January & February 2020 Wrap-Up: Begone, Cursed Months! (Feat. Pretty Lights)

Happy March, everyone!

These past two months felt overly short and dragged out at the same time. And I’m torn between wanting to re-do them or wanting to stuff them into a burlap sack filled with rocks and hurl them into the nearest lake.

I ended up re-reading a lot of old comfort books, partly because of a two-month reading slump I was still shaking off, and partly because I’ve been in and out of a really bad mental place and trying to do my best to stay afloat.

And kind of jumping from that, here’s a little PSA for anyone with depression and suicidal thoughts: don’t wait until you reach the lowest of the lowest breaking point before calling hotline numbers or checking yourself in. I used to think those were things you only do when you’re in a really fucked-up mindspace, and it took me a while to learn otherwise. Do it before you start playing roulette with yourself. Sure, they’re not one-shot fixes; no one comes to you with a platter of solutions and a magic wand to neatly sprinkle them into your brain. But they do try their best, and they give you a safe place when you’re not in a position to trust yourself. Sometimes that’s enough, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s always better than nothing.

Good? Okay, onto more fun things!

I did manage to get to a few new/upcoming releases, so here are some of the highlights:

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

 

The Best

best1.png

➽ The Poet King (The Harp and Ring Sequence 3) by Ilana C. Myer βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:

I adore this series and sometimes I have a hard time explaining why except to say that it just speaks to me. The characters. The aesthetics. The texture of the world and how music shapes it. The Poet King is the end to a saga that started with Last Song Before Night and I loved it. I mean, it’s got some glaring conclusion issues, but I still loved it.

The “Sequence” part makes me wonder if there’s going to be more stories set in the world. It confuses me (and gives me false hope) when authors don’t come right out and say “trilogy” or “duology.”

➽ The Lost Future of Pepperharrow (Watchmaker 2) by Natasha Pulley πŸ—οΈπŸŒˆ:

I was nervous about this because Watchmaker on Filigree Street was kind of a disappointment, especially after reading Bedlam Stacks, but Pepperharrow shows how much Pulley is growing as a writer. It’s got everything I adore about her stories–the whimsical seeping into the everyday normal, love that’s portrayed by its negative spaces–plus a lot of the issues in the first book addressed.

 

The Great

great(1).png

➽ Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus πŸ‘»πŸŒΊ:

The worst and also the best alien abduction story I’ve read in a while. Daniel Kraus has no chill. [Review]

➽ Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights βš”οΈ:

Tevinter Nights is the first Dragon Age novel since 2014 and the first major romp through Thedas since 2015, and my god, I was stupidly excited. It’s an anthology, and while I’m not the biggest reader of anthologies and definitely not someone who finishes them in one go, make it Dragon Age and I’ll read dozens of them in one month. DA has been my number one game world obsession for the past 10 years. By far. And there’s a running joke–which isn’t really a joke–that when my friends and I play through the series we spend half the time playing the game and the other half combing through pixels trying to catch every bit of information about the world and compiling dossiers. Save the world? Sorry, that’s gotta wait; I have to stare at some statues for the next two hours and cross-reference them with these texts. And sometimes the sleuthing is even more fun than the actual gameplay.

Okay, I’m being told I need to stop before I diverge into full tumblr mode.

But yeah, the stories? *chef’s kiss* They were (mostly) a joy to read through, and I’m back with my tinfoil hat on. The review is going to be horrendously biased and I don’t even care.

 

The Good & Fine

fine

➽ Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore πŸ—οΈπŸŒΊβš”οΈ:

My first venture into Anna-Marie McLemore and I wasn’t disappointed. Story-wise it’s nothing amazing, but I love McLemore’s style of writing and the way she approaches certain details. I’ll be working my way through her other books this year. [Review]

➽ Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 🌺:

This was, uh…..fine? Pleasant? More of a quiet experience than a story that I want to shout from the rooftops about. Review to come!

 

The Could Be Better, Could Be Worse

9781250238900_f3a76

➽ The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood βš”οΈ:

This wasn’t really up to the hype and expectations, but I do like the protagonist–a lesbian orc fighter/merc who tries her best–and I’m hoping the sequel irons out some of the problems. [Review]

 

 


Life Things

I sprained my neck during a hike a few weeks ago which meant little to no drawing or painting (another reason to chuck February to the bottom-most depths), but it’s mostly healed now and I’m eagerly getting back into it.

Also, we got our first winter snow in January! There’s a lake-that’s-more-of-a-large-pond outside my apartment complex and it’s host to a lights festival during winter–creative light sculptures and light-strewn trees winding all around, everything from Christmas themes to Canadian-centric stuff (lots of beavers and maple leaves).

They look gorgeous on any normal night. But when it snows? It’s like you’re moving through these little pockets of magical worlds. Kind of ethereal. Kind of eerie. And super, super neat.

lights.png

 

871822294f7f1eb7105c1e31dd9e8866_page-divider-clipart-line-dividers-clipart-superb-decorative-_1268-362

Tell me how your winter months went and what you’re looking forward to in spring!

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

j3.png

➽ 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

j7.png

➽ 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

j8

➽ 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

j5.png

➽ 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

j1.png

➽ 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!

blue-and-red-2.png

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˜€

 

flourish

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

October 2018 Wrap-Up – Book Things & Art as a Double-Edged Sword

It’s the middle of the month…and you know what that means! πŸ˜€

So, I was going to include mini reviews for some of the games I played in the past month because Nicole @ Thoughts Stained With Ink was like, “Heck yeah! You should totally do that!” But the post was getting kinda long and there’s this one game that I absolutely need to GUSH about, so I’m shuffling those to separate posts.

And that means I’ve finally decided to do semi-regular posts about video games (with a heavy focus on indies because while I love AAA titles, it’s the indies that make my heart sing). Will anyone read them? Who knows!

As for books, October was an okay month. I read 9 in total, most of which I enjoyed:

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

The Brilliant

n1.png

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth βš”οΈπŸ—οΈ:
If I were a cat, this book would have killed me nine times over. Thank you for breaking me in the best way, Laura.Β  [Review]

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
This was such a clever and entertaining story about, well, stories and their power to change the fabric of the world. And its protagonist is an elderly man in his 70’s which you don’t see everyday in fantasy. [Review]

 

The Great

n2.png

Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink πŸ‘οΈπŸŒˆ:
I really liked it. I think it works perfectly as a companion to the podcast. But I don’t know if it’s something that can hold up on its own? I’ll talk more about it in the actual review.

Sadie by Courtney Summers πŸ”πŸŒΊ:
Yet another review I have to finish writing! “Enjoyable” is probably the wrong word to describe the story, but it is a compelling one and I can’t say enough good things about the audiobook. Massive kudos to all the voice actors.

Mort by Terry Pratchett βš”οΈ:
Read this as part of our Discworld Readathon! I’ve heard people talk about it like it’s the second coming of Christ, and to my surprise, it was actually really good. [Review]

 

The Good/Okay

n3.png

The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood πŸ‘»πŸŒˆ:
Gerry (Book Nook UK) remarked about the prevalence of male werewolves in stories, and this is one of the few books I’ve read with a female werewolf love interest! Overall, a fun, sexy F/F story about werewolves, MMORPGs, and harassment culture. Plus, the author’s a local!

Time’s Children by D.B. Jackson βš”οΈπŸš€: A mashup of time travel and epic fantasy! I guess “pleasant” would be the best wor? Nothing amazing but I did enjoy it for the most part. [Review]

 

The Bad

n4.png

The Phoenix Empress (Their Bright Ascendancy 2) by K. Arsenault Rivera βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
Yeah, this was not a good one. The cultural issues aside, I found the pacing to be glacial, the character development lacking, and worldbuilding more or less nonexistent. [Review]

Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger βš”οΈπŸš€πŸŒˆ: I noped out of this one halfway through and my tablet is so, so grateful. [Review]

 

flourish

So in this second half of the wrap-up I’m going to ramble about art and my decision to return to it after so long.

And it begins with a little story, so gather around!

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had a bit of an eclectic family. In terms of profession, anyway. On one half there was a seafood restaurant owner, a spicy chicken restaurant owner, movie producer, teacher, pastor, dentist, investment banker….and the other half were just artists and writers.

So the girl grew up with a brilliantly artistic mother and a brilliantly artistic grandfather, and some years later she met a brilliantly artistic young girl who would become one of her best friends. And it was really, really hard for the girl not to feel dull and dim in comparison. Like a ragged baby bird that may grow up to be large and healthy and magnificent, but most likely won’t.

The girl loved photography, writing, and drawing, and it was this last one that she felt the most insecure about. Insecurity turned to shame and shame turned to cold dejection and she decided one day that she would quit–because she wasn’t any good, so what was the point? (And when the girl looks back on it years later, she’ll recognize that it was partly an act of self harm–this denying herself of something she so loved)

But then 8 years later, thanks to a book, the girl’s returned to the world of drawing (because books are amazing and can literally change lives), and she’s been loving it–absolutely loving it. But on the heels of that love came doubt and heartache.

(And here I switch back to first person because talking about myself in third person is getting on my nerves)

So it’s been four months since my “return” and I’ve been spiraling into that oh-so familiar mindset of “I’m fucking terrible at this,” with my brain constantly yapping in the background, “Hey, remember how you quit all those years ago? Yeah, this is why.”

It’s hard to look at a finished work and not see a road map of all my flaws. Not just flaws of the drawing–though they’re obviously the first ones I see–but all of my flaws. Like, as a person. Because that’s how my brain operates.

And it is exhausting.

Turns out comeback stories are more fun to read/watch/play than to actually experience.

But one thing’s for sure: I’m not quitting again. Because once was enough for me to realize that it’s a shitty, shitty place to be in–no wi-fi, no heating, 1/5 on Yelp.

It was like locking yourself out of your house, throwing the key down a drain, and then just standing there, peering through the window (and there’s a part of you that knows this is your home, it’s always been your home, it could have always been your home, and just what the hell have you done?) And this terrible, aching longing settles inside you, and the more you peer, the more it floods you until you’re no longer a person but just a vessel of regrets and self-inflicted hurt.

I run through my life via two extremes–exaggerated indecisiveness or blind impulsiveness–and I never really know which one I’ll pick in a given situation. With this, though, my brain chose the latter. So deciding to return to art after nearly 10 years of avoidance was like punching through the window (because that key’s lounging at the bottom of the Pacific by now), climbing in and declaring, “Okay, you and me? We have unfinished business.” And the sheer relief I feel in that moment? Indescribable.

But then I realize my hand is all bloody and crusted with glass and I end up hopping around muttering expletives which really just ruins the bravado of it all. (That’s generally how my life goes. I want to think of myself as a protagonist in a Chris Nolan epic, but in reality I’m probably more like the sidekick in an Adam Sandler film–awkward, sad, and the antithesis of good comedy).

I could rant for days and days about how unfair it is that your passion can be this nourishing, too-bright thing that fills up your entire world until it’s not.

Until your fears and insecurities take the reins and turns it into an ugly, shameful blot that you can’t bear looking at so you shove it into the deepest corner of your mind-closet, buried under every rejection and hurt you’ve been collecting since childhood.

Except, as it turns out, not looking at it is equally painful, just in a different flavour.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Fighting myself (which isn’t anything new), a lot of late-night crying (also nothing new) and saying “I’m not letting you take this away from me again,” and my brain–always eager to get in the last word–whispering with smugness and false concern, “I’m only trying to help you.”

On good days I can laugh and give it the finger because, hell, the floodgates are open and I can finally create everything that’s been crowding my brain for years and I’m having fun. On bad days–and those often eclipse the good–I sit down and listen like it’s a sermon worth giving a damn about.

And I just wish it were easy to find a healthy, balanced relationship with our creative endeavours. To be able to hold forgiveness in one hand and critique in the other and navigate the tightrope that life demands that we walk, and achieve a state of…well, not satisfaction–because no creator is ever completely satisfied with their work–but a comfortable awareness.

And this is all just a really dramatic explanation for why my reading/blogging pace has dropped, why I’ve not been blog-hopping as much, why it’s taking me forever to respond to your comments, etc, etc. Because I’m dedicating these last three months to aggressive, aggressive drawing–to try to meet my pains head-on instead of shying away as I’ve done in the past.

Because it’s you or me, brain.

And I plan on winning.

flourish

On that note, I hope all your Octobers went super well! Happy reading!

September 2018 Wrap-Up & October TBR Update

Yes, we’re now in the latter half of October. Yes, these are getting later and later. I’m starting to suspect that a part of me likes posting these late. The contrary part, that is. The responsible part has packed its bags, donned a Hawaiian shirt, and put up a sign saying “Gone on (Indefinite) Vacation.”

It’s been a down week and I don’t really have the energy to ramble on, so I’m going to keep both the Wrap-Up and the TBR shorter than usual.

 

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

The Excellent

o1.gif

➽ Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee πŸ—οΈβš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
Loved pretty much everything about it. Felicity is a wonderful, wonderful character. Review here.

➽ The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf 2) by Charlie Adhara πŸ‘»πŸ”πŸŒˆ:
Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching a lot of This is Us lately, but I just couldn’t get enough of the family dynamics in this book. I’ll probably do a full review of the first two books sometime soon.

 

The Great

o9.gif

➽ Bloody Rose (The Band 2) by Nicholas Eames βš”οΈπŸŒˆ: Review

➽ Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton βš”οΈπŸŒˆ: Review

➽ Los Nefilim by T. Frohock πŸ—οΈβš”οΈπŸŒˆ: Review

 

The Good

o10.gif

➽ Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett βš”οΈ: Review

➽ Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson πŸš€πŸŒˆ: Review

 

The Meh

o11.gif

➽ The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo πŸŒΊπŸ‘»βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
I went into it expecting fantasy and female friendships and got the latter but not so much of the former. Review here.

➽ Nightingale by Amy Lukavics:

To quote my own Goodreads review, “it’s like an acid-induced fever dream directed by David Lynch.” And I realize that will appeal to a lot of people. Just…not me.

flourish

 

Now for October! I really liked the “Just finished/Currently Reading/To Be Read” format I stumbled upon with the September TBR post, so I’ll do that again here.

 

Recently Finished

o6.gif

➽ A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland:
Loved this one. It’s got stories and politics and a grumpy protagonist who tries hard to pretend he doesn’t care when he actually does. Review here

➽ Sadie by Courtney Summers:
Amanda at MetalPhantasmReads wrote a glowing review for the audiobook version of Sadie and I couldn’t not give it a try. And she was absolutely right. It’s by far the best audiobook I’ve listened to in recent memory. The voice actors do a phenomenal job and I had to keep reminding myself that this a book and not a fiction podcast. Review to come.

➽ Time’s Children by D.B. Jackson:
A mashup of high fantasy and scifi (time travel) that was pleasant to read but lacked depth in terms of plot and characterization.

 

READING NOW

o7.gif

➽ The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth:
The author jokingly called it Narnia fanfiction, which is actually kind of spot-on. It less of a retelling and more of a continuation, though. I’m enjoying it so far!

➽ Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink:
From the brain behind Welcome to Nightvale, this is a novelization of the Alice Isn’t Dead podcast (which I utterly adore). Thus far the book is a somewhat different from the podcast. Same story. Still bizarre. Still creepy. But just… different in style. Curious to see how the rest pans out.

➽ Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson:
It’s weird reading a Sanderson book that’s not an epic fantasy but Legion is proving to me that the man can write in any genre. I absolute adore the mesh of mental health and sci-fi elements.

 

YET TO READ

o8.gif

➽ Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger:
It’s been described as a mix of Harry Potter and Terminator which sounds like a lot of fun. Also, that cover!

➽ The Nine by Tracy Townsend:
I’d planned on reading this last month but that didn’t really pan out, so here’s take 2!

➽ Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak:
*Laughs* Right. This book. Zusak is one of my top two creative inspirations and this book is my most anticipated read of the year. Which is why I spent half of this past week psyching myself up for it and the other half furiously telling myself I need to lower my expectations. Now I’m in a state of “Should I read this now or save it until I’m finished with all my October ARCs?” I’m leaning toward the latter. I mean, I’ve waited 10 years for it, what’s another few weeks?

 

flourish

That’s all from me! How is your October going?

 

August 2018 Wrap Up – It’s Not You, Scifi, It’s Me…But It’s Also Kind of You

So mental-health wise, life has been a veritable mess from July to August. After a trip to the emergency room, days of yelling and apologizing, and talking to from doctors, things are now marginally better. I’ve been throwing myself into art which has been helping quite a bit. And while it feels like I’m creeping along a tightrope and one breeze at the wrong time can push me over again, I’m hoping things will continue to move in a positive direction. Also, to the beautiful, wonderful people who messaged me with words of encouragement and support, I can barely express how thankful I am. ❀

Well, enough of that–onto the books! I read (or tried to read) 12 books this month which is a little surprising, all things considered. Of those 12, four were scifi and I didn’t much like any them, so I’m going to try to take a small break from the genre.

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

The Brilliant

a1

➽ The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T Anderson and Eugene Yelchin βš”οΈ:
I didn’t really know what to expect from this book going in, but holy hell, I had such a great time with it. It’s labelled YA but it’s got the same wit and dark humour found in Pratchett’s writing. So Discworld lovers, this one’s for you. Review to come.

➽ The Dust Feast (Hollow Folk 3) by Gregory Ashe πŸ‘»πŸ”πŸŒˆ:
I’m saving the big, sappy words for the review so for now I’ll just just say that the Hollow Folk books killed me, resurrected me, and then ascended me to the heavens. Read this paranormal/mystery/thriller series and you too can experience being Jesus. Novella Review to come.

 

The Great

a2.png

➽ I Can’t Date Jesus – Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put my Faith in BeyoncΓ© by Michael Arceneaux 🌈:

I Can’t Date Jesus is an amazing collection of personal essays where Michael Arceneaux–a journalist whose articles have been published in pretty much every media outlet–talks about his struggles with intimacy, the complicated relationship he has with religion and family, and his general experience of being a gay black man in America. It’s hilarious, raw, opinionated, and wonderfully intimate–almost like you’re having a discussion with an old friend. And Arceneaux’s dating woes make me feel infinitely better about mine because at least I can say that no one’s ever brought bedbugs and/or fleas into my bed.

A must-read for everyone, LGBTQIAP+ or not.

➽ The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by the McElroys and Carey Pietsch βš”οΈ: (8/10)
The graphic novel adaptation of The Adventure Zone podcast. Unsurprisingly, I loved it. Review here.

➽ Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman 🌺🌈:
A YA contemporary with beautiful, honest portrayal of grief and sisterhood. Review to come.

 

THE (Kind of) GOOD

a3.png

➽ The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda BΓ¨rubΓ¨πŸ‘»πŸŒˆ: (7/10)
A paranormal YA that’s been called Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity. I wasn’t too impressed with the paranormal plot, but the main character and her mental health struggles were done very well. Review here.

➽ When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer🌺:
A YA contemporary that explores schizophrenia, which I don’t come across too often, and the ethics of keeping animals in zoos versus circuses. Again, while I loved the mental health aspect, the plot left me wanting more. Review to come.

➽ Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan NorthπŸ—οΈβš”οΈ:
A fun choose-your-own adventure novel that lets you navigate the story of Romeo and Juliet as either Romeo or Juliet. It’s got robots! And weightlifting! And kissing! And lots and lots of ways to die! I was never a huge fan of the original story (two teens insta-falling in love wasn’t really my thing), so I didn’t enjoy this as much as North’s other choose-your-own adventure book, To Be Or Not To Be, which tackles Hamlet. It’s still a lot of fun, though.

 

THE OKAY

In the Present Tense➽ In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack πŸš€πŸŒˆ: (6.5/10)
A near-future time travel story with a ton of diversity–mental health rep, PoCs, LGBTQIAP+. I loved the time travel stuff but the actions of the characters were baffling to say the least. Review here.

The Bad and DNF

a4.png

➽ Temper by Nicky Drayden πŸš€βš”οΈ: DNF 40%

I loved Nicky’s debut, The Prey of Gods, and while I appreciate the strangeness and the sheer imagination of Temper, it wasn’t really something I could enjoy so soon after my brain short-circuiting on me. There’s a lot to the worldbuilding and I just couldn’t keep up. I’ll give it another shot sometime this month.

➽ Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio πŸš€: DNF 20%

As I wrote on Goodreads, if a bunch of Ivy League classics majors got very high one night and decided they would write an epic space opera, Empire of Silence is probably what you’d get. But like, less fun.

I’ve seen this book compared with Name of the Wind, mostly because of the flowery prose. But to me, while the narration in NoTW sounds like the voice of someone who’s in love with language, music, and just art in general, the narrator for Empire of Silence feels more like someone who’s in love with the sound of their own voice–verbosity without the empathy. Plus the story drags. A lot. I’m guessing it picks up at some point but I didn’t want to have to slog through 450 more pages to find out.

➽ Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack πŸš€πŸŒˆ: (3.5/10)

The sequel to In the Present Tense. In my review I called it a “bad soap opera envisioned by aliens” and that more or less sums it up. Review here.

 

Posts-Made-title

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

➽ Topics I’d Like to See Explored More in Fantasy
➽ Book List for a Class on Developmental Psychology

REVIEWS

➽ Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
➽ And the Ocean was Our Sky by Patrick Ness
➽ In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack
➽ The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bèrubè
➽ Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack
➽ The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

TAGS

➽ The Weather in Books Tag

flourish

And that’s it from me! How did your month go?

June 2018 Wrap-Up

So today is supposed to be a Diversity Spotlight Thursday post day (say that five times), but it’s been a stupefyingly busy week, what with Canada Day weekend and work stuff, which led to me completely losing track of time.

Confession time: I write the majority of my posts the day before they’re to be published, sometimes just hours before (*cough* like this one). So if I just happen to forget that tomorrow is a Wednesday and not a Monday or a Tuesday, then my entire weekly “schedule” is going to be out of wack–which is exactly what happened. This past week I was living in my own universe where I had my own days of the week and 5 PM was a perfectly fine bedtime, so things have been just a tad discombobulating.

So don’t do what I do, kids. Plan your week. It’ll save you heaps of future agony.

Right, enough of my mess of a brain. Onto today’s post! June was a slumpy month but I did somehow manage to knock off 9 books:

Books-Read-title2

June-1
➽ Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton: (9.0/10)
A speculative-contemporary YA that came out of nowhere and blew me away. Heartwarming and hilarious, it’s a story about overcoming grief and finding your footing in a confusing, often-times hostile, world. I called it a “love letter to life and humanity” in my review and I can’t reiterate that enough. Review here.

➽ The Book of M by Peng Shepherd: (8.5/10)
A post-apocalyptic fantasy story that sketches out a world where people are losing their shadows, and with the loss of their shadows, they also lose their memories. It’s poignant, magical, and the worldbuilding is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a post-apocalypse story. I’ll never look at my shadow the same way ever again. Review here.

➽ Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: (7.0/10)
A fun urban fantasy also set in a post-apocalyptic world, but with worldbuilding that revolves around Native American lore. I loved the main character but had issues with the villain and the plotting. Review here.

June-2
➽ Annex by Rich Larson:
This book was not at all what I was expecting, but it turned out to be pretty enjoyable in the end. Think Independence Day but featuring children and trans rep. Review to come.

➽  A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelly York and Rowan Altwood: (7.5/10)
A historical paranormal story set in an all-boy’s school where the teachers harbour secrets and spirits of dead students walk the halls at night. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and creepy and the romance between the two main characters was rather quite sweet.

➽  Curved Horizon by Taylor Brooke: (8.0/10)
Sequel to Brooke’s Fortitude Smashed, Curved Horizon is a F/F scifi that’s got some of best portrayals of mental illness I’ve read in a romance novel. It’s angsty, it’s sweet, and while the scifi aspect gets pushed back in favour of character interactions, I can’t complain because the latter is done so well.

June-3

➽  Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones: (8.0/10)
A F/F historical fantasy story filled with court intrigue, mysteries, and complex worldbuilding. It’s like a Jane Austen story but more queer and fantastical–highly enjoyable stuff.

➽  Death of a Clone by Alex Thomson: (6.5/10)
An Agatha Christie-esque whodunit set in space featuring clones. It’s nothing mindblowing and is somewhat lacking in the worldbuilding and character department, but it’s not a half-bad mystery and I quite liked the narrative voice. Review here.


➽  The Wonderling by Mira Bartok: (5.0/10)
A middle-grade book about a young humanoid fox who escapes an orphanage to discover the world beyond. The illustrations are lovely but I found the main character very passive and two-dimensional. Also, there are scenes of young animals getting beaten by the headmistress of the orphanage, which was distressing even to me, so I’m not sure how appropriate it is for children.
Posts-Made-title

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

➽ Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year
➽ LGBTQ+ Books (Sans Cis M/M Relationships)
➽ Summer Reads

DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT THURSDAY

➽ Royalty πŸ‘‘
➽ Pirates ☠️
➽ Historical Fiction

INTERVIEWS

➽ Interview with K.D. Edwards, Author of The Last Sun, Plus an Infomercial

TAGS/AWARDS

➽ The Mystery Blogger Award

ANNOUNCEMENTS

➽ Discworld ReadathonΒ πŸ’πŸ§™β€β™€οΈβœ¨

A reminder that Nicole and I are starting our Discworld Readathon THIS MONTH with The Colour of Magic! For those who are joining in, reviews are to be posted on July 23rd. For those who wish to join in, leave a comment below and we’ll add you to our list! (And by “we” I mean Nicole, because as I’ve heartily explained above, I shouldn’t be trusted with keeping track of anything more taxing than which socks I’ll be wearing the next morning.)

flourish

Happy reading! And feel free to tell me how your month went!

May 2018 Wrap-Up

Didn’t I just do one of these posts last week? I swear, time is going by faster and faster. Early to mid-May was a whirlwind of mental health issues and emergency hospital visits, so I’m kind of surprised that I still managed to squeeze in 11 books. So let’s dive right in:

Books-Read-title2
May2018-Read1

➽ Shirewode (The Wode 2) by J Tullos Hennig: (9.0/10)
If you saw the new Robin Hood movie poster and thought, “So it’s exactly same as the dozens of other Robin Hood adaptations except Robin gets to wear a machine-stitched hood?” then boy, do I have a series for you. With The Wode books, Hennig weaves Welsh mythology into the classic tale and reimagines Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne as lovers and Maid Marian as Robin’s sister–and all three entwined by magic and fate. The worldbuilding is intricate, the language is gorgeous (though some of the Welsh slangs flew over my head), and the characters are achingly flawed. It’s the best Robin Hood retelling I’ve encountered and I’m definitely going to need to do a full review on it sometime in the near future.

The first two books also feature a “friends to lovers to enemies to lovers” arc and I can’t believe this isn’t a more common trope, because holy hell, it is a beauty of an emotional rollercoaster.

➽ The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2) by Maggie Stiefvater: (8.5/10)
This was a great sequel to a book that I thought was interesting but still lacking something. Ronan is fascinating and I adore stories that explore dreams, so this one was just made for me. Review here.

➽ The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: (8.5/10)
Worth all the hype. Explores the atrocities of war and the dangers of vengeance without blinking an eye. I had some issues with the pacing and prose, but those are very much just new-author problems. Review here.

May2018-Read2

➽ Armistice (Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly: (8.0/10)
A slower-paced sequel to Amberlough that was, at times, a little too slow, but the excellent character work makes it worthwhile in the end. Review here.

➽ The Enchanted Chest by Jean-François Chabas: (6.0/10)
A weird little graphic novel that doesn’t seem to know who its intended audience is. The subject matter is a bit to mature for children, but the story is too hand-holdy for adults.

➽ The Wicker King by K. Ancrum: (9.0/10)
A beautiful genre bender that explores mental health and codependency in microfiction-multimedia format. Review here.

May2018-Read3

➽ A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White:
A fun space opera featuring a bisexual car racer (who’s also a WoC) and a mouthy veteran-turned-treasure-hunter. It’s not without problems, but I had a great time with it overall. Review to come!

➽ The Prince of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark: (4.0/10)
This was supposed to be a character-driven historical fiction set in Victorian England, but I found said characters uninteresting and their relationships flat. I did appreciate the exploration of mental health and LGBTQIPA+ issues through a 19th century lens. Β 

➽ Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno: (5.0/10)
I’d expected a lot of great things from this book but was left severely disappointed. At least the cover’s pretty. Review here.

May2018-Read4

➽ The Rig by Roger Levy:
This is a very ambitious story that’s reminiscent of Black Mirror, with the cynicism dialed down a couple of notches. It juggles many complex subjects, and while I can’t say that it’s a complete success, I have to give props to the author for trying. Review to come.

➽ The Curse of the Wendigo (The Monstrumologist 2) by Rick Yancey:
A reread–or a re-listen, rather–of one of my favourite series of all time. Though I’ve read and listened to the first and third book many, many times, it’s been years since I’d picked up the second one, so I decided to listen to the audiobook. Not as good as the third, but still very, very good, and the narrator does a pitch-perfect job.

 

Posts-Made-title

DISCUSSIONS

➽ Then and Now: “Strong Female Characters”

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

➽ T5W: Favourite Non-Written Novels
➽ T5W: Favourite SFF Covers
➽ T5W: Intimidating Books on My TBR

DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT THURSDAY

➽ DST: Historical Fantasy
➽ DST: Portal Fantasy

flourish

And that’s it! Tell me how your month went and if you’ve read any books that you think should go immediately into my TBR!

 

April Wrap Up – Books, Games, and Ninja TED

I finally got around to doing a monthly wrap-up. I read 10 books (and short stories) this month, which wasn’t as many as I’d hoped, but still not too shabby!

Novels and Graphic Novels:

April-books1

  • From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris (5/10): This was a bit of a disappointment. I couldn’t connect with the characters and the setting was more historical fiction than alt-history/fantasy, which . Review here.
  • Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence (7/10): Though I had problems with Nona’s character in this sequel to Red Sister, it was still an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing how things will conclude in Holy Sister. Review here.
  • The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards: Review to come…
  • Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer (9.5/10): I absolutely loved it. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are complex, and the worldbuilding is fascinating. Review here.

April-books2

  • The Lost Path by AmΓ©lie FlΓ©chais (4/10): This was a weird, weird graphic novel. I was expecting something similar to Over the Garden Wall, but that wasn’t at all the case. Though the artstyle is nice, the plot is just absolutely nonsensical.
  • This I Know by Eldonna Edwards (3/10): A big resounding NOPE. It started out with a lot of promise and then just took a nosedive. Review here.
  • Algeria is Beautiful like America by Olivia Burton (7/10): This was the first autobiographical graphic novel I’ve ever read and I actually quite enjoyed it! It
  • Dragonoak by Sam Farren (8/10): An f/f fantasy romance featuring a necromancer and a knight. It’s chock full of diversity, the worldbuilding is interesting and fun, and the romance was just so sweet.

Novellas and Short Stories:

All Systems Redground floor

  • All Systems Red (Murderbot 1) by Martha Wells (7.5/10): This was a fun read. Murderbot should be relatable to anyone who is an introvert and/or has social anxiety.
  • Ground Floor, Second Room to the Left by Chris Srantopoulos (6.5/10): An atmospheric horror short story that had some interesting moments but ended a little prematurely.

flourish

Games:

For the past week and a half, I’ve been thoroughly obsessed with this obscure little indie game called God of War. I’m not even halfway through and it’s already shaping out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played. It’s a fun, glorious romp through Norse mythology, but it’s also an incredibly personal tale of parenthood and the legacy that we pass on to our children. The relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus is utterly compelling and played out by the two actors to perfection. I’m very excited about finishing it but also scared about finishing it.

Atreus1

Ninja TED:

amanda
So I went to my fourth annual NinjaTED on April 11, hosted by the one and only Amanda Palmer, who is one of the most brilliant and passionate artists I know and also happens to be married to Neil Gaiman (I honestly don’t know which of the couple I’m more jealous of). What is Ninja TED, you ask? The whole thing started out in 2014 at the last minute (you can read more about its inception here) and it’s a way for Amanda to bring the TED people to the plebians of Vancouver who can’t afford to shell out $6000 for the actual thing. And to help out the local food bank in the process. It’s since become one of my favourite annual events.

We get performances from various musicians, poets, dancers, scientists, and magicians. A glorified talent show for nerds, basically–with more swearing and casual talks about genitals. This years roster included Adam Savage, Sarah Kay, Maria Popova, Neil Gaiman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a surprise last-minute Riz Ahmed (cue screaming), and more. (If you’re interested, you can watch the recorded Facebook stream of the whole show here.)

And I just about fell out of my chair when Neil and Joseph Gordon-Levitt started performing the Morpheus vs. Chronozon scene from Sandman vol. 1.

For those who are unfamiliar, Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams and Chronozon is a demon of Hell. Chronozon has possession of Morpheus’ helm and so they both decide onΒ  a little game. If Morpheus wins, he gets his helm back; if Chronozon wins, Morpheus becomes a slave to Hell. The game? One person says “I am ____” and the other person has to counter it with another thing. For example, Chronozon says, “I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed,” and Dream’s response is, “I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy footed.”

They go back and forth, with no one having the advantage of the other, until Chronozon smugly comes up with his trump card: “I am anti-life, the beast of judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything, the end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything.”

To which Dream answers: “I am hope.”

And wins.

And I think that’s an appropriate ending to a monthly wrap-up.

Here’s to books and hope.