November 20, 2019

Mini-reviews: Winterwood + Twice in a Blue Moon

pub 11/5/19 by Simon Pulse
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received e-ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars | Winterwood is my first Shea Ernshaw novel so I went in with zero expectations. Her writing was engaging and I was intrigued by the haunted, magical woods of Fir Haven and what rumored witch, Nora Walker, was capable of. It was these two aspects – the magic and the heroine – that kept me reading even when the plot turned out to be completely predictable. The predictability is what ultimately lowered my enjoyment of the book because it was too obvious as to where the plot was headed and I say that as someone who usually terrible at calling the twists and turns. Still, the atmospheric writing and the mystery around the Walker women reeled me in, in spite of that. Nora and her ancestors have always shared a special connection with the woods and each is blessed (some say cursed) with unique abilities. That's how Nora is able to find Oliver Huntsman alive and well despite having disappeared from the Camp of Wayward Boys weeks ago. But he doesn't remember what happened to him and Nora takes it upon herself to find out, especially as they become close and she begins to care for him. He has secrets of his own though and the story's intensity grew as those secrets, and the involvement of others who wanted his memories to stay that way, came to a head. But as I mentioned earlier, I found the ending disappointing in its predictability and rushed, convenient wrap-up.

Do I recommend? | It wasn't for me but despite that, I would be interested in reading more of her work in the future. If you really want to read this, I'd recommend borrowing from the library.


pub 10/22/2019
Romance - Contemporary
Received ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐⭐💫 3.5 stars | I'm a sucker for second chance romances and when it's one written by Christina Lauren, I know it's going to be a doozy. In other words, a whole lot of feels! It all begins in the past when Sam and Tate meet during a two-week vacation abroad with their respective grandparents. They fall in love in that intense first love kind of way where they share everything about themselves. That's how Tate ends up revealing that she's the long-lost daughter of a famous movie star and soon after, it's clear her trust was misplaced. Flash-forward to fourteen years later when Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, steps onto the set of her newest film only to find Sam, her not-so-forgotten first love, there as well. What transpires is a whole lot of angst, slow reveals to the past and getting to know one another in the present. Christina Lauren really do excel at making readers believe in that rare, immediate connection with someone at first-meet and the notion of "one true love," both of which can be seen here. It's not a perfect story and I actually would've loved to see more of Sam and Tate as individuals in the past, during the years apart and when they're reunited again. I think knowing more history and more character development would've given the story more emotional impact. But I honestly didn't mind it much. I felt very invested in the present romance and watching these two individuals who never forgot one another, slowly work their way back.

Do I recommend? | I do! Twice in a Blue Moon is my favorite of their two 2019 releases but the title of ultimate fave still belongs to Sweet Filthy Boy.

November 18, 2019

What I'm Watching | Violet Evergarden, The Boys, Burden of Truth

Violet Evergarden
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I hadn't binged an anime in forever and I have a tendency to watch the same kind –– magical girl and/or shōjo anime, preferably in a fantasy setting. But I kept seeing the Violet Evergarden pop up on Netflix and it just looked beautiful from the preview so I decided to give it a try. And wow. It totally blew me away with the story and multiple episodes brought me to tears (very unexpected!). It's set in a world where everyone is recovering from a recent major war and Violet Evergarden, a former child soldier, tries to adjust this new life. But it isn't easy. She had been trained to be an emotionless tool for the military until one of her superiors takes her in and shows her that there's more to life and more to her. In his final moments he tells her he loves her and throughout the series, her new "mission" is to discover what these words mean. She does this by taking up ghostwriting. She helps people write letters by putting into words what they feel but can't express. Which isn't without its mishaps given her robot-like personality at the beginning. And that's ultimately what makes the series so affecting. Because we see her get to open up episode by episode and begin to feel. Honestly, every time she told someone that she wanted to know what "I love you" meant, I felt a pang in my own heart. It's just such a poignant tale. Even if anime isn't your usual cup of tea, I would highly recommend giving this a try. // Season 1 on Netflix; as of right now, no plans for more seasons but I'm keeping my fingers crossed


The Boys
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This was absolutely not your average superhero series and I mean that as a compliment. (And a forewarning!) Right off the bat, the first episode shows you how bananas it's going to be and even I was still shocked by how dark, twisted and totally crazy it got by the end. But that's ultimately what made it stand out in comparison to other superhero shows I've watched, and I've seen a ton. The Boys was a subversive view on what we all know and usually love about superheroes while also providing some subtle and not-so-subtle commentary. It's based on a comic book, which I didn't actually know at the time. But in this world, "superpowered" people are recognized and treated as celebrities by the general public. They're all owned by Vought International, who markets and pays them and creates their personas to be loved by the world. But in reality, they're corrupt and care very little about helping people. The series follows two main groups: The Seven (Vought's superhero team) led by Homelander and "The Boys" led by Billy Butcher, who hates all aforementioned superpowered people. But the two people we truly get to follow are Hughie, who joins the Boys after his girlfriend is killed by one of the Seven and Annie / Starlight, the Seven's latest and genuinely good recruit. The two of them (plus my favorite Boy, Frenchie) really brought humanity to the show, especially in its darker and crazier moments. I have seen criticism though, mainly around the pacing being uneven or the plot and I'll admit, it's not a perfect series but what made it worth watching was the complexity of its characters (not to mention the jaw-dropping twists!). // Season 1 on Amazon Prime; Season 2 out mid-2020


Burden of Truth
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I've been a Kristin Kreuk fan since her Smallville days which is how I ended up watching Beauty & the Beast when it first aired (enjoyable at first, until it wasn't)  and why I decided to check out Burden of Truth this past week. I did not expect this show to be as good as it was! I binged both seasons in less than a week and was super impressed by the stories, the characters and the acting. Not only is Kristin Kreuk the lead on the show, she's also an executive producer. It made me realize how underrated she is as an actress and appreciate that she seeks out strong, multi-faceted female roles for herself. (It also made me want to visit Canada; yes, the show is Canadian!) Kreuk plays Joanna Hanley, a corporate attorney who returns to her hometown of Millwood to represent a large pharmaceutical company against a group of young girls who've become sick. While at first, it's all business for her, even as she runs into old friends and old grudges, something changes. She starts to see that she could be of help to these girls and if there's anything you'll learn about Joanna throughout the series, it's that she'll stop at nothing to get the truth. Each season focuses on a different case but the characters remain largely the same. And part of the appeal of the show for me are the connections she makes while in Millwood, such as an old best friend, an old classmate with whom she now has some underlying romantic tension (I was 100% shipping this) and the girls themselves. On top of that, the representation and just a lot of what the show said was so, so great. I can't believe it doesn't get more attention now that I've watched it! // Season 1 on Hulu; Season 2 partially available on CW app and coming soon to Hulu; renewed for a third season!

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What have you been watching?

November 15, 2019

Stacking the Shelves (74)

So I culled a bunch of books on a whim a few weeks ago and I feel really good about it. No regrets. Except soon after that, I felt the urge to buy a bunch of books, friends gifted me with books and some very kind publishers sent books my way. Basically, my TBR is back to where it was pre-culling but again, absolutely no regrets!

Here are the books!

PURCHASED
GIFTED


What new books have you guys gotten lately?

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