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Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2021

  • The Wolf of Winter by Paula Volsky (★★★☆☆)
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (★★☆☆☆)
  • Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav (★☆☆☆☆)
  • Hex Life by Christopher Golding & Rachel Autumn Deering (★★★★☆)
  • The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster (★★★★★)
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (★★☆☆☆)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 6
YEARLY SO FAR: 29

I…have had a rather dismal reading month. I DNF’d three books, skimmed the non-fiction book I was reading, and generally just did not love most of what I read. I was definitely in a slump for much of the month, brought on by a variety of factors (one of which I am certain is Mansfield Park, which was such a slog!). Thankfully, over this past week I have been slowly fighting my way out of the slump, and I look forward to a much better reading month in May!

I don’t think my declaration to read indie books this month worked out well in my favor. Because a lot of the books I tried to choose were obscure, I guess I didn’t feel all that enthusiastic about reading them? Perhaps I should try to incorporate them more evenly into my reading rather than squishing them all together.

My mother also had emergency surgery early this month (involving a 3AM trip to the ER on Easter!) and she needed a lot of care when she got home, so I had little time or focus for reading. Thankfully she’s much better now, but April felt like it was a million months long, and it’s probably one of the worst reading months I’ve had in years.

I will say, despite my lukewarm rating of it, THE WOLF OF WINTER has stuck with me. I found it to be disappointing mostly because its summary advertises an event that happens only at the close of the book, but it was easily the most compelling part of the entire story, while the first half of the book could have been completely excised. Still, something about the world and the characters has stuck with me.

Unfortunately, I really disliked PIRANESI; I found it completely pointless and predictable, and I have to say I’m struggling to understand all the hype around it. I think it’s got a fantastic idea, but the execution of it was terrible. The other short work I read this month, THE DROWNING EYES, was a fantasy novella that I very much enjoyed and wanted more of! I also enjoyed the witchy short story collection HEX LIFE. And absolutely loathed LOVE & MISADVENTURE, which is saying a lot coming from someone who doesn’t hate Rupi Kaur’s type of poetry.

And, of course, MANSFIELD PARK. God. Basically, my thoughts can be summed up thusly:

  • Fanny is the most insipid character I’ve ever encountered in literature
  • this whole book is boring, terribly paced, and too long BY FAR
  • Edmund is sanctimonious and judgemental
  • Fanny and Edmund together are condescending pearl-clutchers who get off assuring themselves that they are so much more morally upstanding than everyone else
  • as a whole, it’s a novel that is more interesting for discussion than it is enjoyable for reading
  • Henry and Mary Crawford were the best part of the entire book and they reminded me of a less incestuous Helene and Anatole Kuragin

Anyway. Not surprised this is Austen’s least liked novel! I look forward to never ever having to read it again! EMMA is about as long as this, but I pray it is more entertaining, since we’re reading it in May!

I am CURRENTLY READING:

I’m a bit hesitant of THE SANATORIUM because it has a pretty low GR rating (3.44), but I love the locked room mystery/isolation trope, especially when it’s in an isolated and snowed in hotel in the mountains, and a hotel that used to be a sanatorium, at that! Thrillers are very often hit or miss with me but I cannot resist this hook. Plus, it’s not in first person! Huzzah!

THE MASK OF MIRRORS is one of my most anticipated new fantasy releases of 2021; I’ve already watched an interview with the authors that has me super hyped for what will hopefully be a complex and detailed fantasy. I’m only about half a chapter in but already I like that the writing style takes you right into the head of the characters. Also, it’s got a list of characters and a glossary. Incredible.

My TBR for this month is varied, but I hope to read a couple of literary novels, another thriller, a couple of nonfiction novels, one YA fantasy, and another adult fantasy. Mainly I want to finish up all the library books I have out.


Television Update

I feel like I watched a lot of TV this month, but I only really completed two shows; I just tried a lot of different things.

SHADOW AND BONE I’ve already discussed at length in a post of its own, so I won’t go over it much except to say that I am still in a high from how much I loved it and have to actively prevent myself from rewatching it! It was the best thing that happened to me this month. I can feel an obsession coming on and I cannot wait for the second season!

I got HBO Max and so finally got around to watching THE UNDOING, which everyone was talking about a few months ago when it first aired. I watched this with my mom, which was fun, as we had a good time trying to guess what actually happened (my mom’s guess was that Nicole Kidman killed the mistress and was framing her husband for it as revenge, which should tell you a lot about how my mom thinks). I really loved the actual resolution; I think the show did a good job of sticking to its guns. I’m…not a huge fan of Nicole Kidman and I do think someone else would have done a better job in this particular role, but it’s her show, whatever. The only other thing I disliked was how they handled Elena’s (the mistress) character. Not a fan of how they painted her as a crazy bisexual. I don’t think we needed the weird passive-aggressive nudity or the random kiss in the elevator. Overall, though, I really enjoyed the show.

I’d been vaguely interested in CLARICE from seeing some Instagram ads, and when I got a Paramount trial on Amazon I gave it shot. It’s based off a series of novels, I think, about Clarice Starling, of Hannibal Lecter fame, and is set after her encounter with him and Buffalo Bill. I watched the first six episodes and mostly liked them — I think the actress playing Claraice is fantastic — but it’s very bleak and slow-paced. I thought this would take the form of a case-of-the-week but it’s not that at all; instead it’s tackling one large conspiracy type case, and it’s…fine, but I’m just not super compelled, and considering my subscription already expired, I can’t watch the rest of the episodes anyway.

I started THE OUTSIDER, based off the novel by Stephen King, with my mom, and…I feel like I will just never jive with King’s stuff. Whether in novel form or television form, his work is always just so self-indulgent and needlessly bloated. Does this series really need to be ten episodes? The first two are very compelling but the series is just too drawn out. I don’t think I’ll be continuing this.

My brother decided to rewatch DEMON SLAYER in preparation for the movie, and at his urging I watched part of it with him — the first four episodes was all I could take. This reminded me of why I don’t watch anime anymore. I find the pacing far too slow, I hate the voiceovers, and so rarely do the shows do female characters justice. In Demon Slayer, the supposed main female character is the lead’s sister who has turned into a demon, and spends the entire show with a muzzle on. I heard the show gets better as it introduces more characters, but I just can’t be bothered. The animation was gorgeous, though!

And finally, the show whose violence has everyone talking: THEM, about a black family in the 1960s who move into an all-white neighborhood and are terrorized by both white people and the supernatural. It is indeed a violent show, with the fifth episode featuring a sequence taken straight out of a Game of Thrones plotline (the one involving Elia and the Mountain; if you know you know), and it went on for an excruciatingly long time. I’ve read a few different takes of this show. The first, THEM IS PURE DEGRADATION PORN, is entirely critical, lambasting the show for its unnecessary depiction of violence against black bodies. The second, BLACK HORROR AND THE TECHNOLOGY OF MONSTERS, offers more praise, stating: “[Them] is among the most accomplished depictions I’ve seen of the monstrousness and tyranny of whiteness as a purity logic which will always, in the end, consume itself.” Finally, Brandon Taylor’s newsletter, HOW COME THESE GHOSTS IS SO WHITE, falls somewhere in between the two, and is more critical of the show’s overall structure and themes.

I probably fall somewhere more along the camp of the second and third readings, because I appreciate the show’s unflinching depiction of white supremacy (in the five episodes I watched, there have been no “good” white characters, no white saviors, and expectations are subverted several times regarding “good” white people). That said, the sheer pain and trauma the black characters are forced to endure is…whew, a lot, and that’s coming from someone who regularly binges on horror and morbid shit. I stopped watching after episode five because I needed a break from the unrelenting bleakness — at first I thought I would finish up the show this month, but now I’m not sure if I will go back. I’m not terribly compelled to continue watching, but I’ll read some episode reviews and make my decision; perhaps I just need some time away.


Film Update

I actually watched a ton of films this month?? For someone who usually goes months without a single film, six in one month is incredible. I finally caught up on the Monsterverse:

So, I had the lowest expectations of KONG: SKULL ISLAND, but it ended up being my favorite of the three. It was fast-paced, it had a likable cast of characters, it had Tom Hiddleston wielding a katana, and was just good all-around fun. The other two, I’m sorry to say, were incredibly mediocre. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS was distressingly boring for a film about giant monsters. GODZILLA VS KONG was…fine? It had Alexander Skarsgard and great visuals. Otherwise, meh.

I watched NORTHANGER ABBEY with the book club after reading the book, and it was a delightful adaptation! They lean very hard into the campy gothic vibes, which I very much appreciated. Then I finally, finally joined the rest of the world and watched ANNIHILATION. I’d read the book back in…2016, I think, and enjoyed it, although, predictably, was frustrated by the lack of answers we got, but I did love the creepy vibes. I think the film was…a passable adaptation, but I wasn’t a fan of the changes they made — the book’s non-answers worked because everything was more subtle, but the movie lacked any sort of subtlety. I did enjoy the bear, though. And finally, I gave CRIMSON PEAK a rewatch after having first seen it in theaters six years ago. It’s even better on rewatch, to be honest. I mean, it has it all. Ghosts! Moors! Crumbling manors! Incest! Madness! Bloody murder! Financial schemes! Masterful visuals! Tom Hiddleson! A blonde damsel in a bloody nightgown wielding a knife, facing off against a brunette with a cleaver! Truly a gothic masterpiece!


Miscellaneous

Unfortunately I got very little writing or revising done; as I said, I had almost no focus whatsoever. I did do quite a bit of thinking about some projects, however, and contrary to popular belief, thinking about your writing is part of the process too! I also did some reorganizing and shifting and decided to scrap a plotline that wasn’t working. It’s so funny to think of the original draft of this novel and how different it was! I only have about eight chapters left to revise, but they are hefty chapters that require significant rewrites, so I need to get my ass in gear if I want to be done soon.

Good things that happened this month:

  • I got a new desk and I LOVE HER. I didn’t know how much I liked the rustic vibe until I saw this, tbh. It’s so much more spacious than my old desk and it’s just. Such an aesthetic. Took me six hours to put it together but it was worth it! I had my old desk since I was in college so it was definitely time for a change!
  • I got my first vaccine dose, and am getting my second in a few days time. Had no side effects from the first one other than a slightly sore arm.
  • Visited the Queens Botanical Garden. It was underwhelming and mostly made me miss my trips to Vermont but at least I got to see some flowers.
  • FINALLY managed to snag a subscription to Illumicrate after keeping an eye out for months for a waitlist. Then, after getting said subscription, I discovered that the books for April, May, June, July, August, and September are all on my most anticipated releases list, which like??? Never happens??? Illumicrate is so crazy expensive because of international shipping, but they often do the big adult fantasy books so I couldn’t resist.

2 thoughts on “Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2021

  1. I’m sorry April was such a difficult month for you, and I hope your mom is recovering well! Also hope you enjoy more the books you read in May.

    I’m still curious about the Paula Volsky book, even if it was not quite as good as Illusion. I feel like I’ve been craving so much this kind of fantasy!

    Defintiely checking out The Drowning Eyes.

    I’m curious about your thoughts on The Sanatorium! I just read it and it was not for me but the atmosphere was really cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Naty! I’m already feeling way less slumpy so here’s hoping I’ll have a much better reading month!

      Honestly, I don’t regret reading the Volsky book, even though I have a lot of criticism of it and think it could have been waaaaaaay better and it had so much missed potential. The fact that it’s stuck with me in a month where I was so slumpy is significant too!

      I’m about 20% into The Sanatorium now and I’m liking it okay! Reads like standard thriller fare so far, so we shall see!

      Like

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