This was certainly an interesting month. From unexpectedly amazing books to major disappointments, plus probably the busiest I’ve ever been at work (seriously, it felt like I was back in retail, that’s how tired I was every day), I’m not exactly happy to see January go, but definitely not sad.
Mini Book Reviews
🌈 LGBTQPIA+ characters
🔥 BIPOC authors
🌑 BIPOC characters
The Monsters of Rookhaven | Pádraig Kenny
This was an utter delight. Like, I was on Waterstones ordering Kenny’s other two books well before I’d even gotten halfway into this. By page 50, I knew this was going to be a five-star, and by 100, I knew it was going to be a favorite. This was just so damn good. I didn’t know that I needed Gothic middle grade horror in my life, but wow. WOW. I have so few words to describe how I feel about this book because I absolutely sailed through it in two days because I couldn’t fathom putting it down. The characters were phenomenal, the plot was so interesting, and Kenny’s writing was top notch. I can’t wait for the sequel, and to read more of his backlist.
The Crystal Healer, Vol. 1 | Philip Permutt
I originally wasn’t going to rate this because it’s 75% a glossary about rocks, but the way it was presented was exactly what I needed when I read it, so I want to give it the credit that is due. It was inclusive, didn’t call out any one specific religion, didn’t really tie to any religion at all (which is how it should be done with freaking crystals, of all things, jfc, how are we making sparkly rocks Christian), and was really comprehensive. There’s another volume that I’m excited to breeze through, as well, and while this volume didn’t exactly provide any new insights for me, someone who’s been working with crystals for years now, I think it would definitely be helpful for new practitioners.
Fire with Fire | Destiny Soria 🌈🔥🌑
I loved Soria’s first two books, and I’m a little mad at myself for waiting so long to read this because holy, it was good. It had some serious Eragon vibes in it, which I was loving, and now I want to reread the series even though it wasn’t on my hopeful rereads for the year. The bond between Dani & Nox honestly brought me to tears at times, and I stayed up way too late reading the last 100 pages because damn. Soria really knows how to pace an ending with big battles. The characters in this were phenomenal, the plot was A++++, and the execution was just so good. Dragons in a modern day where the MC is advocating for their safety? Yes, and yes again.
Letters from Father Christmas | JRR Tolkien
This was an absolute delight. I knew right from the start that I was going to love this, particularly with how they displayed everything in the centennial edition, but my goodness, I can’t wait to gift this edition to my friend so she can read it to her son around Christmas. This was such a lovely way to witness Tolkien’s relationship with his children, and just very reaffirming in how wonderful of a person and father he was. I spent two days with this so I could really enjoy the breadth of Tolkien’s love for his family combined with the magic of his imagination, and it was a beautiful two days.
Roverandom | JRR Tolkien
Tolkien’s children’s books have definitely saved me this month. I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read, but in terms of long-lasting enjoyment, it’s definitely been down to him to carry me through the month, and Roverandom was no exception. The amount of detail that he puts into these stories, and the careful way he uses his extraordinary gift for language, is not only amazing, but downright magical to witness. I would love to see this actually made into a children’s book that’s got his illustrations spread throughout, and I will definitely be gifting this to my friends with children, as well.
The Crystal Healer, Vol. 2 | Philip Permutt
Yes, here I am, reviewing another crystal book because I keep having questionable weekends with the yoga community, and this was another comprehensive guide presented in an excellent way! I did deduct a star for three things that left a bad taste in my mouth, though. One: the author claimed that a specific crystal could alleviate all chronic pain, and that’s just a big ole nope. Two: this was in the first volume, too, but he promotes drinking water with crystals in it, and there’s just such a level of danger in that that I can’t participate in. And three: one of the “good” qualities of a crystal was “aids in weight loss”, and I think I don’t need to add anything onto why that bothered me. But they were really small instances, and the rest of the book more than made up for it, so still something I’d recommend!
The Falling in Love Montage | Ciara Smyth 🌈
This was absolutely adorable. I knew that this was going to be great because it’s literally subverting a romcom while also being a romcom, and it’s just so wonderful. I loved both of the characters so much, but the angst in this with the MC was truly icing on the cake. The writing was hilarious and so poignant, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Smyth’s books because this was just exactly what I needed and wanted right now. I’d love to see this adapted by Netflix for a summer romance, so keeping all my fingers and crossed for that someday!
Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth | JRR Tolkien
I definitely told myself that this book was showing how WWI was woven into Middle-earth, but that’s not what this is, and this is my MO because I never read summaries, so I’m sometimes very surprised by what I’m reading. But this was wonderful nonetheless. It dove into the friendships of the TCBS throughout WWI and how those friendships deeply effected not just Tolkien’s personal life, but his eventual legendarium. I’ve read a Tolkien biography before, but where that just drifted past his time in the war in a single chapter, this was almost a daily account of Tolkien’s time in the war and everything that he experienced, and it was both heartbreaking and eye-opening in terms of how it reflects in his books. This was such an excellent deep dive into not just WWI and its effect on Britain and the world, but also how that eventually showed up in Middle-earth and the deep layers of lore that Tolkien created.
Magickal Tarot: Spreads, Spellwork, and Ritual for Creating Your Life | Robyn Valentine
Well, that’s going to be it for me and magic research for a while because yikes. This had a lot of Christian undertones, which is just a big ole nope to me. The Catholic & Christian faith really does not coexist well with witchcraft, and that’s only in part because both communities persecuted the Pagan community and those of other faiths to the point of near extinction and current day wariness. People still take a step back if I tell them that I practice witchcraft, so that’s fun! This was also very masculine & feminine rather than just discussing the person as a whole, and it completely ignored the artwork presented in favor of the Rider Waite-Smith deck. There was a big if you’re not using it and loving it, you’re doing tarot wrong vibe, which is also a big ole nope for me. The RWS deck is cis-centric, very white, heavily Catholic, and fairly difficult to read, so I’m not really about that exclusionary talk. There were very interesting spells attached to each major arcana–oh, and we didn’t talk about the minor arcana at all, like literally not even a single mention–and there were some spreads I hadn’t seen before, but you know what? I can get both of those things from more favorable sources on Pinterest, so I’m gonna unhaul this.
Mister Impossible | Maggie Stiefvater 🌈🌑
Part of me doesn’t even want to put a rainbow emoji to signify queer characters because are there? This books feels like such an elaborate form of queerbaiting that my brain keeps trying to convince me that’s not what actually happened, but the fact that Ronan just fucks off into the sunset while Adam’s too busy with everyday life to bother ever responding to him, thus creating months of no communication between them, after Stiefvater specifically said she would never write drama between them because she had no interest in it, well. This book was misleading in a lot of ways, honestly, but that’s not where the root of my issues with it lie. The writing was absolutely horrendous, and a fellow bookstagram friend responded to my story when I was trying to reason out why I was so upset by this book to say that it read like a book written out of spite, AND YES. It read like Stiefvater was so furious with her fans for calling her out on writing on a misleading book–when you advertise something as the Ronan trilogy and then don’t make him the main character, that’s some serious false advertising, and we all would have gone into this a lot differently if we’d known the focus would be on other people, although can we even say that Ronan is the character we’ve come to know and love? Well, he did kind of go from having morals to condoning mass destruction & murder, so I’m gonna say nah–that she then decided to write a book that would actively try to make us hate the collective favorite character (Ronan). Gonna be real with you, despite the fact that it makes little to no sense that the Gangsey isn’t in this book–really? You want me to believe that all of this would be happening without Gansey spam texting Ronan?? Or even Blue calling him and being like bro you good???–I am so relieved that Gansey & Blue weren’t in it. I don’t want them to be. I don’t trust what Stiefvater would have done with their characters. And yes, 100%, she is the author, she knows them better than we do, and she always will, but this was such a departure from everything we’ve read in the TRC universe so far to the point of wildly OOC characters, a batshit plot riddled with holes and nonsense, mildly offensive language regarding Jordan & Hennessy, and just–I can’t believe this didn’t hurl me headlong into a slump.
The Marvelous | Claire Kann 🔥🌑
(1/3-1/5) DNF @ 150 pages
No one is sadder than me that I DNF’d this, but I had to. I was dragging my feet with every page, and I kept putting it down to scroll mindlessly on Instagram because I just don’t like it. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, both because all of them felt underdeveloped and because I just didn’t like them. I didn’t really get the point of the book, which is probably personal because books about social media just don’t make a whole ton of sense to me. The plot was not for me, and while there was nothing inherently wrong with this book, it’s just not my cup of tea, and I’m really bummed because Kann’s sophomore book was my favorite of last year. Alas, I made a goal not to keep reading books I don’t like this year, and I’m glad I put this down rather than let it make me not want to read at all.
Books read: 11
Pages read: 2,824
Great TBR Challenge: 11/96
I’ve updated the number on the Great TBR Challenge to 96 instead of 72 because, well, I actually updated the list, and it’s a bit daunting. At some point, I’ll do a check-in for the challenge to see what’s changed and what’s left, but given that I’ve only read 11 of the books on the original list, well. I’m going to wait a bit before I do that. I posted it in June of last year, so maybe I’ll just check in then!
Black History Month is up for February, and I’m celebrating in style! This is the first of two separate TBRs (women’s history month is in March, as well), and I’m really excited to be focusing on some of my owned & unread books rather than prioritizing preorders, though I am still trying to stay current with new releases. Thus, here’s my TBR for February.
There is one preorder on that list, and to be completely transparent, I do still have A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir leftover from the year previous. (Lol, it’s from 2020, don’t lie.) I’ve officially shelved it because I’m not sure when I’m going to feel called to read it, but I don’t think right now. Thus, I think I’m officially all done with catching up with preorders from before 2022?? Wild, truly, and I’m really excited to be able to turn my focus forward, especially because there are a lot of amazing books releasing in February. (Yes, I am absolutely losing my cool over the new Ruta Sepetys that dropped this week.)
Krysta @ Pages Unbound wrote a great piece on whether or not calling books “complex” is a valid form of criticism, and I’ve got to agree wholeheartedly with her stance. To remain stagnant and refuse to learn & adapt through the books we’re reading is to just decide not to grow as a person, and that’s not a place I ever want to willingly step into it. I’m always going to reach for complex books so I can keep learning.
Alas, another month with no writing, but I’m not too bummed about it this month. I’ve been in a crazy space at work (I’ll talk about it more below in my life updates), and I really haven’t had any free time inside or outside of work, so I didn’t honestly anticipate any writing to get done. Things are calming down finally, though, and I’ve got a firm goal of writing the next lover for Andrew in February because it’ll be a short one, so I should be able to zoom through it, so fingers crossed this section will have some good news next month!
What I’ve Been Watching
Technically, I started season four of Schitt’s Creek in December, but I started it on the 30th, and I didn’t finish it until I was in January, and I didn’t feel like editing last month’s wrap-up post at the eleventh hour, so here we are! I’m so sad that I’m going to be coming to the end of this show soon. It’s been such a delight, and I’ll definitely be rewatching it before long.
For the last five or so years, Jen and I have been making gourmet grilled cheese and watching Disney movies for NYE, and this is our second year doing it virtually. I had a brie cheese, granny smith apple, and raspberry jam on sourdough bread grilled cheese with some Panera tomato soup, and we watched Encanto, which was freaking amazing. I’ve wanted nothing more in the last several months than for it to finally release because it looked like something I would write and absolutely adore, and I was dead on. It was so damn good, and I can’t wait to watch it again! (Edit: I did watch it again, right at the end of the month, and it was just as amazing.)
I’ve somehow never seen Kingsman: The Golden Circle, despite absolutely adoring the first one, so it was high time to rectify that. And it was just as stupid as the first one, which means I loved it even more. The fact that these movies know that they’re ridiculous makes them even better because they’re so self-aware that they’re like slow motion fight scenes? Channing Tatum?? Harry somehow still alive because of fanfiction science??? It’s fantastic, and I can’t wait to see the new one.
I accidentally watched the entirety of season five in Schitt’s Creek in one day? I really didn’t mean to. I had to do tarot readings over the first weekend of January because I procrastinated them big time, and they were all due then, and I just wanted a no brain break after I finished them because they took about six hours, so I tucked up in bed intending to watch a couple episodes, but then two hours passed, and I was about halfway into the season, and I wanted more David & Patrick, so I figured I’d watch another couple episodes, and then PATRICK WAS PROPOSING?? AND I WAS SCREAMING, so I finished out the season.
I am furious with myself for starting season six of Schitt’s Creek. I mean, obviously I was going to, but I DON’T WANT IT TO END. I really appreciate Dan Levy ending it rather than letting it run past its prime, but ughhhhhh, I’m going to be a wreck. And yeah, I cried for forty minutes straight during those last two episodes, my goodness. This show was truly something special, and I’m not only grateful it exists, but that it received so much acclaim. We need more stories like this, about love and hope and family, and I know that I’m going to return to this one again and again.
Don’t Look Up has obviously been featured across my Netflix a lot lately, and one of the boys at work said that it was good, so Erin & I gave it a watch, and wow. It was a two and a half hour movie that probably took us a little over three hours to watch because we had to keep stopping it to stare at the ceiling in utter dread and occasional disassociation. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastically made, but holy shit, it was also very realistic, which made it incredibly horrifying to watch, and I just–well. I took a shower after watching it, and then watched an episode of Schitt’s Creek at 1AM because I needed to calm down a little. I saw some people comparing it to the new Matrix in that both of them “missed the mark” on the message they were trying to deliver, and I really think that people who don’t like any of The Matrix movies are definitely people who are not going to like movies like Don’t Look Up because they’ve got their head in the sand, and they don’t want to actually look at the wildly terrible issues in the world, and I just think I need to rewatch The Martian with a blanket over my head.
I finally started the second season of Locke & Key! I feel like I shouldn’t put this on here given that I only watched two episodes, but I did start it this month, and I’ll likely finish it next month, so here it stays. It’s already awesome, and I’m so excited to see everything that’ll happen, and we’re getting a new volume of comics out soon! It’s a good time to be a Hill fan.
I had a rough freaking weekend recently, and the only way to release all of that bullshit was to watch the new season of Queer Eye. Of course, I cried within the first episode, which was totally expected, and I can only imagine how the rest of the season will go. I’m not finished with this yet, but my goal is to round out the few shows I’m in the middle of watching next month, and I can’t wait to cry over every other episode in this season.
We finally watched Tick, Tick… Boom, and it was everything. I’ve been wanting to read this for forever, and I’m so glad that we finally got to watch it. Finally, as though it didn’t just release, but when you combine Andrew Garfield with Lin Manuel Miranda and Rent, well. That’s just all that and a bag of chips for me. Garfield is one of my favorite actors, and I knew that he’d bring Jonathan Larson to life in a way that would both break my heart and be exactly as beautiful as it needed to be. This was such an excellent movie, and the music was so damn good, and I can’t wait to make my parents watch it so they can cry over it, too.
My parents haven’t seen the live action Aladdin, but my mom just finished listening to Will Smith’s new book, so I knew that we had to watch it. My dad is a huge Disney fan, and he cries at literally everything, plus he loves Naomi Scott, so I knew he’d freak out the whole time, and I was dead on. He absolutely loved it, got emotional at all the expected parts–and some unexpected ones, like when Genie slows down Ali’s entrance, and it there’s that huge moment of fanfare–and overall had an amazing time watching it. My mom, well, she was also predictable and fell asleep. But she woke up during the songs, and that’s what counts, haha. Overall, it was a lot of fun to watch again!
We watched The Invisible Man even though I knew it was going to be a rough one for me because if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s convincing myself that someone is right behind me while I’m on the way back to my room from the bathroom. The amount of times that I’ve dead ass sprinted through the house to escape who knows what is almost laughable, and the idea of an invisible man attacking someone is just so high on my list of no thanks. Still, this was really well done, and I’m glad that I finally saw it. It was exceptionally well done, and I’m definitely going to be thinking about that sheet pulling scene for a while.
Erin is absolutely horrendous at telling me about movies while she’s watching them. Thus, the only thing I knew about The Florida Project was that it included trafficking and literally nothing else. So when she asked me if I wanted to watch the new Willem Dafoe movie and cited the title, I was like come again? She told me not to watch a trailer, promised I would probably like it, and told me to just trust her. That’s not always something I’m willing to do with movies because we often have wildly different interests, but this one was a solid homerun. It was so good, and though almost nothing
I’ve been considering whether or not I want to keep this section lately, mostly because I’ve been working on deleting my Twitter presence pre-2020, and I was starting to wonder if I was someday going to regret putting all of my little thoughts about life down here, but I really like using this time as a reflection of the month before, so we’re going to carry on. And I’m deleting my Twitter not because I’m in hot water or anything, but because Twitter is easily one of the most toxic parts of my day, and I’ve officially stepped away from it with no intention of returning, and teenage Mary was a monster, so I really don’t need evidence of her mean, emo, often incorrect self on the internet.
The most logical place to begin in looking back on January is with work. At the end of December, we were given the green light to move into our new space on the fourth. We’ve expanded from a 5000 sq ft building to an 18,000 sq ft one, and it’s been a hellish amount of work. Whether I’ve been building ten desks in eight hours, helping to section tape floors for equipment placement, spending three days going through nearly 400 chemical SDS files, or moving boxes upon boxes of heavy supplies, it’s been a Month. That’s not to say it hasn’t been amazing, though, because it really has! I’ve enjoyed the fast pace and chaos of January so much, though I am definitely glad that it’s starting to calm down now.
However, the constant shifting movement of this month meant that I didn’t do a whole lot outside of work. I did my annual 108 sun salutations on the first, which was difficult as all hell, but a lot of fun, too. I’m officially in the endgame for my teaching hours right now, and I’ll be able to knock out the last 130 or so hours that I need to reach 1000 hours taught, which will label me as an experienced teacher, so that’s really exciting. The continuing education does go up from 35 hours to 70, which is an insane jump, but it’ll just help me continue to grow as a teacher. And I completed my crystal healer course! I am now certified to call myself a crystal healer, which I’ve got some conflicting emotions about, but I’m glad to have taken the course, gotten hours that I needed, and expanded my knowledge base. In February, I’ll be taking a diversity & inclusion course through Yoga Girl that’ll round out the last of my hours needed for this three-year period, and I’m glad to finally have all of it behind me so I don’t have to worry about getting them done by August in a rush.
The biggest highlight of my month was definitely right at the end, when the boys and I went ice skating. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love them so much, it was a little embarrassing at times, and being able to go out with them and just have some wholesome, silly fun was the absolute best. A few of them were really damn good at skating, but they all kept slowing down to skate at my admittedly wobbly pace to hang out with me, and it was so sweet. We had a pizza party beforehand, and I got to meet a few more of their significant others, and it was just so much fun. I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day because I’ve got a surprise ready for them, and I’m stupidly excited to be able to celebrate them and shower them in even more love. I’m so blessed to not only enjoy the work I do, but to have coworkers that I consider friends, and these boys just mean the world to me.
And yes, that is me standing on top of a 10 ft steel shelving unit that I am very excited about. Yes, I already got several “OSHA!” comments, I promise I was safe.
Also including a few other pictures from this month that bring me joy. Penelope is so small that she not only needs a jacket to walk outside when it’s below 20 degrees, but we need to bring a blanket to carry her in when she decides to stop walking and just perish. The cats also put themselves in those boxes, the only thing I did was move them next to each other, and it was just about the cutest thing ever. And we got two feet of snow! As I’m drafting this, it’s 1/31, but when this posts on Friday, we’re expecting another ten inches, and I’m just so hyped. I love snow so much, and I dove into several snowbanks over the weekend, and it was the best.
I’m looking forward to February a lot. Things are slowing down at work a bit, although I’m still doing a lot, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make some time for writing, more time for reading, and hopefully more yoga. It’s also the official last full month before Portugal, and while I am never going to wish my days away, I am ready for Portugal to arrive in March. Until then, though, I hope your month was a solid one, too!