Friday, February 26, 2021

Short Stories I Read In January

It’s the 26th of February. So it’s time to talk about all of the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in January.

The Karyōbinga Sings To Jiro by Riyu Ando (Strange Horizons; Issue: 11 January 2021) Note: there is a podcast version of the story available from Strange Horizons

The first short story I read In January was The Karyōbinga Sings To Jiro by Riyu Ando. This was such a simple and lovely story. The writing flowed. The story was good. It seemed to deal with loss, remembrance, and staying in familiar and comfortable places and spaces. It was done so well and overall it was an excellent read.

#Selfcare by Annalee Newitz (Tor.com, January 19, 2021)

#Selfcare is the second short story I tackled in January. It was a lot, and I also loved it. #Selfcare was an easy read with a great message. It’s the kind of story that heavily focuses on social commentary—think gig economy and other topics relevant to today—except there was a slightly paranormal twist and a few hints of horror. This story had a great cast. I really liked Edwina, her friend, and the supporting characters. I also liked the direction Newitz took the plot. Overall, #Selfcare was pretty great.

Your Own Undoing by P H Lee (Apex Magazine, January 19, 2021)

Your Own Undoing was fantastic. It was an engrossing read, and I found it way too easy to really get into this story. For starters, it was written in first and second person, with a narrator telling the events of the story to another character. It was great. Your Own Undoing essentially tells how a scholar and sorcerer takes in a new pupil, whose penchant for darker magic and thirst for knowledge negatively effects everyone around them—specifically the character the story is being told to.

From around the web…

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

I Listened to Coping Mechanisms by Tayla Parx

One artist I’ve had my eye on is Tayla Parx. I knew her first through her work for other artists like Ariana Grande (Thank U, Next) and Khalid (Love Lies, featuring Normani). Her debut studio album was one of my favorites of the year it was released, and since then I’ve been eagerly waiting for the follow-up to We Need to Talk. Well, that second studio album is here. Coping Mechanisms was released on November 20, 2020. I was pretty late getting to the album, but I’m glad I made time to give it a full listen.  

We Need To Talk had a very mainstream pop feel and sound to it. While Coping Mechanisms has a somewhat different tone without losing the essence of its pop roots, and there were other sounds mixed in—think R&B. As a consequence, Coping Mechanisms feels like Tayla Parx honed familiar sounds into a style distinctly her own.

Coping Mechanisms opens with a song called Sad. It had a mellow vibe that acts as a perfect way to ease into what’s to come after. It goes right into Dance Alone, which is one of my top favorite tracks from the album and gives a smooth funky vibe with the guitar and synth sounds in the backtrack. While System—another favorite of mine—had a harder tone and electronic vibes. It was as equally good as the rest of the album. Some of my other top favorites included Fixerupper, Bricks, and Residue.

Coping Mechanisms was a fantastic, fun, and memorable foray into Tayla Parx’s work. It was a solid album, with excellent lyrics and catchy beats found on every track on its twelve song list. I was left with an overall positive impression.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Music Monday (149): Allie X, Kelly Rowland, Jinjer, Fat Boys & Various Other Artists

 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: One afternoon, I was surfing through my spotify recommendations, and I eventually landed on a page of new releases from artists I already follow. One of the songs I listened to and instantly added to my playlist was GLAM! by Allie X. I adore this song for its punchy, retro-pop brightness, and I wanted to mention it on the blog.


Adri: Hello, this week I'm listening to two vastly different artist I love. The first is Flowers by Kelly Rowland from her new EP, K. And the second, more on the metal side, is Pisces (Live Sesson) by Jinjer



Andrea: This week, I'm spotlighting music, performed, written, and/or produced by the late  Prince Markie Dee (Mark Morales). Prince Markie Dee was a member of the Fat Boys and later  released music with his band, Prince Markie Dee and The Soul Convention. 

Can You Feel It by Fat Boys
Mark Morales, Darren Robinson & Damon Wimbley



Typical Reasons (Swing My Way) by Prince Markie Dee and The Soul Convention
Songwriters: Mark Morales, Mark Rooney, Raymond James Calhoun & Damon Johnson



Real Love by Mary J Blige
Songwriters Cory Roony & Mark Morales


Do You Think of Me by Mariah Carey
Songwriters: Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasief, Cory Roony & Mark Morales


Prince Markie Dee (Mark Morales)
February 19, 1968-February 18, 2021, RIP


What are you listening to this week?


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas volume 6 by Jun Mochizuki

Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #6
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Manga; Fantasy; Alternative History
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; December 24, 2019

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
On the trail of the Beast of Gévaudan, Vanitas and Noé are led to the heart of the incident and the noble house of d'Apchier. There, they discover that a brave, heartrending wish to save a daughter from a vampire's fate became the haunting first cry of the Beast itself...

Note: there may be mild spoilers for volumes 1-5

It has been a couple of months since I last picked up a volume of The Case Study of Vanitas. Last time I checked, volume 5 ended with the main cast stuck in an odd time warp like situation while searching for the truth behind the Beast of Gévaudan's sudden reappearance. There was so much going in this volume, and I almost don’t know where to begin.

It was good.

I still feel excited whenever I step back into this story. Mochizuki’s artwork is, as always, gorgeous and expressive. There’s a perfect balance between visual storytelling and information imparted by dialogue.

From the beginning of the series, there have been a number of mysteries woven into the plot alongside major conflicts, and finally some of those long sought answers are appearing. Volume 6 was no less interesting of course. It was still just as action packed and atmospheric as the previous entries in the series. Plus this one moved the story further into this arc.

The Gévaudan storyline is shaping up to be one of my favorites, second only to the vampire masquerade a few volumes back. One note I forgot to mention when I reviewed volume 5 was that I thought the plot was building toward more backstory. I was right. From the way the world is set up, there has been more than enough evidence shown that there was a major conflict between vampires and other people sometime in the past. Volume 6 dipped its toes into that. There was backstory abound here for some of the key characters in the series—like Jeanne, Ruthven, and Chloe—as well as adding more world building. I’m glad so much of it was delivered with minimal interruption, because it afforded a clearer picture of what happened in the past and what it had to do with the current events. Yet despite the answers provided in volume 6, there are still many outstanding mysteries.

Overall, volume 6 was excellent, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Music Monday (148): Laura Mvula, Bon Jovi, Ava Max & Morcheeba

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: Recently, I was listening to Laura Mvula's music again. I came across a more recent release that I missed from February 2020 called Brighter Dawn. I haven't watched the movie, Clemency, so it's no wonder I missed this one. I like Brighter Dawn. It has a nice sound as well as Laura Mvula's amazing vocals. Somehow this song feels way too short.

 
Adri: This week I am listening to The Sea by Morcheeba. Honestly, it feels like I've heard this song before, like a long time ago. But, I don't recall. 


Andrea: Hi all, this music Monday is more of a what am I listening to and thinking. Last Music Monday, Lauren Stoolfire over at Always Me shared the song Kings & Queens. The tune sounded all too familiar to songs by Bon Jovi. Of course, I wanted to know the connection between the song Kings & Queens by Ava Max; and Bon Jovi’s songs You Give Love A Bad Name and Livin’ On A Prayer. What did I discover??? Well, all of the songs are co-written by Desmond Child. Child has also written songs for Aerosmith, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Kiss, Ricky Martin, and many other well-known Artists.

I love the fact that even though the beat sounds familiar each song is written from a different perspective. And remember this is only my opinion. Kings & Queens seems to present the perspective of an independent woman who’s certain that her partner can’t live without her. Whereas You Give Love A Bad Name by Bon Jovi seems to blame one of the partners for all of the problems in the relationship—Like how does a relationship like that work out. Finally, my favorite song by Bon Jovi, Livin’ On A Prayer seems to present a couple who can make it through anything as long as they have each other and work together.

I have a couple of reasons for having a special affinity for Livin’ On A Prayer. First, I have gone to several events in which the crowd warmer had the audience sing this song—I guess you can say it brings back good memories. Also, I’m hooked on Livin’ On A Prayer’s message.

I have posted the YouTube videos for Kings & Queens, You Give Love A Bad Name, and Livin’ On A Prayer below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have an amazing week & stay safe! -Andrea 






What are you listening to this week? Are there any new songs you discovered recently?



Friday, February 12, 2021

The Friday 56 (194) & Book Beginnings: The Case Study of Vanitas volume 6 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.



Synopsis from Goodreads...
On the trail of the Beast of Gévaudan, Vanitas and Noé are led to the heart of the incident and the noble house of d'Apchier. There, they discover that a brave, heartrending wish to save a daughter from a vampire's fate became the haunting first cry of the Beast itself...



Beginning: "It's morning...?"

56: "I became a curse-bearer of my own accord...."


Comments: I finally got around to reading the sixth volume of The Case Study of Vanitas. I enjoyed this entry in the series, and I'm looking forward to volume 7. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Hunt The Flame
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; May 14, 2019

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya--but neither wants to be. War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds--and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
I’ve wanted to read We Hunt The Flame for a while now. It seemed to have all the aspects I look for in a fantasy novel. A story involving the absence of magic and the quest to restore it is one of my favorite types of fantasy tropes, and the story Faizal crafted was just excellent.

We Hunt The Flame is a slow moving fantasy novel that deserves to be savored. The story was engrossing from what was basically the first paragraph. The world is rich with history. The characters are engaging, and they seemed to come alive on the page. The pacing set by the opening chapters really benefited the story later on. There needed to be that time and space to set up the foundation of the world, as well as introduce the characters. So when the characters set off on their adventure, I was already more than invested in them because I knew what their everyday life was like—as well as their connection with the secondary characters. There were many emotional scenes throughout the story, and I felt every one of them because of it.

Zafira was a great, well-rounded protagonist. She lived in a particularly strict part of Arawiya called “the caliphate of Demenhur.” As the Hunter she was skilled, but despite her achievements she was openly plagued by fears. That being said, she was brave, and had a willingness to step into the unknown to go after what she sought—even if her future was uncertain. Another notable aspect was the relationship Zafira had with her sister and best friends, Yasmine and Deen. It was great, and that’s all I can say about it.

On the other hand, there was Nasir. He’s supposed to be this tough guy, but by the end he was coming off as kind of sympathetic. His end of the story surprised me the most. His internal struggle was integral to his perspective, and at every turn there just seemed to be a revelation regarding him.

The other characters in the story came from just as varied backgrounds. They were interesting in their own right.

We Hunt The Flame was fantastic. The ending though, now that was one heck of cliffhanger, and I’m left with way too many questions. Luckily, I already bought a copy of the next book in the duology, and I plan to read it soon.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Music Monday (147): Kylie Minogue , Barbara Tucker, Jordin Sparks

 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: Recently I went on a binge of Kylie Minogue's music, and I started with one of my favorite albums: Aphrodite. It's actually the first album I listened to by Minogue, and I still love it. One of my favorite songs from it is Everything Is Beautiful

 
Adri: Have you ever had one very small part of a song stuck in your head but can't find it or remember the rest? Well that's where I'm at right now. Although I  haven't found the song that I want, I have come across way too many new ones. Anyway, this week I am listen to I Get Lifted by Barbara Tucker. My second pick is the X.T.C Mix, which is my favorite.



Andrea: Hi all, this week I’m listening to music by Jordin Sparks. I was excited to find out that she recently released new music, You Still Think of Me. I’m also listening to No Air featuring Chris Brown & One Step at a Time. No Air is one of my absolute favorite songs by Sparks. I can't wait to discover what everyone is listening to. Have an amazing week, and thanks for stopping by!







What are you listening to this week?



Friday, February 5, 2021

Friday 56 (193) & Book Beginnings: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

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...
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya--but neither wants to be. War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds--and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.


Beginning: "People lived because she killed. And if that meant braving the Arz where even the sun was afraid to glimpse, then so be it."

56: "At least, she didn't think he would."


Comments: We Hunt The Flame has been on my TBR list for way too long. I finally read it, and I loved the story. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ARC Review: Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter by Melissa Savage

Title: Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter
Series: n/a 
Author: Melissa Savage
Source/Format: Publisher; eARC
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown Books For Young Readers; January 19, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
While staying in a haunted Colorado hotel for her father's ghost-hunting television series, Karma Moon must battle her anxiety, interpret the signs of the universe, and get footage of a real ghost--you know, the usual.

Karma Moon is a firm believer in everything woo-woo, as her dad calls it. So when she asked her trusty Magic Eight Ball if the call asking her dad to create a ghost-hunting docuseries was her dad's big break, it delivered: No doubt about it. Because the universe never gets it wrong. Only people do. Karma and her best friend, Mags, join her dad's Totally Rad film crew at a famous haunted hotel in Colorado over her spring break. Their mission: find a ghost and get it on camera. If they succeed, the show will be a hit, they can pay rent on time, and just maybe, her mom will come back. Unfortunately, staying at a haunted hotel isn't a walk in the park for someone with a big case of the what-ifs. But her dad made Karma the head of research for the docuseries, so she, Mags, and a mysterious local boy named Nyx must investigate every strange happening in the historically creepy Stanley Hotel. Karma hopes that her what-ifs don't make her give up the ghost before they can find a starring spirit to help their show go viral--and possibly even get them a season two.

With Melissa Savage's quirky cast of characters and spooky setting underlaid by a touching and relatable struggle against anxiety and grief over her fractured family, Karma Moon--Ghosthunter is bound to charm and delight.

In the past year or so, I’ve read a number of middle grade ghost stories—everything from The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Bown to Ghost Squad by Clairbel A. Ortega. So, I was more than thrilled to get an ARC of Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter. This one turned out to be just okay. It was less of a ghost story and more about the characters—which gave it a more contemporary feel—and the paranormal aspects were kind of sparse and didn’t happen until much later.

The book spent a lot of time on movie references rather than building up its own ghostly-lore and spooky atmosphere. Even the subjects of the ghost hunt took a backseat to the analysis of movies like Poltergeist and The Shining. The last one I kind of get, since the setting of this book was the Stanley Hotel, which is the same one from the Shining. However, there were some interesting ideas here, and I wish they had taken up a little more of the focus in the story.

Where Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter excelled was in its messaging. A lot of the story dealt with an absent parent and how it directly affected Karma, who was twelve. I did like how the author chose to handle the main character—i.e. the detail about her therapy sessions just being a part of her life. That was great. It was excellent. Savage nailed it.

Overall, Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter was fine. If you go in expecting a story that shines a light on its characters—rather than ghosts and other paranormal happenings—you’ll like this one a lot. I also think the book’s target audience would enjoy this one, particularly for readers who don’t like a lot of scary occurrences. So I do recommend it.

About the author....

Melissa is a writer and a child and family therapist. She has worked with families struggling with issues of abuse, trauma and loss/bereavement. She believes that expressing oneself through writing can be a very healing process when struggling with difficulties in life. In addition it can be a vehicle in which to honor, celebrate and continue to share the spirits of the special people who have left us too soon. Melissa lives in Phoenix.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book for this review was provided by the publisher (Crown Books For Young Reads) via Netgalley, thank you!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Music Monday (146): Nao, Blackstreet

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: This week, I'm listening to a new song by Nao: Antidote featuring Adekunle Gold. This is a great song, and I'm really glad to see more music from this artist. 

  

Andrea: Hi all, this week I'm listening to music by Blackstreet, No Diggity featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen and Before I Let You Go. Have an amazing week! 

 



What music are you currently listening to?



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