Monday, September 30, 2019

DNF&Y [21]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom!

Six Goodbyes We Never Said
by Candace Ganger
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go.

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It's causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

Candace Ganger's Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

DNF at 45%

I received an ARC from the publisher via 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 Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.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 understand that Naima is grieving, but that doesn't excuse her behavior. Her OCD and GAD (as mentioned in the synopsis) are aspects of her life that she struggles with, but her treatment of Nell was inexcusable. Nell has been in her life for nearly a decade, obviously trying to make a family with her stepdaughter, and Naima was intentionally hurtful and unaccepting. I know there are children that behave similarly in real life, but it was very frustrating to read about. Nell made an effort to learn Naima's quirks and preferences, trying to be there for her however she could, but Naima was cold and indifferent. I really disliked this aspect of the story, and the portrayal of their relationship.

"...or why I use sarcasm and blatant disgust for her as a means of coping with all the things I hate about myself. It has nothing to do with her. I decide this is the first thing I like about her—how she ignores the very real fact that I do, in fact, like her (but don’t you dare tell her)."

Naima's attitude in general left a lot to be desired. She was easily annoyed by others, and only ever thought about herself and what she wanted. She was intentionally cruel and hurtful, which made me unsympathetic to her feelings. I'm not sure why Dew was so fascinated by this grumpy girl that only cared about her own miseries, but he was determined to befriend her despite the snarls and cutting comments. Dew was endlessly kind and thoughtful, and he always managed to put himself in other people's shoes. He imagined how they must be feeling in this or that scenario, and he reacted accordingly. He was patient with Faith (his new sister), understanding that she needed to be shown love despite her outbursts. He noticed fear and pain where others saw anger and aggression. I thought Dew was a remarkable character, and enjoyed his relationship with his adoptive family. His mental flashbacks and remembered sayings really made him a unique and memorable character.

I was a little confused by Naima's family and their dynamics. Her dad would stay with his parents while she lived with Nell and Christian (her stepmother and stepbrother)? Did he just stay with them briefly before deployments? Occasionally when Naima talked about him, it was like he lived separately from her, even when he wasn't deployed. Maybe I misread something, or the ARC was missing a detail or two, but I often found myself wondering where everyone was when the past was reflected on or mentioned.

Even Naima's grandparents kept Nell at a distance. They were polite and civil when she was around, but it was clear everyone wanted her to leave so they could reform their "unit" without her. Nell was married to their son for seven years. She has gone above and beyond for Naima, yet she's still treated like an outsider. Naima's father is also to blame, since he purposefully kept Nell out of the loop, or secretly confessed to his daughter that his wife and stepson "wouldn't understand" something. He perpetuated the problem.

Hiccup (the dog) had cataracts and was deaf in one year, but he was also violent. He attacked people's legs and bit until he pierced the skin. This is not okay. It's really not okay when the dog is around children. Naima's grandparents should have been more responsible with the dog, but he's aggressive with others on multiple occasions.

I really liked that the author chose to tackle mental health and the realities of living with a mind that's not entirely your own. I don't know what it's like to feel compelled to do things a certain way, or a specific number of times, and I've never experienced social anxiety, or an inability to breathe in large crowds. I thought those aspects of the story were wonderfully written and explained; however, Naima was a difficult character to like. She's mean because she can get away with it, and people let her because it's easier than the alternative.


Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Synopsis (find this book on Goodreads): Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name, which no one uses, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit...who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to his family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.

In this moving novel, debut author David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

*I originally reviewed this book on September 10, 2019.

DNF at 39%
"I try to eat my lower lip. Then I remember the first Rule of Being a Person: no auto-cannibalism."
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.

I was really excited about starting Frankly in Love by David Yoon, but it really missed the mark for me. Additionally, this is a DNF, which I usually save for my DNF&Y post at the end of the month, but I had too many thoughts that I wanted to share right now. I know the book is being released today, so I though it would be a good opportunity for discussion. Frankly in Love has been promoted and hyped like crazy, but I'm just not feeling the love for Frank Li.

Let's start with the language... do teenagers really talk like this nowadays?

"'Jesus christ almighty hang gliding up in heaven,' I say to Q."

"Dear lord Flying Spaghetti Monster in Pastafarian heaven. I think Brit Means in flirting with me."

"'Jesus,' I say. 'You scared the poop out of my butthole.'"

"What in God's hipster beard is Joy Song doing here?"

I think this book tried too hard to be funny. None of these statements made me laugh, but they were distracting. They felt thrown in at random and forced into conversations or thoughts.

Next, let's talk about love. Frank and Brit's relationship escalated way too quickly. They have calculus together, so they're acquainted, but then an assignment has them working together after school. This entire encounter was weird --from her parents and their matching everything, to how Brit encroached on Frank's personal space without warning. After that afternoon of studying together, the start sucking face at school. A few days later, they're on the beach and Brit is saying she loves him! He doesn't know if he loves her, but he says is back since he doesn't have a better idea. Whaaat??

"Love demands you do stupid things like post goofy selfies, but if that's what love takes, then I can be stupid all day... Wait. Is Brit saying she loves me?"

"'I love you. I love saying I love you. It's like I learned a new word today.'"

"'I love you,' she murmurs, like she's falling asleep. 'It feels so good just to be able to say it finally. I love you.'"

All of this happens in the same chapter, but you get the idea. Instalove, too much too fast -- whatever you want to call it. They barely know each other! They've been on one date and kissed a handful of times. That's not love! Affection? Yes.

Also, Brit is a bully. She flirted with Frank and involved him in some minor theft (and whatever else you want to call what she was doing), and she essentially forced herself into his bubble whenever they were together. Frank could have said no, but he honestly seemed overwhelmed by the attention and desires of his new girlfriend. "'Come on, one selfie,' she says, laughing. 'Let's brag about us. Let's make everyone feel like shit compared with us.'" Was that really necessary? Why do they need to make anyone else feel bad? Why couldn't they just post a selfie because they were happy with each other?

Frank is a douche canoe. Why couldn't he have been honest about his feelings from the start? If he isn't sure about what he's feeling, he should say that. He should not say whatever he thinks someone else wants to here. I also don't think he pushed back enough when his parents made racist comments.

The racist comments. The author mentions the racism at the start of the book, but I still cringed every time Frank's parents said something insensitive or simply ridiculous. They hardcore stereotyped people by the color of their skin, and they were unashamed of their words and feelings. Honestly, it was hard to read. It was even harder to watch Frank and the other Limbos let the comments slide because it was easier than confrontation. They assumed their parents were stuck in their "old ways," which is bullshit. I'm not even going to bother quoting all the awful shit that was said throughout this book.

"We both get serious for a moment. In this particular moment, right here. Sucking cocoa from a girl's hair is weird. Who does that sort of thing? And who lets them? But Brit is letting me. She wants me to. I am extremely proud to be the only person who has ever sucked Brit Means's hair."

No. Just... no. Kids, don't try this at home. I don't think I need to explain myself here. I believe the words and actions speak for themselves.

I liked Q, but his friendship with Frank slipped once Frank started "dating" Brit. He bailed on the things he used to do with is friends just to spend time with her, and he was constantly on his phone talking to her while physically with his friends. Q was understanding and Frank was apologetic, but ugh.

I officially gave up on this one at 39%, but did skim the rest of the book for the highlights. It doesn't seem like Frank Li starts to make better choices. In fact, I believe his decisions get worse as the story progresses. Honestly, I could keep talking about the things that bothered me about this book. Like, "She smelled exhausted." How does that smell, Frank? What does exhausted smell like?? However, I'm going to leave you with a passage that I really enjoyed from this book. A lot of people seem to be raving about Frankly in Love, so I would suggest getting a second opinion before making any final decisions.

"Let me tell you something. I live to make people laugh. Parents, siblings, friends, lovers, doesn't matter. I just have to. If you for some reason don't know how to make someone laugh, then learn. Study that shit like it's the SAT. If you are so unfortunate as to have no one in your life who can make you laugh, drop everything and find one. Cross the desert if you must. Because laughter isn't just about the funny. Laughter is the music of the deep cosmos connecting all human beings that says all the things mere words cannot."


Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim - their creative genius and Beatrice's boyfriend - changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft - the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world - hoping she'll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim's death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she's never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers... and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake.

DNF at 33%

First of all, I disliked all of the characters. They were selfish and surprisingly violent. Like, I understand you're repeating the same day over and over again, but that doesn't mean you get to murder people for shits and giggles. Actions still have consequences, even if they're not immediate. Killing someone with your hands is likely going to have a lasting impact on your emotional state. However, these kids didn't seem to care about life or death, actions or consequences. They've given up on ever figuring out the Neverworld Wake, and it was disappointing. 

There's some random guy that's always around, and he seems to know what's going on but isn't forthcoming with answers. They're supposed to vote, but again... stupid and selfish characters do not make great decisions. So they're living in an endless loop of sameness that's literally driving them insane. The mystery gets swallowed up by the character's self-pity, and I honestly forgot someone from their past had died mysteriously. I'm sure his death is connected to all of them in some way, but it wasn't enough to make me keep reading.

Also, certain aspects of the Neverworld Wake didn't make sense. The weird guy that knows everything says he's an accumulation of all of their individual experiences. They are stuck where they are knowing what they know, so they shouldn't be able to change their circumstances, right? However, Martha spends a lot of her wakes talking to people and researching time loops, and blah blah blah. She keeps a notebook with her, and takes copious notes, but that should reset every time they start a new wake. How is she filling a notebook with research if everything starts over after a certain amount of time? And if their particular wake is just their combined experiences, how are they able to learn anything new to begin with?? There were so many plot inconsistencies, and keeping track of how the world worked gave me a headache. 

The pacing was slow, the story was repetitive, and the characters were toxic and generally garbage human beings. I think the story had potential, but it was poorly executed.

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

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My Weekly Pull [89] & Can't Wait Wednesday [59]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday (when the stars align in my favor) 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!
The New Mutants: War Children #1 by Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz
Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #1 by Nicole Andelfinger, Matias Balsa, Mona Finden
Transformers Galaxies #1 by Tyler Bleszinski, Livio Ramondelli

Star Wars Age of Resistance: Kylo Ren #1 by Tom Taylor, Leonard Kirk, Phil Noto
White Trees #2 by Chip Zdarsky, Kris Anka
Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #2 by Saladin Ahmed, Federico Vincentini, Clayton Crain

Jacob's comics for the week!
Amazing Spider-Man #30 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley
Punisher Kill Krew #3 by Gerry Duggan, Juan Ferreyra, Tony Moore
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #98 by Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, Dave Wachter

There are a lot of new series starting this week! I'm curious if The New Mutants: War Children will pick up where the last New Mutants series left off? A lot of the characters look the same, but I didn't really read the synopsis before adding it to our pull list. I haven't read anything with mutants or X-Men in awhile, so I thought I'd give this one a shot. Also, Magik is one of the main characters and you don't see her around very often! 

I still need to watch the new series on Netflix, but Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance looks really interesting. I think it ties into the show, but I'm not 100% sure. My son recently watched the original movie with me, and I didn't realize how scary it might be for a five-year-old. 

Another Transformers comic is just what we need... haha. I'm grabbing Star Wars Age of Resistance: Kylo Ren because Tom Taylor is writing it, and I've loved his work in the past (currently reading his Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man series). 

The first issue of White Trees was... interesting. I wasn't expecting the monster orgy, or all of the mythical genitalia, but that's Zdarsky for you. He wasn't joking when he mentioned "elf dong" in his newsletter. In fact, I was wholly unprepared for the number of bums and breasts present during the first issue. The P's and V's were on full display as well. However, the story was solid, and I'm curious about what will happen (there are only two issues for this one). 

I haven't read the first issue of Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales, but I trust Saladin Ahmed is going to rock my world with his writing. If you're not reading his Miles Morales: Spider-Man, you should be. I've cried more than once. There's a really big family focus, which I love, and Miles is such a relatable character and struggles with age-appropriate problems. He's also Spider-Man, and that's challenging all on its own.

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.

Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell
Expected publication: November 5th 2019
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A girl searches for a killer on an island where deadly sirens lurk just beneath the waves in this gripping, atmospheric debut novel.

The sea holds many secrets.

Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he's one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.


Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.

*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, September 25, 2019

2nd Blogoversary!


I cannot believe it's been two years since I started this book blog! A lot has changed this year alone, and it baffles me how quickly time passes these days. My son started school, the girls are nearly three (seriously cannot believe they're that old already), and I've fully embraced life as a stay-at-home-mom. It's a lovely, wonderful job that I will forever be grateful for. However, I am also endlessly thankful for all of you, and the outlet you provide for adult conversations (especially bookish ones)! I read and respond to every comment, and I do my best to visit your blogs as frequently as I can. The book blogging community is the reason I came back to blogging. I missed the friendships and conversations, the check-ins and the overwhelming support. You are all truly amazing people, and I appreciate every single one of you. 

I've read a lot of amazing books this past year, and wanted to list a few of my favorites! I also want to do a giveaway, so look for the Rafflecopter form at the bottom. One winner will be randomly selected, and that person will get to choose one of the books listed below. Good luck! Thank you again for the friendships, the conversations, and for understanding that reading is an essential part of who we are. 

Rules:
This giveaway officially starts on September 25, 2019 and ends on October 9, 2019 (two weeks!). The winner will be announced on October 10, 2018 on this post within the Rafflecopter form, and also notified by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will have Rafflecopter choose another winner (read my full giveaway policy here).

International entries are okay as long as The Book Depository ships to you. Click here to check!

To enter – fill out the Rafflecopter form and let me know which book you would choose in the comments. Easy!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Mini Reviews [33]

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady 
Sherlock, #1) by Sherry Thomas
Narrated by Kate Reading
Synopsis (via Goodreads): With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.


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Historical fiction isn't really my cup of tea, but I do love a good mystery! I thought the two would balance out, especially since A Study in Scarlet Women was about a female Sherlock. I really enjoyed the author's take on a classic tale, and thought she did a wonderful job making Charlotte our brilliant detective. Even the Watson connection was creative! Thomas made this story entirely her own, while still making certain aspects feel familiar.

Unfortunately, the time period proved to be incredibly frustrating. Charlotte was forced to make a difficult decision that had serious repercussions. She didn't anticipate the fallout, and it really impacted how the world saw her afterwards. Charlotte wanted to go to school, and she should have been allowed that opportunity without the rigmarole. Even the other women in this book were disappointing. Where was the solidarity and understanding?

I also disliked how slowly the story progressed, and really just wanted to know how the mystery played out. Charlotte's childhood, her time spent at home, the time she spent searching for a job -- I could have done without all of that. I enjoyed watching her be Sherlock Holmes and using her underappreciated mind to find solutions and make observations that others overlooked. It was interesting how everything tied together in the end, and I think the second book might be a little less frustrating since she's established herself now.

However, I would have liked for the romance in this book to have been more than it was. Yes, the guy is married (which means they should keep their hands to themselves), but unhappily. He also has an amazing connection with Charlotte, and the two of them really sparked when they were in a room together (super upset that he's married with a wife and kids). I don't know how that's going to play out, especially with the rules of the time period, but it's already way too complicated for my liking. A Study in Scarlet Women was a solid three-star read for me.


With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Synopsis (via Goodreads): From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.


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With the Fire on High was a truly remarkable story that I still think about today. I finished this book back in June and just never got around to writing a review for it (bad blogger, I know). The Poet X was one of my favorite reads last year, so I was thrilled when I learned Acevedo had written another book! I listened to the audiobooks (an experience you don't want to miss out on), and purchased physical copies as well. The author is the narrator, and her voice really brings these stories to life. The Poet X and With the Fire on High are both memorable books that really resonated with me.

Emoni hasn't lived an easy life, and she's had to make really difficult decisions starting at a young age. Her wants and desires come second now that she's a mother, and she often struggles with balancing everything in her life. Cooking has always been her passion, but she loves her daughter and wants to make sure she can provide for them both. Emoni's struggles felt authentic, and I really liked how she was portrayed throughout the book. She's someone's daughter, granddaughter, mother, ex-girlfriend, new girlfriend, student, chef-in-training, employee, friend -- the list goes on and on. She's comfortable in her own skin, and she doesn't let the judgement of others weigh too heavily on her.

I really liked how her family was portrayed, and the role her friends played in her life. People are complicated, but they can always surprise you. It was also nice seeing teachers that really wanted to help their students succeed. I enjoyed sharing this journey with Emoni, and thought the author did a wonderful job hitting all of my emotions with a hammer. If you haven't read anything by Acevedo, you're missing out.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Touch of Smoke by Karissa Laurel

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Three years ago, Rikki Albemarle watched her best friend die at the hands of a supernatural evil. Certain she was slated to be the next victim, Rikki fled her small Smoky Mountain hometown, vowing to never come back. Plagued by nightmares and knowing she's the only one who believes Mina's death was no accident, Rikki returns with hopes of finding answers and holding the killer accountable.

Rikki is convinced the key to unlocking the secret of Mina's death lies with Owen Amir, the alluring young army vet who once claimed her heart. But the deeper Rikki digs into Owen's past, the more she's torn between the urgings of her heart and her memories of him on the night Mina died.

After falling further into the rabbit hole, Rikki lands at the feet of an ancient and powerful evil determined to finish what it started years before. To survive, she'll have to make a decision: believe Owen is the monster she always feared he might be or trust him enough to stay and fight for a second chance at love.

"Years before, I'd started suspecting my hair was kinky, and not in a curly way but in a BDSM way; it rebelled against me simply because it enjoyed being beaten into submission."
I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I don't like it when a book leaves me feeling frustrated, which is exactly how I felt after finishing Touch of Smoke. Maybe it was supposed to be romantic... but after everything else, I really needed a happily ever after. Unfortunately, it's more of a happily ever maybe. 

I really liked most of this book, but I did have quite a few grumbles that left an impact. One, Rikki was a very hesitant character when it came to trusting Owen, but she was willing to risk her life for strangers every day. I understood her hesitancy at first, but then it started to get on my nerves. Shortly after deciding to take a risk with him, she's ready to use the L word. It felt too slow and then too fast. I wish she had been more decisive from the start. 

Two, I'm not a fan of stories that survive on secrets. Owen was understandably secretive, but Rikki knew something was off about him, and she questioned him accordingly. He was evasive, the secrets caused problems, and then everything goes kaboom. I wish Owen had been able to confide in Rikki from the start, and they had dealt with their problems together. I believe it would have built a stronger, more lasting relationship between the two of them. Instead, there's this invisible wedge that kept them from really connecting.

Three, the pacing was weird. Sometimes the story felt slow and languid, and other times I felt like I was rushed through something without adequate preparation. For example, everything that happened with Mina was sudden and hard to process in the heat of the moment. Additionally, people's comments and perceptions weren't always clear. Rikki left for three years and no one checked on her? Not once? Evansville was a small town, and lot of people cared about her. Someone should have reached out to her, even if she was hiding with her tail between her legs. Which brings me to...

Four, Rikki's departure doesn't make a lick of sense. She was convinced she knew who the monster was, but she didn't actually stick around to figure it out. It was unfair to blame someone without giving them a chance to explain, and Rikki seemed like a character that wanted answers more than safety. She sacrificed three years of her life, almost lost her sanity, and for what? Why didn't she stay and ask questions? I understand she was hurting, but her actions didn't sit well with me. I also didn't care for how quickly things slid into place one she came back. She returned angry and wanting answers, but she also needed to give them. People were too accepting of her departure and lack of communication. Especially the one person she was intent on blaming everything on (without a solid reason).

Five, Owen should have made more charms.

However, I did enjoy the jinn aspect of the story! It's not often we see them make an appearance in books, and they played a pretty large role in Touch of Smoke. I wish more of their history had been explained, like where they come from and what they do, but the small details we do get were enough to move the story along. Owen's history was equally fascinating, and I would have liked learning more about his family and his childhood as well.

I thought this would read like more of a romance, but those occurrences were few and far between. The author builds up their slow burn romance, while also allowing Rikki to annoy me with her reservations, and then we fade to black when things start to get interesting. I wanted to know what happened! Not a huge deal, but a bummer nonetheless.

I also would have liked more from the secondary characters, and for Rikki's time in Chapel Hill to have been addressed. Those three years were crucial to her development, yet we learn very little about her time away from Evansville. She finished school, got a job, and then returned home to face her demons since they were impacting her day-to-day life. That's about it! What was school like? Job interviews? How did her inability to sleep impact her waking hours? All of that was skimmed over and only mentioned in offhanded comments.

This was a hard one to review. I enjoyed the overall story, but sometimes things felt too convenient, or they weren't explained well. Rikki and Owen have an intense relationship, but it fizzles before we really see their flames. The rest of the story overshadows their relationship, and their romance is neglected in favor of the plot. However, their love plays a pretty big role in the outcome. But the ending was... not what I wanted. I felt cheated after everything else that happened.

Touch of Smoke was an interesting read that offered a unique perspective on magic, but it was mostly underwhelming. I felt like I only got the bones of the story, and I would have liked for things to have been more fleshed out. A few explanations here, a little more character development there, and less hesitation from Rikki. She wasn't the strong and determined character I was expecting, and I had a hard time connecting with her.

I would recommend this one if you're looking for something different. Other reviewers have given it more favorable reviews, so check those out before making a decision!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

My Weekly Pull [88] & Can't Wait Wednesday [58]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday (when the stars align in my favor) 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!

Transformers #12 by Brian Ruckley, Sara Pitre-Durocher, Alex Milne
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #12 by Tom Taylor, Pere Perez, Andrew C. Robinson
Spider-Man #1 by J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams, Sara Pichelli, Olivier Coipel 

Firefly #9 by Greg Pak, Dan McDaid, Lee Garbett
Once & Future #2 by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora

We finally caught up on all of our Transformers comics! The kid and I got behind once he started school, but we made time for them last weekend. It's something he and I would do together while the girls were napping, and I miss spending that one-on-one time with him throughout the week. 

I wasn't going to read the new Spider-Man, because I'm reading three others right now (Amazing, Friendly, Miles Morales), but this one is written by J.J. Abrams and his son. I feel like I have to at least try it, right? Random question: Do you think Spider-Man is optimistic? Let me know in the comments!

I am loving the cover for Firefly, and cannot wait to see how the crew members handle their current situations. They're pretty scattered at the moment, so it'll take some fancy flying and maneuvering to get them all in one place again. Also, luck. I feel like they've survived this long with a healthy dose of luck.

Once & Future! Once & Future! Once & Future! 

Jacob's comics for the week:
Absolute Carnage #3 by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman
Absolute Carnage Lethal Protectors #2 by Frank Tieri, Flaviano Armentaro, Greg Smallwood
Guardians of the Galaxy #9 by Donny Cates, Cory Smith, Patrick Zircher
History of the Marvel Universe #3 by Mark Waid, Javier Rodriguez, Steve McNiven
Strayed #2 by Carlos Giffoni, Juan Doe, Jim Mahfood 

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.

MICHIGAN VS. THE BOYS 
by Carrie S. Allen
Expected publication: October 1st 2019
Synopsis (via Goodreads): When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it's time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls' hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there's still one team left in town...

The boys' team isn't exactly welcoming, but Michigan's prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and "harmless" pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up - even if it means putting her future on the line.

*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, September 17, 2019

Thunder Trucks by Cheryl Klein, Katy Beebe
& Mike Boldt (Illustrations)
[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway]

Hello! Welcome to the next stop on the Thunder Trucks blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. I'm thrilled I get to share my thoughts on this book with you! Thank you for stopping by, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom!

Title: THUNDER TRUCKS 
Author: Cheryl Klein, Katy Beebe, & Mike Boldt (Illustrations)
Pub. Date: September 10, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 40
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD

Was that a flash of lightning? A rumble of thunder?

Better get ready--there's a new crew in town!

As Bulldozer piles up clouds and Tanker Truck hauls the rain, the whole Thunder Truck gang works together to build a tremendous storm.

Brimming with energy and fun, this cheerful bedtime story is perfect for snuggling, no matter the weather.


𑁋

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.

I thought Thunder Trucks offered a fun and unique perspective for storms, and really enjoyed the scientific facts mentioned at the end. The authors took the time to explain how storms really work, which was a nice contrast to their imaginative story about impossibilities in the sky. 

My son isn't really afraid of storms, but one of my girls doesn't like the sound of thunder. She'll cover her ears and tell me it's too loud, and sometimes leave her hands over them for the duration of a storm. I believe she really liked thinking of thunder with this creative lens, because she's fascinated by tractors, fire trucks, etc. We'll see how this impacts future storms at our house! 

I did notice that all of the characters were female, and I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. It's not a bad thing, just something I noticed while we were reading it.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful portrayal of storms and a very simplistic view of how they work. A lot of children are afraid of the sights and sounds associated with lighting and thunder, and I think Thunder Trucks makes the phenomenon a little more lighthearted and playful.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Sunday Post [27]

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.

News:

My son's first week of school was uneventful, unless you count him getting Strep and passing it on to his sisters. They were all given antibiotics which one of the girls ended up being allergic to. She broke out in hives and couldn't breathe, so we spent some time in the ER. We'd been in the ER previously when my son's temperature was too high and they determined he had Strep, and it would be lovely if my kids would stop scaring me to death. Everyone is feeling better now, but my daughter will be taking Benadryl until her hives are completely gone.

As for school, the kid doesn't really care for it. He's bored since most of the materials they're covering are things he already knows, and he's not given an opportunity to physically exert himself either. Recess is 15 minutes, and gym is only every other day. I'm going to keep him in public school through December, but then I'm going to seriously consider other options.

With everything going on, I completely forgot to sign my son up for soccer this season. I made a few calls to see if there was any chance I could get him on a team, and something unforeseeable happened. My son was placed on a team (hooray), but I am also coaching that team (uhhh). Apparently, there was a team that had never been assigned a coach (people kept backing out), so the kids hadn't been able to practice yet (made my heart sad), and I volunteered. 

Originally, we were going to be the Shooting Stars (my nod to ACTOAR and Starfall), but changed it at the last minute. We are now The Goonies! Additionally, if anyone knows how to play soccer... send me an email! Haha. I think it goes without saying, but my new role as my son's soccer coach is going to require time and energy, so my reading and blogging will likely slow down a bit for the next few weeks. At least until I get the hang of things!

Previous week on the blog:

Sunday: Nothing!
Monday: Nothing!
Thursday: Nothing! 
Saturday: Nothing!

What I'm currently reading:

Touch of Smoke by Karissa Laurel
A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1) by Sherry Thomas

Touch of Smoke was an unsolicited review that I'm happy I took a chance on! I am thoroughly enjoying the story and the mystery surrounding Rikki's past. The time jumps are interesting, because we see what lead to the event, and what's happening in the present a few years later. 

The Transformers book is what I'm reading to the kids before bed at night, and we're all enjoying it! I've always been fascinated by the history of Cybertron, and how Orion Pax became Optimus Prime. I was at the library with the girls when this book snagged my attention, and I immediately grabbed it to take home. I love going to the library! I almost always go home with books that are not on my TBR.

I'm nearly finished with A Study in Scarlet Women (listening to the audio), and will likely finish it today. It's been okay so far, although a lot more interesting now that Charlotte has more freedom to be herself. However, I'm curious if it will work with her potential love interest.

What I plan on reading next:

Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Ganger
Cursed by Thomas Wheeler, Frank Miller (Illustrator)
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

What I'm watching:

I finally finished the final season of Fairy Tail, and I'm mostly disappointed. Everything felt rushed and there was no closure. They only hint at what might happen in the future, but after all this time... we should have been given specifics and resolutions. In the past, story arcs would last forever, but this season it was all crammed into too few episodes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Veronica Mars are two I'm still working through.

Challenge updates:

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Girl the Sea Gave Back (Sky in the Deep, #2)
by Adrienne Young


Synopsis (via Goodreads): The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

𑁋

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.

Sadly, I didn't love The Girl the Sea Gave Back. It wasn't terrible, but it didn't live up to my expectations after reading Sky in the Deep. During the first book, I felt like the characters were fighting for something, even if they didn't necessarily understand what that something was. The characters in this book chose to fight out of fear, disregarding the fact that one side wanted to avoid bloodshed, which made it unnecessarily violent. I wish the Svell had had a better reason for wanting to go to war. Any loss of life is abhorrent, but they freely sacrificed themselves for their clan even without a good reason.

Additionally, I felt like most of the book was spent walking from one place to the next. Tova traveling with the Svell, and Halvard trying to reach his people. Little skirmishes pop up along the way, but nothing like the battles we witnessed in the first book. Everything was quickly or easily resolved, and even the final battle was a disappointment. Don't even get me started on the ending (or the lack of one). 

The romance was an unnecessary aspect of the story. They feel connected from the beginning, but neither of them really understands why. Tova decisions were based on wishful thinking, and not hard facts (disregarding the times she used the stones, although those were never definitive). Tova and Halvard's relationship was poorly presented and didn't fit in with the rest of the story. He easily accepted her presence and place in his life, and he should have been more cautious and wary.

I would have enjoyed learning more about the Spinners and their role within this series. What are their motivations? Do they have any? They obviously have no qualms about involving themselves to get the results they want. Why did they lie to Tova's mother, and how did that even happen? It wasn't explained very well. 

There's very little world-building in this book, which was a bummer since I really enjoyed how developed the setting was in the first. Eelyn's time spent in battle and while in captivity... it was so detailed and descriptive. This book felt like it had very little to add to the overall story, so the details were minimal and lacking. I also thought the secondary characters in the first book were well-established and fleshed out, while the secondary characters in this book were rarely a focus.

In the end, it was a quick read, but I felt like the story progressed without really going anywhere. The Big Events felt small when compared to the first book, and even the violence and bloodshed were toned down. Sky in the Deep had clear goals and expectations, while The Girl the Sea Gave Back alternated between two perspectives that occasionally overlapped. I'm still not entirely sure what the point of the story was, unless is was simply to be entertaining. I do plan on continuing this series since I really enjoyed the first book, but this one was lacking the oomph of its predecessor. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Weekly Pull [87] & Can't Wait Wednesday [57]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday (when the stars align in my favor) 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!

Miles Morales Spider-Man #10 by Saladin Ahmed, Javi Garron, Mahmud Asrar
Gwenpool Strikes Back #2 by Leah Williams, David Baldeon, Terry Dodson
Daredevil #11 by Chip Zdarsky, Lalit Kumar Sharma, Julian Totino Tedesco

Moon Knight Annual #1 by Cullen Bunn, Ibrahim Moustafa, Pasqual Ferry
Canto #4 by David M. Booher, Drew Zucker

After the last issue of Miles Morales Spider-Man, I'm curious what the author has in store for Miles. Ahmed really put the young Spider-Man through hell -- physically and mentally -- and I'm sure the experience will leave scars. It's also unresolved, so it's entirely possible for it to pop back up again without warning. I really love the family dynamics in this one!

I'm giving Gwenpool another shot even though I really didn't like the first issue. I try to remain open-minded, because I know it's hard to set something up in a single issue. We'll see how this one goes!

That Daredevil cover is freaky, but also hard to look away from... Moon Knight! It's been ages since the last series ended, so I am pumped for this annual issue. Canto is interesting and not at all what I was expecting, although I have stopped reading it with my son. He needs to be a little older before he can really comprehend all the Hard Questions this series poses. 

Jacob's comics for the week!
Hit-Girl #8 by Daniel Way, Goran Parlov
Kick-Ass #17 by Steve Niles, Marcelo Frusin, Andre Lima Araujo
Absolute Carnage Symbiote of Vengeance #1 by Ed Brisson, Juan Frigeri, Philip Tan
Absolute Carnage vs. Deadpool #2 by Frank Tieri, Marcelo Ferreira, Rob Liefeld
Amazing Spider-Man #29 by Nick Spencer, Francesco Manna, Ryan Ottley
Punisher Kill Krew #2 by Gerry Duggan, Juan Ferreyra
Venom #18 by Donny Cates, Iban Coello, Kyle Hotz

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 Light at the Bottom of the World
by London Shah
Expected publication: October 29th 2019
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean's surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father's been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people, often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he's innocent, and all she's interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she's picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she'll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-and her father might be lost forever.

I love the concept for this book! Life at the bottom of the ocean? How did they get there? Why are it's depths still unexplored? I've always been fascinated by what lives at the bottom of the ocean, and how deep it truly goes. What's really down there? I cannot wait to read this 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, September 10, 2019

Frankly in Love (Frankly in Love, #1) by David Yoon

Synopsis (find this book on Goodreads): Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name, which no one uses, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Soubthern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit...who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to his family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.

In this moving novel, debut author David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable. 
"I try to eat my lower lip. Then I remember the first Rule of Being a Person: no auto-cannibalism."
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.

I was really excited about starting Frankly in Love by David Yoon, but it really missed the mark for me. Additionally, this is a DNF, which I usually save for my DNF&Y post at the end of the month, but I had too many thoughts that I wanted to share right now. I know the book is being released today, so I though it would be a good opportunity for discussion. Frankly in Love has been promoted and hyped like crazy, but I'm just not feeling the love for Frank Li.

Let's start with the language... do teenagers really talk like this nowadays? 

"'Jesus christ almighty hang gliding up in heaven,' I say to Q."

"Dear lord Flying Spaghetti Monster in Pastafarian heaven. I think Brit Means in flirting with me."

"'Jesus,' I say. 'You scared the poop out of my butthole.'"

"What in God's hipster beard is Joy Song doing here?"

I think this book tried too hard to be funny. None of these statements made me laugh, but they were distracting. They felt thrown in at random and forced into conversations or thoughts.

Next, let's talk about love. Frank and Brit's relationship escalated way too quickly. They have calculus together, so they're acquainted, but then an assignment has them working together after school. This entire encounter was weird --from her parents and their matching everything, to how Brit encroached on Frank's personal space without warning. After that afternoon of studying together, the start sucking face at school. A few days later, they're on the beach and Brit is saying she loves him! He doesn't know if he loves her, but he says is back since he doesn't have a better idea. Whaaat??

"Love demands you do stupid things like post goofy selfies, but if that's what love takes, then I can be stupid all day... Wait. Is Brit saying she loves me?"

"'I love you. I love saying I love you. It's like I learned a new word today.'"

"'I love you,' she murmurs, like she's falling asleep. 'It feels so good just to be able to say it finally. I love you.'"

All of this happens in the same chapter, but you get the idea. Instalove, too much too fast -- whatever you want to call it. They barely know each other! They've been on one date and kissed a handful of times. That's not love! Affection? Yes.

Also, Brit is a bully. She flirted with Frank and involved him in some minor theft (and whatever else you want to call what she was doing), and she essentially forced herself into his bubble whenever they were together. Frank could have said no, but he honestly seemed overwhelmed by the attention and desires of his new girlfriend. "'Come on, one selfie,' she says, laughing. 'Let's brag about us. Let's make everyone feel like shit compared with us.'" Was that really necessary? Why do they need to make anyone else feel bad? Why couldn't they just post a selfie because they were happy with each other?

Frank is a douche canoe. Why couldn't he have been honest about his feelings from the start? If he isn't sure about what he's feeling, he should say that. He should not say whatever he thinks someone else wants to here. I also don't think he pushed back enough when his parents made racist comments.

The racist comments. The author mentions the racism at the start of the book, but I still cringed every time Frank's parents said something insensitive or simply ridiculous. They hardcore stereotyped people by the color of their skin, and they were unashamed of their words and feelings. Honestly, it was hard to read. It was even harder to watch Frank and the other Limbos let the comments slide because it was easier than confrontation. They assumed their parents were stuck in their "old ways," which is bullshit. I'm not even going to bother quoting all the awful shit that was said throughout this book.

"We both get serious for a moment. In this particular moment, right here. Sucking cocoa from a girl's hair is weird. Who does that sort of thing? And who lets them? But Brit is letting me. She wants me to. I am extremely proud to be the only person who has ever sucked Brit Means's hair."

No. Just... no. Kids, don't try this at home. I don't think I need to explain myself here. I believe the words and actions speak for themselves.

I liked Q, but his friendship with Frank slipped once Frank started "dating" Brit. He bailed on the things he used to do with is friends just to spend time with her, and he was constantly on his phone talking to her while physically with his friends. Q was understanding and Frank was apologetic, but ugh.

I officially gave up on this one at 39%, but did skim the rest of the book for the highlights. It doesn't seem like Frank Li starts to make better choices. In fact, I believe his decisions get worse as the story progresses. Honestly, I could keep talking about the things that bothered me about this book. Like, "She smelled exhausted." How does that smell, Frank? What does exhausted smell like?? However, I'm going to leave you with a passage that I really enjoyed from this book. A lot of people seem to be raving about Frankly in Love, so I would suggest getting a second opinion before making any final decisions.

"Let me tell you something. I live to make people laugh. Parents, siblings, friends, lovers, doesn't matter. I just have to. If you for some reason don't know how to make someone laugh, then learn. Study that shit like it's the SAT. If you are so unfortunate as to have no one in your life who can make you laugh, drop everything and find one. Cross the desert if you must. Because laughter isn't just about the funny. Laughter is the music of the deep cosmos connecting all human beings that says all the things mere words cannot."