- When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen (★★★☆☆)
- The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan (★★★★☆)
- A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (★★★★☆)
- Sundial by Catriona Ward (★★★★☆)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 4
YEARLY SO FAR: 17
Not too many books this month, but the number is deceptive, because I DNF’d FIVE whole books in April. Granted, I thankfully didn’t make it super far into any of them, but still, that was a lot of time spent reading that amounted to nothing. But hey, I tried, and I ended up clearing a few books off my shelves, so that’s always a win. I also spent most of my time this month watching television, which was a nice change of pace!
Not feeling crazy enthusiastic about any of these three thus far, but I think this might just be me — I feel like I’m starting to slink into a reading slump again; I’m feeling vaguely lethargic.
Next month I’d like to get to A FAR WILDER MAGIC, since my hold came in from the library, and I also borrowed VLADIMIR and THE LATINIST, so I’ve got those on the list as well.
Lily, the Immortal by Kylie Lee Baker (Uncanny Magazine): This short story hooked me immediately. Even though it’s pretty long, over 6K words, I zipped through it; there’s something about the narrative that reads quick and easy. The plot feels a lot like that early Black Mirror episode Be Right Back, but with its own twist.
Living Religions, Living Myths: On Retelling the Ramayana by Vaishnavi Patel (Tor.com): Patel discusses her retelling of the Ramayana with its focus on one of its most maligned characters, Kaikeyi. She stresses that there are multiple versions of the Ramayana, which is significant in how one chooses to retell a myth.
Film and TV
What I enjoyed most about THE SISTER, overall, was its moral ambiguity. Our main character, a sort of hapless everyman, isn’t perfect, but the narrative refuses to engage in black-and-white comeuppance, granting him a sympathy that is well-deserved. This is a fascinating, tense thriller with some very light hints of supernatural elements, though even saying “hints” is a stretch; it’s more that the idea of the supernatural is introduced, though a character who is obsessed with the occult. It adds just the right amount of creepiness and doubt to the circumstances, and plays a role in an absolutely fantastic twist. I love being completely shocked by twists, and this one had my mouth literally hanging open.
What makes HIDDEN interesting — or, some might say boring — is that there is no whodunit to speak of; by the middle of the first episode, we already know who our killers are, and the tension resides solely in watching the detectives put together the evidence to track them down, as well as in trying to understand just why the killers did what they did. It is an intense slow-burn — and I do mean slow-burn, it’s six lengthy episodes — but somehow it manages to be riveting, and bleak. They do manage to wrap things up nicely at the end, though the only thing I will say is that there were some very strong hints of a developing sapphic romantic plotline that was then never addressed. Setup for a third season, perhaps? It felt weirdly unresolved when they hinted at it so strongly.
I started DALGLIESH on a whim when I saw Bertie Carvel was in it, because I was curious, since I’d just seen him in THE SISTER. It’s yet another crime drama, only this takes place in the 1970s, which is pretty cool! It reminds me a bit of Grantchester in that sense, though the tone is much darker. I really like that the titular character, Adam Dalgliesh, isn’t some wild card or unorthodox detective; in fact, he’s very serious and by the book, practically to a fault. He’s also a poet! What I was not a fan of was that he apparently recently lost his wife, and this grief consumes him — it leads to inane flashbacks of his smiling dead wife. Can’t blame the show for this, though, as they’re merely following the books this series is based on. In any case, the mysteries are themselves really interesting, so I’m definitely looking forward to next season!
How does BRIDGERTON manage to be such a delight, always? I still remember how much Season 1 filled me with serotonin, and Season 2 was no different. That said, however, there were several things that bugged me about this season, beginning with Anthony’s characterization. SPOILERS follow.
If I’m remembering correctly, Season 1 Anthony was a rake who was just about ready to abandon all of his family duties and elope with Siena the opera singer/actress. It is her rejection of him at the end of the season that makes him jaded. However, Season 2 seems to want us to believe that Anthony has always been dutiful, has always been married to the burden of his family and title, and all because of the effect his father’s death had on him. It’s a jarring retcon, given that there was barely any mention of the late viscount in Season 1. It asks us to ignore Anthony’s character in Season 1, and to forget about Siena entirely.
The other thing that bugged me was how uncomfortable the entire narrative is. Anthony is courting Kate’s sister Edwina, and instead falls in love with Kate. Fine. If this could have been headed off early, it would have been okay, if a little awkward, but Anthony and Edwina actually walk down the damn aisle! They come so close to sealing the deal! And the show make sure to let us know that there’s no walking back from this without intense scandal, and yet…at the end, we see Anthony and Kate happily married, with nary a consequence in sight. Why establish such high stakes only to turn around and say just kidding?
Also, I absolutely despised Edwina’s reaction to the whole thing, and how she transformed from kind-hearted, empathetic little bean to absolutely spoiled brat. I get that Kate wasn’t exactly being smart, but her intentions were all good! This gal was willing to push down her own feelings and exile herself to another country all so that her kid sister could get what she wanted, and then kid sister has the gall to turn around and say that Kate isn’t kind-hearted? That she doesn’t even know who she is? Like…she is the same person she’s always been! Your big sister who sacrifices everything for you, and instead of understanding this sacrifice, instead she acts cruel and bratty!
And like, if Edwina had been established as a spoiled brat, this would have been fine, but it’s such a significant departure from her empathetic character! And the worst part is her attitude lasts a long time; I would have understood if she had been cruel after the initial shock at the wedding, but even after Kate explains and everything calms down a bit, Edwina continues to punish her sister, and for what? Having feelings that she tried to push down for Edwina’s sake?
Then there’s the issue of stakes and scandal. We’re continually told how important it is to avoid scandal, but I’m still not super clear on why that’s the case. I mean, what do the Bridgertons do? How do they make their money so they can afford their lifestyle? Would a scandal significantly affect this, or doe sit just mean not getting invited to parties? Because those are some pretty low stakes if that’s the case. I mean, I get that as members of the ton they can’t just reject social norms and niceties, but Mama Viscountess seems pretty keen on her kids being happy and in love, and seems to value that more than her social status. It seems the Bridgertons as a whole keep vacillating between caring about their reputation and not giving a flying fuck, and it’s confusing. It doesn’t help that at the end, when Anthony and Kate marry, there’s a six-month timeskip, and we don’t get to see if there were in fact any social consequences to Anthony switching between sisters.
I’m probably thinking about this way too much. Overall I really did love the season; I binged it in a couple of days and it was a great time. Serotonin, like I said. I really enjoyed the whole Eloise/Penelope thing and how it escalated; it’s about time! (Regarding Eloise, I ship her so hard with her footman and she has to go and get a crush on Theo, who has the personality of wet toast.) I also loved Lady Danbury’s expanded role and her dynamics with Kate! And the whole subplot with Lady Featherington and Useless Himbo Lord Featherington was amazing.
I don’t have too much to say about this season of UNFORGOTTEN, except that the mystery was far more lackluster than that of the second and third season, both of which were truly excellent. This one was…fine. Still very compelling, as always — I watched this in a day — but just not the show’s best work. I also was not happy with the decision they made in the final episode — separate from the main mystery — because I think there were far better ways to resolve it than that. Alas.
Likewise, I don’t have very much to say about THE TWO TOWERS, except that I liked it way better than the first movie. There’s a lot more happening, the battle scene was very cool, and Eowyn is mildly interesting. Otherwise, I continue to be a little mystified at the obsessive love for the Lord of the Rings. Like, it’s…fine? I guess? If you squint? I will hopefully watch the final film soon, so I can close off the trilogy.
It’s been a quiet month. I hung out with friends, bought some books for the first time since November. I had a lovely lunch with my agent and my editor (my first time meeting my editor in person!). My book, THE DAUGHTERS OF IZDIHAR, got an official summary, an official release date (January 10th 2023!) and a preorder link. It all kind of happened at once, along with a Barnes and Noble preorder sale, so it was all a flurry of activity that’s probably a preview of things to come!
Writing wise, I actually made some great progress! Not really in terms of wordcount, even though I did write a small amount, but more in terms of plot. I sat with a good friend who has read the first book and we chatted through some major logistical and plot issues and really unsnarled some thorny stuff! It was so great! I now have a pretty solid idea of what Act 1 of Book 2 is going to look like, and what the ending is going to look like as well.
My first drafts take a long time because I struggle to write unless I have some idea of where I’m heading, so usually once I untangle all these threads I move along much faster. My deadline is September, and I really want to hit it, not just because I don’t like missing deadlines, but also because I would really like to be done with this world and these characters so I can move on from it all. It’s not that I don’t love this world — I do — but it’s something I’ve been working on since 2017, and so much has changed since then about my writing, so I’d really like to move on to something brand new. My brain is already buzzing with ideas.