- A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson (★★★★★)
- Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (★★☆☆☆)
- Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft (★★★★★)
- Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (★★★★★)
- A Border Passage by Leila Ahmed (★★★★☆)
- The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (★★★☆☆)
- Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (★★★☆☆)
- The Project by Courtney Summers (★★★★★)
- Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard (★★★★★)
- The Helm of Midnight by Marina J. Lostetter (★★★★☆)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 10
YEARLY SO FAR: 25
It does seem like I read a lot this month, and I certainly read more than I did last month, but I also read two teeny tiny novellas and a couple of shorter novels, which is probably why my overall count is so inflated. It was a pretty good reading month; I found some new favorites and was entertained by some classics.
I finally read the OG Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, and was delighted by its absurdity. A Dowry of Blood is the perfect vampire novel, decadent and sexy and gorgeously written. The Project is a riveting encapsulation of how one descends into a cult, with a super well written villain cult leader. My re-read of Truthwitch after about four years held up; I enjoyed it just as much. Down Comes the Night was sooooo much fun; I stayed up all night reading it and it was just straight up Gothic Vibes (if you liked Sorcery of Thorns, you will love DCTN!). Adored Fireheart Tiger, which was one of the teeny tiny novellas, and one that left me wanting soooooo much more; I’m so excited to pick up de Bodard’s other work. And I just finished The Helm of Midnight, which, while I think managed to crawl its way into my psyche and nest.
I am CURRENTLY READING:
Starting the month super old school with these two. I’ve been meaning to read Judith Tucker’s seminal work on 19th-century Egyptian women, published in 1985 (!), since the days I was working at NYU and had hoarded the book at my desk. The 19th-century is my favorite century of history everywhere, but in particular in Egypt (and England). I hope this is not too dry and academic, but I still intend to read it anyway, as it will be my non-fiction of the month.
And then there’s Paula Volsky’s fantasy novel, published way back in 1993. I’ve only read one other Volsky novel but I really loved it; the writing especially was fantastic. This one is supposed to have a kind of villain/ingenue dynamic, I think? I mean, I might have made that up. It might actually be a bit ~problematique, since I think the villain and ingenue in question are uncle and niece, according to the summary, but this may not be romantic in nature at all! Who knows! I’m excited to find out and very excited to read some old school fantasy!
Again, no set TBR for the month, only a general inclination to try to read more indie/obscure/underhyped books, in an effort to jumpstart my reading a bit. I’m not in a slump or anything but I do feel like I’ve fallen into the habit of reading very similar books and I kind of want to deliver a shock to my system.
The only hard TBR item is Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, which I’m reading for my Jane Austen book club, the Austen Splinter Spinsters (have I ever mentioned the name before? because it’s a kickass name imo). I am……..SO intimidated by this book. I’ve enjoyed all of Austen’s books thus far, and even genuinely loved Pride and Prejudice, but Mansfield Park is about 500 pages. 500 pages of a classic is…..a lot, and this book is reputed to be the least favorite Austen book. So. I am scared. I should probably start it right away and try to parcel out my reading. It doesn’t seem so scary if I divide 500 pages by 30 days, which is a little less than 20 pages a day. That’s very doable, and won’t even cut into my other reading (hopefully), and I will likely spend some days reading even more than that. Of course, it’s not the page count by itself that’s intimidating, as I regularly read 500+ page fantasy tomes, just that it’s a classic and 500 pages of dense writing with perhaps not too much plot is just a scary thought. Here’s hoping I’m pleasantly surprised!
At the very beginning of the month I watched Behind Her Eyes, which is based on the novel by Sarah Pinborough, and I’m still thinking about the insane twist in the last five minutes of the final episode. I don’t know how I felt about the rest of the series — it was certainly compelling, and I couldn’t stop watching, but I don’t know if that’s because the show was good or because I’m physically incapable of resisting a British thriller. It definitely felt a bit messy, and halfway through veers abruptly into a different genre, but that final twist, man. That was great. Also great to see a Black woman starring in this sort of role!
I also started watching The Stand, which…turns out watching a show about a deadly and horrific global pandemic in the midst of a global pandemic isn’t such a great idea! Whose brilliant decision was it to air this show in 2020! To be completely honest, though, the only reason I started it was because I’m hopelessly in love with Alexander Skarsgard, even when he plays assholes (which is…most of the time, unfortunately). He’s the main villain in The Stand, and I think he’s supposed to be the literal embodiment of the devil? I don’t really know, because, surprise surprise, I kind of quit the show before I even really started it!
Basically, I only watched the entirety of the first episode, and then I skipped through the next four episodes to just the Alexander scenes, and then by episode five I was done. It was just too bleak of a show, but in addition to that, the pacing of it dragged, which I think is emblematic of King’s work in general; I don’t really jive with his stuff. And like, the female characters…I’m not gonna go into a deep analysis here, but it’s just very weird to me that the two main female characters are both impregnated, one by the hero, and one by the villain. I get that it’s meant to be ~symmetry, but…eh.
Otherwise…I’m still woefully behind on television in general. Thank god so many shows are on their winter break. I will say I am very much enjoying Prodigal Son‘s second season and very much looking forward to its return (with Alan Cumming guest starring!!!). Also watching Harrow because it’s a crime procedural, though I’m watching it slowly. I also might just be dropping Grey’s Anatomy after…YEARS. I really thought this was the show I would never ever stop watching, but I just…feel little to no inclination to watch it? I don’t think it’s entirely the show’s fault; my energy for TV these days is SO weak (and my time so limited) that a show truly has to be spectacular for me to keep watching it.
I also watched the pilot of Agents of Shield thinking I would rewatch the first four seasons so I could finally catch up and finish the final three seasons, but now I think I should either skip around to favorite episodes/scenes or just read some wiki summaries and jump right into season five (at some point). I mean, it’s a show I genuinely enjoy — it’s probably my favorite thing to come out of the whole Marvel Universe, and Daisy Johnson is one of my favorite characters of all time, but again, do I have the time/energy to rewatch four 24-episode seasons, 45 minutes each? Maybe just the good parts…
Of course, in April, Netflix will be premiering SHADOW AND BONE, and I cannot wait for Twitter and Tumblr to go absolutely FERAL over this. I will certainly be binging the show the very MOMENT it drops, because I would like to be up to date with the cultural zeitgeist for once, and also because I AM SO EXCITED. I love the cast, I love the visuals, I love the opening music, and I just. I hope it’s amazing.
Aaaaand I haven’t watched a single film, but I actually really want to watch all the Monsterverse movies this month (as in, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs. Kong) mainly because…..Alexander Skarsgard is in one of them in a leading role. Also really want to watch Annihilation because everyone on my timeline lately keeps talking about that damn bear and I want to see what all the fuss is about, and I seriously need to watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire at some point. I will also be watching an adaptation of Northanger Abbey with the book club!
AND ALL THE TREES OF THE FOREST SHALL CLAP THEIR HANDS BY SHARON HSU: A fascinating and unique take on the portal fantasy genre. This particular story is from the point of view not of a character from our world going into a new one, but a character from the new world meeting a human. It’s a really interesting commentary on colonialism, and written in a fresh, engaging way. And what a freaking fantastic title.
THE CRUEL OPTIMISM OF THE GOTHIC: WEALTH, CLASS, AND VILLAINY IN YA FICTION: Written by Allison Saft, whose book I read this month, this is a really brilliant take on the Gothic! In particular, Saft stresses that to her, Victorian Gothic is rooted in a fixation on money and financial schemes, while providing a historical context for the economic situation in England at the time. She ties this to various examples of Gothic fiction, YA and adult and classic, and then ties all that to the precarious state of publishing today. It’s just a really, really good article, and flows so well!
STRANGE HORIZONS MAGAZINE PALESTINE ISSUE: I haven’t gone through everything in here yet, but it’s so exciting that Strange Horizons, a prestigious SFF magazine, has dedicated an issue just for Palestinians! My friend Leena has published a ferociously beautiful poem in here, and there’s so many other works I’m excited to read. Queer Arab Dictionary is another incredibly powerful poem. There’s also a podcast where the poets read the poems themselves! So excited to listen to everything on here.
I got a LOT of writing done. Mostly, it was because I had a crap sleeping schedule this month. I had very, very odd hours, despite my best efforts, and loads of insomnia. Oddly enough, this seemed to help fuel my writing. I ended up finishing a novel that I had started back in November 2019. This novel had first begun its life as a novella, but the word count slowly climbed, and not, it’s sitting pretty at about 57K, but I know that in revisions it will grow at least 10K, if not more. I am so, so happy I finally managed to finish this; I had been stuck on the ending for a while. I’d had one particular ending in mind, but had no motivation to write it, and I eventually realized that’s because it wasn’t the right ending. So, one night when I couldn’t sleep, a new ending just came to me, and in the wee hours of the morning (night? it was like 4am) I got up and scribbled like 8K words in a bit of a haze, something I haven’t done in years. And voila, the damn thing was finished! I genuinely love this project so much, and can’t wait to start revising it, which hopefully I will do in…June, maybe?
As for my other project, a revision of a 100K novel, I’m doing pretty well there too! I’m nearly, nearly done. This story has changed so much from its first iteration that it’s nearly unrecognizable, but they’re all changes I’m grateful for. It’s a much better book now than it was even a few months ago. I’ve got about eight or so chapters left to revise, but several of them have to be written nearly from scratch, which is a bit of a daunting prospect, so I’ve stalled a bit and haven’t written for a few days, but I’ve come to realize this is just my process. I’ll write feverishly for a day or two, and write a lot, then go days without writing a word, and then write a ton again very quickly. It just…works for me.
Otherwise, I can’t think of a single eventful thing that happened in March other than me trying and failing to get a vaccine appointment. I cannot see my chances improving next month, as NYC is opening eligibility for pretty much everyone, which means even more people trying to get an appointment. Maybe opening up eligibility means increasing the number of appointments available? I certainly hope so, otherwise I doubt I’ll get a chance until the end of this year. Which is fine, I suppose; I’m not planning on going anywhere and my job is permanently work-from-home, so I’m in a far better position than most people to delay getting vaccinated.