July Wrap-Up: Family News, Red & Blue is the New Black

I feel like a lot of my personal posts lately have just been me going, “I’m a sad little bundle of sadness!” And, well….the same applies today (I promise a LOT more flowers and rainbows for the next one). But I’ll try to keep it brief this time.

To put it shortly, my grandmother passed away from cancer several weeks ago (I wrote about her diagnosis a month ago) and I’ve been dealing with a lot of the family stuff surrounding that. See, everyone on my mom’s side of the family–from her parents to her four brothers and their eight children and down to me–is incredibly close (we have multiple group chats and we do frequent video calls). And our line of communication works like an actually functional game of telephone, so that when there’s any kind news or gossip brewing in one sector, it travels down the line until everyone knows about it word for word. And while it’s incredible to know that I’m part of this intense support network that crosses oceans, sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. Like in this case, because being smothered with non-stop condolences and well-wishes because you’re the baby of the family isn’t exactly fun, and at some point it just got…macabre.

Then last week was the funeral, which my uncles attended on my dad’s behalf, and apparently there was a group of church “friends” who were talking loudly about how irresponsible it was of my grandmother to not have visited the doctor sooner. My mom got super angry about it, which got me riled up because 1) who the fuck says that at a funeral, and 2) I’m an “empath”–which is a term I hate using because of all its sci-fi connotations (and being an emotional sponge is a shitty superpower)–and people’s emotions easily affect mine.

And to cap it off, I found out that a gaming personality, called Geoff “iNControLTV” Robinson, who I had admired and had been watching for many years, had suddenly passed away without notice. Which was shocking and heartbreaking and made me really sad for some number of days (“sad” sounds like I’m downplaying it, but sometimes there’s just no better word.)

So it’s been a month of combing through emotions and memories, and discussing grief and mortality with people. Draining, yes. Difficult, yup. But all that processing does help, and I think death is a topic that we as a society shouldn’t shy away from.

I did read some really fantastic books, though, and that’s also been helping with my overall mental health. So let’s get to them!


βš”οΈ= Fantasy; πŸš€= Scifi; 🐺= Paranormal; πŸ‘»= Horror; πŸ”= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; πŸ—οΈ= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQIAP+


This is Me Plastering Myself Against Your Window With a Sign That Says “Drop What You’re Doing and Read This Now


➽ This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone πŸš€πŸŒˆ:
Two time traveling agents. Flowery passive-aggressive taunts morphing into gentle teasing into unabashed love. All the blue and red imagery you could ever want. I adored it to pieces. [Review]

➽ Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
This book. This fucking book. I went into it not expecting a whole lot and now it’s one of my top three reads of the year. I’m saving the more colourful words for the review, but the bottom line is that it made me incredibly happy. With the way it uses language (the way it’s so in love with language), and how it embraces magic in all its strange and sharp glory. It made me feel like a kid again and it’s been a while since I was so genuinely enchanted with a fantasy book.


Solid Queer Mysteries


➽ Proper English by K.J. Charles πŸ—οΈπŸ”πŸŒˆ:
K.J. Charles once again proves why she’s one of the best in historical romance, this time with a f/f whodunit. This was short, uncomplicated, sexy fun.

➽ Orientation (Borealis Investigation 1) by Gregory Ashe πŸŒΊπŸ”πŸŒˆ:
A solid, engaging P.I. mystery feat. friends-to-lovers! Speaking of which, I seem to have less patience with slow burn friends-to-lovers nowadays. I mean, there’s “slow burn” and then there’s “four books of longing glances and almost-but-not-quite moments that go on forever when there’s literally nothing hindering them from getting together.” Like, I’m not made of time. I did make an exception for this because Greg is one of the few authors I trust to do long-term relationship building well.


Could Have Been Better, But Overall Not Too Bad


➽ Contagion and Immunity by Erin Bowman πŸš€πŸŒˆ:
The series starts out as scifi horror with Contagion and ends as a scifi action/adventure drama with Immunity. I was disappointed that the horror element wasn’t more drawn-out, but overall, it’s a solid series.

➽ Prince of Killers (A Fog City 1) by Layla Reyne πŸŒΊπŸ”πŸŒˆ:
The head of a modern day assassin organization gets tangled up with a private investigator and a plot to unseat him from his throne. It’s one of those “you’ll enjoy it if don’t think too hard about it” stories.


Beautiful Prose & Atmosphere, Bland Characters


➽ Wilder Girls by Rory Power πŸŒΊπŸš€πŸŒˆ:
Loved the atmosphere, loved the plot, loved the emphasis on girl love (of all kinds), but I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Oh, and the ending? We don’t talk about that here. [Review]

➽ The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall βš”οΈ:
Despite it featuring one of the most bland MCs I’ve come across in the past year, I found this to be a pleasant read. If you like underworld stories and quiet, atmospheric fantasy stories that border (no pun intended) on weird horror, this is for you. [Review]

➽ Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
Again–loved the setting and the atmosphere, but I feel like the book was far too short for me to get a good sense of the characters.


Nope/ DNF


➽ The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin βš”οΈ:
A dystopian story crossed with an underworld story that I didn’t enjoy because of, you guessed it, the characters. [Review]

➽ Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
DNF @ ~20% because while there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, there wasn’t anything particularly great about it either. And I’m trying to get better about DNFing ARCs that I’m “meh” about.


Red and Blue Hell

I’ve been kind of obsessed with This is How You Lose the Time War, and I painted these little pieces as a quick palette cleanser in between the larger ones I’ve been painting and often ruining (but I’m learning to be okay with that because mistakes are integral to watercolour learning and if you fear them, this medium will trample all over you. Yay for growth!)

And….people actually really like them?? And they want buy prints of them????

So right now I’m in the process of digitally rendering them and setting up an Etsy store. So if you’re interested in these birdies, stay tuned!


This past month and a half has done wonders for my confidence with sharing art online, because between health scares and unexpected tragedies, I’m realizing that art–which is, like, what keeps us going when these tragedies strike and things get bleak–is the last thing I should be fearing. And putting out into the world a thing you created from this kernel of idea floating around in your head is always, always something that should be celebrated.

So I’m thinking of doing a bi-weekly/weekly post thing where I share little doodles and/or full pieces inspired by the books that I’m reading–to help boost awareness of the books and also because I just really love doing fanart. Aaaand I wouldn’t at all be unhappy if any of you were to join me… πŸ˜€



Now whisper to me all the wonderful things you did in July!

43 thoughts on “July Wrap-Up: Family News, Red & Blue is the New Black

  1. David says:

    Hope things start to shine a little brighter soon, Kathy.
    Time War is one I have been watching for for a while but never got an ARC of (sad day). Also, feel the same way about Silver. I was sorta bored to tears with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tammy says:

    Oh wow, your art is amazing! I hope you shared it with the authors and publisher😁 And sorry you’ve had a rough month. First, I’m jealous of how close your family is, and I’m very sorry to hear about your grandma.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Justine says:

    This is your personal space, and I think you can feel what you feel when you want to! I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother and those people at the funeral are jerks! I remember when I messaged you on Twitter awhile ago and you said you would try painting. I’m glad it’s really helped you out. You’re super talented, and I was JUST wondering if you had an Etsy so I could buy the two birds print (even though I haven’t read the book yet πŸ˜…).

    I’m still super interested in Time War, But I over did it on Arcs and have no idea when I can touch my backlist lol… As for cool things I did this month, I started blogging again and spent too much time trying to learn how to use inDesign lol >.>

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Oh my god, YEAH, I remember telling you that I was gonna try painting. Now I’m hoarding watercolour paints and my apartment is a mess of art supplies. Ohhh how far I’ve come. XD

      I kind of went crazy with review requests too lol. And now I have a bunch of 2020 books on top of my overdue copies…. πŸ˜… But you should def squeeze Time War into your schedule somehow (invent a time turner! use blood magic!) The writing can be a little dense in places, but I breezed through it pretty quickly.

      And oooooh, inDesign! What have you been making? :O

      Liked by 1 person

  4. acquadimore says:

    I had never heard of Desdemona and the Deep before but that sounds amazing, I’m adding it to my TBR (always there for more novellas, too).
    I DNFed Shatter the Sky as well, for pretty much the same reasons – while there wasn’t anything wrong with it, there wasn’t anything to make it really stand out either, and it was kind of boring too. I got halfway through and there wasn’t even a dragon yet.
    And same about Silver in the Wood! I loved the atmosphere and the magic, but the characters and romance were so deeply bland.
    I hope real life will allow you to have some flowers and rainbows time.

    also: I saw your WIP on twitter the other day, and aaaAAAAAAAA
    I’d love to see posts about fanart!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thank you so much, Acqua!! ❀ And oh my god, Desdemona and the Deep was such a wonderful surprise. I feel like it hasn't been marketed as much as other 2019 Tor novellas, which is a shame because it's got EVERYTHING including a lesbian mc and a trans side character and a commentary on class struggles. Definitely do give it a try!

      Oh gosh, that wip is intimidating me so much and I've been working through it suuuuper slowly. But I'm liking how it's turning out, so fingers-crossed I can get it over the finish line in one piece!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A Storm Of Pages says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I can imagine it can be overwhelming when something like that happens when you have a very tight-knit family. You can share whatever you like here, it can be so helpful just to write and share when you’re going through a rough patch. Those bird prints are gorgeous! Eagerly awaiting your Etsy, they’re stunning. I’d love to see more – definitely won’t be able to join in though, I have zero skill with drawing πŸ™‚ I’ve gotten more and more interested in This Is How You Lose the Time War – after a disappointing time travel story in June I’m in need of a win!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bookbeachbunny says:

    I just got Shatter in the Sky in a book box so that sucks to hear.
    Sorry about your grandmother. It’s overwhelming sometimes the after when everyone is just trying to take care of and check in on you and you just need a break from that as well.
    Your artwork is lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Oh nonono don’t worry, I don’t think Shatter in the Sky is a bad book! I know plenty of people who loved it. I think it’s just that I’ve been reading a lot of purple prose-y books with super rich worldbuilding lately, and so this one felt kind of bland in comparison.

      And thank you so much! ❀


  7. bitsnbooks says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I don’t know why anyone would say that at a funeral, some people are so stupid. Sending hugs your way πŸ’•
    P.s That artwork seriously is incredible β™₯

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Margaret @ Weird Zeal says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandma and all the rough personal things happening in your life right now. Here’s hoping August only goes up from here!

    Omg I so agree with everything you said about This Is How You Lose the Time War. Just stunningly gorgeous. Speaking of which, your paintings are BEAUTIFUL!!! πŸ’• Happy August!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    I’m sorry that this was such a sad time for you, and that you had not only to endure a heavy loss but also the consequences of the emotional baggage that goes with the territory, but I’m also glad you could find some balance in books: besides dogs, they are indeed among out best friends in many circumstances…
    And on a different path… what lovely birds! You are very talented πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nicole Evans says:

    Thinking of you, Kathy, and always here for you whenever you need it. ❀

    I'm bummed that you didn't enjoy Shatter the Sky! I'm intrigued by that one, so I think I'm still going to give it a go, but proud of you for putting down an ARC you're not interested in. It's not easy to do, but it's so worth it! Also, YES to making an Etsy shop! I'm so stoked for you and I hope that endeavor goes well!! Also, I am HERE for the fanart idea you have. I have no artistic talent in any way whatsoever, but you know I'm always ready to support yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      SO sorry I’m getting to this late, Nicole! Comment anxiety is back and it’s taking no prisoners. And ahhh you’re so sweet! I mean, hecking hell, sharing/advertising art is nerve-wracking on so many levels, but words like this make me feel a LOT more comfortable. So thank you, thank you! ❀

      Oh, and for Shatter the Sky, I don't think you should worry! I've been reading a lot of excellent purple prose-y books lately, and I think I just found it underwhelming in comparison. But it's definitely NOT a bad story!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nicole Evans says:

        I mean…I also am getting back a little late (I did NOT realize how behind I was on my comments), but never worry about me, love. I’ll always be here for you, comment anxiety or not. ❀ I am so excited for you and your art and wishing you the best of luck on your Etsy shop!

        Oh, absolutely! I'm curious to see if my reading is more aligned to yours or if I'll fall in love.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. luxandromeda says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss ): I think it’s very sweet that you guys keep a constant line of communication open; sometimes I wish my family were like that. I’m so glad that you have a good support system, and I *completely* understand what it means to be the baby of the family haha. There’s uh, never a dull moment there.

    Also, I definitely added at least two of these to my TBR instantly, and your art is BEAUTIFUL. Post however much you feel comfortable with, and just know I will be loving them all!! I can’t wait to see that Etsy!

    I hope that the rest of the month goes easier for you, and that better things are ahead. Take care of yourself ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thank you so much, Lux! I’ve had some not so great day this week, but overall I think things are looking up.

      And oh my god, you’re so sweet for saying that, thank you thank you. ❀ I've been doing watercolour for almost a year now and it hasn't exactly been easy, but I'm at a point now where I'm actually *enjoying* the learning process. And that's all I can ask for, really!


  12. @lynnsbooks says:

    So sad your to hear about your gran.
    And, I love your art – it’s beautiful. I would probably join in with your bi-weekly fan art events – I’m really not very good – more doodles and silliness really – but I enjoy myself so that’s something.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Yessss Lynn, join me in my art shenanigans! Doodles and silliness are super healthy for the soul and nothing to laugh at. πŸ˜€

      My plan right now is to do a post on the 2nd and 4th week of every month. So the first one will go up sometime next week. And there’s no specific date, so anytime between Sunday and Saturday is a-okay!


  13. Meeghan reads says:

    Kathy!! I am sending you all of the hugs *hugs* forever. I would also like to wrap you in a fuzzy blanket and feed you cookies. πŸ’•
    Here’s hoping that your August is a better month (although it probably won’t feel like it for a little while) x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. waytoofantasy says:

    I’m so sorry that you’ve been having such a tough time, and to hear about your grandmother’s passing. Many hugs to you, Kathy! I get what you mean, I totally soak up the emotions of people around me, it can drain you really fast. I hope you have some brighter days ahead. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

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