It was a slow month. A lot of gentle movement, turning inward and reserving my energy, and really laying a foundation for a soft, easy winter. I’m so excited for it to start snowing, and every morning that it’s a little bit colder has me feeling overjoyed with the season to come, and I think that definitely shows in my sudden uptick of reading and downtick of all else.
Mini Book Reviews
🌈 LGBTQPIA+ characters
🔥 BIPOC authors
🌑 BIPOC characters
Sorcery of Thorns | Margaret Rogerson (reread)
This was just as phenomenal as the first time. I absolutely still cried over Silas, which meant that I also shrieked with joy over the ending, and though I don’t want a sequel, I wouldn’t say no to a little novella that takes place several years after the end of this book. Rogerson is just such a fantastic writer, and she’s taken all the tropes we love–badass women with swords and sad boys–and elevated them so much. The plot of this book astounds me every time because holy hell, how have none of us thought of something this excellent yet? The characters, as always, are what really get me, and I just want to wrap Nathaniel up in a blanket and tuck him into an armchair by the fire with a cup of tea while we both fawn over Elisabeth and her chaos.
Lore Olympus: Volume One | Rachel Smythe [reread]
I mean, obviously, I had to reread this once it was a printed volume. I forgot how long it took for anything to happen in the beginning, too, and I’m really having to rein myself in from just hopping online to carry on reading because I really want to read them in the volumes so that I can actually remember what’s going on. This was as stunning as I remembered from reading it online, too, and I’m just so happy that we have a print version of this now so I can finally show them off on my shelves!
Punderworld: Volume One | Linda Šejić
What do you know, when I went to mark Lore Olympus as read, Goodreads recommended Punderworld to me, and since I’ll never get enough Hades & Persephone content in my life, I read the entire first volume on Webtoons and then immediately went and purchased the printed version, and damn. I know that we’ve all collectively taken a lot of liberties with the Hades & Persephone myth, but I don’t even care, I love shy Hades and badass Persephone so much, and I love that their romance is one of consent and careful courtship, and I am just so here for every single graphic novel of them. Give me more!
Vespertine | Margaret Rogerson
This is my niche, y’all. This is it. I mean, I wrote an entire post about why religion in books fires me up back in September, and that has been a truth for a long time. One of my books literally begins with the line, “Dawn had not yet struck the nave of the cathedral when the Saint came, a knife in his hand and bones casting shadows across his face.” When Katy Rose Pool started her Age of Darkness trilogy with the line, “In the moonlit room overlooking the City of Faith, a priest knelt before Ephyra and begged for his life”, I was READY. There is nothing more that I love than religion in books, and this book?? I want to reread it already. I knew that Margaret Rogerson was going to make me cry over a malicious character like Silas again, and I was ready for it, but I was also so not ready for it because the moment the revenant finally gives into the trope of shouting Artemisia’s name in fear rather than calling her nun? DEAD. DECEASED AND BURIED. I AM SO ALIVE. My goodness, I can’t. Artemisia was such a fantastic character, and she was definitely on par with Isobel and Elisabeth in a way that had me screaming. Give me more anxious characters fighting for those that they love without even realizing they love them. AND THE REVENANT. Don’t even get me started, we all know that is exactly my kind of character. Their relationship just about did me in, and that epilogue had me shrieking with joy. This was truly fantastic, and I can’t wait to reread it.
The Return of the King | J.R.R. Tolkien, narrated by Andy Serkis
What an end. I can’t believe this is over, and it was so sad the Monday after I finished not to be listening to it as I was driving to work. This trilogy has been an outstanding way to start and end my day for the last three months, and it will definitely be something I listen to again. Serkis truly went above and beyond with the narration for this audiobook, and it is largely in part because of him that I enjoyed it so much. Keep an eye out for a much longer review next month!
The Binding | Bridget Collins 🌈
Well, this just about wrecked me. I knew that I’d probably be finding another Natasha Pulley given they’ve been grouped together, but I didn’t quite realize that meant my heart would be cracking in two so often. I started to suspect what the plot twist was about 100 pages before it was revealed because it was the only thing that made sense in the worst sort of way, and when Emmett finally got his memories back, I was just done for. Each part of this absolutely destroyed me, and I’m so grateful to it for that destruction. I read fifty pages on a Sunday morning, and when I looked up, I fully expected it to be 4PM and not just noon because I was so adrift, alone and hollowed by what I’d just read, and I still can’t believe I managed to finish it that day given how wonderfully terrible it was. Collins is immediately an auto-buy for me now, and I can’t wait to read The Betrayals.
Locke & Key: Small World | Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Somehow, I still haven’t watched the new season of Locke & Key as I’m quickly reading through the rest of the standalone volumes, but this made me want to dive back in so bad. I love this series more than I can possibly explain. Though Bode is my favorite, and I’ll always want to be reading about him, it was really cool to see other characters, especially ones in the past, and how they interacted with the world. I wish this was much longer, though it was a fun little dip back into the Lovecraft world.
Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth | Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
I mean, you have to know this is coming, but BODEEEEEEE! My boy! I love him so damn much! That first story in this volume absolutely broke my heart, and I’m so excited for The Golden Age to finally collect all the new standalone issues so I can read them. It was hella cool to see Mary & Jean in the future, too, and I love that we’re getting to see so much of the Locke family’s history. But Bode, oh my gosh, what were there, ten panels in total of him? And I just about lost my mind when I saw him. I definitely need to watch the new season of the show because I miss that boy so damn much.
The Road Through the Wall | Shirley Jackson
Around the halfway mark, I just knew that something truly horrible was going to happen at the end. Nothing else happens for the entirety of the book, and that’s so Jackson’s style to lead you astray with this slow paced story of nothingness and then bam, surprise! This was such an excellent first novel, too, and I’m even more excited to dig into Jackson’s backlist now. One of my reader friends advised reading them in publication order since they seem to build on each other, and I’m definitely going to do so after this very strong beginning.
Kingdom of the Cursed | Kerri Maniscalco
I’d just finished Vespertine before I started this, and I started this because I was bummed there was no romance in Vespertine, and I knew that Maniscalco would deliver, and wooooo, baby, it just hits right away. Within about 15 pages, I was like woah woah woah alright now in the Sin Corridor because damn. Maniscalco really was like, “I’m writing NA even if they’re going to put it in YA, so beware!” This was everything that I wanted, and although there was a lot of borderline sexual harassment, they make it very clear, again and again, that consent is required for anything. The pace was also hellishly fast, and not in a good way, and all told, I should have probably given this three stars, but the reveal with Wrath at the end is literally my niche, so. We were doomed from the start.
Our Violent Ends | Chloe Gong 🌈🔥🌑
This was such a satisfying conclusion. Of everything, I really appreciated the ambiguity of the ending. It’s really left up to the reader’s interpretation how the story ends with certain characters, and that felt fitting for the underlying current of Romeo & Juliet. And my gosh, but seeing all the little nods to the original play was so much fun, and the fact that Gong is doing another Shakespeare retelling has me just shrieking with joy. I will say that this one was a little more melodramatic than the first, to the point where I got annoyed occasionally, and that definitely dampened my enjoyment of it a little. There were a lot of physical quirks that the characters had that either weren’t actually feasible or were seriously overdone, and some of the language was just like yes, yes, I know, we all secretly love each other while pretending we hate each other, carry on. The plot was very interesting, though, and I definitely appreciated the move away from the original monster plot and more into the politics of the time.
We Used to Be Friends | Amy Spalding
I think, arguably, that a friendship breakup is eons worse than a romantic one. There are things that you tell your friends that you’ll never tell your significant other, no matter how much you trust and love them. Whether it’s tiny mundane things or ugly, gross, deeply buried things, there’s just such a wealth on intimacy that doesn’t happen outside of a friendship, and Spalding nailed that. It’s so evident that she’s experienced a friendship breakup because damn this hurt. It was crafted in a way that truly struck some deep, painfully rooted chords that have knotted together throughout my past, and the way that Spalding told this story made it something I’m not going to forget for a long time. I will say that I didn’t give it five stars because both of the characters were a little unlikeable, and while I know that we’re literally talking about a friendship breakup, there were still some bits that rubbed me the wrong way–namely James’ strange reaction to Kat having a girlfriend and Kat’s absolute refusal to admit she’s ever done anything wrong. That said, this was a hard, ugly story, which is exactly what it needed to be, and I’m going to treasure it for a long time.
Books read: 12
Pages read: 3,960
Great TBR Challenge: 10/72
I’ve got a post going up next month that’s titled did I actually read my anticipated releases, and I’m lowkey stressed out about it. I have done a pretty good job, and I think that post is only going to have a few outliers, mostly ones that release in December, but uhhhhhh, there’s also probably going to be a few outside of December, so we have a very loose TBR for the month! I know that I said I was just focusing on new releases and not setting myself a TBR, and I mostly didn’t, except that I wrote one down in my reading journal for November and just didn’t post it here, so since I’m going to set one anyway, might as well make it public. And yes, these are all new releases still, but this is the order I hope to read them in:
- Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
- All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman
- A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir
- Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare
- Girls of Fate & Fury by Natasha Ngan
- Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
- A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
- A Psalm of Storms & Silence by Roseanne A. Brown
- Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria
Woooo, boy, that’s going to be a month if I can manage even half of those.
I always thoroughly enjoy anything Pages Unbound posts, but Krysta’s discussion on writing posts about specific elements of a single book rather than several books in one discussion really struck a chord with me. I really appreciate being able to flail about one book at a time and really digging into something specific about a book.
Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books wrote an excellent piece on her ten tips for getting through NaNoWriMo, but they really are tips that I think you could carry over for just writing a book in general, and excellent ones to keep in mind.
ICYMI, I participated in NaNoWriMo again this year, and that’s got a lot of writing updates. Here’s the announcement post and the wrap-ups for weeks one, two, three, and four.
I also got to a really exciting point in Andrew’s story!
After a year working on his excessively long novel, I’m done with the first three lovers, which is a huge milestone for both him and me. For him, we’re starting to close in on his first millennium as a vampire, and he’s really starting to figure out how he fits into the world when it carries on around him while he doesn’t change at all. For me, that means the first third of the story is done, and I am hyped. The next lover, the fourth, will officially be the halfway point, but the second three lovers are going to be quick and awful, so I’m celebrating being past the first three since they were going to be the most daunting of the eight. (Notice I said eight and not nine because I never include Rafael in any of these ramblings because he has an entire novel to himself, the asshole.) After these next three, I’ve got a short, sad one and then one that’ll probably match Alexander in length, if not in temperament, and being past the first three has really opened up the floodgates. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
What I’ve Been Watching
Erin and I started watching Hypnotic because our girl Kate Siegel is in it, but Erin checked out about ten minutes in, and I checked out ten minutes later when the therapist said, “It’s a choice to be a victim,” so we stopped watching it and switched over to Uncle Frank, which made me bawl my eyes out. This was such a heartbreaking movie with such an unexpectedly happy ending. I thought we were about to see another gay tragedy, but damn do they just deliver with the joy and romance and incredible found and blood family vibes. I really wasn’t expecting this to go any way but horribly, and it was just–holy magic, so good. It was exactly what we needed.
Whether it’s gay angst or serial killers, Erin has just been trying to wreck me lately. I watched the last thirty minutes of The Clovehitch Killer with my hands over my face, peeking through my fingers in absolute disbelief. It was so good, but HOLY, it was a lot, too. I mean, I knew it was the dad, right from the beginning, but to actually see all of it unfold, and the huge plot twist at the end–I felt like I needed to watch a cartoon after.
Yooooooo, Night Teeth was hella good. It was way better than I was expecting, and it was exactly what I wanted out of a modern vampire movie. It honestly felt like if we took Underworld and elevated it to today’s aesthetic. Like, it was over the top and tropey, but it was so well done that it ended up being really sexy and interesting, and the lore was great. I read a review that said this would be disappointing for established vampire fans looking for new tales, but the best part about a vampire movie is how they play with the tropes. I always want vampires to drink blood and be seductive and burn under the sun. The tradition of vampiric tropes isn’t what makes the movie–it’s how they’re incorporated into a wider plot. We’re not looking for a centuries-old monster to be reinvented, but elevated, and this was exactly it.
Erin and I couldn’t decide what to watch, and she was feeling loopy while I had a headache, so we settled on a rewatch with Stardust. I haven’t seen this since it released in 2007, so it was like an entirely new film for me. I remembered the concept of it and loose bits of the plot, but the ending had me shook, and everything else in between was just phenomenal. This was so much fun, and it made me think of Inkheart, so hopefully that’s up next for us!
Not me googling “is Zack Snyder problematic” so that I can unabashedly hero worship him without feeling bad after watching Army of Thieves. Look, if Snyder wrote books, he would be an auto-buy for me in a heartbeat, this man is a genius. I did already know this because I don’t generally like Superman movies, but Man of Steel is out of this world good, and Justice League was surprisingly awesome, and the writing in the Army series is just–I want to scream about it. I did scream about it several times during Army of Thieves because there were so many tie-ins to Army of the Dead, which I now need to rewatch as soon as possible. And there’s gonna be a sequel? That might have Dieter in it?? I AM DECEASED.
I just saw the trailer for The King’s Man the other day, and Erin was in a very specific mood, so we ended up watching Kingsman: The Secret Service, and it was delightful. Neither of us have seen it in a while, and I remembered so little of it beyond the scene when the room floods, so it was a ton of fun to basically watch it again for the first time. Hopefully, we’ll watch The Golden Circle soon, which I haven’t seen yet. Until then, I love how this is basically a goofy James Bond.
I had to meal prep a lot one weekend, and I was in the kitchen for four hours making ratatouille and empanadas, so I stuck on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and it was the perfect soundtrack. Literally, because the Pirates music is my favorite ever, and also just because it was such an enjoyable movie to watch while I was doing a lot cooking. Definitely may have stomped around the kitchen a little during the Kraken’s theme.
November was very lowkey. Even looking back at my Instagram like I usually do to write this section, it’s mostly just yoga pictures. I made a lot of bad jokes about pie while in chair pose throughout the month, I twice encouraged students to pop into inversions in the middle of class and was ecstatic when they did, went back to Salem for the first time since October and had a delightful time, and actually took the time to practice something slow and languid, which I haven’t been able to do in a while.
The only truly big thing that happened this month was Thanksgiving. We had a Friendsgiving potluck at work, which was a huge success and a ton of fun, and I ended up baking three pies in one week. I’m really freaking pleased with how the apple (left) came out, and though the blueberry (right) fell apart a little, I still think it came out excellent.
My back is feeling pretty lousy after this month, though, because I did a lot more work in the kitchen than I normally do, and I’m very much looking forward to my chiropractor appointment in a couple days. I almost said that next month was sure to be nuts, too, but I honestly think I’m taking hibernation to the fullest extent this year and just burrowing inward. I have a lot of solitary activities that I’d like to do, and I won’t be able to see any of my friends for several months, so it’s time to dig deep and stoke the coals of my own fire.
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