys should have to watch the "girls" video in puberty class too. "They should know about girls having periods too, because 1. that's biology, which is science, and 2. not telling is not very fair to boys, who probably would be fine if people weren't so weird about things."

Speaking of letters, California can supposedly do calligraphy (and even explains what certain letters looked like), and I wish the book had shown that. (Maybe the final copy does?) There are a lot of letters in this book, and I think showing California's calligraphy writing would have been an amazing addition to the book. Instead, it's just an italicized font, which doesn't convey the beauty or talent that she's so proud of. "Dear Aunt Isabelle, See how I made that A in "Aunt"? That is modern copperplate style. This is a C. That C is the best thing about my name. In calligraphy C is always pretty, if you take care with it." I think a visual of her writing would had benefitted the overall story, since it's something she does the entire book. 

I always struggle to review books that I liked but found lacking. There was so much to like about Almost There and Almost Not, but a lot of the story felt too vague. Important aspects were glossed over or only briefly mentioned, and I felt like those were the things this book should have addressed and talked about in more detail. It's a sweet story about a girl finding her place when she doesn't think she has one, although I wish her budding friendship with Salma had been more prominent, but we only see California befriending the non-living. I think it offered her some closure, but if she related to Eleanor it wasn't explained very well. All in all, I thought this book had a wonderful premise, but like the author only scratched the surface of what this story could have been. The potential is there, but the execution could have been better. (★★★☆☆)

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Sunday Post [63]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.


Halito! I can't believe I haven't done a Sunday Post all year! My last one was in December. 😬 A lot has happened in the last four months, so I guess I'll just share the highlights. My kids have started going back to their extracurricular activities (piano, gymnastics, ballet, soccer, Cub Scouts) and my son is back in school. He's really happy to be going in-person, and we've only had to quarantine once this semester (someone he came into contact with tested positive for COVID, but he was fine). They all wear their masks, even though they're usually the only kids wearing them. Most places wouldn't allow parents and siblings inside, so we had to drop them off and wait in the parking lot until they were finished (not ideal but understandable). They've relaxed restrictions for April, so now we can go inside, but everyone is required to wear a mask. 

I think Virginia is really taking this seriously, so I'm thankful for that. Unfortunately, not everyone is as COVID-conscious. I've had several altercations at work with people refusing to wear masks. Our store policy is that they are required and we will not let you shop in the store without one on. People immediately scream "medical condition," but we offer online shopping and store pickup, so being in the store isn't necessary. People are still jerks about it though. One guy started yelling and throwing things around the register, which is scary (especially since he also had a gun holstered at his waist). 

Speaking of work, I'm currently annoyed with my employers. I went to the doctor roughly two weeks ago because of swollen lymph nodes. My doctor though it was vaccine-related, since they were only swollen on the one side. (Jacob and I are both fully vaccinated now!) Well, a few days later I noticed some spots on my tonsils and my throat felt swollen, so I called to make another appointment with my doctor. She called me the next day and recommended that I go to Urgent Care (the clinic was closed) and not wait until my appointment. She thought I might have Strep, but it ended up being Pharyngitis/Tonsillitis. It's still contagious, just not Strep. I had kept work informed the entire time, and then provided a note from my doctor AND Urgent Care that said I couldn't work for a few days. I tried to get my shifts covered, but no one wants to work more than they have to. My boss emailed me saying I still had to work unless I had a doctor's note (I had given them to the MOD the night before), so I replied with copies of both notes. 

This is what I got the next morning: 

Seriously? I am sick and contagious. I provided not one, but two doctor's notes. I can barely talk without my throat hurting, and they still want me to come in? What else am I supposed to do? They're not going to guilt or harass me into working, because my health and the safety of myself and others is more important than the part-time job I'm working. I know I am fortunate and can say this, because there are others out there that have to work regardless of whether or not they're sick. This is one of the reasons COVID was able to spread so easily. Employers don't care if you're sick, and they don't take care of sick employees. They just care that they have bodies to work in their stores. We really need to treat people better.

Well, that went on for longer than I'd intended. πŸ˜… On a happier note, my in-laws drove up in their RV and spent a week with us. We waited until everyone was vaccinated, and it was so nice getting to be around family again. They even helped us work on our house, which is still a work-in-progress. We've gotten a lot done, and I'm almost finished with the big project I've been working on. (Roberta, you asked if it had to do with woodworking months ago, and I said no. 😏)

My son's Spring Break is this week, so Jacob and I both took off work. We're just going to spend time together as a family, hang around the house, and subsequently work on the house while we have some time. I'm looking forward to reading a lot this week, too. I've been better about making time for books, but it's been a challenge. I hope you guys are doing well and enjoying life!

Previous week on the blog: 

Sunday: Nothing.
Monday: Also, nothing. 
Tuesday: Again, zilch. 
Friday: Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #3) by Jessica Townsend

What I'm currently reading: 

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3) by Jay Kristoff πŸ“–
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner 🎧
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon πŸ“± 

I am REALLY enjoying all of my current reads! I know I'm late to the party with the Nevernight, but I devoured it and Godsgrave within a week. It's such a unique story! However, I'm still reeling from a certain someone's death. There have been so many twists and turns... I'm not sure how Kristoff kept up with all of them while writing this series. 

Something to Talk About has been really sweet so far! The Ex Talk has been wonderful, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Their charade can't last forever, and I'm curious how they're going to handle the fallout. 

What I plan on reading next:

To Love and to Loathe (The Regency Vows, #2) by Martha Waters
Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford 
Almost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban 

There are sooo many books coming out on the 6th! I've been struggling to get through them all. πŸ˜…

What I'm watching:

There are new One Piece episodes! I'm also watching Black Clover, but Jacob read somewhere that it's ending after this season? Have any of you heard about that? (My fellow anime-lovers!) We've also been watching Falcon and Winter Soldier. It's been pretty good so far, although I hate the "new" Captain America. U.S. Agent, right? 

Challenge updates:

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Past Due Reviews [7]

Have you ever read a book and then forgotten to review it? Yeah? Well, that happens to me all the time! That's how I got the idea for Past Due Reviews. They won't be long posts, they'll likely contain a lot of comics, and my memories of the books themselves probably won't be great (some of them were read months ago, and I didn't sit down and review them for this or that reason). Hopefully the content is still relevant and helpful! 

Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8) by Ilona Andrews

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In the latest Kate Daniels novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews, magic is coming and going in waves in post-Shift Atlanta—and each crest leaves danger in its wake…

After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece…

"One doesn't let her fiancΓ© fight a hoard of ghouls by himself. Some things were just not done."
I hardcore love this series! Ilona Andrews is an amazing author duo, and I really hope the two of them write books together forever. I still have to read the last two books in the series, but I've been taking my time because I don't want this incredible journey I've been on to end. I want there to always be another adventure for them to go on, although I know that's not realistic. However, if I don't read the final two books, there's still something for me to look forward to (my logic is sound). I read Magic Shifts back in November, so I'm sure I'll finish the series soon. I've been away too long already!

Definitely read these books in order! The characters and friendships get better and better each book, and I've loved seeing how Kate and Curran's relationship developed over time. They go from bickering frenemies (Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.) in the first few books, to a hilarious courtship (werelions and their mating rituals, haha), to two people that deeply love and respect each other. They both have strong personalities, so obviously they clash from time to time, but they know they can always count on the other to be there for them. I've really enjoyed them as a couple, and how realistic their relationship has been. It might be hard, but they admit when they're wrong and acknowledge how their actions affect each other. A+ for being authentic and relatable!

I really liked that the authors chose to take the story in a different direction with this book, but still kept all of my favorite secondary characters around. Kate and Curran have left the pack and are no longer in charge of what happens to it. They're glad they don't have to deal with Pack politics anymore, but you can tell Curran is struggling with what to do with himself. He no longer has a direction or a focus for his life, since he's the one that made the Pack what it is today. It's all he's ever known, really. Although I missed the chaos and demands of Pack life, it was okay since my favorite people were still actively involved in the story. 

Even without the Pack to keep them busy, Kate and Curran are thrown into danger almost as soon as the story starts. I love the pacing for these books, and think the authors are fantastic storytellers. At the beginning, Kate and Curran are living in a suburban neighborhood (so weird to see them living normal lives), and they have kid (whaaaat). A daughter Kate picked up in a previous book, and someone that acts an awful lot like Kate herself. There's a whole thing going on with those two that would take too long to explain and would be slightly spoilery. The dynamics in these books... so good. They're layered and complex, yet totally believable despite all of the magic and mayhem. 

I do think this book was a way for the characters to catch their breath before the final arc, but that doesn't mean the story was any less dangerous or action-packed. I love how the authors incorporate various mythologies into their books, and this one was no exception. A member of the Pack comes to Kate and Curran for help, and since they're no longer bound by Pack politics, they offer their assistance. It's never as easy as it sounds, and the multiple threads being woven are masterfully executed while still leaving a few loose ends for the next book.

Seriously, there is so much to love about this series, and I cannot recommend it enough. I laugh so much while reading these books, and I know the characters are people that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It's definitely a series I will read again and again. The characters, the story, the worldbuilding - phenomenal. (★★★★★)

Mistletoe in Paradise (Wildstone, #5.5) by Jill Shalvis 
Narrated by Erin Mallon 

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Problem Number One – Getting There

Old childhood friends each fly separately to join their families on what’s been an annual holiday themed yacht adventure. Secret ex-lovers, Hannah and James are determined to make the best of things…

Problem Number Two – Getting Stuck.

When everyone but Hannah and James gets held up in an airport snarl, it leaves them stuck together for four days, making Hannah’s already problematic trip a whole lot harder to face. Especially because she comes bearing more than just gifts…

Problem Number Three -- Falling In Love (again)

As the former lovers try to make the best of the Christmas snafu, they soon realize that the best things in life can’t be planned and sometimes love is sweeter the second time around.

Mistletoe in Paradise was a very quick read (technically it was a quick listen) that I thoroughly enjoyed! It was short and sweet, and I immediately fell in love with Hannah and James. I've only read the first book in the Wildstone series, but the rest are on my list! Jill Shalvis knows how to write adorable romances, and this novella was no exception. I'm not sure which book Hannah and James belong to (are they repeat characters?), so I hope listening to this before reading the others doesn't spoil anything for me. I probably should have looked into that before, but oh well. πŸ˜…

I really loved that they were trapped on a yacht together, because there was literally no where for them to run. They had to interact with each other, which made them address their issues relatively early on. I liked that it wasn't something they waited until the very end to talk about, and enjoyed seeing them reminisce about their shared past. Not all of it was good, and Hannah has some bad news to deliver herself, but I thought Shalvis did a wonderful job of pacing the story and its revelations. (★★★★☆)

Aliens Ate My Homework (Alien Adventures, #1) by Bruce Coville


"I cannot tell a lie," says Rod Allbright. And it's the truth. Ask him a question, and he's bound to give you an honest answer. Which is why when his teacher asks what happened to last night's math assignment, Rod has to give the only answer he can: "Aliens ate my homework, Miss Maloney!"

Of course, no one believes Rod this time, so they don't bother to ask him why the aliens are here—which is just as well, since he is sworn to silence about their secret mission; and the fact that he has been drafted to help them!

I stumbled across Aliens Ate My Homework at a used book store and thought it would be a fun book to read with my son. I'm happy to report that we both really enjoyed the story! Rod is a relatable character that finds himself in a very unbelievable situation, which is made even more difficult by his inability to lie. 

While I understood Rod's aversion to lying, I wish his reasoning had been expanded on more. It has to do with his father leaving and broken promises, which I believe should be talked about more in children's books. Oftentimes the parents are gone with no explanation, and I think we need to normalize single parent families. However, Coville does address something that was uncommon for the 90's (the book was first published in 1993). One of the aliens is non-binary. 🀯

"Oh, don't be silly. I am neither male nor female. I'm a farfel."

"Is that more like a boy or more like a girl?"

"Actually, it's more like a pippik than anything."

Skipping ahead...

"Okay," I said. "Just tell me what pronoun to use when I'm talking about him. Her. Uh, it. I mean... see what I mean?" 

"It will do just fine," said Tar Gibbons.

"What will do just fine?"

"It will," he repeated. 

"What will?"

"It. Refer to me as an it."

"That seems pretty rude," I said nervously. 

"Not as rude as calling me a he or a she," it said.

I thought Rod asking which pronoun Tar Gibbons preferred was brilliant. My son didn't seem at all concerned or confused about a character wanting to be referred to as it instead of he or she, and I immediately started highlighting sentences in the book so I could show my husband later. This is something that should be normalized in books, and it allows for natural conversation about a topic some parents don't know how to address. 

Aliens Ate My Homework had a solid story with interesting characters. It didn't take us long to read this one, and I'm already looking for the other books in the series. Definitely one to look for! (★★★⋆☆)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #3)
by Jessica Townsend

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts, and control the power that threatens to consume her.

But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realizes it's up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her - and everyone in Nevermoor - in more danger than she ever imagined.

Illustrations by Jim Madsen 

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I don't know why I thought this was going to be a trilogy, but Townsend clearly has more in store for Morrigan and her found family (which is something I am totally here for). It's clear everyone at the Deucalion loves Morrigan, and she's embraced them as her family as well. Even the hotel itself seems to have a fondness for the Wundersmith. Jupiter and Fen are the best pseudo-parents a girl could ask for, and I absolutely love seeing the two of them fight for Morrigan. They usually agree on what needs to happen, but their preferred methods can be vastly different (Fen favors claws and teeth, while Jupiter is fond of words). Moreover, it's not just that they're willing to physically and verbally brawl with others on her behalf, but they actually listen when she speaks. They respect her voice and her decisions (even when they don't agree), and it's oh-so-refreshing to read about adults that value a child's thoughts and feelings.

My son and I have been reading this series together, which I both love and hate in equal measure. I absolutely love reading these books with my son, but loathe having to wait until we can read them together. We typically read chapter books before bed at night, and he's usually asleep after a single chapter. Hollowpox has 548 pages, so only reading one chapter at night... Well, we started this book back in December, haha. It took us three months to read this book in its entirety, something I could have easily read on my own in a matter of days. However, my son made me promise I wouldn't read it without him, so here we are. Do you know how much self control it takes to stop reading? Especially when the story really gets going? It's torture! Alas, I do love sharing the experience with my son, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

Townsend has created some really remarkable secondary characters that I love to read about. Everyone in Unit 919 - including Ms. Cheery - are all wonderfully well-written and fleshed out. The people living and working at the Deucalion are also incredible characters that I enjoy seeing on the pages. There is just so much to love about the people in this book, and I've even started liking the "villain" of the story. I have a feeling there's something we don't know about them, so I'm looking forward to getting more of their backstory. Their presence has been somewhat limited in the previous books, but it's always there hovering in the background - a looming thundercloud just waiting to strike. Squall - the aforementioned villain - is a complex character that doesn't waste an opportunity. He's manipulative and cruel, yet there's something about him that I can't quite put my finger on. Like his interest in Morrigan, for example. Why does he want to train her to be the one thing that could potentially get in his way? After seeing him in several Ghostly Hours - watching the enthusiasm of the child he used to be - it's hard to hate him with the same intensity. 

Seriously though... we all need people like Jupiter and Fen in our lives! 

One of my favorite parts of this book was the Gobleian Library, so I really hope we get to revisit it in future books. Just think of the adventures they could have in there! I was also fascinated by the long-forgotten (and super mysterious) School of Wundrous Arts and its Scholar Mistress. Rook appears seemingly out of nowhere, and her existence isn't common knowledge, which is also true for the school on Sub-nine. There are only a handful of people that know it's there, yet the history it contains... amazing. I hope Morrigan takes the rest of Unit 919 with her to Sub-nine in the next book. I think they're mischievous enough to unlock it's secrets and find all of its hidden nooks and crannies. They may not have the access Morrigan does, but they work well together as a group.

I don't want to say too much and spoil something that happens in previous books, so I'll just say this: you need this series in your life! It's one of my favorites, and my seven-year-old is equally obsessed. Townsend has written something that both children and adults can relate to, and the stories themselves are unique and super creative. I really love diving into these books, and I cannot wait to see what exciting adventures Morrigan will go on next. (★★★★★)