Friday, April 29, 2022

Short Stories I Read In March

 

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

The Pigeon Keeper’s Daughter by Su-Yee Lin (Strange Horizons; Issue: 7 March 2022)

The first short story I tackled in March was The Pigeon Keeper’s Daughter. This was an interesting story. Set in Taipei, it’s about the daughter of a pigeon keeper going about her daily life until she begins to notice strange happenings surrounding her (it involved birds). There were a lot of metaphorical moments as well as political messaging woven into the story alongside the light fantasy parts. I liked this one.

The Kaleidoscopic Visitor by Shaoni C. White (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Forty-Five)

The second and last short story I read in March was Shaoni C. White’s The Kaleidoscopic Visitor. This was another good one. It’s well written with a clear theme, and I liked what they did with the titular Kaleidoscopic Visitor.

From Around the Web…

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

I Listened to Crash by Charli XCX

 

Charlie XCX is one of those artists where I know that whatever they put out, it’s probably going to be a good listening experience. With features including Rina Sawayama, Christina and the Queens, and Caroline Polachek, Crash—Charli XCX’s 2022 album—finds it stride and keeps it as it bops along to beats that can feel somewhat familiar without losing the edge that makes them enjoyable. 

Crash feels like a love letter to Pop and Electro-Pop, reminding me of some hits from the early 2000s. But Charli XCX puts enough of a spin to these sounds that makes the album current while it visits the past. It was a good combination, and it suited the vocals and lyrics.

The titular Crash drops right into the album, while Twice closes out the track list on a memorable note. Some of my favorite songs include Yuck, Lightning, and Beg For You featuring Rina Sawayama. Overall though, I really liked what Crash offered, and I know I’ll have this album on repeat for a while.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Music Monday (196): Banks, Harry Styles

 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: And I'm back from my break. While I've been away from the blog, I've been listening to a lot of music, and some of the new songs on my playlist are from Banks's new album, Serpentina. I really like it, but more on that on a different post. One of my favorite songs is Unleavable.

 

Andrea: Hi all! Over the past couple of weeks, I've spent time listening to Coachella's livestream. That's how I discovered Harry Styles' music. I have to say that Styles' performance was phenomenal, and I absolutely love his song, Sign Of  The Times. Well that's it for now. I hope everyone has an amazing week!



What are you listening to this week?


Monday, April 18, 2022

Break Notice

I'm taking a short break from blogging. I'll be back next week starting with a new Music Monday post. Until then, happy reading! 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Friday 56 (215) & Book Beginnings: The Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


Synopsis from Goodreads...
In The Inferno, Dante describes his journey to the depths of evil, to the recognition of the true nature of sin. In The Purgatorio, he describes his journey to the renunciation of sin, accepting his suffering in preparation for his coming into the presence of God. This brilliant translation of Dante's soaring canticle crystallizes the power and beauty inherent in the great poet's immortal conception of the aspiring soul.

Beginning: "For better waters no the little bark
of my indwelling powers raises her sails,
and leaves behind that sea so cruel and dark."

56: "That one who comforts him ruled formerly
the land where rise the waters that flow down 
the Moldau to the Elbe to the sea."


Comments: I finally got around to The Purgatorio. I'm officially two thirds of the way through The Divine Comedy, and I'm really enjoying it so far. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

Title: A River Enchanted
Series: Elements of Cadence #1
Author: Rebecca Ross
Source/Format: Publisher (won); ARC
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Voyager; February 15, 2022 

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls. As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.

With unforgettable characters, a fast-paced plot, and compelling world building, A River Enchanted is a stirring story of duty, love, and the power of true partnership, and marks Rebecca Ross’s brilliant entry on the adult fantasy stage


A River Enchanted wasn’t really on my radar at the beginning of the year, but the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to read it. I happened to win a paperback ARC of it; although, my copy arrived after the release date, and I’ve just now gotten around to it.

A River Enchanted was everything I was looking for. It was the kind of slow fantasy story heavy on world building details and character backstory, which I’ve been into lately. There was a lot of history, stories, traditions and customs to sink-my-teeth into. And although magic could be put to use in similar but unequal ways on both sides of the isle, there were hefty consequences for the Tamerlaines and the Breccans. It was a thoroughly fascinating world to read about.

And the story, while at its surface appeared to simply be about unexplained disappearances on the isle, Cadence, was weighted by the secrets that ultimately fueled the motivation of the antagonist. Everything—decisions, secrets, magic, etc.—had known and unforeseen consequences to varying degrees of devastation.

Cadence was an isle, which gave the story an isolated feel. The location set the tone as well as the limits/price of magic.

I know Jack and Adaira were at the center of the story as they called on the spirits while trying to figure the situation out. I liked them both, especially when they had their scenes together with the banter and eventual honesty between them. But Torin and Sidra were my two favorite characters in the story, and they seemed to come alive on the page. I liked that their relationship was one that was already established. But they, like Jack and Adaira, experienced emotional turmoil that turned the easiness of their relationship into tension that needed to be resolved. There was no immediate epiphany that magically solved everything for them. The characters had to decide and be honest—first with themselves before others—to get what it was they wanted or needed. The individual character arcs were done really well here, and I appreciated how much it was explored.

The sequel to A River Enchanted is (the last I checked) coming out this December. I’m glad the release date isn’t too far away, because I’m really looking forward to the next one.
 
About the author....
Rebecca Ross writes fantasy novels for teens and adults. She lives in the Appalachian foothills of Northeast Georgia with her husband, their lively Australian Shepherd, and an endless pile of books. THE QUEEN'S RISING, THE QUEEN'S RESISTANCE, SISTERS OF SWORD & SONG, and DREAMS LIE BENEATH are her titles for young adult readers. A RIVER ENCHANTED is her adult fantasy debut, publishing February 15, 2022 with a sequel to follow. When not writing, she can be found reading or in her garden, where she grows wildflowers and story ideas. 

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Harper Voyager) in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Music Monday (195): Bree Runway, Andy Caldwell, Gina Rene, Ryan Charles

 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 the orchestral version of Somebody Like You by Bree Runway. I really love the way they rearranged the song.

 

Adri: I've been listening to Quiet Nights by Andy Caldwell featuring Gina Rene.


Andrea: I love my boots and this New Boot Goofin song by Ryan Charles. Until next time, I hope everyone has a lovely week!



What are you listening to this week?



Friday, April 8, 2022

Thought Corner: What I've Been Watching

 

It’s already April, so I thought it was time to talk about some of the shows and movies I’ve been watching in the first part of 2022. 

  • Encanto
I finally saw Encanto. This movie was fantastic, and the music was great. I could go on and on about the characters and the themes, but this film is so fun to watch. And if you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to accidently spoil it.
  • Erax (Netflix short film)
Erax is a short supernatural/horror film about a girl, her aunt, and a magical book. Given how short this was (at just 15 minutes long), I was interested to see what they would do with the concept under such constraints. The Erax were suitable troublemakers who posed somewhat of a threat. There was a race-against-time component, which kicked the tension up a notch as the proverbial ticking-clock rushed toward its end time. I liked the casting choices, as well as the monster design.
  • Abbot Elementary
What can I even say about Abbott Elementary that hasn’t already been said? It’s such a great and enjoyable series. It’s funny too, and there’s always a moment in every episode that makes me laugh.
  • The Matrix (1999)
After so many years, I finally rewatched The Matrix. I can’t believe I forgot how good the movie was. But there’s something about some classic sci-fi films (like E.T., Logan’s Run, and the original Star Wars trilogy) that makes rewatching them appealing. There’s always some detail that I missed during my initial viewing that I noticed the second time around.
  • The Adam Project (Netflix)
Next, I checked out one of Netflix’s new films: The Adam Project. I like fun sci-fi films, and The Adam Project falls into that category. There’s a lot of future tech, flashy action scenes, and a hefty dose of time travel combined with endearing characters and a dash of topics such as bullying, growing up, and unexpected change. It was a race against time (literally), as well as the kind of story that featured a cat-and-mouse type chase. It was both heartwarming and an exciting action flick.
  • The Cuphead Show! (Netflix)
One of my most anticipated animated shows of the year was Netflix’s adaptation of the 2017 game, Cuphead. This show was delightful. I’m glad they kept the look of the game, while adapting the location, some of the story, and the characters for the series. The episodes were on the shorter side and episodic in nature with some overarching plot points, which reminded me of old cartoons. I really enjoyed how stylistic it was, as well as the performances by the voice actors. I’m looking forward to the next season.

What shows or movies have you recently watched? If you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega

Title: Witchlings
Series: n/a
Author: Claribel A. Ortega 
Source/Format: Publisher; ARC
More Details: Fantasy; Middle Grade
Publisher/Publication Date: Scholastic Press; April 5, 2022 

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...

A magical adventure for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers and Nevermoor, about three witchlings who must work together to do the impossible if they have any hope of earning their full powers...

Every year, in the magical town of Ravenskill, Witchlings who participate in the Black Moon Ceremony are placed into covens and come into their powers as full-fledged witches. And twelve-year-old Seven Salazar can't wait to be placed in the most powerful coven with her best friend! But on the night of the ceremony, in front of the entire town, Seven isn't placed in one of the five covens. She's a Spare! Spare covens have fewer witches, are less powerful, and are looked down on by everyone. Even worse, when Seven and the other two Spares perform the magic circle to seal their coven and cement themselves as sisters, it doesn't work! They're stuck as Witchlings—and will never be able to perform powerful magic. Seven invokes her only option: the impossible task. The three Spares will be assigned an impossible task: If they work together and succeed at it, their coven will be sealed and they'll gain their full powers. If they fail... Well, the last coven to make the attempt ended up being turned into toads. Forever. But maybe friendship can be the most powerful magic of all…

I read Ortega’s previous book, Ghost Squad, which was one of my favorite horror MG stories of 2020. So Witchlings was one of my most anticipated books of this year.

Overall, I liked Witchlings. It was overflowing with magic, and the themes and ultimate messaging explored in the story were topical.

The characters—Seven, Valley, and Thorn—were great. They were stuck in a situation that wasn’t the best: Spares whose coven wasn’t sealed, and given a task that truly seemed impossible to accomplish in such a short amount of time. There was a lot going on, but I appreciated the hopeful tone of the story, as well as the determination and friendship displayed by the characters. The bonds were hard earned, and I liked Seven’s decision to do the right thing, even though it was tough.

As the story progressed, and the revelations began to take shape, the situation wasn’t as simple as it was originally presented. And the characters had to learn to work together, or they risked failure in a situation where an error could cost them their lives. There was a little bit of horror to the story too, especially the aspects that concerned the Nightbeast. But the threat came from not only the creature but from other witches as well. The treatment of Spares was truly abominable, and it illustrated the rampant inequality in Ravenskill.

All that to say: I liked Witchlings.
About the author....
CLARIBEL A. ORTEGA is a former reporter who writes middle-grade and young adult fantasy inspired by her Dominican heritage. When she's not busy turning her obsession with eighties pop culture, magic, and video games into books, she’s co-hosting her podcasts Celebrity Book Club and Write or Die. Claribel has been featured on Buzzfeed, Bustle, Good Morning America and Deadline. ​Claribel’s debut middle grade novel GHOST SQUAD is out now from Scholastic and is being made into a feature film. Her forthcoming books include Witchlings (Scholastic) and the graphic novel Frizzy (First Second.)
Goodreads     Website     Twitter     Instagram

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Scholastic Press) in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Music Monday (194): Charli XCX, Lecrae, Tori Kelly, Soul Central

Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I wanted to share another one of my favorite songs from CRASH. Constant Repeat is so good. The whole album is a vibe, and I've had it on repeat. 


Adri: I'm currently listening to In-Ten-City by Soul Central. I  didn't realize that there was an instrumental version.


Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to I'll Find You by Lecrae featuring Tori Kelly. Have an amazing week!



What are you listening to this week?



Friday, April 1, 2022

Quarterly Recap: January-March

 

It’s already April, so it’s time for the first quarterly recap of the year. As always, I’m starting with reviews. 
January Reviews:
February Reviews:
March Reviews:
Other January Posts:
Other February Posts:
Other March Posts:
Looking ahead, I’m probably going to reread The Cruel Prince sometime in the next three months. It’s one of my blogging goals to finally finish that series. It’s been a while since I read it, and I want to refresh my memory of how the trilogy starts before I move on to The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing. I also want to read The Purgatorio, the second part of The Divine Comedy.

Some upcoming reviews in May and June include Melissa Albert’s next young adult novel, Our Crooked Heats, as well as Shadow Grave by Marina Cohen, and Monsters in the Mist by Juliana Brandt.


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