Wednesday, September 23, 2020

My Weekly Pull [134] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [109]

 

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!

Daredevil #22 by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto
Spider-Man Noir #4 by Margaret Stohl, Juan Ferreyra, Dave Rapoza
Spider-Woman #14 by Karla Pacheco, Pere Perez, Junggeun Yoon

Undiscovered Country #8 by Charles Soule, Scott Snyder, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, Ryan Stegman 
Immortal She-Hulk One Shot by Al Ewing, Jon Davis-Hunt, Jo Bennett
An Unkindness of Ravens #1 by Dan Panosian, Marianna Ignazzi

Wicked Things #5 by John Allison, Max Sarin
Wynd #4 by James Tynion IV, Michael Dialynas

Jacob's comics for the week!

Venom #4 by Donny Cates, Juan Gedeon, Ryan Stegman
Spider-Man #4 by J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams, Sara Pichelli, Olivier Coipel

  • I am really, really behind on my comics! Hopefully I'll be able to catch up this weekend. :)
  • I love that all of the Marvel comics say "Rest in Power Chadwick Boseman" at the top.
Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. It highlights the upcoming releases we're really excited about reading! CWW is a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday (WoW), that was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Expected publication: January 19th 2021 by Dutton Books for Young Readers

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

"Lo's writing, restrained yet luscious, shimmers with the thrills of youthful desire. A lovely, memorable novel about listening to the whispers of a wayward heart and claiming a place in the world."—Sarah Waters, bestselling and award winning author of Tipping the Velvet and The Night Watch.

*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!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Narrated by Nikki Massoud

 

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse...

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming...human or demon. Princess or monster.

𑁋𑁋𑁋

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

Girl, Serpent, Thorn was an okay read for me, and for some reason those are the hardest books to review! I thought it took too long for the story to flow from one thing to the next; however, the writing was lyrical and lovely. I would have preferred a quicker pace and less inner dialogue, and I also wasn't on board with Azad as a love interest. I thought the book would have benefited from a dual POV, because his backstory would have been more interesting coming from his perspective (rather than told to us through Soraya). He's been through sooo much, yet we only see a blip of his existence. 

Other issues I had with the book: lying and withheld information. Soraya made poor decisions, but she might not have made those same choices had she been given all the information from the start. Since she was a child, her mother has spun a pretty - - albeit sad and disturbing - - tale about how Soraya became poisonous to the touch. The truth was actually preferable, so I'm not entirely sure what her mother was trying to accomplish by keeping the most important details a secret (her eventual explanation was lame). She did a good thing for her daughter, yet only told half-truths and kept Soraya hidden from the rest of the world. Her actions created animosity and increased her daughter's isolation. Additionally, Soraya is hurt by the lies, but chooses to become a liar herself. *sighs with frustration*

I simply could not get behind or support the decisions of the secondary characters. Soraya's mother was doing her best (but not really). Sorush (her twin brother) was her constant companion until he became too important to spend time with her. Her only other childhood friend became preoccupied, apparently easily distracted by her overly protective brother. Azad and Parvaneh both used Soraya despite having "legitimate" feelings for her (still find this hard to believe). They were all super obnoxious. Although, I liked that the author chose to pursue both a M/F and a F/F relationship, and that it seemed totally normal for Soraya to have feelings for both. 

I also didn't feel like there was very much character development or story growth from start to finish. Soraya was more confident towards the end, but her overall changes were minor. She fell into the same habits and ways of thinking, and never really challenged herself to be or do more than she was accustomed to. She also flip-flopped (over and over again) between what kind of person she wanted to be. She understandably felt some resentment towards her family, so her selfish actions made sense, but then she immediately regrets her decisions and wants to make amends. She can't decide if she wants to be good, or embrace some of the darker aspects of her personality. It gave me mental whiplash. 

I really enjoyed the world Bashardoust created, and thought the explanations at the end were interesting. The author talks about what inspired her story, and even shares some of the tales her book was based on. Unfortunately, the characters didn't do her world justice, and I wish they'd been more worthy of their setting. The divs were supposed to be brutal and scary, but they were always restrained and on their best behavior. Potential spoiler: I'm also not sure how Azad made or convinced Parvaneh to attack Sorush, since she could have used that opportunity to escape. It wasn't explained very well.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn had the makings of an excellent story, but too many aspects fell flat for me. I couldn't relate to Soraya and her struggles, both romances were unbelievable, the actions of her friends and family felt false, the divs didn't act very intimidating or monstrous, and the main villain seemed too gullible. Soraya was able to easily manipulate several people, despite having little to no interactions with others for most of her life. It simply wasn't believable. (★★★☆☆)

*The narrator was okay. She didn't really sell the characters for me though.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Sunday Post [58]

 
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:

Halito! I know I haven't been around much these last few weeks, and I'm sorry! I've really missed seeing what everyone has been up to! Especially since fall is finally here, and people are getting their spooky books and decorations ready for the season. However, I do have a really good excuse! We closed on our new house! All the paperwork has been signed and we have the keys! Unfortunately, that also means it's time to schedule appointments so we can have renovations completed within the next month (super stressful), and it's keeping me very busy. Jacob is back at work (not full-time, but close), and the kids have school every day. It doesn't leave a lot of time for reading or blogging, so bear with me until things settle down! 

I won a ticket for one of Christopher Paolini's virtual tour stops (via Jamie's (The Perpetual Page Turner) Instagram), and it was a blast! It was for his newest book, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and he spoke with Chuck Wendig for a little over an hour. About halfway through, they started answering some of our questions from the chat, and people got pretty passionate about their Star Wars responses. 

My 3-year Blogoversary is this week, so be on the lookout for a giveaway! This year hasn't exactly flown by, but I am surprised it's already been three years since I started blogging again. :)

IT'S COLD OUTSIDE. You have no idea how thrilled I am about the weather! I actually had to wear a jacket today! Can you believe it? In Texas it doesn't usually cool off until October, so Virginia clearly the superior state (sorry southern followers). ;) My kids are already discussing Halloween costumes, but I don't even know if that's happening this year... ugh, The Covid. 

Previous week on the blog:
What I'm currently reading: 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust 🎧
They Threw Us Away (The Teddies Saga, #1) by Daniel Kraus, Rovina Cai (Illustrator) 📱
Britfield and the Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart 🎧
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn has been an okay read so far; it just takes forever for something to happen.
  • They Threw Us Away might be a little too dark for the kiddo...
  • Britfield and the Lost Crown has been interesting, but the story is full of conveniences. The children are very, very lucky, and everything seems to work out for them despite their ages and increasingly impossible situations. 

What I plan on reading next:

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini 🎧
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse 📱
  • The virtual tour stop I won a ticket for included a physical copy of the book with a signed book plate, but I was also approved for the audiobook on NetGalley. It's over 32 hours long! What!? 😲
  • Black Sun is going to be a Buddy Read with Amber (Du Livre)! 

What I'm watching:

Husband and I are still working our way through Space Force. There's also a new animated Jurassic Park show on Netflix that I've been watching with the kids. They don't show it, but they do imply that people are eaten. It's actually really similar to the one movie with Chris Pratt. Jurassic World?

Challenge updates:

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Weekly Pull [133] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [108]

 
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!

Firefly #20 by Greg Pak, Lalit Kumar Sharma, Marc Aspinall
Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #11 by Matthew Erman, Jo Cheol-Hong, Kelly & Nichole Matthews
Once & Future #11 by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora

Seven Secrets #2 by Tom Taylor, Daniele Di Nicuolo

Jacob's comics for the week!

Amazing Spider-Man Sins of Norman Osborn #1 by Nick Spencer, Federico Vincentini, Ryan Ottley
Stillwater #1 by Chip Zdarksy, Ramon K. Perez, Mike Spicer
Immortal Hulk #0 by Various Artists

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

Waiting for the Night Song
by Julie Carrick Dalton
Expected publication: 1/12/21 by Forge
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton's Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn't she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie's memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

*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 15, 2020

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Synopsis (via Goodreads): House Rules:
Do your own dishes
Knock before entering the bathroom
Never look up your roommate online

The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet...


Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.

“And you seem like the kind of girl who would take notes.”
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The Roommate is easily one of my favorite reads ever. I love that the author tackled such a controversial issue and made it something beautiful. Sex workers, porn stars - - whatever you personally call them - - are people. Yes, they let themselves be filmed having sex (and various other things) for money, but that's nothing for them to be ashamed of. They love and are confident with their bodies, which is more than a lot of us can say about ourselves. I think the prejudice stems more from jealousy than anything else, because the discomfort people feel is based on how our society views nudity, women, and sexual acts in general. 

There is nothing wrong with liking sex or the people who choose to do it professionally, and I am ecstatic Rosie Danan used her story to highlight how sex workers are treated within the industry. What happens to Josh, Naomi and the others isn't a rare occurrence, but something that people currently struggle with today. The world has always treated porn like it was this "dirty" thing, and I'm happy to see it viewed as something other than a secret people keep beneath their mattresses. Porn can be beautiful and erotic, and loving your body that much is a level of comfort only a few people possess. 

I also like that this book focuses on women's pleasure and the difficulties we sometimes face when trying to orgasm. Every person's body is different, so different methods might need to be used to achieve the ultimate goal (an orgasm, if that wasn't obvious). Clara believes women should be shown how to help themselves, and also given advice for their partners. The concept is so simple, yet overwhelmingly neglected. Sex and porn are more often than not geared towards men and their preferences, yet women are more likely to be taken advantage of in the industry. Seriously, there were so many important topics in this book, and I'm beyond thrilled to see them being discussed openly and without shame. 

I am also ridiculously happy that the author didn't fall into old trope traps. Initially, it looked like Naomi was being set up to play the jealous ex-girlfriend, so I was pleasantly surprised when she became a friend and business partner. Her personality didn't change (she's a little rough around the edges), but she was an amazing character that I would love to read more about. Everett, Clara's long-time crush, was poised to be something she fell back on when things got hard, and I'm so glad his role was minimal and didn't really affect the story. His presence lingered in the background for awhile, but Clara didn't dwell on his abrupt departure and absence for too long (REALLY loved how the author handled that relationship). 

The conflict was totally believable, since both Clara and Josh had more faith in each other than they did in themselves. He didn't think some socialite with a big heart could ever love him because of his profession, and she didn't think her body was worth the attention of someone as experienced as Josh. He thought this, she thought that, and it took the two having a very hard conversation for things to finally fall into place. The slow buildup of their friendship was perfection (particularly the text of him asking for toilet paper while making a funny face in the attached picture), and was just so believable. They went from being strangers, to roommates, to acquaintances, to friends, then to friends with benefits, and finally to lovers. It was slow, but also incredibly sweet and well-written. (Somehow this author managed to make it slow and steamy at the same time!) I honestly thought I was going to melt a few times.

There's also a large emphasis on family, even though their families remain mostly in the background. How their families feel about and perceive them is very important, although they handle it in very different ways. However, they both like to avoid inevitable confrontations until forced to face them. I enjoyed seeing them learn and grow separately as well as a couple.

There really are so many aspects of this book to love, and it was the small details that really did it for me. The two of them watching Speed on the couch, him stealing some of her lasagna out of the oven, and her tricking him into liking vegetables. None of these things are glaringly portrayed, but subtly incorporated into the story. It made everything feel so much more real and relatable. They were both so down-to-earth and genuine, and I found myself wishing they were real so we could be friends. I absolutely loved The Roommate. I really, really did. (★★★★★)

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger, #1)
by Amy Timberlake, Jon Klassen (Illustrations)
[Spotlight Post]


Synopsis (via Goodreads): Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic 
odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

No one wants a skunk.

They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never,
ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.

When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.

New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.

Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

 
Synopsis (via Goodreads): An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

"Our country had legalized same-sex marriage way before the U.S., but prejudice didn't read or obey laws. It was a hard weed to pull from people's hearts."
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.

Furia was an amazing read that I thoroughly enjoyed! My soccer knowledge is limited, but coaching my son's team last year taught me a few things. ;) I've also been learning Spanish on the Duolingo App, which helped me understand some of the lovely language being used on and off throughout this book. It made me feel like my lessons were actually working, but I did have to Google certain words and phrases if I wanted exact translations. A lot could be guessed based on context, but I like to know exactly what is being said! I also love it when author's mix languages in their books - - it makes them feel more authentic and really fleshes out the setting. I felt like I was there in Rosario with Camila and the rest of the characters.

Soccer is Camila's passion, but it's also her biggest secret. Her father was a slimy, despicable piece of shit, and I really wish someone had stepped in to defend Camila, Pablo, and their mother. It wasn't like people were unaware of what happened during heated moments or behind closed doors, they just chose to look the other way. Although, I do appreciate how the author addressed that aspect of the story. One toxic person can influence the lives of multiple people, and they can affect them in very different ways. His not-so-subtle digs at his wife's weight, his daughter's body and personal choices, his son's career and expectations. I hated his character, but I also thought the author did a wonderful job portraying him and the hold he had over others.

Roxana was an amazing best friend, and she was always willing to help others. She thought a lot of people's situations and circumstances were unfair, and she wanted to fight to make things right. Her heart was huge, but that also made it easy to hurt, and we see Camila and Roxana struggle through an unexpected rift in their relationship. It wasn't that they stopped caring about each other, but they needed time to heal and clear the air.

Diego was adorable and I loved him. He never forgot where he came and appreciated his roots. He was always giving away whatever he could to help others, and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life (good food, good friends, walks around town, dancing in the street). His fame and fortune didn't make him selfish, but it did pull him in two different directions. He wanted the comforts of home, family, friends, but he also didn't want to give up the dream he was living either. I think that's one of the reasons he wanted to "save" Camila so much. If she went with him, it would have been like having his cake and eating it too. That's not to say he didn't care about her - - because he definitely did - - I just don't think he understood her drive and desires. She wanted something he already had, and she wanted to earn it for herself. He thought providing for her, helping her however he could, would make her happy, but that's not the life Camila wanted for herself.

I thought the author expertly handled the romance in this story, and I'm glad she didn't make Camila sacrifice a part of herself to make it work. Even when Diego was spontaneous and earnest, she held on to her dreams (although she did fantasize about others). Their feelings stemmed from a years-long friendship, and I liked that they revisited some of their childhood memories together. It helped me understand exactly what Camila would be giving up if she chose her dreams over her love for Diego. It was heartwarming and bittersweet, but expertly executed. I'm thrilled with how things ended for them both. 

My whole heart was invested in this story. The relationships Camila had and how they evolved over time, the hard work and determination she applied to becoming a professional soccer player, the love and respect she had for herself, and the cultural aspects of Argentina that I was unaware of. Méndez really brought Rosario to life with the details: vendors, people smoking on street corners, Camila feeling uneasy on the bus or walking alone. The author conveyed the way a single look could chill a person to the bone, or light them up from the inside. We see that words and actions matter. Intentions matter. Trust matters. We see children hungry for food and companionship, yet filled with a desire to become more than what they are. Furia truly was an evocative book, and one I'll likely never forget. (★★★★★)