- Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca (★★★☆☆)
- Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (★★★★☆)
- A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams (★★★☆☆)
- Practical Magic by Nikki Van De Car (★★★★★)
- Assembly by Natasha Brown (★★★★☆)
- Madam by Phoebe Wynne (★★★☆☆)
- Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater (★★★★★)
- Dragonslayer by Duncan Hamilton (★★★☆☆)
- Breach of Peace by Daniel Greene (★★★★☆)
- Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch (★★★★★)
- The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (★★★★☆)
- The Colour of God by Ayesha S. Chaudry (★★★★★)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 12
YEARLY SO FAR: 58
It’s been a weird reading month. I can’t seem to determine if I’m in a reading slump or if I’m just being extra picky about the books I read. I DNF’d three books this month, and set two aside for later reading, when I’m in a hopefully better mood. I don’t know, I feel like this year in general I’ve been way more liberal with DNF-ing, and that tends to make me think I’m in a slump, but maybe I’m just being extra discerning? Because I have managed to read quite a few books this month, and I have five-starred and four-starred a few of them, so maybe I’m just being real with myself about which books I don’t want to waste my energy on.
It just feels a bit weird because a lot of the books I’m setting aside are high fantasy, which, of course, is normally my preferred genre. I don’t know if I’m just a bit glutted on high fantasy at the moment, since I’ve read quite a lot of it this year, or if, again, I’m being very picky about the 500+ page books I read (and high fantasy requires a lot of energy investment in addition to time!).
Anyway, my favorite book of the month was HALF A SOUL by Olivia Atwater, which is an adorable and very short historical fantasy set in Regency England, only with magic and fairies. I loved it. It’s whimsical and charming, with great characters and a cute romance, and also manages to sneak in quite a bit of social commentary as well as an engaging mystery. My other favorite book was LOVE AND LUCK, a YA contemporary about a road trip through Ireland with a sibling relationship at its heart. This book reminded me very much of my own road trip through Ireland ten years ago and thus made me very nostalgic. But it was also just like, pure serotonin.
Because I was feeling slumpy, I gravitated more towards shorter books and novellas, as well as thrillers, and I think this worked pretty well for me. Normally I also reach for more YA contemporary, and I did have in mind a large YA contemporary TBR, but I just wasn’t feeling those titles, so…back on the shelf they went.
Oh, well. At least my reading was very eclectic this month!
CURRENTLY READING/JULY TBR:
Listen. Come hell or high water, I am going to read THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN and SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN in August. Both of my physical copies have arrived and they are absolutely stunning and I have been waiting on them for so long and I am very excited to read these books!!! I don’t care if they’re the only two books I read in August. That said, I am cautiously optimistic that I can also read THE JASMINE THRONE, which I also have a physical copy of and have been very excited for, but I am just so afraid that my weird slumpy mood when it comes to dense, multi-POV high fantasy will ruin the experience for me! But these three books are probably my top three most anticipated of the entire year after A MASTER OF DJINN, so I would really like to read them, y’know, this year.
I definitely also want to read the second book in Olivia Atwater’s series, because it is just so goddamn delightful. I may also finally start the MURDERBOT series, in honor of the Hugo Awards and all? Plus they’re novellas and I’m really enjoying reading short stuff right now. Oh, and I also requested a ton (read: 17) graphic novels from the library, because graphic novels are easy and quick to read (hopefully). Just gotta find the energy to go pick them up from the library. There are also a couple of literary novels I thought I might give a go (THE BEAUTY OF YOUR FACE and FAULT LINES) but we shall see!
And finally, my book club is doing WIDE SARGASSO SEA this month, a book I’ve owned for years and have been meaning to read for just as long. Thankfully, it is also quite short!
The Master’s Trap: A brief article about the predatory practices of Master’s degrees, focusing in particular on two programs at the University of Chicago, which drive students into debt. In general, the article discusses how Master’s degrees are revenue sources for the university, even quoting a Columbia’s vice provost, who says that they should be revenue sources. I like that this article touches on the predatory practices of these prestigious institutions like Chicago and Columbia in comparison to the for-profit institutions they are constantly deriding and distancing themselves from, when, in reality, their motives and practices are similar.
Did Twitter Break YA?: The publishing article du jour (or, du monthly, whatever), that had a lot of folks in publishing discussing how toxic Twitter has become to and for authors. It starts off with a brief history of the development of the YA genre and then discusses the advent of Twitter and how that coincided with the growth of YA. It also discusses the hazards of parasocial relationships and the abuse that authors frequently face on the platform. I also learned about context collapse:
“Context collapse is what happens when the scale of interaction shifts to ‘the infinite audience possible online as opposed to the limited groups a person normally interacts with face to face. In a limited group, a person is constantly adjusting their tone and presentation of self to fit into the social context. In a situation of context collapse, this becomes impossible.’ Individual users cannot be responsible for predicting how every single person will react to, interpret and interact with their social media posts. They cannot telepathically know what is unfolding at all times.”
As the article continues to dig deeper into the scandals and cancellations and mob abuse that has plagued the Twitter book community over the past few years, it highlights the theory of morally motivated network harassment:
“Morally motivated networked harassment is a new sociological theory that describes and seeks to explain the social media dogpiling that unfolds when someone’s personal moral outrage is matched on a community scale.”
This article has gotten a lot of folks talking about the pressure authors face on social media, and so it feels like there is hope for things to change on Twitter, especially considering it has recently been seeing a mass exodus of authors from the platform specifically because of harassment.
The Humanization of Authors: Linked in the aforementioned article, this post by author Kacen Callender mainly discusses the incorrect notion that an author always has more power than a reader, and that because of this, the author is not allowed to speak/argue/defend themselves in online spaces. Callender also touches on parasocial relationships, although they don’t necessarily refer to it as such, but rather delves into the idea that an author always needs to be available and amenable to their audience, no matter how much abuse they are facing.
Fandom Has a Purity Culture Problem: Clearly there was a reading theme for me this month! This Mary Sue article discusses fandom purity and antis, or, the idea that fic and shipping must be “pure” and completely morally unproblematic, which is, of course, ridiculous, and is absolutely not what fiction is for:
“Fiction is how we can safely and harmlessly access and explore the darker sides of human nature. To only allow for morally pure fic isn’t just a recipe for boring stories, it’s a rejection of reality because the world is not morally pure and perfect either. But hey, if you don’t like that stuff you don’t have to engage with it.”
This goes hand in hand with the other two aforementioned articles about how authors are treated; a large part of Twitter’s ~cancellation of authors has to do with the content authors put out (consider the whole Tamsyn Muir fiasco, or more recently, the bizarre criticism of Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue for containing a line acknowledging Israel’s relationship with the US, which then led to an editor being dogpiled for stating that author’s views obviously don’t always match what they write).
It Used to Be Perilous to Write Fanfiction: A very brief history of the development of fanfiction’s legality. It touches on the extremes some authors went to to prevent fanfic of their works (most notably, Anne Rice, whose lawyers harassed fanfic writers), and how completely different the situation is now that fandom is so much more visible.
Shadow and Bone Review: I just really love reading Rav’s takes and opinions; her thoughts are so eloquent and funny, and she does this thing where she ties most of her TV reviews to various TV Tropes.
Searching For the Words to Describe Myself: Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese-American poet who in this article discusses the frustrating liminality of her identity as an Arabic-speaking Black person, and the lack of precise language to describe said identity.
Britain Destroyed Records of Colonial Crimes: I’d never heard of this, but apparently Operation Legacy was what the British government called their systematic destruction of records that displayed the true horror of their colonization, or, in the words of Iain Macleod, secretary of state for the colonies in the 1960s:
post-independence governments should not get any material that “might embarrass Her Majesty’s government”, that could “embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others eg police informers”, that might compromise intelligence sources, or that might “be used unethically by ministers in the successor government”
This is the sort of thing that, once you learn it, is not even a little bit surprising, but it’s still frustrating that this isn’t common knowledge, especially when you consider what Rosa Gilbert calls “postcolonial melancholia” about the British empire, or, the perception that British colonialism was somehow more virtuous than that of its peers. Anyway, the way the British went about this is the kind of conspiracy theory shit people want to laugh at but like, it’s actual reality.
She Who Hungers, She Who Waits by Cassandra Khaw: A short story! I adore Khaw’s rich, beautiful writing, and her ideas are always so creepy. This one is about cruel gods and crueler rituals. Some really interesting worldbuilding ideas here; I’d love to see something longer set in this world!
FILM AND TV
My book club was doing Jane Eyre this month, but there was no way I was re-reading the book (I…did not love it the first time I read it), so I decided to watch an adaptation, which was fine because I’d been meaning to watch the Ruth Wilson adaptation anyway! It was very well-done; not sure how I feel about Ruth Wilson in the role (I love her but she’s just too striking!) but Toby Stephens was phenomenal. I also got a jolt when I realized this is the same dude in Black Sails!
And then I just spent some time catching up on old shows. I’d really thought I was done with the Law and Order world, but then they went and brought Elliot back and got killed off his wife. Every scene he has with Olivia is ELECTRIC and makes my shipper heart scream. Organized Crime is also a really good show, independent of its ties with SVU; I don’t normally love organized crime subplots but I’m finding this one really interesting.
And I finally finished off Superstore! I’m super sad it’s ending but I’m glad they got to finish up on their own terms; I thought the ending was really wholesome and stayed true to the spirit of the show!
I grew up on the Fear Street novels; after I finished the entirety of the Goosebumps collection at my library I moved onto Fear Street. They were incredibly formative for me and there are certain scenes and plotlines that still live rent-free in my head. I was super excited to see Netflix adapting the series, and even though the films have very little in common with the original novels (particularly the storyline with Sarah Fier, the witch), this trilogy was SO FREAKING GOOD YO. The vibes were absolutely immaculate; these are all technically period films and they all represent their particular era so well. And how much do I love that the heart of this entire trilogy is a lesbian relationship???
Also, these movies are not fucking around. They’re bloody and violent and main characters die and shit is sad. It’s FANTASTIC. I love how the 1994 and 1978 ones in particular really captured that old school teen slasher film vibe, complete with beats of humor and unique, memorable characters.
Also, the film posters are RAD.
Listen. I just need summer to end. Why is summer even a season. I hate this smoggy, muggy, humid weather that makes me just want to languish in bed for hours on end. I know I probably shouldn’t even be complaining considering the heat waves being endured by folks on the west coast, but, well, I am what I am.
On the bright side, I have been managing to edit my latest project, though it is slow-going. I’m very sleepy most of the time, but I do get random bursts of energy (the other day I wrote 4k words in one sitting!) so it is actually halfway done at this point. I have one more chunk that needs to be actually written out, but then the rest is just easy editing, so I should hopefully be done-mid month, and then…I can start working on book 2 of my contracted duology, which is a terrifying thought, tbh, because I’ve not written a single word of it lmao. Like, I’ve got a detailed synopsis, which helps A LOT, but still.
Anyway, I did nothing and went nowhere in July, which is probably for the best considering everything that’s going on with the Delta variant. I somehow managed to catch a cold in July probably because I went out one day and took a walk on a somewhat crowded street without my mask on. I know colds are part of life and all but man, it had been nice going nearly two years without being sick; I’d forgotten how miserable it was.
Anyway, I’m being very strict again about avoiding crowds, even outdoors, because I just have no interest in being sick again, which makes me wonder if masking will be something I continue to do for the foreseeable future. Since I’ve gotten masks that don’t make my glasses fog up, I don’t mind them so much! Of course I hate wearing them while walking in the heat, but in the winter they’re really great, so it might just become a habit to wear them at airports and the subway and other crowded places.
And finally! An exciting thing! I was featured alongside some very cool folks in The Fantasy Hive’s Women in SFF series, in a post titled Women, Worldbuilding, and Fantasy. We all talked about our different takes on feminist worldbuilding. It’s my first official shindig as an ~author so it was very cool and exciting!