ARC Review: Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé // or: if you’re looking for hope, you’re in the wrong place

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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The Blair Witch Project meets Imaginary Girls in this story of codependent sisterhood, the struggle to claim one’s own space, and the power of secrets

Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. Moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over.

In their isolated new neighborhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones.

Then Deirdre disappears.

And when something awful comes scratching at Skye’s window in the middle of the night, claiming she’s the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

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★★★✩✩

This was my first book by Amelinda Bérubé, so I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t read much horror anymore and I haven’t read a lot of YA horror at all, so I feel like I had contrasting expectations from the end of this book, and it’s hard to say whether they’ve been met or not. But let’s start with the rest of the book before I talk about the ending.

I would describe this as Sadie meets Never-Contented Things(and those are both novels I loved). The quest of the missing sister, the uncaring parents and the overall failure of adults to be there for teens paired well with the creepy forest atmosphere, and it was at times almost terrifying. If I were someone who rates different points of a book to do a mathematical avg, I would definitely be giving the atmosphere a solid five stars.

I have a harder time judging the characters. My first instinct is to mark them as stereotypes, but that’s not exactly right. They’re more archetypes of teens, and a lot of them are terrible (more on this later). If I were to say something about any of them, is how the love interest is a soft boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and since the stereotypical YA love interest is the asshole, brooding type, I more than appreciate this. Whether this book was kind to him, or to any of its character for that matter, is something I doubt, and I’ll let everyone draw their own conclusions.

While I enjoyed most of this book and it was definitely going to be at least a full 4 stars, the ending left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s not, per se, a bad ending. I feel like it’s not the plot itself that let me down, but the message that was sent, or at least the message I understood. And here comes what I mentioned before: horror doesn’t have to be hopeful, but YA does. What does, then, YA horror need to achieve? Is it okay to stick to the genre’s message without taking into account the target group? Is it okay to do the opposite? Is there a way to achieve both?

I feel like strictly speaking, the ending tried to be both hopeful and hopeless, which probably wasn’t easy to do. But inevitably when there’s both hope and not-hope, the negative will always override the positive, like mixing a lot of light paint and a little dark one will inevitably result in a dark color. And here there was so much more dark than light. When I say dark I don’t mean tragic. Perhaps that’s what throws me off, it’s so dark because it isn’t tragic. Tragic we can handle, we can get closure. Here, I’m not sure we get closure of any kind. In a way, this is where this book diverges from my Sadie comparison: Sadie is tragic and it has very good reasons to be that. This book had every chance to be hopeful or at the very least tragic, but it wasn’t either.

Terrible teens exist, and there are often reasons why they’re terrible, and all of us are or were terrible as teens in our own way. And we need to see that we’re not alone. But to see that and accept that in a narrative that’s so, ultimately, hopeless, without seeing a sliver of light other than “you’re not alone in being terrible, you’re surrounded by other terrible people too”, is frankly a little disappointing and defies at least part of this novel’s genre. That’s, at least, how I felt about it.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book. If you need hope in your life, if you can handle a dark story as long as there’s light at the end, I would say maybe avoid it. If you don’t care and want to read a creepy novel, give it a try.

TWs: animal deaths, violence, missing girl, blood, gore

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ARC Mini-Review: How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself. So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.

Release date: September 10th

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★★★.75✩✩

This book follows Remy, an out and proud gay teen, in his quest to find out who he is. I feel like the question “who am I really?” is something that everybody has asked themselves before, and this can be especially hard to answer when you are a marginalized person and you need to understand how your marginalizations intersect.

Personally I felt like the writing improved from the author’s debut and the book’s themes were also stronger. It was still a little awkward at times but I could overlook that in favor of the characters and the themes.

Overall I feel like this is an important book for all teens and I would highly recommend it if “who am I?” has ever crossed your mind.

TWs (taken from the end of the book): discussions of racism, homophobia, past minor characters’ death, and alcoholism, as well as depictions of homophobic bullying, and a scene involving brief sexual harassment/racial fetishism

July 2019 Wrap-Up

Welcome to another wrap-up and greetings from (currently not so sunny) Italy.

I’m back home for the rest of summer because I deserve some beach time after the past few months. I’ve officially passed my lab 🎉 and more exams will wait for me in late September but for now I can relax a bit and enjoy time with my family and my friends and most importantly my cat 🐱 oh and books, I do some of my best and most-focused reading at the beach and on the commute there.

But let’s see how this past month went for me.

books

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I had some more free time in July than I had in the past months so I managed to read a lot.

My numbers this month:

○ 15 books total

○ 4 novels

○ 7 ARCs

○ 10 graphic novels/webcomics/manga (5 of which were different volumes of the same manga)

○ 1 radio dramatization (shhhhh, I decided it counts)

highlights

📖 Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson | ★★★★.5✩ | review to come

📖 The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill | ★★★★

📖 Given (volumes #1—#5) by Natsuki Kizu | avg rating for the five volumes ★★★★.2✩

📖 Good Omens (BBC 4 Radio Dramatization) | ★★★★★ | available to listen listen to for free here for a few more days (if you’re a Good Omens fan you shouldn’t miss it)

📖 If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio | ★★★★.5✩ | review to come maybe

current

🔖 Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – I’m rereading it after listening to the audiobook (and watching the show twice, and listening to the radio adaptation, yes I know) and I’m kind of skipping stuff to read the AzCrowley scenes lmao but I love it so much and the more I read it the more I like it.

🔖 The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book by Neil Gaiman – yes I know but this is my hyperfixation lately and I find it so cool to have so many different sources (book, show, script, radio adaptation) because it makes me feel immersed in this world. Also there are a couple of deleted scenes in the script and stuff that got moved around, but the highlight of it are Neil Gaiman’s comments, for example: “Crowley glares at him, glarefully.” AFHKAHGSD Neil pls. Also this is the first script I read and I kind of wanna read more.

🔖 Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé – this is an ARC I’m actually enjoying quite a bit. It’s YA horror and I would pitch it as Sadie meets Never-Contented Things. I’m almost finished and I don’t know what to expect from the ending.

(There are more books on my Currently Reading shelf but I haven’t touched them in months ghslkhg)

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📜 A discussion about what authors put in fiction and breaking harmful traditions

📜 My most anticipated releases until September

📜 REVIEWS:

📌 A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian

📌 Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

📌 The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

📌 Failed Future by Elise Kova

 

watched

66ee4e9a4aa619b9cc27a924c26af9d8📺 Spiderman Homecoming

I’ve been wanting to watch it for ages and finally it became available on Netflix Italia just in time before FFH came out. It was amazingly fun and I love Tom Holland, I’m not a big Marvel fan but I believe his Spiderman is the real one.

📺 Spiderman Far From Home 

So after watching Homecoming I immediately bought a ticket to go see FFH. I was never bored and even if the movie referenced a lot of the stuff that happened in Infinity War and Endgame (which I haven’t seen but know all about ghskl) it wasn’t hard to follow. I love Peter and MJ so much and this movie really made me happy and even if I don’t care about the rest of MCU I want to know what’s next for Spiderman (that ending + after credit scene………….scream).

📺 Blown Away

This is a Netflix show about glas blowing and it’s kind of fascinating to watch. It’s in the form of a contest so every episode one contestant gets eliminated and there are different creative challenges. I love seeing what everyone comes up with and the different glas blowing techniques that are being used. It looks so difficult and my heart always skips a beat whenever something breaks or I feel like it’s about to break and it doesn’t.

📺 Queer Eye (season 4)

It’s QE season again and as always I have to watch. I don’t have much to add to what I’ve said before but almost every episode always makes me cry at some point. It’s not a perfect show but I feel like with every season and with every new person they meet, the Fab 5 really are learning a lot and doing better.

given-5d28531d8ec4b📺 Given 

The anime started being aired (it’s available on Crunchyroll with English subtitles) and after two episodes I decided to read the manga too. I like the anime, it adds some more stuff to the manga (at least so far) and I like actually being able to hear the music they’re playing. If you don’t know what it is, it’s about a band and a guy, Satō, who wants to learn to play the guitar he always brings everywhere and asks Uenoyama, the guitarist of the band, to teach him. There’s only three episodes out so far but the manga features multiple m/m relationships (everyone in the band is queer). I’m looking forward to continuing to watch it and see the differences/similarities with the manga.

33777_hd📺 La Gabbianella e il Gatto

This was one of my childhood’s favorite movies to watch and the first time I ever watched it (I was…6? maybe) I literally couldn’t stop crying and my mom had to pause the VHS before I could continue aghshd anyway I don’t know why I felt like rewatching it when I was talking about something on twitter with my mutuals and since it’s on Netflix Italia I went with it (and yes I cried). This is one of the best Italian animated movies and yes it’s for kids but it’s still enjoyable and emotional. It’s about a tiny seagull who was hatched by a cat after the cat, Zorba, promised her dying mom to take care of the egg she laid. The seagull, Fortunata, is raised by Zorba and his group of cat friends and they all have to defeat evil rats and eventually teach Fortunata how to fly. I don’t know if it’s available everywhere but it’s also translated in English on Netflix Italia so I think it might be worth a search if you want to try it or want to show it to your kid/sibling/cousin/etc.

the-lion-king-2019-box-office-tracking📺 The Lion King (2019)

The Lion King was my favorite Disney movie when I was a kid so I had to go see this remake. I don’t agree with all the criticism, especially about how the lions are expressionless. Of course their face isn’t human-like but if you think they’re expressionless you’re quite simply wrong and that’s a hill I will gladly die on. I also think debating on remaking famous animated movies is in a way valid but it erases the fact that so many people got to work on them and are given a huge opportunity they otherwise maybe wouldn’t have had (thinking of all the Black voice actors in the Lion King and of the Asian actors cast in the upcoming Mulan). Anyway, like everyone I have remakes I’m absolutely not interested in (like the flop that was Dumbo) but that’s literally how it works with movies lmao, if you’re not interested don’t go watch it and don’t give them money and yes, sometimes it actually is as simple as that.

are-you-the-one-16📺 Are You the One (season 8)

Okay listen I’m actually a little ashamed of this because I never watch reality TV. But what’s a girl supposed to do when she learns that everyone on this season is MGA and everyone could potentially end up with everyone?? The sheer power that that has gives me +8 Queer Strength. Also I dislike about half of the people in this show but I can’t stop watching it because they might be messy kids but they’re MY messy kids.

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Have you read or watched something mentioned in this post? Did you like it? How are you spending your summer (or your winter depending on where you are)? Let me know 🌈

 

Review: Failed Future (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #3) by Elise Kova

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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When worlds collide, and things are rarely what they seem, there may be no one Vi can trust.

Having forsaken her crown for a chance to save her family, and the world, Vi Solaris washes up on the shores of Meru. She’s wounded and barely alive. But Vi’s fight for survival is only just beginning.

As a princess in a foreign land, everyone is after her.

The pirate queen Adela wants to sell her to the evil elfin’ra. The Twilight King wants to use her to settle an old score. And, perhaps most dangerous, is the scheming Lord of the Faithful who sees her as an opportunity to further consolidate his power.

The only path for Vi is forward. But she doesn’t yet know if she’s running toward salvation… or a brutal end to everything she loves.

Vi’s journey continues with even more betrayal, romance, magic, and a twist you never saw coming that leaves readers begging for the next book. 

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★★★✩

Third books in long series are always a turning point and this one was as well, in more ways than one.

In the first half of the book there was a lot I liked. Kova’s ability to introduce new characters and make them interesting right off the bat is something that works really well at the beginning of new series or, in this case, when our main character is somewhere new and has to make new connections.

However, the rest of the book was a little boring to me despite the fact that it was rather fast paced, or maybe that’s why, since I enjoy a bit more focus on characters and relationships. But I might have honestly just not been in the mood for this, because I was also bored with Vi and Taavin’s relationship since it took more page time than the prequels. I did enjoy some moments of course and I was able to focus on the final 20 pages more than I did for the second half of the book.

And that brings me to the ending (no worries, no spoilers from me). I think what Kova did in this book is very brave and I’ll be able to fully process what happened in this book when I read the next, but it’s certainly taken a turn I’d have never seen coming. I’m still not entirely sure what it all means for the rest of the series and for our view of Air Awakens, but I’m very curious to see what will happen next.

Speaking of Air Awakens, I truly believe that while it’s not necessary to read it for the first two books of this series, there will be a lot of connections that are lost if you haven’t read the original series. Especially going into the next books, I fully recommend catching up with the first series if you haven’t done so already.

May and June Wrap-Up

*awkward wave* oh hey!

For life (read: uni) reasons I didn’t really have time to blog much at all during most of May, the whole of June and the beginning of July. So I’m just now trying to write a wrap up that includes some highlights, because it’s a type of post I love doing, and I will try to keep it short for everyone’s sake.

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So, overall I did manage to read quite a bit although my life was a complete mess, but there’s a trick I used?? I realized I couldn’t get to my ARCs unless I tried something, and I’m glad it worked, because for basically two whole months I never had the time to like, actually sit down with a book. So I saw on twitter that there are reader apps that can read to you and I downloaded one (PocketBook, which is free for Android and iOS and didn’t sponsor me – I could only wish) and basically have let it read my ARCs to me ever since. The voice is just you usual google voice without much emotion in it so it’s not the same as an audiobook experience, but extreme time calls for extreme measures, and with it I read 6 ARCs total (plus two in July, which will be in my July’s wrap-up). Other stuff I read was actual audiobooks or short stuff like comics and poetry.

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highlights

📖 King of Fools by Amanda Foody | ★★★★★ | review

📖 The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore | ★★★★.5✩

📖 The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson | ★★★★

📖 Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins | ★★★★.5✩ | review

📖 Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter | ★★★★.5✩ | review

📖 The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite | ★★★★ | review

📖 Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett | ★★★★✩ (rating for the first read, I’m rereading and it will probably be a five stars this time)*
* trust me, we are NOT done talking about Good Omens, but we’re keeping this post short (still, see end of the post for some more rambling)

blog

📜 Bookish things I’ve changed my mind about

📜 Favorite friends in Sci-fi and Fantasy

📜 Queer books that don’t feature allocis m/m relationships, part 2

watched

📺 Detective Pikachu (Movie Theater)

This was the last thing I allowed myself to go see at the cinema before my two-months-lab started and it was SO. MUCH. FUN!!!!

📺 Our Planet (Netflix) – Status: complete

My friends introduced me to this series of documentaries and they were amazing. The amount of emotion I got from simply watching nature do its course, and then see how we are ruining what took geology and evolution millennia and even longer to build… I would say don’t go into these documentaries hoping for escapism, quite the contrary, but they’re so important and so, so breathtaking.

📺 Always Be My Maybe (Netflix)

AHHH!! All-Asian main cast, Keanu Reeves, laugh-out-loud fun, I had the best time watching it.

📺 Good Omens (Amazon Prime) – Status: complete, watched x2

Listen. If you have me on twitter (you probably shouldn’t, but if you want to: @/verelaurent) you know how much I loved Good Omens given the amount of fanart + headcanons I retweet every day. Being in this fandom even just from the sidelines has been a complete joy for the almost two months that the show has been out and I hadn’t felt that way since…well, since Yuri on Ice, really.

📺 Lucifer (Netflix) – Status: currently just started season 4

I don’t know what to say, I just love Lucifer (the character and the show) so much and everyone is so beautiful and I’m extremely bisexual.

📺 Bonding (Netflix) – Status: complete

This was not something I thought I’d like but after two episodes I was hooked and I binged it in one afternoon (they’re 15-minutes-long eps). It’s kind of uncomfortable to watch but there’s something that just makes it so watchable, it’s worth checking out.

📺 Please Like Me (Netflix) – Status: DNF’d after a few episodes

I usually don’t make a conscious decision to drop watching something, more like I leave it there and never go back to it, but this time I decided it was just not worth my time. I found the acting weird, the plot and the characters weird, and the humour was just not my thing.

📺 Tales of the City (Netflix) – Status: currently “watching” but more like on hold for now

A friend (hi Lia) recommended it to me and I totally see why. It’s such an inclusive show, it’s basically about a house for queer people in San Francisco and i’ts great to see all different identities represented. And it talks about some very real issues that queer people face, and I’m not talking just about homophobia but specifically intra-community issues. Which is why I also find it a little heavy to watch and I’ve been postponing it for a bit now, just because I have other stuff to watch that fits more my definition of escapism. But I do plan to get back to it whenever I’m in the right mood for it.

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Have you read/watched anything I mentioned in this post? Let me know! 

Most Anticipated Releases (Jul-Sep 2019)

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Today I’m sharing my most anticipated releases for the next three months, some of which I have already read thanks to having received an ARC, some other ones knowing perfectly well that I won’t manage to make them a priority for now and that’s okay.

Usually these posts end up being very long for me but I feel like this summer is being slightly more quiet (after a few very hectic release months like May and June), with the exception of some September releases that have me vibrate in anticipation whenever I think of them.

July

9th

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

16th

The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Lee

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August

6th

A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian | review

13th

The Last Hope by Krista Ritchie and Becca Ritchie

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September

3rd

Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

10th

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters | RTC

24th

The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

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What are your most anticipated books for the next few months? Is there anything I forgot and/or you think I might not know about? Let me know!

ARC Review: The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

Release date: September 17th

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★★★★

What an utterly delightful story, and what a gift to the world is Katie O’Neill!

The Tea Dragon Festival is a companion-prequel to The Tea Dragon Society and it follows Rinn (they/them), who is an aspiring cook, and a Dragon (not a small tea dragon!) who’s been asleep for too long. We also see a young Erik and Hesekiel in their bounty hunters days and they’re just as cute as you might imagine if you’ve read TTDS. There’s also a side character who uses Sign Language and the whole village has learned SL because of her and it’s like, no big deal to them and it was so endearing to see.

As always the author has created a rich and inclusive world that radiates the positivity we so desperately need sometimes with escapism nowadays. This is both great for a younger audience and for everyone else who’s just looking to read a wonderful diverse story and look at seriously cute art. I can’t recommend it enough!