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Audio ARC Review: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: No Guts, No Glory by M.K. England

Publication Date: November 2, 2021

Synopsis:

The official prequel novel to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the hotly anticipated action-adventure game developed by Eidos-Montréal and published by Square Enix.

Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Racoon and Groot. They’re the Guardians of the Galaxy, turning a tidy profit as heroes for hire—or, they will be if Peter Quill can get his act together. After he botches the most critical part of their latest mission—getting paid—his newly assembled crew is close to ditching him for good. Now he needs a big payday, fast.

When an old acquaintance shows up offering a whole lot of units for a field trip to Peter’s past, it’s a no-brainer. Thirteen years ago, Peter fought the Chitauri alongside the Resistance on Mercury to prevent an invasion of Earth. Now it’s time to go back. The old Resistance base has a squatter, and it’s up to the Guardians to ‘gently escort’ them off the premises… and unmask a wartime traitor while they’re at it.

But war is heavy, man, and the Galactic War screwed up each of the Guardians in their own special ways. The brand-new team is barely hanging together, and the mission brings up all kinds of bad memories. It’s make or break time for the Guardians, and they do so love breaking things…

Just hopefully not each other.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I somehow missed the “official prequel to the blockbuster video game” on the cover of this. As I haven’t played the game, I think I am missing key details that would make me care more about the events within the book. Additionally, I haven’t seen the Guardians of the Galaxy and related Marvel movies (just the trailers) — which means I’m missing a LOT of key details and most importantly, the characters’ canon personalities and interactions. I requested this solely because I have loved everything MK England has written and I assumed I would love this as well, despite not being familiar with the franchise. I have read other books and fanfictions of franchises I am unfamiliar with and loved them in the past. However this… missed the mark for me.

I liked the plot all right, but I didn’t really care about any of the characters. Additionally, it was confusing with the way it was structured. It is divided into sections that alternate between the present and the past, 12 years earlier. I listened to the audio, which made it very difficult to flip back and check whether I was in the present or the past. I think the confusion stemmed mostly mostly from the fact that both feature Peter getting into scrapes, fighting for his life, etc but with a different set of crewmates each time. The characters weren’t distinct enough for me to easily tell which scenario I was in sometimes, especially with similar battle scenes and running from the enemy scenes in each. Also they were all — especially Peter AKA Star Lord — a little annoying. He was very much a bumbling fool who is eternally optimistic and somehow always comes out on top while everything and everyone around him falls to pieces and I’m not really a fan of that character type.

I was into it, but not really, I guess? Like I cared enough to keep listening, but not enough to choose to listen over doing/reading other things. I actually listened to half of this and then put it down for eight months and by the time I decided to give it a second chance, I’d forgotten enough details that I had to start over from the beginning. This should have made it easier to tell whether I was in the present or past in any given scene, but they still blurred together for me. I realized eventually that I was having trouble distinguishing between Gamora (present) and Ko-Rel (past) in their interactions with Peter. At 80% in I can’t really tell you the point of it all. Things keep happening but they don’t make any impact on me. I’m in the midst of the plot twist / confrontation with the enemy and I think I’m going to put it down again because I have other things to read that will hopefully hold my attention more.

I think this would go over well with fans of the movies and games franchises as well as those who like an emphasis on space action/battle scenes and not so much character development.

The narrator was fairly good and did a decent job giving the characters different voices (except for some of his female voices which were difficult to tell apart, possibly contributing to my confusion.) I found his voice a bit on the annoying side, though I don’t know how much of it was his voice and how much of it was his voicing of Peter as the POV character (who I also found annoying). He also tended toward the dramatic, but that’s understandable given the amount of battles and narrow escapes and arguments between the (very dysfunctional) characters.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media (Marvel) for providing an audio arc for review.

ARC Review: The One True Me and You by Remi K. England

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Synopsis:

Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend:

Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels
Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay
Kiss a girl for the first time

It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan.

Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets:

She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras
She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon
She’s gay af

If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down.

When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such a good, affirming, joyful book!

As someone who is active in fandom but has never been to a con, and who spent a lot of years questioning my identity (queer: nonbinary, bi ace), I really identified with Kay and felt very seen. They are like my younger self, and the atmosphere of the con was incredible.

While I didn’t have much in common with Teagan, she was easy to like and I was still rooting for her breaking away from the strict mold the pageant forced her into.

The story had its ups and downs of course but I felt so much queer joy radiating from the pages and wrapping me in this blanket of acceptance and it was so soothing.

There are also some great messages about not judging people based on what they look like or enjoy doing. And the fandom representation is so good. Such an accurate portrayal of a03 and tumblr and writing fanfiction. I want to go to a con now.

I would recommend this to every teen who is questioning their identity or knows someone who is. Sometimes you just need a dose of joy and affirmation and that’s this book in a nutshell.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

And yet, it never occurred to me before that any of these people could be considered truly beautiful. And there’s a vast gulf between not judging someone for their appearance and actively appreciating their beauty.

…but if I can take anything away from this weekend, it’s that I don’t have to look a certain way to be who I am. If I feel nonbinary, I am nonbinary. There’s no right way to dress or act to prove it.