Thoughts on CHERRY SLICE

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday in April. Can you believe it? Time has just been flying by these past few weeks. But you know what today is. It’s book review day! None of my requests were approved through NetGalley for this month, so I bought a backup just in case. It’s called Cherry Slice by Jennifer Stone and was released on April 2nd from Farrago Books. I decided to do another cozy mystery since it’s been a while since I reviewed one that wasn’t also fantasy. I wanted something cute and funny and overall happy. This book seemed like it would accommodate all of those things. Since I don’t have to thank anyone, let’s get on with the review!

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Simple enough cover.

Cherry Slice follows Cherry Hinton as she tries to reinvent herself after an undercover journalism mission on reality TV goes awry. She’s doing her best to avoid the spotlight while revamping her parents’ bakery into something her own. That is until an ex’s sister pops in and asks her to look into his murder which happened on live TV two years prior. It piques Cherry’s journalistic interest and drags her back into the midst of Essex’s reality TV obsession.

Plotwise, it’s pretty standard. Someone with no law experience (although she does have investigative reporting experience) is in the middle of a rough time when a murder falls in her lap and she must solve it in order to get her life back on track. There are a handful of suspects that keep both Cherry and the reader guessing, then throw in another murder and some more twists and you’ve got the gist of things. Don’t forget the quirky best friend, the hunky detective dude she’s already kind of dated but still has the hots for, and the overbearing mother. So yeah, it’s standard but cute.

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It’s also a little trashy, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The characters are fun and pretty diverse. Cherry’s not afraid to get a little dirty to get the info she seeks. Her bestie, Kelsey, is down for anything as long as she can entertain her social media followers. Jacob, the detective, is a camera whore and a manipulative dick most of the time. I think my favorite character was probably Cherry’s mom. She rambles and has zero shame and basically solves the murder of Kenny Thorpe when Cherry’s stuck with no new leads.

One last thing I want to mention is the humor in this book. If you’re a fan of inappropriate humor, you’ll be fine. That being said, it does border on the offensive. There’s fat-shaming, slut-shaming (usually at Cherry’s expense), jokes at the expense of non-binary folks, and more. If you’re sensitive to stuff like that, this is not a book you’ll want to pick up. I’m not, so it didn’t really bother me. Sometimes though, the humor was super forced, which gave it an unnatural feel. That’s when I’d roll my eyes and move on.

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The writing itself was tight and fast-paced. It was a pretty quick read, but I admit that I occasionally didn’t want to pick it back up. Between figuring out who the killer was pretty early on and the forced jokes, I got a bit bored with it. But I finished it because the writing wasn’t bad and the story itself was okay.

Ultimately, I thought Cherry Slice was just okay. If I happen to see the next book in the series, I’ll probably give it another chance if the synopsis is interesting, but I don’t plan on looking for it.

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Overall, I gave it three out of five stars. Probably closer to two and a half if I’m being honest. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. If you like inappropriate humor and cozies, give it a shot. If not, you’re not really missing anything.

Cravings

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I know a lot of restaurants are doing take-out and/or delivery, but we’re so far away from a lot of our favorite places that those options aren’t really feasible. So, while I’m perfectly content to stay at home, I do admit that I occasionally miss going out for food. I was supposed to go to the dentist for a cleaning yesterday, which would normally have meant stopping for food (probably Mexican) afterwards. Due to Covid-19, the dentist canceled my appointment. I didn’t really care, but it meant no flan for me. Sadness. Anyway, it got me thinking about some things I’m looking forward to if the businesses survive this whole pandemic thing and I can eventually leave the house.

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It’s the whole reason I leave the house 95% of the time.

1. Cajun and bread pudding. Specifically from The Free Man in Deep Ellum. It’s been a long time since we’ve been down there because of all the crap that was going on. Hopefully things will stay calm for a while after the pandemic (I doubt it). At least long enough for us to hit up a couple of places before everything goes to shit again.

2. Seafood. Half Shells. Because it’s been too long since we’ve been there. It’s just so far away and we don’t have many excuses to go out that way. Granted, we only go there once every four or five months, but we haven’t been since mid-December, so it’s around that time when oysters, fish, and a nice cocktail sound good.

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Stolen from Google and has nothing to do with Xquinkles, but it’s pretty.

3. Fresas con crema y un malteada (strawberries and cream and a milkshake). The fruteria down the street is called Xquinkles. Dad’s been buying me cookies for my sweet tooth, so I can hold off a while on this, but pick up is an option here. Maybe the next time we want a burger from the place next door to this one we can order from here too. They close early though (8pm), so probably not.

4. Irish food. Trinity Hall Irish Pub. It’s getting a little warm for hearty potato-filled goodness, but I could still go for a black and tan with a Dublin bay casserole and something yummy for dessert. Luckily, Dad made a shepherd’s pie recently, so that will tide me over ’til summer makes an exit. Maybe by then we’ll be able to venture out into the world again. I doubt it, but there’s no harm in positive thinking.

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Pad Thai from Bangkok at Greenville’s Facebook page.

5. Thai food. Maybe Tukta Thai or Bangkok at Greenville. Some tom kha gai and black rice pudding. Yummy. Maybe when everything is over we’ll take a ride to one of these places.

Anyway, that’s some of the food I miss during this whole quarantine thing. What about you? What are some of the places you’re looking forward to eating at if life returns to normal? Any dishes in particular that you could go for right now? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or lists or comments here or on my social media pages!

Retail Therapy… Kind Of…

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing? Are you bored yet? I’m keeping busy with edits and reading and crocheting for the most part, but yes I occasionally get bored. If you’re like me, you probably spend a lot of time doing online window shopping when you’re bored. You find all kinds of things you want but either can’t afford or would never actually buy for yourself for whatever reason (my reason is that I’m cheap and don’t go anywhere where I need the stuff I want). Then, when you’re actually looking to buy stuff, you can never find anything you want. Or is that just me? Just me. Okay then. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the stuff I’ve been looking at lately.

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This is why I only window shop.

So, here are five things that made me stop and consider buying them in no particular order.

1. Sailor Saturn Silence Glaive Hair Sticks. A friend sent me the link to these because she knows I adore all things Sailor Saturn. And my first instinct was “WANT!” But then I talked myself out of it for a couple of reasons: a) hair sticks and I don’t get along because my seat gets in the way of any cute hairstyles, and b) there’s no way in hell I’m paying $15 for two cheap mass produced metal sticks.

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2. Cherry Blossom Unicorno. Another item sent by the same friend because she thinks they’re adorable and knew I would too. And they are! But it’s one of those surprise bag things where you order it and they send you whichever one they grab first. I guess it’s cool for kids, but I’d rather just order the ones I want (Sakurako and Yoshino). So that’s a turn off. Plus, I have too many toys and figurines and junk as it is.

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3. Rainbow Star Converse. Honestly, when I came across these, they were already sold out and I haven’t checked to see if I can find them elsewhere. Which is good because I would’ve bought them without a second thought. I don’t need new shoes and my black Cons are only a year old, but these are adorable and if I find them for a reasonable price, I’m getting them.

Update: It’s been 2 hours since I wrote this post (it hasn’t even gone live), but I found the shoes at Famous Footwear and bought them.

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4. Trinity top in sea glass. I look at clothes a lot but rarely buy them. This is one of those things I would probably get if we still went to Scarborough Faire every year, so I’d have something cute to wear. But cute things are rarely flattering on me since I have to buy stuff larger than my actual size just to get it on. And altering clothes is expensive. Wearing cute stuff is annoyingly difficult, so I usually avoid it nowadays. I can still look, though.

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5. Heart of Cthulhu and Kraken necklaces. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better, so I put them both here since they’re both necklaces from the same company. It’s extremely rare for me to buy myself jewelry because I don’t wear it that much and I already have a bunch of necklaces. If I could remember my ring size, I’d be more likely to buy those since I wear one all of the time. But I’m cheap and jewelry is expensive, so I’d rather buy three or four or more books for the price of one necklace.

There are some of my window shopping ideas. Show me some of the stuff you’ve looked at lately. I know a lot of my friends do this. You know who you are. What are some things you’ve been eying but refuse to buy? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Teenage Anthems

Howdy, howdy! How is everyone doing? What kinds of things have you found to help you pass the time during the quarantine? I’ve been listening to a lot of older music. Stuff from my teen years. I hate to call it old, but late ’90s to 2004ish is 16+ years ago. I’m getting old. I know. It’s before I got into Japanese and Korean music. It’s before I even got into Lifehouse and James Blunt and other groups that lean more towards the soft and sappy. These are my depressed and angry teenage anthems. The songs that made me feel less alone. And they still make me feel better. I think they always will. Anyway, I don’t have much to talk about on the writing front, so I thought I’d share some music with you.

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1. “I Feel Fine” by the Riddlin’ Kids. It was released in 2001. I never really got into any of their other music, but I really liked this particular song. Maybe it’s because I felt alone a lot.

2. “Sympathetic” by Seether. I first heard it when I bought Disclaimer (2002). It quickly became one of my favorites. A lot of Seether songs still rank among my favorites. “Fine Again” and “Broken” from the same album. “The Gift” and “Truth” from Karma And Effect. “Like Suicide” and “Walk Away from the Sun” from Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces. I could go on, but I think that’s enough of them.

3. “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty from More Than You Think You Are (2002). They’re one of the more poppy bands I liked back then and a lot of their songs just made me happy. “Disease” from the same album. “Mad Season” and “Bent” from Mad Season. “Long Day” and “Push” from Yourself Or Someone Like You. But “Unwell” will always be number one.

4. “A Quiet Mind” by Blue October from History For Sale (2003). I don’t even know where to begin with them. Their music got me through a lot. Aside from “A Quiet Mind” there’s also “Inner Glow” from the same album. “She’s My Ride Home” and “Into the Ocean” from Foiled. “Picking up Pieces” and “Jump Rope” from Approaching Normal. The list goes on, but I’ll stop here.

5. “Pieces” by Sum 41 from Chuck (2004). I enjoy a lot of their music, but this song is by far my favorite. They didn’t exactly play my favorite genre, so I never got attached to them the same way I did other bands. Mostly I got attached to specific songs from similar bands. “Adam’s Song” by Blink182 for example. But I won’t dive too far into those songs.

 

So, yeah. I’m spending a lot of time doing the same stuff I did as a teenager: listening to music and reading. It might not be productive, but it makes me feel better and that’s all that really matters. What makes you feel better these days? What are some of your teenage anthems or songs that got you through those years? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

Unpopular Opinions Post

Hello, hello! It’s April 1st. I would ask what your plans are for the month, but they’re probably the same as mine: avoid people and stay at home. A better question is how are you doing? Are you staying productive or are you going stir crazy? I’ve wavered between productivity and doing nothing. Between bouts of binging Britbox with Dad, I managed to finish my major revisions on DS1 and read more books than usual (11 so far this year). I’ve also been stalking social media more than I was. Apparently, people are super bored because my Facebook newsfeed is becoming more about food and games again instead of politics. One of the little games floating among my friends is the Unpopular Opinion post where you list five popular things that you don’t like. They’ve added a twist where you also include five unpopular things that you do like. So, I thought I’d steal it for my blog this week!

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Five popular things I don’t like:

1. Dr. Pepper. As someone from Texas, I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to admit this, but I’d rather drink sweet tea than DP and I don’t care for that either. Just give me a Pepsi or a Mexican Coke, please.

2. The Office. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it and I just don’t get it. Nothing I’ve seen from it has been funny or entertaining. Same with Friends and Seinfeld and Brooklyn 99. Maybe my funny radar is broken. I don’t know.

3. Olive Garden. The bread sticks are okay, but everything else is… not good. I guess maybe if it didn’t claim to be Italian it might be okay, but no. It’s not good. I can’t think of any redeeming features even if I don’t think of it as Italian.

4. Gift cards. Okay, it’s not technically that I don’t like them as much as it is that I forget they exist. If I’m shopping online, I don’t think about them unless they’re right in front of me. And when they’re for specific stores, I remember them when I’m at the store, but they’re always at home. It’s frustrating. But I have managed to spend the majority of the ones I had forgotten about and found last year.

5. Starbucks. I drink it because it’s pretty much the only coffee place around here, but it’s always disappointing. I think I’m out of gift cards for it, so I’ll stick with having Dad make me coffee when the mood strikes.

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Five unpopular things I do like:

1. Nickelback. I don’t really know why they’re so unpopular in some groups, but I like them. You know you secretly do too. Especially their older stuff. Don’t lie. You can sing along.

2. Anchovies. Also, sardines and pickled herring and lox. I also like obscene amounts of garlic. I’m weird. Judge me all you want.

3. Puns. I like stupid jokes. You should really know that by now.

4. Being alone. I like my own company. I like not having to worry if I’m annoying someone with my choice of entertainment. I like not having to talk if I don’t want to. It’s nice being by myself.

5. Not being on the phone 24/7. I don’t call people. I do text but it’s rare for a conversation to last more than a half hour at a time. And I hate using it for internet stuff. I use it to read when I’m away from the computer and I might scroll through Facebook occasionally. But if I’m out and about, I’d rather people watch and socialize a little bit.

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Feel free to play along here in the comments or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS

Hello, hello! How is everyone holding up during this hectic time? I hope your isolation includes lots of good books and binge watching. Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday of March, so you know what that means. Book review time! This month, I opted for something a bit more slice of life meets magical realism meets ghost story than I normally go for. I just wanted something a little different and this fit in with that. It’s called Tigers, Not Daughters and is by Samantha Mabry. It was released on the 24th from Algonquin Young Readers. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it.

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Lovely cover.

 

Tigers, Not Daughters follows the remaining Torres sisters (Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa) as they struggle to cope with life after their oldest sister’s (Ana) death. Jessica tries to become Ana. Iridian hides herself deep within books and writing. And Rosa attempts to make sense of everything through her connections with animals. Throw in a useless drunk of a father, nosy teenage boys who want to be heroes but only make things worse, an abusive boyfriend, and a ghost just to make the sisters’ lives more difficult. Teenage angst and sisterhood. What more does a story need?

I admit I was a little on the fence about this story plot-wise. There’s a slow build before the magic and ghost story kick in, so I wasn’t grabbed in the way I’m used to with YA fantasy type books. But I’m glad I kept with it. And it’s a short book (less than 300 pages), so the wait for weird wasn’t really that long. It gave the characters a chance to shine on their own before everything else could distract from them. I enjoyed how the weirdness kind of crept in around the edges before you even realized it was there.

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As far as the characters go, we get to see most of the story from Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa’s views with a few interjections from the boys across the street. Each viewpoint is distinctive and beautiful in its own way. I didn’t even have to check the chapter headings to know whose head I was in, which is rare. It’s really hard to find characters who are similar yet different enough to stand apart from each other. I especially love Rosa, the kind and loving youngest sister who doesn’t even know what jealousy feels like until she experiences it for the first time, but who also kicks ass when she needs to. She’s the best.

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The writing is absolutely gorgeous. There’s a lovely sense of poetry that flows through this book. I think that’s what kept me reading in the beginning. I’m glad it did. It makes for easy reading as well as interesting images.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Tigers, Not Daughters. It was a wonderful glimpse into grief and family dynamics and the bonds of sisters. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more stories by Samantha Mabry.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. Why did I take away one? Because I finished the book a few days ago and am already forgetting parts of it, which means I probably won’t remember it at all in six months. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it wasn’t memorable for me. But I still totally recommend it if you like magical realism and ghost stories about teenage girls.

The Dos and Don’ts of Avoiding the Plague

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I’m doing pretty well. I’ve basically trained for this my whole life. After all, I was homebound (different from homeschooling in that the school district sent a teacher to my house twice a week for lessons and to act as a go-between for me and the teachers at the schools I should’ve been attending/was enrolled in) from 4th through 12th grades because my mom was paranoid I’d get sick and die. With my lungs, I guess it was a legitimate fear. But basically, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding respiratory illnesses. Fingers crossed I can avoid this one too, but like pretty much everything else in this world, if I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it. There are some precautions you can take, not only to avoid it yourself, but to avoid spreading it to people who are more at-risk of hospitalization and death than you.

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Don’t: Touch people. No handshakes, no hugs, no kisses. If you know someone is at a higher risk level, even bumping of fists or elbows or anything else should only be done with permission. If you’re close enough to touch me, you’re close enough to get my germs and to give me yours.

Do: Bring back bowing and curtsying (whichever you prefer). Wave from afar. Jump up and down and squee. Dramatic blowing of kisses from an appropriate distance. All of these are wonderful greetings and farewells. Be creative. And if you need to talk to your soft-spoken friends, now is a good time to sit across the room from them and text back and forth instead of getting in close to them.

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Do: Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands more often. Decontaminate things like doorknobs and remote controls and keyboards and phones. Especially if other people live with you. And don’t give me that look about cleaning your phone. Do you even realize how many weird surfaces your phone touches and you never bother cleaning it? You put it on your desk at work, on restaurant tables, you drop it on the ground, etc. And it’s usually face down, then it rings and you put it on your face. That’s almost worse than not washing your hands.

Don’t: Assume people are practicing good hygiene. People are disgusting. I’m sorry, but it’s true. And it’s why you need to take extra care, especially if you’re a face toucher. It’s impossible not to touch your own face. I know. So just remember people are gross and you need to be cautious.

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Crochet and booze. That’s a worthy hobby.

This one’s more for your own mental health, but:

Don’t: Let self-isolation drive you nuts. Step away from the news with all its doom and gloom. Avoid the rabbit hole of researching statistics. No one really knows what’s going on. They won’t know until everything has calmed down. Don’t fall into that pit of panic and despair.

Do: Find a new hobby. If you’re comfortable getting deliveries and have some cash to spare, order some stuff to start knitting or build a model boat or buy some origami paper or whatever. If not, there are tutorials for everything on the Interwebz. Teach yourself yoga or how to do the rumba or something. Read a book. Write a book. Do something fun with your unexpected time alone. Got a spouse or roomie or whatever? Rope them into doing something with you. Want to act out that one-man play you wrote in high school? Now you have a captive audience. Do the thing!

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Pretty much.

Basically, this is a stressful time for everyone. The economy is going to hell. Forced shut-downs aren’t helping curb the panic and will probably ruin a lot of small businesses. People are hoarding toilet paper for some godforsaken reason. Others are acting like this is all some big conspiracy. It’s all pretty ridiculous no matter how you look at it. Is the general reaction to this thing overkill? Probably. But it’s what’s happening and we all have to deal with it in our own way. Mine is hermitting, skepticism, and sarcasm. What’s yours? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Life Update…

Howdy, howdy! How is your March going? Mine has been pretty quiet so far. I’ve looked back over my posts from the past few weeks and realized that they’ve been mostly food and book reviews. That’s great for me because it means I don’t have to think about what to write, but I’ve run out of those for now. So, I thought I would do a general life update. Here’s a list of five updates ranging from things I promised to expand on in previous posts to completely random new topics.

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At the DMA.

1. The friend visit! Enza came to visit from February 14th ’til the 18th. We went to the Dallas Museum of Art, Fountain Place (yes, there’s a building in Dallas surrounded by fountains), Meadows Museum, and a few different places to eat. Then, we had a relaxing day hanging out in the backyard reading and chatting before Enza had to go back. She left us some surprise chocolates when she left. They’re long gone, but they were yummy! I had a nice time and I’m sorry I hate Dallas’s shitty roads. If you’re reading this, thank you again for visiting!

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2. Cake! Dad bought a cake for Enza’s visit from Great Balls of Fudge n Stuff. Here’s the Instagram. We met Erika, the wonderful lady behind the goodies, at Panera. She made us a decadent chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream frosting and chocolate ganache. It was absolutely delicious. There was brief talk about freezing some of it, but it didn’t last that long. Go ahead and be jealous.

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Life, writing, all of it.

3. Goals. I won’t make you suffer through a whole post about them, but they’re going well. I slacked off on my revisions, so instead of 1,500 words on my revising days, I have to do 1,700 words, but I’m still on track to finish them by March 20th. I’m also three books ahead of schedule for my reading goal for the year. Submissions go out every week. So yeah. Everything is going pretty well.

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My first little lost soul. She has lots of friends now, but still isn’t done.

4. Crochet! Since Enza saw the shawl-thus-far, I can talk about it on here. It’s called the Lost Souls shawl and I got the pattern for free on Ravelry. It was a big project to take on, but I’ve learned a lot from it so far. There are also some amazing tutorials for it on YouTube that I would be lost without. I’m currently halfway through with the eighth set of skulls and starting the ninth. I’ve been working on it on and off since October (I’m super slow). I actually haven’t worked on it since February 2nd, so I need to get back to it. I’ll make sure to post pictures when I’m done with it.

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5. Coronavirus. Dad’s a bit paranoid about the flu and the latest plague, so we’ve been hermitting more than usual. There’s not really much we can do about it since it’s spreading so much, but it gives me a legit excuse to avoid going grocery shopping or to Home Depot. I can only use revising as an excuse so much, but avoiding sickness gets me off the hook even on my days off. Yay for being a recluse!

That’s life. I’m stuck in a revise, read, eat, repeat loop. You’re all caught up now. Feel free to tell me how things are going for you on here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on THE SOUND OF STARS

Hello, hello! It’s only the first week of March, but I have another book review for you. It’s the last minute approval I got for February’s ARC requests. Don’t worry. The next one won’t be until the end of March because I have no more ARC requests out (except one for April’s review). Anyway, the book is called The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. It’s a sci-fi fantasy YA novel because I was looking for something different. Inkyard Press released the book on February 25th. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for access to the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it.

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Gorgeous cover. You can probably guess why it caught my eye as I was browsing. So much purple.

The Sound of Stars follows Janelle “Ellie” Baker, a seventeen-year-old jaded human, as she struggles to cope during an alien invasion by lending out contraband (books) to others imprisoned in the same center. When she’s caught by one of her alien overlords (an attractive guy called M0Rr1s), she knows she’s dead, but in return for his silence, he just wants music (also forbidden). Little do they know that this give-and-take will lead to big adventures as they escape across the country together. And it might even lead to more than that if they can survive.

Sounds pretty standard and fun, right? It is! There’s romance and danger and misunderstandings and personal revelations and all that. Plus, there are some weird musicians sprinkled in for fun. It’s definitely a YA novel that pulls out all of the emotional stops. There’s teenage angst in all its glory threaded around a lot of deeper and more difficult topics. It makes for a nice rollercoaster ride if you open yourself up to it.

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That being said, I did feel like some of the diversity issues that the book deals with were far too heavy handed at times. Which is common and annoying in all forms of media these days. And before you get on your soapbox and give me a lecture about the importance of representation in the media, please remember that I’m a wheelchair-bound female with a questionable sexuality. I don’t get represented in media very often outside of inspiration porn. Cool your jets. I’m just saying that I don’t need to know the gender identity of every throw away character in the story. There are at least two characters who literally just open doors then disappear, but I know they’re nonbinary. Why? It feels trite. Especially when there are plenty of lovely fleshed out characters who are nonbinary or ace/demi or bi/pan, etc. And I love those characters. I hope to see more of them. I kind of understand it with the aliens because it’s how they are, it’s part of their social standards to announce their gender. With the humans it felt forced. Especially when a kid in Texas (who by all indications hasn’t had any contact with the aliens in order to learn this behavior) asks if M0Rr1S is a boy, a girl, or nonbinary. If the book was set in the future more than two years, I might be able to believe a kid here would ask that, but it doesn’t seem to be, so it came off as awkward.

Tl;Dr? I love learning about characters and seeing things from other perspectives, but when you tell me intimate details about characters I don’t get to see for more than a sentence or two, it’s weird and forced.

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There’s a spoiler in the next paragraph.

 

Moving along to character development. It’s fantastic. Ellie and M0Rr1S are superb. Even the backup characters are awesome. I love Avi and Alice and the Starry Eyed. Even Brixton gets his moment in the sun. We’re told he’s basically a bad guy, but when he finally shows up he has this really adorable backstory that turns super creepy by human standards the more you think about it. He wanted to be a part of his little brother (M0Rr1s) and have a connection with him, so when their mother created M0Rr1S (who is a labmade, which is exactly what it sounds like) with her genetic material, Brixton added some of his own when she wasn’t looking. It’s sweet until you start thinking about the daddy-bro implications. But they’re aliens, so it’s okay! And it’s those kinds of details that make the story interesting and fun.

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No more spoilers from here.

The writing was a little repetitive at times, but smooth enough to let me fly through the story. I read 430 pages in 12 days, which is super fast for me. Plus I love the inclusion of song lyrics and all of the references to music and books. I even discovered a couple of titles I can look into for fun reading.

Ultimately, I loved The Sound of Stars. It was left open-ended, so I have high hopes that future books will come out. If not, I’ll still pick up whatever Alechia Dow publishes next and hope it’s just as good.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. If you’re into YA sci-fi/fantasy, I definitely recommend picking it up. It’s definitely worth a read and it would be beautiful on any library shelf or nightstand.

Thoughts on The Last Smile in Sunder City

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last week of February which means that it’s review time. And guess what! I got approved at the very last minute for another February release, so you’ll get another review either next week or the week after, depending on how fast I can get through it. Are you tired of book reviews yet? Tough noogies, I guess. Anyway, today I’m taking a look at The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold. It was released by Orbit Books on February 25th. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

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An interesting cover.

The Last Smile in Sunder City follows Fetch Phillips, a human and a former jack-of-all-trades turned soldier turned PI, as he tries to do some good with his life. Six years ago, the source of magic was cut off from the world due to human greed. This left all the monsters to adapt to a miserable new life and sometimes, they need favors. That’s where Fetch comes in handy. This time, he’s hired to find a missing vampire, but nobody is prepared for what else he discovers along the way.

Sounds fun, right? It is to an extent. I mean, who wouldn’t love a gritty noir-esque mystery with real monsters? The problem is that that’s not what we get. Not really. There are a bunch of different stories all packed into one here and none of them are fleshed out into a story worth the time it takes to sift through them. And I don’t mean that various storylines are layered together like a book should have, I’m talking about a multitude of main stories being stuffed into one. In fact, the story that seems the most planned out is Fletch’s backstory which takes up half the book in flashbacks. That’s the story that wants to be told. It’s epic verging on dark fantasy. And I’d totally read that book. It would be awesome. But as a mystery, this story falls flat.

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Me as I was reading.

As far as the characters go, there are too many introduced to keep track of or develop feelings for. This is also due to the multiple stories vying for attention. It’s kind of annoying to have to go back to figure out who’s being talked about all the time. And there’s also the fact that Fetch doesn’t really do anything, at least not pertaining to the main story, so it’s hard to get into him. He gets lucky a couple of times and stumbles upon clues, but he very rarely actively does his job. And whenever he’s in trouble, someone else saves him. It became easy to hope Fetch failed. At least then I would’ve had a laugh. That being said, I did like his personality for the most part.

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It’s me.

The writing itself was nice. It flowed and would’ve made for a quick read if I didn’t have to keep going back to see who was who. There was some surprising imagery mixed in with some that was just awkward. But mostly it was just nice. Not great but not bad either. There’s a lot of good potential if the writer can stick to one main story and a few subplots next time.

Ultimately, The Last Smile in Sunder City sounds like a great idea, but the execution could have been better. I will check out the next book because I really want to like this series. If it’s not better, I’ll probably give it up.

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Overall, I gave it two out of five stars because the premise is really good. I’m not going to urge you to try it, unless I discover future books are much better, but if you’re bored it’s not entirely bad.