- In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (★★★★★)
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (★★★★★)
- The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (★★★★☆)
- When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey (★★★☆☆)
- A History of Magic and Witchcraft by Frances Timbers (★★★★☆)
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (★★★★☆)
- The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller (★★★★☆)
- Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhorse (★★☆☆☆)
- The Return by Rachel Harrison (★★★★☆)
- The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters (★★★★☆)
- The Demonists by Thomas Sniegowski (★★☆☆☆)
- Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (★★★★★)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 12
YEARLY SO FAR: 35
So…March has been one hell of a year, huh?
It’s bizarre and surreal to think that at the start of this month everything was relatively normal. Things went from 0 to 100 really, really fast; there was so much news coming at us everyday that March truly felt like it was an entire year rather than a single month. Thankfully, I’ve been able to read; in fact, consuming content is pretty much all I’ve been able to do besides work, but I can’t complain.
I read some fantastic books this month; as you can see, most were 4-stars, and My Dark Vanessa and Untamed Shore were both 5-stars, and one or both of them could very likely end up on my best books of the year list; I loved them that much. I went on a bit of a horror/thriller/contemporary binge because I’m writing something similar at the moment and wanted to delve into that headspace. Made for a fun reading month!
I am currently reading:
Yes, I have an ARC of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue!!!!!! When I tell you I SCREAMED when I saw this on NetGalley!! I’m only 3% in but I’m already in love with the writing. What I am NOT in love with is this incredibly boring cover. Here’s hoping the British cover will at least be interesting. I’d even take an ugly cover over whatever the hell this is supposed to be. My TBR for the month is gonna be the OWLS Readathon.
I’ve never read any of JK Rowling’s non-HP stuff (I haven’t even read Cursed Child) and probably never will, but when I heard Cormoran Strike was being adapted, I was excited for two reasons: 1) I will watch literally any British crime drama and 2) this stars Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger, both actors I adore, but especially Tom Burke, whom I have been obsessed with since his stint as Athos on BBC’s The Musketeers (the third season of which I still need to watch!). Bruke is wonderful as Cormoran Strike, a man who went from disabled war vet to military policeman to private investigator. Though he doesn’t exactly have his life together, he thankfully avoids the brooding but super smart asshole detective stereotype; instead, he’s relatively well-adjusted and genuinely kind. There’s nothing particularly innovative about the crimes or the trajectory of the show, but it makes for a fantastically entertaining watch, and Burke’s chemistry with Holliday Grainger is brilliant.
Criminal is part of an anthology series that cropped up on Netflix earlier this month, with counterparts for France, Spain, and Germany. It’s got an intriguing premise, in that every episode is a bottle episode, taking place entirely within an interview room. My issue with Criminal is that it seemed to have expended the novelty of its premise with the very first episode, which is also its best: featuring David Tennant as a man accused of sexually abusing and then murdering his step-daughter, it’s tense and dark, with Tennant giving a stunning performance. The episodes that followed…not so much (though Hayley Atwell is brilliant in the second episode).
I’ve had this show on my radar for a long time, mainly because I adore Jenna Coleman, and she is an absolute goddess in this role; I’m not surprised she was nominated for Best Actress, because she is gobsmackingly brilliant as Joanna, a young mother whose baby goes missing. Not everything is as it seems, however, and the twist is truly unexpected. Unfortunately, I really can’t say too much about this series’ brilliance and subversions without giving everything away, but suffice it to say that this is a very, very clever show that plays heavily on audience expectations before tugging the rug out from under you.
I had very low expectations of this show, as I’m not generally someone who’s interested in mob/mafia related escapades, and really the only reason I had any desire to watch this was because it stars James Norton, whom I adore. I kind of thought I’d have to slog through it. But, surprisingly, this is a taut, fast-paced series full of political and criminal intrigue. Norton plays Alex, a very reserved English banker of Russian descent whose family was exiled from Russia because of his father’s involvement in the mafia. The family has been out of the business for years, but when Alex’s uncle is murdered by a rival boss (after said uncle put out a hit on said boss), Alex embarks on a journey of revenge and power-seeking that that threatens to upend his life and sense of self. What I enjoyed about this was that there’s not a ton of street fighting, so to speak; it’s more about business and boardroom politics.
Loch Ness is a Scottish crime drama. I honestly don’t have too much to say about this other than it was exactly what you’d expect from a Scottish crime drama. Beautiful views, small town full of secrets, various red herring subplots unrelated to the central murder, etc, etc. I loved it and I binged it in a day, but
What started out as a truly fascinating exploration of a he said/she said rape accusation very quickly devolved into a soap opera worthy of a late night Lifetime movie. This show is the very definition of “that escalated quickly.” It’s entertaining, to be sure, if a bit…over the top. Which would be fine, if the show’s first episode didn’t diverge so much in tone from the episodes that followed; it sets itself up as a smart take on the complications of consent, but then it loses any nuance and turns into a straight-up crime thriller complete with megalomaniacal villain. Which, again, would have been fine and perfectly serviceable if only the first episode hadn’t given us such wildly differing expectations. Ah, well. Entertaining and bingable enough. Great cast, too.
Since quarantine/social distancing measures have now officially been extended into April 30th, it’s gonna be another month of pure content consumption for me. I’ve heard good things about The Ghost Bride and Kingdom, both on Netflix, so I might get started on those! I’ve also been trying to finish up season 14 of Supernatural and season 5 of Schitt’s Creek. I might also finally finish up the last season of Jane the Virgin. And then maybe I can also catch up on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
I read three short stories this month, all of which were excellent. If you know me, you know I’m very, very picky about short stories, and it takes a lot for them to hold my attention all the way through to the end, but these not only captivated me but left me thinking for a long time.
Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine): One of the few things I prefer about short stories is that because of their length, they can experiment with format. As the title says, this story is formatted as a series of ten excerpts from an annotated bibliography on the native people of Ratnabar Island. It’s all kinds of brilliant, taking on the affects of imperialism, colonialism, and cultural relativism. Personally, I’m fascinated with the notion of cannibalism, and I loved this story’s take on it.
Brigid Was Hung By Her Hair From the Second Story Window by Gillian Daniels (The Dark Magazine): First of all, what a title. This is about Brigid, an Irish woman married to an abusive husband, but who finds a way to get her revenge, only to face the consequences of her actions later on.
Escaping Dr. Markoff by Gabriela Santiago (The Dark Magazine): This!!!!!! Story!!!!!! It’s not often that a short story leaves me speechless, but this one did. It’s so brilliant. It’s…how do I even explain it? Full disclosure, the first time I read it, I wasn’t entirely sure I understood what was happening, but thanks to a review by Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews, I confirmed my suspicions: this is a pastiche of old-school black-and-white horror movies, specifically tackling the role of the female assistant to the evil mad scientist. But it plays around with that archetype, bestowing the assistant agency and sexual freedom and the ability to rewrite the script around Dr. Markoff, the central character (and villain!). And the writing is gorgeous, lush and heady and atmospheric. This is definitely one of my favorite short stories of all time.
This month has inadvertently been focused on horror: horror novels, horror short stories, horror tropes, crime thrillers. I also stumbled upon a very intriguing video about horror novel book covers of old; that is, the cringey yet alluring and disturbing horror illustrations that used to grace the covers of horror novels, making them easily identifiable for their genre. The video compares these covers to the rather bland and minimalist covers of horror novels today. As a lover of horror and mass market paperbacks, I really do hope that we can go back to these wondrously disturbing covers.
At this point I would have talked about the two shows I’d had tickets for, Oratorio for Living Things and Whisper House, but, unsurprisingly, both shows were cancelled and my tickets refunded.
Thankfully, my job is almost totally unaffected by everything that’s happening, since it was already a work from home position with remote students anyway, so my routine hasn’t really changed much. I’ve never been one to succumb to cabin fever; in fact I have a startling ability to stay in my house for weeks at a time, no problem (I haven’t left my house in eight days and counting and I’m absolutely fine). So that’s good.
I’ve been trying to write, though it’s hard to focus when everything, including the publishing industry, is sort of on pause. It all feels very nebulous. Still, I’ve been spending time really digging into the weeds of a current project. At one point I honestly thought I would abandon it because I was struggling so much with the plot, but after stepping away for about four days and then coming back to it, I solved the Meereeneese Knot, and now I have a better sense of where the story is going, though I am still struggling with voice and tone, which is weird, because that’s not something I’ve ever struggled with before. Every project poses its own challenges, I suppose! I feel like I’ve made some good breakthroughs, even if I haven’t necessarily written very many words.
I’m somehow still maintaining a vague keto regimen despite being very jealous of everyone who is baking bread and cookies and cakes. I’ve definitely been kicked out of ketosis because I’ve been eating way too much popcorn, but I think (hope) I’m still in fat-burning mode, as I’m still eating low-carb and avoiding sugar. Not for nothing, but I just think that now is the absolute worst time to give myself diabetes, and since I was already pre-diabetic before keto, I don’t think I should do anything to upset my insulin’s super delicate balance right now…we’ll see, though. Early in March I made a very rash decision and ordered a TokyoTreat box full of Japanese snacks, so…I’ll probably succumb to that when it gets here later in April.