This month just felt like constant chaos. I was tired more than I was not, and I know a lot of that had to do with NaNoWriMo, but I’m so looking forward to Christmas when I can just take a week off and not do anything. I didn’t get to read as much as I’d have liked, and I’ve still got about 25k left of my book to write, but hopefully December will be a reading-heavy month. Thankfully, though, I loved almost everything I read this month!
Mini Book Reviews
🌈 LGBTQPIA+ characters
🔥 BIPOC authors
🌑 BIPOC characters
The Last True Poets of the Sea | Julia Drake
This was so good? 100% a top ten for this year, and I want to devour every single thing Drake has ever written now. I felt so seen, so many times, by this book, and it was a true miracle that I didn’t read the entire thing in one sitting, though I did consume the last half like I was on a runaway train to glory. Hell, I just want to make metaphors on top of metaphors about this book, stack dozens of copies on my bookshelves, and turn to it on gloomy days. This was outstanding, and I wish I could forget it so I could read it for the first time all over again. The characters had be my the heartstrings, and I would read a hundred more books watching them fumble through life. The story was so good, and I kept expecting it to get lost in the face of so much human dumbness, but then it would surge and thread and draw everything back together, and it was just so good. Everything about this was something I won’t forget for a long time.
Lady Midnight | Cassandra Clare 🌑
I was not prepared for this to be a five star read, and I am dead. I really, truly thought that I’d never love Shadowhunters characters more than I did Clary & Co., even though I’ve been warned, over and over, that Clare’s writing just gets better with each one, and WOW I WILL FIGHT ANYONE WHO LOOKS AT THE BLACKTHORNS WRONG. Like, seriously, I think I cried at least once every day I was reading this, and not just for Julian, for every single Blackthorn child that I will protect with my life. I am so nervous about the rest of the trilogy, especially because Tavvy’s already been threatened, and I just know there are horrible things coming, but I’m also so weirdly excited for all of it. I can’t wait. I’m going to end up reading the rest of this as soon as possible because I apparently love weeping.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue | VE Schwab
This was everything and more than I’d hoped for. I love slow stories so much, but I am so accustomed to faster-pacing and bigger stories from Schwab that that’s what I was expecting out of Addie LaRue, and it’s just not that at all. It’s a bit rambling, it winds through history, and it takes its time getting to an ending that’s both bittersweet and so deserved. It was a true masterpiece that not only kept me up until 1:30AM reading it, but helped unlock some pieces of my own story that just weren’t coming together. It was like the slowest of slow burns with all the pieces you’d hope to show up, and it was so unexpected in so many places that even writing this small review has taken me forever because it feels impossible to accurately describe it. The end of it is that this was outstanding, and Schwab has proved, once again, that she’ll always be one of my auto-buy authors.
You Should See Me in a Crown | Leah Johnson 🌈🔥🌑
Wow, this was so damn good. I kept hyping this up in my brain for no discernible reason because it wasn’t like someone rec’d it to me or anything, it just looked and sounded adorable, but I kept telling myself it was obviously going to be a five star read, and you know what? I was dead on. This was adorable, and Liz Lighty has become one of those YA contemporary characters that I just want to scream about for an eternity. Liz alone made this book everything that it is, but then Johnson crafted this brilliant story around it, and I truly never thought I was going to care about prom, given that I didn’t care about it when it was my turn for it, but WOW OKAY. This was just a delight.
The Once and Future Witches | Alix E. Harrow
I really, truly felt such rage and hope all at once while reading this, and I know that it’s going to stick with me for a long time. I’ll need to reread it at some point so I can really settle into the words and let more than just the plot & characters wash over me because there’s clearly so much more sitting beneath the surface level of this book, and it’s going to take a few reads before I can really sink my teeth into it. It was incredibly well written, and it left me feeling so full, whether that was of fury or desire or light, although most of those were all at once, and it just so perfectly encapsulated what it means to be a woman. Battered and silenced, but with a quiet thunder of power lingering beneath. I felt so seen, which was why I was so angry at times, but also like there was so much possibility on the horizon, like that anger could be transformed into something brilliant and transformative. This was just so real. So deeply bound into the heart, and I’m just never going to forget it.
Kingdom of the Wicked | Kerri Maniscalco
This was just delightful. It reminded me a lot of The Shadows Between Us in that I couldn’t take it too seriously, and once I realized that, I just had a ball. I was bound to like this from the beginning–witch makes a reluctant alliance with a prince of hell, and they slowly start to fall for each other? Sign me the heck up! Even if it hadn’t had Dante elements or talked about the devil every few pages, I would have loved it, but then add in some legit witchcraft and the seven deadly sins? SIM OBRIGADO! This was so fun, and while the cliffhanger was expected, the content was not, and I am so excited about the sequel.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow | Laura Taylor Namey 🔥🌑
This was absolutely adorable, and I really wish it was just, like, 50 pages longer and allowed me to soak in it a bit more. The characters were fantastic, and I was so impressed with how much individuality they each had given that there was a huge cast of characters. I cared so much about the smallest of side characters, and it was just wonderful. The story felt like something plucked from the very depths of my heart, and I just really want to live in this cozy world of Cuban baking and British sweaters for the rest of my life. This was everything that I hyped it up to be, and I’m so happy.
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories | Holly Black
This was an absolute delight. I expected to enjoy this, but not quite as much as I did, and now I want to reread the trilogy and just watch Cardan & Jude fall in psycho toxic love again. I still think Cardan is an asshole, but this made me like him a little more, and it was just such a wonderful companion for the story. The artwork was absolutely gorgeous, and though I’m used to seeing Cardan & Jude in those overdone, heavily gold, and just insanely detailed fanarts, this light and Fae artwork felt very fitting for this particular collection. I also loved that the stories threaded together well and told a cohesive story–rather than just a bunch of vignettes trying to explain why Cardan is the way he is, Black took the opportunity to not try to make us empathize with him, but to show us Cardan’s growth, both his descent into villainy and the way he clawed his way back out, and it was just really well done.
The Lives of Saints | Leigh Bardugo
This was such a lovely companion to the Grishaverse, and I want to go back and fall in love with Alina all over again! I was so excited to get to her story at the end, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the other saints throughout. I think this would be a neat collection to have handy while reading the Shadow & Bone trilogy so you could refer to it, and if I ever get around to rereading it, I’ll definitely do that. It was fun to dip my toes back into the universe, though, and to see familiar names scattered throughout.
Star Daughter | Shveta Thakrar 🔥🌑
This is completely my own fault, but I thought this was going to be high fantasy, and when it was set in the 21st century in New Jersey, I was pretty bummed. I told myself to get over it, and I did, for the most part, and I think telling myself, right from the beginning, to enjoy it for what it was and not what I’d expected, was why I ended up liking this because it was a mess. I was confused more than I wasn’t, and I kept rereading sections because it felt like whole scenes were missing. So much was kept from the audience, and not in a way that was revealed later, just in a way that we were supposed to piece together, I guess, but without enough pieces to really do that. Most of the characters fell pretty flat except for Sheetal, and they felt like cardboard cutouts that she was telling us how she felt about them rather than letting them express & develop on their own. The plot was all over the place, and though the ending was this massive event that the entire book builds up to, it’s all tied up nice and neat with no real repercussions at the end. It was a very slow burn, and then a fast as fire ending. Overall, the writing was fine; everyone kept describing it as flowery and beautiful, but it was mostly just empty descriptions of pretty things. The language itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but the world that Thakrar was building was gorgeous, and I wish that’d shown through more in the language. Really, fine is a good word for this book. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t read anything else in the universe if that ever came to pass.
Alright, y’all. It’s the end of the year, and I’ve got a bone to pick with myself. With eleven monthly TBRs behind us, it’s time to look back at what I said I was going to read, and didn’t, and set those as a goal for the last monthly TBR of 2020. (Wow, that sounded way more dramatic than it needed to be.)
- Kingsbane by Claire Legrand (February)
- Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken (May)
- I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (June)
- We are Lost and Found by Helen Dunbar (June)
- The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (June)
- Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (June)
- Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland (June)
- Salvaged by Madeleine Roux (July)
- The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore (September)
- Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (November)
(1) I originally didn’t include this one because I forgot what the first one was called and thought that was it, but alas, nope, I still haven’t read the sequel that I envy bought because I didn’t want to be left out when my friend was reading it. (2) I am WHEEZING. Of course this book is on here, I’ve been trying to read it for half a year because I am the worst. (3-7) Oh, you mean that time I told myself I was going to read 17 (SEVENTEEEEEEEEN) books for Pride? Look, I did pretty good, actually. (8) I don’t want to include this one because I just know that I’m not going to read it, but it’s also the last preorder that I have outstanding, so I kind of want to force myself to do it. (9) Why does this keep showing up? Nobody knows because I definitely want to read it. (10) And the only book I didn’t get to in November! I’ve been eyeing this one for the last half of the month, though, so I’m hoping to grab it first.
This is not actually that bad! Sure, it’s long enough that I know exactly what I’m reading for the entire month, and I’ll probably ignore a solid portion of them to read whatever I feel like, but I’m pretty impressed given that, although I’ve missed six months, one of those was an obscenely long TBR list, and the others only have one missing.
Kal @ Reader Voracious wrote an absolutely outstanding review of Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest novel, Deep and Darkest Red. I adored this book earlier this year, and Kal just put everything I was feeling into words, so if you’ve been wondering about how good McLemore’s writing is, let Kal convince you!
Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books hit it hard with another fantastic post on why book bloggers should get paid, and I definitely just word vomited into the comments, BUT Y’ALL YESSSSSS.
The Orangutan Librarian discusses all the different benefits from reading widely outside of your chosen genre, as a writer, and it was such a lovely post to read! I write urban fantasy, but I love reading far and wide outside of that genre because everything’s got something that’s going to apply somewhere else (what a sentence that was), and it’s fun to see what makes people tick in different worlds. They also discussed the freedom to fail, which is something I’m a big believer in, and something I often talk about in my yoga classes. Half the battle with scary things like inversions is learning to fall first so that you know what it feels like, and you’re no longer scared of it. When it comes to failing, it’s necessary in life before you can see the brilliance of succeeding.
Well, I’m not going to go into huge detail since I did post a weekly update every Friday for NaNoWriMo, so, if you’re interested, here’s the first, second, third, and fourth week. Was I successful with NaNo? Heck yeah! I reached the 50k goal, and though I didn’t hit my unofficial goal of 70k, I got pretty close with 63k, and that’s good enough for me. I’m aiming to finish writing this book next month, which will be about 25k, and then I’m on break for at least a month, at minimum.
What I’ve Been Watching
I recognize that these first six movies probably belonged in my October wrap-up, but oh well, here we are. I went to Maine to celebrate Halloween with Erin, and we had a whole schedule of movies planned out. First up was Winchester, which I’ve been wanting to see forever, so I’m really glad we finally watched it. It was an incredibly interesting story, and I think a lot of the reason I wasn’t so scared is because I was so focused on the actual story. The scary bits were cool, though, because they were all unexpected. They’d show you a rocking chair, and you’d think, oh man, the next time the mirror swings around, something’s going to be there, and then BAM THE THING IS BEHIND THE MIRROR. It got a little stupid at the end, and I really would have liked some slow motion with the guns, but overall, this was really good.
I wanted Erin to see As Above, So Below so bad because I knew that she was going to love it, if only for the story, but she, rightfully, doesn’t like to watch scary movies with headphones, so we waited until I was there. It was even better on my second watch, and I definitely want to watch it a third time now. Just damn, this movie is fantastic.
I haven’t seen Silent Hill since college, but it remains, to this day, one of my favorite horror movies. I definitely combined this one and the second one in my head, and I kept waiting for the carnival scene because Pyramid Head has more of a part in that one, and I love him. Erin also forgot most of this movie, so it was an interesting watch this time with both of us just utterly confused half the time and going ohhhhhhhh as we remembered things.
It: Chapter One was so good! I mean, it was pretty much a done deal that I was going to like this. It’s about a bunch of teenage boys and their one girl friend riding bikes around town, trying to fight off evil. That’s my ish, man. I love that. Plus, Bode godsdamn Locke played Georgie, and I was screaming when I recognized him! The actual clown bits were whatever, but I loved the characters enough that I was hella excited about this.
And then there was It: Chapter Two. When the credits rolled, I said, out loud, “Well, thank heck that’s over.” Yeah. I really didn’t like this. I didn’t like the lore that suddenly unfolded, I didn’t like all the ritual stuff, I didn’t like seeing them as grownups, especially because some of them just didn’t fit at all, and while I enjoyed the flashback scenes because what I liked about the first one was the kids, they didn’t really add anything to the story, so it all kind of just felt bleh.
I had very low expectations for The Craft: Legacy. Erin & I enjoy the original so much, and we really were not expecting a whole lot, even despite the fact that it was by the same studio and consulted some witches that we love in real life. And yet? Honestly, I really liked this. I do wish it was an hour longer since it felt like there were just deleted scenes all over the place, and there were plot lines that appeared and then just were never spoken of again, and it felt like they were trying to do A LOT, but then realized 45 minutes in that they had to wrap up soon, so they just conveniently tied some bows, forgot more than half of the other plot lines, and rushed to an end. I would have liked to see more of the characters individually and together, as well as tons more of the magic. A magic montage was nowhere near enough. I want to see them practicing together! But I really loved the characters, and I liked the direction the story was going in, so, although I would have liked a solid hour more of the movie, this was a lot better than I’d expected, and I hope they get the green light for another one.
We’re finally off of scary movies, and our first one back to our normal weekly movie night was Gone Girl. I’ve wanted to watch this forever, and I went into it knowing almost nothing, so it was a really fun experience for me. Erin said it was so interesting to watch our expressions because I like Ben Affleck, and she doesn’t, so she & I reacted in very different ways to him. This was a truly wild movie, and I am absolutely amazed at the execution of it. I’d really like to read the book now, too, so fingers crossed someone buys that for me this holiday?
I accidentally watched the entire first season of New Girl? Look, they’re twenty minutes each, it happened so fast. It was post-election, and I really didn’t want to watch Supernatural because I was so over the grim, dark setting after finally coming down from all that stress, and I just wanted to laugh a bit without really having to focus, so back to my favorite sitcom, it was, and wow, I somehow forgot how truly wonderful this show is? Like, no wonder it’s on my top ten list, it’s gold.
I’ve been wanting to watch Dynasty for ages now, purely for Elizabeth Gillies, and this show, holy mother. It is so over the top, so ridiculous, just so much. It’s opulent and awful, and I love it. I love how petty and horrible all the characters are. I love watching them tear each other apart. There’s absolutely nothing hopeful or good about this show, and it’s a great, mindless story to lose myself in.
Let it Snow popped up on my Netflix feed recently with a 92% match, which describes me pretty well, so I watched it with my parents, and it was absolutely adorable. It was such a fun, don’t think about it too much movie, and we had such a great time. I said, at the beginning, that I wanted as many kisses as there were potential couples, and I was happily unsurprised by exactly that happening. My dad cried a bit, which was expected, and my mom actually stayed awake, which was impressive, so it was a good night all around!
Circle was so fucked up, and truly a horrible thing to be watching in 2020, but Erin is a masochist. It was–a lot. I definitely recommend it, but wow, it really messed with me. I wasn’t quite as angry as when we watched Mother, but it was right up there, and I honestly wish we hadn’t watched it this year, but alas.
Look, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t want to watch anything serious, I just want to binge each season of New Girl in two week periods and call it a day. And I was so ready for Nick & Jess to finally start their long romantic journey. I remembered their first kiss so clearly, and I was so excited to finally get to that beloved scene. I finished this really fast, too, and I might have totally already started the third season, WHOOPS.
Did I immediately jump straight into the third season of New Girl? YOU BETCHA. I’ve just been watching it pretty much every other day, and since the episodes are only 20 minutes long, I’m flying through the seasons. I did take a little break, so I didn’t watch anymore this month, but ugh this season! It’s so good, and every single episode makes me cackle with delight, and I just keep remembering, over and over, why I love this show so much.
We finally watched Emma! It was honestly such a perfect adaptation, and I was even more excited given that it’s my favorite Austen. It was just so, so good, and I’m so impressed with so much of it. We watched it at the perfect time, too, when both of us wanted something fun and light, and we spent most of the movie having to pause because we were giggling so much. And Miss Bates! SHE WAS SO GOOD! I just loved it so much, damn.
I was supposed to go see Erin at the end of Thanksgiving, but ME switched to a high-risk state for MA residents, and it would have meant that I couldn’t go to work, which is just not an option for me. I’m the only one that goes to the office, but it’s still a risk that I couldn’t take, so I ended up staying home. That said, we still watched a bunch of movies throughout the weekend, and we kicked things off with Ever After: A Cinderella Story. There was definitely a theme to what Erin wanted to watch, too, and I was stoked about it. I’ve somehow never seen this retelling, and though I could not stand Henry at all, Danielle was adorable, and it was such a delightful movie to watch.
I was minding my own business at the end of the month, just working on some blog stuff, when my dad put on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and I was a goner. I love this movie so much, and it’s been a while both since I’ve seen it or read the comics, so it was a lot of fun to just waste a Saturday morning with it.
Going with the same fairytale vibe, we watched Tale of Tales, and it was interesting, to say the least. I really don’t know how to describe it, and I’m not entirely sure I liked it, but it definitely held my attention. I really wanted to like it, too, but the three stories were not cohesive at all, the ending was poorly done, and it really just felt like a lot of gratuitous violence for the sake of it.
I’ve wanted to see Memoirs of a Geisha for so long now, and given that I’m about to read Girls of Storm & Shadow, it felt like the perfect time to do so. This was truly a visually stunning movie, and I know I’ll watch it many more times if only to witness its beauty. The story and characters were absolutely incredible, too, and it was one of the quietest times Erin & I have ever been while watching something. I just wanted to be slowly consumed by this story, and I’m so glad to have finally seen it.
At the end of October, before everything started shutting down again, I went up to Erin’s for Halloween, and we had such a wonderful time. We haven’t been able to spend Halloween together in years now, and it was everything that we both needed. I’m super bummed that I wasn’t able to see her at the end of November, but at least we had Halloween.
We created this altar while we were watching the new Craft, and it was honestly just the best weekend ever. I’ve also been teaching every week at CRG in Stoneham, which started outside, but has since moved inside with the cold weather. We’re social distancing and wearing masks, but with the rise in cases, I’m nervous they’re going to close the gym again, so I’m embracing the time I get to spend here now. And the girls have started snuggling a lot with the colder weather, so I caught them pretending they hated each other several times. They sleep on opposite sides of the bed during the summer, but they’re practically on top of each other during the winter, and it’s my favorite.
I made a lot of food this month. I can’t remember if I’ve ever posted about the rosemary garlic bread that I make, so I’m dropping the recipe here because damn, y’all. It’s super easy to make, and it’s just honestly one of the best breads I’ve ever had.
One of my characters made empanadas this month, too, and ya girl did not realize they were Portuguese in origin, so the combination meant that I had to make some. I made the dough using this recipe, which I’ll definitely use again, and it was fairly similar to regular pastry dough. I pretty much winged the inside, but it was soy chorizo, orange, red, and yellow peppers, onions, and tomatoes. We paired it with black beans, Spanish rice, salsa, and sour cream. It was so good!
I’m making homemade French toast for Christmas morning, but I’ve been craving some autumnal food, so I made apple fritter cinnamon bread, and wow. My mom usually claims everything is the best thing I’ve ever made, but this one was pretty fantastic.
I was feeling pretty cute with this glasses & pink floral crop, so you get to experience it, too. Especially because I needed a little uplifting after making eight pies the night before Thanksgiving. I told everyone that I’d make them a personal pie, and though that should have been a challenge, but doable, I wasn’t expecting on messing up the pumpkin pie three separate times. I also chose lemon meringue for myself because I’m an asshole and wanted everything to be as difficult as possible. Luckily, I’ve made it enough times now that I’m getting better at both the lemon curd & meringue, which are super tricky to get right. Three people wanted apple and my dad wanted blueberry, so that was a relief when I put too much evaporated milk in the filling and then had to reduce it, accidentally pre-cooked the crust and burned the edges, and then it didn’t nearly hold up. But, in the end, everything worked out alright! My sister did a bunch of the cooking for Thanksgiving, too, which was awesome given that she’s dairy-free and vegetarian, so the food was delicious.
I also found my bridesmaid dress for Jen’s wedding, and it was so easy and fun. We grabbed lunch after to try to make up for how much less the weekend was than she’d originally planned. Her bridal shower & bachelorette party was supposed to be this weekend, and though we couldn’t get all the girls together, she & I could at least hang out a bit.
It was definitely a busy month, and I’m so ready for December to just be chill.