A Smattering of Mini-Reviews

How in the heck is the first month of the new year already almost over?? Where is the time thief that is responsible for this madness? I demand answers! Seriously, though, every year that goes by makes me feel like time just keeps slipping by quicker and quicker.

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I noticed that I’ve been slacking a bit in posting reviews for some of the stuff I’ve been reading and watching lately. Time’s really been getting away from me with everything that’s been going on, but I still want to shine a little spotlight on some of the stuff I’ve been enjoying in the past few weeks, so I bring you this post of mini-reviews! πŸ˜€ It’ll be like a little sampling rather than a full course of reviews, but I think it’ll certainly get the job done. πŸ˜‰

The Plucker, by Gerald Brom:

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This illustrated novel was a real treat. I’ve been a fan of Brom’s work for quite some time. Growing up, my mom had multiple books featuring his artwork and I was hooked from a young age. I loved the dark and twisted aesthetic he had going on. One of the things I like about Brom’s novels, is that he carries over his wonderful artwork and includes tons of illustrations, sketches, and paintings to accompany the story he is telling.

When a young boy’s father unwittingly brings him a gift containing an evil spirit known as the Plucker, it quickly makes itself at home and decides to claim the boy’s life for its own. It begins its reign of terror by going after the boy’s toys, the very things the child has poured so much of himself and his love into. Thus, the toys in this book have a life force all their own, one the Plucker is keen on taking to build up the needed strength to claim the soul of the boy and take over his body. What the Plucker has no way of realizing, is that aside from his toys, the boy also has one badass little old lady for a nanny. One who knows some things about magic herself. It’s a good story with fantastic artwork. I gave it 4/5 stars.

Stranger Things 2, on Netflix:

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Remember when I mentioned how busy I’ve been and how fast time has been flying by? That’s the only explanation I have for why it took me sooooo long to finallyΒ  finish watching the second season of Stranger Things. I (and countless others) love this show and the awesome 80’s dose of nostalgia it’s been rocking. Season 2 was awesome. We met some new characters, got to see older characters continue to grow, and learn some more about “the Upside Down”. The horror element of the show continues to grow in a really satisfying slow-burn sort of way, but it never feels dull and boring because you love the characters so damn much. This was a solid second season to a great show, and I may have even liked it more than I liked the first season, which is really saying something. I would give it 5/5 stars. Can’t wait for season 3!

Phantasmagoria and Other Poems, by Lewis Carroll:

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One of my reading goals for this year is to read more poetry books since it isn’t really something I’ve read a whole lot of. Since I have always been a fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, I definitely wanted to check out this book of poems from Carroll. I’ll admit, I wasn’t as smitten with this as I thought I was going to be. I liked the titular poem Phantasmagoria the best of the lot, finding that it had the most character to it. It tells the tale of a little ghost who has mistakenly come to haunt the wrong house. Carroll has a certain easy-to-read quirky charm to his poems, but this book wasn’t my favorite of his works. 3/5 stars for this one.

Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur:

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Another book of poems! πŸ™‚ This was a quick and moving read. I admire Rupi Kaur’s ability to pour her soul out onto the pages of this book. Divided into different categories, the poems contained cover topics like love and loss, surviving after trauma, and the power and unity of femininity. I think many of us will be able to find something they can identify with or relate to somewhere in Milk and Honey. 4/5 stars.

The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden:

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I can’t believe I somehow never got around to reviewing this one. I read The Bear and the Nightingale with my book club ladies in December, and it made for the perfect winter read. It was both enchanting and addicting. Much like how the main character Vasilisa is enthralled with the fairy tales she is told growing up, you will become enthralled by the one she winds up living. Russian folklore and mythology enrich the story, and the backdrop of winter is capable of being both cruel and kind, with moments that are cozy and heartwarming, and others that are harsh and bitter. 4/5 stars.

 

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A Look at Low, Volumes 1 through 4

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Sebastian the Crab was dead wrong when he said everything was better under the sea. It’s not a bunch of dancing fish and singing crustaceans like Disney would like for you to believe.

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No, it’s nothing quite so nice as all that. It’s more like hordes of deep sea pirates out for your blood, aquatic abominations that want to eat your face, and corrupt leaders who want to keep hope and morale, well, “low”. (You just knew that pun was gonna be used somewhere in this review. May as well get it out of the way now.) πŸ˜‰

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So, for something a wee bit different, I’ve decided to go ahead and review the first 4 volumes of Low in this one post, rather than review them each separately. The main reason for this, is that I experienced very mixed feelings while reading this series. As I’ve mentioned before, Low wasn’t one of those reads that I was head-over-heels in love with upon finishing the first volume. In fact, if my boyfriend hadn’t already bought the three other volumes, I probably would have ceased reading this series altogether. I hate to say that because I had really been looking forward to reading it and I enjoyed the overall concept, just not the execution, I suppose. It’s always a bummer when you feel like you wanted to like something so much more than you actually did, and that’s exactly how I was left feeling. Fortunately, this series improved dramatically as I continued reading it. Volume 1 may have been a rough start, and definitely my least favorite of the four volumes, but I’m glad I carried on and continued reading the story.

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Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope introduces us to a grim future for humankind where, due to the sun’s lethal radiation, humans have been forced to live in the dark abyss of the world’s oceans. It’s been a very long time since humans left the surface behind, and resources are dwindling to the point of no return as we meet our central characters, the Caine family. This is a very busy volume with a LOT going on, and also the longest of the four installments. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it and talk pros and cons regarding this particular volume.

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PROS:

  • A really cool concept. The whole post-apocalyptic science fiction set in the deep, dark vastness of our oceans had me completely psyched to read this.
  • The artwork and colors are lovely. Greg Tocchini (the artist) and Dave McCaig (the colorist) do a good job bringing to life the beauty and oftentimes horror of the world and characters that Rick Remender (the writer) has created.

CONS:

  • This series does have some decent character development overall, but I wasn’t feeling it whatsoever in this first volume. One character in particular has a complete moral shift in gears and character change over the course of a time hop so we’re given like no actual evidence of him growing or changing, he just does so between his last appearance and the next, and it’s honestly quite jarring.
  • Okay, I’m certainly no prude, I’ve generally got no issues with sex and nudity, but this was just . . . a bit much. Tons of female nudity and abuse, women being used for sex and then having extreme violence inflicted on them immediately after, orgies everywhere, etc. A lot of the outfits the female characters wear seem like they were designed that way simply because “tits” and “ass”. Again, this complaint is coming from someone who doesn’t typically shy away from mature content, but the male gaze was sooo prevalent in this one.
  • There’s an overall β€œalways have hope” message in Low, and it felt especially preachy in this volume. It left me feeling like I’d had it hammered in my face over and over and over again. I get that it’s a good message to put out there, but the sheer repetitiveness of it was maddening at times.

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Low, Vol. 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us is where the series begins to get get a little better, in my opinion. In this installment, we see some of the bigger complaints I had with the start of Low slowly begin to simmer down. I also began feeling more invested in the characters and what was going on. The stakes are getting higher, and we get to learn more about different characters and different places with their own big bads. I found myself going from not liking Low by the end of the first volume, to liking it by the end of this one. Was I in love with the series at this point? No, but I did like it.

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Low, Vol. 3: Shore of the Dying Light is, without a doubt, the volume that I liked the most. Tensions are on the rise and there’s a lot at risk in this installment. Also, it is hands down the volume with the least blatant overuse of pointless female nudity which, I’m sorry, has been a real issue for me through this series. You can tell the intentions are for several of the characters to be represented as strong female characters, but I can’t help but feel that it is a little undermined when you randomly have one of those characters in a fight scene in volume 2 where she’s suddenly totally topless because reasons. I mean, come the hell on. Volume 3 was a nice reprieve from this sort of thing.

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Low, Vol. 4: Outer Aspects of Inner Attitudes takes us back to some of the events that went down in volume 1 and reveals something pretty interesting and story-changing events that unfolded. There’s plenty of action in this one and some trickery and surprises. It leaves off on a point that has me curious to see where the story will go when volume 5 comes out. It’s not going to kill me to wait for it like it does with some other stories from Image.

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All in all, this series grew on me the more I read of it. I was curious to see what others were thinking of Low overall, so I looked up other reviews and they really varied. Some people loved volume 1 the most and felt it never really reached that high again, but I felt volume 1 was the worst of the lot and that it only improved from there. A lot of people felt the same way I did about all the gratuitous female nudity. Yes, there was some male nudity as well, but it was like a light breeze compared to a hurricane. Most people, like myself, were fans of the artwork, but some found it muddy and hard to follow at points. So, it seems this series is a real mixed bag for people. Have you read Low? Do you have plans to read the series? I’d absolutely love to see what you think of it. πŸ™‚

If I had to give a star rating for each volume of this series it would go as such:

Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us: 3 out of 5 stars

Volume 3: Shore of the Dying Light: 4 out of 5 stars

Volume 4: Outer Aspects of Inner Attitudes: 3 out of 5 stars

Books + Winter = BLISS.

As much as I grumble about the bitter cold and snow and ice of winter, even I can admit that there is a special kind of coziness to winter reading. Being all bundled up with plenty of blankets and something warm to drink while you read makes for a pretty cozy bit of relaxation.

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I’m juggling a few different books/comics at the moment. One I’ve slowly been chiseling away at is Strange the Dreamer, and it is utterly amazing. I tend to read it before work every day (as long as I haven’t wasted too much time rebelling against adulting that particular morning by refusing to get out of bed.) It’s the kind of book that could easily be devoured quickly, but I’ve been enjoying picking at it here and there and savoring the experience. I love Laini Taylor’s writing and indulging in this beautifully imaginative story each day before work helps start my morning off on the right foot. ❀

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Another thing I’ve been reading as of late is the comic series Low. It’s one I had been really excited to get into, and since my boyfriend is a fan of Rick Remender’s writing, he went ahead and bought the first 4 volumes for us to read. I’ll admit, I wasn’t really feeling this series upon finishing volume 1. In fact, if my boyfriend hadn’t already purchased volumes 2, 3, and 4, I probably would have stopped reading it. However, I decided to continue on and it is slowly getting better. Some of my major complaints have been resolved mostly (for now at least). We’ll see how it goes as I continue reading these first 4 volumes. Because of my conflicted feelings regarding the series so far, I’ve decided to wait and do a review of the first four volumes rather than doing them 1 at a time. I hope it continues to improve the further I get into the story because there are several elements to it that I do really enjoy.

The other story I’m currently reading is Gerald Brom’s book,Β The Plucker. First off, this book is a pretty one, so we have to talk about that. It’s a big lovely hardcover book filled to the brim with Brom’s dark and twisted artwork with a story to match. At first glance, one may take it for a “children’s book” since it is full of illustrations, but with the swearing, crass humor, and elements of horror throughout, it is certainly not intended for children. Unless the children involved are literal demons. Then maybe. The story is centered around a young boy and his toys and the dangerous predatory spirit now plaguing them. It’s sort of like if you mixed Toy Story or The Nutcracker with Evil Dead 2 and The Exorcist. πŸ˜› It’s a fun read so far.

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Other recent reads of the new year include Saga, volume 8 (which I just recently reviewed), and Lewis Carroll’s Phantasmagoria and Other Poems. This weekend I intend to start reading Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, which I am really excited about.

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So, what recent books have you been enjoying? Have you read any of these stories yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

NaNoWriMo 2017: Conclusion

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You, guys. YOU. GUYS. It’s done! I know it’s been a couple days now, but NaNoWriMo is officially at its end, can you believe it? After all the late-night writing binges, after consuming more caffeinated beverages than anything of actual nutritional value, and after writing our little hearts out all last month, it is finally OVER!

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We did it, guys! We weathered the storm. If you participated, I’d love to hear how you did. Hopefully everyone got a great experience out of it. πŸ™‚ I think the whole challenge is a positive thing no matter the word count you end with because it is a valuable learning tool as a writer. So, no matter the outcome, congrats on another NaNoWriMo battle fought and survived (and maybe even vanquished!)

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I spent the last couple weeks of November sick, but determined not to give up. Hence why I wound up going on a brief hiatus and have been a no-show around here lately. (Can you tell I started to feel the pressure when I wound up a bit shy of my intended word count by the halfway mark?) πŸ˜› Well, the near-maddening level of work I put into it paid off and I DID cross the finish line. Not in a smooth, effortless gazelle-level-of-grace sort of way, but in more of a frothing-at-the-mouth, crashing through the wall and skidding to a bloody stop sort of way.

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So, that said, by the end of November I finished the challenge by the skin of my teeth with . . . dun dun dunnnnn . . . 50,246 words. I wrote my little heart out. Some of it is pretty rough, but they call it a “rough draft” for a reason, no? πŸ˜‰ There’s plenty more to keep writing for this story, but I’ve got a lot of that figured out already, too. I tend to be a project hopper, always bouncing from idea to idea, but I’m really enjoying writing these characters and their world right now, which leads me into another big announcement as the start of the new year draws ever nearer. It’s something I’m pretty excited about. πŸ˜€

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I’m one of those people who always does the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. For a long time I was ALSO one of those people who made the goals and forgot all about them a month or two into the new year. Last year was different, though. I made a lot of resolutions aimed toward improving myself and I actually did accomplish a lot of them, which was an amazing feeling. I’ll do a whole post about my goals for the upcoming year as January gets closer, but for now, while we’re on the topic of my current writing project, I want to announce that one of those goals is to (by the end of 2018) have a finalized draft of my novel to start submitting to publishers.

NaNoWriMo was a major step in this, but only the first of many that I’ll have to take to make these goal happen. I’m looking forward to the journey though, no matter how stressful it might just end up being. Along the way I may even finally work up the nerve to talk a bit about what it is I’m actually working on. I’m neurotic about only letting people see my stuff when it’s DONE but maybe I’ll lighten up a bit on that. Maybe. lol It’s hard for me to let people see the rough, WIP versions of things I’m making, so we’ll see. Are any of you guys like that, too? I always see people sharing the things they’re working on and I love to see it, just for some reason I’ve always had a hard time showing things until they’re finished. Maybe that is something I should work on, too. πŸ˜›

Alright, time to catch up on everyone’s blogs! I’ve missed popping into WP since I was finishing my writing binge and dealing with a very busy last few days. It’ll be nice to see what you’ve all been up to. πŸ™‚

 

 

My Name in TBR Books Tag

This tag seemed so cute and fun when I saw thebookcorps do it. I haven’t done a book tag in a wee bit so I figured I’d take a stab at it! πŸ˜‰ I’ll be using my blogging name instead of my real name just as my own personal preference, but if this looks fun to you, do it whichever way you like. πŸ™‚ I’m also going by alphabetizing rules that would dictate you drop the first word in the title if it is something like “The” or “a”. πŸ˜› That said, let’s get this tag underway!

I – The Ice Dragon

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Although George RR Martin’s other stories featuring dragons (cough cough, you know, those books in that little series known as A Song of Ice and Fire) are full of violence, incest, foul language and other adult themes, The Ice Dragon is actually one intended for younger readers. I’ve heard it is enjoyable for all age groups, though, and would love to read it.

G – Gather the Daughters

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I’ve had several friends read this recently, including fellow blogger and my personal BFF Cupcakes & Machetes who posted aΒ review about this horrific dystopian read. I’ve heard it’s the sort of read that you won’t soon forget after reading it.

N – Night of Cake & Puppets

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A novella linked to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. ‘Nuff said.

I – In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

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After seeing Yeonmi Park’s moving speech regarding life in North Korea and what it took to escape it, I had to add her story to my TBR list.

T – Tin Stars (Descender, Vol. 1)

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I actually picked this one up recently from my local comic shop, but have yet to read it. I’ve heard marvelous things about it, though. It’s supposed to be a really good science fiction read.

E – An Ember in the Ashes

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Another book I’ve been hearing wonderful things about. I feel like this would wind up being one of those reads that winds up being devoured.

D – A Darker Shade of Magic

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I’ve heard this author specializes in good, dark reads. Sign. Me. UP.

M – A Monster Calls

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I suspect this book will make me cry my eyes out, but I hear it’s amazing. I hear the story itself and the illustrations blend this book into a memorable read that will definitely give you the feels.

O – Odd & True

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A blend of historical fiction and paranormal fantasy that I’ve seen several of you review favorably.

T – Traitor to the Throne

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Okay, I’m cheating with this one because I don’t have a whole lot of books starting with ‘T’ in my TBR list, and this is the second book in a series I really want to read as a whole, Rebel of the Sands. But, hey, it’s my blog and I can cheat if I want to! πŸ˜›

H – Hemlock Grove

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I (mostly) enjoyed the Netflix series of the same name, so I’ve been wanting to check out the book for a while now to see how they compare. πŸ™‚

So, there we have it, guys! This was actually pretty neat to do since it made me have to reexamine my TBR list. Some of these titles have been on there a long time. As for tagging, it’s no pressure here as per usual. If this looks fun to you, have at it! Hope everyone’s having a great weekend! ❀

Nimona (No-Spoiler) Review

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I’d heard good things regarding the graphic novel Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, and I did not feel let down one bit upon reading it. The story was so sassy, cute and fun. I really enjoyed the characters, and how the story developed from humble beginnings to an increasingly dramatic plot with ever-growing stakes.

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Here’s the description from Goodreads:

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

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I think this story would definitely be of interest to people who enjoyed the cartoon Adventure Time. It has that same sort of charm in my opinion, all while doing its own thing. Definitely worth checking out, in my opinion!

Kimmie66 (No-Spoiler) Graphic Novel Review

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This was one of those reads I went into headfirst, knowing nothing about other than that I enjoyed the work of the creator, Aaron Alexovich. Finding this little graphic novel at the library, I saw that it was written and illustrated by him and that was enough for me, having previously enjoyed his other works like Serenity Rose and Confessions of a Blabbermouth.

Kimmie66 turned out to be a sort of science fiction mystery set in a 23rd century future where people spend more time living their virtual reality lives than their own physical ones. It’s a place where your very best friends might just be people you’ve never even met in real life, and who live lives you know nothing about.

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The story follows a teenage girl named Telly after she receives a suicide note from her best friend, the titular Kimmie66. But things get weird quickly as Kimmie66 continues showing up all over the various virtual reality “lairs” after her supposed death. Telly doesn’t know what’s going on at this point and is wondering if it’s all some sick prank or if she has an actual ghost story of sorts on her hands. Setting out to discover the truth, Telly gets help along the way from her slob of a brother, a mysterious hustler hacker, and her and Kimmie’s other loud-mouthed friend from their own VR lair.

Kimmie66 was a quick and entertaining read, and featured the spooky/cute black & white art that I’ve enjoyed in Alexovich’s other works. My only change I wish could be made would be for this story to be longer so it could have gotten into things a little deeper because it was all really interesting and left me wanting to know more about certain characters and whatnot. It was a good read though and makes me want to look into checking out more of Alexovich’s work again soon. πŸ™‚