Thursday, July 29, 2021

Short Stories I Read In June

It’s the twenty-ninth of July. So it’s time to talk about the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in June. This post is going to be brief.

The Life & Death of Mia Fremont: An Interview with a Killer by A.K. Hudson (Apex Magazine; May 4, 2021)

The only short story I read in June was The Life & Death of Mia Fremont: An Interview with a Killer by A.K. Hudson. This was an interesting story. It mostly felt like a character study mixed with a hefty dose of misogyny. It showed up in the form of the way society/family can treat and expect women to be and behave. This messaging is conveyed through what the main character records, while sitting down at an interview with someone who was initially said to be a literal criminal. But with this story, there’s a slight speculative angle. And the ending left off with an overall question, a “what if,” that isn’t quite answered by the time the story ended.

From Around the Web…


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I Listened to Planet Her by Doja Cat

Hot Pink was a hit for me, and I liked how experimental the sound was throughout the entirety of the album. It had hits such as Say So, Streets, and Rules among others. So I’ve been waiting for the follow-up since then, and Planet Her is my top anticipated album of the year alongside Laura Mvula’s Pink Noise and Tkay Maidza’s Last Year Was Weird Vol. 3. 

Planet Her has finally arrived, and Doja Cat delivers a pop and R&B album with style. I had a great time giving this one a listen. And while there was a much more cohesive feeling and sound to this album, it didn’t stray too far from the fun and experimental edge that exists within the same vein as Hot Pink. Planet Her plays off Doja Cat’s strong suits, and there was, overall, a really catchy and memorable sound as well as a sharp delivery of rap and other verses to all fourteen tracks.

Besides the singles (Kiss Me More, Need To Know, and You Right featuring The Weeknd), there were many other earworms to jam to as well. I liked the entire album. However, some of my top favorites included Get Into It (Yuh), Aint Sh*T, and Woman.

Planet Her was pretty great, and I’m left with a positive impression. This one is going on my playlist.

Have you listened to Planet Her?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Music Monday (165): Kid Cudi, Robin Thicke, Billie

 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've been listening to Kid Cudi's music, and one of my favorite songs so far is Mr. Rager.


Adri: This week I'm listening to Nobody's Business (extended radio) by Billie. I think it's both fun and too true.


Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Look Easy by Robin Thicke. Have an amazing week!



Have you added any new songs to your playlist?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Review: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Return of the King
Series: The Lord of the Rings part #3
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Source/Format: Purchased; 50th Anniversary edition 
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: First published October 20, 1955

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
In the third volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy the good and evil forces join battle, and we see that the triumph of good is not absolute. The Third Age of Middle-earth ends, and the age of the dominion of Men begins. 
I haven’t read The Hobbit. But, I can finally mark The Lord of the Rings from my TBR list, because I have, at last, read The Return of the King. As a whole, this was a long but great story about the struggle against an evil so large it was the stuff of legends, as well as the cost of war on a large but also personal scale.

In The Return of the King, all the threads that were laid in the first two parts of the story came together for an epic confrontation that not everyone made it through. There was a moment of calm early on, but the tension was high. It was the proverbial calm before the storm, and once the story and action got going, it never seemed to stop. The character arcs came to a satisfying conclusion, and it seemed like everyone ended up where they were meant to.

I’ve known about the discussions surrounding the overarching themes of the story, even before I sat down to finally read The Lord of the Rings. Even so, the point of Frodo’s journey—and the way it came to its eventual conclusion—was done so well. The ending was achingly bittersweet, and yet it was a fitting final chapter to bring this story to a close.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Music Monday (164): Aurora, Diana Ross, Biz Markie, Lisa Shaw

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: Aurora released a new song called Cure For Me. It's one of my favorite songs by this artist.


Adri: I don't think I mentioned it before, but, I found a ton of new songs and artists by going down a rabbit hole of deep / chill / ambient / downtempo house. That's where I found the likes of Copyright, Kathy Brown, J. Axel, etc. I also found the artist I'm talking about today, Lisa Shaw. Two of my favorite songs right now are, All Night High (Vocal) and I'm Okay.



Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Thank You by Diana Ross and Just A Friend by Biz Markie.



RIP Biz Markie (April 8, 1964-July 16, 2021)


What are you listening to this week?



Friday, July 16, 2021

The Friday 56 (203) & Book Beginnings: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

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.



Synopsis from Goodreads...
In the third volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy the good and evil forces join battle, and we see that the triumph of good is not absolute. The Third Age of Middle-earth ends, and the age of the dominion of Men begins.


Beginning: "Pippin looked out from the shelter of Gandalf's cloak."

56: "A young man, Merry thought as he returned the glance, less in height and girth than most."


Comments: I have finally read The Return of the King, and so I can mark The Lord of the Rings off my TBR list. I had a great time reading this story. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Review: Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore

Title: Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You
Series: n/a
Author: Scotto Moore
Source/Format: Won from a contest; Paperback
More Details: Science Fiction; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; February 5, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You is a story of music, obsession, violence, and madness by Scotto Moore

I was home alone on a Saturday night when I experienced the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard in my life...

Beautiful Remorse is the hot new band on the scene, releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band's fans. A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following Beautiful Remorse on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band's lead singer, is hiding an incredible, impossible secret.


When Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You initially came out, I completely missed it. But better late than never, right? So I have finally read this book, and it was nothing like I was expecting it to be. The summary on the back is vague and kind of implied a story that might be somewhat surreal and mysterious (think contemporary fantasy). Yet that wasn’t totally the case, and I will get to that in a minute.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You was a really good read. I would describe the story as like looking at an album, or more specifically as going through the stages of listening to each song—seeing how you react to it. The music is mysterious in the beginning—from the identity of the band, to the effect it had on people who listened to the songs—but the story doesn’t have much of a central mystery. Instead it had a feeling to it, a certain kind of atmosphere that was built upon as the story went along. Somewhere along the way, it quickly took a turn into cosmic horror with a musical edge, and it never left that track.

What I liked best about this story was how hard Moore leaned into the love of everything about music—with characters who knew their stuff—as well as the speculative elements. It culminated into a fast paced, page-turner of a read.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Music Monday (163): Magdalena Bay, Brownstone

 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: There has been so much good music released between the end of June and early July. I cam across a group called is Magdalena Bay while exploring my Spotify recommendations. I really like their song called Chaeri, and I look forward to checking out their album when its released in October. Note: there is a strobe warning for the music video.


Andrea: Hi all! I'm listening to If You Love Me by Brownstone. Have a great week!



What are you listening to this week?



Friday, July 9, 2021

The Friday 56 (202) & Book Beginnings: Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore

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.

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You is a story of music, obsession, violence, and madness by Scotto Moore

I was home alone on a Saturday night when I experienced the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard in my life...

Beautiful Remorse is the hot new band on the scene, releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band's fans. A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following Beautiful Remorse on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band's lead singer, is hiding an incredible, impossible secret.


Beginning: "Took me hours to even begin to understand what had happened, actually."

56: "Conveniently, those of you in the Houston area have a chance to find out TONIGHT."


Comments: Two of my most recent reads have been music related things, and I have to say that I enjoyed them both. The latest was this one: Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore. It was great, and I enjoyed reading it. My beginning comes from the second sentence, because the opening line is actually in the synopsis above. What are you reading this week? 


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

ARC Review: The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It by Helen Scales

Title: The Brilliant Abyss
Series: n/a
Author: Helen Scales
Source/Format: Publisher;eARC
More Details: Nonfiction; Science
Publisher/Publication Date: Atlantic Monthly Press; July 6, 2021 

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
"The oceans have always shaped human lives," writes marine biologist Helen Scales in her vibrant new book The Brilliant Abyss, but the surface and the very edges have so far mattered the most. "However, one way or another, the future ocean is the deep ocean." 

A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway. Revolutionary studies in the deep are rewriting the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, with a topography even more varied and extreme than its Earthbound counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more--good or bad depending on how it is exploited. Currently the fantastic creatures that live in the deep--many of them incandescent in a world without light--and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere; and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by many nations and corporations; mining them could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing. Eloquently and passionately, Helen Scales brings to life the majesty and mystery of an alien realm that nonetheless sustains us, while urgently making clear the price we could pay if it is further disrupted. The Brilliant Abyss is at once a revelation and a clarion call to preserve this vast unseen world

One subject I haven’t read enough about is the ocean. So it’s something of interest to me. When I came across The Brilliant Abyss, I instantly knew I wanted to give it a go. Helen Scales wrote a truly fascinating book, which offered an in-depth look at some of the murkier depths of the ocean as well as a number of the amazing animals that live there.

The first portion of the book was spent expertly showing how diverse, delicate, and vital deep-sea environments actually are. The animals have a much bigger role to play in the depths of the ocean than what even I originally gave them credit for. The kind of resilience needed to survive at depths with crushing pressure, frigid temperatures and searing hot (and often toxic) hydrothermal vents is almost unimaginable—yet it exists. And The Brilliant Abyss excels at making this point.

So in the later to last potions of the book, the implications of the damaging and irreparable effects of deep sea mining and fishing was laid out on the table. Loss of habitat was one key factor—i.e. the destruction of old growth coral and the steep declines in animal populations that can’t keep up with demand. The argument Scales’s makes is backed up by a few examples. Such as when she talked thoroughly about the history of a deep sea fish called Orange Roughy.

The Brilliant Abyss was an excellent read. It leaned hard into the science behind what makes the ocean the ocean, and all the many ways the animals that live there have adapted to the characteristics of their environment. Many different studies were cited, which included a few detailed sections about Scales’s own experiences. In conclusion, the abyss is as brilliant as it is fascinating. 

About the author...

Dr Helen Scales is a marine biologist, writer and broadcaster. She is author of the Guardian bestseller Spirals in Time, New Scientist book of the year Eye of the Shoal, and the children’s book The Great Barrier Reef. She writes for National Geographic Magazine, the Guardian, and New Scientist, among others. She teaches at Cambridge University and is science advisor for the marine conservation charity Sea Changers. Helen divides her time between Cambridge, England, and the wild Atlantic coast of of France.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Atlantic Monthly Press) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!

Friday, July 2, 2021

ARC Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Title: Six Crimson Cranes
Series: Sic Crimson Cranes #1
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC 
More Details: Fantasy; Young Adult; Retelling
Publisher/Publication Date: Knopf; July 6, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die. Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama's betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she's been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

Six Crimson Cranes was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, because it’s a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales: The Six Swans. And wow, this was a fantastic story. It had all the hallmarks of a fairy tale complete with a richly realized world, endearing characters, and a story that was engrossing from the first page to the last.

Six Crimson Cranes was the kind of story that gradually eases the reader into the world. It spent a good enough amount of time on the characters and the world before the bulk of the story began. At times tragic, yet always hopeful, Six Crimson Cranes took the essence of The Six Swans. But it gave the story unique spin set against the backdrop of a detailed historical setting. I loved all the little nuances with the food, manner of dress, traditions, magic, and the architectural keywords that made the setting come alive.

The characters were another high point of the story. Lim did an excellent job on them, and I liked all the individual arcs that each one went through.

Shiori was, by far, one of my favorites. She had the most character growth among all of them. Toward the beginning, she was reluctant to fulfill her role as a princess. However, I felt like that had more to do with the changes coming to her life—getting married, moving away, and feeling like she was growing apart from her older brothers as they settled into their respective royal roles. The fear of the unknown was an early source of tension. She felt unheard, but it wasn’t until she couldn’t tell anyone anything—not even to ask for help—that she began to face the truths about her own secrets, and the truth about people she thought she knew all her life.

Six Crimson Cranes was an excellent story. It was a highly enjoyable read, and I was a big fan of the way the mystery played out. And in some ways the conclusion was satisfying for part of the story. Yet, there were also several outstanding questions that will likely be answered in the sequel.

If you like retellings, then I can’t recommend this one enough.
 

About the author.....

Elizabeth Lim is the author of the critically-acclaimed and bestselling The Blood of Stars duology (Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk), the New York Times bestseller So This is Love, and the USA Today bestseller Reflection. Forthcoming books include the Six Crimson Cranes duology, expected summer 2021 and summer 2022, respectively. Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies, and she completed her graduate degrees (MM, DMA) at The Juilliard School. She grew up in Northern California and Tokyo, Japan, and now resides in New York with her husband and two daughters....

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

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Quarterly Recap: April-June

Well, hello. How is everyone doing today? It’s officially July, which means its summer. It has been really hot where I live lately, and I can’t help but wish it was already fall—when it will hopefully cool down a little. It’s also already time for April, May, and June’s quarterly recap. 
April Other Posts:
May Other Posts:
June Other Posts:
Looking ahead, I don’t have any definite plans. Instead, I want to mention some upcoming reviews. The first is What Lives in the Woods, a spooky middle grade novel coming out in September. Next, my review for You Can Never Tell—an exciting domestic thriller and mystery—will be out sometime in august. This month, I’ll have reviews for Six Crimson Cranes (a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales), and for The Brilliant Abyss, which is one of my favorite nonfiction reads so far this year.
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