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     Book Depository     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!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Music Monday (171): Charli XCX, Ultra Nate, Erykah Badu


  • 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:  Over the weekend, I was listening to a couple of new songs by a handful of my favorite artists. The best of the bunch was Good Ones by Charli XCX.

Adri: Hey, this week I'm listening to some of my favorite songs by Ultra Naté. The songs are Gone Like Yesterday, Desire, and This House.

Andrea: This week I'm listening to On & On by Erykah Badu.

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Friday 56 (205) & Book Beginnings: The Case Study of Vanitas vol. 8 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...
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...

Beginning: "Isn't it time yet, Roland?"

56: "It's all over now...."

Comments: I finally got around to reading volume 8 of The Case Study of Vanitas. I know the quotes are kind of vague, but the rest of the dialogue contained too many spoilers for the current arc. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

I Listened to Music by Magdalena Bay

Last month, I added another group to my playlist called Magdalena Bay. I really liked their song, Cheari, and spent some time exploring their backlist of music in preparation for their album, Mercurial World, which will be released on October 8, 2021.

My first foray was one of their 2020 releases: A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling. Totaling at eight tracks, this album was really good. The overall sound reminded me of the same style of Cheari, which was pop and electronic track (I mentioned it on a Music Monday post a few weeks back). The uniformity didn’t mean that it was boring though, far from it actually. There was plenty to find here.

Next, I tackled the first part out of two EPs called Mini Mix vol. 1. Magdalena Bay has a particular style to their music, which is easy enough to pick up on. Mini Mix vol.1 had the same kind of electronic/pop type sound as their album, except it had a slightly mellower feel to it than the upbeat tone to A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling. It often felt kind of experimental. The songs were way shorter here with the longest coming in at two minutes and twenty-three seconds. Another artist who did this was Tierra Whack (Whack World was a full length album with fifteen songs that were only a minute each). And just like with Whack World, I wished that a few of Mini Mix vol. 1 tracks were longer than they were such as Turning Off The Rain, Afternoon in Heaven, and U Wanna Dance?.

From there, I jumped right into Mini Mix vol. 2, which was their second 2020 release. I was much more prepared for the length of the songs, which were all under three minutes here as well. Still, there was so much to like about it. I won’t go on too long rehashing the type of music you’ll find, since much of what I said about Mini Mix vol. 1 also applies to the second EP. Some of my favorites from vol.2 were Sky2Fall, Body, Live 4ever, and Sky2Fall Reprise.

Despite the short length of the songs, Mini Mix vol. 1 and vol. 2 offered a good variety of bite-sized offerings of Magdalena Bay’s music.

Overall, I recommend all three. And now, I will be over here waiting for Mercurial World.

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