Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you all well.
The pseudo-almost-reading slump that I had last week started to continue into this week, but some of my library holds picked up significantly after that, as well as some of the holds that came in on my Kindle. Now I have my haul from my Christmas gift card to look forward to, and I’m so excited for that!
Outlining for the second draft of my sci-fi WIP has been pretty slow going, but I’d say that I’m making steady process. (The fact that I’ve had another light school week has certainly helped.) I left a whole bunch of comments during the initial edits I did on the first draft, and occasionally I’ll just find one that cracks me up.
Other than that, I drew a bit, caught up on WandaVision (OKAY EPISODE FOUR DEFINITELY PICKED UP), and watched The Hunt for the Wilderpeople with my family. The latter made me cry like a baby, but it was 100% worth it. Also, I’m learning “Quicksand” by David Bowie on the guitar 🥺 what a beautiful song
Hi there, bibliophiles, and welcome to the last Goodreads Monday of 2020! (Whoa…)
Anyway, Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.
Here we have yet another book that I put on my TBR this year and completely forgot about until a week ago…but hey, it’s nice to remember those kinds of books again. Plus, I’m always up for some good sci-fi.
Let’s begin, shall we?
GOODREADS MONDAY (12/28/20)–UNDER FALLING SKIES by Kate MacLeod
Scout Shannon’s whole family died the day the Space Farers dropped an asteroid on their domed city. Now she lives alone, out in the wild with only her dogs for company. She prefers it that way.
But Scout finds herself at a crossroads. One road leads back to a quiet life snug under the protective dome of a city. The other road leads to a life in the rebellion, a life of adventure and excitement but also danger. Dare she try to find the rebels hiding in the hills?
Then a chance encounter with a stranger from the other side of the galaxy threatens to derail what remains of Scout’s life. The entire galaxy awaits her, if she survives the next four days.
SO WHY DO I WANT TO READ THIS?
As of now, Under Falling Skies has a fairly low average rating on Goodreads (3.39), but that’s only from…28 ratings and only six reviews? And it came out in 2017? Jeez…
This novel is advertised as not only having a sci-fi appeal, but having an “Old West” vibe too, so that could have an interesting execution. I’m certainly drawn in by the premise of Scout, alone (save for her dogs) and trying to hunt down the last fragments of a rebellion in an unforgiving wasteland. Kind of Dustbornvibes, but with more space opera appeal.
It looks like this one’s self-published, and it’s always good to boost the voices of indie/self-published authors, so maybe in doing this blog post (and hopefully reading it soon), I can get the word around and get some more readers. Plus, it’s only $0.99 for the Kindle edition on Amazon at present…
That’s it for the last Goodreads Monday of 2020! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Yeah, everybody has a different definition of happiness, but can we really deny the universal giddy joy of finding out that your preorder has reached the shipping department? SKYHUNTER WILL BE IN MY HANDS VERY, VERY SOON…[incoherent screaming]
Anyway, I put this on my TBR at the beginning of this year, but remembered it from Amie Kaufman’s recommendation of it in an episode of Amie Kaufman on Writing. Since it was available on the Kindle library, I decided to check it out, and I am SO glad I did! I didn’t think that anything would ever fill up the B.P.R.D.–shaped hole in my heart, but All These Monsters very nearly did it.
For nearly a decade, the Earth that Clara knows has been decimated by the Scrabs, burrowing monsters that have popped up in cities all over the world and prey on any humans that stumble into their paths.
Clara feels confined in her home, considering dropping out of high school and trapped by her abusive father and absent mother. But when an opportunity to join an international scrab-fighting task force arises, she sees it as exactly the kind of escape she needs. Leaving her home behind, she joins the fight, but soon realizes that fighting monsters is more deadly–and lifechanging–than she ever imagined.
After B.P.R.D. came to a close last year, I thought that there wouldn’t be anything that could ever measure up to it. I didn’t even go into All These Monsters thinking that the two were all that similar, but somehow, this novel partially filled up the B.P.R.D.-shaped hole in my heart–and seeing how close those comics are to my heart, that’s seriously high praise coming from me.
First off, All These Monsters has some great representation–our protagonist Clara is half white, half Latinx [INTENSE HAPPY NOISES], and we have Black, Asian American, and Indian-American side characters. I loved Clara, and the team dynamic Tintera creates with her, Patrick, Edan, and all the rest is lovely! Those of you who have been following my reviews for a bit know that I’ll take found family any time of day, and All These Monsters portrayed it wonderfully.
And monsters. MONSTERS! I loved the scrabs–they gave me major Hell on Earthvibes, and I had so much fun going along for the ride with Clara and the rest of the gang. Not only does Tintera give us baseline physical descriptions of the scrabs, she goes in-depth to explore the international/political implications of them laying waste to the world. It’s certainly a lived-in kind of setting, so…come for the monsters, stay for the worldbuilding.
Beyond that, All These Monsters isn’t just about misfits fighting monsters–it’s a very raw exploration of abuse and toxic relationships. I’ll be clear–it’s not an easy read, but Tintera handles all of these tough topics with grace and aplomb, making you sympathize with some of the characters and hate some of the others with an appropriately fiery passion.
All in all, a dystopian sci-fi that delivers in both diversity and good old fashioned monster fighting. 4 stars!
All These Monsters is the first in the Monsters duology, concluding with the forthcoming All These Warriors, which is scheduled to come out in July 2021. (I got an eARC of it and read it over the weekend, so expect that review soon!). Tintera is also the author of the Ruined trilogy (Ruined, Avenged, and Allied) and the Reboot series (Reboot and Rebel).
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.
My pick for today’s Goodreads Monday is a semi-earlier pick; I put it on the list almost a year ago, but it’s only about a third of the way through my (massive) TBR. I don’t read many mysteries or thrillers, but this one sounds like a lot of fun–with a feminist twist!
Let’s begin, shall we?
GOODREADS MONDAY (9/7/20)–THE ATHENA PROTOCOL by Shamim Sarif
Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.
Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.
Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.
So why do I want to read this?
BLACK WIDOW VIBES, I REPEAT, BLACK WIDOW VIBES–
[ahem] besides that, the first comparison that I thought of after re-reading the blurb was The Black Coats—another feminist mystery that deals with morally gray themes and vigilante justice. The Athena Protocol seems more spy-oriented while The Black Coats is more contemporary, but I have a feeling that the former might be just as good.
As a (very) infrequent consumer of mysteries and thrillers in general, I’m always looking for books that put twists on it. I’m excited to see how Sarif deals with some of the morally gray themes that seem to be lurking about the plot. Plus, I’m all for a super-team of female spies putting misogynists and creeps in their places, so of course I’m on board. And having just come out of seeing Tenet (which was amazing, by the way), I could definitely use this twist on the traditional thriller.
And according to Goodreads, there’s some LGBTQ+ representation too! Sarif said that Jessie is “a young woman who is LGBT,” and some of the reviews have said that she’s definitely sapphic, so I’m so excited!
All in all, maybe I need to read more thrillers. But mostly the feminist ones.
That’s it for today’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
All things considered, the first week back to online school wasn’t too bad. Not much homework, but lots of google meets. At least classes end at noon everyday…
I ended up posting a lot more than I anticipated this week, and I’ve had a nice and productive week as far as blogging and reading my eARCs goes. (Expect my reviews of Jelly and Mary next week!) I finished off my library haul, and I loved the last two, and I enjoyed all of my eARCs. And I’m certain that I’ll have another great reading week next week; I got a gift card to my favorite bookstore on my birthday, and I got to spend it on three of my most anticipated releases of the year! (See “Currently Reading/To Read Next Week” below for said reads.)
Other than that, I got some new art supplies, ate lots of good food, watched Prometheus (ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL! Michael Fassbender can do no wrong…), and did a lot of drawing and writing. I’ve fallen a bit behind on the latter, but now, I’m nearing 300 pages, and I have a better sense of where it’s going, so that’s a plus.
This book came on my radar via Edelweiss over the summer, and I bought it on my kindle before my trip to Vail, right around its release date. I’d seen it garner comparisons to Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lunar Chronicles, and the Aurora Cycle, so naturally, I was ITCHING to read it. Sadly, it lived up to none of its comparisons–but that certainly doesn’t mean that it wasn’t fun.
Cora Saros belongs to one of the most formidable crime families in the galaxy. Her role? The family disappointment. A heist gone awry lands her in prison, without any hope and with the eyes of all her family on her. Her only way out of the mess she’s in is through a deal with the shady prison warden–if she retrieves a long lost relic rumored to grant immortality, he’ll wipe her records.
With the help of Elio, her robot companion with a knack for baking cookies, Wren, a chipper pickpocket, and Anders, a warrior with a tough exterior, Cora sets off to clear her name–but soon realizes that she’s in over her head. Will she and her crew be able to live up to the task?
Imagine a mashup of Guardians of the Galaxy and Indiana Jones. Add in some of the charm of Heart of Iron and the Lunar Chronicles, and make all of the characters secretly ENFPs. Mix it all together, and you’ve got The Good for Nothings. But although all of the books and films that I mentioned should have made something I would love with every inch of my body, it was…decent, for me. Not bad, but not spectacular, for me.
I’ve mentioned GotG twice already, so I’ll attempt to make this quick: this novel certainly drew a lot from it, but with varying degrees of success. On one hand, it succeeded in making a classic, irreverent found-family sci-fi, filled with great treasures, banter, and reluctant friendships. But there were some portions that seemed to rip it off almost to a T–remember the “nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast, I would catch it” scene with Drax, anyone?
Even though it’s been a solid four years since I’ve seen that movie, it was easy to see that Banas ripped off this gag with lines of Anders’ dialogue. Several times, too. I’m all for drawing inspiration from media, but don’t…y’know, borderline plagiarize it. As much as I love that scene, it fell flat for me with The Good for Nothings.
Now, onto my favorite part…found family! Though it’s not nearly as well-executed as, say, Aurora Rising or the Honors trilogy, I still liked some of the chemistry between Cora, Wren, Elio, and Anders. I wasn’t overly attached to any of them, but they were decent characters. All of them had moments of being funny or lovable. However…well, remember how I said in the first part of the review to make all of them secretly ENFPs? Now, nothing against ENFPs, but at their cores, all four of the main characters had the same personality. On the surface level, they had a few distinguishing traits to their names (Wren is cheerful, Anders is secretive and tough, etc.), as we got to know them better, their personalities were startlingly similar to one another.
With that aside, I’d say that The Good for Nothings was entertaining, if nothing else. The writing was decent, and the humor fell flat more often than not, but the world-building had moments of being fascinating, and I liked all of the different settings that Cora and the rest of the gang got thrown into. It’s a very light-hearted and feel-good novel, so if you’re looking for something to take your mind off the state of things (which I’m sure a lot of you are), The Good for Nothings would be a great pick for you.
Overall, a YA sci-fi that leaned too much on some of the material that it may have been based off of, but was still a fun, feel-good novel at heart. 3 stars!
It appears that The Good for Nothings is a standalone, but Danielle Banas has two other books out: Once Upon Now and The Supervillain and Me.
(Happy birthday, Jeff Tweedy!)
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I got a notification this morning, and apparently I’ve had this blog running for…5 years? WHOAAAAA, OKAY, I FORGOT ABOUT THAT
I didn’t start semi-seriously book blogging until about a year ago, but thank you to everybody who has supported me along the way! (And for those of you who had to witness what this blog was like when I was in middle school…I’m terribly sorry for the horrors you experienced.)
ANYWAY, I figured I should start doing writing-related posts more frequently, so here’s my first(ish?) stab at it.
Many members of the writing community use music in a number of ways in the process of creating their WIP, be it picking specific songs or albums to listen to while writing, or creating book or character playlists. Music is an integral part of my life, and I’ve managed to weave it into my writing life as well. I always listen to music when I write, so I thought that I would first share some songs, albums, and scores that I like the most to get me writing my WIPs.
I think there’s been several studies about how instrumental scores help with studying, but for a lot of people, music without lyrics is helpful to focus on their writing, and is less distracting than music with lyrics. I use a mix of music with and without lyrics in writing, but for those of you who are strictly instrumental, here are some of my favorite albums–mostly film scores, mind you–that I use when writing:
Hellboy II: The Golden Army original score–Danny Elfman
Yes, yes, I know I blab about this masterpiece quite a lot, but hey, it’s Danny Elfman doing the score–what’s not to like? The score ranges from whimsically spooky to action-packed to tear-jerking, so it’s perfect for writing scenes of all kinds.
Russo has such a wide range, composition-wise, and every single score I’ve come across by him is nothing short of stellar. Some of my favorites include his scores for Legion (FX), and The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), but he’s also scored everything from Cursed to Lucy in the Sky and Fargo (the TV show)
NON-INSTRUMENTAL SONGS AND ALBUMS
I cram loads of music onto my writing playlists, but there’s several particular songs and albums that get me more focused/motivated/immersed in my writing than others, so here goes nothing…
Besides the fact that one of my WIPs features a character who is obsessed with this album, the sheer range of emotion in this album is stunning. Though it’s chiefly electronic, I’ve used these songs from everything from battle scenes to a funeral scene.
Another very emotional album, this one’s always great for writing scenes associated with any form of love, whether it’s the promise of it, being in the throes of it, or being apart from it. Then again, you’re talking to somebody who has had zero (0) experience with any sort of relationships, so take this as you will.
Apparently they called this album “the American Kid A” when it came out, so…did I cheat and put Kid A on here twice? If so, I don’t regret it.
Ranging from punchy, classic rock songs and dreamlike, melancholic hazes of emotion, I highly recommend this album for scenes charged with emotion–doesn’t matter what emotion we’re talking about, because there’s easily a song or two on here for everything.
I saw a piece of advice the other day about making two writing playlists: listen to one of them while writing it, and a different one when you’re editing or making the second draft, so that you’re put into a different mindset while re-reading it.
For making the playlists themselves, I usually just dump several songs I like, and go through songs as I write. If there’s a song that takes me out of the writing or has been in circulation for a few times too many, I take it off and replace it.
Just for fun, here are snippets of mine:
(Or, alternatively, “the one that I accidentally dumped all the Weezer on” and “the one without any Weezer at all”)
I also like to cobble together playlists for each of my WIPs: here, I include songs with lyrics that relate to the story, or that just have the general vibe of the WIP. For some of them, I also create character playlists going off of the same rule. For my sci-fi book, there are six different perspectives (or, I’m going to make it that way once I get around to editing it), so I have a playlist for each of them. For my current WIP, however, there’s only one perspective, so I just keep it at the protagonist.
What do you think? What are your musical techniques for writing? What’s your favorite music to write to?
Since there’s a boatload of music in this post, consider the entire thing “today’s song.”
That’s it for this writing post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I’ve had this one on my TBR for about a year and a half, and I finally got to read it last week after having it on hold for…a good month or so? It was one of the most hyped YA fantasies of last year, and though it wasn’t a perfect novel, I’d say that it mostly lived up to it!
In Cesarine, witches are feared. The only thing that may be feared more, however, are the Chasseurs–the Church’s personal witch-hunters who will stop at nothing to burn their prey at the stake.
Lou is on the run, struggling to keep her powers–and her infamous witch heritage–under wraps. But after being caught by the Chasseurs, she is presented with an ultimatum: be killed for her crimes, or marry Reid, the captain of the Chasseurs. Stuck with the second option, she is forced to live with him, but she soon realizes that, despite their backgrounds, she has feelings for him–and they might even be mutual.
Alright, right off the bat, I noticed something…
Did anyone else find it funny that we have two characters named Lou and Reid that were in a romantic relationship?
[ahem] yeah, probably just me, carry on…
Overall, Serpent & Dove was a hysterical thrill ride of a fantasy novel! Not without its flaws, to be sure, but a whole lot of fun all the same.
My main issue with the novel was the world-building. At best, it felt…very messy. The setting is clearly inspired by 18th-19th century France, and uses tidbits of French in some of the dialogue. But even though it’s a fantasy world apart from our own, the predominant religion (and the religion pushed by the Chasseurs) is Christianity? Additionally, though some of the dialogue is hilarious, it often felt…a bit too 21st century? I mean, there’s no “yeet” or “vibin'” or anything, but mostly on Lou’s part, it didn’t mesh well with the historical-inspired setting. Reid’s dialogue felt appropriately stuffy, but that definitely threw off some of my suspension of disbelief.
But that’s where most of my issues end. I LOVED the characters–they were all completely over-the-top, but IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. From the beginning, I loved Lou and Coco–they were both wonderfully sassy and spirited, and I loved their friendship dynamic. Reid has a lovely beginning to his character arc, and honestly? I love him just as much as the others, especially since he got over some of the prejudice he held in the first part of the novel. And since I’m a total sucker for enemies-to-lovers romances, I enjoyed every bit of Lou and Reid’s relationship. Hey, opposites attract.
And with the theme of witch-burning and whatnot, Serpent & Dove not only presents messages of shedding previous prejudice, but it’s morally grey as well. There’s a great depiction of sides that are most definitely blurred when it comes to morality–and neither one can be pinned as the “hero” or the “villain.” A lot of novels get this wrong, but this managed to portray it deftly.
All in all, a simultaneously thought-provoking and gut-busting fantasy novel, with a romance to die for and no shortage of witty banter. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
Serpent & Dove is the first in a trilogy, which continues with the forthcoming Blood & Honey, and an untitled third book.
Okay but the point at 5:26 where Jeff Tweedy starts hitting those higher notes PERFECTLY
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
All things considered, it’s been an…alright week. There hasn’t been anything super eventful, other than J.K. Rowling testing me ([screams] TRANS RIGHT ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, WHEN WILL YOU LEARN–). I’ve received a few more eARCs (more reviews to come next week!), but I checked Edelweiss yesterday, and I’d gotten declined 4 (four) eARCs all at once…whee…
But hey, I’ve just started out. And plus, I still have a bunch of pending requests, so things could start looking up next week.
My reading week’s been fairly hit-or-miss–it’s swung between four star and two star reads, for the most part, but I’ve found a few that I enjoyed. As far as writing goes, I’ve just finished writing the climax for my WIP (!!!), and I’m close to 300 pages! It’s the most I’ve ever written, so that’s been crazy. I’m also working away at an Iron Giant puzzle, which has given me a primal urge to go back and watch it again.
If there’s one thing I love as much as books and reading, it’s probably music. I was raised in a family of wonderful music nerds, and as a result, music has grown to be an integral aspect of my life.
And so, it always brings me a rush of joy whenever I find music references hidden inside books I love, and by proxy, authors with similar musical taste. I thought I might compile a few of my favorite books with music references in them, just for fun.
Artists referenced: David Bowie, brief joke about Wilco/Jeff Tweedy
I mean, one can sort of tell from the get-go that this book is very Bowie-centric; The title itself (a reference to a lyric from “Changes”), and the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt in the ‘I’ in “Fascinations”. (On another edition, it shows Noah with the bolt across his face, just like the Aladdin Sane album cover!) Other than that, there’s a continual respect for Bowie throughout the novel. Other than the general wondrousness of the novel, I’m just glad to see that someone else holds Hunky Dory as highly as I do.
Also, the mention of Wilco is very brief, but it was still pretty funny to see. Even if it was poking fun at them.
Artists referenced: The Beatles, Nirvana, T.Rex, (!!!), David Bowie
Though music doesn’t play (no pun intended) as big a role in The Hazel Wood as it does in some of the others in this post, there’s wonderful references aplenty in this one, from a minor character being described as reminiscent of David Bowie to a discordant, chaotic scene in which the main villain sings an off-key rendition of “Yellow Submarine”. Also, I’m frankly so impressed that Albert slipped in a T.Rex reference in there. COME. ON. That’s the deep cut to end all deep cuts!
Weirdly enough, though I’d heard Radiohead here and there before reading The Final Six, but seeing the reference was ultimately what convinced me to listen to Radiohead! This is easily some of the best utilization of references I’ve seen in a novel, period. First off, in The Final Six, there’s a particularly chilling scene in which Beckett, the main antagonist, glimpses Naomi sneaking around, and after a tense conversation, he sings part of “Paranoid Android.” (“When I am king, you will be first against the wall/With your opinion, which is of no consequence at all…”) Already veeeery spooky, but the song’s title hints that Beckett knows more than what he let on. (No spoilers)
In The Life Below, Monir also uses “Sail To The Moon”–in particular, its musical structure–as the center point of one of the main subplots in the novel. And boy, it’s FASCINATING.
Artists referenced: St. Vincent, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac (I don’t really care about the latter at all, but hey)
Another dip into the realm of magical realism!
Music plays a semi-important role in this one, as part of the novel is set on a road trip; there’s a running joke where Sylvie’s friend’s brother (I can’t remember his name for the life of me) listens to one specific artist in the car for the month. His pick of the month is Fleetwood Mac; there’s a line (which I can’t find) where Sylvie makes a remark something along the lines of “why can’t we listen to something good, like David Bowie?” to which the other character responds that he’d already listened to him for all of April. And though the St. Vincent reference was brief, McNally perfectly captures the nature of her music.
Again, another Bowie-centric book. I related to this one in particular because Bowie is Jonathan (the main character)’s hero; the book is set in 1973, so it’s at the heyday of his Ziggy Stardust era. As someone who similarly worships him, this novel hit the sweet spot for me. There’s also a wonderful scene where Jonathan and Web soundtrack a school presentation with Pink Floyd’s “Time”, easily my personal favorite of their songs.