Thursday, July 22, 2021

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
🎧 Narrated by Frankie Corzo

Synopsis (via Goodreads): After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


Silvia Moreno-Garcia is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors! Gods of Jade of Shadow was my first book by Moreno-Garcia, and I absolutely loved the Mayan mythology that was woven in throughout the story. Mexican Gothic was equally enchanting with its ghosts and many mysteries, and I really enjoyed Noemí as a main character. I'm already looking forward to reading my copy of Certain Dark Things and Velvet Was the Night. I'm pretty sure I have The Beautiful Ones on NetGalley, too. (See? Obsessed.) If you haven't read anything by this author yet, you don't know what you're missing! 

I ended up listening to an audiobook for Mexican Gothic (despite starting with a physical copy), and I'm really happy I did! Frankie Corzo was an amazing narrator that really brought Moreno-Garcia's story to life. Every character had a unique voice and presence within the book, although I was particularly fond of Noemí and Francis. Noemí was very strong-willed and undaunted by the weirdness of the Doyle family. She endured their silence, their judginess, and their unwillingness to accept her presence within their home. She cracked and wavered, considered giving up once or twice, but stayed committed to helping Catalina (her cousin) and to figuring out the house's secrets.

It's clear from the start that something weird is going on, and that Catalina's sickness isn't normal. Her husband, Virgil Doyle, is as disgusting as his father, Howard Doyle. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I despised the two of them instantly. They both spoke like they were above everyone else, and they had a superiority complex that was nauseating to read about. The way they spoke to Noemí, how they treated the women in their own family - UGH. I hate that everyone just accepted their behaviors because that's how things were done. The mind games they played were awful, too. They would say one thing when they meant another, and they seemed to enjoy making Noemí feel like she was imagining certain things. Their sick sense of humor made me feel stabby and violent. I wanted something terrible to happen to both of them.

Francis was the only descent member of the Doyle family, although he seemed fine with being a sheep for most of the book. I would have appreciated more of a backbone from him, but I can also understand and appreciate the characteristics he had. He had been raised a certain way and been burdened with knowledge and expectations that no sane person would want. I think he did his best to help Noemí and Catalina, but his family also had a very firm grip on his life and actions. No secrets were safe in High Place, and you could never be sure who was listening, or even if what you were seeing was actually happening.

Moreno-Garcia really messed with my head throughout Mexican Gothic. I never knew what was real and what was imagined, and I struggled along with Noemí to sort dreams from reality. I really loved how this story developed and the way the author chose to reveal certain chunks of information. It gently unfolded in the most unexpected ways, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I also really liked how the book ended, because while this particular story is over, it still felt like there was something unfinished about their individual lives. How will they recover after everything they've been through? What will their lives look like now? While I love a good epilogue, I think not knowing really suited this book. (★★★★★)

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

My Weekly Pull [177] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [152]

 
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!

Shadecraft #5 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela
Undiscovered Country #14 by Charles Soule, Scott Snyder, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, Tula Lotay
Miles Morales Spider-Man #28 by Saladin Ahmed, Carmen Nunez Carnero, Iban Coello

Proctor Valley Road #5 by Alex Child, Grant Morrison, Naomi Franquiz
Moon Knight #1 by Jed MacKay, Alessandro Cappuccio, John Romita Jr. 
Moon Knight #1 by Jed MacKay, Alessandro Cappuccio, Skottie Young

Jacob's comics for the week:

My Little Pony Transformers Friendship in Disguise II #4 by James Asmus, Ian Flynn, Casey W. Coller, Jack Lawrence, Bethany McGuire-Smith
Extreme Carnage Phage #1 by Steve Orlando, Gerardo Sandoval, Skottie Young

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's currently 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.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Atria Books

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked backed.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.

*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, July 19, 2021

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Synopsis (via Goodreads): This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies...

You think you know what's inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you've read this story before. That's where you're wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it's not what you think...

Disclaimer: 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.


Okay, so I'm going to try to review this one without giving anything away! Books like The Last House on Needless Street only work if you go into them without any prior knowledge, which makes it hard to write in-depth reviews for them. 

These were my two Goodreads updates: 

1) Struggling with this one. I'm not sure I like the cat's perspective and find her love of God and the Bible a little odd. I wish we'd been given an explanation for it, or how she learned how to read, but we simply see her "accepting God's message" for her. It's weird because she's a cat, but she also has very human thoughts.

2) This book is making me feel crazy. I always notice inconsistencies in books, but I think the conflicting information in this book is intentional. It's just AHHHH. I don't know what they mean, or why they're there. This is mind-fuckery at its best.

I think they sum up my experience with this book perfectly. Initially, I was hesitant and considering DNFing it after a few pages, but all the reviews I read said you need to give it a few chapters to get going. I'm so glad I did! The cat's perspective grew on me, and I found myself looking for clues and trying to solve the story's mystery. Friends, I wasn't even close. 

There is so much happening in this book, yet it never felt overwhelming or rushed. We learn more about Ted, Lauren, Olivia, and even Dee (the sister of the girl who went missing). They were all very interesting characters that I really enjoyed reading about after a while. I found myself wanting to know more about them and what had happened in their lives, because it was obvious something had happened. They were all incredibly unique and thoroughly fleshed out characters, and I think the author did a great job of maintaining the mystery while developing their individual personalities. It was wonderfully written and completely captured my attention once I found my flow with the story.

Everyone was a suspect in my mind, and everything was suspicious. I didn't know who or what to trust, especially when the author kept changing small details for seemingly no reason. At first I thought it was a mistake, but then it kept happening. It made me feel crazy, and I desperately wanted to know the reason for the inconsistencies. I knew there had to be one, but I wasn't sure what it was. 

If you do decide to read this one, definitely give it about 50 pages before quitting. It's a little weird at first, but it does get better as the story progresses. You just have to get used to the different POVs! You also need to make sure you have a significant amount of time to read before starting this book, or you'll end up finishing it in the wee hours of the morning like me. Once I got to a certain point in the story, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop reading until I reached the end. (★★★★☆)

"A true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end." ―Stephen King

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

My Weekly Pull [176] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [151]

 
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!

Champions #8 by Danny Lore, Luciano Vecchio, Toni Infante
Seven Secrets #10 by Tom Taylor, Daniele Di Nicuolo, Jonboy Meyers
Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow #4 by Chip Zdarsky, Pasqual Ferry, Phil Noto

Jacob's comics for the week: 

Silver Coin #4 by Chip Zdarsky, Michael Walsh
Transformers #32 by Brian Ruckley, Anna Malkova, Umi Miyao
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #119 by Sophie Campbell, Nelson Daniel, Kevin Eastman
Carnage Black. White & Blood #4 by Declan Shalvey, Ryan Stegman, Ed Brisson, Stephen Mooney, Scott Hepburn, Joe Bennett
Extreme Carnage Scream #1 by Clay McLeod Chapman, Chris Mooneyham, Skottie Young

Champions and Seven Secrets are two of my favorites! I haven't actually started Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow yet, but it's in my current TBR stack. 
Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's currently 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.

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Expected publication: September 28th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Magic doesn't exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family's debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones' own safety is threatened by the Zoo's cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn't fully understand--and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six--an elite warrior--and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani--a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century--but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi's power ultimately saves Ekon's life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can't do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon--each keeping their true motives secret from the other--form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home--and discover much more than they bargained for.

*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!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

These Feathered Flames (These Feathered Flames, #1) by Alexandra Overy
🎧 Narrated by Fiona Hardingham

Synopsis (via Goodreads): When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

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

I really, really wanted to like These Feathered Flames. There's a lot to love, right? A Slavic-inspired fantasy! Russian folklore and culture! Twin sisters! Unfortunately, the story was slow, somewhat repetitive, and the characters were uninteresting (and also somewhat repetitive). Asya and Izaveta were incredibly frustrating, and I hated how they kept making the same mistakes over and over again. Asya gets attacked in the middle of the night? Okay, so obviously she should take a stroll through the woods where no one will hear her if she screams. Izaveta tries to use her sister as a pawn and it backfires? Yes, she should totally do it again and again hoping for a different outcome. Learn from your mistakes and BE BETTER.

I really wanted them to work together and be smarter than their enemies, but they kept choosing to do things on their own without consulting the other or asking for help. Additionally, Asya's aunt is still around (she's the previous Firebird), so it didn't make sense for Asya to try and do everything solo. She had someone she could ask for help. She could have gone to her aunt and they could have sorted through her newly emerging powers and discussed what certain things meant. However, Asya thinks she can handle it - or she doesn't want to feel like a burden - which is ridiculous. She's supposed to be training and learning how to be the Firebird. It was dumb of her to think she could do it all on her own. Izaveta has a similar story, because she thinks she can't trust anyone - not even her sister - because her mother was a manipulative bitch that didn't deserve either of her children. 

Izaveta was so caught up in playing mind games with everyone around her, that she doubted everyone's sincerity. She has MAJOR trust issues, and I wish she'd at least had one friend or confidant that she wasn't constantly analyzing or trying to control. I hated that she didn't even trust her sister (someone who kept reaching out despite receiving no response from Izaveta), and felt like Asya was just another piece in her games. Where's the sisterly love I was hoping for? It wasn't present in the first 60% of this book (which was roughly 8 hours of the audio). That's A LONG TIME for nothing to really happen. 

The world-building was interesting, and I liked the history we get to see in glimpses, but it wasn't enough to hold my attention. In addition to feeling like the characters kept making the same choices and mistakes, I was bored. I started dreading pressing the play button on my phone, and that's never a good sign. (★★☆☆☆)

Technically, this book should be included in my next DNF&Y post, but I needed an active link for NetGalley and the publisher. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

My Weekly Pull [175] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [150]

 
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!

Wynd #8 by James Tynion IV, Michael Dialynas

Jacob's comics for the week!

Extreme Carnage Alpha #1 (One Shot) by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Manuel Garcia, Skottie Young
Ordinary Gods #1 by Kyle Higgins, Felipe Wantanabe 
Transformers Escape #5 by Brian Ruckley, Bethany McGuire-Smith

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's currently 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.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward 
Expected publication: September 28th 2021 by Nightfire

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Catriona Ward's The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory. And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

*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, July 5, 2021

What I've Been Reading with My Monsters [2]

 

What I've Been Reading with My Monsters is a new feature I'm starting to showcase which books I've been reading with my kiddos (in case the title wasn't super obvious, haha). I'm really bad about reviewing children's books (unless they're ARCs or for a blog tour), so hopefully this helps me stay on top of all the other books we read together throughout the week.

A Little Bit of Courage by Claire Alexander
Expected publication: July 13th 2021 by Happy Yak

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this follow-up to the beloved picture book A Little Bit Different, the Ploofers are back for a heartwarming exploration of fear and finding courage.

The Ploofers have just learned a valuable lesson in celebrating differences and trying new things. They've been practicing something very special again and this time it requires extra teamwork... But Little One is too scared to go on this new adventure. Will some kind and encouraging words from Toasty help him find a little bit of courage?

With simple, striking illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest,
A Little Bit of Courage picks up right where A Little Bit Different left off. With a subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest, this book will resonate with children and adults alike.

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


I haven't read A Little Bit Different, but I don't think it would have improved my experience with A Little Bit of Courage. I know it's a children's book, so I understand the simplicity, but I also think it would have been beneficial to know what exactly a Ploofer is. A little background and some character development would've added more to this story, but sadly it's flat and altogether uninteresting. My girls stopped paying attention after just a few pages.

I also didn't understand why the main Ploofer was called "Little One," since they're all the same shape and size (with one exception, which also wasn't explained). Additionally, if the Ploofer didn't want to shoof, it shouldn't have had to. I understand this book is about courage and overcoming fears, but sometimes it's okay to not participate in what everyone else is doing. I just don't think the message was portrayed in the best way, especially for young children. 

The synopsis mentioned celebrating differences, but the Ploofers didn't accept Little One's differences. They wanted them to join everyone else and do what they were doing. Additionally, I have no idea what extra teamwork was involved, since everyone just seemed to shoof on their own (I feel ridiculous using this book's terminology). A "subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest," is also inaccurate. I have no idea how anyone is supposed to resonate with this book.

The writing wasn't great. The storytelling wasn't great. The illustrations weren't great. Overall, a very meh book. (★★☆☆☆)

Hair Story by NoNieqa Ramon, Keisha Morris (Illustrator)
Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Lerner Publishing Group

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Written in rhythmic verse, this picture book follows two friends, a Boricua girl and a Black girl, as others first try to tame their tresses and eventually celebrate their gorgeous, natural hair.

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




I really liked the concept for Hair Story, but I think the writing style and terminology may be somewhat difficult for children to understand. If the targeted audience is young kids, then there's a lot in this book that will go over their heads. The author uses multiple languages throughout the book, makes references that are hard to understand without specific lived experiences, and tells a poetic story that will probably be best enjoyed by an older age group. There is a glossary at the end (a really big one), but that doesn't really help in the moment when you're reading to kids. Having to stop multiple times throughout the book to explain certain words or phrases really detracts from the overall reading experience (especially since it's written in verse).

Although at times hard to follow, I think Hair Story is a book that will resonate with people from multiple backgrounds, and I believe it gives children a version of themselves not often portrayed in the books that are meant for them. (★★★☆☆)

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use by Sara Levine, Kate Slater (Illustrations)
Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Millbrook Press

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Have you ever seen a bird using a jackhammer? What about one scooping up a meal with a net? Of course birds can't really use tools, at least not the way humans do. But birds have surprisingly helpful tools with them at all times--their beaks!

Guess which birds have beaks resembling commonly used tools in this playful picture book from award-winning author Sara Levine. Delightfully detailed collage artwork by Kate Slater helps this book take flight!

Disclaimer: 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.


A Peek at Beaks was a quick read that we mostly enjoyed. The illustrations were lovely, and I thought it was clever of them to have the reader guess which birds had certain beaks by using silhouettes with actual tools for their bills. The kids had a lot of fun guessing which birds might use each tool, and it was a creative way to get them involved in the story.


However, I do think it would have been better if the silhouettes had actually resembled the birds they were supposed to be depicting, but all of the shadow shapes looked exactly the same. It made it hard for my kiddos to correctly guess which birds were being discussed, because they were only trying to think of birds that resembled the silhouettes and not necessarily which birds had those specific "tools" for a beak.

A wonderful concept that I wish had been executed better.

I also disliked the fonts that were used and thought they were distracting. I know that's a personal preference, but I don't feel like they complimented the story or the illustrations. In fact, I would say they hurt both. Would a child notice or care? Probably not. Although, I do think different fonts would improve the overall aesthetic of the book. 

Something else that slightly grated on my nerves: the double identifications and repeated information. The author lists which other birds have similar tools for beaks, and the illustrator includes drawings of them with labels attached. I feel like only one is necessary. Additionally, I wish the information being shared felt more like a story and less like a lesson. I understand the author is sharing facts, but there has to be a more entertaining way to present them. I felt like I was reading dictionary definitions and not fun facts about birds. (★★★☆☆)

*this post has been backdated