Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Short Stories I Read in August...


Today is the 29th of September, so it’s time to talk about the short stories, podcast episodes, and other miscellaneous posts I read or listened to in August.

Last Orders In The Green Lane by Stephen O’Donnell (Strange Horizons; Issue: 6, July 2020)

The first short story I tackled in August was Last Orders In The Green Lane. From the first line to the last, I was drawn into the story. It was short and straight to the point. I would say that it was a little melancholic, with a note of reminiscing and hopeful determination at some points. It was a little like starting a story in the middle of the climatic point of the plot. It was the calm before the storm, the preparation before the battle, and that’s where it ended. Still, I liked this one.

The Ruby Of The Summer King by Mari Ness (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Thirty-Five, July/August 2020)

The second short story I read was The Ruby of the Summer King. I loved this story. It reminded me of a lot of the fairy/fey lore heavy books I’ve read in the past, particularly Holly Black’s work. Though it was never explicitly stated that the characters were any kind of fey, the tone and elements in the story had a strong resemblance to it. Mari Ness’s writing was absolutely lovely, and I enjoyed how the story used the seasons and months as characters in their own right. I also enjoyed how the themes as well as a love story—that was unfortunately doomed—was explored.

The Inaccessibility of Heaven by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Thirty-Five, July/August)

You can’t go wrong with an Aliette de Bodard story, and The Inaccessibility of Heaven was fantastic. It was a hardboiled detective noir story, set in a world with witches and fallen angels. It reminded me of The House of Shattered Wings, which is still one of my favorite stories by this author. Bodard’s take on fallen angels has always been one of my favorites, so I enjoyed finding many similarities to that series in this story. The Inaccessibility of Heaven was full of surprising twists, and it was made even better by the complicated relationships and history between the characters. The “Fallen” were quite complex as characters, and there was a question of holding one’s self accountable for past actions (it was a theme that came up throughout in much of the story). It was, however, kind of dark, but with the type of story it was—murder mystery—that’s to be expected. So if you’ve enjoyed any of Aliette de Bodard’s work in the past, then this is a story that should be on your radar.

From Around The Web…

Monday, September 28, 2020

Music Monday (132): Tove Lo, Charlie Puth

   Rules:
  • 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: Tove Lo released a new song last week called, Don't Say Goodbye, with ALOK & Ilkay Sencan. It's one of my favorite songs featuring Tove Lo.


Andrea: This week, I'm listening to music by Charlie Puth. I hope everyone has a great week!



What are you listening to this week?




Friday, September 25, 2020

I Listened to Cape God by Allie X and Where Does The Devil Hide by Zella Day

Cape God (Released on February 21, 2020)… 
It might have taken me a while, but I finally got around to listening to Allie X’s Cape God. I’m so glad I did. Cape God had a much mellower feel to it than the high-energy tone of the pop and synth sounds that defined Super Sunset. That wasn’t a bad thing of course, and some of those same influences could also be found on Cape God anyway. I have to admit: Cape God was just as good as Super Sunset, and it had a certain sound to it that I enjoyed overall. It was absolutely a charmingly delightful album, and it was decidedly easy to listen to. I liked Allie X’s vocal delivery on all of the tracks, and there were also some cool visualizers to accompany the songs. Some of the standout tracks from Cape God included Devil I Know, Sarah Come Home, Life of the Party and Susie Save Your Love featuring Mitski. Those songs in particular were catchy, lyrically, vocally, and sound wise very memorable. Cape God has a lot of replay value, and I see myself listening to this one again. If you’ve listened to music by Allie X before, then you’ll likely enjoy Cape God.

Where Does The Devil Hide (Released on August 28, 2020) … 
Where Does The Devil Hide has finally been released, and most of the songs from it are pretty recognizable (most of them were singles). In particular, People Are Strangers, which I’ve mentioned on a Music Monday post a few weeks back. Still generally speaking, this EP—with just five tracks to its name—had a good selection of songs. Where Does The Devil Hide had a distinctly pop sound with a singer-songwriter and indie edge (along the same vein as St. Vincent). It was sometimes nostalgic in its sound for eighties/seventies disco (funk) tracks—think Earth, Wind, and Fire, with a bit of Rayven Lenae’s Crush EP—it had Zella Day’s unique vocals, and the visuals for the music videos captured the overall feel of the music. Overall, this was a good EP. Some of the standouts were People are Strangers, Purple Haze, and My Game. But really, I liked all the songs relatively equally. So Where Does The Devil Hide will likely end up on one of my playlists.

Have you listened to music by Allie X or Zella Day? If so, are you planning to listen to Where Does The Devil Hide or Cape God?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas volume 4 by Jun Mochizuki

38235490Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas volume #4
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy; Alternative History; Manga
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; November 22, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Deep within the bowels of Paris, Noé and Vanitas race through the catacombs with an elite team of chasseurs, the Church's anti-vampire unit, in hot pursuit. Their search for the missing vampires takes the pair down a path all too familiar to Vanitas, bringing them face-to-face with not only an overwhelming curse-bearer, but also with Vanitas's past. Confronted by the horrific menace, what will Noé and Vanitas fight for, and whom will they save...?
I had some arcs to get through last month, so I didn’t have as much time to read anything else. It wasn’t until recently that I finally got around to reading volume 4 of The Case Study of Vanitas. This series is so good so far.

I’m enjoying the story, as well as the way Mochizuki created this alternative version of Paris. The illustration of the setting is just perfection, and the way the various locations are used to set the tone of a scene creates a very atmospheric reading experience. I liked all the real-world details and history incorporated into the story. It seamlessly fit with the fantastical elements—like vampires and Astermite (a type of stone that also went through rewriting during the “Babel incident”)—and there are layers of complexity to the series, which is only just beginning to be explored in-depth.

This volume was action-packed and further expanded the world with the continued conflict between the protagonists and the church’s anti-vampire Chasseurs. I have to admit that I like the Chasseurs. They’re a tough group, and I liked the way they were portrayed. Roland, in particular, was an entertaining character. He provided a few comical moments, which broke up the tension a little. This volume also explored more of Vanitas’s past, and it was as forlorn as I thought it would be. It only raised more questions about his connection to the Vampire of the Blue Moon as well as how he ended up with The Book. The witty banter between Vanitas and Noé is one my favorite parts of the dialogue. As I’ve mentioned before, their personalities are polar opposites, and that means that they often clash. However some of the best moments were when Noé and Vanitas got along enough to work together, and their dynamic during combat was one of my favorite aspects about volume 4.

A few familiar faces also appeared in volume 4 too. The chapters with Jeanne were kind of cute, before they got serious. Generally speaking, I hope there’ll be more about her character sometime soon.

Volume 4 was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to where the story goes next.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Music Monday (131): Dua Lipa, Oceans of Slumber, Mary J. Blige


   Rules:
  • 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 Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa. I'm really enjoying this album. One of my favorite songs from it is Love Again.


Adri: I recently ordered Oceans of Slumber's self-titled album. I haven't received it yet, but I've been listening to it on stream and am not disappointed. My first pick is The Colors of Grace.


My second pick is not on the album, but I still love it. It's called Strange Fruit, and this version is very haunting. The flashing lights add to the ambiance (by the way, warning for flashing lights). 

Andrea: This week, I'm listening to Everything by Mary J. Blige.



What are you listening to this week?



Friday, September 18, 2020

The Friday 56 (186) & Book Beginnings: The Case Study of Vanitas volume 4 by Jun Mochizuki

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.


38235490Synopsis from Goodreads...
Deep within the bowels of Paris, Noé and Vanitas race through the catacombs with an elite team of chasseurs, the Church's anti-vampire unit, in hot pursuit. Their search for the missing vampires takes the pair down a path all too familiar to Vanitas, bringing them face-to-face with not only an overwhelming curse-bearer, but also with Vanitas's past. Confronted by the horrific menace, what will Noé and Vanitas fight for, and whom will they save...?


Beginning: ""Well? What do you want to do? Will you...come with me too?""

56: ""Do you really understand,  Noé?""


Comments: I finally got around to reading the fourth volume of The Case Study of Vanitas. I really enjoyed the direction the story went in, and I'm looking forward to the next volume. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: Silver In The Wood by Emily Tesh

43459657Title: Silver In The Wood
Series: The Greenhollow Duology #1
Author: Emily Tesh
Source/Format: Tor E-book club; eBook
More Details: Fantasy; Novella
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; June 18, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads. When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.
Recently, I’ve been reading a few articles about Emily Tesh’s writing, and they renewed my interest enough for Silver In The Wood that I finally gave it a read. I liked this story a lot. It had the kind of fairy-tale atmosphere and deftly spun folklore that I’ve enjoyed in the past—in books like Spinning Silver and The Bear and the Nightingale. Tobias Finch’s story was well-done, and I was quickly engrossed in the mysterious nature of his prolonged stay in the woods around Greenhollow Hall. His care for the wood spoke volumes about his character, despite his sometimes gruff demeanor. I also liked Henry Silver, for the nature of his characteristics—sometimes inquisitive, charming, and determined—and his time with Tobias. Separately, they were great characters, but their interactions were some of the best parts of Silver In The Wood. What I also liked was how the past clashed with the present, and the themes of age and reconstruction, the cycle of a forest—and the play on the story of the Green Man. As such, the magical elements of the story had a very lush and earthy feel to them—as did the writing, which I consider to be atmospheric—and all around it was pretty great.

I could keep going, but I don’t want to spoil this story for anyone who hasn’t read it. What I will say—and leave off at—is that there was much that I enjoyed about Silver in the Wood. I know there is a sequel for it, and it’s on my TBR list.   

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

ARC Review: Floriography: An Illustrated Guide To The Victorian Language Of Flowers

50898143Title: Floriography: An Illustrated Guide To The Victorian Language Of Flowers
Series: n/a
Author: Jessica Roux
Source/Format: Publisher; eARC
More Details: Nonfiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Andrews McMeel Publishing; September 15, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A charming, gorgeously illustrated botanical encyclopedia for your favorite romantic, local witch, bride-to-be, or green-thumbed friend.

The Language of Flowers is a full-color guidebook to the historical uses and secret meanings behind an impressive array of flowers and herbs. The book explores the coded significances associated with various blooms, from flowers for a lover to flowers for an enemy. The language of flowers was historically used as a means of secret communication. It soared in popularity during the 19th century, especially in Victorian England and the U.S., when proper etiquette discouraged open displays of emotion. Mysterious and playful, the language of flowers has roots in everything from the characteristics of the plant to its presence in folklore and history. Researched and illustrated by popular artist Jessica Roux, this book makes a stunning display piece, conversation-starter, or thoughtful gift.
Floriography was a very fascinating read. I’m not too well-versed on flower language, and this book turned out to be a good place to start. This book was arranged in a two page profile style format, with brief definitions to accompany the matching illustration. I do have to note that Roux’s illustrations were gorgeous. The book cover alone is enough of an example of the kind of work put into Floriography, and the overall presentation of the flowers and information was enjoyable to read. It was also cool to find out about all the meanings applied to the flowers and where that sort of came from. I also enjoyed the section on bouquets, as well as the parts that explained what each flower could be paired with and what kind of meaning would come from it.

Floriography was definitely a guidebook. I liked it, and I’m certainly interested in reading more about the subject. If you’ve wanted to learn a little about flower language, or were looking for a place to start—especially in a Victorian era context—then you might want to consider giving this book a try.

About the author....

Jessica Roux is a Nashville-based illustrator and plant and animal enthusiast. She loves exploring in her own backyard and being surrounded by an abundance of nature. Using subdued colors and rhythmic shapes, she renders flora and fauna with intricate detail reminiscent of old-world beauty. 

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Andrews McMeel Publishing) via netgalley for this review, thank you! 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Music Monday (130): Kimbra


   Rules:
  • 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 my favorite album by Kimbra, Primal Heart. I like all the songs from it. One of my top-favorites is Right Direction



What are you listening to this week?




Friday, September 11, 2020

The Friday 56 (185) & Book Beginnings: Silver In the Wood by Emily Tesh

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.

43459657Synopsis from Goodreads...
There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads. When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.


Beginning: " It was the middle of an autumn downpour when Tobias first met Henry Silver."

56: ""More than that," said Tobias."


Comments: I finally read Silver In the Wood. I liked this story. My 56 comes from page thirty-seven instead (the real page fifty-six is close to the end of the novella). What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

I Listened to Jaguar by Victoria Monét...

 
I’ve listened to music by Victoria Monét in the past, and her latest album, Jaguar, was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I liked Jaguar a lot. It was a blend of pop and R&B with a 80s nostalgic aesthetic and sound. Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, Allie X’s Super Sunset, and Ravyn Lenae’s Crush immediately comes to mind for comparisons sake. There were some recognizable samplings, but it was reworked in a way that made the music feel fresh and unique. Jaguar pretty much did its own thing, and I have to say that I’m currently enjoying the recent R&B releases such as this.

Generally speaking, there was nothing bad here, because Jaguar is a solid album. The titular song was a good intro to the album. It’s the kind of song that easily grabbed my interest, and from there, I binged the whole album. It was so good. There were so many tracks that I outright liked such as Dive, Touch Me, and Go There With You just to name a few. The style of the album comes through in its sound as well as the music videos. There’s no clearer example of this than the music video for Experience featuring Khalid & SG Lewis—which is also one of my favorite songs from the album.

At the end of the day, I’m glad to see another album from Monét. Jaguar is one of my favorite albums of 2020, and I look forward to Monét’s next project.

Jaguar was released on August 7, 2020. Have you listened to music by Victoria Monét? If so, do you plan on listening to Jaguar?


Friday, September 4, 2020

ARC Review: Unbirthday by Liz Braswell

50358479Title: Unbirthday
Series: A Twisted Tale
Author: Liz Braswell
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Retelling; Young Adult
Publisher/Publication Date: Disney-Hyperion; September 1, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?
Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She'd rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian's lively salon, ignoring her sister's wishes that she stop all that "nonsense" and become a "respectable" member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss. Yao's teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She's also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she's curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming. But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects-the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There's something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all-a badly-injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice's help. Mary Ann.
Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts' tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so . . . before the End of Time?
I’m always on the lookout for a good retelling, especially for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which is one of my favorite classic stories. I’ve enjoyed a few retellings for it in the past—like L.L. McKinney’s Nightmare-verse series. So I had high expectations for Unbirthday. Unbirthday feels very much like a continuation of Disney’s 1951 film, Alice in Wonderland. The characters—Mad Hatter, Dormouse, and Dodo—have many similar characteristic (namely in appearance and behavior) to the characters of the movie or they could also more closely resemble those from the original story. With the story being set 11 years after Alice’s initial adventures in Wonderland, so there were differences, namely in the contents of the story. And overall I enjoyed Braswell’s take on an older Alice.

Alice is eighteen in this story, remembers Wonderland fondly as a dream, and looks for magic in her every-day surroundings. Overall, I enjoyed Alice’s perspective here. There was a blend between her regular life as well as her fantastical adventures once she returns to Wonderland. The transition between the two settings was done quite well, and I enjoyed many of the new characters introduced early in the story. Wonderland was full of nonsense and whimsy, and it was all-around pretty fun to read about. Due to the story, however, there was a much darker tone to Wonderland as a whole—in fact, it was downright sinister.

There was a part of the story that dealt a lot with politics—elections, rallies, the candidate, and social injustice—and many of those aspects mirrored real issues that are currently happening. In Unbirthday, Alice was involved with it, and it did take over much of the story outside of Wonderland. However, I did enjoy the complicated connections Alice formed with those around her, and some of my favorite characters included her aunt, Vivian, as well as Katz.

Unbirthday was a great Alice retelling. It had the whimsy and the wonder—and the randomness that’s a hallmark of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—but it also didn’t shy away from the more serious aspects of its story.

About the author...

After the sort of introverted childhood you would expect from a writer, Liz earned a degree in Egyptology at Brown University and then promptly spent the next ten years producing video games. Finally she caved into fate and wrote Snow and Rx under the name Tracy Lynn, followed by The Nine Lives of Chloe King series under her real name, because by then the assassins hunting her were all dead. She also has short stories in Geektastic and Who Done It and a new series of reimagined fairy tales coming out, starting with A Whole New World—a retelling of Aladdin. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, two children, a cat, a part-time dog, three fish and five coffee trees she insists will start producing beans any day. You can email her at me@lizbraswell.com.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Disney-Hyperion) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

ARC Review: Fangs by Sarah Andersen

50898148. sx318Title: Fangs
Series: n/a
Author: Sarah Andersen
Source/Format: Publisher; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Comic
Publisher/Publication Date: Andrews McMeel Publishing; September 1, 2020

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
A new gothic romance story from the creator of the enormously popular Sarah's Scribbles comics. 
Vamp is three hundred years old but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets a charming werewolf. FANGS chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different.
Fangs is short collection of slice-of-life style comics by Sarah Andersen. I know Andersen through her other series, Sarah’s Scribbles. I was particularly excited to give this one a read because of the paranormal elements—like vampires and werewolves—which are some of my favorite types of characters to read about. I have to say that I enjoyed reading Fangs. I had a lot of fun with this one, and it had a lot of the hallmarks of a good paranormal romance. By that I mean it was quite literally a romance between a vampire and a werewolf. The kind of jokes that came from that set up sometimes had me laughing out loud. So really, what’s not to like?

Fangs was a quick read. Each page was set up in an episodic format, where it had individual stories connected by a common subject to the rest of the collection. The relationship was the focus here. So it was good that I liked the main characters too. Jimmy and Elsie were both fun to read about, and I liked the design of their characters.

What was so great about Fangs was its delivery on characters and themes. It was done with the kind of wit, charm, and humor common to Andersen’s comics. And if you’ve read any of them before—like Sarah’s Scribbles—then you’ll likely like Fangs too.

About the author...

Hello! I’m Sarah and I’m a cartoonist and illustrator. I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2014 and currently live in Brooklyn. My comics are semi-autobiographical and follow the adventures of myself, my friends, and my beloved pets.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Andrews McMeel Publishing) via netgalley for this review, thank you!
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