Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge - January Update: Black Panther & Revival


Wow! It doesn't seem like today is the last of the first month of 2018 - and that means 2 out of the 24 tasks for Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge are complete!  The tasks I completed required me to read a comic written or illustrated by a person of color and a one-sitting book.  For the tasks, I selected Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze and Revival, Deluxe Collection Volume 1 by Tim Seeley respectively.  Read on to see my mini reviews and what's next for February:


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I'll admit it, I'm only really familiar with the Blank Panther from his fantastic onscreen appearance in Captain America: Civil War and I know as good as nothing about the character in the comics. I can't wait to see Black Panther at the movies and I was hoping that this graphic novel could give me some more insight on his story. Although, this is book one of a new run for the character I felt completely out of the loop throughout the entire story. It seems like I'm in the middle of a well established series, or that starting here simply requires a much more intimate knowledge of the character and his world than I have. It's also quite slowly paced, so it's a real slog when you don't have half a clue as to what's what. Anyway, though, the art is fantastic and I particularly enjoyed how colorful T'Challa's world is on the page. Even though I didn't have the best experience here, I still want to try another comic featuring the character - and hope for better luck. Either way, I'm still beyond excited for the upcoming movie!


I read this graphic novel from January 15 - 16, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads.



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Ever since Chew introduced me to Revival, I knew I had to get my hands on this rural noir horror graphic novel. The two are quite different in style, but I'm so glad I decided to give this a shot because I think I can safely say that it's now a new favorite. While the "revivers" are technically zombies, I love how it doesn't go in more of a traditional route with them. Instead it's a very tight mystery with paranormal horror elements, but it's definitely noir at its core. It's great trying to put things together with the unique cast. By the way, this story features some fantastic character development, and brilliant artwork. I can't wait to continue on with this graphic novel series! I really hope the plans for the adaptation go through because this has so much potential as a film (or tv series) - I wouldn't say no to Naveen Andrews taking on the part of Ibrahaim Ramin!

I read this graphic novel on January 16, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads.




Next up for February:

A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image 


My choice: Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola - I love the movies, and I'd like to try Mignola's original series!

A comic written and illustrated by the same person 


My choice: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel - This sounds like a fascinating graphic memoir - I don't know all that much about it, but I've been told that I absolutely must read it so many times.  What better than to tackle it as a part of this challenge?


Congrats if you made it this far!  Have you read any of these books or have you taken on Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge before?  Thanks as always for visiting my blog, and perhaps even commenting down below!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Book I Can't Believe I Read


Happy Tuesday everyone!  Welcome to the first Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, which is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  The rules are exactly the same as they were before - this week's topic is Book I Can't Believe I Read.  Here we go, in alphabetical order by title:


American Agent by Melvin Purvis - I'd had my eye on this for ages, but it was actually difficult to come across a copy that I didn't have to pay an absurd amount for (yay for libraries)!


Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock - 1) it's about football, and 2) look at that cover.  Really, though, it was a pretty fantastic YA contemporary.


Fallen Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes - I still didn't like it the second time around, no matter how much I wanted to.


Finding Fire by Mallory Crowe Just going with the cover I wouldn't have expected it to be my sort of read, but a friend convinced me to try it, and it turned out to be much better than I was expecting.


The Hope We Seek by Rich Shapero - Especially after hearing my coworkers thoughts on it beforehand...


King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard - I'm honestly surprised I didn't DNF it - book one was a fun, but not so much for the later installments.


November 9 by Colleen Hoover - Not my type really...


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - It's an Oprah Book Club Book (not my go to, by the way) that got selected for a book club I used to be in, but it was a brilliant read.


There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins - I had my doubts, but I still tried it.  Unfortunately, it wasn't for me.


Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness - Just such a different and unlikely take on the vampire, but not in a bad way.

What books are you surprised that you read?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps commenting down below!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Music Monday: Fall Out Boy


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.

Rules:

Every Monday share a few songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm sharing new music from one of my favorite bands, Fall Out Boy - "Wilson (Expensive Mistakes) (2018) & Hold Me Tight Or Don't (2017).  I've been listening to these guys since I was in high school and I love how they've grown over the years, but still have stayed true to that original sound. 




Sunday, January 28, 2018

Life Seemed Good, But... A Collection of Short Quirky Stories by Richard Bell - Review


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I received a free ecopy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Life Seemed Good, But... A Collection of Short Quirky Stories by Richard Bell features ninety creative short stories on a wide variety of topics that cover just a little bit of everything. In fact, it's a bit difficult to describe them as a whole, but the author has a great sense of humor and that comes across well - although, his sense of humor may not be for everyone. I definitely found myself giggling aloud at several points while reading - and he can certainly turn a colorful phrase. Most of these short stories are in the neighborhood of one to two pages apiece, and there were quite a few that I found myself wanting to know a little more about the characters and/ or the world they inhabit. Either way the author gives us just the right taste to keep things moving right along.

Overall, Richard Bell's Life Seemed Good, But... A Collection of Short Quirky Stories is a quick, fun read if you're looking for an anthology of super short stories with a great sense of humor. Each of the many stories may not be to everyone's tastes, but Bell's bizarre and witty humor is addicting. If you enjoyed Nothing is Strange by Mike Russell, you may also enjoy this anthology.


I read this ebook from January 23 - January 27, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads.  Thanks again, Mr. Bell!

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (ARC) - Review


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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Alice has been on the road for most of her life. She and her mother have been trying to stay a step ahead of the bad luck that seems to follow them where ever they go. That bad luck gets much worse when Alice learns that her grandmother, the author of an out-of-print book of dark fairy-tales called Tales from the Hinterland, has died at her upstate New York estate named the Hazel Wood - her mother has been kidnapped by a figure claiming to be from the Hinterland, the setting of her grandmother's book. Alice only has one lead, a message from her mother telling her to "Stay away from the Hazel Wood." Alice has no idea where to start if she wants to find her mother - she'd never met her grandmother, never knew exactly where she called home, and had never even read her book (as per her mother's orders). She's always dodging her grandmother's obsessive fans, but now she realizes that she'll have to turn to Ellery Finch, a superfan and her classmate who just may have his own motives, if she ever wants to see her mom again.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert might just be the best YA debut novel I read all year, and although it's still January, this is certainly going to be one of my favorite reads of 2018. She sets the bar incredibly high with her darkly whimsical fairy-tale-esque style, compelling characters, slightly off-kilter pacing (which works very well in this case), and wonderful world-building. I actually went into this story knowing very little aside from the description. Usually, I enjoy reading other reviews and going a little more in-depth, but I think it's actually beneficial going into this familiar feeling yet incredibly unique story (mostly) blind. In my case, I was completely hooked right from the opening chapters - tonally it's exactly up my alley and I just had to know more about Alice and her world. I liked getting to know Alice and Finch (who feels like he might be at home with the Raven Boys) as they travel. While Alice isn't exactly likable, she's a fascinating and flawed character to follow as she leads the story. I also particularly love that we get to see a couple of the stories from Tales from the Hinterland within this story.

Melissa Albert's debut YA novel, The Hazel Wood, is an atmospheric, dark, and unsettling fantasy that would be perfect for fans of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and perhaps even Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I can't wait to see what she will do next with the currently untitled sequel that's due out next year. If you like dark YA fantasy and fairy-tales, you absolutely need to give this debut a shot.



I read this ARC from January 27 - 28, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): Life Seemed Good But... by Richard Bell + 50/50 Friday




On Friday's I take part in three weekly link ups - The Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice, Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and 50/50 Friday is a new weekly link up and it is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books. For The Friday 56, you choose a book, a book you have just finished, a book you are about to start, your current read, and share a line or a few lines that grab you (but don't spoil anything) from page 56 or 56% of the way through the ebook. Post it and share your post's url on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post. As for Book Beginnings, you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires, and then link up your post's url with Rose City Reader. Then, for 50/50 Friday, every week there's a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - you share a book that suits each category and link up on the hosts blogs.


This week I'm spotlighting one of my current read for review books, Life Seemed Good But... by Richard Bell.  It's a collection of many short (some very short) dark, quirky, and strange stories - it's definitely for fans of Nothing Is Strange by Mike Russell.  You can see my review of that anthology here

Beginning:

Prologue

What's past is prologue, mostly.

56:

[From "Fuzzy Turtles"]

Egbert was famous for his proverbs; one was "If you stand too close to your reflection, you cannot see the full picture of who you are."  My favorite was "Always keep your mouth closed when cleaning the toilet."  (I used to have the full list, I'll look for it.)  He could be very profound, as well as humorous.

50/50 Friday: Favorite Book Set In Winter/ Summer


Summer - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I mean, Gatsby's summer parties!


Winter - Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater - This wintery read was my first introduction to the wonderful Ms. Stiefvater.

Have you read any of these books?  What are you reading this weekend?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Never, Never and Never Again by K.M. Breakey - Review


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I received a free ecopy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

At the height of Apartheid, Pieter, a wealthy Afrikaner with family going back in South Africa for hundreds of years, and Audrey, a Brit, fall in love and are ready for a life of splendor together, but revolutionary changes are coming for South Africa. Michael Manzulu is ready to risk everything to change the status quo and wipe out his oppressors. As white rule begins to collapse, there is an uncertain sense of hope - Nelson Mandela may be able to bring about lasting change. Twenty-three years later, though, the country has suffered decline and continues to unravel and fear is palpable. Pieter and Audrey, though, navigate the threat as best as they can and hope that their home is never attacked. Recently, voices are beginning to speak out in protest, including the bombastic Afrikaner named Kaspar Coetzer. The world begins to take notice, but is beneficial and constructive change possible for South Africa?

I'm honored that K.M. Breakey offered me the opportunity to read his newest adult contemporary/ thriller that's also suitable for older YA or NA audiences. Like his previous release, Johnny and Jamaal, it isn't part of one of my go-to genres but it is definitely worth tackling the difficult and thought-provoking topics he covers. At its heart, Never, Never and Never Again is a family saga that spans approximately forty years covering the good, the bad, and everything in between. The novel also deals with apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa - and it explores both sides of the issues evenly from Pieter's white Afrikaner background to Michael's black South African heritage.

Going into this novel, I have to admit that I didn't know all that about recent and current events in South Africa. Of course, as I was reading I recalled a fair bit from my school unit on the country, but that was a while ago - or some pieces of news since then. Regardless, the novel still pulled me in from the opening chapters and it's a great jumping off point if you're interested in learning more about the complex history of the country. While this is a work of fiction, the author does an excellent job featuring real-life events and figures in his narrative. In regards to his original characters, everyone is flawed, but well drawn and relatable whether you agree with anyone's philosophies or not. It was easy to get wrapped up in Pieter Van Zyl's life and extended family over the years we spend with them. Finally, the only real issue I had while reading this novel was that there are a few moments when I felt removed from the story. Primarily, this happened when there's a shift in the time period as the author explains the change. While I could appreciate what the author was doing, it still snapped me out of the book for that short amount of time.

Overall, Never, Never and Never Again by K.M. Breakey is a must read if you're interested in a fictionalized account of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa that includes real-life figures and events. One doesn't necessarily need to be all that knowledgeable about the setting or its complicated history and current events, but it could be helpful to have some background. This novel is quite thought-provoking and eye-opening and makes you fully consider all sides of the situations and ideas presented. I am definitely looking forward to K.M. Breakey's future projects after having read his two most recent releases.

Thanks again, Mr. Breakey!


I read this ebook from January 17 - 23, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Really Liked But Can't Really Remember


Happy Tuesday everyone!  Welcome to the first Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, which is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  The rules are exactly the same as they were before - this week's topic is Books I Really Liked But Can't Really Remember.  Let's just say it's a good thing I reviewed some of these or I'd be completely in the dark...  Here we go, in alphabetical order by title:


Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen


Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory


Heist School Freshman by Alan Gallauresi


I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest




Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear




Roseblood by A.G. Howard


Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead

Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Monday: lovelytheband


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.

Rules:

Every Monday share a few songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm sharing "broken" by lovelytheband (2017) - I've just started to hear this on the radio and I'm already hooked.  So far this is their only song that's been released, but I'm looking forward to more!  This time I'm also sharing "Imperial March played on pencil" (2018).  I don't know if you've heard it yet, but it's pretty darn cool!




Friday, January 19, 2018

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher + 50/50 Friday




On Friday's I take part in three weekly link ups - The Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice, Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and 50/50 Friday is a new weekly link up and it is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books. For The Friday 56, you choose a book, a book you have just finished, a book you are about to start, your current read, and share a line or a few lines that grab you (but don't spoil anything) from page 56 or 56% of the way through the ebook. Post it and share your post's url on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post. As for Book Beginnings, you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires, and then link up your post's url with Rose City Reader. Then, for 50/50 Friday, every week there's a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - you share a book that suits each category and link up on the hosts blogs.



This week I'm spotlighting one of my current reads, Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher, which is also one of my #BeatTheBacklist challenge books.  Once I finish this novel, I will be caught up on the series (at least until the Peace Talks is released).  If you haven't already figured it out, this is one of my all time favorite series (being up to the fifteenth novel in the series should be a clue) - and this one is already pretty darn awesome!

Beginning: 

There was a ticking time bomb inside my head and the one person I trusted to go in and get it out hadn't shown up or spoken to me for more than a year.

56:

In the middle of the floor were a dozen brand-new work lights, blazing away, and an enormous wooden conference table complete with big leather chairs, brightly illuminated in the glow of the lamps.  There was a second table loaded with what looked like a fancy coffee machine.  A few feet away from that was a small pen of wire mesh, and inside it were a dozen restless brown-and-tan goats.

Goats.  Huh.

50/50 Friday - Book With Most Complex/Straightforward Plot Structure


Straightforward - The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli - Usually, when I think of contemporaries, I think straightforward.


Complex - A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin - Could be a bit of an understatement there! 

Have you tried any of these books?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lair Of Dreams & Before The Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #2 & #3) by Libba Bray - Double Review



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Summary for Lair of Dreams: 
After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to "read" objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners' abilities...

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Summary for Before the Devil Breaks You:
After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

This past autumn, I took part in Fall Bookish Bingo and I found a new favorite series, The Diviners by Libba Bray.  It was pretty much everything I could have wanted in a YA historical horror fantasy novel - and the production of the audiobook, narrated by January LaVoy, was absolutely stunning.  Well, in the last month or so I've managed to get myself caught up on the next two books in the series, Lair of Dreams and Before the Devil Breaks You on audiobook - and now it's just a waiting game until the release of book four which so far is untitled and doesn't have a release date.  I don't know how Bray does it, but this series just keeps getting better and better.  I would honestly give these two books more than five stars if I could.  Like with book one, January LaVoy does a marvelous job bringing all of these great characters to life in the sequels.

Just like with book one, the sequels both travel at a slow pace, but regardless they reeled me right in from the beginning.  I didn't want to press pause and put the Playaway down for anything or anyone (except when my lone AAA battery died and I had to go out and get another pack of batteries - yes, the sequels are just as long) because Bray's storytelling (and LaVoy's narration) totally reeled me in right from first chapter.  There's so much to love about this series - I love how the author blends real-life history with cool fantasy elements of Diviner powers and spine-tingling horror.  I also enjoyed being back with our main cast - from Evie, Theta, Will, Sam, Memphis, Jericho, Henry, and Mabel (my heart!).  Then again, as great as it was to primarily follow Evie before, I loved that the sequels let the others shine.  I liked getting to see more of Theta (and learn more of her crushing background) and Memphis explore their budding relationship.  Hands down, though, Henry and Ling's friendship completely steal the show in these two sequels.  Ling is a brand new Chinese-Irish-American character that is first introduced in Lair of Dreams (well, technically, she's the girl with the green eyes in book one).  Like Henry, she's a dream walker, but she can also communicate with the dead.  The two of them make a great team, and, she quickly became one of my favorite characters on her own.  On another note, I also have to admit that I was totally wrapped up in what we find out about Project Buffalo, the good and the bad.

Anyway, I could go on about how much I love this series all day long, but I don't want to inadvertently spoil something.  I highly, highly, highly recommend picking up the criminally underrated Diviners series if you haven't already had the chance (on audiobook if you're interested in hearing January LaVoy's brilliant narration skills for yourself).  If you like Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly, pretty much anything by Cat Winters, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Supernatural, I expect you'd absolutely adore this series as much as I do.  Now, I just have to wait until the fourth book in the series to be released (and hope they can come up with a better book cover that'll actually suit the series) - or perhaps listen to another audiobook read by the same narrator while I bide my time.  This series quickly became one of my favorite reads in 2017 - I totally should have started in on it much sooner!



I listened to Lair of Dreams from November 23 - December 8, 2017 and to Before the Devil Breaks You from December 20 - December 31, 2017.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Resolutions And Goals


Happy Tuesday everyone!  Welcome to the first Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, which is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  The rules are exactly the same as they were before - this week's topic is Bookish Resolutions and Goals.  Here we go:

1. I've set my Goodreads reading challenge at 200, which is the same as I've done for the past few years.  I hope I can make it again this year, too. It's probably a good thing I'm a fast reader and can handle multiple books at once...

2. I'm back this year for Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge!  I enjoyed taking part last year and I really appreciated how it pushed me to read more widely and broadly.  It introduced me to some fantastic books and authors!

3. This year I've signed up for my first ever #BeatTheBacklist Challenge, hosted by Austine @ A Novel Knight.  I plan on earning lots of points for the Story Sorcerers team.  The rules are pretty easy for the challenge - all you have to do is read books published in 2017 or earlier.  I've narrowed the challenge a little further for myself by planning to focus on continuing series.

4. Going back to number three, I want to do a better job of keeping up with series rather than getting distracted by the next new shiny thing.

5. Like usual, I hope to read more of the books that I actually own - I really need to clear my shelves!

6. I also want to buy less books - I've only got so much shelf space and I'm running out.

7. For the books that I do buy, though, I want to make sure that I get the biggest bang for my buck - I plan on taking advantage of coupons, gift cards, thrift stores, and overstock stores.

8. I would like to explore more nonfiction this year.  It isn't one of my go to genres, but I've seen quite a few intriguing titles that I want to try out.

9. I would like to take part in more bookish events whether those are online like Twitter chats, readathons, and linkups, or in person, like talks or signings.

10. I also really need to weed my tbr on Goodreads because it has totally spiraled out of control.

Well, it looks like I've got quite a year ahead of me - wish me luck!  What are some of your bookish goals this year?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!