SHE’S BACK! Olá, friends, I missed you so much! I’m so excited to be back and badder than ever because guess who not only has all of September’s posts scheduled, but also written? YA GIRL IS ON FIRE! Honestly, though? I also have a good portion of October’s posts written, and I’m just so happy to be movin’ and groovin’ again. I had a lot of fun writing September’s posts, and I’ve got ideas up the wazoo for even more after October, and all of this just proves that I definitely need to take a break every once in a while. It was so nice to just have the space to not blog, and then to blog at my leisure, and I’m hoping that having almost two months fully written will put me back at a place where I can just continue to take it easy. There’s a lot to cover in this wrap-up, though, since I’ve been away for a month, so let’s get to it!
Mini Book Reviews
🌈 LGBTQPIA+ characters
🔥 BIPOC authors
🌑 BIPOC characters
Ghosts of the Shadow Market | Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link, Robin Wasserman 🌑
I’m gonna be real with you. Of the 18 currently published Shadowhunters books, I’ve read 16, and I’ve only rated three of them five stars, and two of those were from the original TMI series. And the short story collections? Always a three star because the writing just feels so not on par with Clare’s normal style, almost like she’s more overseeing than she is actually contributing to the writing. But this one? I don’t know what happened, if maybe Clare was just more part of the writing than normal, but I loved this. After a rough two months of reading, this was exactly what I needed. This just reminded me, over and over again, why I love the Shadowhunters universe so much. The stories in here were not only a phenomenal bridge between the main series, but they just worked so well on their own. And my goodness, but I loved being able to see Jem’s journey through his life as a Silent Brother and back out again to live with Tessa. And to see Ty again at the end! There was just so much packed in here that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it’s made me want to finish up this universe even more.
Let’s Talk About Love | Claire Kann 🌈🔥🌑
I mean, I knew that I was going to love this. Kann’s other book, If It Makes You Happy, not only did that, but also made me ugly cry at the end, and this one was no different. I felt so seen by this book, and it was so relevant to my current dating life and trying to slog through what it is to date as an adult (reader: it sucks), and I really needed this when I was reading it. And even if it hadn’t been exactly what I needed, I still would have resonated with it deeply because everyone, regardless of their orientation, goes through the uncertainties of dating and trying to figure out if they actually like someone and if that someone likes them back and what the level of that liking even is. It’s a minefield out there, and Kann captured it perfectly. This was another perfect book from Kann, and it’s cemented her as one of my favorite authors that I’ll read anything and everything by in the future.
There Will Come a Darkness | Katy Rose Pool 🌈🌑
Here is a much longer review that is somehow only a little bit rambling? Look, we all know that I love this book, I’ve literally talked about it every week for the entirety of 2021, and I am not going to survive the finale being published soon. I’m going to have up individual reviews for the second & third book, as well, and you can expect me to just devolve into madness with each book. This was phenomenal, and I’m even happier than the first time I read this.
The Wild Ones | Nafiza Azad 🔥🌑
I ended up needing to read a contemporary at the same time as this because wow, Azad wasn’t kidding when she said this was going to be a heavy book. The conversations had in this book were handled so well, though, that while it was difficult to read, it also felt uplifting and empowering so see those stories given light and reframed to bolster the women in them. This was such an inclusive, beautiful book of acceptance, and it honored both the struggle and the survival of women who are constantly forced into situations of violence of all kinds simply because of who they are as a person. The language in this was gorgeous, the story was heartbreaking, and the food! Oh, the food. Azad clearly feels similarly about there not being enough food in fantasy books because she is bringing all the yummy goodness to her pages. I want to eat so much of everything now.
Lightbringer | Claire Legrand
You know, I didn’t love Furyborn, but I also didn’t hate it. I think I even rated it four stars? I had a lot of issues with it, but it was mostly fine. Kingsbane was definitely not as good, and that started to show in my review & rating (three stars), but this mess? Talk about one of the worst books I’ve ever read. This was an absolute catastrophe. I was all set to just two star it and call it a day, but then Legrand blatantly stole two very iconic Gandalf scenes from LOTR, like didn’t even try and be all ooh it inspired this, but just straight up wrote an identical scene, and my goodness, but here’s the wrath! I hate this book! It was a horrible conclusion to a lackluster trilogy, the sheer amount of nonconsensual, manipulative, and abusive behavior was staggering, and I literally hated every single character by the end. At this point, I can definitively say that I would never read anything else Legrand wrote, even though I’ve been doing this weird I don’t know why I keep reading this, something must be good! vibe because that’s clearly not true anymore. This was gross. Every single character was awful, the writing was atrocious, the plot was riddled with plot holes and inconsistent development, and she stole from Tolkien, so no thanks!
Solitaire | Alice Oseman 🌈
Not gonna lie, if this was my first Oseman book, I wouldn’t read another. Truthfully, if this wasn’t an Oseman book, I would have stopped after the first ten pages, and truly the only reason that I kept reading was because I knew that Charlie & Nick would make small appearances, and I wanted to stay on track with their story. I know Oseman is aware of the issues with this book, too, and she’s stated that she’s working on edits for it. And heck, it was written when she was seventeen and the world was a very different place, so I get it. But this is a whole lot of yikes and no thanks for 400 straight pages. It was a two-star read, too, though I was questioning that for the last 200 pages, but then they burned down the school to be edgy, and that’s about when I shifted from general dislike to outright hatred.
Books read: 6
Pages read: 2732
Great TBR Challenge: 7/72
HAPPY FALL Y’ALL! I’m so excited that the best months of the year are finally here, and I cannot wait for the weather to finally catch up. My most anticipated read of the year comes out in September, so I’m in the midst of a series reread, and I am having the best time ever. I’m also back to blogging, which is so exciting! Around the second week of August, I started to finally come out of my funk and wanted to write posts, so we’re all scheduled out for the month. And, to really kick things off, we’re doing a themed TBR for September! Book Roast announced their new magical readathon, set in Orilium, and I am just in awe of all of the work that G has put into creating something truly incredible. Brava! You can find my TBR here, and not only am I trying for all seven prompts, I’m going to try to read them in order.
Anna @ Reads Rainbow dropped a list of upcoming mlm releases for the rest of the year, which is always one of my favorite posts, and it always overwhelms my Goodreads in the best way!
Brianna @ Pages Unbound featured ten amazing sounding middle grade releases coming out this autumn, and I want to read every single one of them!
Recently, I’ve been feeling really frustrated with the pace at which this story is moving. Most of the time, it’s a joy to write, but sometimes, it feels exhausting, and I keep looking at the outline of it and feeling a little bit–hopeless isn’t the right word, but my brain isn’t working, and it’s close enough. There’s so much to this story, so much more than I’m used to, and it’s kind of hard to remember the scope of it in practice. I’m here working on the third of eight lovers, and it feels endless because that’s barely 1/4 of the way in, and yet? Even before we get to the third one, I’ve written 80k words, so of course I’m tired! Normally, I’d be reaching the end of a story at this point, but, instead, I’m just at the beginning. And this is going to keep happening because I intend for this story to be upwards of 300k, and that’s not normal for a book, so it’s going to keep hitting me that holy shit I should be at the end, but there’s still so much to go.
I love this book immensely, and I’m so excited to finally be telling Andrew’s story, but my goodness, it’s a little daunting sometimes. Thus, I only wrote 11,590 words for Aurelian this month, which comes nowhere near completing his story, and I’m okay with that. I needed to take a break from this for a bit.
I do, however, want to take a moment outside of the stress I’ve been feeling around Andrew to be excited. No matter what happens with Andrew, and no matter what happens with my eventual writing career, I want to remember this summer. I’ve been vague about this on Instagram, and I’m going to continue to be mostly vague, but I do want to share that I’ve gotten two full manuscript requests this summer, and I am just beside myself with excitement. I’ve been writing since I was 12, and it’s always been my dream to be published, and it’s nearly been twenty years of dreaming that, and it kind of feels like it might finally be happening? Maybe not with either of these agents, but the very fact that they’ve requested the full manuscript means that I’m so much closer than I ever have been before, and that’s big. Sister witches means so much to me, and I know that it’s the kind of story people are looking for. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think that the story that would be finally striking a chord would be a lesbian witch and her gay demon best friend, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Wherever these requests take us, I’ve got Henley & Theodore to see me through, and I am just overflowing with joy at the possibility that all of you might be able to meet them someday soon.
What I’ve Been Watching
I was about to say we finally watched A Quiet Place: Part II, but it’s only been out on streaming for a couple weeks, and I had to spend $20 to watch it on Amazon anyway, but holy shit was it worth it. This was definitely way more stressful than the first one, which is saying something, my goodness, but my jaw hurt so bad when we finished because I was just clenching my teeth the entire time. I kept yelling, “I don’t like this, it’s terrible!” But in a good way? It was a fantastic sequel, and I’m so amped about the potential for a third.
Honestly? Love, Victor deserves an award for how it’s kept me sane recently, and though I’m super bummed that I finished the second season, I’m also just so, so grateful for its existence. I can so bring myself back to seeing Love, Simon in the theater for the first time and knowing that not only was it selling out, but it was widely accepted and championed. It was so groundbreaking, and to now see its legacy living on in a TV show that continues to get renewed is just–damn, I wish I had this as a teenager, but I’m so overwhelmingly happy that I have it now, that our community is something to be openly proud about in ways that still bring me awe sometimes.
I finally watched Vampires vs the Bronx, and it was exactly as ridiculous as its title, but also 10/10 amazing. I loved how much it didn’t take itself seriously, and that was definitely part of what made it so great. When the lead vampire suddenly walked up like she was straight out of Underworld, I was just cackling. I honestly spent most of the movie laughing–I mean, the kids literally watch Blade to “research” how to fight the vampires, it’s incredible.
I’ve been seeing Ophelia everywhere, in that way that older movies suddenly surge back to life inexplicably. If only it had lived up to its sudden hype. I kept thinking that if the viewer wasn’t familiar with Hamlet, they’d be so confused, but honestly, Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play, and I was still incredibly lost. This just–was a lot, and not in good ways. The director clearly thought they were making a super artsy film that was meant to be empowering and beautiful, but it really was just a mess of weird, stilted scenes that didn’t make sense together and relationships that weren’t fleshed out at all. It was pretty, sure, but it was also kind of pointless, and that ending scene was awful.
I started Atypical because I was sad about finishing Love, Victor, and I really needed something of the same genre. It was everything that I needed at the time, too, and that seems to be the case lately. I like to watch TV while I meal prep, which is usually a two to three hour event, and it’s nice to have something that I don’t have to really pay attention to, but that still evokes some emotion. And I’ve been needing that contemporary vibe lately while I’m back to reading fantasy because life is just a lot, and this was very grounding to watch.
Erin had been hyping up The Room for a while, and the trailer did look really good, plus the concept was very interesting, but I just hated the characters so much. The acting was really poor, the dialogue was awful, there was so much emotional manipulation and outright refusal to communicate, and the characters themselves were just unimaginably unlikeable. And, like? Did we need to do that strange twist on incest and sexual assault against a woman? No, but the movie did it anyway, and it was in very poor taste. There was nothing particularly redeemable about this movie, and I don’t recommend it.
Fear Street: Part One – 1994 only just started showing up on my Netflix when I was looking for something queer to watch, and Erin is a huge fan of R.L. Stine, so we kicked off a three-week deep dive into some truly excellent horror. About 15 minutes in, Erin said, “I really wasn’t expecting it to be this good,” and, at the end, I said, “It was like the director had spent her life watching bad horror movies and then decided to make a good one that didn’t collapse under the usual tropes,” and I think that just about says it all about how good this movie was. I’m so excited to watch the second one, although I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s the third one that intrigues me the most.
I started the last season of Grace & Frankie fully anticipating to binge watch it over the course of the day only to discover that they only released the first four episodes, and that the following 12 were coming in some distant future that isn’t quite planned yet, and I’m so mad. Those first four episodes were amazing, and it made me sad all over again that it’s the final season, but I definitely would have waited on watching it if I’d known that it wasn’t a complete season, ugh.
I think I saw Kayla Ancrum talking about The Time Traveler’s Wife? I honestly can’t remember, and it was on Twitter, so it’s ages ago at this point, but it’s been popping up on my Netflix periodically, and I needed a good cry the other day, so I finally watched it, and while it was good, it was definitely not what I was hoping for. It was very all over the place without any kind of a cohesive storyline, and while that makes sense for what they were trying to do with constantly displacing him, it also left me feeling pretty displaced a lot. It was fine, I’m not mad I watched it, but just fine.
Lorddddd, I’m tired. Between trying to figure out cat food, more yoga, and the summer games at the gym, y’all. Put me in a grave.
(If you don’t care about my adventures in cat food–hard same, honestly–skip past these long paragraphs to the pictures, where I’ll switch over to talking about the gym!)
Okay, let’s back it up to the very end of July. We all know that there’s a global shortage of basically everything, but something I hadn’t really considered was cat food. I had been noticing that there didn’t seem to be a whole lot on the shelves at Petco, but my schedule is so ridiculous that it’s easier for me to grab cat food on Amazon anyway. And then, weirdly, Amazon was suddenly out of stock, and the shelves at Petco were legit bare, and I think I may have had a panic attack for about three days straight trying to figure out what the hell I was going to feed Lily.
Preface: Lily is healthy. The vet thinks she’s great, and I’ve had her tested for a tapeworm, as well as done bloodwork on her. The fact that she’s underweight is a mystery to literally everyone except me because I witness her eat her food at the speed of light and then sprint like she’s in the Indy 500. That girl burns through her caloric intake before she’s even gotten a few feet away from her food bowl. She’s nuts. She’s constantly trying to fight me, she’s always ready to sneak attack everyone, and I just don’t believe that she’s 7. No way, no how. She’s 7 months, maybe.
We put her on wet food a few years ago, and it’s been a slow, but steady process of getting her weight up. She’s now at a perfect weight, and we’re no longer worried about her, but she’s definitely going to be on wet food for the rest of her life because she’s a lunatic. We’re going to set aside the soap box part of this and just state the facts: if you can buy your pet food in a grocery store, it is not regulated, and thus, the ingredients can lie. If you can only buy your pet food in a pet store, that’s because it’s heavily regulated, and the ingredients have to reflect what’s actually in the food. Sounds crazy, I know, but it is what it is. This is not a conspiracy.
Because of that, Lily gets Science Diet, which is literally out of stock of everything that she’ll eat. (Ya girl was picky until about three weeks ago.) And well, this sounds like I’m about to go down a rabbit hole, right? You betcha! I spent about a week reading everything on this incredible website, CatInfo.org, which is run by a well-respected and highly educated veterinarian, and it changed my entire perspective on feeding my cats. I’m not going to regurgitate everything from there because I’m getting anxious just thinking about it, but the tl;dr of it is that dry food is over-processed under extreme levels of heat that mostly obliterates all of the nutrients your cat needs, then stuffed full of carbs, which they need 0% of in their diet, and I think I agree with this vet when she says that she would literally rather you feed the cheapest possible brand of wet food than any dry food at all. And Science Diet wet food? Yeah, that’s overflowing with carbs and vegetables, too, which cats also don’t need a heck of a lot of, if anything at all.
I made a judgement call in the midst of freaking the fuck out about feeding my cats, and I posted on Facebook looking for advice. I very specifically said, I don’t want opinions. They’re yours, and these are mine. I’m looking for advice on MAKING cat food. Lol, how naïve. To be fair, only three people got on their soap box to yell at me about how I was wrong for trusting a decorated vet when their basic Googling clearly knew better–wow, what a Mood for 2021–but I did also get two people who recommended canned food that they liked, and thus, I was introduced to Tiki Pet.
Y’all, full stop, feed your animals Tiki Pet food, holy shit. I bought a bunch of cans to try out, and I was shook when I opened one of the chicken ones. It was literally just chicken. Shredded up and not mushy & gross, like I could have actually eaten it. (I didn’t.) There was one that advertised a quail egg, and I was like yeah sure okay, BUT THEN THERE WAS AN ACTUAL HARD BOILED EGG INSIDE. There’s tiny shrimps, actual sardines, ground beef, actual duck organs, and just so much goodness. I was so impressed by Tiki Cat’s canned food that I mostly gave up on the idea of making my own cat food–that may change eventually since it’s pretty expensive, but I also just do not want to handle liver, and I’ll need to if I make my own–and have been feeding both Lily & Grace canned food for breakfast & dinner now. We’re working on getting them on a schedule, which has been a little tricky since they’re so used to graze feeding, but they’re almost entirely off of dry food now, they both love most of the flavors, and I have no stress over the food I’m giving them.
The way I look at it, my cats are my children. I have the money to feed them well and take care of them, so I’m going to. They’re my best friends. I fully intend for them to live for another ten years, hopefully more, because I love them more than anything else in the world, and that love means giving them food that’s good for them, made of appropriate ingredients, and fresh. If that means they end up eating sardines & mackerel inside of a calamari broth, then so be it.
Hi, we’re done talking about cat food! I should have known that was going to turn into a long exposé on why I spent a week absolutely losing my mind over my cats, and I wish I could say I was surprised, but I would actively step in front of a bullet for both of them, so.
In gym-related news, there’s been a lot going on. The other yoga teacher got in a really bad accident, and while she is okay, she’s going to be out of commission for a while. When it happened, I was already at the gym every Wednesday because we’re currently hosting a pseudo-Olympics that includes speed climbing, crate stacking, a dyno comp, and an overall obstacle before our annual BBQ. I offered to help staff it, so I’m there for four hours every week in addition to my classes, so I offered to take the Wednesday class while the teacher is healing, and well. I’m having a great time, I am, but I would also like a very long nap. Currently, I’m working my regular full time job, teaching four classes, and working four hours for the games every week. I get home at about 8:30PM every night–closer to 10PM on Wednesdays, ugh–and it’s a lot. I’m pretty confident that, when the games end, I’m going to feel a lot better since 8:30 is really not that late for me, and, more often than not, I end up climbing before yoga, so it’s a lot of fun regardless, but wow. I’m so glad that September is here, the games are behind me, and I can get a little bit of normalcy back.
But it has been amazing teaching more classes! I’ve got two regular vinyasa ones, a beginner’s, and my fave advanced wacky class. I’ve been trying to take more yoga pictures inside the actual gym rather than just inside the yoga room since the background gets old after a while, but it means that I need a second person taking a picture, which is tricky because I know exactly what I want the picture to look like, and there’s not usually someone available. But the guys are getting used to me asking for them to take pictures, so we’re getting there!
The other day, my mom remarked that she would have never, in a million years, thought that I would be the gym rat, and yeah. Wow. What a vibe. I’ve got this whole crew of new friends that I never expected, and it’s so much fun. Between my work boys, the climbers, and my girlfriends, I’ve actually got a lot of people to talk to now? It’s weird, and sometimes I’m all set with it, but it’s also pretty great.
I also did my first solo hike! I’m so sick of waiting for friends to be available or to have a significant other, which is just me sounding like a broken record because I literally just went through this when I started planning my Portugal trip, but hiking is one of the things I’ve always done with other people, and I just got so fed up after four separate friends said no to hiking with me at the end of the month, so I went on my own. It ended up torrentially raining for about half of the hike, which was amazing at the time, and I felt so powerful, but now I’ve got a head cold, and it sucks. I’m excited to have done it, though, because it really wasn’t that difficult, and I’ll definitely start solo hiking more often.
And I think that’s it? Erin will be coming to visit in a couple days, so there will be plenty of adventures in next month’s wrap-up. Until then!