Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone (And Helped Me Find New Ones)

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now being hosted by The Artsy Reader. This week’s topic is Books I Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone, but I’ve modified it slightly to “books that took me out of my comfort zone but I didn’t necessarily enjoy.”

Comfort zones are funny. Sometimes I feel like I know exactly what I’m comfortable with and not. Other times I don’t even know where the boundary is until I’m suddenly standing outside of it, saying, “Uh, hello? I’d like to go back inside.”

Anywho, the titles = subjects/themes/character types that were (or still are) beyond my comfort zone.

 

Second Person POV

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The Fifth Season was the first book with an extended second-person POV (beyond choose-your-own-adventure books) that I liked, and it actually made me see it in a new light. I love that it goes beyond a gimmick, that it actually serves a purpose in the story, narrative-wise. And I love even more that we don’t find out what that purpose is until book 3.

 


Space Opera

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I was never a big space opera fan as a kid, and I only got into Star Wars and Firefly and all those other big scifi franchises as an undergrad. But then I played Mass Effect and it was like, oh hey, this spacefaring business is actually kind of cool and exciting and I think I want more.

So technically, Mass Effect is what took me out of my comfort zone. But in terms of books, it’s Karin Lowachee’s Warchild that did it. I talk about it quite a bit on the blog, and I cannot overstate just how brilliant the series is. Beyond the space opera aspect, it talks about war and identity, and it features the most disquieting exploration of abuse and its lasting effects that I’ve ever read.

Coincidentally, it also makes use of second-person POV (albeit a lot more sparingly than  Broken Earth and also in a different way), and the effect is very, very powerful.

 


BDSM, Sex, and Queerness

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I read this series when I was 18, and it was my first experience seeing BDSM, queerness, and sex mixed together, and so forwardly, in one place. And boy, did that mean a lot to me.

I’m not saying that the Beauty books are quality BDSM literature, because they’re not (I’m 90% sure I’ll end up hating them if I ever do a reread), and it’s absolutely not the series I’d recommend to anyone who wants to dip their toes in BDSM (I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard Kushiel’s Dart is a better alternative). But I grew up in a conservative Asian family where sex wasn’t a thing I should even be contemplating, let alone having. Add to that a strong penchant for a kink, and you have the prime recipe for guilt, self-hatred, and repression–a full-course meal. And these books did a lot to make me feel more comfortable in my own skin. “Thankful” is maybe not the right word–it feels weird and a little wrong to be thankful for something that’s kind of problematic–but my feelings are a close cousin to it.

Ironically, by pushing me out of my comfort zone, Beauty helped me find it.

 


Small Pawns in a Wide World

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I have a hard time dealing with stories that reek of helplessness. Where the characters are given the smallest margin of agency, and everything beyond that is too vast, too complex, too deeply seeded for them to change. That’s the main reason why I dislike Never Let Me Go (I struggle with enough feelings of smallness on my own, thank you), yet it’s also the reason why I can’t get it out of my head.

 


A Heartpuncher of an Ending

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Adam, what crime did I commit in a previous life for you to make me go through the ending of More Happy than Not? I’m 100% comfortable reading books that talk about depression and suicide as long as they give me a few rays of hope at the end. This…wasn’t that.

But now, with the initial shock of emotions faded, I can say that it’s a fantastic and crucial piece of fiction–one that talks about queerness and mental health with stark honesty–and I’m glad to have experienced it.

 


A Heartpuncher of an Ending 2 (Feat. Irish Stream of Consciousness)

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Here’s the thing: heartwrenching endings aren’t within my comfort zone and I don’t think they will ever be. I don’t think I can ever be comfortable with something that shreds me from the inside out and leaves me tattered on the ground. That is the definition of uncomfortable.

But here’s another thing: I can be uncomfortable with something and still love it and crave it.

The final thing: I love being broken by someone’s art.

At Swim, Two Boys left me insensate with tears by the end. I was hobbling around for days with my eyes puffy and glazed over. And I would gladly experience it hundred times more. Because this book is one of the most profoundly human things I’ve ever read, and that ending, and my reaction to it, is proof of just how deeply I connected with the characters.

 


Queer Pain (aka Why Do I Do This to Myself)

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I sorely underestimated how uncompromising and triggering Orpheus Girl would be and I paid the price for it. Which sounds kind of dramatic, but god, reading this was like trying to swallow nails: painful, and not in the way I described above.

I didn’t dislike the book and I’m glad that it exists, as it talks about atrocities that are still very present for queer teens today (in the form of gay conversion camps), but it’s also something I almost wish I could unread, and I stand by what I said in my GR review: you don’t have to read these heavy topical books if you don’t want to. You’re not obligated to hold pain–any pain, queer or otherwise–by the blade and bleed yourself to prove that you’re aware of its existence.

 


You’re Not the Character I Thought You Were

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You know what I love? Awful and seemingly irredeemable characters who, against all odds, win me over by the end of the story.

You know what I don’t love? The opposite of that. When there’s a character that I like and want to wrap in a blanket because “oh, he seems so troubled and sweet and he just needs someone to hold him.” And then it turns out he’s actually none of that. He’s actually an asshole with psychopathic tendencies and deserves a fireball to the face more than a hug. That’s a “I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU” moment and not something I’m terribly fond of.

So I should have hated The Court of Broken Knives (and its sequel, which I’m currently reading). The fact that I don’t–the fact that I love it, and it’s become one of my favourite fantasy series–is a testament to how good Anna Smith Spark is.

Review: All the Bad Apples – Smoky with Old Magic

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Title: All the Bad Apples
Author: Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: August 1st, 2019 (UK); August 27th (NA)
Genre(s): YA Contemporary, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Subjects and Themes: Family, Women’s Rights, LGBTQIAP+ (lesbian mc, queer side characters)
Page Count: 319 (hardback)

Rating: 8.5/10

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CW: Rape, homophobia, and a myriad of casual atrocities against women (historical and modern)

When Deena’s wild older sister Mandy goes missing, presumed dead, Deena refuses to believe it’s true. Especially when letters start arriving–letters from Mandy–which proclaim that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions but a curse, handed down to women from generation to generation. Mandy’s gone to find the root of the curse before it’s too late for Deena. But is the curse even real? And is Mandy still alive? Deena’s desperate, cross-country search for her beloved sister–guided only by the notes that mysteriously appear at each destination, leading her to former Magdalene laundry sites and more–is a love letter to women and a heartbreaking cathartic journey.

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“This novel was, in part, fueled by rage”

It’ll be a cold day in hell when I don’t finish a blog tour book at the last minute, it seems, so this is gonna be shorter and less effusive than I want it to be. But don’t let my procrastination take away the fact that I loved this book.

All the Bad Apples checks all my boxes: a road trip to uncover family secrets, a spotlight on women, ancient magic bleeding into the modern, and the use of past tense in a contemporary(ish) YA. It’s also the closest thing to Kali Wallace’s The Memory Trees I’ve read in the past two years, and I can’t tell you how giddy that makes me.

Let’s get this out of the way first: the prose alone makes me want to read everything Fowley-Doyle has written and will ever write in the future (and I’m kicking myself that she hasn’t been on my radar until now). It’s quiet, addicting, and sensual, and it winds through you like a drug. Add to that the atmosphere of it all–curses and storms and the scent of apples moving through the air–and you have a recipe for pure decadence.

The story is contemporary interspersed with magical realism, and the latter are appropriately magical and chilling, but what amazes me is that even the contemporary bits feel textured and rich. So very old and loaded with everything–magic, history, the lives of their ancestors reaching forward to touch them. The book understands that there are places in this world that share a space with the past. Places where the past is so looming and loud that you almost feel it as a physical presence. You move from one rundown location to the next throughout the story, all of them spilling with history, and the author makes sure that you feel the weight of each one. It’s beautifully done.

At the core of it, though, is a poignant story of a teenage girl’s attempt to break a cycle of bigotry and secrets and abuse that left me touched and seething in each equal measure.

“You tell your story and the story of your family. You speak your truth. You shatter the stigma. You hold your head up to the world and speak so that everyone else who was ever like you can recognize themselves. Can see that they aren’t alone. Can see how the past will only keep repeating itself as long as we’re kept powerless by our silence.”

I do wish the second half of the book had been a bit longer, though, and that the events leading up to the end were more drawn out. The follow through on the side characters (minus Deena’s sisters) was also kind of disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all very interesting and had the foundation to be complex characters, and the romance between Deena and Cale (“short-haired punky witch girl,” in Deena’s words) was developing nicely, but their stories get neglected in the last 1/3 of the book, which is a massive shame because I feel like they had so much more to offer.

But those are small complaints.

Ultimately, All the Bad Apples is a book that deserve a place on your shelf. It’s got the atmosphere of a fable and the anger of the best feminist stories that exist in the world, and it’ll leave you with the lingering taste of apples in your mouth.

 

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Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Facebook|Tumblr|Instagram

Moïra Fowley-Doyle is half-French, half-Irish and made of equal parts feminism, whimsy and Doc Martens. She lives in Dublin where she writes magic realism, reads tarot cards and raises witch babies. Moïra’s first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize & the North East Teen Book Awards, nominated for the Carnegie Medal & won the inaugural School Library Association of Ireland Great Reads Award. It received two starred reviews & sold in ten territories. Her second novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was published in summer 2017, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards.

 

Giveaway (UK/Ireland)

You can win 1 of 3 copies of All the Bad Apples HERE.

 

Tour Schedule

Check out all the other stops on this tour HERE.

Blog Tour Review: Rotherweird – Plenty of Weird, Not a Lot of Enjoyment

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Title: Rotherweird
Author: Andrew Caldecott
Publisher: Quercus (US)
Release Date: June 9th, 2019
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Subjects and Themes: Alternate History
Page Count: 456 (hardback)

Rating: DNF @ ~50%

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1558: Twelve children, gifted far beyond their years, are banished by their Tudor queen to the town of Rotherweird. Some say they are the golden generation; some say the devil’s spawn. But everyone knows they are something to be revered – and feared. Four and a half centuries on, cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I and still bound by its ancient laws, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history. Then an Outsider arrives, a man of unparallelled wealth and power, enough to buy the whole of Rotherweird – deeply buried secrets and all . . . Welcome to Rotherweird.

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Oh boy. I tried really hard with this because I’d never DNFed a blog tour book before and the idea made me feel incredibly guilty. So I pushed myself to the halfway mark before throwing in the towel. Here’s the way I’m trying to look at it. The book clearly isn’t for me, and an extra 200+ pages probably isn’t going to change that. And if I keep reading, it’ll forever be embedded in my brain as not only “that book I disliked,” but also, “that book I disliked and was forced to finish.” And that’s a badge of resentment I don’t think the book deserves.

Well, enough assuaging my conscience. Let’s get to why Rotherweird didn’t work.

I think you’ll have to enjoy a particular writing style to get into the book–scholarly, with dense descriptions that are far too dry for my tastes. There are definitely sections where the story benefits from the prose, adding to the richness of Rotherweird and its inhabitants, but for the most part they pile up into a thick wall of Too Much, and I found myself glazing over a lot of it.

As for the characters, they’re varied and quirky but in a very distant, sterile kind of way. There are also far too many of them, and none are distinct enough for me to become invested in their story.

The plot has to be my biggest gripe, though. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m just an idiot. But when it comes to books that have complex, criss-crossing plotlines, I prefer the ones that are more…accessible. The ones that cordially invite you to partake in their mystery. Because that’s what stories are–a conversation between the reader and the writer. But when a plot becomes too convoluted, too inaccessible, and you lose the readers in the process, the story starts morphing into a monologue, and no one wants that. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens here.

Overall, the premise of the book is fantastic and it’s got individual elements here and there that I liked, but none of that gelled together into a story that I could enjoy.

 

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Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday Chatter: Pride Parade and Death By TBR

(Pride Parade and Death By TBR performing at your nearest city. Get your tickets now!)

A bit of a late post today because we had our Pride Parade here in Vancouver yesterday and I stayed out really late walking, eating, melting, and dancing–not necessarily in that order. There were some controversies surrounding the parade this year because both the Vancouver library and the University of British Columbia (deservedly) got banned from the event for hosting two different transphobic speakers (because something something freedom of speech). And some have been arguing against the decision, saying that politics should be uncoupled from Pride, which…I’m not sure whether to laugh or rage at? Pride is politics, people.

Other than that, though, it was a TON of fun as usual, and a much needed break from all the heavy events that have been headlining my life this past couple of months.

Also, happy civic holiday to all my fellow Canadians! I’ll be going out to the ocean with a friend in like…fifteen minutes. So let’s see how fast I can write the rest of this thing. 😛

 

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This Week – Books

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Wicked Fox by Kat Cho:
THIS IS IT, GUYS. I’m finally reading this. This is the first (English) fantasy book set in South Korea with Korean mythology with Korean characters that I’ve held in my hands, and I can’t even begin to explain what that means to me. It’s a monumental occasion and I feel like I should be lighting candles and making offerings or something. Tears are definitely on the menu.

Also, two chapters in and we get to see characters playing StarCraft at a PC bang. YES. YES. YESSSSSS. (My only criticism so far = the writing style. But I’ll get to that in the actual review)

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry:
Inkheart but for adults, starring two brothers. So far I really dislike Rob, the older, more normal brother of the two, and also the narrator of the story. But that’s not at all a bad thing because I like seeing what writers do with unlikable characters.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela:
I’m part of the blog tour in September and I selected the review + fanart option, so I want to get a head start on it. I’m not super far into it so I can’t say much, but I’m definitely not unhappy with what I’m seeing.

 

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  • The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor:
    I’m really excited for this one. It’s a WW2 book about a Belgium resistance newsprint that turns Nazi propaganda into satire, and it’s being blurbed as a WW2 Ocean’s Eleven. Also, because I haven’t seen people talk about the representation in this book and I had to find out from an article on Lambda Literary, I’d just like to mention that FYI, the story is prominently queer.

 


Recent Games

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So I’m almost close to finishing a game called Outer Wilds (currently only available on Xbox One and Epic Games). There’s a bit of controversy surrounding it because it was initially sold as a Steam game to the backers on Kickstarter, and people were understandably pissed that the devs reneged on their promise and decided to release it on Epic Games first. And I have thoughts on Epic Games that are mostly…not positive, but here’s one thing I can’t deny: Outer Wilds is an incredible game.

You play an alien astronaut exploring the reaches of the solar system, trying to uncover the secrets of an ancient civilization. It’s an unexpectedly deep and beautiful narrative hidden behind a really quirky, cartoony art design, and I adore what it says about walking through life with curiosity in your heart.

Seriously, go play it. I’m obsessed with its world and I promise you will be too.

 

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And now I’m off! What are your plans for this week?

Review: The Binding – Sweetly Flawed and Somewhat Forgettable

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Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Release Date: January 7th, 2019
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Subjects and Themes: LGBTQIAP+, Memories
Page Count: 448 (hardback)

Rating: 7.0/10

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Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.

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“Don’t think of it as a fantasy. Think of it as a romance” was the mantra I repeated to myself when I started this book because I’d heard it was less of a fantasy and more of a relationship-focused story with a tinge of magic, and I was determined to do whatever it took to love it.

Because guys. I adore stories about memories. I mean, I adore memories, period. I love the nitty-gritty cellular study of it, and as a wannabe armchair philosopher, I love musing about it in the wee hours of the morning. And I especially love it when the sciences and humanities decide to join hands and create masterpieces like The Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Now, The Binding isn’t science fiction. But it is historical fantasy holding hands with queer romance–which I figured was the next best thing.

So I was ready to overlook a lot of stuff, and I did.

I could overlook the vague details surrounding the process of binding and the history of how it came to be, because a lot romance stories tend to be light on worldbuilding. I could also overlook the very convenient series of events leading up to the ending, because this isn’t trying to be a masterfully plotted story. And I could overlook the ending feeling a little unfinished because, hey, satisfying endings are hard to pull off.

But I could not overlook the main character. More specifically, I couldn’t overlook the main character being bland and shallow and more or less a blank slate from beginning to end.

Emmett’s narration (totaling about 2/3 of the book) is a frustrating example of first person PoV being used like a third person. With his ailments and memory loss he would have been the perfect character to deep dive into–which first person should allow and entourage us to do–but we never end up getting past the surface layer. And his surface layer presents him as farmer’s son who becomes a bookbinder who’s also kind of judgemental of the people he meets. And…that’s about it.

Lucian, his love interest, is a far more interesting character and once his narration takes over last 1/3 of the story, things really kick off for the better. We get a little more insight into binding and how it can abused in the hands of wrong people, and the suffocating atmosphere of Lucian’s household is portrayed very well. I also quite enjoyed seeing the changing developments in their relationship from his perspective.

But at the end of the day, a love story isn’t a one-person show. If I can’t connect with one of the involved parties, I can’t fully connect with the story as a whole.

So while I didn’t dislike the book–it was a pleasant read for the most part, with some genuinely beautiful and thought-provoking moments–I’m still fiercely disappointed because it could have been so much more. A deeper love story and a deeper look into the erasure of memories and whether the loss of pain is an acceptable trade-off for the loss of yourself. And I’m having a hard time getting over that.

 

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Review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own. 

Monday Chatter: Why You Should Watch Elite (Oh and Uh, Books)

So last week I was searching for reference photos of leather jackets and came across an article that talked about how a Netflix show called Elite was a queer sleeper hit. So I was like, “Sure. Why not” and put the jacket-searching on hold to binge through the entire season. And now I’m utterly obsessed.

So here’s a tiny impromptu review!

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The show is a thriller/highschool soap opera set in a prestigious private school in Spain. Think of it as Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale but with a lot more sex. Now, I’ve watched neither of those shows so I have no idea if the comparisons are valid, but the internet says so and therefore it must be true.

Elite starts out, as these things all do, with a dead body. Or rather, it ends with a dead body and the rest of the show is a very long flashback showing us how that dead body came to be. There’s scheming, lying, blackmailing, clandestine hookups, exploration of kink and the harms of parental expectations, and tropey characters turning into something more real and complex.

It’s also very, very, somewhat sneakily, diverse. There are Muslim characters, gay and bi characters (one with lesbian mothers), and narratives–both romantic and otherwise–that fully explore their diversities. It’s great stuff.

 

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It’s not award-winning TV by any stretch, but it’s fun and sexy and addictive and unexpectedly heartfelt. So go watch it! I need more people to rant about it with.

Now onto books!

 

Last Week – Books

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The Binding by Bridget Collins:
This was a weird one. I liked it, but I’m also frustrated with it because it could have been so much more. I’d call it a historical version of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind minus the punchy narrative.

 

This Week – Books

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Jade War by Fonda Lee & Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg:
It’s take two for both of these!

 

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Westside by W.M. Akers:
A fantasy mystery set in the roaring 20’s starring a young female detective. I’m still not sure what to expect with this one because the synopsis is a handful, but I’m pretty excited.

 

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What adventures have you been on in this past week? And what are your plans for this week?

Monday Chatter: A Birthday of a Sort (And Books)

I missed posting last Monday because I got super sick during the weekend and didn’t really have the energy to blog for the rest of the week. Luckily I had multiple (*gasp*) posts scheduled that week, which was a first for me. So that was pretty heady. I don’t know how you people have posts scheduled weeks ahead of time and not collapse from the rush it gives you.

In other news, Saturday was my birthday.

And birthdays after age 18 or so have been traditionally…strange for me (which is a polite substitute for more grim words). The best description I can come up with is that it’s a day where I tried so hard to be happy (because my loved ones were and the last thing I wanted was to add another tally for why I didn’t deserve their love) that I ended up falling deeper into sadness. And attending parties and dinners felt like being trapped in the body of someone I didn’t recognize. Someone who smiled and said all the right things and was very good at seeming happy. My dreams of being an actress only lasted from age 7 to age 7, but I did become quite good at pretending to be that someone.

Feeling guilty about feeling sad is a really hard thing to get over, especially when people are telling you you should be happy.

Oof. Sorry for the downer intro, guys! It’s just been a weird week. And I’m not trying to make you feel guilty about wishing me a happy birthday or anything. Go right ahead! This is just me writing to process complicated feelings.

So, yeah. Happy Birthday. I’m sad and trying to learn to be okay with that.

 

 

LAST WEEK – BOOKS

⚔️= Fantasy; 🚀= Scifi; 👻= Paranormal; 🔍= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; 🗝️= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQIAP+

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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher:
Review to come tomorrow. Spoiler: I really, really liked it.

The Guildmaster (The Vanguards of Viridor 3) by T.S. Cleveland ⚔️🌈:
A fun fantasy romance feat. a kind pirate captain and an MC with father issues.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness 🗝️⚔️🌈:
This was a reread for a post I’m currently drafting. When it first came out I thought it was a weird departure from his previous books (tonally, at least), but I actually found myself appreciating it a lot more this time around.

 

This Week – BOOKS

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The Binding by Bridget Collins 🗝️⚔️🌈:
Finally started on this one! Half the people I know seem to think it’s amazing and the other half is very “meh” about it, so this should be interesting…

Jade War by Fonda Lee ⚔️:
I nearly fell out of my chair when I got this. I probably should read some other ARCs that are closer to publication date (or overdue), but screw it.

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg 🗝️🌈:
This is a reimagining of two historical figures. Two historical criminal figures, to be exact–one Jack Sheppard and Edgeworth Bess, who were apparently the Bonnie and Clyde of 18th century England. In this version, Bess is a Asian woman and Jack is a trans man. It promises capers and sexy times. And what more can I ask for??

 

Games

I’m still whacking away at Sekiro (and really, really enjoying it). I’m also playing through Inkle‘s latest title, Heaven’s Vault, which is a sci-fi archaeological narrative game that has you exploring the nebula and piecing together clues about lost empires and their hidden mysteries. Inkle has yet to disappoint me with their games and this is no exception. I love it. A LOT. It triggers wanderlust and curiosity like nothing else I’ve played so far this year.

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How was your long weekend? Holler at me all your reading and gaming plans for this week!

OMG That Song Tag

Welcome to

Aurora tagged me for this a lifetime ago (thank you!) and it’s been two lifetimes since I’ve posted a tag, so I figured this would be a good place to start!

 

[MY JAM]

A song you have to listen to no matter how many times you’ve heard it

Rachel Platten’s Stand by You because it is THE anthem for love and I get misty-eyed every time I listen to it.

And hey, if your wings are broken
Please take mine ’til yours can open too
‘Cause I’m gonna stand by you

I’m 80% convinced Rachel is an actual angel.

 

A book that you’ll never get sick of

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Really, the entirety of the Realm of the Elderlings series, but this one in particular. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this in the past 3 years, but I think it’s at 6 or 7? And a lot of that has to do with the snowy setting. I don’t know what it is about expeditions into icy wastes that I find so irresistible, but I do. Give me books about characters trudging through snow, sharing blankets and fire, and telling stories to stave off the cold, and I’ll be a fan for life.

 

[THROWBACK]

A song that reminds you of the cringiest time in your life

So my current playlist? 😀

Well, my teenage years were disappointingly and unhelpfully bland. Age 18 to 21, on the other hand? Total train wreck.

I came across Poets of the Fall in 2012 thanks to the Alan Wake video game. But contrary to 2012 Kathy, there’s nothing cringey about this Finnish band. The lead singer’s voice is molten honey and sex combined and their lyrics are heartstopping poetry.

 

A book you read that you wouldn’t like now

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I read The Mists of Avalon when I was 15 and it blew. my. mind. This was the feminist Arthurian retelling I never knew I needed. And I could overlook some of the more questionable scenes because I thought the heart of the story was in a good place. Well, turns out it wasn’t in a good place because years later the abuse allegations against Bradley came out, and that was that.

Sometimes I can separate a creator from the creator’s work. This probably isn’t one of those times.

 

[REPLAY]

A recent song that you have on repeat

“Broken & Beautiful” by Kelly Clarkson. Because I mean:

I’m tired
Can I just be tired?
Without piling on all sad and scared and out of time

I need–NEED–Kelly and P!nk to do a live duet of this.

 

A recent favorite book

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No words. A once-in-a-lifetime-experience. A gorgeous fae prince/princess would have to ride their griffin down from the sky and whisk me away to their forest kingdom for me to even consider knocking The Mortal Sleep out of the Favourite of 2019 position. (You can read my review here)

 

[GETS ME]

A song that’s literally me

“Miracle” by The Score. The band wrote it as a way of expressing their anxieties about song-writing and being in the music industry, but I choose to interpret it as a general “I’m going through some shit in my life” song.

It’s not just a phase
Now let me explain
I’m working through some shit
Sometimes I’m medicated

 

A book that is me in book form

The Light Between Worlds

See “A recent favorite book.”

But also The Light Between Worlds. Because one of its main characters reminded me of myself in the most uncomfortable way. The mental health stuff, that is. Not the “got ported to a magical forest ruled by a talking stag” bit.

 

[WUT]

A weird song that you liked anyways

To be fair, this isn’t a hard song to love at all. Tierra Whack’s debut album Whack World is nothing short of brilliant–a treasure trove 15 songs (all of which are 1 minute long) that brim with experimental whimsy. With “Fruit Salad” Tierra sings about eating vegetables (yes), lowering cholesterol (really), and not caring about what other people thinks about her body. How she makes that sound so good and addictive I have no idea.

 

A unique book that stuck out to you for some reason

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Memory lane time! When I was a teen I went through a delusional phase where I decided I would go through the entirety of my library’s YA section from A to Z. It lasted for only about 5 months and I ended up skipping through the alphabet, but I did get a chance to pick up some of the more…bizarre titles I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. Madapple is one of them. It’s one of those contemporary books that feels more like a fairy tale because of how surreal and ethereal everything is. There’s virgin birth involved. And child abuse. And court drama. And incestuous romance!

Terrible girl-in-a-bad-wig cover aside, I really really liked it at the time, and I haven’t read anything quite like it since.

 

[LET’S GO]

Your best pump up song

Maybe not the best, but the most recent. Within Temptation is baaaack and they’re apparently leading a space opera revolution to take back Mars. I’m SO in.

 

A book that inspires you

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I live and die on the altar of Markus Zusak and not (only) because he replied to the letter I wrote when I was 13, telling me it was beautiful (you probably say that to every kid, sir). But because The Book Thief pretty much molded the way I approach writing and other creative endeavours, and just…life in general.

I read it around the same time that I watched Pan’s Labyrinth, and they both taught me not to be afraid of rawness and creating raw and dark things, and not to be shameful about finding beauty in them.

 

[CHILL]

Your best chill or relaxing song

Sleeping At Last is an international treasure and Saturn is my favourite from their Atlas album.

 

A book you’d curl up with on a rainy day

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Mix together hope, goodness, whimsy, and small wisdoms in a bowl, pour them into tiny bottles and string them up around your walls like Christmas lights, look at it for one hour or five, and that’s what reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is like.

 

[ADDICTING]

A guilty pleasure song

I…don’t really have one??? But I guess this is the closest? I mean, I don’t feel at all guilty about listening to it, but I would feel a tad guilty about singing it in polite company because the lyrics are pretty explicit. And only Damien Rice can make them sound like absolute poetry.

 

A light, trashy read you can’t help but love

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Okay, this isn’t really light (I don’t know if any story involving Henry VIII could be light) and “love” is a strong word, but I did find it an addictive read.

 

[Nostalgia]

A throwback song you look back on fondly

So for the longest time–like, eight years–I’d thought this song was about the bittersweetness of growing up and watching your friends drift away, and I loved that because at the wise old age of 14 I thought, “Man, all the golden years are behind me.”

And then I finally watched the music video and saw a kid George W. Bush pushing around toy soldiers and tanks and was like, “Oh, right. This is Rise Against.” But I love it now even more because it’s such a chameleon of a song and it can absolutely be interpreted both ways.

 

A book you read and loved when you were young

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I read first read The Little Prince when I was…6? And it’s the first book that I could describe as being poignant. Or whatever a 6 year-old’s version of “poignant” was.

 

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Tagging (because I’m very curious about your music tastes. I mean, I could just ASK but where’s the fun in that???)

Amanda @ MetalPhantasm Reads
Gerry @ BookNook UK
Kristina @ Books and Dachshunds
Lisa @ Way Too Fantasy
Nicole @ Thoughts Stained with Ink

And anyone else who wants to give it a go!

Monday Chatter (Books, Games & Life) – Rain! Glorious Rain! | Viva la Revolución

Hey guys! I’m a tad late on this one so it’s gonna be a bit short.

The weather’s gone from “I’m sorry, WHY is it 23 degrees in the middle of March???” to a nice, comfortable, predictable 10-15 and raining” which I’m pretty happy about because that makes it the perfect weather for rainy-pier watching. And rainy boating.

So besides reading and gaming, I took my kayak out for a lil’ 2 hour float in the ocean this weekend (I keep hoping I’ll run into seals every single time I do this but sadly it only seems to happen about…20% of the time). I also watched a lot of curling (Sweden, we need to talk about how irritatingly good your team is) and hit a few tennis balls indoors. And then I capped it off with some watercolouring.

Sometimes I wonder if I have too many hobbies going on at once, because when someone asks me “What did you do this weekend?” the answer probably shouldn’t sound like I’m reading off a youth camp itinerary. But nah. That’s crazy talk.

 

⚔️= Fantasy; 🚀= Scifi; 👻= Paranormal; 🔍= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; 🗝️= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQIAP+

BOOKS – THIS WEEK

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Finder by Suzanne Palmer 🚀:
A space adventure story about a repo man who gets caught up in a whirlwind of trouble and lands himself smack dab in the middle of a faction war. I’m reading through it right now and so far it’s uncomplicated fun with a likeable protagonist and charming side characters.

Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett ⚔️🗝️🌈:
I couldn’t get to this one last week so take two!

 

The Binding by Bridget Collins 🗝️⚔️🌈:
I’m excited and worried for this one because everything about the synopsis says this is My Thing–a queer magical gothic story about young man who becomes a bookbinder’s apprentice. Oh and it’s also a story about the power of stories. Please please please be good.

 

GAMES – We, the Revolution

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I only got through, like, an hour of Sekiro last week, but I did get a chance to start and finish this bloodthirsty little gem. We, the Revolution is a visual novel/strategy game where you play as the judge of France’s Revolutionary Tribunal–an official court created by the newly established government to try, imprison, and execute enemies of the French Revolution. I’m still not sure what to feel about it. The experience was…grim and discomforting (not that I expected a game about the French Revolution to be a bundle of laughs), but also really compelling?

So yeah, I’ve been casually sending people to the guillotine in my spare time. Just a typical weekday night.

 

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Whisper to me ALL your weekend misadventures and your plans for this week!

Monday Books & Games – Broken Hearts and a Romp Through Sengoku Japan

I’ve seen Sionna (Books in Her Eyes) and Lisa (Way Too Fantasy) doing Monday updates forever now, talking the books they have lined up for the current week, and I was always on the sidelines going, “Huh, I should join them someday.”

Well, someday is now, apparently, and as my creatively-lacking title suggests, I’m expanding the concept to include video games!

I’ve also smooshed it with the Sunday Post (instead of doing a separate Sunday Post, because I have something else planned for Sundays), so I’ll also be talking about stuff I read and played in the previous week.

 

⚔️= Fantasy; 🚀= Scifi; 👻= Paranormal; 🔍= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; 🗝️= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQIAP+

 

Last Week – Books

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Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver: 🔍🗝️
I loved Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series when I was a teen but never tried her adult books, so I thought “why not?” Well, I went into this expecting gothic chills and witchcraft and got a really boring coming-of-age story instead, so I guess that’s why not.

Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley: 🌺🌈
This one trampled all over my heart and hung me up like wet laundry. It’s a queer YA in the vein of Adam Silvera with grey characters and exploration of religion and sexuality, all of which are handled beautifully.

The Mortal Sleep (Hollow Folk 4) by Gregory Ashe: 👻🔍🌈
*hysterical laughter*
*uncontrollable sobbing*
(Full review to come)

 

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Ancestral Night (White Space 1) by Elizabeth Bear: 🚀
(DNF @ ~30%)
I like Bear’s fantasy stuff but her first foray into space opera just…didn’t work out for me.

Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker: ⚔️
(DNF @ ~20%) It’s criminal how gorgeous that cover is, and it’s even more criminal just how awful the content is in comparison. So, so disappointed by this, but I’m glad I DNFed early because from the reviews I’ve read, it apparently gets worse.

 

Last Week – Games

Between hating on Epic Games exclusives and being busy with a dozen other things, I didn’t have time to play much last week. I did get a chance to finish Eastshade, though!

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Developed by Eastshade Studios, Eastshade is a RPG/walking sim/artist sim where you play as a painter exploring a fantastical island full of anthropomorphic animals. You meet people, help them with their troubles, and paint whatever you want of the world.

It’s got its share of issues and some parts definitely feel unpolished, but overall it’s…wholesome. And strangely charming and beautiful. Most importantly, I can’t stop thinking about it. And that’s a win in my book. Full review possibly to come!

 

 

This Week – Books

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We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett: ⚔️
This has been blurbed as a fantasy Code Name Verity, with a focus on female friendships, so of course I’ll be checking it out. Look out for the blog tour post on Thursday!

Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett: ⚔️🌈
A queer pseudo-sequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Enough said.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine: 🚀
I’m having a hard time with this one. I love, LOVE the setting but I just…can’t get into the writing style. Hopefully it’ll grow on me by the end.

 

This Week – Games

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Developed by FromSoftware, the brains behind Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Sekiro is a brutal action game set in 1500s Japan. I’ve heard mostly good things about this one which is awesome. And it’s apparently different from the Souls series which is even better because I want something new and fresh from the studio, not another Souls game dressed up in a different outfit.

 

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What do you have planned for this week?