Saturday, April 29, 2023

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!

Yingying—Shadow by Ai Jiang (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Fifty-One)

Yingying-Shadow by Ai Jiang is an evocative piece of flash fiction. At its focal point are family issues—between a child and a father—combined with a melancholic atmosphere in the face of a figurative and literal haunting.

The Gratitude of Mice by Yume Kitasei (Strange Horizons; Issue: 6 March 2023)

I didn’t know what to expect going into the Gratitude of Mice by Yume Kitasei, but, like Yingying—Shadow, this story was also short but with a tightly woven (and eerie) narrative. It largely reminded me of folklore Brownies—or tales about other kinds of household spirits—except with mice in the role instead (and a warning about greed). All-in-all, The Gratitude of Mice was a really good read!

Our Exquisite Delights by Megan Chee (Lightspeed Magazine; Mar. 2023 (Issue 154))

I like this story. It’s kind of like the Wayward Children’s series by Seanan McGuire, except the doors can appear to anyone instead of just children. And the portal fantasy aspect is limited to various rooms, which the story describes to the reader with an almost omnipresent narrator. It was an interesting mix of fantasy and horror-ish imagery, so I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more stories by Megan Chee.

From around the web…

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

So...I Played Aggro Crab's Going Under (2020)

If you read my “I’m Back” blog post at the beginning of the year, you’ll know that during my annual break from Our Thoughts Precisely I didn’t do as much reading as I thought I would. The reason for that was simple! Nintendo was having a sale on indie games, and some of the titles I’d had my eye on for a while were marked down to ridiculously good prices. One of the games that kept me preoccupied was Going Under. At the time of the “I’m Back” post, I hadn’t made much progress in the game. However, fast forward to March + a reading slump, I finally beat the main story for Going Under. I had so much fun playing this game!

I liked it, especially for how unusual of a setting it was for a dungeon crawler Roguelike. It was bright, colorful, and the visual design style was very distinct. And the office/ failed startup setting provided the perfect opportunity for plenty of witty/ironic dialogue and commentary. That was combined with the principle storyline. It was a relatively simple straightforward narrative, but with a few surprising (and excellent) twists.

Basically, you play as Jackie, an intern for a drink company (Fizzle), which was acquired by a tech giant. There are three main failed startups to play through—Winkydink, Styxcoin, and Joblin—and each one had its own unique and appropriately business themed environments.

The game drops you right into the first battle then subsequently the first of the dungeons almost immediately, which was a crash course in the game’s battle mechanic. Win or lose the first go around, it was a challenging but fun experience. Weapons don’t last forever, and what you get per room was randomized. There was also the unpredictability of what “Skills” can be applied to the character—only one endorsed skill can be equipped, all others have to be found—which kept a level of interest (and required some strategizing) to the dungeons even after multiple runs. There was also “Business Cards”—which have information about the different monsters and NPCs—and mentors who added extra and helpful perks for navigating the dungeons.

**(Note: there is an assist mode that can be applied to each save profile before logging into the game. You can adjust stats like the amount of hearts you start each dungeon run with, weapon durability, enemy health, and etc..)**

There’s still one other mode to the game, but I can’t speak about that yet since I haven’t delved into it. That being said, overall, I really enjoyed Going Under.

 Check out Going Under's trailer!

Monday, April 24, 2023

Music Monday (239): Angèle


  • 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 watched the second week of Coachella's livestream, just to see a couple of performances again. Afterwards, I ended up listening to Angèle's album, Nonante-Cinq La Suite, and one of my favorite songs is Solo.


What are you listening to this week?

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Friday 56 (231) & Book Beginnings: Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

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...

A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world's first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party--or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people. So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily's research, and utterly confound and frustrate her. But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones--the most elusive of all faeries--lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she'll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all--her own heart.

Beginning: "Shadow is not at all happy with me."

56: "I tapped the rim of my mug, watching him. "What form do you anticipate this assistance taking, precisely?'"

Comments: I read this book at the end of last year, as an ARC from Netgalley. Recently, I finally purchased a copy to have on my shelf, and I had a lot of fun revisiting my favorite scenes. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Breakup from Hell by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Title: Breakup from Hell
Series: n/a
Author: Ann Dávila Cardinal
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harperteen; January 3, 2023

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble    

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Miguela Angeles is tired. Tired of her abuela keeping secrets, especially about her heritage. Tired of her small Vermont town and hanging out at the same places with the same friends she’s known forever. So when another boring Sunday trip to church turns into a run-in with Sam, a mysterious hottie in town on vacation, Mica seizes the opportunity to get closer to him. It’s not long before she is under Sam’s spell and doing things she’s never done before, like winning all her martial arts sparring matches—and lying to her favorite people. The more time Mica spends with Sam, the more weird things start to happen, too. Like terrifying-visions-of-the-world-ending weird. Mica’s gut instincts keep telling her something is off, yet Sam is the most exciting guy she’s ever met. But when Mica discovers his family’s roots, she realizes that instead of being in the typical high school relationship, she’s living in a horror novel. She has to leave Sam, but will ending their relationship also bring an end to everything she knows and everyone she loves? Clever, hilarious, and steeped in supernatural suspense, Breakup From Hell will keep you hooked until the last page.

It’s been a while since I picked up a YA novel, but I was interested in Ann Davila Cardinal’s Breakup from Hell.

The synopsis was a hook, but, once I started reading it, I instantly liked Miguela (Mica) Angeles’s characterization. She loved her grandmother and her group of friends, even when she was at odds with them. But, it was clear as day to me that she also felt stifled by what she viewed as a monotonous life—same friends, same town, same everything. She basically wished for change, and boy did she get it in what was probably the worst way.

There was a substantial amount of religious themes present throughout Breakup from Hell. For example, the characters quoted scripture and Mica attended a religious school. However, when angels, saints, demons, and hell are involved, I pretty much expect it.

The quick pace of the story allowed for the paranormal and horror aspects to show up on page fairly early, and the events unfolded one after another. It was basically instantaneous—and it wasn’t much of a mystery for me either—because the synopsis is pretty clear as to what the story was about. I didn’t mind the predictability though, because I liked the explanation the author provided for why it was happening. And, ultimately, I was very entertained by Breakup from Hell.

About the author....
Ann is a novelist and Director of Recruitment for Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She has a B.A. in Latino Studies from Norwich University, an M.A. in sociology from UI&U and an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She also helped create VCFA’s winter Writing residency in Puerto Rico. Ann’s first novel, Sister Chicas was released from New American Library in 2006. Her next novel, a horror YA work titled Five Midnights, was released by Tor Teen on June 4, 2019. Her stories have appeared in several anthologies, including A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (2005) and Women Writing the Weird (2012) and she contributed to the Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, And Society in the United States edited by Ilan Stavans. Her essays have appeared in American Scholar, Vermont Woman, AARP, and Latina Magazines. Ann lives in Vermont, needle-felts tiny reading creatures, and cycles four seasons a year.

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

Monday, April 17, 2023

Music Monday (238): Angèle, Sting & Shaggy


  • 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 watched the Coachella livestream over the weekend, and one of my favorite performances was by Angèle. Bruxelles je t'aime is one of my favorites so far, and I'm looking forward to listening to more of  Angèle's music.

Andrea: Hi all! I'm listening to Gotta Get Back My Baby by Sting & Shaggy. Have a great week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, April 14, 2023

I Listened to So Much (For) Stardust by Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy was one of the bands that got me into rock music—particularly the rock/pop/punk scene—and their albums have been a staple on my playlists since the 2000s. It’s been about five years since the band’s last album. And among the big releases on my radar for March 2023—supported by singles such as Love On The Other Side and Heartbreak Feels So Good—Fall Out Boy’s eighth studio album, So Much (For) Stardust, was very anticipated on my end.

So Much (For) Stardust really felt like a return to some of Fall Out Boy’s earlier music. It had less of the style and sounds that dominated Mania (2018), and it went heavier on the aspects that really made me love the band’s music. It was nostalgic in the right ways but doesn’t lean too much on what they’ve already done. Instead it offered a sort of sequel—especially with the visuals for Hold Me Like a Grudge (a continuation of the music video for This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race)—by delivering songs that felt refreshing.

As a longtime fan of Fall Out Boy, I’m so happy with this album!


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

A Fire Endless by Rebecca Ross

Title: A Fire Endless
Series: Elements of Cadence #2
Author: Rebecca Ross
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Voyager; December 6, 2022

Goodreads       Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
In the stunning conclusion to the Elements of Cadence duology, A Fire Endless finds the delicate balance between the human and faerie realm threatened by Bane, the spirit of the North Wind, whose defeat can only come through fire, song, and heart-rending sacrifice.

East and West. Humans and Spirits. Breccans and Tamerlaines. The Isle of Cadence has always held itself and its residents in a tenuous balance. But now Bane, the spirit of the North Wind, has pushed everyone and everything in his path off-kilter in a bid to claim dominion over all. In the West, Adaira struggles to adjust to the more brutal, bitter ways of life among the Breccans. Striving to find her place in the clan, she swiftly realizes that it just might be the last role she desires to hold. And while magic blooms effortlessly for the Breccans in the west, the spirits continue to suffer beneath Bane's harsh power, felt in every gust of wind. In the East, Jack is adrift without Adaira until he sings to the ember-weak fire spirits, acquiring a dangerous mission he never expected. One that is destined to lead him westward. Likewise, Torin and Sidra are consumed by a new mystery as sickness spreads first amongst the crops, and then to the people of the Tamerlaine clan. While Sidra desperately searches for a cure, Torin dares to strike a bargain with the spirits--a precarious folly anytime, but especially now as the days grow darker. With the island falling further out of balance, humans and spirits alike will need to join together to face Bane, and Jack's gift with the harp will be called upon once more. Yet no one can challenge the North Wind without paying a terrible price, and the sacrifice required this time may be more than Jack, Adaira, Torin, and Sidra can bear to pay.
**Note: There will be minor spoilers for A River Enchanted.**

I was thoroughly charmed by A River Enchanted, which was released early in 2022. And while it ended at a good place—with the main mystery and conflict solved, and resolutions offered for the emotional arcs—it was still open-ended, which left plenty of avenues the story could take. So, I was very excited to get an ARC of A Fire Endless, the final book in the Elements of Cadence duology. And I have to admit, it was so much fun being back in this world with Jack, Adaira (Cora), Sidra, Torin, and a host of other characters.

This duology has always had a slower pace, but the world was filled with detail. It was the kind of story that I wanted to linger with a little longer, to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

The island of Cadence was still swimming in magic and conflict—both between the limitations imposed by the clan line, the inter-clan relations, as well as trouble with the spirits. Cadence was out of balance, which was a reoccurring theme that finally got its due page time.

With the big reveal at the end of A River Enchanted—with Adaira’s true parentage and departure from the east—as well as events early in A Fire Endless, the main cast was scattered. They had such a good dynamic that I was sad to see it happen, but it also demonstrated the emotional toll left by the wake of what had already happened and what was presently occurring. The stakes were high in this race against time, and their individual ends of the story were still connected by the continued conflict. And with the latest threat—a strange blight with no treatment, sickening the land and people both—it was work together or fall, because something had to change (the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back had arrived).

I was impressed by the way Ross handled all the plot points. It was a complicated story, but all of it came together at the end. So, A Fire Endless was an exciting read and a satisfying conclusion to this duology.
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. Find her on Instagram @beccajross or online at

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

Monday, April 10, 2023

Music Monday (237): The NYChillharmonic, The Whispers, G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid, and Everything But The Girl


  • 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 by The NYChillharmonic: Wax Garden


Adri: I recently saw that Everything But The Girl started releasing some new music after a long time. Yay! So my picks for today are an older and a newer favorite respectively: Walking Wounded and Nothing Left To Lose

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to And the Beat Goes On by The Whispers and Play That Beat Mr. D.J. by G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid. Have an amazing week all!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, April 7, 2023

Quarterly Recap: January-March

It’s already four months into 2023, so it’s time for the first quarterly recap of the year. Not going to lie, I almost forgot that I needed to put together one of these posts. Ironically, it was on first of April (April Fools’ Day) that I happened to watch something that gave me a much needed reminder. As always, starting with reviews….
January Reviews:
February Reviews:
March Reviews:
Other January Posts:
Other February Posts:
Other March Posts:
Looking ahead, I really don’t have any specific plans for the next three months, besides trying to get out of the reading slump I’m currently in. Anyway, some of the reviews this month include two HarperCollins titles that are finally going live on the blog, a highly anticipated album, and my thoughts about a video game that I played toward the end of March.

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