The Monday Check-In ~ 7/26/2021

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I have barely had time to read this week! We have family visiting, which is awesome, but also means that my usual “me time” has kind of disappeared. I’ve also spent most of the week working at my office rather than at home, and while it’s been fun to be back and see coworkers again, it’s a BIG adjustment in terms of lifestyle. (Whaaaaat??? I can’t wear pajama pants and slippers all day?)

What did I read during the last week?

Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell: The 3rd and final book in the Simon Snow trilogy! I’m so sad to see it come to an end. I love these characters so much! My review is here.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix: Just as weird as you’d expect a new horror novel by this author to be! My review is here.

Bookish events:

This past weekend, my book group had a Zoom discussion with William Kent Krueger, the author of the beautiful This Tender Land. He was witty and engaging, very open to answering our questions, and so smart and kind. As if I had any doubt, I absolutely need to read more of his books! (I haven’t gotten around to writing an actual review of the book yet, but my two-word version is: Loved. It.)

Pop culture & TV:

I’ve been watching season 2 of Never Have I Ever on Netflix, and it’s just as good as season 1! I’d hoped to finish already, but well, life gets in the way.

Puzzle of the Week:

This week, I did my 4th and final puzzle in a series (The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady). This was a tough one — so much grass! Green, green, and more green. But I really liked it.

Fresh Catch:

Related to my recent puzzles, I only just learned that the puzzles are based on illustrations from a book — and once I knew that, I just had to have it. I bought myself a copy this week, and it’s beautiful:

I also treated myself to another book by William Kent Krueger, after our amazing book group discussion with him. Although I think the group may select this one as a monthly read for next year, so now my dilemma is — read now, or wait for the group?

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig: I loved Wanderers when I read it last year, and I’m really excited to be starting this new book.

Now playing via audiobook:

Mistletoe & Mr. Right (Moose Springs, #2) by Sarah Morgenthaler: I’ve listened to about half so far. It’s sweet and charming — definitely light entertainment, which is something I needed this week.

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club is doing a speed-re-read of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, #8 in the Outlander series. We’re reading and discussing 5 chapters per week. Let me know if you want to join in — the more, the merrier! This week: Chapters 61 – 65.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Title: The Final Girl Support Group
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: July 13, 2021
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

The Final Girl Support Group is set in our contemporary world, but with one key change: Remember all those slasher movies of the 80s and 90s? The ones where seemingly unstoppable madmen stalk groups of victims through the woods or at summer camps, using increasingly bizarre weapons to kill and kill and kill? In the world of The Final Girl Support Group, those movies are film adaptations of real-life murder sprees. The surviving Final Girl of each horrific act of murder sells her franchise rights, and the film versions make them into pop culture superstars… and highly scrutinized attractions for all sorts of stalkers and murder fans and other dangerous folks.

As the book opens, the support group is meeting, although after 16 years, it’s unclear to some of the members why they continue to meet. Nothing changes, and they devolve into bickering, yet they all need the group in their lives. For the women in the group, their lives after their incidents have taken different paths, yet none can be said to be truly healthy or normal. One woman is a junkie, one married for wealth and lives a pampered life surrounded by security walls and cameras, one, confined to a wheelchair, is a political activist, and our narrator Lynnette lives a life of absolute paranoia and devotion to safety. Only Dani, living in a long-term relationship on a remote ranch, and Adrienne, who runs a camp for victims of violence at the same site where she was once a Final Girl, seem to be anywhere close to living truly fulfilled lives.

When Adrienne fails to show for group the day after news coverage shows a new massacre at her camp, the group is fearful and soon learns the worst — Adrienne has been tracked down and murdered. They all flee, each seeking some form of safety. For Lynnette, she knows in her bones that nowhere is truly safe. She has countless escape routes and backup plans, but when all fail her, she has to go on the run and start to rely on people besides herself, something she’s never been willing to do.

The Final Girl Support Group is a horror story in which we learn, in bits and pieces, about the horrific scenes of violence that each of these women survived as young girls. It’s also a story of escape, with a road trip thrown in, and a story of friendship and connection, as this group of women — who have only their victimhood in common — are thrown together despite mistrust and even outright dislike to try to defeat the ultimate bad guy.

I tore through the book pretty quickly, but I’m not sure that it truly worked for me. The story is somewhat disjointed — we learn about each woman’s particular horror story over the course of the novel, but having the details doled out as they were kept me from truly understanding their experiences as we meet them. I never felt particularly connected to some of the characters, and actually found it confusing to keep them all and their particular traumas straight.

Lynnette is fascinating, although being inside her mind can be exhausting. I wish we’d learned more about her awful history earlier in the book as well. There seem to be a lot of barriers before I could feel like I had a good grasp on who she is and, more importantly, what happened to make her the way she is.

The book includes media snippets in between chapters, talking about the Final Girl movie phenomenon or including excerpts of articles about the girls or pieces of their police interrogations. These are fun, but again, something about the pacing and the way information is included made the overall narrative feel confusing to me.

I did really like the overall concept — that slasher movies are basically depictions of real events, and that certain franchises get sequels because in their real lives, the bad guys keep coming back, over and over and over. For a Final Girl, it’s never really over.

The Final Girl Support Group builds to a fast-paced, dramatic sequel that feels worthy of a scary slasher movie scene all its own.

I’ve read most of Grady Hendrix’s other novels (there just one I still need to read!), and I’ve loved them all so far. He writes bizarre, quirky, weird horror, and it’s usually right up my alley. The Final Girl Support Group didn’t quite work for me the same way his other books have. I got caught up in the story, but always felt like I was missing something. I recommend it, but not quite as much as, for example, Horrorstor or The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

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Book Review: Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3) by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: July 6, 2021
Length: 579 pages
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

Carry On was conceived as a book about Chosen One stories; Any Way the Wind Blows is an ending about endings. About catharsis and closure, and how we choose to move on from the traumas and triumphs that try to define us.

Note: I’ll try not to be too spoiler-y about Any Way the Wind Blows, but since this is the 3rd book in a trilogy, there will be spoilers for the first two books. You have been warned!

In Carry On, we meet Simon Snow, the most powerful magician of his generation. Simon is the Chosen One, the boy destined to save the World of Mages from its most dastardly threats. Carry On is very much a Harry Potter-esque story — Simon is an orphan, brought to Watford, England’s school of magic, and nurtured as the protégé of the Mage, the school’s powerful, dashing headmaster who exerts influence over all elements of the magical world.

But what would have happened to Harry Potter if, rather than killing the evil Lord Voldemort, he grew in power only to discover that his beloved mentor Albus Dumbledore was actually the villain, set on gathering all power for himself and bending the magical world to his own wishes? This is more or less where Simon finds himself at the end of Carry On. He and his friends confront the greatest evil, ready for the ultimate showdown, only to discover that it’s the Mage himself who’s behind all the bad. And then, inadvertently, Simon kills him.

The end.

But what happens to Simon next? What happens after you face your biggest foe and win, but cause death and the end of the life you knew?

In Wayward Son, Simon and his friends go on a roadtrip in America, experiencing challenges and dangers and adventure, while also giving Simon time to process how very upended his life has become. It’s very action-packed, and there isn’t a whole lot of time for contemplation.

But in Any Way the Wind Blows, back in England, it’s time to confront their futures. For Simon, he’s finally romantically involved with Baz, who was his nemesis and awful roommate during their years at Watford, only to eventually realize that beneath their mutual distrust and dislike was a simmering attraction and depth of feelings. For Simon’s bestie Penelope, she’s ready to resume being the cleverest magician around, except she’s brought a Normal (Muggle) back from American on a mission to cure him of a demonic curse — and as a result, has to not only put all her magical skills to the test, but also challenge magical society’s prejudices about non-magical people. And for Agatha, Simon’s former school girlfriend, she has to find a way to make sense of her life apart from being the beautiful girl always being rescued by Simon.

They all have a lot to deal with, clearly.

Simon suffers the most of all of them. At the end of Carry On, he lost all his magic, but ended up with dragon wings and a tail. He’s madly and passionately in love with Baz, and they’re trying to have a relationship, but at the same time, Simon absolutely doesn’t know how to be intimate or open with another person. It’s not just about physical intimacy — he loves Baz and knows that Baz loves him, but he has literal panic attacks when they get too close. Simon has spent his early life in foster homes, has no family, and has spent his formative years being a savior. What does he do when he has no magic, can’t save anyone, and no longer belongs in the world he thought he was meant to save? And how does he let Baz in when he doesn’t understand himself or who he is?

Simon and Baz’s relationship has ups and downs throughout the book, and parts are painful to read. They’re awkward, and Simon is so clearly suffering. He’s so full of want, but also so fearful, and he just doesn’t know how to be. Baz is absolutely lovely with Simon, even as he also learns more about his own (vampiric) nature and what that might mean for the rest of his life.

To be honest, while I wasn’t exactly bored at any point, I did find Penelope and Agatha’s storylines less interesting than Simon and Baz’s, and since the book alternates focus between the characters from chapter to chapter and section to section, I was always a little reluctant to move away from the main points of interest to delve into the supporting plotlines.

At almost 600 pages, this book is much longer than the previous one, and while I loved it as a whole, I think a large part of that is due to how much I love the characters. When you read a long, involved series, the characters can become more than just people on a page — or at least, that’s true for me when reading really excellent stories with amazing world-building and character development. It’s something of a double-edged sword though, because I become so invested in the characters I love that I don’t particularly want any plot points to get in the way of their happiness… which wouldn’t lead to a very interesting story.

In the case of Any Way the Wind Blows, this means that I was unhappy whenever Simon and Baz were unhappy, even if their unhappiness was part of their journey toward finding their way forward in their relationship. (If I’m making any sense at all…)

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed a lot of this book, although the overarching mystery/drama about the rise of a new Chosen One didn’t particularly resonate for me. There were things I was hoping would happen by the end of the book that didn’t (being cryptic here), and even though that’s hard for me to accept, it makes sense. At the same time, I felt unsatisfied by the lack of answers to certain questions, and felt that the story just kind of ended. There’s an epilogue that gives a lovely ending situation to one character, but it’s a year after the main events of the book… so what happened to everyone else and where are they now??

I love the Simon Snow books as a whole, and I love Simon and Baz so much (and yes, even Penelope and Agatha)… but I wish I’d felt a little more fulfilled when all was said and done. I may need to let this one simmer for a bit and come back to it again, to see if my feelings change over time.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll go back and listen to Carry On all over again, to revisit the origin story with full knowledge of how it all turns out. Carry On is an introduction to a trilogy that — with Wayward Son and Any Way the Wind Blows — ends up not being about a powerful magician in a magical world, but what happens to a formerly powerful magician who doesn’t fit in in any world.

Overall, it’s a fabulous journey with characters who can make my heart happy and also break it into pieces. Come for the magic wands, stay for the Simon and Baz lovefest. And Agatha. And goats (yes, really). And even Penelope and her Normal. As a whole, I heartily recommend the Simon Snow trilogy. It’s not what it seems like it’s going to be, but what it is is very, very cool.

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Shelf Control #278: Night Road by Kristin Hannah

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Night Road
Author: Kristin Hannah
Published: 2011
Length: 385 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.

When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.

Night Road is a vivid, emotionally complex novel that raises profound questions about motherhood, loss, identity, and forgiveness. It is an exquisite, heartbreaking novel that speaks to women everywhere about the things that matter most. 

How and when I got it:

I bought a paperback edition about two years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I know Kristin Hannah has been a bestselling author for many years, but I’ve only recently read anything by her, and the two books I read (The Great Alone and The Four Winds) both blew me away. I feel in love with the books, the characters, and the settings, and have been wanting to read more of her books.

This sounds like a dark domestic drama. I love stories involving family secrets and found families. The description does make me a little nervous that the events will be too heartbreaking for my poor tender feelings, but I’m also intrigued to find out more about what happens and how the family is changed over time.

What do you think? Would you read this book? Or are there any other Kristin Hannah books you’d recommend?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time). My list is a combination of both… here are my top ten:

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris

This illustrated retelling of the selkie legend is slim but beautiful. At 215 pages, it was pretty easy to read it all in an afternoon.

Fables graphic novels by Bill Willingham

I loved the entire Fables series, and gobbled up each new volume as soon as it was released. It wouldn’t be possible to read the whole series in one setting, but each individual book is definitely doable!

The Duke & I (Bridgertons, #1) by Julia Quinn

The Bridgertons books have become my go-to reading material for plane trips. I read this one on a coast-to-coast 5-hour flight!

October Daye books by Seanan McGuire

These are more “I wish I could read in one sitting” type of books. As soon as a new one comes out, I have to drop everything and read it, but all in one sitting is typically more than I can manage.

Wayward Children books by Seanan McGuire

Speaking of Seanan McGuire… the novellas that make up the Wayward Children series tend to be under 200 pages, and keep me reading straight through from start to finish.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

This is a short (60-page) book that I read with my book group. Given its length, it’s no wonder that I read it all in one sitting… but the story flows so well that I think it might lose a bit of its magic if read in smaller chunks.

The Long Walk by Stephen King

This book is so strange and creepy, and I was thoroughly hooked. Luckily, I was on a beach vacation when I started it, and spent the whole day on a beach chair reading this book!

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

It’s easy to look back at the Twilight craze now and sneer at the books… but remember when the first book came out, and how insane everyone was about it? Sure, I have tons of issues with the writing and the plot and the basic logic of it all… but at the time, I devoured this book.

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon

At 800+ pages, this is absolutely not a book that can be read in one sitting. But I really wish it were! When this book came out in 2014, I was on a family vacation… but basically ignored my family during every single moment of down time and stayed up ridiculously late until I finished the book.

I’m already expecting similar behavior when #9 comes out in November!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

I was so terrified of stumbling across spoilers when HP7 was released that I spent every waking hour reading, until I just couldn’t stay awake a moment longer… and ended up calling in sick to work the next day so I could finish!

What books have you read in one sitting… or do you wish you could read in one sitting? Please share your TTT links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 7/19/2021

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

A busy workweek, but what else is new? The sun finally came out over the weekend, and I spent every second I could outside!

What did I read during the last week?

Flash Fire by TJ Klune: The 2nd book in The Extraordinaries trilogy. I just want to give this book a hug — I love it so much. My review is here.

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger: Wonderful book. For once, I finished my book group book ahead of schedule! I haven’t had a chance to write up a review yet, but I’ll try to get to it this week.

Pop culture & TV:

I binged season 3 of Virgin River this week, and loved and was annoyed by just as much as with the first two season! I wrote up some thoughts here.

Puzzle of the Week:

This is the 3rd of a series of 4 puzzles (The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady). I finished Winter last week, and am almost done with Summer.

Fresh Catch:

I love The Extraordinaries books so much that I treated myself to hardcover editions of books 1 and 2. What can I say — I had Amazon credits burning a hole in my pocket!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell: The 3rd and final Simon Snow book! I only had time to read about half this week, but I’m loving it so far (and so sad this is the end of the saga!).

Now playing via audiobook:

Mistletoe & Mr. Right (Moose Springs, #2) by Sarah Morgenthaler: After a more serious audiobook this past week, I’m starting a light and fluffy romance. I don’t usually go for Christmas stories, but I liked the first book in this series, and what’s not to love about finding romance in Alaska?

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club is doing a speed-re-read of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, #8 in the Outlander series. We’re reading and discussing 5 chapters per week. Let me know if you want to join in — the more, the merrier! This week: Chapters 56 – 60.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2) by TJ Klune

Title: Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2)
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication date: July 13, 2021
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Through bravery, charm, and an alarming amount of enthusiasm, Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams. Now instead of just writing stories about him, Nick actually gets to kiss him. On the mouth. A lot. But having a superhero boyfriend isn’t everything Nick thought it would be—he’s still struggling to make peace with his own lack of extraordinary powers.

When new Extraordinaries begin arriving in Nova City—siblings who can manipulate smoke and ice, a mysterious hero who can move objects with their mind, and a drag queen superhero with the best name and the most-sequined costume anyone has ever had—it’s up to Nick and his friends Seth, Gibby, and Jazz to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous.

And new Extraordinaries aren’t the only things coming to light. Long-held secrets and neglected truths are surfacing that challenge everything Nick knows about justice, family, and being extraordinary. Which is a lot to handle when Nick really just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

Will it all come together in the end or will it all go down in flames?

I’m not sure that I can say anything more positive about this book than the fact that I WANTED TO HUG IT throughout the entire reading experience. Flash Fire is sweet and funny and adorable. It’s also a superhero story! But secret powers and daring escapades — while awesome — are really secondary to me in terms of why I love this book so much.

The heart and soul of Flash Fire (and The Extraordinaries, the first book in the series) is Nicky, the sweet, nerdy fanboy who is madly in love with his best friend Seth… who just happens to secretly be Pyro Storm, the superhero who recently saved the people of Nova City from the villainous Shadow Storm.

Now that Nick knows the truth about Seth and his superhero alter ego, he’s even more head-over-heels in love. Fortunately, Seth is just as crazy about Nicky, and the two of them are are maddeningly sweet and goofy whenever they’re together.

Gah. I can’t seem to write a single paragraph about Flash Fire without using the word sweet. Guess I should just accept it and move on.!

As Flash Fire moves forward, Nicky and Seth are starting to explore more of their physical relationship, but they can’t seem to get very far without Nick’s super embarassing yet incredibly lovable father giving them demonstrations on how to use condoms or make dental dams. It’s SO cringe-y, yet also amazing. Meanwhile, Shadow Star has been caught and imprisoned, but there’s a sense that more danger is on the way.

Nick and Seth are joined by their best friends Gibby and Jazz, and with the backing of their supportive parents, the four are on high alert for any new threats. And new threats do surface, and violence seems to stalk Nick and Seth wherever they go — and they’re also endangered by nosy, unethical reporter Rebecca Firestone, whose mission seems to be to expose Pyro Storm’s secret identity, no matter the cost.

One of my favorite YA tropes is cataclysmic events happening at prom, and Flash Fire does this to the nth degree and then some. Who doesn’t love a streamer-decorated school gym becoming the setting for a superhero showdown? The battle at prom is all sorts of awesome, and I won’t say much more about it, but you’ll love it too. Nicky’s sequined and spangled prom suit is just icing on the cake. Trust me.

This book!! HUGS HUGS HUGS. The dialogue is amazing, the writing overall is lovely and funny, the plot zips along, and there’s so much heart in it all that I can’t stop talking about how fabulous the whole thing is. Basically, rather than writing a review, I’m apparently participating in a one-woman love fest.

I’ll just wrap by sharing some great moments from the book, starting with a snippet that’s comes up a lot in the book, whenever Nicky is about to do something incredibly stupid or brave or both. (Have I mentioned that Nicky is a lot? He’s very extra.)

“Nicky, no,” they all groaned

“Nicky, yes!”

Seth was pretty much the hottest thing in existence when he wore a cravat and spoke forcefully.

“Hello, boyfriend of mine,” Nick said, and because he could, he leaned forward and kissed Seth right on the mouth. He hoped a homophobe had been watching and was now filled with so much heterosexual rage, they were choking on it.

“Yeah, no,” Gibby said. “It’s weird. What are the chances that three people we know personally ended up being Extraordinaries?”

“And they’re all gay,” Jazz said with a frown.

“Seth’s bisexual,” Nick said, because he’d be damned if he’d allow bi erasure, even in the face of all the ridiculousness.

“Quiet,” Jazz hissed at her. “We can’t interfere. We can only observe. We talked about this. You know how queer boys are in the wild. If they know they’re being watched, they get skittish and run for the forest.

He didn’t even realize he was crying until Seth said, “Hey, hey, Nicky, it’s okay. You’re okay.”

“I know,” he sobbed. “I’m pretty much the best thing ever. You’re so lucky to have me.”

“I really am,” Seth said.

So yeah. Five stars all the way!! I love this SWEET book so much, and just CANNOT WAIT for #3.

TV Time: Virgin River season 3. So watchable. So annoying.

Virgin River Credit: Netflix

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or, in the case of season 3 of Virgin River, newly released on Netflix, nothing really changes, and everything pretty much stays the same.

This show. Geez. I love watching it, but it’s also so ridiculous and laughable… and endearing AF.

So, season 3.

Note: SPOILER ALERT!! I’m going to be discussing plot points from the season, so if you haven’t watched, you may want to look away!!

Season 3 picks up soon after the cliffhanger ending of season 2. Season 2 ended with Jack lying bleeding on the floor of his bar, shot by an unknown assailant and on the verge of death. (Except he’s the main love interest and that makes him bullet-proof).

As season 3 opens, Jack is alive! He’s recovering from his bullet wound, but has no memory of who shot him. Signs point to someone connected with the illegal drug trade that once thrived in the woods near Virgin River, but there’s no proof, and the drug business is (thankfully) mostly gone from this season, after being raided and driven out.

Can I get a Hallelujah?? I hated everything about the drug-running subplots of the previous two seasons. Let’s just focus on small-town adorableness, with its quirky personalities and town gossip, and leave drug kingpins to other, darker shows.

OK, back to season 3. Some new characters are introduced, including Jack’s sister Brie, who gets involved with a bad boy and seems to like riding on the back of his motorcycle and other risky behavior. There’s also a notable supporting character missing — Hope, Doc’s sometimes-estranged wife, is out of town for the entire season, making a couple of brief appearances during Zoom calls (apparently because of COVID restrictions affecting the actress’s ability to participate in filming).

There are continuing stories about the son of a woman on the run being sheltered by her friend, teen romance, Doc’s own health issue, and a tearjerker about a local woman diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Meanwhile, Jack’s ex is STILL pregnant and being obnoxious, and in our main storyline, Jack and Mel are in love, but face ups and downs.

So….

Let me once again break it down into highs and lows.

The good stuff:

  • Once again, the scenery is AMAZING. I’d watch a travel documentary just showing aerial views of the woods, the rivers, and the mountains. Except Virgin River is a fictional location (supposedly in Northern California, but filmed in British Columbia). I want to go there! I want my own cabin on the river!!
  • The characters themselves are great, especially Mel. She’s a strong, professional woman with endless wells of compassion, a good friend, a devoted sister. I love her to bits and pieces.
  • As I said in my post about the first two seasons, any excuse to watch Tim Matheson in action is a gift. He’s just lovely as Doc, gruff and grumbly, but with a heart of gold and a gentle side too. This season, he gets to be particularly vulnerable as he’s put through an emotional wringer, and every time he tears up, my heart melts.
  • Small town cuteness!! There’s a lumberjack festival, for Pete’s sake!! Everyone wears flannel, there’s log rolling and a chainsaw competition, and it’s just so corny yet also adorable in all its weirdness.
  • And one more time… it’s just so pretty! Like this moment, for example:
VIRGIN RIVER (L to R) ALEXANDRA BRECKENRIDGE as MEL MONROE and MARTIN HENDERSON as JACK SHERIDAN in episode 304 of VIRGIN RIVER Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Which totally gives me this vibe:

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Time moves SO slowly. As I wrote in my post about the first two seasons: A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5? I guess I was being prophetic: As of the end of season 3, that same character is MAYBE in her second trimester. So expecting her to give birth in season 4 is maybe even a bit optimistic!
  • Except in one instance, time moves too quickly. A character reveals early in the season that she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, is opting for palliative care, and wants to live out her remaining days at home with her family and friends. And within a couple more episodes, she’s dead. No wasting away, no depressing episodes showing her weakening and getting sicker. Just boom — she goes to take a nap after a great day with friends, and then she’s dead. So weird.
  • Nothing really changes. Ever. We start the season not knowing who shot Jack. We end the season not knowing who shot Jack. Characters have ups and downs, but the plot is SO static so much of the time.
  • We end with Mel telling Jack that she’s pregnant, and that the baby might not be his. Well, we know why that is… but it’s utterly ridiculous. While visiting her sister in LA for a few days, Mel is reminded by her sister that she still has some embryos left from her fertility process with her late husband. Despondent over her break-up (very temporary) with Jack, Mel goes to the fertility doctor’s office. Well, apparently, she walked in and got impregnated, just like that. And that made me roll my eyes so hard I thought they’d fall out of my head. This is a woman with a history of fertility issues, who’s gone through multiple rounds of IVF. She was only in LA for a few days, as far as we could tell. If she was going to move forward with having embryos implanted, she should have been on hormones, at the very least. This is not a single trip to the doctor’s office situation!!
  • Jack’s ex is expecting twins (sometime in 2025, I guess), and apparently she’s engaged to some rich guy she’s just met, and everyone talks as if Jack would have no parental rights at all… and I just don’t understand. There’s DNA testing in the 21st century, people! Why does his lawyer act as though he has no chance of being the babies’ legal father unless Charmaine allows his name to be put on the birth certificate?
  • Inconsisent supporting characters — there are certain characters whose depiction seems to change depending on what scene they’re in, and I wish the show would just make up its mind! Connie is often shown as an interfering gossip, but then she’ll turn around and offer protection to someone with a secret and acts like other people’s most trusted friend. Which is she? Same with Muriel, who in previous seasons was set up to date Doc as a decoy by Hope (never mind, it’s complicated). Muriel is sort of depicted as someone who might not be trustworthy around other people’s husbands (ugh, I hate that judge-y kind of vibe), but she’s actually completely lovely. Muriel in season 3 is vivacious, supportive, and tons of fun… so why do I feel like the show wants us to be suspicious of her when it comes to Doc?
  • Lack of diversity. There is exactly one Black named/featured character on the show. I was shocked when a Black family was seen walking by at the lumberjack games. Wait, there are families of color living in Virgin River? The show needs to open its doors a little wider, is all I’m saying.

Despite my grumbling, I freely admit that I’m hooked on the show. I just wish more would happen in a season. How long is the wait until season 4? Arrrrrggh.

And one final thing: I still haven’t read the books. Should I???

Shelf Control #277: And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: And the Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness
Published: 2018
Length: 160 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Monster Calls comes a richly illustrated and lyrical tale, one that asks harrowing questions about power, loyalty, obsession, and the monsters we make of others.

With harpoons strapped to their backs, the proud whales of Bathsheba’s pod live for the hunt, fighting in the ongoing war against the world of men. When they attack a ship bobbing on the surface of the Abyss, they expect to find easy prey. Instead, they find the trail of a myth, a monster, perhaps the devil himself…

As their relentless Captain leads the chase, they embark on a final, vengeful hunt, one that will forever change the worlds of both whales and men.

With the lush, atmospheric art of Rovina Cai woven in throughout, this remarkable work by Patrick Ness turns the familiar tale of Moby Dick upside down and tells a story all its own with epic triumph and devastating fate.

How and when I got it:

I treated myself to the hardcover edition when it was released in 2018.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve read several Patrick Ness books by now, but not nearly enough! I think I have at least two more of his books sitting on my shelf, still to be read (maybe future Shelf Control books?). I was drawn to this book for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve never not liked Patrick Ness’s writing, even if the book’s main topic isn’t of huge interest to me. Can’t say I’ve ever been let down.
  2. It’s illustrated by Rovina Cai! She also does the illustrations for Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children books, and I love her artwork.
  3. I’ve seen this book described as telling the story of Moby Dick from the whale’s perspective, and what’s not to love about that?? I actually read Moby Dick a few years ago (yes, really), and I think experiencing an “upside down” version of the story would be fascinating.

I really do intend to read this book soon… or as soon as I can remember which shelf I left it on, last time I came across it.

PS – The opening line of this book is:

Call me Bathsheba.

How awesome is that?

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Top Ten Tuesday: Book Titles That Are Questions

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Book Titles That Are Questions. This is a fun one! Here are ten books that fit the theme, either from my shelves or my TBR list:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

This children’s classic was HUGE while I was growing up (which gives you some idea of how long ago that was…)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I read this ages ago while going through a Blade Runner obsession phase (probably due to a friend who insisted that Blade Runner was the most profound movie ever). The book definitely explains a lot more than the movie — but I should probably watch the director’s cut again at some point and see if my reaction has changed at all.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

This is a more recent book — published in 2019, it’s a story of a decades-long space voyage to a new planet. I loved it!

Have You Eaten Grandma? by Gyles Brandreth

Who doesn’t love a great grammar book? I sure do! I love smart, funny books that explain grammar — with a sense of humor.

Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

This book scared the heck out of me when I first read it. Maybe it would seem tame compared to thrillers today, but I absolutely lost sleep thanks to this book way back when.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates

I’ve only read the title story… but it’s stayed with me ever since. This story was the basis for the 1985 Laura Dern/Treat Williams movie Smooth Talk, which is understated and disturbing and really memorable.

Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida

I’m including this book on my list this week because I love the title, even though I ended up DNFing the book. I thought the idea of someone with amnesia using Siri and social media to figure out her identity and her life was really clever, but I ended up annoyed by the plot and couldn’t bring myself to finish.

If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever? by M. E. Kerr

I remember basically nothing about the plot of this book, but M. E. Kerr was super popular for a time in the pre-YA young adult market. (Hmm — I see a trend in this week’s list: Books From My Younger Days. Sigh.)

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss

My family is full of Seuss fans, and this happens to be a really fun one to read aloud. It includes such magical passages as:

And now all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch are watching on watch watcher watchering watch, watch watching the watcher who’s watching that bee. You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher — you’re lucky you see!

May I Bring A Friend? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Another awesome children’s book to read aloud! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I read this one to my son… but it was a daily favorite for weeks at a time. So charming!

What books made your list this week? Please share your TTT links!

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