Sunday, May 31, 2020

Weekly Obsessions


The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every weekend.

BOOKS

Cover of Christina Lauren's In A Holidaze (goodreads)

This is the first book that Christina Lauren has written that is set during the holidays and I was super excited to see how cute the cover is!


This is perfect for the holidays. It's bright and cheerful in the way that you associate with that time of year. I predict many people will be enjoying it as a means to destress after holiday shopping.

TV/MOVIES

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Release Date Announcement

I loved season one of Umbrella Academy and have been eagerly awaiting news on when season two would be released. Netflix just recently shared this adorable video that announces the release date as July 31!


Those have watched the first season will recognize that they are sort of recreating the iconic dance scene that uses the same song. It's perfect and I love this cast.

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Crave by Tracy Wolff



Crave by Tracy Wolff
Release Date - April 7, 2020
Publisher Website - Entangled Teen
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 592 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**purchased**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.

Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.

Which could spell death for us all.

Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.
Crave was absolutely written with fans of Twilight in mind. It has obvious comparisons while still feeling like it's own thing. This book may wear its influences on its sleeves but it was very much written with this current generation in mind. It offers a fun, fast paced read that feels more like an homage than a direct copy.

If you have read Twilight your feelings towards that series may colour how you react to this one. It has enough differences to not feel like a complete retread but the similarities are there. It goes beyond the inclusion of vampires and romance. It reads in the same incredibly addictive, page turning way that Twilight did. This book packs in modern references and current slang to set it in present day. This is something that will definitely date the book as a product of this particular time. Some readers may find the use of this distracting but I found it fit the story being told.

The are major differences that make this book fully its own thing. Many of them would be too spoilery to include as examples in my review. I will mention that this takes place in a boarding school and that there are not just vampires among the student body. Grace's journey, based on everything we learn in this book, is not going to be Bella's. Her path is very dependent on who her family is and how that factors into the story. Her romance is only part of that journey. The structural dynamics of the various groups we meet and how they all coexist is also something that sets it apart. Family is a strong foundation of this story in a lot of ways and is really what makes this story feel different.

The romance is fairly typical of most books in the genre along with most of the tropes that entails. The supernatural being warns the human to stay away but they end up being unable to keep their distance being an example of one of them. There is a bit of instalove happening here but I feel it works for this style of story. The romance is also little more on the steamy side with some very obvious blood sucking as a metaphor for sex scenes being included.

This is a very plot drive book. The pacing is super fast and really what propels the story forward. The characters are not completely fleshed out but the pacing of everything else distracts you from this fact. I didn't find it a hindrance to enjoying the story but those looking for a character focused story will not find that here.

The story set up at the end of this book certainly leads into an intriguing sequel. This set up will ensure higher stakes both in terms of emotional impact and danger level. It also opens the door to widen what we know about this world and the beings that inhabit it.

If you were ever curious what Twilight set in Alaska might have looked like this book is for you. If you're nostalgic for that feeling you got reading the Twilight series this book is for you. It is a fun, breezy read that will definitely offer a distraction. If Twilight was never your thing you will probably be less enthused. I, personally, am glad that the paranormal genre is making a comeback and that this entertaining read is helping to usher it back in.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday ... Too Pretty To Burn


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is She's Too Pretty To Burn by Wendy Heard


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, power and violence. For fans of E. Lockhart, Lauren Oliver and Kara Thomas.

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They're artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica's dream girl. The days are long and hot—full of adventure—and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next.

One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect... one stalker. This is the summer they won't survive.

New love spirals into lethal danger in this expertly plotted YA thriller.
Today's pick is going to appeal to those who like mysteries and darker young adult books.

It seems to mix the idea of summer love with murder and that is immediately intriguing in a book premise. I am also curious about the comparison to Dorian Gray, especially with this synopsis.

It doesn't come out until 2021 so be sure to add it to your Goodreads in the meantime.

Expected release date - March 30. 2021

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote



In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Release Date - February 1, 1994 (first published in 1965)
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 343 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**borrowed from library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. At the center of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative. 
In Cold Blood is often referenced as the true crime novel to read. It routinely makes best of lists, and is considered an absolute classic. It is undoubtedly one of the first in its genre and laid the foundation for many books that followed. I was happy to discover that it really is as good as it is made out to be.

I find nonfiction books to be harder to review. You cannot critique the characters as they are real people and that just feels weird. You can, however, talk about the writing and the way the book is put together. Truman Capote was, to me, a very talented writer. He manages to make every facet of this story compelling and rich with detail. This, inevitably, becomes not just a story about the murders, or the people involved, but a snapshot of a particular piece of America. It is just as much a story of the town and how it is impacted by the murders and the aftermath as it is about the murders themselves. Capote brings the townsfolk to the forefront of the story in a way that gives it a little extra heart.

The question that tends to be on everyone's mind after something like this happens is the why. People want to make sense out of the horror and devastation. They want order and having a reason does that. If they know why they can come up with reasons that it won't happen to them. This book answers the why. It tells you the many different things that lead to that night in November. He paints a picture of who Perry and Dick are so completely, and outlines what lead them to the Clutter family's farm in a way that is both terrifying and yet blandly recognizable. These are not monsters, but rather two men who are shown to be all too human. This idea may not seem revolutionary today, but I am sure it was when the book was released.

The care to bring the Clutter family to life was something I noticed right away. It would have been easy to have the entire focus be on Perry and Dick. Capote had access to them that would have provided plenty of material for the book. However, time is taken to ensure we get to know the family who were brutally murdered. The inclusion of Nancy's friend added details about who she was that resonated with me. A typical highschool girl just beginning to discover who she was. There may not have been much focus on the family, but Capote made sure what he did include painted a lasting and striking picture of this family.

There are plenty of rumours about the extent of their relationship between Truman Capote and Perry Smith. There are some who claim that they became lovers. It is evident that they became close during the research Capote was doing, but to what extent is never directly addressed in the book. Capote remains, mostly, detached from the story as a character. His judgement never makes its way into the narrative. His way of writing may read like fiction, but his careful detailing reminds you of the work that went into the interviews and research. He is careful to let that shine here, and not his opinion. The point of all this is to say that if he was in love with Perry I don't think it comes through in his writing. His emotions are kept in check and that, to me, is impressive.

Truman Capote's long, and life changing dive into a horrific crime left its imprint not only on him and the town, but the literary world itself. Many more current true crime books owe their existence to Capote's much praised work. If you're someone with an interest in true crime I highly recommend this one. It's one that I would consider a must read in the genre.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Summer Reading!


Summer reading is going to look different for a lot of us this year. We may read in our backyards instead of crowded beaches. We may bring our favourite ice cream to have at home instead of enjoying at the shop. We may opt to take our book and favourite and find a quiet spot in a park where we can socially distance. While the ways in which we enjoy our summer reads may look different there are plenty of books eager to offer up an escape.

I am going to share the ten books that I personally cannot wait to read this summer. I've linked them all to their Goodreads page so you can find out more about each of them. Some will be titles that are not released just yet (but are coming out during the summer months) and other will be ones I just haven't gotten to yet.

1. The Comeback by Ella Berman (goodreads)


The fact that this novel deals with a timely subject matter will certainly boost its visibility. It also has the Hollywood angle which will appeal to many. It seems like a great book club pick for your Zoom meetings because I think it is going to be one everyone is talking about.

2. The Heir Affair by Jennifer Cocks and Heather Morgan (goodreads)


The much anticipated sequel to The Royal We is almost here! If you haven't read the first book please do so immediately so that you can be ready when this one releases. It is basically made for summer reading with it revolving around a royal family, and family secrets.

3. The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (goodreads)


Vampires are back! This won't be the only vampire book on my list (more on that later) and this one sounds especially fun. A book club slaying vampires! I think it'll be a great book club choice, and one that certainly will fit the summer reading vibe for those wanting something on the darker side.

4. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James (goodreads)


This book sounds perfect for those looking for a mystery. This has the added bonus of already being released and it being one that people are definitely talking about.

5. Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer (goodreads)


The book that most Twilight fans never expected would get released is finally coming out in August. This is Twilight retold from Edward's perspective and I am predicting it'll be one of the most talked about books of the summer.

6. Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin (goodreads)


This has a true crime element to it as it feels like it could potentially be based off a real story. The premise is certainly interesting and this one had a lot of buzz. It seems like a perfect book to end up with a sun burn reading.

7. Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (goodreads)


I love the light, fun feel of all of Jasmine's books. This new one sounds adorable and perfect for the summer. If you haven't read her previous books I highly recommend diving in!

8. Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (goodreads)


This has been pitched as Moulin Rouge meets The Phantom of the Opera and I was immediately sold. It comes out later in the summer so it'll be a fantastic way to say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn season.

9. Vengeful by VE Schwab (goodreads)


This is a sequel to Vicious which was excellent. It's a darker take on the superhero/super villain story and how thin the line between the two actually is depending on whose point of view you're using.

10. Empire High Untouchables by Ivy Smoak (goodreads)


This sounds like a CW television show on steroids and I cannot wait! It's bound to be fun, frothy and exactly what I want to read while sipping a glass of wine. 

What books are you hoping to read this summer? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

#2020PopCultureResolution - Niagara



Niagara

Director: Henry Hathaway

Length:  92 minutes

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Joseph Cotten

Release Date:  January 211953

Synopsis: Rose Loomis (Marilyn Monroe) and her older, gloomier husband, George (Joseph Cotten), are vacationing at a cabin in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The couple befriend Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Casey Adams), who are honeymooning in the area. Polly begins to suspect that something is amiss between Rose and George, and her suspicions grow when she sees Rose in the arms of another man. While Ray initially thinks Polly is overreacting, things between George and Rose soon take a shockingly dark turn.

***********************************************

I went into Niagara with barely any expectation. I knew it was a thriller and that it was one of the few Marilyn Monroe movies I had yet to see. It is, perhaps, the movie I had the most fun watching for my #2020PopCultureResolution event (at least so far). It's a satisfying, suspense filled film that is well directed. It uses its setting to great effect, and manages to make even the more outlandish elements work for it. The setting itself is almost a character in a way and definitely used for symbolism.


The movie follows a vacationing couple who are finally taking their honeymoon. They run into a another couple and things quickly start to deteriorate from there. This film nails that sense of impending doom. It's like a ticking clock always in the background. It's this element that keeps the movie zipping along. It makes this film's already short run time feel even shorter.

The plot, which revolves around sex, jealousy, and murder, is not anything unique or revolutionary. It's a fairly by the book thriller that has an almost comfort feel to it as a result. You feel the impending danger but it's a known one. It allowed me to drift along with the characters and enjoy it for what it is. The sharp turns are definitely clever, they're just not new. 


The performances in this are all perfectly fine. Nothing stands out as either awful or remarkable. The one exception is Marilyn Monroe. This offers one of Marilyn's first leading roles. She is a pure temptress in this one. Gone is any of the comedic chops she'll showcase in later movies. She's luminous and entirely captivating in a fragile way. She really carries the movie in a way that becomes evident later on in the film. It's often noted as her star making turn and it is easy to see why. 


The ending of Niagara is ridiculous in the extreme. It almost feels like an afterthought. Something tacked on to the end of the film to wrap things up. The first half is taunt and well paced which makes the final act feels all the more ludicrous as a result. Will you still have fun while watching it? Yes, and that is precisely why I enjoyed it so much. If your looking for a fun, thrilling noir style film with a Marilyn Monroe performance that saves the film it is one I would recommend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday .... Make Up Break Up


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Love, romance, second chances, fairy-tale endings…these are the things Annika Dev believes in. Her app, Make Up, has been called the “Google Translate for failing relationships.”

High efficiency break-ups, flashy start-ups, penthouses, fast cars…these are the things Hudson Craft believes in. His app, Break Up, is known as the “Uber for break-ups.” It’s wildly successful—and anathema to Annika’s life philosophy.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if they’d gone their separate ways after that summer fling in Las Vegas, never to see each other again. Unfortunately for Annika, Hudson’s moving not just into her office building, but into the office right next to hers. And he’ll be competing at the prestigious EPIC investment pitch contest: A contest Annika needs to win if she wants to keep Make Up afloat. As if it’s not bad enough seeing his irritatingly perfect face on magazine covers when her own business is failing. As if knowing he stole her idea and twisted it into something vile—and monumentally more successful—didn’t already make her stomach churn.

As the two rival app developers clash again and again—and again—Annika finds herself drawn into Hudson Craft’s fast-paced, high velocity, utterly shallow world. Only, from up close, he doesn’t seem all that shallow. Could it be that everything she thought about Hudson is completely wrong? Could the creator of Break Up teach her what true love’s really about?
Romance books are always fun to read, particularly around Valentine's Day. I am especially looking forward to this one that seems to tease a bit of a rivals to lovers theme.

This the a pen name for Sandhya Menon who writes super cute young adult novels. I cannot wait to see what she does with her romance debut.

It does not come out until 2021 but it is going to pair perfectly with some wine and Valentine's chocolate.

Expected release date - February 2, 2021

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