Friday, July 19, 2024

The Friday Face-Off: Current Read #30

                      Friday Face Off New

 Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.  You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
Current Read #30

It's been a minute since I've gotten a Friday Face-Off up, so I'm happy to be back with another one. I've just finished reading a delightful novel called Dallergut Dream Department Store by Lee Mi-ye, translated by Sandy Joosun Lee and figured it would make for a great choice for this week's Friday Face-Off because the covers for this book are so imaginative and fun. Let's take a look at them!

2023 UK Paperback | 2020 Korean | 2024 Polish

2024 US Hardcover | 2023 Italian | 2024 French

2021 Chinese | 2024 Arabic | 2021 Thai

2021 Indonesian | 2023 Italian | 2022 Vietnamese 

2021 Russian | 2024 Portuguese | 2021 Korean

2022 Turkish | 2023 Russian | 2021 Chinese

My favorite(s):
I honestly don't think I could pick a favorite for this one because so many are so wonderful. My copy is the 2023 UK paperback edition and I thought it was such a delight, but then I saw all these other editions and I think they're all a delight. I love how colorful they all are and how much they all seem to really capture the spirit of the book and a dreamlike quality. Which one(s) do you like the best?

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Mistress of Lies by K.M. Enright & Glass Houses by Madeline Ashby


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

Mistress of Lies by K.M. Enright
Publication: August 13th, 2024
Hardcover. 432 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:

The daughter of a powerful but disgraced Blood Worker, Shan LeClaire has spent her entire life perfecting her blood magic, building her network of spies, and gathering every scrap of power she could. Now, to protect her brother, she assassinates their father and takes her place at the head of the family. And that is only the start of her revenge.

Samuel Hutchinson is a bastard with a terrible gift. When he stumbles upon the first victim of a magical serial killer, he's drawn into the world of magic and intrigue he's worked so hard to avoid - and is pulled deeply into the ravenous and bloodthirsty court of the vampire king.

Tasked by the Eternal King to discover the identity of the killer cutting a bloody swath through the city, Samuel, Shan and mysterious Royal Bloodworker Isaac find themselves growing ever closer to each other. But Shan's plans are treacherous, and as she lures Samuel into her complicated web of desire, treason and vengeance, he must decide if the good of their nation is worth the cost of his soul.

I’m not usually a big vampire person, but for the right book I’m totally willing to try it out, and Mistress of Lies sounds like it’s going to be amazing.

Glass Houses by Madeline Ashby
Publication: August 13th, 2024
Tor Books
Hardcover. 272 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
"A group of employees and their CEO, celebrating the sale of their remarkable emotion-mapping-AI-alogorithm, crash onto a not-quite-deserted tropical island.

Luckily, those who survived have found a beautiful, fully-stocked private palace, with all the latest technological updates (though one without connection to the outside world). The house, however, has more secrets than anyone might have guessed, and much darker reason for having been built and left behind.

Kristin, the hyper-competent "human emotional support technician" (i.e., the eccentric boyish billionaire-CEO Sumpter's idea of an HR department) tries to keep her colleagues stable, throughout this new challange, but staying sane seems to be as much of a challange as staying alive. Being a "woman in technology" has always meant having to be smarter then anyone expects....and Kristin's survival skills are more impressive than anyone knows.

I’m such a sucker for any sort of premise like this one. I have no idea how the execution will be, but I’m definitely ready to go along for the ride!

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Review: The White Guy Dies First: 13 Scary Stories of Fear and Power edited by Terry J. Benton-Walker


The White Guy Dies First edited by Terry J. Benton-Walker
Tor Teen
Publication Date: July 16th, 2024
Hardcover. 320 pages.

About The White Guy Dies First:

"The White Guy Dies First includes thirteen scary stories by all-star contributors and this time, the white guy dies first.

Killer clowns, a hungry hedge maze, and rich kids who got bored. Friendly cannibals, impossible slashers, and the dead who don’t stay dead....

A museum curator who despises “diasporic inaccuracies.” A sweet girl and her diary of happy thoughts. An old house that just wants friends forever....

These stories are filled with ancient terrors and modern villains, but go ahead, go into the basement, step onto the old plantation, and open the magician’s mystery box because this time, the white guy dies first.

Edited by Terry J. Benton-Walker, including stories from bestselling, award-winning, and up-and-coming Adiba Jaigirdar, Alexis Henderson, Chloe Gong, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, H. E. Edgmon, Kalynn Bayron, Karen Strong, Kendare Blake, Lamar Giles, Mark Oshiro, Naseem Jamnia, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Terry J. Benton-Walker.

A collection you’ll be dying to talk about… if you survive it."

The White Guy Dies First by Terry J. Benton-Walker is a collection of short horror stories that sets out to focus on diversity in horror and subvert typical horror tropes where minority characters are often treated casually and sent to the chopping block first. All of these stories excelled at doing just that, and I particularly appreciated how each story explored different themes and social issues, which allow for some fresh perspectives on horror as well as general contemporary issues we see everyday.

The stories themselves were a bit of a mixed bag for me, with some being excellent tales of terror and others not quite hitting the mark. The anthology opens with a brief story called "Ghoulfriends Online Blog," which acts as an introduction that brings all of the stories together and sets the stage for following horror narratives. As I often like to do with short story collections, I'll select some stories from the collection to share my thoughts on to give you an idea of where my thoughts lay with this book. 

"All Eyes on Me" by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé: This is the opening story, and it certainly started off with a bang. I loved the beginning half of this story, but the ending was a huge letdown for me. The buildup was very promising, but the conclusion felt unsatisfying and left me actually a bit annoyed with the main character.

"Hedge" by Kalynn Bayron: This one was fun in nature and I enjoyed the premise, but unfotunate it didn't stand out as much as I hoped. It was missing something for me to make it feel like more than it was, and I also feel like the author kept treating the younger brother as if he were ten instead of old enough to not actually need a babysitter and I"m not sure why. 

"The Golden Dragon" by Kendare Blake: This was a solid story–not something that I'd go out of my way to read or recommend, but certainly hits the right paranormal note. It wasn't a favorite, but I still found it really well-written and engaging, and I was glad to read something from Kendare Blake.

"Everything's Coming Up Roses" by Tiffany D. Jackson: Probably my favorite of the bunch! I really loved the epistolary format and how it effortlessly leads readers down a dark path to understanding exactly what is going on. Absolutely creepy and delightful.

"Heaven" by Adiba Jaigirdar: This one was really imaginative and had some really great (though not entirely unpredictable) twists that made it an intriguing read. The concepts explored were intriguing, and I appreciated the creativity and depth of the premise and brief world-building.

While this may not be the strongest collection of horror stories I've ever read, it is a solid anthology with some real gems. The focus on diversity and subverting typical horror tropes was apparent but not overt, which made for a refreshing and thought-provoking read. Overall, I've given this collection three stars!

*I received a copy of The White Guy Dies First in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Crimson Crown by Heather Walter & The Mercy of Gods by James S.A. Corey


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

The Crimson Crown by Heather Walter
Publication: August 27th, 2024
Del Rey
Hardcover. 544 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most villainous of them all? Snow White’s dark queen tells her side of the story in this queer, witchy reimagining of the classic fairy tale from the author of Malice.

Legends tell of a witch who became a queen—the heartless villain in the story of Snow White.

But now the wicked queen is stepping out of Snow White’s shadow to become the heroine of her own legend.

Her real “once upon a time” begins when she is just Ayleth, a young witch who lives in the forest with her coven. The witches practice their magic in secret, hiding from the White King and his brutal war against witchcraft.

Ayleth, however, faces a war of her own. Her magical gifts have yet to reveal themselves, and as the threat of the Royal Huntsmen intensifies, Ayleth fears she will never become the witch her coven needs.

To prove herself, Ayleth sets out on a perilous quest that sends her to the White Palace, a decadent world of drama and deceit. There, Ayleth encounters an unlikely figure from her Jacquetta, a witch who once held Ayleth’s heart—and betrayed her.

As events at the palace escalate, Ayleth finds herself caught in the web of the White King, whose dark charisma is as dangerous as the sinister force that seems to be haunting the palace—and perhaps even Ayleth herself. With the threat of discovery looming, Ayleth and Jacquetta must set aside the wounds of their past and work together to survive.

As she uncovers the secrets of the White Court—and those of her own heart—Ayleth must find the strength to transform into someone she never imagined she could be.

A powerful witch, the very wickedest of them all.

I really loved Heather Walter’s Malice duology and have been so eager for something new from her, and I’m really loving the sound of this. I can’t wait to dive into it!

The Mercy of Gods (The Captive's War #1) by James S.A. Corey
Publication: August 6th, 2024
Hardcover. 432 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
"How humanity came to the planet called Anjiin is lost in the fog of history, but that history is about to end.

The Carryx—part empire, part hive—have waged wars of conquest for centuries, destroying or enslaving species across the galaxy. Now, they are facing a great and deathless enemy. The key to their survival may rest with the humans of Anjiin.

Caught up in academic intrigue and affairs of the heart, Dafyd Alkhor is pleased just to be an assistant to a brilliant scientist and his celebrated research team. Then the Carryx ships descend, decimating the human population and taking the best and brightest of Anjiin society away to serve on the Carryx homeworld, and Dafyd is swept along with them.

They are dropped in the middle of a struggle they barely understand, set in a competition against the other captive species with extinction as the price of failure. Only Dafyd and a handful of his companions see past the Darwinian contest to the deeper game that they must play to survive: learning to understand—and manipulate—the Carryx themselves.

With a noble but suicidal human rebellion on one hand and strange and murderous enemies on the other, the team pays a terrible price to become the trusted servants of their new rulers.

Dafyd Alkhor is a simple man swept up in events that are beyond his control and more vast than his imagination. He will become the champion of humanity and its betrayer, the most hated man in history and the guardian of his people.

This is where his story begins.

I haven’t read James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series yet, but I think this sounds really interesting so hopefully this will be a good place to start getting into his work!

Monday, July 8, 2024

Review: The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder, and Redemption in Immigrant LA by Jesse Katz


The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder, and Redemption in Immigrant LA by Jesse Katz
Astra House
Publication Date: July 16th, 2024
Hardcover. 320 pages.

About The Rent Collectors:

"Baby faced teen Giovanni Macedo is desperate to build a reputation with local LA gang, the Columbia Lil Cycos -- so desperate that he agrees to kill an undocumented Mexican street vendor. The vendor, Francisco Clemente, had been refusing to give in to the gang’s shakedown demands. But Giovanni botches the hit, accidentally killing a baby instead. The imprisoned overlords who rule their world must be placated so the gang lures Giovanni across the border and plots his disposal. But, in turn, the gang botches Giovanni's killing. And so, incredibly, Giovanni rises from the dead, determined to both seek redemption for his unforgivable crime and take down the whole gang who drove him to do it.

The Rent Collectors is filled with ruthless gang members, tattoo artists, a legendary FBI investigator, a girl who risks her life to serve as a witness, all in service to the story of the irrationally courageous immigrant whose ethical stance triggers these incredible events.

Jesse Katz has built a teeth clenching and breathless narrative that explicates the difficult and proud lives of undocumented black market workers who are being exploited both by the gangs and by the city of LA -- in other words, by two sets of rent collectors."

The Rent Collectors is a nonfiction account from acclaimed journalist Jesse Katz of Giovanni Macedo's experiences as a member of the Columbia Lil Cycos. Katz covers Giovanni's upbringing and discovery of street gangs, which leads him to doing whatever he can to join the gang, including attempting to kill someone and accidentally killing a newborn instead at nineteen years old. From there, Katz takes us on a journey following Giovanni as the gang attempts to kill him for his failed job and eventually to his arrest and life behind bars up until this point in the present day. This is a harrowing journey, but it's one that kept me absolutely glued to the pages as I was led into the history of MacArthur Park and its vibrant street vending history, to better understanding immigrant stories of those vendors, and to learning more about the ins and outs of some of the 18th Street Gang and Mexican Mafia and what their rule on the streets really means. 

This was a very wide-reaching look at a plethora of topics that center around gang activities in LA, specifically relating to the Columbia Lil Cycos, an 18th Street Gang. I appreciated Katz's focus on one main person, Giovanni Macedo, aka Rusty, which then expanded into covering an array of other people's experiences that varied quite a bit. For instance, through Giovanni we learn about his mother's experiences after coming to California from XX and the many struggles she faced trying to adapt and make a life for herself and her children while also navigating abusive relationships. We also meet Francisco–the man Giovanni was meant to kill–and learn about his experiences as a street vendor in MacArthur Park and what it meant to have the Columbia Lil Cycos demanding rent for your spot. We meet a variety of other gang members and street vendors and learn all about the different ways they've ended up in the same place in LA. 

From all of these offshoots, Katz is able to delve a bit deeper into each topic, such as the MacArthur Park and its street vending and how many different ways cops and the city have attempted to either shut it down or regulate it. By taking a closer look at MacArthur Park, Katz is able to similarly expand upon the many people who immigrate and enter California through the southern border from countries ranging from Mexico through Central America to South America and the many different reasons they make the decision to leave their home countries. There are so many more topics and interesting areas covered in this book than I've mentioned here, which is also where this book seems to wander off topic every now and then, but since everything was fascinating to learn about I never minded any topic Katz wrote about. 

Throughout this book, we as readers witness many different instances of crime and violence, arguably the most intense being the killing of a newborn by Giovanni. What I most appreciated about Katz's presentation of these events was his thoughtful neutrality, and what I mean by that is that he doesn't seem to push too hard to make the reader feel any specific way about them. He doesn't frame things as if Giovanni or any of these people are purely evil, but he also doesn't try too hard to make you feel extreme empathy for them, either. He presents them in an extremely human light, pointing our flaws, mistakes, and everything in between in order to showcase exactly what happened and how it happened. There are no excuses, just a desire to show how things like this can unfold and what the full story is behind it all, and I think Katz excelled in doing this. 

Overall, this is a nonfiction read that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys true crime, gang-related history, or maybe someone who lives in Southern California/LA like me and enjoys learning a bit more about where they live. This was, at times, a brutal story, but it's one that gave me a lot to think about and for that I'm very grateful. I've given The Rent Collectors 4.5 stars!

*I received a copy of The Rent Collectors in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Month in Review: June 2024

June started out fast, but ended up slowing down at the end of the month, and I actually appreciated that. June is also my birthday month, though I'm not the biggest birthday celebration person, but it's still fun to spend some time with family. It was another busy month, but nothing overly exciting, I'm afraid. The one big (not that big, though) decision I made in June is that I signed up for a teacher training course in October for aerials! I'm not entirely sure if/when I may actually end up being an instructor for aerial silks/etc. since I've only been learning it for about two years, but I wanted to just get a taste of what that could be like and also further my own aerial knowledge and skills, so I'm excited for that!

In reading news, I read a pretty nice array of books and really liked most of them! I don't think I ended up with any five star reads, but I still think a lot of these were fantastic reads, especially The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands, The Rent Collectors, and The Spellshop

How was your May?  Let me know how your month was below and what you've been reading!

# books read: 12

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands by Sarah Brooks 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC
Thoughts: This was so atmospheric and I had such a great time with it. A very slow burn type of read, but worth it! My review for this one is already up on my blog.

The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder, and Redemption in Immigrant LA by Jesse Katz ★★★.5
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
Thoughts: This was an incredibly informative and insightful nonfiction look into gang and immigrant life in LA. Highly recommended! My review will be up soon!

These Deathless Shores by P.H. Low ★★★.75
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
Thoughts: As we know (or if you don't, now you will), I am a bit Peter Pan fan and will read any and all retellings/books inspired by it, so I was really excited for this one and thought it was a really interesting take! You can find my review already up!

The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst ★★★★
Source: NetGalley | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: This was absolutely delightful and I really enjoyed my time listening to this audiobook! The perfect cozy fantasy for the summer.

The Sins on Their Bones by Laura R. Samotin ★★★
Source: Library | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: I was warned this was a bit dark and heavy at times, and it certainly was. A really good read, though!

The God and the Gumiho by Sophie Kim ★★★
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
Thoughts: Another fun fantasy, this one was surprised me with how much I ended up enjoying it. 

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky ★★★★
Source: Library | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: Tchaikovsky always comes through with thought-provoking sci-fi, and this novella was no different.

Long Live Evil by Sarah Rees Brennan ★★★★
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
Thoughts: This was hilarious and occasionally moving and thoughtful. It's also a ton of fun. My review for this will be up closer to its release in August.

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers by Samuel Burr 
Source: Owned | Format: Hardcover
Thoughts: This was a cute read and I had a lot of fun, I loved all the puzzles throughout. 

Running Close to the Wind by Alexandra Rowland ★★★
Source: NetGalley | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: This is described as being an extremely horny book, and that was extremely accurate. A fun read, though a bit over the top at times. Still, you'll have a good time if you don't mind constant sex jokes!

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston ★★★
Source: Library | Format: Paperback
Thoughts: This was a fun fantasy read. It didn't stand out to me overly much, but still a good time and I'd like to read more from Cameron Johnston.

Paint It All Red by S.T. Abby 
Source: Library | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: I wanted to finish up this series so finally got around to this one. A very solid conclusion, though certainly not a favorite. 

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