Thursday, June 6, 2019

May 2019 Wrap-Up


Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

BOOKS READ:
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (fantasy, comedy, graphic novel - review here)
  • How to be Popular by Meg Cabot (comedy, contemporary romance - review here)*
  • Good as Gone by Amy Gentry (mystery, thriller - review here)
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (contemporary romance - review here)*
*reread

WORDS WRITTEN: 24,400

HOPE TO READ NEXT MONTH:
  • Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Fat Ballet by T.R. Whittier
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
WORD COUNT GOAL FOR NEXT MONTH: None - June 2019 will be an editing-heavy month, so I'm giving myself a break on the word count.

OTHER COMMENTS: I am STUNNED by my wordcount for May - and even more stunned that I managed to finish a first draft that took me nearly three years to complete. (Two and a half years to write the first half... two months to write the back half. That's writing for you.) I doubt my next few wordcounts will be that impressive. Like I said, I'm going to mainly be editing for a bit, and trying to outline whatever my next project will be. Overall, I had a really productive May!

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Squad by Mariah MacCarthy



Squad by Mariah MacCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary: Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. But it’s not some Hollywood crap. Cheerleaders are not every guy’s fantasy; they are not the “popular girls” or the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re too busy for that. They're literally just some human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. But that all changed after Raejean stopped talking to Jenna and started hanging out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna stopped getting invited out with the rest of the squad and she couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or if it was all in her head.

I picked this book up when I was in the middle of an AWFUL reading slump (one I still haven't fully kicked, tbh), precisely because I figured it'd be light and easy to get through. I was right; I got through it in one day. And this book is addicting. Even when I had to take a break to do my homework, I kept having to fight off the urge to pick it back up and keep reading.

Our heroine, Jenna, is... a lot. She's self-centered; sometimes in the normal teenaged way, sometimes in the "I want to slap you upside the head" way. She's petty and a bit of a drama queen. She has a touch of an inferiority-superiority complex. And yet, I couldn't help but like her. She's funny, she's got a lot of heart, and her insecurities felt very real to me. (I think any teenage girl - or anyone who has any memory of being a teenage girl has been where she is at one point or another.) And her selfishness is called out multiple times by multiple characters, so that's always good. She even grows past it. (Mostly.) And I know I called her a drama queen, like, five seconds ago, but honestly? I get it. As someone who has been through some awful, awful friendship breakups, I totally get it. (I wouldn't go as far as Jenna does in some cases, but I did understand why she went there. And, to her credit, she regrets it instantly, so she does realize when she crossed a line.)

This isn't the best-written or most subversive book in the world, and I get why other people don't like it - Jenna's kind of a total brat, and it can be hard to get past sometimes - but I did, more than I expected to. I liked the trans rep (especially since the trans character is a love interest! And such a sweet guy, too), the discussion of fluidity and being bicurious, and how honest and raw the emotions were. The reason Jenna acts like everything is the end of the world is because to her, it is the end of the world. Because, ya know... she's sixteen. And she just lost her best friend, and she doesn't even really know why. I got the sense the author really remembers what it was like to be an emotional, angsty, spiraling teenager, and they captured it incredibly well. I also really liked the exploration of female friendships (especially since, yes, a friendship breakup can suck every bit as much as a romantic one), and the relationship Jenna has with her brother. They go from being distant and aloof to each other to being confidants and friends, and it's adorable.

Also, there's a subplot in which our cheerleader of a main character gets roped into D&D and LARPing... and it's fantastic. View all my reviews

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Have you read Squad? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you haven't already, feel free to follow me on social media. If you like my reviews and want to see more, please consider buying me a coffee!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: How to be Popular by Meg Cabot



How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Summary: Do you want to be popular? Everyone wants to be popular or at least, Stephanie Landry does. Steph's been the least popular girl in her class since a certain cherry Super Big Gulp catastrophe five years earlier. Does being popular matter? It matters very much to Steph. That's why this year, she has a plan to get in with the It Crowd in no time flat. She's got a secret weapon: an old book called what else? How to Be Popular. What does it take to be popular? All Steph has to do is follow the instructions in The Book, and soon she'll be partying with the It Crowd (including school quarterback Mark Finley) instead of sitting on The Hill Saturday nights, stargazing with her nerdy best pal Becca, and even nerdier Jason (now kind of hot, but still), whose passion for astronomy Steph once shared. Who needs red dwarves when you're invited to the hottest parties in town? But don't forget the most important thing about popularity! It's easy to become popular. What isn't so easy? Staying that way.

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This book was one of my childhood favorites. I stumbled across it in middle school, when I still felt cool and mature for getting books from the Teen Section™ at the library, and I must have read it at least a dozen times during those years. Even now, I still have it memorized nearly page-for-page.

So... is this book good?

Honestly... no. No, it is not.

But it's like literary mac and cheese -- it's not great for you, and it's a bit, well, cheesey (ba-dum-tsh), but it's so familiar and comforting that it's hard for me to to care.

I decided to give this book a reread because I've been STRESSED AF lately and I needed something fun and mindless, and that's what I got. Now that I'm older, I definitely see the story's more overt flaws (the fact that the main character SPIES ON HER BEST FRIEND UNDRESSING and this is played as a joke, the fact that the main character's best friend gets mad at her for trying to be popular WAY before she actually does anything wrong, the use of the word "r*tard" -- albeit by an unsympathetic character -- etc.), but as a kid, they went over my head.

If I read this book for the first time now, as a college student, I'd probably dislike it, but looking at it as a nostalgic fave? I still enjoyed it. There were some lines that I still found genuinely funny, and a couple side characters that were surprisingly likable (Darlene Staggs FTW). So if you want to read it, look at it as what it is -- a fluffy teen romance, plucked right from the early 2000s... with all the dated pop culture references that entails.

View all my reviews

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Have you read How to be Popular? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you haven't already, feel free to follow me on social media. If you like my reviews and want to see more, please consider buying me a coffee!

Monday, May 6, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Good as Gone by Amy Gentry


Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.  She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.

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So I've heard lots of great things about this book... but for some reason, it just didn't land for me. Here are the reasons why.

  1. The entire plot could've been solved with a DNA test.
  2. The only character I really empathized with (Jane) left halfway through.
  3. I found the main character to be extremely underdeveloped, and her narration to be a bit flat.
  4. I really liked the PI character, but he was woefully underused.
  5. Seriously. The entire plot would've been solved 200 pages earlier if they'd gotten a DNA test the first time it was suggested.

It was easy to read and fast-moving, but overall, this book wasn't for me.

View all my reviews.

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Have you read Good as Gone? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you haven't already, feel free to follow me on social media. If you like my reviews and want to see more, please consider buying me a coffee!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary: Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are. But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

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Oh... my God. This book. This frickin' book.

If you like villains, read this book.

If you like shapeshifters, read this book.

If you like pain and suffering and crying, read this book. (You masochistic weirdo, you.)

Nimona is easily one of my favorite fantasy (anti)heroines, and the relationship between her and Lord Blackheart... I swear, it was made to cater to me specifically. Villain and their happy-go-lucky-sidekick? Found families? Friends that blow shit up together? BFFs that won't admit they're BFFs? This is all, to use the scientific term, my SHIT.

I knew within the first chapter that I was going to love this book. I mean, how can you NOT love a heroine who rolls up on the supervillain's lair and just says, "I'm your biggest fan, and I can turn into a shark. Hire me!"

And that ending...


Despite the tears, the comedy in this story is top-notch. As I said to my friend, "It reads like a D&D campaign." Simultaneously skewering and paying tribute to the usual fantasy tropes, this adventure is full of laughs and full of heart.

The characters are really what make this story so special. All three leads - Nimona, Blackheart, and Goldenloin - are far more complex than they first appear, and the relationships between all three feel genuine and real. Nimona in particular is one of the most layered heroines I've read in a long, long time - she's funny, bold, vulnerable, sympathetic, bloodthirsty, loving, and vengeful, all at the same time, and all without losing her spark. If you like your girls morally ambiguous and powerful, Nimona is the gal for you.

Nimona is an absolutely stellar book. Even if you're not normally into graphic novels, PLEASE give this a read. (And scream with me over the fact that we're GETTING A MOVIE NEXT YEAR! From BlueSky Animations, one of the few companies I actually trust with it!)

View all my reviews.

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Have you read Nimona? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you haven't already, feel free to follow me on social media. If you like my reviews and want to see more, please consider buying me a coffee!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Spring Cleaning...

So.

It's been awhile.

I decided to post here to let y'all know that I'm doing an overhaul of how I run this blog, because for awhile, it's been more stressful than it is fun.

The changes are:


  1. I'm closing my Patreon. Maybe I'll reopen it in the future, but for now, it's a headache I don't want to deal with. (I will, however, still have my Ko-fi link posted.)
  2. I will no longer be using my old template to do reviews. I'll just write freeform reviews, and talk about the things that jump out at me, rather than stick to a specific checklist of things to discuss.
  3. I will be posting reviews in their entirety to Goodreads, partially because I won't be using the template anymore.
  4. I will no longer be posting every review on this site. I will post reviews of books I receive ARCs of, as well as books I felt very strongly about -- positively or negatively. However, if you want to see ALL my reviews, you can follow me on Goodreads.
  5. I will start doing a monthly wrap-up post at the end of every month, with a recap of everything I read, plus an update on my writing.
I hope this means I'll be able to post here more often.

But like. No promises.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

SnarkNotes: Sheets by Brenna Thummler

SnarkNotes: noun. The sort of review Susie does for books that wouldn't mesh with her usual review format. Graphic novels, nonfiction, fiction she's read before, and fiction she simply doesn't have much to say about all fall under the SnarkNotes category. SnarkNotes are usually brief and snide in nature.

Today's SnarkNotes topic is... Sheets by Brenna Thummler!


GENRE
  • fantasy
  • graphic novel
  • drama
SUMMARY

  • Marjorie is a lonely young girl who has held her family together by the seams ever since her mother died
  • Wendell is a lonely young boy who died far too soon, and is having trouble adjusting to his new situation as a ghost
  • when Wendell stumbles across the laundromat where Marjorie works -- the family business she struggles to keep afloat -- he inadvertently makes matters much, much worse for her
  • as Wendell attempts to make the afterlife work for him, Marjorie attempts to keep her own life from spiraling out of control

PROS
  • first of all, the art style is absolutely GORGEOUS
  • and for such a short story, there was a LOT of emotional weight here
  • I teared up more times than I am proud to admit
  • Marjorie was such a fantastic protagonist. her situation has forced her to grow up fast but she's still undoubtedly a child
  • and Wendell?
  • oh my sweet baby Wendell
  • he's so precious
  • I loved the society of ghosts, and the fact that they literally need to have sheets to be able to see each other
  • I love how the story balances the ghosts and fantasy element with the real-world turmoil of Marjorie's family situation
  • mentioning the art again because it's really something special
  • I opened the book on a random page in the bookstore, looked at the art for twenty seconds, and then decided to buy it
CONS
  • my main complaint is that the villain felt a bit weak?
  • almost a little too cartoonishly evil
  • (and yes, I realize "it's not realistic" is an odd complaint for a story with ghosts in it but you know what I mean)
  • I also thought it was a bit short, but that complaint is pretty minor because the story wrapped up nicely
  • and if my complaint is that I wish there was more of it, that's a pretty good sign tbh
OTHER NOTES
  • it works great as a self-contained story, but I absolutely would not say "no" to a volume 2
  • also, fuck you Brenna Thummler, the last panel literally made me cry
  • and I was at WORK when I read this
RATING: 8 / 10

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If you've read Sheets, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!



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