Audiobook: Velvet Was the Night

by Sylvia Moreno Garcia
Read by Gisela Chipe
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: It’s very sweary, including multiple f-bombs, very violent, and has on-screen sex. It’s in the adult section of the bookstore.

Maite, 30 years old and still unmarried, works as a secretary in a law firm in Mexico City in 1971. She’s bored with her life, lonely, and has only one thing to live for: the next issue of Secret Romance, a comic romance she follows. She reluctantly agrees to take care of her neighbor, Leonora’s, cat when she leaves the the weekend. The problem only begins when Leonora doesn’t come back. Determined to get her pay, Maite falls headfirst into a world od activist student, Russian spies, double-crossing government agents. She’s not the only one looking for Leonora, either: Elvis, who works or a shadowy government figure, is trying to track her down as well. Told in alternating narratives, Moreno-Garcia paints a picture of an underground Mexico City in the 1970s that was dangerous as it was alluring.

I’m not quite sure what to think of this one. I don’t usually go for thrillers, and so I don’t know who it stacks up in the genre. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters, though they grew on me as the book went on. Maite is so incredibly pathetic, it was hard not to feel sorry for her, but she got some pluck and drive as the book went on. Elvis seemed like a one-note character, but became more complex. At the very least, it kept me reading, which does say something. Though that may have more to do with the narrator, who was fabulous, than with the story I really enjoyed Chipe’s narration; she definitely knew how to pull the listener in, and keep them entertained

I’ve been saying at work that Moreno-Garcia doesn’t write the same book twice. If you like noir, you might like this one. It is a fascinating picture of a time in history, and she’s a good writer. I just don’t know if this is a great book.

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt

by Varian Johnson
First sentence: “The house always wins.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: October 5, 2021
Content: There is talk of addiction in adults, some bullying, and a mild “relationship”. It will be in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

AnthonyJoplin — Ant to his friends, but don’t call him little — comes from a family of serious Spades players. His grandfather, his father, his brother, were all really great at it, winning the local tournament (and then some). But Ant can’t seem to get in the game. He’s “weak”. Or that the way he feels, especially around his dad, his brother, and his friend. That he needs to be stronger, better. He needs to win the tournament, for starters.

He and his friend make a good team, but when his friend is unexpectedly unable to play, Ant turns to the new girl – Shirley – as a partner. Which is its own set of problems. Add to that his father is acting weird, staying up in the middle of the night playing online poker, and Ant is just confused about what he really is supposed to expect out of life.

I love that Johnson gets the middle grade audience, tackling touch subjects like addiction and masculinity without talking down to his readers. I love that he gives us characters that are interesting and complex, which makes them and their problems seem more real. I love that he sprinkles his books with humor, so they are not depressing, but rather reflect life’s ups and downs.

The only think I didn’t like about this book was the narrator: I liked the folksy aspect of it, with the slang and the way it felt like someone telling a story, but I often felt the narrator — who was a character in their own right — got in the way of the story.

But it was’t enough to turn me off of this book. Definitely another very good read!

State of the TBR Pile: September 2021

Currently it looks like this:

Friends Forever by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab
The Last Thing He Told Me by Larua Dave
The Bachelor by Andrew Palmer
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Temple Alley Summer by Sashiko Kashiwaba

But I will probably not get to most of those, because I”m taking a class that is very reading intensive. Granted, I’m liking all the reading, so I’m not complaining. In fact, this the pile for next week:

What are you looking forward to reading this week?

Life’s Too Short

by Abby Jimenez
First sentence: “Wailing.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content:There is lots of swearing, including multiple f-bombs. There is also on-screen sex and talk of penis size. It’s in the romance section of the bookstore.

Vanessa Price is a pretty famous travel blogger, and so when she landed in St. Paul to help her sister give birth (its an unplanned an unwanted pregnancy), the last thing she expected was to end up taking care of the baby full time. But, here she is, without content, not having showered for ages. Coming to the rescue is Adrian Copeland, defense attorney, eligible bachelor, and surprising baby whisperer. As the weeks go on, Vanessa and Adrian grow closer together, figuring out life and babies and family and ultimately how to live your life to the fullest.

I absolutely devoured this one. It’s fluffy and fun, but it’s also got depth as Vanessa is dealing with a family history of ALS as well as a parent who is a hoarder and a half-sister (the baby’s mom) who is a drug addict. Mostly, though, it’s a lot of flirting and will they/won’t they and a lot of spending huge amounts of money on wine and home furnishings (Jimnez knows that a man cleaning is sexy!) and ultimately a very satisfying romance. I read it in a weekend afternoon, and then found out it was part of a “series”, so I picked up the first one.

I can’t wait to devour that one, too.

Audio book: Fox and I

by Catherine Raven
Read by Stacey Glemboski
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen on Libro.fm
Content: There’s some intense moments. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

Catherine is a biologist by education, but mostly she’s a naturalist: she enjoys being in nature, having worked as a park ranger and currently lives mostly off the grid outside of Yellowstone National Park in Montana. The book is basically a memoir of her life, but more its more than that: it’s a reflection on our relationship with nature, and whether or not it’s “appropriate” to befriend a wild animal. In her case, a wild fox.

This is an odd book, reminding me very strongly of Lab Girl. Raven struggles with her feelings of friendship towards something that “supposed to” be an object of her study. It’s most interesting when she”s analyzing literature — most notably Frankenstein, Moby Dick, and The Little Prince — or maybe that’s what I found most interesting. Even with it’s oddness, I found the story compelling possibly because the narrator is really good. She kept the book interesting and entertaining in spite of its oddness.

Not my most favorite book this year, but an interesting one.

Six Crimson Cranes

by Elizabeth Lim
First sentence: “The bottom of the lake tasted like mud, salt, and regret.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some violence. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Shiori is the only Princess of the Kiata kingdom, the youngest of seven children of the Emperor. She’s basically a good kid, except she has a secret: she is magic. Which is a big deal in a world where magic has been banned. Oh, and she does NOT want to marry the person she is betrothed to. But when she discovers a secret about her stepmother, her six brothers are turned into cranes and Shiori is cursed: for every sound she utters, one of her brothers will die. She is then sent to the farthest reaches of the kingdom, and she has to find her brothers as well as her way back home. Along the way, help comes from the unlikeliest of sources: the same betrothed she was trying so hard to avoid marrying.

I’ve seen Lim’s work around; one of the teens in the teen review group at the store really liked her Spin the Dawn. And I have to admit: Lim has a way with fairy tales. It’s a grand fantasy, with dragons and magic and villains and double crossing, but it’s also, at its heart, a fairy tale, where the main character has growth and learns her lessons and all ends up happily ever after (mostly). Lim was able to keep me turning pages, pulling me in with her storytelling. It wasn’t heavy-handed, and I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns it took (though I did suspect a few things, but I think we were supposed to). It was a really good story, and one where I am curious to see where it goes from here.

Maybe I’ll even go back and read her other duology, too.

Monthly Round Up: August 2021

It’s the end of August and school has started, which means reading habits are bound to change. Again. That said, I did read some good books last month.

My favorite:

It was just so much joy. It made me happy for days. SO glad it landed n K’s radar and she passed it on to me. And the rest:

YA:

A Constellation of Roses
The Summer of Lost Letters
Flash Fire

Graphic Novels

Ascendance of a Bookworm, Part 1 vol 2-3
Heartstopper, Volume 1

Adult Fiction

Go Tell It On the Mountain

Middle Grade:

The Elephant in the Room

What was your favorite this month?

Flash Fire

by TJ Klune
First sentence: “‘Nicky, yes,‘ Seth Gray groaned, and Nick had never been prouder of himself in his entire life.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Extraordinaries
Content: There is a lot of talk about sex (a lot!) and being horny, but no actual. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8), but might be uncomfortable for some in that age group.

Spoilers for the first book, obviously.

Picking up a few months after The Extraordinaries left off, Seth and Nick are in a happy, healthy relationship. Seth has embraced his role as Pyro Storm, and Nick is trying to figure out how to control his powers. Things are looking good, and it feels like the only major decision they will have to make is what to wear to Prom.

But, of course, things are not meant to be easy for our heroes. There are some new extraordinaries in town, some of which may be good, but others… not so much. And, of course, Nick and Seth and Gibby and Jazz are going to have to deal with things that are way out of their league.

I think Klune is my new favorite writer! there is something about his writing and his storytelling that just makes me smile. It deals with serious issues — there are bis in here about police brutality as well as being open to admitting, owning, and rectifying one’s mistakes. I love that there are supportive adults in the book, that the kids are allowed to (mostly) be kids. It’s a joy to read and laugh with. It helps that Klune is brilliant at writing all sorts of relationships, as well as action scenes (important in a superhero book!).

I am definitely glad I picked up his books this year. I can’t wait for the next one!


Heartstopper Volume 1

by Alice Oseman
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some bullying and a scene of sexual assault. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I had seen this around the bookstore, and picked it up on a whim when we were in Chicago earlier this summer, with no idea what to expect. Turns out, it’s a very sweet love story between two boys – Nick, grade 10, and an out gay kid at the school; and Charlie, grade 11, a rugby player, who is not entirely sure about his orientation (is he gay? is he bi?) but knows that he really likes spending time with Nick.

There isn’t much story-wise: Nick has been having a secret romance with another kid, Ben, who is pretty toxic. He develops a friendship with Charlie when they are placed next to each other in class, and the friendship develops into a crush, but he thinks Charlie is straight. Charlie becomes a really good friend to Nick, but is struggling: he likes Nick as more than friend, but has always assumed he was straight. What did all that mean?

I really enjoyed this graphic novel! I liked that Oseman highlighted that boys can be on the receiving end of sexual assault, I liked Charlie’s open questioning (rather than shutting everything down), I liked Nick and Charlie as characters. The art isn’t super sophisticated, but it gets the job done, and doesn’t detract from the story.

It’s the first of at least a trilogy, and I will definitely be checking those out.

The Accursed Vampire

by Madeline McGrane
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some blood and gore (um, vampires!). It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Dragoslava knows that being a vampire kid has its perks, but sometimes it’s not the greatest. Especially if you work for a demanding witch who sends you on her most unpleasant errands. The most recent being to fetch a grimoire from a former student and then curse the witch who stole it. So, off Dragoslava goes with their friends to do this job. What they find, though, is unexpected: a home and a family.

Oh this book was so charming! (I’m in the market for sweet, adorable, funny stories right now.) K heard about it on YouTube and asked me to pick it up, and I’m so glad I did. It’s sweet, it’s silly, it’s interesting, it’s well-told, the drawings are adorable, and I loved every moment reading this one. Drago and their friends are adorable and charming, and I adored the adult characters. It was a bit about finding confidence in yourself, a bit about found family, and a bit about being kind.

Exactly what I needed.