Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (Book Review)

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 272

CW: parental neglect, emotional and physical abuse, grief, ghosts

Nina LaCour is one of my auto-buy authors and I don’t even need to read the blurb to buy her books. However, when I first heard about this one, I was immediately drawn to it. I knew that once again, Nina LaCour would create an impeccable atmosphere that would eventually emotionally wreck me – and that’s exactly what happened, but more about that later!

I see this book being classified as Young Adult and I’m not sure I would necessarily agree with that. Mila, the protagonist, is 18 at the beginning of the novel and turns 19 during the course of it. She goes to live on a remote farm, where she works as a teacher and helps with the harvest as well as Sunday markets. Her life and her struggles very much came from the past, and thus her younger self, but it still felt like it could have just as easily been classified as an adult novel. That’s not to say that I minded the more grown up approach, but I just think it’s something to be mindful of when you pick up this book.

There’s something about Nina LaCour’s writing that just transports me into a whole different world. Usually, rooted in a lot of trauma but still very much in reality, Watch Over Me was a surprise with its literal instead of metaphorical ghosts.

Had we been telling the truth, he would have said, The place where I’m sending you – it looks beautiful, but it’s haunted.
Okay, I would have said.
It will bring everything back. All that you tried to bury.
I understand.
It’s going to make you want to do bad things.
I have experience with that.
And how did it turn out?
Terribly. But I promise to do better this time.

Mila yearns for something in her life. I would say for a family, a place to call home and someone or something to belong to. In her desperate need to hold on to these new people she is meeting on the farm, feelings of jealousy and self-doubt creep in. While I understood entirely where she came from, it was such an intense longing tied to strong emotions on her part that it sometimes felt off-putting. That’s not to say that she was unlikable, but she surely contained multitudes behind her quiet and pleasant demeanor.

When I read a LaCour book, I often associate it with very strong emotions of my own. While Everything Leads to You wasn’t all happy, I still associate a warmth and admiration for it due to its setting being in film. With You Know Me Well, I had found one of my favourite feel-good-books and We Are Okay drowned me in a world of sorrow. Watch Over Me is a bit harder to categorise. I could have easily read it in one sitting, it is poetic and beautiful and flows nicely. But something about it is also very eerie and strangely tied to a sense of dread, sorrow and grief. It made me sad to the core and sometimes I cried at passages that didn’t even seem so sad.

“Do you like it?” Julia asked. But I didn’t know what she meant. All I saw was the deep blue-green water, the white foam against dark rock. The wildflower-studded cliffs, and the tall grasses in the wind. “Because it’s magnificent,” she said. “But I don’t like it. It scares me.”

There is no explicit romantic storyline in this book! While there are hints that a character may be attracted to more than one gender, it is not discussed or a focal point of the story. Although, the relationships Mila forges and nourishes are definitely worth talking about. To me there are four worth talking about here (without giving away too much):

  • Her mother and Blake: the trauma she has to face on the farm mostly stems from them. There is guilt and relief, sadness and so much strength that was bred in that relationship. It’s what’s really haunting Mila.
  • Terry and Julia: they are basically the parents Mila never had and always wanted. They have taken in over 50 kids and fostered them, which put them on a pedestal in Mila’s mind.
  • Billy and Liz: as I said, there’s no romantic storyline, but I feel like there was definitely an air of possibility for a throuple here as Mila seems to be attracted to both of them and fantasizes about them.
  • Lee: Lee is Mila’s 9-year-old student and anchor during her first weeks. She feels like they are both outsiders in this family and she clings to him tightly. I often felt torn about their relationship, because I loved how close they grew, but I also hated the emotional baggage she put on that kid sometimes.

“I’ll never leave you,” I said to him. I closed my eyes. I felt his body relaxing, heard the slowing of his breath. “You’ll have to grow up and leave me first.”

Sometimes I didn’t realise just how much time had already passed on the farm. It went from days to weeks really fast and I think that’s why I sometimes struggled with the depth of attachment the characters already had to each other. When I turned that last page, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a timeline at all. However, I did feel like I had just been on a journey with Mila. I didn’t understand everything that had happened, but I doubted that she did either. The farm is a magical place that only becomes the bad kind of haunted if you let it.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I feel like I just went on a whimsical journey of sadness and grief.

Do you plan on reading Watch Over Me? Have you read other books by Nina LaCour? Let’s talk!

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (eARC Review)

Publisher: Del Rey Books
Page Count
: 336
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: a bunch of really murderous monsters of various kinds

This was my first Naomi Novik book and I had an absolute blast with it. From the premise alone, I already had a strong feeling I would enjoy A Deadly Education, the first book in the Scholomance series, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much fun I had with it.

From the beginning, Galadriel, who is usually just going by the name of El, was a hilariously snarky narrator. She finds very little to like about the people around her or the situations she finds herself in. Where other people try to see the good to get by, she is utterly prepared for the worst and expects nothing from no one. The amount of times she described herself as not being able to stop seething almost felt like a running joke at some point, because she really did have the hardest of times feeling anything but angry, which makes the moments she feels vulnerable all the more special.
However, what could have easily been an annoying trait after a while, worked incredibly well for her. Death seems to be a constant companion at the school and everyone is way too okay with more than half the class dying until graduation. It felt so callous and cold. All I wanted from El was for her to actually care for someone, to break that carefully crafted facade, and during the course of A Deadly Education, that’s exactly what you get, which is what makes it such a joy to read.

The strong suit of the story is definitely El’s interaction with her fellow classmates, be it with enclave kids she hates, the few kids that tolerated her or, most fun of all, shinning knight and do-gooder Orion. If I had to describe him, I’d say he was a classic example of a himbo – not the brightest bulb out there, but a boy with a heart of gold … and not bad to look at either. His banter with El was really EVERYTHING! If you can give me a good “Why are you being nice to me? Are you mad at me?”-kind of dynamic, I am hooked! I don’t really want to speak more to the nature of their relationship, because I don’t even know if I can call it fake dating or not, but it’s hilarious.

Where the novel struggles a bit is the world building. I never really found myself confused by the concept of the school, the international aspects with students from literally all over the globe being in this one void place or the onslaught of murderous monsters. What I did struggle a bit with was the enormous info dumps though. El is telling everything from her point of view (with a really interesting 4th wall break at some point), with long paragraphs of inner monologue and little else, which establishes her voice nicely, but also just means info on info on info in some sequences of the book. I wish there had been a sleeker way to introduce all that to us, but it kept happening throughout the novel, even after the initially very info-dump-heavy first chapter.

What really throws you for a loop is the final line of the book though! Honestly, this could have easily been an interesting standalone book (with only a couple unanswered questions left), but with that one last line, it turns your whole world and the experience you just had upside down. Now I am really full of questions and anxious to find out what the frick is going on!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Absolutely loved this and am already so looking forward to the sequel!

Do you intend to read A Deadly Education? Have you read other books by Naomi Novik? Let’s chat!

What I’ve Been (Binge-)Watching #41

I’ve watched so much since the last time I posted this feature, but I don’t think I will include everything I have torn through. Here are some of the things though, but please remember that these really are just mini reviews. I am 100% open to talk more about it in the comments!

Julie and the Phantoms (Season 1)

I would have LOVED this show as a teen. His has cute ghost boys, beautiful music and just wholesome content with pretend high stakes (because you KNOW it’s not going to end in doom and gloom). Very much in the spirit of Disney and Nickelodeon shows, the acting isn’t the best ever, but you get attached to those characters none the less and it’s all really funny. That’s really the prevalent theme for me as I watched this: I had a lot of fun.

Not gonna lie, I am pretty sure that a lot of my like for it also comes from the fact that they say it’s Hollywood, but it’s very recognizably filmed in Vancouver and I just walked those streets a thousand times. I miss my town. Also, there’s gay ghost boys and it’s really cute!

For fans of: cute teen supernatural shows with music

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (Season 1)

Every time I start an Apple TV show, I am surprised just how much I love it. No matter what I watch on that platform, I end up adoring it and I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but it just always ends up so good. Mythic Quest is one of those perfect workplace comedies and especially the Quarantine episode had me in actual tears. Episode 5 also has a very special place in my heart, because it reminded me of a less twisted Black Mirror episode for some reason (still don’t know where that association came from).

Some of the realism that gamers might be looking for in this show is lost to gags, but who tunes into a fictional program for realism? There’s some well known faces on Mythic Quest, but I really loved Charlotte Nicdao as Poppy Li – she was a true revelation for me.

For fans of: gaming industry, behind the scenes shows

Freaks – You’re One of Us

You know that I encourage everyone to watch some of the international Netflix content, or specifically some of the German releases. Freaks is one of those movies that I think might get quite lost, but is actually a really interesting story.

Unlike in so many other “superhero” shows and movies, this is focused on a pretty regular, middle class mother, who learns that her powers have been suppressed since childhood. It’s slow-paced, with a great betrayal-storyline and almost like a set-up for a potential franchise. I don’t know what the plans are, but I’d definitely be here for more.

For fans of: international Netflix productions, adults discovering they have superpowers, the adult chosen one

Uncorked

Anytime I see a movie or show with Mamoudou Athie, I just fall in love with him and his acting again (seriously, don’t hesitate to watch him in the likes of Sorry for Your Loss or Unicorn Store). This movie is focused on his character Elijah, who is torn between following in his father’s footsteps and taking over the family BBQ restaurant or following his passion of becoming a sommelier. 

Back when I was in school, I took an exam to become a junior sommelier (don’t ask me anything about wine though) and I have also gone to France for a while and I have also had to deal with bad family news (don’t want to go into specifics because … spoilers?) while I was abroad. I did not expect to find so much to connect to in this movie, but I really did and loved it for it.

For fans of: wine, anyone from the cast, family dramas

The Sleepover

I honestly just watched this movie, because it gave me Spy Kids vibes. Those vibes were totally justified and I’d compare it to that, although it was obviously far less whacky and not actually about spies. It’s not a must-see, but it’s an okay and nice enough way to pass time.

For fans of: Spy Kids, Babynator, parents having a secret life

All Together Now

This movie is equally heart-warming and heart-breaking. I knew I was going to cry, and even though it took a bit longer than expected, it sure did happen. All Together Now is about allowing others to help you when you need it and overcoming obstacles at a young age.

It’s very much a humble way to tell this (I believe based on a novel called Sorta Like a Rockstar) story. It’s quiet and slowly paced and unexciting, but it will cozy up to your heart regardless. However, don’t expect this one to be as much about singing as the casting and the premise might suggest. That is not the main focus.

For fans of: heartwarming stories


Did you watch any of these things? Do you plan to? Let’s talk!

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (eARC Review)

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 288
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racial profiling, police brutality, incarceration, domestic abuse, mention of sleep paralysis, anxiety and depression

I have been a huge fan of Nic Stone’s novel Dear Martin and while I didn’t expect for there to be a sequel (or companion novel?), I was excited to get the chance to revisit these characters. However, this book isn’t as much about Justyce as it is about Quan, a boy with a very different life.

Right from the beginning, the author explains why she decided to write this book. As much as Dear Martin had quite the impact, the more readers Nic Stone met, the more she realized that a lot of people don’t get the same chances and opportunities as Justyce. There are people who feel trapped with a label that got stuck on them early on and like there is no escape from a possible future as a delinquent. People who are often at the wrong place at the wrong time and have no one in their corner. Things don’t always go right and one can feel powerless in the circumstances that you find yourself in. And they, too, deserve for their stories to be told and will hopefully see themselves in Quan’s experience.

Reminiscent of the format in the first book, we still have a bit of a mixed media style going on (letters, prose, etc.) and I found that specific writing style very engaging. It keeps the story flowing at a nice pace, without every getting confusing when it comes to timelines and so on.

Often, I am drawn to stories where characters need to find their family, their people, because for whatever reason their home life isn’t it. There might be a lack of support or an abusive environment the character will try to escape, but I rarely considered that finding a family – because you so desperately want someone to look out for you – can also end in a bad way. Quan makes some stupid choices, but once you hear how he went from one bad situation to another and at some point you are just done with the cards life deals you, you can’t help but feel for him and root for him. I was so happy to see that he had people in his corner, that truly only had his best interest at heart, even when he didn’t think he deserved them going to bat for him.

I appreciated Nic Stone’s letter to the reader and author’s note so much. She really put a lot into this book and I like that the she acknowledged how much of it is fiction and how Quan’s case would have probably ended differently in real life. But a lot of the story is about how we need to belief in people and let them know that we do, how it creates hope and a mindset that there can be a difference – that’s why I am glad the book ended the way it did! I think it will help create more open minds and hearts as well, as we all can believe in and support the people around us!

Dear Justyce is just as raw and real as its predecessor and can easily stand on its own. It shows how different experiences can be, but how far a little support can go. I hope that it will encourage people to reach out to those who struggle and prevent things from escalating the way they did for Quan.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I think I liked this better than Dear Martin (not that they are really in competition though).

Are you planning on reading Dear Justyce? How did you feel when you heard there was a sequel to Dear Martin? Let’s chat!

Mini Reviews: Teen Titans: Raven/Beast Boy

As much as I like comic books, I always struggle to review them. Anyway, I really liked the Teen Titans, so, I figured I at least gave them a try with a mini review! Haven’t done of these posts in a really long time.

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia (author) and Gabriel Picolo (illustrator)

Teen Titans: RavenA while ago, I would have firmly claimed to be a Marvel girl, but if we are being entirely honest, I am mostly consuming DC content now. While I have never watched or read Teen Titans before, I did watch DC’s Titans and liked it for the most part. This is entirely different, but I feel like that previous knowledge came in handy with Raven anyway.

The graphic novel very much focuses on Raven’s insecurities and her way of trying to figure out who she is as a person. Since she can’t remember anything, she tends to question everything instead of listening to her gut. She’s a teenager, so, she sometimes makes cringy choices, but I found those were easy to forgive.

Something I found confusing at times were the transitions between scenes, as they seemed very disconnected. I also felt like there was definitely some prior knowledge required, or you’d be a bit lost when certain characters started showing up.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Interesting introduction to this series.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia (author) and Gabriel Picolo (illustrator)

Teen Titans: Beast BoyI loved the illustration in this one even more than in the first one, even though it was both done by the same person. Gabriel Picolo has mentioned several times that Beast Boy is very near and dear to his heart and it shows. Especially the pages where Gar uses his powers for the first time are just swoon-worthy.

Again, this one also heavily focuses on the insecurities of the main character. For now, it’s what ties them together as they haven’t met yet. Gar just wants to be popular, not because he likes the people so much, but because he wants to prove a point. I understood why his friends were annoyed with him at times and appreciated that they had their own struggles to face. Still, there was a definite relatability to it, which made Gar very endearing.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! I was never once bored while reading.


Over all, I was really happy with these graphic novels! I think the illustration especially was excellent and I cannot wait for the third book (Beast Boy Loves Raven in Fall 2021). Have you read these ones as well? 

August 2020 Wrap-Up

Again, August wasn’t my most active month on the blog. I know I keep saying this, but more about that in the life update section!

I have read 100% more books than last month, which means two instead of one! To some of you, that might still not seem like a lot, but I am happy with it. My reading challenge is still on track and that hasn’t been the case in years around the same time.

  • Stargirl by Geoff Johns – complete collection (3 stars)
    I did not review the comic book, although it was a decent collection. It got confusing at times when the crossovers with the JSA, Titans, etc. were incomplete or out of order, but you definitely got a feel for the character and its history.
    Again, major thanks to my friend Lois for gifting this one to me!
  • Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (2 stars)

Stargirl          Burn Our Bodies Down

As per usual, click on the covers to get re-directed to Goodreads, where you are always welcome to add me as a reading buddy! My own reviews you’re able to find by clicking on the titles in the list above.

I announced last month that I would replace my art challenge with a fitness challenge and I am sad to say that I did not finish Chloe Ting’s 25 Day Hourglass-Challenge. The thing is, I had been lightly working out on the daily for months (pretty much since lockdown started), but this challenge was a whole other intensity. A lot of the exercises repeated themselves in multiple videos and it led to my knee getting bad again and my wrist getting strained from overuse (basically too much planking and kneeling). It was very frustrating, as I was hoping to finally see results, but I knew I had to stop and rest in order to not risk a more severe injury. I haven’t been working out for 3 weeks now and I am not happy with the situation, but also cautious about possible injuries while doing this alone at home … (Everything’s fine now and nothing hurts, just being wary)

I also haven’t been writing or blogging very regularly, I did, however, continue to draw whenever possible and inspiration struck. Feel free to follow me @katimpossibledraws on instagram. I’m really close to 300 followers and hope to get there in September.

A lot of people have suggested I open a shop or sell prints, open my account for commissions, but I honestly have to tell you that I don’t think I’ll do that. Drawing has kept me sane in this very strange time we are living in. I like drawing what I want whenever I want to and enjoy it not being connected to any sort of stress factors. I’m sorry if that disappoints people who were hoping to commission something, but I really need this to just be my zen place.

MY FAVOURITE THINGS

My favourite things this past month were 100% certain Apple shows that I enjoyed. One is called Little Voice and is about a struggling musician finding her voice. It has one of my favourite ever love interests. I was really team Samuel since day 1 and I adored the finale. It was created by Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson and features just a bunch of songs you’ll end up listening to on repeat. All 9 episodes are available on Apple TV+!

The other show I adore is Ted Lasso! I haven’t had such a perfect comfort show in a while, but this one is really IT. Starring Jason Sudeikis as American Football coach Ted Lasso, who takes on the position of manager of a UK football (meaning soccer) club. It’s hilarious and very much American optimism meets British pessimism. The characters and their dynamics and relationships are everything! If you want to be happy too, watch it! (It’s still ongoing, but half the season is out so far)

As per usual, I’ve unfortunately still not been as active as I would have liked to be on everyone else’s blog. If you are up for it, feel free to share one of your own posts that you consider one of your faves from this past month in the comments below! I’d love to check it out!!

MY OTHER POSTS

TV SHOW/MOVIE RELATED

TRAILER POSTS


Hope you had a good August and are looking forward to a little less heat as much as me! Let’s chat a bit in the comment section!

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: death, murder, arson, vomiting, unplanned pregnancy

I was supposed to read this book about two months ago, before it’s release in early July, but it was a struggle getting here. I want to start by saying that I have not read Wilder Girls and therefore had no expectations concerning the author’s writing style or way of storytelling. All I thought this would be was a family drama, which it was in part, but there is definitely so much more to it that I feel like I didn’t sign up for.

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for a while now, but can’t seem to make sense of it all yet. I think my main issue was that I went into this book thinking I’d get a twisted tale of a torn family, but really, it was more along the lines of horror? Those of you who know me, realise that in 9 out of 10 cases, I would not pick up a horror book on purpose and it was off-putting here as well.
I was prepared for an otherworldly, thick with the scent of buried secrets atmosphere (which Power manages to create quite well), however, I was not prepared for it to be so decidedly not our world in the end. When you start this novel, the characters take some getting used to, but it seems like we are here, in our reality. It takes almost half the book to come to the conclusion that you are not and at that point you are just confused.

This book features queer characters, a strained family relationship, a rural/small town setting – all factors that would usually entice me to read a book! So, why exactly didn’t it work for me?

Burn Our Bodies Down is told through the inner monologue of the main character Margot. She is a strange girl with very intense mood swings, something that didn’t always make it easy to follow her thought process. We get snippets of her personality as well as a bit of exploration of her sexuality (is she a lesbian? bisexual?), but it all gets dropped in favor of the “mystery” of the plot. And that mystery is really all that kept me propelled to keep reading, because I surely wasn’t able to connect or like any of the characters very much. I wanted to know how it would be resolved. I had my guesses early on and even though at that time, I had still thought this was just regular reality, I was right. That just added to me not feeling very satisfied by the pay off, because what else could it be?

Before I end this review for good, I just want to say that I saw a lot of people enjoy this book. It’s probably a very me-thing that I didn’t and which I mostly base on the inability to connect to any of the characters while reading. I highly recommend you check out varying reviews if you are still unsure whether you want to read this book or not.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! This was not meant for me.

Have you read this book? Do you want to? Have you read Wilder Girls? Let’s talk!