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Monthly Wrap-Up: May 2021

  • The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick (★★★★☆)
  • The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (★★★☆☆)
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark (★★★★★)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark (★★★★★)
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (★★★★☆)
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl (★★☆☆☆)
  • Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown by Anais Mitchell (★★★★★)
  • In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland (★★★☆☆)
  • A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark (★★★★★)
  • Emma by Jane Austen (★★★★★)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 10
YEARLY SO FAR: 41

I had a much, much better reading month than April, thankfully (though, the bar was admittedly very low). Not only did I read much more, I enjoyed so much more of what I read.

Predictably, A MASTER OF DJINN by P. Djeli Clark ended up being a favorite, and will probably be my favorite book of the year unless something eclipses it. It was a delight of a book: full of adventure and magic and humor and just so damn Egyptian. I loved it utterly.

Surprisingly, I also very much enjoyed EMMA! I’d been worried about its length after the disaster that was Mansfield Park, but EMMA is so much more fun and charming. I didn’t feel the 500 pages at all! I also absolutely loved Emma herself as a character. Yes, she’s flawed — she’s snobby and elitist and condescending and she’s not gonna be winning any medals for tearing down class barriers any time soon — but she is also absolutely charming, confident, clever, mature, practical, and so delightfully self-aware (for the most part). Also, she’s a saint for dealing with her father with so much patience!

Loved Emma and Knightley’s relationship despite the uhhh. Questionable nature of it (I don’t mind the age difference at all, just the circumstances surrounding the age difference; the fact that he watched her grow up is a tad creepy.) But I think their relationship and genuine friendship and mutual honesty with one another was one of my favorite parts of the book. I love that we are allowed to see this relationship in all its fullness. I also find it fascinating that, out of all of the Austen books I’ve read so far, this is really the only one where we’re allowed to see the two main love interests interact intimately for a pretty long period of time after they’ve confessed their love to one another! In general, I think this book offers the reader a lot of closure that other Austen books, which tend to end kind of abruptly, don’t; I’m thinking in particular of Frank’s long-ass letter and his reconciliation with Emma in their final conversation with one another.

Also some random things I enjoyed about EMMA:

  • mr. knightley’s live reading of frank churchill’s letter with his own personal commentary dljaflihkal
  • the joke about how not even Harriet could be presumed to fall in love with more than three men in a year
  • the little particularities of conduct, such as how apparently inappropriate it is to call someone by their last name after meeting them once (e.g. mrs. elton taking the liberty to call mr. knightley just knightley or even “mr. k”)
  • the constant “my dear emma” and “dearest emma” and “my beloved emma” I SWOON
  • john knightley being a curmudgeon
  • emma stuck in the carriage with elton confessing his ardent love (or, as austen puts it, “making violent love to her”)
  • miss bates
  • frank churchill just being an idiot, all the time
  • knightley’s constant and intense disdain for frank churchill

I am CURRENTLY READING:

I have a feeling I’m not going to like POSSESSION but I also don’t want to go into it with such negative energy lmao. It just feels like it’s not my type of book (it was a Man Booker winner after all) but I’m just very intrigued, so we shall see. And then there’s FOR THE WOLF, which is very much my type of book! It’s an adult high fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood featuring eldtritch forest abominations. I’ve been excited about it for a looooong time and it’s appropriate that I started reading it today on its publication day! (Also. I am IN LOVE with that cover.)

TBR for June and the rest of the summer involves reading some of the YA books that have been on my shelves for literal YEARS. Most of them are contemporary or thriller, and I have better luck with those YA genres than I do with fantasy, these days. The goal is to read these books and eventually unhaul most of them to clear up some shelf space! I also want to read SON OF THE STORM, a new adult high fantasy release, and I’d like to finally get to THE BASS ROCK, which I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time.


Other Reading

THE ANGEL OF KHAN EL-KHALILI BY P. DJELI CLARK: A sweet and short tale set in the same world as A Dead Djinn in Cairo and A Master of Djinn! Originally it was published in a Steampunk Cairo themed anthology a few years back, and Tor has reprinted it on their site. It’s not my favorite iteration of this universe, but I still really enjoyed it! It’s in second person, which was intriguing, about a young girl seeking to save her sister, so she goes to a so-called angel to make a wish, only the angel demands a very particular price. I enjoyed the twist and the light labor union plot.

THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE BY NADIA SHAMMAS: An intriguing sci-fi tale about…a simulation, I think? Only it’s from the point of view of one of the creations in the simulation, rather than the human experiencing the simulation. A fascinating analogy as to what kind of people are allowed to be seen, and whose pain is worth paying attention to, and why.


Film and Television Update

Because I spent so much time reading (and writing, more on that later), I didn’t watch very much this month! I caught up on the second half of season two of PRODIGAL SON (well, I have one episode left), and it’s delightful as always! It’s a fun police procedural but the main dude, Malcolm, is such an endearing character and a fantastic subversion of the recalcitrant messed up genius trope. He’s the son of a famous serial killer and he’s super traumatized but he’s just so?? Good hearted? And genuinely nice? I adore him.

I also watched an adaptation of MANSFIELD PARK after having read the book. I think that, aside from Billie Piper, the casting for this was utterly superb. So on point. Billie Piper, however, is just too…much for Fanny, who is supposed to be this sort of reserved unremarkable character, while Billie Piper is so striking and has so much natural charisma. It doesn’t help that she was directed to play Fanny as vivacious and enthusiastic rather than quiet and sickly as she is in the book. A fairly good adaptation, though, and I came away from it feeling much more warm towards the book, which I actively disliked.

And finally, I watched THINGS HEARD AND SEEN, a movie I had been looking forward to for literal years, mainly because of the cast (Amanda Seyfreid, James Norton, Natalie Dyer). It was not as spectacular as I’d hoped, but I still really enjoyed it! It’s a bit of an odd movie, but I think it puts forth some interesting ideas. It’s not scary at all, more thought-provoking and tense: it’s about a toxic marriage and the escalation of the husband’s gaslighting to violence, featuring ghosts and weird Swedish philosophers. It also has an ending that is just so??? Dope???


Writing Update

Well, this was the month I finally got to announce my book deal, and it’s so nice to finally be able to talk openly about my writing progress and not be super cryptic when referring to what I’m working on! THE DAUGHTERS OF IZDIHAR is the project I’ve been revising since January — it was a very significant structural edit — and I finally turned in the revised draft just a couple of weeks ago, so that’s done with for now! Of course there’s still book two, which…exists as a synopsis and a glimmer in my head at the moment, but I’m excited to take a break from this world and then return to it. I’ve been with these characters for so long (I started writing this in 2018!) that I thought I might be starting to get sick of it but my revision just reinvigorated my love for this story.

But! I will be taking a break, and that is to revise another project, very tentatively titled THE INFINITE DEATHS, which I finished up a few months ago. It’s not in totally rough shape; I’d say structurally it’s pretty solid, but I need to add some scenes and a lot of internalization to beef it up (it’s only 56K at the moment!). This project is an adult historical fantasy about an immortal girl. I’m thinking of it as Addie LaRue if it were a penny dreadful and featuring Egyptian characters. There’s a lot of body horror and suicidal ideation running throughout, but also romance and a celebration of life (that’s the goal, anyhow). It’s a weird one for me because its structure is so odd; a huge chunk of it is pretty much a bildungsroman, which is not something I’ve ever done before, but I love how it fits into the overall narrative. I’m also incorporating a lot of Middle Eastern and Islamic history and culture, which has been super fun to research. I am hoping in June to make a significant dent and hopefully be done with revisions by the end of the summer!

That is where my focus is right now with regards to writing, though of course other projects are always pulling at me too! I’m trying not to draft anything else at the moment and just maintain focus on revising, but there’s a brand new adult high fantasy that’s been tugging at me for a long time — I’ve got about 10K of that one written out but now I need to sit down and actually craft a synopsis for it, because right now it’s just vibes and worldbuilding.

I think this also marks my ~official transition from book blogger to author blogger, though I don’t think that means anything in particular will change lol.

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