Wednesday, June 30, 2021

ARC Review: The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Return of the Sorceress
Series: n/a
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Subterranean Press; June 30, 2021

Goodreads     Subterranean Press 

Synopsis from Goodreads...
From the bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a magical journey of revenge and redemption.

Yalxi, the deposed Supreme Mistress of the Guild of Sorcerers, is on a desperate mission. Her lover and confidant seized her throne and stole the precious diamond heart, the jewel that is the engine of her power. Yalxi sets out to regain her magic and find a weapon capable of destroying the usurper. But this will mean turning to unlikely allies and opening herself up to unpleasant memories that have been suppressed for many years. For Yalxi is no great hero, but a cunning sorceress who once forged her path in blood – and must reckon with the consequences. Set in a fantastical land where jewels and blood provide symbiotic magical powers to their wearers, The Return of the Sorceress evokes the energy of classic sword and sorcery, while building a thoroughly fresh and exciting adventure ripe for our era.

The Return of the Sorceress is the third book I’ve read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and wow, this was an excellent story. It was sword and sorcery fantasy at its finest. And despite its short length, the world was rich with detail and accompanied by a magic system with an interesting set of rules.

The story starts right in the thick of the action. As the summary states, Yalxi has been deposed from her position and was betrayed, hurt, and on the run. Yalxi’s character was written vividly with her anger and bitterness on full display. It fueled her. It sounds like a revenge story in the making, but it was far more complicated than that. The Return of the Sorceress was about Yalxi and the decision she would ultimately make. She had to face the hard truths about herself and the past that shaped who she was in the present: a person who had grasped power and left behind friend, lover, and old companions alike. As was shown, remembering might have been a burden but forgetting left sorrow and many other emotions only without the proper context.

I also liked some of the secondary characters, particularly the nahual. There were many great conversations happening on that end of the story.

The Return of the Sorceress was a gorgeously rendered tale about revenge and broken promises. My only gripe was that I want more stories with these characters or within this world. However, on the other hand, the ending was a satisfying conclusion for this group of characters. And I can’t recommend it enough. 
About the author....

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the bestselling author of the novels Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Certain Dark Things, Untamed Shore, and a bunch of other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters).



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

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Shot Stories I Read In May

It’s the twenty-ninth of June, so it’s time to talk about the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in May.

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory by Martha Wells (Tor.com, April 19, 2021)

Toward the end of April, there were two short stories I wanted to read but never got around to. The first of them was a story by Martha Wells set in the Murderbot Diaries universe—and taking place just after the fourth novella—called Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory. The perspective of the story is from Dr. Mensah’s POV, and it was great to get into the mind of a different character from this series—especially one who is one of my favorites. This story primarily dealt with the emotional toll on Mensah from the events of the story, as well as questions surrounding SecUnit’s continued presence on Preservation Aux. This story is just excellent. And given that this takes place well into the series, there are spoilers for the first four novellas.

The Angel of Khan el-Khalili by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com, April 28, 2021)


The second short story I mentioned above dropped right at the end of April, on the twenty-eighth. P. Djèlí Clark’s, The Angel of Kahn el-Khalili, is set in the same world as the Master of Djinn, and wow this was a fantastic story. There were descriptors that hearken back to the author’s previous works in this world such as The Haunting of Tram Car 015—one of my favorite reads from last year. In the Angel of Khan el-Khalili, there are two sisters, one is going to ask for a favor—a miracle instead of a wish—and the other who we’re told is dying isn’t actually seen except for in exposition. Stories that deal with wishes (or feats that are kind of like them) can go either way, good or bad, and the price for it can be anything. I liked Clark’s interpretation of this. From the first sentence to the last, P. Djèlí Clark created an engrossing story that was steeped in magic and history against the backdrop of a richly detailed and steampunk-esque setting.

From around the web…

Monday, June 28, 2021

Music Monday (162): Zella Day, H.E.R., Nova Twins

 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: Zella Day released a new song, and no one told me about it. I didn't even get a recommendation for it (Spotify, you've failed me). Anyway, I like Dance For Love

 

I've also been listening to some of H.E.R.'s new music. One of my favorite songs so far is called We Made It, which comes from H.E.R.'s debut studio album, Back Of My Mind (2021).

 

Adri: This week I 'm listening to Play Fair and Athena by Nova Twins. I found them some time ago through a comment section. And they recently released their debut album, Who Are the Girls?. All I have to say is that I love their music soooo much.




What are you listening to this week?



Friday, June 25, 2021

I Listened to 2000AND4EVA by Bree Runway

There has been a trend in music lately where some familiar sounds from the eighties, nineties, and early two thousands are being revisited. Yet not just revisited, but also given a fresh spin. You can find it with Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa, and Laura Mvula’s latest singles to name a few. One mixtape that I’ve been listening to that also follows that trend is Bree Runway’s 2020 album: 2000AND4EVA. As the name of it suggests, this mixtape is peak early two thousands energy, and I love it.

Bree Runway has a track record of always delivering catchy hits like What Do I Tell My Friends, Big Racks featuring Brook Candy, 2ON, and All Night. 2000AND4EVA follows in those footsteps. With nine songs, the mixtape takes a twenty-one minute drive through music from the last decade. Yet it doesn’t feel stale. Bree Runway’s vocals are great here, and I enjoyed the full track list. The theme of the mixtape came through strongest in songs like Damn Daniel featuring Yung Baby Tate, both versions of LITLLE NOKIA, Rolls Royce, and ATM featuring Missy Elliott.

My overall impression of 2000AND4EVA is a positive one. It’s a strong collection of music from Bree Runway, and if you’ve liked music from this artist before then you won’t be disappointed with this one. 
  


Monday, June 21, 2021

Music Monday (161): Simon Neil, Laura Mvula, Maroon 5, Megan Thee Stallion, Copyright, Kathy Brown

 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 many new songs lately, and I feel like I can't keep up with it all. I really have to pick and choose what I'm going to talk about and when I'm going to do it. For today, I decided to stick to a familiar artist and a cover by someone who's new to me. 

As I've said before, I'm really excited for Laura Mvula's upcoming album. It's not out yet, but last week she released another song from it. What Matter's is a duet, and it's one of my favorites so far. When I found out who the second artist on the track was (Simon Neil), I stumbled onto this cover he did for Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill.

 


Adri: Another reprise. It is Never Again by Kathy Brown and Copyright. Last week I mentioned it in my reply to Greg, but I wanted to say it again. Reprises are my favorite because they are extended versions of songs. I really wish more songs had them. And even though this song is already long, as you may know, I love long songs.



Andrea: Hi all! I'm listening to Lost by Maroon 5 and Beautiful Mistakes by Maroon 5 featuring Megan Thee Stallion. Have an amazing week all!

 



What are you listening to?



Friday, June 18, 2021

ARC Review: She Memes Well by Quinta Brunson

Title: She Memes Well
Series: n/a
Author: Quinta Brunson
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Nonfiction; Essays
Publisher/Publication Date:
 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; June 15, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
From comedian Quinta Brunson comes a deeply personal and funny collection of essays featuring anecdotes about trying to make it when you’re broke, overcoming self-doubt and depression, and how she’s used humor to navigate her career in unusual directions... 

Quinta Brunson is a master of viral Internet content: without any traditional background in media, her humorous videos were the first to break through on Instagram’s platform, receiving millions of views. From there, Brunson’s wryly observant POV attracted the attention of BuzzFeed’s motion picture development department, leading her to produce viral videos there about topics like interracial dating, millennial malaise, and seeing your ex in public. Now, Brunson is bringing her comedic chops to the page in She Memes Well, an earnest, laugh-out-loud collection about her weird road to Internet notoriety. In her debut essay collection, Quinta applies her trademark humor and heart to discuss what it was like to go from student loan debt-broke to “halfway recognizable—‘don’t I know you somewhere?’” level-of-fame. With anecdotes that range from the funny and zany—like her experience trying to find her signature hairstyle—to more grounded material about living with depression, Brunson’s voice is entirely authentic and eminently readable. Perfect for fans of Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair, Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, She Memes Well will charm and entertain a growing, engaged audience.

It’s been some time since I last read an essay collection. My typical nonfiction reads are science or history based. Yet, I was looking for something I hadn’t read in a while. I remember Quinta Brunson best through her internet content. I’ve seen the memes and I’ve watched the videos, which garnered my interest in her essay collection, She Memes Well.

Essays can come from a deeply personal place, especially when they are autobiographical. She Memes Well falls firmly within that category, and I have to say that it was a good collection of essays. It was a thoughtful exploration of many topics, and the overall reaction I had to it was a positive one. Brunson wrote (at length) about the people and experiences that were integral to her. Often times, this included—but wasn’t limited to—reminiscing about the ups and the downs throughout her life through topics ranging from her early education and childhood to the beginnings of her career.

She Memes Well proved to be the perfect fit for a weekend read. And if you’re a fan of Brunson’s work, I high recommend this one. 


About the author....

QUINTA BRUNSON is an actor, producer, and stand-up comedian. She's been named one of Forbes's "30 Under 30" and has been featured in Vogue,People,Essence, the Hollywood Reporter, and elsewhere for her pioneering work in comedy. She plays a lead role in the HBO sketch series A Black Lady Sketch Show. Born in Philadelphia, she currently lives in Los Angeles.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

ARC Review: The Heartbeat of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

Title: The Heartbeat of Trees
Series: n/a
Author: Peter Wohlleben
Translator: Jane Billinghurst
Source/Format: Publisher; ARC

More Details: Nonfiction; Science
Publisher/Publication Date: Greystone Books; June 1, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden Life of Trees

A powerful return to the forest, where trees have heartbeats and roots are like brains that extend underground. Where the color green calms us, and the forest sharpens our senses. In The Heartbeat of Trees, renowned forester Peter Wohlleben draws on new scientific discoveries to show how humans are deeply connected to the natural world. In an era of cell phone addiction, climate change, and urban life, many of us fear we've lost our connection to nature-but Peter Wohlleben is convinced that age-old ties linking humans to the forest remain alive and intact. Drawing on science and cutting-edge research, The Heartbeat of Trees reveals the profound interactions humans can have with nature, exploring: the language of the forest, the consciousness of plants, and the eroding boundary between flora and fauna. A perfect book to take with you into the woods, The Heartbeat of Trees shares how to see, feel, smell, hear, and even taste the forest.

One of my most anticipated reads of 2021 was The Heartbeat of Trees. I’ve had my eye on Wohlleben’s other books like The Hidden Life of Trees and The Secret Wisdom of Nature, which I haven’t gotten around to yet. However, that said, I had a chance to read an early copy of The Heartbeat of Trees, and it was a thoroughly engaging read and an incredibly fascinating look at trees. 

Did you know about the sleep behavior studies done on trees? Well, neither did I. There’s much on the subject of trees I had never come across in most of the other nature/environment related books I’ve read prior to The Heartbeat of Trees. Wohlleben concisely wrote about the subject while also making it an engaging and complete narrative, which incorporated personal knowledge and the trips he made—for conservation/forest protection efforts—as well as citing many different studies. The Heartbeat of Trees is, toward the beginning, a look at the ways a person’s senses—like touch, taste, smell, and sight—can interact with the natural landscape around them. While later on, during my favorite parts of the book, Wohlleben dug his heels into the topic and delved into the science behind what makes a tree a tree, the distinction between the different kinds of forests (old-growth and plantation), and the ecosystems that thrive in those environments. The book stressed how delicate those environments were—how long they took to develop—and made a connection between global warming and the state of forests, as well as the strain put on forests by the lumber industry.

There are many passages I would have quoted in this review—as there were many quotable sections—alas my copy of the book is an ARC. Needless to say, The Heartbeat of Trees was an excellent introduction to the subject, and I highly recommend it.

About the author...

Peter Wohlleben spent over twenty years working for the forestry commission in Germany before leaving to put his ideas of ecology into practice. He now runs an environmentally-friendly woodland in Germany, where he is working for the return of primeval forests. He is the author of numerous books about trees.

About the translator...

Jane Billinghurst’s career has been in book publishing in the UK, the US, and Canada, as an editor, publisher, writer, and translator. She is the translator of the international bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees by German forester Peter Wohlleben.


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

Monday, June 14, 2021

Music Monday (160): Tkay Maidza, Copyright, Usher, Kiana Ledé, and Lil Jon & Ludacris

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: Lately, there has been a lot of really good new music. And last week, Tkay Maidza released another song. It's called Cashmere, and it's really good. 

 


Adri: Lately, I've been into Copyright's music. In the coming weeks, I'll probably be talking more about them. But for today, my pick is Wizeman and Wizeman (Reprise) by Copyright featuring Imaani. 



Andrea: This week I'm listening to This Day by Usher featuring Kiana Ledé and Yeah! by Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris. Have an amazing week everyone!




What are you reading this week?



Friday, June 11, 2021

I Listened to Scaled And Icy by Twenty One Pilots

I have been waiting for Scaled and Icy since I heard about it. Twenty One Pilots is currently one of my favorite bands. I was introduced to their music with Blurryface (2015), and its follow-up, Trench (2018), was one of my favorite albums the year it was released. Scaled and Icy is finally here.

It was an enjoyable album to listen to with some of my personal favorites from it being Redecorate, Saturday, Stay Away, No Chances, and Choker just to name a few.

If you’ve listened to a lot of Twenty One Pilots’s music, you can tell the band has a certain style to their music. And while the overall sound of Scaled and Icy isn’t as dark and brooding as some of their earlier music—with a far more pop sound and a certain brightness—it still exists within Twenty One Pilots’s distinctive style. The album feels reflective and experimental, and it arrives right on time for summer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Review: The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory

Title: The Album of Dr. Moreau
Series: n/a
Author: Daryl Gregory
Source/Format: Won from a Twitter contest; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; May 18, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Daryl Gregory's The Album of Dr. Moreau combines the science fiction premise of the famous novel by H. G. Wells with the panache of a classic murder mystery and the spectacle of a beloved boy band. 
It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)? Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began—a place they used to call home....

The Album of Dr. Moreau was a short, occasionally strange, and enjoyable mystery steeped in speculative elements right from The Island of Dr. Moreau. Except it had a music angle, with the genetically engineered people being in a popular but troubled band called the WyldBoyZ. When the band’s sketchy manager winds up dead, the mystery launches from there.

In terms of mysteries, The Album of Dr. Moreau was a pretty good read. The speculative elements were handled well, and if you know anything about The Island of Dr. Moreau, then you’ll sort of know what to expect going into this one.

The characters were interesting. In particular, the detective, Luce Delgado, was a personal favorite of mine. Her style of questioning was as razor sharp as her deductions.

I did like Gregory’s decision to make this a multiple POV story, which added another layer to the mystery and tension. And as the story progressed—with more and more of the past of the WyldBoyZ being revealed—there were sufficient motivations all across the board for almost every character.

In a general sense, the story delivers on everything mentioned in the synopsis, and it did feel like a loose reimagining of The Island of Dr. Moreau. I liked this one.  

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Friday 56 (201) & Book Beginnings: The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory

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...
Daryl Gregory's The Album of Dr. Moreau combines the science fiction premise of the famous novel by H. G. Wells with the panache of a classic murder mystery and the spectacle of a beloved boy band. 
It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)? Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began—a place they used to call home....


Beginning: "The penthouse rooms were decorated in a midwestern car salesman's idea of how rich people live: glass, chrome, mirrors, enough marble to bury a small village, track lights bouncing off every surface. Call it Modern American Lens Flare." 

56: "Luce reached the landing at the penthouse level—and nearly bumped into a man in cargo shorts."


Comments: The Album of Dr. Moreau was pretty good. I liked a lot of the elements of the story. What are you reading this week?

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