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(DNF’d) Review: The Part About the Dragon Was Mostly True

The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson
Verdict: way too many digressions; the crude / poop jokes didn’t really do it for me either; and the characters felt flat and singularly defined by one characteristic.

Recommended: there’s definitely people who will love this (just…not me)
If you love crude humor and poop jokes; if you can follow along a whiplash ride and don’t mind constant diversions; if you’re looking more for humour than a story or developed characters; if you’ve never read an “epic adventure” parody book (because this one wasn’t great, so if you’ve read and enjoyed another you’ll probably be disappointed)

Sure, you think you know the story of the fearsome red dragon, Dragonia. How it terrorized the village of Skendrick until a brave band of heroes answered the noble villagers’ call for aid. How nothing could stop those courageous souls from facing down the dragon. How they emerged victorious and laden with treasure. But, even in a world filled with epic adventures and tales of derring-do, where dragons, goblins, and unlicensed prestidigitators run amok, legendary heroes don’t always know what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re clueless. Sometimes beleaguered townsfolk are more hapless than helpless. And orcs? They’re not always assholes, and sometimes they don’t actually want to eat your children. Heloise the Bard, Erithea’s most renowned storyteller (at least, to hear her tell it), is here to set the record straight. See, it turns out adventuring isn’t easy, and true heroism is as rare as an articulate villager. Having spent decades propagating this particular myth (which, incidentally, she wrote), she’s finally able to tell the real story—for which she just so happened to have a front-row seat.

DNF @ ~80%. My, oh my. The digressions were just way too much for me. Heloise must have a touch of ADD. What a shame because this was one of my Fast Forward Friday features! But, look, even the BLURB is enormously long and wordy.

My overall feeling:

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Review: Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma
Verdict: a somewhat generic plot spiced up by art, history, family, racism, and so much more!

Recommended: sure
For a slightly altered YA version of Crazy Rich Asians, for a happy book where kindness takes control, for surprising pepperings of acting, art, history, and more that will keep you interested.

Summary

Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.

Thoughts

Admittedly better than I expected! There were conversations about art, Chinese history, belonging, racism, family, and so much more. They went a bit deeper than I expected them to, and cut to the heart of the matter without bogging down the story or losing it’s true thread. That’s a pretty impressive skill, to weave in ideas and commentary without taking over your characters. The central plot itself was also heartwarming in a lot of ways, since kindness takes precedence as the most important thing. So often, this is forgone in books for a more dramatic, cruel kind of pull. I’m not about that. I thought this was a wonderful balance.

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Review: In Love & Pajamas by Catana Chetwynd

In Love & Pajamas: A Collection of Comics about Being Yourself Together by Catana Chetwynd
Verdict: Catana continues her signature style with plenty new comics that made me smile. (PLUS THIS RHYMED!)
Expected Release: February 2, 2021

Recommended: uh, YES! 🙂
For people who like slice-of-life comics, for a trusty source of smiles, for more of Catana’s established comic style, for anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship and is familiar with the feeling of settling in and having routines

Summary

When you’ve reached that sweatpants-wearing cozy place in your relationship, it’s all In Love & Pajamas!  This brand-new collection of Catana Comics presents some fan favorites and half of the book features never-before-seen comics that delight and amuse readers of all ages.  Wholesome, sweet, feel-good humor!

Thoughts

Catana Chetwynd is a master at creating comics that feel like a slice of your own life. Not to speak for you, of course, but that certainly is the feeling for myself and many others. For example: the very first comic in this book is something that happens so frequently in my relationship that I just had to laugh when I read it. And then settled in happily for the rest.

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2 Second Review: Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

2 sentence summary:

Gul’s prophesied birthmark is the cause of her parents death and her own doomed life on the run from the kings men. She breaks into the palace seeking vengeance, and poor magic-less Cavas the servant gets swooped up into her schemes (and… maybe into her heart…).

Thoughts?

An ok start that I think will be followed by an even better sequel. For an author who usually makes me love characters, they were a bit meh for me here, oddly. I don’t really care for Gul one way or another. She has strengths and flaws I guess, but I feel like she doesn’t have heart. It was so performative to me somehow. I never really bought into the danger or fear that should have been pulsing through every moment. There also seemed to be a lot of things that were easily handed to Gul and not worked into the plot very well. Any issue seemed to be immediately resolved with little effort. It was… unimpressive. This fast forward Friday feature was not quite as I’d hoped.

So what’s going to make me read the sequel? I love the blend of myth and life and magic. I think now that we have a whole book of exposition out of the way, the path is clear for the real excitement to begin. With the way the first book ended, there should be no way book 2 won’t be absolutely thrilling!

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Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Verdict: This is a very slow paced book, full of insights to individuals and the collective, with a very lovely story as its kernel.

Recommended: sure
For a thoughtful introspective journey of self-discovery, for flawed characters who are painfully human, for an expansive intake on what it means to be human

Summary:
Harold Fry is recently retired and hasn’t much moved since. When he gets a letter from an old colleague, Queenie, who is in hospice with cancer, he decides to send her a polite letter back. And then on the way to the postbox, he decides to keep going. And going. Until eventually, he’s just going to walk all the way across the country to see Queenie. Harold knows that as long as he walks, Queenie will stay alive; and so he sets off in his boat shoes and tie to walk 600 miles. Harold and his wife Maureen don’t have the best relationship, but when she’s left behind at home, she struggles to find some sort of peace of her own with their past and if they have a future together.

Thoughts:
I suppose that, yet again, my expectations were not quite right for a book going into it. I heard “walking across England” but forgot the “by a sedentary retiree.” The pace of the book is as slow as Harold was, walking five miles a day on a ~600 mile journey. By halfway through the book, Harold had been walking for what felt like an eternity, and yet he was about a fifth of the way done with his journey. I admit, it did start to drag a little bit at times for me.

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2 Second Review: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

2 sentence summary:

Sophie’s boyfriend ditches her just before Christmas, and she ends up heartbroken and surrounded by her (somewhat estranged) extended family. So they decide to each take turns setting her up with single young men for two weeks of daily dates, as they get to know their beloved relative again.

Thoughts?

I read this book in one sitting while I couldn’t move out of bed for a day. It was a wonderful distraction, way better than I expected, and perfect for a Christmassy-but-not-too-Christmassy read. Also I thought it would be pretty weird and awkward to get over the fact that her whole family is setting her up on these dates, but it was presented in a loving and fun way rather than in a “we are concerned about your sex life” way. Which is good since she’s only 17 anyway. Also matchmaking is still a thing, so I guess family-delivered blind dates really isn’t that weird.

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Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Verdict: WOW, this was not for me. Atmosphere is 100 and everything else is 0.

Recommended: not really…..
Recommended for highly metaphoric and visual language and an unreliable narrator. Not recommended for a coherent plot, not for a quick or easy read, not for readers who prefer linear or stable stories, not for people who think “the book is always better than the movie”

Summary

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. This is the twelfth expedition. Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Thoughts

Oh wow, was this very much not for me. The nature of it is to focus on incoherent ramblings, and VanderMeer nailed that. Unfortunately for me, that’s not something I enjoy or found interest or meaning in. It was just exhausting meaningless gibberish — which was exactly as intended? I don’t know anymore. I’m just exhausted.

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Review: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Verdict: a slow character study kind of read, so if you’re into that style you’ll probably enjoy this

Recommended: sure
For a light mystery but mostly a self-reflective journey of discovery, for mouthwatering descriptions of tasty Korean dishes, for some very poignant moments of insight into one woman’s extremely difficult life

Summary:
Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother. Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Thoughts:
The story itself is a slower pace as you learn about Mina and Margot in their past and present. I loved the subtle intertwining of the two. The reflections of Mina’s past experiences in Margot’s present as she investigates her mother’s death linked them together in a beautiful way. The highlight here is the writing itself, as it’s very plain and unassuming yet conveys so much emotion.

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Review: The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz

Hey y’all! A quick note that the formatting for this post is pretty weak because I’m posting this from my phone with limited connection. So I have to keep it simple today! I’ll update it once I’m home again. ☺️

Summary

Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he’s the Guild’s most dangerous member and the Queen’s one and only assassin. He’s also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow–to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts–to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they’ll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they’ll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen’s Secret series.

_______________________

Thoughts

It was ok. There’s a chance I’d continue the series, but not in any pressing way. The writing was somewhat weak; there was lots of telling not showing, particularly in the very beginning and end. It weakened the story overall, as it felt distant from the story itself and like a blurb provided midway for an editor to have context. Not really the experience I want as a reader.

The plot is pretty generic, but there’s a reason I keep reading books with a secret royal / royal assassin / demon and magic baseline: I like them. I would say this was definitely more romance than adventure, though. A sprinkle of cave sleeping and near escapes, but overall there was minimal peril or even things going wrong.

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Review: Notorious by Minerva Spencer

Notorious by Minerva SpencerExpected Release on November 24, 2020!
Verdict: a fun sexual-tension kind of romance with hints of deeper issues of culture, love, family, etc.

Recommended: sure
For a feminist regency romance, for a bit of cultural/religious tension as well, a drawn-out enemies-to-lovers by force plot

Summary

Drusilla Clare is full of opinions about why a woman shouldn’t marry. But that doesn’t stop the rush of desire she feels each time her best friend’s brother, notorious rake Gabriel Marlington, crosses her path. So imagine her dismay when she finds herself in the clutches of a scoundrel, only to be rescued by Gabriel himself. And when Gabriel’s heartless—and heart-pounding—proposal comes, it’s enough to make Dru’s formidable resolve crumble. She’s sharp-tongued, exasperating—and due to one careless moment—about to become his wife. Still, something about Drusilla has Gabriel intrigued. First there’s the delicious flush of her skin every time she delivers a barb—and then the surprisingly sensual feel of her in his arms. Gabriel even finds himself challenged by her unusual philosophies. And when he discovers a clandestine rival for Dru’s affection, his temperature flares even hotter. But the real threat to their happiness is one neither of the newlyweds sees coming. If they’re to save their future—and their very lives—they’ll need to trust in each other and their growing love.

Thoughts

I haven’t read much of this genre, but this felt like a good introduction! It was a little more complex than I expected. I figured we would have the standard timeline:
– something “scandalous” happens and the only clear solution is… marry
– they end up really into each other and sparks fly
– maybe some kind of family drama or brief misunderstanding
– and then they’re happy again

I mean… that is mostly what happens. But! There was more to it that I enjoyed.

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