ARC Review: Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully

Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Jennifer Strange is cursed with the ability to give ghosts and demons a corporeal body with just the touch of her hand. All she wants is to learn how to control her new gift. Instead, her father drops her in the care of her older sister Liz, leaving only his journal as an explanation.

Jennifer and Liz haven’t spoken to each other since their mother died, but when the supernatural residents of Savannah, Georgia find Jennifer and her powerful gift, the sisters must learn to trust each other again and uncover the truth about their parents. If they can’t sort out their differences, they’ll not only destroy the veil between the living and the dead but fall into the hands of a rival family who wants to claim the Sparrow power for themselves.

JENNIFER STRANGE is an illustrated novel – a campy romp for fans of BUFFY, EVIL DEAD, and SUPERNATURAL. Cat’s illustrations unveil the story of Jennifer’s family history in the form of a journal with an art style akin to SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.

I want to start my review by saying that the main reason I didn’t like this book was that I was under the (false) impression that it was a graphic novel, since that’s how it was categorized on Netgalley. This is not a graphic novel. It is a novel with the occasional illustration. And by “occasional,” I mean maybe one every two or three chapters.

The concept of this book is good. It reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I love, and Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins, which I thought was a ton of fun. In this book, Jennifer is a normal teenage girl until demons start showing up around her. She has no idea what’s going on and all she has is a mysterious journal that her father gave her before unceremoniously dumping her on her older sister.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that this story would have been a thousand times better if it were told in graphic novel format.

Because, the thing is, the writing is pretty weak. Instead of worldbuilding that feels natural, we get a lot of infodumps through dialogue. Jennifer meets characters who magically know everything that she doesn’t, and even though she has a journal from her father that contains all of the information she needs, she just casually pages through instead of, you know, sitting down to read it so she can stop complaining about how she doesn’t know anything. There’s also a strange lack of emotion in the book, like when a character is taken and someone says, “Damn it. The Banshee got her.” Shouldn’t there be an exclamation point in there somewhere? Maybe some fear? Any kind of feeling?

The story is also very jumpy, hopping kind of haphazardly between normal events like eating breakfast and taking a shower and, like, demons destroying the city. The transition between the two is typically someone throwing up, which I think I counted seven times within the first 25% of the book, at which point I stopped counting. I wish it would have had more of a transition, or just any kind of transition other than constant vomiting. I’m just not sure why that was necessary.

Anyway, back to my point on the graphic novel. I think it would have hidden a lot of the problems with the writing, and it would also have looked pretty cool. The brief snippets of art we get are really good and I imagine that they’d translate really well into a full graphic novel format. It’s just a shame that it’s miscategorized on Netgalley. I hope it won’t be marketed incorrectly to the general public, because I could see that causing a lot of problems.


Have you read Jennifer Strange? Have you ever thought you’d like a story better if it were told in a different format?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication: February 2, 2012
Source: Gift

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song “Chopsticks.”

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory’s reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it’s up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along….
 

The thing about Chopsticks is that it takes about a half hour, at most, to read this book. It’s mostly photos, drawings, ticket stubs, and souvenirs. There are only a few sentences of actual story, and yet, somehow, I completely understood what was happening.

Or, at least, I thought I did.

Because the other thing about Chopsticks is that at some point, you start to realize that something is off. And then you go back and you flip through over and over and over again trying to figure out what exactly happened to these two characters.

I’m not going to get into what exactly happens in this book, because I think a lot of the fun is in figuring that out for yourself. I will say that I think there are at least two different interpretations, but probably more. The more that I think about this book, the more I like it.

If you like stories that are told in an unconventional way, I would highly recommend this one.

#mm20: author introduction


Have you read Chopsticks? What’s the last unconventionally told story you enjoyed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday!

WWW Wednesday is hosted over at Taking on a World of Words and just involves answering the 3 Ws!


What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR? Did you do your own WWW Wednesday post today? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Opening lines

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s theme is opening lines, and I decided to go with opening lines of ten of my favorite books!


Spontaneity is overrated.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

“I know you hate surprises, Stella. In the interests of communicating our expectations and providing you a reasonable timeline, you should know we’re ready for grandchildren.”

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

If you drew a straight line from my apartment in San Francisco to Berkeley, it would only be ten and a half miles, but even in the best commuting window it takes more than an hour without a car.

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

“Tell me something, Penny . . .”

Penny knew that whatever Madison Chandler was going to say, she wasn’t going to enjoy it.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Welcome to Cold Creek, Colorado. Population: eight hundred.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Daisy Jones was born in 1951 and grew up in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California.

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

It was night again.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I have a theory. Hating someone feels disturbingly similar to being in love with them.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

“Are you all right?”

The voice was tinny in Adina’s ears. Her head ached, and she was wet. She remembered the plane pitching and falling, the smoke and screams, the panic, and then nothing.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

abberant, adj.

“I don’t normally do this kind of thing,” you said.
“Neither do I,” I assured you.

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Did you do your own Top Ten Tuesday post today? Feel free to leave your link in the comments and I’ll check it out! Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite opening lines? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Soulless, Once and for All, & A Princess in Theory

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Source: Borrowed

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I’d been meaning to read one of Gail Carriger’s books for years, and a prompt about a steampunk romance was the perfect excuse. It was fine. I was under the mistaken impression that this was YA (I think I had it confused with a different Carriger series) and it very much was not. It’s not like I wouldn’t have read it if I’d known it contained detailed sexy scenes, but I probably wouldn’t have listened to it at work in front of all my coworkers. But anyway.

The book is fun. Alexia is a great character, and though I didn’t have any strong feelings for any of the other characters, there was nobody that I full-on hated. The plot is absolutely ridiculous, but in a good way. Kind of like a Victorian Buffy.

I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with this series, but I’m still looking forward to someday reading Etiquette & Espionage.

#romanceopoly: london street


Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Borrowed

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself. 

It really pains me to have moderately enjoyed, but not loved, a book by Sarah Dessen. I’ve been reading her books for almost twenty years now and I think this is the first time this has happened. The biggest reason that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I would’ve hoped is the subject matter. Apparently this is a spoiler, so I’ve hidden it below my review, but I would highly suggest reading the content warning (and my feelings on it) if you’re unsure if you want to pick this up.

I think this was the least connected I’ve ever felt to a Sarah Dessen book, and it made me very sad. It’s not a terrible book by any means — I still think it deserves three stars — but there seemed to be a lot of drama for no real reason, and there was a ton of instalove.

Content warnings for:A SCHOOL SHOOTING. This book is about a school shooting and NOWHERE does it say this. I don’t generally pick up books about school shootings and I wish I would have known this going in so that I could have avoided it. I also felt like it was thrown in kind of haphazardly since Louna says that she’s sad, but she never really acts as though she’s anything but jaded about love. With the way she acts, anything could have happened. It would have been nice to see her do something about her grief (therapy, talking to literally anyone, doing literally anything) and not just saying she was sad.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed

From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

Selected as one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018! 

A Princess in Theory is one of those books that’s been on my TBR for a long time. I picked it up because it was a bonus borrow on Hoopla, and while I did like it overall, it was not what I expected. While it was well-written, there were a few things that just didn’t work for me.

  • First, I think the pacing was off, or maybe the instalove was just too strong for me. Naledi and Thabiso don’t know each other, he starts showing up everywhere, she’s super skeptical of him… and then they’re making out and hooking up. What?
  • Second, anatomically correct descriptions during sex scenes always pull me out of the book, so when Thabiso rubbed against Naledi’s areola, I was out.
  • And third, while I loved that Naledi was studying epidemiology, I didn’t really think any of it was realistic. Why would an epidemiology student be assessing patients? She’s not a physician, she studies the spread of disease.

But overall, this was a cute story. Just maybe not the story for me.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Lost Sisters, Archenemies, & Every Heart a Doorway

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Sometimes the difference between a love story and a horror story is where the ending comes . . .

While Jude fought for power in the Court of Elfhame against the cruel Prince Cardan, her sister Taryn began to fall in love with the trickster, Locke.

Half-apology and half-explanation, it turns out that Taryn has some secrets of her own to reveal.

The Lost Sisters is a companion e-novella to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince by master writer Holly Black.

The Lost Sisters is a 50-page novella, so this will be a very mini mini-review. This novella is set between The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King and tells us what happened from Taryn’s perspective. I was a little apprehensive about that, because I didn’t think that anything could make me like or sympathize with her… and I was right.

While well-written, this novella did nothing for my dislike of Taryn. I’m also not sure that it was entirely necessary since it didn’t add much to the story. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still most likely going to be reading Cardan’s novella when it comes out.


Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Time is running out.
Together, they can save the world.
But are they each other’s worst nightmare?

In Renegades, Nova and Adrian (aka Insomnia and Sketch) fought the battle of their lives against the Anarchist known as the Detonator. It was a short-lived victory.

The Anarchists still have a secret weapon, one that Nova believes will protect her. The Renegades also have a strategy for overpowering the Anarchists, but both Nova and Adrian understand that it could mean the end of Gatlon City – and the world – as they know it.
 

While I really enjoyed Renegades, I never felt too much of a burning desire to read the rest of the books in the series. Then, as I started to think that maybe I finally wanted to read it, I was worried that it had been too long and I wouldn’t remember all the characters and their aliases and their allegiances. But then I jumped in anyway, because why not, and it all turned out okay.

I’m not sure what’s a spoiler and what isn’t right now, so I’m going to be pretty brief in what I liked and disliked. I liked the relationship between Nova and Adrian and I liked the tension between good and evil and the morally grey quality that a lot of the characters have. I did think the book had a bit of a slow start, and I’m not sure that the amount of action we got warranted 560 pages, but overall, this was really good.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

I have seen Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series seemingly everywhere over the last few years, and I finally decided it was time to pick it up. In case you, like me, weren’t really sure what this series is all about, it’s set at a boarding school for children who’ve visited other worlds and have returned to parents who aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Their parents don’t support them, they think they’re crazy, or they’re just fed up. Whatever the reason, all the characters have ended up in this school where they’re finally accepted for who they are.

I enjoyed this little novella a lot, but I wish that it was longer. McGuire introduces us to a bunch of characters, all very intriguing, all very different, a couple things happen plot-wise, and then it’s over. This is a series of many novellas about the different characters and the different fantastical worlds they’ve visited, and I can only hope that by the time it’s done, I’ll feel like I’ve been told a complete, cohesive story.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA fantasy books recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

1 thing this week:

  • I turn 30 tomorrow and I’m not even sure how that’s happening because I swear I just turned 18 like two years ago.

Song of the week:


How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

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