- Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier (★★★★☆)
- Beach Read by Emily Henry (★★★☆☆)
- The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (★★★☆☆)
- A History of God by Karen Armstrong (★★★★☆)
- Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Basterrica (★★★★☆)
- The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel (★★★☆☆)
- The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho (★★★★★)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 7
YEARLY SO FAR: 54
There are two reasons I’ve read so much less this month. First, I just spent less time on reading, because as you’ll see, I watched a LOT of television this month! Second, I read some pretty dense books. Two high fantasies that were pretty long, as well as finally finishing a non-fiction tome that was incredibly intellectually satisfying but also mentally taxing.
I am currently reading:
There’s a lot I want to get to this month. I’m kind of doing a group read of all the Hugo nominee novels with some friends on Twitter, which is why I’m finally, finally getting to A Memory Called Empire (been wanting to read that for ages anyway). I’m doing a buddy read of Exciting Times with an RL friend. I’m in the mood for historical fiction, hence The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. And finally, Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York was on sale a few weeks ago, so I purchased it and have been slowly savoring the essays since then. I am purposely reading it bit by bit since when I binge it I feel like all the essays bleed into one another.
As always, I really should not be reading more than three books at a time, but, alas! Some other books that I hope to get to in June include The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue.
Never Have I Ever
I binged this in two days and, predictably, adored it. While I seem to have become a bit more picky about YA content in books, I clearly still love TV shows about teens. This was just so sweet and wholesome and really funny, despite the various problematic elements that abound (I link to an article below that discusses the various casteist elements in the show). But it’s been the perfect thing to watch during these times; I could just turn my brain off and enjoy. There’s also a fantastic rivals to lovers trope here.
As y’all surely know by now, I love me a good police procedural. This one has a conceit that I recall was mocked quite heartily by folks on Twitter, though I’m not sure why; as police procedurals go, this isn’t that out there. It’s about Malcolm Bright, a forensic profiler whose father is a convicted serial killer – and Malcolm put him in prison when he was just ten years old. Now, freshly fired from the FBI, Malcolm helps the NYPD solve crimes, with the occasional assistance of his serial killer father.
What makes this show remarkable is its characters. Malcolm, who is brilliant, could easily have been a brooding asshole character; you know the type. Instead, he’s open, earnest, affectionate, and friendly. He’s got issues, certainly, but he never takes them out on other people. He also has plenty of support in his mother and sister. His mother, in particular, is an absolute force of nature, and his sister is ruthless in a way I’ve rarely seen a female character allowed to be, and her arc comes to a delightful conclusion.
The moment I saw a trailer for the show, I just knew I was going to love it, and I was right. Historical comedy is a genre I didn’t know how much I needed until now. This show is essentially a completely bonkers and hilariously inaccurate depiction of Catherine the Great’s rule of Russia. It’s totally ridiculous, but the great thing is that it means to be ridiculous – it’s full of anachronisms and cursing and just utter insanity, but it is anchored by the brilliant performances of its stellar cast, particularly Nicholas Hoult as Peter III and Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great. (And so, so many gorgeous dresses!)
More than that, the show excels at is portrayal of character dynamics. Peter and Catherine have a rough start, only to become a stellar depiction of the enemies to friends to enemies trope. Catherine is friends with her maid Marial, a former lady, and their friendship is dynamic and complex. Marial cares deeply for Archie, a conservative archbishop who raised her, but who also happens to be at odds with Catherine. Grigor is Peter’s best friend, but Peter is openly sleeping with Grigor’s wife, which does not sit well with Grigor, no matter how much he pretends. Count Orlo is one of the first people Catherine recruits for her intended coup, but he doubts her abilities. It’s a intriguing cast of characters thrown together here, and it makes for a very entrancing show.
Also, it’s just really fucking funny.
This is your standard network television police procedural, and frankly I don’t have too much to say about it except that I binged all twenty episodes in like three days. Ioan Gruffud has got some spectacular charisma (even though I always confuse him with the dad from The Nanny) and he does a great job in his role as a forensic pathologist in Brisbane, Australia. While every episode contains its own mystery, each season also has an overarching story. The cases are all actually pretty interesting, and they’re not afraid to go dark, which I appreciate!
Y’all, Gargoyles is on Disney+! I was obsessed with this show when I was an emo teen, but I never had a chance to watch all the episodes in order, so that’s what I’m doing now! I’m only four episodes into season 1 at this point, but already I’m surprised by how mature and complex it is! And the leading lady detective is a WOC, which I think I somehow always knew as a teen, but didn’t really know, you know?
So for the rest of the month I hope to get through Gargoyles, and I also want to rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender, since it’s now on Netflix! And hopefully that will be it, as I’d like to focus a bit more on reading in June! (Although I certainly still have plenty of TV shows I’d like to catch up on.) Oh, and I dropped DCI Banks; I just couldn’t get past my irrational yet visceral dislike about…everything on that show.
+ The Lodge: This was a fairly disturbing and very claustrophobic psychological thriller. I would also say that it’s very Gothic, or at least pays homage to Gothic tropes. It’s utterly bizarre and tragic and there’s a scene in the first seven minutes that made me literally gasp out loud and slap a hand to my mouth.
+ Frozen II: My mom really wanted to watch this, so we did, and I don’t really know what to say about it other than it was fine? It was a fun time. I’m sure there’s a lot to be said about how Disney tried to cover their asses by making their white-passing female leads half-indigenous, but I liked where the movie ended up going with that particular subplot, and I appreciate that they listened to criticisms that came in after the first film (I guess this retcon is also the Doylist explanation for why the girls’ parents would have kept the mother’s true identity a secret, as it makes no sense in a Watsonian frame). As always, the animated vistas are mind-mindbogglingly gorgeous, even if the characters designs are, frankly, a bit disturbing.
+ As Above So Below: Okay, so the first seven minutes of this movie are some of the most outrageous Orientalist and Islamophobic garbage I’ve ever seen. There is literally a scene where the intrepid white female lead, who is exploring catacombs in Iran, cries, “I can’t think with this thing on my head!” and then rips off the hijab she is half-heartedly wearing. It’s truly wild. But aside from that, I kind of loved this stupid horror film? It wasn’t always totally coherent, but I appreciate what it was trying to do. I don’t really mean coherent, but that’s okay. It features creepy catacombs, claustrophobia, ancient alchemy, random unsettling biblical phrases, and heavy allusions to Dante’s Inferno (which I had to look up, and once I did, the movie made a lot more sense, kind of, in an upside down, in-universe sort of way).
+ Clue: Years ago on Tumblr I saw a GIF of a lady saying “screams on the side of my face,” looked it up, and realized it was from a very old movie. I added it to my list, and finally, more than seven years later, I have finally watched it! It was completely bonkers and utterly ridiculous, but I loved it.
The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A fascinating exploration of how old-school Gothic romances turned into modern day domestic noirs. Moreno-Garcia delves into the history and literary criticism of Gothic romances.
Book Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri by Nibedita Sen: This is just a really good review (published in Strange Horizons) of one of my favorite books of last year. It reminded me of all the reasons I fell in love with the book and read it in two days that felt like a fever dream.
The H Word: It’s Alive! by Nibedita Sen: The H Word is a regular column at Nightmare Magazine exploring various facets of the horror genre. In this column, Sen talks about monstrous pregnancy. I am most familiar with the Mystical Pregnancy trope from Angel: The Series, where this happens to the main female character Cordelia TWICE and to Darla once, and from The X-Files, where Dana Scully is impregnated by aliens (?), but Rosemary’s Baby is probably what most people will think of. It’s a weirdly popular trope, and Sen explores the reasons for this, elucidating the true horrors of pregnancy.
Never Have I Ever…Seen a Show So Casteist and Racist by Monica M: While I really enjoyed Never Have I Ever, I’ve become aware that it’s led to a lot of intra-community issues about casteism, as the main characters on the show are upper-caste Hindu Brahmins. This wasn’t a topic I was specifically educated on, but thanks to a good friend and this article (among other readings), I became aware of some of the glaring issues inherent in the show. It’s a really fascinating read if you’re new to all this like I was!
Sacrifices to a Lesser God by Jeff Guard: This is a short little flash fiction tale over on The Arcanist. It’s high fantasy, but funny, and it’s about what people will sacrifice for their god, but also schadenfreude. It’s great and I read it super fast; it’s almost like reading a quick anecdote.
May felt like a million years. And yet I didn’t accomplish much; this is definitely the laziest I’ve been since quarantine began. I’ve also written way, way less than I’d like.
One bright ray of light, though: I sold a short story! I am so excited about this, because this is a story that is very dear to me, and that I have been shopping around various markets for nearly three years, only to be rejected everywhere I went. What’s frustrating is I came very, very close at some rather prolific markets, but never quite got there, so to finally have this story published in a magazine venue I respect makes me utterly euphoric.