Mini-Reviews: Supernova, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, & The Last Hope

Supernova by Marissa Meyer
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

All’s fair in love and anarchy…

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian fighting to keep their identities secret. While the battle rages on between their alter egos and their allies, there is a darker threat shrouding Gatlon City.

The Renegades’ worst enemy is back among them, threatening to reclaim Gatlon City. Nova and Adrian must brave lies and betrayal to protect those they love. Their greatest fears are about to come to life, and unless they can bridge the divide between heroes and villains, they stand to lose everything. Including each other.

Intrigue and action will leave readers on edge until the final, shocking secrets are revealed.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Renegades series, but I have to admit that Supernova was a little underwhelming. I didn’t hate it, or even really dislike it, but I feel that compared with the rest of the series, it’s the weakest book.

It felt a little bit like the resolution of all the different plot points was just thrown in there and I was left feeling more confused than surprised. Everything that happened felt so convenient, without the suspense or high stakes feeling the previous two books had.

I will say that the epilogue floored me, though. I hope there’s a spin-off, or at least a novella, coming.


Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

The second book in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill, twins who have absolutely awful parents. They fall into a portal world called The Moors, where they’re finally able to step outside of the very narrow boxes their parents have tried to shove them into and live happily. The world of The Moors is dark, and often scary, but it’s a place where Jack and Jill finally find love and acceptance.

I liked the commentary on gender roles and parenting, but the world of The Moors wasn’t my favorite and Jack and Jill aren’t my favorite characters in this series. Final verdict? This one was good, but I liked the first one better.


The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie
Rating: DNF
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

A stunning conclusion to the sci-fi romance duology by writing duo Krista & Becca Ritchie, The Last Hope is filled with twists and turns you’ll never see coming.

Sacrifice all you have to survive.

Imprisoned for weeks on an enemy starcraft, Franny, Court, and Mykal have sat with an unfathomable revelation. But as they fight to stay alive, escaping prison means trusting a young mysterious stranger. He knows everything about their lost histories, and when answers aren’t given freely, the bonded trio are forced to join a mission. One that will determine the fate of humanity.

Legend says, a baby—the first of her species—has the power to cloak and teleport planets. Tasked with retrieving the infant, Court fears the baby is just a myth, and if they fail, they’ll never find the truth about their origins.

As Court and Mykal grow closer, their linked bond becomes harder to hide, and dynamics change when Franny begins to fall for someone new. Vulnerable and with no choice, the hunt for the baby sends the trio on a dangerous path to Saltare-1: a water world where their enemies can’t die and survival comes at a high cost.

Here’s the thing about Krista & Becca Ritchie — I used to be a really big fan of theirs. If you go back in my reviews archive, you’ll find reviews of every single book they’d written up until maybe two years ago. I’m not sure if my reading tastes changed or their writing changed, but this is the second book of theirs in a row that I’ve disliked.

They have a very distinctive, introspective writing style that I think lends itself pretty well to contemporary romance and not very well to fantasy. It was a little weird in The Raging Ones, but I was able to get past it. I couldn’t get past it here. The whole “I’m going to analyze everybody’s every move and what it means” thing was so tiresome. The plot barely moves. After five weeks, I was only halfway done and nothing had happened.

I saw another review that mentioned that it felt like the authors had spent all their time writing book one and then just before book two’s deadline, realized they had to write something. I agree. This is not the level of quality I expect from them, and I’m so disappointed that I had to DNF a book by authors who used to be my favorites.


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 Fire Never Goes Out, The Woods Vol. 1, & An Embarrassment of Witches

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Borrowed

From Noelle Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of Nimona, comes a captivating, honest illustrated memoir that finds her turning an important corner in her creative journey—and inviting readers along for the ride.

In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world. Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.

I’ve read many things by Noelle Stevenson but hardly knew anything about her, so when I saw this graphic memoir show up on my library’s Overdrive, I knew I had to check it out.

I think the first thing I want to say is that this isn’t a typical memoir. It’s a lot of doodles and sketches and early comics of hers with little wrap-ups of each year from 2011 to 2019. There’s nothing to really tie everything together and it comes across as a lot of anecdotes and lists of accomplishments. And that’s fine, I just had to adjust my expectations a little bit.

The book does have a nice discussion of mental health, and it was interesting to see Noelle come to accept herself and her sexuality. There are some definite content warnings here for self harm and overwhelming sadness. But overall, the book comes across as very hopeful.

I don’t know that I would recommend this to someone who’s not already a fan of Noelle’s, but if you’ve enjoyed her work and want to learn more about her, this might be worth a read.


The Woods, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2014
Source: Borrowed

On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine. 

This is the third of Tynion’s series that I’ve had the pleasure to start, and it’s also the one that takes the most effort to get into. It’s not that there’s anything overtly wrong with this series. It’s set at a high school that just, out of nowhere, gets plopped down into the middle of nowhere on an alien planet. As expected, things descend into chaos as the school’s administration tries to figure out what to do and certain students and teachers take things into their own hands.

This reminded me a bit of Something is Killing the Children, which is another of Tynion’s books that I’ve recently read. It took me a little while to separate the two in my head, but once I did, and once the story picked up, I really enjoyed this.

I’m curious to see where this story goes!


An Embarrassment of Witches by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A coming-of-age urban fantasy set in a world full of animal familiars, enchanted plants, and spell-casting that explores the mundane horrors of breakups, job searches, and post-graduate existential angst.

Life after college isn’t turning out exactly as Rory and Angela had planned. Rory, recently dumped at the gate of her flight to Australia, needs to find a new life path ASAP. What do you do with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Southeast Asian Spellcraft? Maybe her cute new housemate Guy is the answer she’s looking for (spoiler alert: he isn’t).

Meanwhile, Angela is buckling under the pressure of a high-stakes internship in a cutting-edge cryptopharmocology lab run by Rory’s controlling mother, who doesn’t know Rory is still in town… and Angela hates keeping secrets.

An Embarrassment of Witches is the story of two childhood friends learning how to be adults–and hoping their friendship can survive the change.

I checked out An Embarrassment of Witches on a whim, mostly because I liked the cover and the title, and it was mostly fine. It’s definitely not the greatest graphic novel I’ve ever read, but it’s also far from the worst.

I loved the color palette and the witches’ familiars. I loved the magical university. I loved all of the magical takes on our world, like Taco Spell instead of Taco Bell. What I didn’t love was the virtual absence of plot. This is a graphic novel that’s just about two witches in their mid-20s trying to figure out life, but that’s about it. I kept expecting some actual storyline to show up, and it never really did.

This isn’t a bad graphic novel by any means, but I’m definitely not recommending that anybody run out to the store to buy it.


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

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Mini-Reviews: Heartstopper Vol. 3, Something is Killing the Children, and Happily Ever After & Everything in Between

Heartstopper, Vol. 3 by Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Source: Purchased

In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

There’s this idea that if you’re not straight, you have to tell all your family and friends immediately, like you owe it to them. But you don’t. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready.

After two volumes of Nick and Charlie being absolutely adorable, it wasn’t really a surprise to find some deeper themes in Volume 3. This volume follows the group through a class trip to Paris, along with all of the exploration they do and all the fun they have.

But despite all of the fun, Nick and Charlie do have to navigate some real issues in this volume. It’s definitely a darker feeling than the two previous volumes, but still so, so good. I can’t wait to see what comes next for Nick and Charlie. I may need to read Solitaire while I wait.

Content warnings for:homophobia, self harm, and eating disorder

Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

When children begin to go missing in the town of Archer’s Peak, all hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives to reveal that terrifying creatures are behind the chaos – and that she alone will destroy them, no matter the cost.

IT’S THE MONSTERS WHO SHOULD BE AFRAID.

When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see. 

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.

GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (The Woods, Batman: Detective Comics) teams with artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land) for an all-new story about staring into the abyss.

Collects Something is Killing the Children #1-5.

The first graphic novel series I read by Tynion was The Backstagers, which I absolutely adored. I’d seen the individual issues of Something is Killing the Children on Hoopla, but I hadn’t gotten around to checking it out yet. Luckily for me, the first volume showed up on Netgalley and I was able to read it all at once!

First things first, this is a very different vibe from The Backstagers. This isn’t cute and fluffy, it’s dark and gritty. It features monsters and death and blood and gore. But it also features a pretty cool monster slayer and it takes place in my home state of Wisconsin, so that’s always a win for me!

If you like Stranger Things and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll probably like this graphic novel.

Content warnings for:blood/gore/violence/murder, homophobia

Happily Ever After & Everything in Between by Debbie Tung
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

From the bestselling author of Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love comes a funny and adorable collection of comics about married life, specifically an introvert married to an extrovert! Debbie Tung’s tender, funny, and utterly relatable comics are the perfect gift for anyone in a relationship.
 

The comics in Happily Ever After & Everything In Between may be inspired by Debbie Tung’s marriage to her extrovert husband, but any couple can relate to increasingly relaxed anniversaries, slowly seeing more of each other’s weird sides, or the punishment for taking care of your sick loved one (catching whatever they had). Happily Ever After humorously captures what everyday love looks like—both the sweet moments and the mundane—making it a fitting gift for weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.

I’ve previously read (and really enjoyed!) both Book Love and Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung. When I saw Happily Ever After & Everything in Between show up on Netgalley, I knew I had to read it too. I was expecting that same relatable quality that all of Debbie’s books have, and it was there. But there was just something about this one that didn’t sit quite right with me.

I think there’s a lot of the “everything in between” and not as much of the “happily ever after” as I might have expected. For instance, there are a few pages where Debbie shows herself doing all the housework while her husband makes excuses for why he can’t help, or while he just sleeps on the couch. Was that supposed to be cute? Am I missing something?

Overall, this was fine, but it isn’t a book that I’m going to recommend anybody run out to buy. If you’re looking to get into Debbie’s work, I’d recommend Book Love as a better starting place than this.


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

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Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Borrowed

In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.

Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.

Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

Carrying all the trademarks of her other beloved works, including brilliant writing, fantastic world-building and exceptional, diverse characters, Becky’s first audiobook outside of the Wayfarers series is sure to capture the imagination of listeners all over the world.

I’ve only ever seen good things about Becky Chambers’ books, so when I saw this novella pop up at my library, I figured it was as good a time as any to give her writing a try. I guess that, after finishing, I just feel kind of conflicted.

On the one hand, the writing is really good! The setting is super vivid. There’s a ton of casual diversity and it’s never a thing, it just exists. On the other hand, very little actually happens. This novella is only 153 pages and it dragged. I kept waiting for something to actually happen and it never really did.

I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly I felt about this book until my boyfriend asked me what I thought of it. I blurted out, “It felt more like an exercise in worldbuilding than a real book,” and you know what? That’s exactly it. The four characters explore some worlds — and they’re really well-written worlds, with their own plants and wildlife — but that’s it. I mean, sure, there’s a message in there about humanity and whatnot, but that wasn’t enough for me to feel like I’d read an actual book and not just a ton of description.

I’m not mad that I took the time to listen to this one, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more of Chambers’ books any time soon.


Have you read To Be Taught, If Fortunate? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

I have previously read three of Shaun David Hutchinson’s novels with varying results. We Are the Ants was an easy five stars for me. I could have cried while reading it. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley? Four stars. The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried? One of my most anticipated books of 2019 and, really, kind of a disappointment.

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. I’d seen really mixed reviews when it first came out, I remember seeing people yelling (in a bad way) about the trans rep, and then there were all of the reviews that screamed “BUT NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.” Well, I’ll tell you what. I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it a lot.

There’s some definite social commentary here. Elena makes frequent (negative) references to the current president of the United States. There are discussions about the right to choose, not necessarily with regard to abortion, but just in general. When Elena learns that she has the ability to heal people, she has a bit of a crisis about whether she should really be playing god. This is exactly what I expect when I read one of Hutchinson’s books, and I was so happy to find it here.

As for the story, I thought it was really interesting. Elena doesn’t have a father, and she doesn’t mean that in the usual “my dad is a deadbeat and left when I was little” way. As the product of a virgin conception, scientifically known as parthenogenesis, she literally has no father. This has had little bearing on her life, aside from a lot of teasing from her classmates, until she suddenly learns that she’s capable of performing miracles.

I’m not going to get into all of that for fear of spoilers, so instead, I want to talk about the subtle diversity of this book. Elena is a bisexual Cuban girl. Her main love interest is Freddie, a girl she’s had a crush on forever. Elena’s ex-boyfriend, Javi, is a fairly main character, and nobody makes any sort of deal over her having an ex-boyfriend and now pursuing a girl. Elena’s best friend, Fadil, is Muslim and in the process of figuring out his own sexuality. Since none of the characters made a big deal out of this and all of this diversity was woven very seamlessly into the story, it never felt like flashing lights and ringing alarms screaming, “HEY, GUYS, DID YOU NOTICE SHE’S BI?!?” It just existed.

And also, that thing about bad trans rep? There’s like one sentence in this entire book and it’s one character saying something like, “Hey, how is [male name]?” And another character being like, “Actually, she goes by [female name] now.” How anybody found anything to hate in that is beyond me.

So, yes, this book is basically about Elena deciding what to do once she finds out that she can heal people. I suppose I can see how some people might consider that “not much of a plot.” I really enjoyed it, though, and I hope to read At the Edge of the Universe after I take a little SDH break.


Have you read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza? Is it on your TBR?
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