This was a weird month for me, not gonna lie. I’ll talk about it more at the end, but I’m consistently feeling like I did nothing while actually having done a lot, so. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that I feel like I didn’t read a lot, but three of the books I did read were massive, and they took a while to get through. I don’t know, it was weird. Also, my reading was a wild swing between this was the best series finale ever to I mean I guess it was fine? and I’m really hoping August will be more consistent.
Mini Book Reviews
Clap When You Land | Elizabeth Acevedo
I was so wrapped up in this. I really thought that it would take me a single day to read this because I usually fly through poetry books, but I kept going back and rereading bits because Acevedo’s writing is just phenomenal. I absolutely adored the two MCs in this, and I could just keep reading their stories forever and a day. Like, give me a sequel of Camino finally going to college and becoming the doctor she’s always dreamed of being, and Yahaira finally figuring out how to love herself and blossoming with her new sister. I seriously felt like I did while watching Moonlight. I just wanted it to go on and on forever.
The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
Where do I even start? I’ve had this book preordered for over a year, and then it was ONE WEEK LATE arriving at my house. It’s my most anticipated release of this year, and it totally smashed my expectations out of the park. I spent several nights staying up until 1AM reading this as slowly as possible, just letting myself be consumed by it. This was all of the things that I didn’t dare hope for, but also a lot of things that totally shocked me. I really thought it was going to end a different way than it did, and I will admit I’m a tiny conflicted on it. I guess very minor spoilers here, you’ve been warned, but I thought one of the Qahtani siblings was going to die. Like, I had myself 100% convinced. I thought there was no way that all three of them were going to survive, and truthfully, any one of them would have made sense dying. Each of them would have impacted the story in hugely different ways, and I do think that the ending would have been stronger with a death. That said, my selfish little heart is overwhelmed with joy that all of them are okay. I know a lot of people have issues with him, but I would literally take a bullet for Alizayd, and Muntadhir just breaks my heart at every turn, and wow, Zaynab didn’t really have a lot of scenes this time around, but what she did have just made me love her even more. I was ready to throw down for Nahri as usual because she’s just such a badass. And okay more spoilers again, of the less minor variety, I was here for the Nahri/Ali romance. I’ve seen others say it came out of nowhere, but like? Very much no? This has been building the entire trilogy, and there was no universe where Nahri/Dara was going to be endgame. Honestly, I’m glad they’re not because holy hell that would have been one insanely toxic relationship, but Nahri & Ali have come a long way together, and they’ve grown so much separately and together, and they just work. Obviously, taste is subjective, and I understand why there are those that might not like it, but I’m vibing it hard. Speaking of characters, I came out with a new favorite character of the series in this, and while Nahri is still my ride or die, and I 10/10 would recommend Ali for leader of the new government, if anyone ever comes near Jamshid again, I will find a way to transport myself into a book and murder everyone that as much as looks at him wrong. My sister said she nearly came into my room one night to check on me because I was just periodically screaming JAMSHID at one in the morning. Anyway, this review has gotten hella long, so I’m going to wrap it up with this is honestly one of my favorite stories out there. The world is exceptionally built, the writing is just so good, and the cast is overflowing with would die for them characters.
Midsummer’s Mayhem | Rajani LaRocca
This was ADORABLE. I loved literally every single word of this, and I was scream-texting my best friend nearly every chapter. It was a lot of “NOOOOO THE DAD ATE SOME OF THE FAERY FOOD” and “I am dead, these children are making me cry!!!” because it was just so excellent. I loved everything. Mimi was the cutest narrator ever, and I want twelve more books about her baking and fighting off the Fae. I loved watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream unravel in really subtle ways, but, even more than that, I just loved all the sneaky little faery lore that was threaded throughout. There was a lot that I think people not super familiar with faery lore will miss, so it was really cool to be able to pick out those pieces. All of the characters were just wonderful, and I’m going to be rec’ing this forever.
The Secrets of Winterhouse | Ben Guterson
Admittedly, I went back and forth on this rating a couple times, but, at the end of the day, this is such a unique middle grade book that I’ve got to give it five stars. I don’t want to say it’s dark, but it definitely discusses some grittier elements than I’ve seen in any other book of its age. I particularly enjoy getting to see Elizabeth struggling with the same kind of decisions we see other middle grade heroes just choosing right away. It always seems like it’s obvious to choose the good, right? But, often, and realistically, that’s not the case, and Guterson allows Elizabeth to struggle with that choice, to consider both options often, and to really wonder if the “bad” side is the true right way to go. She’s such a complex, interesting character that constantly keeps me on my toes wondering how she’s going to react to a situation, and she feels very fully-realized because of that. The story had me guessing in parts, too, and I honestly didn’t piece together the ending until it arrived. I knew that the same villain would be involved, and will likely star in the third one, as well, but everything leading up to that kept me guessing. Overall, this is definitely one of my favorite middle grades.
All Boys Aren’t Blue | George M. Johnson
This was so sweet! It covered such heavy topics that I was surprised at how sweet it was, but I loved Johnson’s voice so much. He was constantly making me laugh and smile dopily. It felt a bit like being in a massive candy shop for the first time for much of the book. Obviously, there are some very heavy topics in here, too, so it’s not all sunshine and rock candy, but Johnson handled every chapter with such grace and level-headedness. I’m so impressed with him just as a person, and I hope that he continues to write.
The Old Guard, Book One: Opening Fire | Greg Rucka & Leandro Fernández
The fact that this so closely mirrored the film was a big reason why I loved it so much. Overall, the artwork wasn’t really my vibe, but I love these characters and this story so much that I’ve already got the second volume preordered. I’m so hyped about the possibility of a sequel to the movie, too, and I’m just honestly checking Netflix news constantly waiting to see it get renewed. I appreciate the main queer relationship between two diverse men so much, and I can’t wait to see the development of another main queer relationship between two diverse women. The concept is really well done, too, and I love how much history is packed into this. I’m going to be shouting about The Old Guard for a long, long ass time to come.
Dark and Deepest Red | Anna-Marie McLemore
This was so complex, both the story itself and my feelings on it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this. It’s Anna-Marie McLemore, of course I loved it. The writing was truly phenomenal. She’s got this way with characters where I don’t realize I’m falling in love with them until suddenly BAM GUESS WHAT 10/10 would die for them. But the structure was really odd. There were three POVs, and, truthfully, if they’d all just stuck with the same setup, I think I would have given this five stars. As it was, the POV in the past was third person/past tense, one of the MCs was third person/present tense, and the other MC was first person/past tense, and all of that combined just really turned me off. The story was so intricate, and I was so deeply ready to lose myself in it, but the constant shift in tense/perspective was jarring every time. Overall, I still adored the characters, writing, and story, so this is still a high four stars for me.
Sanctum | Madeleine Roux
This was fine! It’s weird, this series has just been mostly fine so far, but like not fine in a way where I won’t continue it, fine in a way where I kind of shrug like eh whatever might as well read another one. I don’t have any issues with it, it’s just nowhere near as captivating as Roux’s House of Furies trilogy, which I am 100% rereading for Halloween this year. It reads very much like a first series, which is what it is, and I’ll never call something bad just because it was the author’s first. Roux has obviously grown a lot in her writing since this series, and while it is just fine, I’m still enjoying it.
Five Dark Fates | Kendare Blake
I know I’ve said it before, but the present tense just really irks me so much. It makes it really hard for me to get lost in the story, and that’s definitely a cause for one of the stars, which I know is terrible and shouldn’t affect my rating, but it does affect my reading, so. This wasn’t even a disappointing finale as much as a really, really predictable one. Everything happened so fast, too. One second, Mirabella & Katherine are having a grand old time, and the next–well. No spoilers, but I had a big ole moment of sighing because what happened was expected, but also very rushed. This went on forever, and it didn’t need to, and there felt like a lot of pointless moments. I originally thought I wasn’t in the right headspace to be reading this, but I just don’t think I enjoyed it that much. I was mostly bored, and though there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it, there also wasn’t anything outstanding.
The Book of Life | Deborah Harkness
I wrote a longer review for the whole trilogy & TV adaptation here, so I won’t go into huge detail, but wow, I’m so glad I’m done with these books. The abusive, misogynistic language throughout this trilogy is just the worst part of 2020, honestly, and I just want to applaud Sundance for completely ignoring every single aspect of that and instead giving Diana & Matthew a healthy relationship. Like, it got to a point where they were reminding me of Edward & Bella? I’m so upset? I honestly did enjoy the first book quite a bit, and while I had a lot of issues with the second book, I was a little hopeful about this one, and I don’t know why? What did I really expect? This was horrible, and I’m so thankful to finally be done with it.
Books read: 10
Pages read: 4,092
Backlist progress: 31/80
I am, uh, really not doing well on my backlist progress? I’m not even halfway through it, and we’re over the halfway mark of 2020. Thus, I’ve got some damn work to do. I’ve been really low-key about my TBRs lately, and it’s not like I’m going to force myself to read things I don’t feel like right now, but I am definitely focusing primarily on pre-2020 purchases.
- The Whiz Mob and The Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy
- The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
- Salvaged by Madeleine Roux
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
(1) I’m back on my middle grade train! I read a few in July and had an absolute blast, so I’d love to keep up the momentum with Meloy’s non-Wildwood book. (2) I recognize that The Beautiful has probably been on a TBR before, and I’ve also put it on my TBR cart several times intending to read it soon, but now that I’m writing about vampires, I need to read about them, too! (3) I, um, have a post going up next month about how I’m currently stressing out about Halloween because, for the first time in years, I have exactly zero new books queued up for what is normally an insane reading month for me. You’d think, then, that I wouldn’t be trying to trample my way through all of my Madeleine Roux books, but here we are! I’m low-key trying to finish out the Asylum series, too, but that’s not officially on my TBR because it was on last month’s. (4) And, okay, look, ya girl wants to read Mexican Gothic so bad, but I don’t like having multiple unread books by authors that I’ve never read before, so it’s Moreno-Garcia or bust this month. (5) Rounding out this weird ass crew is something I recently saw called a loose Persephone/Hades retelling, and I’m not sure if that’s true, but I’m here for The Star-Touched Queen if it is, so might as well find out!
I have been absolutely wretched at blog hopping this month, and while I’ve been reading & commenting, I just haven’t been keeping track of what I love, and that is 100% because of the below.
I finally input all the words I added in June, so I had an additional 830 words in June. I also had to go back through all of the chapters I’d already edited (17 chapters @ 184 pages) to fix a subplot, which took half a day and was super annoying, but it turned out better in the end. I only ended up adding 9 words by the time I was doing adding and subtracting some stuff, so nothing wild. But, my goal was to finish editing SW1, and since I wanted to give the entire thing to my writer’s group, I had about a week to edit the entire second half, annnnnd I did it. None of us are surprised since I’m psychotic, and once the end is in sight, that’s it. I had two mini scenes to add, plus two full chapters to write, so, all told, my added word count for July was 8,930, bringing the first sister witches up to a total word count of 112,750.
My other goal was to write the first half of the first act of vampire detective, which I was estimating at about 20k words. I wrote about the conception of this novel into its first draft recently, which I’m really proud of, and let me tell you, I am as excited as that post leads you to believe to finally be writing this. However, something happened about halfway into the month.
As you can see below, and in the review I posted screaming about it, I watched The Old Guard this month, and something about the immortal love that Joe & Nicky have got me thinking. There are two vampires in my story, and they’re fairly old. Andrew’s, like, hella old. Rafael’s only a little over 600 years old, but, given that Andrew is a very prominent figure in the vampire community, and the fact that Rafael isn’t newly turned, it, uh, makes no sense for them not to have known each other previously? I called Erin in a panic to explain all my points, and she was silent for a second before she said, “So you’ve kind of backed yourself into a corner, and now you can’t get out because yeah, it’s very weird that they don’t know each other.” I’m so glad that I figured this out before I started writing and then had to rearrange everything, particularly because I figured it out probably only a few days before I was going to start writing. And I thought, briefly, that I might be able to get away with just having that knowledge, but after I did some plotting to figure out just how long, exactly, they’ve known each other and realized it was probably at least half Raf’s life–well. That’s not really history I can just write into a novel without having experienced it firsthand, so I wrote a novella. Whoops? Literally no one is ever going to see it (I mean, maybe someday, if the books sell really well, and people are like GIVE ME THE ROMANCE), but it is helped immensely to fully settle myself in their history together so that writing the novel doesn’t feel so daunting. And so, even though it’s not half of the first act, I have written 32,802 words toward vampire detective.
WOW OKAY I AM HIGHKEY IMPRESSED WITH MYSELF. In total, I wrote a little over 41k words this month, and, let me tell you, that is no small feat considering I’ve struggled to write during the summer for three years now. I’m really happy right now. This is just–wow. Okay. I can do this. I can write year-round.
In that case, I’m challenging myself to write the entire first act of vampire detective next month, which will probably be about 30-40k. I’m not entirely sure, but clearly I’m capable of it, so it’s happening. I originally planned on finishing this book by end of September since I was supposed to start it this month, but, obviously, the novella changed my timeline a little bit, so I’m now aiming to finish in October, which is pretty cool since vampires in Halloween. That means I’ve got two months left in the year to write Mason (faery), and though I’m not going to rush myself to write the whole thing in those two months, I do want to probably get about halfway.
What I’ve Been Watching
I finally watched the new season of Lost in Space, and it was exactly what I needed. I’m so sad to hear that the next season will be the last, and while I definitely tried not to binge this season, well. It was really good, okay. So good that I even wrote a review for it, which I wasn’t planning, but then John Robinson cried, so I cried, and I had to yell about it.
And that’s a wrap on Pride! Our last movie was Kill Your Darlings, and it’s one of our absolutely favorite movies ever. A really funny thing happened while we were watching this time. I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen this, but a few, and every time, we’ve always just been in love with Alan & Lucien’s romance, but, for some reason, and maybe it’s because we’re feeling a little extra protective of Dan recently, we hated Lucien’s character. I mean, you should, he’s a total dick, super manipulative, and just overall awful to Alan, but we’d never quite gotten to that point before. Erin pointed out that we probably loved him because we were always looking at him through Alan’s lens, but, this time, we’d seen it enough that we were focused on the whole story and were able to take a step back. It was interesting, though, to see how it could still change after several watches.
Erin: “This is not nightmare-worthy horror.” Me: “Clearly, you and I have different ideas of what a nightmare is because someone breaking into my house to kill me is definitely nightmare-worthy horror.” So, we watched Us, and it was terrifying. It was so well done that I just kept yelling the entire time, and I feel like I need to watch it three more times just to see everything properly.
Um, of course I’m rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Much like Merlin, it’s probably just going to constantly sit in my continue watching section on Netflix. Thus, this is the only time you’re going to see me dropping it here in my film/TV section because it’s just always going to be here! A:TLA is, hands down, one of the best creations, in both TV and film, animated and live action, whatever you can think of. I just love it so much.
I also found a new favorite in The Old Guard, and I could spend an entire paragraph screaming at you to also watch it, but instead, I wrote a review to do just that! It truly was one of the better movies I’ve seen in my lifetime, so much so that I made Erin watch it a week later, and uh, may have also made my dad watch it at some point. It’s just phenomenal? I had this strange moment of sadness that it was on Netflix so I couldn’t buy it and support it that way, that’s how much I loved it. And, yeah, I’ve definitely been reading fanfiction every night since I watched it.
I’ve got a list of TV shows that I’m supposed to catch up on this year, and Lucifer is one of them. I spent, like, a year and a half, I think, just refusing to watch TV. I really don’t know why, but after several years of being a huge TV person, I abandoned ship and didn’t watch a single thing. This is probably due a lot to the uptick in my reading, but I’ve finally figured out a balance this year, and I’ve been getting back to all the things I loved and missed out on. This show is so silly, but I’ve been enjoying the most recent season immensely. I first got into it when they aired the pilot to test people’s interest, and I’ve been a fan since the very early beginning. It’s one of my favorite adaptations of the devil, and well, there’s a blog post that I should write, about my fascination with the character of Lucifer.
We’re back to our regular weekly movie night, and Erin has been waiting for ages to show me Hamilton. I know, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it or listened to it, either! It was truly phenomenal, and it was definitely one of those movies where we just mostly sat in silence because I was so in awe. I’ve got some new favorite actors to start following (Anthony Ramos), and Erin’s already got a Daveed Diggs movie queued up for our next movie night, and I’m just really glad to have finally watched this masterpiece.
Not gonna lie, July has been a chaotic month. Looking back on my Instagram feed, I am truly shocked of all the things that I did because, while writing this post, I feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing.
I got to teach an outdoor yoga class, and it was wonderful! I’m subbing for The Salty Buddha in Salem, which a) is where my sister witches MC teaches & b) is one of my favorite studios, so it was great to both be subbing for them and to have ACTUAL LIVE HUMAN BEINGS IN FRONT OF ME! Obviously, we social distanced and were outside in the fresh air, but it was so nice to not have to scream at my laptop.
I only hiked once, which is a true tragedy, but it was beautiful nonetheless:
We had a big gang out for this one. Both of my siblings and my dad came from my family, as well as my friends Ashley and Liv, who have been part of our quarantine circle since the beginning, as well as Ashley’s boyfriend and my brother’s best friend, and my brother’s girlfriend. It was insane, and it was so much fun. This loop is one of my favorites, and though I don’t think we’ll get this crew together again for a while yet for another hike, I just had such a blast.
My best friend, Jen, was still on the East Coast for her birthday, so we celebrated with a small tea party. I made chocolate chip scones and red velvet macarons, and I didn’t take a picture of either because I am the worst. But the scones were amazing, and I think I’m about done with macarons. They’re just no fun. I also made babka for Tommy’s friend, Coleton, who is just the sweetest, for his birthday, and while babka is one of those things that makes me shout a lot while making, it so delicious and so worth it.
There were a lot of fun yoga things this month, too! I’ve been doing a lot of throwback posts because my Facebook memories are just full of me going “I hate this pose” or “I’m never practicing this again” because I was a miserable sodding jerk five years ago. One of my favorites was my standing split, though:
Despite the fact that it sounds like I’ve been doing a lot of yoga, I really haven’t, and my body is paying the price. I’ve got a fairly bad left side (hip is either higher/lower than the other one, knee has bursitis, and bone spur in foot), and when I don’t practice often, all three start acting up, so this sedentary lifestyle of writing 40k words was a bit killer this month. I’d like to work myself back up to six-day practice weeks with a rest day on Sunday, so that’s definitely a goal for August.
And that’s it? See, I’m rounding out the month thinking I did nothing, but it truly was a heck of a lot.