Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Short Stories I Read In August...

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

Survival, After by Nicole J. LeBoeuf (Apex Magazine, August 3, 2021)

Survival, After was an apocalyptic and surreal narrative about a person trying to survive a strange and limited but seemingly world-ending event. This is a fantasy story, so the speculative elements are strong with this one. It was written in second person, and I liked it; although, I recommend checking out the content warnings before giving this one a read.

What Cacti Read by Mary Soon Lee (Strange Horizons; Issue; 26 July 2021)

I rarely read poetry, but the title of Mary Soon Lee’s poem, What Cacti Read, got my attention. It was short, but I really loved this one. It reminded me of the style of poetry from A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (think Homework Machine). 

Cocoon by H. Pueyo (Strange Horizons; Issue: 2 August 2021)

Everything I read over on Strange Horizon’s in August has been really good. From Mary Soon Lee’s What Cacti Read, and now to H. Pueyo’s Cocoon, it’s all been great. I liked this story a lot. It was about eventual loss while also exploring the associated guilt of the “what ifs,” which couldn’t be changed. It was a really lovely read that had a tone of sadness and trepidation.

From around the web…

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

ARC Review: Chapter and Curse by Elizabeth Penney

Title: Chapter and Curse
Series: The Cambridge Bookshop series #1
Author: Elizabeth Penney
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Press; September 28, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Elizabeth Penney's Chapter and Curse is the first in a brand new cozy series introducing Molly Kimball and set in one of the oldest bookshops in Cambridge, England...

I’ve been into mysteries lately, and my latest read was Chapter and Curse by Elizabeth Penney. I rarely catch the beginnings of cozy mystery series, but that hasn’t ever stopped my enjoyment of later books. Chapter and Curse is the beginning of a new series, and so far I like what I’ve read. From the charming setting to the loveable characters (and cats), there’s already a lot of promising aspects to the first foray into The Cambridge Bookshop series.

Chapter and Curse was quite the mystery. The story had a strong beginning, which laid the framework for the events to come while also introducing an eclectic cast of characters. There was everything from a big move to another country, some family drama involving shady relatives, a struggling bookstore, and a cat. Oh, and books. The story mainly takes place inside of a bookstore, so there was a strong literary theme.

Molly Kimball, the narrator, was awesome. In general, I liked her personality and the interactions she had with the other characters, namely her family and new neighbors.

Chapter and Curse was also the kind of story where the more you find out, the harder it is to guess what’ll happen. It seemed like a standard whodunit, but the delivery was what set this one apart. The situation just got more complicated as it went, with a lot of clues and too many suspects to count. I’m not being dramatic. That’s just an accurate description, because the victim of the case seemed to have run afoul of a number of people. All of them had an adequate motive to commit the crime. It could have been anyone, literally; although, at times it was hard to imagine it because much of the cast was so charming.

It was complicated, but it made for a great story. I really enjoyed Chapter and Curse, and I look forward to what’s in store for the characters next.

About the author...
Elizabeth Penney is the author of the APRON SHOP SERIES and the forthcoming CAMBRIDGE BOOKSHOP SERIES for St. Martin’s Press. Elements that often appear in her novels include vintage summer cottages, past/present mysteries, and the arts. Elizabeth's writing credits include over thirty mysteries and women’s fiction novels, short stories, and hundreds of business articles. A former consultant and nonprofit executive, she holds a BS and an MBA. She's also written screenplays with her musician husband. She loves walking in the woods, kayaking on quiet ponds, trying new recipes, and feeding family and friends. Oh, and trying to grow things in the frozen North...

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

Monday, September 27, 2021

Music Monday (174): Rina Sawayama, Throw The Fight, 69 Boyz, Technotronic, C&C Music Factory


  • 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 Rina Sawayama's 2020 album, Sawayama. One of my favorite songs is Akasaka Sad. I love this song.

Adri: Usually I find music, but this time the music found me. When I got a DM from Throw The Fight, went to check them out some more, and I loved their music. It feels somewhat nostalgic to me. Anyway, my picks are The Fallout, and their new song Wake up!

Andrea: This week I'm partying like it's the 1990's. As such, I'm currently listening to Tootsee Roll Rap Version by the 69 Boyz, Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic, and Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) by C&C Music Factory.

Until next time, have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, September 24, 2021

ARC Review: Fire & Ice, The Volcanoes of the Solar System by Natalie Starkey

Title: Fire & Ice, The Volcanoes of the Solar System 
Series: n/a
Author: Natalie Starkey
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Nonfiction; Science
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury Sigma; September 28, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The volcano – among the most familiar and perhaps the most terrifying of all geological phenomena. However, Earth isn't the only planet to harbor volcanoes. In fact, the Solar System, and probably the entire Universe, is littered with them. 
Our own Moon, which is now a dormant piece of rock, had lava flowing across its surface billions of years ago, while Mars can be credited with the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, which stands 25km high. While Mars's volcanoes are long dead, volcanic activity continues in almost every other corner of the Solar System, in the most unexpected of locations. We tend to think of Earth volcanoes as erupting hot, molten lava and emitting huge, billowing clouds of incandescent ash. However, it isn't necessarily the same across the rest of the Solar System. For a start, some volcanoes aren't even particularly hot. Those on Pluto, for example, erupt an icy slush of substances such as water, methane, nitrogen or ammonia, that freeze to form ice mountains as hard as rock. While others, like the volcanoes on one of Jupiter's moons, Io, erupt the hottest lavas in the Solar System onto a surface covered in a frosty coating of sulphur. Whether they are formed of fire or ice, volcanoes are of huge importance for scientists trying to picture the inner workings of a planet or moon. Volcanoes dredge up materials from the otherwise inaccessible depths and helpfully deliver them to the surface. The way in which they erupt, and the products they generate, can even help scientists ponder bigger questions on the possibility of life elsewhere in the Solar System.Fire and Ice is an exploration of the Solar System's volcanoes, from the highest peaks of Mars to the intensely inhospitable surface of Venus and the red-hot summits of Io, to the coldest, seemingly dormant icy carapaces of Enceladus and Europa, an unusual look at how these cosmic features are made, and whether such active planetary systems might host life.

No matter how many times I read about the Solar System, there’s always something new and fascinating to learn about it. I’ve read a few books before I finally settled on my latest read—Natalie Starkey’s Fire & Ice—and they felt more like a broad overview, sampling a wide variety of relevant subjects. Where Fire and Ice clearly narrows the scope, and focuses on geological activity in its many forms (i.e. volcanoes)—whether hot or cold—from around the solar systems.

This was, by far, an excellent read. I came away from the book with a better understanding, but also a desire to read further about the subject. Let me explain….

Fire and Ice was truly fascinating. Starkey attempts (successfully) to explain volcanoes on other planets and moons—as well as even smaller and colder objects floating around out there—through an in-depth explanation of the ones on Earth. It went over, in great detail, about everything from how dangerous and destructive volcanoes—and a host of other geological processes—can be, how they're “built,” but also acknowledged how formative and essential they are to the environment we’re currently enjoying.

Fire and Ice takes a tour around the Solar System, starting with the life supporting geological processes happening right at home. And how what’s currently known can give clues to how these distant worlds function. After reading this book, I have a new appreciation and respect for volcanoes.

About the author....
Natalie Starkey is a geochemist and author. Following a PhD at Edinburgh University studying Arctic volcanoes, Natalie's post-doctoral work at The Open University shifted her research focus to comets and asteroids. She has analysed hundreds of pieces of stardust, samples from space missions to comets and asteroids, and many meteorites. Natalie has worked on samples from the NASA Stardust and JAXA Hayabusa missions and was a co-investigator on one of the ESA Rosetta lander instruments. Natalie's passion for her research makes her a keen science communicator. She received a British Science Association Media Fellowship in 2013 and a SEPnet media communications award the same year. Natalie is a science host on StarTalk Radio and her freelance writing includes work for the Guardian, The Conversation website, All About Space, BBC Science Focus and New Scientist. Natalie is currently an Outreach and Public Engagement Officer for Physical Sciences at The Open University in the UK.....

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

I Listened to If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey

In the past, I’ve listened to Halsey’s music on an off, and I’ve had my favorite songs over the years. I’m being completely honest when I say that I forgot If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power was coming out this year. Then the album came up on my feed, and I have to say that I like what Halsey did here. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power was an atmospheric listen. It’s some of the most thematic pieces of work I’ve listened to from Halsey. The lyrics were vulnerable and personal but also hard hitting, and the music was ambitious with an excellent delivery. It was still pop, but there was an edgier and darker feeling and tone to it that proved to make for an engrossing album. Some of my favorite tracks included the opening called The Tradition—which had a haunting sound—along with Bells of Santa Fe, Girl Is a Gun, Easier than Lying, I Am Not A Woman I’m A God, You Asked For This, and Whispers. At the end of the day, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is one of my favorite albums of 2021. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Music Monday (173): Tove Lo, Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans, Lion Babe & Oshun


  • 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: Today, I'm sharing a few of my favorite Tove Lo songs. The first is Vibes featuring Joe Janiak from Lady Wood. The second is Thousand Miles from Queen of the Clouds.

Adri: I'm listening to Lion Babe, who recently released their new album, Rainbow Child, in August. My picks are Home and It's Okay feat. Oshun.

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to If the World Just Danced by Diana Ross, I Am What I Am by Gloria Gaynor, and Count on Me by Whitney Houston & CeCe Winans. I simply love Diana Ross's new song and am anxiously awaiting the release of her new album later this year. If anyone is interested, you can upload a video of yourself dancing to If the World Just Danced for a chance to be featured in the official video. If you want more information, just click on the link. Until next time, have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Thought Corner: What I've Been Watching (2021)....

It’s been a long time since I last talked about the TV shows and movies I’ve been watching. To be more specific, I haven’t done anything since my 2020 Favorites: Media post back in December 2020. So it’s been a while. There’s been some good stuff lately, and I want to talk about a few of them.


  • A Discovery of Witches season 2 (2021)
I really enjoyed the first season of A Discovery of Witches, and I was interested in the second one. At the time of writing this, I haven’t read all of the first three books—only the second one with a copy of the third on my shelf. So I was interested in seeing how the show would transition from a wholly modern setting to the historical era during the time traveling portions of the story. And from what I remember of Shadow of Night (and it’s been a while since I read it), season 2 was a really good adaptation of the source material. Much of the cast stayed firmly in the present day timeline, while the second and probably one of the most vital parts of the narrative concerned Diana and Mathew. Specifically, it followed Diana’s study into her abilities, the search for the book, adventures in the past, and her deepening relationship with Mathew. Generally speaking, I like the somewhat literary take on the fantasy elements, as well as how much the events of the story are influenced by the book, Ashmole 782. The second season has already finished airing.
  • SurrealEstate (2021)
I am a sucker for house stories, and SYFYs recent paranormal drama series (which began airing in July), SurrealEstate, satisfied that craving. It’s a show that leans into its cheesy and fun side—the jokes and witty one-liners are good—while also delivering on the spookier side of the shows concept. All around, it’s a fun series so far with episodes that revolve around surprisingly heartfelt stories. The show is pretty episodic, as each week it tackles a story about a different house (or houses) the Roman Real Estate agency plans to help get sold, despite its, um, supernatural issues. Overall, the team dynamic and spooky atmosphere is excellent, and I want to see more from this series.
  • Legend (1985)
I have, at long last, watched Legend. This was one of the movies I was really excited to give a try, since I’ve been working my way through some of the classic eighties fantasies—think Labyrinth and the original Dark Crystal. Legend was the third one from that list. Overall, I liked the film. It was fun and campy. There were a few plot holes here and there, where some of the earlier villains just disappeared from the narrative and it was never explained. However, I liked the fantastical elements as well as how hard the film dug its heels into the dreamy fantasy aesthetic, particularly with its setting.
That’s what I’ve been watching recently. What series or movies have you been enjoying lately?

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

ARC Review: What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Title: What Lives in the Woods
Series: n/a
Author: Lindsay Currie
Source/Format: Netgalley; aARC
More Details: Middle Grade; Horror; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Source Books Young Readers; September 14, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Welcome to the decrepit Woodmoor Manor…where something in the woods is always watching. From the author of Scritch Scratch comes a chilling middle grade story about a creepy mansion and sinister creatures in the woods...

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to relax. But when Ginny's father—a respected restoration expert in Chicago—surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren't staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they're staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures that escaped a mad scientist over a hundred years ago. And some say campers routinely disappear never to be seen again. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: there's more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren't after campers. They're after her.
Last year, I read a number of really great middle grade ghost stories—or books with a spooky atmosphere—and that trend is still going strong in 2021. My first foray into this year’s releases was What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie. I’ve been meaning to give this author a try since Scritch Scratch was released last year; however, it's still on my TBR list.

What Lives in the Woods was a spooky and fun book that had enough scares for readers to enjoy, while also having a surprisingly bittersweet yet heartwarming twist.

The story was just good. It was immediately engrossing, and the fantastical elements were one of the many high points about What Lives in the Woods. Part of that ambiance came from the setting. Woodmoor Manor was creepy. It had all the trappings ripe for mysterious happenings to occur: an isolated location, surrounded by a forest, and an antiqued aesthetic. In that regard, Currie did a great job developing the local lore surrounding the manor. Its mysterious and detailed history proved to be beneficial to the overall atmosphere, and it really was the perfect location for this story to take place.

Ginny Anderson was a great narrator. She knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to show her disappointment about the way her summer plans were abruptly changed. Yet, there was also the friendship in this story that she later developed. It started fast, but was written very well. The characters read like siblings or good friends.

Overall, What Lives in the Woods was a great read. This one is definitely for fans of India Hill Brown’s The Forgotten Girl and Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces and Dead Voices.

About the author....
Lindsay Currie loves a great mystery, and is the author of a number of award-winning mystery books for young readers. Her titles include THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET (2017, S&S) and SCRITCH SCRATCH (2020, Sourcebooks Young Readers) and the forthcoming WHAT LIVES IN THE WOODS (2021, Sourcebooks Young Readers) and CURSES OF EASTPORT (2022, Sourcebooks Young Readers). Lindsay's debut middle grade (PECULIAR INCIDENT) has been to several print runs, was featured in TIME for Kids, was a final nominee for a children's book award in seven states, was an Amazon Prime Book Box pick, and continues the capture the hearts of young readers every single day. SCRITCH SCRATCH is following in those footsteps by going to a second print run only one short month after release, being one of only sixteen titles chosen for the national March Madness book event, and becoming an Amazon Book Box pick for April 2021. In addition, her books have all sold audio rights and foreign rights, as well as having earned a glowing blurb from the master of children's mystery/horror himself, R.L. Stine.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Source Books For Young Readers) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Music Monday (172): Laura Mvula, Hott 22, Billy Ocean, Brandy, The Stylistics


  • 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 Pink Noise again, and I remain impressed by how thematic and good this album is. And I wanted to share another one of my favorite songs from Laura Mvula's album for Music Monday. It's called Before the Dawn.

Adri: My pick for today is 8th Wonder by Hott22.

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to You Make Me Feel Brand New by The Stylistics, Suddenly by Billy Ocean, and Starting Now by Brandy.

Until next time, have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, September 10, 2021

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas vol. 8 by Jun Mochizuki

Title: The Case Study of Vanitas vol. 8
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #8
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy; Manga; Alternative History
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; June 15, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Beast of Gévaudan is put to rest once and for all as Chloé makes peace with her truest desire—but Vanitas’s troubles continue as both he and Jeanne are struck with certain... ailments of the heart! There’s no time for him to dwell on this rather unwelcome development, though, as Domi is swept away in the machinations of a phantom from his past...

For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty busy getting caught up with my Netgalley arcs, but I finally found the time to read vol. 8 of The Case Study of Vanitas. Action and emotion abound in this riveting 8th volume. There was so much going on. And I feel like I say this every time I pick up an installment in this series, but it’s true. The story can feel like it’s moving quickly—because it’s a page-turner—but overall it’s an extremely detail oriented series.

The Beast of Gévaudan arc has finally come to its close, and what a whirlwind it was. I’ve been looking forward to this moment since the arc hit its middle section. In the time between the releases of vol. 7 and vol. 8, I’ve been reading more about the actual history of the beast. I did like the way Mochizuki incorporated the historical fact into the story. The fictionalized events closely mirrored actual fact in some regard, but at the end of the day Mochizuki built the incident in a way that made sense in the context of the story.

I sympathized with a lot of the characters involved in this arc, namely Chloe and Astolfo—even Jeanne. One of the themes in the series is tragedy, so there were some heavy subjects present in vol. 8.

Moving on, a new arc begins in this volume as well. There were a couple of surprisingly lighthearted chapters with a few humorous moments. But that didn’t last long. There were more instances of vampire politics, and the few moments showing the dynamics in the De Sade family were intense, to say the least. It answered some of the questions I had regarding Noe’s childhood friend, Dominique. It seems like she will be part of the focus of the upcoming chapters, but I also feel like the story is gearing up to reveal more about Vanitas. I’m excited about that possibility since his past involves the vampire of the blue moon. I have my fingers crossed.

Overall, vol. 8 was excellent.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

ARC Review: Small Town Monsters by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Title: Small Town Monsters
Series: n/a
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Horror; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Underlined; September 7, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Conjuring meets The Vow! This terrifying paperback original tells the unputdownable story of a girl, a dark angel, and the cult hellbent on taking over her small, coastal town. 
Vera Martinez wants nothing more than to escape Roaring Creek and her parents' reputation as demonologists. Not to mention she's the family outcast, lacking her parents' innate abilities, and is terrified of the occult things lurking in their basement. Maxwell Oliver is supposed to be enjoying the summer before his senior year, spending his days thinking about parties and friends. Instead he's taking care of his little sister while his mom slowly becomes someone he doesn't recognize. Soon he suspects that what he thought was grief over his father's death might be something more...sinister. When Maxwell and Vera join forces, they come face to face with deeply disturbing true stories of cults, death worship, and the very nature that drives people to evil.

Small towns make for great settings. Some of my recent favorite reads have been set in small towns. Including but not limited to cozy mysteries, middle grade horror, cosmic horror, and thrillers. Small Town Monsters is set in a small coastal town, and what a great story it was. It was part coming of age tale and partly about small town secrets, the danger of assumptions, community tragedy, grief, and cults. Oh, and a strong paranormal element that seemed to be the stuff of nightmares.

The story followed Vera Martinez, whose parents are demonologist. I sympathized with Vera. Her parent’s reputation had a negative effect on her and how she was perceived by people, while she also felt like the black sheep of the family. Part of the story dealt with how she grappled with that and came into her own as a person, while trying to untangle the mystery of the odd occurrences that were happening in her seemingly idyllic hometown. And it was done so well. Then there was Maxwell Oliver, who, despite his best efforts to hold his family together, is ultimately forced to seek help from Vera. He was a well written character, and I liked how much he looked out for his little sister. But everyone has a breaking point, and at the beginning of the story, he had already reached his.

The situation presented a bit of a mystery—and that was good too—but where the book shined was the horror elements. Wallach was clearly inspired by The Conjuring films and Ed and Lorraine Warren when writing Small Town Monsters. Elements of the story pulled a lot of inspiration from it, particularly with a basement full of objects with spooky and downright dangerous and creepy origins. Beyond the real world inspiration, the story ultimately goes down its own path.

Overall, Small Town Monsters delivered on everything the synopsis promised it would be. I sped through it in a couple days, and by the end, I wanted a sequel. And, like I said above, it was a great story. So if you’re looking for something to add to your October reading lists, Small Town Monsters would fit the bill.

About the author....
Diana Rodriguez Wallach is a multi-published author of young adult novels. Diana is a Creative Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, and she teaches Creative Writing Workshops in inner-city schools throughout the Philadelphia area through the nonprofit organization, Mighty Writers. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two kids. Her most recent, Small Town Monsters, is a YA Latinx horror novel that will publish in Fall 2021 through Random House’s Underlined imprint. Additionally, Diana is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series (Entangled Publishing), a trilogy of young adult spy thrillers. The first book in the series, Proof of Lies, has been optioned for film and was chosen as a finalist for the 2018 International Thriller Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. Additionally, Bustle listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017,” and Paste named Proof of Lies one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.” Diana is also the author of three YA contemporary Latina novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books). Amor and Summer Secrets placed second at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. She also penned a YA short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013).

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

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