How Historical Fiction Became a Source of Comfort These Last Few Weeks

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Gentleman Jack (HBO)

Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and keeping relatively sane! I kind of pulled a disappearing act again, but March was uh…yeah. I had to go through some adjustments.

The past couple of weeks has been interesting. I’m forgetting what day it is, I’ve been crying non stop to The Weeknd’s new album, I’m in danger of overwatering my succulents, and I’ve been binging on….historical fiction.

Huh.

I mean, I love historical fiction and I always have, but it’s become this weird fixation since the quarantine began. Weird because contemporary romance is usually my go-to comfort genre; they’re the books I reach for when I’m stressed and need an immediate escape. So why historical fiction? Why now?

My tentative answer? Because I know how those stories end.

Well, okay, not entirely. I may not know how each and every storyline ends, or how a writer will re-interpret something that’s already written in stone. Historical fiction is still fiction, even ones that are based heavily on true events, and there’s at least some degree of surprise and unpredictability to them.

But I know the general picture of the world that serves as an endnote to these stories. And I know the world which will follow that ending. I’m living in it right now.

And that’s become an emotional anchor of sorts. A reassuring embrace of certainty when tomorrows come with looping anxieties and new fears pitching tent above old ones. Not so much in the way of “Look how terrible things were back then and see how rosy this looks in comparison,” but rather in the sense of recognizing that there were hurdles people faced in every era, in every corners of the world, and then looking at today and saying, “Despite everything, we’re still here.”

So I’m taking it day by day, moment to moment, but also keeping the past close in hand because they serve as reminders of hope and resilience. And “past” doesn’t have to mean 100-200 years ago. I can rewind 10 hours and remember that this morning I woke up, got out of bed, and pulled myself through the rest of the day.

So yes, I’m on a bit of a historical fic binge. I caught up on the last two seasons of Outlander, reread a few Mary Renault books, and rewatched The Handmaiden.

I’m also a couple of episodes into Gentleman Jack and Harlots and enjoying both. The former has been called the Lesbian Downton Abbey, if you’re into that (I’m very much into that). The latter is an 18th century drama set in a London brothel. So kind of like Game of Thrones–the sex and intrigue part, at least–but actually written and produced by women, and told from the perspective of the sex workers (also something I’m super into).

 

To Watch: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

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Okay, how many souls do I have to steal and sell to be able to watch this movie? I’m asking for a friend. Quite literally.

The film was released in North America on February, and I was chomping at the bits to run to the nearest theater. I’d heard things about it for months. Exquisite pining, unapologetic sapphic beauty, gazes that say everything words can’t. I was ready to throw myself onto my imaginary fainting couch and sob into a handkerchief. But I had also promised a friend we would watch it together in March when they’re in town. Fast forward a few weeks: the news of the virus became loud and worrying, so we waffled back and forth about the schedule and the possible risks, and then bam, the theaters closed, cities went into lockdown, and the decision was pretty much made for us.Β 

So no romantic movie and dinner, sadly. But good news! The film will be made releasedΒ  exclusively for streaming on March 28th! Sweet, sweet joy! And it’s on…on Hulu. Which isn’t available in Canada. Oh.

I mean, I guess it’s fitting that I’ve been gazing longingly at a movie that’s centered around looking. (It’s coming out in VOD form sometime this month, though, and I’m super excited)

 

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Have you been reaching for any specific genres lately?Β  Have you watched Portrait of the Lady on Fire? And if so, should I have an embroidered hankerchief ready to sob in??

Crawling Out of Cave Hiatus: What I’ve Been Up to, 2020 Blog Goals (Changes are Afoot…)

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Hello friends!!!

I am crawling out of my hibernation cave like a big grumpy bear in need of more sleep and less stress to say, I’M BACK.

*Poses*

*Scattered applause*

Launching and organizing a book promotion took up much of my time for the past two months (I’ll have to write up my experiences with it sometime in the future), and my energy meter was scraping bottom by the time December was over. Combined with some family drama and mental health issues, and well, 2020 wasn’t exactly off to a roaring start.

But I’ve missed everyone in the community and missed writing posts, and I have some plans slowly cooking up that I’m excited to unveil in the (hopefully!) near future.

So here I am! And with a few 2020 blog goals I’ve set for myself:

 

Healthier Relationship with ARCs and Reviews

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You might recall me moaning about being in a reading slump back in October. Well, the Wendigo quest did NOT go well and my slump continued into early January (ending about a week ago, praise the bookish gods). Zero books were read, ARC or otherwise, and…and it was actually somewhat liberating in a way. At least, it gave me some time to think about what I want as a reviewer/blogger and to remind myself that keeping up with the latest books is not the be-all and end-all. Perspective was kind of, sort of gained.

Here’s the thing. I think ARCs are great. It’s great that publishers are willing to work with reviewers to help promote their authors and form a nice little symbiotic relationship (though sometimes this veers close to less-than-mutual territory–but that’s a topic for another day). And there’s always a feeling of gratification that comes with each accepted request. Like a “You’re #1!” sticker slapped onto my forehead telling me, hey, maybe I’m doing something right with all this.

You know what’s not super great? The stress.

The stress of being behind on ARCs. The stress of not enjoying the ARCs I’m reading and oh god does DNFing 4 books in a row make me a terrible reviewer??Β  I felt guilty about being behind, but didn’t have the energy pick up a different book, and the whole thing started to spiral into a bad cycle. Hence the slump.

And that’s the last thing I want from my blog. I don’t want this to be a space that feeds my brain demons–they’re fat enough already. I want it to be an escape. A place I can feel excited about returning to at the end of the day.

So yes. Healthier relationship with ARCs. The HOW is something I’m still trying to figure out (right now it involves selective requests and reading without taking copious notes), and I’ll definitely have more to say on the subject soon.

 

 

Changes to the Blog and Review Format

*Rubbing hands* There are some changes I’m hoping to roll out in the next few months:

 

1. An overhaul of the blog’s theme

Not the wordpress theme, but rather the foundation(?) of the blog. I guess it’s more accurate to say that I’m going to build the blog’s theme, because right now it doesn’t really have one. At least, not anything cohesive that ties all my posts together.

But there’s an idea that popped into my head a few weeks ago that I just. can’t. stop. thinking about, and I think it’ll be very cool if I can make it work. It’s a little weird and requires some preparation, but I like the challenge and, moreover, I think I can have a lot of fun with it. And that’s the ultimate goal here.

Vague explanations are vague. Stay tuned!

 

2. Mixes of “traditional” long form (word) reviews, and short creative reviews

I love writing reviews. Like…70% of the time. The other 30% is an uncomfortable zone of “What are words?????” and “The only thing I can say about this book is that I have nothing to say about this book.”

I want to stop beating myself by trying to write something I don’t want to write. So I’m gonna experiment with different, less wordy formats. Which means bullet points! Subsections! And art! Because sometimes I can’t dig up 300 words about a book to save my life, but I can think of a dozen ideas for fanart. Which is weird, but hey.

 


 

If there are any posts you wrote in the last two months that you’re super proud of and want to share, please LINK THEM in the comments and I shall do my best to check them out. And I’m not just saying that to be nice. My inbox is in shambles and my reader feed isn’t much better, so please. Help a girl out. πŸ˜›

Wishing everyone a belated happy holidays and a happy 2020! Looking forward to another year of geeking out over fictional worlds with you all~

 

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

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➽ 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

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➽ 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

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➽ 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

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➽ 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

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➽ 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!

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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˜€

 

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

I’m Back! – Health Nightmares, Weird Analogies about Canadian Health Care, and Queer Mermaids

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I love how positive-yet-uncertain this bear looks. Which matches me perfectly right now. Like, “HI! I’m back…? Maybe…? I don’t know what’s going on….”

Hey everyone! I’m back (possibly? hopefully?) from my completely unintended hiatus!

Sigh. Let me be blunt: these past two and a half weeks have been the absolute worst.

You know the saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”?

Well, June came in like a beautiful flying unicorn spraying rainbow spectral dust and has been crashing in a big glittery inferno ever since.

So. Let me try to sort this mess out for you into something that’s digestible and not a blog post equivalent of me sobbing into a pillow for an hour.

It started two weeks ago when I got a call from my mom saying that my grandmother back in Korea has stage 4 liver cancer. And that was a “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you properly” moment, because I’d seen her and talked to her in a video call a month ago and she’d seemed completely fine.

I hadn’t had to face the prospect of any of my grandparents not being healthy since my grandfather passed away 15 years ago, so I was at a loss to how to process it.

Now, that same week I’d been to the clinic because of some abdominal pains I’ve been having, and that led to a trip to the lab for blood tests. And not soon after I got the call about my grandmother, I found out from the doctor that my vitamin B12 levels were high, as were the numbers for one of my liver enzymes. Either one of those results by itself is notable but not exactly scary. Coupled together, however, means that there’s a probability of liver damage. (I had an ultrasound done since then and my liver seems fine, so that’s one worry off the list)

And that’s when my brain starting spinning in on itself.

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One of my favourite end products of human evolution is pattern recognition–our ability to take disparate bits of information and create a whole picture out of them (WAIT, there’s a point to this, I swear). And I love that so much.

I love that we hung a fish, a lion, a queen across the sky because we saw specks of light in the dark and believed them to have meaning.

I look at the stucco patterns on my ceiling and convince myself there’s a shape of a person holding an umbrella.

We connect dots and find stories in chaos. Which is beautiful, right?

Except when our brain turns it against us.

Because somehow I connected my grandmother’s health troubles with my test results and came to the conclusion that there’s something severely, awfully wrong with my own liver. And when it comes to personal stuff, I tend to catastrophize. So whenever something remotely bad happens I can’t help but assume the worst.

Cue stress dialed up to 11.

I was shaking, I was having anxiety attacks, I couldn’t fall asleep at night, and when I did, I only managed about 4 hours before bolting awake.

So I decided to go work out at the gym every other evening because I desperately needed to release the stress somehow.

Cue breathing troubles.

My first two workout sessions went fine–I took it easy and did light cardio. After my third session, though, I was dizzy and wheezing and it felt like my chest was constricting and I could only take shallow breaths. And this lasted through the next day.

So I visited a clinic and the doctor sent me in for an X-ray and signed off a prescription for an inhaler. Now, I don’t have a history of asthma and I wasn’t sure if what I was experiencing was asthma, but I just wanted to breathe properly again and surely a couple of puffs couldn’t kill me, right?

So I tried two puffs.

Cue intense vertigo and wooziness (I’m chalking this up to the inhaler’s side effects).

And I spent two days lying in bed watching Youtube videos and Netflix because I couldn’t focus on anything else. Also, getting vertigo on a 5th floor balcony is decidedly not fun.

Then about five days later, I started having chest pains. It started with my chest and spread to the shoulders and neck, and there were periods where I was dizzy and couldn’t breathe properly. And on Thursday night it got severe to the point where I was slumping against the wall of my apartment.

So I went to the ER, and they set me up with an X-ray, ECG, and yet another blood test, and then had me wait 5 hours until they came to the conclusion of “Tests look fine, don’t think it’s a heart problem. Take Tylenol.”

And I went home at 2 AM.

(*deep breath* Do not turn this into a rant about the Canadian health care system. Do not turn this into a rant about the Canadian health care system. Do not–)

Here’s the thing about the Canadian health care system.

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Let’s think of our doctors and hospitals and labs as little inns scattered across a kingdom. The quality of the inns is pretty great–clean environment, nice food, well-trained workers–but the roads that connect all the inns–the ones that you need to follow in order to get from one inn to the next–are unpaved and infested with bandits and giant man-eating scorpions.

So because you’re fending off swords and deadly stingers and trying not to trip over a minefield of uneven rocks, it takes you forever to reach the next inn, and by that point you’re poisoned and bleeding and sleep-deprived, and those well-trained workers have their work cut out for them. (oh god this is a terrible analogy)

You’re not really aware of the problem if you just visit the family doctor every now and then for checkups and things like the flu. But if you’re ever dealing with a more severe condition that has you moving from doctor to lab to doctor to specialist to lab, it becomes abundantly clear how inefficient and bogged-down the system can be. Especially compared to other countries that have universal healthcare.

But yeah! That’s kind of where I’m sitting at right now. Been crying a lot. Still dizzy. Still having chest pains. The tests say my heart is fine, so I suspect it’s a blood vessel issue, but I won’t know for sure until I see a cardiologist (which will probably take 4-6 weeks).

I think I’ve gotten past being scared and anxious into just plain exhausted. I hate the feeling of not knowing what’s going on with my body, but that’s what it is at the moment. I can’t yank our system by the collar and force it to work faster.

So in the meantime I want to try to get more rest and focus on positive things.

Like BLOGGING. And BOOKS. And GAMES. And talking with all you LOVELY, LOVELY PEOPLE. ❀

So let’s close on a good note!

 

Some Happy Things that Happened in the Past Two Weeks

🌻 I caved in and bought watercolour paints that have been on my wishlist for half a year. They’re a brand called Daniel Smith and their special thing is that they mine minerals from all over the world and grind them into pigments to make a lot of their paints.

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When I first started watercolour last year and began researching different brands, I kind of side-eyed Daniel Smith because using semi-precious gemstones to make paints (and charging $16-$30 per 15 mL tube) seemed kind of pretentious and elitist. But then I watched demonstrations and read articles and I saw how every paint behaves differently with the water in such mesmerizing ways…and it’s just the perfect marriage of science and art. How can I possibly hate that?

I’ve been playing around with them a bit and they. look. stunning.

🌻 I walked (very slowly) around one of my favourite forest trails in the region and sat by the lake for a couple of hours. Nothing gets me feeling more comfortable and at peace than being in the woods.

🌻 I saw female mallard ducks leading their ducklings on a practice flight session around a lake (a different one). It was disastrous and adorable and made me laugh.

🌻 I wrote an email to a UK publisher asking for an ARC, and to my joy and utter bafflement, they sent a physical copy over.

🌻 I stumbled across this freaking gorgeous painting on Twitter and I’m pretty sure it added several years to my life. I NEED it to be made into a story.

You can find the artist @trappedinvacancy on Twitter and Tumblr!

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Now you! Tell me something you saw, heard, experienced that made you happy this month!

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

βš”οΈ= Fantasy; πŸš€= Scifi; πŸ‘»= Paranormal; πŸ”= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; πŸ—οΈ= 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 βš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
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 πŸ—οΈβš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
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 πŸ—οΈβš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
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 βš”οΈ:
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 πŸ—οΈπŸŒˆ:
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!

Monday Chatter (Books, Games & Life) – Rain! Glorious Rain! | Viva la RevoluciΓ³n

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.

 

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

BOOKS – THIS WEEK

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Finder by Suzanne Palmer πŸš€:
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 βš”οΈπŸ—οΈπŸŒˆ:
I couldn’t get to this one last week so take two!

 

The Binding by Bridget Collins πŸ—οΈβš”οΈπŸŒˆ:
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

we the revolution.png

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!

Blogger Recognition Award – A 6 Month Anniversary On Which I Attempt to Give Advice on Blogging and Life

Blogger Recognition award

I was nominated by Gerry from The BookNook UK for the Blogger Recognition Award about a month ago! Gerry ranks among post-it notes and cinnamon buns with cream cheese as one of the more awesome things that exist in this world, so go shower her with love.

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Write a post to show your award
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select 15 other bloggers you’d like to give this award to
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you’ve nominated them, providing a link to the post you’ve created

This was meant to be a whole separate post in June, but then I realized July is the 6-month anniversary for this blog and so I thought, “What better way to celebrate a half-anniversary than foisting terrible advice onto people?”

So here goes!

Origin

The story of my blog getting started is astoundingly dull and short, and I’ve mentioned it twice already (here and on a post that I can’t remember the name of), so today I’ll just talk a little about the series of events that snowballed into its inception.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, reading and writing had been two massive parts of my life. Then university came and the latter half of my undergrad soon became my lowest point. I don’t want to get into massively triggering details because this is supposed to be an anniversary celebration post, but most days it was like crawling to the edge of an abyss and wondering if today was the day that I finally had the energy to tip myself over. And so I stopped reading and writing for the most part.

Then I came across Robin Hobb’s books. And it won’t be an exaggeration to say that they saved my life. (I’m 100% sure that if I ever get the mind-numbing pleasure of meeting Robin in real life, I’ll break down sobbing and they’ll have to wheel me out in a gurney and everyone will be traumatized by the experience).

So after reading through every book Robin had published up to then, I thought:

I want to read more of this.

And then a year later:

I want to write like this.

And the goalpost just kept moving forward, tiny bit by tiny bit.

Up to now. (Sometimes it’s the small victories that matter the most)

So I’ve been blogging for just six months. I’m a small, waddling toddler trying to duke it out with the heavyweights. And today I’m here to dispense some of the wisdom that I’ve gained in my very, very short life.

I imagine all the veterans reading this right now are doing so with an indulgent smile, like they’re humouring the antics of a 8 year-old who came home from school one day declaring they’ve discovered the secrets of the universe.

“Yeah okay, kid, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Right. No pressure.

Well, I don’t claim to have stumbled upon the secrets of the blogsphere, let alone the universe. The internet freaks me out half the time and most days I’m just tripping over my feet hoping I don’t break anything when I hit the ground.

So my advice are as much an advice as they are reminders to myself. I can’t promise they’ll help you become the most successful blogger to have ever blogged. I can’t even promise that they’re good advice. But maybe they’ll help you feel a little better about yourself and make you smile or cringe (or both–I’ll take both).

 

1. Write your posts however the way you want to

Seems like a no-brainer, yeah? But I’ve seen a few people worrying about finding their “blogging voice,” so I’m guessing it’s not an uncommon problem people face.

Well, there’s no one way to write a blog post. I mean, there’s no one way to write, period.

You can be as informal or formal as you want. Use gifs and emojis to your heart’s content! Gifs and emojis are unprofessional, they say? Fuck that. The vast majority of you are doing this for free. The idea of someone caring enough about a book to write an entire post on it–gif-riddled or otherwise–is professional enough for me.

And not every post needs to be in contention for the next Nobel prize for literature or whatever pseudo-prizes they give out to bloggers (here I’m very much lecturing to myself). There are no English teachers or profs looming over your shoulder checking to see that your independent clauses are sufficiently independent and docking marks for overabundant use of semi-colons.

So use this opportunity to stick a middle-finger at your 11th Grade English teacher who kept scribbling on the margins of your paper, “This sounds good but STOP USING SO MANY SENTENCE FRAGMENTS” (FFS they were creative writing papers, Mr. Wallace). Because two of the greatest joys of being an adult:

1) Ice cream for dinner
2) ALL the sentence fragments, baby (unless you’re writing formal papers)

One thing that I keep in mind when writing reviews or any other posts is, “What would make me keep reading this?” For some it’ll be humour, for others it’ll be a super formal essay-style. Everyone has different tastes and you can’t please them all. So write in a way that pleases you.

And go wild! Experiment! Loosen up!

If you want write your reviews in verse, go for it!

You want to try rap lyrics? Heck yes!

I mean, hell, Captain’s Quarters writes like a pirate! (It’s pretty awesome)

Or if you don’t want to do anything super fancy, then don’t. Just write. And as long as you’re getting your thoughts across, I promise you no one will care about grammar errors or typos.

And if it takes you months and months to get settled into a style you’re happy with, that’s perfectly fine too. I imagine blogging is as much of journey in itself, with its high and low moments that sometimes mirror the trajectory of your real life and other times have an entire life of its own. And if you’re enjoying yourself, your readers will be right there riding the crazy train with you.

 

2. You’re never too big or too small to show kindness

“Kathy, if I wanted a fortune cookie’s worth of all sap and no substance, I’d have cracked open, well, a fortune cookie.”

First of all, once in a blue moon, those cookies give you fortunes that aren’t completely asinine.

Second of all, I don’t know why so much of our society has decided that kindness is something worth belittling. That it’s a show of weakness and naivete–a giving of all in exchange for nothing. I’m not saying that kindness is the answer to every woe that exists in this world–a sort of a deus ex machina–but it does make for a more fulfilling day-to-day life. And that applies to blogging as well.

Jealousy is an easy thing to get caught up in as a blogger (as in every area of life)–especially when you see people getting all the physical ARCs and all the followers. And that’s perfectly normal! Jealousy is a common and valid emotion that you don’t need to be ashamed of. The problem arises when you deny it and/or when you let it mutate into resentment and bitterness.

So focus on yourself and focus on the qualities that make these other bloggers so great. Is that always easy? GOD, no. Sometimes your brain is like a dog that just flops down in the middle of the street and refuses to budge. So you gotta haul it up and painstakingly drag it along the direction that you want it to go–which in this case is the Road of Kindness and Generosity.


But pretty much everyone I’ve interacted with in the blogging world have been wonderful thus far, so you won’t have to reach far to find something nice to say about them. And whether they have 20 followers or 2000, a short comment of “Hey, I enjoy this thing that you’re making! Keep going, you beautiful butterfly, you!” can make all the difference in the world.

And in the words of Justin McElroy, “There’s no narrative to your life, no arc, no reward for achieving all the things you want. That kind of thinking is a recipe for a you-centric world view and is a very lonely road. Focus instead on the role you play in the stories of others…Putting others first with a cheerful heart isn’t easy, but because of that, even the smallest acts can leave an incalculable impact.”

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So to those who have ever read, commented, or skimmed my posts and went “Eh, I guess that wasn’t a half-bad read,” thank you for making this experience as incredible as it has been. Here’s to six months more. ❀️

I’ll nominate Vera from Unfiltered Tales, Maddie from Munch Reviews, Consu from Paper-Eyed Girl, Kaleena from Reader Voracious, Kristin from Kristin Kraves BooksΒ (None of you are obligated to do it!), and anyone else who feels like taking a shot at advice-giving!

Quotes of the Month: February 2018

Quotes-of-the-Month-B&W1
I’ve only read like four and a half books this month, so things are a little short on the memorable-quotes side. But worry not, because author Matt Haig has kindly provided us with enough quotable material to compensate for more than 10 books in How to Stop Time.

First, one so powerful that I swear my heart froze for a few seconds:Matt-Haig-quote

Second, on love’s ability to bend time:

Matt-Haig-quote2

Haig has a way of taking things that would normally sound like empty platitudes and turning them into genuinely heartfelt and inspirational messages. And I think we could use a bit of reminder that we are, all of us, just groping our way with no small amount of fear and confusion shouldered on our backs.

But if we’re stumbling through life, we’re doing it hand-in-hand. And that’s something, yeah?

Here’s to another month, my friends.