Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mini Reviews [6] We Are Okay, You & Sloppy Takes the Plunge

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Narrated by Jorjeana Marie

Synopsis (via Goodreads): You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
“I wonder if there's a secret current that connects people who have lost something. Not in the way that everyone loses something, but in the way that undoes your life, undoes your self, so that when you look at your face it isn't yours anymore.”
I've been meaning to read this one for a long time, and when I realized the audiobook was short (I think it was around 5 hours) I decided to just go for it! I was pleasantly surprised by the story, although it does start off a little slow. It's a story about loss and betrayal, but also love and hope. It's hard to forgive someone when they've wronged you in the worst way imaginable, but we see Marin's progress as she struggles through her thoughts and feelings surrounding the event.

There are a few flashbacks to the past that give us an idea of Marin's present, but in the end I couldn't make sense of her actions. They seemed too extreme. She essentially dropped everything and did the unthinkable, but her reasoning was... off. Her reaction didn't make sense to me, because I feel like she had so many other options. I'm not sure how this one event was able to change the core of her so drastically. 

We Are Okay deals with loss and the importance of friendship and love. Love doesn't have to come from people you're related to, and sometimes you just need to look a little closer to realize it's something you've had all along.

You (You, #1) by Caroline Kepnes
Narrated by Santino Fontana
Synopsis (via Goodreads): When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

“I don't say anything. I know the power of silence. I remember my dad saying nothing and I remember his silences more vividly than I remember the things he said.”
A friend recommended this to me before I knew it was going to be a movie, but seeing the trailer just made me want to read it even more! I like Penn Badgley and could easily picture him and his voice as I listened to the audiobook. Side note: the narrator is also Prince Hans from Frozen! I'll never be able to watch that movie the same way again. 

I was really addicted to this book when I first started it! It was crazy (literally) being inside Joe's head and seeing how he viewed the world. He has a skewed sense of right and wrong, and what should be done to "punish" those that fall into the latter category. I'll admit... it was oddly fascinating to watch how his mind worked. 

Beck and her friends annoyed the heck out of me. I never connected with any of the characters and wondered how anyone could be so selfish and vain. They were spoiled, insecure, obnoxious people that behaved one way in public and another in private. I could actually understand Joe's frustrations with society and how fake people appeared to be.

However, about halfway through the book I started to get bored with the story. It felt like the same things were being repeated in a different way with different people. I'm also not a big fan of the way it ended. I was briefly surprised, but that was quickly eclipsed by everything else going on. 

If you're looking for a good mindfuck, this is the book for you. My brain feels tainted just from being inside Joe's head for so long. I think listening to the audiobook made it feel more real, and it was a great audiobook. I just wish the middle had been condensed a lot more!

Sloppy Takes the Plunge by Sean Julian
Expected Publication: September 4, 2018
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Everyone loves a good hug and a good bath!

Sloppy the tree dragon doesn’t want to take a bath.

“Being mucky is what a tree dragon is all about.” Could it be that getting clean is nearly as fun as getting dirty?

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

This was such a cute book! If your child wants to play in the mud and not take a bath afterward--this might be a book for you!

Dewdrop uses a hug as incentive for Sloppy to take a bath, and it was fun watching this dragon inspect the water with a few ducklings to make sure it was safe.

I also loved the illustrations and how there was a giant plug in the lake making it resemble a bathtub. My son really enjoyed this one, too!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My Weekly Pull [21]

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, leave a link in the comments. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor #1 (of 4) by Charles Soule, Jim Zub, David Marquez, Chris Bachalo
Legion #5 (of 5) by Peter Milligan, Wilfredo Torres, Javier Rodriguez
Moon Knight #195 by Max Bemis, Ty Templeton, Greg Smallwood (Deadpool Variant)
Old Man Hawkeye #5 (of 12) by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto

My pull list is going to start looking a lot smaller! I've decided to stop including the comics Jacob and I get together each week, and instead focus only on the comics I'm reading. I've decided to do this for a lot of reasons: a) time commitment, b) I'm not actually reading some of them right now (but I might in the future), and c) it's hard for me to respond to questions about comics I haven't actually read yet.

This week we're continuing with Hunt for Wolverine from a different perspective. I finally read the first issue (!!!) and now know that there are different teams looking for Wolverine, so these different mini series are the different groups that are out looking. I love how it's pulling in a lot of different characters! Daredevil, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, etc. This issue is going to focus on a group of women that are looking for him, like Rogue and Storm. 

Legion is on its last issue and I don't know what the flark is going on. I think I've been inside his head for too long, and there is some weirdness going on (if that cover is any indication). 

I love the Deadpool variant for Moon Knight! His speech bubble says, "How in the world am I supposed to keep this outfit clean?!" 🤣 It's a very Deadpool thing to say from a Moon Knight perspective.

As for Old Man's getting dark. I'm actually hesitant about reading this newest issue. It might make or break the series for me, to be honest. I've always loved Hawkeye, especially the Kate Bishop version, but I don't know if I can stick with this series for seven more issues. 

Reading any new comics this week? Old?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I (Virginia Shreves #2) by Carolyn Mackler

Expected Publication: May 29, 2018
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Virginia Shreves’ life is finally back on course: she’s accepted who she is inside and out and is rebuilding her relationship with brother Byron, whose date-rape charge shattered everything.

But just as she adjusts to her new normal, her world turns upside down again. Sparks with boyfriend Froggy fade, her best friend bombshells bad news, and then the police arrest Byron. As Virginia struggles to cope, she meets Nate, an artist with his own baggage. The pair vow not to share personal drama. But secrets have a way of coming out, and theirs could ruin everything.
For some girls it’s sexy when a guy bench-presses or throws a football, but he’s slaying me with the book references.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Also, the quote I used may have changed or been altered in some way, but I am quoting from what I received.

I didn't realize this was the second book in a series, but The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I was able to stand on its own. If anything, it makes me more curious about the first book!

I'm relieved Virginia didn't immediately back her brother when he was charged with date-rape. Families tend to do that with their loved ones, because they don't want to see them in pain or in trouble, despite what they've done. Virginia knew Byron's actions were wrong, but she also remembers her brother from before the suspension and charges. She's conflicted over her feelings, but never wants Byron to avoid punishment. It was an interesting perspective to read from, because her head and heart were constantly conflicted.

Virginia was an amazing character. I hated that her parents would body-shame people in front of her, or even hint that she could do better herself. It was awful to view from the outside, and I cannot imagine how someone would feel on the receiving end of those offhanded comments. They destroyed her confidence and made her question herself. Parents: love your children as they are. I never want my children to feel like something about them needs to be changed. Society has dictated what people should look like today, and frankly... it's bullshit. I'm a "curvaceous chick," too. We should respect all body types and love people for who they are.

I wasn't sure where this story was going to go, and I was a little disappointed by the ending. It was similar to being suspended on a roller coaster and waiting for a drop that never happens. There wasn't a cliffhanger, or any indication that things would be continued later on, and maybe an epilogue would have made the story feel more final. Instead, I'm left with questions and feeling like there is more story to be read. Twice I've caught myself going back to pick this book up, only to remember that I've finished it and there's nothing left to read.

Overall, the story was wonderful and I really enjoyed being in Virginia's head. She's an incredibly compassionate person that appreciates people. She makes a point to learn their names, so they're not simply referred to by their job descriptions (example: the tree woman or the lawn man). Her relationship with Sebastian was sweet, and I loved their interactions with each other. The family dynamics were imperfect but realistic. There were little arguments and disagreements, but they did care about each other. They may not have always shown it in the best way, but it was there.

Everything about this book felt authentic, and now I feel like the author purposefully ended the story the way she did. It feels like Carolyn Mackler stopped in the middle of a thought, but that's life. Life is forever flowing around us. Virginia, Sebastian, Bryon, Annie... their lives are going to continue moving forward in one way or another. We get to see a glimpse of what might happen to them, but there are so many different paths they could take. I think we're supposed to be left feeling curious and optimistic about their future.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Q [4] Why are we okay with human voilence but not animal cruelty?

After reviewing The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, I realized a lot of people weren't going to read it simply because animals get hurt. However, this book includes rape, murder, drugs, etc., but fewer people have an issue with reading about those topics. What is the difference? Why can we read about people getting hurt but not animals?

I've had people tell me that animals are innocent and defenseless, but a drugged teenager in the woods with a group of heroin addicts is also innocent and defenseless. She didn't ask for that to happen to her, she doesn't want to suffer their abuse, but we can read about that and say the book was powerful or highlighted important aspects of society. I'm pretty sure I said similar things in my review, but also mentioned how I wish the animal cruelty had been left out. I can understand its importance and why the author included it, but I don't like to read about it. I don't like to read about people getting hurt either, but I don't seem to have as much trouble with it.

This question has been on my mind since yesterday, so I thought I'd ask and see what everyone else had to say. Why are we okay when we read about human violence and disturbing or dark topics, but we tend to avoid books that hurt animals? If the books are fiction, shouldn't we be able to tolerate reading about both?

Another example would be Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young. It was very violent, but the parts that made me cringe were the animal sacrifices. An owl having its throat slit was worse that a guy being stabbed through the torso. I feel like I should be equally disturbed by both.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Narrated by Amanda Dolan,
Justis Bolding & Dan Bittner
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives.

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

“But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.”
We're raised to know the difference between right and wrong, but who actually determines what those are? If your child was murdered, would it be wrong for you to seek your own justice? Would you feel bad about exacting revenge on someone that hurt you or a person you cared about? Where do you draw the line? It's easy to look at someone else's life and judge their decisions based on what we think we know, but we honestly have no idea what another person has lived through.

The Female of the Species was a lot darker than I originally expected it to be. The synopsis alone tells you that Alex killed someone and got away with it, but the reasons behind the murder feel... justified. I know that sounds awful, because killing for any reason should be wrong, but it was hard for me to feel that way when I was so caught up in Alex's thoughts and feelings. What would I have done in her situation? 

Alex was a little off kilter from the beginning. She knew she had issues with rage and controlling her actions. Her best friend over the years was a punching bag her father left behind. She didn't understand what made her this way, and none of her research provided answers. Alex could never accurately identify what she believed to be wrong with her, but she was perceptive, thoughtful, and incredibly protective of others. Alex had a way of appreciating people that she knew very little about. Her worldview may have been a little skewed, but she was able to rationalize everything in a way that made sense. I guess you could say she used her "powers" for good, but that didn't make it any easier to read about. 

Jack and Peekay (thought it was PK while listening to the audiobook because it stands for Preacher's Kid) were interesting perspectives, too. Jack's job at a slaughterhouse was a little too detailed for my liking, and I could have done without that information being included in the book (wish I could erase it out of our reality, too), but I do understand the point the author was trying to make. Sometimes we have to do something we don't like in order to achieve something better. Peekay had the best parents, and not because they were religious. They were understanding and accepting of their daughter, her lesbian friend, and didn't try to invoke the wrath of God just because she drank alcohol and went to a party. 

I thought The Female of the Species raised a lot of important questions about rape, acceptance, and the punishments given to those who are "evil." It also shows us how speaking up or choosing to remain silent can have unforeseeable consequences in life. Not speaking up about an attempted rape allows that person to try again in the future. Could you live with the guilt if they were successful? What if someone else was hurt because you were too afraid to say something? This book also shows a victim's internal conflict between embarrassment, humiliation, anger, resentment, and a wide range of other emotions. Making the decision to call the police may seem simple on the surface, but is a lot more difficult in reality. 

I cannot tell you if you should read this book or not, because I know the content will be hard for a lot of people to stomach, but I do think it delivers an important message. We live in a world where people are raped and murdered. Animals are abused and neglected (Alex and Peekay work at an animal shelter, so there are a few uncomfortable situations involving animals) with little or no consequence. It might not be the easiest thing to talk about, but what happens if we ignore it? It doesn't go away or stop happening. 

This book had me hooked from the very beginning. I enjoyed the alternating perspectives and how honest everyone was with themselves. It was refreshing to read about teenagers that felt authentic. People admitted their flaws and failures, while also expressing their hopes and desires. I thought I knew how this story was going to play out, but I was wrong. This book kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. The Female of the Species will leave you feeling raw and conflicted, but also a little hopeful.

"You can love someone down to their core and they can love you right back just as hard, and if you traded diaries you’d learn things you never suspected. There’s a part of everyone deep down inside of them not meant for you. And the sooner you learn that, the easier your life is gonna be."

“There are laws in place that stop us from doing things. This is what we tell ourselves. In truth we stop ourselves; the law is a guideline for how to punish someone who is caught.” 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Final Thoughts [4] Rogue & Gambit (#1-5)

Rogue & Gambit (#1-5) by Kelly Thompson, Pere Pérez (Illustrator), Kris Anka (Illustrator) 
I loved Kelly Thompson's take on Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), so I was thrilled when I saw she would also be writing Rogue & Gambit! I don't think these two get enough attention, and Thompson manages to cram a lot of their past and present into 5 issues. I actually learned a lot of new things about these two. They have a complicated history, but their love is fierce even when they're not together (or Rogue is smooching with Deadpool--ugh).

I would say this comic is romance with a twist! Rogue and Gambit go on a couple's retreat, but it's also their mission. Something hanky has been going on, so they're sent to figure out what it is. They were the best candidates, because their relationship was actually suffering. They needed outside assistance, but they had no idea what would happen once they arrived and started snooping around.

If you're looking for something short and engaging--this is it! These two are so much fun to read about, and you cannot help but fall in love with them, too. Their secret mission was unexpected, and I would love to know more about the baddie (don't want to be spoilery!) and their past. These are also some of my favorite illustrations, both inside and out. I honestly don't think I could pick a favorite cover... maybe #3... but just because we get to see a lot of the previous versions of Rogue and Gambit.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mini Reviews [5] Birds of a Feather & Ivy in Bloom

Birds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly
Pictures by Vanita Oelschlager,
Robin Hegan (Illustrator)

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Children are innately curious about words, especially phrases that make them laugh ("Ants in your pants!"), sound silly ("Barking up the wrong tree" or "Goosebumps") or trigger images that tickle a child's sense of the absurd ("Like a bull in a china shop"). Birds of a Feather introduces children to the magic of idioms words that separately have one meaning, but together take on something entirely different. Birds of a Feather introduces idioms with outlandish illustrations of what the words describe literally. The reader then has to guess the "real" meaning of the phrases (which is upside down in the corner of each spread). At the end of the book, the reader is invited to learn more about these figures of speech.


I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

I really loved the idea for this! The illustrations were beautiful, but I did have a problem with one: Let the cat out of the bag. It was a little too much. I understand the need to adequately convey the idiom through imagery, but I also think it sends the wrong message to kids. We shouldn't put animals in bags and tie them up, not even as a joke in a children's book. I feel like this could have been depicted in a better way.

My second issue with this book was the captions. They're upside down. Do you know how difficult it was to continuously flip the book over (impossible on an iPad that keeps adjusting the screen), to read the descriptions for the idioms? The idioms themselves were short and to the point, but the upside down portion (explanation and example) were a lot longer. My son was also frustrated because he wanted to look at the pictures, and I had to try and angle the book in a way that would allow me to read the captions. About halfway through I stopped flipping the book over and just gave my own explanations. I think it was a lovely idea that could have been executed better.

Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great
Poets and Writers from the Past
by Vanita Oelschlager,
Kristin Blackwood (Illustrator)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Ivy in Bloom captures the weariness of a young girl tired of a long winter. "I stare out the window," she says on the first spread of brown and gray, "looking for birds or flowers / or even warm showers / but I don't see any such thing." But then Spring comes when "March is out of breath snow melting to flowery waters and watery flowers spring rose from its wintry rest." And Ivy's "heart dances with daffodils." As these words also dance across each spread, Ivy's world erupts into a riot of color.

Ivy in Bloom introduces the poetry of Dickinson, Longfellow, Browning, Wordsworth, Frost and others. Excerpts from their writings, as seen through Ivy's eyes, will open up poetry as a way for children to express their own feelings about the changing of seasons. This book includes longer excerpts and brief bios of each author


I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

I thought Ivy in Bloom was very clever and creative! The author combines poems from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Dickens, E.E. Cummings, and a few others. Pieces from their individual poems are layered together to create one comprehensive story.

Even though I know why it didn't flow well (people have different writing styles), the book was smooth in some places and choppy in others. I do think the author put a lot of research and work into this book, and the illustrations are gorgeous. They really brought this story to life and kept me turning the pages. There was also an unexpected reference to God at the end that didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the spring theme, but it didn't actually detract from the overall story. 

I enjoyed reading this one, and I like that the author breaks down the individual poems at the end. It shows us where they came from, who wrote them, and how they fit together.