ARC review: Midnight Radio by Iolanda Zanfardino

Midnight Radio by Iolanda Zanfardino
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

An intriguingly interwoven tale of four lives changed by a mysterious late-night radio broadcast that wakes them up from their mundane existences. Each tale speaks to different social issues without pandering to a political agenda: LGBT+ rights, racism, social network addiction, and the difficult decision between settling down versus following your dreams. Each tale is told in a vivid, polychromatic illustration style that flows from one character to another and back again in a uniquely identifiable fashion.

I downloaded Midnight Radio from Edelweiss on a whim. Not having read anything from this author or publisher before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I figured that a 160-page graphic novel was pretty much risk-free.

The first thing I want to say is that I’ve never read a graphic novel with this kind of art before, but I really enjoyed it! I also really enjoyed how each of the four stories was illustrated in a different color. It really helped me keep track of what was going on in which story and it clearly differentiated scene changes, both definite pluses.

Of the four stories, I think Stephen’s was my favorite. Stephen is Insta-famous, with hundreds of thousands of followers that dote on his every word (or, I guess, photo). Behind the scenes, Stephen is dealing with family and friendship issues and, for reasons we never quite find out, never speaks. I would have loved to read an entire graphic novel just about Stephen. (Not that the other three stories weren’t also good.)

What kept me from rating this five stars was two things. First, the stories do come together at the end, but I wanted more from it. Second, I would have liked to have gone a little more in depth with these characters. I feel like we only scratched the surface of their lives and could have gone so much further.

All in all, I really enjoyed this one! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you’re looking for a good graphic novel.


Have you read Midnight Radio? Is it on your TBR?
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ARC Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

I almost always love Christina Lauren books, so I was very excited to see The Unhoneymooners pop up on Netgalley. After I requested it, I kind of forgot that I had it until about three days before its release, when I panicked and started reading it immediately. Luckily, this book was very fun and I read it in two sittings. The 432 pages honestly just flew by.

I always love Christina Lauren’s heroines. They’re usually goofy, clumsy, and often embarrass themselves. But they’re also confident, intelligent, and just the right amount of snarky. Olive is no exception. She has a bit of a reputation for being prickly, but she’s just honest. She doesn’t put up with any nonsense. I could probably learn a thing or two from her.

It’s not just their heroines that I love, though. Their heroes are great, too. Aside from a few rather frustrating scenes, Ethan was a great love interest. While he initially came off as kind of stand-offish (or even rude), once he and Olive got over their differences and actually talked, he was a great guy. I loved how particular he was about the food he’d eat because SAME.

I loved the way the relationship developed between Olive and Ethan. Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, and Christina Lauren did it perfectly here. The teasing, the banter, and the turn to romantic feelings was done so well. Another of my favorite tropes? Fake dating. Watching Olive and Ethan pretend to be newlyweds while being so uncomfortable about it was great. I loved it.

So, why not five stars? There were a few things that didn’t sit quite right with me, but I think that getting into them would be kind of spoilery. I will say that they were still small enough issues that I flew through this book and ended up loving it. I’d highly recommend this to anybody looking for a cute enemies-to-lovers romance.


Previously: AutoboyographyDating You/Hating YouJosh and Hazel’s Guide to Not DatingLove and Other WordsMy Favorite Half-Night StandRoomies


#killingthetbr: 4 months on shelf


Have you read The Unhoneymooners? Is it on your TBR?
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Book review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 27, 2015
Source: Purchased

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions…

When I bought this book, I knew nothing about it other than it had a fun title and I’d heard good things about Patrick Ness. I started reading it without having even read the synopsis, and I knew almost immediately that I’d love it.

I’ve read countless YA books about the “Chosen One.” There’s Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, Throne of Glass… I could go on. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that trope. When it’s written well, it can make for a really good story. One of my all-time favorite TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also bases itself around this trope.

Ness takes this trope and turns it around, focusing instead on the kids who aren’t involved in all of the supernatural happenings. While the indie kids are off in the background dealing with vampires and zombies and ghosts and mysterious blue lights, Mike and his friends are sorting out their own problems. They’re dealing with relationship drama, mental illness, stress about graduation, and less-than-stellar parenting. This book deals with a lot of issues in a relatively short amount of pages.

I think my favorite part of the book was the almost sassy descriptions of the indie kids at the beginning of each chapter. I also loved the way the seemingly unrelated activities of the indie kids were woven into the story toward the end. Quite honestly, there was very little that it didn’t love about this book. Also, bonus points for tons of cats.

I would highly recommend this book if you’re interested in seeing a common trope turned on its head and maybe even made fun of a little bit. I can’t wait to read more from Ness.

#killingthetbr: five months on shelf


Have you read The Rest of Us Just Live Here? Which book by Ness should I read next?
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Book review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Millie and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.
 

I was on a book-acquiring ban when I first saw the ARC of My Favorite Half-Night Stand pop up on Netgalley. I was really tempted to request it anyway but decided to be mature and responsible and not bite off more than I could chew by requesting books I had no time to read. That said, I totally planned to check it out from the library as soon as it came out. Well, life got in the way. I ended up traveling a lot at the end of the year and I kind of forgot about this one until I stumbled across it while waiting in line to check out at the library.

The thing is, I almost always enjoy books by Christina Lauren. They’re one of my favorite author duos. Aside from Dating You/Hating You, I think I’ve rated everything of theirs either four or five stars. There’s just something about their writing style that puts me in a great mood, and I love that their characters are always charming, yet flawed. And their dialogue! It’s like reading an actual conversation.

Realizing that you might like a friend in a romantic way is always a weird feeling, and Christina Lauren captured that perfectly when Millie and Reid fall into their friends-but-sort-of-more arrangement. I appreciated that they didn’t play into the “we can’t because it’ll ruin our friendship” cliche — that always bothers me and almost always feels so unrealistic — and instead had Millie and Reid hook up and then try to fall back into their normal rhythm.

The online dating aspect was great! I’ve never tried online dating, never wanted to, and hope that I’ll never have to, because I find it absolutely terrifying. Nobody in this book had any (scary) disasters, though there was never a dull moment. I think, though, that the only part of the book I honestly took issue with was Millie (as “Catherine”) stringing Reid along for so long, and Reid continuing to message “Catherine” despite his growing feelings for Millie. I think I say this in most reviews of romances, but if they’d just been adults and talked to each other, they could have avoided a lot of unnecessary drama.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book! It was a lot of fun and it’s only made me more excited to read more from these authors.

#ps19: a book you meant to read in 2018
#romanceopoly: women’s ave


Have you read My Favorite Half-Night Stand? What’s your favorite friends-to-lovers romance? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Sheets by Brenna Thummler

Sheets by Brenna Thummler
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen year old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes, and the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck who is committed to destroying everything she’s worked for.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

When their worlds collide, Marjorie is confronted by unexplainable disasters as Wendell transforms Glatt’s Laundry into his midnight playground, appearing as a mere sheet during the day. While Wendell attempts to create a new afterlife for himself, he unknowingly sabotages the life that Marjorie is struggling to maintain.

Sometimes I get into these graphic novel moods and just can’t bring myself to read an actual novel. In those cases, I usually go to the library and check out whatever looks interesting. When I tried to go to the library a couple days ago, though, the whole entrance to the parking garage was blocked by a huge truck and all the street parking was taken. It put me in a bit of a mood, really, but then I remembered that hoopla is a thing and I was all good.

I had seen a number of positive reviews of this graphic novel, but I was still really surprised at how much I ended up liking it. I’m not usually the biggest fan of middle grade books, but this one was so well-done. It deals with a lot of heavy topics — death, grief, depression, bullying, loneliness — but it never feels heavy-handed or like it’s trying too hard.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this graphic novel was the use of color palettes! The majority of the book is illustrated in pink and blue pastels, but some memories, for example, are illustrated in yellow and orange, which I loved. I’m not even sure why I loved it, but I did.

The only two things that kept me from rating this higher were the pacing (it felt a little slow at times) and Mr. Saubertuck (who felt almost like a caricature of a villain). All in all, though, this was a really great debut. I see that the author has another book about Marjorie and Wendell coming out next year, and I can’t wait to read it.


Have you read Sheets? Can you recommend any similar books?
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Book review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 13, 1995
Source: Purchased

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. 

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…

Back in 2017, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic. I loved that book so much and decided that I needed to read Practical Magic asap. Well, fast forward a year and a half, and I found it at a used bookstore. Fast forward another three months and I’ve finally read it. It only took constant (though well-meaning and affectionate) prodding from one of my friends, who wanted to borrow it.

Almost every time I pick up a book by Alice Hoffman, I get the same feeling. It happened with Seventh Heaven, it happened with The Rules of Magic, and it happened again here with Practical Magic. Maybe it’s because all of these books feature at least a little bit of magical realism, but they just have this vibe about them that transports me right to where the characters are.

I loved all of our characters here — Sally and Gillian, Antonia and Kylie, Frances and Jet, and even minor characters like Gideon, Ben, and Gary. This book is very heavy on relationships, both platonic and romantic. I think that my favorite thing about the book was the bond between the sisters. Antonia and Kylie’s love for each other, in particular, really made the book for me.

Something that surprised me when I was reading was all of the emotions I felt! I did not expect this book to pull at my heart like this, but there were a number of times when I was reading that I almost cried!

I’d highly, highly recommend this book if you’re at all interested in magical realism or family bonds.

#killingthetbr: three months on shelf
#romanceopoly: faraway land
#ps19: a book with a two-word title


Have you read Practical Magic? Have you seen the movie? Should I drop everything and watch it now?Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz

7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Original Publication Date: May 1, 1996
Source: Borrowed

7 Miles a Second is the story of legendary artist David Wojnarowicz, written during the last years before his AIDS-related death in 1992, and drawn by James Romberger with colors by Marguerite Van Cook. The graphic novel depicts Wojnarowicz’s childhood of prostitution and drugs on the streets of Manhattan, through his adulthood living with AIDS, and his anger at the indifference of government and health agencies.

Originally published as a comic book in 1996 by DC’s Vertigo Comics, an imprint best-known for horror and fantasy material such as The Sandman7 Miles a Second was an instant critical success, but struggled to find an audience amongst the typical Vertigo readership. It has become a cult classic amongst fans of literary and art comics, just as Wojnarowicz’s influence and reputation have widened in the larger art world. Romberger and Van Cook’s visuals give stunning life to Wojnarowicz’s words, blending the gritty naturalism of Lower East Side street life with a hallucinatory, psychedelic imagination that takes perfect advantage of the comics medium.

This new edition will finally present the artwork as it was intended: oversized, and with Van Cook’s elegant watercolors restored. It also includes several new pages created for this edition.

I think I first heard about 7 Miles a Second when I was scrolling through a Goodreads list of highly-rated graphic novels. It’s definitely not a book that I would have picked up on my own — neither the plot or the art style really grabbed me — but it was surprisingly good.

This book might be short (it’s only 68 pages!) but it packs a big punch. It’s a whirlwind of emotions as the author describes his childhood (be prepared for graphic scenes of prostitution and abuse) and eventual diagnosis of AIDS. It’s an uncomfortable read, but an important one.

I think it would be wrong to say that I enjoyed this since mostly it just made me want to cry. Even so, I have to recognize the sheer amount of emotion the author made me feel in so few pages. This book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re interested in the subject matter and you’re okay with being pushed out of your comfort zone, it’s definitely a worthy read.

#ps19: a book published posthumously


Have you read 7 Miles a Second? Is it on your TBR?
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