It’s that time of the year!
My birthday is at the end of March, which I’ll talk about at the end of this long wrap-up, but it means a lot of books received, a lot of tea drunk, way more pastries than normal, going completely off the rails with my reading, and just basically celebrating as much as I could possibly want. I’ve honestly had a great month all around, and I’m feeling very grateful for being alive, so that’s your fair warning that I’m hella optimistic throughout this wrap-up.
Mini Book Reviews
🌈 LGBTQPIA+ characters
🔥 BIPOC authors
🌑 BIPOC characters
We Free the Stars | Hafsah Faizal 🔥🌑
I definitely stayed up until 1AM finishing this purely because Altair was making me weep, I LOVE THAT BOY. Oh my gosh, HIS ENDING THOUGH. I never even dreamed that he could have such a perfect ending, and then. It was just everything I wanted for him and more, and I’m so damn happy that he’s happy. UGH I LOVE HIM SO MUCH I CANNOT. Don’t get me wrong, I also adore Zafira, and Nasir just knocked me flat so many times, but Altair makes me shriek with delight, so I had a lot of fun with him in this sequel. And what a fantastic sequel it was! It kept me guessing at all times, and I devoured those last 200 pages, absolutely delirious with needing to know how it was all going to end. Don’t even get me started on Zafira & Nasir’s ending, too, THANK YOU! I feel like I just want to capslock this entire review because I’m going to read anything Faizal puts out for the rest of time, and Altair will have a special place in my heart forever, and this duology was just wonderful.
Bridge of Souls | Victoria Schwab
I am so sad that this series is over, but what an ending! It was the absolute perfect way to end it, and I’m so glad that everyone managed to stay together. I was getting real nervous there for a second that we were going to have to say goodbye to Jacob, particularly given the amount of times Schwab has ripped out my heart before, but this ended up being a really sweet and kind of wholesome ending to the trilogy, and I just adored it. I’m excited to see what Schwab has cooking up next in the YA or adult world, but this was a lovely step into middle grade, and I hope she comes back again someday.
Shadow and Bone | Leigh Bardugo
I am not lying in the slightest when I say that I 100% blacked out a little when the trailer premiered, pulled S&B off of my shelf, and only came to a full 50 pages later utterly baffled about how I’d gotten there. Apparently I’m going to try to reread all of the Grishaverse before the show premieres next month? Sure! With Rule of Wolves out at the end of March, it seems like a good idea anyway, so prepare yourselves for lots of Grishaverse from me for a while now. This was such an interesting experience, rereading! I still loved all the same parts as before, and Alina is still one of my favorite characters of the series, but I got fed up with the Darkling much faster than last time. Like, almost immediately. And maybe that’s because I like Mal, or because I know how everything goes, but I really think it’s much more that my character preferences have changed since I first read this, and the Darkling is no longer appealing to me, just an asshole. Don’t get me wrong, I was still grinning up a storm during the Darkling & Alina’s romantic scenes, and I’ll probably still enjoy seeing their relationship play out, but I was so much more excited about her scenes with Mal, or even just her scenes alone or with Genya! I’ve always been a huge Alina fan, and I’ll continue to be, so I’m all about her making her own choices and following her heart in whichever direction it leads her in. This was a lovely start to what I’m sure will be a fantastic month of rereading.
Siege and Storm | Leigh Bardugo
When I first read this, I had it listed at five stars, and my reasoning was “because of Nikolai”, and honestly? I think I’m there again? He’s just such a fantastic character, and, I mean, there’s a reason that I was literally gasping on my Insta story when Rule of Wolves arrived. He truly takes this series and levels it up in so many different ways, and I just love him so damn much. He’s such an incredibly well written character, and given that I already love Alina endlessly, it just takes my love of this series and amplifies it even more. The Darkling is finally a villain in truth, Mal breaks my heart constantly, we’re getting to see more of the Zoya we all know and love, and NIKOLAI. This book is so damn good, and it’s one of those rare excellent middle books, and it’s made me even more excited to reread the last one.
Also, because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t shove this in your face:
ARE YOU EVEN READY? BECAUSE I’M NOT.
Out of the Easy | Ruta Sepetys
And that’s a wrap on all the currently published Sepetys books! I can’t believe I’ve read them all, and I’m honestly pretty sad about that. She’ll definitely be an author that I auto-buy now, and I’m so excited for whatever she publishes next. This was such a fascinating story, though I can definitely see that it was one of her first ones. It was differently structured than her other ones, and the emotional impact of it was a little less, but the characters were still very intriguing, and I wanted so much more of their lives. Josie was a wonderful narrator to read through, and I just adored her relationships with Patrick & Jesse. Watching her navigate those two very different boys and what they meant in her life felt both realistic and heartbreaking. This was a beautifully written book with some right hooks that really knocked me flat.
The Damned | Renée Ahdieh 🔥🌑
This was so much different than I expected in all the best ways. I don’t know if I’m just not remembering the first one well, but the sudden jump into the faery realm was amazing, and it definitely four-starred this for me. I was a little bummed about how long it took for Celine to get her memories back, and though I knew, going in, that that would be the case for a while, it’s just frustrating to see a lot of story elements get redone simply because one of the characters has amnesia. Someone made a very good point a while back that making your characters forget is just lazy development, and I kind of agree a lot? Anyway, it was also nice to see Bastien & Celine fall in love again, and I’m so glad that they did end up together at the end. For some reason, I definitely thought this was a duology, though I am excited to find it’s a trilogy given that the second book was so well done. All in all, a decent second book made even better by the presence of the Fae!
Undead Girl Gang | Lily Anderson 🔥🌑
This was even more than I’d hoped for. This is also one of the few books that I sort of knew what it was about before I started reading, though I guess the summary is kind of in the title, so still minimal effort on my part. But I did not realize we were going to get that much friendship vibes, and it was just amazing. Like, give me women supporting women for the rest of my life, damn. I could take or leave the romance, and not even because of that twist ending, but because I had it in my head that this was queer, and it would have been so much better if it was! The magic in this was wonderful, though, and I really appreciated the hella witch badass aesthetic. It felt like it was calling directly to my little black heart.
The Henna Wars | Adiba Jaigirdar 🌈🔥🌑
Wow, this hit hard. Honestly, I probably would have given this five stars if it wasn’t too poignant at the time of reading. Not that I’m in high school or competing in a henna business, but there’s a lot of stress at home about queerness, and this really knocked me off my feet in terms of reading about Nishat going through much the same that I am. That aside, though, this was an excellent book, and that wasn’t even a negative point, just that it made it hard for me to enjoy this at times, personally. This truly was outstanding, and I’ll read anything that Jaigirdar writes in the future. The complicated back and forth between Nishat & Flávia was so painfully realistic to watch unfold, and I was so relieved that this had a happy ending. Ugh, and the sister relationship between Nishat & Priti, I just about died! Sisters are my favorite, and this one was so realistic and wonderful to witness.
Lord of Shadows | Cassandra Clare 🌑
It feels like it took me actually forever to read this book, and I don’t mean that in a it was dragging kind of way, just that it was 700 pages long, and I started to pick up Queen of Air and Darkness only to realize it was 900 freaking pages long, and my goodness. Honestly, I’m never actually going to complain about the length of a Shadowhunters book. I love these damn books more than anything, and I’ll probably be four-starring them right into my grave. Hell, my coffin will just be made up exclusively of Shadowhunters books because there will probably be enough of them by then. This was no exception, either, and though that ending actually tried to destroy every bit of light in my heart, and I bawled my eyes out into one of my cats, this was excellent. I adore the Blackthorns, and I’m going to be so sad when we leave them behind after this trilogy. I was also so excited to see Clary & Co. in this book! It was a delight to see Jace interacting with Kit, to just get to fangirl stupidly over Clary again, to see Magnus & Alec with their adorable family. Everything about this was wonderful, and though 900 pages is very daunting, I can’t wait to start the next one.
Forest of Souls | Lori M. Lee 🔥🌑
This was excellent. It took me forever to read not because of the content, but because of outside forces, but I would have easily succumbed to a quick two-day read of this. There were so many pieces of this that could have gone predictably, but that ended up twisting in an interesting and unexpected way, and I truly had no idea how it was going to end. This feels like the perfect setup for a duology, so I’m curious to see how the second book goes with this pitched as a trilogy. There was a lot of great foundational work in this, though, and I can see how the story could easily blossom into more. Plus, the friendship between Sirscha and Saengo absolutely broke my heart, and I cannot wait to see them continue to be badasses. Also, Theyen and Meleik?? Yes, please, give me more of both!
I actually don’t have a preordained TBR this month! I’m kind of excited. April & May are going to be relatively chill months for me, mostly catching up on preorders and reading whatever I feel like (translation: Shadowhunters), and then June is going to have an insane TBR for Pride. Thus, I’m not actually giving myself a scheduled TBR for April (or May?). I definitely overwhelmed myself last month, and I want to take a few weeks to just read whatever the hell I want without feeling like I have obligations. I’ve got a lot of preorders stacked up, plus a few books I desperately want to read, but can’t because of this, that, or the other thing, so April is just going to be a mishmash of whatever, and it’s going to be fun!
Kal @ Reader Voracious wrote a fantastic piece on why she likes morally grey characters, and I felt myself nodding my head right off my shoulders in agreement with pretty much all of it!
Pages Unbound is hosting their annual Tolkien Event with guest posts, so there’s a ton that I’ve been enjoying the heck out of: Krysta wrote a gorgeous piece on Eowyn and why she’s such a fantastic female character, my post on why you should read The Silmarillion where I don’t just say because it’s awesome, and Lisa’s lovely review on Roverandom, which has made me want to pick up Tolkien’s works outside of the legendarium even more.
I’ve been in a weird place with my writing. I want to write, but I’m really not sure what to write. And I know this sounds strange, given that I wrote 12k for Andrew’s book last month, but that honestly fizzled out pretty quickly after that. I’ve also realized that it makes no sense to have multiple POVs until the second half of his book (spoiler reasons), so I’m going to have to rewrite about half of that 12k, which I’m not upset about, I just don’t feel like writing it right now. I want to write Mason, too, especially because I’m starting to feel about him the way I did at the end of working on Ronan (speaking of, I wrote a whole post about this!), which means that I’m not really enjoying his story anymore, and I feel like if I don’t write it this year, I’m never going to. That may sound arbitrary, but it’s happened to me before, and I’m seeing all the same signs pointing to me stamping a big old NOPE on his story, so I need to find a way to steer myself in his direction this year at some point.
I did, however, quickly run through the third sister witches since my CP will be embarking on it soon, and there were some minor edits that I knew I wanted to make, so I ended up adding an additional 4,237 words to that. And then I watched Feel Good in the middle of the month, and it just wrecked me. It was like damn Crooked Kingdom and Saintsverse all over again. I woke up Sunday morning with these two brand new characters in my brain, and well–honestly, I planned to say that I had some big number here of words written, but the truth is I only got 7,718 of this new story before that was giving me trouble, too, and I just don’t know.
I feel directionless. I don’t know what I want to write, but I dream about Saintsverse every night, and my heart wants magic, but it’s not sure what kind, so here I am, just reading a lot of books instead.
What I’ve Been Watching
We kicked off the month with Morgan, and I’ve definitely been in a scary movie kind of mindset, so while this wasn’t the scary I was looking for, it was close enough that I ended up having a really good time with it. Though short and definitely setup for a sequel that never happened, this was excellent. It didn’t even feel that short, though I would have loved for more, both in the movie and in a sequel. The concept was very interesting, and though it had the potential to go in a cheesy direction, it was executed really well, and that twist ending! It was gruesome and a bit more action-movie-esque than I was expecting, but, if it’s any indication, I looked up who wrote & directed it during one of the fight scenes and was utterly floored that it was by a man and not a woman, so that how you know it’s good, when the women aren’t needlessly fighting in short skirts and long, unbound hair!
I finally finished New Girl! We watched the last season over a weekend since it’s only eight episodes, and my dad & sister both joined me. Amy’s seen it before, and my dad’s been watching it on and off with me over the last few months, so it was fun to have both of them there. We all shed a couple tears, and I was reminded, yet again, of what it feels like when a show ends exactly how you were hoping it would, and thus everything is right in the world.
After Cracks, I told Erin that I was picking the movie for our next night because wow, okay. That was a lot. Eva Green already scares me a bit, but watching her play a predator was downright terrifying, and while this was a very well done and interesting movie, it was also difficult to watch, and I needed a palate cleanser, as you’ll see below.
Feel Good has been drifting across my Netflix for a while now, both just on the main screen and whenever I go searching for something LGBTQIA+, so I finally dove in after finding out it was only six episodes long of 30 minutes each. And wow, I haven’t felt so seen and held by a show in a long time. I want to rewatch the entire thing immediately. I am so immensely glad that there’s a second season already filming. You really could just watch this in a single afternoon, which I nearly did, and gosh, that finale. It absolutely broke my heart. This was so good and so poignant, and I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time.
I mean, duh, of course we watched The Boondock Saints on St. Patrick’s Day, who do you think I am? I’ve watched it every year for the last decade or so, and it’s somehow gotten better each time. It’s honestly the most Boston movie I’ve ever seen, and every time someone responds to something horrible with oh shit, I just cackle. Like, yeah, that sounds about right. My brother’s girlfriend had never seen it, and she kept exclaiming in disbelief until we told her that how bad it was is part of how good it still is, and then she really started enjoying it.
Um, I started Ginny & Georgia, and WOW LET ME TELL YOU. Erin asked me if I’d secretly written it because these are exactly the kind of characters that I love. Admittedly, I’m only about halfway into the season, so things could drastically change (unlikely), but I’m really enjoying this show, and I can’t wait to finish it.
I needed something lowkey after watching Cracks, so Erin picked A Long Way Down next, and it was such a wholesome movie, which is bizarre to say because it’s about four strangers stumbling into each other the night they all try to attempt suicide. It really got me in the feels, as we used to say, and I’d definitely watch it again. The cast was phenomenal, especially with Imogen Poots just knocking it out of the park, as always. The friendship honestly made me tear up a bit, and I was so happy about the ending!
I’ve been wanting to watch Peter Pan for ages now, and after Lost in the Never Woods arrived in the mail, I knew that I would need to watch it soon. Since it was my birthday at the end of the month, I totally pulled the birthday card and asked Erin if we could watch it. Thankfully, she’s also been wanting to watch it, and ugh. It’s just so good, and I don’t know how I forgot how good it is, but this is one of my favorite Disney movies for a reason. Someday, I swear, I’m getting several Peter Pan tattoos.
What a month it has been! I keep feeling like I haven’t done a lot without teaching yoga to mark the passage of weeks, but I actually ended up doing quite a bit this month.
I went through a lot of spiritual distress, and it honestly wasn’t great. One of my friends has been very loud about their beliefs lately, and not in a good way. It’s been a lot of “you’re going to hell, everyone is a sinner, it’s Eve’s fault we’re like this, the world is ending because we’re allowing progressive things to happen”, and that’s pretty much what my entire youth relationship with Christianity was, so it was difficult to step back into that mindset. It got to a point where I had to really put up some boundaries and stop discussing faith with friends & family altogether, and while it’s gotten a little better, I’m still keeping those walls up. I have a very strong foundation in my own faith, in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and witchcraft, and that hasn’t been shaken, just everything around it. Thankfully, a lot of yoga, both of the furious and softer kind, reaffirmed that I’m not going to hell just because I don’t believe in an all-knowing being that’s greatest goal in life is to make you fearful, thanks very much.
And, on the same vein (yoga), I had a lot of fun practicing this month! My brother’s girlfriend & I did Disney yoga, and we did a flow with the breath sequence during I’ll Make a Man Out of You, so she was shrieking with joy at the end of it. I also did a kickass flow for international women’s day that left me grinning ear to ear, and I discovered that heart openers were going to help me in a totally unexpected way.
One of my goals this year was to work on more heart openers & backbends for emotional well-being and healing, but, as it turns out, it has helped alleviate my sciatic pain a lot. I’ve had issues with my sciatica for a little over ten years now, to the point where I used to have to take a knee in the middle of walking the frontline at work. I had some chiropractic work done back then, and he said that if I continued to do yoga, I probably wouldn’t have to see a chiropractor for a long time, or ever. And then, just like that, about six months ago, it started flaring up again, but way worse. I was waking up in the middle of the night in pain, I couldn’t get out of bed or sit up from laying down, sitting on the couch was impossible, and I was nearly approaching that take a knee randomly at work issue again. It nearly brought me to tears a few times, and when I finally asked my massage therapist to take a closer look, she found that, while the right side of the psoas muscle felt normal, the left side felt like ropes knotted together, and that was about all I needed to hear before I was looking for more help.
I bought a new mattress (Lull, which I absolutely adore!), I realized heart openers & backbends were helping, so I practiced them more, and I scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor & acupuncturist. The chiropractor had a lot of answers for me, as well as some really good advice, and we’ve narrowed down the pain to be specifically in the SI joint & 5th lumbar, which, get ready, was probably caused by overextension in yoga. By no means do I have to stop practicing, but I do have to be careful with bending over & twisting. It’s weird for me, too, because one of the biggest things I’ve always preached is not pushing farther than what you’re capable of, but that’s not what I’ve been doing. I am physically capable of folding completely in half, but I was getting to a point of extending beyond comfort and straight into pain. I don’t feel any pain while working on the spine, but the extent with which I was moving through those poses was starting to stretch the lumbar in a way that’s not good at all. So it’s a weird place to be, to know that I’m still capable of those poses, but that, despite that, I shouldn’t do them so deeply. I’m glad I have answers, though, and it was helpful to go to the acupuncturist with more information than just sciatic pain.
Acupuncture was interesting, too. The intake form was already very thorough, but so was the process when I arrived, and I really appreciated that. I’ve felt very heard by all three practitioners, and I feel like they’ve been listening to each other really well through me, so I when I told the acupuncturist that the chiropractor said it was my lumbar & SI joint, she didn’t even bat an eye. It was much less scary than I thought it was going to be, to the point where I didn’t even notice some of the needles go in. It was very similar to restorative in that I just laid there for 40 minutes, but the placement of the needles made a lot of sense to me based on the construction of the nerves in the body. I don’t think I’ll notice a huge difference until a week or two has passed, so stay tuned!
It was my birthday at the end of the month, and wow. It was truly more than anything I could have imagined.
Since I didn’t get to go to high tea in London last year, and my birthday was kind of a big letdown all around, I decided that I was going to create my own extravagant high tea at home. My version of extravagant really just meant a lot of pastries, though, but my mom and sister decided we were going all out. They wanted dresses, lace white gloves, floppy hats, and floral decorations. My best friend, Jen, sent me the most gorgeous porcelain tea set with gold lining, and it all just came together so perfectly. We ended up getting macarons & Summer Afternoon tea from Jolie, but all of the other pastries came from Whole Foods! Well, except for the scones–yours truly made those. I always use this recipe, and I just swap the blueberries for whatever else I’m doing, which was cranberry & almonds and lemon, though I don’t suggest just swapping in lemon juice & zest because it really didn’t come out lemony, so I need to find a specific recipe for that.
The actual day, I made ramen for dinner, which none of my family have had outside of instant ramen, so that was a lot of fun. We celebrated with ice cream cake because it’s the best, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I did my first yoga in a week, which was terrifying because I was so afraid of hurting myself, so it ended up being pretty chill. And, all in all, though it was a busy month, it was so much fun.