Monday, December 17, 2018

Firefly (#1) by Greg Pak

Firefly #1 by Greg Pak
Dan McDaid, Marcelo Costa,
Lee Garbett (Illustrators)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): BOOM! Studios, along with visionary writer and director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers), presents an all-new era of the pop culture phenomenon Firefly, as one of the most demanded stories in the franchise’s history is revealed for the first time! Focusing on family, loyalty, identity, and the price of redemption, writer Greg Pak (Mech Cadet Yu, Totally Awesome Hulk) and artist Dan McDaid (Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero) take you back to the battleground where Mal’s journey began—the War of Unification!


If you're anything like me, you loved the Firefly television series and cried when it was cancelled after one season. Fear not! Greg Pak and Boom! have brought it back to life.

The first issue transported me back to the Serenity, and took me on another adventure with Mal and the crew. They've landed themselves in hot water, but that's nothing new! I enjoy seeing how they get themselves out of endless bad situations.

Wash and Zoe are as adorable has ever! I laughed when Wash was playing with dinosaurs while his wife and friends were fighting for their lives. Everything about the scenario felt familiar, and it was definitely something Wash would do while he waited on the parts he needed for repairs. Jayne is still sarcastic and the one most likely to cause problems. I love that he always punches first and asks questions never. Inara and Kaylee, Simon and River, Book -- it was wonderful seeing everyone together again! I am so pumped for this series!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)
by Katherine Arden

Narrated by Kathleen Gati
Synopsis (via Goodreads): At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind--she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed--this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.


It took me a little bit to really get into The Bear and the Nightingale, but then I was completely hooked! There's a lot of information at the beginning of the book, which I realize was important for the story as a whole, but it made the first few chapters feel really long. I almost stopped reading it a few times, but I was in love with the mythology and the magic. Despite the dangers it held, there was something enchanting about all of the snow and ice.

There's a large focus on religion, but it wasn't overwhelming. I think the author did a wonderful job balancing people's beliefs with their mythology. The people in this book have lived their entire lives believing in domovoi and banniks, and a single crazed priest manages to challenge everything they've ever known. Arden addresses how fear can make people behave rashly, act in ways you wouldn't expect, and twist the beliefs they've held their entire lives. Fear is a powerful motivator, and it can have very dangerous consequences.

Vasilisa's stepmother was a character I loved to hate. She was cruel to Vasya throughout the book, and punished her physically and psychologically. It was hard to listen to, and I can't image what it must have been like for Vasya to experience. She was alone in a lot of ways, even though she was surrounded by people. I wish her father and brothers had taken her side instead of letting Anna (the stepmother) essentially have free reign. The woman was certifiably insane, and refused to see her gifts as anything but a curse. She saw demons where Vasilisa saw friends and acquaintances. It was all about perspective.

Even though they were silent too often, I enjoyed the family dynamics and thought the siblings had really great relationships. They all loved Vasya, even if they didn't always understand her. Her father wanted the best for her, even if he went about certain things the wrong way. Most of his problems stemmed from Anna and her stupid face. Gah! It's been ages since I've hated a character so much.

The Bear and the Nightingale
is like a train gaining momentum. Once the story is at full speed, the only thing you can do is hang on and see where it takes you. Every small detail is connected in some way, and I really enjoyed seeing how all of the pieces fit together. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series, though I probably won't listen to the audio again. Her accent and pronunciations were amazing, but all of the characters sounded very similar.

Friday, December 14, 2018

2018 End of the Year Giveaway!

Hello lovelies! I just wanted to say thank you for visiting and commenting on this blog! I really enjoy seeing your thoughts and love it when they turn into discussions. The book blogging community is so unbelievably supportive and understanding, and I'm lucky to be a part of it!

I decided to celebrate the end of the year with a giveaway! December is zooming by, and I've barely had time to breathe. We're also in the middle of a move, so my life is pretty insane right now. I loathe packing boxes, but I love finding new places for everything! Fingers crossed everything is sorted out by the beginning of the year! Apologies for my absence as well! 

Last month I went to The Origin Event that was hosted by Jennifer L. Armentrout, so both The Darkest Star and the book sleeve were autographed by JLA (she really is a beautiful person)! The book sleeve was made specifically for this book's release, so I was happy they still had a few when I arrived!

Good luck everyone!
The Darkest Star (Origin, #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout -- signed
The Darkest Star book sleeve -- signed
Watch You Burn by Amanda Searcy
My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn (12/18)
Words We Don't Say by K.J. Reilly
Me and Me by Alice Kuipers
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris -- ARC
Not pictured: swag from The Origin Event


This giveaway officially starts on December 14th and ends on December 29th. The winner will be announced on December 30th on this post within the Rafflecopter form, and also notified via email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will have Rafflecopter select another winner (read my full giveaway policy here).

International friends -- your giveaway will be a little different! Instead the books mentioned above, you can choose one book (up to $15) from The Book Depository! Just make sure they ship to you, which can check here. I know it's not the same thing, but I didn't want to leave anyone out!

If the first winner is international, a second winner will be chosen for the books listed above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Weekly Pull [50] & Can't Wait Wednesday [20]

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!

Uncanny X-Men #5 by Ed Brisson, R.B. Silva, Elizabeth Torque
Magic Order #5 (of 6) by Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel
Spider-Girls #3 (of 3) by Jody Houser, Andres Genolet, Yasmine Putri
X-Men Red #11 by Tom Taylor, Paolo Villanelli, Jenny Frison

Jacob's comics for the week!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro-Series #4 Raphael by Kevin Eastman, David Petersen, Ben Bishop
Hit-Girl #11 by Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone,
Amazing Spider-Man #11 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 by Saladin Ahmed, Javi Garron, Brian Stelfreeze
Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #313 by Sean Ryan, Juan Frigeri, Philip Tan

I'm really enjoying Uncanny X-Men! There have been a lot of unexpected twists and turns, so I honestly have no idea what's going to happen next. The last issue ended with a boom, and I'm excited to see where the story will go from here!

Magic Order took a few months off, which was incredibly frustrating. Why would they break after the fourth issue? There are only two left!  As for the series itself, it's one of the darkest I've ever read. However, despite is gruesomeness, it's a really interesting story. 

Spider-Girls is on its third and final issue, and I'm really looking forward to it! Since there were so few issues, a lot had to happen in a very short amount of time, but it hasn't felt rushed. I'm curious to see how all of the different Spiders come together to defeat the immortal vampires! (Apparently they only hunt Spiders from different timelines, and there aren't that many left.)

X-Men Red is always an enjoyable read! I'm not sure where the story will go after the last issue, but the world is in turmoil, and there are a lot of things that need to be addressed.

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, that highlights upcoming releases that we're anticipating and excited to read. It's a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Sound of Drowning by Katherine Fleet
Expected publication: March 12th 2019
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Meredith Hall has a secret. Every night she takes the ferry to meet Ben, her best friend and first love. Though their relationship must remain a secret, they’ve been given a second chance, and Mer's determined to make it work. She lost Ben once before and discovered the awful reality: she doesn't know how to be happy without him…

Until Wyatt washes ashore―a brash new guy with a Texas twang and a personality bigger than his home state. He makes her feel reckless, excited, and alive in ways that cut through her perpetual gloom. The deeper they delve into each other’s pasts, the more Wyatt’s charms become impossible to ignore.

But a storm is brewing in the Outer Banks. When it hits, Mer finds her heart tearing in half and her carefully constructed reality slipping back into the surf. As she discovers that even the most deeply buried secrets have a way of surfacing, she’ll have to learn that nothing is forever―especially second chances. 

This sounds like my kind of book! 

*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, December 11, 2018

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn
[Blog Tour: Spotlight + Giveaway]

Hello! Welcome to the next stop on the My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. This is a spotlight post, which means it's full of information about the book! There's also a giveaway at the bottom!

Author: Rachel Cohn
Pub. Date: December 18, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 384
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, TBD

"I'm here to take you to live with your father. In Tokyo, Japan! Happy birthday!" 

In the Land of the Rising Sun, where high culture meets high kitsch, and fashion and technology are at the forefront of the First World's future, the foreign-born teen elite attend ICS-the International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Their accents are fluid. Their homes are ridiculously posh. Their sports games often involve a (private) plane trip to another country. They miss school because of jet lag and visa issues. When they get in trouble, they seek diplomatic immunity.

Enter foster-kid-out-of-water Elle Zoellner, who, on her sixteenth birthday discovers that her long-lost father, Kenji Takahari, is actually a Japanese hotel mogul and wants her to come live with him. Um, yes, please! Elle jets off first class from Washington D.C. to Tokyo, which seems like a dream come true. Until she meets her enigmatic father, her way-too-fab aunt, and her hyper-critical grandmother, who seems to wish Elle didn't exist. In an effort to please her new family, Elle falls in with the Ex-Brats, a troupe of uber-cool international kids who spend money like it's air. But when she starts to crush on a boy named Ryuu, who's frozen out by the Brats and despised by her new family, her already tenuous living situation just might implode.

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is about learning what it is to be a family, and finding the inner strength to be yourself, even in the most extreme circumstances.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Sunday Post [7]

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.


Hello lovelies! I'm sorry I missed The Sunday Post last week. We were out of town visiting family for the girl's birthday, and we stayed pretty busy. We decided to have small party for them while we were there, and the playground we went to was enormous! They also received more gifts than we could fit into our car, so we had to leave a few behind (they're going to bring them down later when they visit)!

My spur-of-the-moment smash cake! I tried to light the candles when we got there, but it was way too windy. The girls didn't seem to mind! It was a vegan cake, so relatives were hesitant to try it for themselves, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was way better than the vegan cake we purchased for our son's birthday earlier this year. The best part about that cake was the Hot Wheels car top.

My son patiently waiting for his piece of the cake! He was the first person to run back from the playground when we brought it out. 

This is the view of the playground from the parking lot, but I had to walk around to see the full extent of it. It was my first time at this particular playground, but it's one my husband played at when he was a child. It's very close to my in-laws house and the school where my mother-in-law used to teach.

It is the best playground for hide-and-seek! There are so many tunnels and stairways, hidden alcoves and slides, and it would be impossible to keep up with three kids on my own. Jacob was running in one direction, and I was going in the other. All of the grandparents just tried to keep up! I'm really happy we made the trip to see family, and everyone had a blast while we were there.

My son and I made gingerbread cookies last night! I let him do most of the decorating, and the girls wanted to add sprinkles once we were finished. They love sprinkles! The cookies weren't as soft and chewy as I would have liked, but they tasted okay. I think we made them too thin, so they cooked more quickly. The kids just broke off all the extremities and ate the softer stomachs. Jacob and I ate a lot of hands and feet last night!

We do a lot of baking around the holidays. It's something that everyone can help with, and it's fun! We're going to make sugar cookies next, and we purchased some new cookie cutters for the occasion. I just have to make sure my son doesn't try to drink the food coloring for the icing -- ugh. Kids!

Previous week on the blog:

Sunday: Nothing!
Monday: Nothing!
Friday: Nothing! 

...and the week before that:

Monday: Nothing!
Thursday: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆
Friday: DNF&Y [11]

What I'm currently reading:
 A Very Large Expanse of Sea has been amazing so far! I love Shirin's personality and that she doesn't tolerate people's ignorance. There have been a few times when she reacted sarcastically to a situation that pissed me the hell off. I hate how judgmental and stupid people can be. I was also surprised by the breakdancing and how complicated it is. I had high hopes for this book, and Mafi is exceeding my expectations!

Paper Girl and Once Upon a River have both been enjoyable reads so far, but I'm not far enough into them to really have a solid opinion. Maybe next week! I haven't had much time to read this month, but I'm hoping things slow down soon. Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What I plan on reading next:
Naughty or Nice by Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Jodi Ellen Malpas, Emma Chase, Marie Force, Corinne Michaels, Susan Stoker 
Willa of the Wood (Willa, #1) by Robert Beatty

What I'm watching:

We sat down as a family and watched Isle of Dogs last night and loved it! It's similar to Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is another movie we really enjoy. I highly recommend both!

Riverdale is getting really trippy. I'm a little frustrated with Jughead, because he should be more concerned about Betty and questioning why she hasn't returned any of his calls. He's supposed to know something is wrong! C'mon Juggy!

Daredevil is super dark this season. He's been struggling with himself and his purpose in life. Fisk is out of prison but not free, and that's impacting a lot of people. I was shocked when I learned the show had been cancelled, because everyone said a fourth season was already in the works. Disney starting its own streaming service has been really frustrating so far. Netflix and Hulu are sufficient.

Dumplin is on Netflix, so I'll be watching that soon! The final season of Fairy Tail was recently released, so I've been watching those episodes as they pop up. They're trying to get the guild members back together, and it's been fun seeing what they've all been doing the past year. I'm curious how this show is going to end!

Challenge Updates:

Goodreads: 415 / 250

I don't think I'm going to complete the Beat the Backlist Challenge, because 40 books in three weeks seems like a lot! I'm happy with the books I've read, though. That's 60 less books on my TBR!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1) by Laini Taylor

Narrated by Steve West
Synopsis (via Goodreads): The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.
“And that's how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”
Finally! It took roughly three months for me to finish the audio version of this book. Yes, you read that right: three months! For one thing, the audiobook was insanely long, which was its own challenge, though I loved listening to the narrator. Side note: I totally thought Steve West was Shane East! They sound really similar and their names even look alike. Secondly, my library hold kept expiring, which resulted in me being placed back on a wait list. I truly thought it would never end. It's not that the story was bad, but the beginning really dragged for me. I didn't actually look forward to listening to the audiobook until Lazlo left the library. I think I mentally aged a few years while I waited in those dusty shelves for something else to happen.

Despite my issues with the pacing, I enjoyed learning about the characters and the world. Laini Taylor wrote in a way that made the words feel alive. I had no trouble picturing everything as it was described, and the images were breathtakingly beautiful. However, I thought it took entirely too long to get from one place to the next and to explain everything that was happening. I wish she'd condensed it just a little. There's not lot of action throughout the story, and I felt like I was dragging my feet through most of it. 

I really did like the story as a whole. I thought the alternating perspectives were interesting, even though they were confusing at times. It took me a few seconds at the beginning of each chapter to discern who and where I was. Additionally, Lazlo and Sarai were both unique and complex characters, but they dominated the story. The others were always around, and we do occasionally see things through their eyes, but not to the extent that I would have liked. It made it hard for me to relate to them, and I didn't always understand their decisions.

As for the ending: what the hell was that? I felt like I'd finally battled my way through this beast of a book, only to have Taylor punch me in the face while wearing brass knuckles. She did something that I never would have anticipated, and it left me shocked and more than a little angry. I can maybe understand why the twist was necessary, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Honestly, I don't know how I feel about Strange the Dreamer, and that's why I gave the book three stars. I didn't love it, but I also didn't hate it. I enjoyed the descriptions and the world-building, but I thought the pace was slow and felt bogged down by the details. I have so many questions, too. I'm sure some of those will be answered in the next book (like what's behind all of those closed doors, and if Feral will be able to decipher his book), but I'm not in a hurry to read Muse of Nightmares. I have a copy, and I'll get to it eventually, but I need to be in the right headspace for it.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1) by Grace Draven

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village's tithe has been the same woman. Gilene's sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire's most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion--and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire--and burn once more.

"When the struggle only pleased the torturer and made the torture worse, you stopped fighting and learned to endure. To endure was to survive."
I received an ARC from NetGalley and First to Read 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. 

Phoenix Unbound was a lot darker than I was expecting, full of brutality, sacrifices, and death. Grace Draven spared no one, and Gilene and Azarion both suffered the Empire's cruelty. Gilene as a Flower of Spring, meant to burn at the stake for the Empire's enjoyment (disguised as a sacrifice to the gods), and Azarion as a gladiator and plaything for Herself. They were both repeatedly raped and used for the amusement of others. "As one of those unfortunate blooms, Gilene would whore for her village tonight and burn for it tomorrow."

Despite Azarion's circumstances, I disliked him at the beginning. He was in a horrible situation and used Gilene to get out of it. I can understand his desire for freedom and vengeance, but hated how he forced Gilene to help him achieve them. She went from being used by the empire, to being used by Azarion. She risked her life (and the lives of others) to save him, and he repaid her with betrayal and more captivity. However, he did grow on me over time. He had very good reasons for doing what he did, but I wish he had gone about them differently. Although, I'm not sure it would have worked any other way. I felt really conflicted about this! He did treat Gilene with respect and always made sure she was safe (for his sake as well as hers), but he also threatened her so she wouldn't reveal their secrets as they traveled. He promised her his protection and a way home afterwards, but it was obvious he would do whatever was necessary to achieve his goals, even kill innocent people.

Azarion and Gilene never had many options, but I think they both made the best of their circumstances. She eventually came to understand him, and the two even became friends. They were able to be in each other's company without worrying what the other would do, and it was nice to see them working together instead of against each other. They made a great team when they wanted to! I enjoyed their conversations and their banter.

I think leaving with Azarion really helped Gilene in the end. She learned a lot about herself and her abilities, and it made her see things a little more clearly. She found love and acceptance, friendship and family, and was happy for probably the first time in her life. I wish she had made a different decision towards the end, but know her choice was necessary for the continuation of the story.

I thought this book had a wonderful hate-to-love romance, and one that was very authentic. At first Gilene never stopped trying to escape, and their shared fight for survival was believable and realistic. They needed each other to survive, but they were also wary of the other's intentions. It took a significant amount of time before they started to actually trust one another, and their goals were similarly aligned. I really enjoyed watching their relationship change over time, and I'm really happy with where things ended.

Phoenix Unbound was hard to read at times, but I think Draven showed a side of humanity that we don't see very often. There are people that enjoy the pain of others, and it's scary to think about what the world would look like if they were in charge. I hate that it took me so long to get through this one, because I really enjoyed it. I think the author created a beautifully dark world that shows what it's like for people to find hope and fight for it with everything they have.

I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series!