Posted in Reviews

Pre-Publication Review: 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard (8/17)

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard
Release Date: August 17, 2021

Recommended: yes!!
For an actually mysterious mystery, for fascinating characters who grow a lot as you learn more about them, for whiplash-inducing twists that still make sense, for Covid as a setting but not a plot point (ie no illnesses)

Summary

No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

Thoughts:

WOW y’all, maybe it’s because I admittedly had low expectations for this, but DANG did it blow me away! I was iffy on all the Book of the Month Club options, but chose this because it was by my fav publisher, Blackstone. And I should have known to trust that. ^.^ They held up, as always!

First off: a lot of people side-eye this book because it’s set in 2020 in the real sense that it’s the start of COVID-19 and discusses lockdown and other protocols enacted as it spread across the world. The whole premise is that two almost-strangers shack up because otherwise they won’t have ANY contact for who knows how long. It’s all or nothing, and they change it going all-in. But that’s it — there’s not a lot of play with COVID beyond working from home and the unease going out in public. If anything, it was weird how often the characters say “well no one else was wearing a mask so I took mine off.” Anyway, point being, the scope of COVID in this book is probably fairly light all things considered.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Expected Release Date: July 6, 2021

Recommended: yep
For a delve into Arthurian legend from the side of Elaine the seer, for a form-shifting read that excels at mirroring the readers’ experience with the characters’, for a dark yet hopeful spin

Summary

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

Thoughts

The first thing I’ll say is that I have NO IDEA who Elaine is outside of this story. I have no other context to compare her to, so I really can’t speak to that aspect of the experience. If you’re familiar with the lore already from other media, I have no idea how this might align with the way it’s been told elsewhere. That said, I think the way it was told here was quite compelling.

My absolute favorite aspect of this book (besides the plot itself) is the way my experience reading it mirrored Elaine’s experience as a seer so well. Past, present, and future all blend together with timeline and perspective shifting often, and not always with clear delineations. If this might drive you crazy, then be forewarned, but I promise it enhanced the book, not detracted. Elaine’s glimpses of the future bleed in to every action of the present and affect her memories of the past. How can you act on love when you literally KNOW it will lead to heartbreak of the most dire kind?

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-ÍyímídéExpected Release: June 1, 2021
Verdict: lots of heavy topics combined with an intense drama/mystery that draws you deeper with every page

Recommended: YUP
For a high school drama that turns into a mystery that turns into an actual oh-sh*t situation, for a story of friendship and identity and isolation and trust and race, for a story where you get halfway through and wonder how it could get any more intense

Summary

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

Thoughts

YEAH y’all, my overall advice is that if you read the blurb and think you might be interested? Just read it — it will probably go well. I don’t see how this could disappoint. The twists are many, and the level of mystery and secrets and intrigue is like Agatha Christia / Hercule Poirot level. I felt like a detective, trying to isolate all the clues and variables and figure out the who-dunnit mystery of it all. The story evolves into way more than that, though.

Devon and Chiamaka are both pretty comfortable with their sexuality, even as they learn more about themselves and what they like, want, need. It’s obviously a large part of the impact on Devon, as he’s forcibly outed in the first chapter and fears the repercussions from his homophobic neighborhood if the news spreads. Taking a turn into darker waters, though, both Chiamaka and Devon have much heavier events hidden in their past.

Race, trust, sexual identity…. this book is full of topics, but it’s also couched in this drama and mystery that realy sucked me in. I loved both aspects of it, and devoured this book in two days. It was that whole thing where you stay up super late because you’re so close and you just have to finish it! Any time my S.O. interrupted to ask a question, or we needed to do some chores, I was heaving a big sigh and very reluctantly putting it down.

Read the book.

Thanks to Bookishfirst and MacMillan for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Expected Release Date: May 11, 2021

Recommended: sure
For fans of Emily Henry, for a unique way of getting to know the characters, for a romance where the key conflict isn’t entirely due to the fact that they didn’t just TALK ABOUT THEIR ISSUE which is the worst trope ever, for a romance with some other actual FUN tropes

Summary

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Thoughts:

The way of telling it by bouncing between past and present is interesting, and all the stories are enjoyable. You’re not stuck wishing it would just get back to the other time frame, because they’re ALL great.

The culminating issues are done really well because you get the conflict of the current-day story and the conflict of the 2-years-ago fiasco that caused the split. So as the story progresses, you get closer to TWO explosions of plot, which is delightful. They also wind so well together, as in the vacation stories you learn their history and little jokes and personal pains, which then come up again when you switch back to the current day story. I know some people struggle with reading multiple time frames switching back and forth, but I think it’s handled pretty well here.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Manga Classics Othello by Stacey King

Othello by Stacy King (adapted into manga format from Shakespeare with full original text)
Verdict: AMAZING as always from Manga Classics!

Recommended: YES!!
For fans of the original, for classes looking for an accessible yet faithful adaptation, for a really dope story and art that enhances it so much
Expected Release Date: April 20, 2021

Summary

A brilliant general in the service of Venice, Othello is also the new husband of the adoring – and young – Desdemona, whose innocent hero worship has blossomed into love. But can a beautiful girl, so much younger than her husband, truly be faithful? Othello’s trusted ensign Iago seems to think not. Can Othello trust him? Can Othello trust anyone? Manga Classics presents Shakespeare’s classic story of love, hate, vengeance, and betrayal, in its full, original glory! (This volume features the complete, unabridged text from the Shakespeare Play.)

Thoughts

OH MAN. I have been so in love with the Manga Classics line since I started in on it, and when I heard Othello was happening, I was pumped. It absolutely did not disappoint! It’s the original full text, so none of the brilliance of the language is lost. Iago is always and forever my favorite villain, with his shameless, remorseless lying. He delights in it so frequently throughout the story, and so embraces his lawful evil selfishness.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Living With Mochi by Gemma Gene

Living With Mochi by Gemma Gene
Recommended: sure!
For comic lovers, for dog lovers, for pug lovers, for those kids who always wanted a dog and were never allowed to have one….
Expected Release: April 6, 2021

Summary

When architect-turned-cartoonist Gemma Gené first met her pet pug, Mochi, she felt as if time stopped. This dramatic moment and her adoring relationship with the rambunctious pug led her to begin chronicling her adventures with Mochi in a series of incredibly cute webcomics that have gained a social media following of half a million loyal readers. The comics chronicle Mochi’s life from puppyhood to adulthood, featuring Mochi’s unrequited dog friendships, his jealousy of his two dog-brothers, and his love of food. Readers and dog parents will love this humorous tale of a sincerely loyal friendship between one grumpy pug and his adoring owner.

Thoughts

I’ve never had a life with a pug, but I have known several pugs and pug-people. And a lot of these ring true for what I’ve seen from them and from their stories. 🤣 Some of these comics are definitely pug-specific quirks, though a lot are also universal-dog-owner moments. Honestly I picked this up because I haven’t had a pet dog since I was a child and I am finally, FINALLY about to be able to have one again soon. I was hoping desperately for a reminder/primer/preview of what I can look forward to (and brace myself for). This definitely fulfills all those boxes

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Recommended: eh, I guess
Cool concept, weak execution. Probably come for the series / idea more than the characters or plot or world-building or moral questions….
Expected Release: April 6, 2021

Summary

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there. When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all. As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

Thoughts:

What I liked about this book is probably what everyone who reads this is drawn to: the interesting premise of a human-designed AI taking over the human afterlife. WHAT. AN AMAZING. IDEA. And probably a new fear for a lot of people. This premise is so unique and cool that I can see a lot of similar content sprouting up after people get wind of this idea. And I liked the end, and that may be it’s saving grace to keep me reading this series. I’ll probably give it a second chance to improve.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: The Fox & Little Tanuki, Volume 3 by Mi Tagawa

The Fox & Little Tanuki, Volume 3 by Mi Tagawa
Verdict: a fun continuation of the series that’s a little less strong than the previous installations, but still full of humour and heartwarming moments

Recommended: always
If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, if you’re looking for a lovely lighthearted story, if you’re interested in Japanese bakemono-animals, if you like to have a little laugh 🙂
Expected Release: March 23, 2021

Summary

Legends say that Senzou the Black Fox is one of the most vicious and powerful supernatural beasts to ever roam the land. At least, he used to be. Now, 300 years after he was imprisoned by the Sun Goddess for his bad behavior, Senzou is back — in the form of a small black fox with no powers! Tasked with protecting a young tanuki called Manpachi as he fulfills various tasks for the gods, Senzou must earn his powers back by learning how to be a good guardian to the energetic little pup. Though Senzou is a grumpy and reluctant companion at first, even a hard-hearted fox can be tamed by cuteness… and the little tanuki quickly learns there are some family ties that aren’t decided by blood.

In the third volume, Senzou, Manpachi, and the wolf clan are among humans and investigating a string of missing bakemono. The wolf Hagiri takes this chance to find a small cat spirit he has a bond with, but he can’t ask his clan for help looking for a cat! Hagiri and Senzou make an unlikely duo, but they collide in the search as they discover everything may be more connected than they realized.

Thoughts

This is a strong continuation of the series for sure. In the first installation, we met Manpachi and Senzou and saw their relationship develop. In the second, we learned more about some of the other bakemono they deal with, particularly the wolves. In this one, they’re out of the forest and stuck dealing with some problems around humans. Every book has had a unique plot or element to it, and I hope to see that continue as the world grows more robust.

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Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

How it’s going

I’m in the middle of an ARC that I was pretty excited about, but for some reason it’s just not really grabbing me. I’ve been kind of underwhelmed by the writing, the plot, and the characters, as well as what I suspect will be the romance. I’m almost halfway and I’m still feeling like I don’t really need to finish the book. I will, and it’s not terrible, but it’s always a little disappointing when one that you were excited to get is kind of… meh. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong as it continues, and the ending will sparkle! That’s all I can hope for in the end. 🙂