Friday, July 31, 2020

The Friday 56 (182) & Book Beginnings: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.

36896898. sy475 Synopsis from Goodreads...

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk--grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh--Miryem's fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar. But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love. Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

Beginning: "Because that's what the story's really about: getting out of paying your debts. That's not how they tell it, but I knew. My father was a moneylender, you see. He wasn't very good at it."

56: ""It's very kind of them to make us such a present," my father said, dry."

Comments: I also reread part of Spinning Silver. It's still one of my favorite books. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Short Stories I Read In June

Today, I’m here to talk about the short stories, podcast episodes, and other miscellaneous posts I read and listened to in June.

St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk (, June 5, 2020)

The first short story I read in June was St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk. This was an immersive story. It felt like a coming of age tale, and it was excellent. Polk’s writing is deft, and the story flows so well that I felt like it was over too soon. The voice of the narrator is vivid, and the world built here was detailed and full of bees and magic—both helpful and dangerous—that felt organic to the environment. St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid is the kind of story that leaves a lasting impression, and it’s world was one I want to read about again. I already have a copy of Polk’s novella, and I want to read it soon.

Two Truths and A Lie by Sara Pinsker (, June 17, 2020)

The second story I read was Two Truths and A Lie by Sara Pinsker. The story followed Stella, who was home visiting her parents. While there, she ended up helping an old friend clean out a relative’s house after their death. Immediately, I enjoyed Stella’s perspective, as she tried to figure out what was going on—with her memories and what that had to do with an old, unsettling TV show from her childhood. From start to finish, this story was an engrossing and chilling read with an atmospheric tone that captured the creepy/horror aspects of some of the darker fairy tales. It did it in a subtle way that gradually built up the tension as the story progressed, and I never knew what was going to happen next. What made this one so memorable was the feeling it invoked: how it rapidly went from feeling very “every day” and somber, to mysterious, and then to eerie. The twists were fantastic and unexpected, even to the very end of the story. Overall, I really enjoyed this one.

From Around the Web

Monday, July 27, 2020

Music Monday (124): Ellie Goulding, Laura Mvula, and D-Nice

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I'm currently listening to Ellie Goulding's latest album, Brightest Blue. One of my favorite songs from it is How Deep Is Too Deep.

I'm also listening to more of Laura Mvula's music. I'm really enjoying all her performances with the Metropole Orkest, and I love this version of That's Alright.

Andrea: Hi all. On Friday July 24th, D-Nice celebrated the 30th anniversary of the song and album, Call Me D-Nice. So I thought I would share it with you this week. 

Have an amazing week and stay safe!

What are you listening to this week? Has there been any new music releases that you're enjoying? If so, leave your recommendations in the comments. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

ARC Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

40078832. sy475 Title: Deal With The Devil
Series: Mercenary Librarians #1
Author: Kit Rocha
Source/Format: Bookish First; Bound ARC
More Details: Science Fiction; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; July 27, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha 
The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost. Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is. Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities. The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years... If they live that long.
Deal With The Devil is the first book I’ve read by Kit Rocha. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it was a wild, action-packed dystopian novel. There were plenty of science fiction nuggets packed into this book too, including enhanced super soldiers, clones, and corporations that were up to some not so good things. It was dark and gritty story with hints of romance, set against the backdrop of a devastated and crumbling version of the US.

For starters, I enjoyed the world building in this story. Rocha did an excellent job of quickly establishing the rules of the world, while also maintaining a consistent level of ruin and corruption scattered throughout every part of the setting. Even the first chapter established how cutthroat and unforgiving society had become since an incident called the Flares, and the details about how certain areas were rebuilt and governed were also quite interesting.

In general, the story was a good one. There was a good deal of travel going on. That being said, the action started basically immediately, and there was a bit of a mystery about who had kidnapped the Silver Devils’ hacker. Needless to say, I was hooked from start to finish.

Another part of the reason why I enjoyed Deal With The Devil so much was because of the characters. The characters were personable. Nina was a standout in the story. I enjoyed the chapters from her perspective, and a highlight of the story was the dynamic between Nina, Maya, and Dani. They each brought a skill to the table, and honestly I just liked the friendship and camaraderie between the three of them. I also enjoyed the chapters from the POVs of the secondary characters. It offered a different perspective to the events of the story, and gave those characters a moment of much needed development outside of Nina and Knox’s perspectives.

Deal With The Devil proved to be an excellent start to the Mercenary Librarians series. I’m excited to see what Kit Rocha has in-store for the next book.

About the author...

Kit Rocha is the pseudonym if author duo/cowriting team Donna Herren (@totallydonna) and Bree Bridges (@mostlybree). They are best known for their gritty and sexy dystopian Beyond series. Bree and Donna met while writing X-Men fanfic in 200, which is the best meet-cute in history for writing BFFs and coauthors, and have been penning original work since 2007. They currently live three miles apart in Alabama and spend their nonwriting time caring for a menagerie of animals and crafting handmade jewelry, all of which is chronicled on their various social media accounts....

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Tor Books) via BookishFirst for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

ARC Review: Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis

51171377Title: Axiom's End
Series: n/a
Author: Lindsay Ellis
Source/Format: Publisher via Netgalley; eARC 
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Press; July 21, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
An extraordinary debut from Hugo finalist and video essayist Lindsay Ellis... 
Truth is a human right... 
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades. Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.
Axiom’s End is not the first book about first-contact that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020—so my expectations were on the higher side. The story had a lot of promise in its premise from the beginning, and I ended up having an inordinate amount of fun reading this novel. Plus I thoroughly liked Ellis's take on first-contact.

Axiom’s End was good. It deals with first contact alongside an alternative and politically tumultuous version of 2007, where a memo about aliens gets leaked to the public. During the ensuing fallout is where the story begins and where the main character, Cora was introduced. From the start, the premise was a pretty exciting one, and I thought the author did a good job with developing the different parts of the story. In particular, I liked the details about Cora’s connection to the memo—through her estranged father—because it added tension to the earlier parts of the story even before aliens got involved. It also added a personal edge to the conflict, and I thought it presented an interesting contrast between Cora and other characters in the story—particularly for those who weren’t her family members—and how different their reactions to the memo were.

I also enjoyed Ellis’s take on aliens. The ones features in the story were kind of cool to say the least, and they were by far one of my favorite aspects about Axiom’s End. Since Cora becomes an interpreter for one of the aliens, there were plenty of details about them—such as how they looked, some of their societal norms, the reason why they were there, and their technological advancements. It was an interesting bit of world building that fleshed-out the aliens.

Cora was a pretty entertaining protagonist, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. I liked how the author approached her character, including her conflicted feelings about the aliens as well as her father. It grounded her character amongst the extraordinary circumstances of the story. It was also an interesting emotional contrast, with the fear, confusion, and determination she experienced throughout much of the story. I did enjoy the few scenes Cora had with her other family members though, particularly with her aunt. Cora’s father was a different story. Some of his tactics and writings leaned more towards manipulative, and it was clear where his concern was focused.

Overall, I enjoyed Axiom’s End. There was a lot to like about the story, and the end wrapped up the plot in a satisfying way. I will definitely check out more work by this author in the future. Have you read Axiom’s End? Do you plan on reading it?

About the author...

LINDSAY ELLIS is an author, Hugo finalist and video essayist who creates online content about media, narrative, and film theory. After earning her bachelor's in Cinema Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, she earned her MFA in Film and Television Production from USC's School of Cinematic Arts with a focus in documentary and screenwriting. She lives in Long Beach, California, and Axiom's End is her debut novel.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by St. Martin's Press (publisher) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Music Monday (123): Zella Day, Van Hunt, Meghan Trainor, Alice Francis

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Recently I've been listening to music by Zella Day again. It's been a while, so I haven't kept up with much of her more recent music. One of my favorite songs so far is People Are Strangers.

I'm also listening to music by Meghan Trainor. Make You Dance is one of my favorite songs by her.

Adri: I've already featured Alice Francis, but I've been listening to Electric Shock in full. I love the whole album, but my picks today are Falling Star, Follow the Instruction (Interlude), and Electric Shock

Electric Shock isn't actually fourteen minutes. There's another verson of Beatptized at 10:17

Andrea: This week I'm listening to What Can I Say (For Millicent) by Van Hunt. Although this song isn't new, this is the first that I've heard of this artist. I also fell in love with Her Smile. Although, it is an unreleased track, there is a link to the song on Van Hunt's Facebook page from 2013. I hope everyone has an amazing week. Stay safe!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, July 17, 2020

I Listened to Ungodly Hour by Chloe X Halle

Initially I wasn’t aware that Chloe X Halle was going to have a new album out this year—until a few days before it was released—and I have to admit that it was a welcome surprise. I was more than excited to give it a listen, and Ungodly Hour was a fantastic album. It’s a solid addition to their body of work, and it continued to showcase the kind of consistent talent—lyrically and vocally—that Chloe X Halle have already demonstrated in the past. That was especially evident with their album The Kids Are Alright.

Ungodly Hour was a blend of Hip-Hop and R&B sounds with a touch of Pop. It’s not necessarily a new sound for Chloe X Halle, but the tone and subject of the music was markedly different. The change was nice, and overall Ungodly Hour was refreshing to listen to.

The intro was brief but a strong beginning to Ungodly Hour. It really set the tone for what was to come next. While the sound of the album’s three singles—Do it, Forgive Me, and Catch Up with Swae Lee featuring Mike Will Made-It—are already familiar. The beat combined with Chloe X Halle’s vocals, made Tipsy by far one the catchiest songs on the album. The same could also be said about the titular song, Ungodly Hour, as well as the rest of the track list. The outro, ROYL, was one of my top-favorite songs from the album. The beat was catchy, and I liked how the whole song came together. It was also the perfect note to end the album on.

Fun and lyrically great, Ungodly Hour is one of the best albums I’ve listened to so far this year.

Ungodly Hour was released on June 11, 2020. Have you listened to music by Chloe X Halle? Are you planning to give this album a listen?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Favorite Recipe: Refried Beans

Typically when I have tacos or burritos, I don’t eat it with refried beans. I usually mix in drained/rinsed black beans from a can, and cook it all together with the taco seasoning. I like it that way, but recently I was in the mood for refried beans, just without it being so oily. Once I had the thought, it turned into a craving. I did not have any, of course, and I also didn’t want to go to the store to get it. So my choice was clear: I was just going to have to make it.

With the powers that are a quick google search, I found this 10 minute Refried Black Bean recipe from Joy Food Sunshine. This recipe was truly simple to assemble, and even quicker to cook. There wasn’t much effort involved at all, and it came out perfectly. [**Note: the only changes I made were doubling the recipe and I also didn’t add any cilantro. It really depends on how many people you’re making it for. Otherwise the basic recipe is fine as is.]

As for the taste it was fantastic. I paired it with simple chicken and cheddar cheese, and it was delicious. It tasted just like the stuff from the can. Except, I got more of the flavor from the seasonings that were added, and there was no extra oil in this recipe. Even the texture was similar. [Note: I used a masher to crush the bean and broth mixture in the pot, but it was soft enough to use a fork or spoon if I’d wanted to.] I also think it would pair quite well with whatever taco or burrito mixture you want.

Ultimately, I see myself using this recipe again. What have you been cooking recently?    

Monday, July 13, 2020

Music Monday (122): Meat Loaf, Earth Wind & Fire

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 

Breana: Recently, I've been building a playlist of my favorite older music. One of the songs on it is I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) by Meat Loaf. This is one of my favorite songs by this artists. 

Andrea: My song selection this week is Earth, Wind & Fire's Let's Groove.

Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Friday 56 (181) & Book Beginnings: A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.

42642065Synopsis from Goodreads...

Still reeling from her recent battle (and grounded until she graduates), Alice must abandon her friends to complete her mission: find The Heart and prevent the Red Lady's rise. But the deeper she ventures into Wonderland, the more topsy-turvy everything becomes. It’s not until she’s at her wits end that she realizes—Wonderland is trying to save her. There’s a new player on the board; a poet capable of using Nightmares to not only influence the living but raise the dead. This Poet is looking to claim the Black Queen’s power—and Alice's budding abilities—as their own. Dreams have never been so dark in Wonderland, and if there is any hope of defeating this mystery poet’s magic, Alice must confront the worst in herself, in the people she loves, and in the very nature of fear itself...

Beginning: "What do you mean gone?" Court jerked the car to the side, dodging around a slower truck as she shouted the same question Alice had asked Hatta a few minutes ago."

56: "Confused, Alice whirled to spot Nana Kingston stepping out of the building, Mom behind her."

Comments: I already talked about A Dream So Dark before, but recently I've been rereading some of my favorite scenes (from books like this one as well as The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden). I chose different quotes (from the beginning of chapter two and from page 57). What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

ARC Review: Haunted Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

40740848Title: Haunted Heroine
Series: Heroine Complex #4
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Source/Format: Netgalley (Publisher); eARC
More Details: Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: DAW Books; July 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The fourth book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series follows Evie Tanaka, Aveda Jupiter, and Bea Tanaka as they combat a new supernatural threat. 
Everything in Evie Tanaka's life is finally perfect. As a badass superheroine, she defends San Francisco from demon invasion on the regular. Her relationships with superhero partner Aveda Jupiter, little sister Bea, and hot, half-demon husband Nate have never been stronger. Maybe it's possible for a grad school dropout turned put-upon personal assistant turned superhero to have it all? As if things can't get any better, Evie learns she's pregnant. She's overjoyed, but also worried about whether she's cut out for motherhood. Before she can dwell on her dilemma too much, a women's college reports a string of mysterious "hauntings," and Evie and Aveda are called in to investigate. When the hauntings turn deadly, they decide to move into the dorms full-time, going undercover as grad students. As she lives out a bizarre version of her grad school life, Evie can't help but wonder about the road not taken: what would her life be like if she'd stayed here instead of pursuing superheroing with Aveda?
If there was ever a series that needed more books, it was this one. I was excited when Haunted Heroine got announced, and now that I’ve read it I can say for certain that the excitement was well deserved. Haunted Heroine was a fantastic addition to the Heroine Complex series. It was an excellent continuation for the characters of the series—and as they embarked on the next chapter in their story, they were literally and figuratively being haunted by things from the past and present. With this kind of story, it was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, and I was rooting for the characters every step of the way.

Haunted Heroine is told from the perspective of Evie Tanaka, one of my favorite characters. Her POV is what introduced the series, and her perspective was just as delightful to read from as the first time around, in Heroine Complex. While the beginning was looking at her future—with her husband, Nate, and her pregnancy—much of the story explored Evie’s past. That also included an old relationship that has haunted (no pun intended) Evie in previous books in the series. It had affected her relationships with others, as well as how she saw herself. So it was great to see it finally addressed. Plus Kuhn’s handling of the emotional side of the character arcs was fantastic. It was one of my favorite aspects about the story, and I felt like a lot of the lingering plot threads from previous stories reached a satisfying resolution.

It was also great to see how the other characters in the series were adjusting to changes in their lives/ what they were currently doing after the end of the third book—including Evie’s younger sister, Bea, Aveda, and everyone else. Evie and Aveda’s friendship has always been one of the highlights of the series, even with the ups and downs. I liked how they were both still working on their friendship, but there was never a doubt that there was a bond there.

Overall, I liked Haunted Heroine’s story. It took place in October, and the setting—Morgan College—was different from the more familiar urban city setting of San Francisco. The grounds of the college afforded for something of a spooky atmosphere, and it was a perfect place for the latest mystery to play out.

Haunted Heroine is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. If you’re a fan of this series, then this one should be on your TBR list.
About the author....

Sarah Kuhn is the author of the popular Heroine Complex novels—a series starring Asian American superheroines. The first book is a Locus bestseller, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, and one of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s Best Books of 2016. Her YA debut, the Japan-set romantic comedy I Love You So Mochi, is a Junior Library Guild selection and a nominee for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. She has also penned a variety of short fiction and comics, and her hotly anticipated graphic novel Shadow of the Batgirl is coming out in early 2020 from DC Comics. Additionally, she was a finalist for both the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. A third generation Japanese American, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and an overflowing closet of vintage treasures.
Goodreads     Website     Twitter     Instagram
Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (DAW Books) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Music Monday (121): Bonnie Tyler, Kane Brown, and John Legend

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Lately, I've been listening to a lot of music by Bonnie Tyler again.  Tyler is responsible for some of my all time favorite songs like Holding out for a Hero and Race to the Fire. 

Total Eclipse of the Heart is another one of my favorites.

Andrea: I hope this post finds everyone safe and well. I am excited to find out what everyone is listening to this week. Although, I don't always comment on everyone's posts. I often have time to visit your site. And I appreciate the music that each of you share each week. It is my goal to allot time for comments this week--even if I have to stay up a little late.

This week I am listening to Kane Brown and John Legend. While watching the BET Awards, I saw Kane Brown perform Worldwide Beautiful. I absolutely fell in love with the simplistic yet beautiful message. Since I wasn't familiar with his music, I searched the internet for other songs by Brown. I eventually came across Last Time I Say Sorry by Kane Brown and John Legend. As such, Worldwide Beautiful and Last Time I Say Sorry are my song selections for this week.

What are you listening to this week?

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