Wow, I’m tired. And what a month. I managed to read 4/5 TBR books, and I would have gotten the fifth done no problem if it weren’t for the overwhelming nature of getting a new job that actually trusts me enough to give me work to do. SHOCKING, I KNOW. Anyway, I don’t want to be bitter about where I’ve been because I’m so happy with where I am now, even if it does mean I felt like I had next to no time for reading. I still managed to crank out 10 books, and that’s with absolutely demolishing my weekends with writing instead of reading since I also now have no time for that, but we’re figuring it out. I’m hopeful February will be much more relaxing now that I’ve gotten into the swing of things with my schedule.
Mini Book Reviews
Shiver | Maggie Stiefvater
This has long been my favorite book of all-time, and that honestly hasn’t changed in the slightest. For the first time in a long while, though, I’m feeling the urge to reread the entire trilogy, so, hopefully, you’ll see those down below! It was an odd experience reading this time because I had this underlying sense of dread as I got closer and closer to all the terrible, sad things that happen in the middle, and then I ended up staying way too late reading the end as though it was going to change on the eighth time around? Which, that would’ve been awful because this has got one of the best endings ever. Ugh, I just love these books. I love Sam Roth so damn much. I love Grace Brisbane more than my heart can contain. I love Isabel and Beck and UGH PAUL. We get one damn scene with Paul, and he says, like, one word, and I just love him. I love all of them, and I wish, more than anything, that we had actual scenes with the rest of the pack as humans.
Linger | Maggie Stiefvater
Not gonna lie, I think I liked this more than all the other times previous? Linger has always left me feeling unsettled, and for good reason. Stiefvater does a masterful job of making you uncomfortable throughout this entire novel, and it’s not just because it’s a middle book, but because it’s about transition while also being a transition between stories. The whole time, we’re just left waiting on the edge, knowing that something is going to happen, but not quite certain what. And though the previous times I’ve read this, I’ve found this frustrating, I’ve finally really come to realize how truly ingenious it is and how well done this book is crafted. I always knew it on a surface level, but actually recognizing the sheer breadth of its awesomeness was pretty great.
Forever | Maggie Stiefvater
Wow, I definitely did not remember a single thing about this book, and it was amazing. So often, I wish I could time travel back to when I hadn’t read Shiver eight times or something so that I could experience it all over again for the first time, and though this was only my second time through with this one, it’s burned into my brain now, and I’ll truly never get to read the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy for what feels like the first time again. That’s such a tragedy, too, because I just adore these books so much, and this one has probably one of the most realistic endings in a fantasy book that I’ve ever read, and I wish I could erase them from my brain over and over so I could just discover their elegant and wonderful nature constantly throughout my life. This one has reminded me–I say reminded like I ever forgot, so I guess it’s really just a confirmation of why I love these books so much.
Horrid | Katrina Leno
Wow, this was truly horrid. Like, I had to stop, every night, when I was in a good scene to get myself ready for bed because I knew that the end of each section was going to be horrifying, and I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, and this just gave me nightmares for a week straight, and it was amazing. I know that Leno has written a bunch of books, but the only other one I’ve read is Summer of Salt, and while that has some heavy themes to it, it’s so far removed from horror that coming from that vibe to this was a lot, and I have so much more respect for Leno than I already did, which is incredible considering I’m never going to stop thinking about Summer of Salt. This was just–wow. It blew my mind, and I’m absolutely going to read everything else by Katrina Leno now. Because that ending? Forget the rest of the book, that ending alone would have done it for me.
The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs | Katherine Howe
This was just outstanding. I’d originally had this sequel ear-marked as a four star like Deliverance Dane, but this was so exceptionally crafted that I had to bump it up to five stars. I already talked about this on Instagram, but one of my biggest pet peeves with books set on the North Shore is when authors have clearly summed up their research with a quick Google image search of Salem and some brief Wiki scrolling about the Trials. And perhaps it’s because Howe does live here, but she’s clearly spent a lot of time in the cities all across the North Shore because it’s not just Salem she gets undeniably right, but Marblehead and Cambridge and Nahant and Danvers. I can see my own childhood memories in some of the scenes she writes, places I’ve frequented in the past or now haunt in the present. This was so steeped in place, which is important, I think, when it comes to witches in the real world, and it didn’t back down from that challenge at all. This is, truly, one of the best books written on the North Shore that I’ve ever read. And, even beyond that, the plot is simply fantastic, the characters break my heart, and the writing is wonderful. This is quite nearly a perfect book, and I don’t even know what the quite nearly part about it is because I loved every single page of this.
For Better or Cursed | Kate Williams
YESSSSS THIS WAS SO PERFECT! This was literally everything and more that I wanted out of this sequel. I somehow forgot how truly ridiculous this was, and it was such a joy to dive back in and relive all its nostalgic and over the top glory. The entire concept for this was so dumb in the absolute best way possible, and I just love this little B-roll, campy, 80s witch nonsense so damn much. I can’t wait until the third book. This came at the exact right time in my writing, when I really needed some magical weirdness, and I will take this book with me to the grave just so I can cackle in the afterlife.
The Book of Lost Tales, Part One | J.R.R. Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien
As usual, here is my actual review, which is way longer and highly insane. This was so interesting, and I’m so glad that I’ve finally embarked on the History of Middle-earth. This was so much more than I thought it was going to be, and it was really interesting to be able to see all the pre-Silmarillion things that Tolkien mostly just summarizes at the beginning in his two quick short stories. I loved learning about the Valar before they were ruling Arda in truth, and I can’t wait to see what the next one brings. Also, yes, I did spend about 60% of my review utterly bitter about Morgoth, and it was 100% deserved.
The Devouring Gray | Christine Lynn Herman
This was so good, but I am so pissed about that straight af ending. Like, you’ve got a bi character that is so clearly in love with his best friend, and there’s so much potential there, and then you just decide to let him continue pining after the girl that wants literally nothing to do with him. LET PEOPLE BE GAY! The fuck, I’m so mad. Honestly, though, other than that, I definitely bought the sequel before I finished this, and I am hella in love with Isaac, which we all saw coming, and I can’t wait until this gets adapted into a (hopefully CW) show. This was just everything I like in a dark, small town, magical YA. It was angsty, there was so much brooding, everyone was mad at everyone, the magic was insanely cool, and while it was diverse in many different ways, it was also pretty straight, and that bummed me out. So yes, I loved this, can’t wait for the sequel, if it also doesn’t have gay, I may revolt.
The Deck of Omens | Christine Lynn Herman
This might have reminded me why I don’t often read series back-to-back. This was good, but I do wish I’d waited a month or so before diving into it because about halfway through, I wanted to be in a different world with different characters. This was such a satisfying conclusion, though, and I really enjoyed the way that Herman tied in the horror elements to actually fit with the overall story. Originally, I’d thought the gross horror of the forest was just for effect, but it ended up making a lot of sense, and that was awesome to have. These characters are great, and I can’t wait to see them in a CW or Netflix show eventually because it’s practically written for that, and it’s going to be great.
B*WITCH | Paige McKenzie & Nancy Ohlin
This was utterly adorable. Like, there’s no other word for it but adorable. I loved this so much, and I really hope there’s going to be news about a sequel at some point. Though I generally dislike the use of the word, this was the most millennial witch story ever, and it was so damn good. This is everything that witchcraft is teetering toward, and my best friend absolutely cackled when I told her that someone used a Pokemon deck rather than tarot cards or something similar during rituals. It was hilarious, and it was over the top, and it was everything that I want my own witch books to represent. It was just absurd in all the best ways, and I can’t wait to read more by these two authors.
In honor of Black History Month, I’m aiming to read as many books by Black authors and about Black characters as I can! Thus, for the first time in a hella long time, my TBR is here. I’m excited about all of them, but a few have been whispering to me late at night recently, and I can’t wait to finally crack into them.
May @ Forever and Everly truly just took me there with their 75+ (YES FOR REAL) anticipated releases for 2021, and my Goodreads is screaming with delight.
Did Charlotte @ Reads Rainbow really just drop a list of 380 (I KNOW OH MY GODDESS) 2020 lgbtqia+ releases that we have missed? I AM DECEASED. Annnnnd, because that clearly wasn’t enough, we also got 120 2021 lgbtqia+ releases from Anna!
I feel a bit like a broken record, but CG @ Paper Fury also dropped a list of 60+ releases just for January through April, and my brain is on overload at this point.
Hi, yes, I’m definitely about to feature another anticipated releases list, I DO WHAT I WANT, because Fadwa @ Word Wonders not only did 60+ YA releases, but 40+ Adult releases, and this is just the greatest time to be alive as a reader.
I’ve officially begun revisions on sister witches 2, and it’s definitely going to take a huge chunk of time. I keep joking that it’s really rewriting I’m doing, rather than revision, but yeah, that’s pretty dead on. There’s a hellish amount of work to be done on this book, and while I’m a little daunted by that work, I’m also excited.
I wrote that at the beginning of revisions, and while it definitely still remained true–I do have a lot of work to do on it–the work is much different than I was expecting. The big, structural changes that I made have had a cascading effect where everything else has shifted because of those changes, and in the best way possible. I wasn’t sure how I was going to thread these new changes in without having to just rewrite huge sections, but it’s become a case of–and I really should have foreseen this happening–these changes making everything else make more sense now. Like. I’m having so many holy shit moments where I just realize that this book could have been so much stronger from the beginning if I’d just gone this way in the first place. Of course, then, it wouldn’t quite be the book it was, and is becoming, but I’m really hyped about how much has shifted, and the consequences of those shifts. My goal was to edit the first act this month, and, in true Mary fashion, I completely steamrolled right over that goal, and I ended up revising all but the last five chapters. I started late in the month, too, because I was still getting used to my new routine with the new job, and it wasn’t until the third weekend in January that I finally sat down with my manuscript and put pencil to paper. That first weekend was a solid half of act one, though, and there were a few nights scattered throughout the week that saw me diving even deeper, so it all went pretty quickly.
Of course, as I was approaching the end of the book, a lot of things started shifting, and one of my CP’s edits just kind of sent me off the rails. They’re totally right, and I’m excited about the changes that will need to happen, but it meant about a full weekend of pure aggravation an a lot of pacing until I finally broke through to the answer, and that answer meant that I couldn’t finish editing the book. It’s all a big, messy story that I actually blogged about earlier in the week, so if you’re curious what it looks like when an author realizes they’ve got to go back to the beginning, check it out!
All told, though, I ended up writing 17,576 words this month while revising, as well as 23,142 words in a single weekend while reading yearly tarot for five different people.
What I’ve Been Watching
We kicked off our month with more vampiric love, and it was a complete departure from last month’s very serious tone. What We Do in the Shadows was honestly hilarious, and I had a wonderful time watching it. I’m hoping to start the show sooner rather than later (though I have a historically terrible track record with TV), and while I did love the serious tone of Only Lovers Left Alive way more, this was a lot of fun.
It’s my third time watching Tolkien, and it was even better than the last! I watched it for his birthday again this year, and it’s just the sweetest, saddest movie. It makes me cry a bit every time, and there’s honestly nothing more that I love than watching drunk Ronald stumble across the grass and shout about Eärendil at the night sky. I know some people had issues with how much it romanticized the beginning of Tolkien & Edith’s relationship, but given that it’s Hollywood, I’m inclined to look past that and just enjoy getting to see my favorite writer’s story play out.
Continuing with our vampire trend, we completely switched gears and watched Dracula Untold. This is totally my kind of movie, and I’d seen it before, but not for a longggggg time, so it was fun to watch it again. This has a very similar vibe to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (oh hell, I should watch that again, it’s been a minute) in that it would work so well as a high fantasy YA novel. It’s got so much angst and lore in it, and it’s just wonderful. Plus, they weave it into history with Vlad the Impaler, and Luke Evans is just a perfect vampire.
Sometimes, my brother will just put on a movie, no questions asked, and it always manages to captivate whoever is in the room, but wow, I was not expecting the level of emotion required for Pieces of a Woman. I was trying to read, and I had to end up just putting my book down and try to survive that experience. It was, truly, an extraordinary movie, and I am never going to look at Vanessa Kirby or Shia Labeouf the same way again. This deserves all the hype it’s getting, though fair warning that it’s a really tough movie, especially those first 20 or so minutes.
Though we’ve been doing our vampire theme for a bit, we weren’t really feeling it, and I think it might be the end for a bit, so we watched Heathers, which we were both convinced that I hadn’t seen, but I definitely have, so it was an unexpected, but fun rewatch. It was nice to not really have to think about the movie we were watching, especially after a long day of editing.
We’ve officially transitioned out of vampire Christmas and into February Pride, which seems pretty fitting, and we kicked things off with Holding the Man. Let me just say this now, I had no idea this was a movie about AIDs, and I would have prepared myself MUCH differently if I’d had because they always destroy me, and I like to know that, emotionally, going in. So here’s me telling you that Erin & I full body sobbed at the end of this movie so that you can go in ready. Well, mentally ready, you’ll never be emotionally ready for this absolute train wreck over your heart. Just wow. This was exceptional. This had such a Call Me By Your Name vibe while also being very The Normal Heart while also just ignoring all the questionable bits of both and drowning us in Australian misery instead. Just wow.
Just–don’t even talk to me about Gretel & Hansel. I’m so angry that we wasted our time watching it. I don’t know why we keep going into witch movies expecting the witch to not be the villain, but they are every damn time, and this one was probably one of the worst examples of that yet. The moral of the story was basically that all women are evil, and we should never try to support each other, but instead ditch our feminism to make sure our men are happy. Fuck this movie.
Although jumping back on my New Girl rewatch wasn’t spurred by Gretel & Hansel, since I started watching season four earlier in the month, I definitely watched a bunch the day after that sorry mess of a movie, and it was such a good way to detox from that bullshit. I just love this show so much, too, particularly because I keep convincing myself there’s only five seasons to then be reminded that there are seven, and I’m going to keep watching this at a snail’s pace so I can enjoy it for a while longer.
Oi, what a month. I started a new job on the fourth, and it was a lot of things. I needed this change so bad, and I’m so happy with where I am now. Not only do I love the field that I’m in, I’m enjoying the work, and my coworkers are just amazing. I’ve already made connections with so many of them, and I hope that I get to stay here for a long time. The new schedule has definitely completely turned my life upside down, though, and there was a lot of different stresses to figure out. Luckily, because of the pandemic, we can’t eat together (that’s not the lucky part, I really wish we could), so I’ve ended up eating in my car every day, which means I get a solid hour of reading in. This has been really helpful because it’s looking like the only time I’ll have to write is at night, which is the complete opposite to what I was doing before (and is way harder for me), though we’ll see how that goes given I also have to find time to workout and hopefully teach again. And, you know, try to read for more than just an hour each day because I’ll never get through anything that way. It’s been a lot, and though it’s been fun, I’m also looking forward to my weekends a lot more than I was before.
Speaking of teaching! I’m no longer teaching at the rock gym, which is really sad, but MA state laws have lowered occupancy again, which means that they need to shift the yoga class to later in the evening, and that’s just not in the cards for me. However, I have been doing a ton of yoga, and I started off the year with 108 sun salutations.
It was full of a heck ton of fire, and we ended up completing them in about 45 minutes, which is way faster than normal. I counted using crystals for the chakras, and though I did it virtually with two friends, it was still a lot of fun, and I just turned up my music during the sets of ten and turned it down in between while we were chatting.
Jolie also briefly opened for curbside, and then opened for in-cafe loose leaf, so I was living.
No exaggeration, I full body screamed into my macaron bag on my way home, it was amazing. I ended up picking up some again later in the month, too, and had the sweetest conversation with the owner, Amy. I’ve got a loose leaf appointment the first week of February, and I am hyped. I have a whole list of teas that I need, which I could just get online like I have been for the last almost year, but there are a couple that I’d really like recommendations on, so I’m just a bundle of excitement.
This section is considerably shorter than most months because I’ve honestly just been dead tired after work and not doing a whole lot on the weekends besides book revision, but now that
the book is done LOL I WISH I’m getting into the swing of things at work, hopefully life will pick up again!